If there’s one thing I can say for certain about the Oscars is that they’ve never been delayed due to snow. It was hectic week here at Eye on Comics, between regular work and snow removal in recent days. But a lazy Sunday afforded me the chance to finish the second half of the 2018 Glass Eye Awards. Previously, I covered the best comics and graphic novels of the year (as best my review of material available to me and memory allowed), and but now, I’m looking at the creators whom I thought had the best year creatively. Your mileage may vary, of course, and this is by no means meant to be a comprehensive or definitive list.
Young Justice #1
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artist: Patrick Gleason
Colors: Alejandro Sanchez
Letters: DC Lettering
Cover artists: Patrick Gleason (regular)/Amy Reeder, Derrick Chew, Yasmine Putri, Jorge Jimenez and Evan Shaner (variants)
Editor: Mike Cotton & Andy Khouri
Publisher: DC Comics/Wonder Comics imprint
Price: $4.99 US
One of my favorite super-hero comics is 1985’s Crisis on Infinite Earths, which explored just about every corner of DC’s multiverse, and therefore, just about every character and facet of the publisher’s extensive continuity. But the ultimate purpose was to simply that continuity, to streamline its properties to offer a more accessible product to readers. DC has done so on other occasions since, notably its New 52 relaunch that tried to establish a tighter timeline for its super-hero universe. I completely understood those goals, but as a longtime reader, I rather love DC’s history, and honestly, it was the complexity of the parallel-earths concept that helped to hook me on the genre when I first discovered comics in the late 1970s. With Young Justice, writer Brian Michael Bendis makes it clear that there’s a new approach at play: to turn the long history into an asset, to make use of the interconnectivity of the characters, and to revive or to reshape that extensive continuity.
Gunning for Hits #1
Writer: Jeff Rougvie
Colors/Letters: Casey Silver
Publisher: Image Comics
Price: $3.99 US
Several years ago, there was a short-lived primetime show called Love Monkey. Starring Tom (Ed, The Flash) Kavanaugh, it was a romance show set against the backdrop of the music industry. My wife and I thoroughly enjoyed the humor, relationship dynamics and the behind-the-scenes glimpse at the process of a music discovery and evolution of an album. Gunning for Hits evoked memories of Love Monkey because both explore the music industry, but Jeff Rougvie, writing from experience, offers a much darker examination of that world. We see it through an ugly, brutal lens, and I couldn’t look away. Gunning for Hits is to Love Monkey what House of Cards is to The West Wing. This harsh reflection is riveting, but at its heart is a genuine love of music and how it can help one transcend the mundane. (I assume the bulk of my readership is now taking a moment to Google Love Monkey; I admit, it’s a fairly obscure piece of pop-culture history).
Are you all abuzz about the Golden Globes? Gearing up for the Oscars? Pshaw! They hand out those awards every year. Truly prestigious honors are only presented every few years — at least that’s the premise I’m going with for this post. Join me as I dole out dusty ocular prosthetics and discuss the top comics and industry creators of 2018.
Eye on Comics hasn’t seen a best-of list in six years, mainly because this is a one-man operation and there’s only so much time for comics. With that in mind, please bear in mind these “awards,” such as they are, are by no means to be considered comprehensive. My picks for the best books of the year are based on nothing but a quick perusal of my files from the past year and my best recollections (which are far from the best they could be).
Heroes in Crisis #4
Writer: Tom King
Artist: Clay Mann
Colors: Tomeu Morey
Letters: Clayton Cowles
Cover artists: Trevor Hairsine (regular)/Ryan Sook (variant)
Editor: Jamie S. Rich
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $3.99 US
While Tom King’s scripting and pacing continues to obfuscate the plot purposefully, this stands out as the most interesting chapter of this event book thus far, exploring emotionally poignant and ethically challenging ideas. However, this also stands out as the most irksome and disappointing issue in the limited series due to a couple of visual choices that objectify strong female characters. This struck me as a major step backward in a genre that’s slowly been evolving, in general, toward a more progressive approach. The most egregious instance of gratuitous sexualization in this issue threatens to blind the reader from the more nuanced and mature notions that King examines here, and it completely detracted from my overall enjoyment of the story and characterization. I felt completely let down by the creators here.
Sincerely, Harriet original graphic novel
Writer/Artist/Cover artist: Sarah Winifred Searle
Publisher: Lerner Publishing Group/Graphic Universe imprint
Price: $11.99 US
Sincerely, Harriet is an unusual book, one that’s difficult to pin down. It’s something of a mystery story, but also a ghost story of sorts. It subtly explores psychological and physical challenges, while also espousing the wonder of reading. Ultimately, it’s a quiet coming-of-age story that’s unlike those you may have read before. Honestly, I was a bit confused by Searle’s writing and art at first, but the more I read, the more vested and interested I became in Harriet’s story. This reads something like a Raina Telgemeier graphic novel filtered through the lens of film director David Fincher, instilling it with a little more tension but maintaining the grounded, relatable qualities that makes it such a pleasure to experience.
Writers: Joe Brusha, Ralph Tedesco, Dave Franchini & Hans Rodionoff
Artist: J.G. Miranda
Colors: Leonardo Paciarotti
Letters: Taylor Esposito
Cover artists: Leonardo Colapietro/Sheldon Goh & Sanju Nivangune
Editor: Terry Kavanaugh
Publisher: Zenescope Entertainment
Price: $4.99 US
Whenever Zenescope Entertainment releases a new comic that doesn’t feature a buxom, scantily-clad heroine plucked from fabled stories, it prompts me to pause and take a look. While it’s clear the foundation of the publisher’s business is on such good-girl/bad-girl comics, I always hold out hope it might have something more to offer, something more interesting and less superficial. Conspiracy certainly goes against Zenescope’s usual focus, but doesn’t mean there’s greater depth or quality to be found here instead. Conspiracy is a clumsy exploration of conspiracy theories, lacking the complexity and intelligence necessary to make such far-fetched concepts palatable or plausible. The writers seems to focus exclusively on establishing a foreboding atmosphere, and the plot suffers as a result. The art, meanwhile, is serviceable but ultimately unremarkable.
Superior Spider-Man #1
Writer: Christos Gage
Pencils: Mike Hawthorne
Inks: Wade von Grawbadger
Colors: Jordie Bellaire
Letters: Virtual Calligraphy’s Clayton Cowles
Cover artists: Travis Charest (regular) Mike Hawthorne, Marco Djurdjevic, Emanuela Lupacchino, John Buscema and Skottie Young (variants)
Editor: Nick Lowe
Publisher: Marvel Entertainment
Price: $3.99 US
Given the recent release of Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse in theatres, the timing of this latest Spidey spinoff title is great. There’s definitely an interest out there in alternate versions of the familiar web-slinging hero, so bringing back the Otto Octavuis incarnation of the hero makes sense. However, he comes with a lot of baggage. The character’s history is convoluted, but writer Christos Gage does good job of providing the much-needed exposition. Still, there are some obscure and pretty random characters involved in this story, so even a longtime super-hero comics readers such as myself will find themselves feeling a little lost at times. Furthermore, this new title apparently flows from the events of Spider-Geddon, which serves as another barrier to accessibility. But the greatest challenge with this second go-around for Superior Spider-Man is the central protagonist’s arrogance; this is a story of a quest for redemption, but getting the audience to root for such an unlikeable figure seems daunting to me.
I Moved to Los Angeles to Work in Animation original graphic novel
Writer/Artist/Cover artist: Natalie Nourigat
Editor: Shannon Watters
Publisher: Boom! Studios/Boom! Box imprint
Price: $9.99 US/$11.99 US/£7.50 UK
This skinny little book showed up on my doorstep a little while ago, and I’ve been picking away at it over the last couple of weeks. It’s truly a different kind of book, not the sort of read I typically delve into, but I found I enjoyed the change of pace. I didn’t know much about the book or its creator before opening it up, so I had expected something of a memoir, and there are segments here that fit that bill. But the material is much more matter-of-fact in tone. Nourigat offers something of a how-to guide to a career in animation, peppered with caveats about how one’s mileage will vary. But it’s not just about a specific industry and career, but how to navigate the titular locale. People with an eye to a viable career in illustration and art will no doubt find this book of interest, but it’s relatable for just about anyone who faces a big move, a big change, or who’s experienced such moments in their lives already.
Actors: Jason Momoa, Amber Heard, Willem Dafoe, Patrick Wilson, Nicole Kidman, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Temuera Morrison, Dolph Lundgren, Randall Park & Graham McTavish
Directors: James Wan
Writers: Geoff Johns, James Wan, Will Beall & David Leslie Johnson-McGoldrick
Studio: Warner Bros.
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (yes, this is an Aquaman review, stick with me) has been heralded for its innovative approach to animation, and justifiably so. The creative forces behind that animated piece of wonder have truly captured the color, dynamics and unrestrained energy of a comic book. While Spider-Verse felt novel and new, Aquaman, its comic-book-inspired brother and competitor at the theatre, feels thoroughly conventional — but in the best possible ways. This latest installment in the DC Cinematic Universe dazzles the eye with wondrous imagery and tickles the brain with its celebration of various fantastic genres. What the movie lacks is a sense of suspense — we know from the very start how the story will turn out — but surprisingly, the flick is strong enough to distract its audience from that. And at the foundation of the fun is a charismatic, everyman performance from Jason Momoa.
While reading the comics I’ve examined in this batch of capsule reviews, I met a king with no memory, the perfect undercover assassin, a blind man with an eye for revenge and a tattoo artist who wants nothing more than to leave her complicated past behind her. Join me as I discuss the latest issues of Aquaman, Hardcore, Old Man Hawkeye and Pearl.
Freedom Fighters #1
“Chapter One: Death of a Nation”
Writer: Robert Venditti
Pencils: Eddy Barrows
Inks: Eber Ferreira
Colors: Adriano Lucas
Letters: Deron Bennett
Cover artists: Barrows (regular)/Ben Oliver (variant)
Editor: Paul Kaminski
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $3.99 US
I’ve been obsessed with DC’s Golden Age characters, as well as others from the era it acquired from other, now-defunct publishers over the years, such as the Quality characters, such as Uncle Sam, the Human Bomb and the rest of the lineup that DC rebranded as the Freedom Fighters in the 1970s. When DC reintroduced the characters in one of its annual JLA/JSA crossovers of the time, they were on Earth-X, fighting against the Nazis, who’d won the Second World War. After DC did away with its multiverse with Crisis on Infinite Earths in 1985, the Freedom Fighters just became another group of WWII-eras, taking away that unique mission. With a one-shot during the Multiversity not long ago and now with this new limited series, DC has clearly seen that the characters work better in that alternate-universe setting. Despite my interest in Golden Age super-heroes, what drew me to this comic was news that it featured another hero, a different kind a hero: a real-life one whom writer Robert Venditti had incorporated into a tale of resistance and horror that made a lot of sense. Though I’m a little late to the game, I’m realizing that Venditti is a skilled and powerful creative force in DC’s stable, and I’m definitely going to be paying closer attention for his name on future projects as well.