MarkAndrew at CSBG is the first person to really take up the initial meta-list, and he made some interesting points. I'd been meaning to say a bit more about the list, so I'll chime in with a few comments of my own. But just the top 5 for today; I'll get to 6-10 tomorrow, hopefully.
1. Exit Wounds by Rutu Modan
I still haven't read it, but I haven't really been actively seeking out a copy (for the record, I'd been trying to catch up with all the 2006 books I hadn't managed to read yet, like Japan as Viewed by 17 Creators; I'm currently working on Rebel Visions, which I've owned for years but had only flipped through up until recently). MarkAndrew and others have suggested that it's not quite the best comic of the year. I expect that I'll agree after reading it--as my best of 2007 list probably indicates, I place a high value on works with a distinctive visual flair, particularly those which combine high-level cartooning, atmosphere, and symbolic content. I'm not sure that Exit Wounds fits my personal aesthetic preferences, but I'm reminded that Fun Home, a book similarly lacking in visual pyrotechnics, was my favorite release from 2006. Modan hasn't received the same kind of acclaim Alison Bechdel did, however. I'm not sure what to attribute that to--better timing, better publicity, a story which was of greater interest to an American audience, or simply overall quality. I would be shocked if I ended up liking Exit Wounds as much as Fun Home, but that's more about how much I enjoyed the latter than any misgivings about the former.
One last thing. I've only got the data for 2007, but I think it's a reasonable assumption that Fun Home would have been last year's consensus best comic/graphic novel and that Persepolis would have won in 2003. That's three out of eight for this decade so far. Would it be too much to ask for mainstream articles on women in comics to focus on this achievement rather than Wonder Woman?
2. Shortcomings by Adrian Tomine
Another one I haven't read, but intend to do so at some point in the future. I think I've been pretty open with my disdain for Tomine's work, a feeling I've had since I first encountered his work in the mid-90s. I've tried reading Tomine off and on in the ensuing years, but I'm always underwhelmed. Maybe it's a weakness on my part. I like thematically similar work by Jaime Hernandez or Dan Clowes, but their comics are somewhat tempered by more appealing art; any bleakness is offset by overwhelming visual beauty. Tomine really never offers that. His line is much less fluid, his lettering more mechanical. He seems to eschew cartooning in favor of a more realistic style, but there's not sufficient detail to lose oneself in. He forces you to concentrate on his incredibly unsympathetic characters.
I guess it's fair to say that I don't get Tomine. But it's been a few years since I last read anything by him (I'm guessing that my most recent exposure to his work came c. 2004 when I read his contribution to one of the Best American Unrequired Reading volumes). I'm generally pretty open to revisiting things I didn't enjoy the first time around. I didn't get Kim Deitch when first read his comics about 10 years ago, but I now consider him one of the greatest living cartoonists. And I like the work of Yoshihiro Tatsumi, one of Tomine's primary influences. I'm eager to give Tomine another shot, but I'd prefer to read Shortcomings before buying it.
3. All-Star Superman by Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely
As MarkAndrew noted, I did declare this the "token superhero choice," but I also noted that it's the only viable Grant Morrison work from 2007. I think its high placement relative to other prestige superhero projects (most notably Jeff Smith's Shazam) is largely due to critics' eagerness to include something by Morrison on their lists. Morrison might be the most critically acclaimed writer (as opposed to cartoonist) working in comics today, but A-SS has been his only real bright spot since 52 ended.* With the exception of the rejuvenated Geoff Johns, all of the writers on 52 have kind of struggled with writing comics in DC's shared universe. Many of us were hoping that Morrison would thrive at Wildstorm, but that's been an unmitigated disaster. Batman has been surprisingly dull, hampered by sub-par artists. That pretty much leaves All-Star Superman, well-illustrated, unfettered by continuity, unquestionably the most Morrisonian of all Morrison's 2007 work. But still....
Surely I'm not alone in thinking the quality of A-SS declined in 2007. In its first year, Morrison was doing some incredible work, culminating in Clark Kent's interview with Lex Luthor in prison--probably my favorite Superman story of all time. This year kicked off with a good, if somewhat sappy, story about Superman's relationship with his adopted father. From there, however, we got two comics full of Bizarro Supermen. I have a pretty low tolerance for the whole Bizarro concept to begin with, and if anything Morrison's take on it was less interesting than, say, Jeph Loeb's. I found the latest issue, in which rogue Kryptonians chide Superman for protecting humans rather than dominating them, pretty dull stuff. I guess I'm more interested in this comic when it doesn't take my interest in Superman for granted. Cause I think Superman is pretty boring, really.
Having said all that, at least some of the votes for All-Star Superman (and probably the great majority of those coming from non-comics-oriented sources) were for the recent hardcover collection, which reprinted the earlier, better issues of the series. I'm reasonably confident that mainstream reviewers are going to be less taken with the subsequent volumes.
*I would say that it's his only bright spot since Seven Soldiers ended, but a lot of people out there liked 52. I thought 52 had many bright moments, most of which were apparently the work of Morrison; on the whole, however, I found it more tedious than wondrous. A lot of smart people loved it, but I think their love for superheroes as a genre comes with fewer conditions than mine.
4. I Shall Destroy All the Civilized Planets by Fletcher Hanks; edited (w/ afterword) by Paul Karasik
I guess I disagree with MarkAndrew (and Johnny Bacardi, for that matter) in seeing this as a "so bad it's good" type of project. To me, Hanks' works represent the true wonder of Golden Age comics--these are stories from an era when the rules and standards (both moral and aesthetic) which would later restrict comics had not yet come into being. Hanks takes the illogical idea of superpowered crime fighting to twisted-yet-logical extremes, making much of Mark Millar and Warren Ellis' oeuvre seem rather limp in comparison. There is tremendous value in these stories beyond camp. Of course, I suspect that many of the people who included I Shall Destroy All the Civilized Planets on their lists value it primarily for reasons of irony. But that's their problem, not mine.
5. Scott Pilgrim Gets it Together by Bryan Lee O'Malley
When I first started reading comics again in the summer of 2004, it was largely as a way to comfort myself, a back-to-the-womb kind of thing. So I was mostly reading superhero books, even though I hadn't done so for years. Scott Pilgrim was one of the first non-superhero comics I read after returning to comics. It was kind of a jolt to the system at the time, a reminder of the many, many great books that have nothing to do with skintight costumes or crime fighting. I've enjoyed the series since then, but not as much. I'm increasingly conflicted by the popularity of Scott Pilgrim: it's very good for what it tries to do, but is that enough to justify its massive critical acclaim?
This kind of gets to the other side of the "fun" issue. Many of us (myself included) mock the relentlessly dour superhero comics which the big two produce, mostly because, as a genre, superheroes work best when they're fun. But the idea that "fun" is all that comics can aspire to is far more troubling than anything Marvel or DC publishes. Unlike Jim Blanchard, I'm not opposed to fun*, but my favorite "fun" comics have something else going for them: incredible craft, an underlying darkness, or a subtle commentary on human nature. O'Malley has grown by leaps and bounds in the course of making Scott Pilgrim, but the fourth volume doesn't change the fact that this is still a pretty slight series. It's a little more grating this time around, because the issues Scott deals with (commitment, poverty, adulthood) are perfect for some kind of deeper commentary. It's kind of funny--Scott's going through some of the things I was going through when I started reading comics again four years ago, but ultimately he has nothing to escape from (and thus no reason to start reading the comics of Geoff Johns). There are moments of doubt, but you always feel like nothing bad will ever happen to Scott Pilgrim. And so the fourth volume of the series feels more like (well-crafted) escapism than ever. I don't really like the implications of it being the fifth-highest charting graphic novel/comic in 2007.
Reading some of O'Malley's recent interviews, I almost wonder if he feels somewhat constrained by the need to maintain a tone he established years ago, when he was (presumably) a different person and a less skilled artist. I think O'Malley's first post-Scott Pilgrim project will be pretty interesting, but we've got two more crowd-pleasing volumes to go.
*OBSCURE JOKE OF THE DAY; for the record, I've never met Blanchard and know little about him outside of his (apparently fictional) depictions in the last issue of Hate.