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.