Instead of just doing “honorable mentions,” I will try to do some separate spotlights over the next week or so of some books that I liked a lot this year but fell just shy of my top ten. So here is my top ten (no ties for number ten – that’s cheating!)!
10. Sex Criminals
Like the works of Garth Ennis, often some of the most outlandish plots can bring out the most universal pieces of character work. That is certainly the case with Sex Criminals, where Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky get into some heartfelt and easily identifiable character moments through the seemingly over-the-top approach of a woman and a man who stop time when they orgasm. A charming tale.
Achewood finally returned to a somewhat regular basis in 2013 with a series of strong strips, including a phenomenal examination of sexism in erotic literature and a truly outstanding attack on the devolution of penmanship in modern society. Achewood is back and we’re all the better for it!
If you don’t find the following comic strip amusing, then you and I cannot be friends…
8. Parker: Slayground
Darwyn Cooke’s Parker adaptations are always great, but the ones that stand out the most are the ones where Cooke takes advantage of his unique format to do things you wouldn’t be able to do in a non-comic format, and Slayground is definitely an example of this as he really tries some different approaches, including a pull-out map to the theme park at the heart of the story (as Parker is trapped inside an amusement park after a job goes wrong and is hunted down by crooked cops and the mob).
7. Rachel Rising
Terry Moore continues his brilliantly dark horror series Rachel Rising in its second year as we further explore the revenge that Lilith has planned for the town that enraged her. This is a creepy comic, made all the more creepy by Moore’s crisp, character-driven artwork. And man, there are some dark, dark twists in this series.
6. Relish: My Life In The Kitchen
Lucy Knisley’s memoir, Relish: My Life in the Kitchen, tracks Knisley’s life as it relates to her obsession with food. It is a delightful tale with impressive artwork. This is such a bright and cheery comic book. Knisley makes everything so fun to read. It is almost addictive.
Mark Waid has been building to this year’s worth of Daredevil stories from the beginning of the series and the conclusion was more than worth the wait. Waid and artist extraordinaire Chris Samnee delivered the best superhero storyline of the year as Daredevil encounters a new villain who has Daredevil’s powers…with a significant twist (a twist revealed in one of the best sequences that I saw in a superhero comic book all year long). The reveal of the big bad was handled well as was the final showdown. This was already a great comic book but 2013 saw a leap forward in quality, making it one of (if not THE) best superhero comic out there.
4. Battling Boy
Paul Pope’s new all-age series of graphic novels is a visual treat for your eyes. The amount of detail he delivers on each page of this first volume is staggering. He is one of the most clever and dynamic artists of this generation, especially when it comes to action, which Battling Boy has plenty of. The concept is that a young hero is thrust into taking over from a legendary hero who has been killed. The new hero is not really ready yet, and that is the thrust of this volume, which sets up the second volume well. But really, while the story is interesting, this book is really sold by the spectacular Pope artwork.
3. Mind MGMT
It is astonishing how inventive Matt Kindt is with Mind MGMT on an ongoing basis. How his mind is able to come up with so many clever ideas every single month is staggering to me. In the second year of this excellent series, Kindt spends more time exploring the mythology of the mysterious agency behind the title of the series and examining the various agents behind the group. It is fascinating material.
2. Calling Dr. Laura
What amazes me about Nicole Georges’ (roughly) autobiographical tale, Calling Dr. Laura, is that the two big hooks of the book, the fact that Georges’ family lied to her about her father’s death for decades and the fact that the progressive Portland resident Georges looks to the conservative talk show host Dr. Laura Schlessinger for advice really are not the focus of the book. Instead, it is just an examination of Georges’ life which she delivers in such a well-written fashion that you are riveted. The book alternates between charming and terribly sad, as Georges’ life has some real darkness to it. Georges’ artwork is strong, as she changes styles during the present and the past.
March, Book 1 by Congressman John Lewis, co-writer Andrew Aydin and artist Nate Powell details Lewis’ childhood and his earliest involvement in the civil rights movement, most notably his participation in the Nashville lunch counter sit-ins in 1959 and 1960. It is a powerful work well served by Powell’s well-formed and dynamic layouts. Lewis, Aydin and Powell really know how to make the story seem so visceral that you cannot help but become affected by the story, to feel the anguish and the dread that comes from, say, a drive through the south in the early 1950s (when Lewis goes on a trip with his Uncle to Buffalo) or the hopes of Lewis when Brown versus the Board of Education came down or the disappointment when Lewis realizes that he cannot put his family through the trauma of an attempt by him to integrate Troy State University or the severe determination it must have taken to not react when the Nasvhille police allowed angry white students come into the Woolworths to attack and degrade the protesters. This is not just a valuable teaching tool but also a stunningly well made comic book.