The inaugural volume includes stories culled from graphic novels, pamphlet comics, newspapers, magazines, mini-comics, and the Web.
Esther Pearl Watson
These days, the measure of any good comics anthology seems to be the Chris Ware-edited volume of McSweeney's 13. The early issues of Fantagraphics' Mome came close to recreating this greatness (although, sadly, recent issues seem to be a tad more inconsistent), and this newest edition to The Best American series, comes as close as any traditionally formatted book can get (McSweeney's has a knack for design that, though often imitated, is hard to surpass). Part of that might have to do with the fact that 3 of the stories here are compiled from McSweeney's, and 2 from Mome. The rest, as is the tradition of the Best American series, uses a multitude of quality source material. Editors Anne Elizabeth Moore and Harvey Pekar's selections are, as anyone familiar with Pekar's aesthetic, mostly reality-based. There are no representations of mainstream superhero greatness or Kramer's Ergot-style rich, indulgent artistic flourishes. Presented here are simply the best comics, or excerpts of, that fit the realm of alternative and/or underground comics.
My only real gripes are the dates of eligibility (from January 1, 2004 - August 15, 2006 - does this mean we'll have to wait a year and a half for the next installment?) and the hardcover format which feels rather, um, decadent. Perhaps the hardcover helps to reassert the literary importance that McSweeney's Vol. 13 achieved, and it does do that. This book feels substantial. It feels and reads like quality. And it is, easily, the best comics anthology of 2006.
-Benn Ray, Atomic Books Blog