Again, this is not a definitive “best of” sort of thing, just me talking about things I quite liked in 2010 while trying to avoid what I’d consider obvious contenders (Acme Novelty Library and the final volume of Pluto, this means you.)
Yes, there’s a few comics I own but haven’t read yet (X’ed Out) or have been meaning to catch up with (King City) and a few superhero comics I’ll kick myself for not mentioning (Batman and Robin and Batman: Incorporated, Thor: The Mighty Avenger and Jeff Parker and Gabriel Hardman’s Hulk and Atlas work,) but here’s some things that really jumped out at me and grabbed my attention.
Moving Pictures by Kathryn and Stuart Immonen
At this year’s San Diego Comic-Con, while standing about six feet from them, I declared that Kathryn and Stuart Immonen were the Jackie and John Kennedy of comics. The thing is, the person I was speaking with got it immediately: the restraining order level enthusiasm I have for the pair and their work is earned in spades and while both is a noteworthy creator on their own, together, their collaborative works are just plain sublime.
Moving Pictures uses the art world’s underground railroad during World War II as a backdrop, but the real story lies between two people on opposite sides of the effort. Ila and Rolf’s interactions may recall a hundred other fictional opposites, but the Immonens’ unique ability to pull emotion from spare scripts and deceptively minimal art, along with their trust in one another and their belief in the audience demands a level of engagement from the audience that is bracing and welcome.
Love and Rockets New Stories Volume 3 by Los Bros Hernandez
I’ll just add my voice to the chorus: “Browntown” is likely the best comic that Jaime Hernandez has done, period. The fact that it’s bookended by Gilbert’s masterfully bleak sociosexual sci-fi story of first contact, “The Love Bunglers” makes this possibly the highest-potency dosage of quality comics that came out this year. Like the Coen Brothers are for film, I am pretty convinced that I could read just comics by Los Bros Hernandez and feel immensely satisfied.
I wanted to avoid mentioning reprints, particularly expensive large-format volumes that are already out of print, but reading all of Planetary in one dose reminds us that Ellis believes in people despite his curmudgeonly reputation. While Jakita Wagner kicking the shit out of anything that hoves into her view is my primary fetish when it comes to the title, getting an oversized look at John Cassaday’s development as a sequential artist free of the occasionally-year-long delays between issues is a genuine pleasure.
Peepo Choo by Felipe Smith
Felipe Smith’s three-volume manga from Vertical is insane and sexist, culturally obnoxious, and is likely be the work of a mad genius. Stop me if you think that you’ve heard this one before: an otaku obsessed with a bizarre anime, a wannabe gangster comic shop manager and his boss, who happens to be a bondage-clad murderer for hire, go to Japan and find out something about themselves as they engage in adventures that involve a buxom teenage model, a criminal syndicate and lots and lots of violence. Originally published in Japan by Kodansha but with barbs aimed at both sides of the Pacific, Peepo Choo is gross, cruel, smart and generally in exquisitely poor taste, even as it displays a surprising amount of heart.
It’s the sort of book that pushes the edge of commercially-viable manga and while I don’t want every comic to follow in its footsteps, I do think that the medium needs need more message-laden slaps to the face.
Elmer by Gerry Alanguilan
It’s a story of a twenty-something’s panic and journey of self-discovery after the death of his father, except that the lead character and most of the cast are sentient chickens. It’s terrific.
This is not a series of definitive year-end posts by any means, just a way for me to remark on things that I’ve enjoyed. I’m going to try to omit the obvious choices and dig a bit deeper than reminding you guys that Kanye West is gloriously mad and that Daft Punk’s Tron: Legacy score is better than the film itself.
Danny Byrd, Rave Digger
Danny Byrd’s second album aggressively flirts with multiple genres (g-funk on “Judgement Day,” hardcore on “Hot Fuzz,” funky breaks and two-step on “We Can Have It All”) even as it helps push the Hospital Records strain of drum and bass forward. In a lot of ways it recalls Daft Punk’s Discovery: a dance record that nods to the past and provides a set of twenty-first century songs, not tracks. Melodic, funky and downright beautiful in places, Rave Digger serves as a reminder that drum and bass is still vital. Key songs include opener “Ill Behaviour” and the Liquid-sampling “Sweet Harmony.”
Robyn, Body Talk
There I go ignoring my disclaimer. I’m pretty sure you guys already know how amazing this one is and I’m just typing make sure you know that I know. Collecting work from the three Body Talk EPs released this year, this is one of those records that I wish got attention from people who weren’t on the internet as it proves that the quality dance-oriented pop is out there, even if Black Eyed Peas are trying to murder it with every step. Production by Röyksopp, Diplo, Max Martin and others accentuates Robyn’s ability to find new angles on teenage innocence (“Dancing On My Own”), post-twenties female-friendly sexuality (“Call Your Girlfriend”)* and even plain old giddy love (“Indestructible”).
*Something that Marty Brown at The Factual Opinion writes about very nicely
Moon Wiring Club, A Spare Tabby At The Cat’s Wedding and VHSHead, Trademark Ribbons Of Gold
I quite like the genre dubbed ”confusing English electronic music” and both of these albums represent major entries into its canon. Moon Wiring Club have been doing their thing for a while, all radiophonic workshop and Hammer horror films pumped through rhythms that are deceptively laconic. Their albums so far have followed a similar strain, but this one (which is available with two completely different track listings depending on which format you choose) goes a bit darker, a bit more deep space in places. VHS Head, meanwhile, run amuck in the studio, throwing in snatches from a billion different sources chock-a-block into a beaty bouillabaisse while creating something that’s almost, but not quite, dance music. Fans of Autechre’s middle period would do well to check into their work.
Anoraak, Wherever The Sun Sets
Give up trying to figure out if Frédéric Riviè is being sincere or ironic with this collection of dreamy pop songs and instead just savor the damned thing. “You Taste Like Cherry” is Phoenix mugging Hall & Oates while Talking Heads play rhythms, “Midnight Sunset” is made for a Miami Vice driving montage, and Sally Shapiro’s sweet vocals make “Don’t Be Afraid” into an instant mixture favorite, right next to “You Taste Like Cherry.” Wherever The Sun Sets is a great example of how to do a “retro” album that sounds fresh.
Adam Warrock, The War For Infinity
I’m biased, but Euge really is that good. It’s not nerdcore, it avoids jerking off the listener with easy references and it’s produced wonderfully by Ruckus Roboticus.
A smash-cut is executed.
A character is origined.
A document is shown.
A thing happens.
This was my holiday gift from Ming Doyle, artist on The Loneliest Astronauts and much, much more.
I got her the crummy 90s X-Men cartoon on DVD.
Just a perfect kick-off right there, and the rest of Superman Adventures #33 is just terrific.
A party begins.
We have a special guest.
From the Bioware site’s description of Miranda Lawson, who serves as your second in Mass Effect 2:
Born on Earth, Miranda comes from a wealthy background. However, underneath her opulent upbringing lies a woman who is calm, collected and driven to accomplish her mission, at any cost. She is quick to judge and values her assignments and goals over people. Miranda is also a powerful biotic as well as a tech specialist.
From the original Star Trek pitch document:
Never referred to as anything but “Number One”, this officer is female. Almost mysteriously female, in fact —- slim and dark in a Nile Valley way, age uncertain, one of those women who will always look the same between years twenty to fifty. An extraordinarily efficient officer, “Number One” enjoys playing it expressionless, cool -— is probably Robert April’s superior in detailed knowledge of the multiple equipment systems, departments and crew members aboard the vessel. When Captain April leaves the craft, “Number One” moves up to the acting commander.
From the Mass Effect Wiki entry (which is based on the game and licensed material):
Miranda [Lawson] was born in 2150. As she explains to Shepard, Miranda never had a mother, only a father who is extremely influential, wealthy, and ego-maniacal. Using a modified copy of his own genome, Miranda was genetically engineered to be a specimen of human perfection. Everything, from her intelligence, physical constitution, biotic abilities, to her appearance were designed before birth to be excellent
From Vulcan’s Glory, a licensed novel by Star Trek series writer D.C. Fontana:
In the four years she had served [Pike] as first officer, first on the old Yorktown and then on the new Enterprise, she had carried out her duties with a precision and perfection he had never seen in anyone else. In fact, perfect was exactly the adjective he applied to her at all times.
(And yes, I know, but I read it when I was 15 or so and it stuck in my head and it was cheap on the Kindle and hey, I occasionally read junk media tie-ins too.)
I also — and I can’t recall where, and I even went through several of the licensed comics along with DC’s Who’s Who In Star Trek — could swear that genetic engineering was added to Number One’s backstory at some point. It’s fascinating that these similarities seem so blatant to me, considering the efforts that the Mass Effect writing team have made to differentiate themselves from other franchises. Their physical appearance is, at least to me, very close and that’s particularly interesting as Miranda’s appearance is based on her voice actress, Yvonne Strahovski, who some of you might know from Chuck and Number One was, of course, played by Majel Barrett.
I’ll just shut up now. OK?
A warehouse is closed.
Click here to go listen and download.
In which we meet Nightcap.