January 12, 2021

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Catch It at the Comic Shop January 13th, 2021

Welcome to Catch it at the Comic Shop, where the Panel Patter team looks at what's coming out at your favorite store or digital device this week. Each one of us that participates picks up to five items due out this week, with a little bit about why we like them. (NOTE: We use solicitation material for this, so if we miss creators, please talk to your publisher!) Sometimes we might only have a few items to share, other weeks, keeping it to five will make for hard choices. Here's what the team wanted to highlight this week...

James' Picks:

That Texas Blood vol. 1 by Chris Condon and Jacob Phillips, published by Image Comics

That Texas Blood is a very engaging, murder mystery that unfolds over the course of the series. The plot gets more involved, as new folks come to this very small town in Texas.  The comic looks fantastic - artist Jacob Phillips is following the family business of drawing excellent crime comics. Jacob's style reminds me of Sean's a little, but it's clear he's got his own line and own approach to storytelling. This is a very fun story and if you like crime stories in dusty, small town settings, you'll love That Texas Blood.

Ascencia #1 by John Dolmayan and Tony Parker, published by Wake Entertainment
I knew almost nothing about this comic up until recently, but what I learned really grabbed my attention. This is a future-set science fiction comic where some people live in technological wonder and approach the concept of immortality, while others live in squalor. So...it's a comic about right now, and the whole of human civilization. The art looks very cool, and I only learned yesterday that this comic written by the drummer from System of a Down! And it started as a Kickstarter! Well, I didn't know any of those things, but the cover and the concept hooked me, and I'm curious to learn more. 

S.W.O.R.D. #2 by Al Ewing and Valerio Schiti, published by Marvel Comics

Al Ewing is on a roll right now. He's been doing incredible work the last few years in The Immortal Hulk, and he wrote the fun and successful crossover event Empyre. It was a fun event that I enjoyed, and it was drawn by the very talented Valerio Schiti. The same team is working together on the new series S.W.O.R.D. The first issue was an absolute blast; this story ties into the larger X-Men story, but it seems like it'll be its own thing. Al Ewing is fantastic at big, heady, sci-fi stories (like The Ultimates and his current Boom! series, We Only Find Them When They're Dead).  He's setting up a big, exciting, space/sci-fi adventure in this book, and I'm excited to come along for the ride.

Rob's Picks:

HAHA #1 by W. Maxwell Prince, Vanessa Del Rey, Chris O'Halloran, and Good Old Neon, published by Image Comics

If you thought Ice Cream Man was weird, well, you haven't seen anything yet. This series, which appears to be clown-focused, is about as messed up as anything I've read in quite awhile. Bartleby is a man who lives his life as a clown, much to the displeasure of his wife. When the amusement park he's working for is about to go under, Bartleby's life snaps, and while others might choose to lie down and take it, Bartleby prefers not to. Vanessa Del Rey keeps the reader off-balance by really never giving us a straight-on view, angling things to go in and out of Bartleby's perspective, including perhaps the best use of a brain in a repeating panel. This comic is really #$%#$ up, and that's a good thing.

American Mythology Monsters #1 by Michael Gordon, Glenn Moane, and others, published by American Mythology Productions

A new horror anthology, you say? With classic movie horror monsters, tweaked a bit and given a chance to do their own thing in a black and white format? Go ahead, twist my arm some more. I have no idea if this is going to be good, bad, or indifferent, but I'm always up for trying a new horror series. I'm not familiar with these creators, either, so it's really going on faith in the concept here, but that's never stopped me before. Not sure how easy this one is going to be to find, but if your taste is anything like mine, you'll be intrigued, too, and ready to see if this is going to be a fun romp or a sub-AIP movie level snore.

The Creeps #29 by Don Glut and others, published by Warrant Publishing Company

I wasn't planning on going all-horror, but hey, 2021 is looking like a bad sequel to 2020, so why not? I first discovered this mag randomly, and while it's not going to scratch everyone's itch, it really is a modern remix of the Warren Publishing formula, complete with some of the creators who did work for the now-defunct company. For good or ill, it's definitely a bit more in tune with the original than the Dark Horse revamps (though I loved those, too), with the script and art styles looking very much like they stepped out of a 1970s time portal. That will either work for you or it won't, and the quality is definitely as uneven as its spiritual predecessors. Not sure how this gets past a Copyright check, but that's not my problem. I just like sarcastic narrators killing people, and The Creeps has that in spades--which you can then use to bury the dead! 

Sean's Picks:

Haha #1 by W. Maxwell Prince, Vanesa Del Rey, Chris O’Halloran & Good Old Neon, published by Image Comics

Haha is the exact comic you’d expect from the mastermind who brought us the Ice Cream Man. This is not to say that Haha suffers from unoriginality, but instead it is complimentary for when a creator knows what is working. W. Maxwell Prince has been doing the anthology format with comics since his Ice Cream Man series started 3 years ago this month. When something is working you may as well not only run with it, but sprint. Haha seems to take on some seriously similar tropes as ICM, but it will also serve as it’s own thing too. If this debut is any indicator for how bizarre this title will be, then I assure you that we are in for some very weird stories. One stark difference here will be that Prince is choosing to have a different artist tackle each issue, so prepare yourself for some manic visuals to accompany the depressive narrative. Vanesa Del Rey takes the series debut by storm and really lets loose with where we should expect it to go. The final few pages alone are enough to shock you, to shake you, and to keep you thinking about it days later. I have very high expectations for this title and look forward to reading each one! 

Serial #1 by Terry Moore and published by Abstract Studios

I am new to Abstract Studios comics and have no background to Terry Moore’s previous work, but this series got my attention. Apparently this will be the debut issue to a fan-favorite character that has been featured in his previous titles, and this 10-issue series aims to give regular readers what they want more of—for Zoe to kick some ass. Zoe is a ten-year old girl who had previously been possessed by a demon and, now free of said demon in Serial, she is determined to hone her deadly skills as a serial killer and put an end to a very specific reign of terror. This is a bit specific in genre as it pertains to taste in story choice, but I find it interesting to explore what might drive an ex-transport of evil incarnate to such things all while being obscured behind the innocent façade of a young girl. My interest is definitely piqued.

Red Mother #12 by Jeremy Haun, Danny Luckert & Ed Dukeshire, published by BOOM! Studios

Here we are. It is the final issue of the series that solidified my preference for horror comics. This title has been a consistent and one hell of a setup for some night terrors. Obviously, I do not expect people to rush out and grab this if they haven’t already been reading it, but let it be a reminder that the story is now complete and well worth the effort to track down in its entirety. Daisy, the Smiling Man, and the Red Mother herself; if horror is in your veins then this comic should be on your shopping list if it hasn’t already. It’ll have you seeing red!

Mike's Picks:

Lonely Receiver 5 by Zack Thompson, Jen Hickman, and Simon Boland, published by Aftershock Comics

It's kind of shabby to recommend the last issue of a miniseries, I'll admit. It's even shabbier considering I haven't picked any of the previous four offerings either. But this is my attempt at penance. I didn't sleep on Lonely Receiver inasmuch as I just got a little too busy and put it to the side knowing that I would get back to it at some point. I read the rest of the series in the interim between Christmas and New Year's, as the last of the year end lists were pouring in, with Lonely Receiver a recurring entry. At one point, I decided I would spotlight a few series that didn't make my own year end list, with Lonely Receiver front and center. But ways got on to ways, and now I'm here trying to salvage my credibility my imploring you to give this series your attention, be it by catching up now or making a note to yourself to pick up the collected edition. I'm always here for some Jen Hickman art, and she nails it, capturing the futuristic noir vibe while harnessing the active despair of the narrative. Zack Thompson is always a clever writer, adept at these character-driven genre blends. This is a love story for the Blade Runner crowd. It's a meditation on relationships, every bit a polemic as a romance. So much cyberpunk focuses on the tech side of things, of the loss of humanity. Lonely Reciever is very much about the humanity that never left. Parts of this remind me of Familiar Face, other parts, Her. All of it, though, feels very real, very confrontational. Thompson and Hickman harness the worst element of a breakup - the lack of answers - and chronicle the ensuing spiral.

Home Sick Pilots 2 by Dan Watters, Casper Wijngaard, and Aditya Bidikar, published by Image Comics

I meant what I said about feeling something special in this series. Issue one was as strong a debut as I've read in recent years because it kept things tight, revealing just enough about the bandmates who compromise the namesake of the series and utilizing urban legend to build suspense and background. Issue two makes good on the episodic nature of the series, as Watters narratives unfolds with about as many questions as there are answers. Is this a story of possession or revenge? Perhaps some mixture of both? 

X-Ray Robot by Mike and Laura Allred, & Nate Piekos, published by Dark Horse Comics

I'm certainly a fan of recent Allred's Big 2 series - Silver Surfer and Bug - but this is vintage Mike Allred, and it feels refreshing. A mid-century pop art science adventure, this story is is the kind of quirky weird story that made me fall in love with Madman when I was in middle school. Laura pulls back just every so slightly on the color sheen for this one, dialing back some of the glimmer that was there for Silver Surfer, and letting this series feel a little more raw, like a campy B-movie way better than it has any right to be.

January 11, 2021

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Quick Hit Reviews-- Scout's Honor #1, Eternals #1. and Future State: Swamp Thing #1

Welcome back to an old Panel Patter tradition-- the Quick Hit pellet review column, where we'll be giving you reviews of a handful of recent releases.  Before we dive in, I just want to quickly highlight one of my favorite panels from last week's comics.

Future State: Wonder Woman, art by Joelle Jones and Jordie Bellaire

When I got to this panel in Future State: Wonder Woman #1, I knew that this was going to be a fun comic.  I loved how Bellaire just dropped out all of the colors except for the reds and the greens to really highlight this moment on the third page of the comic.  It's violent in a way that we're not used to DC comics being.  Jones is a wonderful artist who brings a lot of spriteliness to this comic.  It's a really fun one as she leans into the fantasy elements, getting to draw mystical beasts and a hero who isn't burdened by a lot of history or tragedy.  There's so much to enjoy about this comic and this panel finds a fresh way to show us that we're stepping into something vibrant.  


Future State: Swamp Thing by Ram V, Mike Perkins, June Chung, and Aditya Bidikar, published by DC Comics.
Ram V and Mike Perkins want us to know that the future is here and it isn’t ours.  

Their new Swamp Thing gives us a world of plant-based creatures.  It’s almost like what if the Garden of Eden was the Adam and Eve of this world and man was just one of the animals for the garden to watch over.  But all of this happens in a post-human world, where mankind has become an endangered species as Swamp Thing tries to lead his people on a search for the survivors of humanity.  

Ram V sets up an inner conflict in Swamp Thing-- trying to build a better world but also trying to give humanity a second chance.  This sets up a conflict between Swamp Thing and his children who wander the remains of NYC looking for some sign of a surviving mankind.  This new race thinks the world should be theirs but their father holds a glimmer of hope of finding a link to the past.  But maybe his children aren’t wrong about it being their time to try to save and rule the planet.

There’s a rich artistic legacy to Swamp Thing stories that Perkins seems to be simultaneously homaging as well as adding to. His art portrays these plant characters in very human terms, giving them personalities and attributes of the species that they’re replacing.  Perkins not-quite-plants/not-quite-aliens figures are modeled on humans as that’s part of the plot; it’s really the only thing that Swamp Thing knows.  The alienness of their appearance and actions adds to the displacement of even the reader.  Perkins shows us what the world would be like without us in it and it’s not really that different.  Is that the point?  

Scout's Honor #1 by David Pepose, Luca Casalanguida, Matt Milla, and Carlos M. Mangual, published by Aftershock
Luca Casalanguida and Matt Milla’s work in Scout’s Honor evokes a familiarity in it.  Almost every page and panel recalls other artists but it’s never a direct copy of anyone.  There’s some Chris Sprouse in the work, some Chris Samnee and Matthew Wilson, and maybe even a bit of Dan Panosian here.  Heck, there are even hints of Alex Toth throughout the art.  And those are all good influences in this story about a post-destruction society that treats the Scout’s handbook as their Bible, using the lessons and skills that any good scout should learn to form a new society after the old one crumbles.  Casalanguida draws this like it’s a post-apocalyptic Jonny Quest.  This is a dangerous world and somehow Boy Scout-age boys are our protectors in it.  Casalanguida’s work blends seamlessly together with a boy’s adventure story with an end-of-the-world disaster epic.

Pepose writes a first issue that introduces us to this new story and sets up no tone, not two, and probably not even three but at least four different and personal conflicts for his and Casalanguida’s young hero Kit.  There’s who Kit really is, Kit’s best friend’s competitiveness and need to prove himself, Kit’s discovery of the true nature of the Scout’s handbook that society has been built around, and just surviving in a post-nuclear world.  Pepose sets up an ambitious adventure built around a catchy high-concept elevator pitch that has characters and adventures that are thrilling.  

Eternals #1 by Kieron Gillen, Esad Ribic, Matthew Wilson, and Clayton Cowles, published by Marvel Comics
Reading The Eternals #1, it feels like Kieron Gillen was looking at what Jason Aaron and Jonathan Hickman have been doing at Marvel and wanted to get back in on the fun of working in a shared universe again.  In this comic, Gillen is working to find a balance for long-time Marvel fans and a newer audience who has never seen the Eternals before.  With that in mind and while he introduces a lot of characters and names, he spends his time with warrior Icarus and the impish Sprite to try to ease readers into this third-tier Kirby creation.  Of course, with a movie coming out sometime (who knows when?) Marvel is obviously counting on this being the next big thing.

Ribic is doing his best “this is important stuff” work. His style, combined with the somber coloring from Matthew Wilson, just has the air of weight and import to it.  This is an epic story because the single mode that Ribic works in is epic.  And he’s really good at it.  As an artist who gives his colorist a lot of room to show off their stuff, Ribic really focuses on making sure that the characters remain at the center of the story and action.

Working a lot of plot and exposition into this first issue, Gillen uses them to drive the momentum of this re-introduction.  The characters are fitting more into roles than into developed personalities but that helps to establish who’s who. This is an introductory story for old characters.  As such, it’s a slightly odd exercise of treading the past while it tries to chart a future.

January 6, 2021

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Waiting for the End of the World in Daniel Warren Johnson's Wonder Woman: Dead Earth

The legacy that Diana has to live up to (art by Daniel Warren Johnson and Mike Spicer)

Daniel Warren Johnson gives us a very different depiction of Wonder Woman than we’ve seen before. The Gal Gadot model of the character has been the default for a while now, even well before we thought we would get a couple of Wonder Woman movies; long, slender, quite beautiful in a classic way with barely a hair out of place. Johnson’s is the exact opposite of that. She’s built like a person and not an ideal. She’s battered and bruised. She’s more of a fighter and a brawler than some kind of statuesque Greek warrior. For one of the few times in recent memory, Wonder Woman looks like a real woman and not a super-human god.

In Wonder Woman: Dead Earth, Johnson doesn’t draw this like a superhero comic. This is a story of a character barely holding onto her wits. Johnson’s Diana doesn’t have the time or the energy to pose in a heroic shot. The only time we get an idea of the person she was is when we first see her coming to the rescue of some people being hunted by monsters. In that single moment, we get to see the powerful woman that’s been in many other comics. We see Wonder Woman, regal and strong. But that is fleeting as that takes all of her energy. After that, we see Diana, a fighter who is struggling to hold everything together. Johnson builds her back up from there, showing a character who has a different type of strength. It’s a strength that doesn’t come from muscle but her spirit.

Feel the power in DWJ and Mike Spicer's art and Rus Wooten's lettering

Johnson’s writing follows suit. Found in a metal container after who knows how many years of being there, Diana wakes to find a ravaged earth, destroyed by a callus and careless humanity. In a lot of ways, this is Diana as in Mad Max’s world, trying to figure out her place and role in a post-apocalyptic world.

In too many ways, that makes Wonder Woman: Dead Earth sound like any the-world-is-destroyed-in-the-future story, from Mad Max to The Planet of the Apes. But this is one of the best Wonder Woman stories because Diana doesn’t act like a hero, a god, or even an ideal here. Johnson strips away the legend of Wonder Woman, taking her completely out of any recognizable world for her. It’s a stranger-in-a-strange-world story but when done right as it is here, it gives you a whole new insight into these old characters.

Let’s take a quick look at the film Wonder Woman: 84 where Diana goes through some of the same struggles. There’s a similar waywardness that Patty Jenkins and Johnson’s Dianas find themselves in. Both versions of the character are lost in their missions of peace, adrift as the world around them changes faster than they can keep up with. In the movie, she eventually regains her sense of purpose and direction.

Johnson sets Diana on her quest to save the rag-tagged remnants of humanity by taking them to the magical paradise island that she grew up on to find some way to save the world. But quickly we see that’s not the focus of this book. Restoration for the world and the character is just too big and too unattainable of a goal for Diana. And as her memory and knowledge of the past are filled in, as she begins to understand her role in everything that happened, restoration of what she’s lost just isn’t what the character even deserves. A quest to save everyone becomes a journey for a woman to find peace and understanding in what she has done and caused.

A Different Type of Dark Knight 

A surface reading of this book could be “Daniel Warren Johnson’s Dark Knight Returns take on Wonder Woman” and there’s a certain amount of truth to that. But it’s so much more. Johnson’s art contains so much pent up energy and rage. As Diana assumes responsibility for the last remnants of humanity and the legacy of the Amazons, she’s shown as a woman whose concerns are outside of herself. She wants to save everyone but when she realizes she can’t, Johnson’s pages just overflow with a wave of slow-burning, sorrowful anger that is looking for a target to lash out at. 

Diana is neither a god and nor a superhero here. She is just a fighter but she’s also a failure. She failed to prevent the end of the world and now she has to try to save the last embers of it. Diana couldn’t live up to the legend of Wonder Woman. So instead of redeeming her, Johnson tries to explore what she can be and even what she should be when she can’t be a superhero. If some fairy-tale concept of peace ends up being unattainable, where does that leave Diana?

The messiness in Johnson’s artwork makes this a very alive world despite the name of the book. His Diana carries the weight of every life that she’s failed to save, including those of her family and closest friends. She bears that responsibility but Johnson captures her reluctance to carry that weight. So when she releases her strength in battle, Johnson draws this as an explosion of energy. When she’s lost and uncertain, he captures a quiet reserve and maybe even fear. Her power and strength are still there just below the surface but her confusion and loss are greater and overshadow the legend of Wonder Woman. Those quiet moments speak to what this character could be. She’s not a goddess; she’s something both more and less than that. It’s exciting to see Daniel Warren Johnson wrestle with Diana’s struggles in Wonder Woman: Dead Earth.

Wonder Woman: Dead Earth
Written and Drawn by Daniel Warren Johnson
Colored by Mike Spicer
Lettered by Rus Wooten
Published by DC Comics

January 5, 2021

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Rob's Favorite Comics of 2020 Part 2: The Sweet Sixteen

Yesterday, I showed you my shortlist. Any one of those comics kicked ass and if you haven't read them yet, you should definitely do so.

Today, it's the comics that really struck a chord with me this year. These are the 16 comics that I liked the best in 2020. It actually should be 15, if I was following my guidelines strictly. But when I looked over this list, there wasn't a single one I wanted to remove. So here we are.

I am only sure of three things:

1) If I had to make this list a month from now, it might look slightly different. This is part of why I call it a favorites list, not a best of. A lot of books on yesterday's list missed this one by a whim or a whisker.

2) Going to self-own here and note that on both this list and my short list, I did not list as many books with significant involvement by women as usual. Part of that is that I buy a lot of those at cons, but that's not a great excuse. I could also plead "2020" but that's hollow, too. I screwed up, plain and simple. I'm going to try harder in 2021 to ensure I'm not missing out on the great work being done by women. 

3) In no way shape or form did I read every excellent comic this year. I missed Bowie, didn't read enough manga, wasn't able to catch up on Sophie's Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles run, and because of the lack of cons, I read a lot less self-published comics. Some publishers were just an embarrassment of riches and I was only able to scratch the surface (looking at you, Rebellion and Avery Hill, just to name two.) I'm sure I'll pick some of those up as 2021 goes along and enjoy them a ton.

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Catch It at the Comic Shop January 6th, 2021

Welcome to Catch it at the Comic Shop, where the Panel Patter team looks at what's coming out at your favorite store or digital device this week. Each one of us that participates picks up to five items due out this week, with a little bit about why we like them. (NOTE: We use solicitation material for this, so if we miss creators, please talk to your publisher!) Sometimes we might only have a few items to share, other weeks, keeping it to five will make for hard choices. Here's what the team wanted to highlight this week...

January 4, 2021

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Rob's Favorite Comics of 2020 Part 1: The Short List of a Crappy Year

Well, here we are at the end of 2020. What a year. I don't think I need to go into why. I personally was very fortunate--I'm still employed, I did not get sick in 2020 and neither did anyone in my family. We were very blessed, and I can't thank God enough for that. Many, many others in the US and elsewhere were not so fortunate. Even as we move into a new year, things look a long way from the "normal" we were used to.
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Talking OZ - An Interview with David Pepose

Last month, I was lucky enough to get the first issue of David Pepose's The O.Z. in my email. I jumped in pretty much blind but emerged engrossed. The art direction, the action, and especially the genius premise hooked me instantly. So, of course, I wanted David to answer all of my burning questions, and he was nice enough to humor me.

December 29, 2020

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Catch It at the Comic Shop December 30th, 2020

Welcome to Catch it at the Comic Shop, where the Panel Patter team looks at what's coming out at your favorite store or digital device this week. Each one of us that participates picks up to five items due out this week, with a little bit about why we like them. (NOTE: We use solicitation material for this, so if we miss creators, please talk to your publisher!) Sometimes we might only have a few items to share, other weeks, keeping it to five will make for hard choices. Here's what the team wanted to highlight this week...

James' Picks:

Colonel Weird: Cosmagog #3 by Jeff Lemire and Tyler Crook, published by Dark Horse

Colonel Weird is one of the weirder characters (fittingly) in a story full of them, in the universe of Black Hammer. He's an analogue of Adam Strange, but is constantly traveling to and from the para-zone, another dimension where time appears to have no meaning. And you never quite know *which* Colonel Weird will show up. Will he be old or young? Will he be lucid or confused?  Anyway, Colonel Weird: Cosmagog leans into the, ahem, weirdness and just explores his mind, or maybe the para-zone or honestly I have no idea. It's a bonkers, trippy story that moves from time to time and place to place in his life. But it's heartbreaking and dramatic and intense. And it's brought to life by the incredible Tyler Crook. Now I've always thought Crook was a very talented artist, going back to when I first saw his work in Harrow County, but his work in Colonel Weird: Cosmagog is truly at a whole other level. The colors and detail on every page of this bizarre comic are absolutely stunning.  

December 28, 2020

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Sean's Favorite Comics of 2020: The Long & Short Box

I cannot believe that it is this time of year again. The time where I reach back for rereads of stuff from months back, and taste again as many titles I hadn’t remembered I forgot so that I can (as best I can) come up with a well rounded list of which comics of the year are my favorites.

This year I went with the short-box/long-box theme rather than a top ten/runner-up as I typically do. I probably read about 100 titles in at least a partial capacity while also “sampling” others to see if I missed anything from before. After all was settled I probably read at least a few issues of nearly 150 titles or so. That’s quite a bit for me, and probably a personal reading record brought on (unfortunately) by living life in quarantine. From these that I read I picked fifteen to pack away in the long-box of favorites (the runners-up), while ten were filed in the short-box (my favorites).

While I can assure you that I’ve probably failed to include one that I’ll most likely regret after having published this as it is. Regardless, it is how it reads and I’m certainly happy with the fact that during the treacherous year that was 2020 I was able to be fortunate enough to “struggle” through having to pick a handful of favorite comics from a long list of completely worthwhile choices.
There is no wrong answer to the question, “what were your favorite comics this year?” And these were mine.



Alienated TP by Simon Spurrier, Chris Wildgoose, André May & Jim Campbell, published by BOOM! Studios 

This comic took me by a bit of a surprise. It’s a fun spin on the cosmic idea of a shared consciousness. Three unlikely acquaintances named “Sam” find themselves linked telepathically after having found a mysterious creature in the woods. The structuring of plot and paneling is sometimes unique and it grabbed my attention right away. It takes a rather dark turn about halfway through the series, tackling subject matter such as self-harm— a topic that can be difficult to address. But the creative team does it in a tasteful and appropriate way that adds depth to the story while also bringing awareness to the issue. It’s a real treat and a quick read to share with other readers looking for something a bit different. 

December 22, 2020

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James' Favorite Comics for 2020

For 2020, I've decided to write about 25 comics I loved this year. As always, these aren't the BEST comics (I have no idea what *best* means when evaluating something as subjective as art), just my personal favorites (listed in alphabetical order). 

A little more info on my picks for this year (I was inspired by my Panel Pal Mike's list):

  • The list includes 11 different comics publishers (with Image leading the way (9 books), followed by Boom!/Archaia (4 books))
  • My favorite genre continues to be sci-fi (7 books), followed by superhero (5 books), horror and action (4 books each)
  • 8 of my selections were individual books/volumes, and the rest were ongoing series/miniseries
Anyway, I hope you find something you enjoy!

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Catch It at the Comic Shop December 23rd, 2020

Welcome to Catch it at the Comic Shop, where the Panel Patter team looks at what's coming out at your favorite store or digital device this week. Each one of us that participates picks up to five items due out this week, with a little bit about why we like them. (NOTE: We use solicitation material for this, so if we miss creators, please talk to your publisher!) Sometimes we might only have a few items to share, other weeks, keeping it to five will make for hard choices. Here's what the team wanted to highlight this week...

Rob's Picks:

Heartthrob Vol 3 TP by Chris Sebela, Robert Wilson IV, Nick Filardi, and Crank!, published by Oni Press
All good things must come to an end, and when you're already living on borrowed time from a "borrowed" heart, it's time to make the most of what you have. Callie's tried to get out of her criminal ways, but sometimes you have no choice but to finish what you started. As a reader, I'm very glad to see this series get a chance to wrap up as a digital first now moved to print for the trade. Sebela/Wilson/Filardi/Crank! have put together a really fun period piece that has the vibe of any good heist story but, if you'll pardon the pun, also contains a lot of heart. It's always great to see Panel Pal Robert's work on a series, with his distinctive lines and great panel construction, and Filardi once again gives this a great looking sheen. Great stuff to end your year with!

December 21, 2020

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Mike's Favorite Comics of 2020

Welcome to the list of my favorite comics of 2020. I considered not completing a list this year, but I ultimately decided to because I wanted to highlight some wonderful experiences I had reading. I hope this list can serve as a thank you to some excellent creators and as a celebration of their work. Perhaps you've read some of these and share my enthusiasm; perhaps some are new and cause you to see out new books. Or, it could all just be a good way to help kill twenty minutes on your coffee break. Nonetheless, to reiterate, thank you to the creators of all the comics and graphic novels I have read this year. I know it was a hard year for the industry and many creators individually. Additional thanks and recognition to my local comic shop, the infinitely awesome Third Eye Comics, and to the Anne Arundel County Public Library, without which I would not had had access to over half the books on this list.

I have no real rules for my list outside of the minimum requirement that all works be published in the 2020 calendar year. I've chosen my twenty favorite publications and included a few honorable mentions at the end. One recurring idea on the Panel Patter switchboard is the sheer amount of good comics we read this year. Narrowing it down to even a long list was hard for me. I had no number in mind, but I ended with 20, and I feel pretty happy with the list, one I essentially kept running for most of the year. That core list never really changed, and seemed like this original list spoke to what I truly loved this year, with thirteen-or-so additional books I liked a bunch included after my core list. The books below are the ones that filled me with the intangible feeling good literature provides. 

Some statistical analysis:
*Two (maybe three) selections are series that entered their second arc. I think that's notable considering how hard sophomore efforts are. 
*Three books are translations, from three different languages no less. (Additional translations appear on my honorable mentions list).
*Three (perhaps four) are young adult, depending on how you view a few of them. (I say closer to two, but it's not particularly important).
*Two are self-published.
*At least nine are set outside of the United States, more if you consider somewhat ambiguous settings.
*Fifteen different publishers are represented, with Image just edging out Avery Hill for the most.

Enough talk. Let's get going.

A Gift for a Ghost
by Borja Gonzalez
Translated by Lee Douglas
Published by Abrams

It isn't often that I find myself describing a book as simultaneously surreal, absurd, and charming, but I can't think of any more appropriate adjectives to identify Gonzalez's first full length graphic novel. The fact that it can be all those things at once without losing either its heart or ambition is a testament to Gonzalez's gifts as a storyteller. His art feels somewhere on the spectrum of Tom Gauld - fundamentally, he works from the same elevated stick-figure approach - though with more refinement of detail, especially in terms of landscape. He works mostly in muted earth tones, injecting bright color to serve as contrast ever so often. It's in this style that he is able to maintain the charm of the book while exploring more surreal concepts. Gonzalez creates two timelines that intersect via the supernatural, 1856 and 2016. Each is defined both by convention and by the nature of female rebellion. As such, A Gift for a Ghost becomes a mediation of the prescribed path young women are forced to take and the methods of rebellion that allow them to embrace things they truly love, be it Victorian horror poetry or punk rock. What is most impressive, though, is the subtlety with which Gonzalez approaches this discourse. This is a story of breadcrumbs. Finding a way on the path is our job.

All Together Now
by Hope Larson with colors by Hillary Sycamore and Katrina Edwards
Published by Farrar, Straus, and Giroux

Do you know how some creators just get it? They create the types of works that so precisely click that you almost stumble for the words trying to describe how that feat occurs. Hope Larson's All Together Now is that type of work for me. The sequel to the equally impressive All Summer Long finds Bina navigating a new friendship while still trying to discover who she is and what she wants from her. Larson is a pioneer of YA/middle grade graphic novel style. Her vibrant style, aided by Sycamore and Edwards' colors, makes this book a pleasure to read, but it's her characterization that sells this story. Larson is able to capture types while also adding specific personality. She's made Bina the kind of character I'll keep returning to. I always think of my students when I read this series; this is the type of book I want them to read to be able to understand that adolescence is hard, but you can still find your way.

Banned Book Club
Written by Kim Hyun Sook and Ryan Estrada
Art by Ko Hyung-Ju
Published by Iron Circus

Reading Banned Book Club, I found myself embarrassed at how much I didn't know about post-war South Korea. It's no secret that Korean culture has captivated the global pop-culture landscape for decades now. I'll be featuring another Korean book below, and there were a few others that were on my long list. Banned Book Club is a little different, though, in that it is (to the best of my knowledge) a book intended for an American audience, not an import of an extant Korean text. (I think it may be in the Korean-translation process). The beauty of this book is the way it functions on two different levels while working towards one goal. It's the story of co-author Kim's coming of age through an intellectual awakening stimulated by her book club. As a result, Sook and Estrada are able to expose the oppression of the 5th Republic, one of intellectual despotism via the criminalization of “dangerous” ideas. Banned Book Club is a beautiful personal narrative, and it's a timely reminder of the need to resist lest someone imprison your mind. Ko-Hyung Jo’s manga inspired artwork gives the story a familiar, comforting feel. 

Bitter Root
Written by David F. Walker and Chuck Brown
Art by Sanford Greene
Color Art by Sandord Greene and 
Lettering by Clayton Cowles
Published by Image Comics

This series doesn't know how to slow down, and I'm here for it. It's one thing to come out of the gates strong, but it's a whole other to build upon that momentum for a second strong arc. But that's exactly what Bitter Root does. This second arc pics up after the revelatory returns at the end of the first storyline. For the Sangeryes, it's only compounding. I love how this series blends horror, social justice, tall tale mythology, and magical realism together without sacrificing any key component. Sanford Greene's art continues to impress me because of his ability to appear wild on certain pages and more tightly organized on others. That shift enhances the pace of the narrative as it can connote moments of peace contrasted with frenetic battles. I love his syncretic take on neo-noir. Greene channels Francavilla and Mignola and ultimately Albuquerque for a style that becomes uniquely his own and results in some of my favorite action panels of all time. Walker and Brown are pitch perfect with dialogue, and have been since the series began. We get a wonderful sense of each character because of the personalities they provide; it deepens the impact of the plot itself, and makes Bitter Root one of the most well-rounded books on the stands.

Blue in Green
Written by Ram V
Line Art by Anand Radhakrishnan
Color Art by John Pearson
Lettering by Aditya Bidikar

If I were ranking books, Blue in Green would be a definite candidate for book of the year. Ram and Anannd's follow up to Grafity's Wall is a mesmerizing account of the dark side of creation. I had the chance to review the graphic novel upon its release, and I was most taken aback with Anand Radhakrishnan's progression as an artist. His richly textured panels that occasionally felt ready to come apart at the seams perfectly complemented Ram's plot of the descent into the madness of creation. This book brings jazz onto the page. At times, it is highly structured, at other times, pages and panels almost seem to fall out of themselves. It is a great example of the idea of organic unity I see Ram and the other White Noise writers employ with their artistic collaborators - an unbroken cycle between narrative and art, each defining and pushing the other. You'll find a similar streak in Coffin Bound or A Dark Interlude. Aditya Bidikar punctuates this effort; his hand-lettered contributions are the proverbial icing on cake, or perhaps, to extend the jazz metaphor, the rhythm section that holds the whole experiment together. And for my money, he's the best rhythm section in comics. 

by Katriona Chapman
Published by Avery Hill

Here's the deal with Breakwater. You spend roughly three quarters of the book waiting for the proverbial shoe to drop, and when it does, you're still taken aback. With a denouement as deft and subtle as Maupasaunt, the execution of plot and methodical pacing culminates in what can best be summed up as a monument to restraint as a storyteller. I've read a number of excellent books this year that focus on mental health, and certainly the sub-genre itself has exploded recently, bolstered in no small part by Covid-19. But the best of these mental health comics - if it's fair to call them that - approach their subject from a distance, approaching from the wide angle, and moving incrementally inward. It's with an expertise of subtlety that Chapman crafts this delightfully unassuming narrative, one that ends with an especially heartbreaking resignation, and not with bombastic tragedy. Her art conveys the same tone as the story structure, luring you in with the nuance of body language and facial expression to the point that, after you've connected all the dots, you find the patterns were there all along. I'm a sucker for pencil shading, and Chapman's beautiful pages, gray like the world outside and like the feelings inside, are the type that I found myself lost in. 

Chasin' the Bird
by Dave Chisholm
With colors by Peter Markowski
Published by Z2

If you're putting money on the future of comics, Dave Chisholm would be a strong bet. Between his Charlie Parker biography and Canopus, he has demonstrated a staggering artistic versatility, even more impressive considering his relative newcomer status. Chasin' The Bird does not feel like an early career graphic novel; it feels like a midpoint magnum opus. What Chisolm is able to do stylistically throughout the book is borderline perplexing. At times, he and Markowski combine for clean but lush panels, almost recalling Chiang and Wilson. Other times, the duo seem to be channeling the Hernandez Brothers. There are notes of Seth, and painterly panels that feel like a more refined Sienkiewicz. And forgive me for defining Chisholm’s artistic ability in the vein of other artists, but the ability of this book to flip the artistic script is something you have to truly see to understand. And he can tell a story, too. Reliving Charlie Parker's California sojourn through the eyes of friends and collaborators like Dizzy Gillespie and John Coltrane allows Chilsolm to create a personal, friendly kind of dialogue, conversational in its style and deliberate in its description.

Coffin Bound
Written by Dan Watters
Line Art by Dani
Color Art by Brad Simpson
Lettering by Aditya Bidikar
Design by Emma Price
Published by Image Comics

Another offering on this list from the White Noise collective, and another candidate for book of the year, Coffin Bound pushes the boundaries of what a comic can do. The fact that Coffin Bound performs this experimental exercise on the monthly stands speaks to the vitality of the form. I had the opportunity to review both volumes one and two of the series, and I thoroughly enjoyed the cerebral exercise that examining this book requires. Another example of the type of organic unity I contend defined Blue in Green, I can't imagine Coffin Bound being anything but what it is. I can't imagine it looking any different; I can't envision these characters speaking in any other way. The shift between volume one and two is an intentional part of the exercise, helping to pose the question "is it better to veer into or away from the chaos?" Dani's art - specifically her line structure -  is slightly more uniform in this year's issues, but Simpson harnesses the same palette for a level of murkiness that connotes the kind of decay that engulfs the world of Coffin Bound. The experimentation culminates in the formalist experiment of issue seven (cover pictured above) that plays with color and and dimensions to expose the fallacy of choice. Watters captivated me with the thought experiments that define each iteration of this series, and I continue to ponder its layered construction. Oh, and this is another example of Aditya Bidikar's ability to tie panels together with his lettering.

Dancing After TEN
Written by Vivian Chong
Art by Vivian Chong and Georgia Webber
Published by Fantagraphics

I don't know exactly how I felt at the end of Dancing After TEN - was I angry, relieved, optimistic, embittered, depressed? Perhaps all at once. Dancing After TEN (TEN refers to Toxic Epidermal Necrolysis, not a number) is Vivian Chong's harrowing yet heartfelt account of her life with a rare disease, including the callousness of some of her friends and her positively inspiring journey back from a state that would have broken most people. Together with Georgia Webber (Dumb: Living Without a Voice), Chong tracks the increments of her life, interspersing her own drawings with Webber's. Aside from the content itself, what makes Dancing After TEN that compelling the way Chong and Webber handle the narrative, particularly the manner in which Webber's muted, direct approach allows that narrative to shine in both the most gut-wrenching and joyful scenes of the book.

Dragon Hoops
by Gene Luen Yang
with colors by Lark Pien and art assists by Rianne Meyers & Kolbe Yang
Published by First Second

Dragon Hoops, that I reviewed earlier this year, marked a different direction for one of our most well-regarded cartoonists. Gene Yang, famous for harnessing myth and culture, turned instead towards contemporary nonfiction. Part memoir, part chronicle of the an historic high school basketball season, Dragon Hoops is book as much about Yang as it is the people around him. Nestled underneath the top level of story is Yang's own impressively honest self-assessment and reflection. He wrestles with the creative process and continually returns to the theme of "big steps." Never directly expressed, though implied through some of Yang's reflection, is an assessment of Yang's own creativity, specifically the success he's seen through his career and the inevitable pressure that has to have mounted with each new release. For all intents and purposes, Yang's debut was American Born Chinese, a graphic novel many consider to be an exemplar of the form. So where does he go from here? Can he keep mining the same vein, or does he challenge himself with something completely new? Yang wrestles with that notion as he tries to wrap his head around the Bishop O'Dowd Dragons and basketball as a whole. The end result is Yang's best cartooning of his career, and a story that works on works on multiple levels.

Familar Face
by Michael DeForge
Published by Drawn and Quarterly

It's through the dissolution of form that Michael DeForge is able to comment on said form. What I find to be the most avant-garde of DeForge's work in both style and substance, Familiar Face duly earns its place in the canon of critiques of late capitalism. I read and subsequently wrote about this book mid-quarantine, and I'll always wonder if that particular lens allowed me to connect with the narrative in a particular way. Regardless, DeForge, who abandons manipulates geometry and structure throughout the book, provides one of the most apt expressions of our continued relationship with and reliance upon technology. The book is very much a thought experiment about what happens when we reach a point of no return with tech, and what happens to our ability to construct true relationships. Check out more of what I had to say about Familiar Face in my essay from August.

Far Sector
Written by N.K. Jemisin
Illustrated by Jamal Campbell
Lettering by Deron Bennett
Published by DC Comics

In a year when I read fewer mainstream and superhero comics than ever before, I would be remiss if I didn't express my affection for Jemisin and Campbell's ultra-lush cosmic epic, Far Sector. It's a book that I consistently recommend because of Campbell's captivating sequences. The way the man can fill a page with impeccable precision and attention to detail, all while giving the book a three-dimensional feel is absolutely impressive. Characters feel like they might pop off the page, and action sequences appear as if there is actual motion. I adored Campbell's work on Naomi, but he's able to make this series far brighter. But we shouldn't sell short Jemisin as a writer, either. Her comics debut is impressive if only for the fact that she is known for writing long, detailed, epic stories (check out The Broken Earth Trilogy for some superb science fantasy). Paring things down for a twelve-issue series while introducing a brand new iteration of an established legacy hero and re-tooling some of the mythos of said heroic canon is a feat in and of itself. Jemisin embarks upon one of my favorite tropes of space-oriented science fiction - the cosmic detective story. Jo, short for Sojurner Mullein, the hero and de facto detective of this story, grows into herself each issue; it's thus a compelling mystery story and also a great "rookie year" document. Coupled with Morrison and Sharpe's The Green Lantern, its singular approach is great alternative to the Johns era Green Lantern stories.

Genius Animals?
Written by Vali Chandrasekaran
Illustrated by Jun-Pierre Shiozawa
Self Published at www.geniusanimals.net

Shortly after the release of Genius Animals, I had a chance to interview Vali and Jun about their self-published webcomic. To be fair, it's really a web graphic novel. There were a few books that truly made me laugh out loud this year, but none as much as Genius Animals. Vali Chandrasekaran, an experienced writer from such hits as Modern Family and 30 Rock, brought certified comedic skills to the script, executed brilliantly by Jun-Pierre Shiozawa, an artist whose range of style is nothing if not impressive. (Seriously, check out his illustrated Ulysses). Part slapstick comedy, part genre homage, part post-modern detective story, Genius Animals? is one of the best-paced books I've read in 2020. Jun deftly executes the punchiness of Vali's script, and he adds to the surrealism of the pop-culture references to concepts as disparate as Bugs Bunny and Werner Herzog. Wait. Strike that. I think Werner Herzog and Bugs Bunny are really in the same end of the sandbox, holding a mirror up to the world to expose the absurdity of it all. In the end, that is exactly what Vali and Jun do with Genius Animals?, send you down the proverbial rabbit hole and ask you to confront whatever it is you find.

The Impending Blindness of Billie Scott
by Zoe Thorogood
Published by Avery Hill

If I were awarding books with specific accolades, I would assuredly christen this book with Best Debut. In fact, it's almost staggering to think about this book as a debut graphic novel considering how fully formed it is. The Impending Blindness of Billie Scott is a story of youth and tragedy, about finally discovering you direction in life only to discover the road is closed. It's also an aptly-named book, because it isn't about blindness, or even necessarily going blind, but the impending nature of looming blindness. The journey is punctuated by the heart and sincerity with which Thorogood approaches the story and characterization. She paces character development incredibly well, creating the type of book that actually feels much longer (in a good way) than the number of its pages. Artistically, Thorogood's prime gift his her ability to play with dimensions and create visible depth on her panels. Her best pages connote a collage effect; there is a tangible thickness to the pages, even on a screen. Billie Scott is the type of book that can work for multiple age groups because it has a good amount to say both about the journey itself and how to view it after the fact. Zoe Thorogood is certainly a talent to keep your eyes on in years to come. I wrote about the books just before it's publication. Check it out here.

Kent State: Four Dead in Ohio
by Derf Backderf
Published by Abrams

An absolutely remarkable book, encyclopedic in its construction and impeccably precise in its artistic detail, Kent State was one of the most gripping books I read this year. We could easily exhaust the parallels between the Trump and Nixon administrations, and this book certainly gained a degree of relevance as a result of the protests that moved the nation early this summer. However, Kent State would be an enthralling read in any time period. Derf's exhaustive research gives the book a definitive authority - it feels both academic and anecdotal. It's also a heavy book, and that weight connotes something more than sheer size. This isn't a quick run through of a tragically fateful day in American history. No, it's a detailed account of everything that led to the infamous day and the ensuring aftermath. Artistically, it's Derf's most elegant work. He combines lavishly thick inks with gorgeously contrasted shading for a sharpness of detail and ultimately very striking pages. When people wonder what black and white comics can do, this is the type of book I would hand them. It can't be in color; it needs to be black and white, and it triumphs because of it.

by Naoki Urasawa
Translated by John Werry
Lettering/Touch ups by Steve Dutro
Published by Viz Comics

I need to send a special shout out to the Panel Patter Crew - especially Rob, Scott, and James - for introducing me to Urasawa and manga in general. I'm new to manga as a whole, and I spent the end of '19 and most of '20 devouring perfect editions of 20th Century Boys. It was towards the end of this year that I had a chance to pick up Mujurishi, thanks again to a recommendation from James (whose generosity also helped introduce me to Pluto and Master Keaton) and I absolutely adored the book, devouring it in one sitting, a testament to the way Urasawa is able to unwrap plots, compounding intrigue and suspense with each stage. Though Mujurishi was originally serialized, it's far shorter than his typical work. Yet, despite the length, it feels as deep as any other Urasawa work I've read. He plays with both pop and high culture, intertwining the two to create a a heist story that is charmingly goofy, but heartwarming and clever. What I think shines the most here, though, is the notion that Urasawa, known to craft longer and more complex epics, can build suspense, and, more importantly, attachment in a short work that amounts to one collected volume (it was originally serialized in Japan).

Planet Paradise/Hedra
by Jesse Lonergan
Published by Image Comics

I'm going to go ahead an combine Hedra with Planet Paradise for the simple reason that they feel spiritually connected, and because the former was short form and wordless. But I'm here mostly for Planet Paradise, a work that has the distinction of being the last book I read this year. I'm fascinated by Lonergan's use of negative space, of the way he utilizes unconventional panel structures, and the contrasts in line structure. In a world of increasing digitization, I love that both Hedra and Planet Paradise look and feel like handmade zines (yes, I know Hedra originally appeared on near-disintegrated newsprint and don't remind me because I want a copy SO BAD). Moreover, I appreciate the way he lets the story unfold. While Hedra is wordless, no one is going to confuse Planet Paradise with the next Bendis piece. But the way he constructs his stories, with subtleties of expression and emphasis on the in-betweens, feels refreshing. In comics, it's all too easy to bludgeon readers with the obvious. I like that Lonergan takes a step back and asks his readers to connect a few of the dots, or even just appreciate something simple, like a spaceship drifting through the stars. 

Rodeo # 2
by Evan Salazar
Self Published

The second issue of Rodeo improves upon the promise of the first offering with an expanded and more complete story of Abigail Knox and her Quixotic quest to investigate her family's background and potential connection to a somewhat obscure if provocative Russian writer. Salazar refines his cartooning technique ever so slightly, but it's in his ability to expand the depth of storytelling that makes this issue so impressive. He deepens Abby's character, building on the background from issue 1 (you don't have to have read the first issue to appreciate the second) and sending her on a quest. Abby feels a compulsion to unravel the ball of yarn that is Nadja Knorozov. There is feeling of mystery to the Knox family, perhaps real, perhaps the lingering effects of childhood imagination. I feel that in other hands, a story like this would have some emphasis on ironic detachment, but Salazar eschews that trend. Instead, Rodeo feels personal; it's well-executed, paced appropriately, and perhaps most impressive, tight. Impressive, especially considering this is only the second issue. 

Umma's Table
by Yeon-sik Hong
Translated by Janet Hong
Published by Drawn and Quarterly

Another contender for my favorite book of the year, I find it almost impossible to qualify how much I adored Umma's Table. I can't recall every reading a book - prose or graphic - that make me as hungry as this one. Yeon-sik Hong's ability to impart the smells and sensations of Korean cooking permeated my mind to the point that I think I can taste kimchi just writing about it. Food, including the growing and preparation, is the connective tissue of the book. Yeon-sik Hong captures the dueling elements present in familial duty through Madang, his stand-in cat character whose devotion to his mother is tempered by a degree of resentment, notably the understanding level of unresolved anger directed towards his father. But the food. It is what binds Madang to his mother, and it's what gives him peace, allowing him to retreat into his own garden toiling to offer him some purpose, some degree of control over his own life. Umma's Table is touching and almost synesthesic ( I don't think that's a word), but is above all things genuine. The honesty of emotion that pervades this book is what resonated most for me.

Victory Point
By Owen Pomeroy
Published by Avery Hill

If Victory Point were wordless, I would still include it on this list. I found myself lost in some of the page, obsessing over Pomeroy's details like cracks in stone or the grain of the wood comprising the boat of the main character's father. At points, it's almost entirely single panels - Pomeroy works in boxes just more rectangle than square, almost like windowpanes on the page, appropriate for the architectural beauty and scenic vistas of his imagined seaside village. Part of the beauty, though, is in the snapshot plot Pomeroy constructs. He gives us little snippets of a particular day in the life of Ellen, a late 20s/early 30s type, returning home to her tiny village of a home town, almost begging for a sign to take a step in her life. Her return results in a reckoning of sorts. What amounts to a day off in her home town and a short visit with her father allows Ellen the perspective to diverge from her current path, perhaps inspired by an idea of legacy, possibly spurred on by the idea that her own hometown is an incomplete masterpiece. Check out Scott's review here.

Honorable Mentions

I read more than any other year - close to 200 titles. As such, even establishing a proverbial "long list" proved difficult. Narrowing it down to twenty required some hard decisions, none of which should be read as a slight to the following books, all strong candidates themselves, all present on another iteration of this list at some point, be it in a notebook somewhere, or in a different dimension.

  • A Map to the Sun is easily one of the most beautiful comics of the year, and Sloane Leong proves she can work in a variety of different genres and still impress.
  • Laura Lee Gulledge's The Dark Matter of Mona Starr is a touching book and remarkably strong debut; I'll be looking for her name in the future. I wrote about it here.
  • Year of the Rabbit is as vital as any book on the this list, as painful as Dancing After TEN, and as thorough as Kent State. Kudos Tian Veasna. 
  • Rick Spears and Emmett Helen channeled punk energy for an excellent take on the coming of age story in My Riot that I reviewed earlier this fall.
  • In Wendy - Master of Art, Walter Scott frequently made me laugh out loud, and I'm now a Wendy devotee.
  • Killadelphia is easily the best vampire book in recent years, and I'm continually impressed by what Rodney Barnes, Jason Shawn-Alexander, and Luis NCT put out each month. I looked at the first volume this spring.
  • Josh Pettinger's Goiter # 5 recalls Chris Ware and had a delightfully absurd twist that sets it apart from the typical slice of life comic.
  • The design alone of Adrian Tomine's The Loneliness of the Long Distance Cartoonist was enough to pique the interest for this stationary and notebook nerd, but I also enjoyed Tomine's wry approach to success.
  • Tom Scioli's biography, Jack Kirby: King of Comics was everything a Kirby fan could ask for: honest and comprehensive, celebratory of Kirby, but by no means purely an apology. 
  • With Eight Lane RunawaysHenry McCausland created a work that was both sublime and surreal, causing me to often lose myself in the pages.
  • What We Don't Talk About felt like an animated film, and I still don't understand how Charlot Kristensen manipulated natural light the way she did.
  • Cankor spoke to the way we can use science fiction as metaphor, and it has made me a Matt Allison fan for certain. Sean was fortunate to both interview Allison and write a great review.
  • I plan to do a DC-specific round up this year, but I'd be remiss if I didn't highlight the glorious insanity that is Daniel Warren Johnson's Wonder Woman: Dead Earth.

I'd like to acknowledge the books I didn't get to, knowing that they have received tremendous accolades. Many of these are sitting in my library holds; others are on a wishlist somewhere: The Winter of the Cartoonist, Vision, One Story, Altitude, Paul at Home, Remina, The Sky is Blue with a Single Cloud, and Paying the Land. Additionally, I started, and thoroughly enjoyed but haven't finished, Under Earth.