Saturday, February 18, 2017

The Year's Best Graphic Novels, Comics & Manga: From Blankets to Demo to Blacksad by Byron Preiss, Howard Zimmerman, and Neil Gaiman

  It seems as if I have become quite lucky with BookCrossing finds within the past few months, because lo and behold! I have found another. The book Gods were smiling down upon me on that snowy and slushy winter's day, when I ventured to the same park where I found my previous BookCrossing book, and stumbled across The Year's Best Graphic Novels, Comics & Manga: From Blankets to Demo to Blacksad.
  "Really?" I thought. "Another book about graphic novels and manga? Someone must really want me to expand my literary palate even more..." (Even though I clearly already admitted that I now like manga.)
  Even though I had already picked up a BookCrossing book from that spot, and from that BookCrossing member before, I figured the book would be better off being read and re-released into the wild, rather than it sitting in the cold, wet snow for another few days. I brought it home.
  When I picked up my first BookCrossing book, which happened to be manga, I was excited to go on an adventure into a genre of literature I had never experienced before. When I picked up my second BookCrossing book, I was less excited. I always imagined that I would read every BookCrossing book I found, because I felt that in some cosmic twist of fate, I was meant to pick it up and read whatever was left for me, but...a book summarizing comics and manga? Do people actually read these books, or are they just books left over from garage sales that eventually find themselves on secondhand shelves? Is this a coffee table book? I didn't think this book was actually readable.
  But every time I thought about moving on, re-releasing the book, and diving back into my Harry Potter reread (which, I'm ashamed to say, I have not finished yet), I felt guilty. How could I pick up this book and take it home just to have it sitting on my couch for two weeks before returning it to the wild?
  I had to read it. So I did. (It didn't hurt that one of the forewords was written by Neil Gaiman.)
  The forewords sold me, and it wasn't just because one was written by Neil Gaiman. In the forewords, these writers and comic-enthusiasts alike wrote about what comics and graphic novels meant to them when they were younger. How they aspired to write comics one day, to meet Stan Lee, and to collect and collect comics until their little geeky hearts were full to the brim with joy. These are feelings I have had for many things in my life, and I recognized their passion, like a zebra recognizing a similar black and white-striped pattern.
  I understood their passion, and I thought to myself, "I must find out what makes these dorks so passionate about word bubbles, cartoons, and flying super men in tights and capes."
  Since the "Year's Best" book was a decent variation of samples of different comics, graphic novels, and manga flavors to taste, it's easy for me to say that there were some stories I loved, some I found amusing, and some I would be satisfied to never see ever again in my life. For instance, Hsu and Chan? HIT. Any of the manga? Miss. Owly? Hit! Serenity Rose? Miss, miss, miss. Miss, to the point of me reading two pages, and skipping the rest. (And I never skip in books.) I also loved Family Reunion and Robot in the Rain. Yossel and Demo were incredibly dark (and creepy--especially Demo), but the artwork was exceptionally done. Some of these comics and graphic novels (I leave out the manga but none of them particularly tickled my fancy) were lacking in story, but were beautiful to gaze upon, and some were simple drawings with a story deep enough to bring you to tears. I found Secret Identity fun and easy to read, along with Blankets, Queen and Country, Ex Machina, and Sandman (bravo, Neil Gaiman).
  After I finished the book, I read the reviews of it on Goodreads, and was disappointed to see that many readers gave it low ratings due to the size of the samples per comic, graphic novel, and manga. (Each sample was a page to 5 or 6 pages long.) I definitely disagree. I feel that the sizes of the samples were more than satisfactory, because they gave the reader a chance to move on to something different without becoming bored.
  I won't credit myself more than I deserve, and say that I am an expert in this genre of books. I don't think I would even be able to tell the difference between a graphic novel and a comic, given the chance. But I will say this: My mind has been opened even more to this field, I now have some obvious favorites (and obvious un-favorites), and I look forward to reading more from these writers and artists.


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