Monday, January 09, 2006

The best of the rest from 2005

I thought I would add some more stuff to the "best-of" lists we did this past week, because I like hogging the spotlight and I enjoy spreading the word about comics, even if I've spread it before. So here are some other highlights from 2005:

Best Comic Book That No One is Reading:
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Elk's Run. Okay, according to Jason, maybe 150 people are. But that's not nearly enough. This is a bracing, intense look at a generational war played out in small-town America with enough secrets to stymie the CIA. It's a gripping adventure story but also a insightful psychological piece. The bumper edition (collecting the first three issues) and the fourth issue should still be around. The only excuse you have for not reading it is not being able to find it, which, I admit, is a reason, but people can help. Ask Jason where you can get it. Ask Joshua, the writer. Or, you know, go here.

Best Trade Paperback of Stuff from a Previous Year:
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If you haven't bought Scurvy Dogs yet, I really don't know what I'm going to do with you. Weep for your cold, black soul, probably. How can you resist?
Scurvy Dogs
And while I'm at it, how about an out-of-context joke: "The cow says 'true'!" Bleepin' hilarious.

Best Idea for A Collection: Unlike some people I'm not going to say DC's Showcase series. What the hell do I care about comics from the '50s, man? But I will say "Huzzah!" to DC's decision to collect Morrison's Doom Patrol. Quite possibly the best run on a comic book ever. If you don't have 'em, buy 'em. You will not be disappointed.

Best Original Graphic Novel: I know we had a best "one-shot or mini-series" post, but I decided OGNs were a different animal, so I went with GrimJack: Killer Instinct for that.
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The best OGN, however, was Different Ugliness, Different Madness. My original review is in the second part of this post. It's a beautiful and moving and painful story, one that lifts you up and makes you think.
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Coming in on its heels is Capote in Kansas, a review of which can be found here (it's down the page a bit). And closely following behind that is Nil: A Land Beyond Belief, which I reviewed here. It's one of the more fun books you'll read.
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Publisher of the Year: Image. Those of you who read my posts regularly should not be surprised by this. Image is putting out some of the best stuff on the market right now, and although some of it comes out inconsistently (B. Clay Moore, I'm looking at you), it's still better than most independents, and so many of their books are just excellent. This year they published stuff like:
The Atheist (a late title, but pretty damned cool)
Bad Planet (only one issue out so far, but neat-o keen-o)
Common Foe (its schedule has slipped a bit, but it's a war story with demons - nifty)
The Expatriate (a Moore title, so it's late, but it's neat)
Fell (it's cheap and Ellis likes it, which means he puts some effort into it - and the art is cool)
Girls (I can't make an argument for this, because I don't like it, but still - something unusual)
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Gødland (just buy it already, and I'll leave you alone!)
Hatter M (quite the bizarre little twist on Alice in Wonderland)
Hawaiian Dick (an issue of which actually came out this year!)
The Iron Ghost (about which more below)
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Noble Causes (my pick for best ongoing title)
Pigtale (I didn't love it, but it is certainly different)
Rex Mundi (see more below)
Sea of Red (another title I dropped, but another different kind of book)
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Small Gods (which was close to being my pick for best ongoing title)
The Stardust Kid (fantasy from DeMatteis and Ploog)
Waterloo Sunset (a very weird and dense sci-fi epic, but interesting)

That, my friends, is a good pedigree. And they publish Invincible, "the best superhero book in the world" (bah!), and a bunch of other stuff - Fear Agent, Strange Girl, that Dragon book. Make yours Image! Now if only they would pay me for the advertising ...

Best Single Issue:
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Since my "moment of the year" came from JLA: Classified #7, I'll say that. This issue, and the series as a whole, shows why "funny" comics are so neat: there is a lot of humor, and yes, some of it doesn't work, but when the seriousness comes, it hits you in the gut and really makes you appreciate the humor and the bonds between these characters. Kind of like real life. When Matt Murdock gets into yet more trouble, we don't feel it as much because he's always in freakin' trouble. Giffen and DeMatteis used this to great effect in their old run on JLI (remember the Despero story and how shocking it was?) and they do it here. This is a great issue. A runner-up would be any issue of Action Philosophers!, although #2 remains my favorite.
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Best Ongoing Title That Doesn't Count Because It Doesn't Come Out Often Enough:
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Hey, Planetary, how ya doin'? And you too, Rex Mundi. Nice to see you.
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I love both these titles. They're "ongoing." Let's see: Planetary - 2 issues in 2005, 4 in 2004, 2 in 2003, ZERO in 2002, 2 in 2001, 5 in 2000, and 8 in 1999 (including 2 in December!). Meanwhile, Rex Mundi - 3 issues in 2005 after 6 in the previous two years. Sigh. I love them both, but it's a chore waiting for them. Rex Mundi has been plagued by internal talent disputes, but what's the deal with Planetary? Both Ellis and Cassaday seem to be fine and dandy.

The "Who Shot J.R." Award:
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The Award for best cliffhanger¹ goes to The Expatriate #3. Jaw-dropping. I still don't want to discuss it in case people want to read the book (and you should; it's good). It's the kind of cliffhanger that is really neat - you didn't see it coming at all, and you can't figure out what will happen next issue, and when the next issue comes out, it makes (some) sense. Brilliant. Wizard said the cliffhanger of the year was Daredevil #79, but I think we've pretty much established that they're full of shit. This is so much better it can't even see Daredevil #79 in its rear view mirror, having smushed it like a dead opossum back in Virginny somewhere. Very close second: The end of Perhapanauts #1. It cheats a bit, though, which is why it slips to second.

The "Kevin Smith" Award:
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Matador #5 came out in September. So where's #6?
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Defenders #4 came out in October. Where's #5? At least Chuck Dixon explained that Hurricane Katrina delayed Iron Ghost #5 (in case you've been breathlessly waiting for that - I like it, so I have, maybe not "breathlessly," but still). But these two books - they're published by the big boys. Let's go, DC and Marvel.

HONORARY MENTIONS: Scarlet Traces: The Great Game, which was solicited in April and never shipped. What's up, Dark Horse? (According to this, it will be out on 1 May 2006 - a good year after it should have been. Stellar.) And where's Black Diamond On Ramp, Larry?

The "Weirdly Inappropriate and Completely Baffling Presence of Bare Midriff" Award:
The Middleman. I really enjoyed this mini-series, but I still don't understand why Wendy had such a tiny shirt. She's not in the book for sex appeal, the book could easily be read by children of all ages, she's wearing a tie so the look is even weirder, and it just doesn't make any sense whatsoever. The trade is supposed to be out this month, and I recommend it, for the killer monkeys and the humor, but not for the attire. More information about the series here.

The "After Two Days, Guests and Fish Start to Smell" Award for A Good Creative Team I'll Be Glad to See End Their Run: Bendis and Maleev on Daredevil. An excellent run that needs to go away. They have run out of things to do with the character. I'm intrigued to see how they will end it next issue, but it's time to move on. Thanks, guys. Don't let the billy club smack you in the back of the neck on your way out.

The "Nuke Laloosh" Award: This is for the talent that should get snapped up by the Big Two and turned into a corporate drone right away. Maybe they will resist, but maybe not. It goes to Jacen Burrows, whose art is stellar. Here's a page from 303 #3:
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Maybe he doesn't want to work for the Big Two, which would make me happy. This year he did 303 with Ennis, and most of his work has been with Avatar. He wins over Juan Ferreyra, the excellent artist of Small Gods and new artist on Rex Mundi, simply because I think he's been around longer.

The 1995 Oscar Awards Award for the Biggest Disappointment²: So many to choose from. So many disappointments. Jack Cross immediately leaps to mind, but a lot of Ellis is not as good as his truly brilliant stuff, so while it was disappointing, it wasn't surprising. Batman: Gotham County Line was disappointing, but more because I wanted it to be something different, not because the story was all that awful (I didn't like the story, true, but I liked it less because of what it wasn't). My biggest disappointment (besides, of course, the cancellation of titles I liked, which is neither here nor there, because titles always get cancelled) has to be this:
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Wanted #6 was a piece of shit. It was poorly written and mean-spirited and stupid. That would be okay, I guess, except that I was disappointed because Millar is basically saying that the only people who know he exists - comic book fans - are stupid and full of shit for buying the only thing he gets paid for - writing comic books. Ask anyone on the street who Mark Millar is and they won't fucking know. He's not a superstar. He's a superstar among the few hundred thousand people on the planet who read comic books, but that's a tiny, tiny, tiny, infinitesimal portion of the population, and what he thinks of them is very clear. That book made me boycott Mark Millar, which is another disappointment, because Ultimates can be a fun book and he can be a great writer. I don't expect others to join me in my boycott, but I am surprised that more people haven't been more vocal about this asshole saying to his readers that he's better than they are and that they're stupid for buying his product. You're a moderately big fish in a teeny-tiny pond, Mark, and I'm doing the only thing I can - not putting money into your pocket. Fuck off.

Sorry for the rant. A year later it still rankles me.

Anyway, goodbye 2005 - it was fun. Bring it on, 2006! One Year Later! Civil War! Fuck yeah!

¹ Some of you young whippersnappers might not get the "J.R." reference. Ask your parents! More important than the Kennedy assassination and the moonwalk all rolled together!
² I'm still bummed that stupid Forrest Gump beat Pulp Fiction for Best Picture.

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Blogger Earth-2 Leigh said...

From here:

Due to an injury suffered by artist Brian Stelfreeze, Matador #6 will be resolicited.

"I try to play a little volleyball a few times a week to keep myself in shape," Stelfreeze said. "When things like this happen you realize that sports aren't necessarily a good thing for comic book artists. I guess that's one of the reasons why we're not in as good a shape as the characters we draw. I'm knitting as quickly as I can and I've already started some physical therapy. I should be back at the drawing board in just a few weeks. Believe me, I'm just as excited about the ending of Matador as any reader."

Here's hoping he takes up unicycling or birling instead.

1/10/2006 01:34:00 AM  
Blogger Erik said...

I don't read Millar either. Wanted started out okay, and I was even enjoying it, but then he pulled the whole "the guy you thought died is actually still alive and had been manipulating things from the shadows since the beginning" thing and I was pretty unimpressed. So by the time I got to the end I didn't really care; I was just going through the motions. He could have personally insulted me and my family -- each person by name -- and I wouldn't have cared.

But I really gave up on him after his run on Marvel Knights Spider-Man. The run wasn't great anyway (it had it's moments), but there's a point where Spidey thinks Aunt May is dead [1], so he throws back his head and screams "Noooooo!". Then she wakes up.

At that point I gave up on him as a writer.

[1] I don't remember if he checked for a pulse, but I know he didn't try CPR.

1/10/2006 01:57:00 AM  
Anonymous Dizzy said...

Rex Mundi has been plagued by internal talent disputes, but what's the deal with Planetary? Both Ellis and Cassaday seem to be fine and dandy

As far as I have heard a combination of reasons:
A health issue with Ellis, Cassidy during Ellis sickness committed to other projects and according to Ellis (but this was during the earlier issues, I don't know if it still counts) DC's lawyers have halted publication at various times to see if certain characters Ellis uses are indeed fair use.

1/10/2006 08:05:00 AM  
Blogger Jason said...

Thanks for the continued support, Greg. Hopefully next year we'll be "The Best Book Everyone is Reading" or "The Best of the Eisner Winners".

1/10/2006 08:16:00 AM  
Anonymous typo said...

It took you this long to realize Millar wasn't worth your 2.99? I stopped buying his books with his less-than-subtle Authority run. Every now and then I thumb througha book of his in the store and shake my head.

I mean, if I want to get hit on the head with a hammer, I'll pick a fight with a contractor.

1/10/2006 08:37:00 AM  
Blogger Greg said...

Typo - there's a difference between writing a bad book and personally insulting your readership. I wasn't immensely impressed with Millar's run on The Authority (I actually liked when he killed them), but I knew he had talent. It was only with Wanted that he showed he held his audience in contempt, which is where he lost me.

Thanks for the news, everybody! I was pretty sure there were reasons for delays, but I often don't have time to look for them.

1/10/2006 09:22:00 AM  
Anonymous Iron Lungfish said...

Millar's work runs hot and cold with me, but then again so does Morrison's. I love certain books written by them and find others to be generally stupid; a name is not a guarantor of quality. "The Ultimates" is excellent, and I buy it for being "The Ultimates," and not because it's By Mark Goddamn Millar. "Ultimates" isn't made crappy by Millar's involvement in "Wanted" any more than "Seaguy" or "We3" become retroactively stupid now that I've read "Kill Your Boyfriend."

The whole "Creator X has Negative Personality Trait Y and thus I will never read his books again" thing has always baffled me. Richard Wagner was an anti-semitic jackass, but I don't have to put up with him when I'm listening to his music. I probably wouldn't like most of the comic book writers and artists I read as people - hell, Alan Moore is a gibbering loon who worships a snake puppet he met while dropping acid, which is a notch or two below the belief that you can bend forks with your mind. But as long as I avoid Promethea, I don't have to put up with the gibbering loon when I read his writing.

1/10/2006 11:12:00 AM  
Anonymous Bill Reed said...

Whoa whoa whoa. Kill Your Boyfriend is one of the world's perfectest pop comics.

And maybe Alan Moore worships a sock puppet, sure. But then, look who's president of the United States. (rimshot)

1/10/2006 11:29:00 AM  
Blogger --Greg Hatcher said...

We love Scurvy Dogs, too. The book is brilliant and the guys doing it are great, too. They were our next-door booth neighbors at APE a couple of years ago. Wrote a great note in my students' class scrapbook.

Now that I know there's a trade I'm all over it.

1/10/2006 12:30:00 PM  
Anonymous Iron Lungfish said...

Whoa whoa whoa. Kill Your Boyfriend is one of the world's perfectest pop comics.

Whoa whoa whoa. "Kill Your Boyfriend" is absolute and unmitigated crap, the shamelessly whorish nadir of 90s Vertigo, a calculated and soulless appeal to faux-rebellious 15-year-olds who think that shallow prettiness and nihilistic slaughter actually represents an ethically legitimate counterpoint to "The System." It posits a moral universe in which the worst crimes are being ugly and boring - crimes which are worthy of death - and in which the refusal to murder the ugly and the boring makes you a shallow hypocrite. It doesn't even have the benefit of being original, coming as it did - contrary to Mr. Morrison's claims - well after True Romance and Natural Born Killers, from which it shamelessly cribs. Mindlessly derivative, morally vapid shite.

And whatever you can say about it, it was not sold as "pop." It was packaged as Grant Morrison's Love Letter To His Fiery And Fictional High School Muse, whom he no doubt later brought to life in a burst of post-pubescent chaos magic. Without a doubt the worst comic book I've ever read, and I was there for Maximum Clonage.

1/10/2006 01:12:00 PM  
Blogger Greg said...

Now THAT'S a comment, Mr. Lungfish! Truly excellent.

Not having read the book, I can't say anything about it, but yours might be the first negative thing I've heard anyone say about it. That doesn't make it wrong or anyone else right, it's just interesting.

And my point about Millar is not that Wanted is shit. I can deal with writers I like writing shit and moving on to their next project. What I didn't like about Wanted was that he directly insulted the readers. That's the reason for the boycott. And believe me, every time a new issue of Ultimates comes out, I think about breaking it, because it's so pretty. But I am strong!

1/10/2006 01:23:00 PM  
Blogger Bill Reed said...

"People said we're evil but they missed the point again."

I did a long post on KYB on the Lithium Age a while back, and I quite enjoyed it. I guess you didn't spot the satire, or whatever. It's just an over-the-top wacky coming of age story.

A Barbelith poster once said it'd be the first thing they'd save in case of a fire. I think that was a great statement.

I, though, would go for the Flex Mentallos. You know. If I actually owned them.

1/10/2006 01:26:00 PM  
Blogger Apodaca said...

Re: Wanted.

Eh. I'm in the boat of not holding the art accountable for the artist (with a certain exceptions, of course).

I think that another important thing to think about is that people are fallible. I see Millar giving us the finger as equivalent to a kid telling his parents to "fuck off" in a fit of anger. Sure, he thought he meant it at the time, and it probably felt really great to actually say it, but that doesn't mean that's how he'll feel for the rest of his life, and realistically, he's probably wholly aware of the mistake he made in saying it. There's even likely to be remorse.

I think we, as a society, have a bad habit of villifying public figures for ever changing their minds. We expect them to be right the first time, because they are held up as an example of someone who has been mostly right (or good) before. But really, wouldn't we rather have role models who can think and feel, decide and redecide, and ultimately think for themselves?

1/10/2006 01:59:00 PM  
Anonymous Iron Lungfish said...


I can respect that kind of commitment, even if I wouldn't ever make it. And just so all my cards are on the table, I never read Wanted - it might be the absolute excrement you describe.

1/10/2006 02:43:00 PM  
Anonymous Iron Lungfish said...

I guess you didn't spot the satire, or whatever. It's just an over-the-top wacky coming of age story.

Oh, I got that it was supposed to be a "wacky coming of age story" (hence Morrison's inclusion of a postscript dedicated to a quasi-fictional former girlfriend, which once again is as much a part of the story as the story itself, in that it's meant to frame the reader's experience of the story). But Jesus H. Christ on a biscuit with gravy, hasn't the world seen enough "We're So Terribly Young And Hot And We Just Don't Care And Nobody Understands Us And We Must Lash Out Against The World In Our Confused And Nihilistic Rage And In The Midst We Find That Sex Is Death" stories? That was old when the umpteenth "Bonnie and Clyde" movie came out.

I read the whole thing expecting some great twist or deconstruction about to happen any minute because the story was so damn cliche and Morrison prides himself on being so aware of the text that I figured he had to have something else up his sleeve, but the damn thing ended and he just told it straight. It was a straight rehash of Sexy Killer Kids On The Run, only this time it's Grant Friggin' Morrison doing it, so watch out, world, 'cause he's totally reinvented the Dionysian life-death myth!

Now, I can understand how an angsty overhormoned teenager would think it was Teh Awesome back when they read it between Death minis in sophomore year, but what an adult would see in it over, well, anything else Grant Morrison has ever done in his career - or for that matter anything anyone has done - is beyond me. Hell, I can think of Chuck Austen comics that look like goddamn Shakespeare next to this.

1/10/2006 03:16:00 PM  
Anonymous Nitz the Bloody said...

Adding a little perspective on Wanted...

Mark Millar's Wanted is cynical shit, yes. But it's INTENDED to be cynical shit. It's not like he was trying to write a Dickensian tale on life and loss and ended up with a soulless action movie that appeals to the pro wrestling and big budget action movie crowds. It's pretty obvious that he SPECIFICALLY wrote it to be a soulless action movie that, by virtue of Mark Millar's name and demographic, would be way over-analyzed and scrutinized by the readers. And then anyone who did scrutinize Wanted would be severely dissapointed by the " gag gift " ending.

So for everyone who now hates Mark Millar despite liking his pre-Wanted work; you have two choices. You can over-analyze Wanted and come up dissapointed because Mark Millar didn't write you the next Watchmen. Or you can NOT analyze Wanted and enjoy it for what it is; purposefully cynical shit that's a guilty pleasure to read. Basically, you can choose to have Millar laugh WITH you, or AT you. You don't have to be insulted by Wanted.

But please don't boycott Millar because of one story he did that you didn't like. It's cheating yourself out of reading good comics just because the author of those comics decided one day to mess with his audience's heads.

1/10/2006 06:34:00 PM  
Anonymous Darth Krzysztof said...

When people talk about "Kevin Smith" awards, I wonder why Walt Simonson's "Elric: The Making of a Sorcerer" for DC never comes up.

Issues 1 and 2 came out in September & December of 2004; issue 3 has yet to appear.

Sure, it is a prestige format series, but it was originally solicited as monthly...

Darth Krzysztof

1/10/2006 10:42:00 PM  
Anonymous Martin said...

Kill Your Boyfriend is ok. Certainly better than anything else I've read by Morrison (and I've read most of his comics). We3, for example, reads like a sappy mecha-manga for teens. It wasn't awful, but I found it a bit ugly and annoying.

1/11/2006 08:08:00 AM  
Blogger ninjawookie said...

The best single issue of this year was Seven Soldiers Zatanna issue 4, I cared that I had wait so long for it.

That and Darwyn Cooke Solo, just because people cry, as their art isn't as good and well coloured as his.

Millar? His best work was on Superman Adventures.

1/12/2006 10:25:00 AM  
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