A belated Happy Holidays to you, dear reader. Though the belated return of REFLECTIONS should be enough of a present to please you, I just had to go the extra mile for the return of my column.
Beginning four years ago, I began asking your favorite writers, artists and editors what their favorite comic books of the year were, and then compiled their answers into a single column.
Though there is always a great diversity of response from the creators, one or two books always break through the litter with multiple mentions. In previous years Runaways, Astonishing X-Men and Captain America were the lucky benefactors and this year is no exception, with The Spirit getting multiple shout-outs from creators, and I have to agree that, by and far, Darwyn Cooke's baby is the best book of the year, though there were so many other great books that choosing a single comic is nigh-impossible, as two or three creators below realized.
But who cares about my opinion? On to the creators....
|"Nova" was a favorite of Marc Andreyko|
Nova by Dan Abnett & Andy Lanning, Sean Chen
Marc Andreyko says, So, I am not a big sci-fi person. Don't care much about 'Star Trek' (I actually think 'GalaxyQuest' is the best 'Star Trek' movie, well, except the whale one...), only like 'Empire Strikes Back' of the six 'Star Wars' films, and aliens whose names have lotsa apostrophes and consonants drive me crazy. That said, I love 'Nova!' Smart, fun, continuity-rich, but totally accessible, 'Nova' is easily the best mainstream superhero book currently being published!Abnett and Lanning have taken this character in a direction that feels logical, but never predictable. And these guys wrote the best 'Civil War' story out there. Sean Chen's art was perfect for the book, but, now that he's gone, Paul Pelletier is taking over! Woo-Hoo! Superheroey goodness! Read this book!
The Punisher by Garth Ennis and Various Lucky Artists
Tony Bedard says, This book consistently hits on all cylinders and, like the Punisher himself, it takes no prisoners. Garth is a ruthless, powerful, insanely gifted writer, and he brings his A-game to this series. I'm gonna miss this book when he's gone.
Tamara Drewe by Posy Simmonds
Kurt Busiek says, There's been a lot of great material published in the last year, from reprint collections like 'The Complete Terry and the Pirates,' 'Jack Kirby's Fourth World Omnibus' and Leonard Starr's 'On Stage,' to new material like Ed Brubaker's masterful turns on 'Captain America' (with Steve Epting) and 'Lawless' (with Sean Philips), Bill Willingham and Mark Buckingham's 'Fables' and as always, Stan Sakai's 'Usagi Yojimbo.' But if I have to pick just one book, I'll go with 'Tamara Drewe,' by Posy Simmonds.
Originally serialized in the British newspaper 'The Guardian,' 'Tamara Drewe' is a rich and involving graphic novel, an updating of Thomas Hardy's 'Far From the Madding Crowd,' translated to a writers' colony in rural England. By turns a satire on modern pomposities, a murder mystery, a character story and an interwoven drama of lust, romance, betrayal, economics and sheep, it's a gorgeously-realized graphic novel, mixing text, illustration, conventional comics storytelling and more with lush, confident, expressive cartooning. It's not just an engrossing story and a fascinating use of comics technique, it's also a beautiful object -- a book that's a pleasure to look at, hold and read, the package design as satisfying and elegant as the contents.
'Tamara Drewe' is the latest from Simmonds, who was justly praised for her previous graphic novel, 'Gemma Bovery,' but this one is a step forward even from that. Beautifully observed, incisively realized, it's an absorbing work by a cartoonist who's not only at the peak of her powers, but she's doing material that's not like anything anyone else is doing. It's well worth seeking out.
Conan and the Midnight God by Joshua Dysart & Will Conrad
Mike Deodato, Jr. says, You've gotta realize, Conan is one of my favorite characters -- masculine, powerful, and he doesn't take crap from anyone. And as fantasy, it's an artist's dream to draw 'Conan' because we can make up the architecture and the monsters.
So my good friend and fellow Brazilian artist Will Conrad got to draw this, so I had to check it out. Nubile ladies, breathtaking set pieces, a gamut of character emotions, nearly-nude snake-babes, salty high-seas adventure, a cast of thousands of warriors -- who could ask for more?
I'm jealous -- I'd love to draw 'Conan' someday.
Owly: A Time To Be Brave by Andy Runton
Christos Gage says, I'm not sure why I'm such a sucker for Owly. It could be that I'm an animal lover, or maybe it's Andy Runton's deceptively simple dialogue-free storytelling (in other words, it seems simple until you try to do it yourself, then you realize how hard it is). It might be that 'Owly' books are perfect to share with anyone of any age -- they're the comics-related gift I give more often than any other -- or the fact that the books always make me happy when I read them, which is a rare and rewarding thing. I do know that this latest installment of the Owly books, in which the kind little owl and his pals encounter a frightened, yet scary, injured baby possum, melted this jaded striking writer's heart. Any of the above could explain why I'm a sucker for Owly. But at the end of the day, I think it's because he's just so darn cute. If you don't like Owly, you have no soul. Happy New Year!
The Spirit by Darwyn Cooke, J. Bone and Dave Stewart
Justin Gray says, Clean concise storytelling blends seamlessly with the art and the writing for an exciting and multi-layered reading experience so few books can achieve. With primarily single-issue stories, Darwyn captures the heart and soul of Eisner's Spirit with a grace and ease that doesn't pay homage so much as it builds on the rich character's history and impact on the comics. Add Dave Stewart's masterful eye for color, mood and atmosphere and you've got a comic book that not only satisfies the most jaded reader, but is likely to grab and keep the attention of those who are unfamiliar with the medium.
Y: The Last Man by Brian K Vaughan, Pia Guerra
Marc Guggenheim says, This is just my favorite comic book -- not just this year, but last year and the year before, too. Whenever I read it -- preferably in trade -- time stops and flies by, simultaneously. And when I put it down, I'm humbled and inspired, simultaneously.
It's so clever, so thought-provoking, so entertaining, so well-constructed -- I hate for the series to end, but I look forward to sitting down and re-reading the entire series to pick up on all the fantastic things and connections I know was there for me to miss.
Hellboy: Darkness Calls by Mike Mignola and Duncan Fegredo
Phil Hester says, Okay, I hate picking favorites. There are several books I read this year that I probably dug more than 'Hellboy: Darkness Calls' (Like 'Scalped,' 'L&R,' 'Black Dossier,' and many more too numerous to list), but this is the one that most took me by surprise. I don't want to say my love for Hellboy has waned in any way, but I got this notion stuck in my head that 'Hellboy' books not drawn by Mike didn't 'count' despite the awesome lineup of talent assembled for such endeavors.
It is very rare to see an artist make a huge leap in skill after he or she has become an established talent, but Duncan Fegredo just raised his already impressive skills to a new level on this book. It's almost as if he's found a new style that deftly combines his natural gift for accurate draughtsmanship with a newfound passion for economical cartooning and added a dose of Pope-ish 21st century expressionism to boot. That artistic rebirth in service of Mike's delightfully creepy script makes for one of the most juicy, satisfying reads in comics. This one feels like a 'real' Hellboy story, and where I come from there's not much better than that.
Fallen Son: The Death of Captain America by Jeph Loeb, Lenil Francis Yu, Ed McGuinness, John Romita Jr., David Finch and John Cassaday
Jeph Loeb says, On a creative level, being able to write about the aftermath of death, having had such a terrible experience with my own son, was both challenging and rewarding.
But, the real thrill was working with the best pencilers that Marvel had to offer on a story that will be in print for a very long time. Being able to use these five guys -- two who I had never gotten to work with (JR JR and Cassaday) on something this -- dare I say important -- is why I do comics. All of them are guys who have other stuff to do who took time out from their schedules to work on this out of love. Out of love for my story and for Cap. Great work all around and a great experience for me at Marvel.
The Spirit by Darwyn Cooke, J. Bone and Dave Stewart
Ron Marz says, Always the first thing I read out of the comp box. Those are some mighty big shoes to fill, taking on Eisner's signature creation, but Cooke proved himself more than capable of the job, subtly updating the The Spirit's world while maintaining everything that makes the character and his cast classics of the medium. Great, character-driven writing, paired with clean art that prizes storytelling over eye candy. Just the way Will would've liked it. Don't let anybody tell you that they don't make 'em like they used to.
This year, I think so many people were firing on all cylinders. From Joss & Cass on 'Astonishing'; Bru, Steve, and Mike on 'Captain America,' Brian on both 'Avengers' titles, JMS on 'Thor,' Warren on 'Thunderbolts.' It's crazy the level of quality 2007 offered comic fans. I seriously can't choose. It's like asking which film from 1939 was the best. Seriously, look it up! 2007 is the new 1939 -- and in Technicolor!
The Umbrella Academy: Apocalypse Suite by Gerard Way and Gabriel Ba
Joshua Ortega says, Great story, beautiful art, and a fresh voice on the comics scene -- fantastic to see the book selling so well too, it's a good sign for the industry.
The Spirit by Darwyn Cooke, J. Bone and Dave Stewart
Jimmy Palmiotti says, I loved the character since I was a kid and continue to because there is so much love and respect on each and every page of the new series. Darwyn, J Bone and Dave Stewart knocked it out of the park on each and every issue. This book is a perfect example of the potential of all comic books and would be my dream team to have on any project I would write. I have a personal love for done-in-one stories and 'The Spirit' nails it brilliantly.
This title has the unique ability of showing us that each page can be a guide to brilliantly executed storytelling and every book a lesson on comic book coloring. This all done with so much respect to Will Eisner's vision and yet the creative team went in and 'owned' it and made it their own. No one that loved the original can have an inch of beef with what was done here.
It's also heartbreaking to me that their run has come to an end, but I have faith in the new guys as well, so it should be interesting.
Scalped, Criminal, Captain America, Dark Tower by Jason Aaron, R.M. Guera; Ed Brubaker, Sean Phillips; Ed Brubaker, Steve Epting, (coughs) Me and Frankie D'Armata.; Stephen King, Robin Furth, Peter David, Jae Lee and Richard Isanove
Mike Perkins says, It's been a good year for quality books. 'Scalped' is a great read and always looks fantastic. Ed's on a roll and every book he writes is gloriously magic, and 'Dark Tower' has only just started pushing the membrane of the boundaries between the comic readers and the general public -- and it looks gorgeous.
Green Lantern: Sinestro Corps War by Geoff Johns and Ivan Reis and various
Andy Smith says, I love Ivan's artwork; it's so fluid and his storytelling is top notch! Geoff Johns' writing is great as well. This past year with the Sinestro Corp. story arc was awesome! I love the introduction of the new lantern colors and think this will expand and bring a new depth to the universe. Geoff does great human relationship stuff as well as the all out action. It really is a nice mix of both.
Green Lantern: Sinestro Corps War by Geoff Johns and Various
Hugh Sterbakov says, I think the 'Sinestro Wars' storyline exemplifies the glory of having true, heartfelt comic book fans writing comics. At the beginning of the year, 'Green Lantern' had fallen off the radar and wasn't getting the desperate buzz a book gets when they kill their main character or reset everything 30 years ago or gleefully deal wanton violence and foul language. And it wasn't supposed to be Green Lantern's year, 2007 was supposed to be all about 'Countdown.' But Geoff the comic fan sat down and created a sprawling interstellar saga that focused on its characters and enriched its universe, and swept up all of his fans while dragging new ones in with force. I loved every moment of the 'Sinestro Corps Wars' and, for me, it was the most creatively inspired mainstream book of the year.
I Will Destroy All The Civilized Planets! Stories by Fletcher Hanks, Edited by Paul Karasik
Mark Verheiden says, The work of writer/artist Fletcher Hanks has been an obsession of mine for several years, and indeed many of the pages in this compilation are scans from my collection. Hanks only worked from 1939 to 1941, but the 60-ish stories he left behind are endlessly funny, fascinating and (occasionally) unsettling.
Paul Karasik tracked down the artist's son and includes a nicely drawn essay on Fletcher Hanks the man, but the stories are what matter, and they are amazing. We live in a wonderful time when a collection of utterly obscure stories is not only commercially viable, but something of a hit -- the book sold out the first printing almost immediately, but a second printing is available.
Next week: REFLECTIONS gets back on its weekly schedule! Be there!
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