There was a lot I liked in comics in 2010 (the “worst” will come later) and I’ll be discussing some of my favorites on today’s “3 Chick’s Review Comics” podcast. We are each giving a pick from a list Kelly developed so some of my picks are not on the podcast. My list, as you might think, is heavily weighted towards DC. There are some categories such as best and worst for women that are on the podcast but not here, so please give it a listen.
Stanley “Artgerm” Lau for Batgirl #12
You don’t see often see a woman who looks like she just won a fight with most of her clothes intact on the cover of comic. I like this cover because it shows a confident, happy Stephanie Brown on the cover the book’s first year anniversary. Lau’s cover communicates a lot of the book’s charms.
Best Ongoing Series
Secret Six by Gail Simone and Jim Calafiore
This was a tough decision. How could I choose just one series out of all the comic series I read and enjoyed this year? But as I went through my pull list I realized there was one book I always read first no matter what else came out that week. And one book that constantly surprised, shocked and delighted me. That book is and was Secret Six by Gail Simone. I think it’s a tribute to the strong foundation that Simone has created with this book that it was able to have three done-in-ones, tie into two crossovers and have three issues written with or by another writer this year and it never missed a beat.
Simone has created her own little corner of the DCU. It’s dark, naughty at times, and very violent but it contains some of the strongest character writing in comics. But it is also very funny filled with character humor and crazy lines like “Arthur Curry’s fish sack” as an expletive or anything that comes out of Ragdoll’s mouth. While all of the characters were written well this year, it was Catman who ended up with the most searing story and the year’s best arc, “Cats in the Cradle”, which was both nerve wracking and horribly violent. Thomas Blake’s son has been kidnapped. By the end people are dead or worse and Thomas is responsible for many of those deaths. And yet you won’t hate him by the end. After all, he’s this book’s hero.
Simone also shined on a one-shot that had the Six, for no clear reason, in a spaghetti Western. As I said, the book is always surprising. And I could on and on about what else is great. The relationship of Bane and Scandal. Ragdoll. Amanda Waller being incredibly bad ass. And a line-up that is one of the most diverse in comics.
Jim Calafiore’s art is solid throughout and splendid on full page splashes. I still miss Nicola Scott’s character work on the book, though.
A few weeks ago I was on the podcast “Awesomed by Comics” and we chatted about why this book wasn’t a bigger seller or got more buzz. That it’s not a Batbook is certainly one. The humor, which is dark and absurdest, was another. That these are not traditional heroes is certainly another. But if you like good comics and you’re not reading Secret Six you’re not only missing out on the best team book DC has but one of the most original and entertaining monthly comics being published.
Batman & Robin by Grant Morrison, Frank Quitely, Cameron Stewart, Andy Clarke and Frazer Irving
Best Single Issue
Batman Inc. #1 by Grant Morrison and Yanick Paquette
My love of comics always traces back to Batman. While my favorite Bat will always be a Batgirl, Batman is the center of the comic verse for me. A lot of my love for Batman is derived from both the 1960s TV show. And while that show is campy Silver Age nonsense, it was fun for me to watch and made me love superheroes. I still like fun comics. I want Batman to be awesomely swinging through the air beating the shit out of bad guys. I want him to be the world’s greatest detective. I want him to be a little more human and not so much “Bat-God”. No offense to Dick Grayson, but Bruce Wayne is and always will be my Batman. And, to add to the list, I want my Batman with Catwoman. For better or worse, they are one of my two favorite comic books couples* and I like to see them together. For the past few years, one writer has had a hold on Batman, Grant Morrison. And while the Batman comics that he wrote over the last three years could be dazzling and brilliant, sometimes I just wanted to sit down and read a Batman comic without running off to Wikipedia or reading David Uzumeri’s brilliant footnotes. And I wanted my Batman back.
This issue gave me back the Bruce Wayne as Batman I love. And shockingly the man who gave it to me was Grant Morrison. Not only did I get a globe-trotting, Bat-line swinging Batman, I got him in sexy, snarky pair-up with Catwoman who was written as smart and capable as she’s been in a while. And I got a final splash page that homaged the Batman TV show. Each time I read this comic (and I’ve read it many times), I like it more and more. I’ve grumbled about Grant Morrison and Batman many times this year. But this issue, and the follow-up issue, made up for it.
* Babs and Dinah, of course.
Batman & Robin #13 (DC Comics)
Batgirl #14 (DC Comics)
Heroes for Hire #1 (Marvel Comics)
Best NEW Ongoing Series
Stumptown by Greg Rucka and Matthew Southworth (Oni Comics)
Yes, it’s another Rucka woman, but Dex Parios is like his other heroines in only that she’s believable. The story? It’s a mystery. I don’t want to give to much away but Dex is a PI investigating a missing persons case. I’ve told others it’s kind of like Chinatown if Chinatown was set in Portland and Nicholson was a tough chick. The first trade will be out soon and Rucka and artist Matt Southworth are already at work on a follow-up.
Honey West by Trina Robbins and Cynthia Martin (Moonstone)
Time Bomb by Jimmy Palmiotti, Justin Gray and Paul Gulacy. (Radical Comics)
This is the closest you’ll get to an old fashioned, big screen adventure movie. Scientists and spies are sent to the past to save the world! Nazi’s! Sex! Secret underground city! Deadly Virus! It’s nail biting fun.
Hawkeye and Mockingbird by Jim McCann and David Lopez (Marvel Comics)
Best Original Graphic Novel:
The Return of the Dapper Men by Jim McCann and Janet Lee (Archaia)
A beautifully drawn, fantasy tale that both adults and kids can appreciate about change. The art is breathtaking and McCann’s prose is simplistic enough for kids to take at face value while giving adults a little bit more. This book reminded me of the books from Roald Dahl I read as a kid. It’s that good.
Best YA Original Graphic Novel
Smile by Raina Telgemeir
An 11 year old girl loses her front teeth in an freak accident. If you were ever an 11 year old girl or have known a girl that age you can imagine the black hole of awfulness this would be. Eleven and twelve are hard ages. Everything — your body, school, friends, the perceived intelligence of your parents, your interest in sex, your hormone levels — changes and Telgemeir captures it all perfectly. Her art is cute but not coy and offers both realism and the ability to communicate the exaggerated feelings and reactions which are so a part of being this age. I volunteer with a group of girls in this age group and they read it for a project on sequential art. They loved it.
Best YA Trade
Batgirl Rising, by Bryan Miller and Lee Garbett
Haven’t I said enough about this book this past year? I’ll just add that the girls also loved this as well.
Kate Beaton, Hark, a Vagrant
Do I really need to talk about how great Kate Beaton is? This year she took on my favorite novel, “The Great Gatsby”. For 24 hours after I read her strip, I repeated to anyone who would listen to me the line “old as balls.” Still will, when given the chance.
Best Short Story
Rogue gets in Trouble by Kate Beaton from Strange Tales II
More Beaton, because she is just so good.
Best Trade Collection
Batwoman Elegy by Greg Rucka and J.H. Williams III
Sometimes I flip through the book and don’t bother to read the words, I just devour the art. But then I read it again. And again.