Best collections are always a mixed bag. If the editor’s taste lines up with yours, the volume becomes a lifelong favorite. If it doesn’t, then it’s a disaster. While I like Alison Bechdel, I don’t love her. I was curious what she’d do as a guest editor, and the answer is a volume that leans heavily toward the type of confessional art that she does herself.
It’s a style I like best when it works with issues larger than the cartoonist (Speigelman) and stays tightly focused so that tiny moments become epic (Allie Brosh). My least favorite use of the confessional strip is when it focuses on a loser who feels himself above the other losers and puts himself in situations where no one can win. (I won’t name names). I’ve never been a fan of Crumb or Pekar but I’ve a real weakness for some of the older narrative serials, circa 1920. So that’s my taste. With those parameters understood, I have to give Best American Comics 2011 a solid B.
There were some very strong strips (Pham, Ware, and Sacco) strips that perfectly define what I don’t like (Mutch), and strips that give a good example of being edgy for the sake of it (Hernandez). Looking back at the collection, there was a wide range of subject and style but in the reading it felt narrow. I don’t know if that was due to sequencing or selection. I didn’t close the volume feeling a strong need to seek out more work by any particular author, but it was an interesting look at the current crop of autobiographical comic artists.