January 5, 2011

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Panel by Panel: December 2010 in Review

As we step across the first week of the new year, it's time to finish up my looks back with a review of what I read in December 2010. Now that I no longer review everything, this gives me a chance to take an overarching look at my reading habits from month to month.

My 2010 Reading List (including December 2010) can be found here.


Let's look at how my reading list shaped up in the final month of 2010, shall we?
Indie Stuff (21)
  1. Wilson by Daniel Clowes (2010)
  2. Artichoke Tales by Megan Kelso (2010)
  3. Unknown Soldier Vol 1 by Joshua Dysart and Alberto Ponticelli
  4. Cinderella From Fabletown with Love by Chris Roberson and Shawn McManus (2010)
  5. 120 Days of Simon by Simon Gardenfors (2010)
  6. Johnny Boo and the Mean Little Boy by James Kochalka (2010)
  7. Coffee and Donuts by Max Estes
  8. Moving Pictures by Kathryn & Stuart Immonen (2010)
  9. The Horror! The Horror! selected with commentary by Jim Trombetta (2010)
  10. Werewolves of Monpellier by Jason (2010)
  11. Cold Space by Samuel L. Jackson, Eric Calderon, and Jeremy Rock (2010)
  12. The Wild Kingdom by Kevin Huizenga (2010)
  13. The Adventures of Unemployed Man by Erich Origen, Gan Golin, Ramona Fraden, Rick Veitch, and others (2010)
  14. Underground by Jeff Parker and Steve Lieber (2010)
  15. The Muppet Show Comic Book: On the Road by Roger Langridge and Shelli Paroline (2010)
  16. Billy Hazelnuts and the Crazy Bird by Tony Millonaire (2010)
  17. The Murder of King Tut adapted by Alexander Irvine, Ron Randall, and Christopher Mitten (2010)
  18. Cavemen in Space by Joey Weiser (2010)
  19. Afrodisiac by Jim Rugg and Brian Maruca (2010)
  20. The Broadcast by Eric Hobbs and Noel Tuazon (2010)
  21. Unknown Soldier Vol 2 by Joshua Dysart, Alberto Ponticelli, and Pat Masioni (2010)
Cramming for 2010, Indie Comic Edition

I spent a lot of December trying hard to read as many 2010 published books as I could. I vowed to read more new books this year, and that definitely happened, especially in the final part of the year. Some were quite good, such as 120 Days of Simon and Artichoke Tales, both of which I reviewed. Werewolves of Montpellier made my best of 2010 list, as did Underground. The Muppet Show and Afrodisiac just missed consideration, so overall it was a strong month of quality reading for me. The Fables spin-off, Cinderella, was a bit of a disappointment, and I didn't like The Broadcast or Cavemen space as much as I'd hoped to. They were okay, but I think my expectations were a bit higher based on what I'd read about them. It could be my fault.

Then there were a few I didn't care for, such as Wilson (which I reviewed) and Moving Pictures (which I did not). In the case of the latter book, I just felt like the story went nowhere. It wasn't a bad book, but the Immonens didn't give me a strong reason to care about the protagonists. They were engaged in a mental chess match, but all I saw was a stalemate that didn't grab me.

Of the non-2010 indie comics, Unknown Soldier was a difficult read that showed the horrors of wars we tend to try and forget, but had so much unpleasantness I just don't know that I'd recommend it. It was certainly well-written, but I read for pleasure, not pain. If I want to read about horrible things, I'll just keep my eyes to the back pages of the New York Times.

Favorites: Werewolves of Montpellier, Underground, Muppet Show, Afrodisiac

No Need to Hit the Bookstore for: Wilson, Moving Pictures

Manga/Manhwa (11)

  1. 20th Century Boys Vol 1 by Naoki Urasawa
  2. Emma Vol 8 by Kaoru Mori
  3. Kobato Vol 1 by CLAMP (2010)
  4. Jormungand Vol 2 by Keitaro Takahashi (2010)
  5. Nightschool Vol 3 by Svetlana Chmakova (2010)
  6. Cat Paradise Vol 1 by Yuji Iwahara
  7. Biomega Vol 1 by Tsutomu Nihei (2010)
  8. Red by Michael Nicoll Yahgulanaas (2010)
  9. Jormungand Vol 3 by Keitaro Takahashi (2010)
  10. All My Darling Daughters by Fumi Yoshinaga (2010)
  11. Korea as Viewed by 12 Creators by Various (2010)
Back on the Manga Horse

This was a more typical month for me in terms of my manga reading. I also placed an emphasis on 2010 titles, as we approach year's end. Jormungand continued to be good, as was Nightschool's 3rd volume. Biomega missed its mark with me, which is a shame because it involves a talking bear on a motorcycle. Unfortunately, I'm not big on dystopian futures with large sections of the book devoted to sketchily-drawn scenes of devastation. With so many other books to read, I don't think I'll continue with that one, although I will give Cat Paradise a second chance, since it does feature talking cats.

Korea as Viewed by 12 Creators was interesting, but fell prey to being too similar for my taste in an anthology. The feel wasn't as varied as I'd hoped, though I liked the idea of using creators from several countries.

I found a new title to love in 20th Century Boys, but CLAMP's magic just wasn't there in Kobato, a book that felt too much like other CLAMP outings for my taste, right down to a plethora of references to their other books. (The translation, however, was excellent.) I'd read more of Kobato, but only if I found the books secondhand. I wish I'd read more manga I liked in December, because even the usually solid Emma let me down with the 8th volume.

By far and away the best manga I read though, was All My Darling Daughters by Fumi Yoshinaga. Easily the best manga of 2010 for me.

I don't think I'm growing out of my love of manga so much as I am getting pickier, a trend that's holding across my other reading. When reading time is more precious, you start getting choosier about how you use that time.

Favorites: All My Darling Daughters, 20th Century Boys, Jormungand, Nightschool

No Need To Hit the Bookstore for: Emma 8 (sadly), Biomega, Cat Paradise

Mini-Comics/Zines (4)
  1. White Elephants 1 by Katie Haegele
  2. White Elephants 2 by Katie Haegele
  3. White Elephants 3 by Katie Haegele
  4. White Elephants 4 by Katie Haegele (2010)
I Was a Bad Zine Reader

In my haste to finish 2010 titles, I kinda ignored minis and zines this month. Gotta fix that here in January. The White Elephants Series is great, however!

Superhero Stuff (6)
  1. Essential Silver Surfer Vol 1 by Stan Lee, John Buscema, and others
  2. Robin A Hero Reborn by Alan Grant, Chuck Dixon, Norm Breyfogle, Tom Lyle, and others
  3. Irredeemable Vol 1 by Mark Waid and Peter Krause
  4. Incorruptible Vol 1 by Mark Waid and Jean Diaz (2010)
  5. Incredible Hercules Dark Reign by Greg Pak, Fred Van Lente, and others
  6. Jonah Hex No Way Back by Justin Gray, Jimmy Palmiotti, and Tony DeZuniga (2010)
Love and Capes

My superhero reading is up a bit as I try to see what I want to keep and what can go to make room for things like the Usagi Yojimbo special edition. I had a pretty good month overall by making sure I didn't keep reading things I didn't like (see below). The early Stan Lee Silver Surfer stories definitely show that the character was meant to be an analog for Jesus, as he wrestles with the sins of humanity and fights Satan, who tempts him in a manner that often parallels the Gospels. It makes for some strange (but pretty good) reading. Mark Waid shows how you can write a good dark story in his Irredeemable universe, and it's hard to go wrong with Incredible Hercules. I was less sure about the Jonah Hex, as per my review, and the Robin book started well with Alan Grant, but Chuck Dixon's part of the collection was full of plot holes, questionable decisions from a Bat family member, and racial remarks ("How white of you" being the most glaring example.) that sunk it for me and put it on the giveaway pile. All in all, not too bad of a month.

Erased the Panels

I gave up on a boring Vertigo book based on a Neil Young song (not sure what I was hoping for there) despite it being a 2010 read by the same writer as Unknown Soldier. A pair of Essentials went away, as I passed on the early adventures of She-Hulk before she got a personality and the 1980s exploits of the Silver Surfer. The She-Hulk material was a retread of the same Marvel ideas of running from the law and tangled family alliances that I've read in better form from 1960s comics. She-Hulk didn't even get any good villains or guest stars at that point, with a weak Iron Man cameo being the best of the lot. I'd read the Silver Surfer stuff in single issues, and after trying a few in the collection, opted not to go for a re-read.

The biggest winner for worst comic I gave up on, possibly for the entire year, was the DC/Wildstorm crossover Dreamwar, "written" by Keith Giffen, whose best scripting days appear to be behind him. The premise was terrible, the violence level was stupid high, and by the time I flipped to the end, it was as though nothing had really happened after all. A total waste of time and potential that I'm sorry I actually paid for.

And that's a wrap for December 2010! I wonder what January 2011 has in store for me?