Friday, 3 January 2014

Top Ten Comics of 2013

In no particular order:

East of West:
A new Hickman series is always a treat and East of West was no exception. After less than a year, the book is still building its world and introducing a cast of strange and fascinating characters while teasing us with snippets of motivations and missions to come. Nick Dragotta's art is the best its ever been as he expertly renders a world that is both alien yet familiar. If you ever wanted to see Death riding a laser firing robot horse then this is the book for you.

Manhattan Projects:
More Hickman! The unpredictable saga of science gone bad continued with some amazing moments. Highlights included Enrico Fermi's betrayal, Laika the gun toting space dog and the crisis of infinite Oppeneheimers. Read this book if you like the idea of Einstein in a John McClane vest interrogating aliens with a baseball bat.

Do I really need to tell you why this is on the list? BKV is rarely less than exceptional and Fiona Staples is no slouch in the art department either. Read this if you're one of the five people who isn't already.

Encyclopedia of Early Earth:
There's not as much indie stuff on this list as I'd like but this makes up for it I think. Isabel Greenberg's debut graphic novel is the history and myths of an alternate Earth. Driven by the story of a couple cursed to never be able to touch each other by a vengeful God, the book will take you from one end of the globe to the other, spanning thousands of years and ranging from tragedy to farce. The art is beautiful and unique and brings each of the many stories to life. Read this book if you'd like to see an old lady defeat a giant using only sausages.

Battling Boy:
The only complaint I have about Paul Pope's Battling Boy is that it's the first part of a series and I want to read the rest now. This is a coming of age tale about the son of a heroic god sent into the world to battle giant monsters with the aid of a series of magic animal t-shirts which each imbue him with different powers. Pope's art is as spectacular as ever and his story telling is perhaps at it's best. Also it's just really good fun. Read this if you have eyes (or kids, they'll like it too).

Hellboy / BPRD:
I'm slightly behind on these because of waiting for trades but the Mignola-verse continues to be a rich and varied world across it's various titles. Midnight Circus in particular was a thing of beauty and a charming tale of a young Hellboy's trip to the circus while BPRD's continuing apocalyptic epic keeps getting better. Read this if you like giant monsters, nazi robots and punching.

As much as I enjoy Jeff Lemire's DC work (particularly Animal Man), it's his creator owned stories that I always enjoy the most. Trillium is no exception. An enigmatic tale of love across millenia, an alien race, a mysterious flower and a terrible plague, Trillium is sci-fi at its best. Lemire's art is at its peak, particularly when paired with some interesting colouring choices to diferentiate the two time periods. Read this if you have even a passing interest in sci-fi.

Shaolin Cowboy:
Finally making its return after far too many years, Geof Darrow's three issues of Shaolin Cowboy reminded my why I loved the original run and why he's one of the best artists in comics. Talking about the story is pretty redundant here, it's all about the art and the insane level of detail in every millimetre of every panel. Read this if you've ever thought there should be a comic where a guy just fights zombies with chainsaws on a stick for 22 pages.

Dial H:
Ah, Dial H, doomed from the start. An unexpected second wave DC title that would have been more at home at Vertigo, crammed with more ideas in every issue than most series can hope for in an entire run. China Mieville wove a bizarre tale of telephony and random superpowers that was perhaps too weird and ambitious to last but at least made it far enough to (mostly) resolve its initial storyline. Read this if you like ideas.

Marshall Law:
I suppose this one is cheating a little as it's a collection of comics from the late 80s but its been out of print for a long time and the snazzy omnibus edition was the first chance I had to read it. This is a comic that is as British as it gets, a searing indictment of superhero traditions and a brutal assault on the sterility of cape culture. O'Neill (of League of Extraordinary Gentlemen fame) draws grotesque beauty in every page and crams in hundreds of little bonuses for the keen eyed reader. Read this if you liked the Boys but thought they needed more fetish gear.

Honourable Mentions:
The Private Eye would have made it on here if I didn't have to read it on my computer screen, Hickman's Avengers (both New and Regular) and Infinity were pretty complex and spectacular showing the sort of dense plotting that made his Fantastic Four run so great. The end of X-Factor was both wonderful and depressing and I'll miss reading about Jamie Madrox every month (the new form of the book doesn't really appeal to me unfortunately). The latest installment of League of Extraordinary Gentlemen was of course excellent and probably would have made the top ten if I had remembered it when I was actually writing this. The cut up section where time (and panels) began to flow in the wrong order was particularly good. I'm sure I've forgotten something but that will have to do.

Bonus round:
Some favourites in other areas:
Game: Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons / The Cave
Album: Run the Jewels - Killer Mike and El-P / Kill the Wolf - Matt Berry
TV: Boardwalk Empire series 4 (narrowly beating the end of Breaking Bad)
Film: Only God Forgives
Book: Doomed - Chuck Palahniuk

Anyway, if you read all of that you have my respect. Here's a drawing of a Dalek to make it vaguely worthwhile:

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