Star Wars (all of them)
My pull list is relatively simple – all the Star Wars titles mixed in with most of the Valiant titles, and very little else (What can I say, I have a comic budget and it isn’t all that large due to other things like mortgages and diapers). When it came time to choose my favorite comics of the year, I had a hard time deciding which book in the Star Wars line I should pick. I mean, Jason Aaron’s work on Star Wars is brilliant, but so is Gillen’s work on Darth Vader. Kanan was surprisingly good and made me a fan of the show Rebels, while Lando, Chewbacca and Princess Leia were also very well done. Shattered Empire shows the aftermath of Return of the Jedi and also showed Luke Skywalker really grasping what he could do with the Force. Additionally, the Vader Down event is shaping up to be an incredibly successful event. If I HAD to choose, I might select the main Star Wars title… but I don’t have to choose, so I choose all of the titles. If you aren’t reading them and are a fan of the Star Wars you are missing out on some great stories.
Although Valiant Entertainment is a small publisher, they are putting out some magnificent work. Now that we are a few years in to the shared universe of Valiant, it can be kind of intimidating trying to test the waters for a newcomer (although they have great prices on their trade paperback collections so you have little excuse). Luckily Ninjak by Matt Kindt is a great jumping on point. The story is mostly a standalone story that follows Britain’s number one super-spy/master assassin, Colin King (think British Batman with a sprinkle of 007-particularly the “license to kill” part). During the main story of each issue, there are a few pages of flashbacks that give you backstory into his childhood, and each issue ends with a couple page story of his previous exploits prior to becoming the badass that is Ninjak. So in essence you get two awesome comics for the price of one. The first volume is already available in trade paperback, and you can find it available on Amazon and in most local comic shops.
I have a confession to make, I used to dislike the Punisher. His anti-hero antics involving merciless retribution on the criminal underworld rubbed me the wrong way. It all changed when I read Nathan Edmondson’s Punisher. Holy crap is it good. Edmondson really focuses on Frank’s military background and expert tactical skills as he deals with Cartels, the Howling Commandos, and – the most dangerous of all – Los Angeles. While he is still merciless, Edmondson’s writing and Mitch Gerad’s art made me a believer.
Very similar to Cameron, I have been pulling every Star Wars book. But, out of all the books, I had a favorite. I personally like the Darth Vader solo book the most. I think Kieron Gillen does a fantastic job capturing the spirit of everyone’s favorite Sith lord. From the first issue, this book had my full attention. Now, I am slightly biased. I love Gillen as a writer, and I have a Darth Vader tattoo, so of course I’m going to love a comic solely about Vader. And, this book has two of the greatest assassin droids in Star Wars history, BT-1 and 0-0-0. If you haven’t read this book, you are really missing out. Go pick up some issues and fall in love with it like I did.
If you have ever read any of my reviews, you know how I feel about Scott Snyder and Batman… I F**KING LOVE THEM. And, because of my love, I am unabashedly biased about that book. When the Robot-Bat-Bunny Batman was announced Cameron dropped the book and Stephen Andrew eventually lost interest in it. But, here is the thing: it was awesome. The book had been in such a dark and serious place for so long that the creative team of Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo decided to have some fun with the book. They introduced a super dark villain, but were still able to make the book fun and a bit lighter. Since I wouldn’t stop talking about the book, Cam and Stephen decided to give it a shot again, and wouldn’t you know, they loved it. Stephen even wrote an apology. Batman was seriously the best book DC was putting out all year.
When the all new Archie was announced I was pretty excited. I had never read an Archie comic before, but man was I hyped AF for this new book. Mark Waid and Fiona f**king Staples? How could one not love that? It would be the greatest sin. Now, I typically stay away from teen centered books. It’s just not my cup of tea, but this book changed that. From the very first issue I was instantly drawn into the lives of Archie, Veronica, Jughead and Betty. Mark Waid is able to strip everything down, give us raw real people, and make us extremely interested in the break up of Betty and Archie, and how that affects the entire town of Riverdale. Everyone knew Archie and Betty as “Archie and Betty,” so what does their identity look like without each other? Well, that’s what Mark Waid is trying to explore, and he’s doing a fantastic job at it.
Unlike Cam and Bill, I’m terribly irresponsible and have like 87 books on my pull-list. Obviously that’s an exaggeration, but in all honesty it’s not by much. I read a lot of comics, and that makes compiling this list much more difficult for me. I can’t just pick like 3 or 4 books so I’m gonna try to break it down by publishers, and attempt to keep it brief. I said ATTEMPT. I make no guarantees…
I’m starting here because it’s the easiest one. Harley Quinn still is, and will remain my favorite DC title. In fact, it’s the only one I still currently read. The work that Amanda Connor & Jimmy Palmiotti have been doing on that series is unprecedented. They get away with jokes that probably no other mainstream comic ever would. Even though Harley is my maniacal mistress, I have to say that I thoroughly enjoyed the new Deathstroke run and might pick that back up because it was pretty intense and brutal. But, for now, I remain wholly committed to that adorable minx in red and blue clown paint. *swoon*
Being that I’be always been a Marvel Guy, this section could potentially be more difficult to narrow down. But while thinking about it, It actually became pretty easy. The Marvel comics that stood out most in my mind as I thought about the year are Howard the Duck, from the creative team of Chip Zdarsky & Joe Quinones, and The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, from Ryan North and Erica Henderson. Both series has been consistently well written, and I laugh out loud every single time I read a new issue. I already love Chip as a writer so I anticipated that I would love Howard, but I was honestly surprised at how much I ended up loving Squirrel Girl. Ryan North is an endless well of funny, and I’m gonna keep on drinking from his bucket. (Did that sound weird? I feel like it sounded weird…)
I only read about 4 Valiant series. Bloodshot, Ninjak, Rai, and now the new Wrath of the Eternal Warrior. I just picked up Rai this year and I’m really glad I did because it’s great. Eternal Warrior is off to a solid start, and Bloodshot always delivers. I have to agree with my good pal Cam though, that Ninjak is by far the the best series being published over at Valiant right now. The writing is A-game material, and the artwork is always high grade, professional quality. It’s like they said, “How do we make the best comic?” and then just made it.
Image Comics is my jam. I’d say that it at least ties with Marvel making up like 45% of my weekly pull list. All of my favorite comics are from Image. Outcast, Southern Bastards, Black Science, Deadly Class, East of West, Spread, Bitch Planet, etc. I could go on an on about the Image series’ that I love but I’d like to put the spotlight on two limited series they published this year. Airboy, from James Robinson & Greg Hinkle, and Big Man Plans, from Eric Powell & Tim Wiesch. Big Man Plans I chose becasue it was the most brutal and fearless series I read all year. Literally nothing was off limits. It reads like the storyboard for a Quentin Tarantino movie. If you can stomach the relentless ferocity of it all, then you should definitely pick up the trade.
Airboy really had a big impact on me. It’s essentially a parody of Robinson’s semi-autobiographical, debauched story of self-destruction that spirals him into a drug & alcohol induced fever dream into the world of the title golden age comic book character, Airboy. Among other things, he deals with things like his crumbling marriage, extreme substance abuse, and his insecurities and perceived failures as a writer. It’s all wrapped up in a brilliant and hilarious story of two guys just trying to motivate themselves to write and draw a comic book but falling into a shared hallucination… or dream… or f***ing nightmare. If you’re familiar with Robinson’s career then you owe it to yourself to read this series, but also if you just like comic book stores that aren’t afraid to be mercilessly honest and transparent.