All the best comics websites and blogs do it, so I figured my very own not-one-of-best comics blogs should do the same thing ! I have never done a top ten list before, and while I had some idea it would be a tricky undertaking given the hundreds of comics I read every year, but I had no idea it would be THIS tricky (Note to Run DMC: It may be tricky to rock a rhyme that’s right on time, but it is equally tricky to narrow down my top ten favourite comics for the year !!).
After some consideration, then mulling it over, followed by some serious thought and finally contemplating for a long time I decided I would just take the easy option and cheat. That’s right ! What I will be presenting is not my top ten but my top fifteen comics for 2013. To justify this piece of flim-flammery I have decided to do not one, but two lists.
The first will be my top five graphic novels/trades/reprint collections of the year, as I found I was adding these to my top ten list and thus needed to drop other comics I was enjoying. So, having this list means the top ten list will purely be comics series (both limited and ongoing). Some of the titles on the graphic novel list are ongoing series, however as I read them in trades I figured this was a more reasonable way to speak about them. For example, I am sure Butcher Baker, Righteous Maker read well as single issues, but as I bought the trade only I cannot speak to that experience, only to the experience of reading the whole story in one hit. Oh, and to preserve the tension and as a homage to my favourite Saturday evening music show when I was a kid, both lists will take the form of a Countdown.
So, without further ado (and no further adon’t), here is the first annual Comic Book Evangelist Top Five Graphic Novels of 2013 list:
Paul Milligan and Brendan McCarthy have been favourites of mine for many years now, both when they work together and when they do their solo thing (check out the last 25-odd issues of Hellblazer to see some Milligan brilliance), so it was awesome to finally get the chance to read their early works. Some I had read before – Rogan Gosh was the story that made Revolver a must buy for me in the late 80s – but most I had not. Man, what a treat this collection is ! Milligan and McCarthy were taking incredible psychedelic surrealism and applying it to superheroes (Paradax), Hindu mythology (the aforementioned Rogan Gosh) and post-apocalypse dystopias (Freakwave). They also produced one of the most heart-warming tales of hope in Skin, the story of a thalodomide kid who grows up to be a skinhead. This is an amazing dose of comics streamed straight from the creator’s subconscious to your brain, and is a singular experience.
Another creator who channels his stories straight from the subconscious is Joe Casey, although in the case of Butcher Baker he is clearly channeling his Id to produce a story which is full of violence, sex and swearing and yet still takes time to examine the effects of age on a balls-to-the-wall action hero. The art from Mike Huddleston is reminiscent of Brendan McCarthy in its thick lines and quirky characters, and like McCarthy the art is integrated into the story in a way that does not just “show the action” but adds an element of emotion and surrealism to it. Butcher Baker is the type of superhero story I want to see more of – one on which the action is served with a side dish of philosophy, psychology and events that actually change the characters rather than reset the status quo.
While Sean Howe’s history of Marvel comics got a heap of press at the start of the year, this collection Fred Van Lente and Ryan Dunleavy’s Comic Book Comics was by far the better history. Using the inimitable style of fact and funniness they perfected on Action Philosopher’s, Van Lente and Dunleavy start at the very beginning of comics with the Yellow Kid and takes us through the Golden, Silver and Bronze ages all the way to the current day where the arguments about digital piracy rage. It even covers some of the stuff that Howe does i his book, but with funny pictures !! This is seriously the best book on comics history I have read, as it focusses on the big picture issues of creator’s rights, exploitation of women, etc while providing some very tasty tidbits regarding specific people/events. This book should be sitting on your shelf next to Scott McCloud’s books on comics.
What more needs to be said ? Buy this book ! Buy it now !!!!
The second volume in the graphic novel series by Tom Taylor and James Brouwer was released just in time for the Supanova convention, meaning my son and I (it’s an all-ages book) had the chance to meet Tom and tell him just how much we enjoyed the first story (Here Be Dragons) and how excited we were for this second tale. The series features a family of aquanauts who explore the ocean’s depths, encountering all manner of creatures and mysteries. Tom’s story is full of great ideas and hilarious dialogue which makes it perfect to be re-read again and again – which is great for parents like me who have a kid that demands it be re-read again and again !! – with wordplay that is both brilliant and funny (Tom does what should have been done years ago and comes up with a word that rhymes with “orange”). The art by James Brouwer looks like an animation cel in its detail and colours, and had my whole family poring over every page. It is, without a doubt, the best art you will see in a comic this year. Going back to the meeting with Tom Taylor at Supanova, Tom gave us the news that The Deep had been picked up by an animation studio and will be on our TV screens in the near future ! YAAAAYYYY !!!!! I reckon The Octonauts better watch out, as there will be a new team of underwater explorers who will rival their popularity !
Mike Carey and Peter Gross have made The Unwritten one of my favourite ongoing comic series of recent years with their literary tale of identity, the influence of fiction on reality and the communication of ideas in the modern world. In the original graphic novel Tommy Taylor and the Ship That Sank Twice, they play with these themes perfectly to create a story which works as an origin tale for both of the main characters in the ongoing series – the boy wizard Tommy Taylor and his real world inspiration/counterpart Tom Taylor (not at all related to the writer discussed above. However, it seems the very name Tom Taylor is conducive to fine storytelling). Once again, Carey and Gross weave a tale which is as entertaining as it is thought-provoking, creating a fantasy world which grows beyond being a mere homage to something unique in itself (and one I would love to see more of, I would buy in a heartbeat a series of Tommy Taylor novels !) while at the same time resolving a mystery which has been unravelling in the main series since the first issue. This is not just one amazing story, with writing and art by two creators at the top of their game, it is two !
Go out and buy this graphic novel now !!
Oh, just realised a couple of these trades were released in 2012, not 2013. I reckon as I read them in 2013 I can get away with including them (at least this time, I will make sure there is no such cheating in the 2014 best of list. Honest !!
Those were my favourites for the year, and now I would love to to hear from you ! What graphic novels, trades etc from 2013 deserve wider recognition ? Let me know below !