As ROBOT 6's fourth-anniversary celebration winds down, our contributors look back at some of their favorite comics of 2012, from Building Stories and Saga to Goliath and Bandette to Life With Archie and Hawkeye.
One of the hazards of writing about comics is that reading comics starts to feel like work after a while. Then I stumble across something really good and I remember why I started doing this to begin with. Here are some of the books that I really enjoyed this year.
Life With Archie: It's a soap opera. It's a clever soap opera, and it's fun to see the characters I knew as a kid grow up and change in surprising ways. The dual storyline is full of twists, but the characters never forget where they came from.
Jiu Jiu: The best shoujo manga captures what it's like to be a teenage girl and reflects it back in a new way. Jiu Jiu is a supernatural story about an alienated girl who goes to an ordinary high school but fights demons on her off hours. Her companions are two wolves who can change into hot guys, although they never really lose their doggish ways. This is shoujo manga at full strength, with lots of introspection, innuendo, and incongruity. I loved it.
Saturn Apartments, vols. 5 and 6: I know I sound like a broken record about this series, but I like it a lot. It's about a ring-shaped apartment complex that rotates around the Earth (like a ring of Saturn), and the people who live there, who are literally stratified: The wealthy live at the top, where they can get plenty of health-giving natural light, while the poor live in cramped, dark quarters on the lower level and suffer the health consequences. The main character, a window-washer, travels through the different levels and gets involved with the denizens of the upper and lower reaches of the building. It's a smart manga that's well drawn and filled with insight.
Young Miss Holmes: This manga is simply Sherlock Holmes stories retold in a manga way, with a young girl always two steps ahead of her more famous uncle, with two really badass maids who have her back. This book is way better than it ought to be.
Lovers' Lane: The Hall-Mills Murders: I love a good mystery, I love history, and I love Rick Geary's quasi-documentary style of presenting historical mysteries. This case was one I didn't know much about, and I really liked the way Geary unfurled the story and presented all the evidence.
Dotter of Her Father's Eyes: I really liked the dual storyline of Mary Talbot's upbringing as the daughter of a distant Joyce scholar, and Lucia Joyce, the daughter of James Joyce, who went through her own struggles, particularly with her father. Even better, though, is the way this book immersed me in the world of 1950s England and 1920s Paris. This is a book you don't so much read as step into, and for me, that's the best sort of book.
The Silence of Our Friends: Mixing a fictional storyline with real events from the civil-rights struggle, The Silence of Our Friends was another book that immersed me in the period — in this case, 1960s Texas. The story was powerful in itself, but beyond that, it really gave a sense of a time and place where the pervasive attitudes and assumptions were far different than they are now.
XO-Manowar and Archer & Armstrong: These were my two favorites of the Valiant relaunch. I thought XO-Manowar was an interesting story, well told, but Archer & Armstrong really grabbed me with its combination of over-the-top action sequences and witty dialogue. That's the one I reach for first each month.
Goliath: Tom Gauld's contrarian look at the Biblical story of David and Goliath is a remarkable piece of storytelling. Really, I can't say anything more than that. Just read it.
This year’s list turned out to be pretty diverse, although it was still pretty DC-heavy. Part of that comes from my buying habits, but part of it also comes from me picking up books late in the year. However, honestly there were just a lot of comics I liked well enough -- among them Batman, Amazing Spider-Man, Wonder Woman, Action Comics and Indestructible Hulk -- that I couldn’t rank them ahead of each other. Therefore, these are the ones which finally separated themselves from the pack.
10. Star Trek (written mostly by Mike Johnson, drawn mostly by Stephen Molnar): This comic doesn’t get a boost just because I’m a huge Trekkie. Instead, it takes advantage of the 2009 movie relaunch to present a mix of stories from within that new, but mostly familiar, timeline. Some are variations on classic episodes like “The Trouble With Tribbles” and “Return of the Archons,” but some (like “Vulcan’s Vengeance” and the backstory of Scotty’s assistant Keenser) explore the relaunch’s new characters and situations. Issue 13, the best so far, was a blend of the two -- a security officer’s look back at what turned out to be another old episode, altered for the new timeline. It humanized a character who was a punchline in the movie, and through him it showed how a veteran crew could trust a rebellious cadet-turned-captain like James T. Kirk.
9. Fantastic Four/FF (written by Jonathan Hickman; drawn by various artists): Describe the Fantastic Four and the phrase “Marvel’s First Family” comes immediately to mind. However, through the multi-year epic that concluded in 2012, Jonathan Hickman turned the extended Richards clan into a community. At its heart, though, Hickman focused squarely on the group’s generational dynamic, producing unexpectedly tender moments even in the midst of global (even intergalactic) crisis. It became a self-reinforcing cycle of commitment, as Reed sought to leave a better world for his children, and their adult selves assured him he had.
8. Green Lantern (written by Geoff Johns, penciled by Doug Mahnke et al., inked by various artists): This was a somewhat late addition to the list, but I am really starting to enjoy the adventures of new GL Simon Baz. Johns has spent most of the past eight years fleshing out the already-formidable GL mythology, diving deep into its hierarchies, mechanics, and metaphysics, and he’s not done yet -- but the book needed a fresh perspective, and Baz gives it that.
7. Dick Tracy (written by Mike Curtis, pencilled by Joe Staton, inked by Shelley Pleger): Curtis and Staton took over Tracy in 2011, but they hit a good groove in 2012. Staton’s breezy, open style is a good match for the series’ iconic look, preserving its distinctions without getting bogged down in them; and Curtis’ scripts are an energetic mix of classic characters and modern situations. The current arc (which has lately taken a sci-fi detour) even involves a pretty obvious Batman parody, complete with masked crimefighters, a supervillain who claims to be the Penguin’s brother, and a sidekick who acts like Harley Quinn. Nevertheless, it works as a Dick Tracy strip, because Curtis and Staton never lose sight of what they want the series to be. Dick Tracy has only had a handful of creative teams, but each has tried to remain true to Chester Gould’s original. Curtis and Staton have done a good job embracing all of Tracy’s history, and blending it into an adventure comic which is both venerable and fun.
6. Supergirl (written by Michael Green and Mike Johnson, drawn by Mahmoud Asrar): A shift in attitude has done wonders for the Girl of Steel. No longer cast as the wide-eyed innocent alongside Superman’s practiced professionalism or Superboy’s brashness, the New 52's Supergirl takes nothing for granted and doesn’t assume anyone is her friend. This doesn’t make Supergirl gritty or jaded. Rather, it adds a layer of poignancy to her mission on Earth. Being thrust onto a new planet, and learning that the only home she’s ever known is gone forever, naturally makes her a little suspicious; and that’s where Supergirl started. In 2012, the book built up its supporting cast, added some new arch-enemies, and started a crossover with the other Super-titles. More importantly, though, it was consistent, allowing Kara’s assimilation to life on Earth to develop at its own pace. As such, she’s become a more complex character, and she and her book are better for it.
5. Nothing Can Possibly Go Wrong (written by Prudence Shen, drawn by Faith Erin Hicks): At first glance this entertaining high-school farce features the usual jocks-cheerleaders-nerds caste warfare, but its characters and their motivations are anything but typical. The two sides are battling over whose pet project is funded, and our hero is caught in the middle. The first part of the book (currently serialized online prior to its print release next spring) focused on student-council election shenanigans, but more recently the plot has taken a decidedly geekier turn. Addictive and engaging, NCPGW’s mostly-daily updates have been welcome additions to my daily comics intake.
4. Swamp Thing (written by Scott Snyder, drawn by Yanick Paquette et al.) and Animal Man (written by Jeff Lemire, drawn by Steve Pugh et al.): These two titles are together thanks to “Rotworld,” the tale of two avatars struggling to restore a world lost to a nightmare. With its heroes-gone-horrific trappings and hellscape setting, “Rotworld” sounds like it could easily have been a line-wide crossover stretching into everything from Green Arrow to Deathstroke. However, it works much better concentrated (mostly) in these two titles. Not only does it prolong the suspense, month after month, it also shows how much unsettling imagery can be packed into a 20-page issue. Normally, each of these titles looks at the mysterious natural forces powering its protagonists, but “Rotworld” has turned that inside-out and up to eleven. Each installment so far has been creepily good, and I can’t wait to see what’s next.
3. Dial H (written by China Miéville, drawn by Mateus Santolouco et al.): Also on the mysterious-forces beat is this quirky little book, editor Karen Berger’s lone (and apparently short-lived) foray into the New 52. It’s the story of a nondescript underachiever who finds an H-Dial, a conduit into a dimension full of superheroes, each wildly different from each other and, for that matter, from the average Spandex-clad crusader. His adventures, and the characters he meets, are just part of what makes this series endearing. The other part is that occasional look into that world on the other side -- including the lives of those who might otherwise be colorful footnotes.
2. Batman Incorporated (written by Grant Morrison, drawn by Chris Burnham): Morrison’s mega-Bat-saga is building to a big finish early next year, and its 2012 return from New 52-imposed hiatus hit the ground running. From the vision of Bat-Cow to the destruction of future-Gotham, Inc. stuck resolutely to its own path, without much allowance for the New 52 changes. Indeed, Issue 2's revised history of Talia al Ghūl crammed as much of the character’s original lore as the story would take, while using the newly compressed timeline to emphasize the artificialities of Damian’s origins. That sounds like a lot of fanwankery, but it speaks to Morrison’s overarching theme: that every bit of the legend feeds the transformative power of “Batman,” both for Bruce Wayne and for the world.
1. Saucer Country (written by Paul Cornell, drawn by Ryan Kelly et al.): Describing this book as a combination of The X Files and The West Wing makes it sound at least 10 years behind the times. However, next to the nonstop twists and turns of the 2012 election season, a candidate dealing with the aftermath of a possible UFO abduction sounds downright quaint. Cornell and Kelly have crafted a winner in the story of Governor Arcadia Alvarado, her band of advisors, and the shadowy figures seeking to influence her bid for the presidency. Arcadia is believable as a politician struggling under this most unusual burden, but equally compelling is her ex-husband, who’s not quite as strong. While he’s not a villain, he threatens to derail Arcadia’s campaign (or worse), even as he remains mostly sympathetic. Saucer Country also dives deep into existing UFOlogy, giving the series’ improbable premise an air of plausibility. It all adds up to a fascinating series, regardless of Arcadia’s electoral fate.
My best of the year is undoubtedly Glyn Dillon's The Nao of Brown. I only call a comic a graphic novel when it has some level of literary ambition, and Dillon's book has it is spades. It seemed amazing to me that years away from the medium has resulted in him coming back to the form with such power and control over his storytelling ability.
I loved David Hines & Shaky Kanes' Bulletproof Coffin: Disinterred. I thought it would be impossible to make a successful sequel to their original, a rare example of a superhero comic will a satisfying and definitive ending. They succeeded mightily by taking their pedal off the postmodernism (well, issue 4 excepted), instead amping up the levels of weirdness and doomy atmospherics, and the laughs.
2000AD just kept getting better and better in 2012. Current Tharg Matt Smith has nurtured a talent pool there which has brought in a new golden age for the U.K.'s Grand Old anthology.
I do love some transgression in my comics, so I adored Krent Able's Big Book of Mischief. I wouldn't recommend it to the fainthearted, but if you love rock 'n' roll (and this was a rare example of a comic that garnered more column inches and acclaim from the music press than the comics community) and the nastiest of the vintage undergrounds, then this is the book for you.
Best "original" comics
1. Building Stories by Chris Ware (Pantheon). An obvious pick perhaps, but Ware's box o' comics was head and shoulders above anything else that came out this year, not just in format and execution (it's a box of comics! Read them in any order! Your reading experience changes substantially each time you return to it!) but in it's deep emotional engagement -- the way its simple depiction of minor, everyday events culminates into a profound, incredibly moving experience. No, it's not perfect -- the secondary stories don't quite gel with those of the main character -- but it's a tremendous achievement all the same. That thin book of mother-and-daughter moments still chokes me up whenever I look at it.
2. The Blond Woman by Adrian Koch: Haunting, enigmatic and utterly beautiful, Koch's minimalist tale of a woman who -- well, trying to describe exactly what happens is an act of futility. The book isn't about plot or story. It's best to just let Koch's dream-like images wash over you and not worry too much about definitive meanings.
3. Annie Sullivan and the Trials of Helen Keller by Joseph Lambert: Lambert's been producing striking work for a while now, but he came into his own with this wonderful all-ages book about the famous deaf-mute woman and her teacher. No mere adaptation of "The Miracle Worker," Lambert uses comics to depict Keller's disability and her isolation in a completely original, striking way. Great stuff.
4. Lose #4 by Michael Deforge: How does DeForge manage to keep producing such wonderfully creepy work again and again? And he seems to be getting better with each issue, too. It's a mystery to me, but one I dont' necessarily feel the need to decode.
5. Nonnonba by Shigeru Mizuki: I was thoroughly charmed by Mizuki's semi-fictional memoir of his youth and the elderly lady that helped take care of him and taught him about the spirit world that eventually infused his comics. Great Bildungsroman stuff here.
6. The Shark King by R. Kikuo Johnson: Another great all-ages comic. 2012 was full of them. This wasn't anything fancy -- a straightforward retelling of a Hawaiian folk tale. But Johnson draws upon his influences -- Kirby, Mazzuchelli -- to create a dynamic, impressionistic and all around fantastic mini-epic.
7. Birdseye Bristoe by Dan Zettwoch: So many things to love about this book: Zettwoch's handscrabble art process (you can see the white-out brush strokes!); his gift with character types (love the smarminess of the phone company people); his eye and ear for Midwestern attitudes; his love for diagrams and cutaways. I'd love to see a sequel.
8. Fury Max: My War Gone By by Garth Ennis and Goran Parlov: A brutal indictment of American imperialism after World War II, as told via a Marvel Comics character. Completely unlike anything else the big two is publishing right now, which might be part of the reason why I like it so much.
9. Pope Hats #3 by Ethan Rilly: This has become a series I anxiously look forward to every year. Rilly continues to develop his characters and captures the ugliness or the white-collar workaday world with perfect satirical precision. He (along with DeForge) is also making a strong case for the return of the one-man anthology series. Here's hoping they help bring it back.
10. The Understanding Monster Book One by Theo Ellsworth: Psychiatry by way of psychedelia with a bit of general craziness thrown in for good measure. Ellsworth probably has an explanation for everything that's going on, but I really don't feel the need for one right now.
And, because I can't stop …
Best reprint/reissue series
1. Spacehawk by Basil Wolverton. I had more fun reading this than just about anything else this year.2. Dal Tokyo by Gary Panter. Oh, man. Gary Panter.3. Is That All There Is? by Joost Swarte. That'll do Swarte. That'll do.4. King City by Brandon Graham. Finally I see what everyone else was raving about.5. Heads or Tails by Lilli Carre.6. Sammy the Mouse Vol. 1 by Zak Sally. When's Vol. 2 coming out already?7. Ed the Happy Clown by Chester Brown.8. Negron by Johnny Negron.9. The Voyeurs by Gabrielle Bell10. The Furry Trap by Josh Simmons.
Also worthy of mention: Dungeon Quest Vol. 3 by Joe Daly, Thickness #3 edited by Michael Deforge and Ryan Sand, The Hypo by Noah Van Sciver, Nurse Nurse by Katie Skelly, The End of the Fucking World by Chuck Forsman, Ralph Azham Vol. 1 by Lewis Trondheim, and Diary Comics #4 by Dustin Harbin.
10. Hades: Lord of the Dead: One of my favorite times of the year is always when George O'Connor's latest Olympians volume comes out, and the fourth book was no exception. O'Connor brings the Greek myths to life by doing a ton of research for authenticity, and then carefully thinking about the human elements of these stories to make them relatable. That works exceptionally well for the story of Persephone, who rightfully takes over the Hades volume because she's way more interesting than the title character.
9. Glory: I'm sad about the news that Joe Keatinge and Ross Campbell's Glory is coming to an end early next year. Even when I wasn't completely clicking with all elements of the story, Keatinge kept finding ways to make me crave the next issue and Campbell made it all look uniquely great.
8. Supergirl: DC finally lost me by forcing this into the awful “H'el on Earth” crossover, but up to that point it was my favorite New 52 comic. I loved the way Supergirl was portrayed as a stranger trying to acclimate herself to a new planet, but with enough of the right kind of support to keep her from getting bogged down by angst. She developed a great supporting cast and an equally interesting group of villains. Unfortunately, I don't trust DC to leave the creators alone to keep doing their thing, but while they were left alone, they made an excellent superhero book.
7. Rocketeer: Cargo of Doom: I figured that Mark Waid had an awesome Rocketeer story in him. I just didn't expect it to crossover with King Kong and be THIS awesome. Chris Samnee is aces on it, too, as he always is.
6. Battlepug: I wrongly thought I might need to be a fan of pugs to truly appreciate Mike Norton's webcomic (collected in its first print volume this year). Turns out, my love of laughing and sword-and-sorcery adventures were all that was required.
5. Hawkeye: I never could have predicted that a Hawkeye comic would make my list of favorites for the year, but here we are. I don't know how well this series works for actual Hawkeye fans, but for people who appreciate amazing art and short, complete, FUNNY crime stories ... it works just fine.
4. Courtney Crumrin ongoing: This has sort of been the year of Courtney Crumrin for me. The ongoing series, coupled with the color, hardcover reprints of Ted Naifeh's original miniseries, has hooked me on the lonely, little witch girl and I've greatly enjoyed getting to know her supporting cast of ghosts, goblins, and school bullies as well.
3. Bandette: It doesn't feel entirely right to list this when there are only two issues out, but it's hitting so many of my interests (female hero, Parisian crime capers, Colleen Coover art) that I can't leave it out. I hope it lasts a good, long time.
2. Saga: Man, it's great to have a long-running, wonderfully illustrated Brian K. Vaughan series again. It's also nice to rediscover my fondness for space opera. It's been too long since I've enjoyed outer space like this.
1. Sailor Twain, or The Mermaid in the Hudson: Based on the art and the first few pages that I read in the webcomic version, I counted on enjoying Mark Siegel's mermaid tale. I always enjoy a mermaid tale. What I didn't know was how well Siegel would incorporate the symbolism and themes of mermaids -- ideas like seduction, obsession and addiction -- and communicate them so profoundly that they transcend the fantasy genre he's using as their vehicle.
I didn't read near as much this year as I have in previous years, and I'm way behind on a lot of stuff. I know it's probably cliche, but having a kid really changes things. Mostly for the better, of course; I love being a dad and wouldn't trade it for anything. But I used to be a "nighttime" reader, in that I'd go to bed and read for an hour or more before turning the light off. Now it's more like I go to bed and maybe read one comic before I catch myself starting to drift off, because kids make you tired. (I yawned as I wrote that last sentence). As a result, I read fewer comics this past year than I usually would have, as evidenced by the huge stack of unread comics in my "to read" pile, and even fewer graphic novels. But there was still enough good stuff I read to put together a list, so let's get to it ...
Saga: I remember during our anniversary last year, in our creator round-up of what folks were excited about for 2012, that a lot of people predicted 2012 would be Image's year. They certainly killed it in 2012, and this title was one of the many reasons why. And I wasn't sure exactly why this title clicked so well for me until I wrote the paragraph right above this one. Yeah, I know; I blame the sleep deprivation.
Other ways Image killed it: Revival, Manhattan Projects, Glory, Prophet, Chew, Hell Yeah ... and this year they have even more cool stuff lined up.
Nurse Nurse: Sparkplug published Katie Skelly’s minicomics of the same name this past year as a collection, bringing Nurse Gemma, Pandaface and the rest of the crazy cast to hopefully a wider audience. This science fiction comic is about a nurse sent into space to support colonists from Earth, and she gets entangled with space pirates, “office” politics and butterflies. The inventive set-up and setting never get in the way of the characters and their story, both of which are very endearing.
Goliath: Tom Gauld retells the story of David and Goliath from the giant's perspective ... a giant who would rather do admin work than fight a war. It's a story we all know, but we've never seen it from this side before, and it's wonderful.
Fantastic Four/FF: These titles have worked together to give us a full picture of Marvel's first family over the past few years, as Jonathan Hickman and his artistic collaborators have taken the Fantastic Four to so many awesome places during their run. While Fantastic Four gave us a lot of bang, FF focused on quieter, quirkier stories--Johnny and Spider-Man as roommates, Crystal and Ronin's romance--but was at its very best when it focused on the Future Foundation, the gang of kids who lived, learned and inevitably saved the world from their home in the Baxter Building. Hickman, joined by artists like Nick Dragotta and Gabriel Hernandez Walta (who should be drawing a Black Panther series set in Wakanda), broke our hearts and made us laugh time and again through the adventures of Franklin, Valerie, noble Onome, tragic Bentley, the best Dragon Man we've ever been treated to and, occasionally, even Dr. Doom.
Usagi Yojimbo: We didn't get as many issues of Usagi this year, as he took break to work on 47 Ronin, but even in explaining the hiatus he shows the joy and cleverness that goes into this long-running, consistently awesome title.
Hawkeye/Daredevil: It's probably not fair for me to group these two titles together, but I do so because I think right now they are setting the standard in terms of superhero stories right now. Matt Fraction and the artists he's working with, including David Aja and Javier Pulido, have only been doing it for a few months, while Mark Waid, Chris Samnee and company have been doing Daredevil for more than a year now. Both titles get called out in our What Are You Reading? column on a regular basis, and with good reason.
The Green Lantern titles: I never read Green Lantern before the DC New 52 relaunch on any kind of regular basis, mainly because I've never really been into the character. But I ended up buying all three "Green" titles when I was trying out all the rebooted titles two Septembers ago, and they stuck with me. I'm really digging the story being told across all three titles, from the new Lantern's initiation to Guy Gardner's test of will to Kyle's attempt to become a Rainbow Lantern, all wrapped up in the big Third Army story, I can't wait to see where it all goes.
Double Barrel: A “digital-only” anthology featuring stories by Zander Cannon of Top Ten and Replacement God fame, and Kevin Cannon, whose Far Arden graphic novel made my best-of list a few years ago. Each issue has been $2 and worth every penny; I plan to buy the eventual print collections of both of these works anyway, but it's nice to get a preview of what they're working on before those hit the stands.
The Mire: Becky Cloonan is one of those artists I’d follow to the ends of the Earth, whether she’s drawing Batman, Conan or her own minicomics, like The Mire. It’s a self-contained fantasy tale with some horror elements and a fun twist at the end. It also reminded me that in addition to being a pretty great artist, she’s also a pretty great writer, too.
Sanctuary: The sanctuary in the title is an animal sanctuary filled with Disney-esque talking animals –- but once the panda is murdered, you start to realize things aren’t quite what they seem. Creator Stephen Coughlin captures the animals personalities very well, both in terms of the story and how he draws them; I’m trying to think of the last time I actually saw a menacing/evil giraffe, but none come to mind (maybe Toys R Us?) ... and yet Coughlin manages to make his terribly creepy giraffe look and feel terribly creepy.
Other good stuff: Conan, The Sixth Gun, Uncanny X-Force, Get Jiro, Bandette, Edison Rex, Northlanders, Masks & Mobsters, Saucer Country, Earth 2, Planet of the Apes, Batman Inc., Multiple Warheads, Animal Man and Swamp Thing ... I'm sure there's more in the piles of unread stuff next to my bed, so maybe I'll just end here and go read something.
Courtney Crumrin ongoing series: Ted Naifeh (with colorist Warren Wucinich) has created a delightful series that's both accessible to new readers -- Holly Hart's introduction to Hillsborough oh-so-cleverly mirrors Courtney's -- and rewarding to longtime fans of the prickly tween witch. He sprinkles the story with references to people, creatures and events stretching back a decade as Courtney comes to realize her actions have consequences.
Saga: Brian K. Vaughn and Fiona Staples' space opera is filled with action, romance, weirdness and supporting characters so wonderful that you kind of wish they had their own spinoffs. This series is on so many best-of-the-year lists for good reason.
Fatale: The team of Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips seemingly can do no wrong, in any genre. After their takes on superheroes and crime -- and in some cases superheroes/crime -- with top-notch works like Sleeper, Criminal and Incognito, they turned their attention to supernatural noir with Fatale, a complex, decades-spanning Lovecraftian tale that places the femme fatale front and center.
Hawkeye: Although I had virtually no opinion of Marvel's Hawkeye -- I was last familiar with him as leader of the West Coast Avengers in the 1980s -- I was predisposed to love this series from the very beginning. Matt Fraction and David Aja (mostly with the aforementioned Ed Brubaker) made magic with The Immortal Iron Fist, and so I figured if their reunion could recapture even a little of that, Hawkeye would be a winner. And then, in interviews for the title's debut, Fraction described Clint Barton as "the Marvel Universe’s Jim Rockford,” promising "an early ’70s urban grit story." So far they've delivered in spades, right down to the 1970 Dodge Challenger (sorry, no Firebird Esprit ... yet).
Bandette: This fledgling series by Paul Tobin and Colleen Coover is everything I was missing in comic books but didn't realize. The duo embraces the gentleman/lady thief archetype (see Simon Templar, Arsène Lupin III, et al) with Bandette, a criminal with a heart of gold who gleefully heists stolen artwork one minute and helps the Paris police the next. Throw in Bandette's battalion of helpful urchins, a cantankerous police inspector, a burgling rival and a mysterious organization determined to kill our heroine and, well, it's a boatload of fun.