John Buys Comics, Unnamed Edition

I was absolutely positive that I would write an epically spectacular John Buys Comics last night. I'd read everything (for once), it was a good week full of good comics, I had these little cheesy shortbready things to snack upon... conditions were perfect. Then, disaster: my package from Topatoco arrived and I was powerless to resist the allure of Problem Sleuth and theMachine of Death. Curse my ways!

But who can blame me for loving Problem Sleuth (and by extension MSPaint Adventures)? I certainly can't! Why, brilliantly foolish comics and olde schoole adventure/puzzle games are two of my very favourite things and Andrew Hussie blends the two into something delightful. The closest thing to a criticism that I could think to level at the thing is "it's very long." and when you get right down to it, that's more like a bonus feature.

As for the comics that came out this week as opposed to several months ago, it was reminiscent of my Best of 2010 - Action Comics, Generation Lost, The Sixth Gun, Skullkickers - and they were all just as great as usual. Plus, in a callback to the Best of 2009, the trade paperback of the excellent Cursed Pirate Girl came out this week, and let me tell you again: this is one of the most original comics to come out in years, on a couple of levels.


The story of a cursed girl who gets swordfighting lessons in her dreams and follows a talking parrot on a fantastical voyage beneath the sea to find her missing pirate father (gasp) is good enough, but Jeremy Bastian's art hearkens back to the sort of intricate line drawing that started cartooning off in the first place, way back in the political cartoons in the 1800s. Except you can actually read the writing in all of the bubbles and rather than being about, say, an obscure bit of Victorian social satire, it's all little girls fighting monster octopi and murderous buccaneers.

Also new this week: Off Road by Sean Murphy!

Okay, not quite new. evidently this first came out in 2005 or so and I missed it completely. This is a shame, as I should have known about Sean Murphy years ago - between this and Joe the Barbarian he has very quickly found a place in my heart. The plot? Three guys (Trent, Brad, Greg) go offroading in Greg's new Jeep, get stuck in a swamp and have a hell of a time getting back out. It is, yes, the classic Dudes Get Into a Sticky Situation and Learn a Lot About Themselves and Each Other story, but it's a very satisfying example of the breed. It's always a joy to find out that someone whose art you dig can also sling a tale, and Murphy has definitely made the list.

Oh Yes, It's the End of the Best of 2010

I will be brief.

Here are the new series that wowed me in the dearly departed 2010.

Age of Reptiles - Is it wrong that I weigh the amazing panoramic vistas and incredibly rendered herds of multiple dinosaur species and the wordless drama of predator v. prey as highly as the puerile giggles I get whenever I spot a dinosaur taking a whizz?

Beasts of Burden - Okay, so the only new thing to come out this year was the Hellboy crossover. I don't care - I love this comic. Plus, the trade that came out a few months ago is a joy to behold.

Bulletproof Coffin - An amazingly weird series with beautiful, vibrantly-coloured art. If the last issue had come out before today it might have made the big list (closure is important, dammit).

Culture Corner - Basil Wolverton doesn't get anywhere near the recognition that he deserves nowadays, so it was wonderful to see this collection of his typically bizarre advice comics.

Gorilla Man - I am a connoisseur of great big smart-mouth heros who end up punching their way out of trouble a lot and let me tell you, Ken Hale is one of the best.

Justice League: Generation Lost - Possibly the best super-hero comic to come out this year. Definitely the best thing to come out of Brightest Day.

Scott Pilgrim's Finest Hour - So obvious I almost forgot to include it.

Skullkickers - I get the feeling that if one more issue had come out before the year ended it'd have been in the top ten. Another comic that pushes a lot of my Dungeon Master buttons - Shorty and Baldy have that special combination of ingenuity and complete insanity that marks all of my players' characters.

Strange Science Fantasy - Pretty sure this is going to be on Dave's list, and it deserves to be. Personally, I was sold the instant that the Shogunaut showed up.

Strange Tales II - All the joy of Strange Tales, with a far more consistent level of quality! Whee!

Stumptown - Take the classic noir detective and his drunken, big-mouth, getting-roughed-up all the time ways and now make him a lady and put him in the present day. That is this comic and it is a treat.

Superf*ckers - Kochalka's off-colour spin on the teen super-team, collected at last!

Super Pro KO - Any comic that captures the late 80s/early 90s insanity that was professional wrestling gets my vote.

Tick New Series - It's been almost exactly a year and Benito Cereno has been knocking this comic out of the park consistently. I can't imagine that the Tick is a character that just anyone can write - you need to hit just the right notes to make him work. Applause!

Turf - Gangsters, vampires, aliens and plucky girl reporters. It was either going to be awful or amazing. Hooray!

Underground - A comic that was mostly about people trying to kill other people deep under the earth, which makes me uncomfortable like little else can. Quiet down, nascent claustrophobia.

Xenozoic - Another collected edition rather than new material, but one that was overdue. 

And that, as they say, is that. Brevity, thy name is Johnathan.

Good night!

A Fresh New Year: Time For the Best of 2010

Well hell. This has been sitting here as a draft for two days. Pretend that didn't happen.

Yes, everything is shiny and new in 2011 and my hose is abuzz with the sounds of my girlfriend tossing things out to make room for all the junk sweet loot that we were presented with over the last week or so. Time to look back on 2010 and lay down some opinions on just what the very best graphical literature to come out over the course of the year was.

I made up a list that was about a million items long and managed to whittle it down to the ten comics, graphic novels, trade paperbacks or whatever that brought me the largest amount of joy this year - no other judging criteria were used. Also, they will be presented in alphabetical order because I am far too lazy to go through the agony of numbering them in either ascending or descending order.

Axe Cop


Hey, it's this again! Yes, it may have just came out a couple of weeks ago but this trade definitely deserves its place on the list of greatest joy-givers. The team of 6 year-old Malachai Nicholle and his 30 year-old brother Ethan produce some of the most legitimately hilarious comics I have ever encountered. You can tell that every idea that Malachai puts forth is chosen for its complete awesomeness and delivered with supreme enthusiasm, while Ethan displays not only impressive technical ability (translation: his drawings are totally sweet) but is an important secondary storyteller as he chooses when to interpret what his brother says literally and when to embellish or downplay in order to create a smoothly-flowing narrative.

Plus, you know, it has a scene where everyone in London soils themselves simultaneously, which is pretty funny.

Crogan's March


Huh. Oni's website claims that this came out last December. Well, no matter, because I didn't see it until February and it's great and I love it.

Crogan's March is the second in the Crogan Adventures by Chris Schweizer, the first being Crogan's Vengeance which came out in 2008 and the next being Crogan's Loyalty, which can't come out soon enough. The series takes place as a series of stories that a father tells his two sons about their ancestors - in this case a member of the French Foreign Legion - in order to teach them lessons about life.

The tale of Legionnaire Peter Crogan and his days in the desert is filled with characters who exemplify a series of world views: loyalty, cowardice, colonialism as stewardship, colonialism as bullying. This makes every character in the book compelling and delightful, while also lending weight to both the humour,  horror and pathos of the tale. I can't recommend this one enough.


This should be no surprise, as I've been going on and on about this series all year. One more time: this is a comic by Fabio Moon and Gabriel Bá, about the life of a man named Brás. Each issue takes place at a point in his life between childhood and old age and tells a self-contained story, and each issue ends with Brás' death. The art is as amazing as usual for Bá and Moon, and the portrait of Brás that you develop over the course of the series - complete with multiple potential paths, a web of relationships and enough ambiguity to satisfy but not enrage - is entirely worth the read.

Grandeville: Mon Amour


Another late entry, but Bryan Talbot has scored a decisive hit on my psyche with this series. In case you missed it, here's the skinny: in the late 1800s, the books follow DI LeBrock as he unravels world-shaking plots in an England that has just emerged from the domination of a monarchical French empire. There are fascinating tidbits of alternate history to unravel, bizarre spins on real-world politics, nods to the Euro comics of my youth and genuinely exciting action sequences - a winning combination for ensnaring Johnathans. Plus, everyone is an anthropomorphic animal of some kind, if you like that kind of thing.

I, Zombie

This one is simple: I like weird stories about the supernatural, I like girl detectives and I like Mike Allred, so I like I, Zombie. That might be where things ended but Chris Robeson has really been delighting me with his writing, starting with the aforementioned girl detective stuff and introducing a fairly delightful cast of characters to act as allies and foils to zombie Gwen and her pals as they attempt to solve the problems that she acquires along with the gooky sustenance that she derives from her monthly meal of human brains. Plus: one of the better explanations for the supernatural that I've ever encountered.

Joe the Barbarian

There is some conflict raging in my mind of the inclusion of this one. On the one hand, I've been living in suspense while waiting for the final issue for so long that I'm inclined to be spiteful, but on the other... there's a reason for the suspense, and it's that the comic is just so damned. good.

This is, of course, another one that I've been going on and on about this year, but in case you're new or have been tuning me out: the titular barbarian is a youngster named Joe with a semi-troubled life that includes an absent father, money woes and school bullying. He's also, as of the first issue of the series, going into diabetic shock on a massive scale. In one sense, that's all that this book is about: a kid going downstairs to get a can of pop so that he doesn't die. BUT. Grant Morrison and Sean Murphy have taken that mundane-if-important trip and dramatized it as an epic journey through a disaster-stricken fantasy land, a quest to find and defeat Lord Death. The action changes perspectives between the real and fantasy world frequently and introduces a fair amount of doubt as to whether the other world is real or just some sort of diabetes hallucination. Morrison and Murphy have done something wonderful here; now I just need it to end and I'll be just as happy as a clam.

Orc Stain


I think that the first issue of Orc Stain came out in January last year. It was early 2010, anyway. The important thing is this: I knew that it would be on my Best of 2010 list as soon as I read that initial comic. James Stokoe has created a world that is filled with detail and crazy creatures - some of them functioning as everyday objects like safes or beverage containers - and societies and then filled it with his take on the classic fantasy orc: wild, drunken, violent, nameless savages that ravage the countryside in search of loot and ladies, but now with their own society and with a sympathetic edge that most low-HD humanoids lack. The first six issues have been concerned with getting protagonist One Eye, a thoughtful and talented orc of few words, in way over his head as a potential pawn of the power-seeking Orctzar as he attempts to unite the chaotic orcish tribes and conquer the entire world.

Parker: the Outfit

Richard Stark's Parker novels are basically amazing: the titular Parker is a near-emotionless and entirely ruthless career thief who spend each book meticulously planning and executing a robbery, as well as (usually) dealing with some bullplop that he never asked for. There are very few people who I would have considered able to adapt the feel of those books to a comic page, but any list that I might have made up would have definitely been topped by Darwyn Cooke, so it's a pretty good deal for me that he started adapting them a couple of years ago. Not only has he nail the mid-Sixties style of the first few books perfectly but his strong character design skills ensure that the books' cast of interesting characters make the transition to the illustrated page without becoming the usual smear of bland sameness.

The Sixth Gun

And alphabetically last: The Sixth Gun by Cullen Bunn and Brian Hurtt. An innocent girl is dragged into a conflict between an amoral wanderer and an undead Revolutionary War general as they attempt to gain control over a set of six enchanted pistols older than the human race. The Wild West is given a supernatural history that is unique and thematically appropriate, the art looks amazing and seven issues in I'm still trying to puzzle things out. In a good way, not a bad writing way - I know that someday I'll reread these earlier issues and have astonishing retroactive insights and be well pleased. Plus: cowboys!

And that's the lot. Tune in tomorrow (and yesterday, dang it) for supplemental lists of runners-up.

Johnathan... out.

Supplemental Best of 2010: Lots of Text!

As I said, I had an enormous list of potential "Best of" candidates that were ruthlessly whittled down to the top ten that has by now been enshrined in the hearts of nerdlingers everywhere. But why should all of my hard work go to waste, huh? Thus: the runners-up post.

First up, a list of books that I unfairly disqualified due to the fact that they have continued to be good rather than attaining greatness this year. Sustained quality should be praised but is kind of wearying to write about. Still, many of these brought me just as much delight as anything else this year.

Action Comics - The Superman books have been all over the place this year, but through it all, Action has been a safe haven. And now it features Lex Luthor and Jimmy Olsen, the two greatest Metropolitans of all!

Atomic Robo - Brian Clevinger has already attained a place in my "Top Comics of All Time" with this series, and every time he brings something like Dr. Dinosaur or the electric ghost of Thomas Edison into the mix he just nudges himself a bit higher up the charts.

BATMANS - Probably would have made the big list, only I felt kind of squirrelly typing in "Detective Comics, every other issue of Batman, the Return of Bruce Wayne, Batgirl, Batwoman, Batman Inc, Batman and Robin, Red Robin, Knight and Squire, that one 80-Page Giant and about half of Joker's Asylum II" as one comic. But seriously, this has been a great year for Batman.

Casanova - I completely missed the boat on this comic the first time around, so these reprints are a godsend to me.

Chew - I would love Chew if it were just a list of amazing new food-related superpowers in a spiral-bound notebook. The fact that it is an amazing comic is just gravy.

Doom Patrol - I love all incarnations of the Doom Patrol, even John Byrne's (but not as much as the others), so having Keith Giffen writing a fun, funny series that does a pretty danged amazing job of synthesizing their ultra-damaged continuity into something that works is like getting a birthday present every month.

Hellboy - Unless Mike Mignola goes crazy some day, and it is a very specific kind of crazy that causes him to make boring comics, this will always be on my list. Not only were the regular series filled with amazing revelations to delight the senses but there were two whole one-shot issues - a rare and amazing occurrence!

King City - More amusement per page than any other comic out there, plus lotsa great cat characters. If you like that kind of thing.

Power Girl - Of course no Power Girl comic will ever equal the Amanda Conner era and there have been a few rough patches, but I am still enjoying this, and as that was way more than I expected I shall tip my hat accordingly.

REBELS - It is an inarguable fact that the more Brainiacs you have in a comic, the better it is. Well, this book currently averages 3-5 per issue. It's a no-brainer!

Secret Six - Super-villains! Gail Simone writes super-villains like nobody's business - watching Bane become a likeable and interesting character was like watching an intricate magic trick. I saw it, I don't quite know how it was done and I am filled with delight.

Sweet Tooth - Jeff Lemire just keeps on filling me with that delicious despair. Odds of there being a happy ending: LOW.

Unwritten - Continues to shine. I just tried to think of an especially incredible issue to highlight here and ended up thinking of every issue in the series, sequentially. 

Usagi Yojimbo - Stan Sakai just hits this comic out of the park every issue. I kick myself that I didn't buy it for so long.

I have a bunch more, actually, but I'll leave them until tomorrow, lest you tire of me.