The 20 Best Comic Books of 2011

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The Ten Best Collections / Reissues Of 2011, Page 2


5. MetaMaus: A Look Inside A Modern Classic, Maus
by Art Spiegelman

This collection of material related to Maus is not only a wonderful archive, but also a great read in its own right. The book comes with a DVD that includes thousands of sketches, cross-referenced to their pages in the margins, plus essays on Maus, audio recordings of Art and Vladek and more, but even without that resource, it would stand as a worthy and interesting object. Interviewed by Hilary Chute, who’s credited as “associate editor,” Spiegelman answers three big questions about his most famous and renowned work (Why the Holocaust? Why mice? Why comics?) and, in the process, illuminates his working methods and the text. Never too reverent to avoid putting his thumb in eyes that need thumbing, Spiegelman demonstrates his gift for storytelling even through exegesis. (HB)


4. The Death-Ray
by Daniel Clowes
Drawn & Quaterly

Clowes’ gloomy Bildungsroman about teenage disillusionment and vigilante justice focuses on an arrogant and mostly friendless teenager who gets superpowers from a forbidden vice in the late 1970s. Egged on by his angry punk friend, he uses those powers to beat up bullies and other wrong-doers. Eventually the stakes are raised from mere beatings to weighing judgment on the merits of existence itself. Clowes’ literary superhero tale explores the combination of condescension, guilt, and self-righteousness common to both adolescence and superhero vigilantism. (GM)


3. Onward Towards Our Noble Deaths
by Shigeru Mizuki
Drawn & Quarterly

Mizuki’s powerful counterpoint to America’s enduring love affair with World War II doesn’t belittle America or make the Allies look disreputable. Even as American bullets rip through Mizuki’s characters, the true villains remain the Japanese leaders who send their men to pointless deaths. Mizuki based this 1973 book on his experiences at New Britain in Papua New Guinea near the end of the war. Mizuki’s soldiers realize and resent their treatment as cannon fodder by glory-seeking officers and a military culture that views surrender or imprisonment as dishonorable. Mizuki makes Japan’s leadership look as bad as any jingoistic American World War II movie, but replaces the offensive racial stereotypes of Western entertainment with realistic depictions of normal men trapped in a horrible situation. Onward Towards Our Noble Deaths is a brutally honest and human look at an unfortunate group of men more dehumanized by their own commanders than their enemies. (GM)


2. Blankets
by Craig Thompson
Top Shelf Productions

This autobiographic novel relives the author’s childhood struggle with Christian fundamentalism while falling in love with Raina, a beautiful fellow outcast he meets at a Christian youth camp. Thompson’s approach is both gentle and dynamic, laying sparse lines of delicate prose around moody renderings of winter still life and kinetic childhood nostalgia. This inspired delivery makes the brutally honest content much less abrasive. Devoid of bonus material, interviews or sketches, this is one of the few books that stands perfectly on its own in any given context. This new hardcover edition of Blankets features not just one of the best graphic novels ever created, but one of the best literary works of our generation. (SE)


1 Walt Disney’s Donald Duck: Lost in the Andes (The Carl Barks Library Volume One)
By Carl Barks
Fantagraphics Books

You don’t need to read another hundred words about the greatness of Carl Barks, about his masterful talent for body language and facial expressions, about how his finely realized characters and sprawling fictional world made the Duck family the most soulful and human among Disney’s abundant roster of anthropomorphic animals. This first volume of Fantagraphics’ beautiful new reissue series collects 200 pages of Barks stories from 1948 and 1949, reinforcing Barks’ sterling reputation while introducing his work to a new generation of readers. Barks’ strips combine high adventure with humor and subtle cultural commentaries, but they remain grounded in character, from Donald’s constant exasperation to the rambunctious innocence of the Nephews to the old-man irritability of Uncle Scrooge. Lost in the Andes is a gorgeously packaged collection of some of the finest comics ever made. (GM)

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