2009: My Favorite Comics
2009: My Favorite Comics
A few notes before we begin: I read everything in trade these days. (Civil War broke me, you guys — broke me.) That means that I am 1) eternally behind by at least one Astounding Marvel Crossover Event 2) listing things here that are either collected editions or graphic novels. Cause that’s what I read. Initially, I was going to make everything I read this year — regardless of release date — eligible, but that proved to be too daunting a task. So the stuff on this list actually came out this year (though in one case, I believe it came out in hardcover last year and in trade this year, but I bought the trade, so that’s what counts).
So…yes. I guess this is more like My Ten Favorite Comics That Came Out in Trade Paperback Format This Year. Honestly, sometimes explaining your reading habits is just as confusing as explaining Big Two continuity.
And now, in no particular order…
Agents of Atlas: Dark Reign (Jeff Parker, various artists): Man, I love these crazy kids. Love that their adventures always feel fresh yet Golden Age nostalgia-y, love that the two women on the team have an interesting (ie not catty antagonistic and not OMG BFF 4EVAR) dynamic, love that Jimmy Woo ignites some…very special feelings in me that I won’t get into here. Watching them take on that dick Norman Osborn and throw down with the New Avengers? Also pretty special. (Maybe not as special as the way Jimmy Woo rocks a turtleneck, but I said I wasn’t going to talk about that.)
Unknown Soldier, Vol. I: Haunted House (Joshua Dysart, Alberto Ponticelli): You know how sometimes critics will go into Hacky McGee mode and be all like, “Oh! Pulse-pounding! Heart-racing! I almost keeled over and died!”? Well, this book actually makes my pulse pound. It’s that exciting and terrifying and brutal. But it’s also unflinching in its thoughtfulness: the impossible choices Dr. Moses Lwanga faces in war-torn Northern Uganda will invade your brain long after you’ve turned the last page.
The Invincible Iron Man, Vol. I: The Five Nightmares (Matt Fraction, Salvador Larocca): I’ve never been a Tony Stark kind of gal. And after that whole Civil War mess, I — like so many other Marvelites — kind of hated him. But Matt Fraction’s take is so funny and poignant and downright human, it turns Tony into a real person again. He’s somehow injected the character with a nice dose of humility without losing any of that squirrelly Starkian charm. (Jeff also had a nice take on this a while back.)
Madame Xanadu, Vol. I: Disenchanted (Matt Wagner, Amy Reeder Hadley): My favorite stories always seem to involve personal journeys that play out against epic backdrops. This does that in the best possible way — and throws in magic, sumptuous historical settings, and a leading lady as powerful as she is flawed. Plus, the art is so jaw-droppingly beautiful, I want to lick every page. Er, frame every page. FRAME.
The Middleman: The Doomsday Armageddon Apocalypse (Javier Grillo-Marxuach, Hans Beimler, Armando M. Zanker): One of my favorite shows of all time gets a chance to finish things off in comic book form (or maybe that’s not the proper way to put it since it actually started in comic book form? Whatever, you get it). There are tons of crazy visual pyrotechnics, more of the awesome Wendy-Lacey friendship, and word balloons stuffed-to-bursting with Grillo-Marxuach’s signature motormouth dialogue. And of course, an ending encased in bittersweet emotion that will have you giggling and “awww”-ing and sobbing in the same breath.
Echo, Vol. III: Desert Run (Terry Moore): I was a big Strangers in Paradise fan…so when I first heard about Echo, I got that all too common thrilled-yet-apprehensive feeling that tends to sweep through one’s gut when a favorite creator launches a new project. Really, there was no need for the “apprehensive” part: Moore handles his newest menagerie of crazy characters with the same deeply-felt empathy he brought to SiP. I love Julie and her insane radioactive breast-plate more than words can say. I also love that Moore addresses the most practical of logistical issues in between the action — like how she pees in that thing.
The Rack: Year One (Mostly) (Kevin Church, Benjamin Birdie): Yes, a comic strip about a comic shop. But also: real people you’ve probably met, dialogue that balances the funny with the authentic, and the glorious Lydia Park. Oh, and an Asian mom who will resonate quite painfully with anyone who has one. I especially recommend this book version because you can see how The Rack evolved and grew and became the essential document of nerd culture it is today.
Patsy Walker: Hellcat (Kathryn Immonen, Stuart Immonen, David Lafuente): Immonen captures Patsy Walker’s voice in all its effervescent glory — and the result is one of the most delightfully weird superhero stories of the year. The key here is that we’re not shying away from Patsy’s pre-Hellcat romcom background; rather, we’re embracing it to its fullest, turning it on its ear, and throwing in elements like a Yeti named Pete. That’s pretty perfect, wouldn’t you say?
I Kill Giants (Joe Kelly, JM Ken Niimura): I read this on a cross-country plane ride and basically cried the whole way home. As so many have said, it’s a really beautiful coming-of-age tale…but I also love that it gives us one of the best young protagonists we’ve seen in ages: whip-smart Barbara Thorson, a slayer of all manner of monsters whose prickly exterior masks a bottomless well of hurt.
Air, Vol. II: Flying Machine (G. Willow Wilson, M.K. Perker): Conspiracy theories, romance, globe-trotting adventure…and a heights-fearing flight attendant named Blythe, who’s just trying to make sense of it all. Volume II weaves a few smaller, astoundingly well-realized vignettes into this sprawling canvas — and then throws in Amelia Earhart for good measure.