Archive for December, 2006

JPK’s Best Of 2006 List

December 18, 2006 | Comics

Best of 2006 Just about every e-mail I get from readers of this column contains the same question: What comics are you reading right now that you’d recommend? So without further ado, here are my picks for the best of 2006: Best graphic novel: Lost Girls (Top Shelf Productions) Lost Girls was easily the most groundbreaking work of 2006. This three-volume collection — written by visionary Alan Moore with sumptuous art by Melinda Gebbie — has the power to change your perceptions of the word "pornography" by using familiar characters — Alice from Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland, Dorothy from The Wizard Of Oz and Wendy from Peter Pan — to present something that is spectacularly literate yet unabashedly pornographic. Other contenders: Pride Of Baghdad (Vertigo/DC Comics), Fables: 1001 Nights Of Snowfall (Vertigo/DC Comics) Best ongoing series: All-Star Superman (DC Comics) Writer Grant Morrison and artist Frank Quitely might just be the best one-two punch in comics. Their collaborations include such critically acclaimed books as New X-Men and We3, but All-Star Superman might be the best one yet. Quitely’s finely detailed art style and Morrison’s sensationally cerebral and witty storytelling have taken this simple re-imagining of Superman’s life and made it a must-read series. Now if only they could stick to their bimonthly schedule, instead of the five-month break like the one between issues #5 and #6. Other contenders: Daredevil (Marvel Comics), Fell (Image Comics), Invincible (Image Comics) Best new series: The Irredeemable Ant-Man (Marvel Comics) Finally, a series about a shrinking man who does what most men would actually do with those powers: Spy on women in the shower. The Irredeemable Ant-Man’s cover tag reads: "The world’s most unlikable super hero" and Eric O’Grady lives up to every ounce of that label by stealing the experimental Ant-Man armour and using it to pick up women — especially vulnerable ones. Sick, twisted fun courtesy of writer Robert Kirkman and artists Phil Hester and Ande Parks. Other contenders: Star Wars: Legacy (Dark Horse Comics), Nextwave: Agents Of H.A.T.E. (Marvel Comics), Justice League Of America (DC Comics) Best miniseries: Mouse Guard (Archaia Studios Press) Writer/artist David Petersen’s sweeping and lavishly illustrated tale of three heroic mice’s struggles to save their homeland from invasion is a revelation. Not many people had heard of Petersen prior to this book’s surprising surge in 2006, but it’s safe to say we’ll be hearing a lot more of him in the future. Other contenders: Marvel Zombies (Marvel Comics), Civil War (Marvel Comics), Eternals (Marvel Comics), Escapists (Dark Horse Comics) Best single issue: The Walking Dead #33 (Image Comics) What came before: In a world where the dead wander the earth and feast on the living, three survivors — Rick, Michonne and Glenn — are captured and taken to the town of Woodbury, where the evil "governor" proceeds to chop off Rick’s hand and repeatedly (and violently) rape Michonne, while Glenn is forced to listen. Now: This treatment of prisoners comes back to haunt the "governor" in a big way in this issue, as Michonne gets her revenge by slowly and exhaustively torturing him using such implements as a power drill, acetylene torch, hammer and nails and spoon. Never has one issue made comic fans squirm so much. Other contenders: All-Star Superman #5 (DC Comics), The Amazing Spider-Man #533 (Marvel Comics), Daredevil #82 (Marvel Comics), Infinite Crisis #7 (DC Comics), Savage Dragon #125 (Image Comics) Comeback series of the year: Savage Dragon Erik Larsen took over as publisher of a wavering Image Comics a couple of years ago and has really helped turn things around. This was great news for fans of the company — renowned for its fantastic variety of titles and creators — but not too good for supporters of Larsen’s long-running series, Savage Dragon. With all that business stuff on his plate, Larsen was forced to put the book on hiatus. But in early 2006, Savage Dragon returned and a rejuvenated Larsen brought his "A" game with action-packed resolutions to some lingering plot threads and a few new twists to keep fans looking forward to 2007. Other contenders: Deathblow (Wildstorm/DC Comics), The Spirit (DC Comics)

Holiday gift guide 2006

December 4, 2006 | Trades

There are seven days of Kwanzaa, eight nights of Hanukah and 12 days of Christmas — that’s nearly a month full of holiday fun for you to give your friends and family that perfect comic book gift. There are plenty of great choices this year, beginning with The Complete Invincible Library Vol. 1 (Image Comics, $125). This nearly 800-page volume collects the first 24 issues and a whole lot more of what is arguably the best super-hero comic around in one limited-edition book. Four stunning deluxe slip-cased hardcover Absolute Edition books have been released by DC Comics over the past few months and any one of them would make an amazing gift. Choose from The Absolute Edition of DC: The New Frontier by Canada’s Darwyn Cooke ($100), Absolute Kingdom Come by Mark Waid and Alex Ross ($100), Absolute Dark Knight by Frank Miller ($134.99) and The Absolute Sandman Vol. 1 by Neil Gaiman and others ($120). One annual classic gift is the ongoing collection of Charles M. Schultz’s The Complete Peanuts (Fantagraphics Books, $28.95 US). This year’s two volumes, covering 1959-62, are also available as a set in a lovely slipcase for $49.95 US. A new tradition to begin this year is Hank Ketcham’s Complete Dennis The Menace (Fantagraphics Books, $24.95 US). The first two volumes of this series, spanning 1951-54, are also available in a slip-cased set at a bargain deal for just $39.95 US. That comic book film buff on your list might like a copy of 300 by Frank Miller and Lynn Varley (Dark Horse Books, $30). The film version of this epic set in the Greco-Persian wars will hit theatres in March. You can help Canadian comic fans connect with their roots by giving them a copy of Invaders From The North: How Canada Conquered The Comic Book Universe by John Bell (The Dundurn Group, $40). Bell examines over 150 years worth of history and profiles some of our nation’s top talent in this terrific tome. If you’d prefer to balance your gift giving with your philanthropy, give the gift of Drawing The Line or Drawing The Line Again (Fengsuli Press, $21 each). These two outstanding anthologies, which feature work by such noted creators as Moebius, Stan Sakai, Bill Sienkiewicz and Dave Sim, along with dozens of others, sees 100 per cent of its proceeds split between the SickKids Foundation and the Princess Margaret Hospital Foundation going directly to cancer research, education and equipment. Organizers have already raised over $18,000 and you can add to the total by ordering at

Y: The Last Man Vol. 8 — Kimono Dragons

December 4, 2006 | Trades

Y: The Last Man Vol. 8 — Kimono Dragons Brian K. Vaughan, Pia Guerra, Goran Sudzuka, José Marzan Jr. Vertigo/DC Comics $19.99/$14.99 US (Paperback) **** (out of five) Reunited and it feels so good. Not to get all Peaches And Herb on you, or to spoil any key plot points, but Kimono Dragons sees Yorick Brown, A.K.A. the last man on earth, finally locate his monkey Ampersand after the animal’s shocking abduction two collections ago. But in typical Y: The Last Man fashion, there’s a beautifully bizarre road to be traveled in both the locating and the freeing of the little creature. Yorick, along with his traveling companions, the mysterious Agent 355 and even more secretive Dr. Alison Mann (along with her new girlfriend, Rose), arrive in Japan in search of Ampersand, who contains the cure to the plague that wiped out all the men. Y and 355 head to Tokyo on the monkey trail that involves android prostitutes, a Canadian Yakuza pop diva and more, while Rose and Mann head to the latter’s home in search of her mother and wind up in a fight for their lives and perhaps even the identity of the person behind the Gendercide. Four year into its planned five-year run, Y: The Last Man is the model of consistency. The stories and weird, wonderful and utterly compelling and the mysteries built up over the life of the series will make for a heck of a payoff over the final year.

Gotham Central Vol. 4: The Quick And The Dead

December 4, 2006 | Trades

Gotham Central Vol. 4: The Quick And The Dead Greg Rucka, Michael Lark, Stefano Gaudino DC Comics $19.99/$14.99 US (Paperback) **** (out of five) The Gotham City Police Department’s Major Crimes Unit is facing its toughest test. After the brutal events of 2004’s Batman: Gang War, which saw dozens of cops killed and the Dark Knight stage a hostile takeover of the GCPD, Commissioner Michael Akins declares the vigilante a criminal and orders his officers to refuse to cooperate with him ever again. When a beat cop has his physiology radically altered by a chemical trap, detectives Renee Montoya and Crispus Allen have track down the person responsible. When it turns out to be the villain Doctor Alchemy, the officers may have no choice but to accept Batman’s assistance — whether they want it or not. This sadly missed series — it ended in February 2006 — was just so incredibly well put together and it really shows in The Quick And The Dead. There’re only a few brief cameos by Batman and the book proves it doesn’t need that famous face to shine. The characters were so darned strong (as evidenced by Montoya’s current starring role in DC’s 52 and Allen’s turn as the new Spectre). There’s still a couple of collections to come to finish Gotham Central’s 40-issue run in trade paperbacks and one can’t help but wonder if they’d rushed the collections of this series out a little faster if it could have propelled it into stardom where it belonged.

Noble Causes Vol. 6: Hidden Agendas

December 4, 2006 | Trades

Noble Causes Vol. 6: Hidden Agendas Jay Faerber, Fran Bueno, Freddie Williams Image Comics $15.99 US (Paperback) **** (out of five) The Nobles have been the most popular family on the planet for a very long time. But things can change. Doc Noble’s old foe Hunter Blackthorne has been released from prison and after reuniting with his wife and children — who like the Nobles all have super-powers — he immediately begins plotting the perfect revenge on the heroes. In a fantastic web of deceit, lies and treachery, the Blackthornes conspire to knock the Nobles off their pedestal and even worse — take it for themselves. Noble Causes continues to be the best super-hero soap opera around, blending the best of the Bold And The Beautiful and The Brave And The Bold.

Conan: Book Of Thoth

December 4, 2006 | Trades

Conan: Book Of Thoth Kurt Busiek, Len Wein & Kelley Jones Dark Horse Books $17.95 US (Paperback) **** (out of five) The star power alone would be a reason to pick up Conan: Book Of Thoth. You’ve just can’t go wrong with any title that features regular Conan writer Kurt Busiek (Astro City), Swamp Thing and Wolverine co-creator Len Wein and horror comics’ master illustrator Kelley Jones (Batman). But better than the sums of those talents is the sweeping epic they’ve created. Book Of Thoth is a true chiller featuring, for the first time ever, the origin of Conan’s most reviled enemy, the sorcerer Thoth-Amon. From his beginnings as a street urchin and his first murder to his discovery of the snake god Set and his mischievous and duplicitous rise to power in the nation of Stygia, the book is grand and glorious in its portrayal of the lure of power. On top of this super story, Jones is at the top of his craft, with lush and moody page after page showing why nobody can do horror books any better.

Nightwing: Renegade

December 4, 2006 | Trades

Nightwing: Renegade Devin Grayson, Phil Hester, Ande Parks DC Comics $19.99/$14.99 US (Paperback) ** ½ (out of five) Dick Grayson: Renegade. Ugh. So here’s the deal: Grayson, A.K.A. Nightwing, is purportedly so fed up with having a bad year (he got shot during Batman: Gang War) that he tries to infiltrate the mob and then the Secret Society of Super-villains by acting mopey, getting a new (and hideous) costume and taking the name Renegade. Again: Ugh. Not even the appearance of Deathstroke, one of the coolest bad guys around can save this one. Thank goodness for One Year Later so we can fast forward and hopefully forget any of this ever happened.

Batman/The Spirit #1

December 4, 2006 | Comics

Batman/The Spirit #1 Jeph Loeb, Darwyn Cooke DC Comics $6.75/$4.99 US **** ½ (out of five) Batman. The Spirit. Jeph Loeb. Darwyn Cooke. What else do you need to know? OK, let’s try it this way: two classic heroes, an amazing assortment of their evil foes, one of the hottest writers in the world (that’s Loeb, whose TV gig Heroes is one of the year’s hottest shows) and an Eisner and Joe Shuster Award-winning artist (that’s Cooke). DC couldn’t have picked a better team to handle this new classic adventure. Loeb and Cooke both throw themselves into this slightly campy adventure and the result is a fun, fresh ride on a trip down memory lane. Will Eisner would’ve loved it.

Meltdown: Book 1

December 4, 2006 | Comics

Meltdown: Book 1 (of 2) David B. Schwartz, Sean Wang Image Comics $6.80/$5.99 US *** 1/2 (out of five) The Flare is one hot super-hero — too hot, in fact. He’s found out that his powers are killing him —within a matter of days he’ll go up in a puff of smoke. So in an effort to go out in a blaze of glory, The Flare is going to take every super-villain he can with him. As readers learn about the hero’s past, both the good and the bad, they are led to his inevitable final conflict with his nemesis, Maelstrom, who just might hasten The Flare’s trip into the great beyond. From the minute you see the striking Chris Bachalo cover to this series you’ll get sucked in. There aren’t a lot of original concepts here, it’s simply a really well told super-hero story, with an interesting protagonist and some eye-catching art. Go ahead and pick one up and try to resist.

The Killer #1

December 4, 2006 | Comics

The Killer #1 (of 10) Matz, Luc Jacamon Archaia Studios Press $3.95 US **** (out of five) I love French comics. There’s just this fantastic feel to so much of the work coming from that country, especially over the past few years. Whenever some of these beauties are translated into English — and unfortunately right now it’s coming at a snail’s pace — they are treats to be savoured. Such is the case of Matz and Jacamon’s The Killer. This moody and striking series, first published from 1998 to 2003, is regarded as a classic in Europe and it’s easy to see why. This first issue sees the unnamed assassin sitting in wait for his next victim as his mind wanders from his recent slayings to his inauspicious beginnings. It’s probably best that the rest of The Killer will be parsed out over the next nine months because it seems like a meal best served in multiple courses, lest it be devoured too hastily and not savoured as it should.