As we approach the end of 2007 (just a few more hours, and counting), I asked the Blog@ team to share some of their favorite comics from the previous year. As Kevin says below, it was tough to narrow down the list to just a few stand-outs, but here are our favorites:
I’m sure no one is surprised to see Architecture & Mortality as one of my Best of 2007 picks. I loved the heck out of Brian Azzarello & Cliff Chiang’s metatextual take down of DC’s periodic character overhauls. Whether it was setting up a groan-worthy pun or a sentimental moment, A&M was designed to make its readers question not only the manner of revamping and reusing obscure DC characters, but the roles of all involved, including the fans. It reminded this reader that every character has its own dignity.
My next pick is The Complete Peanuts 1965 to 1966, the latest volume in Fantagraphics’ excellent reprint series. I read most of this book in one sitting, while traveling this fall, and it really illustrated the extent to which the strip hit its stride during these two years. Trips to summer camp introduce us to Roy, who offers new perspective on our heroes. Peppermint Patty and Snoopy’s flying-ace persona debut in this volume. Meanwhile, in the real world, the 1965 holiday season sees the premiere of A Charlie Brown Christmas, which brings the gang even wider recognition. (That also provides one of the book’s more jarring moments, when Linus refers back to the special in a 1966 Christmas strip.) It’s Charles Schulz at his best, which is saying a lot.
Back to DC, there aren’t too many regular titles I enjoy more than Mark Waid and George Perez’s The Brave and the Bold. Waid’s encyclopedic knowledge of the company’s characters is a natural pairing with Perez’s ability to draw any of them. Moreover, their collaborations are both accessible to the casual reader and true to the characters’ current incarnations. There’s no better way to sample the DC universe.
Finally, I had to include JLA/Hitman, a story “set” in the ’90s heyday of both Grant Morrison’s League and DC’s slightly edgier superhero-fringe titles. Hitman was, I’m sorry to say, a title I never found room to read, but I can pay this miniseries no higher compliment than to say I know now what I was missing. This two-issue miniseries, by Hitman‘s regular team of Garth Ennis and John McCrea, mashed up Tommy Monaghan and the Justice League to great effect. Of course, Tommy finds himself at odds with most of the JLA, especially Batman, but he has a somewhat surprising ally on the team. Taking its cue from Tommy’s earlier meeting with Superman, JLA/Hitman showed exactly why the DC universe, and by extension DC Comics, needs both kinds of characters. Like I said, I was barely familiar with the character before reading this miniseries, but by the poignant last pages, I was ready to crawl the back-issue bins for more. I can’t speak to its place in Hitman lore, but JLA/Hitman gets my vote for best Justice League story of the year.
Sept Pirates (Seven Pirates):As this is a foreign language book, I feel I should explain it in more detail. Sept Pirates (which translates to ‘Seven Pirates’ in English) is written as a sequel to the Robert Luis Stevenson classic, Treasure Island. Sept Pirates revisits Jim Hawkins, who is now falling into debt. He reunites with his former treasure hunting companions and they explain they want to return to the island to find the second part of Captain J. Flint’s treasure. For a preview, follow this link to see pages from the book. The art is excellent, illustrated by Australian Tim McBurnie, a relative newbie that needs discovering now!
I’ve shown my copy of this book to several bilingual friends and they’ve all asked me where to buy it. The only place I know I can order this georgeous hardcover from is through amazon.fr.
The Perry Bible Fellowship: The Trial of Colonel Sweeto and Other Stories:This is the first printed collection of the popular webcomic and best strip to come around since the Far Side and Calvin and Hobbes. It’s cute, darkly hilarious and absolutely evil at the same time. Slightly random and kind of violent, nothing beats a comic with someone getting impaled by a unicorn. It’s not a book for everyone, but I made sure this treasure made it under the tree to several friends and family.
Astonishing X-Men #23:This year was a bit odd for me as I got more jaded with mainstream comics. Then I read Astonishing X-Men #23, and it got my blood going again for good old fashion super-hero fun. Cyclops, a character that used to bore me to tears, to the point that I would ask why they even bother with him. Joss Whedon finally wrote Cyke as the leader he should be AND he totally knocked the beeheegeez out of the bad guys. Couple this with John Cassaday’s amazing ability to portray expressions and Laura Martins beautiful colours, made this the best single comic issue of the year. Rock-on! |m|/(x_x)\|m|
Best history books: Bryan Talbot’s Alice in Sunderland and Larry Gonick’s History of the Modern World Vol. 1 took very different approaches towards relating history, the latter adopting a humorous, but nevertheless straightforward approach while the former took a more scatter-shot, pell-mell attack riffing from subject to subject and back and forth across the centuries, often within two pages. Yet both remained fascinating, utterly enjoyable books, ones I’d easily give to any history buff without a single qualm.
Best manga: Even with its unevenness toward the end, Death Note almost took the title here, since it was one of the best evocations of Hitchcock-like thrills on the comics page. Drifting Classroom, with its utter fearlessness and decibel-shredding emotional amplification, also is up there. But really, for sheer insane, feverish plots mixed with utter-genius craftsmanship, nothing for me tops Osamu Tezuka’s MW. Even though it’s one of the master’s lesser works, it still stands remarkably well against any of
the other manga I read this year.
Best graphic novel of the year: I really enjoyed Rutu Modan’s Exit Wounds, a smart heartfelt story about love and family set in Israel, but Gilbert Hernandez’s Chance in Hell knocked me back for a loop, and considering most of us have long ago relegated him to pantheon of Greatest Cartoonists Evah that’s saying something. His devastating portrayal of a young girl who experiences loss after devastating loss is perhaps is gutsiest and darkest work yet.
Best reprint collection that no one paid any attention to: The $65 price tag no doubt put more than a few people off of The Complete Comic Strips of Rodophe Topffer, perhaps regarding it as one more for scholars than the general public. That’s a shame though, as even the quickest perusal shows that Topffer’s gift for humor hasn’t aged much at all.
My list of favorite comics of the year started out with 20 titles, including Scott Pilgrim, Vol. 4, All-Star Superman, Mushishi and The Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service. But after much thinking, I’ve whittled the names down to just five:
The Immortal Iron Fist, by Ed Brubaker, Matt Fraction, David Aja and others (Marvel): Breathing new life into a three-decade-old superhero, Brubaker, Fraction and Aja re-envision the Iron Fist as a mantle held by 66 people, stretching back to the 13th century. But instead of becoming mired in the legacy fetishism that surrounds so many DC heroes, the creators deliver a funny, dense and action-packed read that exploits the character’s new history, and mythology, to its fullest (for evidence, just glance at any of the issues from the current “Seven Capital Cities of Heaven” storyline). It’s obvious Brubaker and Fraction are having a blast with the series. However, the contributions of artist David Aja can’t be ignored. While I’ve enjoyed his fluid action scenes and architectural page layouts since the very beginning, it wasn’t until Issue 7 and the annual, which featured guest artists, that I truly appreciated how much the title owes to him. This is the first comic in a long, long time that I look forward to each and every month.
King City, Vol. 1, by Brandon Graham (Tokyopop): King City is a sprawling, futuristic metropolis where, given the proper injection, a lethargic, overweight cat becomes a tool or a weapon, ninjas practice “ninja shit” above a fancy restaurant, and a flicked booger draws blood (and leaves a skull-shaped wound). At the center of it all is Joe, a trained cat master and thief who trades in secrets, drinks turtle soda and longs for his ex-girlfriend. It’s all very over-the-top, with one absurd idea after another bursting off the page. It’s entertaining and ridiculous and utterly addictive.
The Last Call, Vol. 1, by Vasilis Lolos (Oni Press): I’ve been banging the drum for this graphic novel for several months, and I’m not about to stop now. Bored teens Sam and Alec go on a midnight joyride, only to have their “borrowed” car stall in the path of the Ghost Train, an otherworldly transporter of souls. Trapped on board, the kids find themselves in a world that’s part Miyazaki, part del Toro, and all Lolos — a world populated by a talking shadow, an inhumanly tall, and unforgiving, conductor, and a dining car filled with superficial creatures straining to be polite to each other (and failing). Lolos’ energetic and expressive art is a delight — I fell for it in The Pirates of Coney Island — but it’s his characterization of Sam that really sells this graphic novel.
Tekkonkinkreet: Black & White, by Taiyo Matsumoto (Viz Media): This violent and touching tale of rooftop-hopping young brothers who battle yakuza and a Disney-like corporation for control of Treasure Town is manga for those capes-and-tights fans who protest that they hate manga. Brooding Black and simple-minded White are pint-sized superheroes, defying gravity and authority as they try protect their turf, and each other, from the outside world. It’s fast-paced, bloody, engrossing and, occasionally, heart-wrenching. Thanks to the animated adaptation, the manga received a good deal of attention this summer; it’s well-deserved (to be honest, though, the comic is much better than the movie).
The Umbrella Academy: Apocalypse Suite, by Gerard Way and Gabriel Ba (Dark Horse): Given the amount of advance publicity this miniseries received, thanks to Way’s pop-star status, it easily could fall short of expectations. If anything, this comic exceeds the hype. With The Umbrella Academy, Way and Ba take a Lynchian view of the super-team as a monocle-wearing entrepreneur adopts seven super-powered infants and trains them to save the world. Each issue is crammed with action as the story shifts back and forth from the past to the present as the children, now adults, reunite after their father’s death. Events move at a break-neck pace — a refreshing change in this era of writing for the trade — and we get a sense that we’re only seeing a small glimpse of a much larger, and more complex, world.
The Homeless Channel: If I were to rank my favorite books of the year, I’d be hard pressed not to put Matt Silady’s debut graphic novel as my No. 1 pick. I’d also be hard-pressed to pinpoint what exactly makes this such a killer book … is it Silady’s ear for dialogue? The realistic artwork? The interplay between Darcy and Grady? The social commentary? Hell, dunno and don’t care. It all works. I can’t wait to see what Silady does next.
Percy Gloom: Cathy Malkasian, formerly a director for the Rugrats cartoon has created a delightfully nightmarish allegory that throws a lovable underdog type — the title character, Percy Gloom — onto a path of enlightenment. Quite frankly, I’m not sure exactly how to describe it, but it’s good, it has a message and it stays with you long after you finish it.
The Walking Dead: As I was doing an inventory of comics from the past year that I might want to include on my list, I thought about the one comic that I always read first when I get my bi-weekly shipment of comics. Without fail, Robert Kirkman and Charlie Aldard’s Walking Dead was the first thing out of the box and into my hands whenever it shipped.
I like Walking Dead not because it startles me on every page (although it’s been known to on occasion) or because Aldard’s zombies are so gruesome (which they are) … no, what really gets to me is the stark reality of the situation the ragtag cast has found itself in. This isn’t so much about a takeover by zombies as it is about each character slowly going mad because of the unexplainable situation that surrounds them. Each issue is about how they deal with whatever level of madness happens to be hitting them. Robert Kirkman has struck a great balance between the horror, action and human elements in this book, and it’s the slow burn of lost hope that really makes this such a great comic in my eyes.
Shazam!: Monster Society of Evil: I think I called this the superhero comic of the year around mid-July … yep, I did. And I think that analysis still stands. Jeff Smith’s take on the Big Red Cheese was also the most fun you could have at the comic shop in 2007.
So what were your favorites?