Today’s Best of the Year comes courtesy of my friend Chris Marshall, host of the fine Collected Comics Library podcast (which celebrated its landmark 200th programme just before Christmas) and the TwoMorrows Tune-In. Chris has been blogging and podcasting on all manner of graphic novels for a number of years, looking in detail at some, offering up insights, interviews and also giving a weekly breakdown of releases and newly announced titles, so I’m pretty keen to see what titles have been stand-outs for him in 2008:
1. Local Deluxe Hardcover (Oni Press) by Brian Wood and Ryan Kelly
A few years in the making and beautifully crafted. This excellent series gives us exactly what is advertised: a deluxe treatment with loads of extras — Omnibus’ and Absolutes take note, all books don’t have to be $100; this one comes at us with 384 pages and for only $29.99.
2. Willie & Joe WW II Years Slipcase (Fantagraphics) and Bill Mauldin: A Life Up Front by Todd DePastino (W.W. Norton)
I’m seeing the Willie & Joe WW II Years showing up on a lot of Top 10 lists for 2008, but that book is not complete without the biography of Bill Mauldin, which contains many Willie and Joe cartoons from WWII, post-WWII and also many rare and unseen work from his time at the Chicago Sun-Times. DePastino told me, himself, that a second slipcase is expected and should contain everything else that Mauldin did after the war.
3. Starman Omnibus Hardcover Volume 1 (DC Comics)
No “Best Of List For 2008″ should be without The Starman Omnibus; in fact when it’s all said and done all six omnibus volumes should be on a Best Complete Collected Editions Ever List should there ever be one (now there’s a suggestion for the future – Joe).
Unlike the shoddy trade paperbacks DC did a few years ago (under James Robinson’s supervision, mind you) the 80-plus issue run is finally being collected in its entirety including one-shots and mini-series. Tony Harris’ artwork is superb and with Robinson’s writing and modern take on the Golden Age, it waltzes in perfect harmony together. The first volume collects Starman issues #0 and #1 to 16; Volumes 2 and 3 are expected later in 2009.
Long-time readers of Hellboy were elated to revisit the character for the first time in all of his big, red, oversized glory. It was also nice to see a gold foil cloth cover instead of the usual paper dustjacket. This book included introductions by Robert Bloch and Alan Moore and also an expanded Mike Mignola sketchbook sections. Volume 2: The Chained Coffin, The Right Hand Of Doom came out in October and was equally impressive.
5. Absolute Sandman Volume 3 (DC Comics/Vertigo)
Collecting The Sandman issues #40 to 56, The Sandman Special #1, The Endless Gallery #1, and Stories From Vertigo Preview #1 and Vertigo: Winter’s Edge #3; and Volume 4 collecting The Sandman #57 to 75 and a story from Vertigo Jam #1. No explanation or persuading should be necessary. Those of you with the first two volumes surely picked up these and you know how good they are.
6. American Flagg! Volume 1 Hardcover by Howard Chaykin (Image)
So you’ve read Watchmen, Dark Knight Returns, Secret Wars and Crisis on Infinite Earths. Well there’s one more seminal book from the mid-1980′s that you missed – and it is incumbent upon you to read it.
American Flagg! Is romp around a cyber-punk, sex, drugs and rock ‘n roll with a neo-government run society that’s full of cops, robbers and corruption. This is the first time ever that this series has been collected in a deluxe format. Plus there are additional cover paintings and promotional pieces by Chaykin, a Michael Chabon introduction an afterword by Jim Lee, and as a special bonus – a brand-new American Flagg! story written and illustrated by Chaykin exclusively for this edition.
7. Queen & Country: Definitive Edition Volumes 02 and 03 (Oni Press)
Oni Press continues to reprint the Greg Rucka spy thriller in these very affordable, easy to carry and easy to read 6×9” trade paperbacks. Any fans of espionage including James Bond, Jason Bourne, 24 or The Wire will be right at home with this very realistic look inside a British Intelligence Agency. Original scripts and concept drawings and more are included as extras. Volume 02 Collects issues #13 to 24; Volume 03 Collects issues #25 to 32. The final Volume 4 is expected in February 2009.
900 pages for £18.99. Oh man, let’s type that again, 900 pages for £18.99. The original solicitation says it all, “All seven of his early ’80s collections – Bah, Hembeck, The Hembeck Files, et al – are included, as well as rarely seen strips, personal commissions, online pieces, holiday cards, assorted oddities, and over a dozen stories ranging up to ten pages in length!”. Funny as hell and it’ll take you years to get through all the little nuances, hidden gems and Easter Eggs all while Hembeck laughs in your face!
9. Howard The Duck Omnibus Hardcover (Marvel)
I was filled with anticipation in the days leading up to the release of this Omnibus in February, but then tragedy struck – Steve Gerber passed away on nearly the same day that it was to be released. Marvel decided to delay the book until July and was able to include extras such as tribute pages and an updated afterword talking about the lives of Steve and Howard.
For those of you who have only read the black and white Essential volume, you really owe it to yourself to pick up this edition. The satire comes at you head on and that’s by no mistake – cigar smoke and all. It also came in a Marko Djurdjevic Variant dustjacket design. Collects stories from Adventure Into Fear #19 Man-Thing #1 Giant-Size Man-Thing #4-5 Howard The Duck #1-33 Marvel Treasury Edition #12 and Marvel Team-Up #96.
A late addition to the massive undertaking that DC started in 2000. OK, not as good as the Sunday strips, but this entire run has never been collected in one book before. I recommend you read it after The Spirit Archives (Sundays) Volume 8 January 2 to June 25, 1944 (Strips 188-213) to get a better sense of Spirit characters and history. This Archive also includes a foreword by Will Eisner originally written in 1980 for a collected edition series that republished the first 93 strips.