Saturday, March 10, 2007

THE 60 (OR SO) BEST COMICS OF 2006 PART 1

It was a long time comin', but I can finally say:

Welcome to Post Number 500! This is Part One of Two. Part Two will be post 501.

Whoo-Hoo! I'm tossing Bristol trimmings about the room like confetti AS I WRITE THIS. It's all about the prehensile toes, baby.

Anyway, to celebrate, I thought I'd take a break from posting images of the upcoming issue of Earth Minds Are Weak and instead take a look at my favorite comics from 2006. Or, as I like to call this THE 60 (or so) BEST COMICS OF 2006!

This was a phenomenal year for comics. Quite possibly the best year ever. The sheer quantity of quality books that became or remain available is rather staggering, even if this wasn't a year for one or two books that set the world on fire. I've tried to limit myself to books that came out in 2006 (but I've included new books that reprint previously published work). I'm not certain about certain books, so it's possible something older might've slipped through (Minicomickers! Please, make my life easier and slap a year on your books! Hey, and maybe a name as well...). I've tried to stick to copyright dates where possible (Hey, Top Shelf! If you're book debuts in April of 2006, don't copyright it 2005! What sort of operation are you running, anyway?!).

The Disclaimers:

I have not read every comic that came out this past year. I've done a pretty good job of reading the sorts of books that would mostly make this list, however. Pretty good meaning I have not read Lost Girls yet. If it came out a year or two after From Hell came out, I probably would've had the enthusiasm to run out and buy it the day it was available. Alan Moore's been so uneven for me since then, though, that I couldn't muster the proper enthusiasm. Sorry, crayon porn, I'm sure I'll get to you eventually. I haven't read this year's offerings of Peanuts or Krazy & Ignatz yet. I'm sure they were as wonderful as previous outings, but I've let myself slide a bit in that area. Actually, I don't think I've read a single newspaper strip collection this year at all. I'm a bad man. Maybe 2007 will be the year I catch up again (I did manage to go to the Newark Museum portion of Masters of American Comics) exhibit. And I imagine I haven't read a few other books that were probably notable this year. Who knows how many great minicomics I missed out on?

I haven't read that Joe Casey's Iron Man book, Brian Vaughan's Dr. Strange book or Deadgirl. Oh well. I did read most of Marcos' copies of Civil "No Story, Please. I'm Scottish" War. I did read some of Seven Soldiers but found myself too bored to pay much attention. I read the first four 52s, but stopped when I couldn't pretend to care anymore. I did not read Pride of Baghdad or New Frontier. But I heard good things.

I didn't read Anders Nilsen's Don't Go Where I Can't Follow because I'm not sure I'm ready to read a book detailing the final months of a loved one dying of cancer just yet. I'm sure it's phenomenal.

There are no webcomics on the list, unless there's a print version. I'm afraid of the future and have to write this directly onto the screen with a chisel.

Oh, and I didn't include anything from Cliff Face Comics. Proud as I am of Earth Minds Are Weak, and as much as I enjoyed Tear-Stained Makeup, Carl is the Awesome and True Crime Fiction, I couldn't bear to face the conflict of interest.

For many series, I did not list a particular issue number. If I did, it was because the issue or volume was notable in some way (different publisher, different creators, different format, infrequent publishing history). If I already wrote a slew about something, I provided a link.

I tried to include creator links where possible.

There's a ranked Top 20 at the bottom of the post, but most of the list is an unranked Notable 40 (or so).

Okay, without further adieu, here's the list:

The 60 (or so) Best Comics of 2006

The Monkey and the Crab by Shawn Cheng and Sara Edward-Corbett
Seven More Days of Not Getting Eaten by Matt Wiegle

Over the past year and a half, Partyka has quickly exploded into one of my favorite comics collectives. Every book they put out is a beautifully handcrafted mini filled with lovely art and wonderful storytelling. The Monkey and the Crab is both hysterical and gorgeous. It tells a fable about short-sightedness, greed and vengeance in the animal kingdom. Aesop with fabulous art. Seven More Days is another fable, this one about a talking fish that connives its way out of a shortened life. I reviewed another book, The Four Husbands, by Weigle, last year.

Man Enough by Bill Roundy
The Amazing Adventures of Bill by Bill Roundy

I love getting Bill Roundy comics whenever I see him at conventions, and usually read them first. I'm always guaranteed a good laugh or ten. Amazing is his diary comic, and Man Enough is a fiction piece. They're both nerd- and -gasp!- gay-themed and both feature clear, if simple, cartooning. Both are very naturalistic in feeling, and Roundy knows just what elements to emphasize to bring the funny and the emotional reality. And both make my feet hurt a lot less after a long day of manning the table.

10 Simple Steps by Joan Reilly

You know what the world needs to see? A full-color minicomic featuring a young girl demonstrating trepanation. The mini, drawn in a childrens book style, also doubles as a brief look at (the author's?) life. I wish I had some contact info for you...

The Drips by Tailor McKimens

This isn't the comic that debuted from Picture Box in 2006. This is the limited-edition 'zine'. I've seen the comic, and really should pick it up soon. It's pictures of people and things either dripping or covered in something that dripped. It's really disgusting. All color-hold art, where a leaky garden hose is nearly as gross as the face-dripped men in a garbage dump. A different disturbing image shows up on each spread.

East Broadway by Sakura Maku

This was a limited edition mini, on 11x17 paper with a silk-screened cover. I reviewed a previous book by Sakura last year. Describing the plot of her books is a bit difficult, and maybe pointless. Her work is about evoking a certain amped-up, hallucinatory New York art student lifestyle, complete with hookup parties, mass-transit adventures, mysterious folk figures, friends bouncing around apartments and fast-food joints and dinners with strangers. It's about relationships that flare up and burn out over the course of an all-nighter and the alien landscape your home can become when you dig into it's artistic underbelly. Her drawing has become a lot more clean-line stylized with a certain minimal selectivity about the details she chooses, those details transforming from naturalistic compositional elements into surreal framing and subjective iconography, similar to the work of Ben Jones and Paper Rad.

Amber by Jamie Tanner

Hmmm... I almost dropped this from the list when I noticed this piece of news. I knew Tanner was shopping his work around, and I'm thrilled to see that we're getting that many pages bound together from that publisher. Oh, click the link already. Tanner is hardly the first person to hijack certain Victorian motifs to fill his somewhat modern world, but he's the only one I'm aware of that pushes the mystical elements of Romanticism to the forefront and eschews the steam-punk trappings. Yes, there's a robot in here, but it's the alcaholic ghost boy, the talking dog, the drowning city and those damn silent birdmen that steal the show. What's it about? A city drowning it's sorrows in drink and flood waters? The things that are preserved while everything else melts away? The fictional lives that drugs allow us to live but threaten to consume us? The questions are there in the scratchy cross-hatchings and short pants. I assume the answers are in the heads of those damn silent birdmen.

Lunch Time by Unknown

I don't know who made this mini or who else was at the table I bought this from. I'm pretty sure I got it at MoCCA. I KNOW I paid the ridiculous price of $10 for it. Price aside, this was a neat one-note joke. There's an orange dust cover with a couple of chicks eating seeds centered on the front. Inside, two long pieces of heavy-stock paper were glued together to creat a long panorama. You first see a great big flock of yellow chicks scampering about, but unfolding the paper reveals that they are being eaten by a variety of gel-ink-penned dinosaurs with particular gusto. The linework is energetic and gestural, making for a really nice piece. It wasn't $10 nice, but maybe I got some free stuff thrown in too. Who knows?

My Cancer Month by Ben T. Steckler

Give Steckler five minutes at a convention, and he'll probably take 20. This guy sure can talk, and you'll most-likely enjoy the experience. I wish I was as easily conversant as he is. He's also been making minicomics for a long time. Until this year, my favorite book of his was his palindrome book. I haven't seen his graphic novel yet. Maybe he wasn't at SPX? Anyway, this was just a shirt funny book about surviving non-malignant cancer. Steckler has a way of elevating the mundane without getting even remotely close to the side of town where ou'll find Pretensious Ave. I think his simple cartooning (and a brief nod toward minicomic godfather, Matt Feazell) goes a long way in keeping the terrifying funny.

Expedition to the Interior by Andrei Molotiu

It's nice to know that there's enough variety in the minicomics scene that a completely abstract comic doesn't seem like the product of the most bizzare thinking you've ever encountered. Actually, I can't help but recall Steve Bissette's old Tyrant series when I look at Molotiu's work. It's the inkiness and movement of his forms, I think. It's totally abstract, but seems evocative of single-celled organisms churning about in some primordial stew, mixing and merging and eventually becoming. So very few artists even attempt to push their comics so far into the abstract, that it's great to see one that isn't just an attempt, but a success.

My Brain Hurts #3 & 4 by Liz Baillie

Baillie is a great example of what happens when a cartoonist starts producing work more regularly (producing meaning creating AND publishing). The cartooning becomes more sophisticated, more pared down and more alive. Her characters have also become more human. This is important to me, because her My Brain Hurts details the misadventures of a group of New York teen punks, making all the bad decisions that make New Yorkers, teens and punks so hard to tolerate. Their worldview can seem so jaded, myopic and strident that introducing any outside perspective risks dredging up sitcom-style emotional heart tugging. Baillie avoids that risk more and more with each issue, while dealing with characters whose emotional maturity might lead them to mistake that sort of manouver for something deeper.

Luba: Three Daughters by Gilbert Hernandez
New Tales of Old Palomar by Gilbert Hernandez

There are two figures who sit prominently at the head of the table in my personal pantheon of cartoonists. One is Eddie Campbell (more about him later). The other is Gilbert Hernandez. He's the consummate cartoonist, measuring and perfecting the artform with every brushstroke. And he makes the world a better place by injecting it with beauty and melodrama. He's also made a world that is a place as real as the one his comics make better. In that world, Three Daughters marks the end of his story, while New Tales marks the beginning of more beginnings. If that sentence sounds confusing, how's this: He's got a series of graphic novels coming out taking place in the movies one of his characters has starred in. As for these books, Three Daughters made me cry. Hernandez reached deep down into my chest, tore out my heart, tossed it on the ground and stomped on it. I can feel my throat getting all scratchy just thinking about what happened in his escalating countdown. New Tales made me happy to see some some old friends and the familiar weirdness of their old home, and it made me want to re-read all his books all over again. It's also nice to see him working big again, reminding me why I once thought about giving names to some of his more distinctive lines. It's not his strongest stuff on its own, but the whole of the Palomar/Luba stories is so staggeringly amazing that the bar is too high to clear every outing. As for his book Sloth, I'd have to say that it sits squarely on the line between greatness and a reach barely exceeding its grasp.

Babel #2 by David B.

New Tales of Old Palomar was part of the international Ignatz line of books. Babel #2 is the first of David B.'s books to be incorporated in that line. As much as Babel rehashes some of the autobiography, history and themes of B.'s Epileptic, I suspect that this is eventually going to be an even more satisfying work. This particular chunk certainly was. This is much the same story, but with the emphasis more squarely on B.'s development as an artist and his fascination with war and fantasy than on his brother's debilitating illness. This is it's real strength. B. pulls himself out of the trenches of reality and maps out the no-man's land where history and imagination brutally clash, finding a decorative beauty in the still frames of the struggle.

Dungeon: Twilight by Joann Sfar, Lewis Trondheim and Kerascoet

Here's some more Frenchmen, two of whom used to be in a publishing collective with David B. Dungeon, though, is the ultimate comedy/action/adventure. Set decades after the other Dungeon series, Twilight follows some of the same and some related characters in a darker world — literally, at first. Then the world falls apart — yes, literally. Someone has stopped the world from rotating and someone else is trying to right wrongs done in the past. One of those someones might be a duck. The other is a dragon. They're joined by a marvelously designed rabbit in what is probably one of the best, clearest, most enjoyable genre works in comics. There's magic and fighting and monsters and limbs getting cut off and murder; and it's all being done by some of the cutest anthropomorphic characters EVER. They've got a new, more awesome Donjon website at the link above. Go. Get lost in it.

The Drifting Classroom by Kazuo Umezu

I THINK THERE'S A LAW THAT SAYS YOU CAN'T WRITE ABOUT THIS BOOK UNLESS YOU DO IT IN ALL CAPS WITH LOTS OF EXCLAMATION POINTS TO SUGGEST THAT YOU ARE SCREAMING IN BLOGFORM!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! AT FIRST THIS BOOK SEEMED A LITTLE DATED (IT'S FROM THE 70s), AND THE LEAD CHARACTER WAS HARD TO IDENTIFY WITH!!!!!!!! BUT THEN THE SCHOOL GOT TELEPORTED TO A POST-APOCALYPTIC WASTELAND AND EVERYONE STARTED SPEAKING ONLY IN SCREAMING AND THE DELIVERY MAN WAS MURDERING THE CHILDREN AND THE TEACHERS WERE MURDERING THE CHILDREN AND THE CHILDREN WERE MURDERING THE CHILDREN AND THEN THE GIRLS BECAME BULLIES AND EVERYTHING WAS TURNING TO SAND AND THE MAIN CHARACTER WAS SENDING TELEPATHIC MESSAGES BACK IN TIME TO HIS MOM AND THEN THE MONSTER ATTACKED AND THE POLITICAL MACHINATIONS STARTED AND THE TORTURE AND — whew! Seriously. It's a run-on sentence that rarely stops to breathe, never lets you get a word in edgewise and is delivered entirely in yelling.

Big Questions by Anders Nilsen
Monologues for the Coming Plague by Anders Nilsen

Continuing the Drawn & Quarterly incarnation of this minicomics series, issues 6 & 7 of Big Questions continue the Animal Farm-like exploration into religion, philosophy and tribalism of a group of birds trying to make sense of a world touched by man, his wars and the death it brings. Nilsen's work just keeps getting more and more beautiful with each issue. And the characters have moved well past the sort of stoned college student musings you might expect in something like this. It's going to be on all but the lamest book-of-the-year lists when it's all collected.

Yeast Hoist #12 & 13 (The Awake Field) by Ron Regé Jr.

I reviewed Issue #11 of Yeast Hoist without knowing it was subtitled "Does Music Make You Cry? or really grasping what it was. It wasn't until the ends of these two issues that I learned Yeast Hoist is Regé's semi-annual minicomic series, except when it isn't (sometimes it's a part of an anthology!). #12 was originally published in 2003, but in an edition of 50, so I'm not counting it. There's supposed to be a collection coming out of #1-10... someday. I'm kind of shocked to realize that Regé has been at this for around 15 years now. That's crazy. It does make it easier to stomach just. how. good. he is though. The standout pages in #12 are the opening landscape and studio drawings. Regé draws nature better than anyone in comics and his eye for details is amazing — and the last thing you'd think to praise him for if you took just a cursory look at his comics. I wrote a bit about The Awake Field here.

Tales Designed to Thrizzle by Michael Kupperman

I don't think anyone is as successful at putting words and pictures together in ways that are just plain wrong. Space man at the skin mag rack? Penis removal service? Henry the Eighthface? Ham Banana Rolls? Sooner or later I knew I'd break through and reach face? Fireman Octopus? Spirit of 1769 Coloring Book? Assorted Meat Face, Jr.? The art looks like clip art, but isn't. The humor is dadaist. The logic reads like what you wish your dreams sound like when you relate them to strangers.

Casanova by Matt Fraction & Gabriel Bá

In grammar school, a group of us played a sort of space-superhero, live action role-playing game. We had so much fun that a number of people joined in and provided us with villains. I can't remember any of our powers execpt my friend Ralph's: he was a robot that could shoot lasers out of his eyes that made 90° turns. I remember that it was like prison tag with super powers. We also had a similar game we played as G.I. Joe characters. In junior high/highschool, when everyone else got into sports and stuff, my friend Mike and I would make surreal adventure sci-fi porno movies with action figures. In college, I made comics and ran around town with a stuffed mushroom stool over my head and declared myself King of the Mushroom People. After college, I traveled around a bit and discovered all those things after-school specials used to warn you about. For anyone that lived like they had nothing but Dick and Moorcock in their heads, Casanova is like reading the biography of your imagination. It's fun and rompy and Kirby with structure.

Delphine #1 by Richard Sala

I've never read Richard Sala in serialized form before. There. I've said it. I remember the Evil Eye cartoons on MTVs long-lost liquid television show, and I've read a number of collections of his work, but I'd never seen him at work, the way serialization allows. Delphine is already Sala's most accomplished book, visually, bringing the awkwardness of his poses and designs together with a newfound naturalism. It's one of the few times I actually think grey tones and ink washes actually improve the work. It's also really creepy. And I think Sala knows how to play in the sandbox of serialization better than he does in the original graphic novel box (so far, I imagine he'll grow into that pretty quickly). The only thing missing, so far is young girls in short skirts. Man, someone should write a thesis on Sala thighs...

Showcase Presents: House of Mystery by Various

Trove. Reprinting the the late 60s early 70s issues of the DC horror anthology. Joe Orlando had taken over editing the book and brought one of the best rolodexes in comics with him. Aragonés' twisted humor, Infantino's disregard for logical perspective, Neal Adams' baroque showmanship, Bill Draught's clear line, Jack Sparling's hip teens, Jerry Grandenetti's oily brush, Bernie Wrightson's cartoony hatching, Gil Kane's one good horror story, Tony Dezuniga's grit and someone by the name of Alex Toth who had a rarely paralleled mastery of the comics form. It's all in black and white so you can better drool over the art. Some of the stories are among the finest horror offerings, but it's seeing these drawings that push this book past all the other Showcase offerings from 2006. And there's great news, as a second volume is coming out in the spring!

Shadowland by Kim Deitch

I'm a recent adopter of love for Kim Deitch. Honestly, all someone has to say to me is "seminal underground cartoonist" for me to switch from a turgid 2PM position to a cold 6:30. I understand the importance of the movement, I find a lot of commonality between my own experiences and theirs and I adore many of the cartoonists that find inspiration in the Undergrounds, but reading them often leaves me feeling more distanced from their work than engaged. I don't wear my philistinism with pride, but I do wear it on my sleeve. Oh well. That said, Kim Deitch's work fires up all my cylanders. Aliens, carnival freaks, conspiracy theories and the truths we thought were all lies in fractured first-person accounts and omniscient narrative style combined with all the little subtle formalist experiments and populated by wild, short-hand three-dimensional characters. I'm amazed every time. To top it off, I think Shadowland is more successful than Boulevard of Broken Dreams. At least it seems to have somewhat more of a resolution.

Drawn & Quarterly Showcase #4 by Dan Zettwoch, Gabrielle Bell & Martin Cendreda
Mome Spring/Summer 2006 by Various

You know what would rock? If Fantagraphics and Drawn & Quarterly combined their young artist anthologies into one book, published twice a year. Maybe then, the chaffe would be cut out and we'd get nothing but sweet, sweet grain.
My original look at this D & Q Showcase
My original, lengthy look at this Mome.

12 Reasons Why I Love Her by Jamie S. Rich and Joëlle Jones

Quick! Think of a 'chick flick' from the past 5 years with characters that acted like humans! Okay, try to imagine one. Now imagine it as a comic book. Now imagine the story structure resembles a mixtape of 12 snapshot pop songs. Now get angry at me for making you do all the work someone else has already done for you.

Literary Lives by Edward Sorel

This is a collection of one-panel-per-page cartoons about some of the 20th century's literary giants, cutting them off at the kneecaps, groins, waists, shoulders and hairline and trampling over the remains. Sorel takes the worst aspects from the writers' biographies and caricatures them back to sordid life. It's actually Ayn Rand, of all people, who comes out of this smelling like dogshit. Hellman, Eliot, Brecht, Jung, Proust, Yeats, Mailer, Sartre and Tolstoy come out smelling far worse (well, Tolstoy just comes across as rabidly insane — so, maybe he wasn't so... oh, wait, I just remembered the murderer part!).

Get A Life by Philippe Dupuy and Charles Berberian

Ever since Black Hole was declared brilliant before the compiled volume came out, I've been more than just a little wary of the comics cognoscenti's collective critical cock-stroking. So, I approached Dupuy and Berberian's Mr. Jean stories with more than a little trepidation. I wonder if the relative silence that followed the debut of their books in America isn't the surest sign that I shouldn't have worried at all. Or, maybe the surest sign is that Get a Life is a splendid collection of quiet cartooning grace, of precisely delicate yet lively brushwork and of stories of a life not-quite-better-lived. If it's difficult to describe this book without using the word 'charming' it's because every anecdote, every page and panel is just that even if the main character isn't always just that himself.

The Mourning Star by Kazimir Strzepek

As human as it is alien, as cute and endearing as it is dismal and gross, The Mourning Star may be the best response to someone asking if there's anything out there like Dungeon. This is the 'fun-to-read post-apocalypse story set on an alien world book of the year'. Hands down.

Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic by Alison Bechdel

I had no interest in picking this up for quite a while, easily deterred as I am by that lousy dust jacket design. But I had to pick it up when TIME MAGAZINE declared it the BOOK (not comic book) OF THE YEAR. A cursory glance left me thinking that it looked a little too wordy and the art looked a little too cribbed from Doonesbury, of all places. I found it fairly easy to actually sit with the book, though, and read it. Doing so gave me a greater appreciation for some of Bechdel's visual flourishes and allowed me to reconcile the wordiness of it all. The words to art ratio comes across far more ballanced than I expected, even if Bechdel does rely more on the former than on the purer cartooning I prefer. Of course, that conceit works here because Bechdel has written something of a love letter to rabid bibliophilistas who are strident in finding parallels between their own lives and the lives and works of great prose authors (heh, I'm suddenly reminded of the pair of weeks I ate nothing but hot dogs and pizza in an effort to transform myself into Jack Kerouac — what?). It's also a father-daughter coming out story with death (possible suicide!), affairs (possible child molestation!), antique interior design and a quick trip to the West Village in the 70s! It's a bit of the ultimate PBS whammy, something I can just as easily find myself engrossed in. This is a little more caveaty than the review I expected to write, so I should point out, again, that I very much enjoyed this book and will think about it every time I'm watching a documentary about Boss Tweed vs. the New York City subway.

The Fate of the Artist by Eddie Campbell

If you could be any historical figure, who would you be? I would be Eddie Campbell. He's historical, right? Anyway, here's what I wrote about Fate in May. The short is that it is a rather enjoyable book, although not as great as some of his previous books.

Deogratias: A Tale of Rawanda by J.P. Stassen

I think it would be almost impossible to do any story about Rawanda and not focus on how horrible the situation has been there for well over ten years. There are certainly bright moments in here, but they serve mainly to underscore a human catastrophe that is at the same time global, regional, national and personal. But aside from recognizing and addressing the tragedy of a country plunged into a genocidal civil war, Stassen takes his characters much further and explores the psychological and metaphorical devastation wraught on a child caught up on the wrong side of a terrible event. This is a coming of age story with a boy born to an age he can't properly come to. It's a story about humanity's ability to fail and its capacity to turn away when it needs to engage. It's a beautifully told story (albeit colored a bit too darkly) about the inherent treachery of loyalties and the mental breakdown of someone unable to understand or cope with their embrace of something all too evil.

A.L.I.E.E.E.N. by Lewis Trondheim

The last two books were both from Roaring Press Books First Second imprint. This is another one. Trondheim imagines a comic written for extra-terrestrial children. Its pages are worn and singed from a UFO takeoff, the dialogue is untranslatable and the aliens that populate the story live by a moral code we can't hope to understand. It's a gross book with eye gougings, blood-licking and crawling in a monster's body and looking out through its butthole - in the first eight pages. When adorable monsters gang up on another adorable monster, beat him until he pukes blood and then leave him for dead, you know you're close to the middle of a comic every young child should. This is the Trondheim of Dungeon working with the Trondheim of Mr. O and Mr. I to astound you with the comedy of cruelty.

The Left Bank Gang by Jason
Meow Baby by Jason

It's almost as if Norway was responding to Trondheim when they produced Jason. Of course, they weren't, and Jason comes to us less 'produced' than singular. But Jason does seem to enjoy doing terrible things to his anthropomorphic characters and lets their all-too-human frailties loose to do terrible things to one another and themselves. He sometimes does this for the silent black and white gag comics of something like Meow Baby, and he sometimes does this for the black melodrama of the full-color Left Bank Gank. Both are funny, and both have their fair share of pathos brought to the fore, but it's hard not to like The Left Bank Gang just a little more, if only because it imagines that ex-patriate American writers living in Paris in the 1920s as anthropomorphic characters, as cartoonists and as a gang of burglars foiled by their noirish ambitions. All of Jason's characters live outside of their stories and you can open to any page in any of his books fully expecting to see someone eating, pissing, making love or betraying someone, all cartooned to perfection.

Batman: Year 100 by Paul Pope

If there's an argument to be made for a fiercely independent cartoonist working on a Batman story, you'll find it in this series, recently collected. Pope delivers his tightest cartooning and some of his most controlled and lovely art to date. The ending doesn't quite match the execution of everything that precedes it and it's openendedness is maybe a bit too cute, but you're going to be engrossed in nearly 200 pages of a solid action comic before that. The best thing about this book is that it promises that the next creator-owned book Pope tackles will hopefully be as laser-focussed as this one. The story is ostensibly Batman: Year One set in 2039, but the devil is in the details, not in the old tropes. And the devil is just as pretty as you hoped he'd be.

All-Star Superman by Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely

These two guys, on the other hand, have a much longer history of mixing creator-owned work with an enthusiastic shilling of corporate properties. It's hard to blame them, though, when they turn out work like this. All other evidence to the contrary, Superman is that rare breed of late 60-year old that looks rather nice when gussied up by a talented stylist. This is a love letter to the Silver Age and the Superman we've all imagined but never read about. Morrison and Quitely are near the top of their game working on this project, and it's always an extreme pleasure to watch them play.

A Golden Treasury of Minicomics by Various

$75 for minicomics? Who would pay that? Well, what if I told you it was $75 for 200 minicomics? 200 of the filthiest, most irredeemably funny drunken jam minicomics drawn by Ivan Brunetti, Coop, Dave Cooper, Jordan Crane, Paul Dini, Sam Henderson, Kaz, Joe Matt, Tony Millionaire, Onsmith, Johnny Ryan, Rich Tommaso, Steve Weissman and 26 other cartoonists each trying to out-disgust each other, one gag per page in 8-page, single-sheet minis? Every 50 are bound in a Sam Henderson-illustrated wrapping and the whole thing comes with a certificate of guaranteed filth in a box decorated to reseble the old Golden childrens books. I just grabbed a random one called Pee Pals. Kids traipsing along merrily with pee-soaked pants, a guy held aloft on a geyser of "nice cool pee," a bathroom flooded by a "Texas-size whiz," a man with a giant turd falling out of his ass lamenting that the Pee Pals never play with him... This is just the first half of ONE mini. Grabbing another there's an emu impregnating a pig in an attempt to raise an "army of emus."

These are the types of comics that would've gotten you sent to the school psychologist if your teacher found them drawn in one of your notebooks. The type of jokes you would've been able to use in a blackmail scheme in a Raymond Chandler book. They're fun, terrible and the number of them is overwhelming.

__________________________________

I have to say, in any other year, any of the above books could've been in the top 20. Some of them might make me wish I had put them there the day after I post this... The Top 20 is in Part Two.

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