BIG QUESTIONS, DAYBREAK, OPTIC NERVE #12 highlighted in AV Club’s Best Comics of 2011!

The best comics of 2011: Graphic novels & art comics

The AV Club    |    Noel Murray    |    December 29, 2011

Top Five Collected Graphic Novels

2. Anders Nilsen, Big Questions (D&Q)
In serialized form, Anders Nilsen’s Big Questions was a curious little artifact, featuring page after page of similar-looking birds philosophizing about survival, in between sequences of a grumpy downed pilot and a half-naked, mentally handicapped man wandering through the same sparse landscape. Big Questions reads much differently in book form, where the extended stretches of repetitive, dialogue-light panels feel more deliberate than indulgent. The pleasure Nilsen takes in pure scene-setting is infectious, as he clusters his little animals in and around clearly defined spaces in various configurations. These birds have their own little society, and they are filled with wonder and terror by what they confront as they go about trying to fulfill their purpose. Sometimes they find donut crumbs scattered on the ground, and life is good. Sometimes they find pieces of other birds, blown to smithereens by something beyond avian comprehension.

3. Brian Ralph, Daybreak (D&Q)
Although Daybreak is set in yet another world ravaged by a zombie plague, Brian Ralph takes a slightly different approach to the “ragtag band of humans united against the inevitable” genre, by telling the story strictly from a first-person perspective. The reader is put behind the eyes of one survivor, encountering other survivors in a ravaged wasteland, and not always alert to the mortal dangers lurking just outside the panels. While Daybreak doesn’t do anything that George Romero and countless others haven’t already done satisfactorily, Ralph’s first-person approach is brilliantly cruel, locking us into the point-of-view of someone who says nothing and thinks nothing. We’re left to play judge along with the main character, determining the lines between helpful and unhelpful, hero and villain, living and… something else.

Top Three New Issues

3. Adrian Tomine, Optic Nerve #12 (D&Q)
Adrian Tomine is one of the medium’s masters of the short form, and the new Optic Nerve contains one for the canon in “Amber Sweet,” a beautifully brittle story about a young woman who discovers that she resembles a famous porn star. The other pieces in the book—a funny autobiographical two-pager about the creation of this issue, and a strange, semi-experimental piece called “A Brief History Of The Art Form Known As ‘Hortisculpture,’” about a gardener who thinks of himself as an artist—also explore the line between craft and art, and the difference between a whim and a waste. (Tomine also receives extra credit this year for widely releasing his previously limited-edition Scenes From An Impending Marriage, an amusing and true document of wedding-planning.)

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