The Arrival by Shaun Tan is the most overrated comic of the past year. Published more or less simultaneously in several languages, it seems to have received unanimously positive, bordering on rave, criticism since it came out — from the mainstream press as well as the comics cognoscenti. To cap things off, it was awarded the Book of the Year-award at Angoulême. Yet, it is little more than a big fat sap sandwich.
Its shortcomings are nothing new. Rather, they seem almost endemic to the modernist tradition of the socially engaged, silent picture-narrative that it naturally fits into. The mostly woodcut stories of artists like Lynd Ward, Otto Nückel and Eric Drooker that with a few outstanding exceptions — Frans Masereel, Palle Nielsen — equate the stark contrast of their graphic medium with their ethos and thrive on the bathetic.