Best non-Superhero Comics of all time: 41-50


We seem to be in the nerd part of the list, as 6 of the 10 books I’m talking about today are planted firmly within the science fiction genre.

Strike that, I just realized that this entire list is the nerd part of the list. Let’s get back into it, shall we?

50. Finder by Carla McNeil (Dark Horse, 1996)


I could write a hundred pages just about Finder, and it still wouldn’t be enough. One of the most detailed, comprehensively planned comics of all time, Finder isn’t so much a comic book, as it is a world. A worldmight I add, that we’ve only seen a tiny portion of. McNeil’s comics take me forever to read, as they’re not something you can skim through. Ever word has a purpose, and every panel has layers of thematic subtext.

49. Revolver by Matt Kindt (Vertigo, 2010)

Matt Kindt seems to have hit the sweet spot between indie credibility & mainstream success. Super Spy got him mainstream attention, but it’s Revolver that really was his first great work. We’re in pure sci-fi territory here, with our hero jumping between two different realities, with a new jump each time he wakes up. While Kindt has now written dozens of franchise books for Marvel, DC, and Dark Horse, it’s only on books where also does the art, that I feel that his storytelling really opens up.

48. The Incal by Alejandro Jodorowski & Moebius (Humanoids, 1981)


The greatest incomprehensible mess in the history of comics. The Incal by pretty much any definition, is a terrible comic book. The plot makes no sense, the characters are one dimensional, and I couldn’t tell you what it’s about, even though I’ve read it numerous times. So why is The Incal considered such a great book? Because of Moebius, my friend.Because of Moebius. Now, I could have picked literally dozens of other Moebius comics that quite frankly are “better” comics than The Incal. But none of them really showcase his formidable chops as well as Jodorowski’s white whale does. One of the great “art” comics of all time.

47. Scarlet Traces by Ian Edginton & D’Israeli (Dark Horse, 2002)


Do you love War of The Worlds, but thought the wrong team won? Then Scarlet Traces is the comic for you. It’s essentially Edginton & D’Israeli’s sequel to one of the greatest science fiction stories of all time. And it is absolutely fantastic. I’m a huge fan of D’Israeli’s work, but Scarlet Traces might be the very best example of his steampunky brilliance. Check out the the prequel, and sequel, as well.

46. Hark A Vagrant by Kate Beaton (Fantagraphics, 2008)

Hark a vagrant

More of an ongoing anthology of comic strips than an actual comic book, Beaton’s witty & charming approach to history & literary criticism is a perfect pick for that friend of yours that just can’t get into comic books.

45. Shortcomings by Adrian Tomine (Drawn & Quarterly, 2007)


Tomine’s Optic Nerve has produced some great dramatic short stories over the years, but this 3 issue run may be his magnum opus. Tomine’s sharp, tight lines are a perfect complement to this tense exploration on relationships, race, and cultural identity. Although Ben Tanaka is a loathsome protagonist, our desire to see him “learn his lesson” keeps us engaged, and keeps cheering him on. Wonderful example of how comics can be used as effective character studies.

44. Casanova by Matt Fraction, Gabriel Ba, and Fabio Moon (Image, 2006)


Fans of the twists & turns of Sex Criminals might be surprised to find that Matt Fraction has written something even more more complicated and obtuse. So much so, that it makes Sex Criminals feel as accessible as the Smurfs, in comparison. Part science fiction epic, part action thriller, Casanova wears it’s influences on it’s sleeve: Michael Moorcock’s Jerry Cornelius novels, Thomas Pynchon’s work, Alan Moore’s Watchmen, and dozens of others. Ba & Moon’s frenetic density showcase the unlimited storytelling possibilities capable by modern comic creators, like few comics ever have.

43. Pyongyang: A Journey In North Korea by Guy Delisle (Drawn & Quarterly, 2004)


Delisle has done 4 graphic travelogues of variable quality, but it’s his in depth adaptation of his 2 month stay in North Korea that has stuck with me the most over the years. The sheer lunacy of a government that teaches it’s citizens that it’s leaders have superpowers is perfect fodder for a draftsman of Delisle’s talent.

42. King City by Brandon Graham (Tokyopop, 2008)


Even more than Casanova, no other comic on this list defies description quite as much as King City does. Technically it’s sexy, funny science fiction, but that really doesn’t do justice to just how whackadoodle King City really is. There’s a plot, kind of. And there’s characters, some times. But what it’s really about, is simply being a wildly inventive comic. What King City is, who the characters are, are fluid, and simply cogs in the mechanics of Brandon Graham’s brilliance.

41. Berlin by Jason Lutes (Drawn & Quarterly, 1996)


This work of historical fiction is set in pre-WW2 Berlin, during the decline of the Weimar Republic. Although Jason Lutes has been working on this for almost 20 years, Berlin still has 6 issues to go before it wraps up. With Berlin, Lutes sets up a diverse cast of characters and puts them against the backdrop of one of the most important settings of the 20th century. There aren’t nearly enough comics like this on the stands these days, and every issue is a masterclass on how to tell small stories, in a big way.

DC New 52 Review: Justice League #1

The new Justice League, 3 of whom aren't actually in this issue.

So if you’re at all interested in comics, or sleeping with someone who is, you know all about the big DC relaunch that’s coming. DC Comics is essentially wiping the slate clean, and rebooting their entire universe. None of the stories that you loved growing up actually happened, and they are rebuilding their entire continuity from the ground up. It’s like Greedo shooting first, but on an epic, cosmic scale.

I find myself in a perpetual state of not giving a shit. To me, good comic stories are good comic stories. The minute I stopped caring so much about things like continuity, is the minute I started really enjoying comics. And besides, I’m not reading much superhero stuff these days anyways, so they could put a Superman suit on a gay monkey and I probably wouldn’t notice. But because EVERYONE is talking about it, I decided to read the very first issue of the new reboot: Justice League #1. This issue is the first real peak that DC is giving us into their new universe, and as such should be designed to absolutely blow new readers away, and to give old readers a real sense of ‘HOLYCRAPICANTBELIEVETHEYDIDTHATTOSUPERMAN’

This issue succeeds on neither front.

Mediocre is a word that gets thrown around a lot, with usually a more negative connotation than it deserves. But sadly, it’s the perfect word for this sleepy, sleepy comic book. First of all, if you’re going to have a comic book about a team of heroes, I expect to see that team in the book. No? How about half the team? Just barely? Sigh. This issue focuses almost exclusively on Batman and Green Lantern, and one might suspect that writer Geoff Johns thought that his Green Lantern movie was going to be a hit when he wrote this, and thus decided to showcase the two heroes most recognizable to modern audiences. So basically Green Lantern and Batman team up to go after evil aliens, and find themselves on the run from the cops for most of the issue. This gives them plenty of time to snark at each other, and then at the end of the issue a guy shows up that I think is supposed to be Superman but couldn’t be because there is NO way that DC would ever allow such a bad costume design to actually get into one of their comic books.

And that’s pretty much the issue. Two people team up to take down a bad guy, and then another person shows up at the end. Hardly a world building blockbuster. This book wasn’t “bad” in the traditional sense. Jim Lee is considered one of the great living superhero comic book artists for a reason, and he makes pretty much every page pop here. And Geoff Johns put together a decent ‘Heroes put aside their differences” story. But this book is essentially the pilot for the biggest comic launch the business has seen since 1986.. Words like “decent” and “average” shouldn’t be used for this book. Words like ‘Skullripping” and “EyeballExploding” should.

Let me clarify: My negativity isn’t a backlash against the continuity changes they’re making here. I don’t care about any of that. I don’t care that it’s different, all I care about is that it’s good. And this ain’t.

I will still give some of the new issues that launch next week a chance. When it comes to superhero comics these days, It’s creators I care about, not characters. And so since people like Peter Milligan, and Gail Simone, and Nathan Edmonson, and Jeff Lemire, and Matt Kindt, have new books, I will definitely give them a try.
But if Justice League #1 is indicative of what’s in store for me, I’m not holding out much hope.
Rating: C

What I learned at Emerald City Comicon

I’m not a big comic con person. I’ve been to San Diego’s famed convention a few times, but haven’t been to many other than that. In fact, despite the subject matter of my blog, I’m not really a comic book geek at all, or at least in terms of sharing a lot of the “truisms” that comic book geeks are supposed to have. Most of my friends don’t read comic books, I don’t play video games, and I watch as many independent art-house films as I do  big budget sci-fi films. I also have personal hygiene, have basic social interaction skills, and have actually known the touch of a woman. Ha! I kid because I love.


The shoes my wife bought while I was at the comic con

But I do love comic books. I love them, and I love talking about them, and I’m even working on writing them. And so I trekked down to Seattle’s Emerald City Comicon yesterday, along my good friend and writing partner, Jay. My wife came along for the ride, but spent the day shopping, and ogling the good-looking shoe sales guys at Nordstroms.

As I’ve said, I’ve been to the San Diego Comic Con several times, and while I found it exciting, I can’t say it did much for me from a comic book perspective. I did get  some nice sketches, and saw some crazy movie panels, but it’s not creator friendly, and to be honest it’s a little soul crushing. I was pleasantly surprised to see that Emerald City was quite comic book focused, and at least from my perspective, seemed to be a lot more creator friendly than San Diego is. Geek culture was prevalent, however, in that there was lots of cosplay, lots of people who still can’t over the fact that Firefly was cancelled, and excessive line ups for TV “stars” that aren’t famous enough to even make the janitorial crew at the medical centre where Celebrity Rehab is filmed.


Random character that I don't care about.

We went just for one day, and kept to the convention floor for the most part.There were panels, and while many of them were comic book themed, they mostly consist of the following: Disgruntled Fan: “I love (insert obscure character’s name here. It could be Superman. Or Wolverine. Or the Golden Pretzel. Doesn’t really matter).”  “I don’t like that you did (insert random character event here. It’s usually death. Or turning the character gay. Or a combination of the two) to him. Since my world view is so narrow, I thought that rather than voting with my dollar and supporting different comics created by talented creators that don’t necessarily succeed or fail on the whims of billion dollar multi-nationals, and since I really only want to read about the adventures of 70-year-old marketing franchises, I’ve decided to come here and complain to you, even though you have tried to revitalize (insert character here) a dozen times to no avail, and tell you that not only that everything you have done to this point sucks, but also to tell you that everything you are planning on doing in the future sucks, and also that ideas that you haven’t even formulated in your brain suck.” Editor-in-Chief: Good question! We love (insert character here), and trust me when I tell you that we’re planning great things with (insert character here) but I can’t quite tell you about them yet, mostly because everything we’ve ever done with that character has failed miserably, and because anytime we try anything new, you shit all over us, and so now we’re terrified of change, even though we need it in order to survive in the long-term.  We hope to have announcements at (insert upcoming comic convention held in more important city) regarding (insert character here), although you and I both know that any new thing that we do with that character will be ignored by the next poor creative team that we somehow convince to take over the thankless task of babysitting our increasingly fickle fan base.  Good question!” 



Apparently, this guy was Indiana Jones.

And so it goes. As I said, Jay and I spent the day on the floor, except for a brief spell where Jay decided to stalk the guy  who played Indiana Jones. No, not that guy. The other one. No, not that one. The guy you’ve never heard of. Right.

I brought in a few books to get signed by creators that I knew were going to be there, but line-ups deterred me from following through on this for the most part. They weren’t that long, I just didn’t feel like standing in them. However, I did get books signed by Matt Kindt, Ethan Nicolle, and Ben Templesmith, so it still worked out all right. Jay is better than this than I am, mostly because a) he has freaky luck in picking the exact moment where no one else is bothering the person, and b) he’s actually a friendly, engaging person that people aren’t terrified of when he says hi. So he’s very much unlike me, and 98% of the rest of the people who go to these things. And so he got signatures by Greg Rucka and Geof Darrow.

In terms of original art, I got a nice little sketch of Hellboy by the writer/artist of Icarus, Ryan Cody. The big prize for me was buying an original piece of art from 3 Story: The Secret History of the Giant Man, by one of my current favourite creators, Matt Kindt. Jay won out on this as well, as he commissioned Matt to do a truly amazing piece for him. Jay picked Indiana Jones as the subject, and so Matt complied and the results were incredible.

I also picked up a few books, but it was a relatively small haul: The awesome little BPRD – Hell On Earth: Seattle comic that Dark Horse produced just for this con; the first issue of Officer Downe by Joe Casey; Casey’s Godland TP’s Vol. 4 & 5; a really interesting little sci-fi graphic novel

Godland, baby!

called Jan’s Atomic Heart by Canadian Simon Roy;  Two The Incredibles trades by Mark Waid; The Solomon Kane: Death’s Black Riders TP (I also got writer Scott Allie to sign this); the TP of a mini called Olympus, also signed by writer Nathan Edmondson; the first issue of Icarus, signed by creator Ryan Cody; and a copy of Mephisto And The Empty Box, which is the only graphic novel by Matt Kindt that I didn’t own. Awesome for me!

Probably the most valuable thing I got in Seattle was information. I’m currently writing my own comic books with my writing partner Jay, and so we went to Seattle with the goal of trying to talk to as many writers and creators we could, just about their experiences and recommendations. We had some awesome talks, and here are some highlights:

Oni Press Booth – In terms of the bigger companies, these guys were the most helpful, and the most engaging. The guy running the booth really went out of his way to talk to us, and gave us the low down on some my favourite Oni titles, like the Sixth Gun, Wasteland, Stumptown, and Guerillas. According to him, putting out books on time is his top focus this year, and so their new policy is not to solicit books that aren’t completely done.  Also had a short talk with Brian Hurtt, artist of the Sixth Gun, and he told us that the book is on track, and that they’re continuing to work on it for the forseeable future.

Top Shelf – I’m a fan of Top Shelf in general, and although they’re small, I think that they put out a nice cross-section of stuff. I asked about when the next installment of League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen was coming out, and was told this summer for sure. Uh huh. Had a nice conversation with J.D. Arnold, the writer of BB Wolf And The 3 LP’s, about the blues, and the incredible art work of Rich Koslowski. The only negative thing about this booth was that when both Jay and I complained that both copies of a book that we own are falling apart, we were given explicit instructions as how to fix it ourself. No offer to exchange the book, or refund our money, but rather a how-to guide on book binding. Good if you’re a 19th century homesteader, I guess, but not what we were looking for.

Dark Horse, and DC –  Meh. Not much going on here, and I’m not really sure why they bothered putting up booths.

The Image booth – This was probably the most fun we had at the con. Had some really great conversations with people like John Layman (the writer of Chew), Nathan Edmonson (the writer of The Light, and Who Is Jake Ellis?, and Jay Faerber (writer of Noble Causes, and what looks to be a really interesting new crime book called Near Death), and Jim Zubkavitch (writer of Skullkickers). I think that working these kinds of things can be hell for up and coming creators, and so the impression we got is that they enjoyed talking to people who actually knew and appreciated their work. Got some great tips on networking and writing, and some cool peeks into what they were working on in the future.

We also spent some time talking with Cameron Stewart, the creator of Sin Titulo. He confirmed what had been reported by Rich Johnston of Bleeding, that he will probably be putting out Sin Titulo in hardcover form sometime in 2012. Very friendly and engaging guy. He also seemed to appreciate talking to people who have read something that was so obviously near and dear to his creative heart.

Probably the most rewarding time we spent there was in talking to the writer/artist Matt Kindt. Both Jay and I are big fans of his, and seeing him be so kind and generous with his time was awesome. He told us a bit about some of the projects that he’s working on, including an upcoming spy comic for Dark Horse, and a sequel of sorts to Super Spy.

So all in all, a rewarding trip. Although I did like the comic book focus, I was still surprised at how few small comic publishers were there. I know it’s Seattle, and the little guys probably have to be pretty choosy which cons they go to, but still. That being said, it was still great to see so many people enjoying the medium I love.



Wednesday Woundup: Revolver by Matt Kindt, Dark Avengers by Brian Michael Bendis, and Scott Pilgrim Vol. 6!

So each week I’ll be reviewing new comic books and graphic novels I’ve read that week.

I am very lazy.

The goal is for this to come out on Wednesday or Thursday. So probably Saturday.

This post is actually an edited collection of reviews I’ve written recently for friends of mine that don’t actually deserve the benefit of my opinion. Starting next week I’ll start posting new stuff.

Revolver by Matt Kindt. Published by Vertigo.

Revolver by Matt Kindt. It's very good.

Matt Kindt is quickly becoming one of my very favourite comic creators. Any serious comic lover needs to read his 3 Story or Super Spy graphic novels immediately. DC seemed to have realized how good he is, as they gave him a pretty sweet gig with this Vertigo book, and I think it’s only a matter of time before he starts writing superhero books for them.


I say unfortunately because there’s no way DC is going to let him write smart, original stuff like this in their books. It’s the story of a guy who is pretty much at a dead end in most aspects of his life. He has a girlfriend, that he doesn’t really like. He has a job that he pretty much despises. He goes through this mediocrity until one day when the world starts to fall apart. He starts to hear about a massive avian flu epidemic, the economic system is close to collapse, and by the end of the day several US cities have been destroyed. He ends up sequestered with the boss he despises waiting for things to get better. They do.

And they don’t. The next day, his world goes back to the way it was, but the only person who knows about the other reality, is him. He then starts to alternate between the two realities, drifting back and forth between these two worlds: One where he’s bored but safe, and the other where he’s in constant danger but happy. Eventually, he has to choose which one he’d rather live in.

This is a sci-fi classic. It’s an incredible work by a young artist/writer at the top of his game. Kindt’s pencils are getting cleaner and tighter with every project, and while this might not be as intricately plotted as his masterpiece Super Spy was, his focus here is on emotional resonance, and I’d say that he succeeds nicely. He blends raw emotion with genre storytelling in a way that’s rarely seen these days. Going to be on my best of the year list for sure.

Rating: A

Dark Avengers Vol. 2: Molecule Man by Brian Bendis and Mike Deodato. Published by Marvel Comics.

Dark Avengers by Brian Michael Bendis. I once saw him ride his bicycle to get groceries in Portland. He doesn't mention that in here.

This might end up being the last Avengers trade I ever buy, partly because I’m trying to save space, but mostly because the mainstream superhero stuff is boring me to tears. That being said, I really liked this little series, and in fact I wish they had kept Norman Osbourne in charge of the Marvel U for a little bit longer. Also, when did Mike Deodato become the best penciller Marvel has? Holy crap did that guy ever get good.

Rating: B+

Scott Pigrim’s Finest Hour: Vol. 6 by Bryan O’Malley. Published by Oni Press.

After 7 long years, one of the best comic series of the past decade
comes to an end.

This is Scott Pilgrim. It's his finest hour.

The advantage O’Malley has had with Scott Pilgrim is that the early volume’s successes have made it possible for him to take the time to ensure that the later volume’s don’t drop in quality. In anything they improve with every volume. Not only that, but because they are released as big manga-style volumes and not individual issues, I find that the plot is much tighter than many similar sized stories. Basically, this is as close to a perfectly consistent comic story as you can get, in terms of pacing, and tone, and like Matt Kindt, O’Malley deftly blends real pathos with genre ass-kickery. The final volume wraps everything up about as nicely as you could hope, with Scott learning valuable lessons, and getting the girl.

Rating: A-