From a fun comics standpoint, 2007 was absolutely awesome. You know how I know? I had a hard time keeping the list below to 26 items. Okay, it’s an arbitrary number, and I could have just listed everything, but I thought I would make a stab at some pretense of discernment.
I’m not saying these are the best comics of 2007, though I’d put several in that category. I’m never entirely comfortable with that label, because I haven’t read everything and worry that my tastes are too narrow to make a reasonable stab at such a project anyways. But I have no trouble telling which comics I had a lot of fun reading, so here they are.
(Doesn’t the jump create a breathtaking level of suspense? Well, doesn’t it?)
(Updated because I can’t keep my years straight.)
10, 20, and 30, by Morim Kang (Netcomics): Korean josei, basically, following three women of different ages and temperaments as they manage romance (or the lack of it), work (or the lack of it) and family (or an excess of it).
Aya, by Marguerite Abouet and Clément Oubrerie (Drawn & Quarterly): In my defense, this came out really early in 2007, so I must have been confused and thought it was on last year’s version of this list. Because seriously, it’s one of the best graphic novels of the year and delightfully fun to boot. A sensible, ambitious young woman in the prosperous Ivory Coast of late 1970s keeps her head as the people around her leap into amusing, romantic misalliances.
Azumanga Daioh Omnibus, by Kyohiko Azuma (ADV): It’s tough to pick which delights me more: the resumption of publication of Azuma’s Yotsuba&!, or this big fat bargain collection of his very funny comic strips about a group of high-school girls and their eccentric teachers.
Black Metal, by Rick Spears and Chuck BB (Oni): Antisocial metal-heads discover their secret destiny while playing old vinyl backwards. Very funny, with appropriately and appealingly crude visuals.
Bloody Benders, The, by Rick Geary (NBM): I should probably feel some kind of regret that Geary will never run out of gruesome tales to fuel his Treasury of Victorian Murder series. I don’t, because they’re consistently brilliant, informative, insightful, and unsettling. For the high-minded voyeur in all of us.
Empowered, by Adam Warren (Dark Horse): Warren is amazingly skilled at walking a thin, frayed tightrope between lurid spandex cheesecake and a witty repudiation of the same. Terrific characters and genuinely funny, imaginative takes on potentially repetitive scenarios make all the difference.
Flower of Life, by Fumi Yoshinaga (Digital Manga): When people bemoan the fact that so many manga titles center on the trials and tribulations of high school students, they can’t be talking about this one, can they? I’m just going to come right out and say it: it’s every bit as good as Antique Bakery, which means it’s absolutely great.
Gin Tama, by Hideaki Sorachi (Viz): This one’s all about attitude: coarse, goofy, hyperactive attitude. A fallen samurai takes odd jobs in a world that’s handed the keys to alien invaders. There’s enough canny satire to balance out the low-brow antics, making this book a very pleasant surprise.
Glister, by Andi Watson (Image): A really delightful combination of fantasy, manor-house comedy, and singularly British sensibility. This book manages to have a warm heart and a tounge planted firmly in its cheek.
Honey and Clover, by Chica Umino (Viz): Okay, so this goofy, romantic tale of students at an art college is still being serialized in Shojo Beat and hasn’t come out in individual volumes yet. It’s hilarious.
Johnny Hiro, by Fred Chao (AdHouse): In a year that offered more genre mash-up comics than I can count, this was probably my favorite for the underlying realism of the young couple at its center. Giant monsters and ninja sous-chefs are just part of the challenges urban life presents to Johnny and Mayumi.
Moomin: The Complete Tove Jansson Comic Strip Book Two, by Tove Jansson (Drawn & Quarterly): Everyone knows these strips are timeless, international treasures, right? And that Drawn & Quarterly deserves some kind of cultural prize for getting them back in print? Okay, just checking.
My Heavenly Hockey Club, by Ai Morinaga (Del Rey): Under the flimsiest pretext of sports manga lurks a goofy love letter to two of my favorite deadly sins, sloth and gluttony. Easily the best screwball comedy that came out last year.
Parasyte, by Hitoshi Iwaaki (Del Rey): Okay, so the art is dated and, well, frankly just plain bad in a lot of ways. (Many of the high-school girls in the cast look like they’re pushing 40.) But there’s just something about a boy and the shape-shifting parasite that’s taken over his hand that warms my heart.
The Professor’s Daughter, by Joann Sfar and Emmanuel Guibert (First Second): There are certainly better, beefier works by Sfar, but this is still charming, beautiful stuff, with Sfar’s endearingly cranky voice getting a lovely rendering from Guibert.
Re-Gifters, by Mike Carey, Sonny Liew and Marc Hempel (Minx): A snazzy little story of romance, martial arts and self-esteem that avoids every single Afterschool Special pitfall through solid characterization, tight storytelling and spiffy art.
Ride Home, The, by Joey Weiser (AdHouse): I have yet to find a gnome living in my car, but maybe it just knows I’m on to it thanks to this charming, all-ages adventure about embracing change.
Scott Pilgrim Gets It Together, by Bryan Lee O’Malley (Oni): This series of a young slacker in love just gets better and better, which hardly seems possible. Great characters, a spot-on kind of magical realism, and plenty of twists and turns to keep things fresh and moving.
Shazam! The Monster Society of Evil, by Jeff Smith (DC): The Mary Marvel sequences are enough to put this on a Decade in Fun list, but Smith’s re-imagining of the origin of Captain Marvel is delightful from top to bottom.
Shortcomings, by Adrian Tomine (Drawn & Quarterly): Not all comics about whiny losers who are unable to sustain interpersonal relationships are intolerable. Some, like this one, are absolutely delightful and have what may be the year’s best dialogue.
Suppli, by Mari Okazaki (Tokyopop): Damnation, how did this one slip under my radar for so long? In this beautifully drawn josei title, an advertising executive throws herself into work after the end of her seven-year relationship. It’s exactly the kind of book tons of people have been begging for: funny, intelligent, moving and grown up.
Umbrella Academy, The: Apocalypse Suite, by Gerard Way and Gabriel Bá (Dark Horse): It’s hardly the first comic to portray the super-team as a dysfunctional family, or maybe even the 50th, but it’s a clever, fast-paced, wonderfully illustrated example all the same.
Venus in Love, by Yuki Nakaji (CMX): Aside from the novelty of its college setting (as opposed to the shôjo standard, high school), this book has ample low-key charm. A straight girl and a gay guy become friendly rivals when they realize they have a crush on the same classmate.
Welcome to the N.H.K., by Tatsuhiko Takimoto (Tokyopop): I can take or leave the manga this novel inspired, but the source material is tremendously appealing reading. It’s like if David Sedaris wrote a novel about straight, dysfunctional Japanese people.
Wild Adapter, by Kazuya Minekura (Tokyopop): Charismatic, emotionally damaged boys pose their way through the stations of the noir cross. Mostly style, but what style, and a reasonable amount of substance to keep you from feeling entirely frivolous. (If frivolity isn’t a worry, you can easily ignore the substance.)