Saturday, January 2, 2016

Best Reads of 2015: More Comic Books

Cover of Daredevil: The Man Without Fear! Vol.7 TPB.
Mark Waid’s Daredevil: The Man Without Fear
Chris Samnee, Jason Copland and Javier Rodriguez, artists
I've given Waid a lot of ink already, so I'll try to be brief. Particularly, the number seven trade paperback is good, which includes several Marvel monster characters, whom the hero has never met. Daredevil (aka Matt Murdock) forms an uneasy alliance with the Legion of Monsters. In Stone Hills, Kentucky, he works with Werewolf by Night, Satana, Frankenstein, the Living Mummy and Zombie in attempting to procure a valuable book of spells and defeat a villain named the Jester. Waid draws a slightly heavy-handed parallel between racism in the south and how locals see the creatures as, well, monsters.These details aside, the character interaction soars and continues in volume one of Daredevil: Devil At Bay in which Matt moves to San Francisco. He contends with villains, of course, such as the intellectually intimidating Mastermind, but also adapts to being in a new city with new sounds and rhythms. Luckily, ADA and girlfriend Kirsten McDuffie accompanies him, helping him find his feet.

Cover image of Hark! A Vagrant.
Kate Beaton: Hark! A Vagrant!
Canadian artist and writer Kate Beaton is very erudite, her drawings are cruder than I usually enjoy, and her footnotes are enriching. The art grows on you, though, whether she’s talking about posers imitating Beat authors or sending up The Great Gatsby or making quiet, strong parables about feminist figures. This mix of learning about topics in a historical context through fits of laughter is such a rare thing, and such a good thing, too. She makes it gleefully clear that no subject, historical or otherwise, is safe, and rightly so. Canada is lucky to have Beaton doing comic strips.

Cover for Locke & Key Vol. 6: Alpha & Omega TP
Locke & Key Volume Six: Alpha & Omega
Joe Hill, writer and Gabriel Rodriguez, artist
Ths volume is a good finish to a good series. Hill's writing is in the family tradition of ancient evils returning to attack the new generation. Gabriel Rodriguez's art is a detailed, stylist delight. There is a Dark-Phoenixesque sort of resurrection that lacks a satisfying explanation, but the art is gold and the writing is fun and the body count is higher than readers expect.

Artwork from It's A Good Life, if You Don't Weaken.
It's a Good Lifeif You Don't Weaken
I should qualify this praise. I once discussed artists who also write their own comics with Canadian comic-book artist Tom Fowler. He said that artists rarely do both because it is damn hard work. I agree, but the results can be breathtaking. In my opinion, any artist who does both is hardworking, ambitious and talented. Seth provides an examination of longing, love, loneliness, and dark nights of the soul. I knew there was a reason I wanted to read Seth again after reading The Great Northern Brotherhood of Canadian Cartoonists, which simply knocked me back with the stylized art, brooding about simpler times and themes of longing to return to childhood. It’s a Good Life confirms his brilliance. He is another one of Canada's national treasures.

Artwork from Afterlife with
Archie #1.
Afterlife with Archie
Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, writer
Francesco Francavilla, artist
When Archie Comics decided to go horror Archie, they went for four panels drenched in cinematic tribute to the horror classics, both old and contemporary. Francavilla's panels are practically shots taken from movies. That said, Afterlife takes pastiche to a new level, from winking at Stanley Kurbrick’s film of The Shining, Stephen King’s Pet Cematary, Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho, and any number of zombie apocalypse scenarios (with The Walking Dead topping the list). This is a daring direction for a whole new Archie, kiddies. Kevin Keller even has the satisfaction of decking Reggie.

Cover of The Sculptor. While Neil Gaiman
will blurb anything, that charming rogue,
I do agreewith him in this case.
Scott McLeod’s The Sculptor 
At last! A new comic from McLeod, creator of Zot! and author of Understanding Comics and Reinventing Comics. Now here, again, is someone who draws and writes thier own stuff. Looks like I have an accidental theme running through my Year's-Best-Of list. Like Beaton and Seth, McCloud excels at both, and this book has been long awaited. In Sculptor, McLeod describes the meteoric rise and fall of a gifted young sculptor trying to make his name again. It’s a mediation on art (particularly about concrete versus abstract and what makes art art), the struggling (and quite broke) artist, the artistic community and the business of art.

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