I'm a big fan of comics anthologies. Even if the individual comics don't satisfy on their own, the accrued weight of the stories combine into something greater than its parts. The Lovecraft Anthology is a great horror comics collection. It helps that it starts from great source material—in fact, Lovecraft's stories translate well to comics because the artwork replaces some of Lovecraft's hoariest, most inessential expository prose. He was a master of telling when he should show, and these comics are great at showing. There's a lot of different artwork, too: "The Dunwich Horror" is cartoony and cute, "The Haunter of the Dark" is noir-moody, "The Shadow Over Innsmouth" is creepy-realistic. Each of these stories captures a different aspect of Lovecraft—his goofiness, his macabre tendencies, his (rare) restraint. I'm trying to think of a better comics anthology that I've read lately, and I just can't.
I read the first, shorter version of Derf Backderf's high school memoir My Friend Dahmer when it was first published a decade ago. He's finally expanded the story with additional research, and it's now well and truly a book. The plot is this: In high school, Backderf was friends with Jeffrey Dahmer. Maybe "friend" is too strong a word. He was more of an acquaintance, but Dahmer probably considered him to be a friend. They don't share any intimate moments—Dahmer was a spaz, acting like a freak for money and attention—but they know and feel somewhat comfortable with each other. It's admirable that Backderf doesn't embellish this story with too many literary tricks. He doesn't try to use Dahmer's experience as a metaphor for high school. He doesn't try to tell the origin of Dahmer. He gives what feels like an honest reaction: disbelief that he was so close, so often, to a serial killer; and a gnawing desire to figure out what made Dahmer behave that way. It's a mystery, and a terrifying one.
Unless you've got a too-strict definition of comic books, Christoph Niemann's Abstract City is definitely comics: It's words and pictures working together, and if you took away either the words, or the pictures, you wouldn't have a complete work. Just because the writing is mostly denser, diary-style chunks, and just because the art is made up of photographs and maps and bathroom tiles, shouldn't make comics snobs turn up their nose. Niemann feels at times less like an illustrator and more like an exceedingly clever designer: He tells stories with sculpted leaves and cookie dough and googly eyes drawn on ordinary household objects, and he pushes at the edges of what comics can be. You can get frustrated with his bourgeois, New York-centric lifestyle, but if you care about comics, you should be totally enthralled with what he accomplishes in this book.