Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Favourite Graphic Novels of 2014, part 1

Part 1 is striking fear into your hearts, isn't it?

I've been thinking for ages that I should do a few Best of 2014 lists. The problem being that the way I listen to music makes it kind of hard for me to judge albums. I kind of throw them on my iPod, hit shuffle and away I go. It can be weeks, or months, before I hear all the songs. If I had to pick some favourites, in no particular order:
- First Aid Kit: Stay Gold
- Amelia Curan: They Promised You Mercy
- You + Me: Rose Ave.
- Gary Clark Jr: Live
- Ryan Adams: Ryan Adams
- Begin Again OST
- Lykke Li:  I Never Learn

And a few others. My favourite movies were simple. Top 3 - Snowpiercer, Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Guardians of the Galaxy.

Now my favourite graphic novels....that'll take a bit longer.

I went through my shelves. I have 16 series/books I would recommend. Which would make this an epic blog post. So instead I'll break it down into a few posts.

First, the honourable mentions:

1. Letter 44: Escape Velocity

Science fiction and government conspiracies are hardly new grounds to plough. But through in presidential politics and you have something interesting. It makes the honourable list because writer Charles Soule is dropping lots of tantalizing hints of things to come. It doesn't make the Top 10 because Alberto Alburquerque's art leaves me unmoved. Volume 2 comes out in a few months. We'll see how it develops.

2a. Sex Criminals: One Weird Trick
2b. Velvet: Before the Living End

Under most circumstances these would be in my Top 10. However, Image (the publisher) does this marvelous little thing. They offer up the first volume of most of their series for $9.99. Which is ridiculously cheap. But if you wait long enough, and the series is popular enough, they do these very pretty hardcovers. The Sex Criminals hardcover is coming out in March. Velvet isn't announced, but I'm pretty sure it's getting one. So expect to see them on the Best of 2015 list.

For the curious, Sex Criminals is Matt Fraction/Chip Zdarsky's loving story of two people who discover they can stop time when they orgasm so naturally they rob banks until the Sex Police catch on and try to arrest them. It's very funny and sweet, actually.

Velvet's high concept pitch (which Hollywood seem to completely miss the point of when they came knocking) is that the most dangerous person in the British Secret Service isn't all the make agents; it's the secretary sitting by the door of their boss. Imagine Moneypenny circa. 1974 going around and having all the fun. Steve Epting's artwork adds to the fun.

3. Seconds. There was no way that Brian Lee O'Malley was going to catch the lightening in the bottle he had with Scott Pilgrim. However, in almost every way this is a better book. Funnier, less smug, better art, more confident storytelling and a more likeable lead (the problem with Scott Pilgrim is that six books is a long time wanting to punch the lead character in the face). Katie is a hot chef who makes a mistake and wishes she could fix it. And she can, with some magic mushrooms. But then she starts eating more to fix other mistakes. Things go pretty much as you might expect...

4.  The Spectre: Crime and Judgements, The Wrath of God
It's a reprint of the 90s series of John Ostrander and Tom Mandrake. With few exceptions the 90s was a terrible time for comics. This series, even with it's flaws like fridging a female character (a term used for killing women to give male characters something angst over/avenge) in the first book, is still a hidden gem. Not many mainstream 90s super hero comics dealt with AIDS, Wall Street corruption, the genocide in the Balkins, and pollution/climate change.

The title character is literally the Angel of Vengeance, bound to a human host, to comprehend and confront evil. Being bound to an angry dead cop means the instructions get a little messed up. It's also surprisingly spiritual. Throw in Mandrake moody and terrifying art (the only flaw is the frequent fill-ins because he couldn't complete the book monthly for any lengthy stretch) and it really is a nice series. I'm glad DC is digging into the archives and reprinting it, 20 years later.

5. Red Sonja: The Art of Blood and Fire
Yeah. Seriously. The redhead in the chainmail bikini who used to have a terrible, terrible origin (very rapey). Mercifully Gail Simone saw something in there worth saving. The first volume was ok, but I think Simone had to spend a lot of time fixing the character, which made the story drag a bit. This volume is where she cuts loose. Sonja is set up a quest by a mad, dying king to find some of the greatest artists in the world, such as a swordsman, cook, dancer, etc in 30 days. If she does this, he will free thousands of slaves. Of course, nothing is that easy.

But it's not just the action adventure, which is great, but the genuinely twisted humour. The biggest running gag is that perhaps someone who spends all her time in the wild, and killing people, might not smell the best. Plus, no one wants to sleep with her, despite her best efforts. Full of heart and humour, and solid artwork by Walter Geovani, it's one of the most surprising books of 2015.

Next post, books 10-8.

Last Five
1. American Man - Jenn Grant*
2. Boxer - The Gaslight Anthem
3. Murder me Rachel (live) - The National
4. Blue Jay way - The Beatles
5. Daily routine - Animal Collective

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Prior writer Brian Reed had done away with the rape background when he took over writing in issue 35 of the first series.