Our favorite comics of 2009
As you’ll see when you get to my section, it’s really a battle for me to narrow down my favorite comics of the year to just a few stand-outs. I do have to admit, though, that it’s been kind of fun over the last few days to revisit what came out over the past year, maybe pick some of them up again, and figure out what it was about the story or art or whatever that appealed to me when I first read it.
And the great thing about these kind of topics is that while I’ve been blogging with several of the folks here at Robot 6 for a number of years now, I always tend to find something surprising or that wasn’t even on my radar when I read their lists. For instance, I really need to check out this Pluto book.
So, without further ado, here are our favorite books of 2009, as detailed by several contributors to Robot 6. If we missed something good, please point it out in our comments section … I’ve still got a gift card to spend at Amazon.
In (mostly) alphabetical order…
Agents Of Atlas (written by Jeff Parker and illustrated by various artists) was sort-of canceled in 2009, but it will live on in various miniseries and backup features. In fact, the more I look at Marvel in 2010, the more I am convinced that AOA will be bigger than ever. This can’t help but be a good thing, because AOA in 2009 continued successfully to mix 21st-century world-weariness with jet-age optimism. Although steeped in Marvel history, you didn’t need Wikipedia to appreciate the characters, and the book’s bullpen of artists (including Carlo Pagulayan and Gabriel Hardman) gave it looks which were both distinctive and complementary.
Speaking of distinctive looks, June’s big Batman relaunch produced a couple of titles which stood out from virtually everything else on the superhero stands: Batman And Robin (written by Grant Morrison, drawn initially by Frank Quitely) and Detective Comics (written by Greg Rucka, drawn by J.H. Williams III and Cully Hamner). Under Morrison and Quitely, B&R set the tone for a next-gen, post-grit Dynamic Duo, where Batman was the happy warrior and Robin the tormented avenger. Quitely especially broke everything down into finely-choreographed sequences and sleek, effective designs. Meanwhile, Williams turned ’Tec’s “Batwoman” lead into a masterclass on storytelling styles, switching from one to another like a composer manipulating motifs. Moreover, Rucka’s scripts met the challenge of introducing a new Bat-headliner, with 2006’s fading hype adding a degree of difficulty. The “new” Batwoman has earned her spot in the starting lineup, and Rucka and Hamner’s solid “Question” co-feature makes DC’s namesake book one of its best.
Having waited for the first collection, I came to Madame Xanadu (written by Matt Wagner; drawn by Amy Reeder Hadley & Richard Friend, and by Michael W. Kaluta) relatively late, but I’m glad to be aboard now. It’s an energetic, almost spunky look at a character who has spent much of her existence in supporting roles, and who (we now learn) has been present at crucial points in DC’s fictional superhero history. However, such continuity porn is gravy, since the real attraction is the heroine Wagner and Hadley shaped over much of the book’s first year. Sure, her relationship with the Phantom Stranger is a bit melodramatic, and we know she’ll make it out of the Spanish Inquisition and the French Revolution mostly intact; but everyone involved clearly has fun crafting her adventures, and it shows.
Writer Gail Simone hits an exacta on my favorites-of-‘09 list with her two DC books, Secret Six (drawn mostly by Nicola Scott and Doug Hazlewood) and Wonder Woman (drawn mostly by Aaron Lopresti). Both put their heroes through the wringer this past year: the Six dealt first with the horrific Junior and then with enslaved Amazons, and Princess Diana lost her lasso, her title, and practically her whole heritage. Through it all, though, the books kept me coming back, S6 with gleeful amorality and WW with dogged determination. Both books were also blessed with amazing artists. I have been a big fan of Scott and Hazlewood since their Birds Of Prey days, and Lopresti brings appropriate levels of toughness and sensitivity to WW.
The “Superman Without Superman” experiment hasn’t been entirely successful, but I have enjoyed Superman: World Of New Krypton (written by Greg Rucka and James Robinson, drawn by Pete Woods with Ron Randall). It’s a good Superman story because it has let Superman have his full range of powers while still facing genuine challenges which don’t involve over-the-top ultraviolence. In other words, it’s let Superman be Superman without compromise, both ethically and heroically. Besides, Pete Woods has really done a bang-up job on the book.
Next up are two more Vertigo titles, Unknown Soldier (written by Joshua Dysart and drawn by Alberto Ponticelli and Patrice Masioni Makamba) and The Unwritten (written by Mike Carey and drawn by Peter Gross). I like Unknown Soldier for its unflinching looks both at modern tribal conflicts and how they are seen from the outside. It’s a rare ultraviolent book which justifies its ultraviolence, and for the most part it keeps me rooting for its protagonist. Likewise, I enjoy Unwritten’s intersection of fantasy and reality, and its examination into how each affects the other. In the end, though, both of them make me feel smarter afterwards, which is always nice.
Finally, I really enjoyed the experience of reading Wednesday Comics (written and drawn by various folks) every week throughout the late summer and early fall. I thought it succeeded both as a publishing experiment and as an artists’ showcase. Mainly, however, I just liked seeing Dave Gibbons and Ryan Sook’s exquisite “Kamandi” pages, Kyle Baker’s “Hawkman,” Paul Pope’s “Adam Strange,” and Karl Kerschl and Dave Fletcher’s “Flash.” Looking forward to the follow-up.
Finally finally, honorable mention goes to Trinity, the book with which I spent the most time in 2009. It was a commitment I felt I had to make, and it turned into one I’m glad I made. Those of you who read it did catch the reference to “Earth One” at the end, right…?
I hesitate to make any sort of best of list. I really started doubting if I should do one after Evan Dorkin’s recent rant on the December 23 episode of SLG Radio at Blog Talk Radio. Dan Vado (and frequent guest Dorkin) in a few short months have created one of my favorite comics-related podcasts. When you get around to the 9-minute mark of the 49-minute podcast, Dorkin says about best of lists: “It’s like remembering a great bowel movement–who cares? Why would I write that down? …One man’s junk is another man’s junk to make fun of…I don’t like Best of Lists, I’d much prefer everybody call them ‘My Favorite Comics’ or ‘What I Like the Most’. That’s just me. I mean ‘Best of’ what? Did these people read everything? It’s usually ‘Best of My Superhero Comics’ or ‘Best of My Art Comics’. They didn’t read everything.” That’s just a snippet of the Dorkin charm that pops up in almost every podcast. Sorry, Evan, you get mentioned twice in this year’s Tim O’Shea portion (just now and also in the actual list) of “Best of 2009″ list.
My list is not ranked, it’s merely a list.
Jason Aaron’s Ghost Rider
Landry Walker & Eric Jones on Batman: The Brave and the Bold
Mark Waid’s The Unknown (almost voted for Irredeemable, but I assume it’ll make other Best of lists)
Jeff Parker and Steve Lieber’s Underground
Roger Langridge’s The Muppet Show
Blazing Combat (Archie Goodwin, Alex Toth, Frank Frazetta, Wally Wood, John Severin, Al Williamson, Russ Heath, Reed Crandall, and Eugene [aka Gene] Colan) [reissue]
Matt Kindt’s 3 Story: The Secret History of the Giant Man
Evan Dorkin and Jill Thomspon’s Beasts of Burden
Jamie S. Rich and Joelle Jones’ You Have Killed Me
Detective Comics (as much for Greg Rucka and Cully Hamner’s The Question as well as the main Batwoman co-feature with JH Williams III)
Honorable mention: J Michael Straczynski’s Thor; Greg Rucka’s Stumptown; Fred Van Lente’s Incredible Hercules; Jeff Parker’s Agents of ATLAS; Dan Jurgen’s Booster Gold; Wednesday Comics; Gene Colan’s Captain America 601; Paul Cornell’s Captain Britain and MI13; Chris Giarrusso’s G-Man; Jonathan Hickman and Dale Eaglesham’s Fantastic Four; Jeff Lemire’s Sweet Tooth #1; Jonathan Hickman’s Secret Warriors.
10. Akira, Book 1 (Kodansha)
The only reason Akira gets this low on the list is that I feel like I’m cheating by including it at all. Kodansha’s version that was released this year looks and feels exactly the same as the previous edition from Dark Horse, but it’s Akira and it’s mind-blowing (in both art and story), so I can’t let it go without mentioning.
9. Chicken with Plums (Pantheon; paperback edition)
Another cheat, because the hardcover was released three years ago, but again… such a wonderful story. This one narrowly edges out the first volume of Akira because a) it’s a complete story and b) I was so pleasantly surprised by it. It starts off looking like a biographical tale of one of Marjane Satrapi’s relatives (and not a very nice relative at that), but turns into this amazing love story.
8 and 7. TIE: Cursed Pirate Girl #1-2 (Olympian) and Hunter’s Fortune #1 (BOOM!)
A couple of excellent adventure comics. These two are only this low on the list because I’ve only read the first parts of their stories. Once they’re completed and collected into bookshelf volumes – assuming that they finish as strongly as they’ve started – I’m sure they’ll be making my Best Of list for that year.
6. Samurai 7, Volume 1 (Del Rey Manga)
I’m always surprised when I genuinely like a new manga volume, but Samurai 7 pushed all the right buttons for me. It’s exciting, imaginative, and strikes the right balance between humor and the seriousness of the danger the heroes face.
5. Tumor (Archaia)
For me, crime stories are only as good as the characters. If I don’t care about the people involved, it makes no difference what shenanigans they get involved in. I cared about poor Frank Armstrong and wanted to see him protect the girl who reminded him so much of the wife he hadn’t been able to save.
4. Demons of Sherwood (IDW)
This is one of the best Robin Hood stories I’ve ever read and it got me excited about medieval adventure again. I want to see more from this creative team with these versions of the characters.
3. Anna Mercury, Volume 1: The Cutter (Avatar)
Not that I read a ton of science fiction, but this was the best science fiction book (either comics or prose) that I read all year. It’s got great speculative ideas, brilliantly presented, with fast-paced action and a charming, engaging heroine.
2. The Good Neighbors, Book Two: Kith (Graphix)
Holly Black and Ted Naifeh’s urban fantasy gets darker and more complex while retaining all of its magic and mystery. If the words “urban fantasy” normally turn you off, you should take a look at this anyway.
1. Mouse Guard: Winter 1152
I cover this book more thoroughly in this week’s Gorillas Riding Dinosaurs, but the short version is that it’s even better than the first volume. And frankly, I didn’t think that would be possible.
So myself, Sean, Brigid and several other Robot 6ers recently took part in CBR’s ongoing “Best comics of the year” list. It was fun, but the only (perhaps understandable) drawback was that we weren’t allowed to include collections of older or previously released material. That seems a shame to me as 2009 was one of the best years for rediscovering older material. To rectify that oversight then, I thought I’d use my allotted space to count down my 10 favorite reprints:
For far too long, Kurtzman’s post-Mad projects have languished in limbo, accessible only to collectors with serious pocket cash. That’s finally, finally starting to change now, most notably with the release of this excellent two-volume set of Kurtzman’s second magazine project, featuring great work by folks like Jack Davis and Arnold Roth, packaged with loving care and an eye towards history. Can’t wait for Dark Horse’s Trump collection in 2010.
Gahan Wilson: Fifty Years of Playboy Cartoons
Surely this must win some sort of year-end prize for lavishness alone. Three volumes, slipcased in a lovely set, containing every single gag cartoon the macabre master has ever done for the magazine that made him famous, as well as short stories, Just an excellent package of A+ material from a great cartoonist.
The Toon Treasury of Classic Children’s Comics
Editors Art Spiegelman and Francoise Mouly have really outdone themselves here, compiling an all-ages book that is filled with familiar faces as well as some new surprises. More importantly, it’s the perfect rainy day, introductory book for kids — the sort of thing children will pour over again and again, much as I did with the Smithsonian Comic Strip book back in the day.
The Collected Doug Wright
This is the sort of project that makes me so happy we live in a golden age of reprints. I can’t imagine Drawn and Quarterly attempting a project of this nature ten or even five years ago. Being introduced to Wright’s work was one of the highlights of 2009 for me.
Prince Valiant Vol. 1
Another highlight was discovering that Hal Foster’s knights in derring do strip wasn’t the dull slog I always thought it seemed like, but a lively, vibrant strip full of thrilling action and humor. I’m excited for vol. 2.
You Shall Die by Your Own Evil Creation
More Fletcher Hanks? Yes please.
Complete Jack Survives
I had only read one or two of Jack Moriarty’s strips before, so it was a pleasure to be reintroduced to his work and gain a deeper appreciation for his high/low art combination of comics and paintings and exploration of his father’s world and milieu.
Look, I love John Stanley. Unabashedly. I just get great pleasure out of reading his work. So when D&Q decided to put out all of his non-Lulu work in these handsome volumes, starting with one of his wackiest and most uproarious characters, well, my heart did a little happy dance. Although that might have been gas.
Complete Bloom County Vol. 1
Does a relatively modern strip like Bloom County really need such lavish treatment? Can we learn anything new from it? Turns out the answer to both questions is yes.
DC’s Jack Kirby hardcover reprints
OK, I’m cheating here a little (OK a lot) by lumping the Sandman, Demon, Omac, etc. collections here under one roof. Still, it’s to make a larger point, namely that for far too long, the King’s post 70s work languished in lackluster or nonexistent collections. It’s nothing short of fantastic that the man’s work is finally being given the treatment it deserves.
Other great collections: Sam’s Strip, The Art of Osamu Tezuka, Against Pain, The Upside-Down World of Gustave Verbeek, Strange Suspense.
1. Pluto, by Naoki Urasawa and Takashi Nagasaki, Viz. A masterful reworking of an old Astro Boy story, Pluto is ostensibly a story about fighting robots but really goes deeper to ask some fundamental questions about humanity. What makes it the best manga of the year, though, is Urasawa’s skill in inventing solid, interesting characters and putting them into motion.
2. 20th Century Boys, by Naoki Urasawa, Viz. The premise of this book is awesomely twisted—imagine if someone built a cult around your childhood games? That’s the situation faced by Kenji, who managed to turn 30 without attaining any of his youthful ambitions and then suddenly is the only person who can save the world—just like when he was a boy. Again, the plot is good but it’s the characters that really make this story sing.
3. Children of the Sea, by Daisuke Igarashi, Viz. An original spin on an old plot—a headstrong girl makes friends with two children who were raised in the sea, literally, and has to deal with the complications that ensue. Igarashi’s art is absolutely gorgeous, and he has an eye for the telling details that make each scene come to life.
4. Logicomix: An Epic Search for Truth, written by Apostolos Doxiadis and Christos H. Papadimitriou, illustrated by Alecos Papadatos and Annie Di Donna. Bloomsbury. The authors use the life of mathematician and philosopher Bertrand Russell to tell a larger story about the foundations of mathematical logic. They do a masterful job of combining the human interest of the characters and explaining the mathematical issues they are discussing. Not just for nerds!
5. Astral Project, written by marginal, illustrated by Syuji Takeya. CMX Manga. The first volume of this came out in late 2008 and three more were published this year. This is a surrealistic supernatural story that wraps together a mystery, a touch of philosophy, and some serious mind games. Readable and intelligent, although the art is a bit uneven.
6. Knights of the Lunch Table: The Dragon Players, by Frank Cammuso. Scholastic. Frank Cammuso obviously remembers what it’s like to be in middle school, and this tale of friends facing up to bullies in a high-stakes robot competition is packed with slapstick wit, and a kids-eye view that makes the whole thing work.
7. Skin Horse, by Shaenon K. Garrity and Jeffrey C. Wells. Couscous Collective. This book is self-published and a bit rough around the edges, but I couldn’t put it down, except a few times when I nearly suffocated from laughing so hard. It’s the story of a government agency tasked with providing social services to creatures that have human intelligence, from mushrooms to killer robots to some sort of crystals. It’s crazy and chaotic and side-splittingly funny.
8. Yotsuba&! by Kiyohiko Azuma. Yen Press. I feel like such a cliché including this book, because everyone loves Yotsuba&!, but I confess that I do too. While I enjoy Yotsuba’s antics and the gentle humor of the other characters, I also really appreciated Azuma’s art in this volume; he has a knack for putting you into the scene, whether it’s a cluttered interior or a sweeping landscape.
9. A Family Secret, by Eric Heuvel. FSG. The Anne Frank House sponsored this book, which tells the story of a family in Holland during the Nazi occupation. It’s a bit educational in places, but it’s interesting to American readers because it examines the events from the Dutch point of view. Even better, the different family members react in very human, rather than impossibly noble, ways to the challenges they face. Everyone should read this book.
10. Whatever Happened to the World of Tomorrow? by Brian Fies. Abrams. This is a flawed masterpiece, but a masterpiece nonetheless. Fies looks at changing attitudes toward science through the eyes of a boy and his father as they live through World War II, the Cold War, and the space age, and he intersperses this narrative with a fictional comic reflecting each era. A bit talky but interesting and beautifully produced.
Sean T. Collins
1. Pim & Francie: The Golden Bear Days (Al Columbia, Fantagraphics)
2. Driven by Lemons (Joshua W. Cotter, AdHouse)
3. Cockbone (Josh Simmons, self-published)
4. Final Crisis (Grant Morrison, Doug Mahnke et al, DC)
5. Big Questions (Anders Nilsen, Drawn & Quarterly)
6. Boy’s Club (Matt Furie, Buenaventura)
7. Multiforce (Mat Brinkman, PictureBox)
8. Asterios Polyp (David Mazzucchelli, Pantheon)
9. B.P.R.D. and related titles (Mike Mignola, John Arcudi, Guy Davis et al, Dark Horse)
10. Night Business & Gangsta Rap Posse (Benjamin Marra, American Tradition)
11. West Coast Blues (Jacques Tardi & Jean-Patrick Manchette, Fantagraphics)
12. Pluto (Naoki Urasawa et al, Viz)
13. Ganges (Kevin Huizenga, Coconino/Fantagraphics)
14. Tales Designed to Thrizzle (Michael Kupperman, Fantagraphics)
15. Batman & Robin (Grant Morrison & Frank Quitely, DC)
16. You Are There (Jean-Claude Forest & Jacques Tardi, Fantagraphics)
17. The Squirrel Machine (Hans Rickheit, Fantagraphics)
18. Funny Misshapen Body (Jeffrey Brown, Hyperion)
19. Invincible Iron Man (Matt Fraction & Salvador Larroca, Marvel)
20. Cold Heat & Cold Heat Special (Frank Santoro, BJ et al, PictureBox)/Scott Pilgrim Vol. 5: Scott Pilgrim vs. the Universe (Bryan Lee O’Malley, Oni)
21. Invincible (Robert Kirkman, Ryan Ottley, and Cory Walker, Image)
22. Red Riding Hood Redux (Nora Krug, Bries)
23. Prison Pit (Johnny Ryan, Fantagraphics)
24. Reykjavik (Henrik Rehr, Fahrenheit)
25. Captain America & Captain America Reborn (Ed Brubaker et al, Marvel)
20th Century Boys and Pluto: Urasawa x Tezuka, by Naoki Urasawa
These two series aren’t just among my favorite comics of the year, but my favorite comics period. Both are wonderfully crafted, utterly engrossing science fiction-mysteries that I heartily recommend to the dismissive “I don’t read manga” crowd (if Urasawa can’t convert them, no one will).
The Battle of Dovecote Crest, by Hailey Bachrach and Bridget Underwood
Brigid Alverson recommended this slice-of-life/romance/comedy a while back, and I’m so glad she did. I read a year’s worth of the “Civil War reenactment webcomic” in one sitting, and eagerly await each update (Tuesdays and Thursdays, with “extras” on Saturdays). Don’t be thrown by the “Civil War reenactment” tagline, though; this isn’t some dry piece of historical fiction: It’s a fun, funny, occasionally touching and always beautifully illustrated comic about a group of reenactors who work at the site of the fictional Battle of Dovecote Crest in Arkansas.
Captain Britain and MI-13, by Paul Cornell, Leonard Kirk and others
Series that launch out of big “event” comics are a crapshoot, to say the least. For every Justice League International there’s a New Guardians, for every Incredible Hercules there’s an Omega Flight. So after a few failed attempts by Marvel to recapture the magic of Excalibur (and Captain Britain), Captain Britain and MI-13 came as a bit of a surprise. Spinning out of 2008’s Secret Invasion, the title started out a little shaky, as writer Paul Cornell seemed to be in a rush to get all of the pieces in place. But by the third, and alas final, arc, “Vampire State” — Dracula launches a vampire invasion of Britain from the moon! — the comic had begun to fire on all cylinders.
The Marquis: Inferno, by Guy Davis
I concede this may be a cheat, as this is a new collection of Guy Davis’ historical horror-action comic that dates back to 1997, but I don’t care. Davis’ acclaimed tales of Vol de Galle — a former Inquisitor turned dark avenger who’s either a destroyer of demons or a delusional serial killer — are beautiful, disturbing, complex and difficult to put down.
The Winter Men, by Brett Lewis and John Paul Leon
Another cheat? Perhaps. But the delay-plagued miniseries about the post-Cold War fallout from a Soviet superhuman program didn’t end its six-issue, four-year run until January (a trade paperback was released in November). It’s as good as all of the smart people say it is. I’d go so far as to say it’s worth the wait (although the concluding Winter Special, strangely enough, felt rushed). It’s a dense story with an intricate plot, incredible dialogue — “What Deadwood is to American Western speech, Winter Men is to transliterated Russian conversation,” Warren Ellis once wrote — and perhaps the best art of John Paul Leon’s career. I wish more comics, superhero or otherwise, were this good.
Asterios Polyp: David Mazzucchelli’s smart and intrinsically layered graphic novel is a triumph in form, structure, plot and layout. There’s not a single detail, word or pencil stroke in this book that doesn’t feel like it has a million lines worth of explanation or symbolism behind it. And what’s even better, on the surface it’s simply a wonderful story.
Batman and Robin: Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely masterfully redefine the caped crusader and his boy companion in this breezy, kinetic romp through a Gotham City filled with mystery, adventure and new villains that stick with you after the cover is closed.
Beast: Marian Churchland reimagines the Beauty and the Beast tale in a story that is both understated and rich.
The Boys: I’m not always sure what to expect in each issue of The Boys, and I mean that in a good, yet sometimes frightened, way. But the over-the-top book also never misses the opportunity for an emotional punch to the gut, either … Garth Ennis and Darick Robertson don’t just make you gasp, they also make you care.
Chew: John Layman and Rob Guillory weave a somewhat disturbing but very fun tale about a guy who gets psychic impressions from anything he eats. It’s made me think twice about what I put into my own mouth.
Driven by Lemons: Joshua Cotter’s latest project falls somewhere between experimental art and a published sketchbook … and features some of this year’s best and most unique comic book visuals.
Fantastic Four: Jonathan Hickman and Dale Eaglesham have turned Marvel’s first family back into my favorite comic coming out of the House of Ideas by taking huge interdimensional adventures and grounding them with some of the best characterization the team has seen in awhile.
Far Arden: Kevin Cannon’s story about the search for a mythical land starts off as a zany fun adventure comic, and at some point morphs into something a bit more serious. And somehow, it works really well. It’s actually kind of shocking how well it works, too, and how much emotional investment you realize you have in the characters when you hit those last few pages and wish there was more.
Ganges #3: Kevin Huizenga takes an everyday situation — the agony of not being able to sleep — and turns it into a brilliant, insightful comic with his inventive layouts and dead-on emotion. I’ll never look at insomnia the same way again.
Guardians of the Galaxy/Nova: Technically I guess there isn’t much crossover between these two books, except when there’s a crossover, of course … but Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning write both, and both are set in outer space, so, there’s that. And the fact that both are a hell of a lot of fun to read.
Invincible Iron Man: Tony Stark’s fall from grace after the Secret Invasion has been gripping, must-see entertainment over the past 12 months, as Matt Fraction took Stark from king of the world to near-invalid in an effort to protect the superhero community from Norman Osborn. Sometimes it’s a guilty pleasure to watch someone break something, just so they can put it back together.
I Rule the Night: Kevin Colden follows up the marvelous Fishtown with another dark and slightly twisted tale, this time about superheroes for DC’s Zuda site. I hope it starts up again soon.
Jonah Hex: Although the book has been blessed with some really exceptional artists during its tenure, the real draw for me is the writing team of Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray, who deserve huge props for giving all these great artists something really cool to draw. I tip my hat to you guys.
The Muppet Show: Roger Langridge + the Muppets = pure genius on someone’s part. Mostly Roger’s, as he somehow captures on the printed page everything that made the TV show so much fun.
North World: Another webcomic, though I didn’t discover this one until Oni collected it, so that’s how I’ve been reading the it. It’s a fun story with a great cast of characters who you can’t help but root for.
Parker The Hunter: Darwyn Cooke’s beautiful labor of love to writer Richard Stark and his best-known character, Parker, is the kind of book I found myself giving again and again to friends and family who love the crime genre.
Pinocchio Vampire Slayer: Van Jensen and Dustin Higgins take a simple yet brilliant concept and turn it into a book with a lot of heart.
Planetary #27: The eagerly and long-awaited finale to Warren Ellis and John Cassaday’s trek through the secret history of the Wildstorm universe — or, more accurately, the history of the superhero genre and maybe even stories in general — did not fail to impress.
Scott Pilgrim Vol. 5: Scott Pilgrim vs. the Universe: I don’t know what I can say about Scott Pilgrim that Chris and Tom haven’t already said, except that the latest volume lived up to, and maybe even outshined, its predecessors, and I’m really looking forward to the next one.
Unknown Soldier/The Unwritten: I know this is a cop out, but what Tom said, up above.
Usagi Yojimbo: For 25 years, Stan Sakai has consistently entertained me with the tale of the ronin rabbit. Here’s to 25 more.
Wednesday Comics: If you told me I would be putting a comic on my list more so for the format than the content, I’d say you were crazy. And considering how good many of the strips that ran through DC’s weekly newspaper experiment were, that’s saying a lot. Kudos to DC for reinventing the newspaper comics section and creating such a fun project.
Weird Fishes: The word that keeps jumping into my head when I try to describe Jamaica Dyer’s weird and wonderful webcomic is kinetic … there’s a lot of energy in the strip that runs from the playfulness between the characters to the somewhat chaotic yet beautiful watercolors she uses to tell her story.
Yon Kuma: If there’s a better webcomic about a bear-wrestling kid out there, well … point me to it. Yon Kuma wrapped up earlier this week, and I miss it already.
And to steal a page from Chris, there were several things I read as collections this year that may not have originated in 2009, but I thought were worth mentioning: Omega the Unknown by Jonathan Lethem and Farel Dalrymple; the two Zuda trades that hit this year, High Moon and Bayou; Jeff Lemire’s the Complete Essex County; Fred Chao’s Johnny Hiro; and something that isn’t quite a trade but is a reprint, Brandon Graham’s King City, which I read before from Tokyopop but I’ve been happy to read again from Image. I also wanted to call out some anthologies that I thought were well done; given that by their very nature, an anthology is going to have both strong and weak stories, I thought Strange Tales, Act-i-vate Primer and this year’s Bart Simpson Treehouse of Horror had more positives than negatives.
I could keep going, as I haven’t mentioned Incredible Hercules, or Captain Britain, or Killer of Demons, or Secret Six, or Umbrella Academy: Dallas, or Northlanders, or Ace-Face, or Stumptown, or Irredeemable, or… well, let’s just say I thought it was a great year for comics. And I’m looking forward to another one.