Favorites from 2009

I mentioned in my last entry that generally do not read a lot of comics as they come out and that I'd like to change that for 2010. As a result, I don't really feel like I can do a "Best of 2009" list because I will be reading a lot of good books ("Strange Suspense" probably topping that list) from last year over the course of this year.

So instead, I'm going to give three groupings here, each of which contain my favorites from this past year. Please be aware that favorite doesn't necessarily mean best. I chose the word favorite on purpose.

Favorites 2009
These are some of my favorite books that had a 2009 copyright date that I managed to read in 2009. My new reading was pretty shallow, I admit, but don't hold it against these great books:

I don't think there's any question that if I had to pick a best book from 2009, it would be Boom! Studio's The Muppet Show Comic Book by Roger Langridge. I feel like the book was written just for me and tweeted to Mark Waid accordingly. I have never read an adaptation that so perfectly captures the feel of the original, especially television to comic. Langridge's ear for the characters is spot-on, and the comic even features skits from the show that I'd never thought I'd see.

There's a lot of text adaptations that aren't this good. Boom! is one of those publishers I need to check out more from. Review here.

I read almost no new manga from 2009, much to my chagrin. However, reading the two volume A Distant Neighborhood series made up for my failure because it was so amazingly good. I still need to do my review, but it made my manga gift guide. This is from Fanfare/Ponent Mon, a small press publisher of manga that features several titles from creator Jiro Taniguchi.

What would you do if you had a chance to relive your childhood and escape a middle-aged life you found going in the wrong direction? That's the question these books pose to the reader, with a soft sci fi premise and a strong sense of characterization. It's flipped, too, so if you aren't sure about reading right to left, give this a shot.

Slave Labor's Pinocchio Vampire Slayer (another book I need to do the review for) might be the best parody/loving tribute I've read in a long time. I'd heard good things, and this one beat all my hopes for it.

Imagine if Pinocchio's world was invaded by an evil presence that has a weakness for wood. Now imagine you're a one-man stake machine bent on revenge? Add in creators who never miss a chance to crack a joke or give the reader a visual gag, and you have a book that's right up my alley.

There's plans for a sequel, and I can't wait.

Aya's third book, The Secrets Come Out, continues a great personal story set in a world that's different from most comics of the genre, yet familiar because people are people everywhere. This may be the Ivory Coast, and the characters may be poorer than in your average Oni relationship book, but lies and lovers don't change from place to place.

The main character is still rather a cypher, but her supporting cast makes for an amazingly fun book that I also need to review. Review of book one.

Surrogates: Flesh and Bone from Top Shelf convinced me that prequels can work. That's no mean feat right there. Plus the detective story is right up my alley, even if I was not completely in love with the artwork.

The original story referenced an event that caused problems between those who wanted robot proxies and those who did not. This book tells that story, winding its way into the original narrative without feeling shoehorned.

In some ways, I liked it better than the original. You can see my review here.

Favorite Ongoings 2009

These are series that I first read in 2009 which are ongoing today. Sadly, since I first read Emma in 2008, that takes it out of the equation. It also knocks out Nana (first read in 2006), Brubaker's Captain America (I was getting it in singles when the run started), Parasyte (2007), and The Drifting Classroom (2008). I hope to get caught up with these series by 2010.

I can't believe I went so long without reading Yotsuba&!, an insanely funny manga about a little girl who looks at life literally and her family.

The jokes and physical humor flow freely but at the same time I saw touching moments where foster father and daughter bond despite her zaniness.

There's seven volumes in English, and I want to read the rest ASAP. Thanks so much to Yen Press for rescuing this lovely book and getting it back in front of readers. My review is here.

Age of Bronze features a graphical retelling of the entire story of the Trojan War, not just the good parts. It's a task that will take 7 books according to the author, Eric Shanower, but could easily go even further if the writer feels the need to do so.

Well written and drawn, as well as painstakingly researched, I am so glad someone opted to give these books away so I could buy them. I have reviews of book one, book two, and book three a.

Incredible Hercules also scratches my mythological itch, but in a completely different way. I didn't think anyone could make me like their take on Hercules better than Bob Layton, but this series proved me wrong.

This series is probably the best thing to come out of a crossover event in quite some time. Filled with humor, history, and even Marvel Continuity, writers Greg Pak and Fred Van Lente are amazing. They're using every possible angle to take the Prince of Power to a new level, complete with some of the best sound effects ever.

Here's the crossover that started it all and also my review of the first trade.

It's a crime that I wasn't reading Jeff Parker's Agents of Atlas before this year, as it, like Hercules above it, features all the things I like best in a Marvel comic. Parker took an old idea from Roy Thomas (one of my favorite Silver Age writers) in the pages of What-if? (one of my favorite Silver Age comics) and turned it into a new super-team for the Marvel Universe.

I'm going to fix my failing in 2010 and read as much of these characters as I can in trade form. Review of the original mini-series here.

Also, I know I'm using a variant cover of the ongoing for this and not the trade, but damn it, that's a disco-dancing Gorilla!

Mike Mignola's B.P.R.D. rounds out this list with a group of paranormal investigators that spin out of Hellboy. At some point, I guess, Hellyboy doesn't like the group that raised him, leaving them to pick up the pieces.

The stories are every bit as good as the main title but it's probably a good idea to get a little ahead in Hellboy first.

If you like horror comics or enjoyed the Hellboy movie, definitely give this a shot. I need to read more of this series soon. Here's my take on volume one.

Older Favorites from 2009

This is a grouping of books that are either older one-shots or are no longer publishing as of 2009 to the best of my knowledge.

Feels like a lot of my favorites from 2009 were horror related, but hey, when they're as good as the 3-volume Mail manga from Dark Horse, they're going to make my list.

Mail was a bit of an odd title for the series, as the protagonist doesn't always get an e-mail or letter to begin his quest. But that doesn't matter when the writing is good and the art is even better. I'm still sad this one's only three volumes long.

Another pick for the Manga Gift Guide, you can see my review of this set of short stories with a Rod Serling-like narrator who kills ghosts here, here, and here.

Jason's Last Muskateer is yet another in a long line of great books by a prolific Norwegan creator, Jason. I was so happy to see him get a Marvel gig, which I hope lets other people find him. (My friend Noah got me into him, and I'm so glad he did.)

This time around, one of the three muskateers must rise to the challenge one last time. He is heroic on the traditional way, in a book that puts a lot of today's comic heroes in sharp contrast as a result.

I simply love Jason's work, and while I think his wordless comics are best, this and I Shot Adolph Hitler are, I think, two of his best. Review here.

Spider-Man: Reign probably should lose some points from being too derivative of Miller's Dark Knight. But after a few initial concerns, I grew to love this "last Spider-Man story."

Andrews did an amazing job recognizing what makes Peter Parker, J. Jonah Jameson, and two of Spidey's villains tick. He seemed to have a better handle on them than a lot of the regular writers have over the years. Plus the idea of Peter wimping out like he was 16 again to open the book was brilliant, as he has to re-win redemption for his inaction, just like in the Lee-Ditko-Romita stories of long ago. My thoughts in full on this one.

Eddie Campbell and and Dan Best's The Amazing Remarkable Monseuir Leotard has a quirky story of a carnie moving through the 19th and early 20th Century. That alone might have gotten it on to my favorite list, especially with the clever puns and asides.

But it makes my favorite list for Campbell's innovative use of the page, showing just what a comic book can do. Campbell uses almost every visual trick you can think of, from marginal scribblings to mock child art to dancing across a musical score.

Campbell's contributions to the genre that I've read have all been good. I reviewed this one here.

James Kochalka is perhaps best known for the daily diary strip he's been doing for eleven years now, but he also writes some fun comics. I tend to read a couple each year, and I could have chosen any of them, but I went with one most like what a new Kochalka reader might recognize.

Tiny Bubbles
reads like an extended version of the diary strip, as his wanderings morph in and out of reality and a fantastic world where robots can paint. Somehow, Kochalka makes this all seem normal. Curious? Here's my review.

It's so hard picking favorites, as I look at the roughly 200 or so books I read this past year and think about who I might also have included. Missing these lists doesn't mean you weren't a favorite. I took the first titles that came to mind on purpose (probably why it's slanted a bit towards things I read at the end of the year) and also refused to give anything a ranking on purpose. I read a lot of good books in 2009, and I can't wait to read more in 2010!