Dave's Faves of 2010! Well Into 2011, Even!

This should have ideally been finished and posted somewhere around, oh, December, but general holiday craziness (and ongoing work on my comic Slam-A-Rama, on sale now!) kept me from compiling a list of my favourite comics of 2010. Better late than never, eh? Anyways, here goes. In no particular order...


STRANGE SCIENCE FANTASY By Scott Morse (IDW): Definitely not for everybody, but this six-part mini almost single-handedly restored my faith in single-issue comic books in 2010. Genres collide in this loving mash-up of sci-fi, film noir, and any number of other styles and tropes that might have at one point or other influenced Morse. The perfect antidote to Big Two event fatigue (see my original review here).


ELMER By Gerry Alanguilan (SLG): This absurdist fable imagines a world where chickens have gained the ability to think and speak, and chronicles their ensuing struggle for civil rights. Alanguilan's highly detailed, expressive artwork perfectly realizes the concept's equal potential for both humour and horror (see my original review here).


SET TO SEA By Drew Weing (Fantagraphics Books): A gentle giant of a poet is abducted into a life of high-seas adventure, with scary and ultimately uplifting results. This handsome little hardcover tells a story in full-page illustrations, in an intricately-detailed style reminiscent of conflicting influences like Tony Millionaire, Eric Shanower, Craig Thompson, and Steve Purcell. A special LBW shout-out goes to my pal Chris MacLaren to recommending this one to me after it initially flew under my radar.


THE SIXTH GUN By Cullen Bunn and Brian Hurtt (Oni Press): The weird, wild West comes alive in this supernatural oat opera. A roguish thief and an innocent young girl join forces to prevent the forces of evil from taking possession of six magically-endowed pistols, possibly at the cost of their own souls. A more rewarding monthly read than most offerings from the big two, but the first six are available in trade paperback form now too.


PARKER: THE OUTFIT By Darwyn Cooke (IDW): It’s hard to imagine how Cooke could have stepped up his game any further after his initial Richard Stark adaptation, The Hunter (see my review here), but this latest Parker caper effortlessly blows its predecessor away. Parker’s criminal fraternity wages war on the organized crime cartel of the book’s title, and the myriad of cons and stick-ups are presented in a dazzling array of different artistic styles.


THOR: THE MIGHTY AVENGER By Roger Langridge and Chris Samnee (Marvel): I hate that I live in a world where a book as charming and fun as this can’t even get a lousy twelve-issue commitment from its publisher. Marvel would likely blame it on the poor sales of all-ages books, but I’m gonna say it has more to do with the roughly eighteen zillion other Thor titles this book had to compete with for shelf space and reader dollars. It’s a damn shame, because this is easily the best of them. This freshly reimagined origin story for the Thunder God is a true "all ages" book--meaning, it's a great read for anybody, no matter their age or gender.


OFFICER DOWNE By Joe Casey and Chris Burnham (Image): The hyper-violent offspring of books like Judge Dredd and Marshal Law, this double-sized Image one-shot, starring an unkillable (or, at least, easily resuscitated) supercop, takes the prize for intricately-drawn carnage (see my original review here).


WILSON By Daniel Clowes (Drawn & Quarterly): Soon to be a film from Alexander Payne (Sideways, About Schmidt), this chronicle of an aging, disaffected loner trying desperately to connect with his estranged wife and daughter deepens with every re-reading. Come for the one-page Sunday Funnies styles, stay for the crippling emotional despair! (See my original review here.)


ATLAS By Jeff Parker and Gabriel Hardman (Marvel): I figure this latest relaunch of the revived 1950s-superteam-that-never-was (which I previously praised here) probably suffered as much from having a “Heroic Age” banner atop it as its previous incarnation (Agents of Atlas) did from having a “Dark Reign” banner atop it (take a note, Marvel, line-wide banners don’t encourage new readers, they drive them away!). Either way, five issues isn’t nearly enough to savour the globe-spanning fun of a team that featured a talking gorilla, a spaceman, and a 3D Man (among others). Let’s hope these guys make their way back into the spotlight sooner rather than later.


"Snapshot: Revelation!" from DC UNIVERSE: LEGACIES #8, By Len Wein and Frank Quitely (DC): A reasonably faithful 10-page retelling of NEW GODS #1 (with some other assorted Fourth World recaps thrown in for good measure). For straight-up clarity, call it the anti-FINAL CRISIS. And Quitely drawing Kirby's New Gods? Get outta my dreams, DC UNIVERSE: LEGACIES! Kudos to Mr. Quitely for drawing the most hideous “true face” of Orion I’ve ever seen—dude looks like he just snuck a peek into the Ark of the Covenant:


Downe By Law

 Some days, I want to read a comic book that makes me consider new ideas, or one that stretches the boundaries of the medium’s possibilities. Other days, I just want to read a comic where a guy punches another guy’s head off, and said displaced cranium is stuck on the first guy’s fist for the duration of the comic. Image’s new one-shot Officer Downe was made for just those kinds of days.

 Aimed squarely at fans of hyper-violent comics in the vein of Miller and Darrow’s Hard Boiled, Joe Casey and Chris Burnham’s Officer Downe has a pretty simple concept. In a cartoony-futuristic Los Angeles ruled by animal-headed gangsters and depraved evil geniuses, Officer Terrence Downe is the last line of defense for ordinary citizens. A nigh-indestructible supercop of Hulk-like proportions, Downe uses a combination of foolishly huge guns and freakishly large fists to mow down armies of jumpsuited ninjas and rampaging convicts. When Downe inevitably suffers enough catastrophic damage to his frame that he finally drops dead in a bloody, dismembered heap, his fellow officers recover his remains and the combined psychic might of 100 telekinetic sensitives is used to resurrect him so he can do it all over again. For about 48 of the most violent pages I’ve ever seen, that’s pretty much it. Definitely not for the faint of heart, to put it mildly.

 I keep giving scripter Joe Casey a shot with his various projects over the years, and I keep just not quite clicking with his work (I thought if anything the guy wrote did it for me, his ‘70s Kirby riff Godland would be the book, but strangely I couldn’t get into it). However, the straight-ahead high concept approach of Officer Downe did the trick this time. Chris Burnham’s unbelievably gory artwork helps a lot—clearly, this guy has been studying the combination of operatically-choregraphed mayhem, microscopic attention to detail, and over-the-top ultraviolence that has made Geof Darrow and Frank Quitely superstars. Marc Letzmann’s lively colour palette tops the whole package off nicely. Once again, though, and I can’t stress this enough—this book is not for the squeamish. It contains enough decapitiations, defenestrations, and peeled-off faces to make RoboCop director Paul Verhoeven turn away in disgust.

 A word on the format as well—I really appreciated that Officer Downe was a comic book, a double-sized, glossy-papered, done-in-one affair that isn’t squarebound, or part of a series, or likely to make its way into another collection of some sort (trade-waiting will avail you naught here). For five bucks, you get a substantial, self-contained read with a couple of extras thrown in for good measure (an interview with Casey, and a look at some of Burnham’s concept art). If you’ve ever enjoyed the irresponsible antics of proto-fascist comic book thugs like Judge Dredd or Marshal Law, you’ll be happy that Officer Downe is out there.