Halloween and NYCC may have come and gone, but some of this October’s comics will stick with me for much longer. Let’s check in with what went down.
Best Issue: “Time & Vine” #4
The greatest miniseries that nobody was reading ended in October with this heart-wrenching issue, and I can honestly say that I haven’t cried this hard at a comic in years (since first reading “Daytripper,” for those curious). Thom Zahler started the series unassunimgly, using his cartoony art style for the wacky concept where, if you’re in this winery’s cellar and drink a glass of wine that was made there, you will be taken back in time to the year that wine was bottled. By this final issue, he told a deeply human story of memory, nostalgia, and lost connections. If you’ve ever lost someone close to you and went through a serious bargaining phase, wondered about what you could have done to prevent their death, or regretted your final moment with them, “Time & Vine” will get to you. By far the best comic I read in October.
Best Writer: Peter Milligan
At first, I thought my excitement over Milligan’s two books this month, “Dan Dare” #1 and “Kid Lobotomy” #1, came from having just finished reading through his celebrated classic, “Shade the Changing Man.” Upon further reflection, it’s clear with these two new books that he still has something to offer today’s readers. The concepts he played with in “Dan Dare” could have become the sort of routine Trump-bashing we’ve all become accustomed to, but he quickly went off in completely different directions as he explored the concepts of redemption and order. Over in “Kid Lobotomy,” Milligan revisited his celebrated askew version of reality where nothing is quite what it seems, everything takes an unexpected left turn, and your soul always feels strange after reading. Always unexpected. Always strange. Always poignant. The man’s still got it.
Best Artist: Joëlle Jones
For over a year, Jones’s interior work has only been seen every-other-month in “Supergirl: Being Super” and in the odd issue of her irregularly released independent book, “Lady Killer.” This month, she finally debuted her run on a high-profile title worthy of her talent: “Batman.” And her art is the best it’s ever been.
Her angular, slightly exaggerated proportions give every moment a sense of style and movement, and her creative use of varied line thickness consistently leaves me in awe. I’ve been fairly negative on many of King’s “Batman” scripts, but apparently Jones’s art was great enough to elevate my enjoyment of this issue into the positive. Jones did particularly well with King’s tendency for repetition in giving each repeating panel some new expressive detail. Is the pictured moment out of character for Damian Wayne? I don’t even care, because the art is that good.
Most Faithful Modern Interpretation of an Established Property: “Rugrats” #1
Box Brown, known for his biographical graphic novels “Andre the Giant: Life and Legend” and “Tetris: The Games People Play,” teamed up with comics newcomer Lisa DuBois to deliver a faithfully modern take on Rugrats
. Setting the parents up as millennials, the book directly tackled the primary issue of using the Rugrats
concept today: If it’s all about what babies do when parents aren’t watching, what happens when technology means parents are ALWAYS watching? With a focus on how babies do or don’t understand modern technology, Brown and DuBois bring the same humor and charm fans have always loved about the cartoon.
Second Most Overlooked Tear-Jerking Conclusion: Astro City #48
Second in the coveted “Most Overlooked Tear-Jerking Conclusion” category only to “Time & Vine,” here we have the conclusion to the two-part story of G-Dog. The G stands for Good. If you’re a dog lover, that’s all you need to know. Go read this story.
Best Collection: “Swamp Thing: The Bronze Age Omnibus”
There are a lot of reasons to love this book. There’s the historical pop culture value, seeing how these issues came out at the height of the 70s horror craze and were so popular that Wes Craven made a movie about the character. There’s the historical comic industry value, seeing how the book collects everything up to Alan Moore’s celebrated run on the title, which was his first and only long run on a US comic, the book that started the trend of mainstream publishers ditching the Comics Code, and the book that essentially sparked the British Invasion in comics. There’s the book’s value as a tribute to two recently deceased legendary creators, Len Wein and Bernie Wrightson, whose craft and contributions to comics are on full display here. There’s the book’s value as a symbol that we are currently in the golden age of reprints, where unreprinted comics from any era or genre are ripe for a huge collection. And of course, there is the incredible amount of quality work that’s as exciting to read through as many of today’s comics. I’m less than halfway through this monster, and it’s already some of my favorite Bronze Age material for its inventive horror and some of the most effective sequential art I’ve ever seen. Even as someone who isn’t usually a fan of the giant Omnibus volumes, this one stood out as the best collection of the month.Continued below
Most Accurate Portrayal of Being a Gay Male: Bobby Drake, “Iceman” #6
Back when I reviewed “Iceman
”’s first issue for the site, I noted that it did well by its concept of Bobby coming out later in life, but that its narration sounded more like a cringeworthy dating profile than something I actually wanted to read. Grace seems to have smoothed out those problems in the issues since. This month, we got a realistic, upbeat, fun portrayal of what it’s like to try and re-figure yourself out with supportive friends, not to mention trying to meet and date other men. Thanks, Sina Grace, for creating exactly the sort of book we need today.
Most Stereotypical Portrayal of Being a Gay Male: Kevin Keller, “Harley and Ivy Meet Betty and Veronica #1”
Look, I get it. There were a ton of characters in the issue and the writers chose to represent each one’s primary characteristic. I guess the problem then becomes, why does Kevin Keller have so few characteristics other than gay stereotypes? He’s also an army brat — let’s see more about that! Not to mention, it’s not too late to introduce other characteristics. As the token gay character of the Archie universe, I just want Kevin to be known for more than his sexuality.
Also, calling out your stereotypical portrayal doesn’t make the portrayal any less stereotypical. Just letting you know.
Most Improved Writer: James Tynion IV
Tynion had a few notable releases this month: a story in “Detective Comics” which brought back a major DC character that he briefly worked on in one of his first published comics works, the conclusion to his creator-owned “The Woods,” which has been running since early in his writing career, and the debut issue of “Eugenic,” the third in a trilogy of apocalypse stories that he also started early in his career. Looking back and seeing how much his craft has improved since that older work, these milestones become infinitely more impressive. Tynion has always been a solid storyteller, but now he’s able to maturely weave together large, complex tapestries with a bevy of characters and concepts while seamlessly working deeper themes into the work. Congrats to Tynion on his major achievements this month, and congrats on the major improvements over the years!
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