Saturday, January 1, 2011

2010 Favorites Part 1: 10 Favorites from 2010

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Welcome to my second end of year favorites post, where I once again bemoan the fact that I don't read enough new comics. There's just so many good *old* comics out there that I don't want to just skip ahead, especially in the case of new series where I might miss something by starting in the middle.

I'm trying something a bit new this year, as I am ranking the 10 favorites with a 2010 copyright date, which come from my indie comic, manga, and mini-comics reading. Please note that I am using the date of the collection, so some may have appeared in single issue form in 2009.

I will also be doing a second post where I list my favorite ongoing series I'm catching up on, some zines I enjoyed, and some older books that I think were some of the best things I read in 2010. Look for that later today.

So let's talk about this list. I read 55 2010 comics this year, which is probably almost five times as many as the number of 2009 books I read in 2009. I'm happy with that, but I want to do even more current reading this year. Because I read behind, some books don't appear on this list that probably would. I think manga is where I am really lacking in terms of reading current books. While roughly 1/3rd of the comics I read are manga, only a little under 20% of the new comics I read were in that style. In addition, I have to be honest and say I didn't like most of the new manga I read, so that didn't help either. Next year, I'd like to read enough 2011 books to be able to do a full list for more than one category. For now, however, they'll all live together on this list.

Runners-up:
Jormungand is an action manga that I'm enjoying because sometimes I just like to read popcorn comics. It's not quite good enough to make a favorites list, however. I liked Korea as Viewed by 12 Creators (review coming soon), but the similarity in styles between the creators kept it off the list. Incorruptable (also review coming soon) has promise, but I need to read more before I would move it into the list of favorites. Dragon Puncher might be the best All Ages comic I read, but since it's a book aimed primarily at kids, it didn't quite make the cut. The first issues of Roger Langridge's ongoing Muppet Show comic (awaiting review) were also very good, and that one was on my long list. It's a great series, but I already gave it kudos last year.

The Favorites!
10) Mysterius the Unfathomable Jeff Parker gets two spots on this list, starting here at number 10. Working with artist Tom Fowler, Parker crafts a tale with a distinctly unlikable magician who uses his knowledge of the occult to his own advantage but gets stuck as a hero--whether he likes it or not. Filled with playful references that show Parker's depth of knowledge on the subject of magic, this is a great series that I think anyone would like.






9) Potter's Field Mark Waid and Paul Azaceta show that Ed Brubaker isn't the only one who can write quality noir comics. This story of a mystery man who tries to solve the mystery of the unknown graves in New York's Potter's Field manages to capture the feel of the old pulps while bringing things into the modern age. I'd use this series as an example of Waid's range as a writer. The man simply makes good comics almost every time out. Definitely a good selection for those who like crime comics.



8) Xoc The first of two mini-comics on my list, Xoc is about a female shark who travels the ocean and sees things from the perspective of a shark, with almost no anthropomorphizing of the main character or the creatures she encounters. Reading like a visual companion to a PBS nature documentary, writer/artist Matt Dembicki crafts a stunning visual world in this comic that you rarely see, even in comics featuring underwater characters. I'm looking forward to the closing issue in 2011 to see how the story wraps up.


7) Werewolves of Montpellier Jason is one of my favorite active creators, and it was cool to finally read one of his books in the same year it was released. This isn't my favorite Jason book, but it features his signature character designs, quirky plot, and ordinary people who often are more concerned with their day to day lives than in the big story mentioned in the title. This time, an idle man who dresses up like a werewolf gets more than he bargained for, but you'll probably be more interested in his complex relationship with a lesbian couple. Excellent work and a good starting place for those who haven't had the pleasure of reading Jason yet.

6) Nightschool I am no longer skeptical of OEL manga after reading this series, which tells a good story using manga as the template, rather than trying to fit all the parts of the manga template into the story, which was my big problem with, say, RE: Play. Svetlana Chmakova's work stacks up against any Japanese manga-ka. Nightschool recently ended, and I'll be sorry to reach the ending of this fantastical world where dark forces are at work, and all users of magic are to be suspected of evil deeds, set of course in a high school, because that's how mangas roll.


5) Mermin I've been enjoying Joey Weiser's comics for several years now, and his first(?) foray into an ongoing series might be his best work so far. Mixing his standard sense of wonder with action sequences that I thought were very well done, Weiser is showing his range in this comic, which I hope has many more issues in store. Mermin features a mer-creature who appears harmless but is hiding some things, I think, like the true reason he's fled the sea and gone to land. I give Weiser kudos for using the format to his advantage. Each issue is self-contained but links together for a larger whole. You don't see that very often these days.


4) Smile I wasn't expecting to like this book as much as I did, but Raina Telgemeier's story of extreme dental work was more than just a tale of teeth. In the process of chronicling her problems from an evening's horseplay, Telgemeier shows just what it was like to grow up in the late 80s and early 90s, complete with references that were very familiar to me, both culturally and socially. The book is good for any age, but those who are of a similar age to Telgemeier will find a lot to relate to within its pages. Side note: This book definitely confirmed my opinion that we torture ourselves way too much in relation to our teeth.


3) All My Darling Daughters Far and away the best new manga I read in 2010, this set of interlocking stories by Fumi Yoshinaga (who I think I agree with Johanna is my favorite active manga-ka) is the artist at her best, relating situations and dialog that feel like anything you might encounter in real life. Touching in places and funny in others, Yoshinaga makes her interactions meaningful and gives a sense of hope, even if the situation is a bit bleak. I'd probably hold this comic up as a model to show what can be done with female characters in the lead roles. I could easily name this my #1 and be happy with it, but I also read...


2) BB Wolf and the 3LPs ...this book that came out from Top Shelf, which blew me away in its ability to reference three things at once--an old fairy tale (turned on its ear), blues culture, and the racial difficulties of the early 20th Century. JD Arnold and Rich Koslowski knocked this one out of the park, using just the right set of characters and character design to capture the feel of both the story and the time, without going overboard. I tend to have issues with comics that feature strong political messages, even if I share them, but this one did it without feeling preachy. They just let the facts stand for themselves, albeit in a stylized format. Simply great storytelling. I could easily name this my #1 and be happy with it, but I also read...

1) Underground ...this book, from Jeff Parker and Steve Lieber, which managed something I wasn't sure was possible. For a few seconds I felt like *I* was in the story with the characters, literally feeling what they felt. As I mentioned in my review, this never happens to me. A story of preservation versus development over a nearly pristine cave, the story quickly becomes one of life or death that I defy any reader not to get caught up in. Parker provides a solid (and surprisingly restrained) script while Lieber continues the great use of space and shadow that we saw in Whiteout. It was a hard call, but this is the comic I'm naming my favorite for 2010.

So that's my list--what did you read and like in 2010? Do you agree with my choices, or am I completely without taste? Tell me what you think!

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