Monday, January 01, 2007

Best Comics of 2006.

2007 is now upon us, so I figure I'd better get on the ball and
make with the


Now, let me preface this as I always do...This is by no means a list which purports to be the absolute best of the past year. There are many, many fine comics and graphic novels that I've read volumes about on other comics blogs- you know, the ones that get linked to by Dirk Deppey and Heidi MacDonald- that I simply have not read due to not being on a comp list and/or lack of funds and/or not knowing anybody that has a copy I could borrow. So this is a highly personal, idiosyncratic list which is by no means complete, but is the best I can do under the circumstances. I shall continue what has become my annual tradition, namely citing 10 best plus 2. Just because. And a whole metric ton of honorable mentions...because this has been a odd year for comics as far as I'm concerned- there was nothing which absolutely blew me out of the water, but there were a lot of solid successes, mostly in the ongoing and/or limited series categories. Rather than divide my nominations into graphic novels, limited series, ongoings, etc., creating sets and subsets and making this more of a chore than it needs to be, I'll just lump 'em all together and let God sort 'em out, m'kay?

So shut up, Dave, and make with the list!

7 SOLDIERS: FRANKENSTEIN by Grant Morrison and Doug Mahnke (DC)
I though the 7 Soldiers project, as a whole, collapsed under the weight of Morrison's hubris as well as behind-the-scenes troubles (cf. Mister Miracle, which was just an awful muddle and never really seemed to fit in to the big picture) devolving into incoherence before it was done. But this particular component was outstanding from start to finish; great, pulpish weird adventure and sci-fi, aided greatly by yet another killer art job by Mahnke. I, for one, would like to read further adventures of Grant's monster.

BATMAN: YEAR 100 by Paul Pope (DC)
More of Pope doing what Pope does best- smart action and adventure in a future primitive setting.

CRIMINAL by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips (Marvel/Icon)
After only three issues, it maybe premature to place this on the list...but this is a solid, well-crafted and always involving piece of work, just like we all thought it would be, and promises to be nothing but better as time goes by.

DESOLATION JONES by Warren Ellis,J.H. Williams III, and Daniel Zezelj. (Image)
I believe that 2006 was the Year of the Intarwub Jesus, as Ellis was giving us no less than four outstanding books. Jones, which should probably be subtitled Lifestyles of the Twisted and Damaged, was a potent blend of spy story, character-driven drama, and gallows humor, and didn't lose a step when Zezelj took over from Willams, despite the 180 degree difference in the two men's styles.

DR. STRANGE: THE OATH by Brian K. Vaughan and Marcos Martin. (Marvel)
What the hell-? Vaughan? In my top 10? Well, he's certainly earned it as this is the best take on the venerable Doctor since Steve Englehart pushed away from his typewriter for the last time in the 1970's- full of wit, action, and an intriguing storyline. Martin's slightly Caniff/Robbins-esque art, devoid of his usual inker Alvaro Lopez, is just as good by itself. Unless Vaughan botches the ending, this one's a keeper.

DORK! #11 by Evan Dorkin (Slave Labor)
Dorkin makes with the funny as only he can, throwing out the acid-tinged gags, puns, and satire at a rapid pace and hitting the target nearly every time. Tell me why, again, he can't get published in Mad? Oh, right- his stuff is actually funny.

JUSTICE LEAGUE UNLIMITED #'S 22, 38 by various
Yeah, yeah, I know. This is never going to take the place of Kramer's Ergot or Mome or insert-your-own-comics-blogosphere-critical-darling-here, nor does it probably even really belong in any serious discussion of a year-end best of...but I do know this: I got more pure reading enjoyment out of these two comics than I did practically anything else I read in 2006, hence their inclusion. Hell, I never claimed to be a "serious" comics critic, whatever that is, anyway.

NEIL GAIMAN'S NEVERWHERE by Neil Gaiman, Mike Carey, and Glenn Fabry. (DC)
I think this was on last year's list, too, at least the singles this is for the collection, which came out in 2006 and is well worth your while for Carey's outstanding adaptation of Gaiman's novel (I like Carey's dialogue better than Gaiman's, for what that's worth) and especially the intricate, superb art by Fabry. If only all adaptations of fantasy novels- or for that matter, other types of novels- could be this good.

NEXTWAVE: AGENTS OF H.A.T.E. by Ellis and Stuart Immonen. (Marvel)
Ellis takes a motley crew of b-list Marvel characters and improbably gives us the most amusing Marvel comic since Not Brand Echh, unsurprisingly namechecked in the last couple of issues, not to mention a sharp take on Grant Morrison's Doom Patrol vibe. Started strong, lagged a bit in the middle as it seemed uncertain where it wanted to go, but rebounded strongly to become one of Marvel's top 5 titles in my book. Unfortunately, it was bottom 5 in the real world sales wise, so it won't be with us long. Get the collections.

NORTHWEST PASSAGE #3 by Scott Chantler (Oni)
Another chapter of the outstanding historical adventure series, with Chantler's enjoyable art, which more often as not reminds me of Tintin's Herge. If ever there was a book deserving of a wider audience, this one is it.

S: Alan Moore; A: Chris Sprouse, Karl Story, Jose Villarubia.
An elegant, bittersweet epilogue to the whole America's Best Comics experiment, which was perhaps doomed to failure from the onset but stuck around long enough to deliver a lot of great reading. In this, the final issue of Strong, which never really recovered from Moore's departure as writer, we witnessed the events from the last issue of Promethea from the perspective of the Strong family and done by the original creative team with Moore returning for one last hurrah.

Honorable Mentions, aka Books/Ongoing Series I Also Enjoyed But Not Enough to Put in the Top 12, in no particular order except that in which I thought of them:

Scott Pilgrim and the Infinite Sadness (Oni); Seven Sons (AiT/PlanetLar); Agents of Atlas (Marvel); All-Star Superman (DC); Daughters of the Dragon (Marvel); Wimbledon Green: The World's Greatest Comic Collector (Drawn and Quarterly); Solo #'s 11,12 (DC); Polly and the Pirates (Oni); Hellboy: Makoma (Dark Horse); X-Statix Presents: Dead Girl (Marvel); Talent (Boom!); Superf*ckers (Top Shelf); Delphine (Fantagraphics); Fell (Image); The Winter Men (DC/Wildstorm); Meat Cake (Fantagraphics); Love & Rockets, Vol.2 (Fantagraphics); Death, Jr. Vol. 2(Image); Hawaiian Dick: The Last Resort (Image); Jack Staff (Image); Daredevil (Marvel); The Middle Man Vol. 2 (Viper); DMZ (DC/Vertigo); Planetary Brigade (Boom!); Hero Squared (Boom!); Uncle Sam and the Freedom Fighters (DC); Planetary (DC/Wildstorm); Gray Horses (Oni); Rock Bottom (AiT/PlanetLar); Lucifer (DC), The Leading Man (Oni); 100 Bullets (DC/Vertigo); Fables (DC/Vertigo); Bluesman Vol. 3 (NBM), Shaolin Cowboy (Burlyman Entertainment); Showcase Presents The Phantom Stranger/Unknown Soldier (DC), Ultimates 2 (Marvel).

Happy new year, everybody!

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