NATIONAL POST names PAYING FOR IT, HARK!, BIG QUESTIONS Best of 2011!

“Graphic Scenes: The Best Graphic Novels of 2011” / The National Post / David Berry / December 28, 2011

December 28, 2011
David Berry

5. Big Questions
By Anders Nilsen
(Drawn & Quarterly)
Anders Nilsen puts his big questions in the mouths of some very small characters: mostly, a gaggle of surprisingly philosophical, or at least contemplative, birds. Dark without being dour, funny without being glib, and willing to parry and thrust with its titular questions without ever going in for the kill, Nilsen’s work is something like an engrossing conversation with a good friend, never properly sating, leaving you eager to come back and find out where it will go next.

4. Hark! A Vagrant
By Kate Beaton
(Drawn & Quarterly)
Kate Beaton’s webcomics, anthologized here, are more or less the perfect marriage of cynicism and silliness: if there’s a running theme to her humour through the historical gags, literary piss-takes and sweet absurdity, it’s that deep down we’re all fairly petty and small-minded, and that’s maybe our funniest trait. Her wit is a kind of needle to pop the pretensions we ascribe to the world around us, though if you only appreciated her for the way she can draw greedy cheeks and wild, jealous eyes, that would probably be just fine, too.

1. Paying For It: A Comic Strip Memoir About Being a John
By Chester Brown
(Drawn & Quarterly)
Paying For It would be notable if only for the bare, matter-of-fact honesty Chester Brown brings to a subject we tend to prefer to ignore, or at least couch in all kinds of distancing irony, hyperbole and obfuscation (i.e. sex). At times a philosophical treatise on romantic love, at times a dryly funny look at Brown’s own neuroses and personal tics, Paying For It is as much about the subculture it’s exploring as it is about the things we do to be able to make it through the world. The starkest proof there yet is that Brown is a very singular kind of person, much less artist, it’s also the rare book that isn’t just going to make you question your opinions, but earn the conclusions you come to.

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