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The Panel :: Best Comics of '08...an SFR Webcast pilot (Bumped up!)

January 21, 2009, 12:00 am
By SFR Staff


We tried it with four comic book guys, and it was chaos. So we killed two of them; left one tied to the Rail Runner tracks and fed the other to the St. John's kids.

The two survivors: Chris Diestler (manager of True Believers Comics) and Bram Meehan ( dude of dudes at 7,000 BC comics collective) were offered the choice: Make a coherent comics webcast show, called "The Panel," or suffer another culling.

Please enjoy the pilot episode of The Panel, a Web cast about comics. (Diestler will likely have another guest next time. The Web cast was just slightly short of coherent. Bram has been ...dissolved.)



In addition to the three comics discussed in the video, (The Umbrella Academy, Iron Fist, and The Astonishing X-men), Diestler and Meehan each forfeited their full lists for your inspection.

Diestler's Favorite Reads

Bram's Top 10



FAVORITE READS of 2008:

By Chris Diestler

Giant-Size Astonishing X-Men (Marvel) - Joss Whedon and John Cassaday wrap up the best run EVER on an X-Men title. Kitty single-handedly saves the earth, but pays the ultimate price. Marvel will no doubt cheapen this by bringing her back in a lame-brained fashion down the road.

All-Star Superman #12 (DC) - Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely took 3 years to get 12 issues out, but oh boy, were they worth the wait. Proof that Superman (and moreover, Jimmy Olsen) can manage to NOT suck. Why wasn't Grant's Batman this good? Or at least intelligible? Who can say?

Those were 2 of the best superhero comic reads of all time. I miss them already. Now if the last issue of "Planetary" would ever come out.

Umbrella Academy #6 (Dark Horse) - Gerard Way and Gabriel Bá deliver the eponymous "Apocalypse Suite" with panache, hitting all the notes you expect from a super-team battle climax, but somehow making it seem fresh and exciting. Superheroes for the Hot Topic set turned out to be wildly entertaining. Who knew?

Locke & Key #1 (IDW) - Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez have unleashed a most unique horror series, taking material that, in other hands would be listless and trite, and creating one of the best comic reads of the year. Not for kids or the squeamish. So far, better than anything I've read by his hack dad.

Doktor Sleepless #7 and #8 (Avatar) - Warren Ellis and Ivan Rodriguez end book one by revealing the Doktor's grand plan and give us a hideous glimpse of his origin. Subversive, horrible fun that made my list 2 years running. I now crown Ellis comics' reigning futurist.

Freakangels Volume One TPB (Avatar) - Warren Ellis again, this time with amazing newcomer Paul Duffield handling the visuals. Until 2008, available only as a webcomic on warrenellis.com, this is some of the most interesting and optimistic post-apocalyptic sci-fi I've ever read. And very pretty!

Immortal Iron Fist: Orson Randall and the Death Queen of California (Marvel) - Duane Swierczynski and Giuseppe Camuncoli craft an entertaining one-shot to fill a hole in the regular title's shipping schedule. Not to slight "100 Bullets" or "Criminal" (both great), but this was my favorite "noir" read this year.

Invincible Iron Man #7 (Marvel) - Matt Fraction and Salvador Larroca are able to somehow take a throwaway interstitial story where nothing really happens and make me care about the characters of Tony Stark and Peter Parker. I still think they're both douchebags, but now I feel bad about it.

Joker's Asylum: Penguin (DC) - Jason Aaron can do no wrong! The "Scalped" writer now has me reading (and loving) characters I historically can't stand (like Ghost Rider and Punisher). The Penguin is a stupid, stupid character who barely made sense in the Dick Tracy era during which he was born. Aaron and artist Jason Pearson make me care about this loser of a freak, and then show me what a sucker I am. BRA-fu*kin-VO!!!

Guerillas #1 (Image) - Brahm Revel writes and draws this left-field wonder about a U.S. infantryman in Vietnam who gets wrapped up with gun-totin', cigarette-smokin' monkeys. Nope, none of that was a typo. Gorgeous and inventive, this is a prime example of what comics can, but so rarely, do - tell a good story! My only fear is that Marvel or DC lure him away with the promise of riches and fame and we never see the end of this series!

HONORABLE (and DISHONORABLE) MENTIONS:

Wormwood Calamari Rising (IDW) - Redneck fairies and a goat-lovin' Elvis. Twisted and hilarious.

Secret Invasion (Marvel) - They had me, then they lost me. Some of the best and worst of the year.

Final Crisis (DC) - Not nearly as unrewarding as Batman R.I.P., nor as nonsensical as previous Crises, but there's no way DC's gonna let Grant this in any other way but sunshine and lollipops. Too bad, ‘cuz so far it's evil done right.

Wolverine: Old Man Logan (Marvel) - Dystopian future of the Marvel U. Between Millar and McNiven, we'll be lucky if all 9 issues come out by 2012.

Air (DC/Vertigo) - G. Willow Wilson gives an airline attendant a super-power of sorts, and all kinds of weird things happen. Brilliant? Crazy? Novel, at least.

Tiny Titans (DC/Johnny DC) - You know, for kids! This book is excessively random and hilarious, like kids' books used to be in the old days. The best Titans book on the stands, though I know that's not saying much.

City of Dust (Radical Publishing) - "Farenheit 451" meets "Blade Runner." What's not to like?

Dead Space (Image) - Genuinely creepy sci-fi. I hear the game's good too.

Four Eyes (Image) - If we never see a second issue, at least I know who my "most promising new talent" of the year is: Max Fiumara!

Incognito (Marvel/Icon) - Brubaker and Phillips combine their 2 previous collaborations ("Sleeper" and "Criminal") and deliver a promising start just under the 2008 wire. Looking forward to more in 2009.

GUILTY PLEASURE - "Terra" by Palmiotti and Conner. Throwaway story about a throwaway character, but Amanda Conner's illustrations are so charmingly, smokingly HOT, I can't resist.

GUILTY PLEASURE #2 - The Dodson's cover illustration to "Young X-Men" #2 - what can I say, I'm a mostly-straight guy with working parts! Awful reading, though. Marvel's already cancelled the series. Dani Moonstar... *sigh*

WHY IS THIS GUY STILL WORKING??? - Jeph Loeb. Please, just stop.

BIGGEST LET DOWN - "Joker" by Brian Azzarello and Lee Bermejo. A beautifully rendered, astoundingly boring story about Batman's prime nemesis.

WORST READ of 2008 - Uncanny X-Men #500. Don't say I didn't warn you. Four of comics' greatest talents manage to fall over each other in this tangled mess of a story. Not as bad as the 3rd X-Men movie, but close. Very, very close.



TOP 10

By Bram Meehan

crossposted at Going to New Mexico

The following comics stood out to me this year; all had a release or were ongoing in some fashion in 2008. And though there are repeats from last year's list, I'm also trying to call attention to some that might have been overlooked. In no particular order:

The Umbrella Academy: Apocalypse Suite TPB by Gerard Way and Gabriel Ba — I was not exactly filled with confidence when the highlight of this solicit was "written by the lead singer of My Chemical Romance." When I started hearing good things from surprising (and trusted) sources, figured there'd at least be some great artwork. There is, but there's also tight storytelling with a terrific tone, odd humor, and familiar elements in the right places that combine to make for an original, enjoyable tale, with the promise of more weirdness to come.

Cul de Sac by Richard Thompson — the early days of Thompson's strip are now collected into a book, and the adventures of the suburban Otterloop family are available daily at gocomics.com/culdesac. With a wry, affectionate sensibility and approach to everyday life that is familiar yet fresh, it brings new energy to the daily newspaper strip and, I think, could be the best one going on now. Plus, the linework alone is often funnier than just about every other daily. You can follow his blog at richardspooralmanac.blogspot.com.

Diesel Sweeties (dieselsweeties.com) by Richard Stevens — Monica introduced me to his daily syndicated newspaper strip just before Stevens retired from it to fully concentrate his energies on the Web version. So he's still offering a contemporary take on the modern comic strip, daily doses of geeky humor, contemporary wit, and a skewed glimpse at modern romance, all while wringing every bit of expression possible out of those limited pixels.

Hark A Vagrant (beatonna.livejournal.com; also posted at katebeaton.com) by Kate Beaton — literary humor, Canadian (and some American) history, fishmongers, saucy mermaids, dandies, Miyamoto Musashi somewhere in there, and, of course, Fat Pony. This occasional webcomic never fails to amuse with its obscure references and intelligent storytelling. The artwork is deceptively simple, well-paced and expressive. Found via The Comics Curmudgeon.

Astonishing X-Men by Joss Whedon and John Cassaday and Immortal Iron Fist by Ed Brubaker, Matt Fraction, and David Aja — both titles appear for a second (and last) time because they each take characters with extensive history and continuity and bring something new to their mythologies. They offer different approaches: X-Men's, a sharp, character-driven story that puts the fun back in the old galaxy-spanning epics; Iron Fist's, a smart, mystical/martial arts adventure that that introduces new elements and characters who are such a such a perfect fit, it's tough to imagine they haven't existed all along.

Scalped: Casino Boogie TPB by Jason Aaron and R.M. Guera — a difficult story, full of unappealing people making tough choices and generally doing bad things with unpleasant consequences. And probably one of the finest examples of what comics can achieve. Grittily realistic and evocative, it jumps around time and in and out of reality, interweaving characters and revealing more about their past and relationships in a way that would be tough to pull off in any other medium.

The Martian Confederacy by Jason McNamara and Paige Braddock — laugh-out-loud moments in a sci-fi tale about a quirky cast caught up in a caper on a future Mars. It's a simple premise, well told. The inventive characters and their dialog really drive the humor and fun in the story, which is really a great fit for the pacing and art. Credit goes to Monica for picking it out.

Helen Killer by Andrew Kreisberg and Matthew JLD Rice — not without its flaws, but it takes a pitch — Alexander Graham Bell gives Helen Killer a device lets her see and hear as well giving her super-strength and agility, which she uses to protect the president — that just seems ill-advised and turns it into a well-paced, historical sci-fi adventure. There's a lot of classic comic storytelling in there, a real love of the medium, but also a modern sensibility that manages to play it completely straight while reveling in the absurdity of it all. Thanks to The Invincible Super-Blog for calling attention to it.

Bill Mauldin: A Life Up Front by Todd DePastino and the accompanying collection Willie and Joe: The WWII Years — OK, so, the DePastino book is a biography and, technically Mauldin is a cartoonist working in single panels, but they both call attention to a true master of storytelling through combining words and pictures. I usually avoid biographies, but this is a fascinating, gripping read of an exceptional character in unusual times. The collection traces his development as a draftsman and observer, all the more amazing when you learn the conditions he was working under.

-=-=-=-=-=-=-

Honorable mentions: Black Summer (mostly for its lush art); Criminal; Elephantmen; Fantastic Four (Millar and Hitch's); Doonesbury's B.D. storyline; B.P.R.D. and Hellboy; The Secret History of The Authority: Hawksmoor (a surprising story with beautiful, atypical supehero art); All-Star Superman; Invincible Iron Man; Comic Book Comics; Girls With Slingshots Volume One and webcomic at daniellecorsetto.com/gws.html; Patsy Walker: Hellcat #1 (2 and 3 haven't lived up to the promise, but that first issue is crazy fun); Gutsville; Guerillas (off to a promising start); and 100 Bullets is only missing from the list because now I'm just hoarding the trade paperbacks to read when it's all done.

Bram Meehan self-publishes comics with Panel Press; he blogs about comics, art, design, publishing, and visual culture at Raised By Squirrels.

 

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