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Year End Reviews in Review Part One

by  in Comic News Comment
Year End Reviews in Review Part One

I read a bunch of “Best Comics of the Year” pieces on the web in the last month or so, and I thought it might be fun to review ’em. I’m mostly concentratin’ on folks who read interesting stuff or have a unique point of view, OR are easy targets for my scathing-ass wit. I’m sadly, ignoring folks like Dorian at PostModernBarney who dolee out props to a bunch of stuff I haven’t read. (But PMB is smart and funny and you should read it.) Incidentally, I’ve bolded the works I’ve read ALL of, and put a l’il ** next tothe works I’ve read part of. The top parts like “Time Magazine” are links. Gottit? Let’s start with der Big Dog in the field.


Time magazine

Every year Andrew Arnold of Time does a list, and every year on comic book message boards across the web superhero fans get their Ghost Rider underoos in a bunch. Here’s what he liked:

10) Absolute Sandman – Neil Gaiman and Various
9) Kings in Disquies – James Vance and Tim Burr
8) American Born Chinese – Gene Yang
7) Curses – Kevin Huizenga
6) Cancer Vixen – Marissa Marchetto
5) Fun Home – Allison Bechdel
4) Popeye – E. C. Segar **
3) An Anthology of Graphic Fiction, Cartoons and True Stories – Ivan Brunetti Ed. **
2) The Pushman and Other Stories/Abandon in Old Tokyo
– Yoshihiro Tatsumi
1) La Perdida – Jessica Abel

Arnold’s probably the most high profile comics critic in the country, and I see why. Dude’s an exceptionally succinct writer, and does a bang-up job of telling us what each of these books are about and what makes ’em good in teensy l’il hundred word capsule reviews. Here’s his piece on Civil War: Frontline.
“At once a coming-out story, an examination of the complex relationship we can have with our parents, and the role of art and literature in processing our lives, first-time graphic novelist Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home made for a stunning debut. Moving more-or-less backward in time, Bechdel peels apart her nearly affectionless childhood, her English-teacher father’s apparent suicide and the way that his closeted homosexuality became the dark mirror version of her outward lesbianism. Smart, darkly funny and a little fearless, Fun Home reads like a true-life modern American Gothic. ”

Oops. I meant to say Fun Home.
He doesn’t have the enthusiasm of, say, Dave Campbell (and it’s WEIRD to see Fun Home so low… Wasn’t it Time’s Book of the Year?) but his dead-on linguistic precision makes him perfect for the TIME gig.

(I’m also kinda embarassed I’ve read so few of these. I know I shoulda read Curses and Push Man, but I didn’t dig Abel’s Artbabe and Cancer Vixen just screamed Sex-and-the-City style chick lit at me all loud like.
Entertainment Weekly

I can’t find the Entertainment Weekly comics page with (TV Critic) Ken Tucker’s comments, so I can’t “review” they’re review. So I’ll just talk about comics, stead.

  • Best Miniseries: Dr. Strange: The Oath (Marvel)
  • Best New Series: The All New Atom (DC) **
  • Best Independent-Publisher Comic: Scott Pilgrim and the Infinite Sadness (Oni)
  • Best Graphic Novel: The Left Bank Gang (Fantagraphics)
  • Best Reissue Part 1: Walt and Skeezix: Book 2 1923-24 (Drawn & Quarterly)
  • Best Reissue Part 2: Popeye Vol. 1: “I Yam What I Yam” (Fantagraphics) **
  • Odd picks here; The Atom won for “Best New ongoing series,” which is strange, but hellif’n I can think of any new ongoing series this year that I really liked. I did buy the Atom # 1 and did think it was fine in a Grant Morrison-y way. Even Byrne’s art seemed fine, if unexceptional, to me. But this didn’t, like, grab me by the lapels and rub my face in awesomness. I might be a touch biased here, though given my uncritical adoration for the Fox/Sekowsky Atom book from the sixites.
    Although I’m not sure if that would make me biased AGAINST, or FOR the new Atom. Probably for as I’m more of a “character concept” guy than I am a fan of specific characters.
    Scott Pilgrim’s fine and cute and all, but I have trouble translating “Fine” and “Cute” into absolute greatest work of the year. It’s just so damn disposable, when all’s said and done.
    Popeye’s a good pick, which I can’t argue with.
    And The Left Bank Gang. Wha’ can I say? Jason’s my favorite cartoonist doin’ graphic novels now-a-days, and the premise of Joyce, Fitzgerald, Ezra Pound and Hemmingway, re-imagined as comic artists is cool on it’s own. Having Joyce, Fitzgerald, Ezra Pound and Hemmingway as comic artists Pull Off a Heist is one of the greatest damn ideas for a comic ever!

    But the narrative didn’t grab me. I haven’t done the critical thing where I sit down ‘n pour over the book and figure out what works and what don’t, but on first read the narrative just didn’t work for me. To many quick cuts, not enough time spent on character development, and Jason’s funny animals seem a lot more lifeless to me in color than in B & W.

    IFC Magazine
    editor Tony Whitt gives us, fer a switch, the WORST of the year,

    10) Annihilation
    9) Superman Returns: The Prequels
    8) Apocalypse vs. Dracula
    7) American Virgin **
    6) Hulk
    5) All Star Batman and Robin
    4) Stan Lee Meets **
    3) Last Planet Standing
    2) Jack Kirby’s Galactic Bounty Hunters
    1) The Last Christmas

    It’s an interesting premise, doin’ the worst of the medium instead of the best, but the writing here is taking the last train straight from suck city. There’s the occasional bit of worthwhile criticism: His American Virgin review bit asks, succinctly and accurately “Does it want to be serious or does it want to be satiric?” But the rest of the pieces substitute lame, laaaame jokes

    “While I’m well aware that this title, culled from character sketches found in the late great Jack Kirby’s papers, was intended to be a labor of love, it ended up simply being a labor to read.”

    And nebbish fanboyism

    “Maybe it’s just me, but I simply can’t generate any interest in what our Jolly Green Giant is doing out there. I’d rather have him back here, knocking the ever-lovin’ hell out of both sides of the Civil War, preferably using Iron Man as a club.”

    For any sorta crtitical insights. Although his pick for the Last Christmas for “worst of the year” was pretty spot on, and “Should’ve Been Funny: Wasn’t.” Which is a pretty good summary of this piece, cumtathink.
    Dan Nadel of Comics Comics has tastes pretty close to my own.

    1) ShadowlandKim Deitch
    2) Late BloomerCarol Tyler
    3) Or Else 4 – Kevin Huizenga
    4) Girl Stories Lauren Weinstien **
    5) The Squirrel Mother
    Megan Kelso
    6) Lucky — Gabrielle Bell
    7) A Last Cry For Help –
    Dave Keirsh
    8) Ghost of Hoppers – Jaime Hernandez
    9) Ed the Happy Clown – Chester Brown

    Still, I started a thead on our forum here for raggin’ on Fun Home. (I’m still about 80% sure that he only read the first chapter. “Overwrought” my ass. Even Burgas’ first review was better than that.) Nadel sets up a tough challenge for himself; Writing capsule reviews of Kim Deitch’s stuff is quite a bit harder than writing a hundred words about, say, Spectacular Spider-man where the audience already understands the basic set-up and storytelling structures. There is some worthwhile insight: Chester Brown’s Ed the Happy Clown is described as “more than just history, it feels like Brown asserting and reconstructing his identity as a cartoonist. But there’s also hell of a lot of stuff that just Doesn’t Make Any Freaking Sense.

    The # 2 book, Carol Tyler’s Late Bloomer is called “indisputably the best book of 2006.” Hate to tell you, buddy, but you just done gone and disputed, unless you think # 2 ranks HIGHER than # 1. Also Late Bloomer came out in 2005.
    And THEN he goes and lists reprints seperately, giving props to Walt and Skeezix and Russ Manning’s Magnus: Robot Fighter, ignoring that at least seven of the works on his list are already reprinted from another sources.
    Still, props for recognizing the awesomeness of Kim Deitch; I had serious problems with the science fiction-y parts of Shadowland but I still think that Kim D. is *the* best artist workin’ in comics. And while I’d have troubl justifying Gabrielle Bell’s Lucky as Top Ten of the year if we’re judging on pure application of craft, I think her Glee-Bio-Mics are sooo damn cute and really surprisingly funny “BUt Dude! Turtles!” And I’m glad that someone argued their value for me.

    And I feel a little bad being this down on a blog post which dude dashed off while he was pooping. But, jeezus, pay a LITTLE bit of attention to what you’re writing, willya? I do. And finish the rest of Fun Home. It’s good.

    Comic Book Resources Staff

    There’s six people polled here and they all listed five things so I didn’t transcribe their picks. You can probably figure ’em out from my commentary, anyway.
    It’s nice to see that the folks here have read works from every comic company in the world, both Marvel, and DC. It sure would be nice if some enterprising fellow would scrap together the capital to make another comic company,
    so that there would be THREE comic companies in the world.

    Or, Converselly:
    Those guys at CBR sure are right that Bendis is a better writer that Bendis and Vaughn are better writers than Yang and Bechdel. CBR writers deliver insightful commentary on the entire spectrum of comic publishing. Now Hello! Me am not going to get in car and not drive to store to not buy some eggs!”

    *Gets into car and drives to store and buys some eggs. Which are square.*

    Alright. So I’m sort of a dick. But I always feel gypped when, like, the dude at the comic shop knows a lot less about comics than I do. I read a buncha Marvel and DC stuff, too, but that’s not the WHOLE of the comicsphere and if you can’t be bothered to read outside that I’m not gonna give two flyin’ shits about your opinion.

    I shoulda stopped reading with the introduction where the commentator notes that all six writer “gave it a go,” I guess. Blech. Let’s end this on a good note.

    Bully

    who’s a comics commentator an’ little stuffed bull and can be found in the comments section of this very site from timetatime lists the FIFTY (!) most FUN (Not necassarily BEST) books of the year. His tastes are more mainstream, too, but not exclusively. His top Ten:

    10) Superman Confidential — Darwyn Cooke and Tim Sale
    9) 52 — Grant Morrison and Keith Giffen and assorted hanger-onners **
    8) Runaways — Bryan K. Vaughn and Adrian Alphona
    7) Comic Strip Reprints
    6) Gumby – Bob Burden and Rick Geary
    5) The Spirit – Darwyn Cooke
    4) Agents of Atlas – Jeff Parker and Leonard Kirk
    3) All Star Superman – Morrison and Quietly **
    2) Solo # 11 – Sergio Arragones
    1) Nextwave – Warren Ellis and Stuart Immomen

    UNLIKE some people we’ve already seen who’s names I won’t mention but they’re not funny and don’t understand the world “indisputably” and lack enthusiasm Bully’s a rollicking and entertaning writer. Here’s a couple samples, the first from his piece on All-Star Superman, the Second from his take on the Spirit.

    “All Star has also given us this year one of the best Luthor tales in modern comics, a wonderfully kinetic updating of The Desperate Ones in which a never-supersuited-Clark and an arrogantly crowing Lex work their way through a riot-ridden prison, the signs of his safety right in front of Lex’s burnt-off eyebrow, if only he’d look closely enough.”

    “….innovative and intricate design, casual and believable humorous dialogue, breakneck action, a gorgeous dame with an improbable name, and even the Eisner trademark splash-page representation of the Spirit’s name in the artwork, brought smack-dab up to the twenty-first century by blazing it not across city buildings but in the shimmering pixels of a television screen.”

    See? Entertaining AND informative AND spot-on. You certainly can argue that Late Bloomer is “indisputably” the best book of the year, but if you think Nextwave isn’t fun you’re just WRONG, izzall. And his blog puts most of the “professionals” here to shame.
    So, there’s part one. Part two… Next weekish if I feel like it. Sorry for any format errors, I’m doing this on my new computer and keep jiggling the cursor around by accident.

    Part Two might just be my OWN list, but if there’s any other “year end wrap-up” style pieces on the ‘net you want me to gab about, give me a link and I’ll take a look.

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