It’s another year end celebration list! This time around, I’m forgoing the last ten years-thing to just focus on my favorite comics this year! Some of these may not have been released this year. Some I may have read for the show or reviewed on the blog or just finally gotten around to reading. Some I read intending to write about them for the show and never got around to it! One book I haven’t even finished yet! I’ll get there, though! I’m not sure if the last issue is released this calendar year, but I’mma count it. It’s my list. So here we go!
Batman 100 Page Comic Giant a.k.a. Batman Universe by Brian Bendis and Nick Derrington
Nick Derrington is a gem. His art is crisp and fun and occasionally just slightly sketchy but it’s always awesome. Bendis doesn’t need my praise. I will say that he’s what got me trudging through Walmarts each month to pick these books up in the first place. I liked how his Batman existed outside of the Batman caricature that he so often devolves into. This story had enough continued action and bouncing around the DCU that I was excited to find out each month what was next. Even the anxiety of ‘will I find a Walmart that stocks the issue’ added a bit of fun to my poor collecter-addicted brain. I skipped the comic-shop re-release in regular sized issues, but I will be looking to pick this story up again once it’s collected in trade. Not only is it a fun intro for Bendis in the DCU, but this is a fun story with great art you could hand to a new reader to show them what comics are capable of.
Mr. Miracle by Tom King and Mitch Gerards
I feel like Mr. Miracle is the first prestige comic to come out of the big 2 companies in decades that could potentially demand the respect of a Watchmen and Dark Knight Returns. This was a book that I had to read three times almost immediately to get a handle on it—in a good way. This book makes me think of my podcast pals and how we view things differently sometimes. I love to tease them about our differences some times, but the reality is those differences are what make us work as a group. Andy viewed this one as the equivalent of a really good meal, and this story can hold up to that standard with just one read-through. Stew has his arbitrary list of a handful of books that are A+ books, and only when something is better that it knocks one of his A+s off the list, does it become an A+ book.Stew didn’t think this was an A+ effort. I do. Even by Stew’s rigid standards that I don’t agree with—this book deserves to bump any number of other pretty good comics down the ladder to make room. I ended up going full English teacher and tearing this book apart bit by bit to construct meaning—and I loved it. I can’t wait to read it again next year to see what else I find!
Hope by Dirk Manning and K. Lynn Smith
Hope is a story of a super-hero mom who basically has her identity exposed and her world pulled out from under her. Think Daredevil: Born Again but if DD was a real person with a kid and the Kingpin was the government operating under the guise of doing what’s right. Manning’s realistic examination of how people would really interact in our world with super powers contrasted with K. Lynn Smith’s more abstract cartooning—but it all works. One of my goals this year was to read more than just the big 2. With most indie books I read, I tend to find either a) there’s already a big name creator who has either worked for or is currently working at the big 2, or b) there’s a reason why the creators haven’t made the jump yet. They might be works in progress for one reason or another. Hope was one of those books with 2 creators that were new to me but with a quality level that showed me that there is great stuff out there that I’m missing. It doesn’t hurt that we got to meet Dirk and K.Lynn at the Pittsburgh 3 Rivers Comicon this year, and they couldn’t have been cooler folks. That alone wouldn’t have kept me buying their book (comics are expensive, yo!), but the fact that it was a high quality work done by decent folks—I felt like it was a win all around.
Friendly Neighborhood Spider-man by Tom Taylor, Juan Cabal, et. al.
This is a book that just appeared one day after Spectacular Spider-man quietly made its exit. I still need to read those last three Morlun issues of Spectacular after Zdarsky left. Anywho, FNSM felt like the offshoot books of yesteryear that allowed for quirkier or more emotional Spidey stories outside of Amazing Spider-man. Boy did FNSM do that. Issue #6 in particular was one of those single issues that’s on par with “the Kid Who Collects Spider-man.” It’s too easy to overlook these offshoot titles, and Friendly does not deserve to be missed.
Silver Surfer: Black by Donny Cates and Tradd Moore
I just wrote about this one not too long ago, but the more I think about it, the more I like it. Which is weird to me because if I were to describe the basic story elements on their own, they all sound kind of silly and dumb. I’m not sure if it’s the commitment to the bit and the art, or just Tradd Moore’s mindbending art that makes me so happy when I think about this series. Regardless, it was one of my favorites for sure.
Second Coming by Mark Russell and Richard Pace
The Lone Ranger by Mark Russell and Bob Q!
The Flintstones by Mark Russ0ell and Steven Pugh
Red Sonja by Mark Russell and Mirko Colak
So… that Mark Russell guy writes a good comic book. I first noticed him on the Lone Ranger (which I love and hope we see more of) with Bob Q! I couldn’t believe how good that book was, and also that I hadn’t seen much from either creator before. That begat picking up the Red Sonja Humble Bundle and reading the Flinstones and following Russell to Ahoy’s Second Coming. Second Coming was originally supposed to be a Vertigo book before Vertigo went away (RIP). It’s the most Mark Russell-y of all the Mark Russell books so far. It follows a Superman analogue who is tasked by God to keep an eye on his kid. God is hoping that some time with a modern superhero will toughen Jesus up, but let’s just say that’s not how it goes. It’s thought provoking (definitely not heresy as some might claim), and worth it just for the joke about the food court in heaven (Rax! Kenny Rodger’s Roasters!). Russell excels at utilizing parody to take down organizations or people in power, while still telling a compelling, thoughtful and utlimately exciting story. He turned the Flintstones into a 12 issue exploration of humanity and social commentary. His viewpoint is one that always comes across to me as interesting and funny and thoughtful, and at this point, if he writes a book, I’m going to try it. I’m hoping Santa reads my articles and finds a way to get Wonder Twins down the chimney—otherwise I’m gonna have to just buy it myself because I know it’ll be worth my money and time. All of the other Mark Russell books have proven that and thensome already.
Marvels: Epilogue by Kurt Busiek and Alex Ross
Out of all of the Marvel’s 80th celebration projects, many of which were pretty solid, the Marvels Epilogue rang the most true. It had the original creators who hadn’t missed a beat since their first go-around. It also served as a great story to read that didn’t seem forced. If you didn’t want to read the Epilogue, you weren’t missing key story elements or something that was going to change the way you saw the story, you were just missing more of a really great book being great.
Hey Kids! Comics! By Howard Chaykin
This book was a bit of a mess to read, but man was it fun to think about. This book was like a cross between the National Enquirer and a 11th grade history assignment. I enjoyed going back into the history of comics to figure out who the characters were analogues of or what the stories represented in the book were really about. Chaykin really stands in a unique place, as one of the elder statesmen of comics today, but also as one of the guys who worked with the greats who built the industry. I’ve heard Chaykin say he has more to go for this series that might deal with the Silver and Bronze Age stories more, and that would be excellent.
Daredevil by Chip Zdarsky and Marco Checetto, et al.
This series is good, but it’s definitely on the dark side more than I would like it to be. Still good work; it just suffers from my unfair expectations. Daredevil and Zdarsky both have so much potential for fun and moving stories. I imagine this run will fare much better when read in one big chunk later on down the line.
The Amazing Spider-man by Nick Spencer, Ryan Ottley and a bunch of other folks
This series is lots of fun, but I’ll be honest, I have a backlog of at least seven issues. It comes out too often, especially when you factor in things like the .HU issues (from the Kraven/Arcade story) or the Full Circle/BigTime one-shots. Spencer has a handle on Spidey for sure, I’m just overwhelmed with this one, I guess.
Batman by Tom King and others
I’m reading this book in trades and very far behind. The one issue I read this year (the Annual #4) I loved. I think once King is done, this title will be looked upon more fondly. Or the people that rail against it will be right. One of the two.
Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olsen by Matt Fraction and Steve Lieber
This book is only 5 issues in of 12, but it’s an early front-runner for my Best of 2020 list. It’s Olsens v. Luthors across generations and absolutely hilarious.
Squirrel Girl by Ryan North, Erika Henderson, et. al.
Squirrel Girl is another book I read in trades and probably didn’t read enough in this past year. The series wrapped up recently and deserves all the praise. Check it out if you haven’t!
Batman 100 by Paul Pope
This one’s older, but I finally got around to it this year, and it’s something else. I’ll give it a more throrough write up soon enough, but if you find this one cost-effectively, pick it up.
XIII, Giant Days, and Astro City were all really solid books I read for the podcast that I would never have picked up otherwise. I may or may not revisit these books again, but the door is definitely open.
So there you have it, my best of what was 2019. About half of my list were surprises that I didn’t even have on the radar coming into the year, so I can’t wait to see what 2020 has in store!
Until next time,
I’ll be looking for new stuff to write about! Let me know what I’m missing, people!