Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Critical Breach

A couple of things the “Best 100 Comics of 2008” series of articles at Comic Book Resources makes me wonder about, now that it’s finished:

  1. Does the fact that, say, Guardians of the Galaxy appears at No. 18 and, say, Bottomless Belly Button appears at No. 44 mean that anyone genuinely thought the former was the better book? Or is that just because most of the contributors read genre comics only? Does it make sense to compile a free-for-all “Best of” list when it’s obvious that only a tiny fraction of your staff even bothered with the non-genre material?
  2. Do genre books like, say, Criminal, Casanova and Northlanders get bonus points among critics and reviewers for being not-superhero pop comics? Are they really as good as the general consensus among Internet commentators would suggest, or do they just get a lot of slack because there are so few of them, compared to the superhero stuff? Are they really up to the standards we expect from our pop entertainment in other media?

I should say that I read a lot more genre comics than “literary” comics, personally, and I hold many of the non-superhero genre books in high esteem. Even so, I don’t think the best of them can hold a candle against the best TV shows or films out there.

Also, I have read neither Guardians of the Galaxy nor Bottomless Belly Button. Still, given their very different goals and contexts, the thought that the former could be the better comic, or even the notion of seeing them in competition with one another, just strikes me as bizarre and absurd.

That said, if anyone out there wants to take a shot at explaining to me why the CBR list is right and Bottomless Belly Button positively stinks in comparison with Guardians of the Galaxy, then please go ahead. I’d love to hear it. (“I love Rocket Raccoon!” doesn’t count as an explanation, though, I’m afraid.)


Dick Hyacinth said...

I don't doubt for a minute that these "pop comics" reap the benefit of being high profile non-superhero comics. I also don't think that they usually hold up compared to "literary" comics. Draw what conclusion you will, but my impression is that you see more "literary" comics on "pop" oriented lists, or even superhero-oriented lists, than "pop" comics on "literary" oriented lists.

As for the specific titles you mention: Criminal is certainly very good. At its best (eg, the first three issues of the current volume), I think it merits discussion as one of the best comics of the year. At worst, it's still far more visually ambitious than almost all other non-superhero "pop" comics. Casanova is a lot of fun, but I don't think I'd take it any further than that. I've never read Northlanders, but it would have to be significantly better than the other Brian Wood I've read to be a serious year's best candidate.

jason said...

Is it just me or does this post come off as snooty?

jason said...

Actually, upon re-read. I'm mistaken. But I think there's a lot of confusing form with content floating around the critic's corner these days.