There is really only one rule that really matters for this category: It has to have been printed before, either digitally or physically. This could be a collection of previously printed comics, a translation of work that’s been available in other countries, or a compilation of work that’s been previously only available on the web.
10. Torpedo Vol. 4 & 5 by Enrique Sanchez Abduli & Jordi Bernet (IDW)
One of the better translation attempts in recent years has been IDWs beautiful hardcover collections of these striking Italian crime comics by Enrique Sanchez and Jordi Bernet. On the surface, these are short black and white pieces about a tough immigrant hood trying to claw his way up the criminal ladder in 1930′s New York, but in actuality these are really slice of life stories, and they cover everything from crime, to the immigrant experience, to sex, and everything in between. In some ways this is a companion piece to Will Eisner’s Spirit character, just told from the viewpoint of the villain.
P.S. If what you just read feels a little familiar, it’s because it’s word for word what I wrote about Torpedo Vol. 3 last year. I regret nothing.
9. American Barbarian by Tom Scioli (Adhouse)
Adhouse reaffirms their commitment to quality bookmaking with this beautiful hardcover collection of Tom Scioli’s bizarre adventure web comic. Although not the most accessible comic on this list, Sciollis love letter to the Kamandi era of Jack Kirbys’ resume has plenty to recommend about it. It’s post apocalyptic madness masked in a blanket of four colour craziness. Now that Godland is wrapping up I’d love to see Scioli play in this sandbox again.
8. Hellboy Library Edition Volume 5 by Mike Mignola & Duncan Fegredo (Dark Horse)
I keep saying that as long as Dark Horse keeps producing these oversized collections of Mike Mignola’s Hellboy comics, I’ll keep putting them on my Best Of Lists. Well, next year’s Volume 6 might be the last time we see one for a while, as for the first time in Hellboy history there won’t be enough material in the can to produce the next volume. There is plenty in this volume to keep us occupied until Mignola catches up, with Mignola and Fegredo’s The Wild Hunt & Darkness Calls being the centerpiece of the whole thing. It’s a little ironic that Fegredo’s last work on Hellboy for the foreseeable future ended up being the best work of his career to date.
7. Creepy Presents: Richard Corben by Richard Corben, various. (Dark Horse)
Collections like this are usually saved for artists at the end of their careers. But judging by Corben’s prodigious output in 2012 he’s just getting started. This book collects much of Corben’s early work for seminal 70s horror anthologies like Creepy and Eerie. As such, some of it is pretty raw, without the discipline that would be become a hallmark of his later art. But it’s that very roughness that drew people to his work in the first place. Much of this work still retains its creepy, gothic power even now, 30 years later.
6. Flex Mentallo: Man Of Muscle Mystery – The Deluxe Edition by Grant Morrison & Frank Quitely (Vertigo)
Although this is one of the most incomprehensible pieces of gobbledygook in Grant Morrison’s career (and that, my friends, is saying something), it also happens to be one of the best pieces of gobbledygook in Frank Quitely’s career, which is also saying something. I’m not sure why these two seem to be able to bring such memorable work out of each other, but I’m not complaining. Mentallo has been out of print in english for over 15 years, and so this beautifully put together deluxe hardcover was a welcome addition to my library this year. It’s a dazzling piece of comic art that still holds up after all these years.
5. Blacksad: A Silent Hell by Juan Diaz Canales & Juanjo Guarnido (Dark Horse)
It was a toss-up as to which category this would go under, but ultimately I chose reprints since it was published in Europe last year. There is always been a smell of gimmick around the Blacksad books, and I don’t actually believe that there would be much interest in these generic noir detective tales if a talking animal wasn’t the star of them. But it’s that anthropomorphic sensibility that makes Blacksad work as well as it does. A Silent Hell lacks some of the emotional weight that previous Blacksad books have, but Guarnido’s lush artwork more than makes up for it.
4. King City by Brandon Graham (Image)
In a world where everything seems to be available all of the time, it’s a little odd that finding physical copies of Brandon Graham’s King City has been almost impossible up until now. After years of wrangling with King City’s original publisher, Graham finally was able to put out a soft cover collection of all 12 issues of this indie epic this year. Graham is really in a league of his own here, with a unique blend of dystopian sci-fi & indie hipness that you’d be hard pressed to find elsewhere.
3. MonsterMen & Other Scary Stories by Gary Gianni (Dark Horse)
Before the current crop of mediocre “monster hunter” comics stank up the stands on a regular basis, there was MonsterMen, a gothic masterpiece by one of the most underrated artists in comic history. This comprehensive collection of the entire MonsterMen oeuvre is long overdue, and to Gianni’s credit doesn’t feel dated at all. What the book lacks in plotting complexity it more than makes up for with Gianni’s detailed, meticulous line work, and experienced storytelling sensibilities. They literally don’t make them like this anymore, and the industry is worse off as a result.
2. Journalism by Joe Sacco (Metropolitan Books)
By this point, Joe Sacco is considered to be the father of comics journalism as we know it. He got that title by the strength of longer themed landmark books like Palestine, and Safe Area Gorazde. And so something like Journalism, a collection of shorter pieces he’s done for various publications over the years, comes as a bit of a departure. It shouldn’t though, as shorter works of journalism is something Sacco has been doing for years. What Sacco represents for me is the flexibility and possibility of comic books. It’s in many ways the ultimate storytelling medium. The fact that Sacco was one of the first to figure out that it could be used to capture realism for the purpose of journalism as well should be lauded more than it is. If I had to pick a favorite of Sacco’s pieces here, it would be “The Unwanted” , a 2009 piece about the recent influx of African refugees into Malta.
1. David Mazzucchelli’s Daredevil Born Again Artist’s Edition by David Mazzucchelli & Frank Miller (IDW/Marvel)
Although “deluxe versions” of previously published material have been on the market for some time, I don’t think there’s a better showcase of the medium than IDWs absolutely stunning Artists Editions. These over-sized collections are essentially the closest we can get to comics in their original form, and as close to “straight off the drawing board” as we can get in a commercially viable format. They remind us that comics, despite their storytelling potential, are ultimately a visual medium. IDW released several of these this year, but to me their shiniest jewel to date has to be David Mazzuchelli’s Daredevil – Born Again. It’s one of the greatest superhero stories of all time, and this oversized black and white edition really showcases just how important Mazzuchelli was to the critical and commercial success of this book.
P.S. Yes, that’s actual raised Braille you see on the cover. This, my friends, is a cool fucking book.