Thursday, January 14, 2010

Best book of 2009: Shaun Tan 's The Arrival

(note: books are eligible for this designation the year i the indie snob first read them; publication is irrelevant)

The Arrival by Shaun Tan.


This was the first comic I read last year and I knew then it had a good chance at being the best of the year. And so it was.

I know, I know, I know. The book came out a few years ago so everyone and their parakeet has already sung its praises, but this book really can't be praised too much.

One observation I do want to make in passing is something I learned at Comic Con:

Comics without words have an easier time getting accepted as Respectable. And as The Arrival meets that category I feel I should comment.

(First, let me insist I have nothing against worded comics --- although last year's winner of this prize was also wordless. And so while I might seem to be knocking worded comics, I assure you I am not.)

Wordless comics more purely explore the strengths of the comics medium. Words --- they're not baggage, but --- they are not inherent to What Comics Is. Comics Are Pictures Ordered.

And so, I think, when outsiders view a wordless comic, they can finally see just What Comics Is.

That explains them.

But I also rejoice in the purity of a perfectly crafted comic that can stand without words.

But The Arrival is more than that. It's story makes the lack of words thematically significant. If we understood the characters' words, that would eat into our empathy. Which is remarkable, when you think about it. Yet here, in this book, it is absolutely true.

Well done, Mr Tan.

Best Comic of the Year
2008: The Blot by Tom Neely
2009: The Arrival by Shaun Tan


nephite blood spartan heart said...

I have loved the small handful of wordless comics I have read. Ever since I was 10 and read G.I. Joe #21 Silent Interlude.

I couldn't believe other people complained about it and didn't recognize the briliance in it.

Th. said...


I just heard about Silent Interlude last year. Now I'm anxious to read it. I think I only read one G.I.Joe as a kid, the one that came in my stocking. By the time I started buying comics, that was long past.