2oo9 in a Shortbox!! Best of the Year

My marathon reading and re-reading of the comics of last year is finally over!! And as last night was Oscar night, here's my Personal Best Comics of 2oo9 List.

Quick important notes: To qualify, a work must be comics and must have been published in its entirety, in English, and for the first time either in print or on the web, between 1/1/o9 and 12/31/o9. The selections are presented by category, but not in any ascending or descending order.

"Luke Cage Noir" #1, #2, #3, #4
written by Adam Glass and Mike Benson; drawn by Shawn Martinbrough
One that flew under most people's radar as far as I can tell. Racism is just one of the many themes among class, crime, betrayal, legends, hearsay, and hope at play in this mini-series.
Collected edition has also become available in 2o1o.

"The Life and Times of Savior 28" #1, #2, #3, #4, #5 and the collection.
written by J.M. DeMatteis; drawn by Mike Cavallaro
Possibly the most important work done in the superhero genre in a decade, this mini-series challenges one of the long-standing, most-odious elements of the genre: violence.

"Asterios Polyp"
written and drawn by David Mazzucchelli
A torturously beautiful narrative of love and loss and realizing how much love it was you really did lose. Mazzucchelli broke the mold on utilizing style in visual narrative here. Brilliant. Although it is, in this writer's opinion, almost made a mess by a sudden and inappropriate shock ending. Making it the polar opposite of the following work...

"365 Samurai and a Few Bowls of Rice"
written and drawn by J. P. Kalonji
379 pages of splash-pages drawn by a Swiss man actually make this surprising graphic novel like a steady rhythm of blood pounding in your ears slowly building toward a fittingly beautiful surprise ending. The end result is a beautiful work of art about life, love, and enlightenment.

"The League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen" Vol. 3 "Century: 1910"
An amazing continuation of Alan Moore's crazy work of historical/fictional fantasy. Characters narrate their own story in period songs they sing as they go about their work. The background items in the League's headquarters get even more outrageous. Horrifying and beautiful.

"Red-Headed Stranger" Prelude in "Amazing Spider-Man" #601, Parts 1 through 3 in #602, #603, #604, and (epilogue) #605
written by Mark Waid, Fred Van Lente, and Brian Reed; drawn by Mario Alberti, Barry Kitson, Robert Atkins, Javier Pulido, Luke Ross, and Yanick Paquette
Issue #601 by Mark Waid and Mario Alberti gets special mention for being funny, action-packed, romantic, working as a stand-alone story, and being gorgeously drawn by Alberti to boot! The prelude and epilogue material by Mark Waid, Fred Van Lante, and Brian Reed is excellent humorous/romantic stuff that connects thematically to Van Lente's main drama/action story in the three issues between them. Mary Jane returns from a long hiatus from Peter's life and Spider-Man's first supervillain, The Chameleon, gets a fantastically creepy overhaul that allowed Van Lente to examine the role of fear in how we shape our identity.

"Counting Up From Zero" from "Invincible Iron Man" #20 and "Digging In The Dirt" from "Invincible Iron Man" #21
ongoing series issues written by Matt Fraction; drawn by Salvador Larroca
My god. If you told me six years ago that "Iron Man" would be one of the best series Marvel was doing, that it would be the MUST HAVE, the book that had you most excited about comics... I would have laughed in your face. Along came Fraction and Salva (although a great debt is owed to the work done a few years ago by Warren Ellis and Adi Granov, too) and completely blew my socks off with these issues. Following on the heels of some great issues in the "World's Most Wanted" story-arc.

"Sandman: The Dream Hunters" #3, #4 and the collection.
mini-series issues written and drawn by P. Craig Russell; adapted from a short story by Neil Gaimen
This mini was mind-blowing, most-especially for someone, such as myself, who has never been fully immersed in the world of Neil Gaimen's "Sandman". I gave the collection to Clare for Christmas and it turned out to be the best Christmas gift I ever gave US.

"Blackest Night" #1
mini-series issue written by Geoff Johns; drawn by Ivan Reis
Strange, I know, to include the first issue of a mini-series and none of those that followed. Never before in a superhero comic-book had I seen so many characters in such a quick succession of pages be re-introduced, re-invigorated, and made respectably realistic. Johns is a master storyteller on an epic scale.

"Ring Out The Old" Conclusion from "Ex Machina" #44
ongoing series issue written by Brian K. Vaughan; drawn by Tony Harris
On a equally epic scale, if with a smaller number of characters, Brian K. Vaughan continues to bring new dimensions to the story of his ex-superhero mayor of New York City. This issue blew my mind with its kooky SF creations mixed with religious terminology.

"The Great Silence" from "Jonah Hex" #50
ongoing series issue written by Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti; drawn by Darwyn Cooke
A smart, fast, heart-breaking story by Gray and Palmiotti breathtakingly realized by Darwyn Cooke, the sequential art master of our times. One of the only western genre titles out there today, and a damn good one.

"A Battle Within" from "Batman" #687
ongoing series issue written by Judd Winick; drawn by Ed Benes
Batman stories narrated even partially by Alfred have ended up being my very favorite Batman stories. When asked if he's okay after Bruce Wayne's death, he replies: I'm not okay. My son is dead.

"Saviour" from "Atomika" #8
mini-series issue written by Andrew Dabb; drawn by Sal Abbinanti
After four years of publishing, we finally see Atomika turn that moral corner, realize he is a monster and become a mature... god. It is at this point he embarks on the road to heroism that we will see him complete when the last, twelfth issue comes out.

"That Which Does Not Kill Us" from "The Infinite Horizon" #4 of 6
mini-series issue written by Gerry Duggan; drawn by Phil Noto
Excellent adaptation of "The Odyssey" recounting a soldier's moments of weakness. Circe's magic is replaced by a morphine addiction. Tough choices are made, as the road back home can only continue if the Captain breaks his own leg so that the previous unsuccessful bone setting can be re-done. Holy jesus.

"Planetary" #27
ooooooongoing series' final issue written by Warren Ellis; drawn by John Cassaday
The major work in the superhero genre in the past fifteen years come to a close. The final hurrah was worth the wait. Science fiction at the intersection of hope and history.

"32" from "Daytripper" #1
mini-series issue written and drawn by Fabio Moon and Gabriel Bá
This extremely talented team of twin brothers present their first mini-series. And it is a very auspicious start. We are introduced to their main character, Bras, at 32 years old.

"Comic Book Comics" #3
mini-series issue written by Fred Van Lente; drawn by Ryan Dunlavey
The men behind this comic are the unsung heroes of the comic-book medium right now, because they are attempting to create a history of the comics medium in the comics medium and they're having fun doing it! Honestly, they deserve props for the concept of the comics industry's self-infantilization (which they label the "Logan's Run Effect") alone.

mini-comic written and drawn by Nicholas Breutzman
A simple story in simple xeroxed pages without so much as a staple between them. A boy and a girl wake up in bed next to each other and through narration from the fella's point-of-view we slowly get a picture of who these people are and how they ended up in so intimate a position.

"...And Call My Lover MODOK!" from "Strange Tales" #1
short graphic anthology story written and drawn by Nick Bertozzi
Awkward, ridiculous, yet moving portrayal of a supervillain and his... concubine? Done in FOUR PAGES. Amazing.

"The Black Widow" from "Strange Tales" #2
short graphic anthology story written and drawn by Matt Kindt
A great, quick spy story set against the Marvel universe. Apparently, superheroes get in the way of your job when your job is being a secret agent for S.H.I.E.L.D. Great use of text, great characterization, all in so few pages!

"Martha" from "MySpace Dark Horse Presents" online Issue 19
webcomic written and drawn by Dave Chisholm
A remarkable little tale of highway violence and familial re-connection. The surprise ending makes this the best thing I read on the web last year.

Here's hoping 2o1o is as good a year! Or better!

[2oo9: The best to the right, the rest to the left! Not quite a shortbox, is it?]

and finally...
The Comics I Would Probably Have Put On The List Had I Bought Them and Read All Of Them
"Stiches" graphic novel written and drawn by David Small
"3 Story: The Secret History of the Giant Man" graphic novel written and drawn by Matt Kindt
"I Kill Giants" #7 of 7 mini-series final issue written by Joe Kelly; drawn by J. M. Ken Niimura

1 comment:

  1. Okay. Jillian Tamaki's super-simple "Car Alarm" would have been my choice for the best webcomic of 2oo9 if I'd read it at the time I wrote this post.

    Look twice... or three times? Until you notice the change in the middle panel. Awesome.