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2010: The Year We Make “Best Of” Lists

What, 2011 already? Isn’t it high time for another renumbering?

Lo, as prophesied, comes the day when humanity remembers the things it liked in the past year and then ranks them according to preference. I’m forgoing the usual countdown, however, and skipping to the #1s from various lists! Only the best need apply!

COMIC OF THE YEAR
Axe Cop
(Malachai & Ethan Nicolle)

I’ve made no secret of it– I found 2010 to be a bummer of a year, personally, professionally, and in the world of comics. I felt an overall malaise that seems to be infectious throughout much of the industry, with even Mark Waid and Kurt Busiek throwing up their hands in frustration; I’m sure you’ve noticed the crowds of doomsayers outside your local comic shop, holding aloft signs that declare “The End Is Nigh!” and “Tea Bag the Libs!,” though I hear that last one is a lettering mistake. I allowed boredom and cynicism to permeate my mylar bag, and now I smell tired and acidic. Returns were diminishing, and my enthusiasm was slipping. Comics– they just weren’t doing it for me like they used to.

I suppose it’s only fitting that my favorite comic of the year was written by a six year old.

Ethan Nicolle– age 30– turned brother Malachai’s– age 6– imagination and enthusiasm into an overnight success early in the year, bringing the world the adventures of Axe Cop and his band of ridiculous comrades as they fight bad guys with head chops and secret attacks. It’s an electric, exciting comic, one free from the burdens of irony and cynicism, because its writer doesn’t know what those things are yet. Axe Cop’s world is one of good and evil, action and adventure, dreamlike video game logic, and a relentless torrent of ideas. Ethan’s artwork has improved by leaps and bounds over the course of a year, turning Axe Cop into one of the best-looking comics available– and it’s absolutely free, available on this series of tubes we call the internet. Upset about comics costing four dollars an issue? Read some Axe Cop.

Axe Cop is the future of comics– literally and figuratively. So many of us have been reading comics our entire lives, always searching for that sense of wonder and discovery we initially felt, and almost always being denied that spark, that excitement. Axe Cop fired that spark up again for me, and it might just work for you, too. Dark Horse has picked the series up into print, and I wish the Nicolle brothers all the success the world has to offer. Axe Cop is the comics medium at its purest, with one goal: be awesome. It is.

Which is to say: Eat it, Burgas!

CRITIC OF THE YEAR
Matt Seneca

I spent far more time reading writing about comics this year than I did reading actual comics. The breakout star of the critical landscape, then, for 2010, is surely Matt Seneca, the Genius Jones of the blogging set, who gained his powers by reading every comic in the world, or so it seems.  Here’s a guy whose critical writing elevates and even transcends the works he’s writing about, whose marvelous use of language has seemingly given us new ways to talk about these things we call comics, who discusses art with the eye of a surgeon and the words of a bard. He’s younger than us, he’s smarter than us, and he’s prolific as hell. Watch out! I’d throw up some links to his best stuff, but it’s all worth reading– hit his website and found out for yourself. I found myself linking to what he had to say just about every week in the Sunday Brunch.

Runner-up: I’d be remiss in my responsibilities as a comics blogger, however, if I didn’t mention Colin Smith, whose critical writing I discovered this year, as well. He seemed to write several books’ worth on the subject of comics this year, from his character synthesis of Aquaman to his marvelous deconstruction and takedown of Iron Man II and Superman: Earth One to his defense of Geoff Johns’ Blackest Night. He has that ability to break works down into their constituent parts, examine them in the light with the focus of a jeweler’s loupe, and put the pieces back together again. He’s also just the most darn genial guy in the blogosphere.

BEST SINGLE ISSUE
Atomic Robo and the Revenge of the Vampire Dimension Other Strangeness #3 (Brian Clevinger/Scott Wegener/Ronda Pattison/Jeff Powell/Lee Black)

You know, if we don’t count that guy who built himself a giant replica Atomic Robo costume to wear at conventions, Bar Mitvahs, funerals, and trips to Japan, I’m probably the Internet’s #1 Atomic Robo Fan. And if I’m not, I’m staking claim to it now, so shut up. Atomic Robo is my favorite paper-and-staples comic, and has been for years now.

What’s this issue about? Well, it’s about two characters talking, mostly. One of them happens to be an atomic-powered robot, and the other happens to be a deranged dinosaur creature. Brian Clevinger’s script features the funniest dialogue you’ll read in a comic all year, and Scott Wegener’s art has the greatest expressions in comics outside of Kevin Maguire– and this is coming from a crazy raptor and a robot with no face! When I wasn’t busy laughing at the brilliance of this comic, I was grinning like an idiot– grinning so long, in fact, that my face stuck that way, just like my mother used to warn me. It’s a permanent rictus grin, and now I get arrested if I’m caught with my hands in my pockets. Especially around schoolyards, nursing homes, or petting zoos. Damn you, Clev and Weg, for making a comic this enjoyable!

Atomic Robo: So good, it’ll get you arrested for public masturbation. (There, that’s your next pull quote, Red 5 Comics!)

BEST DEBUT ISSUE/BEST USE OF BATMAN
Batman Incorporated #1 (Grant Morrison/Yanick Paquette/Michel Lacombe/Natham Fairbairn/John J. Hill/It takes a village to make a comic)

2010: The Year That Launched a Thousand Batmen! At least, that’s what it’s felt like recently. If you were only going to buy one Batman comic all year, however, it should have been this one. Batman Inc #1 was so very close to my ideal Batman comic. It’s got globetrotting adventures, bizarre villains (Lord Death Man, imported from Bat-Manga!), clever dialogue exchanges, uber-competent Batman, good art, and, best of all, William Dozier cliffhanger narration! Bruce Wayne has emerged from his time-tossed ordeal as a perfect synthesis of all the best Bat-qualities, the ultimate man, and he’s ready to turn the concept of Batman into culture itself– and I presume that’s what we’ll see as he travels from country to country. Morrison throws in some new good guys and new bad guys, and Paquette’s art comes across as a combination of Kevin Nowlan and Adam Hughes, which should please just about everybody. That’s what we’ve got here– a crowd-pleasing pop comic that doesn’t take itself too seriously, and is highly accessible, rather than off-puttingly insular. That’s all I want from superhero comics, guys.

LIGHTNING ROUND!

Best Ongoing Series/Series I’m Reading in Trade for Whatever Reason: Chew, which I never talk about, but which is very, very good. John Layman’s writing is stupefyingly clever, and Rob Guillory’s art is finely cartooned, rich in style and character. It’s one of those comics that’s hard to talk about, that’s taken for granted. It’s Chew. It’s good. The speed at which the collections come out is wonderful. I always make room in my budget for a new volume of Chew, and you should, too. Buy it.

Best Free Comic: Atomic Robo & Friends, because I’ve got a pull quote in it. Otherwise, The Sixth Gun #1, which did everything a free comic should, which is really just one thing: be really, really good.

Best Back-up Strip: It would have to be Jimmy Olsen in Action Comics from new comics sensation Nick Spencer, right? Excepting that one issue of All Star Superman, Jimmy Olsen hasn’t been this awesome since Jack Kirby was in charge of him.

Best Comic Book Movie: Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World, of course. I reviewed it here, but since I love to repeat myself, I’ll mention that it’s a very nichey movie that is nonetheless exactly the movie for me, and probably the most visually inventive film of this century.

Best Webcomic Written by an Adult: Hark! A Vagrant!, which is, of course, by Kate Beaton, the world’s greatest cartoonist. Also worth mentioning, since I’m here, is Awesome Hospital, which is awesome, and about a hospital.

Most Surprisingly Enjoyable “Mainstream” Comic: Deadpool MAX. Never did I think I’d want to buy a Deadpool comic, but here it is! Lapham and Baker’s series is the angriest, most savage superhero satire on the stands (and the only one?), that revels in its excesses while secretly decrying them at the same time. Baker’s art, meanwhile, is tremendous. Nothing else looks or reads like this.

Best Bang For Your Buck: Vertigo Resurrected #1. I never got around to reviewing this, so here goes. For eight bucks, you get fantastic, obscure stories from over a dozen of the best writers and artists in comics. The star of the piece is the “lost” issue of Hellblazer by Ellis and Jimenez, but my favorite bit– and it’s not the Morrison/Quitely story– is probably Seagle and Sale’s short, in which Tim Sale outdoes everything he’s ever drawn and Steven Seagle writes in a manner I can only describe as “Milliganesque.” Would that all anthologies were this good!

Best Comic I Haven’t Mentioned Yet: Afrodisiac, a minor pop art masterpiece by Jim Rugg and Brian Maruca. I intend to write about this more at some point; I started a post back in February about it. Maybe I’ll finish it this February.

Artist Who Is Gonna Be the Next Big Star: Sean Murphy, whose work, when not showing up in cool Grant Morrison comics, appears in spin-off mini-series and inventory stories pulled out of drawers somewhere. Next thing you know, however, his brilliant, inky, angular, intricate art will be on the biggest comics around. Marvel is probably falling over themselves to snatch him up.

Comic That Hurt My Brain: Bruce Wayne: Time Fucker #6. I can’t imagine a casual comics reader making heads or tails of this one. You pretty much need a PhD in Batmanology, and we know only one man has that.

Most British Comic Ever Published: Knight & Squire, written by Paul Cornell, who is very English.

Best Episode of British Television: Doctor Who’s “Vincent and the Doctor,” which, on the scale of “manly weeping” ranging from 1 to “Toy Story 3,” is an 8.

Best Comic I Didn’t Read: Acme Novelty Library, apparently. Or Duncan the Wonder Dog. Or X’ed Out. Or Parker: The Outfit. Or Bulletproof Coffin. Or Daytripper (ordered the trade!). Or Thor: The Mighty Avenger (what a schmuck I am!). Or Female Force: Betty White. What I’m saying is, I apparently didn’t read any of the great stuff this year, so this whole malaise thing is my own damn fault.

Sensational Character Find of 2010: You know, I’m not sure. I want to give it to Baby-Man from Axe Cop, but I’m certain I’m forgetting a few brilliant new characters. If you’ve made it all the way through this post, then I’m turning to you, dear reader. Who was the Sensational Character Find of 2010?

13 Comments

Nice wrap up of the year that…was.

I know I’ll be picking up Axe Cop on your recommendation, since we seem to share some tastes in comics awesomeness.

In the Vertigo Resurrected, I assume the Morrison/Quitely story is the toy one from Weird War Tales. Is the Seagle/Sale one the one about the med student getting married, from Heart Throbs? Hm, I might not need that issue, except for the Hellblazer story…

Do we get a Brunch today, too?

Axe Cop… is Axe Cop. I find that it’s just too unfocused (for obvious reasons of course) for my tastes, but I did enjoy the team-up with Dr. McNinja.

Just finished rereading that Atomic Robo, Afrodisiac AND the first volume of Chew, so great (?) minds do think alike apparently.

Burgas doesn’t like AXE COP!? I mean the wackiness overstays its welcome when you read them all in one sitting, but its damn fun, AND he teams up with Dr. McNinja.

Tell me you hate that.

I know I’m, like, really, really behind the bell curve on this one – but I just got a wireless internet router as a belated Chritmas present and I am basking in the wireless glory of Sunday mornings in my living room reading Bill Reed on my lap top while gearing up for Week 17 of the NFL (are comic geeks aloud to be NFL fans as well?). I didn’t know life could be this good – so much time wasted (“sob”)! ! !

Anyway, thanks for chipping in on the “Year’s End” bit Bill – and I too am selfishly hoping we get a Sunday Brunch to boot.

While I don’t think he is officially “new” to this year – Dr. Dinosaur from Atomic Robo certainly qualified as my favorite “newly discovered” character for me. If he is not eligible this year, my vote would have to go to Agent Bob from Deadpool MAX – while he’s not a fully-fleshed out character in his own right (at least not yet), the comic brilliance he makes possible as the foil in that series is more than worthy of the honor I think.

Happy New Year’s all. My personal little Christmas vacation ends today and it’s back to the salt mines tomorrow – hope you all had a great 2010 and let’s look forward to some good stuff coming up in 2011.

Ed:
Yeah, comic geeks are aloud to be NFL fans. In fact, I think NFL fans are the only nerds that demand immaculate perfection (or else scream bloody murder for them to be fired) from the people they’re fans of more than comic nerds.

Anyway, this is a pretty good list, Reed. One thing I disagree with is Chew. I just cannot get past the art. It’s not poorly done, it’s just that the style puts me off. Both times I tried reading it, I couldn’t get past a few pages in.

Spider Jerusalem

January 2, 2011 at 12:45 pm

I would absolutely read a comic book called Bruce Wayne: Time Fucker. In fact, if such a series were to be published, I would have no other comics on my pull list, save for the already-imagined X-Bastards of the Multiverse.

Anyone else think it’s a little awkward that Vertigo Resurrected is “most bang for your buck”, considering the lead story?

Given Dr. Dinosaur first appeared in 2009′s FCBD story, I think my Sensational Character Find (funny, I was just thinking yesterday what an awkward phrase that seems to modern eyes) would have to be Finesse from Avengers Academy. In the hands of a less-deft writer than Gage, she’d come off as creepily exploitative or just dull, but I really loved her spotlight issue. She’s an entirely selfish, manipulative and dangerous person, still trying to decide whether she wants to relate to people normally or is happy being selfish and sociopathic.

I basically understood Return of Brucey #6. I probably missed at least 87% of what Grant was doing, but I grasped enough to know more or less what was going on in any given page.

I always enjoy your contributions to this site – you strike me as someone with both a gentler, more personal and subjective style than, say, Mr. Nevett and a broad interest in general pop-culture beyond comics – two traits which always made your texts a worthwhile read, I thought. Couldn’t you turn your attempt to regain your lost zest for comics into a column? Talking about works, panels, artists, writers, bloggers, webcomics, articles that inspired you instead of even pretending to keep up with the newest Darkest Secret Universe Collision featuring Deadpool and Wolverine? In any case, keep it up, sir!

Thanks. I thought about doing a “Bored With Comics” essay, which turned into more of a personal essay, which turned into something I wouldn’t post here, which turned into something I thought would be a waste of energy. I’d rather use this surge of New Year’s energy, which always leave one pretty hopeful– and got me into a bind when I decided to do a daily column in 2007 on a whim New Year’s Day– to write, well, some other stuff, hopefully some stronger criticism.

So in that way, I think I will be writing about better, more inspiring stuff, if and when I come across it, rather than moaning about what it is I’m not enjoying. The word “Good” is in the name of the blog, after all, and I’ve tried to keep things positive. So long story short, I guess you’ll get what you’ve asked for, Bombie!

I reserve the write to immediately contradict myself, of course.

[...] Bill Reed of Comic Book Resources names Axe Cop as the Comic of the Year. [...]

You have to read the recent Taskmaster mini. Not only did it shed a great amount of light on what makes him tick, but it was funny as hell and introduced a bunch of new characters. I mean…. a villain named the “Red Shirt?” HA!

[...] Bill Reed of Comic Book Resources names Axe Cop as the Comic of the Year. [...]

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