As I am normally serially negative about most creative output, I thought I’d give a positive nod to these great books that I enjoyed and inspired me during 2015.
So, in no particular order, here are the magnificent seven...
‘Here’ - Richard McGuire [Penguin]
A stunning exploration into my favourite comics device; ‘time’. Taken from a single perspective, the narrative deftly flits between different timeframes, offering glimpses into the lives that pass in front of the impartial lens. By turns, these moments are poignant, amusing, touching and beautiful. At first it appears almost random, but as the book progresses it becomes clear there is much going on, extra narratives about the repetition of history and our insignificance against the weight of time start to emerge. I wouldn’t normally be attracted to the art style, but it really works in the context of this book, which is not just triumph in itself, but also for the whole medium of comics.
‘Tim Ginger’ - Julian Hanshaw [Top Shelf Productions]
Rarely does a comic book really connect with me on all levels. There are so many different elements to ‘get wrong’ when it comes to satisfying someone as particular as me, but Tim Ginger knocks it out the park in every category. The story follows the titular character, a retired test pilot, as he looks back at his life and tries to make sense of his past and future trajectories. It combines a perfectly crafted story, heroic use of the comics medium and the artwork is (to my eye) pretty much pitch perfect.
‘For As Long As It Rains’ - Zviane [Pow Pow Press]
This is a simple story, or rather, a relatively simple extract from what is doubtless a messy and complex story. As the title hints at, it shows us a glimpse into a relationship existing in a brief moment of isolation between parameters and confines alluded to throughout. It manages to capture the purity and excitement of that moment, but with ‘real life’ looming and quietly overshadowing the whole story. The drawing is superb, capturing mood and time perfectly as the characters play out their parts in a strange, architectural cocoon; very affecting. It also has possibly the best written/drawn sex scene I have yet to read in comic form.
‘I Love This Part’ – Tillie Walden [Avery Hill Publishing]
Being a late developer in the romantic department, Tillie’s book is a beautiful insight into a world I feel completely unfamiliar with. I missed out on the awkwardness and innocence of young love and in most ways I count that as a blessing, I got to skip those hard learnt lessons and the embarrassment at every turn, but ‘I Love This Part’ almost makes me nostalgic for an experience I never really had. A time when small details become huge and all consuming, the rest of the world appearing insignificant by comparison, so little, saying so much. In addition, the artwork is exceptional.
‘Russian Olive To Red King’ – Kathryn and Stuart Immonen [Adhouse Books]
Utterly heart-breaking and dramatically drawn, I almost felt physically drained at the end of this book. Without giving too much away, the story follows a couple who are separated by an event and charts their responses to the unknown between them. If that sounds pretty abstract, well, in parts, it is, but that only serves to reinforce the intangibility of the subject. Even if you get nothing else out of it, pretty much every page features an exquisitely beautiful image, in fact, the whole book as a design package is a delight to behold.
‘Killing and Dying’ - Adrian Tomine [Drawn & Quarterly/Faber & Faber]
Probably enough has been said about this book already, but it deserves all the praise it gets. One of few books you should most definitely judge by its cover, every page is a masterpiece in drawing and graphic composition. That’s not to say it is style over substance though, each of the five different stories within skilfully navigates the subject it takes on with breath-taking eloquence and insight. It is impossible to pick a favourite, as the variety of stylistic and narrative choices between the stories make each one a unique gem in its own right. Definitely the best looking book to take up space on you shelf this year.
‘The Four Reptiles of the Apocalypse’ – Lando [Decadence]
For those familiar with his work, this needs no explanation, and for those of you who are not, I’m not going to even try. Lando is the architect of masterfully executed science fiction worlds that he populates with dark and poignant stories and ‘Four Reptiles of the Apocalypse’ gives you exactly what the title promises. It is both grim and beautiful, but the whole wordless narrative is wrapped in a rye dark humour that is found in all of Lando’s work. In addition to this, he is probably one of the greatest comic artists working in the medium today.