Thursday, December 11, 2008

top ten (nine) graphic novels

  • Top Five Doctor Who (DWM) Comics
    Top Ten Batman Stories
    Top Ten Graphic Novels
    Top Ten Books
    Top Fifteen Radio Plays
    Top Ten Fan Fic

    Top Ten (well, Nine) Graphic Novel/Comics Collections

    While I’ve read enough Batman comics to make an informed choice in this category, I haven’t really skimmed the surface of other graphic novel collections partially because I haven’t been given clear recommendations other than the obvious (and by the way, no, I have not read Watchmen yet). Still, it felt like I’d read enough to at least acknowledge where I’d found excellence.
  • 9. Manga Shakespeare: Richard III (Shakespeare/Patrick Warren)I was wandering Borders in Fforestfach some time ago, trying to figure out what to spend my gift voucher on. From the moment I laid eyes on Richard III, I knew it was destiny. Though my favorite play Hamlet was there on the display along with Romeo and Juliet and The Tempest (and I’d like to acquire all the books in this series someday) I made my move on Richard III. Only later did Adi point out that Richard was drawn quite a lot like that other Richard (as in Armitage) which must have influenced me on a subconscious level as I had not started the obsession with that Richard yet. (To be honest, the first thing I thought when I picked up the book was that Richard was drawn like how I had drawn my Hamlet, who was in turn based on Vampire Hunter D, but that’s another story.) This is Patrick Warren’s first full-length graphic novel, and his art is stunning. With Shakespeare’s immortal prose (a bit edited, it’s true), it makes a fascinating combination. Many-a-time, I’ve been struck with buyer’s remorse—but with this, never.
  • 8. Batman: Ego (Darwyn Cooke) This was the first Batman comic I picked up, and it’s still one of my favorites-a serendipitous choice, obviously. It contains Catwoman: Selina’s Big Score, which as I mentioned previously, is one of my favorite Batman stories, as well as the titular story and a few other gems (though it contains the first Tim Sale production I ever saw, where Catwoman looked like a man and hence put me off Sale for awhile!).
  • 7. Fables: Legends in Hiding (Willingham/Medina) As usual, I approached things backwards and started reading vol.8 of Fables before I got to vol. 1. But it intrigued me enough to go back to the beginning, and with Bill Willingham’s clever scripts and my affinity for fairy tales revisited, it was clear it was a good match. This may be a slim volume, but it’s bursting with creative concept, humor, and narrative-driven, action-packed art. Much appeal rides on the Wolf—Bigby—a detective rather than a huggable sheep-worrier, but certainly the same genre of tough-guy, yet oddly, disarmingly, charming. The premise is that the Fables (as the fairy tale characters are called) fled to the world of the Mundanes (Mundys) after the Adversary drove them from the Homelands. Since they are long-lived (immortal?) they’ve been in hiding for a long time. The majority live in New York City with certain protective measures, while “nonhuman” creatures are on the Farm in upstate New York. There’s a wonderfully wicked humor running throughout, as Bill Willingham seems to take perverse pleasure—as did Stephen Sondheim before him—in making our childhood characters into swearing, smoking, debauching moderns. The art is quite good, too, and very distinctive.
  • 6. The World Shapers (Alan McKenzie/Mike Collins/Jamie Delano/John Ridgway)I had to name at least one Doctor Who comic collection, and looking back, this one seemed to have the most consistent ability to impress me both with its stories and its art. I already noted that I loved “The Gift,” but the titular story, while slightly fan-wanky, is a joy. There’s a ridiculous but very funny comic called “Salad Daze,” and “Profits of Doom” is also quite hilarious. Ridgway retains an uncanny ability to draw Colin Baker to perfection (though unfortunately sometimes his Peri looks like Nyssa!). I also really loved the Eighth Doctor collection, The Flood.
  • 5. Batman Begins: The Movie & Other Tales of the Dark Knight (Beatty/Plunkett/LaPointe/O’Neill/Giordano/Burchett/Rucka/Brubaker/McDaniel/Willingham/ Fowler) I know from first-hand experience how difficult it is to draw comics characters who actually look like their real-life film and TV antecedents—ie, the actors. The artists here do that stunningly, for all the characters. I’ve been complaining ever since I started my comic-reading quest that I’d much prefer Batman to look like Christian Bale than anyone else, and what unabashed, fangirlish joy for me to at last experience that. The strength of this collection is the four other stories the brainiac behind all this chose to match up with the story of the film, as they are all similar in tone to the Nolan!verse. “The Man Who Falls” by Denny O’Neil and legend Dick Giordano must have influenced Batman: Year One and the Nolan!verse. The drawing style of “Air Time,” by Rick Burchett, reminds me of Heroes for some reason, and it’s the colors, as well as the innovative panelling and strongly technical inking, that keeps the non-traditional narrative, er, afloat. Equally legendary Ed Brubaker contributes a morally uplifting story that perfectly complements Scott McDaniel’s active, colorful art in “Reasons.” That genius Bill Willingham contributes “Urban Legend” which is worth the price of the volume on its own. I have almost never laughed so hard at a comic in my life. With very great reluctance I returned this volume to the library, and it’s definitely going on my to-own list.
  • 4. V for Vendetta (Alan Moore/David Lloyd) From Hell was the first graphic novel I ever read, back in 2005 when I was preparing to co-teach Gothic Horror in the Honors program. Its scale impressed me, but we decided not to teach it in the course! I next saw the film of V for Vendetta, and it influenced me on one of my very few (and therefore memorable) immediate gratification purchases. I had to get the graphic novel. I did, and though I later went on to read The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, I decided V for Vendetta was the Moore story I would choose to represent the legend in my top nine list.
  • 3. Cancer Vixen (Marisa A. Marchetto) Missouri Review had it up there as one of the greatest graphic memoirs. Marchetto proves that not only can a woman write and draw her own comics, she can sell them to the New Yorker, she can marry the man of her dreams at 43, and she can successfully foil cancer. Don’t be put off by the fact Marchetto seems somewhat Sex and the City, she is a funny, inventive, tough chica and artist. Her art and writing move fluidly, and her unique vision of the world is both appealing and realistic. If anyone has to face more rejection than a writer, it’s a cartoonist. Marchetto is no-nonsense about the lack of women in her field and she is quick to admit to her own irresponsible behavior when she allows her insurance with the Writers Guild to lapse. But she is extremely sympathetic, and I can relate to her in so many ways. I don’t know if a man would read Cancer Vixen in the same way, but for me it’s one of the most powerful books I’ve read all year.
  • 2. Harley & Ivy (Dini/del Carmen/Chiodo/Timm) Harley & Ivy was one of the first Batman comics I read, and I have photocopied pages from it all over the walls of my room. There’s something so appealing in the way it’s drawn (even if the male artists do their damndest to get our two super-villainesses naked), and Dini writes like no one else. Harley is his girl, he created her, and as comic characters, Harley and Ivy are quite fun. Necessarily because the universe is more like Batman: The Animated Series, there is less violence and grimness than in Batman: Detective, and it’s kind of screwball entertainment. It’s very funny, and I love Dini’s vision of the Joker as well. It’s surprising how sweet the Clown Prince of Crime and Harley Quinn can be together.
  • 1. Serenity: Those Left Behind (Joss Whedon/Brett Matthews/Will Conrad) With the writing talents of Joss Whedon, how could this graphic novel from the Firefly universe go wrong? The writing is laugh-out-loud funny in places, particularly where River is concerned, and all the characters are perfectly written. There’s fuel for the fire for us Mal/Inara shippers, and some lovely Simon/Kaylee and Wash/Zoe moments. That said, the art is just superb. There are some pin-ups for the cast that are among the best I’ve EVER seen, for any fandom, and more than any other comic I know that’s based off of TV/movie characters (ie, so the drawings have to look like the actors), the likenesses are incredible. There’s also a wonderfully-warming, feel-good introduction by Nathan Fillion who looks so goddamn good as Mal in these pages. Just a tour-de-force of fun. I tried the Buffy graphic novels, but I just must be part of the 0.01% of people who don’t get Buffy.

No comments: