Friday, February 10, 2012

Best Comics of 2011 no. 3: Habibi

Yes, yes, I know it's on everybody's lists, and Craig Thompson is the darling of comics circles this year.
While I didn't much care for his previous magnum opus, Blankets, I did attend a lecture he gave at the school where I teach, Minneapolis College of Art & Design. I was sufficiently impressed to buy the book and get a spiffy signature and sketch.
And yes, it's a richly layered text, with multiple meanings interspersing tales of love and loyalty with lush and intelligent page design inspired by the Koran. The mathematics of the design are consistent with Islamic beliefs and serve as a framework for structuring the emotionally rich narrative.

And I am quite impressed with the layout and the dense, involving story.
The beauty of Thompson's page design is not lost on me.

But true though that all is, it's not the biggest reason it's on my Best list.
I love books.
I'm not talking about content, I'm talking about form. There's something satisfying about a well-crafted book. The beauty of a good tight binding, elegant end papers, a design and strategy to the physical properties of the volume itself that reinforces the content without calling undue attention to itself. these things inspire me and leave me awestruck.
So when Thompson talked about delaying getting Habibi printed for several months while he located a printer who could fulfill his specs on the volume, and then toured the printer and the bindery(!), I was hooked.
This is an elegant book with exquisite contents.
Few volumes of comic narrative are this well bound. This holds a proud place on my shelf next to the single volume limited edition of Bone, the lovely collection of Brian Wood and Ryan Kelly's LOCAL, and my limited edition first printing of Eisner's A Contract With God.
Great books should be a joy, either open or closed. Habibi is such a book.
Friday, Feb. 10: the final two of 2011.

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