12.28.07 Comics

The last of the 2007 books were purchased, but once again there's insufficient time to do full reviews. Next week is another odd one in terms of shipping schedule, as new books come out on Friday once more; see you then. Happy New Year!

Pax Romana #1 (Image): Jonathan Hickman's follow up project to The Nightly News looks to be full of big, bold ideas, complete with Papal conspiracy, time travel, and the military.

Legion of Super-Heroes #37 (DC): Jim Shooter returns to the title that he first broke into the industry with and wrote as a teenager!

The Brave & The Bold #9 (DC): The fun continues with The Challengers of the Unknown, Hawkman & The Atom, The Metal Men, Dial H For Hero, The Boy Commandos, and The Blackhawks all crammed into one issue!

Action Comics #860 (DC): Geoff Johns and Gary Frank are rocking this arc that features Superman & The Legion of Super-Heroes.

I also picked up;

Dominatrix: Lesson #1-5 (IDW): This title looks a little hoary and gratuitous at first glance, but I'm giving IDW another shot by sampling a couple of titles, the art looks consistent, and I'm sort of a sucker for a letter column titled "Submissions."

Midnight Sun (SLG): Ben Towle's little masterpiece finally sees print in one complete smaller-than-digest-sized format. One of the best books from 2007!

Wasteland: Book 02: Shades of God (Oni Press): Special thanks to Antony Johnston, Christopher Mitten, and the crew at Oni Press for including another pull quote from here at 13 Minutes on the back cover of the trade!

Bomb Queen: Volume 1: Woman of Mass Destruction (Image): I've heard nothing but good things about this book so I decided to give it a shot.

Bomb Queen: Volume 2: Dirty Bomb - Queen of Hearts (Image): I decided to jump in with both feet when sampling Jimmie Robinson's work.

Satchel Paige (Jump at the Sun/Hyperion Books): I'm a little tired of the retro baseball settings, but anything from James Sturm and The Center for Cartoon Studies is worth a look.

Blue Pills: A Positive Love Story (Houghton Mifflin): This title and Frederik Peeters are new to me, but it certainly passed the casual flip test.

Queen & Country: Volume 1: Definitive Edition (Oni Press): True, I own all of this material in the nifty crimson hardcovers, but for $19.99, you just can't beat having a reading copy of the first two and a half arcs or so (12 issues) of this superb series.


12.19.07 Comics

I tried and I tried, but it seems the time to read and review this week's books just isn't going to materialize. Blame the new job, new house, and holiday travel. As Han said in Bespin: "It's not my fault!" Here's a run down of what I picked up this week...

Special Forces #2 (Image): The first issue of the latest Kyle Baker project was a pleasant surprise and I'm anxious to see if the second issue holds up.

The Mighty Avengers #6 (Marvel): I've had some issues with the storytelling conceits here and there, but my, that Frank Cho. His art sure is purdy!

Immortal Iron Fist #11 (Marvel): Frubaker and Brubaction, along with artist David Aja, never really disappoint with this title. They've made kung fu comics with a soul that work again.

Ex Machina #33 (DC/Wildstorm): I believe this is the last issue of this arc, I'm considering switching to "wait for the trade" after this arc concludes. Yes? No? What do you think?

Robotika: For a Few Rubles More #1 (Archaia Studios Press): This is the only series from ASP that I've yet to sample and it's generally been getting positive buzz all across the blogosphere.

Checkmate #21 (DC): In lieu of any Rucka espionage work from Oni Press, I'll have to make do with this DCU version of "Queen & Country: Lite."

The Umbrella Academy #4 (Dark Horse): Curious to see how this mini-series will begin to wind down and if I'll be picking up future installments.

The Circle #2 (Image): As with Special Forces, the first issue was a surprisingly good time, I hope the creative team can keep up the momentum!

The Iliad #1 (Marvel): These Marvel adaptations can be pretty dry and dense at times, but I have an... *ahem* Achilles Heel for the Trojan War as subject matter.

The Walking Dead Hardcover: Volume 3 (Image): I've been reading The Walking Dead exclusively in this oversized hardcover format, so I'm excited to read the next big chunk in the saga.

Remember that in most parts of the US, comics don't come out until Friday of next week, so "au revoir, mes amis" until then. Happy Holidays!


Top 10 of 2007 - End Notes

So who “won” this year?

Of course, I want to acknowledge that quantity does not necessarily indicate relative quality, but the competitor in me wants to declare a publisher triumphant! I really do think it’s interesting to analyze purchasing trends and see who made strong showings for me personally. That said, here’s a quick tally of the 30 books in the 3 main categories for 2007;

#1: DC Comics! This includes all of their imprints, such as Vertigo, Wildstorm, and the All Star line. DC is far out in front of the pack capturing 7 total nods, or about 23% of the finalists.

#2: (Four-Way Tie) Oni Press, Archaia Studios Press, Image, and Marvel all clock in with a respectable 3 titles each, or exactly 10% each of the top titles selected this year.

#3: Various. Splitting up the bottom 37% comprising the remaining entries is a very diverse group of publishers including AdHouse, Avatar Press, Dynamite Entertainment, First Second, Dark Horse, and Top Shelf.

Overall, a very satisfying year; let’s hope 2008 proves to be even better!

I also wanted to provide some information on a little side project I’ll be working over the course of next year. I’m going to keep tabs on the ultimate disposition of everything I buy. I generally buy tons of books and started getting comp’d on even more. I try a lot of single issues that end up being so awful that I actually toss them. On the other end of the spectrum, I may buy multiple copies of a Graphic Novel that’s so good I feel the need to pass it on to others. And there’s everything in between these two extremes. I thought it would be interesting to keep track of how much I accumulate, the sheer volume of material I read in a single year, the… *shudder*… dollars spent, how much I give away as impromptu gifts, and basic percentages of books in the following categories;

1) Keepers: These are books that, you guessed it, I keep long term. Generally, these are already purchased in the format I want. Your typical Original Graphic Novel (OGN) in hardcover format, such as Matt Kindt’s Superspy is a great example.

2) Keep/Upgrade Pile: These are usually floppy issues of mini-series or runs of a book that I want to keep, but I don’t part with until they’re collected into a regular Trade Paper Back (TPB), Hardcover, Absolute Edition, etc. An example that springs to mind here is the latest arc of Astonishing X-Men.

3) Give Away Pile: Often times, these are mini-series of floppy issues from the above category that have now been upgraded and are free for release. If I liked it enough to upgrade it, chances are it’s good enough to pass on to someone else. Floppy issues of BKV’s The Escapists is probably the most recent example of this I can muster. These could also be quarter bin finds. For example, I recently picked up (yet another) run of the four issue mini-series My Faith in Frankie by Mike Carey, Sonny Liew, and Marc Hempel. On occasion, this category also includes an OGN or TPB that I don’t personally like enough to keep, but it’s good enough to give away in order to expose someone to the medium or use as a gift. Mark Waid & Leinil Yu’s Superman: Birthright makes a nice stocking stuffer.

4) Sell Pile: Books that I don’t want to keep, are not good enough examples of the medium to give away, and ultimately get sold at a garage sale or become traded in for store credit. Oh, let’s not name names anymore, yes?

5) Trash: Crap. I don’t want it. I won’t even give it away. Most of the books you see here getting D’s and F’s fall into this pile. They’re so horrible that I won’t put them out into the world in any capacity; they hit my recycle bin. Cleans up the industry gene pool and saves the planet all at once!

Stay tuned for updates on The Great Experiment of 2008 and thanks again for another year of reading 13 Minutes: The Weekly Review Site!

12.12.07 Reviews - Part 2

Scalped #12 (DC/Vertigo): Jason Aaron, aided this time out by cover artist Dave Johnson and interior artist John Paul Leon, gives us a nice cross-section of lives that represent the seedy criminal element that Red Crow controls, all through the undercover eyes of our protagonist. Once again, I’m taken in by realistic and uncomfortable lines like: “The trashier I am, the more you want me, am I right? What sort of deep-seeded psychosis is that, I wonder?” Aaron also continues our protagonist’s profound struggle with his identity and motivations, all building up to a nasty surprise lurking for him. Leon gets the opportunity to display some very thought provoking imagery, like the Mt. Rushmore page. Scalped continues to be an entertaining, but important view into a portion of the social experiment that is the United States of America. Grade A.

DMZ #26 (DC/Vertigo): Burchielli’s pencils seem to grow a bit more confident here, as he boldly uses some opening shots with dim lighting and extreme use of negative space, and also gets in our face with an unexpected two page spread. Visually, there are some shocking scenes here, for some reason the shot of all of Matty’s “girls” got to me, including Zee, Amina, and Kelly all in one shot. There’s a good riff on journalistic integrity at play which ponders a hard to swallow line between simply reporting the news and becoming a part of it through your actions. Another piece of commentary involves how to make your life have some sort of meaning through personal relationships during war time, even when one of the relationships is suddenly ripped away. Grade A.

Bat Lash #1 (DC): It’s clear that DC put some thought into this title and assembled a top-notch creative team, including Sergio Aragones, Western Novelist Brandvold, and artist John Severin. However, it didn’t seem to connect with me. Severin’s art, rather than looking sketchy and proper for the genre, looks a little rushed and sloppy to me. On the scripting end, use of the name “Brubaker” for the villain is just plain distracting. There are some retro romance notes that just sound a little awkward. A great effort is also made to capture the dialogue of the time, but it comes off a little bizarre. “I’m gonna’ stretch your neck so far that those range-clutterin’ folks of yours are gonna’ think you’re a big ol’ diamondback.” To which the retort is: “I haven’t stolen or long-looped any beef, and you know it.” I really have no idea what any of that means. “Sure as pistol works on a Sat’day night in Abilene,” Grade C-.

I also picked up;

Queen & Country: Volume 8: Operation Red Panda (Oni Press): Finally, the hardcover mysteriously appears in my LCS about 3 weeks after it was originally solicited.

MW (Vertical, Inc.): Very excited to read this novel length tome, which is an atypical work in tone and style from master storyteller Osamu Tezuka.


12.12.07 Reviews - Part 1

I thought I would get the proverbial caca de toro out of the way. There are some good books out this week, but sadly these ain't them...

Green Lantern #25 (DC): This is a fun wrap-up that doesn't hold up to prolonged scrutiny very well, but... fun, nonetheless. I did enjoy Sinestro's attitude and his seemingly winning some sort of moral philosophical debate as the GL's are forced to hypocritically authorize lethal force, but it's all not so much a denoument to the war, as it is a springboard for next summer's big GL mega-event, literally. We get all sorts of interesting story bits being dropped that will be milked, err... that the creative team will get mileage out of, complete with different Corps divisions symbolized by light color, and further exposition about "The Blackest Night" prophecy. Also, are the Guardians just completely useless or what? Half the time they're used as deus ex machina to show up and fight the Anti-Monitor, and the other half is dedicated to conflict avoidance and yammering on about the 10 Laws of whatever. Artistically, there's an impressive amount of characters on some of these double page spreads. I suppose that takes a skilled hand from a craft perspective, but in terms of storytelling it doesn’t really resonate emotionally with power or awe for me. There's simply lots of ring bearers flying around, some getting hacked up all Ridley Scott style. A generous, Grade B.

Green Lantern Corps #19 (DC): Moving right along, we've got some horrible art here that jumps inexplicably from being sharp and angular to round and mushy on some facial close-ups. Identified as an "Epilogue" to The Sinestro Corps Wars, this issue largely serves no purpose and is just unnecessary filler material. So, Guy Gardner gets with Ice, only to be rebuffed, Kyle contemplates a career, it's all just random and not very satisfying. It's just there, and there's no there there. A very unkempt, Grade C.

New Avengers #37 (Marvel): The thing with Leinil Yu is that when he's on, he's on. And when he's off, he's so horribly off. His smaller panels are like tiny little ant farms, a mass of unidentifiable lines just squiggling around. There were so many times that I really had no idea what was going on, the lack of panel to panel storytelling ability just reduced this to a bunch of character collages that were strewn about on the page. Bendis' script was no help either in deciphering this melee of activity, there's one sequence where 5 different people are talking and the dialogue is a little something like this: "Ninjas." "What?" "Oh." "Who?" "Hey there!" "Pow." "@$%@." WTF, man? I'm certainly not the first guy in the blogosphere to nickname New Avengers the Liberal Avengers, while dubbing The Mighty Avengers, The Republican Avengers, because they tend to wear their politics on their respective sleeves, but here it's more obvious than ever. Maria Hill essentially informs a prisoner that "you're a terrorist because I say you're a terrorist, and therefore we can detain you indefinitely, use any method of info/confession extraction imaginable, oh and by the way, you lose all human rights." At the end of the day, I have no idea what's going on here and just started glossing over; scanning for things I visually recognized or words that made some semblance of people speaking coherently. Alas, Grade C-.

Top 10 of 2007 - Misc.

Paul Pope (Original Art): I own a small collection of original art; there’s the Scott Morse watercolors, some Carla Speed McNeil Queen & Country pages, a rare Travis Charest Wildcats page, the miscellaneous Brian Wood pieces, and The Red Star vellums and limited edition prints, but the crème de la crème of my original art collection is now really this piece, which was the culmination of a truly awesome San Diego Comic-Con experience. Paul Pope seemed to dominate my time at SDCC this year, I saw him on a panel, met him, got the new issue of THB signed at the AdHouse booth, bought a Harvest Moon print at the CBLDF auction, later bumped into him and his original art rep, and ended up buying a ridiculously expensive piece of original art directly from him that is a page from Teenage Sidekick, the DC Solo story that won an Eisner Award last year. It’s a beautiful half page shot of Robin (Dick Grayson) being dragged along by some goons as he writhes away and escapes. It’s got Paul’s hand written notes back and forth to the editor at the bottom, his signature, and his Pulp Hope studio stamp. This picture (which doesn’t do it justice due to my amateur photography skills creating a slightly blurry effect and capturing some lens glare) is after I had it framed up. It all ended with being in the very front row at the Eisner Awards and watching him win multiple times for Batman: Year 100.

Queen & Country (Oni Press): Stopped! This was a true heartbreak indeed. Q&C had long been billed as my favorite comic. After slowing production down drastically, the Red Panda arc seemed to belch out a mere issue every few months, then finally in the throes and pangs of death, issue four came with the dreadful notice of the immediate hiatus. Sure, it’s better to go out when you’re on top. Sure, Oni announced the beautiful Definitive Editions collecting the first 12 issues for a mere $19.95 (though I’d have preferred to pay more for a hardcover Absolute Edition sorta’ dealie, if you’re going to reprint, why go with a smaller format softcover? If you’re not reading Q&C by now, I’m not sure the relatively lower price point will do it, cater to the existing fans you know would plunk down $40 for a big mamba jamba, new readers can be an ancillary benefit and still find the reasonably priced softcovers that already exist). All that said, Rucka just left mid-swing with some major plot points dangling. I read the novels and thought they were great, but I don’t want to follow these characters into novels. I want the comics. I read comics. I want what started as a comic to continue creative output as a comic. My greatest fear is that Rucka’s self-imposed hiatus – promising to someday return, will ultimately become officially cancelled – never to return. It will be a sad day when/if this property, the uber-cool premise, and these beloved characters cease publication. Let’s hope that the Whiteout movie will generate sufficient interest in Rucka’s espionage work to warrant a returned commitment to Q&C!

Doctor 13: Architecture & Mortality (DC): Published independent of The Spectre! Chalk up a win in the “prayers answered” column. How an unexpected, impressive, and brilliant mini-series can be paired with one of the worst pieces of drivel in recent memory is beyond me. But a sincere thank you to the DC-Powers-That-Be for splitting up the Tales of the Unexpected cacophony into its two diametrically opposed constituent components. I love that this TPB sits proudly on my bookshelf and that I was able to discreetly dispose of those horrible Spectre stories… *shudder*… from my collection.

Midnight Sun (Slave Labor Graphics): The best SLG title in, well… forever as far as I’m concerned... cancelled mid-mini-series! Ben Towle, I love your work on this book! I even went out and tried to find everything else I could with your name on it (there was that piece in the Awesome Anthology and Farewell Georgia), but I need more! It didn’t feel right somehow to list this in the Top 10 Mini-Series category because I wanted to commiserate with you here. It’s certainly a sad state of affairs when such a well researched, beautifully rendered, intelligent, unique, adventurous, well packaged mini-series about a failed Italian dirigible expedition to the Arctic Circle can’t even see the light of day once started. Thankfully, all hope is not lost; a collected edition of the entire series was solicited for December. Let’s hope that’s still on the horizon, as this book essentially wins the “no-prize” for book I am most looking forward to reading in its entirety. In the interim, there’s a great interview with Towle over at Publisher’s Weekly: http://www.publishersweekly.com/article/CA6509198.html?nid=2789 I yearn to read the end and proudly evangelize this to all my friends. Truly a great piece of comic book craftsmanship!

Dark Horse (Sense of Ennui): What’s up, Cheval Noir? Hellboy? I’m just done. I found a letter in an old issue of Tripwire Magazine that sums up my waning interest about perfectly: “I’m bored of Hellboy. Every cover kind of looks the same, full figure three quarters on. He always falls through floors, and many hands grab at him out of the dark, jabbering on about the apocalypse. This ran out of steam very early on.” I also grew extremely weary of publishing delays related to collected editions. Exhibit A: The Escapists. Why, oh, why did a fan favorite work that was generally lauded by critics take sooooo damn long to collect? I mean, you have all the content, just slap a new cover on it, get some extra sketches and essays together and put it into a hardcover! I shouldn’t have to beg to spend my money. I love this book, but it had better be worth the wait to avoid a bittersweet denouement. Exhibit B: Conan Volume 5. These were coming out pretty regularly and then abruptly stalled as the single issues marched on. What gives? Again, solid critical buzz, fan favorite, big property, let’s go! Perhaps I’m just being greedy with titles I truly love, and maybe unlike Burger King I can’t “have it my way,” but these pesky annoyances mar what would otherwise be perfect books and risk instigating faltering allegiance to a publisher.

Pull Quotes! (Various): Oni Press, Archaia Studios Press, we love you! To date, three issues of Wasteland, the first Wasteland TPB, one issue of The Killer, and the first Hardcover Edition of The Killer have featured pull quotes from 13 Minutes (not counting the house ads and many printed reviews in letter columns, but thanks to David “Kabuki” Mack for one of those!). The branding gurus I used to work with would characterize this in corporate speak as some sort of niche marketing penetration into the small press publishing vertical based on the adaptive, viral nature of the interwebs, but hell, I just thought it was cool that writers, artists, and production folks were paying attention to my opinions and felt that something I said captured the spirit of a book so well that they felt compelled to adorn their wares with my words in an effort to entice the masses! This was a goal I set for myself in 2007 and accomplished with flying colors. Next year, I’m going after the lofty goal of the elusive writing of a foreword to a collected edition. Possible? We’ll see...

THB: Collected Edition (AdHouse): I was there at SDCC when Paul Pope inadvertently announced this while discussing Batman: Year 100 on a DC panel sitting right beside Editor Bob Shreck. Much to Shreck’s chagrin, Paul indicated that all of the published THB stories (early ones near impossible to find) would be collected by AdHouse. While this is truly amazing news for fans of Pope’s early work, Shreck shot Pope a surprised, even hurt, look that clearly indicated this was the first he’d heard of it, as if to say “WTF? DC doesn’t even get a shot at it? Not even a conversation? And you tell me here? Now? Like this?! Damn, that’s cold bro…”

Planetary (DC/Wildstorm): There’s no arguing the creative brilliance of this book, which really made Warren Ellis a (comic book) household name and rocketed John Cassaday to his inevitable stardom. Planetary is like a love letter to the industry, with embedded commentary and a beautiful tapestry of genre homages, a fully realized vision that’s become a masterpiece. Ahem. But, uhh… is it over? I’m not exactly sure. Are more issues coming out? Maybe? No? Where’s the 4th trade then, the second Absolute Edition, and one all encompassing OMNIBUS? Christmas woulda’ been a good time, what exactly are you waiting for? This has got to be the most dichotomous of dichotomies, being the best book that’s taken the longest to publish. Surely, this is the winner of the Onion Award for most ridiculous publishing schedule. How many issues even came out last year? Two or something? Seriously guys, wrap this the fuck up already. It’s becoming disrespectful to fans who’ve been loyal to the work, and more than patient, for this long. It’s just embarrassing. I’m embarrassed for you. I don’t mean to sound like I carry some rabid sense of entitlement, but come on. It’s beyond a joke. I’m even tired of complaining about it. 24 issues in like 6 years or something? In spite of itself, this is *still* one of my favorites, but chop-chop, let’s get it together boys. Pretty please, with a fucking cherry on top, christalmighty finish the fucking project already, and put it to bed in a definitive format. I’m waiting.

Desolation Jones (DC/Wildstorm): Is it my imagination or do a lot of Warren Ellis projects get started with all sorts of bluster and fury and then just get hung up (Down, Tokyo Storm Warning, Planetary, Ocean, DV8, Ministry of Space, Global Frequency… shall I continue?) at some point down the line, either experiencing extremely long delays between issues or not delivering the end to a mini-series within a reasonable amount of time? I’ll caveat by saying that I actually think Desolation Jones had the tools necessary to be one of the best Ellis works. I mean, you’ve got JH Williams executing a truly off-beat premise which takes the best bits of Ellis (slightly sideways protagonist ala Spider Jerusalem, insane classic sci-fi elements ala, umm, most of his work, and the hidden espionage/spy/spook stuff ala, umm, a lot of his work, then you land Danijel Zezelj (the Croatian artist of our time) for the second arc, which ramps up as if it’s going to be yet another something special all full of flashbacks and atypical introspection and longing… then it just flat out stops with issue 8, right in the middle of an arc, with no information whatsoever on what’s going on. Is it cancelled? It hasn’t been solicited anywhere that I’ve seen. What’s going on? Hellooooo… Ground Control to Major Ellis…

The “I So Didn’t Get It” Category (Various): There were quite a few books that I could have placed in this category (paging Welcome to Tranquility…) that I seemed to be in the silent minority on, but I thought I’d just call out two of the strongest examples where I seemed to be scratching my head saying “wha?” as others were genuinely excited and impressed. Number one, Shazam: Monster Society of Evil. This seemed like a match made in heaven. I dig Billy Batson/Captain Marvel as a character. I think Jeff Smith is an amazing cartoonist. And there was even one panel in the first issue that I thought was masterful and really resonated with me. Billy kneeling humbly before the Wizard and whispering “Are you God?” Good times. But, past that powerful little moment, I was so bored. I just didn’t get it. I didn’t get what everyone saw in this book. People were throwing around Windsor McCay’s name, DC rushed to get this into a big ol’ collected edition with some trick features, but I felt not even the slightest pang of interest. Am I wrong here? Should I plunk down the money to try the collected edition? I’m open to influence if someone wants to dazzle me with three solid reasons why I should try again. Number two, Army @ Love. This book has been racking up the critical praise inside and outside the industry. I loathed the first issue. I thought the humor fell entirely flat, satire was either too overt or missed the mark entirely, did not connect the inexplicable dots between sex and violence as it should have, used things it mistakenly thought would have kitschy shock value simply for the sake of themselves, and flaunted superfluous sexuality which lacked anything even remotely sensual, let alone mildly titillating. I did enjoy Kyle Baker’s Special Forces, which I feel is the book that Army @ Love has been aspiring to be all along, having failed miserably in the process.


Top 10 of 2007 - Ongoing Series

Wasteland (Oni Press): Antony Johnston and Christopher Mitten’s grand epic has employed the “slow burn” method of storytelling. There are periods of dialogue, introspection, character development, and general fleshing out of The Big Wet universe, which are then poignantly punctuated by wild action and moments of sheer terror. This is the best, most overlooked, book on the stands; it’s full of subtle nuance, drama, sex, politics, and religion. It’s a post-apocalyptic, but thoroughly modern cauldron of escalating intensity.

Scalped (DC/Vertigo): The best Vertigo book on the stands, and that’s in the face of ridiculously strong competition from Brian Wood’s DMZ. Jason Aaron and R.M. Guera give us the rare opportunity to peer into a collapsing society full of corruption, greed, and moral ambiguity. You could argue that 100 Bullets does this too (although the narrative arc has become so convoluted, who knows what’s really going on?), but Scalped does this reveal within the context of a larger story that needs to be told. The plight of this dwindling portion of (Native) American society, which is being lost and ignored, a history lesson that simply isn't taught in typical K-12 curriculum. Though this tickles all of the delightful fanboy crime, sex, and violence buttons, it’s also a complex study of a microcosm of closed society that is imploding in on itself.

DMZ (DC/Vertigo): The (other) best Vertigo book on the stands, with a brilliant analysis of the ancillary human stories resulting from warfare. There are portions which are hard-hitting analogues to the US occupation of Iraq, but mostly we see small individual battles being waged on a daily basis amid the larger conflict. Wood gives us his trademark sharp, pungent, political observations like he did in Channel Zero, and pairs them with slice-of-life nuggets of wisdom and dialogue-rich personal moments concerning growth and identity like he does in Local. For me, it’s the perfectly brewed Brian Wood book, the balanced epitome of all the things he’s great at. DMZ isn’t just good, it’s important and socially relevant.

Astonishing X-Men (Marvel): Wannabe detractors would say that Joss Whedon is simply perpetuating his infatuation with the adolescent female latent power fantasy with his adoration of Kitty Pryde. But, doesn’t that make him the perfect candidate to write some damn fine X-Men comics? We’re really getting a stripped down version of these characters from someone who understands the pathos of youth and power, their identity, strengths, weaknesses, and how their interpersonal interactions might realistically play out. He tinkers with many of the X-Men (sub-) genre tropes, all with modern wit, charm, and a certain affable joie de vive and coherence which has been missing for way too long. Unite these characteristics with John Cassaday’s unbeatable art, and you’ve just created the most definitive X-Men stories that the new millennium has witnessed. These will become coveted in the future, like the precious Byrne/Claremont run, it’ll be one of those held up as an ideal version of this 40 year old property, proving that under the right guidance the property still has some fresh legs… that can phase through walls.

All Star Superman (DC): The caveat is that I’m a passive Superman fan at best. To me, there’s just no inherent gravitas in a near-invulnerable offworlder, no darkness or drama with a guy that can do just about anything. However, the theme with Morrison’s run here (and what I finally find interesting) is that he seems to be examining Superman from many different perspectives (a hyper-condensed origin, Bizarro World, dying, Jimmy, Kandor, etc.) so that we can look at him from every angle presented in the Silver Age, but infuse it with manic entertaining Grant Morrison and illuminate things we may not have considered before. The big reveal is that the character may just be more complex than anyone originally gave him credit for. What we have here is a creative duo that brings out the best in an otherwise tired property. With the addition of Quitely’s lean lines, to me, we have the perfect counterpoint to Marvel’s Astonishing X-Men; that rare gem of a flagship property done perfectly.

Casanova (Image): Never has a comic existed which has possessed more satisfying back matter. Combine that with the bargain basement price of $1.99 in the new “slim line” format, Matt Fraction’s zany ideas, the irreverent, fourth-wall breaking moments, and sexual misadventures which are all recycled together seamlessly with bits and influences from other works, and you have a book that actually probably shouldn’t work that well on paper. But, with Fraction’s charm and inventiveness, this is an instant hit that defies conventional expectations and has become greater than the sum of its parts.

The Lone Ranger (Dynamite Entertainment): At the moment, I can’t think of a finer re-imaging of an old property (not in comics anyway, Battlestar Galactica was the only other thing that seemed to come to mind, I mean did you see Razor? Soooo good, but I digress…). Brett Matthews and Sergio Cariello, with covers and art direction from John Cassaday, have captured the essence and grounded appeal of this beloved character. The prolonged chronicling of the origin story is a brazen move, but done with such style and grace. This book is quietly getting better, and it’s a shame nobody seems to be noticing, since it’s a very genuine coming of age story that’s also infused with other genres. We have the western genre, bits of romance, vengeance, crime, and all the lost genres that used to dominate the market in lieu of superheroes, being coalesced into one book. It seems to me that with the right focus and marketing spin (notice they’re starting a Zorro book next year in the same vein as this re-imaging), The Lone Ranger could be poised to bring about a renaissance of these once towering stories that other publishers have failed to capitalize on.

Immortal Iron Fist (Marvel): My taste for straightforward superhero fare seems to be waning quickly unless they’re just done so well (ala Astonishing X-Men or The Brave & The Bold) or contain some kind of meta commentary (ala All-Star Superman or Black Summer). That said, Iron Fist delivers with a plot that’s grounded in characterization and some subtly unique art from David Aja. If you need to scratch an itch that involves basic kung-fu action with a soul, and rendered in a lush style, then you could do much worse than this title.

The Brave & The Bold (DC): I had a few minor quibbles with the latter issues of this series from a continuity standpoint, but it admittedly reads much more cohesively in collected format. Its ability to capture Silver Age fun (without seeming trite, hoary, or campy) and ability to juggle multiple plot lines and introduce characters (while still flowing somewhat organically) make this one of the books that I most look forward to reading. I get that feeling I got as a kid, thinking how cool it was when characters I liked got to hang out and team up, they were friends and respected each other (Batman and Green Lantern being two childhood faves). It’s a seldom seen, precarious balance of universe building. I mean, they actually knew each other independent of their solo titles or some stupid company crossover. It’s just sheer entertainment, with gorgeous George Perez art, and a hearty sense of adventure that makes me remember why I started reading comics as a kid in the first place.

Ex Machina (DC/Wildstorm): For me, after the critically acclaimed The Escapists, this is consistently Brian K. Vaughan’s best body of work. Like any long running series, it has natural highs and lows, but when taken as a whole, is a profound piece of storytelling. It’s reminiscent to me of The West Wing (well, the first four seasons helmed by Aaron Sorkin anyway), presenting complex social issues in a way that engages the disenfranchised and politically savvy alike. It has the ability (some would say bravery) to raise the level of public debate in this country in a productive and healthy way. Throw in some crafty dialogue, a bold alternate reality in which only one of the World Trade Center towers came crashing down, Tony Harris’ best work to date, amazing lush colors, and you get a story that aptly depicts the noble, but flawed character of New York City; a saga for the ages.


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.


What's In A (Thai) Name?

I just had some Thai food for lunch that was scrumdiddlyumptious. It was made of some delectable grilled prawns and scallops that were then drenched in some red curry coconut sauce, along with bamboo shoots and julienned carrots. What was the name of this tasty dish you ask?


12.05.07 Reviews

Kabuki: The Alchemy #9 (Marvel/ICON): Volume 7 in the Kabuki saga reaches a state of self-referential craftsmanship and exuberance as Kabuki (and David Mack?) begins to tell her story about writing the Kabuki books, with nods to the debut work, Circle of Blood (and even a couple shout outs to Marvel's FF). I was reminded of the recent Trevanian novel I just finished, The Crazyladies of Pearl Street, in which the last few pages of the book are the author discussing how he began to write the very book you're reading. There's some well-played commentary on pop culture, with references to the transformative kiss that Michael gives to Fredo in Godfather II, as well as a faux exchange from the Charlie Rose Show. Picasso's quote: "Art is the lie that tells the truth" sets the stage for Mack's own spin on the statement. He essentially makes the point that "the expression of intent can alter reality," or that we have the power to change or destroy the world, as we become "contributing authors of our own culture." I was particularly fond of Mack's examination of the number 13: "...my favorite number, a Fibonacci number, the smallest and first prime number that can be expressed as the sum of two prime numbers... a pattern which can be seen to exist in man, nature, and the heavens... the human genome is based on 13 strands of DNA... the moon travels 13 degrees across the sky... 13 is the divine feminine..." and goes on for another couple of pages. Mack walks a very fine line, providing allegorical storytelling that readers can imbue with their own personal meaning, but avoiding a more prescriptive analagous form of storytelling. This issue proves again that David Mack's creation is compelling, brilliant, and unique, both transcending and re-defining the medium's capabilities. Grade A+.

Northlanders #1 (DC/Vertigo): The year of Brian Wood ends with a well punctuated additional hit! Davide Gianfelice's gritty, visceral art style boasts cinematic shot selection that keeps the action flowing with a musical, staccato pace. Wood's script reaches Shakespearean heights with its familial betrayal and high drama. Though it's set in the Viking period, Wood brings his modern ear for dialogue and trademark characters struggling to define themselves in uncomfortable new environments. This is yet another title to watch in Wood's expanding, diverse portfolio of achievement. Grade A.

Black Summer #4 (Avatar Press): Warren Ellis continues his examination of the collapse of the superhero paradigm, as Juan Jose Ryp's art boasts a combination of lean Frank Quitely lines and details reminiscent of Geoff Darrow. John Horus continues his driven rampage with illuminating lines like "do I have to make a crater, do I have to make a chunk of the country go away before you'll start acting like humans?" All the while I was reminded of the quote "I will burn this village in order to save it." Grade A.

The Infinite Horizon #1 (Image): Gerry Duggan and fan favorite Phil Noto present a harrowing, but plausible alternate future outcome of the United States' involvement in the Middle East. They set up an interesting journey as the familiar and comfortable trappings of warfare and what it means to be a soldier are abandoned in favor of a poetic journey that has the potential for further social commentary and devil's advocate style controversy. Grade A.

Suburban Glamour #2 (Image): SG stays true to its name, as the source of the magical glamour is finally revealed and the pedestrian suburban notes are hit perfectly, as evidenced by the simple act of text messaging in class. There are miniscule mis-steps like the way Aubrey's importance is somewhat telegraphed, but overall this is a strong book with a wonderful sense of graphic design, such as the thought balloon/pictures. Grade A-.

Lobster Johnson: The Iron Prometheus #4 (Dark Horse): The creative team confidently puts forth a fun, accessible, dark adventure that's not mired in continuity the way that Hellboy has become. This time out, I was really impressed with the number of sequential panels that are sans dialouge, highlighting the effective panel to panel storytelling abililty and faith in eachother that this creative team possesses. Grade B+.

Justice League of America #15 (DC): This issue is a cornucopia of exposition, implausibility, and untidy storytelling. Lex: Oh no, "you transmuted my kryptonite." Amanda Waller: Hi, "for those of you who may not know, I'm Amanda Waller." How's that for some exposition? I do believe many of the poses and anatomical anomalies are impossible on that double page splash. How could we possibly be looking square on at Dinah's ass and her face at the same time? How is it that Roy, Batman, and Vixen are inhabiting the same horizontal plane? Who among the JLA wouldn't know who Amanda Waller is? Roy was a damn Checkmate agent! How in the hell could Amanda and a dozen fools from Task Force X sneak up on the JLA in a room without Superman hearing them? As for untidyness, there's about three examples of characters literally saying "we'll talk about this later," that's just silly. Also, umm, did I miss an issue? No. Was this part of a crossover? The cover doesn't say so. Yet, I feel like I'm missing things. There are Green Lanterns swooping in from nowhere, references to having called Firestorm, nobody knows where Flash is, etc. This is just really unclear, as is the continuing theme of the JLA being the home for wayward heroes. They've picked up Geo-Force (still unclear from Meltzer's run) and now have Firestorm, which makes for a line-up of about 12 Leaguers, which is all pretty unwieldy. Add that on top of a plot that thoroughly lacks any sort of gravitas and I do believe I'm just about done with JLA, as this ish clocks in with a Grade D+.

I also picked up;

The Escapists Hardcover (Dark Horse): Finally! One of the best mini-series finally published in a collected edition.

The Brave & The Bold: The Lords of Luck (DC): I had some quibbles with the latter issues of this first arc, but the strength of the first half and amazing George Perez art made up for them.


Top 10 of 2007 - Graphic Novels

Superspy (Top Shelf): Featured here at 13 Minutes as one of our Graphic Novels Of The Month recently, Matt Kindt’s latest offering is his finest work to date, amid a stable of already unique and impressive work. If you have even a passing interest in espionage, romance, World War II era adventure, or Kindt’s sketchy, but crisp artistic style, you need to buy this book or risk missing out on one of the most well designed, intricate, and enjoyable works in recent memory. He’s also just a genuinely nice guy who did a cool sketch in my hardcover edition of this book for free. I couldn’t believe that people weren’t swarming him at the SDCC, I just walked right up and started chatting him up. For me, when I looked at the list of contenders this year for Top 10, this was easily the best of the bunch. This is my favorite GN from 2007.

Pulp Hope (AdHouse): Simply put, this is a dream come true for any Paul Pope fan. It’s a coffee-table-style art book which presents a deeply satisfying historical perspective along with a blend of essays, interviews, bibliography, pin-ups, and posters that have comprised Pope’s non-traditional career to date. If they keep this up, AdHouse will be cornering the little niche market of comic related art books. One need only point to the gorgeous James Jean book that came out at the same time to see a developing trend take hold.

Gipi’s Work (First Second): Ok, so I’m cheating a little and you’re getting a two-fer. You win! I’m selecting Notes For A War Story and Garage Band. True, these have been previously published in Europe, but the First Second editions are new to both the US market and to me personally. The way Gipi is able to use (water) color to so effectively convey a mood or scene is second to none. What I value the most about his work is how it seems to linger with you long after you think you’re done. Flashes of images or certain panels stay with me, my subconscious mind still trying to work them out, forcing me to want to re-read, dissect, and understand them on a deeper level, as the layers of meaning slowly sink into my perception. Gipi has that rare ability to take what would otherwise be ordinary scenes of day to day life and, through well mannered pacing and dialogue choices, imbue them with thematic meaning or poignancy that transcends a simple story of war or teenage friendship and becomes universal to the human experience.

The Blot (I Will Destroy You): Tom Neely put forth into the world something really special with The Blot. It begins with an air of whimsy, grows in intensity as it struggles through man’s inherent existential dilemma, touches upon love and loss and insecurity, with an end note of hope that makes you want to experience it all over again. Neely’s style is admittedly influenced by early Disney and Floyd Gottfredson work (the white gloves are certainly a fun, if slightly disturbing homage to that mouse from California). His clean lines are superficially simple, yet so effective in portraying a wide spectrum of emotion. I was so impressed with this work and loved it so much, that it could not stay contained. I had to let if free into the world to breathe. In an effort to expose it to more people, I gave it to a coworker who is also an artist (Hi Alex!). I love it so much (and this is one of the only times I’m going to do this) that I think you should go buy it: http://www.iwilldestroyyou.com/

Sentences: The Life of M.F. Grimm (DC/Vertigo): There is a plethora of gangster shit out there; movies and music seem to be dominated by consumer infatuation with this genre. But, there is nothing like the real story, straight from the man himself. What we get here is a retrospective discourse on the rise and fall of a real life legend, from his upstart fame and brushes with intense violence, to his ultimate journey down a different path. The art rivals Eduardo Risso, with its masterful use of negative space, shadow, and simplified figure design. This was an overlooked gem, the best autobiographical/true crime book that I’ve read in a really long time, and made it a point to recommend to others.

Finder: Sin-Eater: Book 1 (Light Speed Press): Carla Speed McNeil’s venerable work is one that I originally dismissed. Honestly, I think Finder can read horribly disjointed in single issues, and am so glad I gave it a second chance, being enticed by this beautifully formatted hardcover. Book 1 collects tons of issues and some of the most brilliant annotations around, which are interesting and allow a deeper appreciation of the work, not just the self-indulgent or bogged-down-in-process annotations that some lesser works can offer. Finder is a complicated story about love and betrayal and war and the future. It’s mystical, but grounded, and defies easy categorization or description. It’s about people on journeys of discovery that often lead them to places they least expect. I want more editions formatted like this so that I can explore the entire series!

Aya (Drawn & Quarterly): The beauty of Aya is that it presents a modern day Ivory Coast that’s realistic. And of course, I’d be partial to any book that includes authentic African recipes, including ginger beer. This is a seldom seen slice of life in a relatively progressive part of Africa that is urbanized and full of the familiar trappings of difficulty with parents and teenagers fabricating drama for themselves. This is not the stereotypical desert setting, shantytowns racked by AIDS, devastation brought on by famine, and scenes of tribal warfare that the Western media is so fixated upon. Those things are present, sure, but are not the story. They’re perceptible in the background, but here it’s the people, their relationships and value system that take center stage and accurately display a different culture.

Northwest Passage (Oni Press): I didn’t think I would like this book; I carried some mysterious negative bias going into it, but found it really enjoyable. Scott Chantler gives us a superb balance of historical reference and fictional sensibility that had me absolutely riveted. The annotations are also wonderful, providing depth to a well-researched, adventurous romp that has all the drama, intrigue, and hooks of your favorite TV show. It keeps you coming back for more, intently following the characters and wild plot lines to see all of the various arcs progress.

The Professor’s Daughter (First Second): Joann Sfar has yet to produce a work that could top his own The Rabbi’s Cat, but this was solid fun. The Professor’s Daughter is a whimsical story about the afterlife and undying love. The real treat here is Guibert's watercolors, which lend an airy, light, almost dreamlike feel to this light-hearted tale.

The Art of Matt Wagner’s Grendel (Dark Horse): The latest in a series of Dark Horse “art of” books provides an impressive array of back matter. There’s a nice variety of Grendels and their creators here, not just Wagner’s Hunter Rose version. What I found as the real treat was much of the art deco motif that seems to run throughout the designs.


Top 10 of 2007 - Intro

Now that December is already upon us (really, where the hell did 2007 go?), I’m happy to welcome you to the third year of “Top 10” lists here at 13 Minutes. In an effort to focus the lists a little more tightly, there are a couple minor tweaks we’ll be making. First off, there is no “Top 10 Worst” of anything this time out. Though our readers always seemed to find it entertaining and at times it was admittedly fun to write for pure hedonism, I decided to let the bad reviews simply speak for themselves. Why give those books undeserving of a second look, a second mention, even to mock them?

Two, I remembered that one of my original operating principles when I started 13 Minutes was to draw attention to good books that needed readers in order to drive some form of sustainable readership in the industry, not call undue attention to the bad ones. Of course, one can argue that even negative reviews serve their purpose, both steering consumers away from the dreck – hopefully inspiring a (negative) “vote with your wallet” phenomenon, and ideally swaying talent to strive for better in the face of truly constructive criticism, thus proving useful. But, I feel that by framing the influence positively we put readers in a position not to just passively avoid bad books, but where they’re forced to take action and seek out good ones. No, I don’t like passivity with my revolution. It’s what the boys at Savant Magazine used to call “Comics Activism,” it requires up-off-the-ass action. Now, that may all be splitting hairs and overanalyzing a semantical distinction, but it nevertheless felt right. Besides, a few of my gripes will no doubt get incorporated into the “Top 10 Misc. Items” list! There are only four lists this year, The Top 10 Graphic Novels, Mini-Series, Ongoing Titles, and aforementioned Misc. Items that caught my eye or that I wanted to comment on.

Another new feature to the lists is that they will be ranked, the number one spot being the best. Be forewarned that there is no real scientific method to the rankings (is there ever in an inherently opinion based critique, with impossible to agree upon rating criteria and definitions?); they’re my subjective gut reaction, marked only by the byzantine internal measurement of how excited these books made me to be a comic book fan in 2007. These are the books that I personally enjoyed or valued for some specific artistic reason(s). These are the books whose magical pairing of images and text made me satisfied, nay – happy, to spend my money on and support.

Of course, there will inevitably be some debate over category placement, particularly in the Graphic Novel (GN)/Trade Paper Back (TPB) vs. Mini-Series sections. Essentially, I tried to keep things in the GN category that were not previously published in another format, meaning that for the most part they were really Original Graphic Novels (OGN), or the collected format was so different (Finder and Northwest Passage with their slick hardcovers and annotations being prime examples) that it warranted distinction. Some were just coffee-table-style art books. Or some were mini-series that I know will ultimately be collected, but either are still going or have not yet been collected at the time of this writing.

The first “Top 10 of 2007” list goes up later this week. Enjoy!


Graphic Novel(s) Of The Month

While I don't have sufficient time to do in depth reviews this month, there are three books I can wholeheartedly recommend;

Queen & Country: Volume 8: Operation Red Panda (Oni Press): In short, Tara Chace's career and lifestyle have finally all caught up with her and come crashing down. The repercussions of espionage work, sexual relationships, and general psychological make up converge in a crescendo of power and emotion that may shake up the Q&C world forever. This outstanding book is only marred by Rucka's inherently bittersweet swan song, as he formally announces that the beloved book is now on hiatus for an unspecified time. Grade A.

Altercations (Sleeping Giant Comics): David Yurkovich's faux "History of Super-Hero Activity in 20th Century North America" feels balanced and well researched and is a marvel of ingenuity. The publishing history is a bit convoluted, issue one having been published, and what would have been issue two now incorporated into one all encompassing volume (collecting the bits of issue one and intended bits of part two), but yet to actually be picked up and published. For more information, please see: http://www.sleepinggiantcreations.com/comics-ogns/altercations/altercations-main.html Grade A.

Chiaroscuro: Patchwork: Book 1 (IDW): Troy Little presents the rarest of things here: a pseudo-auto-biographical slice of life book that feels more real and interesting than the typical self-indulgent navel-gazing that such independent comic products often are hampered by. Not only does he avoid that pitfall, he also incorporates some magical ethereal bits that avoid being obtuse. This is an extremely well balanced project that hits all the right notes. Grade A.