PW Comics World’s 2012 Graphic Novel Critics’ Poll

January 13th, 2013 § 0 comments § permalink

Bad news first: so, the holiday seasons were fraught. My laptop was broken, then stolen, making me egregiously late with work for several clients; we were forced to replace a total of three tires and a rim on our 2004 Ford Taurus; and I am currently in my second cold in four weeks. But I can only hope this means all available luck is being funneled toward grant and fellowship applications!

But on to terrific news: congratulations to Fabien Vehlmann and Gwen de Bonneval for making this year’s Publishers Weekly Year’s Best list with their far-future SF Last Days of an Immortal (Archaia), thanks to John Seven’s Starred Review. Author Stephen C. Ormsby also gives it a nice nod at his blog, and it is featured at the French Embassy’s Education Site.

Congratulations as well to David B. and Jean-Pierre Filiu for making Honorable Mention with the first volume of their history of U.S.-Middle Eastern relations, Best of Enemies (SelfMade Hero). Chris Mautner of Comic Book Resources singles out David B.’s art for praise:

His art serves as a reminder and stern rebuke to lax publishers and artists about how to properly bring history to life.

Andrew A. Smith of The Telegraph chimes in as well:

Sometimes a graphic novel arrives that’s more important for what it teaches than how it entertains… “Best of Enemies” is invaluable for the U.S., because as a country, we are broadly ignorant of what our political and corporate leaders have been doing for the last 200 years in the most volatile region on Earth.

Finally, Sean T. Collins of The Comics Journal offers a close, savvy analysis of Othering and the politics of representation in David B.

The genius of David B.’s comics about violent conflict between cultures and faiths — and Best of Enemies, his collaboration with historian Jean-Pierre Filiu, is very much in that tradition, alongside the war-story sections of Epileptic or the heretic fables of The Armed Garden — is that he Otherizes everyone. To flip through this volume, which traces the history of the United States’ dealings with the Middle East from the fledgling democracy’s conflicts with North Africa’s Barbary pirates at the turn of the 19th century through the CIA overthrow of the Mossadegh government in Iran in the 1950s, is to encounter a panoply of fantastical figures, whether they’re wearing turbans or tricorner hats.

B. is one of contemporary comics’ true visionaries, the speaker of a visual language of his own devising. Despite personal, cultural, and surface-visual connections (all that high-contrast black-and-white) that might make it look otherwise, as an image-maker he has much more in common with, say, Jack Kirby than with Marjane Satrapi. This gives everyone and everything he depicts a hyperreal aura, and in Best of Enemies he goes full-throttle on it. The headdress of an imperious ambassador becomes a globe the pirate ships whose attacks he permit circumnavigate. A stand-in for the WWII-era British government becomes a three-faced Janus-like figure, issuing contradictory proclamations about the future of the region out of every mouth. The chronically bedridden Mossadegh becomes a disembodied set of pajamas, wielding a scimitar against the floating Sauron-like eyes of British spies and provocateurs.

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