My 13 Favorite Things of 2009 (Part 5 of 17)

The Hot Breath of War (Sparkplug Comic Books): For me and the small press, it was a good year in general. Whether it was new material from Tom Neely, Josh Cotter, and Ryan Claytor, or Jim Rugg and Brian Maruca announcing another project, the small press this year possessed a vibrancy and razor sharp series of insights that seemed to be so largely lacking in the more mainstream offerings. Portland based Sparkplug, in particular, put out another round of phenomenal books, including Sausage Hand, more issues of Elijah Brubaker’s Reich, and The Hot Breath of War by Trevor Alixopulos. I enjoyed Alixopulos’ debut work Mine Tonight a couple of years ago on a recommendation from Tim Goodyear, and have been long awaiting a follow up project. The Hot Breath of War delivered, though in an unexpected fashion. It’s full of smaller, often quieter, unrelated vignettes rather than the singular crime tale format that Mine Tonight worked in. Rather than depicting crime and all of the social implications it dredged up, The Hot Breath of War has a poetic, lyrical style to it that highlights the contradictions of life during war time. The short story “And His Breath is Hot” remains my favorite; if anything, proving Alixopulos’ versatility in other genres and formats. My personal desire to see more of his work has only emboldened with this divergent tale that disproves the artistic notion of a sophomore slump. I’d proudly pick up a regular series or future OGN from him. Furthermore, he strikes me as someone who could emulate the career-path of a creator like Becky Cloonan, who starts out with more intimate self-published work, but could blossom into crossover popularity with the right Vertigo property as his surprising and unique style continues to refine, finding a larger platform and the well-deserved audience that accompanies it.


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