cover image Year's Best Graphic Novels, Comics & Manga

Year's Best Graphic Novels, Comics & Manga

, , editors. . St. Martin's, $19.95 (272pp) ISBN 978-0-312-34326-2

This book represents a welcome and long overdue idea: a survey of outstanding American work in the comics medium from May 2003 to December 2004. This sampler demonstrates the creative scope of contemporary comics and points out new directions for comics readers, old and new, to follow. It also provides a sense of a comics community, although unfortunately, Dark Horse and Marvel declined to participate. The selections favor alternative comics, with a smattering of superhero material. But whereas a "year's best" collection of SF short stories includes entire works, this anthology necessarily provides excerpts of longer comics. Readers will get a good sense of the various artists' styles, but this limitation does not always serve the writers well. For example, those unacquainted with Alan Moore's League of Extraordinary Gentlemen will not realize key story points from this brief excerpt. Short text introductions to each segment would have been helpful. Nonetheless, some excerpts come off impressively, such as Jaime Hernandez's vignette from Love and Rockets , and especially a somber segment from Joe Kubert's Yossel . Neil Gaiman provides strong bookends with his introduction and part of his and artist P. Craig Russell's superb "Death" tale from Sandman: Endless Nights . (Feb.)