Tag Archives: microcosm publishing

Review: Yo Miss: A Graphic Look at High School

Growing up, going to school, in New York, I was fortunate to go to private school and public school, when most ids usually get the latter. When I came back from Living in Trinidad, my grandparents wanted me and my sister to go to one of the best schools. So, we went to the same Catholic school, that my cousins went to, where we went to regular classes and even ah to go to mass once a week. So, when my parents came to live with us in New York, they decided that I should go to public school.

Public school was a world away from what I saw at Catholic school, kids were the same, teachers and classes not so much. Most of the teachers did not care whether we learned nor cared to even show us who they are. There were only a handful of teachers at Catholic school and public school who cared. So, when I read Yo Miss! Lisa Wilde’s year as a public-school teacher at a charter school, she reminded of some of them.

We are introduced to Lisa, a teacher who see as hopeful as most teachers, to change the world and mold young minds. Her zeal for the work soon wanes as the reality of teaching kids are considered “second chance”, becomes quite arduous. Throughout her many trails over the year, she is reminded of a quote by Maya Angelou, “All great achievements require time”, where she finally sees her breaking through to the kids she teaches. By the end of the book and her year’s journey, Lisa changes her students and her students have evolved her.

Overall, an engaging book, where one might have thought to be a fish out of water story turns out to be an examination of how one can overcome misconceptions. The story by Wilde is funny, heartfelt and refreshingly honest.  The art by Wilde is throwback to the old school newspaper strips. Altogether, an charming memoir which will leave the reader both entertained and illuminated.

Story: Lisa Wilde Art: Lisa Wilde
Story: 10 Art: 10 Overall:10 Recommendation: Buy

Weekly Graphic Novel Review: Henry & Glenn Forever + Ever & Adult Activity Book

It’s Wednesday which means it’s new comic book day with new releases hitting shelves, both physical and digital, all across the world. We take out the indie cult comic classic Henry & Glenn!

Henry & Glenn Forever + Ever The Completely Ridiculous Edition collects over 13 years of comics from over 50 creators.

Henry & Glenn Adult Activity & Coloring Book allows you to break out the crayons with games, mazes, puzzles, and more!

Check out both today in comic shops and in book stores Setpember 12 and November 7.

Get your copy now. To find a comic shop near you, visit www.comicshoplocator.com or call 1-888-comicbook or digitally and online with the links below.

Henry & Glenn Forever + Ever The Completely Ridiculous Edition
Amazon/Kindle/comiXology

Henry & Glenn Forever Adult Activity & Coloring Book
Amazon/Kindle/comiXology

 

Microcosm Publishing provided Graphic Policy with FREE copies for review
This post contains affiliate links, which means that if you click on one of the product links and make a purchase, we’ll receive a percentage of the sale. Graphic Policy does purchase items from this site. Making purchases through these links helps support the site.

Review: Soviet Daughter

As a teacher once told me years ago in high school, “we are making history every day”. No one ever really understands when they are in the middle of history when most people think of history happening, as for most of us, we are just living.  For people in the middle of history, they are surviving, the amount of bravery that it takes to stand up in an insurrection, cannot be understated, as the many revolutions around the world, have shown it is equal parts faith and fortitude. It reminds me of my family and their reactions to when Ninoy Aquino got shot in the Philippines back in 1983.

Our family had left the Philippines two years prior, but still had extended family and friends there, as the country’s disposition towards the government became untenable, and eventually lead to the ousting of President Marcos. My generation, only knew of what our parents and their brothers and sisters told us, of how it was then and why they felt they had to leave, some of their answers more cryptic than others. Their disdain never quite followed us even though many of us has some of that anti-establishment fervor in our blood, but those ghosts not only haunted them, it haunted us as well. This is what Soviet Daughter reminded me of when I read Julia Alekseyeva’s graphic novel of three generations of her family from when the family was entrenched in the USSR to them finally arriving in Chicago.

In the first few pages, we are introduced to the author, who we find out was a very close to her great grandmother, who had died when was 100 years old, and left her with a memoir, which was not to be read until after she died. What Julia, has found was not only an autobiography of her great grandmother but the story of Russia. We are introduced to family members throughout, showing how difficult life was in Russia, before and after both World Wars. By the end of the book, the author is both devastated and lost when she learned what she did about her great grandmother, a woman though lose to her , she barely knew.

The heartbreaking story of anti-Semitism, World Wars, Stalinism, xenophobia, Communism, and resilience amongst these three generations of women will have you rooting for all of them. The story by Alekseyeva is heart wrenching, with moments of levity, but leave the reader besides themselves. The art by Alekseyeva is appropriate and feels more like a scrapbook for this family than sequential art. Overall, this is a story that will make you wish you knew more about those in your family who have ascended the earth.

Story: Julia Alekseyeva Art: Julia Alekseyeva
Story: 10 Art: 10 Overall: 10 Recommendation: Buy

Six Days in Cincinnati: A Graphic Account of the Riots That Shook the Nation

In 2001, a young black man named Timothy Thomas was shot by police, and the Over-the-Rhine neighborhood of Cincinnati erupted in protest. It was the first major urban uprising since the Rodney King riots a decade previously in LA. Ten years later, Ferguson happened, and Cincinnati was largely forgotten. Until now.

Dan Mendéz Moore was 17 at a time and a budding activist. As an adult, he looks back at this life- and history-changing week, and through interviews with participant, vividly tells the story, in the form of a nonfiction graphic novel (or as we like to call it, comics journalism). This is the first non-academic book about this story. We hope it isn’t the last.

The result is moving, informative, and provides an immediacy and emotional urgency to the story that text alone rarely conveys. Discover this important and relevant piece of history.

You can get the riveting graphic novel Six Days in Cincinnati now from Microcosm Publishing.

 

 

 

This post contains affiliate links, which means that if you click on one of the product links and make a purchase, we’ll receive a percentage of the sale. Graphic Policy does purchase items from this site. Making purchases through these links helps support the site.

Henry & Glenn Forever & Ever Gets a Ridiculous Edition and Coloring Book

The cult comic Henry & Glenn: Forever & Ever is getting two new releases for you to enjoy the craziness. Microcosm Publishing has announced Henry & Glenn – Forever & Ever: The Completely Ridiculous Edition and The Henry & Glenn Adult Activity & Coloring Book.

The greatest love story every told has finally been released in graphic novel form. This epic tome features twenty short stories about the domestic life of “Henry” and “Glenn” and sometimes their neighbors “Daryl” and “John.” Henry & Glenn: Forever & Ever is by Rob Halford and Tom Neely and released as individual issues before being collected. The book collects four serialized comics, the trade paperback, the original 6×6″ book, and adds 16 never-before published pages, including new stories, pin up art, and full color covers from the original series.

Limited to 1000 copies, Henry & Glenn – Forever & Ever: The Completely Ridiculous Edition will be released September 12 and is available for pre-order now.

The Henry & Glenn Adult Activity & Coloring Book is out November 7 and has you busting out your rainbow crayons and make your own mark on the ongoing story of two tough men learning to express their emotions, together. It’s also available for pre-order.

The Best Comics of 2016 – Brett’s List

It’s the first day of a new year and so that means I’m posting my “best of” listing of the top comic books for 2016. Generally these are comic books that came out in 2016, though some are from earlier times and I got around to reading them, or limited series that continued. Keep in mind, this is what I have read (and does not reflect what other contributors to this site might think, they’ll hopefully have their own lists). If it’s not on here, I just might not have read it.

This was a particularly tough year of choices with some categories easily having their own top ten or twenty-five and some I struggled to even come up with one. 2016 was a year that ongoing, maxi-series, and limited floppies seemed to blend more and more and for me as a reader I found myself shifting away from one publisher to another and as a whole enjoying graphic novels and indie comics a hell of a lot more than I have in the past.

What stood out to me? Check out below what made the cut!

Best Super Hero Comic – The Paybacks

the-paybacks-3A new publisher, but still absolutely amazing. The Paybacks by Donny Cates, Eliot Rahal, Geoff Shaw moved from Dark Horse to Heavy Metal for its second volume, but it didn’t lose any steam in doing so continuing to deliver hilarity and upping the action.

The concept of the comic is that there’s a repo crew who have to deal with all the superheroes who can’t pay back the loans they take for all of their fancy gadgets. To pay off their debts those heroes then join the ragtag team.

A send-up of so many familiar characters and lets face it creators too, the comic has more jokes in each panel than some series have their entire run. It’s funny, action packed, and in this volume actually is somewhat timely with news with a focus on a data breach.

My biggest wish in comics for 2017 is someone is smart enough to invest in this series because I know it’ll pay off in the log run. Everyone who I’ve turned on to it falls in love and whole there were some issues with the second volume, it still is the one “superhero” comic I devoured as soon as possible.

Runners Up:

  • COPRA – There’s some arguments to be made that Michel Fiffe‘s indie series about a group of raftag characters should be the top pick, and there was long thought about if it should, it’s that good. Out of all of the series I read this year, this is one that delivered with every single issue. This is a comic that shows that superheroes aren’t the domain of just two companies anymore, especially due to how many issues have been released. I said this exact same thing in 2015 and it applies here.
  • The Legend of Wonder Woman – An absolutely brilliant max-series that went from digital to print. Renae De Liz and Ray Dillon delivered a Wonder Woman story that stands out in a year of solid Wonder Woman output. Fun to read. Beautiful to look at. Unfortunately, it looks like we’ll just get this one volume.
  • The Omega Men – Writer Tom King took this ragtag group of characters and has given us a maxiseries that explores revolution/terrorism in so many ways. This is one to read once collected and the ruminate on. It began in 2015 but wrapped up in 2016.
  • Tomboy – This series published by Action Lab: Danger Zone and by M. Goodwin is a comic that’s not on enough people’s radar. A mix of manga, Japanese horror, western vigilante stories, it’s a strange, creepy, haunting series featuring a teenage girl out for revenge against the people who killed her friend.

 

Best Non-Super Hero Comic – The Sheriff of Babylon

the-sheriff-of-babylon-12-coverI said above that 2016 was the year of Tom King, and guess who wrote this one! Tom King! The Sheriff of Babylon is another max-series that wrapped up, but we’ll get a second volume some time in 2017.

The comic is based on King’s experiences working for the CIA in Iraq taking place in the Green Zone after the recent Iraq war. The comic is brutally honest showing a world where there’s so little right and so much wrong and it all comes together in a muddied brown and gray.

That dirtiness of it all is helped by Mitch Gerads‘ art and the smart use of colors. The detail, every body movement, the framing of the panels, Gerads’ art adds so much to every issue. That’s saying something considering how amazing King’s scripts are!

This is a comic series that shows comics are political and can question the world we currently live.

Runners Ups:

  • Descender- Jeff Lemire has had a hell of year in general in comics and is one of my favorite writers of the year. This series features the stunning art of Dustin Nguyen. The sci-fi series is so hard to describe revolving around an android that looks like a little boy. Every issue is a treat to read, and Nguyen’s art helps with beautiful visuals. Seriously the art alone is a reason to pick up the series. We didn’t get an issue every month, but what we did get was fantastic.
  • The Fix – Two fuck up cops who are corrupt and get mixed up in a drug smuggling scam. The comic is absolutely hilarious. Written by Nick Spencer with art by Steve Lieber the comic is one of the funniest books on the market.
  • The Flintstones – Written by Mark Russell this series is some of the smartest and subtle political and social commentary in any writing going on today. The comic covers everything from religion to consumerism to the 2016 election. And like his writing in Prez no one is safe, the right and the left are equal fodder. Entertaining, smart, and elevating the classic characters to a whole new level.
  • Invisible Republic – A reporter investigates the truth of an uprising on a planet discovering fact from fiction in a series that bounces back and forth between the past and present. Each issue reminds us about the power of journalism and the need for good reporting. Myth can easily be twisted into fact and lies can replace reality. The comic series seems prescient in so many ways.

 

Best Limited Series or One Shot – 4 Kids Walk Into a Bank

4 KIDS WALK INTO A BANK #1 CoverWe got three issues of this series in 2016 and holy crap do I wish we got more. In those three issues we did get some of the best storytelling in any comics. I’m assuming this is a limited series since it is a “crime caper in five parts” but hopefully we get more after this volume wraps up.

The series involves a bunch of kids that find out one of their dads is possibly a criminal and has some buddies who plan to rob a bank. Their idea is to rob the bank before them.

But, it’s not the heist that’s the drawn it’s the kids themselves. Each one feels so real with so many quirks their personalities jump off the page. Everyone is relatable and each feels like real people we knew growing up. It’s absolutely amazing.

The art by Tyler Boss is top notch and the writing is why Matthew Rosenberg is one of the hottest writers in comics right now.

More please!

Runners Up:

  • Black – This series was a Kickstarter phenomenon and the concept is what if only Black people had superpowers? Political. Daring. In your face. The comic is layered and will leave you debating what it’s trying to say.
  • Love is Love – A charity comic to benefit the victims of the Pulse nightclub attack, this comic is a prime example of what the comic industry can do when profits aren’t at the forefront. Bringing together publishers and hundreds of creators it’s a touching tribute.
  • Refugees Book One – A hell of a find at Small Press Expo, the comic is haunting taking us into the world of refugees as they attempt to find a better life. There’s definite issues with the comic as far as some of the writing, but the message is clear and brutally honest.
  • Superman: American Alien – Featuring a bunch of different artists, this maxi-series by writer Max Landis explored a different time in Superman’s life with a different take on the character. It’s a fun and fantastic read and somehow actually gives us something that feels fresh for a character that’s been around for over 75 years.

 

Best Graphic Novel/Trade Paperback – March Book Three

MarchBookThree-CoverThe best thing to be released in 2016 for comics. This is an absolutely amazing finish to the award winning trilogy. The winner of the National Book Award among other things the graphic novel focuses on Congressman John Lewis’ experiences during the Civil Rights movement.

Written by Lewis, Andrew Aydin, with art by Nate Powell this is the crown jewel of comics showing that they’re more than tights and has been adopted by schools to teach about this time in American history.

As I read the graphic novel from cover to cover, I found myself filled with emotions, as Lewis’ life was there in print for those to see and read. The story is a complicated one, but it’s presented in a way that feels honest and open, both good and bad. This is an inside look at one of the most important, and turbulent times in American history from not just someone that was there, but a leader of the movement. And that’s a fascinating part of this third book, is its focus on Lewis’ role as a leader.

This third volume somehow leapfrogs the other two. Whether it’s due to learning or the material within, something about it created an emotional reaction I haven’t felt by any media in quite some time. And most importantly it got me to think about where we as a people and nation have been, where we are, and where we’re going.

Runners Up:

  • The Attack – A man’s wife winds up being a suicide bomber. This story is about his attempt to find out why and discovering he knew so little about the woman he called his wife. A spiral into despair and madness the end will leave you speechless and heartbroken.
  • Rolling Blackouts: Dispatches From Turkey, Syria, and Iraq – By Sarah Glidden this graphic novel is her experiences as she researches potential stories on the effects of the Iraq War on the Middle East, especially refugees. Beautiful to look at, the graphic novel is the second best thing I’ve read this year (behind March).
  • Soviet Daughter – Adapting her great grandmother’s journal Julia Alekseyeva provides an interesting look at someone who lived in Russia from 1910 to emigrating to the US in the 90s. The Revolution, WWII, the Holocaust, it’s all presented as Alekseyeva illustrates what is a diary. Between each chapter, Julia reflects on her own life and her closeness with her great grandmother. It’s an amazing piece examining women finding their place in the world. It’s also a reason you wait until the first of the year for your list, as this came out the last week of the year.
  • Tetris: The Games People PlayBox Brown takes what should be a boring story about the history of the video game Tetris and makes it really interesting! A fun graphic novel published by First Second that makes corporate maneuvering a bad business deals engaging.

 

Best Genre of the Year – Indie Comics/Small Publishers

Is it a “genre”? We can argue about that, but lets face it, 2016 was a year we saw major creators continue to shrug off the big two, instead launching creator-owned series at other publishers, digitally or through Kickstarter. We saw more comics, in more varieties, on more subjects and more ways to consume them, than any time before. It really wasn’t the year of the Big Two, this was a year that we as consumers could continue to find something that would fit our varied tastes.

With more channels for distribution and more ways to produce comics, we’re in a golden age where the old ways of publishing no longer hold back the creativity that abounds.

I named Indie Comics “it” in 2013, 2014, and 2015 and nothing changed in 2016. There’s a massive opening for someone to step in and be a mainstream breakout, maybe 2017 will be the year we see it.

 

Best Surprise of the Year – DC Comics

DC_Logo_RGB_0318162016 was a year that had everyone shaking their head when they heard DC was shaking things up again and “rebooting.” Except, their reboot was anything but.

In “Rebirth” the publisher blended the old with the new bringing back legacy characters and also pushing forward some of the newer ones too. They even moved away from grimm and gritty and gave us a bit of hope and fun in it all!

While Batman has always been strong for the company, Superman, Wonder Woman, and more all all returned to greatness with a new positive energy about them that could be felt.

But even better, sales increased and while they’ve leveled off and dropped quite a bit from the initial launch, the publisher is stronger and in a better position than it has been in a long time.

The company continued to expand upon its digital first program, and has begun to look towards expanding its market with its DC Super Hero Girls line.

They also did this as their movie output was mixed and television output strong. Now to get everything to line-up and the DC brand as a whole could be unstoppable.

The dots are all there, now we’ll see if the company has the vision to connect them all.

 

Biggest Disappointment of the Year – Kickstarter

KickstarterLast year’s disappointment continued to be so, as projects were delayed, vapor ware, or not as advertised. Also add in issues on the creator end of folks pledging high amounts and then disputing the charges, at times getting the goods. Add in the platform’s unwillingness to step in to deal with either situation and you get a tech company showing off it’s greed. What was once the toast of the town has shown its cracks which will only get worse.

The crowdfunding platform became a way for creators to raise funds for projects, only to get picked up by publishers, at times delaying projects and leaving bad tastes in the mouths of fans. If all creators were held to the standards of some of the best users of the system, there’d be no issue, but over 90% of the projects I’ve pledged to have been delayed or non-existent only creating angry backers and fans.

These issues have lead this site to rethink what we promote and how we do so, no longer choosing comics to promote, as we feel some responsibility for things gone wrong and your dollars being held hostage.

Kickstarter continues to be tone-deaf, and it’s only a matter of time before someone stands up and challenges the platform with a system that’s fair to creators, and protects those who pledge.

Oh how the mighty continue to fall.

 

Publisher of the Year – None of the Above

This one I’ve thought about the most out of all of the categories on the list. I keep going back and forth between Image, BOOM! Studios, Valiant, Action Lab, IDW, First Second, and so many more. For each strength one brings to the table, they also have major weaknesses. Whether it’s a focus on a genre, pigeonholing themselves with adults, failure in digital, a mix of quality of comics, none of them are at least good everywhere. But, the comic industry has really grown in 2016 with no one breaking out as THE publisher to rival the big two. Partially that’s because so many have stood out with some of what they’ve done, but none have stood out for their whole.

Of the big two Marvel has stumbled… a lot. Entire articles can be written in that department, but the company is not the juggernaut its been in quite some time and I’d expect their to be some big shake-ups in 2017.

DC on the other hand came really close to being named for this. They’ve done some amazing stuff in the year with Rebirth being a smash hit. There’s still something slightly off, but out of every publisher, they’ve gotten most improved.

Image has become of the home of amazing indie comics by big name creators, but they generally lack a kids line that gets the next generation of readers and the sales just aren’t their in floppies. BOOM! has had a great mix of comics, but they’re missing that ongoing series that goes on for 30 to 50 issues. Valiant is quality all around and have tried some interesting market tactics, but you have to like superhero comics, Action Lab is a solid up and comer with good consistent releases. IDW has shown its possible to do great licensed comics, while First Second has fantastic graphic novels of all sorts. Aftershock has quality and so has Black Mak Studios.

Out of all of that, where’s the standout above everyone else? They’re all good in their own ways, but each have some flaws, with some of those flaws being pretty big. After a lot of deliberation, I couldn’t decide on one, so I chose none.

Each publisher is close to going huge, it’s just taking someone to connect those dots. Or maybe no one will, and it’ll be up to the individual creators to fill up the gap.

Graphic Policy’s Top Comic Picks this Week!

loveislove-coverWednesdays are new comic book day! Each week hundreds of comics are released, and that can be pretty daunting to go over and choose what to buy. That’s where we come in!

We’re bringing back something we haven’t done for a while, what the team thinks. Our contributors are choosing up to five books each week and why they’re choosing the books.

Find out what folks think below, and what comics you should be looking out for this Wednesday.

Brett

Top Pick: Love is Love (IDW Publishing) – A response to the tragic Pulse shooting, this anthology brings together hundreds of creators all to benefit Equality Florida and the victims of the tragedy. This is a chance to be entertained and touched by a comic and for your dollars to benefit a good cause. More of this, please!

G.I. Joe #1 (IDW Publishing) – It feels like forever since we had a regular G.I. Joe comic series and this new one spinning out of Revolution gives the Joes an interesting new world to play in that feels like it’s the logical progression from all of those Transformers/G.I. Joe comics of the past. I’m excited to see where it all goes and what the Joes look like in this new world.

Soviet Daughter (Microcosm Publishing) – Any other week this would be at the top of my list. This graphic novel follows two stories. Lola who lived through the Bolshevik revolution, civil war, Stalinist purges, and the Holocaust. She taught herself to read and worked as a secretary for the NKVD (which became the KGB) and as a lieutenant for the Red Army. Alos her great-granddaughter Julie who’s coming of age in an immigrant family in Chicago and her political awakening in the midst of the radical politics of the turn of the millennium. Sounds amazing.

Supergirl: Being Super #1 (DC Comics) – A new limited series from Mariko Tamaki and Joëlle Jones that looks like a fantastic coming-of-age story perfect for fans of the tv series… really anybody.

Tomboy #9 (Action Lab: Danger Zone) – Are you reading this series? If not, you’re missing out. It’s a vigilante superhero-ish/horror series starring a teenage girl possessed and out for revenge against the people who killed her friend… and she sees ghosts.

 

Shay

Top Pick: Love is Love (IDW Publishing) – A tribute to those affected by the Orlando shooting brings the comic book community together with proceeds going to a good cause. Buy it, read it, give it to friends. Love trumps hate!

Batgirl #6 (DC Comics) – Batgirl might not be making it home after all thanks to an attack on her plane home courtesy of Poison Ivy.

Harley’s Little Black Book #5 (DC Comics) – Harley Quin vs Superman and an alien run style Fight Club-esque battle royale. Shut up and take my money!

Justice League vs Suicide Squad #2 (DC Comics) – A continuation of the good guys versus the “good guys” storyline. I’ve got popcorn and can’t wait to see how it all plays out.

Hulk #1 (Marvel) – Jennifer Waters, tries going back to a normal life after the Civil War, whatever that means when you’ve got a Hulk waiting to break free inside of you.

Brik #6 (Oni Press) – The story of a boy, living in a Russian Mob run city in Yonkers, and him Golem closes out its story arc and it’s so good, you’re going to be hoping that the end of this arc isn’t the end of this story!

 

Joe

Top Pick: Love is Love (IDW Publishing) – I have been so excited for this book since it was announced. It’s a beautiful anthology project by some of the most talented people in the medium, and the proceeds go to the families of the Orlando Pulse victims. Sometimes our medium makes me sad, but moments like this, it makes me happy.

AD: After Death #2 (Image) – The second part of the three part half comic half pride by Snyder and Lemire. If this issue is nearly as good as the first issue, I’ll be satisfied. I do hope we get more answers to what curing death means, but this series is worth the art and writing alone.

Seven To Eternity #4 (Image) – Like Kost Remender books, this series has kept me on my toes. What I thought would be a slow burn quickly turned everything on its head in the last issue. Can’t wait to see what happens next.Rocket Raccoon #1 (Marvel) – Its finally here! Another Rosenberg comic and another one in the Marvel universe. After his work on CW II: Kingpin, and 4 Kids Walk Into A Bank, the sky is the limit for this writer. What a fun character to write about in Rocket. I am very excited for this.

Rocket Raccoon #1 (Marvel) – It’s finally here! Another Matthew Rosenberg comic and another one in the Marvel universe. After his work on Civil War II: Kingpin, and 4 Kids Walk Into A Bank, the sky is the limit for this writer. What a fun character to write about in Rocket. I am very excited for this.

Hulk #1 (Marvel) – I love the Dekal covers, and I cannot wait to see Jen Walters state of mind after the Civil War II Banner, Rhodes, and her in a coma situation. She seems like she is going to be extra angry, which means extra hulky. A raging lawyer with uncontrollable outbursts? Yup!

 

Alex

Top Pick: Divinity III: Komander Bloodshot #1 (Valiant) – The first issue of Divinity III blew me away. I’m all in for this series now, and I can’t wait for this.

All-Star Batman #5 (DC Comics) – After last week’s dismal Batman #13, it’s going to be lovely to get my hands on a comic by one of my favourite Batman writers.

AD: After Death Book Two (Image) – The first book caught me completely off guard with it’s mix of prose-like narrative and whimsically illustrated comic pages. It’s no surprise that the story has already had the screen rights snapped up.

Savage #2 (Valiant) – Tarzan meets dinosaurs. That’s literally why I’m pumped for this.

Brett’s Best Comics of 2014

It’s the first day of a new year and so that means we’re doing our “best of” listing of the top comic books for 2014. Generally these are comic books that came out in 2014, though some are from earlier times and I got around to reading them, or limited series that continued. Keep in mind, this is what I have read (and does not reflect what other contributors to this site might think). If it’s not on here, I just might not have read it.

This was a particularly tough year of choices with some categories easily having their own top ten or twenty-five. Check out below what made the cut!

Best Super Hero Comic – Ms. Marvel

Ms_Marvel_1_Cover2014 is defined by the diversification of comics. Publishers recognized comic book readers come in all shapes and sizes, and expanded their lines to bring more choices to fans. Marvel led the pack in this, launching an unprecedented number of comics with female leads.

This expansion of comics was summed up best with Ms. Marvel, Marvel‘s daring series that featured a brand new character, a Muslim teenage girl from Jersey named Kamala Khan.

The series written by G. Willow Wilson feels so real, and down to Earth, with dialogue, issues, actions, and reactions we’d actually expect from a teenager, and especially one trying to fit in, in more ways that one.

This is a series that delivers with every issue, and also is one of the most important to launch in recent times. If there was a signal of the “age of diversity,” this is it.

Runners Up:

  • Archer & Armstrong – We seriously don’t give enough love to Valiant comics here on the site (and that’ll change in 2015, you can see below why). This series which saw a break late in the year, and then a mini-series team-up with Quantum & Woody, was consistently funny, entertaining, and could make you think at the same time. This was social satire in ass-kicking form.
  • Avengers/New Avengers – Two series that were a bit difficult to split apart. Writer Jonathan Hickman has been guiding the two with a long-game story that sees the Marvel world actually shaken, heroes rise and fall, and actually something new, tough choices with consequences. All of this will continue into 2015 as “Time Runs Out,” and Marvel heads into its second Secret Wars. Hopefully Hickman sticks the landing when his run is up.
  • She-Hulk – When you need to, sue, when that doesn’t work, punch things. Another example of Marvel trying something new, they reached out to actual lawyer (and prolific comic writer) Charles Soule to give us a different and fun take on She-Hulk. The art was hit and miss, but the writing was always spot-on, like a well prepared case.
  • The Superior Foes of Spider-Man – The release of this series was a bit spotty, but each issue had you linger on pages to pick up on every small joke. I really hope we see more of this in 2015, but sadly it looks like the series, and hope for a new version aren’t in the works.

Best Non-Super Hero Comic – Southern Bastards

southern bastardsWelcome to Craw County, Alabama, home of Boss BBQ, the state champion Runnin’ Rebs football team…and more bastards than you’ve ever seen. When you’re an angry old man like Earl Tubb, the only way to survive a place like this…is to carry a really big stick

Jason Aaron and Jason Latour have created a Southern gothic noir series that once you think you’ve got it down, pulls the rug right out from under you. A bit of a riff on Walking Tall, the series is a must read, especially when you get to the end of that first arc.

It’s a brilliant exploration of the Southern community, especially its focus on sports and football. The second arc has begin with a greater exploration of its main villain, and with that has created a even more layered and fascinating read.

Runners Ups:

  • The Bunker – A time travel tale from Joshua Hale Fialkov and Joe Infurnari that’s trippy and keeps you on your toes. The future is a mess due to one group, and the hope to prevent it from happening is traveling back and telling younger versions of themselves what to do to stop it. But, are all motives altruistic? This is an amazing dissection of fate, time travel, and relationships.
  • East of West- A sci-fi western where the Four Horsemen on the apocalypse literally roam the Earth. Writer Jonathan Hickman again is the one responsible for this awesomeness, and he’s helped with amazing art from Nick Dragotta. In the latest issue, war has broken out, showing this past year has been all build up.
  • Lazarus- In a dystopian near-future government is a quaint concept, resources are coveted, and posession is 100% of the law. A handful of Families rule in writer Greg Rucka‘s all-too real world. The level of detail and thought that’s gone in to how this world works is amazing. This is social commentary in a sci-fi/action package. It helps the art by Michael Lark is beautiful to look at, and the series features a kick-ass heroine in the form of Forever Carlyle.
  • Letter 44 – Remember Charles Soule from above? Yeah, he also writes this too. This series sees a new President have to deal with a war in the Middle East, and also aliens setting up camp in deep space. This is a fantastic look at the choices our leaders make, and political maneuvering. If the last two issues’ revelations don’t have you excited… well, there’s no hope for you then.

Best Limited Series or One Shot – The Delinquents

DELINQ_001_COVER_RIVERARemember when Run-DMC and Aerosmith hooked up? How off the hook that was? Yeah, this is sort of like that, but involves an ass-map.

2014 saw Valiant bring together Archer & Armstrong and Quantum & Woody, two of their most entertaining series, and characters into this one insane comic. Seriously, what drugs were folks on when they were coming up with this!?

Revolving around a mythic mountain for hobos, a map on an ass, genetically modified beings, and an evil corporation, the comic is constantly hilarious, beautifully drawn, and beyond entertaining.

We took a break from the two teams’ own series for this, but you know, that’s ok, because this was beyond awesome.

No other comic had as many laughs per page, and we also got to learn about the hobo code too!

Runners Up:

  • Genius – Delayed many years, this mini-series was beyond timely. A tactical genius has brought together the various gangs of LA and decides to secede some blocks of the neighborhood. What’s also great, that tactical genius is a woman. Released weekly around when Ferguson was occurring, the series reflected the troubled society we live in.
  • The Midas Flesh – Don’t know this one? How about an edge-of-your-seat, save the universe adventure with two butt-kickin’ ladies and a dinosaur in a spacesuit. It might look a “kids” comic, but the debate about the use of weapons of mass destruction, and mass genocide is impressive, especially since the comic was so much fun.
  • StarlightMark Millar does his best homage to Flash Gordon (which had its own fantastic series from Dynamite) in this series with art from Goran Parlov. The series clicked for me, in a pseudo-retro pulp adventure that was full of heart. From a writer that usually goes for over the top shock, this was a much welcome change.
  • The WakeScott Snyder and Sean Murphy‘s series wrapped up, and all I wanted was more. It’s a series that looks at the bigger picture of humanity and our relationship with the world, in two very different parts.

Best Graphic Novel/Trade Paperback – On the Books: A Graphic Tale of Working Woes at NYC’s Strand Bookstore (World Around Us)

on the booksGreg Farrel and published by Microcosm Publishing, the graphic novel is the first-hand account of the 2012 labor struggle at New York City’s legendary Strand bookstore.

I know this’ll come as a shock, but I’m a political nut, so getting to see a graphic novel about this labor struggle was like finding gold.

What’s fantastic about this graphic novel is that it really presents an honest opinion. It covers the store and its troubles. It examines the difficult decisions and no win scenario of the employees. It also criticizes the union these employees belong to. It allows us the reader to explore all sides and come to our own opinion. For Farrell, it wouldn’t be unexpected that the story presented, and his experience depicted, to be very one sided. Instead though, he looks at all sides, especially his fellow employees, and does so with the views and opinions of his coworkers.

This wasn’t just a graphic novel, but a prime example of graphic journalism.

Runners Up:

  • An Iranian Metamorphosis – By Mana Neyestani and published by Uncivilized Books. The graphic novel was at the top of my list of books to get at this year’s Small Press Expo. One of Neyestani’s cartoons sparked riots in Iran, which landed him and his editor in solitary confinement. The graphic novel explores the complex interplay between art, law, politics, ethnic sensitivities, and authoritarian elements inside Iran’s Islamic Republic as well as refugee’s attempts to find safety and freedom.
  • Andre the Giant: Life and Legend – Andre the Giant was a 7’4″, 500 lb wrestling legend, but his nickname of “giant” also applied to his life in general, not just his size. If you grew up in the 70s and 80s, especially watching wrestling, it was hard to miss this legend of a man. In this graphic novel out from publisher First Second, creator Box Brown pulls back the curtain a bit on the larger than life sensation.
  • Ricky Rouse Has a GunRicky Rouse Has a Gun is part action story, part parody, part commentary on intellectual property, and totally entertaining. It actually might be “too smart” in its layered commentary and the fact itself is an homage, talking about homages. But beyond that depth, the characters are entertaining, moments are hillarious, and action worthy of the big screen. Ricky Rouse to me is an ode to action movies, and the sequels they spawn, with enough to get you to think about our remix/re-use culture.
  • The Rise of Aurora West – A follow up to last year’s Battling Boy, this graphic novel focuses on Aurora West and her origin in a way. A fantastic, entertaining read that is a sequel/prequel/stand alone story that’s perfect for adults and teens. More please!

Best New Series – Gotham Academy

gotham academy #1While Ms. Marvel above easily represents a new focus and the greater diversity of the comic industry, Gotham Academy from DC Comics shows off that publisher’s shaking up their own line of comics.

Written by Becky Cloonan and Brenden Fletcher with art by Karl Kerschl, Gotham Academy has a focus, bring young adult female focused lit to comics. It beyond succeeds with an energy, voice, and look that’s been painfully missing from comics for too long.

It might take place in Gotham, and Bruce Wayne might make appearances, but this isn’t just another Batman book, it shows you can build off of something familiar in a new way, and do that successfully.

The comic is as much teenage drama as it is mystery, and for that it is amazing. Hopefully DC decides its future looks more like this, and we get more fresh tales, with new characters, in familiar settings.

  • Copperhead – A sci-fi western that has a new sheriff, with a mysterious past, coming to town. It helps she’s a single mother too. Each issue just nails it as far as pacing and story with art that feels like a western throwback, just with aliens.
  • Evil Empire – Was there a series that kept you on your toes more than this one? Each issue feels like a shock as it focuses on how that evil government that seems to exist in so many stories actually got in control. It’s also a nice finger at politics, political parties, voters, and corporations. Each issue will leave you debating political philosophy with yourself.
  • The Fuse – Another sci-fi cop series (there seems to be a lot of those this year), this one takes place on a space station and plays out like the best police dramas. Each issue presents small pieces of the crime, and just enough clues to leave you guessing. Add in an interesting setting, and a global cast, you have one hell of a series.
  • Rasputin – I had no idea what to expect with the first issue, and even after reading that first issue, I had no idea what to expect. Three issues in, I’m still not quite sure. The series focuses on the very real Rasputin, giving us glimpses at the historical mystery. Each issue is amazing to look at, and after finishing them, I want more. In a year of genre busting series, this is one of the most unique.

Best Single Issue – Bitch Planet #1

BitchPlanet01_CoverAHave you had something that’s been built up, and then you get to it you’re disappointed yourself? Yeah, this isn’t an example of that. Kelly Sue DeConnick and Valentine De Landro teamed up for the very third time to bring us the premiere issue that actually lives up to the hype.

Their highly-anticipated women in-prison sci-fi exploitation riff is amazing on so many levels, making us examine our own views on society and feminism.

The issue plays out in a way that it’s a very enjoyable women in-prison exploitation story, a straight homage to the classics, but it’s that ending where the rug is pulled out from under you, making you go back and re-read the issue immediately.

The fact it came out in December, after numerous “best of” lists had already been released caused it to be overlooked by many, and it’s an example why you should wait until all comics are released. If it’s this quality with each issue, it won’t be overlooked when 2015’s best are announced.

Social commentary and comics at its best.

Worst Single Issue of the Year – The Multiversity

multiversity 1 coverOk, this is more than one issue, so sort of cheating. Writer Grant Morrison and various artists take us around the DC Multiverse for an adventure to save all of reality. The series is comprised of six complete adventures set in different parallel worlds with a two-part framing story and a guidebook.

First if you need a “guidebook” to help tell your story, you’ve got issues to begin with.

In general Grant Morrison is hit and miss for me, and clearly this series, which has seen five issues released so far, has been a miss.

While a appreciate what Morrison does in deconstructing comics, and comic history, I feel at times he becomes too referential in that if you don’t know the history of DC Comics in and out, you’ll miss much of the point.

His comics aren’t entertaining to me, I feel dumb, and left out, like I’m not one of the “cool kids,” a “fake geek guy.” Many have gushed at some of the issues, like Pax Americana, which riffs on Watchmen, and in that particular case some claimed better than the original. But too me, much of it comes off as pale imitations.

This is for the hardcore only, and as someone who is generally more a Marvel person than DC, I’m not the audience here.

Best Event of the Year – Aliens/Predator/Prometheus: Fire & Stone

alien vs predator fire and stone 1 coverI’m fairly new to Dark Horse‘s offerings of comics based on the world of Aliens and Predator, but 2014 saw the company relaunch that universe in comics with a four series event called Fire & Stone. Each series Aliens: Fire & Stone, Predator: Fire & Stone, Aliens vs. Predator: Fire & Stone, and Prometheus: Fire & Stone, all tied into each other, but also stood on their own.

Each series organically played off each other, as if evolving from each, in much the same sort of growth and evolution we’ve seen within the universe itself.

The series also did an impressive thing, it made me enjoy the movie Prometheus more, the much maligned prequel of sorts to the Aliens and Predator universe.

What’s truly great is that you could read each series, and really enjoy them on their own. At the same time, if you read them all, you saw how one played into the other to form a greater narrative.

Hopefully this is just the beginning and we get more in 2015!

Runners Up:

  • Armor Hunters – Valiant reigned destruction on their world in Armor Hunters, as aliens descended upon Earth to destroy X-O Manowar. Pulling in numerous series, the event was epic, and world changing.
  • Forever Evil – DC has been hit and miss, but this event has been pretty solid. Especially when you look at it as commentary between the dark and gritty villains of modern times versus the cleaner villains of yesteryear
  • Avengers/New Avengers: Time Runs Out– Jonathan Hickman has been weaving a hell of a tale catapulting us into the future of the Marvel universe, giving us alternate Earth’s almost destroying the 616, and choices with actual consequences.
  • Transformers: Dawn of the Autobots – IDW’s numerous Transformers series have been awesome and this is the culmination of what has been going on. Megatron is an Autobot and religious zealot. The Decepticons are scattered and in disarray. IDW has breathed even more life into the Transformers which celebrated 30 years in 2014.

Best Genre of the Year – Indie Comics/Small Publishers

Is it a “genre”? We can argue about that, but lets face it, 2014 was a year we saw major creators continue to shrug off the big two, instead launching creator owned series at other publishers, digitally or through Kickstarter. We saw more comics, in more varieties, on more subjects and more ways to consume them, than any time before. It really wasn’t the year of the Big Two, this was a year that we as consumers could continue to find something that would fit our varied tastes.

With more channels for distribution and more ways to produce comics, we’re in a golden age where the old ways of publishing no longer hold back the creativity that abounds.

We named Indie Comics “it” in 2013, and nothing changed in 2014.

Runners Up:

  • Zombies – Zombies have become a cultural phenomenon, lead marching shuffling along by The Walking Dead. Revival changed the genre a bit, with so many releases giving us so many other spins and perspectives. Afterlife With Archie continues to shake up what we think of Archie Comics. iZombie comes to the CW in 2015. The genre continues to cross over in to movies, television, books, toys and more. I thought the phenomenon would end in 2014, I was wrong.
  • Digital Comics – Digital first. Digital exclusive. Web comics. This was the year digital comics continued to break through with numerous platforms launching, many with different business models than the “buy each issue” one we’re used to. The sector is big enough to be noticed by tech giants, which lead comiXology to be gobbled up by Amazon. Expect even more of a digital land rush in 2015.

Best Surprise of the Year – Diversity

Women Symbol2014 saw diversity, and can be called the “Year of the Woman” when it comes to comics, in both good and bad ways.

As you can see above, Marvel focused on diversifying its comics with more series featuring women in the spotlight. Ms. Marvel, She-Hulk, Elektra, Black Widow, Angela: Asgard’s Assassin, and Storm were just some of what came out.

DC Comics expanded the women on the page, and the women creating comics with Gotham Academy, a revamped Batgirl, and the hiring of talented women to create that and more.

Characters had their race or gender switched such as Captain America, Thor, Solar: Man of the Atom, and Archie’s The Shield.

Comics began to reflect, and look like its readers, a diverse group of individuals who come from all backgrounds, and are in all shapes and sizes.

Women especially were the focus, with more women led comics than ever before, and much of the year fueled by discussion about the women fanbase, harassment at conventions and online, and how to get more women interested and creating.

It’s hard to tell if this was just a fad or here to stay, but 2015 will be a key year if we want to make this positive change permanent.

Biggest Disappointment of the Year – Kickstarter

KickstarterLast year’s disappointment continued to be so, as projects were delayed, vapor ware, or not as advertised. Also add in issues on the creator end of folks pledging high amounts and then disputing the charges, at times getting the goods. Add in the platform’s unwillingness to step in to deal with either situation and you get a tech company showing off it’s greed. What was once the toast of the town has shown its cracks which will only get worse.

The crowdfunding platform became a way for creators to raise funds for projects, only to get picked up by publishers, at times delaying projects and leaving bad tastes in the mouths of fans. If all creators were held to the standards of some of the best users of the system, there’d be no issue, but over 90% of the projects I’ve pledged to have been delayed or non-existence only creating angry backers and fans.

These issues have lead this site to rethink what we promote and how we do so, no longer choosing comics to promote, as we feel some responsibility for things gone wrong and your dollars being held hostage.

Kickstarter continues to be tone-deaf, and it’s only a matter of time before someone stands up and challenges the platform with a system that’s fair to creators, and protects those who pledge.

Oh how the mighty have fallen.

Publisher of the Year – Valiant Entertainment

VALIANT_logoThere is no other comic other that that’s done these specific three things this year.

  1. Every comic is entertaining – There hasn’t been an issue produced by Valiant that hasn’t been beautiful to look at, and a fun read. There just hasn’t been a bad comic at all. That type of record is impressive, and helps the company is focused on hiring top talent, and making sure their line is tight as far as what’s produced.
  2. They’ve created a universe that works – Read one series, or read them all, Valiant has created a line of comics where this is possible. If you read them all, you’re treated to a grand story as pieces of the greater puzzle is peppered throughout. If you read an individual series, they’re still great reads, and stand on their own. Add in the fact they’ve had some world changing events, and it gets even more impressive. This isn’t an easy thing to do, but Valiant pulls it off every month. This is the best “super-hero” universe out there right now.
  3. They’re willing to try new things – Keeping their line small. Trying different promotions like with a local coffee chain, being out there first when it comes to something new digitally, this is a company that’s trying to get a greater percentage of the market by growing its audience and finding new readers. That’s something a lot of publishers aren’t willing to do, or even try.

2015 sees the launch of their new initiative Valiant Next that’s bringing us new series that have organically grown out of what’s come before, and will guide us into the future of the Valiant Universe.

Runners Up:

  • BOOM! Studios – Last year’s best publisher is still fantastic and has put out some amazing comics over the past year. They diversified their line with BOOM! Box, some more licensed comics, and impressive deals with movie and television studios. But, more isn’t necessarily better, and while there’s been fantastic series, there’s been some misses too. The company has signed some impressive deals and is starting to bring in top names and creators for deals and releases you might expect elsewhere. Still, out of all of the smaller publishers, BOOM! remains the most poised to take the reigns from Image as number three out there, and challenge the big two.
  • First Second – Consistently putting out the best graphic novels on the market, First Second’s releases cover numerous genres, types, looks, and characters. They’re synonymous with quality, there wasn’t a graphic novel they released I didn’t enjoy on some level.
  • IDW Publishing – IDW is a publisher that thinks outside of the box when it comes to building it’s readership and that’s why they’re on this list. Not only did they continue to make a fantastic move tying in their comics with toys, they’ve also expanded into television and games. They’ve put out some fantastic new series like Winterworld. The company needs a few more creator owned original series, and they’ll be a big challenger for the top spot in 2015.
  • Image Comics – Image puts out some amazing comics, there’s no doubt about that. For all the hits though, there’s a lot of misses. It’s also a publisher that’s driven by the creator’s success, instead of building successes themselves. You also have to wonder, if some of the series everyone’s buzzed about would have the audiences they would if it weren’t for those creators. In other words, is Image the success, or the creators themselves?
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Review: On The Books: A Graphic Tale of Working Woes at NYC’s Strand Bookstore

on the booksA David and goliath story, On The Books is the first-hand comic strip account of the labor struggle at NYC’s legendary Strand bookstore in the summer of 2012. Told by Greg Farrell—an employee of the store who interviewed numerous other members of the staff—the book examines the motives and actions of those involved, including the store, the staff, the union local, and the people of New York City, as understood by the author. Through interstitial comic portraits, Farrell gives voice to his comrades, who often share a nuance of the story that would have otherwise gone overlooked, and provide a depth of opinion and fairness to accompany Farrell’s often very personal interpretation of events. In it’s ten short chapters the book explores at once the inner workings of our national retail environment, the inner struggle to exist within it as a young working person, the current state of the book trade, and what happens when that no longer seems possible.

I know this’ll come as a shock, but I’m a political nut, so getting to see a graphic novel about this labor struggle was like finding gold. I came across it at this year’s Small Press Expo, and finally got a chance to read it, ironically reading it while on a work retreat. I’ve worked with many Unions in my political career, and have belonged to one too, I felt I should put that out there too, though you’ll see in the rest of the review, that’s not a big deal.

What’s fantastic about this graphic novel is that it really presents an honest opinion. It covers the store and its troubles. It examines the difficult decisions and no win scenario of the employees. It also criticizes the union these employees belong to. It allows us the reader to explore all sides and come to our own opinion. For Farrell, it wouldn’t be unexpected that the story presented, and his experience depicted, to be very one sided. Instead though, he looks at all sides, especially his fellow employees, and does so with the views and opinions of his coworkers. Those views too are diverse.

The very complicated situation is presented in a comic book style which takes a very serious, and complicated subject, and gives it a more lighthearted tone. The art doesn’t blow me away, but reminds me a lot of what you might see with many political cartoonists. It doesn’t hurt the graphic novel at all, but it isn’t the art that’s the draw, or really the point at all. The point is the labor struggle that’s depicted within. That alone will get you thinking about your own situation.

Farrell brilliantly lays out a fair assessment of the situation and a quandary faced by modern day Unions. Anyone who works, whether you’re part of a Union or not, should read this graphic novel. It sets up many questions, and dilemmas that face today’s worker. It’s a graphic novel that entertains, and makes you think. It’s up there as one of my favorite reads of the year.

Story and Art: Greg Farrell
Story: 10 Art: 8 Overall: 9.5 Recommendation: Buy