12.10.2007

Top 10 of 2007 - Mini-Series

Doctor 13: Architecture & Mortality (DC): There’s a brilliant essay over at Comix Experience that meanders in and out of discussing Dr. Thirteen directly, but it really connected with me and is just an example of great writing. Azzarello & Chiang give us a heaping does of self-aware, post-modern meta-commentary, the likes of which haven’t been seen since Casey & Wood’s Automatic Kafka, and Morrison & Quitely’s Flex Mentallo before it. This is all about the influences that creators, their creations, and their audiences all have on each other. Simply put, this is deserving of an Eisner nomination, if not an outright win. By far, my favorite mini-series of 2007; an important piece of industry commentary and analysis that simultaneously thrills and entertains.

The Killer (Archaia Studios Press): If ever you wanted to peer into the mind of a brazen, modern sociopath, then look no further. The Killer works as pure crime fiction, pure noir thriller, pure psychological examination, or a pure art tutorial. It works on so many levels and engages every part of the brain. This brutally honest genre study is complex but accessible, meaningful but entertaining. This is basically a perfect comic book.

Local (Oni Press): Brian Wood is on fire this year, with no sign of stopping, as DC’s Northlanders also debuted this month. Each successive project seems to grow better and better, as his style and ability become more self-assured and refined. Wood is definitely a creator to watch, I predict that we’ll all look back on his prolific and diverse body of work one day, and he’ll be considered one of the modern masters. Single issues of Local work as powerful little vignettes, but taken as a whole they weave together with recurring characters and complex themes that transcend their paper origins and infect real life. My favorite issue to date, Theories & Defenses, perfectly exemplifies this approach as it chronicles a band’s meteoric rise and inevitable crash. The bold tale comes across so genuine and emotionally factual that we swear we’ve heard their music or story somewhere before, a fictional creation perfectly capturing the tangible resonance of reality.

Fell (Image): Ellis proves the inherent feasibility of Image’s $1.99 “slim line” format, with an assist from Ben Templesmith’s experimental (even for him) art. Fell works just fine as a gritty police procedural, but ratchets up the bleak outlook to reach a horror motif in the dark ways that the movie SE7EN did. Ellis strategically places small hopeful little moments throughout the story, making it feel more like real life than it really should, in order to create maximum discomfort. It’s all topped off by the really disturbing part of book, which is that most of the issues are loosely based on, or inspired by, true events.

Black Summer (Avatar Press): You could dismiss Black Summer as obvious soap-boxing, Ellis using his characters as ciphers to comment on the current political climate in the US, but I don’t believe that’s (merely) his true intent. What I take from Black Summer is a thoughtful analysis of the gridlocked political landscape (particularly voter frustration, constituents feeling helpless, that no matter how they vote, their voices aren’t heard and nothing can be done to change the system, when the process itself is flawed and subject to moral fallibility) and why the superhero ideal may be inevitably flawed in any universe from any publisher and any set of creators. I believe Ellis’ contention is that the superhero paradigm ultimately will always collapse. It just never ends well when last sons can fly, or adolescent girls can phase through walls, or billionaires can construct hi-tech gadgets and go out and do what they feel is right, and those arcs are played out to their natural, realistic conclusions. By their very definition, they become above the law, a concurrent but opposed system in their inability to be controlled. This brings about an anarchical paradigm, a societal paradox doomed to converge with violent resolution. This is really intelligent stuff and once you get past the superficial violence, worthy of careful analysis. This is quickly growing to become my second favorite Ellis work after Planetary.

Kabuki: The Alchemy (Marvel/ICON): The Alchemy has proven to be David Mack’s most intricate work to date, as the creation of the Kabuki character comes full circle and she becomes self-aware about her place in the universe. Developmentally, she and her readers learn that they have the power to exert influence over their surroundings and change reality. The most recent issue (#9) is a rare treat, as Mack employs crafty tools, like a faux Charlie Rose sequence, references to his earlier works, and an ode to the number 13, which hit home. This epic saga now spans seven delightful volumes, proof beyond the shadow of a doubt that Mack is a modern master of the craft whose fictional creations transcend their boundaries and have the power to redefine the medium and give hope to the future of comic books, showcasing an unprecedented adaptability and evolution of the form. In that sense, he has displayed his own inherent ability to influence his reality. David Mack has ceased to be an artist, and he himself has become a work of art.

Okko: Cycle of Water (Archaia Studios Press): After following Blade of the Immortal for about a hundred issues, I thought I’d sorta’ found my own personal height for manga/ronin adventures. As good as Hiroaki Samura’s epic tale still is, Okko is somehow better. Okko seems to take the best of two worlds and incorporates all the usual trappings that make crazy ronin adventures popular, but then infuses them with a modern hipness and accessibility that makes for a really unique presentation. I’m really looking forward to this forthcoming collected edition; let’s hope that Comics Editor Joe Illidge at ASP makes it another in their line of beautiful hardcovers!

Mouse Guard: Winter 1152 (Archaia Studios Press): I’m actually enjoying Winter 1152 more than the first installment of Mouse Guard. While it was necessary to establish the characters and do some “world-building” in the first arc, I feel that David Petersen now has the time to focus on the characters and their relationships with their fellow Guardsmen as they struggle for survival in the harsh reality of their world. The narrative has become more character driven, rather than plot driven, which is what’s become the market differentiator, separating this tale from all of the other mouse-infused impostors that have seemingly sprung up overnight. Anthropomorphic animal comics are hardly new, but ones done this well, this fully realized, certainly are.

Suburban Glamour (Image): Jamie McKelvie has quickly created a name for himself as one of the fresh, up-and-coming names to watch. His pencils alone, in the recent Phonogram, were worth the price of admission alone. If you can imagine Adrian Tomine’s clean crisp pencils in full color, you’ll get a sense for what McKelvie is doing in Suburban Glamour on the artistic chores. From a scripting standpoint, he’s paired an instantly accessible tale of teen friendship and boredom in the ‘burbs with common fantasy elements found in great works like A Midsummer Night’s Dream, to provide an off-beat, delightful little mini-series.

The Umbrella Academy (Dark Horse): It’s bit early to call, but the initial installments of this series are quite intriguing. I believe that the creative team is properly positioned to be the next BPRD-like phenom from Dark Horse. Gerard Way has made a successful transition into comic book scripting with strength of content, whereas someone like say, oh, I don’t know… Nicholas Cage and his progeny have failed with nothing but hype. I was sad to see Gabriel Ba leave Casanova, but if it means we get him in full color here, handling near-as-wacky settings and situations, with James Jean doing his covers, then so be it! This is a property to watch in 2008.

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