Well, personally I thought 2010 was one of the best years for comics I’d seen for a long time. However, that did mean that, when it came to making a long-list of the good comics I’d read this year it was a very, very long list. Even pruning that master list down mercilessly I still had an incredible 20 titles to filter into some sort of best of year. And quite magnificently, a lot of them were UK comics.
I think this reflects a really strong UK scene. It’s not yet fully formed, it’s not yet completely organised. But it’s growing so quickly and, looking at the release lists for the likes of SelfMadehero, Blank Slate, No Brow, Cinebook, Fanfare/Ponent Mon and many more – 2011 will only see it get stronger.
And because it’s been such a wonderful year and frankly choosing the very best has been really, really difficult I’m going to have to cheat. So here’s my 10 best of the year, a few that pained me to leave out and a favourite 3 from Molly.
I’m not going to say much about the choices, just a link to my reviews and a pull quote should do it. Right. In simple alphabetical order, my very best comics of 2010:
The Absence – by Martin Stiff. (self published)
Only two issues of this six issue series have come out. But within the first few pages I knew that this was a comic I was going to love:
“The Absence is full of questions and as yet, there are no answers. But what the two issues I’ve read does have is a fascinating, compelling sense of almost magical mystery. Seeing it develop over these two issues just has me dying for more.”
Chimpanzee Complex – by Maranzano and Ponzo (Cinebook)
I’m a sucker for huge sci-fi. I’m a sucker for complicated, mind bending sci-fi. This three volume series had it all.
“I love big , epic Sci-Fi. Always have. And there just isn’t enough of it in comics to keep me satisfied. Every so often something comes along though that gets it absolutely right, does everything big Sci-Fi is meant to do – all the wonder, all the majesty of space, all the complex technical stuff, all the unanswered questions. And that’s exactly what The Chimpanzee Complex does. It’s Big, epic Sci-Fi done absolutely right.”
Glister – The Faerie Host – by Andi Watson (Walker Books)
The very best of Andi Watson’s four Glister volumes. Where the other volumes are playful and fun, this transforms into a work of tremendous emotional power. Few comics make me cry. The Faerie Host does it ever time I read it – through great sadness and through sheer joy.
“So Andi does it again, producing not just a wonderful piece of comics, but something that initially seemed lightweight and just a simple bit of fun and ends up something far more serious and thoughtful. He’s a master at this, taking a situation and wringing real human emotion out of it. And even here, in this lovingly wrought bit of lightweight fun he does it again, raising not just a smile but a tear from the reader as well. Truly, a young master of the art.”
The Hot Rock - by LAX (SelfMadeHero)
This book is the reason that Parker: The Outfit by Darwyn Cooke isn’t on this list. It was close, very close. Parker is brilliant but I have to be brutally honest and say that The Hot Rock adapted and illustrated by Christian Lacroix (LAX) is the best adaptation of Donald Westlake’s work this year – a beautifully constructed comedy heist thriller that had me laughing AND on the edge of my seat.
“Westlake’s writing in The Hot Rock is as good an example of the black comedy crime caper as you’re likely to find. – and Lacroix/LAX does the perfect job of adapting The Hot Rock to comic form. It’s timing is perfect, whether it’s for the thrills or the comedy”
Psychiatric Tales – by Darryl Cunningham (Blank Slate Books)
An excellent tale of mental health. Absolutely essential reading, enlightening, informative, illuminating, strangely beautiful and above all, full of hope.
“Darryl shows us, with personal experience as well as recounted experience that every one of these debilitating and terrible illnesses are beatable, with luck, with family, with years of struggle perhaps. But beatable nonetheless. I’m sure if one sufferer read his work and made this intuitive leap of understanding Darryl would consider his work done and done well.”
Queen Mum Adventures – by David O’Connell (self published)
An unfortunate coincidence of placement puts this next to Psychiatric Tales. It’s perhaps the furthest you could get from Cunningham’s work. But only two exquisite mini comics and a full page strip in Paper Science 3 was enough for me to know that this was simply the funniest bit of gentle satirical silliness I’d read all year.
“The silliness and sedition goes on and on through the all too quickly finished mini. G&Ts, betting, old Scot’s Guard leather boys, gimps pulling the old dear back home up the Mall in a wheelie bin, QEII and Phillip aghast, giant corgis and more G&T. So much to love. So much to get O’Connell thrown in the tower.”
The inclusion of Sherlock Holmes is here simply because it was a brilliantly done adaptation that I felt captured the very spirit of Conan-Doyle’s prose. Nothing revolutionary in the writing, but a perfect adaptation – it’s all about the adapter stepping back and letting the brilliance of the original come through. INJ Culbard’s simply gorgeous artwork is a very big part of it’s appeal. And as much as I enjoyed Culbard’s adaptation of Lovecraft’s At The Mountains Of Madness I felt it lacked a little darkness, a little terror. I do suspect, had it scared me as much as I wanted it to, it would be here instead of Edginton and Culbard’s Holmes volumes.
“These Sherlock Holmes adaptations do exactly what they should, taking everything that was thrilling and entertaining to readers of Conan Doyle’s most famous unofficial consulting detective and produce a graphic novel adaptation that remains faithful to the source. And that’s all down to the skill and craft of the adapters.”
Sightings Of Wallace Sendek - by Douglas Noble and Sean Azzopardi (self published)
Another near coin toss of a choice. I could just as easily have picked Noble’s Live Static but Sightings just won out.
“I can’t really say enough good things about Wallace Sendek. It’s quite brilliant. I’m a huge fan of Noble’s work anyway and I’ve always liked Azzopardi’s artwork. But in Sendek we see Noble on his vaguest, strangest, darkest form and Azzopardi drawing his arm off to keep up with the strange, surreal storyline, matching each new voice on the page with some new, different styling.”
The Summit Of The Gods – By Yumemakura Baku and Jirô Taniguchi (Fanfare/Ponent Mon)
Breath-taking Manga epic. Having to wait for volume 2 is almost painful.
“The Summit Of The Gods is a five volume mountaineering epic, adapted from an award-winning Japanese novel, Kamigami no Itadaki, and is absolutely wonderful. I was engrossed from the start and read it cover to cover in one sitting. My only disappointment? Not being able to reach out and pick up Volume 2 straight away.”
A slight cheat here, as I’m picking all of Cheverton and Keables West series – the collection Justice and their 2 issue series Distance (issue 1, issue 2). Whether it’s more Cheverton’s ever so tight writing or Keable’s ever changing artwork that makes this so brilliant I really don’t know – but put them together and it’s quite magnificent.
“I’m very, very impressed with West; the story is a good mix of classic Western and something more intriguing. Cheverton’s pacing and dialogue is almost spot on throughout and Keable’s artwork looks good, no matter what the style he uses.”
“West is created to be a vengeful, wandering spirit, and it’s a role Cheverton and Keable are brilliantly exploring through all of the West stories I’ve read so far.”
Okay, that was it. A 10 best for 2010. And by god that was painful. There were so many things I really had to anguish over leaving off the list. Things that came ever so close that I haven’t already mentioned:
Dance By The Light Of The Moon by Judith Vanistendael (SelfMadeHero) – “This is a wonderful book, beautifully told, with a real ring of truths told about it. No-one is allowed to be perfect, everyone has their flaws and Vanistendaez produces an accomplished work of semi-autobiography. Her artwork is in turns easy on the eye and complicated, symbolism laden, hauntingly beautiful. But it never relents, always serves the story, and it’s a wonderful, unfailingly real story that you’ll remember long after closing the book.”
Harker by Roger Gibson and Vince Danks – another one that so very, very nearly made it. But with only three issues and the second collection this year combined with talking about it so much in 2009, I figured it could stand omission. 2011 should bring new works from Gibson and Danks. I expect I’ll enjoy them.
Long John Silver – by Dorison and Lauffray (Cinebook) – This only just made it – so much so that the review isn’t published on the FPI blog yet. I read it at the end of December and immediately recognised it as yet another wonderful Cinebook release. Part potboiler adventure, part Dangerous Liaisons style exploration of one woman’s ability to manipulate those around her.
Phonogram The Singles Club by Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie (Image)- I was going to include it – since the collection did come out in 2010, but it was another of those series that received so many accolades (although sadly not enough sales, hence no Phonogram Volume 3) in 2009 that it feels it belongs in that year rather than this.
Planetary by Warren Ellis and John Cassaday (Wild Storm) – as I said in the review, Planetary is very probably my favourite comic series ever. And as much as I’d like to have included it in a best of 2010 – after all the final collection and the second absolute volume came out in March – I can’t help but feel it would be rather taking the piss. Enough that I’ve declared my undying love.
S.W.O.R.D. – by Kieron Gillen and Steven Saunders with Jamie McKelvie (Marvel). Excluding Planetary for much the same reasons I just gave you – S.W.O.R.D. was absolutely the superhero title of the year.
XIII – Jean Van Hamme and William Vance (Cinebook). It seemed that Van Hamme was going to have a place on my list yet again. Last year it was the excellent Largo Winch and this year it was XIII – all the way up until putting the final 10 together, when XIII was the final thing to be cut, making it my 11th favourite of the year – ridiculously good, ridiculously over the top thriller.
As usual, there are a couple of obvious omissions here. Sometimes the need to review things takes precedence over books I’ve picked up to read. Hence no Blacksad, Adele Blanc Sec – both of which I think would have made the long list no question and probably the best of year list. And you can add Scott Pilgrim to that list as well – I’ve read it but only quickly and I had promised myself I’d read it again. But I didn’t, so it didn’t get a mention.
However – I do have a secret weapon – my wonderful daughter Molly. And because her favourite 3 were all part of my long list as well it allowed me an excuse to leave them off my top 10. Sadly Molly has been far, far too busy this year having a life to actually write about the comics she’s read this year, but she did have time to tell me her three favourite comics of 2010:
Vern & Lettuce by Sarah McIntyre (DFC Library)
Mo-Bot High by Neill Cameron (DFC Library)
The Girl And The Gorilla by Madeleine Flores (Blank Slate Books)