Edited by Jeff Smith
Series editors Jessica Abel and Matt Madden
Available now from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
I do not envy the Best American series editors. They have a great deal of material to go through every year, as discussed in the Foreword and Introduction. I agree with much of what they say about representing creators and showing the range of comics, but I'm just not sure about one dig at superhero comics. I'm not sure that next year's collection (gathering Sept 2012-August 2013) will be able to prove that Hawkeye isn't one of the best comics of the year.
But let's talk about this year's collection! Last year's practice of adding title pages is thankfully continued, with writer and artist bios in the back. I most definitely did not love every piece, but there are a lot of winners in here. I was a panelist for the CYBILS award in the elementary/middle grade and young adult graphic novels category last year. I was chuffed to see the winners GIANTS, BEWARE! by Jorge Aguirre and Rafael Rosado and FRIENDS WITH BOYS by Faith Erin Hicks excerpted in THE BEST AMERICAN COMICS 2013.
I think my favorite contribution from someone I had never heard of is "The Good Wife" by Sophie Goldstein. It's not long, and there are few words, but it's creepy and surreal truth has lingered in my mind. As for familiar favorites, I'm always happy to see webcomics bigwigs Grant Snider and Kate Beaton, who each pair literacy and wit with distinctive art. I also liked that Derf Backderf's haunting and humane MY FRIEND DAHMER got a nod, and admired how well it led into an excerpt from RACHEL RISING by Terry Moore.
I do feel that the excerpts mostly weren't as enticing as the one-shot comics, which is the risk of an anthology like THE BEST AMERICAN COMICS 2013. For instance, I could barely figure out what was happening in UNTERZAKHN by Leela Corman without the context. But that works for me, because I see this collection as a jumping off point. If the story and art work well for me in this shortened form I'll seek more work by the creator, even if I didn't find the selection satisfying. I know I'm definitely going to look for more by Evan Dorkin.
Most of the selections in THE BEST AMERICAN COMICS 2013 worked for me. I think this is a strong entry in the series and a good resource for anyone looking for an intro to the coolest comics around. Despite the many creators, it's a fairly coherent read. Jeff Smith clearly has his preferences, but I think that makes the whole stronger.