As I sit here and welcome 2013 by watching what is shaping up to be an awesomely exciting football contest between Georgia and Nebraska, I find myself thinking about the good comics I read this past year. Well, I think about the bad ones too, but not as much. I’ve been thinking about what to talk about here since I promised Bitter Girl I would find time to do this over my break, and this being the last real day of that break, procrastination seems to have paid off. So, without further ado, my favorite series this year. . .
Honorable Mention :: Avengers vs. X-Men
I had to at least mention this book, cause it was everything my Marvel fanboy heart could have wanted in a mega Avengers vs. X-Men kinda crossover. I remember that Marvel tackled this same subject matter years back, though in a much less world-shaking manner. And lets face it, you put Bendis in charge, things are gonna get shaken up. This was the groundwork for the Marvel NOW initiative, which has been pretty enjoyable thus far, and given us lots of cool books (and some not so cool, but you’ll have that), and also served to wrap up loose ends that had been dangling around since House of M, which seems like it was 10 years ago. So, it did everything that something like Avengers vs. X-Men should do: lots of fun to read, shakes things up, and plus Scott killed Xavier. Tell me you saw that coming.
If I hadn’t picked up Revival just a few days ago, then AvX would be in this spot. This new book from Image has been very fresh and unlike anything I’ve read this year, and that’s important to me. I like to read stuff that makes me sit up and say “Holy Shit!”, and the first issue of Revival had a few of those moments (such as an old lady pulling her teeth out with a pair of pliers). The idea here is that this is a zombie book, but it has a crazy twist in that they aren’t zombies, they’re just like they used to be, like you remember them, except that they’re probably inherently evil, and you just don’t know it until it’s too late. The book reminds me of a TV show in the way it is written, lots of different stories and characters to keep track of, and they all find ways to interact cuz it’s told in a small town. I’ve enjoyed it because it surprises me, and that’s what I read comics for.
Speaking of surprises, here’s Happy, brought to you by Grant Morrison. A washed up ex-cop who sees a cartoon unicorn hallucination and sets out to save the daughter he never knew he had from sadistic kiddie porn mobsters. What else do I need to say?
Now admittedly, I’ve always been a Batman fanboy at heart. He’s the only character that DC has that I really give two shits about. Year One, Dark Knight Returns, No Man’s Land, there’s all these great stories that you can tell with Batman cuz he’s such a fucked-up character to begin with. I could never really get into what Morrison did with Batman during his run, but the New 52 brought a new creative team of Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo (it’s so cool to see this guy drawing a monthly book again!). I read issue one, it was cool, but then I laid off for a while. But along comes the Death of the Family story, and here comes the Joker, and it’s great. It’s a Joker heavily influenced by Heath Ledger’s version, but taken to a whole other level, mostly cuz his face is gone and he wears what used to be his face as a mask. So, yeah, he’s that crazy. Plus, he’s out to kill the family, and he’s crazy smart, and the feeling of dread and tension in this book month after month just makes it so much fun to read. Every month, you’re asking yourself “What’s this crazy villain gonna do next?”, and then you read about it, and it blows your mind, cause your mind doesn’t work that way.
Dude. This book is just fantastic. Brian K. Vaughn’s space opera with a dash of Romeo and Juliet and some breathtaking art that Fiona Staples does on her computer consistently blows me away. You could spend days looking at these pages, and weeks trying to decide what might happen next (you should just stop that and just enjoy it. . . ). It’s really unlike nothing you’ve ever seen/read/experienced before, and Staples is a big part of creating this awesome experience every month. I can’t say enough about her art. It’s ridiculous. It’s gonna be a helluva ride, and it’s something I plan to be a part of for the duration.
Damnit, I’m in love with this book. I look forward to it every single month, and in the end, that’s what comics is about. It used to be the trip to the comic shop, on a weekly basis, but there was that one book that you looked forward to more than the others, that made that trip worth it, and this is that book. Except I download it now. Matt Fraction and David Aja tell street level comics stories, with humor and intrigue and suspense. Billed as ”what Hawkeye does when he’s not being an Avenger”, it usually involves getting into some sort of trouble with gangsters that want the apartment building he lives in, or with helping some damsel in distress, but also trying to set up his home theater system, and above all making things right. And Kate Bishop is always along for the ride, usually bailing his ass out of some sort of peril, helping out whether Hawkeye wants her to or not (so far, it’s a good thing she does). But most of all, here’s a hero that is relatable, that is just a normal dude who happens to be an excellent marksman and has an Avengers membership card. He’s got problems like you and I have. It’s the superhero book for people who hate superhero books, and that’s what makes it good my favorite book of 2012.
So, there you have it. My best of 2012. 2013 looks like it’s shaping up to be a pretty exciting year for comics. The two big comic book films of the last year have turned more people onto comics than ever, and the creators have stepped up their game in turn. Here are some things I’m keeping in mind as the calendar rolls over to 2013. . .
- Superior Spider-Man, which is going to be interesting to say the least . . .
- I keep finding more and more Image Comics in my queue month after month . . .
- I need to give Mark Waid’s Daredevil run a solid chance to impress me . . .
- I also need to check out the new Captain Marvel book. Heard lots of good things . . .
- Neil Gaiman is doing Sandman again . . .
- I really want Uncanny Avengers to be good . . .
- Bendis and Chris Bachalo are doing Uncanny X-Men . . .
- Scott Snyder and Jim Lee are doing a Superman book? Go ahead and sign me up . . .
It looks like 2013 is going to be a good year!
So I’ve been a big fan of “The Walking Dead’ for a while now. I mean, it makes sense. I like zombies. I like great character driven stories. So there you go. And another thing I’ve always liked about the book is that no one is safe. Characters die all the time. It’s not like most comics, where such and such dies and then comes back years later in some weird way. If someone dies in these stories, the only way they’re coming back is as a zombie. And the writing and characters are so top notch, you just invest so much in them, and really give a shit what happens to them and what they go through.
It is with that in mind that I started to genuinely dislike this issue about halfway through. If you know anything about the main character Rick Grimes, you know that he’s not a pussy. He’s missing a hand, for god’s sake. So when Rick starts to act like a little bitch and act like the camp is just going to submit to Negan and his army (they’re called “The Saviors”, and they’re a big group of other survivors, and they killed someone very near and dear to Rick’s group and readers as well), it kinda pisses you off. Rick spends most of the issue trying to explain and justify to people why he’s making this move, and most of it comes down to “there’s more of them than there is us”. But that’s bullshit, didn’t stop Rick and company from kicking the Governor’s ass, but whatever Rick, be a little bitch and see what happens.
But the cool part is (and not to be a spoiler here, so if you haven’t read it and want to find out on your own, stop right here!), Rick is bluffing the whole time. This entire issue Robert Kirkman makes you think we’re witnessing the pussification of Rick Grimes, and it’s all just part of Rick’s plan! I mean, I should know better by now, but damn if I didn’t fall for it just like everyone else in the camp. I mean, Andrea’s pissed, Rick’s son Carl is pissed, Michonne might kinda suspect what’s up (or even be in on it, who knows?), and I feel for it too. You’re led to believe this whole issue that Rick is turning tail and bowing down to these guys, and on the last page you find out it’s all for show and he’s got a fucking plan!
And that’s the reason I keep coming back to this book, time and time again. It stays fresh. There’s always a curveball thrown at you, always something else going on, and that’s what makes it enjoyable month in and month out. Only part is Rick is trusting this newer character that we really don’t know who is known as Jesus (and who calls themselves Jesus, honestly?), and if we don’t know him, Rick sure as hell doesn’t either. That might blow up in his face. But desperate times and all that nonsense.
All in all, a better issue than the last, and a great beginning of the end of this particular story arc called “Something to Fear”. Can’t wait to read the rest of the story.
One thing I’ve always really enjoyed about comics is the great big summer crossover. Marvel has made a habit of it for years, from “Atlantis Attacks” on to “Onslaught” and then “Civil War” and so on. This year’s big deal has been “AvX”, and it’s been pretty awesome all around.
But, we’re not here to talk about the whole series, just this single issue, and it’s a pretty good one. It’s the first part of our final act, and serves to set up what is gonna be an epic showdown that is going to mess the Marvel U up just a bit (if you judge by some of the art and the hype that surrounds “Marvel NOW” that apparently results from this series here), so it’s pretty exciting stuff.
We’re down to just two Phoenix-powered X-Men, Scott Summers/Cyclops and Emma Frost/White Queen, and they’re kinda sharing this awesome power. Cyclops has found where the Avengers and Hope Summers (who is the key to this whole thing, more on that later) have been hiding out, and spends most of the issue destroying the mystical city of Iron Fist.
But anyway, the point of this issue is to for Hope to somehow absorb this undying energy from this dragon called Shao Lao, basically the Iron Fist energy at full throttle, and by combining that with the little bit of Phoenix-like power she already possesses, she can stand toe to toe with Cyclops, and sends him away, specifically to the Moon. When Cyclops gets there, we see that there’s a Watcher in the vicinity, and all you old school Marvel readers know what it means when one of those guys shows up (it’s bad, trust me). The end of the issue sets up the last two issues pretty well, and I’m pretty stoked about it.
All in all, a good read. Ed Brubaker’s script is fine, even though I’m not a huge fan of his work, and Adam Kubert’s pencils are pretty cool most of the time (I like the Kuberts, they remind me of reading comics when I was young).
Unfortunately, this is all kinda overshadowed (to me with the digital edition, anyway) by another installment of Marvel Infinite, that new format they’ve done exclusively for reading digitally. The story details how this whole “AvX” thing will maybe/probably/perhaps play out, with Hope kicking Cyclops ass. Apparently, that’s the only outcome in which existence isn’t destroyed entirely (Marvel NOW, you say? Hmmm. . . interesting name there).
Mark Waid handles the writing chores here, and I’m a sucker for Mark Waid’s writing, so I loved this little (well, at 40 pages, it’s longer than the regular issue, so. . . yeah) backup story. The art is by Reilly Brown, and I’ve never heard of them, but they’ve got my attention, because the art is great, kinda cartoony and manga-y, but it works so well with this Infinite style, and is a nice change of pace from the Kubert style of the pages before. Both stories work well and were fun reads, and that’s why we read these things, right?
And a word on the Infinite format. This is what the medium will come to sooner or later, like it or not. I used to be all pro-paper comics too, and thought I’d hate digital comics. But, when “AvX” came out, and without a comic shop in sight, I turned to my only reasonable alternative, the Comics app by Comixology. (I mean, I had to read this book. Avengers versus X-Men!! What?!!)
And now I’m hooked. I can take comics with me anywhere I go, I can download anything as long as I have a data connections, there’s free books left and right, I can find comics there’s no way I’d ever find in stores (unless it was a huge shop that might order a handful of some indie book), I can zoom in on individual panels and the artwork, and this Infinite format is just tons of fun to read, blending comic art with animation kinda stuff. It’s a really cool experience, and probably the way all comics will be someday. So if you’re still on the fence about digital comics, give em a try. You’ll love it. And you can thank me later
A few weeks ago, I put up a blog about 30 days of Night creator Steve Niles, Halo-8′s Matt Pizzolo, and Bad Religion guitatist Brett Gurewitz banding together and forming their own comic book studio to help out indie comics. As it comes to fruition, it has been in the news more lately.
I applaud the effort. While I love the comic books I grew up with, the grown up in me also loves the way comic books work as an art form. I have written about the power of the written word before. As a kid in high school, angry at the establishment and the fact I would get edited too quickly in my school newspaper, zines spoke to me, and when I started my own zine and began distributing them at shows, that was even better. Here were my words, my thoughts, my rants, and my dangerous young and growing mind on display for anyone at the local punk rock show to pick up and read.
Indie comics are pretty much the same thing. We go to events like Staple! in Austin Texas every year just to meet up and coming indie comic makers. Some of them will never see a print run of more than a few hundred, but the stories they hold are much more than the standard fare. Here are the true story tellers. The one taking chances. The people who will give you a comic that can make you think, laugh and cry. I’ve seen it. I’ve read it.
And yet… they may never get a chance to distribute their labors of love. For most, it will not matter. One does not create to make money. One creates to put something into the world. It’s inside them. It cannot be fought. So I personally welcome Black Mask Studios. I hope they really make the waves they need to make. I hope it takes off better than Image did in the 90s. I think that it can.
It’s interesting that this is being done with a punk rock DIY ethic, and that it takes these awesome people involved to make headlines when indie comics have been around as long as mainstream. But hey… welcome to the party.
“We share that DIY approach; everything I know about business I learned in the New York hardcore scene,” he explained. “We designed the company to be more creator-friendly than the majors, but less winner-take-all than the indies. We want to build a coalition where everyone can do their own thing but interests are aligned so we’re all in it together.”- Pizzolo in an interview with Wired
Arkansas Indie Comic Superstars
Bio – Wet Black Ghost Publishing is Adam Smith (the words,) and Matt Fox (the art.) We’re based out of Little Rock, Arkansas.Mule was our first self-published attempt at a sci-fi one-shot. Long Walk to Valhalla is a bit longer and currently underway as a webcomic. Pages are updated every Monday.
Contact – Website