Sunday, December 27, 2009

2009: The Year in Review

Hillary Brown: Now that I look back on our posts from the past year, we missed a heck of a lot of stuff, and we really should have posted more often than we did. But we both have demanding jobs! What do you want from us, anyway? It's not like there are that many of you out there. You'll take what we have to give and like it. Preemptive hostility dispensed with. I was trying to make a list of my favorite comics of the year, and it turns out that it's really, really short, which suggests to me either that I'm missing some stuff (likely) or that I read fewer comics this year (equally so). That said, there are five I consider tops, and I wouldn't mind doing a quick rundown, in reverse order. My #5 is House of Mystery: Room and Boredoom, although I'm not positive it came out in 2009. Let's pretend it did. I'm a bit behind on the series, but it's been compelling enough to make me keep checking in, especially the art. It's all dark and sexy and weird and violent without getting too Dragoncon or, uh, too Neil Gaiman, from my minor knowledge of his work. And my #4 is Scott Pilgrim vs. the Universe, which I really should pick up again to refresh my memory on but I know I enjoyed tremendously and got all geekily hyped about the movie and so on and so forth. It was a darn good entry in the series. Chuck out a couple yourself, yo.

Garrett Martin: Damn, lemme think. Five? That shouldn't feel like as many as it does. Also I still haven't read Asterios Polyp, which might invalidate this list before I even start. My comic reading took a serious hit this year, y'see. I think you liked the new Scott Pilgrim more than I did, but it still sticks out in my head enough a year later to deserve some kinda slot, so #5 it is. It got kind of dark by the end, right? He and his friends all fractious and what-not? #4 might as well go to Greg Rucka and JH Williams III's Batwoman run on Detective Comics, which is as amazingly designed as you'd expect from Williams, and features one of Rucka's better superhero stories. Without Williams though this wouldn't make the cut. Okay, what's next?

HB: Okay. Note to self: check out Batwoman. It sounds interesting. I haven't read Asterios Polyp either, and it seems to be this year's Bottomless Bellybutton on lists around the interwebs, so that's a point in favor of "we suck." My next two are George Sprott (#3) and Tales Designed to Thrizzle (#2), which could easily swap places with one another, despite their completely different tone. It's like the year's saddest, most depressing comic and the year's funniest, lightest one, but they're both great and they're both extremely well designed. I bitched some about Seth when we talked about Sprott, but I think it holds up, and it's stayed with me pretty strongly, to the extent that I have a vivid memory of the actual reading experience (hanging out in the waiting room of a Tires Plus store, getting new tires for the car). Michael Kupperman's probably going to make this list any year he has a book come out.

GM: I wasn't even considering Thrizzle. Dammit. You're off the list, Pilgrim! Bump Batwoman down to #5 and, well, shit, just to make it easy put Thrizzle at #4, all you obsessed stat-collecting spreadsheet-keeping Shazhmmmm fans. Speaking of funny and light, here's Incredible Hercules at #3, which okay objectively is not better than Kupperman, but when has free online comic criticim ever been objective? Herc is better than all other superhero comics that came out in 2009, and frankly is about the only thing that gets me into the shop these days. It's not just hilarious, but a smart integration of myth, archetypal heroic storytelling, and awesomely retarded superhero bullshit. All the epic godly grandeur, improbable science, and fantastic sound effects are grounded by one of the more believable relationships in comics, the friendship of Hercules and Amadeus Cho. The book's heavy when it needs to be without ever being heavy-handed. It's everything great about superhero comics without any of the pandering "mature" crap that makes superhero comics more embarrassing than ever. It's already a classic, and would be even moreso if the art was more consistent, like Darwyn Cooke's work in Richard Stark's Parker: The Hunter (my #2, if you couldn't guess). It's hard to find fault with The Hunter; one of the best illustrators and storytellers in the biz working from a true classic of crime fiction. The monochrome coloring give Cooke's inherently mid-century style a noir-ish edge that works perfectly with the subject matter. Cooke makes a couple of potentially questionable changes to the story, but nothing that greatly damages the overall picture. It's an almost flawlessly executed piece of work, but it doesn't top my list because its appeal doesn't go beyond the craft on display. It doesn't have the emotional heft or impact of the last book on my list. Speaking of which - what's your number one? Red Hulk? Badass Avengers: Secret Crisis: The Dark Siege: Cry for Justice?

HB: Well, my guess is that yours is George Sprott. You should be able to guess mine!

GM: You are wise. Are you counting BodyWorld? Isn't that like some weird 2007/2010 release?

HB: Shut it! It still counts. Yeah. That's my number one with ease, and I wouldn't be surprised if anything else Dash Shaw puts out snags that spot year after year. I've only watched the first episode of his IFC web series "The Unclothed Man in the 35th Century," but he also has a great webcomic that goes along with it and an interesting five-pager on Vice's website. There's no question his work has flaws, but it also breathes with life and fire the way little else does. It's always fun as hell to read, and while a lot of its logic breaks down if you start trying to take it apart, you should really just go with it because it's interested in surprising, challenging, and entertaining you. Enthusiasm! I bet our readers could have guessed these picks too.

GM: Okay, these rules are busted. Nah, Sprott's from 2007 too, when it ran in the Times, or wherever, and it is indeed my favorite. Although at least the collection did come out in 2009. We covered it thoroughly elsewhere, and all that embarrassing weepy nonsense I oozed out still holds true. We are predictable and inflexible to the ravages of time, I guess.

HB: Eh, time is flexible. It's not like this list is going to stand forever on the Internet as a testament to our ignorance in 2009. Oh wait... damn it.

See y'all next year!

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