30 jul. 2017

Comic Book Reviews 2017 (January to July)

Hey there everyone! Have you read any good comics lately? Watched any good comic-based movies or series? So have I, and quite a few bad ones too. You can read my comics pull list every Wednesday on my Instagram and Facebook, but in case you have been off, here’s my roundup of the last six months on the comics I follow.


DC Comics
This last June the Rebirth initiative turned one year old, and after a year of following many of the series, I can safely say this one was a huge success. They got me interested in characters I had not cared about for many months, and got me engaged with new ones I wouldn’t have expected. Who would’ve thought I year ago that the simplest idea of going back to basics would be what the publisher needed in that specific moment. It hasn’t been all successful, but when it comes to superheroes and mainstream comics, they’re my favorite reading every week.

Highs

Wonder Woman: Greg Rucka just wrapped up his run after 25 issues, right on time for the movie (more on that later). It was an amazing ride, I loved especially the odd issues with the storylines The Lies and The Truth drawn by Liam Sharp (arguably some of the most gorgeous art we’ve seen in comic books this year). Bilquis Evely replacing Nicola Scott on the even numbers didn’t make it for me, and I’ll probably drop the book off my pull list, unless the incoming creative team of Shea Fontana and Mirka Andolfo gets me as excited as Rucka did.
Batman / Detective Comics / All-Star Batman: All three Batman titles remain among my favorites, although the League of Shadows arc in Detective Comics was lacking on the art side for me. Scott Snyder continued to bring all the big guns on All-Star Batman (which it’s been announced to finish this summer, whaaat) but the highlight has been the start of the War of Jokes and Riddles storyline on the main Batman book, with Tom King giving Mikel Janin the chance to prove himself possibly the best artist now working for DC. There, I said it.
Young Animal (minus Mother Panic): I was reluctant to see the Doom Patrol and Shade brought back to life (especially with the kind of changes being announced) and I had no idea who Cave Carson was. Now I do, and the Young Animal imprint under the editorial supervision of Gerard Way is proving one month after another to be a worthy heir to the works of Peter Milligan and Grant Morrison for Vertigo in the 90s. Sadly, Mother Panic was a disappointment and I dropped it after a few issues of going nowhere, and Bug is still tickling me but it’s only been two issues, let’s see where this goes.

Other books I read in bulk and were really fun to follow were: Green Arrow, consistent and unexpected on the story, still surprising in the art choices; Suicide Squad, much better after Jim Lee left it alone and the weird story-with-backup structure was discontinued; and Aquaman, which is really making a case for itself, and it’s now recruited artist extraordinaire Stjepan Sejic for the current arc, which is enough for me to be interested.

Lows

Justice League vs Suicide Squad - I wasn’t a big fan of either the Justice League or Suicide Squad series when this crossover series hit in November (but the latter has consistently improved, as I mentioned above), and even though it was fun to see the two teams fighting and then teaming up in this 6-issue miniseries, it was definitely a waste of everyone’s time. The tie-ins from both series were seriously bad, and the quality of the main event itself, which started off high with Jason Fabok at the pencils, took a dive in quality after the first issue and went down from there. But the worst consequences from this even were yet to come...
Justice League of America (Steve Orlando in general) - …because out of the previous event came this absurdity of a book, which not only features the most bizarre combination of characters in any superhero team ever, but is also indescribably bad. Steve Orlando (whose graphic novel Virgil I deplored in a previous review) got himself some reputation with the Midnighter series, and is now writing a (mediocre) Supergirl book. But this JLA series is seriously hurting the brand by its only existence, to the point that not even Ivan Reis (who pencilled only the first three issues) could get it off the ground.
The Button - speaking of disappointments, you probably have heard the controversial idea that Watchmen was going to be integrated into the DC continuity? Well, this Batman/Flash 4-issue crossover was supposed to shed some light on that whole concept, and even thought it got off to a good start and brought back (for a short time) some unexpected characters from a previous era, in the end it was a publicity stunt that delivered very little. It wasn’t terrible, but certainly disappointing - hoping the announced miniseries The Doomsday Clock helmed by Geoff Johns lives up to its promise. And speaking of disappointments...
The Lazarus Contract (and Titans in general) - being a fan of the (Teen) Titans from back in the Wolfman / Pérez era (probably my favorite comic book from the 80s) the idea of a throwback to those stories and the reference to the cult storyline The Judas Contract couldn’t have been more underwhelming, just as the two Titans series, probably two of the weakest Rebirth titles. Even the Deathstroke part of the crossover was pretty average, and it’s usually my favorite series in the writing department. Unfortunately, the Titans remain unlucky with their creative choices.
Vertigo - the imprint for adult and author-owned titles has been in a constant state of flux for two years now, losing momentum after the initial push from back in 2015. And the sad thing is, it’s not a low about the quality of those titles, but about the constant cancellations of titles, with only a handful remaining. I followed Clean Room and Unfollow until their 18th and final issue, and now Everafter is going the same route. And with Savage Things and American Way being limited series, only Astro City will apparently remain… although it seems DC is preparing a Rebirth for the Vertigo imprint this next year, so let’s maintain our hopes.

What’s next? Metal has me excited, with the first two prologues already released and I’m all in for the whole event starting this August. I’m also excited about the Mr. Miracle limited series by Tom King and Mitch Gerads (whose Sheriff of Babylon was one of my highlights last year) and I’m keeping my hopes up for The Doomsday Clock, let’s see how the whole Watchmen thing ends up - even though at this point DC has me hooked again, I personally didn’t need Dr. Manhattan to get involved, but I guess you need the headlines to sell comics these days, don’t you?




MARVEL

It’s a relatively bad time to be a Marvel fan these days, what with all the fuzz regarding Secret Empire, a most underwhelming relaunch of the X-Men and Inhumans lines, and a general sense of lack of direction. Still, enough good things happened this past few months, so let’s see them.


Highs

Hail Hydra! - Starting at the obvious, Secret Empire finally launched after almost a year of slow build up in the pages of Captain America: Steve Rogers. And I honestly don’t care about anyone’s opinion on the whole idea, there should no off-limits topics when it comes to making up stories, if it offends you somehow, that’s your problem. And most importantly, contrary to other terrible comic book events of recent history, this one is actually pretty good. The Captain America series itself hit some really low points in the art department (with Jesús Saiz drawing only one of every 3 or 4 episodes) but story-wise, this was one of the well-thought and best-executed events, and at 7 issues so far, I can only recommend it. The tie-ins and miniseries, just like it happened with Civil War II (and I’m guessing other similar events) are worse than horrendous, and mostly pointless.
Moon Knight, Black Widow - one area where Marvel really shines is in author-driven books, with clear plans and seemingly no editorial interference. The Moon Knight run by Jeff Lemire and Greg Smallwood wrapped up on a really high note and it was one of my favorite readings, same as the end of the 12-issue run of Mark Waid and Chris Samnee’s Black Widow. Both highly recommended, almost to the level of Vision last year, and already looking forward to Waid and Samnee taking over Captain America after Secret Empire and the whole Legacy relaunch.
The Mighty Thor - I finally caught up with the Thor series by Jason Aaron and Russell Dauterman, and even though I’m not fully on board with the art, Aaron’s story was one of the superhero books I ended up most eagerly anticipating every month. I can’t wait for it wrapping up in (apparently) a sad note with the end of the road for Jane Foster as Thor, but it’s been a hell of a ride, with the Asgard/Shi’ar war earning itself a place among the classic Thor stories. Can’t wait to see Aaron helming the Legacy relaunch.

Honorary mention here for The Clone Conspiracy, a solid Amazing Spider-Man event, although in the end it was less relevant than I was expecting, but was refreshing and fun to read in the middle of a general sense of mediocrity.


Lows

ResurreXion - after the epic fail that was Death of X, Inhumans vs X-Men started off so bad that I couldn’t even finish it, so I couldn’t care less about the 9-book (9!!!) relaunch of the whole Mutants and Inhumans line (including several bi-weekly titles!!) but just reading the free previews I can tell you this: they looked as bad, and were as painful to read, as the X-titles in the early 90s that made me leave superheroes alone for the better part of two decades. I can’t imagine less appealing titles or creative teams, so let’s not even talk about them.
Marvel Now - the whole relaunch started in November by the publisher after the major events of Civil War II was a general disaster. Many books were plain terrible (including emblematic titles such as Venom and Ghost Rider) to the point of being cancelled after just a few issues. Then there was the blatant exploitation of characters popular from the recent Marvel movies and TV shows (Doctor Strange, Guardians of the Galaxy, Defenders, Spider-Man) that are only making the whole thing worse for the fans, with an explosion of less-than-decent books. And when there was some title that actually deserved some attention (in my case, Foolkiller) it went the same road as the rest of the crap. Not only it all makes the whole thing sad, but also keeps the expectation for the Legacy relaunch to a minimum.
Diversity - And then there was the whole controversy sparked by the declarations of Marvel executives regarding diversity and new versions of old characters, that only shows how blind are the Marvel bosses to the market. Remember that we have two Iron Man titles and two Hulk titles, but none of those feature the original character (at least some of the Spider-Man books have Peter Parker in them) and now tell me that diversity is the problem (after the vast popularity of the female Thor and the Muslim Ms Marvel).

Regarding everything else, I finally caught up with the (the first 12 issues of) Black Panther, and I must say I’m not impressed, although I appreciate the effort to create a different series for a different audience, maybe the whole African theme was too far away from my interests. It wasn’t bad, just not up to all the good things I’d heard about it. Next on my catch-up list: Daredevil by Charles Soule and Ron Garney (which already finished), and Doctor Strange by Aaron and Bachalo (which definitely interests me after reading Thor).

And The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl remains my favorite Marvel comic, and now it has yet another Eisner to back it up. And with a TV Squirrel Girl-lead team in the future, I can’t be more excited about this book. Do yourself a favor and read it.

And regarding Generations and Legacy, I can only say, the jury’s still out. The whole Legacy things sounds a lot like Rebirth to me, which wasn’t so bad after all when DC did it right, so let’s see what they have in store. But seeing how there are not many new titles and the creative teams are pretty much the same, I honestly don’t expect anything great coming from Marvel after Secret Empire. I’ll stick to Thor and Squirrel Girl until the end of their runs, and see what Aaron does with Legacy - other than that, chances are I’m going to drop all other Marvel series.



DARK HORSE

Since I don’t follow Conan, Aliens or other such franchises, I’m mostly into three titles, which I highly recommend:
Black Hammer - I told you last Christmas, and now time and the Eisner awards are saying the same thing, this is one of the best comic series you can be reading right now, and it’s only getting better.
Harrow County - forget about what Cullen Bunn has been doing at Marvel, it’s mostly crap. This, plus his Sixth Gun for Oni, is probably Bunn at his best, and you’d do well to take a look
Groo - I have been following Sergio Aragonés and Mark Evanier’s work on Groo for more than 30 years and I can’t get enough of it. I’m still catching up with Friends and Foes, but the Fray of the Gods (and the just started Play of the Gods) storylines are still to the level of genius I’ve come to expect of the creative team.


IMAGE

So much goodness from Image in its 25th anniversary I don’t even know where to start. So in no specific order,
The Wicked + The Divine wrapped up its fifth arc and started off the sixth, and it remains one of my most anticipated each month.
Saga wrapped it’s 7th arc, published their second deluxe book, and gathered a few more Eisner awards for its already impressive collection. And the 8th arc looks like they’re not slowing down any soon.
Lazarus wrapped its 5th volume to a very high note, they announced a much needed hiatus for Michael Lark before starting the next volume. In the meantime, they’ve just launched the X+66 series (the first number has been honestly weak, I don’t think I’ll be following it any longer).
Deadly Class wrapped its 5th arc, and its 6th already started, and not only the story and art remain at the same expected extraordinary level of quality, it makes every issue a pleasure on itself, while building up the story in new and exciting directions.
Speaking of Rick Remender, I’m finally caught up with Low, which is good but for me at least not Deadly Class-level good. The art is stunning, but the story lacks a bit. Same can be said of Seven to Eternity, which features the impressive art of Jerome Opeña but the story moves a bit too slow and it’s taking me a bit of effort to get on board.
I finally read all first 3 volumes of Southern Bastards, and I must say Jason Aaron is quickly becoming one of the most interesting and versatile writers around, with this being probably him at his most personal. And I need to read Scalped as soon as I finish 100 Bullets.
Outcast is now in its 5th arc and all I can say is, it’s a shame the TV show is so slow and boring, because the comic itself is a pleasure to read, with Paul Azaceta’s art being a constant reminder of how you don’t need to be detailed to have strong characterizations or create believable settings.
Kill or be Killed just finished volume 2, and this is shaping up to be one of the noir classics of the decade. I’m a sucker for everything Brubaker and Phillips have created since Sleeper (and I’m still getting caught up on Incognito and Criminal) but this is simply stunning work.
Wayward just started its 5th arc, the story itself is ok, but the art remains the highlight, this is a book I could buy just to enjoy the beautiful settings and gruesome creatures.
And Black Magick! After spending a year at DC working on the Wonder Woman relaunch, the beautiful black and white horror noir by Greg Rucka and Nicola Scott is back

IDW, BOOM, ONI
I decided to give independent publishers a try and found there were some really interesting titles there. It also helped IDW and Boom had each a Humble Bundle with a bunch of author-owned titles that allowed to do so at a very reasonable cost. It’ll take me a while to finish reading it all, but so far it’s looking good.
From Oni, I still have to read The Sixth Gun but I’m hooked on Heartthrob, currently at its second season, which is an unexpected and refreshing take on the criminal genre with a surreal twist.


TV Shows

When it comes to TV shows, there such a diversity of options that it’s even more difficult to stay up to date with everything. Still, I think I have a pretty good selection covered.
Supergirl, Flash, Arrow, Legends of Tomorrow shows - apparently this last season all four of the are CW/DC shows decided to change their places in the favor of the public: Arrow is back on track after two honestly bad seasons, Legends of Tomorrow really caught me by surprise with an unexpected sense of adventure and humor, Supergirl was able to recover from its terrible first season despite the cut in budget thanks to some interesting story choices, and Flash was the most depressing superhero show of the season, after being the funniest and smartest in the past two seasons.
Riverdale - as a fan of the Afterlife with Archie comic, I had to see what writer Aguirre-Sacasa had done with the Archie characters as showrunner of this strange mix of teenage angst and rural crime drama. I for one am more than satisfied, and think the translation worked really well (except for the Archie character itself, which is as unlikable as it comes). Still missing Sabrina in the mix, but really hyped for the next season.
The Walking Dead - finally was able to catch up on the AMC zombie show, which I liked despite all the criticism it got from reviews and social media. The last season was really a change of direction and tone for the whole series, which could have made it unwatchable if they didn’t backtrack a bit after the harsh beginning, but overall I had no significant problems, even though things felt pretty rushed at the end.
Agents of Shield - if you’re in the majority that dropped this show after one or two seasons, you just missed their best season so far, clearly divided in three parts, each with a clear focus, and the last with a strong parallel with the Secret Empire storyline from the comics. Loved it.
Gotham - again, if you’re one of those who decided a Gotham show with no Batman, or not based on Gotham Central, or some other idiotic excuse, you’re missing out. Admittedly the show is uneven, but it slowly found its footing, and I at least enjoyed the whole creation of Gotham as a believable setting. The whole Court of Owls story kept me hooked and the 3-episode Joker arc was really special.
Lucifer - when you can get over the fact that this show has nothing to do with the (brilliant) Vertigo comic by Mike Carey and Peter Gross, it’s actually pretty fun. A sort of Castle or Bones, standard procedural crime thriller, only with angels and demons that only aims at being fun without taking itself seriously. And, at least for me, it succeeded.

On the side of the lows:

Iron Fist - according to almost everyone’s opinion, the biggest dip in quality of this last TV season was for the fourth Marvel’s Netflix show, which gathered a general level of disapproval - which was enough to discourage me to bother. I haven’t even finished season 2 of Daredevil yet, so I think I’ll put it on hold for now.
Outcast - I was able to watch the entire first season purely out of admiration for the comic, but in the end it was so boring I decided to give up on it.
Preacher - I left the AMC show even earlier than that, after only 4 episodes trying to get caught on the very loose adaptation of one of my favorite Vertigo comics from the 90s. I couldn’t stand it. I keep hearing that season 2 is so much better so maybe I’ll give it a try later this year, but for now I’m out.

Next on my list of comic-book adaptations: iZombie (I only checked the pilot and looked ok).


MOVIES

I didn’t want to end without a few words about the most relevant movies based on comics (or comic book characters). After an interesting but uneven 2016, this year has been so far so great:

Logan - possibly my favorite X-Men movie since First Class, and the proof that not everything is already said and done for the Fox-owned franchise. If Deadpool and this are proof of the kind of R-rated movies Fox is able to produce, count me in.
Guardians of the Galaxy vol. 2 - Marvel keeps shining bright, and James Gunn has crafted yet another amazing multimedia show which at the same time is fun and has heart. And thanks to Kurt Russell’s character, they may have unlocked the recipe to having a villain just as good as the titular heroes in their movies, arguably their weakest department so far.
Kong Skull Island - included here not because it’s based on a comic but because it’s obviously an attempt to imitate the Marvel / DC approach at a shared universe, and because it’s basically a pulp adventure comic in movie format. Sure, it’s not Shakespeare, but it has a B-movie flavor that at least in my case got me loving it for what it was.
Wonder Woman - I have to admit, as the only person I know who actually loved Batman v Superman (despite its best efforts for the opposite) I really expected this to be good, but still got me by surprise. Admittedly a much brighter, joyful and more innocent approach to the superhero genre than the three previous DCEU movies, it hopefully sets a precedent for what DC movies should be, following the success of the Rebirth initiative in comics. Mixing action, adventure, fantasy, war and a lot of unexpected but respectful comedy, it was an unexpected success for me, and regardless of the inevitable comparisons with the Marvel movies (which at this point are the gold standard of superhero fiction) it found its own voice. Loved all the movies in this list to some extent, but this one was the one that left me with a sweeter taste in my mouth.

Next comic book movies: Spider-Man: Homecoming, Thor: Ragnarok and Justice League

That’s all for me, I’ll be back reviewing the best (and worst) comics, movies and TV shows I follow in a few months, for the final roundup of the year.

Leave your opinion in the comments!

5 jun. 2017

Huérfanos 6


Han pasado dos años (¡dos años!) desde que publicamos el quinto número de nuestra serie Huérfanos, y con él también el primer volumen recopilatorio de esta colección. Dos años durante los que a sus autores nos han pasado muchas cosas, unas mejores que otras, y durante los cuáles sin duda hemos aprendido mucho. Enric ha estado poniendo en marcha varios proyectos de cómic en colaboración con diversos artistas - de los que no tengo ninguna duda que volveremos a oír a hablar - y ha terminado un libro. Yo personalmente he estado trabajando desde hace ya bastantes meses en un guión para otro proyecto, y como ya es sabido, he estado cursando (por primera vez, a mis 42 años) estudios de cómic en la escuela Joso de Barcelona.

Pero si habéis estado siguiendo mi progreso a través de Facebook o Instagram, habréis comprobado que (además de leer montones de cómics) he estado trabajando lenta pero incansablemente en este sexto número de Huérfanos, que ahora por fin ve la luz, más o menos un año más tarde de lo que había planeado. Me ha sabido especialmente mal el retraso dada la calurosa acogida que tuvimos en Gotham Comics de Palma, rodeados de nuestros fans, amigos y familia, en la presentación de nuestro volumen 1. Sin duda fue la mejor recompensa a 15 años de esfuerzo por sacar este proyecto adelante, y nos gustaría recompensar a nuestros fieles seguidores con una mayor regularidad, pero por desgracia esto no es (aún) posible.

Si 3000 personas se pusieran de acuerdo para aportar cada una 5 euros, yo podría dejar de trabajar durante unos cuantos meses y retirarme a mi cueva / estudio a dibujar entre 4 y 6 números nuevos sin morir de inanición. Desafortunadamente no contamos aún con esa clase de afición así que de momento tendréis que conformaros con esta imperfecta periodicidad bienal para cada número de 22 páginas. A este ritmo estaremos todos jubilados para cuando lleguemos al final de la historia, así que esperamos encontrar una fórmula más satisfactoria para todos.

Como proyecto para este verano me he propuesto empezar a enviar muestras selectas de este cómic a diversas editoriales, con la esperanza de que alguna de ellas se muestre interesada en el proyecto, o en mis habilidades como ilustrador. Por alguna razón, tengo la sensación de que ese día está más cerca - y no es que ningún editor se haya puesto en contacto ni nada; simplemente me parece inevitable que suceda, si lo seguimos intentando lo suficiente. Leo muchísimos cómics (por si no se había notado) como para saber que mucho peores ideas han llegado a término.

Pero esto no es de lo que quería hablar hoy sobre el Huérfanos 6 (que podéis leer online de forma completamente gratuita aquí arriba).

Quería hablar de por qué NO deberíais leerlo.

Lo más importante de todo lo que he aprendido en mis dos cursos de cómic, es a tener criterio. A saber leer mis propios cómics con ojos de lector, y no de autor. A poner distancia entre lo que dibujas y tu percepción, como para saber cuándo la has pifiado.

Así es como he aprendido que en este cómic el punto de vista varía demasiado poco, mi “cámara” está casi siempre a la misma distancia de los personajes. Como el tamaño relativo de mis figuras es a menudo el mismo dentro de las viñetas, como a mis planos de situación les falta sensación de lugar, y los personajes parecen estar poco integrados con los fondos. Como mis líneas de tinta no tienen la variación correcta para dar la adecuada sensación de volumen, y a mis composiciones de página, y de viñeta, les faltan masas de negro suficientes como para crear atmósfera. Como mis tramas de tinta son poco definidas y ensucian el dibujo. Como a mis personajes les falla la construcción de la figura, tienen rasgos faciales inconsistentes, y sus poses son poco creíbles, o forzadas, o anatómicamente dudosas. Y como es público y notorio, como mi habilidad para dibujar animales creíbles (y en este número hay unos cuantos más, además de Marv) deja mucho que desear.

Debe parecer raro que lo primero que aprendes en una escuela de cómic sea todo lo que has estado haciendo mal durante los 25 años que llevas dibujando. Y no solo eso, sino que además te dicen que vuelvas al principio, a lo básico, y vuelvas a aprender a dibujar a partir de ahí.

Pero es que este número de Huérfanos ha sido el primero que, por así decirlo, ha sido realizado bajo la supervisión de adultos. No es que no tenga ya suficientes canas como para entrar en esa categoría, pero como ilustrador aficionado siempre había dibujado como un niño, por instinto, sin pensar demasiado en la estructura de lo que estaba haciendo. Y eso a base de práctica ha terminado dando algunos resultados, es indudable, pero a estas alturas ya no es suficiente. Ya no se trata de pasarlo bien y hacer algo con lo disfrute y lo pueda compartir con los amigos. Si vamos a hacer esto como para que gente como vosotros pague vuestro dinero duramente ganado en lugar de gastarlo en, digamos, un cómic de Spider-Man, tenemos que daros algo que merezca la pena la inversión.

Así es como he empezado a prestar atención, no solo a mis tripas, sino a lo que leo (y si habéis estado siguiendo este blog, sabéis que leo MUCHOS cómics) sino a lo que gente con más criterio me ha recomendado. Así es como no puedo por menos que agradecer por sus valiosos comentarios a mis profesores de la Joso: Mariano De La Torre, Pere Pérez e Iban Coello; e incluso al pesado de Jaume Albertí (“en Jaume de Gotham”) nuestro ex-rotulista, editor no oficial y anfitrión de presentaciones, que ha conseguido hacer que me replanteara la caótica distribución de mis viñetas y bocadillos para facilitar la lectura - algo que siempre me resistí a hacer por pura obstinación (que es una cosa que desarrollas cuando ya tienes un trabajo remunerado en el que has de hacer un montón de cosas con las que no estás de acuerdo y dibujas cómics para poder hacer lo que te sale de las narices).

El problema es que muchas de esas aportaciones han llegado un poco tarde, y para cuando el número ya estaba prácticamente terminado, y yo con ganas de empezar otros antes que tener que ponerme a redibujar páginas. Por eso este cómic, igual que los cinco anteriores, todavía es un testimonio del largo camino que he recorrido como artista, y del aún más largo que me queda por delante.

Por suerte, cerca del final del cómic podéis encontrar estas dos viñetas, que para mí son las mejores de todo el cómic, donde cada línea está en su sitio y los personajes parecen reales.

 

Como artista, estas dos viñetas son la razón que puedo daros para leer este cómic - y la promesa de que vendrán muchas más como esas, porque ahora, cuando me salen bien, sé reconocerlas.

Huérfanos (2002-) es un cómic de fantasía y horror ambientado en Mallorca y protagonizado por jóvenes con poderes sobrenaturales. Puedes leerlo gratuitamente como webcomic en español (huerfanos.subcultura.es) y en inglés (huerfanos.webcomic.ws). Los cinco primeros capítulos se han editado en junio de 2015 en un volumen recopilatorio, que puedes conseguir a través de Lulu.com, en Gotham Comics de Palma de Mallorca, o directamente a los autores: huerfanos@hotmail.com

22 dic. 2016

Best Comics of 2016 (that I've read)

It's again that time of the year when everyone seems to know everything you should have watched and read but you missed. Hell, thanks to those lists I've been able to catch up with some of the best comics of the last few years. And since this time it is me who has been more or less up to date with many prominent (American) comics, I thought I could give one of those lists a try. Since my list would be obviously biased by my personal preference (aren't them all?) take it as such. I've split it by publisher so it's easier to compare. Here they go, in no particular order.

Image Comics

Mi favorite publisher keeps delivering on its ongoing series and trying new and bold proposals. Rick Remender added a fifth title to his already impressive roster, Brubaker & Phillips delivered their strongest book so far and fan favorites teams Vaughan / Staples and Gillen / McKelvie kept their titles on top.

My apologies yet another year for missing what are arguably some of the most interesting books in the Image catalogue, namely Southern Bastards, East of West or Black Science, while I've been lucky to discover (and enjoy) Invisible Republic, Injection and I Hate Fairyland.


8. Lazarus by Greg Rucka, Michael Lark

You can never get tired of the exploration of a dystopian future when your guide is as good as Michael Lark. This year I started to catch up on Gotham Central where this dream team first joined forces, and they remain the best of their kind at this Sci-fi / action epic with a real world warning undertone.


7. Deadly Class by Rick Remender, Wes Craig

For my taste, still the best of the Remender works at Image, reached a climax early in the year, but kept going strong after that.
Tokyo Ghost and Seven to Eternity deserve a special mention for their outstanding art, but I'm still not fully on board with the story, where Remender tends to be more preachy than necessary.


6. Bitch Planet by Kelly Sue DeConnick, Valentine De Landro

Keeping a series as engaging as this one with just three issues a year is a testament to the quality of the book. Mixing sci-fi, adventure and political commentary with a not at all subtle feminist message into one of the most powerful pamphlets currently being published.


5. Wayward by Jim Zub, Steve Cummings

This series is one of my personal guilty pleasures. None of the elements of the mix would've been of my taste (young heroes, Japanese myths, light urban fantasy) but somehow they work for me. Artist Cummings and colorist Tamra Bonvillain make it all worth it but the story keeps moving forward and surprising at every turn.


4. The fade out by Ed Brubaker, Sean Phillips

I've been a fan of the Brubaker / Phillips team since Sleeper and you should be too. The Fade Out is probably the most complex of this team's works and a delightful read for anyone who loves noir and classic Hollywood stories.
Their next project Kill or Be Killed is also great but goes back to a different kind of crime fiction that still needs to find its own place (but still a must for fans).


3. Outcast by Robert Kirkman, Paul Azaceta

I managed one more year to stay clear of the Walking Dead (maybe when the TV series ends) but from Robert Kirkman I got to test Invincible (a superhero comic definitely different) but absolutely loved this horror story, much smaller in scope than his zombie epic, but for me one of the best horror stories of the year - along with Afterlife with Archie and Sabrina. There, I said it.


2. Saga by Brian K. Vaughan, Fiona Staples

Try reading one after the other: Runaways, Y the Last Man and Ex Machina, and try to believe Brian K. Vaughan still had his best ideas to come. Saga is destined to belong in the lists of the best comics of the decade and we're so lucky to be able to watch it unfold as it's released. Probably the comic with the most elaborate plot, relatable characters and universal themes being published. And some disturbing images too, what else is new.
For Vaughan fans: Paper Girls is another great, and personal, take on the weird worlds of the author. Not as universally likable as Saga probably, but nevertheless extraordinary.


1. The Wicked + the Divine by Kieron Gillen, Steve McKelvie

I finally got around to read what has become one of my favorites of these years, the kind of comic so complex and yet so flawlessly executed I was waiting since the Invisibles or Preacher in the 90s. A must read for anyone into popular culture in any medium. Anyone into the work of Gillen and McKelvie should also definitely check their other Image project Phonogram, of which books 2 (Singles Club) and 3 (Immaterial Girl) are absolute narrative masterworks.

Marvel

I'll admit it wasn't a great year overall for Marvel, especially compared to what DC was able to accomplish when we least expected it. Their list of titles seems small despite publishing around 80 titles a month (7 Spider-Man related titles, 6 Guardians of the Galaxy, 4 Deadpool and so on). Mutant titles had a really weak year, and most classic characters suffered from the publisher effort for diversity and inclusion. On top of that, Civil War II was the most tiresome crossover event I can remember. I keep hearing terrible things about DC's Convergence, but boy this one was pointless - and is still going!

Fortunately, with 80 books in the market it was a matter of patience some were actually good. I must admit I couldn't follow some series that deserve some attention: Thor, Ms Marvel, Doctor Strange, Daredevil or Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur, but they're on my list for next year, along with the Star Wars series I keep hearing great things about. Some series worth mentioning briefly were Old Man Logan (despite some Jeff Lemire fatigue, the guy has delivered at least three good books during the year) and Punisher (which unfortunately has become Steve Dillon's posthumous work, but an amazing one at that).


5. International Iron Man by Brian Michael Bendis, Alex Maleev

Bendis is, along with Lemire, Aaron and Soule, one of the pillars or the publisher, but of all five titles he's been penning for Marvel (plus the atrocious Civil War II) this unexpected take on Tony Stark past was the one I really loved. With a bit of old spy story mixed with the gorgeous art of Alex Maleev, the worst of it was its early cancellation and kind of rushed finale, but otherwise a really good book.


4. Moon Knight by Jeff Lemire, Greg Smallwood

Coming right after the successful reboot by Warren Ellis, I didn't know what to expect of the omnipresent Lemire taking over yet another follow-up (successfully in Old Man Logan, disastrously in Hawkeye). And yet, this series was able to find its own voice, using the character's mental issues as the excuse for some of the most surprising and playful narratives of the year.


3. Black Widow by Mark Waid, Chris Samnee

Waid and Samnee run in Daredevil is still in my to-read list, but even more so after reading the kind of exciting tale of spies these two have been telling this year. Samnee is competing for one of the best storytellers in the business and the overworked Mark Waid (also in Avengers and Archie) delivers here his strongest script this year.


2. Vision by Tom King, Gabriel Hernandez Walta

Time to be serious, this one here is another of this year's comics that will be remembered as a classic. Writer Tom King, also working on Omega Men and Sheriff of Babylon, was capable of the impossible, to make a story of a family of robots into an engaging, disturbing and yet profoundly moving tale.
And yet, why wasn't it my favorite Marvel comic of the year?


1. The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl by Ryan North, Erica Henderson

Because you can't beat Squirrel Girl (pun intended). Let me be clear, I keep talking about this book not because it's so fun (it is) or absurdly clever (it definitely is) but because it's a source of inexhaustible genius. It's also one of the most self conscious comics I read, and writer Ryan North makes no effort to hide the absurdity of it all. Of all the effort put by Marvel at all-ages, humorous books (Howard the Duck, Mockingbird, Patsy Walker AKA Hellcat) this must be the most perfect of all, suited for young and experienced readers alike.

DC

If you had told me a year ago my most anticipated comics of the week would be from DC, I wouldn't have believed you. And not just some obscure, minor titles, but stellar Superman and Batman comics themselves. This definitely has been the year when DC had to reinvent itself or become irrelevant, and their attempts at a movie universe have been so far not that great (but they kind of have been on TV). And Rebirth took the publisher back on top, not just commercially, but most importantly in the hearts of the readers. I was a DC fan since I was a kid and yet I felt little to no interest for most of their titles in the last 15 years. Now I follow around half of them with enthusiasm. Obviously not everything is awesome - the needed rotation of artists to keep the biweekly schedule makes art uneven, continuity with the New 52 remains a bit of a burden, and there's definitely some work to be done on the books aimed at teenage readers. But the overall feeling is that DC is again what DC used to be, and they have been able to gather an impressive roster of creators.

Honorary mentions go to Green Arrow, Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps, Aquaman and Nightwing. I honestly had no interest in these characters prior to what Rebirth has done for them, and now they're among my favorites. Their stories capture yet again the epic and wonder these characters used to convey, and Green Arrow in particular seems to be back with the most unexpected style. I would've liked The Flash and Green Lanterns to be on this category but they miss some better character work for my taste.

Also, worth mentioning the pleasant surprise of the entire Young Animal lineup in the last few months, when I never expected to see again what Animal Man, Doom Patrol or Shade did for comics in the 90s. But here they are, and all four titles (Doom Patrol, Shade the Changing Girl, Cave Carson has a Cybernetic Eye, Mother Panic) are already on my most anticipated every month and surely will make next year's list.


6. Omega Men by Tom King, Barnaby Bagenda

Second appearance of Tom King on this list, a space epic that caught us all by surprise. Less than minor characters that I hadn't heard of for more than 20 years were suddenly at the center of a political intrigue with no-so-subtle nods at real world conflicts. I'm thinking King pitched a kind of Guardians of the Galaxy but delivered a dark sci-fi tale. Some compared it to Watchmen. It's probably too much, but it's still that level of good.


5. Prez by Mark Russell, Ben Caldwell

After an obscure miniseries in the 70s and a homage in the pages of Sandman, this tale of a teenage girl who accidentally becomes president of the US is a satyrical take on real world politics, economics and media... and mostly everything else. More necessary than ever after the troubling results of last November election, it's an apparently small book that deserved some more attention - and definitely more than 6 issues! Please bring it back!


4. Wonder Woman by Greg Rucka, Liam Sharp

When I heard Rucka and Nicola Scott were teaming up for Wonder Woman, I was sad because their Black Magick was one of my favorite Image books. So I decided not to read it until Black Magick is back, but instead I read the other half of the deal, the gorgeously illustrated The Lies. Not only this one of the best looking comics on the shelves, it also manages to survive the burden of the New 52 Wonder Woman, which I'm not really familiar with. And the mysteries have only begun to unfold.


3. Superman by Peter J. Tomasi, Patrick Gleason, Doug Mannie, Jorge Jiménez

Apparently I was the only fan of Patrick Gleason's short run on Robin Son of Batman, which is why I wasn't so surprised of the joyful tone of this fully reinvented Superman. The family dynamics of the Kents with Clark as a mentor to his superpowered son is as delightful to read as it is charming. Compared to the much grittier Action Comics, this is the series that could define what Rebirth has done for DC's heroes: light hearted, character-driven stories with an eye on fun an adventure, and another in character development.

  

2. Batman by Tom King, David Finch, Mikel Janin / Detective Comics by James Tynion IV, Eddy Barrows / All-Star Batman by Scott Snyder, John Romita Jr.

When it comes to Batman, DC seems to bring out the big guns. In my opinion, the best creative teams in Rebirth are handling the three Batman titles, with artists David Finch, Mikel Janin, John Romita Jr. and (my personal favorite) Eddy Barrows worth the price of admission all by themselves. After the questionable end of the New 52 Batman era, this was a much needed, and deserved, return to greatness. And releasing 5 Batman books every months, it's remarkable they are all so good.


1. Deathstroke by Christopher Priest, Larry Hama, Carlo Pagulayan

Christopher Priest writing comics is always good news. Slade Wilson going back to his origins (in the mythical 80s Teen Titans series) even more so. Put them together and you get my favorite Rebirth series, a tale so multifaceted and fragmented as you've come to expect from Priest. Probably the most difficult DC character to handle, this book takes the-character-Deadpool-was-based-on and redefines it in all its moral complexity to become once again its own thing. Art is good but uneven, but it never harms the overall quality.

Misc

So what's been great in the big wide world outside the Big Three? Let's give a shout out to these other deserving series.


Sheriff of Babylon by Tom King, Mitch Gerads
It may be a bit biased on my part that all four titles written by Tom King this year made this list. But I didn't want to finish without a reminder that a small but well curated list of creator-owned titles have been published by DC comics imprint Vertigo since late last year. Maybe they haven't been exactly smash hits but have been slowly building up a new and exciting image for the once fan-favourite brand. Titles like Clean Room by Gail Simone, Art Ops by Shaun Simon (illustrated by Mike Allred!), Unfollow by Matt Taylor or the venerable Astro City by Kurt Busiek deserve some praise in their own little corner, but the only one I've been able to follow to the end has been Tom King's unsettling tale of occupied Baghdad. All of King's traits are recognizable in this 12-issue epic that tests reader's interest for more grounded stories. I hope to catch up with the rest of the Vertigo offer in the next few months, in case this series is any indication of the kind of quality I can expect.


Black Hammer by Jeff Lemire, Dean Ormston

Overworked Jeff Lemire (who has worked on at least seven series that I've been able to count for Marvel, Image and Valiant) gives probably his best on this charming tale of former heroes trapped in a rural environment. Strong at character relationships and full of nostalgia, it's a moving story of times gone by and old style powers making a comeback. Diehard fans of Watchmen and Astro City should seriously check it.





Afterlife with Archie by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, Francesco Francavilla / Chilling Adventures of Sabrina by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, Robert Hack

My favorite horror comics of the year come from the most unexpected of places. Not only Archie has successfully relaunched their flagship titles (they didn't make this list but heck, it's Archie, check them out!) but Creative Director Aguirre-Sacasa gives a creepy turn to the Archie and Sabrina franchises, one with the best zombie outbreak of the year (sorry, Robert Kirkman) the other with a disturbing witch story. The extraordinary art by Francavilla and Robert Hack respectively doesn't hurt either. And Aguirre-Sacasa is showrunning Riverdale on TV next year, I can't wait for it.


Of all titles I'm not mentioning here, mostly because I haven't put in the time to read them (yet), I'd like to mention highly praised young readers books such as Lumberjanes, creator-owned books such as Harrow County, and the entire catalogue of Valiant, a shared universe I know basically nothing about, other than the headlines for this year's series Faith (by artist Pere Pérez, who happens to be my comics teacher this year) that weren't really about the comic itself, so I really should check some of those out.

And one of my New year's resolutions will be to read some of the Graphic Novels published this year, that have made many lists of the best comics of the year, and I didn't even know about. Titles such as Patience, March, Ghosts, Panther and many others, that I totally neglected due to my preference for comic books over longer formats and more real life themes.

I'm sure you'll be able to forgive those omissions, since I've been kind of busy making comics and studying how to make comics and also making a living, but hopefully you'll share some of my favorites, or some of my choices will pick your interest (as they should).

And finally let's not forget this was also the year we lost some talented creators that left behind a most endurable legacy of wonderful comics. Here's to Darwyn Cooke and Steve Dillon.

  

And here's to a Merry Christmas and a happy new year full of wonderful stories and even better people. In a world where Donald Trump will be president, we will need those more than ever.