Tuesday, February 25, 2014

2013: My comics reading year in review (KYE, ep. 30)



COMICS READ:
JAN. 84
FEB. 118
MAR. 53
APR. 30
MAY 93
JUN. 66
JUL. 64
AUG. 92
SEP. 79
OCT. 62
NOV. 24
DEC. 42
Total comics and GNs read in 2013: 807

IN 2012, I read 885 comics, trades and graphic novels. Last year...not so many. Hey, what can I say? Life (and real books) got in the way. Anyway, you can listen to the podcast HERE.
I also discuss on why I've stopped enjoying Sex (the comic) and my thoughts on the sudden price rise for Kick-Ass 3.

BEST of 2013:
FIVE-STAR beauties were hard to find this year. But I found a few memorable titles to look back on. Here’s the list (with my original comments):

Transmetropolitan Vol. 1-10 (Vertigo, 2009-11) *****
- originally published in Transmetropolitan #1-60, Transmetropolitan: I Hate It Here, Transmetropolitan: Filth Of The City & various short stories (Vertigo, 1997-2002)
Writer: Warren Ellis/Artists: Darick Robertson & friends

Sin Titulo (Dark Horse, 2013) ****¾ 
Writer/artist: Cameron Stewart
The nice people at Dark Horse send me PDFs and links to where I can download their wonderful graphic novels and comics. In return, I shall plug them on my blog at http://jackkingkirby.blogspot.com.au/2013/10/review-sin-titulo-by-cameron-stewart.html.

Locke & Key Vol. 2&3 (IDW, 2010-11) ****¾
Locke & Key Vol. 4&5 (IDW, 2012-13) *****
Writer: Joe Hill/Artist Gabriel Rodriguez

Optic Nerve #13 (Drawn & Quarterly, 2013) *****
Writer/artist: Adrian Tomine
Overpriced and published far too rarely, but this is easily the most beautiful, haunting comic I’ve read this year.

The Cape #1-4 (IDW, 2011) *****
Writer: Jason Ciaramella/Artist: Zach Howard
Based on the short story by Joe Hill, this yarn about a slacker son turned psychotic killer supervillain by a childhood “blankie” is suitably disturbing, violent and creepy. A perfect horror tale.

Museum Of Terror Vol. 3 by Junji Ito (Dark Horse, 2006) *****
Freaked the fuck out by Junji Ito. Find out why at jackkingkirby.blogspot.com.au/2013/09/review-museum-of-terror-vol-3-by-junji.html

Time Warp (Vertigo, 2013) *****
Writers/artists: various
I don’t usually get so enthused about anthology specials (even though I buy them all the time), but this comic is a gem from start to finish. Sure, not every yarn is a goal, but every tale is thought-provoking and several are pure gems. A star-studded cast of creators including Matt Kindt, Jeff Lemire, Gail Simone, Simon Spurrier and Dan Abnett easily make this my favourite comic so far for the year.

FCBD: Buck Rogers In The 25th Century (Hermes Press, 2013) *****
Writer: Phillip Nowlan/Artist: Richard Calkins
Some fantastic full-colour reprints, an overview on the Buck Rogers phenomenon of the 20s and 30s, plus some nice pics of Buck Rogers memorabilia. What more could you ask for in a free comic?

NOTE: I’ve learned in recent days that the guy who runs Hermes Press is a total scumbag who doesn’t pay his writers and threatens to sue people when they point this fact out. He even physically threatens folk. Total jerk.

FCBD: Prince Valiant (Fantagraphics, 2013) *****
Writer/artist: Hal Foster
Just gorgeous, classic Sunday funnies artwork – and the stories weren’t half-bad either.

Uzumaki Vol. 3 by Junji Ito (Viz Media, 1998-2012) *****
Adult comics doesn’t have to mean bare boobs and bums. Sometimes a mature title can be a perverse, dread-filled horror yarn like this classic manga. This is the concluding volume detailing a spiral curse that descends on a Japanese village, eventually destroying everyone caught in its evil web. Humans metamorphosing into snails (and worse), cannibalism, murder, insanity and worse are on display, making so-called modern horror yarns like all those Crossed sequels look piss-weak by comparison. Nothing is more disturbing, yet compelling, as Uzumaki.


WORST:
THERE were a few shockers in 2013, but the biggest shock came with Vertigo’s The Exterminators. This was a rare instance when I started out really liking a title but by the end I really hated it, mainly ’cos the climax was weak and rushed, and totally destroyed every good thing that had come before it. There was a massive drop in quality over the final 12 issues, which left a really sour taste in my mouth. Still, it didn’t quite make my shit list, but here are the few that did...


The Bionic Woman #2 (Charlton, 1978) -*
Writer/artist: unknown
A horrible TV tie-in series that makes me want to smash my head repeatedly on a teevee set. Perfunctory plotting, dull art and a nasty edge of misogyny winding its way through the entire odious issue. I can’t even bring myself to keep this comic for camp purposes.

Doc Savage #1-12 (DC, 2010-11) ½*
Writers/artists: various
If there was ever an example of everything that could go wrong with a licensed comic, then this is it. I bought the first 12 issues of this awful series (it limped on to #17 before being mercifully axed), but I’ve only finally got around to reading it. Clearly, my sixth sense was telling me something three years ago. This updating of the Doc Savage mythology fails on every level. The first four issues is poorly written by supposed modern pulp writer Paul Malmont, positioning Savage and his crew as victims fleeing the US after being framed by a sinister cabal for crimes they didn’t commit. Malmont is a terrible writer, but he’s not helped by Howard Porter, one of the most inept artists ever to be given a major title to work on. Porter’s so shit he can’t even draw hats properly. Seriously, a five-year-old could draw a hat better than this dipstick. Issue five is a standalone yarn set in Greece. Writer B. Clay Moore is better than Malmont, but that’s faint praise. Porter’s art actually gets WORSE in this issue. Doc Savage was floundering by this stage, which is why “First Wave” creator Brian Azzarello came aboard with #6. Co-writing with Ivan Brandon, they craft a promising yarn where Savage and his team (who remain woefully underwritten for the entire 12 issues) are given the opportunity by the US military to be pardoned for their crimes if they go into the Middle East to track down some WMDs and an old friend, long thought dead. As Azzarello has never explained the “First Wave” world to readers, we have to work out for ourselves that much of the Middle East is a fiery atomic wasteland after “the last war”. Anyway, Nic Klein’s art is a vast improvement on Porter’s retarded scribbles (he can draw hats on men’s heads for starters). But the story soon falls apart again and makes little sense by the end of the arc. Savage has also morphed under Azzarello’s writing from a guy who is stronger and smarter than the average person due to decades of rigorous training to a substitute Superman whose capabilities border on the ludicrous. In the end, Savage shows that even death is only a minor inconvenience. Klein’s art becomes more disjointed as the issues progress – action scenes are hard to follow and at other times it’s left to the reader to fill in the gaps on what really happened in a scene. I felt like my head was gonna explode by #12 and it was a blessed relief when I realised I didn’t have to read another fucking issue. This series is definitely not a keeper, even if JG Jones’ covers are beautiful. The first nine issues also have a back-up feature, Justice Inc. (writer: Jason Starr/artist: Scott Hampton). It’s kinda brutal in a Steve Ditko-kinda way, and far more entertaining than the main feature.

The Blackest Terror #1 (Moonstone, 2011) DUD
Writer: Eric M. Esquivel/Artist: Ander Sarabia
A reimagining of public domain superhero Black Terror sees him turned into an Afro-American urban vigilante. A promising idea, but Esquivel is too busy ranting and raving about black politics to make anyone – particularly your average comic book reader – care about the character. Weirdly, he focuses much of his contempt and hatred towards “Uncle Tom” weatherman Al Roker. Sarabia’s art shows cartoony promise, but this angry tale is way too preachy for my tastes. Take a chill pill, Eric.

Red Dragon #1 (Comico, 1996) DUD
Writer: Brian Azzarello/Artists: Tony Akins (interior); Simon Bisley (cover)
Review can be found online at jackkingkirby.blogspot.com.au/2013/07/quick-review-red-dragon-1-comico-1996.html.

Groovy Gravy #11 (Edge Comix, 2009) DUD
Writers/artists: various
Even a cool cover plus various strips by good friend Mister J can rescue this Aussie comic. It’s the utter shits.

Delta Tenn #2 (Entertainment Publishing, 1987) DUD
Writer/artist: Mark Marderosian
I bought this cheap due to the cheesecake cover. D’oh. Really pedestrian “sexy cop” yarn, mired in mawkish soap opera shenanigans of the worst kind. Pretty amateurish on every level. Damn you, brief B&W comic book boom, you gave us so much shit back then!

Girls, Greed, Guns & Gore (Eros Comix, 1997) ½*
- originally published in B-Movie Comix #1-3 (Whizz-bin Comix, 1994)
Writer/artist: Eric Wald
Gary Groth and Kim Thompson, you are such hypocrites. You simultaneously published the elitist, highbrow The Comics Journal – that regularly slagged off mainstream comics – while putting out hard-core porn under your “Eros Comix” banner. Shame on you. Now, some Eros stuff was fine, but much of it was rubbish – like this graphic novel (which, thankfully, I didn’t have to pay for as it was given to me for free). Allegedly, the original three-issue series got destroyed by flood and only six copies remain. So the series was collected in one TPB and what readers got was hard-core filth, a confusing storyline and interchangeable, forgettable characters. I couldn’t follow what was going on and Wald’s cartoony art made the porn sections underwhelming. Unerotic erotica? Blegh.


Varoomshka by John Kent (Eyre Methuen, 1972) ½*
Political satire only works if people remember what the fuck was being satirised. English politics 40 years down the track means fuck-all to me. Certain political figures featured in this hardback collection of strips are familiar to me – PMs Edward Heath and Harold Wilson, Tory MPs such as Sir Alec Douglas-Home and the future Iron Lady Margaret Thatcher, US Prez Richard Nixon and Vice-Prez Spiro Agnew and Rhodesian PM Ian Smith. Actually, that’s not too shabby – but I’m sure most other people picking up this book would struggle with half the faces, most of the names and ALL the issues of the day. Which makes it a real chore to read this strip that appeared regularly in the otherwise conservative The Guardian newspaper. Varoomshka herself is a gorgeous-but-naive observer of the political machinations going on around her, usually while half-dressed. It’s well-drawn but time has not been kind to this collection.

 

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