Whether published as comic books, graphic novels, manga, web comics, digital comics, or some other form of sequential art, comics published this year continues a fantastic renaissance in the art form that brings more creativity and innovation. Barely able to contain their excitement, several outlets have already released their lists for the year’s best. And since we’re now knee deep in the holiday shopping season, let’s see what has won the attention of critics and reviewers in 2011.
I’ll add to the list as more are released. Check out the artists own webpages and check out the publisher links for more info on each book. Select quotes are taken from the site/publication, visit each for more.
First, here are some Black Friday shopping guides that are still worth consulting and will no doubt influence those site’s final Best Of lists:
Also of note is the Washington Post’s Comic Riffs blog sending out an open call for nominations for this year’s Best Webcomics. Let me know if I’ve missed a Best Of list worth reading. OK, on with the lists!
Amazon.ca – Best Books of 2011: Comics & Graphic Novels (published November 28, 2011) [mostly the same as Amazon.com’s list below except for 4 items]
Host of NPR’s On the Media, Gladstone uses a cartoon persona to take the reader on a thoughtful and entertaining excursion through the history of the media from ancient Rome to the rise of digital technology.
“Habibi, Craig Thompson’s intricate and moving fairy tale about familial and romantic love, one’s relationship to their environment, the shared roots of Christianity and Islam, and the effects of industrial modernization, tops our list of the best Comics & Graphic Novels of 2011.”
Today we’re taking a look at the nominees for the Best Limited Series category. This is a comic book series that, similar to a TV mini-series, runs for a set duration, usually around 4 to 8 issues.
The 2011 Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards released their nominees for excellence in comic books for the previous year recently. A panel of 6 judges made up of professionals throughout the industry selected the nominees. People throughout the industry will now begin voting on the nominees. Winners will be announced at the award show put on at this summer’s huge Comic-Con International convention in San Diego. The Eisners are basically the comic book equivalent of the film industry’s Academy Awards, TV’s Emmy Awards, music’s Grammy Awards, and theater’s Tony Awards, so it deserves a closer look.
I’m breaking down the nominees in each category, providing context and background info, and giving links to Amazon and other sites so you can buy your own copy, if possible. I can’t read everything, so lots of this stuff passed by me or is on my way-too-high to-read pile, so I’m going to avoid saying what “should” win. (I’m also pretty bad at predicting award show winners, so I’m not going to bother embarrassing myself.) Please feel free to post your predictions, preferences, opinions, or questions.
Never read a graphic novel before? Haven’t read a comic book in years?
Here’s some brand new stuff that came out the week of December 9 that I think is worth a look-see for someone with little to no history with comics. That means you should be able to pick any of these up cold without having read anything else. So take a look and see if something doesn’t grab your fancy. If so, follow the publisher links or Amazon.com links to buy yourself a copy. Or, head to your local friendly comic book shop.
Disclaimer: For the most part, I have not read these yet, so I can’t vouch for their quality. But, from what I’ve heard and seen, odds are good they just might appeal to you.
Crossing the Empty Quarter and Other Stories – $24.95
By Carol Swain
200 pages; published by Dark Horse Comics; available at Amazon.com
Collecting over thirty short stories by London-based writer/artist Carol Swain, Crossing the Empty Quarter and Other Stories is Swain’s first career-spanning retrospective! The “graphic lit” love children of Gabriel García Márquez and Raymond Carver, Swain’s comics first appeared in the late 1980s, and she has since contributed to over twenty anthologies across the globe. Her introspective, boldly executed, and visually unique works are peppered with magical realism, autobiography, and tenacious punk attitudes. While Swain’s tales cover a wide range of emotions, politics, and societal ills, they are all tied together with an art style that is universally appealing and undeniably unique. Two brand-new color stories, created for this hardcover volume, are featured in a special color section. Alan Moore describes Carol Swain’s work as “dark and full of life, like soil . . . a perfect example of what modern comics are capable of if they only try.”
* “Carol Swain has one of the most unique and compelling styles in comics.” –Time
* “The Raymond Carver of British comics.” –Time Out
That cover might look placid, but don’t think this work doesn’t have any punch. Here’s a preview of remembering a disturbing dream of endless pregnancy.
Daytripper #1 – $2.99
By Gabriel Bá & Fábio Moon
32 pages; published by DC Comics’ Vertigo
They were two of Entertainment Weekly‘s Top 100 stars to watch. They’ve won multiple Eisners and have worked with the top names of comics and pop culture from Joss Whedon (Sugar Shock) and Mike Mignola (BPRD: 1947) to Gerard Way (Umbrella Academy) and Matt Fraction (Casanova).
Now, Brazilian wonder twins Fábio Moon and Gabriel Bá are back writing and drawing in a hauntingly lyrical series set in their native Brazil. With DAYTRIPPER, they follow in the tradition of Craig Thompson, Paul Pope and David Mazzucchelli – cartoonists at the top of their game making comics about the quiet moments that ask big questions.
Brás de Oliva Domingos is an obituary writer with a famous father, a career he hates, and tons of questions. How does a person become a successful writer? How does a man get out of his father’s shadow? But those concerns will dwarf the surprise he’ll find in the first issue – a twist both he and readers will never see coming, which will grow into a mystery about the meaning of life itself.
I love that cover. Such cool imagery. And that’s just the beginning. Here’s a preview to soak in.
I Hate Gallant Girl – $12.99
By Jim Valentino, Kristen Simon, Kat Cahill & Seth Damoose
104 pages; published by Image Comics; available at Amazon.com
Renée Tempête might just be the most talented super-hero of her generation. But when a buxom blonde with no actual super-powers wins the coveted title of Gallant Girl over her, Renée must learn what it takes to be a real hero rather than a bitter wannabe.
The Return of King Doug – $14.95
By Greg Erb, Jason Oremland & Wook-Jin Clark
184 pages; published by Oni Press; available at Amazon.com
Twenty-five years ago the Kingdom of Valdonia was under siege by an army of darkness. The magical forces of good only had one hope — a chosen one destined to lead them to victory.
Douglas Peterson was that hero.
Only he wasn’t. He was an 8-year-old boy from Earth scared out of his mind! The frightened boy turned tail and skedaddled, hoping to never see his childhood wonderland again. Now as an adult, Doug is about to learn that his adventure in Valdonia was only beginning and that there are some things you can never run away from.
On April Fools Day 2008, The Hollywood Reporter announced that Ben Stiller’s production company and DreamWorks were going to produce a movie adaptation of this graphic novel. The weird part was that this graphic novel didn’t seem to exist. No one had ever heard of the thing. It turns out it did exist, it just hadn’t been released yet. And now it has just in time for holiday shopping. The Amazon.com link above has a 6-page preview.
Finally, the acclaimed series from Don Lomax, nominated for a Harvey Award, will be presented in a series of graphic novels collecting the entire series. Vietnam Journal is a look at the Vietnam War through the eyes of a war journalist as it chronicles the lives and events of soldiers on the front line during the Vietnam War. Picked by Entertainment Weekly as “a graphic novel you should own” and recommended by the Military History Book Club, Vietnam Journal is written and drawn by Don Lomax, a Vietnam War veteran.
I know what you’re thinking. “Finally”? I’ve never even heard of this. Truthfully, neither had I. The original comic book series ran for 16 issues across 4 years starting in 1987. It was published by small press comics publisher Apple Comics, now mostly forgotten by modern readers. (It has no connection to Apple Computers or Apple Records.) There’s an 8-page preview at the publisher link above, along with a lot of enthusiastic reviews. Many people consider this among the best war comics ever made.
Never read a graphic novel before? Haven’t read a comic book in years?
Here’s some brand new stuff that came out the week of October 21 that I think is worth a look-see for someone with little to no history with comics. That means you should be able to pick any of these up cold without having read anything else. So take a look and see if something doesn’t grab your fancy. If so, follow the publisher links or Amazon.com links to buy yourself a copy. Or, head to your local friendly comic book shop.
Disclaimer: For the most part, I have not read these yet, so I can’t vouch for their quality. But, from what I’ve heard and seen, odds are good they just might appeal to you.
Dread & Superficiality: Woody Allen as Comic Strip – $35.00
By Stuart Hample
240 pages; published by Abrams ComicArts; available at Amazon.com
Woody Allen’s classic neurosis, humorous life philosophy, and complex relationships, are embodied in the classic comic strip “Inside Woody Allen,” syndicated daily by King Features from 1976 to 1984, illustrated by Stuart Hample. Dread & Superficiality: Woody Allen as Comic Strip is a compilation of 220 of the best of the comic’s comics, all reproduced from the original art, along with sketches, photographs, and development work.
An all-new preface by Hample provides a rare glimpse into the creation of this material, revealing a long-overlooked facet of Allen’s career that is smart and funny and as timeless as the man who has inspired a generation with his unique vision.
For all of those Woody Allen fans out there. I didn’t even know this comic strip existed until now. There are samples at both the publisher and Amazon links above, although the images aren’t really big enough to read, which is kind of lame.
Sugarshock – $3.50
By Joss Whedon & Fabio Moon
40 pages; published by Dark Horse Comics
Originally presented in the first online issues of MySpace Dark Horse Presents, for which it won the Eisner Award for Best Web Comic, Sugarshock tells the story of a rock band led by charismatic but crazy Dandelion Naizen, a hyperactive singer/songwriter possessed of a mean hatred of Vikings (don’t ask) and a mission for a secret government agency that may only exist in her head. But when her band, which includes a robot bass player, is enlisted in an intergalactic battle of the bands — emphasis on battle — Dandelion gets to prove herself as both singer and soldier.
This is Joss Whedon at his funniest and most hyperactive, with writing that bursts off the page in a way seldom seen in comics. Multiple Eisner Award winner Fábio Moon delivers the outrageous story with equal energy, as well as providing a fourteen-page look at his process, with never-before-seen character designs, page layouts, and promotional images.
Battlefields Volume One – $29.99
By Garth Ennis, Russ Braun, Peter Snejbjerg & Carlos Ezquerra
268 pages published by Dynamite Entertainment; available at Amazon.com
All three acclaimed Ennis Battlefields books in one massive hardcover collected edition!
BATTLEFIELDS: THE NIGHT WITCHES
By Garth Ennis, Russ Braun and Tony Avina!
Late summer, 1942. As the German army smashes deep into Soviet Russia and the defenders of the Motherland retreat in disarray, a new bomber squadron arrives at a Russian forward airbase. Its crews will fly flimsy wooden biplanes on lethal night missions over German lines, risking fiery death as they fling themselves against the invader- but for these pilots, the consequences of capture will be even worse. For the pilots of the 599th Night Bomber Regiment are women. In the deadly skies of the Eastern front, they will become a legend- known, to friend and foe alike, as the Night Witches.
BATTLEFIELDS: DEAR BILLY
By Garth Ennis, Peter Snejbjerg and Rob Steen!
1942: In the tropical splendour of the South China sea, as the Second World War spreads across the far east, a young woman finds herself in paradise… and then in hell. Nurse Carrie Sutton is caught up in the Japanese invasion of Singapore, suffering horrors beyond her wildest nightmares- and survives. Now she attempts to start her life anew, buoyed up by a growing friendship with a wounded pilot- only for fate to deliver up the last thing she ever expected. Carrie at last has a chance for revenge… but should she take it? In the midst of a world torn apart by war, you can fight and you can win- but you still might not get the things you truly want.
GARTH ENNIS’ BATTLEFIELDS: THE TANKIES #1
By Garth Ennis, Carlos Ezquerra and Tony Avina!
After D-Day came the battle for Normandy, when largely untried Allied soldiers met the seasoned veterans of the German army. As Panzer units and SS troops turn the French countryside into a killing ground, a lone British tank crew struggle to rejoin their squadron. Cut off behind enemy lines, their only hope lies in their fearsome commander, Corporal Stiles- but no one in the crew can stand him, and Stiles isn’t too fond of them either. And there are Tigers lurking in the undergrowth…
This massive 200+ Page Hardcover Edition also features bonus materials such as sketches and commentary from Ennis along with a complete cover gallery by series cover artists John Cassaday and Garry Leach! Recommended for Mature Readers.
Here’s some war comics for you. Yay war! Not really, but some compelling stories can come of it. Garth Ennis is a well-read writer who seems genetically hardwired for this genre. There’s a great big 12-page preview at the publisher’s link above.
Detectives Inc. – $24.99
By Don McGregor, Marshall Rogers & Gene Colan
160 pages; published by IDW Publishing; available at Amazon.com
Detectives Inc. is the groundbreaking story of two New York private detectives, Ted Denning and Bob Rainier. It is as provocative and relevant today as when it was first released nearly 30 years ago. Detectives Inc. was one of the first graphic novels to deal realistically with homosexuality, bisexuality, abortion, race relations, and domestic violence. Featuring stunning art by comic greats Marshall Rogers and Gene Colan.
This reprints two graphic novels, one from 1980 and one from 1985. To be honest, this is the first I recall hearing about them but they were historically significant early steps of comics reaching out to the book market in graphic novel form and reaching beyond the superhero genre in a mass market outlet. And it helps that it was, by most accounts, very well-done.
The Waiting Place: The Definitive Edition – $29.99
By Sean McKeever & Mike Norton
456 pages; published by IDW Publishing; available at Amazon.com
Collected for the first time in a single volume, this highly-acclaimed teen drama of spinning wheels and racing hearts helped make Eisner Award-winning writer Sean McKeever (Spider-Man Love Mary Jane, Teen Titans) and fan-favorite artist Mike Norton (Green Arrow/Black Canary, Runaways) into mainstream comic-book mainstays. This edition also includes a brand-new story by McKeever and Norton, making it a must-have for long-time fans and new readers alike.
These comics first came out in 1997, and have since won a lot of praise. There’s a good article/interview with McKeever that gives a 3-page preview of the new story right here.
Cowboy Ninja Viking #1 – $3.50
By A.J. Lieberman & Riley Rossmo
32 pages; published by Image Comics
It started with Dr. Sebastian Ghislain: rogue psychotherapist/covert op/DJ. Tasked with creating a counter-intelligence unit, he turned to those long thought useless to society… patients with Multiple Personality Disorder. These agents became known simply as Triplets. Misguided? Yeah. Impractical? Sure. But did it work? Absolutely not. Now someone has located each Triplet and created a band of ridiculously disturbed, but highly effective assassins. Our only hope? A Triplet known as Cowboy Ninja Viking!
OK enough of all of that somber realistic stuff. Here’s some weird action/adventure for you. 9-page preview right here. I think this actually came out the week before but it’s on my list, so you get to hear about it now.
Take a trip into the dark, surreal world of a little dead girl with a knack for (often) unintentional mayhem in this gothic classic, now remastered and colored up by creator Roman Dirge for the very first time!
Lenore might only be small, but her talent for mischief — and occasional wanton destruction — is anything but. Featuring stories about limbless cannibals, clock monsters, cursed vampire dolls, taxidermied friends, an obsessed would-be lover and more fuzzy animal mutilations than should be legal, never has the term ‘something for everyone’ seemed more sinister and bizarre.
A massive cult hit on both sides of the Atlantic, Lenore is one of the funniest, darkest, cutest, creepiest characters on the marketplace today, and this collector’s edition hardcover is a must.
If were doing these lists in a more timely fashion, you would’ve heard about this in time for Halloween. But I ruined everything. Still, this is worth checking out any time of the year.
Nautical and astronomical themes abound in this collection of five short tales: the long lost journals of famed explorer/adventurer Chance Oxblood; the most significant year in the life of the personified former-planet Pluto; strange happenings in the Black Forest; mermaid dreams and sacrificial rites to a Grendel; and the tribulations of a recovering alcoholic gone model-building novice.
I flipped through a friend’s copy of this and it looks fantastic, at times bizarre and crazy. In fact, here, you can take a look too.
Never read a graphic novel before? Haven’t read a comic book in years?
Here’s some brand new stuff coming out this week that I think is worth a look-see for someone with little to no history with comics. That means you should be able to pick any of these up cold without having read anything else. So take a look and see if something doesn’t grab your fancy. If so, follow the publisher links or Amazon.com links to buy yourself a copy. Or, head to your local friendly comic book shop.
Disclaimer: While it may seem like it, I do not live in the future. For the most part, I have not read these yet, so I can’t vouch for their quality. But, from what I’ve heard and seen, odds are good they just might appeal to you.
Pixu: The Mark of Evil – $17.95
By Gabriel Ba, Becky Cloonan, Vasilis Lolos & Fabio Moon
128 pages; published by Dark Horse Comics; available at Amazon.com
This gripping tale of urban horror follows the lives of five lonely tenants — strangers — whose lives become intertwined when they discover a dark mark scrawled on the walls of their building. The horror sprouts quite innocently from a small seed and finds life as something otherworldly, damaged, full of love, hate, fear, and power. As the walls come alive, everyone is slowly driven mad — defenseless against the evil in the building, stripped of free will, leaving only confusion, chaos, and eventual death.
Originally self-published as a two-volume book, this groundbreaking work receives a deluxe presentation in a hardcover edition with a sketchbook section.
* The 2008 Eisner Award-winning team for Best Anthology — Gabriel Bá (The Umbrella Academy), Becky Cloonan (American Virgin), Vasilis Lolos (The Last Call), and Fábio Moon (Sugarshock) — return with their latest collaboration, Pixu: The Mark of Evil.
“The story telling here is beautiful, creating a real sense of dread and supernatural menace. Smart, subtle and genuinely disturbing.” -Mike Mignola, creator of Hellboy
A very generous 17-page preview for you. I met Becky Cloonan last year during Comic-Con for my Barbie photo-blog. She’s already incredibly talented, so there’s really no need to be that cool. I wish someone would set her straight. Anyway, this a creepy thing filled with psychological horror.
AT LAST! “The webcomic to end all webcomics” has landed at Dark Horse, and we’re starting the collections at the beginning! Sinfest is one of the most-read and longest-running webcomics out there, and explores religion, advertising, sex, and politics in a way fleen.com calls “both brutally funny and devastatingly on-target.” In an era when most syndicated newspaper strips are watered down and uninspired, creator Tatsuya Ishida draws on influences ranging fromCalvin and Hobbes and Peanuts to manga and pop culture to bring us a breath of fresh air. If your comic-strip craving hasn’t been satisfied since the nineties, deliverance is finally at hand.
* The first volume of Sinfest collects the first six hundred Sinfest strips, introducing the full cast of characters and the opening installments of Ninja Theatre, beat poetry, calligraphy lessons, and the irresistible Pooch & Percival strips.
* Web traffic on Sinfest.net averages 1.7 million unique visitors per month and 300,000 page hits per day.
* “After seven years and counting, Tatsuya Ishida shows every indication of maturing into a cartoonist on the level of Bill Watterson and Walt Kelly.” –The Comics Journal, “50 Excellent Comics from 2007”
* “The best webcomic out there.” -comicsworthreading.com
* ” . . . Sinfest offers many laughs; it may be brutally funny, but it is dead honest and refreshing.” –Publisher’s Weekly
Running since January 17, 2000, the Sinfest webcomic launched and has been running daily ever since. That’s a pretty impressive run. You can go sample the entire run right there at Sinfest.net, so who cares how I describe it? Go check it out!
“Lemire handles the stuff of a Willa Cather novel with equal poetry . . . He renders emotion and temperment in a cartoon face with breathtaking, masterful economy.” — Booklist on The Essex County Trilogy
The tiny, isolated fishing village of Large Mouth never saw much excitement — until the arrival of the stranger, that is. Wrapped from head to toe in bandages and wearing weird goggles, he quietly took up residence in the sleepy town’s motel. Driven by curiosity, the townfolk quickly learn the tragic story of his past, and of the terrible accident that left him horribly disfigured. Eventually, the town embraces the stranger as one of their own — but do his bandages hide more than just scars?
Inspired by H.G. Wells’ The Invisible Man, THE NOBODY explores themes of identity, fear and paranoia in a small community from up-and-coming alternative comics creator and Xeric Award-winner Jeff Lemire (The Essex County Trilogy) in a special two-color story that’ll have you guessing until the very end.
I’m really wanting this. I could post a preview, but I’ll do y0u one better because you deserve it. Here’s a teaser trailer of The Nobody:
Somewhere in Midwestern America was a place called Conover County. When the old book was opened, and the runes therein used in haste and ignorance, a place of farms, simple folk, and small-town dreams became a den of monsters and nightmare. NORTH 40 is the story of those who survived and came to confront an even greater evil on the horizon – one that wouldn’t just consume their flesh, but their souls as well. Heroes arise with power to bring against the dark: Wyatt, an unwilling protector of his former tormentors; Amanda, an apprentice to forgotten arts; and Sheriff Morgan, whose bonds with Conover County go back farther than even he can remember. See where it started, and watch where it’s all going in NORTH 40 #1.
Created by Aaron Williams (PS238, The Nodwick Chronicles) and Fiona Staples (SECRET HISTORY OF THE AUTHORITY: HAWKSMOOR).
I like the visuals on the cover. Here’s a 3-page preview. Crazy horror monster attacks middle America.
Wednesday Comics #1 – $3.99
16 pages; published by DC Comics
In July, DC Comics gives a fresh twist to a grand comics tradition with WEDNESDAY COMICS, a new, weekly 12-issue series by some of the greatest names in comics today!
WEDNESDAY COMICS is unique in modern comics history: Reinventing the classic weekly newspaper comics section, it is a 16-page weekly that unfolds to a sprawling 28″ x 20″ tabloid-sized reading experience bursting with mind-blowing color, action and excitement, with each feature on its own 14″ x 20″ page.
Spearheaded by DCU Editorial Art Director Mark Chiarello, whose past editing credits include BATMAN BLACK and WHITE, DC: THE NEW FRONTIER and SOLO, each page of WEDNESDAY COMICS spotlights the continuing adventures of DC heroes, including:
• BATMAN, WEDNESDAY COMICS’ weekly cover feature, by the Eisner Award-winning 100 BULLETS team of writer Brian Azzarello and artist Eduardo Risso • ADAM STRANGE, by writer/artist Paul Pope (BATMAN: YEAR 100) • METAMORPHO, written by New York Times best-selling writer Neil Gaiman with Art by Eisner Award-winner Michael Allred (Madman) • THE DEMON AND CATWOMAN, written by Walter Simonson (Thor, MANHUNTER) with Art by famed DC cover artist Brian Stelfreeze • DEADMAN, written by Dave Bullock and Vinton Heuck, Art by Dave Bullock • KAMANDI, written by Dave Gibbons (WATCHMEN, GREEN LANTERN CORPS) with Art by Ryan Sook (Buffy The Vampire Slayer, ARKHAM ASYLUM: LIVING HELL) • SUPERMAN, written by John Arcudi (The Mask) with Art by Lee Bermejo (JOKER) • WONDER WOMAN, written and illustrated by Ben Caldwell (Dare Detectives) • GREEN LANTERN, written by Kurt Busiek (TRINITY, ASTRO CITY) with Art by Joe Quiñones (TEEN TITANS GO!) • TEEN TITANS, written by Eddie Berganza with Art by Sean Galloway • SUPERGIRL, written by Jimmy Palmiotti (JONAH HEX) with Art by Amanda Conner (POWER GIRL) • HAWKMAN, written and illustrated by Kyle Baker (PLASTIC MAN, Special Forces) • SGT. ROCK, written by Adam Kubert (SUPERMAN: LAST SON), ilustrated by legendary comics artist Joe Kubert • THE FLASH, written by Karl Kerschl (TEEN TITANS YEAR ONE, THE FLASH: THE FASTEST MAN ALIVE) and Brenden Fletcher, illustrated by Karl Kerschl • METAL MEN, written by Dan DiDio with Art by Ian Churchill (SUPERGIRL)
WEDNESDAY COMICS will arrive in stores folded twice to 7″ x 10″, with the first issue set to reach stores on July 8.
Another exciting release from DC Comics. In the early 1900’s, one comic strip would take up an entire page, instead of the compartmentalized square inches of today. Strips like Winsor McKay’s Little Nemo had an entire newspaper sheet to stretch out and experiment, still even larger than modern comic books. That expanded canvass returns here in a bit of an experimental format, which is always risky with habit-entrenched comic readers. Some huge talent has been brought in to work on these stories, all guaranteed to be completely accessible superhero adventures. Seriously, this is more like it. The only stumbling block is the price but hopefully you and others will be taken by the novelty of experiencing comics like this for the first time in decades. Heck, USA Today is excited by it, and if they like it…!
Everybody Is Stupid Except For Me and Other Astute Observations – $16.99
By Peter Bagge
112 pages; published by Fantagraphics Books; available at Amazon.com
Fans of Peter Bagge’s generation-defining, satirical fiction may not realize this, but the cartoonist doubles as an opinionated cuss, and has been contributing provocative (but still hilarious) comic-strip opinion pieces to Reason magazine for the last several years… finally collected in this volume.
Although a libertarian by inclination (hence the Reason gig), Bagge (who lives in the fuzzy-headed, liberal capital of the Northwest, Seattle) is hardly dogmatic, and many of the pieces undermine traditional party lines in favor of a rather personal, rational and informed take on hot-button issues that will force partisan Democrats and Republicans alike to rethink them. And of course, Bagge’s well-researched comic strip “essays” crackle with the same energy and wit that propelled him into the collective Gen X consciousness with his comic book series Hate.
Favorite topics include the erosion of our civil liberties (whether the post-9/11 Bush administration’s gradual erosion of the Bill of Rights, the insanity of the war on drugs, or nanny-state meddling), ongoing boondoggles of the American public (for professional sports stadiums or ineffective public transportation systems), the Iraq war (Bagge is vociferously against it), so-called art and so-called entertainment, the homeless, the mall-ification of America, politicians both in general and in particular (including the 2008 presidential race and a revelatory one-on-one with Republican not-so-hopeful Ron Paul that soured Bagge on the candidate forever), the conservative/religious war on sex and drugs, and whether citizens should be allowed to own bazookas. Each piece features the voluble Bagge himself front and center as the puzzled, indignant, or deeply conflicted everyman-on-the-street trying to make sense of this 21st Century.
And of course, every panel is delineated in Bagge’s glorious, laugh-out-loud stretchy 4-color cartoon style, making even his disquisitions on some very serious topics go down as smoothly as Buddy Bradley’s latest escapade.
“Like all good political cartoonists, Bagge can be cruel. But he’s also willing to skewer himself when he deserves it… as libertarian polemicists go, he’s a lot more fun than, say, Ayn Rand.” – The Washington Post
I don’t always agree with his position, but his exploration is always great. And hearing other opinions and positions (especially well-informed like his), is almost always worthwhile. I remember the Ron Paul incident, which even got a little bit of mainstream(-ish) press right in the middle of the Presidential debates. Here’s a 12-page preview.
New Warriors: Classic, Volume 1 – $24.99
By Fabian Nicieza & Mark Bagley
208 pages; published by Marvel Comics; available at Amazon.com
His parents dead, Dwayne Taylor — a.k.a. Night Thrasher — set out to create a new family for himself and ended up with the premier super-team of the 1990s! Marvel Boy and Firestar! Namorita and Nova! Speedball! All they want to do is change the world! Decide for yourself how well they managed it in their trials by fire against Terrax and the Juggernaut! Also featuring anti-heroes Star-Thief and Psionex! Guest-starring Thor and the Inhumans! Collecting NEW WARRIORS #1-6 and THOR #411-412.
Look, this is my website, and I’ll recommend whatever I want! OK, look I’m not immune to nostalgia. This is the first superhero comic I was seriously devoted to and it really opened up my love for comics. This isn’t the series at its peak, but here is where it all started. At 14 years old, I was thrilled by these stories, mostly because it was like a Saturday morning cartoon with the most personal and realistic characterization I had encountered up to that point. These were kids my age or a bit older with “real” problems like divorcing or abusive parents, awkward crushes, and a still-developing sense of self. And then they used their cool powers to go on fun adventures, so it wasn’t entirely consumed by teen angst. I was hooked. For years. Heck, I still am.
The triumphant return of one of comics’ greatest talents, with an engrossing story of one man’s search for love, meaning, sanity, and perfect architectural proportions. An epic story long awaited, and well worth the wait.
Meet Asterios Polyp: middle-aged, meagerly successful architect and teacher, aesthete and womanizer, whose life is wholly upended when his New York City apartment goes up in flames. In a tenacious daze, he leaves the city and relocates to a small town in the American heartland. But what is this “escape” really about?
As the story unfolds, moving between the present and the past, we begin to understand this confounding yet fascinating character, and how he’s gotten to where he is. And isn’t. And we meet Hana: a sweet, smart, first-generation Japanese American artist with whom he had made a blissful life. But now she’s gone. Did Asterios do something to drive her away? What has happened to her? Is she even alive? All the questions will be answered, eventually.
In the meantime, we are enthralled by Mazzucchelli’s extraordinarily imagined world of brilliantly conceived eccentrics, sharply observed social mores, and deftly depicted asides on everything from design theory to the nature of human perception. Asterios Polyp is David Mazzucchelli’s masterpiece: a great American graphic novel.
This is another huge release. Maybe the biggest one here (after New Warriors Classic of course). David Mazzucchelli is a great talent whose releases are criminally few and far between. Superhero fans know him from his collaboration with Frank Miller, Batman: Year One, but that doesn’t matter next to this.
This is a great week for comics. Almost something for everyone: horror, humor, heroes. Plenty to choose from! As it should be. Enjoy!