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Notes on PW 2004 Graphic Novels List
posted November 28, 2004

What follows is the list of graphic novels that will be released on the Publisher's Weekly web site in conjunction with this week's big year-end-issue article on publishing in 2004. Editor Calvin Reid sent them along in an email that I imagine, like his note on remarks made concerning graphic novels at the National Book Awards, went out to quite a few places.

I think this is an interesting list; I look forward to reading the reviews. It seems to me an extremely orthodox list, but I imagine that coloring within the lines is sort of PW's role. Hopefully other end-of-the-year lists will make crazier, out-there choices, and someone will champion a book in a way I never considered. But somehow I kind of doubt it.

Here is the PW list of graphic novels, followed by their description and my first reaction to its inclusion.

imageThe Complete Bone by Jeff Smith (Cartoon Books)
PW: A 1300 page single-volume edition of this delightful fantasy adventure about a group of cartoon cousins lost in a fairytale valley.
CR: I think Jeff Smith's fantasy is actually a bit better than most people give it credit for being, and that even those who like it seem to like it in a really surface-oriented way that I think kind of gives the work short shrift.

imageLocas by Jaime Hernandez (Fantagraphics)
PW: Masterful stories about the lovers Maggie, girl mechanic, and Hopey, punkchick troublemaker, in the midst of the 1980s Southern California Chicano-youth and punk rock scene.
CR: I'm a big Jaime Hernandez fan, too, and like Smith I think he is also under-appreciated right now, even by his boosters. Jaime does tell his stories masterfully, but the stories are worth exploring as well for how he digs into surface impressions and memory in a way that his skill with a brush makes that much more powerful.

imageAge of Bronze: Sacrifice by Eric Shanower (Image)
PW: Shanowers's masterpiece about the Trojan War continues with Helen's arrival in Troy and Kassandra's prediction of impending death and doom.
CR: I have to catch up with this yet. Even then I'm not sure if something like this can be properly judged until its conclusion.

imageIn The Shadow of No Towers by Art Spiegelman (Pantheon)
PW: The story of his family's 9/11 ordeal, outrage over the march to war and the history of the American newspaper comic strip.
CR: My gut reaction based on a quicker-than-I'd-like reading is that this is a minor work from one of the medium's greats, and that there's nothing wrong with that. I have yet to read a single convincing positive analysis of this work, which makes me want to read it again.

imageTokyo Tribes by Santa Inoue (Tokyopop)
PW: Two former high school buddies, now in rival gangs, are at the center of a brutal murder in this hip-hop-influenced manga about Japanese gangbangers.
CR: I just read this, and it was good; there were a lot of nice graphic flourishes, and Inoue has a nice feel for the balance between interesting detail and the vacuity of modern life. But a book of the year? I haven't read the other volumes yet, but I wouldn't have gone that direction based on my initial reading of the first one. I'll also freely admit that there are issues explored and ways of presenting comic art utilized that may be more significant in the context of other manga, which is something I'd be totally unprepared to notice.

imageHikaru No Go by Yumi Hotta and Takeshi Obata (Viz)
PW: The ancient Japanese game of Go comes vividly to life after sixth grader Hikaru Shindo accidently awakens the elegant ghost of a beautiful, 12th century Go-master.
CR: So is the ghost a chick or a dude? I can't keep this straight. I was thinking it's a dude again, until I read the "beautiful" line above. I can never keep the guys and gals straight in mainstream manga. As for the book itself, I think this is fine, mainstream entertainment, and I'm a total sucker for sports manga, but is this even the best thing Viz publishes? This seems more solid than special to me.

imageThe Filth by Grant Morrison and Chris Weston (DC/Vertigo)
PW: A psychedelic science fiction adventure that pits humanity's need to dream against a backdrop of communist monkey assassins, giant city-states and perverted supermen.
CR: Haven't read it.

imageClyde Fans, Vol. 1 by Seth (Drawn & Quarterly)
PW: A dying fan business in a small town in Canada is the setting as two very different brothers play out lives of quiet desperation.
CR: This is fine so far, and Seth is a class act, but I need to see more before I can come to any reasonable conclusion about what we've seen so far. Work that depend on a very specific tone are like that.


Shaenon Garrity