Sunday, January 2, 2011

2010 Favorites Part 2: Other Favorites

A Continued Happy New Year to You!

Here's the second half of my 2010 favorites postings. This time, I want to look at some older comics that I read and enjoyed, instead of just the things that came out in 2010.

As readers, we are often drawn to the newest things, eager to be ready to join the conversation when the latest book is published. I certainly wish I did more of that, but I also think there's value in looking backwards as well. There are so many good comics already out there, and I'd like to think one of the things a reviewer can do is bring those to light, too, so that anyone who missed them can give them another chance. Part of what inspired me to start a real review blog was that I wanted to know more about Fantagraphics' excellent Mome anthology series, but could find almost no reviews for the early issues. I think there's a place for reviews of older comics, and that means they need a place on a favorites list, too.

All of the comics I will discuss here were published in 2009 or earlier, though in the case of series, they may have 2010 editions I didn't get a chance to read. Looking over others' 2010 best of lists reminds me of just how many good comics I didn't get to read! Maybe they'll make my 2011 Reading Highlights post next year...

Without further ado, here are some favorites that I read in 2010, but were not 2010 books!

Favorite Ongoing Manga Series

I can't believe how long it took me to start reading Black Jack, and for that matter, Osamu Tezuka. This series about a callow doctor who really cares far more than those who operate within the bounds of medical law reminds of Dr. House, with fanciful (if mostly plausible) medical ideas and frequent moral issues. This was by far the best older series I started reading in 2010, and I can't wait to read more in 2011.

Other Excellent Ongoing Manga Series

Though I first read all three of these series in 2009 or earlier, Yotsuba&!, Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service, and Nana are some of the best manga I've read since I started experimenting with comics published "backwards." Each are very different from the other, and in keeping with my broad reading taste, from three different publishers to boot. Yotsuba&! is the story of a young girl with infinite curiosity and her friends and family, who seem to have infinite patience, resulting in comics that feature wonderful bits of everyday humor and a wish that we all looked life a bit more simply than we do. Kurosagi features death as its main plot point, mixing parts of Scooby Doo with social commentary and excellent artwork. Nana is probably my favorite shojo manga, with its dual main characters who seem determined to make the same kind of stupid mistakes that we kick ourselves for in real life while trying to make something of themselves within the difficult period of their early 20s. I hope for many more volumes of each, and I also hope to get caught up with them in 2011.

Runners-up: Bleach (surprisingly enjoyable), Children of the Sea (I like this one but it's a bit slow to make my top three), 20th Century Boys (only read 1 volume, but I have a feeling it will be there in 2011), and One Piece (also only read volume 1, also expect it to be a favorite in 2011).

Favorite Manga Series I Completed in 2010

I first read Uzumaki early in my manga years, though it took quite some time to find all three volumes. I took the opportunity to re-read this great horror manga earlier this year, and it held up extremely well. (The movie, which I also re-watched, not so much.) Ito starts things off almost normally, like any good tale of terror, and slowly descends his characters (and the reader) into a spiraling vortex of madness that ends in an extraordinary set of pages that shows that we don't always need a happy ending at the end of the terror. I'm trying to track down a copy for myself, because this is a series I'll want to revisit every few years. You should visit it, too.

Runners-Up: Lament of the Lamb (a rather different and almost realistic take on vampires that reminded me fondly of Edgar Alan Poe and was a very close second), Cantarella (finished all the legal copies in English, but the series itself was unfinished), Flower of Life (Yoshinaga!), Antique Bakery (more Yoshinaga!), and Dororo (more Tezuka goodness that I loved but has an abrupt ending).

Favorite Ongoing Comic Series

This is a bit of a cheat, but I'm giving this spot to Incredible Hercules, because the stories and plots in the series are still out there, albeit with different titles. Greg Pak and Fred Van Lente are awesome writers who mix Marvel Mythology with Greek Mythology and deliver a story that anyone can read but those who like both pantheons will enjoy the most. Herc in their hands is a human with the powers of a god, and his failures are just as important as his successes. I'd read almost anything from these guys, and they're a big part of why I'm still reading some superhero comics.

Runners-Up: The Muppet Show (still solid, but I'm actually caught up to 2010), Usagi Yojimbo (I took entirely too long to start reading this one, and it could easily be my favorite), Dungeon (which comes out in book form but has an excellent linked and ongoing story), Salt Water Taffy (ditto), Fables (did not read much of this one this year, but it's always solid), Jack of Fables (why did i dislike this so much when I first read it?), and Irredeemable (only read one volume, but I expect it to be on here in 2011).

Favorite Comic Series I Completed in 2010

No doubt about it, Doom Patrol wins here hands down. Grant Morrison's handling of this X-Men like group made for some of the strangest comics I've ever read, but when you allow Morrison to just go to town, the results are often brilliant. He misses the mark here and there with this one, especially the ending, but overall, I had a lot of fun seeing just what he'd try next. The send-up of the Image creators with X-Patrol is worth the price of admission alone. Definitely a series I'll want to read over again.

Runners-Up: The Goon (I really liked this one but I felt like it got too serious as time went on), Stan Lee's Silver Surfer in Essential Silver Surfer Vol 1 (much better than I thought it would be) and Avengers/Invaders (solid story with a pretty good use of a large cast).

Favorite Older Graphic Novel/Trade

I think this is the hardest call, as there are a lot of good candidates. But R. Sikoryak's Masterpiece Comics gets the nod for mashing up the classics I've come to love (or avoid) with the comics I've come to love (or avoid) in a set of stories that are often more interesting than their composite parts. Little LuLu and the Scarlet Letter? Pure genius! I can't imagine anyone not liking this, and it's definitely something a non-comics fan could read and enjoy.

Runners-Up: Whiteout (Rucka and Lieber knocked this one out of the park, and I almost named it my favorite, but Lieber already won with Underground), The Aviary (a totally messed up set of interlocking stories that's both creepy and compelling), and Carnet de Voyage (Craig Thompson's best book is a travelogue about his comics tour).

Some Good Older Mini-Comics

Of the non-2010 minis I read in 2010, my favorites were definitely Rob Ullman's Lunch Hour Comix 1, Coexistence from Matt Dembicki, Seven Days of Not Getting Eaten by Matt Wiegle, and Dope Fiends of the Zombie Cafe by Rafer Roberts and Sean Frost. Each shows what you can do with a mini-comic, from telling tales of your life to adapting short stories to writing your own fable to homaging genres. I love the mini-comic format, and I hop it stays around, even in this digital age.

Favorite Zines I Read

Anne's Booty series tops this list, being a great mix of little comics and writings that give us insight into Anne's life as she continues to chronicle things in this series that's up to issue 24. Anne loves a lot of the same things I do, and I completely relate to her attempts to try and figure out what life is like being in your thirties but not wanting the same things other 30-somethings do.

I Love Bad Movies is a great continuing zine that asks a series of contributors to share their appreciation for some of the worst films ever made. Moving from general movies to specific genres each time, I'm glad to see this one still going strong into 2011.

White Elephants is another continuing zine with a theme, this time on finding things at yard sales and church basements, year by year. I read all of these together, and it was great fun. Katie Haegle's morphing this one into more of a personal zine as time goes on, but anyone who knows the lure of discovery within the bargain bins of other people's discards will love this one.

It's hard to pick favorites with more personal comics, but Nicole's discussion of dealing with a SIDS death in Introvert 6 and the anonymous writer of Deafula's story of dealing with her hearing loss are two great examples of what zines can do that, say, a blog cannot. There's a personal connection when the story is in print that I think you lose on a computer screen. When you have a handmade thing in your hands, it's like the author is writing you a letter.

I really need to read more zines in 2011, but overall, the ones I read were quite good.

Favorite Webcomics

I'm really happy I found Bug before it got discovered by others, and it continues to be a favorite day in and day out. Adam Huber's daily strip is one of the few I check every day, and despite the five day a week grind, the jokes are still as fresh as they were when I started. Huber's not afraid to offend when he needs to, which I think is part of why this one works so well.

Similarly, I am also a big fan of My Cardboard Life, another webcomic that seems to be getting more press, which is great. Using cutouts, Philippa Rice's amazing designs are a big part of the appeal, but I also like the innocence of her main character, Colin, as he's used and abused Charlie Brown style by the other characters.

I also love Wondermark, Dinosaur Comics, Kate Beaton, and Diesel Sweeties, but so does everyone else, so there's no real need to elaborate. I don't read a ton of webcomics, but I really enjoy the ones that I do!

So those are my favorites from what I read in 2010. How about you?

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