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Best Of The Year 2013 – Richard’s picks…..

Published On January 13, 2014 | By Richard Bruton | Best of the Year, Best of the Year 2013, Comics

As is usual, after sorting out the last month of Best Of 2013 posts from the great and the good, Joe and myself have to eventually get around to doing our own, always late, maybe worth the wait. As always once these last couple are done we’ll have something of a master list for 2013 done, although anyone who’s been following the posts thus far will perhaps notice the obvious pattern to these things. If you haven’t, don’t fear, we’ll get that Best Of Master List ready for the weekend.

Okay then, my turn. As usual, I’ll be ignoring the standard format, as frankly my extracurricular reading and watching is always somewhat pathetic. In fact, my actual televisual consumption this year tended to be limited to Match Of The Day, Channel 4’s American Football coverage, and Game Of Thrones. For a while I had hopes that The Tunnel would match the brilliance of The Bridge, but alas no. Everything I watch tends to be late-night DVD boxset catchup – I’m slowly working through The West Wing, The News Room and now have the first series of The Killing to look forward to. I did manage to listen to a lot of radio though, my love for The Archers, Radcliffe & Maconie’s 6Music show, Infinite Monkey Cage, and Mayo & Kermode’s Film Show grows and grows as they all accompany my late night ramblings through the world of comics. In terms of music, well, I don’t go into that here, but there is a incredibly good cds worth of picks over at my personal Fictions blog.

However, this is all about the comics….  it has been yet another great year, although by necessity of serving once again on the British Comic Awards committee the majority of my reading has been British based. As usual, it was a hugely difficult list to create, there’s simply too much out there that impressed greatly this year. So, in alphabetical order here’s my top ten of 2013…..

Oh heck, no, wait… I forgot my own rule. Every year because of the combined FPI Blog Master List of the Year I ask everyone involved in the Best of Year lists to make sure they tell us what their fave 3 comics were. And here’s me picking ten and seemingly ignoring my own rules. Damn.

Right then, here we go, my TOP THREE….

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The Absence by Martin Stiff

I nearly, very nearly left this off the list, not because it didn’t deserve to be on here, but that it was an easy omission, thinking I’d make it up to one of my favourite comics of recent years by putting the 2014 Titan Comics collection on the best of 2014 list. Then I realised that was just me being cowardly.

So here it is, the final issue of The Absence, a comic I’ve loved, championed, and devoured for a few years now. It is one of those comics I knew was special from the start, and every re-read (of which there have been many) has merely emphasised how right I was. It is wonderful, a magical thriller, a tight, funny drama, a comic I love and one I feel will be a love for years and years to come.

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Playing Out – Jim Medway (Blank Slate Books)

This was practically nailed on from a very, very long time ago, ever since Medway visited our school and showed family Bruton the pages in progress. It is an exceptionally good children’s book (nominated for the 2013 British Comic Awards) but it’s also a very impressive book about children for adults, capturing the very essence of what it is to be young, poor, on holiday and very, very bored in a modern city. Adults can appreciate, understand and remember, children can empathise immediately.

Playing Out is sharp, funny, clever work that never once talks down to either audience and portrays a moment of childhood in stark black and white perfection.

Oh yes, and everyone has the head of a cat, it’s a thing.

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Summit Of The Gods Vol 4 – By Yumemakura Baku and Jirô Taniguchi. 

Absolutely, utterly thrilling. The tension mounts and mounts as the ascent of the greatest peak in the world finally begins. Baku’s writing is anything he wants it to be, at times poetic when considering the epic nature of the undertaking, at others full of fast, important dialogue, always perfectly toned. Taniguchi’s art is perfect, capturing it all, creating something so breathtaking that you can almost feel the cold through the page.

Now, the other seven in my Top 10:

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Grand Gestures – Simon Moreton (Retrofit)

Moreton’s first real attempt (that I’ve seen) at narrative drama. Everything thus far has been expressive autobiog or mood pieces in Smoo and The Escapologist (and you may well know just how much I love those pieces), but this was a story. Granted, a story with the minimalist ethos of Moreton’s previous works. This is what I adore in his work, the sparsity of the line makes the reading experience something of beauty, something that the reader is challenged by, engaged by, part of, taking meaning from every essential line. Love it.

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Holding Patterns – John Cei Douglas

John Cei Douglas isn’t the most prolific, but what he makes is simply sublime. This year saw the release of Holding Patterns, his collection of various strips from anthologies and other such places over the last couple of years, and a new comic Show Me The Map To Your Heart. Towards the end of 2013, Great Beast put both comics out as one collection, Show Me The Map To Your Heart & Other Stories. I reviewed that the Show Me The Map part of that here, but it’s the six stories found in Holding Patterns that get the nod from me. In fact, this won it on just three stories, in fact on just 10 pages of comics, but within Footnotes, Living Underwater, and Tan Lines (with Alessandra Genualdo) produces work of grand beauty and heartbreaking emotional depth.

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Hyperbole & A Half – Allie Brosch

A Christmas read, unreviewed as yet. But you may have read of Brosh’s book elsewhere, may remember me covering her profoundly moving comic about depression. And then maybe remember me covering her second profoundly moving comic about depression, written after 18 months off the creative radar.

The rest of the book is funny, silly, at times almost as profound, but it’s for those depression comics that Brosh is here, comics that completely and perfectly sum up everything that depression can be, everything it can do to so many people; the anger, self-pity, intense, uncontrollable sadness, the misery, the weirdly enjoyable wallowing, the futility, the awareness of all that yet the inability to do anything to change it. Anyone suffering should read this, anyone who knows someone who suffers should read this.

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I Am Fire – Rachael Smith

The dialogue had me near crying with laughter, the story is a comedic gem, work experience placements will never, ever be this much fun, this silly, this mad. The story is a series of comedy sketches threaded together expertly, the tone of the characters so well observed, and so very, very funny.

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Lighter Than My Shadow – Katie Green (Jonathan Cape)

This very nearly didn’t make it on here, I read it over Christmas and simply haven’t found a way to put my thoughts about it into a review as yet. I will, I really will, but trust me when I say that Lighter Than My Shadow is a stellar graphic novel debut from Katie Green, heart-rending, powerful, important, and so very real and painfully, absolutely honest.

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Swear Down – Oliver East (Blank Slate Books)

On one hand East’s latest walking diary treads familiar ground, but it’s a far more engaging and personal East here, finding the strength to look back at the traumatic birth of his son, getting to relive the experiences, sharing them with wife Claire, who really does bring out the very best of the artist, and of the man.

As I said in the original review: Swear Down is East’s finest yet, with all of the walking, all the landscape beauty, but now with extra emotional punch, a romantic comedy and a tragedy with a very happy ending, a portrait of the artist as a very happy man….”

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Trifecta – Al Ewing and Henry Flint, Si Spurrier and Simon Coleby, Rob Williams and D’Israeli, Carl Critchlow

This teetered with The Phoenix for the tenth spot, but when I did re-read it over Christmas I got all the ridiculous fun from it that I’d found on that first read in 2000AD. Knowing the twist doesn’t spoil it at all, this unexpected crossover with a difference is a perfect example to all in how to get a multiple character, multiple storyline comic absolutely right.

The extras, the reasoning, the excuses…..

Christ, that was bloody tough. Really, bloody tough. I’m sure many of you will be screaming  at me for my choices. But hey, they’re my choices, all mine, thanks very much.

I’ll get one of the hardest omissions out of the way first. The Phoenix Comic. Every week I tell you about it, every week there’s great comics for all to read. It was in the top 10, then it was out, then it was in, then it was out. In the end, I relegated it to 11th.

As for the things I didn’t get around to but really meant to… Young Avengers I keep getting issues and trades and just simply haven’t managed to get round to reading yet, but seeing as the final trade hits in 2014, I’ll no doubt be looking at that for this year’s list rather than last. Ridiculous I know. Likewise The Manhattan Projects which I read back in late 2012, but managed to not write about it, not revisit it, and somehow in this wild world of comics there’s now 3 trades sitting on my shelf waiting for me to get to.

In the bubbling under list, there’s Hawkeye, which is pure comics escapism for me, and also a reminder that superheroes will always have a small bit of real estate in my heart, provided we have creators as skilled at their craft as Matt Fraction and David Aja (and various  and very well picked guest artists) at the helm. I loved Rob Williams’ and D’Israeli’s Ordinary in the Megazine, but that’s purely on the basis of three episodes, so I’ll just put a mention in here and revisit with the (I trust inevitable) collection. Also on the nearly but not quite, Howard Hardiman’s visceral and emotive tale of love and rentboys The Lengths, the final part of Long John Silver from Xavier Dorison and Mathieu Lauffray. There’s special mentions for The Black Project – Gareth BrookesHitsville UK #2 by Dan Cox and John Riordan continued the weirdness, Andrew Cheverton had two great comics out this year, West – Autumn Dusk with Tim Keable and The Whale House #2 with Chris DohertyDan Berry’s The Suitcase delivered something almost sitcom slapstick. So much phenomenal work.

Possibly my favourite newcomer work of the year (well, after Allie Brosch and Katie Green up in the top 10) has to go to Briony Hatch by Ginny & Penelope Skinner. Flawed sure, but so vibrant and involving. Will keep a keen eye on them this year.

On a more child friendly note, Astrodog by Paul Harrison-Davies was one of the simplest and most joyful things I read all year, Fish Head Steve by Jamie Smart possibly one of the silliest, or was that Teenytinysaurs by Gary Northfield?

Okay, that’s it, I’m done. Onwards to 2014. I reckon comics is in pretty good shape.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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About The Author

Richard Bruton
- Started in comics retail aged 16 at Nostalgia & Comics, Birmingham. Now located in Yorkshire, he's written for the Forbidden Planet International Blog since 2007. Specialising in UK Comics and All-Ages comics, Richard's day job in a primary school allowed him to build the best children's graphic novel library in the country.

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