Top Ten Best Comics of 2009

April 12, 2010

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Better late than never, eh? This is my list for the top ten stories of 2009! Woo hoo! Now, before we get to all the fun of me voicing my opinions and you disagreeing with them, I have to get a few rules out of the way.

1. These are the top ten stories/arcs/whatever. Not comic in general, not trade, but best stories (What can I say, I’m trying to be somewhat unique).

2. These are stories that ended in 2009. They could begin at any time, but as long as they concluded in 2009, they’re eligible.

3. I tried to keep the list as diverse and reader-friendly as possible. I love certain writers, but it would be boring if it was three Morrison books, two Kirkman books, etc. So, a writer/artist will only appear once on the list. I tried to spread the love evenly. You will see Marvel, DC, and even indies on this list.

Wow, with all those rules, how did I come up with a great top ten? Well, I hope I did. Anyway, let’s begin the fun!

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Best Comic Trades of 2009

August 6, 2009

I do my best to review all of the comics I read each month. But what I never write about, unless they end up on some list, are the comics I read in trade. So, I thought I’d recommend a few of the better ones. You care about my recommendations, right? Of course you do!

Asterios Ployp

Do you like David Mazzucchelli? Name doesn’t sound familiar? You read Batman: Year One and Daredevil: Born Again, right? Yeah, David drew those. Now, he’s flying solo, writing and drawing his masterpiece, Asterios Polyp. I don’t want to oversell it or anything, but you REALLY should give this book a chance. The art alone is worth the price of admission, and the book isn’t that cheap. Still, even if this is your first foray into the world of comics without spandex, I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

Ghost Rider: The Last Stand

Though it wasn’t quite the great, Grindhouse fun that comprised the first Aaron-penned Ghost Rider trade, there’s still plenty to enjoy here. It’s a bunch of guys with flaming skulls duking it out, and the fate of heaven it at stake! You’ll get that refreshing Aaron flavor too. His creative spark elevates this somewhat conventional material.

Northlanders: The Cross + The Hammer

The first Northlanders trade, Sven the Returned, made my top ten list last year, but the beauty and downfall of Brian Wood’s Northlanders is that it’s a series of stories, and just because one is good, doesn’t mean another will be. But Brian Wood is a good writer. So, it’s no surprise that this second story is excellent too. Like Sven’s tale, The Cross + The Hammer is deceptively simple. Think “Road to Perdition” meets “Baveheart” and you’ll have a good idea of what you’ll find. It’s the twist that comes near the end that really makes this arc something special.

 Parker: The Hunter

I’ve never read Richard Stark’s books. I’m illiterate. Heh. That joke never gets old. Anyway, I’m here for Darwyn Cooke, and you should be too. It’s not Marvel or DC; so it may not have come up on your radar. If you need more than Darwyn Cooke to buy a book, rest assured, this is a good Darwyn Cooke comic. I don’t have to tell you that it looks amazing, but Cooke also has an ear for noir; real noir, not the crap that Hollywood tries to pass off as noir. We’re not really sure if we like any of the characters, even by the end. Still, Cooke delivers the goods, and a sequel is scheduled for next year.

 

Seaguy: Slaves of Mickey Eye

This hasn’t been released in trade yet. I’m not sure if it ever will. Sales were embarrassingly low, especially considering Morrison’s name was attached at a time when Final Crisis and Batman: RIP were selling like hotcakes. Morrison fans, you’ll like this too! Yes, it’s weird, but it’s not as esoteric as Final Crisis or Batman: RIP. Morrison and Stewart are on the top of their game. This sequel is every bit as great as the first installment, and that was pretty great! So, please, just buy the floppies. Give Vertigo a reason to print the third part and complete the trilogy!

For more comic goodness, go here.


SeventhSoldier’s Top Five for June

June 28, 2009

There were a lot of honorable mentions this month – June 2009 was one of the best months for comics in a good long while.  From Gail Simone’s always fun Secret Six to the sleeper hit of the month for me, Rucka’s Action Comics Annual #12 – and, spoiler alert, tomorrow’s review of Kathryn Immonen rock-solid first issue on Marvel’s Runaways – June made this a pretty damn hard call to make.  I’ve given out a few pretty bad grades this month, but for the most part, the average was high – there were more A-’s than B’s for the first time in my reviewing history on the site!

To my surprise, as someone who doesn’t particularly care for Batman as a character or as a mythos terribly much, three of the best books I read this month were newly-launched Bat-books/arcs.  Also a first?  Two different Marvel books were edging in on the top 5.  Any other month, Runaways #11 or Captain Britain and MI:13 #14 would’ve had a strong shot at prime placement.

Edit: Since I hadn’t put the review up yet, I forgot, but a Marvel title actually did make the Top 5.  Sorry, Paul Dini.

#5 Incognito #4

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There hasn’t been a bad issue yet of the Brubaker/Phillips collaboration Incognito.  I don’t yet know if it’ll be able to match Sleeper or Criminal - two absolutely stellar works in a similar vein… and yes, they have one or two other things in common with this book – but this issue kept the story moving along faster than I could believe and with a great deal of style and a sense of pulp adventure.  Incognito is a blast to read, without a doubt.

#4 Batman and Robin #1

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Splashy, gorgeous art?  Check.  Interesting new villain?  Check.  Rousing adventure?  Check.  Batman and Robin #1 has all that along with great panelling and the coolest sound effects you can imagine.  Morrison and Quitely make quite a team, as they’ve illustrated numerous times in the past, and this looks to be no exception.

#3 The Unwritten #2

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Carey and Gross continue on with a second issue every bit as good as their first in one of the strongest Vertigo launches I’ve seen in awhile.  There are so many small touches that go into making this book great that I can hardly list them, but this is definitely a title to be on the lookout for.  If you aren’t picking it up monthly, be sure to be on the lookout for the trades.

#2: Detective Comics #854

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Together, J.H. Williams III and Greg Rucka delivered a stellar opening issue to Batwoman’s stint on Detective Comics… and that’s before you add the talented Cully Hamner into the mix with his and Rucka’s The Question backup.  The book was fast-paced and exciting while still introducing a supporting cast, a new villain, and a personality in the formerly personalitiless Kate Kane.  It did a whole lot in a tiny space, and left me eagerly awaiting more.

#1: Seaguy: Slaves of Mickey Eye #3

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God, what a strange, strange book.  Wonderful, though.  As a surreal adventure books, Seaguy: Slaves of Mickey Eye is a satisfying book with a sharp edge of humor and a knack for innovation.  As a meta-commentary on super-hero comics, it was cutting, clever and fun.  As the finale of a three-issue mini that wrapped up the middle-child of Morrison’s planned three-volume Seaguy trilogy, it was pretty nearly perfect.

- Cal Cleary

May

Read/RANT


Review: Seaguy: Slaves of Mickey Eye #3

June 6, 2009

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As my previous reviews suggest, Seaguy: Slaves of Mickey Eye, the follow up to Morrison and Stewart’s 2004 Seaguy, has been hitting all the right notes for me.  #3, the final issue in the middle third of what Morrison planned to be a trilogy, hit the same week as Morrison’s much more high-profile Batman & Robin.  Despite being buried under the avalanche of Batman-love, as well as coming out in the same week as the always-stellar Secret Six, however, Slaves of Mickey Eye #3 was pretty handily the best comic on the shelves last week.  

In many ways completing most of the plots left dangling in the original Seaguy miniseries, this issue finds our hero in direct confrontation with Seabeard and the vast forces of Mickey Eye.  There’s love, there’s loss, there’s betrayal – the issue crams quite a bit in, all expertly illustrated by Cameron Stewart at his absolute strangest.

I’m curious to see where Morrison will take this if his proposed third miniseries ends up happening.  Even if it never does, however, Morrison’s exciting commentary on the conventions of comic books finds yet another solid resting place.  This recent mini has had very few missteps, and I’m looking forward to more.

Grade: A

- Cal Cleary

Read/RANT


SeventhSoldier’s Top 5 for May

June 2, 2009

Everyone else is doing it, and I am nothing if not a lemming, and so I present my own Top 5 for the Month of May.  The month wasn’t my biggest, spending-wise, but that looks to be picking up fairly soon.

#5

Secret Six 9

Secret Six continues to be one of the most consistently enjoyable titles on the shelves, though #9 felt like a bit of a middle child in the grand scheme of things.  Still, the ruminations on the cowl were fun, as was the general taunting tone it seemed to take towards the holding pattern ‘event’, and Ragdoll, in Simone’s hands, can sell me on just about anything.

#4

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After a somewhat lackluster first issue, Irredeemable‘s second issue delivered the thrills, deepened the twisted Superman-esque mythos of the book, and came packed with some pretty great art.  Though the book hasn’t yet lived up to Waid’s strongest work, it demonstrates a lot of promise that I hope to see come out more thoroughly in future issues.

#3

Superman

Robinson’s Superman continues to improve, for the first time beating out World of New Krypton in most every way.  Helped in no small part by artist Renato Guedes, the book feels vastly more human than most superhero titles out there, especially the issue’s closing page of Mon-El’s reflections in Paris.

#2

The Unwritte

The Unwritten‘s premiere was enormous, affordable, creative and well-executed.  Carey and Gross begin a new Vertigo series with a great deal more promise and finesse than most new #1′s can boast, crafting an engaging tale that manages to combine aspects of Harry Potter, Books of Magic, and Sandman in ambitious fantasy. 

#1

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Seaguy: Slaves of Mickey Eye certainly isn’t for everyone, but for those that enjoy its quirky brand of black humor and heroics, this issue provided everything you could’ve asked for and more.  This is Morrison and Stewart doing some of their finest work, offering a layered fantasy world that plays with our expectations and revels, at least a little, in our discomfort.

- Cal Cleary

Read/RANT


Review: Seaguy: Slaves of Mickey Eye #2

May 7, 2009

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Seaguy: Slaves of Mickey Eye comes from what I can only imagine is a strange, strange place inside Grant Morrison.  Despite that, or perhaps because he has cut loose for the first time in a few years, the newest Seaguy mini, Slaves of Mickey Eye, has been some of his best work in a long time.  Still reeling from the half-forgotten loss of his best friend, Chubby da Choona, Seaguy escapes a mental institution with the help of Tree Guy, Peaguy, and Three Guy, three superheroes who claim to have been inspired by his escapades.  Of course, far more than that happens, and there’s far more going on behind the scenes – Seaguy winds up in Los Huevos, hiding out from the omnipresent Mickey Eye as a bulldresser while starting a relationship with the fiery Carmen… or so he thinks.

In reality, Seaguy: Slaves of Mickey Eye deals with a whole lot of trust issues as we learn about betrayal after betrayal of the titular hero, from people he’s trusted and people he barely knows.  It is tempting in a review to begin to do a critical unpacking of the many and varied themes of the book, because that’s half the fun, but there are folks better suited to that for now.  Instead, I will say this:

Seaguy: Slaves of Mickey Eye #2 is a fun, funny, fascinating book.  Stewart’s art has never been better, and he seems to be getting more comfortable working together with Morrison to craft a complex narrative that never sacrifices its sense of visual wonder or its emotional power when it digs in deep.  While some of Morrison’s recent work left some fans cold, it is hard to imagine people having the same reaction to Seaguy - it’s a book that downright demands an emotional investment from you, and it’s more than earned one.

Grade: A

Read/RANT


Review: Seaguy: Slaves of Mickey Eye #1

April 19, 2009

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Grant Morrison and Cameron Stewart teamed up a number of years ago to do a three-issue Vertigo project simply titled Seaguy, the proposed first chapter of a trilogy.  The project didn’t quite take off, though, and for a long time it seemed as though the whole thing was dead in the water.  Since becoming one of the most high-profile, controversial writers in comics, however, the Powers That Be apparently decided that a second mini from Grant Morrison, post Batman R.I.P. and Final Crisis might be met with more success, and so part two – Seaguy: Slaves of Mickey Eye - began.

The original served simultaneously as a rousing indictment of the pomp and excess of the modern comics industry, a stirring love-letter to the medium itself, and a rousing, bizarre adventure in and of itself.  Not for everyone, the utter, implacable oddity of the first series served as a turn-off to some, and their minds certainly won’t be changed by the sequel – Morrison and Stewart have compromised nothing here in their… unique vision.

Picking up where the last left off, Seaguy finds himself trapped in a dissatisfying life that doesn’t quite feel right.  He doesn’t know why, what’s changed, that he’s been brainwashed by the sinister Mickey Eye into accepting a reality slightly changed, slightly darker, than the one in which he grew up.  Rife with beautiful, disturbing imagery from Stewart and plenty of symbolism, the issue is a fairly dense read, well worth the price tag… if you don’t mind things getting a little bit strange.  A near perfect issue of set-up for another bizarre, genrebending three-issue mini.

Grade: A


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