Best of the Year 2012: Zainab
I love lists. I especially love lists of comics and books because it usually throws up a whole host of interesting things that I’ve missed out on (because despite how passionate I am about comics, it’s a vast medium). 2012 was, as has been established by most people, a very interesting year for comics. It was the year I became more aware of self- published comics, partly due to the many micro-publishing outfits that sprung up, like Oily Comics, Retrofit, Bill Kartalopoulos’ Rebus Books, Patrick Kyle’s Distance Mover subscriptions and lots more. I have been a bit cheeky and produced 2 lists (ssshh, don’t tell Richard)- one for comic ‘books’ published through more established publishing houses and one for ‘mini-comics’ which are independently published. Neither are in any particular order. The ones that have been reviewed either here or on my blog I’ve linked to (clicking on the title should do it), and I’m afraid there are a few I haven’t got around to, which simply means the wonder of discovery is upon you.
Giants Beware by Rafael Rosado, Jorge Aguirre: Brilliant, brilliant, brilliant. Claudette lives in a town famous for its giant-slaying and huge giant-repelling stone walls. Despite this rich history, the townspeople are now content to sit in their safe haven and no longer actively seek out giants, a development Claudette is not happy with. And so she sets out dragging along her culinary sensation of a little brother and best friend and feminist princess-in-waiting, Marie to do what she has always dreamed of. Bristling with personality, humour and verve, Giants Beware is simply a must-read comic.
But I Really Wanted to be an Anthropologist by Margaux Motin: Richard describes this as ‘Posy Simmonds meets Sex in the City’: I’ve never watched Sex and the City so I’m going to take his word for it. I have to admit I grappled a little with this choice, it seems a slight, sort of trifle-y choice, but not everything has to be thematically important and deal with ISSUES. It is so beautifully rendered and the humour so entertaining, you’ll find yourself, like me, rifling through it in one sitting.
Through the Walls by Jean-Luc Cornette, Stephane Oiry: Oiry’s art made this book for me, his fine-lined whimsy prettily off-setting Cornette’s tales:
‘Through the Walls is a series of little stories about unconnected people possessing the same ability: to walk through walls, or pass through any kind of material- people animals, metal. Having eased the reader in with a light, humorous opener, Cornette then begins to insinuate ideas that unsettle and make you question. What at first glance appears to be a collection of quirky, light vignettes, turns out to be something altogether off-kilter, and as the book goes on, it interjects a weird thought here, some jarring behaviour there, getting progressively more morally dubious and indeterminate.’
CowBoy by Nate Cosby, Chris Elipoulous: My dad imbued his love of kung-fu movies and westerns in me from a young age and the tone of CowBoy is perfectly done, serious but with knowing asides. It was the first book I read early in the year and knew it would make it to this list:
‘On paper, a comic about a 10 year old boy riding through the wild west to round up errant members of his family doesn’t sound like it would work -shouldn’t work- let alone be one of the best books of the year, but that’s exactly what it is. Sick of his family’s errant ne’er do-well ways, Boyd has taken the law into his own hands and decided to round them all up one by one and deliver them to the Marshall. The best and perhaps most surprising thing about Cow Boy is the depth of emotion it manages to convey.’
Nobrow 7 Brave New World: Volume 7 of the Nobrow anthology was where it all came together beautifully for me. Both the comics and illustration sections were outstanding and the sheer quality of the contributors involved staggering: Joseph Lambert, Anders Nilsen, Tom Gauld, Jiliina Tamaki, Joost Swarte, Micahel DeForge and many, many others.
‘The illustration in Nobrow has always been of a high standard, but as with most multi-author anthologies, the comics have been a little inconsistent, although these have steadily and vastly improved. As much as I enjoyed The Double, Brave New World is a wowzer- it felt like there was a greater creative scope at play here.’
Batman The Court of Owls by Scott Snyder, Greg Capullo, Jonathan Glapion: I’m a childhood Batman fan, but I’ve always read in trades, which allows you to pick and choose the Bat titles you’re after. I’m a big fan of what Snyder’s doing with the book:
‘Snyder describes his approach to Batman as ‘steak and potatoes’ and on the evidence of this, The Black Mirror and The Gates of Gotham, it’s one that serves him well. The Court of Owls combines a lot of elements to deliver a Batman story that triumphs on several levels and is intriguing, entertaining and engrossing.’
Koma by Pierre Wazem, Frederik Peeters: This had a little of everything- ambition without pretension:
‘Bold and skewy, imaginative and fresh, bursting with ideas, humour, charm, weirdness and above all just so much heart: in the story, but more from the people behind it, whose sheer effort and talent is evident on every page. It’s that heart which pushes you onwards through its flaws and knotty, convoluted bits. . . It jumps from genre and plot-point to sequences like a joyful little character bounding through the stages of a video game, incorporating everything from super-heroics, otherworldly creatures, mystery, family drama, emotion, surrealism, creationism.’
Pippi Moves In by Astrid Lingdren, Ingrid Vang Nyman: I love slightly twisted children’s books and this comic adaptation of Pippi Longstocking fulfills that remit beautifully. Vang Nyman’s skewy, weird, static drawings (those eyes!) combine with the ultimate parent-less fantasy as Pippi marches through life young, rich and good at everything.
The Complete Rainbow Orchid by Garen Ewing: The first time I read this, and collected together as Ewing originally intended, I believe. I’m a sucker for ligne claire, but Ewing’s adventure of a search for a rare, possibly non-existent flower left me more excited than that sentence can possibly recount. I have no further words for it: it’s just a fantastic comic.
Amulet 5 Prince of the Elves by Kazu Kibuishi: There are two ‘series’ I follow religiously- The Stuff of Legend and Kazu Kibuishi’s excellent Amulet adventure books. Kibuishi excels at world building and where the last volume felt that perhaps the end was nigh, he developed new angles here in a manner that felt real and fitting and left me once again eagerly looking forward to 2013’s book.
The Monkey in the Basement/ It Doesn’t Exist by Corinne Mucha: I wrote about Mucha being the queen of mini-comics here, do yourself a favour and go buy some. Monkey won her an Ignatz, but I particularly enjoyed It Doesn’t Exist which was more thoughtful in tone.
New Sludge City by Brendan Leach, Retrofit Comics: Box Brown had a stonker of a year with Retrofit Comics, and in an ideal world he would receive recognition of some kind. I’m a fan of Leach’s art: its sharp and scrapy looking and he handily writes rather well too. Sludge City reminded me of Inception, but perhaps only in the swapping mind/bodies sense.
‘Despite the topical nature of her subjects, Nichols retains an even handed, non-judgmental tone, perhaps because the focus is largely on her individual struggle here. Discussions and stories about religion and homosexuality are still rare, so it makes me proud to see it being done in comics and done in such a beautiful, resonant and evocative manner.’
Gold Star by John Martz, Retrofit Comics: And just to hammer home how awesome Retrofit was this year: this is the fourth entry from them on this list, and no, they’re not paying me. Martz’s Gold Star= situational comedy with a sharp little twist.
Ablatio Penis by Will Dinski, 2D Cloud: Review upcoming, hopefully. On the surface Dinski’s comic appears to be a pithy and timely commentary on politics in the USA and the maneuvering of morals and campaigns, but ostensibly it’s about what defines a person and the difference in the way in which we perceive ourselves and the way others perceive us.
Farmer’s Dilemma by Sam Alden: A comic about a fox cub raised by two chickens, which is essentially about growing up, expectations and fulfillment. Alden’s art is a thing of quiet majesty here. I’m really proud of the fact that I managed to grab a copy of the print edition of this- it’s one of my most treasured possessions.
The End of the Fucking World by Charles Forsman, Oily Comics: I’ve only read the first seven issues of Forsman’s slice of Americana out of fourteen and it’s pretty breathtaking what he achieves over 12 pages per issue. The reader never feels theyr’e being skimped on in any way: I don’t know how he does it, but it’s a lesson in storytelling.
Murder She Writes by John Allison: Is there anyone left who hasn’t heard of John Allison’s comic mastery? It seems perfunctory at this point, but Allison’s output and quality shouldn’t be taken for granted. As consistently good as Bad Machinery is (and it is very good), I do enjoy the spin-off tales featuring one of the kids outside their normal environment. Mystery is my favourite genre and Lottie my most-loved character, so this was a real treat.
The Whale House by Andrew Cheverton, Chris Doherty, Angry Candy: I really liked this, though it’s perhaps technically a first issue rather than a mini-comic. However, I don’t know when, or if, we’re getting another and it certainly impressed me enough to merit a spot on here. An intriguingly set up mystery complete with rambling country house and oddball characters. I’d love to see more.
Comiques vol 2 by Anne Emond: Anne Emond is very funny and makes comics that are snarky and familiar and warmly-drawn. This is a collection of them. You know someone is good when you wish they produced more work. I wish Emond produced more comics, but I was happy to settle for this this year.
And that is it for 2012. Honourable mentions to Saga and Days of the Bagnold Summer who just missed out on spots. Often when you become really immersed in something it can be difficult to gain perspective and writing about comics does take away the pleasure of reading them a little, which is ironic as that’s usually what gets you started in the first place. Looking back, I think what I’ve personally been most surprised and impressed by has been the discovery of creators who self-publish and distribute and the genuine quality of that output. Most of my reading material has revolved around that area and it’s one I’m looking forward to exploring further next year. Happy 2013!