Best Of The Year 2017 – Richard begs forgiveness for his tardiness…..
Is it that time already? Best of the year must mean it’s December. Heavens, where does the year go? Oh, hold on. What do you mean it’s January? Ooops.
Ok then. So it’s time to put together my best of year lists. Except there’s a slight problem this year. I haven’t exactly been that involved in comics too much over 2017. It’s not that I’ve ever fallen out of love with comics, hell no. Just that troublesome life stuff getting in the way. Yeah, life. Anyway, it’s looking like me and comics will be more heavily involved with each other in 2018, and that means that if you are making comics, I want to hear from you. Get in touch at email@example.com or @richardbruton on Twitter.
But just because I’ve been less involved in 2017 doesn’t mean I haven’t got some great comics to tell you about. Despite not reading that much in 2017, I still managed to find a great top ten (see here for our other blog crew 2017 Best of the Year picks). Unlike that recent bloody Vice article where they pompously informed you they couldn’t find enough comics to make a full best of year list. Bah.
Anyway, it’s my best of 2017 list and it goes a little like this….
As a longtime fan of Dan White’s wonderful comics about this monster hunting little girl and her four-legged friend, Biscuit, this was something that was always going to be appearing here. The brilliance of White’s Cindy and Biscuit comics, as I’ve said many times before, comes from the mix of surface fun and adventure as the pair dispatch various weird and wonderful threats, and the darker, more ominous thread running through the work, of loneliness, devotion, neglect, and the power of a child’s mind to make the best of it all. As with all the best “Sunday” strips, this one comes in colour, each one or two-page strip another Sunday in Cindy’s life. Whether that means a boring day doing homework, the problems of monster spotting on Halloween, or getting some unexpected help against bullies in the snow, these strips all encapsulate the joy of reading Cindy and Biscuit. The fun and gentle humour brings a bittersweet smile to my face every time, yet behind that smile, White manages to imbue it all with such sadness, sometimes explicit, but mostly inferred from the offhand moments.
I was wary as anything when this came out, surely Gerard Way couldn’t strike gold twice, this pop star pretender to comic book writing? Surely The Umbrella Academy was a one off and Way et al would do what many have done before and screw up this weirdest of DC’s super-teams. Of course, seeing as Grant Morrison and Richard Case’s run on Doom Patrol way back when is still one of my all-time favourites I was already setting the bar high, impossibly high. Yet somehow, Way et al pulled it off. Quality over quantity sure, with a schedule best described as chaotically shy of expectation. But when the quality is this high, I’ll cope with something way less than monthly. It’s inventive, strange, brilliant stuff. And incredibly to me, (nearly) right up there with the Morrison and Case run.
I had some vague memories of seeing this in my childhood, but nothing prepared me for the sheer brilliance of Ken Reid’s Faceache. Finally collected together by Rebellion as part of their continuing reprints of classic material, The First 100 Scrunges is just that, the first few years of this masterpiece of Brit cartooning, with strips from ’71-’73. This gorgeous hardcover collection really shows off Reid’s wonderful cartooning as he takes great delight in Ricky Rubberneck’s ability to scrunge into all many of monstrosities and grotesques.
Oh, what a delightful surprise this was when it first appeared back in 2015. And a huge success as well, with the limited series almost immediately turned into an ongoing series. John Allison and Max Sarin deliver a glorious sense of everyday absurdity in documenting the university lives of Esther, Susan, and Daisy. Allison’s writing has never been better, each issue has more great gags and popping dialogue than many others could get in a year’s worth of comics and Sarin’s art pulls of expressive cartooning with some style. It’s just a bloody fun book.
The last volume of Talbot’s Grandville delivered everything we’d been wanting. Talbot’s artwork is simply staggeringly good throughout, and the tale he tells is so satisfying and one demanding your attention, whether it’s the first time or the twentieth. Part crime thriller, part nostalgic look back, with a host of comic and other references thrown in, it’s a wonderful finale to a superb series.
Mister Miracle – Tom King and Mitch Gerads (DC)
A real surprise this one. I picked it up on a whim, just happening to be in a comic shop on the day of issue one’s release. And within those first few pages I was entranced. This escape artist we never really knew opens the first issue wanting to escape his life, his suicide attempt a visceral and emotional beginning to a great series. Since then, it’s consistently delivered, whether it’s Scott Free and his wife, Barda, fighting in Apokolips, or just chilling at home, it’s a wonderfully modern comic that’s pushing in all manner of new directions. Part superheroics, part love story, part a treatise on mental illness and getting through, it’s a superb comic.
Walden’s memoir of competitive ice skating continued her upward ascent to the greats of young comic makers. Previous works including I Love This Part, The End Of Summer, and A City Inside all showed just how incredibly expressive and lyrical Walden’s work could be across a range of themes. But Spinning eclipses them all, recalling childhood dreams, failure, disappointment, all delivered with a breathtaking dynamism through her art. Gorgeous.
The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #26 – written by Ryan North and Erica Henderson, art by Michael Cho, Jim Davis, Tom Fowler, Madeline McGrane, Anders Nilsen, Rico Renzi, Carla Speed McNeil, Chip Zdarsky. (Marvel)
This one I picked up out of the blue as it screamed “ZINE ISSUE” from its cover. Having no previous idea who, what, why or how any of this happens didn’t matter, as the fun of it is in simply enjoying the ride. With a great lineup of writers and artists, this had a great sense of screw it, just go along with it. Continuity be damned, just fun comics, just as I wish Marvel would get back to.
The Wicked + The Divine Christmas Special – written by Kieron Gillen, art by Kris Anka, Jen Bartel, Chynna Clugston Flores, Carla Speed McNeil, Rachael Stott, Emma Vieceli. (Image Comics)
Happy holidays indeed. One of those series I’ve followed intently yet never written about, The Wicked + The Divine is simply spectacular comics from Gillen, McKelvie et al. And here in the Christmas special, Gillen and various artists get to tell the tales in between the main storyline, moments that have merely been mentioned are fleshed out and given life. Meanwhile, the series continues and is building to something we’ll be talking about as a classic in years to come.
Oh, I’ve loved Rachael Smith’s work since first seeing it with I Am Fire. Subsequent books House Party, The Rabbit, and Artificial Flowers really established her as a great comic maker in my eyes. But Wired Up Wrong takes her work to a spectacular new orbit. Returning somewhat to her earliest diary comics, Wired Up Wrong is an emotional punch of a read, detailing with heartbreaking honesty Smith’s personal experiences of living with depression and anxiety. But with typical style, she never allows the black dog to dominate the work, infusing it with her customary humour. Raw, powerful, brave, funny, Wired Up Wrong is essential reading.
And that’s it. My fave 10 comics of 2017. Enjoy.
Film of the year isn’t Star Wars: The Last Jedi. Sorry folks, but I went in deliberately not expecting much and it just left me flat. The much talked about emotional punches just didn’t hit me, the plot seemed cobbled together, and all in all I left with a real empty feeling. Looked fabulous though, and Carrie Fisher was simply superb. Nope, film of the year goes to Colossal, the wonderfully offbeat monster movie starring Anne Hathaway. Defying genres, it played as quirky, emotional, and downright weird at times. But I absolutely loved it.
As for my favourite bit of TV, well the one series that really made me tune in, week in and week out, was Star Trek: Discovery. It’s a wonderful slice of great sci-fi. And having just watched the first episode of 2018, where Discovery gets marooned in the Mirror Universe, it’s a series that seems to just get better and better.
Best of 2018 will, I promise, be done in 2018.