If you thought yesterday’s A.V. Club Best Comics of the Aughts list was going to tiptoe by unnoticed and uncommented on, you were wide of the mark by a fair bit. Sean T. Collins delivers a total smackdown, from the lack of manga to the last of KRAMERS ERGOT to the lack of an ordered list.
By simply listing 25 books in alphabetical order, this list avoids making difficult and absolutely crucial distinctions regarding quality, dodging the hard work necessary to back those distinctions up with considered criticism. I don’t know what good a Best of the ’00s list that sits The Goon right next to Louis Riel does anybody under any circumstances, but at least a countdown would provide context; juxtaposing two books like that through sheer alphabetical accident provides us with no window into its authors’ critical worldview(s), and actually may do more harm than good in terms of articulating what matters. Frankly, I feel like it’s a cop-out.
Although a lot of the analysis on the list was flimsy, I’m actually not so big on the ordered list, really — this isn’t a slalom race. Why does someone have to come in 7th? Do we really need MORE arguing on the internets? Do we have the time to PROVE that Sean Phillips is a better artist than R.M. Guéra?
This ties in somewhat with yesterday’s George Gene Gustines/Marc-Oliver Frisch discussion on whether mainstream media should offer negative reviews of graphic novels. Alarmingly, I was going to mention the A.V. Club as a place that seemed to be mainstream, fairly comics literate and wide ranging and gutsy enough to deliver low grades in their comics reviews. The Onion A.V. Club is one of the few online outlets that offers anything like the authority of print in its heyday; it’s a a Pitchfork that stopped listening to Grizzly Bear for a few minutes.
Perhaps the sharpest lessons can be gleaned from the comments section at the list — at 500+ messages, it’s not for everyone, but I would strongly urge anyone who is sick and tired of Newsarama message boards to give it a look. Unlike the superhero apologists who get, like, totally defensive when you don’t put Amazing Colon: the Rise of the Duodenum on your best-of list, the commenters at the Onion seem to me to be a pretty representative group of the expanded universe of comics readers these days — they like Brian K. Vaughan (a LOT) and Joss Whedon , they’ve read CRIMINAL and PERRY BIBLE FELLOWSHIP and JIMMY CORRIGAN. In short, they’re kind of an eclectic group, even if somewhat middlebrow. This is the audience we need to expand — and further educate.
The A.V. Club’s Noel Murray makes many appearances in the comments to explains this or that part of the list, including the fact that, as suspected the A.V. crew just didn’t get manga. Murray also pounds a stake through the heart of the post-Thunderites with this:
I think you touched on it: the art-school-comic aesthetic. A lot of the KE and KE-like anthologies look like university art shows to me: some genuinely innovative work mixed with amateurish scribbling. I appreciate experimentation, but I prefer some evidence that the artist has at least a rudimentary grasp of the basics before he or she starts screwing around. Can the artist tell a story and/or compose a readable panel? If not, full pages of disconnected words and doodles don’t impress me much.
In some ways this ties in to a lot of film criticism — you just don’t see too many Matthew Barney films on year end “best of” lists, and the A.V.’s list is even more mainstream than the average alt-weekly’s film reviewers.
But the manga gap is glaring. David Welsh suggests folks naming their five favorite manga of the ten years past, and I’ll endorse that notion as well. My five list would change, given the day and my mood, but here are five for consideration (chosen based on first English edition, not original publications):
Ode to Kirihito
(PS: I put a picture of Tamara Drewe up there not because it’s mentioned anywhere – it isn’t — but because I hope more people remember the great Posy Simmonds as their lists are being drawn up! PROPAGANDA.)