Sunday, January 9, 2011

The Best My Favorite Comics of 2010: Part 2

So now that we got the graphic novels out of the way, let's get to all the other stuff I was reading in 2010. There are plenty of ways to be a comic fan, but for me personally, my approach is two-fold. On one hand, I enjoy graphic novels, collections, etc. In other words, books with spines that wind up on the bookshelf. These tend to be perennials that I re-visit from time to time, or just like to have on hand so I can loan them out to others. And in some cases, I just enjoy hoarding them.

On the other hand, there's the issues. Actual comic books. Those floppy, saddle stitched pamphlets that come out every week, which more often than not get read one time and then tossed in a box somewhere. That's in no way saying they're inferior to the graphic novels. Truth be told most of us wouldn't be comic fans if it weren't for these "floppies" - they play a huge role in the communal and ritualistic aspects of the addiction. I mean habit. I mean hobby! And while, yeah, this category is where some of the more disposable stuff comes into play, there's still plenty of great stories that I'm following in this format. And I follow them in issues because I simply cannot wait for the collections to come out. If Hal Jordan saves the universe, I want to know the week it happens, not six months later.

So here they are, in no particular order, (some of) the comic books of 2010 that rocked me.

BEST SINGLE ISSUE: Unknown Soldier #21 by Joshua Dysart (writer), Rick Veitch (art), Oscar Celestini (colors), and Clem Robins (letters). This whole series was pretty amazing, but years from now I think this is the issue I'll look back on and say "wow." For 22 pages or so, Dysart puts the main storyline on hold to instead tell the history of the AK-47. Not just all AK-47's, but a specific AK-47. As narrated by the AK-47. Now, in the wrong hands that idea would be little more than a clever gimmick, but for Dysart it's only the starting point. The gun is a machine, cold and objective for the most part, but it still manages to experience a bonafide character arc throughout the course of the story. Its original owner is a revolutionary, who believes in his weapon as a means of revolution. You almost get the sense that the gun takes a bit of pride in this. But by the end of the issue, it's a different story. The AK goes from soldier, to poacher, to farmer. Each relationship is different, but they all share the same end. He eventually winds up in the hands various of Ugandan children and has lost any semblance of "self" it ever had. How could it, given all the meaningless violence it has witnessed? Not exactly the feel good issue of the year, but an incredible read nonetheless. The titular character doesn't even show up until the last page or two which I think speaks to how thematically strong this title was. As much as I love the serialized 'to be continued' nature of comic book series, the greatest issues tend to have a sense of "completeness" to them as standalone issues. And this one was the whole package.

BEST NEW SERIES: I Zombie by by Chris Roberson (writer), Mike Allred (art), Laura Allred (colors), and Todd Klein (letters). On a lighter note, if you can consider the undead feasting on brains to survive "light", there was this. This book is creepy, kooky, mysterious, and spooky. But above all, it's fun. Now as I type this the series is only 9 issues in, so I don't want to get into what the story's "about" since all that is still developing. All you really need to know is that all those monsters you've read about and seen on TV are real, and they've got problems just like anybody else. Even if you think zombies are played out, this is worth your attention. It's funny, suspenseful, heartfelt, and occasionally even a bit philosophical. Plus Mike Allred's beautiful artwork harkens back to silver-age DC, so every page is like having your eyeballs massaged by a million tiny go-go dancing angels.

BEST LIMITED SERIES DaytripperBy: Fabio Moon & Gabriel Ba (creators), Dave Stewart (colors) & Sean Konot (letters). This 10 issue meditation on life, death, and everything that happens in between was really something special. Lots of comics are emo, but few are this emotionally resonant. And it looked absolutely amazing.

OTHER BEST LIMITED SERIES The Bulletproof Coffin By: David Hine (story/script), Shaky Kane (story/art), Richard Starkings & Jimmy Betancourt (letters) & JG Roshell (production). What a weird ass gem of a book. It starts out about a rather pathetic comic book collector with a terrible home life and a job cleaning out the houses of the recently deceased. Then one day he stumbles upon a comic that really shouldn't exist, and things take it to a whole new level of weirdness. I'm kind of a sucker for the story-within-a-story gimmick, but this book was a story within a story within a story (possibly within another story). Not only that, but it was chock full of homages to the comic books of yesteryear. Which I am also a sucker for. So this book definitely isn't for everybody, but it was right up my alley.

OTHER OTHER BEST LIMITED SERIES Batman: The Return of Bruce Wayne By: Grant Morrison (writer), and a proverbial shit ton of collaborators including Chris Sprouse, Frazer Irving, Ryan Sook, Georges Jeanty, Yanick Paquette and Michel Lacombe on art duties. Here are the need-to-know's: A while back Batman seemingly sacrificed his life to stop an evil God from enslaving the entire universe. Instead of dying, he was actually sent on a crazy adventure through time. His mission: To find his way home. His problem: He's now a caveman and his memory is in fragments. Impossible? Perhaps for you or me. But what's impossible to us is for Batman only mildly irritating. Each issue takes place a new era with Bruce Wayne taking on a different identity: Caveman, Pilgrim, Pirate, Gunslinger, Detective and finally a Futuristic Bat God with a score to settle. This kind of story could only happen in comics, folks.

OTHER OTHER OTHER BEST LIMITED SERIES Strange Tales II by seemingly every notable creator in indie comics. Sometimes there's this perceived divide between "mainstream" and "indie" comics. Which doesn't make a whole lot of sense for various reasons, but I digress. The genius thing about Strange Tales is that it merges the two worlds in a wonderful and often hilarious way: Take a notable indie creator and let them do a story about a popular (or not so popular) Marvel superhero. The truth is, most indie creators love, or at one time loved, mainstream superhero comics. Even if they later went on to make Xerox'd mini-comics about their ex-girlfriends, or sprawling graphic tomes about their ex-girlfriends, there's a good chance that superheroes provided their point of entry to the medium. So to see them return to that, with a style and perspective almost completely devoid of modern mainstream sensibilities, is a real treat. Being an anthology, the stories can be a little hit or miss, but there weren't any real clunkers as far as I was concerned. I hope Marvel decides to make more of these. It's a great way to see your favorite heroes in a whole new light, and you might even discover a new favorite artist or two!

BEST BOOK I SHOULD HAVE BEEN READING ALREADY Rasl by Jeff Smith. It's weird how sometimes you'll find a book at exactly the right time. Once I finally got around to reading Rasl, I was coming off a bit of a Netflix binge (we'd just gotten the streaming service for our Wii at the time) and for reasons unclear to me I was on a big art and science kick. A little F for Fake here, a little Cosmos there... So I was pleased and maybe even a bit freaked out when I found a comic that combined the two. What do The Philadelphia Experiment, Tesla, parallel dimensions and art theft all have in common? Well, you will just have to read the book! I discovered this one in collected form but felt weird about lumping it in with the graphic novels list, so here it is.

Jesus. How do people do these every year? I'm exhausted. Let's break here and meet back later for Part 3, which will (hopefully) conclude THE BEST MY FAVORITE COMICS OF 2010!!

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