Graphic Novels: Best American Comics and Rucka & Co.’s Dragon Age | Xpress Reviews

Week ending September 30, 2016

The Best American Comics 2016. Houghton Harcourt. (Best American). Oct. 2016. 352p. ed. by Roz Chast & Bill Kartalopoulos. ISBN 9780544750357. pap. $25; ebk. ISBN 9780544750548. COMICS ANTHOLOGIES
bestcomics093016The “Best American Comics” series has been published since 2006, and the 2016 edition finds its editors with an impressive breadth and depth of artists to choose from—and they’ve done so skillfully and thoughtfully. Stories by familiars such as John Porcellino (The Hospital Suite) and Gilbert Hernandez (Bumps in the Night) and Internet sensations Kate Beaton (Broadside Ballads) and Julia Wertz (Vintage Trash and Horse Bones) stand alongside equally riveting pieces from lesser knowns, including punk poet Casanova Frankenstein (The Corpse, the Ghost, and the Hollow-Weenie) and zinester Walter Scott (Wendy). The collection also feels well balanced artistically—brutal personal narrative followed by surrealist dreamscape, stories of childhood illness, brushes with fame, and even working in an adult bookstore, digital art beside decoupage. Editors Kartalopoulos (comics history, Sch. of Visual Arts, New York) and Chast (Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant?) capture the heart of comic art today, both how it got here and where it’s going; it’s a treat to dive into the various styles represented here.
Verdict A great introduction to the current scene for those wondering where to begin, this volume surprises and satisfies active comics readers as well.—Emilia Packard, Austin, TX

Rucka, Greg (text) & Carmen Carnero & others (illus.). Dragon Age: Magekiller. Dark Horse. Jul. 2016. 120p. ISBN 9781616556341. pap. $14.99; ebk. ISBN 9781630080716. SF/MEDIA TIE-IN
With Magekiller, collecting the first five issues of a new Dragon Age series, the prolific and skilled Rucka (Lazarus; Wonder Woman) enters a world that began as a video game in 2009 and has been explored in novels, comic books, and tabletop games. Though it would seem this universe might already be fleshed out, Rucka tells a story that even the uninitiated can easily follow. Tessa, a sharp and skeptical young woman, is a sidekick to Marius, a lunkheaded, lovable, single-minded seeker of justice. They are mage killers, assassins who off evil wizards for a fee. In these comics, Tessa tells of how the two get mixed up in internecine wizard warfare, develop as a team, and defend their realm against demons coming through rips in reality. The illustrations are surprisingly compelling—cool, scary monsters, emotional exchanges, intrigue and tension communicated clearly. Unfortunately, the action scenes themselves are too neatly wrapped up without the actual movement being portrayed, and the overall narrative gets a bit lost without previous context of Dragon Age as a whole, but even newcomers will want to know more.
Verdict Best for fans familiar with the Dragon Age universe but readable and pleasant for even the totally clueless.—Emilia Packard, Austin, TX