People do a lot of year end reviews, but I never have. This week I was forced to confront a year of reading all at once when I decided to clear the growing pile of comic books next to my bed. Nearly a year of them had piled up as I read them and when I laid them all out on the bed to alphabetize them for shelving, I realized that this was a massive part of my 2010.
This being the last article of the year, it makes sense to share this scary pile of bedside reading. So here, in no particular order, is a rundown of 33 of comic books from by my bed in 2010. (Apologies in advance for the length of this article, I'll understand it is all a bit overwhleming and you want to skip to the end for a couple of year-end announcements and explanations.)
Hellblazerby Peter Milligan, Giuseppe Camuncoli and Simon BisleyRegular readers of this column might remember that I'm a pretty big fan of where Hellblazer went this year, and I was happy to see that my vote helped push it into the CBR top 100 comics of 2010 (at number 53. Not bad for an old codger of a book, eh?)
Hellblazer - City of Demonsby Si Spencer and Sean MurphyI was very happy to see this supplemental title in the Hellblazer pantheon, especially as it was a damn good one. Sean Murphy is a great fit for Constantine's character and Spencer did a good job of wrapping up a neat little story and frustrating Constantine's slim chance of romance (as per usual.)
Parker: the Outfit (Richard Stark's Parker)by Darwyn CookeThis is a good one. I like Parker the Hunter a fair amount, lovely comic book and a very elegantly bound book (heavy paper, quality printing, nice end papers, etc), but the Outfit took it to a whole other level. I loved it, Parker's meaner now and his methods are increasingly devious, just as Cooke's art makes Stark's storytelling that much more visceral. This really left me gagging for the Cooke's next installment in 2011.
Joker's Asylum Mad Hatter #1by Landry Walker, Keith Giffen and Bill SienkiewiczI bought this purely for the heady combination of Giffen and Sienkiewicz' art. The story was fine, a bit silly, but then the Mad Hatter is (to me) a slightly ridiculous concept. I really only cared about the visual story here and for me it delivered.
Buffy the Vampire Slayerby Joss Whedon, Brad Meltzer, Jane Espenson, Georges Jeanty,This year was a bit erratic, but then again the tv show always was too, so it fit. I loved some of it and sort of just stood around for some of it. Mostly it was a lot of fun, which is enough to keep me reading. Besides, those Jo Chen covers are bloody marvelous.
Fablesby Bill Willingham, Mark Buckingham, Steve Leiloha and othersAfter that whole war thingie ended I nearly stopped reading, but after a few truly tedious issues (baseball, really?) things started to heat up and get eerie again. I liked the big bad villain and I enjoyed the metamorphosis of Frau Deadchildren (always knew that name was too intense for her to just be a side character.) This year was definitely the year that Fables proved it could still jump off the page without those gorgeous James Jean covers as Joao Ruas stepped up.
iZombieby Chris Roberson and Michael AllredMike Allred makes such incredible books on his own that it seems like a waste for him to just be doing art, but what art it is... Personally I prefer his writing to Roberson's, at least in this instance. Still, I like this female-centric story, even if it is rather hackneyed. the idea of creating a '60's style comic book about girls obsessed with boys, who ought to be thinking about bigger things doesn't make much sense to me, and I can only think that the writer got all distracted by Allred's sexy pop art style. It is worth reading and I hold out hope that the momentum will pick up.
Spider-Man: Feverby Brendan McCarthyMental! Pure, crazy fun. No one does psychedelia like McCarthy and it was a pleasure to see him sink his creative chops into this character. All too often Spider-Man can get a little too normal, so I liked this excursion a hell of a lot.
Unwrittenby Mike Carey and Peter GrossThis is so odd and sweet, I really thought I'd just dabble in it and only read for a couple of issues. 20 issues on, here I am, still sucked right in. It's a clever little comic book and I'm still enjoying it. I don't think it's going to change my world or anything, but it's a compelling read.
Superman vs Muhammad Aliby Dennis O'Neil, Neal Adams, Dick Giordano and Terry Austin.Look at those authors? This is an absolute must-have. So glad that this classic has been reprinted. It's all about the first double page spread of the street, alive with humanity. Beautiful time capsule of a book.
AX: A Collection of Alternative MangaEdited by Sean Michael Wilson. Compiled by Mitsuhiro Asakawa.Had to buy this, it's manga like you've never seen it - all indie and weird. I've still got half of it to read, but I'm enjoying dipping my toe in to this world. It's like a Haruki Murakami novel in pictures, all creepy, foreign logic that I can't follow.
Neonomiconby Alan Moore and Jacen BurrowsI feel like I've been waiting for this for years, ever since the Courtyard danced that crazy dance inside my head. That story really had power and so far I'm liking Neonomicon a lot too. A lot. Two issues isn't nearly enough though, I want more. Cannot wait to see where this goes.
The Bulletproof Coffinby David Hine and Shaky KaneThis is one I really expected to love, but so far I just sort of like it. Not enough is happening in each issue, as if it was written with the compilation in mind. With something like this, where the whole thing is commenting on the old school comic book genre, I think it would be more effective if each issues delivered, to be on a par with that era. With only one more issue to go, I'm extremely curious as to where this is going to go. Also, my uncle has the same name as the protagonist, so that's obviously a personal selling point.
Punisher Maxby Jason Aaron and Steve DillonLoved this. Is it possible that Aaron and Dillon do a better job than Ennis and Dillon on the Punisher? Nah... but it's on a par for sure. Aaron beautifully picked up the reins on Ennis' Punisher Max and then took us on a journey with him. I loved this, it reminded me of that old Miller, Sienkiewicz book; Love & War, back when those guys were making the best books on earth.
PowersBrian Michael Bendis and Michael Avon Oeming
I want to say I love Powers, and I do, but... I don't know, this year has left me flat. Maybe I'm not reading them attentively enough, but I just don't care so much now that Deena Pilgrim is a side character.Tom Strong and the Robots of Doomby Peter Hogan, Chris Sprouse and Karl StoryAnother one which made it to my best of the year list, and not only because I have a crush on the way Sprouse draws Tom Strong. I was worried that Hogan might not give it the same feel that Moore did, but he's doing such a great job of continuing the tone. Tom Strong was even more himself than ever, and I think Sprouse and Story nail this hunk. Every line is so elegant, like art nouveau. Just beautiful.
The Boysby Garth Ennis and Darick RobertsonI like the Boys. It's nasty, brutal and funny. I was worried that having the odd artists fill-in for Darick Roberston would throw me off, but it continued to deliver. Very much enjoying the outrageous development of this.
Detective Comicsby Scott Snyder and JockJock is on board! Apparently Snyder wrote it, but that isn't why I bought it. Luckily it works, but I'm hooked on the art alone.
X-Womenby Chris Claremont and Milo ManaraAnother one I bought primarily for Milo Manara's art, secondarily for the chance to see Claremont finally letting his freak flag fly totally unencumbered with any pretense of being normal and lastly, for the pure insanity of it... This is a comic book which finally answers the question, how many elegant crotch shots can you pack into one comic? Quite a few it turns out. Hysterical and extremely enjoyable.
The Tale of One Bad Ratby Bryan TalbotBeautiful, eloquent, sensitive and honestly one of the strongest comic books I've read. I already said my piece about this, at length, so I won't go into it again here. Good read though.
The Muppet Showby Roger LangridgeAfter meeting Langridge at SDCC this year and hearing him talk about his influences, I knew that I had to read this. What a treat it is, literally good fun for all ages. Absolutely true to the spirit of the original tv show that I grew up with and loved, this is funny in exactly the same way.
Ghost Projektby Joe Harris and Steve RolstonI had such high hopes for this. Steve Rolston's art gave it a warmth and immediacy that I thought would tie me to the story. I do enjoy spy stories and for my money his was the best take on Queen & Country. However, by the time it ended Joe Harris' story was so vague that I didn't really mind all the loose ends because I just wasn't that engaged.
Captain Swing & the Electrical Pirates of Cindery Islandby Warren Ellis and Raulo CaceresPerfectly happy with the first couple of issues of Warren Ellis' Captain Swing, I've got a bit of a soft spot for that nasty, dirty era of London. Now where's the rest eh? I know Ellis is prolific, I only hope he can make time for this little baby, because I want more.
Metal Menby Duncan RouleauBought this on a whim from the author at SDCC because it had such a jaunty look to it. I still haven't managed to read it (which is mostly because it got stuck on the bottom of the massive pile, nothing to do with the quality.) I'm looking forward to it because it has the look of a very old school take on the Metal Men.
Joe the Barbarianby Grant Morrison and Sean MurphyI had high hopes for this, with the dynamic duo of Grant Morrison and Sean Murphy to keep it dark and fantastical. It worked but I fear that this is another one of those books that works better as a compilation than as individual issues. Interesting premise, but I would have liked a more solid ending.
Avengers: The Originby Joe Casey and Phil NotoI thought Phil Noto had more in him, the first issue was incredible. But over the run the quality of his art seriously declined and by the end this mini series it was pretty abysmal, no backgrounds, incomplete drawings, etc . The story worked fine, I'm a sucker for that old school stuff, but the art was so slipshod, he clearly couldn't keep up. Personally I'd rather have waited two months for more complete art than have the artist rush the work and do a poor job.
Freakshow #1by David Server, Jackson Lanzing and Joe SuitorAfter meeting David Server and Jackson Lanzing at SDCC in 2009 I was much amused by their Marx Brother's silliness, so when I saw them at SDCC in 2010 I had to buy this preview printing of their first attempt at writing a comic. A strong first issue, left me wishing that I didn't have to wait so long for the rest of the run in 2011.
S.H.I.E.L.D. #1by Jonathon HickmanThe first issue really piqued my interest, but then I missed the second and decided to pick up the trade paperback of the first few issues when it came out... Then I completely forgot about it, so I'm glad that I found it on the stack. Can't wait to buy that trade...
The Stuff of Life: A Graphic Guide to Genetics and DNAby Mark Schultz, Zander Cannon and Kevin CannonRemember SMAX? It was an offshoot of Top 10 about one of my favorite characters and his odd culture. I liked Zander Cannon's odd depictions of cat like dragons and fat, lush greenery in that. When I met him at NYCC he was selling some of his books and this one piqued my interest. I've always had a fascination with biology and how things work, yet an almost pathological inability to retain the words. That's why this combination of visuals and text appealed. Cannon's kid-friendly drawings make this a good read for the curious adult or child and I was very happy that I stumbled upon this.
Suburban Glamourby Jamie McKelvieI told Jamie McKelive that I wanted to see what he did with a more active comic book than Phonogram and he recommended this self-penned work. He was right too, it's got more flying, running and even magic. Lovely book and filled with his trademark sassy, cute girls.
Strange Tales #2by Kate Beaton, Nick Gurewitch, Jaime Hernandez, Gilbert Hernandez, Paul Hornschemeier, Scott Richardson, David Heatley and Alex Robinson.A cover featuring three fabulous babes of the Marvel universe drawn by Jaime Hernandez, with stories inside by Jaime and Gilbert Hernandez. How could I resist? Just delightful.
The Return of Bruce Wayneby Grant Morrison and six other blokes on art duty (obviously my favorite was Chris Sprouse, because he draws the hunky men so well)Grant Morrison might be bonkers, but that just makes for better comic books. Who better than Morrison to write a wild, rollercoaster ride through time? I've always had a soft spot for Bruce Wayne and getting to see his personality shine through in all of the disparate scenarios. It is a mark of how strong Morrison's writing is that the constantly changing artists didn't change the mood in the least.
Afrodisiacby Brian Maruca and Jim RuggEveryone told me to read this, so I did. Everyone was right. A very funny, politically-incorrect take on a bygone era. To top it off I got a signed and sketched copy from the fascinating artist at ECCC.
There were quite a few more comic books that I read in 2010 which didn't make it into the pile by my bed or to this list. Some were so good that I lent them to friends, others got put away on when I moved in March. As incomplete as this rundown of my 2010 reading is, in retrospect it was still quite a year. I can't remember a year of comic books this rich and bold since I was a teenager. Is that because I bought better books in 2010 or because the general quality of books has gone up? Maybe it was a combination of both. It certainly helped that I attended a lot of conventions this year, which enabled me to meet some of the creators I like. On their recommendation I've read work which I might otherwise have missed, which is as much of a gift as the work itself. The lesson I'm going to take from this year is that paying attention to what my favorite comic book creators are working on, can vastly enrich the quality of my reading.
Announcements and explanations:
After a year of writing for Comics Should Be Good and this being my version of an end-of-year wrap-up article, I thought I'd get a couple of things out of the way:
- Since last week my letters page got a pretty positive reception I'm going to try and do that more often, so ask me whatever the hell you want (as long as it is comic book related and share-able.) People gave made really useful contributions last week and I really appreciated it. You've got my email address, right?
- Committed is where I write whatever I want, which is why I try to stay out of the comments section. I had my say in the article and I'm much more interested in what you have to say in the comments section. I love reading your input and I will only comment myself once in a while. If you have a specific question you want me to answer, then please go ahead and email (see that number 1 above.)
- Sometimes people suggest other things that I could write about, but I can't because they are things that I've already written about. If you're interested, here is an archive of the weekly columns I've written over the last two and a half years at CSBG and before that iFanboy.
- And finally, thank you for reading all year (or erratically, or even just this once if this is your first time here.) Have a happy new year.