Vaughan & Chiang's "Paper Girls" Builds a Familiar Yet Disconcerting World
There are those of us who continue to purchase comics in their single, “monthly,” pamphlet-esque periodical form– those of us who hold onto the lovely little paper-and-staples format for some reason or another, who journey into the shop every week, or order online every month. Those who love the floppy little bleepers– myself included– understand the value and power of a well-done single issue. Which titles achieved 22 or so pages of glory this year? Look inside to find out! (And for those of you craving some material from the Big Two in your year-end remembrances, hop on in!)
5. Vinyl Underground #5
Ah, Vinyl Underground– the little series that couldn’t. Sad to see this series go. This issue, #5, by Si Spencer, Simon Gane, and Cameron Stewart, saved the series for me, and I bought it till the end.
In this issue, protagonist Morrison Shepherd walks around London with his five-year-old self (it makes sense in the book, don’t worry), looking for a street, and for his mother– and finds new revelations in the depths of his own mind. Meanwhile, other stuff happens that furthers the plot. The best part, though, is the characterization, and how it dovetails into the map motif throughout, comparing Mozza’s internal mental/spiritual maze with fictional streets Phyllis Pearsall slipped into her maps (“London– where sometimes the name have no streets”). I also enjoyed the reveal of what the “Hunth-Hunth” monster really was (go by the trade to find out for yourself).
This issue solidified the main character for me, and finally got me into the world, able to press on, so it did its job. It grabbed me. This one’s the best issue of the series, though #10 follows a similar thematic approach, and is another very good one.
Croninborg wrote about this issue back when it came out. Read his review here.
4. The Spirit #12
I’m pretty sure the only reason this is on the 2008 list is because it shipped late and slipped to January, but by golly, it counts!
Inspired (potentially heavily–I’ve never read the old stories) by Will Eisner’s original Sand Saref tales, Cooke crafts a narrative here that weaves through the past of Denny Colt and the present of the Spirit, tosses in his archnemesis, and provides us with an intriguing femme fatale. Because this is Darwyn Cooke, of course, we get a perfectly crafted comic. The noir stylings of the narration that don’t go over the top (I’m looking at you, Frank Miller), the brilliance of the pacing and perspective, and the layout and slight difference in the inking line seen in the flashbacks– it all comes together for a perfect, done-in-one package, the kind of thing you don’t see in comics anymore.
It’s perfectly accessible for someone who has no idea what the Spirit is, yet evokes the whole of his world for a die hard fan. Don’t give someone a ticket to go see the movie for Christmas– give them this.
3. Blue Beetle #25
Ahh, 2008. The year I finally discovered Blue Beetle. We have John Rogers and Rafael Albuquerque to thank for this most epic of conclusions. Here’s how you culminate a run, friends– reminiscent of one of the bigger season finales on, say, Buffy, this issue brings the entire cast and crew together, and then some (hurray for the reunion of surviving JLI members!), to defeat the Big Bad. Everyone gets at least one perfectly-crafted shining moment in this one. It’s a blockbuster movie fit into 22 slim pages.
With this issue, Jaime finally inherits the Blue Beetle legacy and claims the mantle as his own– and we also get some lovely characterization for his scarab, who finally gets to speak in plain English.
It may have taken two years, but there you go; a new hero introduced into the DC Universe. Rogers bade goodbye with this issue, and the series could’ve easily ended here, but hey, we got another year out of it! That’s not bad in today’s fickle comics market.
2. Casanova #14
Well. The issue that changed everything.
And that’s why it’s good, my friends. After reading this one, you put the comic down and say “Whoa.” And then you pick the whole series back up and read it over again, because the developments in this issue make you go back and reread it all, for it changes what the previous issues meant. That’s the sign of a powerful single issue. And, well, then you’ve got the gorgeous art from Fabio Moon. I don’t know how the guy does it. The adjective “fluid” has never been more deservingly earned.
Casanova, more than anything, revels in the fact that it’s a comic. It looooves the comics form, and takes full advantage of it. The ludicrous situations, the infinitely clever dialogue, the fourth wall breaking, the soundtrack listings at the top of every other page, the songs that tie into the series, into the character, into Matt Fraction himself, as the backmatter guides us through his life as he guides us through his masterwork– this is what comics are all about, kids. All the elements just seem to cling together with ease; I love it. Casanova might just end up being one of the best series of the decade.
Honestly, Casanova #14 was utterly brilliant. Really, terrifyingly, beautifully brilliant, and a terrific wrap-up for this arc. Also, it’s two bucks! Two bucks! Hell, it could easily have been the best issue of the year, if only for…
1. All Star Superman #10
Oh, Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely. You do know how to treat a lady.
Here’s the time-jumping issue where Superman sets up his last will and testament, creates life on Earth, and cures cancer. You know. The small stuff before the big climax. However, it’s also the issue that summarizes Superman’s relationship with Lois Lane and Lex Luthor in mere panels, and tells us what Superman’s really about. Hope.
Some critics complained about this series’ seeming reliance on Silver Age tropes. I don’t see it that way. Sure, there’s some Silver Age inspiration, but what it takes from that era most of all is its sense of hope for the future, of the indomitable human spirit. That’s what I get out of old comics, anyway, and what I got out of this. All Star Superman #10 is a summation of Superman’s character, of his entire mythos. If Superman didn’t exist… why, we’d have to create him. And that’s what happens inside these 22 pages. Oh, and the art’s pretty. But you knew that.
ASS (that won’t ever get old!) was a landmark series in cape comics, and I’ll treasure it forever. And this one, #10, will go down in my books as one of the greatest single issues of all time.
There we have it. Five different kinds of single issues, all at the top of their respective games, all fulfilling their respective purposes: fresh hooks, done-in-ones, epic conclusions, head-twisters, and love letters. Sure makes a guy love comics.
Strangely, everything I talked about came out within the first half of this year. Huh. Funny that. Are comics getting better or worse? U-Decide!
While we’re at it, what were your favorite single issues of this past year?
Coming later in the week– I throw some categories at you and tell you what else was good in ’08.
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