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The best of the rest in 2006

Since Cronin snuck some extra categories into his “best of” picks, and since he limits us to five categories in the first place (we chafe under his dictatorial rule!), I like to do a follow-up to that post.  So here’s the best of a bunch of other stuff, according to me, your humble blogger.

Best Original Graphic Novel:  Man, this is a tough choice.  This was an excellent year for original graphic novels, and I think it’s a very good sign for the industry as a whole.  I’m going to have to say American Born Chinese, even though that’s the easy choice.  It was entertaining, clever, nicely drawn, interesting to read, and it dealt with racism in a fresh way without being too preachy about it.  Gene Luen Yang writes and draws the kind of comic that works perfectly as a comic – he uses the words and pictures to create a beautiful synthesis.  It won’t overwhelm you with shocks, but it will make you understand the experience of immigrants in this country much more, and will make you wonder about the pressure we put on all people to conform.  My original review is here, if you’re interested (it’s there, trust me).

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Some other good choices: Pride of Baghdad by Brian K. Vaughan and Niko Henrichon, which might have made it to the top if not for the lion rape scene (I reviewed it the same post as American Born Chinese, if you want to read more).

A. David Lewis and Marvin Mann brought us The Lone and Level Sands, the story of Rameses II and Moses, which did a nice job humanizing the pharoah.  I reviewed it here.

Cyclone Bill and the Tall Tales was another graphic novel I really enjoyed, except for the ending.  But that doesn’t ruin the book.  It’s a very neat book about a rock star and his mysterious disappearance, plus a documentary filmmaker, her quest for answers about his disappearance, and who is haunting her.  It’s weird and freaky at times, and although I thought the ending was just okay, it’s because the first three-quarters of the book were so good.  I wrote more about it here.

Also in that post I wrote about Duncan Rouleau’s The Nightmarist, which was wacky but excellent.  It’s a horror book, but the best kind of horror book, in that we get so involved with the characters that we care about them, and it also doesn’t rely on gore to freak us out.  It’s also somewhat thoughtful, which is nice.

Best Collected Edition of an Older Work:

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Sudden Gravity by Greg Ruth, which was originally published in 1997.  Read my review here.  This is a stunningly beautiful book, drawn with only a Bic pen, and although I had a bit of a problem with the ending (not much of one, just a minor one), it’s not enough to keep me from loving this book.  It’s creepy, disturbing, and gets under your skin – in a good way.

Best Single Issue of the Year:

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Damn, this is hard.  Sometimes an issue just leaps out at you, but I bought 515 comics last year (yes, I keep track) and usually the singles blur together and I remember stories more than individual issues.  And, let’s face it, a lot of single issues are written as part of a larger storyarc, and although I don’t mind picking one of those, if a stand-alone issue comes along that is really good, I’m going to lean toward that one.  With that in mind, I’m picking Fallen Angel #10, “A Sad Song for Terry May,” which is a wonderful issue that you can read even if you don’t read the rest of the series.  Lee, our fallen angel herself, tells her son a story of Terry May, a blind tenor who has brain cancer and comes to Lee to ask for her help in getting to a holy man in Tibet, who can perform miracles and possibly cure him.  They reach Tibet and Terry makes an unusual choice when he learns he can’t be cured all the way.  It’s a beautiful story about dealing with what life gives you and appreciating it completely, about knowing what beauty is and wanting to believe in it, and struggling for brief moments of light in a world of darkness and how much that means.  It could also be, interestingly enough, a lie, as Lee is telling the story and her words and the pictures contradict each other occasionally, and Lee contradicts herself once.  Peter David can do issues like this very well, and J. K. Woodward’s art, although not perfect, is very nice.  In the scenes in Tibet, we get an excellent sense of how cold it is, and how the heat of the human beings in Tibet burns through it all.  A great issue in a really strong series.

I had some other choices, which for one reason or another didn’t make the cut:

Fell #5 - The interrogation issue, where Richard and his suspect are “in the box.”

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All Star Superman #4 – Superman goes all evil and only Jimmy Olson can stop him!

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Fables #51 – Cinderella goes on a mission to the Cloud King, and something happens that will have repercussions far into the future.

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X-Men #190 – The Children of the Vault attack the mansion.  Best fight of the year.

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X-Factor #14 – The issue after the gang gets psychoanalyzed, as Jamie must contend with two pissed-off women, and one of his duplicates is mixed up with S.H.I.E.L.D.

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Best New Title of the Year: This is always fun, as I tend not to buy older, more established books, unless they show up in trade paperback.  So I’m not buying Amazing Spider-Man #540 or whatever, and therefore get a bunch of Number Ones.  Most of these I drop or they don’t last, but some catch on!  This year we had a bunch of good, new books, but two, for me, stand out.  Nextwave, despite a propensity for some not-very-funny humor, especially in the middle issues, was a blast.  Ellis did some very nice things with some D-list Marvel superheroes, and made bashing heads in fun again, damn it!  The first story, with Fin Fang Foom, was brilliant, and the recent issues have been better than ever, especially issue #10, when Forbush-Man sent the heroes into alternate realities.  Immonen’s art has been excellent throughout, and in the aforementioned #10, he does a wonderful job changing styles to fit the “reality” into which the heroes are sent, while in the most recent issue, #11, he draws double-page spreads into eternity of the most fabulous monsters he and Ellis could come up, and it seems like each page is better than the last (despite what Joe Rice says).  Oh, and it’s been canceled.  Too bad!

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My favorite new series of the year, however, is Moon Knight.  Yes, I love the character from way back.  In my twisted world, if they launched a new Dazzler title I’d probably be the only one to buy it (although, based on the story in X-Men Unlimited a few years ago, Will Pfeifer and Jill Thompson would ROCK on a Dazzler series – make it happen, Joey Q!), but Moon Knight, with six issues under its belt, is phenomenal even if you don’t have a sick crush on Marc Spector and his alter ego.  Charlie Huston has torn Marc Spector apart, highlighting the fact that he is, quite possibly, the looniest (pun intended) spandex-wearer this side of Frank Castle.  “The Bottom,” as the story was called, hearkened back to old-school, Doug Moench/Bill Sienkiewicz Moon Knight, while also propelling the character forward, which is where he needed to go.  It’s a brutal read, but it’s fascinating to watch Spector fall deeper and deeper in madness and have to drag himself out.  David Finch’s art, while not to everyone’s taste, is a good fit for the book, even though he’s leaving soon.  Huston is only on board for a few issues past Finch (unless Marvel convinces him to stay), and the book may fall in quality when that happens, but six issues in, it’s an excellent comic.

Best Comic You’re Not Reading:

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Last year this was easy – Elk’s Run.  This year, I’m not so sure, because I’m not privy to the sales figures.  Based on the fact that Diamond dropped it from distribution because no one ordered it, I’d have to say Action Figure #1, which wasn’t great, but is a lot better than a lot of junk that actually makes it into distribution.  I reviewed it here.  You can check out a few preview pages here, and buy it here.  It’s definitely worth at least a peek.

Publisher of the Year:  Last year I said this was Image, and although I still like a lot of Image books, their business practices this year have left me puzzled, and the lack of their titles to come out on a consistent basis really bugged me a lot (which is tied in with their business practices, to be sure).  We got some very good books from Image this year (Noble Causes, despite some bad art, is still a good title; Phonogram is very neat; Gødland continues to be the best ongoing on the market; Fell and Casanova are both excellent, if published sporadically), but the overall goodness fell off a bit.  So I must move on.

I certainly can’t pick DC or Marvel, because they’re just too moronic to count.  Dark Horse celebrated its 20th anniversary, but although they published some very good books, I just don’t dig enough of them.  So I’m forced to look at the smaller publishers.  Where oh where can I turn?

So I decided on a tie.  Yes, I suck.  For graphic novels, First Second did a very good job getting books out and getting publicity for them, and the books they published were mostly excellent.  American Born Chinese is something everyone should read, Journey into Mohawk Country was an unusual look at American history (even though I didn’t really like it, I still admired the effort), Deogratias: A Tale of Rwanda is a harrowing account of the slaughter in that country (I haven’t reviewed it yet, but it’s very good), and The Lost Colony is a strangely whimsical story of an island cut off from the rest of the world and how they deal with slavery – hence the “strangely whimsical” part.  (This is another book I have to review properly).  They have a bunch of other books that I haven’t read, but others have liked a lot.

For “normal” comic books, I have to go with Archaia Studios Press.  Their most celebrated comic this year was Mouse Guard.  I’ve only read the first issue but loved it, and apparently it has kept going strong through the subsequent issues (if I had read it, I probably would have listed it among the best mini-series of the year, but alas! my policy forbids me from it!).  But earlier in the year we got Robotika, which was a trippy four-issue mini-series with spectacular art by Alex Sheikman (who I really should have mentioned as best artist, but he slipped my mind).  This year they also published Artesia, which is pretty good, and the end of the year saw the first two issues of The Killer, which I know is an old European comic, but they still published it here!  In the graphic novel arena, they published The Lone and Level Sands, which I mentioned above.

Funniest Comic Book Page of the Year: You thought I would pick something from Nextwave, didn’t you?  Bah!  Sure, Elvis MODOKs are comedy gold, but this page from She-Hulk #9 is just awesome:

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Best Line of the Year: Danny Rand: “Yes, I’m Iron Fist.  No, I don’t know where Power Man is.  We’re partners, not a couple.”  Name the comic that it appears in!

Most Ridiculously Awesome Comic Book of the Year:

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Two words: SHARK.  MAN!!!!!!  You know I’m right, suckers!

The Nuke Laloosh Award: This goes to the artist who should get snapped up by one of the Big Two pretty quickly, because they could sell boatloads of a comic with this person on it.  This year it goes to Alex Sheikman (that’s his blog; his website is here) writer/artist of Robotika (which I just mentioned).  Sheikman needs some work on his writing, but his art is stunning.  It might take him a while to complete a book (it might not, but it looks like it does), but in a world where Marvel doesn’t care if McNiven takes six months to draw one page of their tentpole event, that doesn’t matter!  Give Sheikman a Silver Surfer mini-series to draw and watch the fanboys salivate!

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The Hawaiian Dick Award: This goes to the book that dropped off the map and has not been seen since.  This year there are several candidates, and none of them are named Civil War, which at least comes out, if on a piss-poor schedule that affects every other issue that the company publishes.  Some of the books that have simply disappeared in the past year (many from Image, because that’s what they do):

Bad Planet.  One pretty entertaining issue (in December of 2005), then nothing.

The Expatriate.  Issue #4 came out in November 2005, issue #5 was solicited in October 2005 and issue #6 solicited in November 2005, but it’s gone.

The Atheist.  Issue #3 came out in March.  The possibility of another one coming out does not fill me with hope.  I am, if you will, an Atheist when it comes to believing in this book.

Hysteria: One Man Gang.  Two issues out of four showed up, both in March.  Mike Hawthorne is still working, so what’s up?

Elsinore.  It found a new publisher, Devil’s Due, and one issue came out, #5, in May.  Devil’s Due is still around, so where did it go?  It’s only a mini-series, after all, and the rest of it was solicited.

My Inner Bimbo.  One issue came out, back in June.  Did something happen to Sam Kieth?  That would suck.

The Stardust Kid.  It switched publishers (to Boom!), and issue #4 came out in June, with a promise that the next issue would appear.  So where is it?

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There are two winners, though, and they win because I really like both titles.  Fell last came out in September, and I don’t have high hopes for it coming out any time soon.  With the end of Planetary (one issue left!), it’s probably the best thing Ellis is writing right now, but I guess he’d rather waste his time on newuniversal (well, I guess it pays him better).  We only got three issues of Fell this year (March, May, and September), and that bugs me, because I think it would sell okay if it came out somewhat regularly, what with the price tag and all.  Let’s go, Warren!

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The other title is Atomika, which was humming along for a while before disappearing.  Andrew Dabb promises that it will return this spring, which would be nice.  You can check it out, one page a day, at Newsarama, but I really hope it shows up in print.  Yes, I’m a Luddite.  It’s a very neat series, so I hope we can get the rest of it.

Most Disappointing Title:

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Desolation Jones in a runaway.  There were books that were worse (although not by much), but I really wanted to like this comic, and the art is simply spectacular.  The reason I’m so disappointed with it is because of its pedigree and that it crashed so badly.  I was a bit disillusioned with it before issue #6 came out, and when that showed up, that clinched it.  Here’s my review of it.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: the first six issues of this title, and especially the sixth, are snuff comics.  Ick.  I know I might be alone among its readers to despise it so much, but so be it.

So there’s some extra stuff that we didn’t cover in the other posts.  It’s only my opinion, though – yours may vary.  Lots of good comics this year, though – 2006 was a fine year, despite the two bloated events from the Big Two, and I hope it bodes well for the future of the industry.

10 Comments

The Iron Fist quote is from “Doctor Strange: Blood Oath” and was said to Arana in Night Nurse’s waiting room.

Actually, that is “The Oath.”

Greg,

An ATOMIKA update for you: Issue #8 is completed, and I expect to see the art for issue #9 in about a month or so. The decision has been made to not re-solicit any new issues until at least 3 are in the can, meaning we can finish up the back end of the series on a decent schedule. It’s not an ideal situation, but were gradually working out the kinks.

Thanks,

Andrew

FunkyGreenJerusalem

January 9, 2007 at 4:27 am

I liked Desolation Jones.
Why? Because unlike most fools who review books reguarly, I’d realised Ellis hit a shit patch years ago.
Everything under that DC exclusive?
Shit.

Hence, having no expectations of this being a great book, I picked it up (after skipping some other stuff of his) and got a fucking great read.
Read them all in one Greg, read them, and enjoy them.
Seriously, you complain that Williams art is too beautiful!
That’s silly.
(so is calling a comic snuff – did they really kill a real person in this comic for your sexual gratification?)
His work on this is the best I’ve ever seen from him (Haven’t read 7SoV#1 yet).
The porn issue feels icky too read, and so it should – but look at the hallucitory feel we get reading it! The panel layouts and changes of image put one in the same headspace as Jones – and everything she says keeps getting worse (it’s like Ellis remembered why he likes Black Dhalia – every page was more horrifying than the last, something he forgets all the time with his work).
The only problem I had with the end was the death of his sidekick, and that’s only because it was more a character piece, not a plot piece, and so felt a little forced.

Honestly Greg, you are so wrong about Desolation Jones, I wanna go Beland on yo ass.

I seem to remember Nextwave always being a 12-issue mini (maxi, or whatever label you wanna slap on it) series. Marvel just hyped it up as Warren Ellis’ new series, but it wasn’t cancelled.

It’s still sad to see it go, though.

I second the praise for Alex Sheikman! And, I’ve heard that there is a new Robotika series in the works…. :)

Nope, sorry, that She-Hulk page is definitely not funnier than hamburger-shooting Elvis Modoks and toddlers in bondage gear, wearing Iron Man helmets.

And that’s just from that issue. Nextwave beats that book out by a mile.

Nextwave was, indeed, an ongoing. Ellis meant to do twelve issues and give it to another writer, but he changed his mind and wanted to do it for another year or so. But then it got cancelled. And it was awesome.

And Greg, you’re insane, because Desolation Jones is a great series.

And Fell #7 should be out in a month or two.

You are WRONG, WRONG, WRONG, Greg!

If Pfiefer & Thompson produced another Dazzler comic, you would NOT be the only one buying it! That X-Men Unlimited was one of the funniest comics I’ve ever read, so a new Dazzler series in that vein would sell TWO copies, easy!

Wow, jumping on people’s opinions and telling them how wrong they are is fun. I should do this internet thing more often.

that’s such a looong post:)

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