Sunday, December 28, 2008


numbered, but in no particular order...

1) SECRET INVASION: After last year's 'Civil War' comic event lost me amid its ridiculousness, this year's Secret Invasion not only found me, it brought back that 11-year old in me who was knocked out by 'Secret Wars' 25 years ago (btw, just typing the phrase "25 years ago" in relation to my life scares the crap out of me). Writer Brian Bendis gave us surprises aplenty, bringing together elements over three years in the making, and making this fanboy, as my pal Ted might put it, all 'gooby'. Now, I don't think you have to buy the whole thing, all the tie-ins and such, because that will run you about a kabillion dollars. If you stick to the main series and the other Bendis-written series, 'Mighty Avengers' and 'New Avengers' you'll be ok. Avoid the other stuff, like 'Improved with 30% more Avenging'.

2) CAPTAIN AMERICA: Consistently the most exciting, well-written monthly superhero title, courtesy of Ed Brubaker and the consistent, underrated knockout art of Steve Epting. The original Captain America, Steve Rogers, has been "dead" for over a year now, and the book suffers not. It's incredible that 60+ years on, there are still satisfying Red Skull stories to be written and read. The best part is that Brubaker didn't have to detour a great storyline to match up with the 'Secret Invasion' event. These company crossover deals tend to muck with the regular comics. Kudos to Marvel editorial for letting Cap's creative team do their thing.

3)THE COMPLETE TERRY & THE PIRATES Volumes 2-5T: Drama, humor, and action combined with masterful illustration. We get to see the main character, Terry Lee, grow up along with the skills of his creator, Milton Caniff. He showed everybody how adventure comic strips could be done, and nobody did it better. These volumes are essential to any library. The 6th and final volume is due next month.

4) SCORCHY SMITH AND THE ART OF NOEL SICKLES: Sickles was Caniff's close friend and one-time studio partner, and both formed a mutual admiration society. But while Caniff saw the comic strip as a lifelong avocation and a business, Sickles just loved to draw, and tired of his own strip, 'Scorchy Smith' after a couple of years. Sickles' entire run of the strip is reprinted here, bookended by the artist he replaced and the one who replaced him. The real bounty of the book is in the first half, which includes the first full biography of Sickles as well as the only extensive reprinting of his post-Scorchy illustration work for magazines and advertisers. There's still a good deal for it on.

5) DAVE SIM: Sim had a wildly divergent year when you compare his launch of the 'Glamourpuss' series and the 'Judenhass' graphic novel. Glamourpuss, which I wrote about here is an odd hybrid of fashion illustration, fashion parody and study of comic strip illustration. Judenhass is an historical look at anti-Semitism and the Holocaust. I believe 'Glamourpuss' will appeal to an esoteric handful, while school systems should be ordering 'Judenhass' by the crateload.

6) CHUCK DIXON: Dixon was hurriedly dumped by DC this year, apparently for writing some great comics. Memo to DC, after you dropped Dixon, I dropped 'Robin' and 'Batman & the Outsiders'. Outside of DC, Dixon continues to give us clever, episode-worthy stories in 'Simpsons Comics'. He also snuck in a Western, 'Wyatt Earp vs the Cisco Kid', from Moonstone. I haven't read his war mini-series, 'Storming Paradise', but Beau Smith, and that's good enough for this hombre. I'll also mention that Chuck wrote an adaptation of Dean Koontz's Frankenstein: Prodigal Son. There are many problems with cramming a novel into a comic book series. It seems like there aren't enough issues to get everything in and I keep forgetting who is who. It's a five issue series, but the ending doesn't resolve anything and we're told to stay tuned for the second volume of the series. Chuck's a pro's pro, and I know he's doing his best to keep it all straight for us, but this one's lost me. Maybe it's the artist who seems to draw most male characters with the same face.

7) ACTION COMICS: Marvel artist Gary Frank defected to DC late last year to draw a run of 'Action Comics' with writer Geoff Johns. Frank's Superman is decidedly Christopher Reeve-ish and in doing so was able to capture some of the magic of 'Superman: The Movie'. Perhaps that's the influence of Johns' recent collaborator, Richard Donner. Johns is keyed into Superman's comic heritage, showcasing Frank's art with a Legion of Super Heroes story followed by a Brainiac/City of Kandor story. The only downer? Somebody decided it was time to kill off Pa Kent...again.

8) SAVAGE SWORD OF CONAN v.1 - In the not-so dim past (the 1970s), a popular format for comics were monthly magazines, geared for *gasp* adults. 'Savage Sword' was a long running mag featuring Conan the Barbarian. I picked this up thinking it was going to reprint the magazines in their entirety, but it only has the Conan stories. Initially disappointed, I was soon captured by the timelessness of the tales, and John Buscema's art has never looked better. Like the magazine, the stories are in black and white. At 500+ pages, you won't find a better comics bargain for $17.95.

9) BAT LASH - I've never read the original 'Bat Lash', the short-lived series from the late '60s by Sergio Aragones, Denny O'Neil and Nick Cardy, but it's always come up as one of those obscure but outstanding series that's remembered with reverence. So I was excited for this new 'Bat Lash' series, again co-written by Aragones and drawn by living legend John Severin. Both add nuances to the story of an outlaw-ish ne'er-do-well who falls for the beautiful daughter of the powerful villain who controls the town. To see Severin, now in his mid-80s, turning in a story that lacks none of his skilled craftmanship, is reason enough to give this a look.

10) THE COMPLETE PEANUTS, 1967-1968 and 1969-1970 by Charles M. Schulz - There's so much of these books that's ingrained in my childhood. It's impossible not to love events like the introductions of Franklin and Woodstock, Snoopy as the Masked Marvel, Snoopy goes to the moon, the kite-eating tree, and Lucy at her crabbiest. There was also a run where it seems Schulz thought the word "blighter" was funny. (click the strip to view the whole strip)
and this strip blew my mind...
ok, I could post these forever, but does it get any better than this?
and one of my favorite Sundays...

All of these books are available at your local comic shop. I go to this one.

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