Sunday, December 18, 2011

2011 Graphic Novels of the Year

This past year was another big year for me in terms of reading graphic novels. Though I didn't reach the lofty 50 title mark like I did in 2010, by the time this gets published I'll be up around 40 graphic novels on the year...not too shabby if you ask me.  Overall, I think I definitely read better stuff this year than in years past, so quality wins out over quantity this year.  Picking out the Top 5 and a couple runners up was pretty damn difficult.  No sense in keeping you waiting here they are:


#5. Axe Cop: This one gets on the list due to sheer hilarity of the content.  If you haven't heard of Axe Cop let me give you the scoop: the comic is written by a five year old and drawn by his 30 year old brother...and that's what makes this so incredibly awesome.  When a five year old writes a comic you better be ready for some crazy shit to go down, and believe me, it does.

With free reign and creative control over the title, writer Malachai Nicolle fills Axe Cop up with all the wonders of his vividly wild imagination.  Be prepared for uncanny plot resolutions, an incredibly strange and diverse cast of characters, and plenty of little dude humor.

When it comes to Axe Cop I can give you one solid guarantee: you will laugh out loud.  Easily the funniest thing I read all year.

#4. Batwoman: Elegy: Let's see, does Batwoman: Elegy feature some mind blowing art and deft writing?  Yes indeed it does.  But wait there's more!  This awesome graphic novel also features a creepy villain named Alice who quotes Lewis Carroll and wants to cover Gotham in a toxic death cloud, shapeshifters, and all the fun, costumed hi-jinx you'd expect from a Bat-Title...and that's not even the best part.

Now don't get me wrong all that stuff I just mentioned is great, and pretty much essential for my own personal tastes, but the true quality in Batwoman: Elegy is found outside of the costumed parameters.  The true grit, if you will, is found when Batwoman is Kate Kane, dealing with all the troblems (troubles and problems) of her personal life.  If you don't believe me, read it.  You'll thank me.

Hey, have I mentioned that J.H. Williams III, who handles the art on this title, is fucking awesome?  Well, he is.

#3. Essex County:  If you are a steady reader of the blog, then you know I am sorta a big fan of Jeff Lemire's works of comics.  So, it should come as little surprise that there's something of his on the Top 5 graphic novels list too.

Simply put, Essex County is a wonderful tale of simple rural farm folk in Canada.  That might sound kinda boring, but this is a wonderful exploration of human emotion pared down to it's raw center.  The characters, their lives, their mistakes and regrets all come vividly to the forefront of this amazing comic. It's one of those titles that locks itself in your memory, and just as easily as you can recall the events of the story you can also easily recall the feelings, emotions and struggles you were going through in your own life while you were reading it.

At least that's what happened with me.

#2. (Tie) Locke & Key: Welcome to Lovecraft, Locke & Key: Head Games: Yeah, I'm not totally a fan of ties, but, um get used to it...

I couldn't mention one Locke & Key title and not mention the other one I read.

Allow me to point out a couple of things that may or may not be obvious: 1) Joe Hill can flat out write.  2) That fact is not limited to just novels.  2011 will definitely go down as the year I discovered the awesomeness that is Joe Hill.  I read four things by him this year, and if not for a small measure of personal restraint, I could have easily read more.  So far, I haven't met a piece of Joe Hill writing I don't love.

I'm trying really hard to restrain myself from repeatedly using words like "awesome", "sweet", "the bomb", "amazing", "outstanding" and so on, but Locke & Key is all those things and more.  I will emphasize a couple points: From what I've read so far, I'd say Locke & Key is shaping up to be the modern horror classic.  Aaaaaannnddd: Joe Hill is the bomb!  Shit! There I go....Seriously, despite all signs pointing to the fact that I'm nuts, check out my reviews for Welcome to Lovecraft and Head Games.  Or don't and miss out on something incredible.  The ball is in your court.

#1. (Tie) Planetary Volumes 1-4: It's only fitting that these four titles go down as the number one graphic novel of the year, because I read 'em all together, and really, it would be lame if four of the top 5 spots were taken up by Planetary books.

I know I said it in my review, but Planetary is the best comics story I've read...ever, and it'll be pretty damn tough to top.

This one has all the hallmarks of greatness: great writing, fantastic art, and a story that is aimed at a reader who can balance a check book, or something equally adult, time consuming and frustrating.  I really think this is a set of graphic novels that can be read and enjoyed by anyone who loves a great story, and for fans of the fantastic and or science fictional, this is it, your gateway into comics.

As great and amazing as the other titles on this list, they don't come close to Planetary.  Seriously, this is the comics medium at its absolute best.

Runners Up:

It was the War in the Trenches: A harrowing and intense look at World War I from the perspective of French trench "grunts".  Simultaneously incredible, beautiful, depressing, bleak, and tragic.

Stumptown: A tale of crime, back-stabs and double crosses in the Pacific Northwest.  Expertly written and beautifully illustrated.

There you go, another round of the year's best in the can.  It's gonna be a tough year to follow, good luck 2012. In my expert scouring of the comics medium did I miss anything?  What were your faves?

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