Best Comic Books 2019

Health insurance rip off lying FDA big bankers buying
Fake computer crashes dining
Cloning while they're multiplying
Fashion shoots with Beck and Hanson
Courtney Love, and Marilyn Manson
You're all fakes
Run to your mansions
Come around
We'll kick your ass in

Postby creationist » Sat Dec 14, 2019 12:20 pm

Annual "best of" thread from your friendly neighborhood comic people. This one makes it a full decade that I've been doing it. When we started the main thread was moving so fast it was hard for casuals to keep up. Ten years on the threads for comic book movies are more active than the comic book thread... feel old yet??

I'll probably come back and fill my list in with little blurbs but I wanted to go ahead and get this rolling for the folks who use this for pre-holiday purchasing...

I've included shopping links. Please support your local comic shop, they really are amazing places. If I'm listing a book that began prior to 2019 then I'm giving you a link to the book that begins the story. You wouldn't want to start a TV show on the last season, would you? Would you?? You sick freak.

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10. WHEN I ARRIVED AT THE CASTLE

Emily Carroll / Koyama Press / https://www.indiebound.org/book/9781927668689


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9. THESE SAVAGE SHORES

Ram V, Sumit Kumar / Vault Comics / https://www.indiebound.org/book/9781939424402


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8. THE IMMORTAL HULK

Al Ewing, Joe Bennett / Marvel Comics / https://www.indiebound.org/book/9781302912550


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7. THE HARD TOMORROW

Eleanor Davis / Drawn & Quarterly / https://www.indiebound.org/book/9781770463738


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6. LITTLE BIRD

Darcy Van Poelgeest, Ian Bertram / Image Comics / https://www.indiebound.org/book/9781534313453


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5. THE RIVER AT NIGHT

Kevin Huizenga / Drawn & Quarterly / https://www.indiebound.org/book/9781770463745


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4. GREEN LANTERN

Grant Morrison, Liam Sharp / DC Comics / https://www.indiebound.org/book/9781401291396


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3. ARE YOU LISTENING?

Tillie Walden / First Second / https://www.indiebound.org/book/9781250207562


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2. HOUSE OF X / POWERS OF X

Jonathan Hickman, R.B. Silva, Pepe Larraz / Marvel Comics / https://www.indiebound.org/book/9781302915704


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1. RUSTY BROWN

Chris Ware / Pantheon Books / https://www.indiebound.org/book/9780375424328
Last edited by creationist on Mon Dec 16, 2019 5:37 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby sevenarts » Sat Dec 14, 2019 12:50 pm

Good stuff. I loved that Emily Carroll book too. Still haven't gotten to the Rusty Brown collection so I know my list will feel incomplete this year but I'll work on it soon.
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Postby sevenarts » Sat Dec 14, 2019 2:03 pm

As in the past few years, I'm doing 2 lists, one for graphic novels and more indie stuff, another for comic shop serial books. Here's the graphic novel list first.

GRAPHIC NOVELS, ONESHOTS, MINICOMICS, ETC.
Honorable Mentions:
15. Vision parts 1-2 | Julia Gfrorer
14. Disorder #1 | Erika Price
13. Egg Cream #1 | Liz Suburbia
12. BTTM FDRS | Ezra Claytan Daniels & Ben Passmore
11. How I Tried To Be A Good Person | Ulli Lust

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10. Gates of Plasma | Carlos Gonzalez
Gonzalez is one of the most distinctive, underrated voices in modern comics, and this wild book is the best thing I've read from him and probably the best introduction to his utterly bizarre sensibility. Across 300+ pages, this book careens through a feverish B-movie narrative, packed with psychic bugs, hallucinatory drug experiences, mad genetic experiments, secretive cults performing plays to come into contact with an alien race, and so on. It's hard to describe what's so appealing about all this, especially the absurd humor of it - I often found myself laughing out loud, then wondering how exactly I'd explain to someone just *what* I was laughing at. But it's unmistakeably compelling, with a Cronenbergian approach to body horror and bodily transformation, that is to say a profound belief that a visceral, often gross process of transcending physical reality can be an ecstatic escape from the numbing boredom and violence of "ordinary" society.

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9. Plaza | Yuichi Yokoyama
Yokoyama's oddest book yet, entirely dedicated to an outlandish parade or performance: a succession of mind-boggling routines are performed on a stage, with elaborate mechanical constructions, legions of odd-looking Yokoyama figures in garish costumes, and tons of weird little details crammed into every panel. It's wild stuff, in many ways seeming similar to some of Yokoyama's more catalogue-like moments from the past, an excuse to draw as many different things as possible. And yet, it's hard to shake the feeling that there's more there. There's something menacing about all this spectacle, a vague militaristic sensibility underlying a lot of it - there are guns, rockets, flamethrowers, barbed wire, vehicles on tank treads, and random inserts of English phrases like "black helicopter" that seem more pointedly directed at Western culture's sinister undertones. Potent, deeply weird stuff, with a looser, more raw aesthetic than usual - dense smears and scratches of ink and marker, seemingly drawn quickly. Another baffling, unforgettable work from one of comics' most unusual auteurs.

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8. Pittsburgh | Frank Santoro
A free-flowing tone poem on memory and family, bursting with brilliant colors on every multimedia page, as Santoro loosely traces the history of his own parents: their courtship, his own childhood, and their eventual acrimonious divorce. But rather than stitch together a full narrative Santoro builds a patchwork that reflects the reality of the piecemeal way he's found out information about his family over the years, in fragmentary conversations and unexpected, unguarded moments, in little bits of stories that gradually change his conception of the past and his family ties. It places less emphasis on dramatic incident than on the emotional reality of it all, and on the way he visually remembers his home and his neighborhood. The colors are vivid, fluorescent, sunny, but the lines are often sketchy and hazy, creating this sense of memories that are emotionally intense even as some of the details blur at the edges. The searching, meandering structure, darting around in history and weaving in conversations with his parents and grandparents, adds to the sense of excavating memories. The loose narrative is certainly affecting, but it's of course the art that really blows me away here - some of Santoro's best work ever, perfectly walking a line between process and finished art, continually shifting between modes, playfully taping in cutout figures and inserts, using a wide variety of implements to achieve constantly varying lines and textures.

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7. Bad Gateway | Simon Hanselmann
Hanselmann's latest Megg & Mogg novel continues a path he's been on for a while with these characters, increasing their isolation and their desperation, pushing the story to ever-darker territory without losing the discomfiting laughs that are at the core of his work. The result is the darkest Hanselmann book, but in many ways also the funniest. There's a real sense of dread running through this, a sense that things could go even more horribly wrong than usual at any moment. It's a very melancholy book too: Megg and Mogg sulk through a totally dysfunctional relationship that's limping along from sheer inertia, while Werewolf Jones sinks deeper and deeper into depravity, neglecting and abusing his feral children - and his one attempt to get clean, becoming "Warehouse Jones" and working respectably at Lowe's, is quickly sabotaged by a drug dealer friend. Despite the darkness, this is damn hilarious, every page is packed with gags and funny details. Hanselmann has these characters so thoroughly down by now that he can generate humor just from their subtle interactions and facial expressions, just throwing them into absurd scenarios to see how they react.

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6. Kramer's Ergot #10 | various ed. Sammy Harkham
This new KE has an especially broad, eclectic range, intentionally placing different modes and eras in dialogue with one another. There's a sense of old and new speaking to each other, drawing parallels and contrasts between different artists, creating this lively conversation that stretches from the golden age of newspaper comics to the undergounds to the 90s indie boom to the modern avant-garde. There's also just a shitload of amazing comics in this. C.F. does what's easily the most jaw-dropping comic I've ever seen from him, these swirls of paint and digital color that just overload the huge page. Similarly, Lale Westvind outdoes her horror story from KE#9 with an even more visually daring, terrifying/beautiful piece about a monstrous shark woman. Harkham's own "Blood of the Virgin" - in color, a standalone chapter separate from the story he's been serializing in Crickets - shows off his rock-solid cartooning and storytelling, using a traditional cartoonist's mastery of visual language to tell a story that's by turns quietly funny and mysteriously melancholy. Steven Weissman does an eerie, inexplicable Old West tale in which the cutesy simplicity of the drawings belies the menace hidden between the lines. Connor Willumsen weaves an intricate, unsettling story about inept terrorists across page after stark white page, with no panels as in his other recent comics, just these funny, rubbery cartoons running and sweating and plotting against the backdrop of all that blank space. The best overall issue of this anthology sinces its heyday with KE #4-5.
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Postby sevenarts » Sat Dec 14, 2019 2:04 pm

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5. Leaving Richard's Valley | Michael DeForge
A collection of a daily comic strip originally published on Instagram, about a cult, and a group of animals who get banished from it for violating the leader's rules. More broadly, it's about trying to navigate a forbidding world with little place for those who don't fit in with society's conventions. Its anthropomorphic characters are outcasts, noise musicians, homeless drifters, squatters. The rhythm of the daily strips, accumulated this way, is interesting; sometimes DeForge really leans into the form, delivering self-consciously corny punchlines, while at other times a week's worth of strips will pass by with hardly a joke in sight, just a deadpan, melancholy series of mood pieces. DeForge also experiments playfully with art, which is all black and white but varies the textures a lot - lots of photocopied backgrounds, sometimes to insert images but just as often to add amorphouse noise and texture around DeForge's impeccable blobby cartoons. It actually works really well as a GN too, because the real core of the book winds up being the characters and the gradual articulation of their personalities and interactions over the course of the book. And goddamn, I love the mice (??) who sing noise music.

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4. Bradley of Him | Connor Willumsen
Jaw-dropping cartooning chops presented within a loose, free-flowing framework, often without panel borders, or otherwise allowing for odd zig-zag reading orders that amble unpredictably across the page. It's this incredible technical feat that somehow doesn't feel like one, that feels loose and spontaneous even though the virtuosity is obvious in every line. The story concerns Bradley Cooper (maybe?) getting a bit too deeply into an athlete persona after playing Lance Armstrong, and taking off on a rambling odyssey through the desert around Las Vegas, narrating an alternately fawning and confrontational letter to Robert DeNiro as he runs. It shares with Anti-Gone a distinctive voice - there's such a hypnotic cadence to the frequently baffling conversations that the hero engages in, and Willumsen's dialogue is so well crafted that I can hear how the characters must sound. Themes of celebrity, fame, privilege, and class percolate throughout all these absurdist vignettes, and in its oddball way it's a pretty scathing and accurate portrait of the current cultural landscape.

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3. When I Arrived At the Castle | Emily Carroll
New, astounding sensual horror from one of the masters of the form. This bloody and dreamlike little gem follows a cat girl as she enters the castle lair of a vampire countess, resulting in a tense showdown. Carroll playfully tears apart the simple narrative, shattering it like a mirror and letting each shard glint jaggedly page by page. It's about storytelling as much as anything - the narration shifts unpredictably, text stories are intercut with the comics, and different story possibilities are presented and discarded as though Carroll is sifting through all the folkloric vampire tales right on the page, toying with all the different paths and twists her story might take. Best of all it's gorgeous - sexy, horrifying, dripping with bright red blood. The page layouts often eschew panels, as usual in Caroll's work, instead opting for fluid collages and amazing full-page posters. There's a sense of voyeurism throughout, best seen in the keyhole peeping sequence that starts out alluring and quickly shifts to convey the sense of having seen something awful and inexplicable that never should have been seen.

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2. Grip, Part 2 | Lale Westvind
Amazing second volume of Westvind's best work. This continues the first part's fascination with women's labor, working with their hands, though here it comes across as a creation myth, a tribute to creativity's power, and an expression of deep yearning for community. For much of the book, a solitary woman works with her hands on her own environment, molding her surroundings to her whims, vibrating with energy and color as she transforms her world into vaguely humanoid dance partners and companions, or creates dozens of pulsing, twisted sculptures that look like abstracted piles of shaking limbs. This is stunningly beautiful stuff, the color just explodes off the page and Westvind's drawings all have so much life and vitality to them. She's just the best.

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1. This Woman's Work | Julie Delporte
This started as a biography of Moomin creator Tove Jansson, with Delporte visiting Finland to research and see places Jansson lived or stayed. Those trips are documented here, as the book becomes this meta project about its own creation, and about the thoughts and ideas surrounding Delporte's fascination with Jansson. It's part diary, part loosely flowing essay about being a woman artist, about being a woman in a world governed by male history, male perspectives, male art - about being a woman in general. Delporte's handmade aesthetic - tape and hand-cut edges are evident on the pages where Delporte pasted together pieces drawn separately, or where she uses these collage methods to add texture to her images - makes this feel deeply personal. There's real power to what she's after here, to the way the aims of her essay - staking a place for a woman as a self-sufficient creative personality - dovetail with the overflowing creativity of the work itself. It's a beautiful, intense, deeply inspiring book - one where I can flip to any page and find a perfect gorgeous image and some provocative, tersely stated ideas in Delporte's signature script.


Comic shop list coming soon....
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Postby lunatic96 » Sat Dec 14, 2019 2:32 pm

is The River at Night just the collected Ganges or does it have new stuff?
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Postby creationist » Sat Dec 14, 2019 3:54 pm

lunatic96 wrote:is The River at Night just the collected Ganges or does it have new stuff?


That’s kind of an interesting question for this book because it’s very interested in how repetition can make the same thing different. It does contain Ganges... but it expands rather than collects, does things around what you’ve seen before to make you see it in a new way. If that makes sense without getting too specific. I’m trying to say even if you’ve seen stuff before it’s still enjoyable.
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Postby Hal Jordan » Sat Dec 14, 2019 5:05 pm

I will try to read everything in this thread
well that was intense
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Postby Hal Jordan » Sat Dec 14, 2019 5:05 pm

Little bird is so good
well that was intense
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Postby sevenarts » Sat Dec 14, 2019 9:33 pm

Here's list #2:

COMIC SHOP COMICS

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10. Little Bird | Darcy Van Poelgeest & Ian Bertram
Bertram completely kills it on this bloody fable about politico-religious oppression, idealistic rebels, and multiple generations of fucked-up family. His style is detailed and dense, but without sacrificing an incredible sense of motion and action. And as dazzling as it looks, it's not completely carried by the art because its story is just as dense and fun, with unpredictable shifts from issue to issue.

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9. Lodger | David & Maria Lapham
The Laphams take a break from Stray Bullets for this twisted little noir about a serial killer and the young woman who's tracking him - though there's always the disquieting sense that that's not the whole story, as the book proceeds through a series of flashbacks, narrated stories, and competing fictionalized versions of the truth, giving a somewhat similar vibe to Lapham's Vertigo classic Young Liars.

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8. Silver Surfer: Black | Donny Cates & Tradd Moore
Moore's work on this series is so good that it hardly even matters what it's about. The story is frankly whatever to me but I loved this miniseries anyway, it's one of the best looking mainstream books of the year. Moore's inventiveness applied to these cosmic concepts - especially his renderings of Ego the Living Planet - is just so exciting that it's fun to just watch him at work for page after page, regardless of what's going on.

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7. The Green Lantern | Grant Morrison & Liam Sharp
True to form, Morrison's little "Hal as space cop" book quickly got out of control and expanded its scope beyond that basic premise, into a lunatic space opera that climaxed with all the Lanterns getting brainwashed to serve a vampire countess and her cult leader-like boss. Sharp's ultra-detailed, pristine style is a bit much but that too mixes well with what Morrison's up to here. The whole thing is a bit much and that's its central appeal.

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6. Clue: Candlestick | Dash Shaw
I didn't really expect to be reading an IDW Dash Shaw book licensed from a board game property this year, but this was a total blast. Shaw plays the premise pretty straight and his clean style, which tends towards cartoony icons, is perfectly suited to rendering the game's stereotyped, color-themed characters. The murder mystery plotting and iconic setup unsurprisingly gives Shaw a lot of room for formalist play, but he also invests a lot of emotion into what frankly could have easily been an arch gag.
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Postby sevenarts » Sat Dec 14, 2019 9:33 pm

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5. Batman | Tom King & various
King's Batman has been a real rollercoaster and it's been far from perfect, but when he hits, as he did this year in a series of hallucinatory nightmares, as well as in the talky, languid issues where the Bat and the Cat finally reconnect on a beach, it's just so good. King has a pretty recognizable style that's unified this whole run, but he's also done well at approaching this story from multiple angles, and though I don't love every artist he works with, the rotating styles also help give a different feel to each arc, whether he's doing a low-key romance, a punchy formalist piece, a psychological study, or a more straight-ahead action showcase.

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4. Criminal | Ed Brubaker & Sean Phillips
I've been a little burned out on recent Brubaker/Phillips projects but the return of Criminal - their consistently best work IMO - has been fantastic. It's just completely straightforward noir, done with an excess of style and elegance, and with sharply defined characters at its core. Phillips' art looks better than ever and the atmosphere of this new run is impeccable.

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3. The Immortal Hulk | Al Ewing & Joe Bennett
If Ewing's weirdo Hulk epic has become maybe a little more conventional in its second year, it's still pretty damn weird and great, with visits to Hell and a delirious vision of Hulk as a cosmic-scale horror in the far future, carelessly destroying entire civilizations as he rampages through the universe. Even when it flirts with plain old superhero dramatics, as it has with the increasing presence of Alpha Flight, there's such a strong sensibility and dedication to its themes at the book's center that it never becomes just another cape book.

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2. Pretty Deadly: The Rat | Kelly Sue DeConnick & Emma Rios
The infamously confounding but beautiful series returns with a new miniseries, and it considerably improves on the already enjoyable earlier arcs. Rios' gorgeous, richly textured art is this time in service of a pulpy silent film mystery, complete with metatextual subplots rendered like stop motion shadow plays. Eerie, unsettling, and infused with sadness, this is some of DeConnick and Rios' best work ever.

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1. House of X / Powers of X | Jonathan Hickman, R.B. Silva, & Pepe Larraz
Hickman completely reinvents the history of the X-Men as well as their current status quo, with a daring, brilliant series of sci-fi high concepts at the core of these 2 interlocking series. When Hickman's writing something like this, he makes every other superhero comic seem so stale and conservative - nobody else makes it seem so effortless to juggle all these characters, introduce brain-twisting new ideas, pull off frenetic action scenes, all without losing sight of the characters' histories and relationships. The instant classic Moira X issue may be the most obvious example of Hickman deftly balancing emotion, visceral thrills, and dazzling ideas, but he pulls it off again and again throughout these books.
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Postby manvstrees » Mon Dec 16, 2019 2:48 pm

probably xmas eve or so
((Stuffed is loved by old and young because this is where the puddings get sent in. Criss-cross paving and those tinkly hanging bells make ((Stuffed a very homely access to Hades. Full marks.
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Postby creationist » Mon Dec 16, 2019 10:31 pm

Hal Jordan wrote:Little bird is so good


Should probably be in my top five, really it's the most I've enjoyed an Image book since Prophet.

But it's a small sample size. Looking forward to its continuation.
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Postby Drinky » Tue Dec 17, 2019 10:46 pm

Posting here so I'll remember to check back. Really appreciate these.
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Postby HotFingersClub » Wed Dec 18, 2019 7:04 am

I thought I was ready for this but I've had a look at my list and discovered that, once again, I've made it to December without catching the vast majority of the year's most important books

Major regrets include Eleanor Davis, Tillie Walden, Ulli Lust, Yuichi Yokoyama, Michael DeForge, Chris Ware, Connor Willumsen and Julie Delporte, all of which you should probably read before embarking on my (forthcoming) list
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Postby Melville » Sat Dec 21, 2019 6:43 pm

Just picked up House of X/Powers of X. Is there a particular reading order to follow?

Edit: Never mind, I see the reading order is listed at the back of each issue.
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Postby Melville » Mon Dec 23, 2019 1:05 pm

House of X #2 is one of the best things I've read from Hickman. Wildly ambitious sci-fi. I love how it plays with and suddenly transforms the X-Men mythology.
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Postby Rainbow Battle Kid » Mon Dec 23, 2019 1:06 pm

yeah it's wild that he can pull off that level of retcon without it seeming like total bullshit
Much Honoured Lord Nefarious wrote:rainbow battle kid you can kindly get the FUCK out of this thread while the adults have actual STAR WARS discussions.
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Postby barbara_h » Wed Dec 25, 2019 6:40 am

Chris Ware-wise,

How does Rusty Brown compare to Building Stories and Jimmy Corrigan?

Also, has anybody here read his Monograph?

I've been reading JC again and I had completely forgotten the part about his grandad and his great-grandfather at the Chicago fair, floored me.

Sorry I don't really have much to contribute, I mostly read non-2019 stuff this year but thanks for making this thread, there are tons of stuff I want to check out!
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Postby HotFingersClub » Sun Dec 29, 2019 3:56 pm

As usual, here’s the end of December and I haven’t read the vast majority of the year’s most important books. Major regrets include Eleanor Davis, Tillie Walden, Ulli Lust, Yuichi Yokoyama, Michael DeForge, Connor Willumsen and Julie Delporte, all of which you should read before embarking on my list.
As usual, to provide some good jumping-on points, I’m only counting series or books that debuted in 2019.

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20. Donny Cates & Tradd Moore – Silver Surfer: Black
Every year, seemingly regardless of who’s writing the scripts, Tradd Moore pushes himself to new heights of rippling madness, and while Donny Cates is happy to let his plot form an unobtrusive stage for Moore’s show, the cosmic setting really gives Moore free reign to reimagine the look and feel of cosmic Marvel, taking it to realms of visual innovation not seen since Kirby and Ditko. If you like the classic feel of Silver Surfer, with all the monologuing and introspection that entails, you’ll be well-catered to here, but you’ll also see familiar sights like Galactus and Ego in a way that reignites the wonder of those concepts.


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19. Maia Kobabe – Gender Queer
One of the year’s most intimate and educational (in a good way) stories, unfortunately masked in a very bland art style, but getting onto this list on the strength of a unique perspective, and its patient, generous tone. In rejecting traditional gender binaries, Kobabe goes through a painful process that’s often misunderstood, but situates it compellingly in the context of eir life, bringing the reader closer to an appreciation of why these issues are so emotive and important for the people affected on both sides of the equation. If the presentation doesn’t match the heights of other books on this list, it also serves to highlight the clarity of eir expression and the uniqueness of the tale.


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18. Jed MacKay & Travel Foreman – Black Cat
MacKay continues to wait for his big break, flying under the radar as probably Marvel’s best junior writer. This collaboration might not make the most of Foreman’s otherworldly fragile line and unusual sense of design, but every issue is an extremely reliable good time, taking Felicia on breakneck capers through the fringes of the Marvel universe, sneaking into the Baxter Building, the Sanctum Santorum and various other exotic locales and robbing them blind. Each issue is pretty much self-contained but supported by long-running vendettas, double crossings and plot twists in a pleasing balance. Finally, it manages to have a lot of fun without winking too much at the audience, which sets it apart from a lot of its 3rd tier Marvel stablemates.


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17. Greg Rucka & Michael Lark – Lazarus: Risen
Lazarus relaunched this year with an injection of new energy, continuing to drive up the stakes and tension of this world, which is perfectly pitched between action movie spectacle and a grounded and persuasive picture of the future. If you’re not up to speed with the concept, it’s basically a world where capitalism has evolved into a kind of feudalism, and the whole planet is controlled by a handful of families ruling over serfs. Disputes are resolved via private armies and the use of augmented champions like Forever, the semi-immortal protagonist. Cyborgs aside, it feels more real with every passing year, and the relaunched series is bringing a welcome focus on excitement and big set pieces, paying off some extended sequences of moody political intrigue. Extremely classy product from Rucka and Lark, often overlooked because of its consistency.


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16. Alma Liebl Beck – Control & Other Myths
I picked this up from the creator after bumping into her in a shop in NYC, and it’s unfortunately a little difficult to track down, as it’s currently only sold through a Hebrew website. If for some reason you do stumble across it though, you’ve found one of the year’s most personal and emotionally rich book. It's a beautiful product, austere but loving, feeling like it's come straight from Liebl Beck's hands. The book is a meditation on systems of control, particularly as regards the author's relationship to food, her body, and her mental health. Scenes of dance and visual ruminations on flesh are interwoven with diaristic text in a series of formal gambits that attempt to either constrain or unleash Liebl Beck's expression. The beautiful handmade quality of it really emphasises the intensely personal content – it feels like a direct transmission from the soul in a way that's unmatched by anything else I've read recently.
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Postby HotFingersClub » Sun Dec 29, 2019 3:58 pm

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15. Gerard Way & James Harvey – Doom Patrol: Weight of the Worlds
Gerard Way produced a new Umbrella Academy miniseries this year, but I think Doom Patrol actually took over as the superior offering, partially because Way is bringing more discipline to his plotting. The first volume mirrored its Morrisonian inspiration by taking a pretty long view, unfolding a bright and strange saga where the relationship between constituent parts became strained and confusing over time. The new series has undergone a subtle shift, and now works more like Futurama, with each issue taking a self-contained trip to a wacky new world in search of adventure. The mind-expanding invention is retained to a degree from Morrison’s series, and the sense of fun has been amped up significantly. #4 in which Flex Mentallo returns to Muscle Beach to save his old weightlifting club from the Secret Spandex is a highlight of the year for me, with brilliantly bulging guest artwork from Nick Pitarra.


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14. James Stokoe – Grunt
It’s a bit of a light year for me when a sketchbook collection like Grunt makes it to the final list, but as sketchbooks go, only Brandon Graham is working at anything like this level. This book really gets to the heart of Stokoe's appeal and shows just how far he's come in the last ten years or so, from a chunky kind of manga aesthetic to insane phantasmagorical vistas of neon flesh and eyeballs, rippling with incredible detail. The comics material is mostly on the older side, little stories from back in the Wonton Soup days, and it's good fun to look at that stuff with its much simpler aesthetic, side by side with the mind-boggling poster images from more recent years, where the detail piles up so much that it's almost hard to take in. Stokoe belongs in the very top tier of comics artists alive today, and this book is a fantastic encapsulation of his appeal.


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13. Tommi Musturi – Future
One of very few artists on a par with Stokoe, Musturi is still excitingly at the beginning of his career. This one-man anthology is probably the most ambitious project to come out of 2019 – a book in which almost every page is working in a completely different art style, to the extent that’s it’s genuinely difficult to believe that one person could have pulled it off. In his dizzying array of stories and strips, Musturi takes in almost every aesthetic permutation of the possible future, incorporating influences as diverse as Moebius and Joe Kessler. Keeping it out of the top 10 is Musturi’s tricky writing style, which favours long abstruse monologues over dramatic movement or dialogue, but there’s no denying his exceptional artistic talent.


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12. Michel Fiffe – Copra
Another 2019 relaunch of a series that has been great from the beginning. I came to love Copra more than ever this year, as I finally stopped feeling like I was playing catch-up and began to settle into the deeper pleasures of Fiffe’s style – the rich characters and worldbuilding that underpin the formal pyrotechnics. I feel like this series is about the closest it’s possible to get to the feeling of reading the old Claremont/Lee X-Men stuff. It’s stylised to the hilt and looks cooler than anything else on the shelves, but you’re also gradually sinking into this world of compelling character dynamics and a sense that anything could happen.


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11. Darcy van Poelgeest & Ian Bertram – Little Bird
A fantastic surprise here, as a writer who was completely unknown to me became the guy to pick up the baton of Jonathan Hickman’s science fiction epic East of West. Van Poelgeest crafts a stylish and distinctive future dystopia for sure, but he’s very lucky to have caught Ian Bertram on his trajectory towards stardom. Bertram has an incredible sense of design that makes every scene pop, and his fleshy, chiselled line is ideal for the white-knuckle action scenes that van Poelgeest deploys sparingly over the knotty, unpredictable story. This is clearly a partnership with a lot more to offer.
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Postby HotFingersClub » Sun Dec 29, 2019 3:59 pm

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10. Joshua Dysart & Cafu – The Life and Death of Toyo Harada
Not sure I saw anyone else talking about this series, but Valiant gave me one of my most enjoyable capes experiences this year with this miniseries, which goes some way towards recapturing the verve and intensity of Warren Ellis’ early Wildstorm work. We join in media res as Valiant’s godlike antihero Harada is poised on the eve of transforming the world, against the interests of various governments and shadowy individuals who are desperately trying to find a way to kill him. The series proceeds somewhat along the lines of Death Note, as Harada meets his match in the form of an interdimensional horror possessing the body of a normal human woman, and gets drawn into a game of subterfuge. It’s a fun and exciting inversion of the normal setup, as in this case it’s the protagonist who has all the power, and the tension ramps up as he finds himself inexplicably outfoxed by this creepy scientist relying on little more than her wits. Dysart spices the mix of capes, thriller, horror and sci-fi elements with an intriguing and distinct supporting cast of super-powered agents, and a series of flashbacks covers the turning points in Harada’s long and eventful path through the 20th century. There were definitely a few moments in which my minimal knowledge of the Valiant universe made things confusing, but that’s all part of the fun ain’t it.


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9. Grant Morrison & Xermanico – The Green Lantern: Blackstars
Another soft relaunch, as space cop Hal Jordan goes undercover with a cult-like army and their space vampire captain. Only a couple of issues of this out so far, but it’s already a ton of fun, and in any case I’m partly just using it to highlight the incredible work that Grant Morrison is doing on this series, still blowing minds almost forty years into his career and making writers 1/3 his age look like tired old hacks. Xermanico and Liam Sharp are bringing his latest clutch of insane concepts and mind-shredding bombast to life with a cultivated twistiness and verdancy, taking the space opera to tangled new realms. I’ve enjoyed the hell out of every single issue of this. We’re very lucky to have him.


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8. John Allison – Giant Days: Where Women Glow and Men Plunder
This was the year John Allison wrapped up Giant Days after four straight years of basically being the best and most consistent book on the shelves. His actual epilogue, As Time Goes By, was unfortunately one of the weakest issues of the series (it’s all relative, of course), so I’m representing the run with this brilliant one-shot, which follows perennial underdog Ed Gemmel as he flies out to visit his girlfriend’s family in Australia, and gets embroiled in snag-based inter-family feuding. I believe this was the only issue of Giant Days for which Allison provided the art himself, and he does a fantastic job with all the weird blokes and the goofy Australian stereotypes that are pinballed through with the standard screwball energy. This was one of my favourite single issues of the year, perfectly capturing the appeal of the main series, namely that – somehow, improbably – every single page has something to enjoy.


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7. Emily Carroll – When I Arrived at the Castle
Everyone else has already written about this, maybe the most beautiful book of the year; a macabre velvet fantasy of a cat girl locked in a mutual seduction/death match with a vampire countess. Carroll’s always been a master of creeping unease and the hair-raising nut-shrinking adrenal moments but it’s really exciting seeing her push her tonal investigations into new areas, bringing a pronounced eroticism and sensuality to this story, as well as folding in the cuter more classical cartooning elements, and creating a structure that conceals and elides the truth of the story in a really literary way. It’s clear that despite the incredible sheen of her work, she’s still growing quickly as an artist. She surely can’t be too far away from getting her own cartoon you would hope.


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6. Simon Hanselmann – Bad Gateway
Things are getting ever more desperate in the Hanselverse as the moderating force of Owl has finally departed, taking his regular income stream with him and making everything that little bit more real and less funny. Considering the prestige of its high-end production, there’s nothing too momentous in here by an objective standard, but the gradual submission to entropy is very much in keeping with Hanselmann’s universe. Towards the end of the book, we start getting into the meat of Megg's backstory and the current state of her home life, setting up the next steps in a dark, rich and hilarious vision.
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Postby HotFingersClub » Sun Dec 29, 2019 4:00 pm

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5. James Stokoe – Sobek
Stokoe returned this year with a new Shortbox mini, his first original creation since 2010’s Orc Stain, telling the story of a lethargic Egyptian crocodile god called upon to defend his temple from the followers of Set. It’s definitely a goof, but by no means disposable, as Stokoe’s extraordinary sense of visual detail makes this book an absolute luxury product. The gentle stoner rhythms really combine pleasingly with the majestic vistas of this enormous bejewelled crocodile.


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4. Lale Westvind – Grip 2
Cheating the new series rule a bit because this is too good and in any case Westvind produces it more like a Euro-album than a floppy. She and her publisher Perfectly Acceptable have again created one of the year’s most gorgeous art objects, in this second instalment of formalist explosions. There’s still a loose narrative going on, following Westvind’s capable heroine as she experiments with her strange powers of deconstruction and creation in the forest, and briefly glimpses utopia in the clouds. If you haven’t read her work before, there’s not much point in synopsising it – the appeal is in seeing the traditional language of visual storytelling being blown apart and blended together, producing an atomic fusion level of energy on every page. This is one of the world’s greatest experimental cartoonists at the height of her powers.


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3. Jonathan Hickman, R. B. Silva, Pepe Laraz & Leinil Francis Yu – House of X / Powers of X / X-Men
Hickman and the X-Men could end up being the perfect match for each other. One of comics’ most intelligent writers, whose sight seems to naturally rest about five years into the future, taking on the next step in the evolutionary ladder, and really grappling for the first time with what lies beyond that. HoXPoX was a hugely ambitious premise and format, and one that really throws into sharp relief how a vision for the future has been lacking from the X-Men for such a long time. They’re not just another team of spandex weirdos – they’re an emergent society, living in systems that should be almost incomprehensible to humans. I loved the way his data pages massively expanded but also delineated the scope of the series, turning the X-Men into a series that’s actually about something. It’s not easy to put a 60 year old concept on the bleeding edge of the medium, and I strongly suspect Hickman has wheels within wheels waiting to roll out.


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2. Jesse Jacobs – Baby in the Boneyard
Jacobs has always been an incredibly talented artist, but his strange, delicate, detailed visuals have usually overbalanced his stories, promising fantasias that he couldn't quite make fly. After a few years of coming very close, Baby in the Boneyard is the first story where he's holding enough back, leaving the context and resolution unspoken in a way that tantalises where his other books over-explain themselves. There's also that lovely sense of an unreal feeling being made real, in this story of a hyper-articulate baby being raised by a pack of shapeshifting beasts – a feeling of somehow debasing the child you're trying to raise as it becomes disdainfully aware of your physical and moral failings. It's a fascinating spin on Jungle Book tropes, as the baby never comes to feel affection for the pack, but regards them with a counter-intuitive coldness, even when they're clearly trying their best to provide for him in their own way. It's a unique, strangely affecting premise, spun out with a hard-won maturity and etched with a microscopic attention to detail and form.


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1. Dash Shaw – Clue: Candlestick
Even from a storyteller as reliable and creative as Dash Shaw, I wasn't expecting much from a licensed board game adaptation, but the lightly-worn sense of formalist delight made this book a standout from the first page. As well as creating a number of the most beautiful panels of his career, Shaw seems rejuvenated by the strict parameters of the adaptation, employing a huge variety of little tricks to overload the reader with clues and information, but also wringing some genuine emotional depth out of Professor Plum and the rest of the cast. There's a satisfying and twisty whodunnit at the centre of the story, even while he's doing totally new things with the comics form, especially in terms of the ingenious way he directs the reader's attention. Some of these panels honestly have a density of meaning to rival Watchmen, and he gets it done all in three short issues. Absolutely stellar work in a corner of the comics world that no one would have expected.
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Postby sevenarts » Sun Dec 29, 2019 4:09 pm

That's a great list! Whoa to Clue at #1, but I totally get it - loved that book too and who would have expected it to be any good at all? Your writeup of the Jacobs book makes me wish I'd gotten to it before year-end - it's sitting right here and looks beautiful though.

Also agreed on that Giant Days issue, what a great oneshot. Makes me sad that the series is done - it ended well but you're right, the epilogue was shockingly bad, I thought, and I couldn't believe that was how he chose to finish it up.
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Postby Smiling Penner-Lite » Sun Dec 29, 2019 8:17 pm

Thanks very much for all of your lists, I get caught up in the Christmas holidays every year as my gift to myself.

Starting HoX/Pox tomorrow. Been away from X-men from some time so I'm pretty excited
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Postby goofjan » Sun Dec 29, 2019 11:02 pm

love these threads.
plz if u get a chanse put some flowrs on algernons grave kthxbye
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Postby Bad Craziness » Mon Dec 30, 2019 12:51 am

post
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Postby HotFingersClub » Mon Dec 30, 2019 8:33 am

sevenarts wrote:That's a great list! Whoa to Clue at #1, but I totally get it - loved that book too and who would have expected it to be any good at all? Your writeup of the Jacobs book makes me wish I'd gotten to it before year-end - it's sitting right here and looks beautiful though.

Also agreed on that Giant Days issue, what a great oneshot. Makes me sad that the series is done - it ended well but you're right, the epilogue was shockingly bad, I thought, and I couldn't believe that was how he chose to finish it up.


I wonder if the bad epilogue might be a side-effect of his long career in webcomics, where he very rarely brings anything to a real conclusion but just rejuvenates his cast and forges onwards. Most of his characters tend to return in some form, years down the line, and it's a real pleasure to see who's gotten fat etc. I don't think we've seen the last of the Giant Days crew.

Your list is great too and a much more comprehensive overview of the comics landscape right now, although I'm surprised to see Batman so high. I haven't found that book very satisfying for a long time
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Postby creationist » Tue Dec 31, 2019 12:10 am

Sobek hive we eatin
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Postby Wombatz » Tue Jan 07, 2020 8:57 am

such beautiful lists ... i must apologize myself as i haven't read stuff that would probably make my list (grip, sobek), but mostly i'm such a grouch i just didn't like enough books for a proper list. among series i loved criminal and immortal hulk, which has severely dropped off but hopefully to replace it hellblazer has had a great start. also, as has been said, silver surfer black looks amazing though the writing is barely existent. in indies jesse jacob wins, then gfrörer's vision, and for me estrada's alienation was a 2019 book, add to that malcy duff's orange teeth of the beaver and secret prison 8 glut magazine. oh and the 6th volume of drifters is out, haven't read it yet but it's up next and sure to enter my top ten anyway ...

(re rusty brown: i'm not grouchy enough, though, to torture myself reading that. got it as an xmas present for my wife, so it's lying around here, and some of the pages are sooo beautiful, snow in the suburbs and stuff, but just scanning everybody's expressions through the pages, reaching all the way from quietly desperate to painfully alone, you couldn't pay me to read all this cliché-ridden wallow in moroseness ... )
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Postby HotFingersClub » Tue Jan 07, 2020 9:58 am

:lol: :lol:
Love that pre-review for Rusty Brown - very much captures the feelings I'm struggling to dispel in my approach towards it. Love Chris Ware, just wish he had access to a wider and more nuanced range of emotions
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