Axel-In-Charge: Extending "Secret Wars," Excitement for a "Totally Awesome Hulk"
Tired of these yet? No? Good. This time: I list, categorically, the other best stuff that came out in 2008. Some categories are quite obvious; some are oddly specific or bizarrely esoteric. Sure, this kind of organization is going to disqualify me from Dick Hyacinth’s master list, but I play by my own rules. Nobody else’s. Not even my own.
Best New Series: Captain Britain & MI:13 (Paul Cornell, Leonard Kirk, and friends; Marvel Comics)
Huzzah! The follow-up to Cornell’s spectacular Wisdom series that I didn’t think anyone else asked for!
Paul Cornell surprised me. I picked this series up on the strength of his Wisdom and Doctor Who episodes, expecting it to be pretty good, but it turned out to be pretty great. Cornell managed to open the series with a tie-in to a giant crossover I wasn’t reading, and still have the whole thing dovetail in with the mythos of the series, launch a new character (the wonderful Faiza), provide suitable amounts of drama (John the Skrull was my favorite, man; though now I’m digging the Black Knight), and set us off with an ongoing mission for the team. What’s great about this series is that one can actually see Cornell get even better with each issue, be it in terms of pacing, character juggling, or throwing wild new ideas at the reader. I’d say it’s Marvel’s best book right now.
And let’s not forget the lovely artistic stylings of Leonard Kirk or Pat Olliffe, who turned in some of the best work of their respective careers. I look forward to this book every month. Let’s hope sales stay up. Go buy it.
Most Surprisingly Enjoyable “Mainstream” Comic: Ghost Rider (Jason Aaron, Roland Boschi, Tan Eng Huat, and minions; Marvel Comics)
Never in a million years did I imagine I’d be buying Ghost Rider every month, but Jason Aaron made a believer out of me. He morphed the book into a grindhouse epic complete with cannibals, ghosts and chainsaw nuns, and then transformed the comic again, this time into a 70s-inspired flaming-skull-headed version of Frubaker’s Iron Fist, as Johnny Blaze discovers the legacy he never knew he inherited. I didn’t expect to be buying it a year later, but here I am. The art’s been utterly superb, from the initial arc by the very interestingly styled Boschi to the equally gorgeous renderings of Huat, an artist I’ve been wanting to see more of ever since his run on Doom Patrol that nobody else read. And, of course, you’ve got Aaron showing us why he’s one of Marvel’s best talents, filling his stories with the smell of leather and motor oil and fire. Also: bad guys with eyeballs for heads.
My New Year’s Resolution is to catch up on Scalped (I’ve only bought the first trade so far), but meanwhile, I’ll be picking up Ghost Rider, and I hope you will be, too.
Best Debut Issue: The Authority: World’s End #1 (Dan Abnett, Andy Lanning, Simon Coleby, et al; DC Comics, Wildstorm Imprint)
I reviewed this back in August, so I’d rather not repeat myself, but let’s just say that, while later issues have kinda dragged, this was a terrific first issue filled with some cool mad ideas and a neat premise that I felt would lead down unpredictable paths. It’s a really great way to start a series. This past year wasn’t filled with too many great debut issues, but Abnett and Lanning gave us a good one in The Authority. The Wildstorm imprint isn’t just TV and video game tie-ins!
Best Culmination of Years-Long Epic: Punisher MAX (Garth Ennis, Goran Parlov, and associates; Marvel Comics, MAX Imprint)
I must admit, I hadn’t read a panel of Garth Ennis’ latest opus until this year, but then I tore through the whole run in the space of a week. My God, that’s some brilliant stuff. I’d never been a big fan of the Punisher before, but Ennis’ 60-issue mature-readers MAX run– which wrapped up this year with the publication of the tail end of “Long Cold Dark” and the entirety of “Valley Forge, Valley Forge”– slapped me in the face and realized the storytelling potential hidden within the concept. This is definitive Punisher.
Ennis portrays Frank Castle as a force of nature, an unstoppable killing machine who occasionally has lapses of humanity. Meanwhile, he surrounds him with other screwed-up individuals, and points him at utterly despicable characters whose fates are inevitable. The magic is in the telling, and we continually see how the Punisher always gets his man (or woman), while everything else around him falls apart. All that touches the Punisher dies; can the man who was once Frank Castle prevent that from happening, for once? And what about the shadow of Vietnam that’s dogged him for decades? Ennis wraps up all the remaining threads of his run in one last story arc, ably illustrated by Goran Parlov. It all comes together here. Man, what a great series.
I believe a giant hardcover collection of the entire MAX run is forthcoming, a companion to the giant hardcover collection of the Marvel Knights run. That will totally be worth buying. And lo, it brings us to our next category…
Best Omnibus-Style Hardcover Collection: Herbie Archives Volume One (Richard E. Hughes and Ogden Whitney; Dark Horse Comics)
Now this was the hardest category in which to pick a winner. The year of our King Kirby 2008 saw a few more magnanimous Jack Kirby Omnibi, from the conclusion of the magnificent Fourth World Saga (Jeff Lester wrote an excellent review here) to a collection I never thought I’d see, OMAC: One Man Army Corps, as well as a litter of other great hardback comics you could crush a baby with. However, I could only choose one, and I hope I’ve chosen wisely by picking Herbie.
You may recall I featured good ol’ Herbie as the 300th Reason to Love Comics, and with good reason; the Fat Fury starred in the strangest comics of all time, surreal adventures that have never been topped– and keep in mind, 2008 marks Herbie’s 50th birthday. He’s been around a while. There’s no better present than this deluxe repackaging of his ACG appearances, the first of three volumes.
Yes, my friends, we live in a world where the blogging sector determines what gets reprinted! At least, that’s what it feels like to me. I love that comics companies are introducing classic works of the past to new audiences, as well as forgetful old audiences, and doing so with handsome hardbound collections. Herbie is a comic I thought would be forgotten in the pages of comic book history, but lo, there he is, fat as life again, bopping the world with his lollipops once more. I’m very pleased to see Dark Horse digging up old gems and polishing them for the modern publishing audience. Herbie does things that only comics could get away with.
Graphic Novel Deserving of Wider Recognition: The Apocalipstix (Ray Fawkes, Cameron Stewart; Oni Press)
I’ve been meaning to talk about this little GN since it came out, and never got around to it. Well, the time is now!
Fawkes and Stewart bring us the best comic about an all-girl band of asskickers touring a post-apocalyptic American landscape ever. It’s an action comedy that wears its influences on its sleeve– Josie and the Pussycats meets the Road Warrior would be the high concept, with some dashes of Them! and Metalocalypse, I’d say. When not chasing down leather-clad gang members or uppercutting giant ants, these three girls– Mandy, the leader; Dot, the cute, peppy one; and Megumi, the badass whose speech balloons are all in Japanese– are continuing their world tour and bringing their music to the masses.
The manga-sized little tome is broken up into three major stories, chronicling the travels and adventures of the band. It all culminates in one massive battle of the bands, where Dot plays a guitar so hard it explodes– and she keeps going. That’s the kind of over-the-top awesomeness that lies within Apocalipstix‘s pages. This is a comic that gets the adrenaline pumping– the wild stories from Fawkes and the energetic cartooning from Stewart combine into a widescreen, rip-roarin’ affair you can tear through on your lunch break, and want to go back to again and again.
There’s a little “1” on the spine, and I hope this means we’ll eventually see the continuing adventures of this exciting trio. The Apocalipstix, simply put, is a relentlessly entertaining little graphic novel that more people need to read; it is loaded with heart-pounding, fist-pumping moments that need to be experienced by discerning comic readers everywhere. It’s the kind of comic that certain people invented the word “joycore” to describe. Go pick it up. And if you still don’t believe me, enjoy this fifty-page preview CBR hosted back in June.
Comic I Had Trouble Figuring Out, and I Have an English Degree: Omega the Unknown (Lethem, Dalrymple, Panter; Marvel)
Comic That Gave Me the Biggest Headache: Final Crisis: Superman Beyond 3-D (Morrison, Mahnke; DC) – Darn those 3-D glasses! I have bad enough vision as it is!
Weirdest Damn Thing I Read All Year: Batman: RIP (Morrison, Daniel, et al; DC)
Best Comic by the God of All Comics: All Star Superman (GoAC, Quitely, Grant; DC)
Best Use of Atomic Robo: Atomic Robo: Dogs of War (Clevinger, Wegener, et al; Red 5)
Best Lettering: Let’s be honest, it was probably Todd Klein
Best Comic Book Movie: The Dark Knight (dir. Christopher Nolan)
Best Movie Only Tangentially Related to Comic Books: My Name Is Bruce (dir. Bruce Campbell)
Best Comic Book TV Show: Batman: The Brave & The Bold (Cartoon Network)
Best TV Show Comic Book: Doctor Who: The Forgotten (Lee, Guerra, et al; IDW)
Best Twin Artist from Brazil: We have a tie! Gabriel BÃ¡ (Umbrella Academy) and FÃ¡bio Moon (Casanova)
Tune in tomorrow, dear readers, for your chance to pick The Best of 2008!
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