We've run our 11 Best Single Issues Of The Year. Well now, Rich Johnston and the Bleeding Cool writers (not Jude) give you 11 collections and graphic novels to reflect on as we say good riddance to 2016 and welcome 2017 with nervous worry.
Doctor Who: A Matter Of Life And Death by George Mann, Emma Vieceli and Hi-Fi.
I don't have quite as much to say here as I did in my "lack of words" on A-Force #4, but I find this Eighth Doctor collection just the lovely example of (a) comics and (b) what could've been with the best of all the doctors. George Mann's stories are each self contained, following the fantastic journey of Josie, and how she becomes part of Eight's life. Each story was a book, and was self contained, but lends well to the whole. I wrote 3 sentences on George Mann's awesome plotting (and such), and having a good take on 8 but they amounted to that word, "awesome." Emma Vieceli's trademarked panelling design compel you through this beautifully, I could genuinely read pencils of this quality on anything. Ms. Vieceli is surely meant for the greatest of things. Do yourself a favour and check out Titan's Eighth Doctor Collection.
The Fix Vol.1-Where Beagles Dare by Nick Spencer, Lieber, Ryan Hill, and Nic J Shaw
I actually was starting to feel a little burnt out by Image this year. Quite a few of their series were blending together and felt to be covering quite a bit of the same ground. That all changed when I picked up The Fix. This series, with its dry, sarcastic humor and panels that you have to study to catch every little gag in the details very quickly became one of my favorites. And I mean, Pretzels. How can you not love a dog like Pretzels??? Every issue gets better and better, and hopefully it runs for a very long time.
Aleister & Adolf by Douglas Rushkoff, Michael Avon Oeming, and Nate Piekos
This book has been an outlier on many press radars, but it's one of those densely crafted, significant works that hopefully will be the gift that keeps on giving, showing comic creators and fans what new directions in the medium can be taken. Written by powerhouse social critic Douglas Rushkoff and drawn by the endlessly original Michael Avon Oeming the book tracks a fictional account of Aleister Crowley's media wars with Adolf Hitler based on a few key historical facts. It follows the life of a young military reporter assigned to Crowley through the course of "sigil" developments, like the swastika by the Nazis and V for Victory by Churchill in the war over human minds during WWII. Rushkoff's characterization, research, and narrative framing devices, combined with Oeming's emotive and often highly symbolic artwork make sure this book has something significant to say about the ongoing role of symbolism and propaganda in the way we see the world around us. It might just remind you of the dangers and the positive powers of belief and focus to influence any struggle, even on an international level. Aleister & Adolf may be about the second World War, but it's highly relevant to our times and makes for a thought-provoking, and at times disturbing, read.
The Wicked + The Divine Deluxe Hardcover by Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie, Matthew Wilson and Clayton Cowles.
I mean, just look at it.
Let's not even go into the story or anything yet, just take in this huge, black, hot foiled beauty! You can read comics on your train to work looking like you're reading out of some mystic grimoire of mystery!
Plus, it contains Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie, Matthew Wilson and Clayton Cowles' incredible series of pop stars as gods and the hard price of fame (it kinda kills you in the end, which 2016 proved in force really, didn't it?). Collecting the first two story arcs, plus loads of behind the scenes materials and a good chunk of Gillen's breakdowns of the book, it makes for the absolute best purchase for fans of the series.
And it just looks sexy as hell on a book shelf!
Abdulkareem Baba Aminu
Huck by Mark Millar and Rafael Albuquerque.
Surprising myself, and after a great deal of thought, I have picked Huck Vol. 1 by Mark Millar and Rafael Albuquerque as the best graphic novel/collection for 2016. I started reading the monthly issues, up to the second, and I somehow fell off. But I did know I'd catch up on the trade when it gets released. And boy was I glad I waited. The story, collected, had a pace that was missing during its monthly run, and the character development proved to be near-perfect. Early comparisons to Superman did no justice to the story of a small town resident who's revealed to have some truly awesome powers, of course with disastrous results. The art – oh, boy the art – is beautiful, aided by perfect colours and it sets the tone the right way. There's almost a Spielberg-ian sense of wonder and adventure to the tale, enough to make me ignore the irritation that is an editing error which portrayed a factual kidnapping of schoolgirls by insurgents as having happened in East Africa, when the stated Sambisa Forest is in Nigeria, in West Africa. You could say it was personal for me. That aside – and I truly enjoy most of the Millarworld books – Huck is my absolute favorite.
Nameless City by Faith Erin Hicks
I was so excited for this graphic novel to be released, it was easily one of the highlights of my reading this year. We meet Kaidu, a recent arrival to the Nameless City, and son of the latest ruling clan, Dao. As he trains to become a warrior, his adventurous nature drives him into the city, where he meets up with the lovable, street wise Rat. Hicks did an amazing job creating a detailed world that I would love to explore and get lost in. I can tell that there are so many stories hiding within the city, just waiting to be told. I would gladly hand this book to any fan of comics, be they young or old. The sequel, The Stone Heart will be out in April 2017.
Patience by Dan Clowes
I'm a sucker for a post-modern time travel story. See my love for least year's There's No Time Like The Present by Paul Rainey. And Dan Clowes gives us actual plottage with Patience. A story of rags to – well not exactly riches, but a different state of being, as the newly pregnant young Patience is murdered, a series of events that destroys her partner, Jack. It's his attempts to "put right what once went wrong" and the calamitous consequences of his actions, digging his own grave – or Patience's – deeper and deeper that drive this book forward. Or backwards. Which means you'll have to reread it the moment you finish for that Sixth Sense experience. But for all that it's the attitude of Jack, the anti-Hollywood hero that sets this apart, refusing to follow the obvious tropes or experiencing triumphs – or disasters as he may be expected to.
And the devil is always in the details. Clowes has always had a style that grabs the eye, gives it direction and pulls it forward, the narrator grip in full effect. Here every object in every panel could have serious significance that you will need that second – or third reading to pick up on it.
Toward a Hot Jew by Miriam Libicki
You know those overnight sensations who have been working hard at the craft for decades? That's Miriam Libicki. In something that resembles the missing link between Marjane Satrapi and Joe Sacco, her autobiographical work exploring her Jewish identity, attractiveness and the reaction of those around her, whether as a Israeli soldier or a professor of art, this collection of a decade's work jumps from illustrated essay to comic book panels, exploring the medium, the tools to create the work and express inner neurosis as beautifully – and as ugly – as possible.
Black Dog: The Dreams of Paul Nash by Dave McKean
Art about art – Dave McKean creating a comic about war artist Paul Nash, and how that artist turned the worst extremes of humanity into art that illuminated the mind. And then how it affected the young Dave McKean, and how his work has existed in relation to that of Paul's. This is a giant standing on the shoulder of another giant and between them they can see so much about us. An incredibly moving masterpiece, and stands alongside McKean's Cages, as an exploration of the effect of art on both the viewer and the artist themselves. Psychologically complex and using the very strictures of comic book panels, speech, character positions to demonstrate so much of what we are.
Rolling Blackouts by Sarah Glidden
Another example of comic book journalism, Sarah Glidden takes a trip to the Middle East with an eye on America's influence on the region, travelling through Syria, Iraq and Turkey. But its also an examination of journalism itself, as Sarah is accompanying two "proper journalists" as they look at the effect of the Iraq War and of its refugees, so it also becomes a procedural for the profession as well – especially when they are joined by a friend and a US soldier who served in Iraq. And it suddenly gets a whole lot more awkward. Something that is made more palatable by Sarah's soft watercolors, a different look than we might have otherwise expected.
Everyone has a story to tell. It turns out that's as much true of the journalists as it is those they report on.
Clean Room Vol 1: Immaculate Conception by Gail Simone, Jon Davis-Hunt and Quinton Winter.
For some reason I never find The Walking Dead comic as gross as I do the TV show. I occasionally wondered if that was a creative choice of the limitations of the medium? Well, Clean Room answered that. It really is something very nasty indeed. Writer Gail Simone has rarely been given the chance to operate at this level. And she choosing the tack of making the people far scarier than the Entities that are meant to be threatening them, in terms of the moral choices they hold. Jon Davis-Hunt's choices of style are also a surprise, eschewing the darkness for something brighter, more visible and cleaner. This is horror with the strip lighting turned up and refusing to blink.
It also takes suicide head on, as something fuelling the survivors, and as psychological as that is, the comic is never afraid to shlock-horror out, embracing that aspect rather than being embarrassed about it. It's the combination of both approaches that elevates this title above the norm and makes it something special. And the way it buolds from issue only helps the trade paperback – even if you are denied the pain of waiting from month to month for cliffhangers to resolve.
Buy this for the Scientologist in your life. And then get Gail Simone to write Crossed.