Best of the Year 2014: Robin Etherington
Today for the second in our annual tradition of daily guest Best of the Year posts through December we welcome Robin Etherington. Once walking the high wire as part of the Flying Etherington Brothers, he ran away from the circus to make comics with his brother Lorenzo (not least in the DFC and Phoenix, solid faves around these parts), delighting both young readers and those older ones who still happily indulge their inner child reader too (as well we should, it’s good for us, and of course even better when we read them along with younger members of our families!). Let’s see what Robin has been enjoying over the last year:
FPI: Can you pick three comics/webcomics/graphic novels which you especially enjoyed over the last twelve months and tell us why you singled them out?
Robin: Black Science: Volume 1 – Rick Remender/Matteo Scalera/Dean White. This book had its detractors but I found it to be a fantastic introduction to a dark and broodingly bleak sci-fi series. With elements of horror and future shock and dystopian nonsense, there’s a chaotic wonder at the heart of all the ongoing action and drama. Fresh thinking is sprinkled across every page and one can only hope that the series continues to go from strength to strength.
District 14: Season 2 – Romuald Reutimann and Pierre Gabus. I’m really recommended both seasons here, as the story is a complete package. 360 pages a book, this is a startlingly large interwoven narrative about immigration, class war, politics, greed, love and loss. It also manages to combine destitute aliens, human superheroes and anthropomorphic journalists and gangsters into a single remarkable tale. That it’s been overlooked for the big comic prizes in the English language community, despite having picked up Best Series at Angouleme, is a mystery. It is, quite simply, fab.
100th Anniversary Special #1 Avengers Marvel Comics – James Stokoe. I’m including Stokoe’s one shot just because it’s so brilliantly, unreservedly HIS, that the whole Marvel universe is forced to surrender and bow low before the weight of his detail rich line art. It’s as impressive as his run on Godzilla, and slightly more fun to boot. This is one man comic making at its finest. Bravo!
FPI: Can you pick three books which you especially enjoyed over the last twelve months and tell us why you singled them out?
Robin: The Kill List – Frederick Forsyth: the first of three thriller recommendations (it’s been a good year for it!). The master craftsman returns with another intimately researched dip into the world of espionage and intrigue and the military machine. If you like your thrills laced with a simply startling level of insight into current politics and conflict, this will satisfy.
Police – Jo Nesbo: I don’t really need to say anything about the latest chapter in the life of Harry Hole other than read it. Now. If you’ve never heard of Nesbo or Hole then get ready for a treat, but only pick up the eight Oslo Sequence novels. And read them in order!
I Am Pilgrim – Terry Hayes: debut novels don’t come much bigger or better than this, but Hayes is not a newcomer to the written word, having worked in film, TV and journalism for many years. Pilgrim however, is special. Like Forsyth, Hayes brings an immense dose of realism to the page, and his protagonist is affected by the world around him. It’s a post 9/11 piece, and another terrorist hunt, but Haye’s pervading sense of shifting sands beneath the feet of the combined justice departments of the world, keeps the whole enterprise on track and feeling fresh, not least because of the scale of imagination at work.
FPI: Can you pick three TV shows and/or movies which you especially enjoyed over the last twelve months and tell us why you singled them out?
Robin: The Raid 2 – Gareth Edwards delivers a second perfectly fisty-cuffy portion of tasty Indonesian action. If you’ve yet to see the first, rent/download/buy it immediately, and partner it with this gem of a sequel for an almighty night in. Crime capers are always packed with cliché, but when the end results are as blistering balletic as this, I for one won’t be found in the complaints queue. Bring on part three!
Guardians of the Galaxy – At last, a Marvel movie I want to watch again and again. Avengers was fun, and the first half Captain America 1 was great, but I’ve always found the Marvel movie cannon to be a one-watch experience. Until Star Lord and his band of reprobates marched onto screen and kicked the universe in the goolies. From the dramatic opener, to the idiocy of the credit roll Easter egg, Guardians rarely misses the mark. To bemoan the villains for being a little too comic-book feels like a snippy afterthought, so I’ll stick with two thumbs up and a big smile. Chris Pratt … great in Parks and Recreation but who knew, eh?…
Edge of Tomorrow/Live Die Repeat/All you need is kill/MADNESS!!! Title reshuffles be damned, this is science fiction hokum at its best. Like the bizarre love child of Groundhog Day and Source Code, Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt prove the adage that less is often so much more … but that MORE can sometimes be MUCH MUCH MORE. A two-hander for the majority of its screen time, the film relies on its star power over its effects, and to his credit Tom reins it right back. Gone is the smile and the cheese, and instead we get a stripped, raw, visceral performance, but its Blunt’s confidence on screen that elevates the film. She is beguiling and incendiary in equal measure, and while the end may be wonky (and if alien invasions aren’t your thing, then you’d better give the whole thing a miss) this is a must watch. If only to take pleasure in Bill Paxton’s drill sergeant and memories of a different breed of Aliens.
FPI: How did 2014 go for you as a creator? Are you happy with the way you got your work out this year?
Robin: It’s been a pretty good year as both Long Gone Don and Von Doogan hit the shelves in book form, I published Let’s Make Comics with Zak Simmonds-Hurn for Oxford University Press, and Lorenzo absolutely smashed his Kickstarter funding target for his second Deluxe 600-page sketchbook. We were also lucky to attend a plethora of festivals and shows and tours across the UK, and all the way to New Zealand and back. We’ve certainly met a lot of new friends on the road.
FPI: What can we look forward to from you in 2015?
Robin: Hopefully more of the same and some surprises to boot. New comic books, including the fourth serialised Long Gone Don adventure in the Phoenix weekly comic, and new books. 2015 is still a work in progress but we’ll be hitting the UK comic festival circuit again after a three year absence. We were building up stock, folks!
FPI: Anyone you think is a name we should be watching out for next year?
(painting by and (c) Igor Sinkovec)