At cinemas, January is typically a dumping ground for films the studios don’t know what to do with and wider releases for award-nominated films people might have missed their first time through. There’s a lot of holdovers, a lot of quiet moments before the season starts up again, generally around March.
Something similar happens with comics. This month, there were a couple things that started up, not to mention a couple titles that resumed after a long hiatus (“Nowhere Men” anyone?). It was a small quiet month, but there were nevertheless a good number of gems.
Best Comic: “Some Other Animal’s Meat” by Emily Carroll (self-published)
Emily Carroll continually puts out some of the most arresting, fascinating, and gorgeously rendered stories we’re seeing today. Not limited by the restrictions of a page, Carroll is able to convey a woman slowly unraveling and losing touch with her person through a series of meticulously constructed canvases. Carroll has a strong sense for characterization, so the horror we see when the aloe lotion monster, for instance, starts showing up is genuine. It’s terrifying, but not as terrifying as the scenes where Stacey, a lotion salesman who’s allergic to the aloe chemicals, thinks she hears something in the darkness. Carroll labels “Some Other Animal’s Meat” as psychological horror, and she manages to sustain all these elements in a strong fashion. It makes you anxious for the next comic she issues.
Runner Up: “Toil and Trouble” #5 by Mairghread Scott and Kelly & Nichole MatthewsBest Writer: Gilbert Hernandez, “The Twilight Children” #4 (Vertigo)
Look, we all knew that Hernandez is a fantastic storyteller and it’s no surprise that the conclusion to his series with Darwyn Cooke is well executed and stellar and challenging. But it’s his instinct of knowing when to pull the script back and let Cooke work, his sense of characterization, his loose structure and concerned eye, and his sense of genre and setting that help elevate this book into something special. And it’s in those last several pages that we see just how well he earned that ending. It’s actually heartbreaking and beautiful.
Runner Up: Natasha Alterici, “Heathen” Volume 1 (Literati Press)Best Artist: Gale Bertrand, ‘A Land Called Tarot: Le Bateleur’ from “Island” #6 (Image)
Bearing influence from manga to European comics to animation, Gale Bertrand’s silent series ‘A Land Called Tarot’ (published in the “Island” anthology) is a sight to behold. Just look at some of these images!
His art is animated, alive, exciting, and clear. It settles into a nice rhythm and pace and offers enough that if you wanted to go back and linger over the panels and the page, you’d have that ability.
Runner Up: Darwyn Cooke, “The Twilight Children” #4 (Vertigo)Best Debut Series: “Cry Havoc” by Si Spurrier and Ryan Kelly (Image)
There’s so much going on in that first issue of “Cry Havoc,” it’s difficult to figure out what it’s about. Lesbian werewolves in love? Military uprisings? Family and home? Ambitions and interruptions? Sexuality? Cursed characters trying to find their place? Si Spurrier seemingly throws everything he knows into this book, but it doesn’t feel overloaded or off-putting. The three colorists make the world of the comic feel expansive and encompassing, while Kelly turns in art that goes from lovely to horrifying on a panel-to-panel basis. It’s a big introduction, but it’s as gripping and relentless as a werewolf’s bite.Best Mainstream Corporate Superhero Comic: “The Legend of Wonder Woman” #1 by Renae De Liz (DC)
Since Brian Azzarello and Cliff Chiang’s sublime series wrapped up, Wonder Woman has been in a sort of terrible place in the greater DCU. Who the fuck knows what the Finches are doing with the character, or why DC even allows them to continue working on the title or why Geoff Johns feel that she needs to be hooked up with Superman (besides the fact that he lacks any imagination or sense of originality)? Luckily, the DC Digital First office has been doing the gods’ work with Princess Diana.Continued below
“The Legend of Wonder Woman” is an origin story, but it bears more elements of a fairy tale. De Liz’s art is flowing and her plotting captivating. She understands the character, but also understands what it means to be 13 and figuring out the wider world. Her monsters are crazy cool. Her storytelling is nicely controlled and sustained. This isn’t just the kind of Wonder Woman book we need, but this is what we should expect out of our superhero comics to begin with.
Runner up: “The Mighty Thor” #3 by Jason Aaron and Russell Dauterman (Marvel)Coolest News: Hanna-Barbera Comics coming soon from DC.
All right, so some of these titles sound downright ridiculous. “Scooby-Doo Apocalypse” anyone? But there are some things that I’m signing up for the minute they get solicited: “Future Quest” and “Wacky Race Land.” I hope DC remembers that these characters are made for young audiences and keeps an all-ages approach to the material. Dark and gritty Flintstones just doesn’t work. It just doesn’t work.Most Disappointing News: Marvel continues to give their “Star Wars” books to their most mediocre writers.
Sure these books all sell about a gajillion issues every month, but apart from “Star Wars” and “Darth Vader,” the “Star Wars” books have been collectively disappointing. This is already, what, the third series Charles Soule gets to write, and if it’s anything like “Lando” or “Obi-Wan & Anakin” we can expect the same levels of lazy plotting, awful dialogue, listless storytelling, and contrived scripting. Marvel is squandering their license on the “Star Wars” title and I don’t know, maybe Disney/LucasFilm need to just make a new and separate publisher for “Star Wars” comics instead of continually putting their bottom-of-the-barrel hire-them-because-they’re-available writers on these things.
Biggest Clusterfuck: Angoulême International Comics Festival
Watching the events of this year’s Angoulême Festival have been simultaneously hysterical and aggravating. We should all be past the time when non-male creators are celebrated for their achievement in the medium, and so having this list (with albeit strong creators) isn’t just frustrating but also retroactive. Nominees said they weren’t a.) acknowledging and the nomination, b.) refusing to head to Angoulême, and c.) claiming they wouldn’t accept the award if they won. The worst moments came when judges claimed there weren’t any female creators who’ve made a significant impact on the graphic storytelling format, which prompted plenty of lists of significant creators of all ills. At worst, this event was a stain on the medium; at best, our reading lists at least expanded exponentially. Congratulations to “Here” and “Ms. Marvel” for winning top honors, incidentally.Best Return to Form: “Grayson” #16 (DC).
Thanks to crossovers and an overly contrived plot line, “Grayson” suffered, going from being one of the most fun mainstream superhero comics, to yet another tedious endeavor. Well, this month, Tim Seeley, Tom King, and Mikel Janin manage to hit some of that old magic. Fun action scenes, a musical number, a fun spy plot, and most importantly: