Friday, December 20, 2013

Best of 2013 Comics - Original Graphic Novels

1. Bandette Vol 1 HC
OK, maybe this is cheating, because it was digital first, and technically could be called a collection, but... it's my list, and I'm cheating. Bandette is a fantastic new tale of a young thief with a European flair, with elements of Tin Tin in the mix, really fun and light and inventive. Gorgeous art by Colleen Coover, who I've always liked but who has done some really amazing stuff with her colors here in particular, and she and her husband Paul Tobin have created a super-fun cast of characters in Bandette, her urchins, rival thieves, gangs of assassins and so much more.

2. Bad Houses
Sara Ryan has not written a lot of comics, but I've loved every one she has written, so I hope that changes in the near future. Some of the best characters in the business with intricate, well thought-out plots about the simple (and not-so-simple) interactions of human lives along with fascinating settings, from a high school drama department (in her mini Me & Edith Head) to a small Oregon town and the business of estate sales. Mix with art from unsung Indy art hero Carla Speed McNeil, whose epic Sci-Fi/fantasy series Finder I sorely miss, and you've got one of the best graphic novels of 2013

3. Monster on the Hill
1860s England, each town has their own monster, and the folks at Stoker-on-Avon are not super-keen on theirs. But when they draw the attention of a really dangerous monster, a young boy needs to convince the monster to show a little pride and defend his town. All-ages fun with fantastic art by newcomer Rob Harrell, this was a big surprise for me this year.

4. Parker: Slayground
Darwyn Cooke's adaptation of Richard Stark's novels are always favorite reads of mine. This one is a smaller story than the previous ones, with master thief Parker stuck in a closed amusement park with the take from an armored car heist and some corrupt cops and crooks ready to come in and take it from him. The smaller scale doesn't really hurt it, and there's some really nifty elements here, like a full map of the park and some inventive traps from Parker. It's like Home Alone, but with a hardened criminal instead of... no, I guess it's just like Home Alone.

5. We Can Fix It
Jess Fink's smutty steampunk tale Chester 5000 was one of my favorites, and her follow-up, a "time travel" memoir that answers the question we've all theoretically asked ourselves, "What mistakes would I try to fix that young me made if I had a time machine?" Sexy and funny with great cartooning, it's a joy to read and I can't wait to see what Fink does next.

6. DC Super-Pets Encyclopedia
Did you know that Captain Boomerang has a pet koala? How about Solomon Grundy's Pogo-inspired swamp crew? That is only a few of the characters covered in this super cheap ($8 for a big 'ol color book) of Super Pets, which ranges from the familiar (Comet, Beppo) to the invented, all courtesy of Tiny Titans co-creator Art Baltazar. This one should go in every kids' stocking at Christmas this year.

7. Boxers & Saints
Gene Luen Yang's two volume tale of the Boxer Rebellion is a historical period I didn't know much about, told in a unique way with each volume being a different perspective, and some interesting magical realism, particularly in the Boxers volume. I've enjoyed a lot of Yang's work, and this one, a mix of history, fantasy, interesting characters and pretty uncompromising storytelling, is no exception.

8. Battling Boy
A great read, reminiscent of Grant Morrison or Alan Moore's ABC work, with Pope doing amazing art as usual and some fun world building to boot. It's only the first chapter in a longer work, which may turn out fine but given how long this took, I'm not sure when we'll see volume two or if we'll ever see an ending. If this is chapter one of a superhero masterpiece, that'll be great. If it's the teaser for an unfinished tale with more questions and potential than answers and resolution, it'll have to settle for merely "really damn good."

9. Heck
10. Crater XV
These two were the tales from awesome digital collection Double Barrel, one a sequel to Kevin Cannon's tale of Canadian seafaring arctic adventure (you heard me!) and the other a story of a guy who can go into Hell on business for clients, this time an ex-girlfriend who wants to communicate with her dead husband, by Zander Cannon. Great cartooning, unusual premises and lots of twists and turns in the stories, plus the usual strong Top Shelf production values.

Just outside the top 10 list are a new volume of Fred Chao's Johnny Hiro Skills to Pay the Bills and the colorful pulpy adventure Delilah Durk and the Turkish Lieutenant from First Second.

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