Over at the AV club yesterday, they wrote Brian Chippendale’s Puke Force is 2016’s first comics masterpiece. Arguable, but it is a great book. As Tim O’Neill writes:
It’s a world where hatred is a tangible and pungent reality, while Jesus is busy eating all the chocolate hidden in the cracks of the walls. There’s no way to do justice to the panoply of ideas, sensations, and emotions on display here, from snarky bathroom humor to deep and abiding anger at the dissolution of civil society. It contains multitudes. It is also, without question, the first masterpiece of 2016.
But WAS IT REALLY THE FIRST MASTERPIECE OF 2016????
Just a few days before, The Beat’s own John Seven proclaimed Nick Drnaso gives us 2016’s first great work with ‘Beverly’
Drnaso unveils his world visually as a form of cartoonish realism, simple, clear lines capturing the world around the balloonish people that seem inspired by the rounded figures you find in some folk art. That’s coupled with a faded coloring motif that gives the impression of the people and their world as barely even being there. It’s an otherworldly presentation, but not one that borrows from anything previous. It’s its own otherworld.
Individually, each story stands alone, though might not promote the level of emptiness that Drnaso’s pieces add up to. Banded together, they are a tapestry of people not really being capable of helping other people. Drnaso’s stories take the connections between people — co-workers, family members, neighbors, classmates, childhood friends — and examines their effectiveness in binding a society in a helpful way.
Beverly is a book squarely in the Ware/Clowes mold but it’s very very well done, and deserves more attention.
And before that, The Beat’s Kyle Pinion announced The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye is 2016’s first superlative graphic novel
While the subject matter of The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye centers on the life and times of the creator it’s titled after, the potentially richer portion of the text is focused more on Singapore’s history and how Chan views it through the lens of the artist. Chan himself is a fiction utilized to convey the ever shifting political landscape of Singapore, from British colony to Japanese occupation to the rise of its own self-governance, with a failed merger with Malaysia in between. This theme is nailed with a hammer from the proverb that sits inside the cover: “One Mountain Cannot Abide Two Tigers”. Those two tigers that Liew references are the recently passed long-time political leader Lee Kuan Yew and the slandered and wrongly imprisoned Lim Chin Siong, two men that once worked together for Singapore’s future but found that political power could only be centered in one individual.
I would totally agree here; Sonny Liew’s work here is definitely one of the most amazing and powerful comics produced in the last…five years!
BUT WAS IT THE FIRST OF 2016??????
Technically, and for my money, the VERY FIRST COMICS MASTERPIECE of 2016 came out on January 6th and it was Tom Hart’s Rosalie Lightning. The PW review came out in December!
Rosalie Lightning is a masterpiece—and a luminous tribute to a brief, beautiful life
Are there any other potential early masterpieces we’ve missed? While I’m kidding around with this, is is interesting that no book has really seized the general imagination of the “graphic novels are not just for kids” crowd the way, oh, Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant did, or The Sculptor did, or going back a few years, Beautiful Darkness.
Maybe the audience is just jaded by the succession of masterpieces.
Or maybe there’s a little lull going on here. The other day I was messaging with some comics folk and noted “The energy seems to have gone out of comics all of a sudden.” I mean there’s lots going on and lots of enthusiasm and lots of great comics. Not sure what is happening really; just another cultural shift.
Anyway, vote! What is the first great comic of 2016!
Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.