Thursday, December 27, 2012

Panel Patter's Favorite Floppy-First Indie Comics of 2012

It's that time of year again!  Time for those of us with blogs to talk about what we liked from 2012.  I know most of these use "Best of" in their terminology, and I even did in 2011, but I just hate the use of the word "best."  It implies you have reviewed all of the candidates.  This year, I am going back to favorites.

Today is the first of two days on indie comics.  I split them up into two columns this year, because when I put together my "short list" I had over forty titles that I thought were worthy of consideration.  Non-superhero comics are my primary reading source, and even giving myself two lists, I had to make some hard decisions.  In fact, the only easy part about today's list was selecting my number one comic, which has been my favorite since I read it--twice.

A word on this list (and its sister list) before we move on.  I am completely baffled by people who say that there aren't any interesting comics to read.  To them, may I suggest that you are locking yourself in too much to whatever publisher or publishers you are currently reading.  My floppy-first list has seven different publishers on it, and my graphic novel indie list has nine different publishers.  If you aren't finding what you want at the names people know, then look elsewhere.  Take a chance on a Comixology sale or raid the clearance bin of your comic shop.  Good comics are out there--you just have to be willing to look.

Let me preface this list by saying, there are hundreds of comics out there and no matter how widely I read, it's never going to be everything.  My selections here are based on what *I* have encountered and read over 2012.

Without further ado, here we go:

10:  Adventure Time (Boom!)
Ryan North makes his second and final appearance on my favorites list this year, with this comic adaptation of a cult television program that I have never seen a single episode of.  That's why this one narrowly edged out several other candidates for the final slot on this list.  Anyone who can make me want to read a licensed comic that I have no attachment to the the source material is a favorite.  Using all the narrative tricks that make Dinosaur Comics my favorite webcomic, North and a variety of illustrators keep me laughing month in and month out.

9:  Prophecy  (Dynamite)
Ron Marz combined the Mayan apocalypse with Robert E. Howard-inspired pulp adventure and took several public domain and Warren Publishing characters along for the ride in this mash up of characters that shouldn't work this well together.  Gorgeously llustrated by Walter Geovani, the series is just past halfway at this point and keeps getting better as new characters are introduced and the stakes keep growing higher.  I think I can call this one the "best comic you're probably not reading" because it comes from a publisher that doesn't get a lot of attention, Dynamite.

8: Snarked! (Boom!)
Roger Langridge makes it on to my list for the second straight year with this Lewis Carroll-inspired story that  is one of three all-ages books on my list.  Langridge is a master at writing for both adults and children, and his cast of characters here are lovable without being too cute, which is a trap some all-ages titles fall into.  I was sorry to see the story end, but I hope he'll return to the characters again soon so we get more rhyming introductions, scheming Walruses, and family reunions.

7:  Bandette (Monkeybrain, digital only)
This is kind of the signature title for the Monkeybrain digital comics, as it has two high-profile creators (Colleen Coover and Paul Tobin), a visually dynamic main character, and had the best promotional poster of the initial titles.  I liked all of the Monkeybrain books, but this caper comic with lighthearted moments at every turn is the one I placed on my favorites list.

6:  Godzilla (IDW)
This one makes the list because of two reasons.  The first is that I love monster movies, especially Japanese monster movies.  The second is that I thought it was impossible to translate the scope and scale of a Godzilla movie into a comic.  Writer Duane Swierczynski has found a way to do it, giving us just enough monsters time to whet our appetite without overdoing it and a human character that is so driven he can be just as destructive as the creatures he wants to stop.  With Simon Gane actually drawing real cities and Rhonda Pattison providing great colors, this is a treat for anyone who loves the Toho properties.

5:  Fatale (Image)
Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips bring their noir talents to a horror story, creating a mash-up that's got "Hey this is a comic for Rob" written all over it.  A girl with secret ties to unspeakable horror, drawing corrupted men into her orbit like a gravity well only to see horrible things happen to them.  It's a world of desperation, lies, and love, and I'm digging every minute of it.  Anyone who is a horror or crime fan will, too.

4:  Star Trek Doctor Who Assimilation Squared (IDW)
We'll never get this in the television world, but this comics crossover was almost-note perfect, except for some dodgy decisions on art that left it feeling a lot stiffer than it should have after initially being quite good.  The Tiptons somehow managed to make all of the Star Trek Next Gen characters do their signature lines and get the Doctor, Amy, and Rory to act out their own trademark tricks and none of it felt like fanboy pandering.  Finding just the right moments and creating a battle so great only the combined might of Time Lords and the Federation can stop it, this was a great mini-series that lasted exactly as long as it needed to.  If you like both shows, set a course for the trades, when they arrive, or pick up the digital issues.

3:  Saga (Image)
This is going to be number one for a lot of people, who would probably include my wife.  Brian K. Vaughn is writing some of his best work here, refusing to set any boundaries on his ideas, as we get everything from spidery humanoids with breasts to cats that act as lie detectors.  Meanwhile, Fiona Staples (where have you been all my comics reading life?) illustrates it all with glee, working hard to outdo herself with visuals that are either stunning or horrifying--and sometimes both.  The story of two lovers caught in a larger war and their child, normally a comic that features humanoid robots having doggy-style sex would be at the top of my list.  But there are two comics I think were just a bit better...

2:  Princeless (Action Lab)
What more can I say about Princeless that I haven't already?  For those who don't know, it's the story of a girl whose father controls the lives of his daughters for personal gain.  One of his charges rebels against this and vows to free her sisters, and now her father is sending the worst men possible to unknowingly stop his own flesh and blood.  This is my number two selection not only because it's a great story but because I think it has the potential to be an anchor book for young female comic readers.  For once, here's a person like them (even more so for African American young women, who have what--Steel's daughter?--to look for in the mainstream comics world) who has the same problems as them.  There could be generations of young cartoonists getting their inspiration from Princeless.  That's worthy of being my number two pick.

1:  Alabaster:  Wolves (Dark Horse)
It's rare that I know so early in the year what my number one comic on this list will be.  But Alabaster: Wolves blew me away from the first issue of the mini-series, with Panel Patter favorite Steve Lieber (he of Underground on last year's list) making perfect artistic choices, from character depiction to setting, knowing just what to show and what to reveal.  He could never have done it, however, without an amazing story from Caitlin R. Kiernan, who despite limited comics-writing experience, writes this as though she'd been working in the medium for decades.  Creating a layered plot that is worthy of the best deep-thinkers such as Peter David and Mark Waid, Kiernan created issues that stood on their own yet linked together with bonds that were seeded going back to the opening panels of issue one.  It's a clinic on how to do a short-run comic right and should be required reading for all aspiring creators.  Alabaster: Wolves may be the best comic mini-series I've ever read.  I could argue that for ages, but there's no argument here:  Alabaster: Wolves is not only my favorite indie comic of 2012, it's my favorite comic I read all year.

Honorable Mentions:  All of these were damned good, but I wanted to keep my list to ten!  Double Barrel (Top Shelf), Kevin Keller (Archie), Reset (Dark Horse), Skullkickers (Image), and Star Trek ongoing (IDW).

See you tomorrow, when we look at indie comics that came out as graphic novels!  Join me, won't you?

1 comment:

  1. Kiernon's sharpness in penning ALABASTER: WOLVES proved particularly intriguing since she's been away from comics for a time -- not because she was disinterested or was caught up in other work, but because she felt spurned by her previous experiences. She felt the conditions were right, gave it a shot, and this was the result.

    It's an interesting example of having faith in the medium as a whole (rather than investing all our energies into the whims of specific publishers and or their editors).

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