Saturday, January 1, 2011

Graphic Novels of the Year

2010 was the year of the graphic novel for me. I read 50 graphic novels in all, and had to retrain myself from reading more. After some serious flirting in 2009, I definitely fell in love with the comics medium this year. After a year of reading widely across the medium, I feel like I've covered many of the comics bases quite well. I read a few super hero tiles, I read works from the big names like Ellis, Ennis, and Moore, and I read some lesser known indie titles as well. Each read taught me a bit more about comics in general, while my interest in the medium mounted, my tastes became more refined. There's a mountain of comics reading ahead of me in 2011, but for now,I give you my Top 5 Graphic Novels of 2010

#1 Preacher: Until the End of the World: Such an easy pick for the top spot in my Graphic Novels reads. The second volume in Garth Ennis' masterwork is amazing on all levels. At the heart of this volume is the love story between Jesse and Tulip. Ennis does a great job portraying their shared love. There are some seriously lovey-dovey lines that might come across as extremely cheesy in any other setting, but somehow coming from the mouth of a tough-on-the-outside, soft-on-the-inside Texan it just sounds right, and genuine. These soft and somewhat sentimental moments only make the rest of the book better.

The graphic novel would fall flat if it only had a love story to stand on. Luckily, there is a great conflict as well. Is there a great conflict than battling the demons of your past? For Jesse these demons are flesh and blood. Jody and T.C. are their names, and they are just about the two most evil, sinful, despicable fuckers in the history of the world, and they want nothing more than to make Jesse's life as miserable as possible. The result is a story that is literally mind blowing and amazing. I'm a softy for a believable love story and a sucker for jaw dropping moments, and this graphic novel delivers both with style.

#2 Scott Pilgrim volumes 1-6:
For a week back in August, Scott Pilgrim took over my life. I had recently given up on a book I was reading, and needed something easy to get into. I picked up Precious Little Life and there was no looking back from there. Sometimes a book just strikes all the right chords with me, and that was the case here. The right graphic novels at precisely the right time.

It isn't just that I see a lot of myself in Scott Pilgrim, but to deny that would be a lie. Scott Pilgrim and I are similar in some alarming ways, which caused an instant connection to the character and the books. But, I was also able to relate to many of the other characters that populate these stories as well, and because of that I was able to connect to these books as a whole, and the themes represented in the story. In the end, the six part story was extremely engaging, and gave me things to think about and analyze about myself, which I think is part of the magic of reading.

#3 All Star Superman: As a kid Superman was always my least favorite hero. The guy was just too good, and too powerful. I'd take a darker more conflicted character like Batman, who relied on his own smarts to get by, over Superman any day. As an adult, I still think Superman is pretty lame. His character is just so boring and he pretty much represents everything I dislike about capes and tights comics. So what the hell is this title doing on my Graphic Novels of the Year list? Well, I guess miracles do happen every now and then.

It helps that this is a Superman story written by Grant Morrison who breathes new life into the character, takes a guy who is probably the most complex, loneliest, most difficult to understand person on the planet and uses those qualities to make Superman sympathetic, and a character the average reader can relate to. Not only that but Morrison creates a Superman story that you might care about reading. To add to the stellar writing, is the absolutely beautiful artwork by Frank Quitely. All Star Superman is lovely to behold. The artwork is great, and combines with the story seamlessly. This is really a beautiful package and my surprise read of the year.

#4 Street Angel: This is a graphic novel that is just sheer fun. First off, it stars a homeless 12 year old girl who is a bad-ass skater and kung-fu master...instantly different than anything else on the shelf. Street Angel also features some memorable bad-guys like Dr. Pangea, MegaPute, and hordes of ninja gangs. To make it all the more sweet, there's a character named Afrodesiac...he's pretty much how you are picturing him in your head: totally awesome.

Compared to some the other titles on this list, Street Angel isn't as flashy, or fancy to look at, but it has a bit of a diamond in the rough quality to it. The story telling is quick paced, and snappy, the stories are funny with a healthy dose of action and violence mixed in, and the characters are hilarious. Reading should be fun, life should be fun, and Street Angel is just that: lots of fun.

#5 Top 10: I had the first volume of Ex Machina lined up to go in this final spot, and then I remembered that I read Top 10 this year.

Top 10 features the perfect harmony of great writing and great art. The magical thing about this graphic novel is the cast of Police Officers that work at Top 10. Moore had a pretty large cast for this story, and instead of focusing in on one of two cops, he gave equal treatment to each, or more accurately, focused on characters when the story demanded it, as they reacted and interacted with the plot and the events of the overlying story. I thought this was a unique way to go about telling a story but it really worked out well.

There are some cool sci-fi elements at play in the story as well, and having it all take place in a city where every citizen has some type of super-power actually made it even more interesting. As far as police dramas go, this is a great story; add in the other elements like the superheroes and parallel universes, and you get something even better. It helps that it is expertly written and has some beautiful art.

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