About as addicting as an all-you-can-eat-buffet, Lisa Hanawalt’s Hot Dog Taste Test (Drawn and Quarterly, $22.95) offers some of the funniest comics you’ll read this year. Her cartoon-y visual gags are lavishly colorful and as ridiculous as “Banana Embellishments,” “Snack Realism,” or “Bathroom Problems” makes them sound. Hanawalt’s food journalism somehow captures the passion and complexity of foodie culture, while never letting us forget the absurdity of cubes of scrambled egg or “tiny saffron-coconut ice cream-sandwich topped with Sturgeon caviar.” Please, pick up this book. Every page is a laugh--and where else will you see toucans flirting with deli-counter boys, or fall in love with horses all over again, or learn the meaning of “doof”?
Jules Feiffer’s Kill My Mother was a dramatic and stylish nod to noir that introduced us to Bay City and its iconic P.I., Sam Hannigan. Now here’s Cousin Joseph (Liveright, $25.95) to give us some back story. Opening in the middle of the Great Depression, this prequel introduces Sam as a younger detective than the wise cynic of Kill My Mother; part of the Red Squad, he feels a few twinges of conscience, but can usually repress the guilt. Meanwhile, Bay City is rife with intrigue: Feiffer vividly conveys the period’s battles over unions, the activities of fat-cat Hardy Knox, and the fear of subversive Hollywood films. Unfolding at an elegant, even hypnotic pace, Feiffer’s narrative features a wide-range of characters, and as he sets them dancing on the page, he makes an inimitable contribution to both the graphic genre and the ongoing public debate about immigration, class, race, and identity.
As a comics writer, Nihei's no great shakes at character development or plot. But as an artist, a conjurer of vast, biomechanical labyrinths festering with grime and hidden secrets, he is second to none. BLAME! is his first work, and perhaps the purest example of his style: a man alone in the midst of a constantly shifting and regenerating dystopian city, dwarfed by his surroundings and threatened by creatures that loom over the pages. Republished in a larger edition, this is an idiosyncratic classic of the comics form presented the way it was always meant to be read.