Monday, December 14, 2015

Top 10 Comics (I reviewed) of 2015

Click on the titles to read the full reviews.

10. DHARMA PUNKS by Ant Sang. Published by Earth's End Publishing.

While Sang is working deep within a philosophical construct, at its heart Dharma Punks is a character driven story. Sang uses all sorts of temporal tricks to not only tell his story, but also to unfold motivations and emotional ballast in each one of his characters. It pulls you in as it smacks of the way we actually learn about the people in our lives. Traditional “Origin Stories” are lazy, simplistic, and false – we get to know people through layers of time, we understand them in pieces and through that, formulate the whole. Sang breathes this sort of life into Dharma Punks and thus engages his audience on a level more true to experience than narrative convenience.

9. HOUSES OF THE HOLY by Caitlin Skaalrud. Published by Uncivilized Books.

Houses of the Holy is a beautiful, horrible, unyielding, noble, and ferocious diary of self-introspection in which the narrator journeys through her pain, the damage at the heart of her psyche. Everything is alluded to in page after page of art installation metaphors laid inky thick in panels, in splashes, forcing the reader to piece together fragments into wholes that never fully gel because outside in the periphery there are still moments to be confronted.

8. VACANCY by Jen Lee. Published by NoBrow Press.

The experience of Vacancy is one that fills the gap and suffuses the emptiness that its title suggests. It peers through the hole in our fence and fills our minds with the possibilities of what might be on the other side.

7. FEDOR by Pat Kelley. Published by Hic + Hoc Publications

This is a book about connecting as much as it is a book about outsiders. It touches on questions of identity and appearances, but also sacrifices and longing. Kelley’s beautiful and light cartooning adds a distance to its heavy subject matter, and the brown watercolor washes that cover every page augments both its historical conceit and its sense of grounding in the real world.

6. PLANS WE MADE by Simon Moreton. Published by Uncivilized Books.
Longing is a human construct that is saturated with hope. It is the wellspring from which arises disappointment as much as it slakes desire. Within all discontent comes the impetus for change. Morton takes this all apart in Plans We Made through narrative, through pace, but mostly through his simple lines and layouts. In Morton’s pages, forms are dissolved into naked shapes through which the reader makes meaning, attempts closure, overlays the self. Here, what is less becomes more; the silence echoes reflections like a placid lake seen from above. Each moment is about that which is unsaid and undrawn; it leads to the cacophony of silence and an emotional center that holds tight insomuch as it becomes universal.

5. CASANOVA: ACEDIA by Matt Fraction and Fabio Moon. Published by Image Comics.

Sure Casanova Quinn is all mid-70’s Mick Jagger swagger, but at its heart, Casanova: Acedia grooves with the strum und drang of Ziggy Stardust’s impossible mission realized, to become a rock and roll star by just being a rock and roll star. You show up in a stretch limo, gonked to the nines on rails of cocaine — you step out in your fashion with a guitar in your hand and people start taking notice, people start taking pictures. Suddenly you climb up on stage and everybody wants to sing along with your songs, everybody wants to be you, and they feed and they feed on your dream until there is nothing left to do but escape to the Eastern Block wearing Jimmy’s pants, crank up the electronica mood inducers, and start howling into the microphone all that is left of your soul.

4. BORB by Jason Little. Published by Uncivilized Books.

Borb is infinitely accessible and incredibly hard to swallow. It confronts the idea of homelessness full on, relentlessly, and, although presented in humor comic format, it doesn’t candy-coat. In fact, the choice of exploring an issue of such gravity in the style of something that evokes a light-hearted expectation is what gives Borb so much of its power.

3. GENEROUS BOSOM #1 by Conor Stechschulte. Published by Breakdown Press.

See, there’s a thickness to every aspect of this book, as if gravity itself is exerting some different type of influence on these pages. There’s a disturbing weight to it, as if it were a singularity unto itself, composed, metaphorically, of an infinite density.

2. SAINT COLE by Noah Van Sciver. Published by Fantagraphics.

Because Saint Cole is part of the long tradition of the balladry of brutality. It sings the song of the sink hole caused by a life lived in response to expectations it could never fulfill. It's the chant you hear in the places people gather to drown out their sorrows, it echoes in the alley behind the neighbor's house whom you've never met, it rings in your own head from time to time, that is, if you are sensitive to it.

1. ANN BY THE BED (FRONTIER #6) by Emily Carroll. Published by Youth in Decline.

In this book, Carroll manipulates conventional narrative with a surgeon's scalpel cutting through cause and effect, bouncing her reader through time and space, disconcerting as she disconnects, adding a layer of displacement to the tone of its entirety. Then there's her apt choices of art style and color use, each of which adds another emotional hue. As well, she varies the thickness of her inking to contract and expand, and her lettering changes to resonate with the mood she is working with. In Ann by the Bed, Carroll uses all the evocative tools that comics offer in order to concentrate the tenor and the feel of the reading experience.

HONORABLE MENTIONS:

HOLLOW IN THE HOLLOWS by Dakota McFadzean. Published by One Percent Press

PERPLEXING STORIES by Jonathan King. Published by Eel Noir.

BIG PUSSY by Gina Wynbrandt. Published by 2D Cloud.

SUPERCAKES by Kat Leyh. Published by Yeti Press.

ABSTRACT KIRBY 1 and 2 by Mark Badger.

BOOKS I LOVED BUT HAVE YET TO REVIEW

UNDERSTANDING MONSTER #3 by Theo Ellsworth.

SHADOW HILLS by Sean Ford


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