Four Color Apocalypse 2019 Year In Review : Top Ten Ongoing Series

With my top ten single issues of 2019 in the rear view mirror, let’s move on to the top ten ongoing series. Any comic that saw two or more issues released in the past calendar year is eligible in this category and so, as you’d no doubt expect, the mainstream is represented much more on this list than it was in the last, given that most of their titles are still, theoretically, on a regular production schedule. There are a couple of elephants in the room that I’ll address at the very end, but let’s worry about that after you’ve read the “countdown,” shall we?

10. Wasted Space By Michael Moreci And Hayden Sherman (Vault Comics) – The first of two ensemble cast sci-fi series where every member of said ensemble is an asshole to make the “best of” cut this year, Moreci’s scripts for this book are heavy on the humor and class-conscious political messaging, while Sherman, who’s one of the busiest artists around these days, seems to bring an extra level inspiration and creativity to this title. Fun and smart in equal measure.

9. Go-Bots By Tom Scioli (IDW) – Perhaps the most surprising entry on the list simply because no one expected that a good comic about some third-rate Transformers knock-offs was even possible, but leave it to the great Scioli to make these robots seem more human than — well, humans, while cramming more ideas and visual “hooks” into any given page than most cartoonists can manage in an entire issue. IDW is onto something with this whole “give an indie guy a crack at a licensed property” idea, as we shall see as things go on.

8. All-Time Comics : Zerosis Deathscape By Josh Bayer, Josh Simmons, Trevor Von Eeden, et. al. (Floating World Comics) – After an up-and-down first “season,” the aesthetic and thematic goals of the brothers Bayer (the other being Samuel)  are coming into pretty sharp focus in this late-Bronze Age homage. Some of that might be down to the addition of  Simmons as co-writer, and some of it is certainly down to the monumentally-underappreciated Von Eeden coming aboard as main artist and proving he certainly hasn’t lost a step, but whatever the case may be, this amalgamation of the over-and undergrounds is firing on all cylinders now.

7. Clue : Candlestick By Dash Shaw (IDW) – I told you we’d be getting back to IDW licensed books, and what a beauty this one was : the endlessly-inventive Shaw littered each of the three issues of this mini with clever puzzles and crafted one of the more compelling characters in comics this year with his iteration of Miss Scarlet. Innovative, engrossing, and consistently surprising, we’re talking about a legit gem here.

6. Outer Darkness By John Layman And Afu Chan (Image/Skybound) – Our second ensemble-cast-of-assholes science fiction series serves up at least one “pinch me, did I really just read that?” moment in each issue, as Layman crafts an epic that’s equal parts William Friedkin’s The Exorcist and Jack Kirby’s Captain Victory And The Galactic Rangers, while Chan delivers the visually-arresting goods in a style that demonstrates some strong anime influence yet remains utterly unique. You may not like anyone in this book, but you’ll love the book itself.

5. The Immortal Hulk By Al Ewing, Joe Bennett, Ruy Jose, et. al. (Marvel) – The first time a Marvel book has made my year-end list, but anyone who doubts my judgment clearly hasn’t been reading this comic. Ewing is doing for the Hulk what Alan Moore did for Swamp Thing, and Bennett blends Bernie Wrightson and Kelly Jones with early-era Image and jaw-dropping character designs, ably abetted by Jose’s faithful, non-flashy inks . The best super-hero book in a decade or more.

4. The League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen : The Tempest By Alan Moore And Kevin O’Neill (Top Shelf/Knockabout) – Every bit as self-indulgent and self-congratulatory as its detractors claim, this extended “farewell tour” by Moore and O’Neill is nevertheless a heartfelt love letter to the characters and the medium they’re leaving behind as well as (crucially) the creators who came before them, who gave voice to the dreams and imaginings of countless generations — and were, of course, unconscionably ripped off for their troubles. One of the funniest and angriest comics of the year, and prima facie evidence that the comics landscape will be a far poorer place with these two, dare I say it, extraordinary gentlemen no longer part of it.

3. Love And Rockets By Jaime And Gilbert Hernandez (Fantagraphics) – Los Bros. have been reaching new plateaus since switching back to their original magazine format with this, the fourth “volume” of their justly-legendary series, and while I hate to pick favorites, Jamie’s Maggie and Hopey stories are perhaps the best they have ever been right now. Which doesn’t mean Beto isn’t on a real creative “high” right now himself — he surely is. So let’s just admit what we all know : as readers of this tile, we’re not just spoiled — we’re spoiled to an embarrassing degree.

2. This Never Happened By Alex Graham (Self-Published) – Probably the most divisive title on this list, but also the bravest. Anyone who mines the worst period of their life for a creative “battery charge” is entering into combustible territory, and while Graham doesn’t pull any punches when it comes to her portrayal of other folks, her sharpest barbs are aimed at herself and the crucial part she played in her own personal downward spiral. And the only thing bolder than the script is the art, which is Graham’s most emotive and self-assured to date. I won’t kid you, after reading the first issue I was a little worried if the cartoonist was mentally and emotionally okay, but after two installments it really hit me : the work itself is proof that she emerged from her crisis not just relatively intact, but flat-out inspired.

1. From Hell : Master Edition By Alan Moore And Eddie Campbell (Top Shelf/Knockabout) – Anyone who has a problem with me choosing a reprint series as the year’s best ongoing, have at it — because while you can criticize me all you want, the work in question is pretty well above reproach. I was as skeptical as anyone else that adding color to the proceedings would massively detract from the look and flavor of Moore and Campbell’s grimy (and no doubt accurate) interpretation of the Victorian era, but with the artist himself in charge of the palette, the results have ranged from “unobtrusive” to “amazing,” and the absurd levels of income inequality in today’s world, as well as the return of leaders who seem to believe they come from the “divine right of kings” school of “thought,” make this conspiratorial examination of the Jack The Ripper murders more relevant than ever. Even if it’s all bullshit, it’s still true.

And now for those elephants in the room —

Astute readers may have noticed that two perennial favorites didn’t make the cut this year, those being Jeff Lemire and Dean Haspiel’s Black Hammer and Eric Reynolds’ avant-garde anthology series Now. The reason for that is simple : while Black Hammer : Age Of Doom ended in very satisfactory fashion, the issue leading up to it felt hopelessly padded and derivative, and while Now rebounded nicely with its seventh and most recent issue, volumes five and six didn’t come close to meeting the standard set by the title early on. I’d be shocked if that comic in particular didn’t find its was back onto the list next year, but we don’t deal in speculation around these parts. You wanna make the cut in any given 12-month period, you gotta earn it.

Next — the top ten vintage collections of 2019. See you for that in a couple of days! In the meantime, if you’d like to support my ongoing work, please consider subscribing to my Patreon site, where I serve up exclusive thrice-weekly rants and ramblings on the worlds of comics, films, television, literature, and politics for as little as a dollar a month. Do a jobbing freelancer a favor and check it out at https://www.patreon.com/fourcolorapocalypse

 

Weekly Reading Round-Up : 04/14/2019 – 04/20/2019

Believe it or not, we’ve only got two first issue this time out, so we’ll start with those, and then delve into the other stuff —

Mary Shelley : Monster Hunter #1 hit LCS shelves this past Wednesday courtesy of the writing team of Adam Glass and Olivia Cuartero-Briggs Briggs and line artist/colorist Hayden Sherman. I suppose the conceptual and artistic triumph that was Alan Moore and Jacen Burrows’ Providence was impetus enough for other creators to give the “famous writer who knew what they were talking about all too well” premise a whirl, and while I won’t pretend for a second this is anywhere close to being in that class, it was a fun and well-paced introduction to a world where — well, the title proves to be literally true. The story didn’t blow me away or anything, but the esteemed Mrs. Shelley comes off as being strong, likable, and more than competent, and Sherman’s art and colors are as well-suited to these period atmospherics as they are to the sci-fi vistas of Wasted Space. I had the same reaction to this as I’ve had to any number of other Aftershock series, which essentially boils down to “can’t say I’m committed to it for the duration, but I’m game to give at least a couple more issues.” In a pinch, I suppose, that’ll do.

American Gods : The Moment Of The Storm #1 is a debut issue in name only, as any publisher other than Dark Horse would probably just keep the numbering going and label this as precisely what it is : the start of a new — and, as it turns out, the last — “story arc” in this particular series. We’re at the point now where the chess pieces are being moved into place for the big final meeting/confrontation between the various largely-dormant gods that’s been building for some time, so if you’ve been digging P. Craig Russell and Scott Hampton’s very literal adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s best-selling novel, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t enjoy this installment, as well. Kind of an ugly cover from Glenn Fabry and Adam Brown this time around, but that particular “art crime” is more than made up for by the fact that Russell handles the layouts in here as well, of course, as the script, giving the proceedings a very fluid feel. And I still really dig Hampton’s art. I’ve come this far, so rest assured, I’ll be sticking with it to the end.

Gideon Falls #12 is, in fact, the “proper” beginning of a new “arc” in Jeff Lemire and Andrea Sorrentino’s vaguely Lynch-ian horror series from Image, and frankly this is starting to have a feel of finality about it, as well. Sorrentino’s endlessly inventive art is always a marvel to behold, and ditto for Dave Stewart’s amazing colors, but if Lemire isn’t ramping things up toward some sort of climax here, I’ll actually be kind of disappointed, seeing as how everything seems to be coalescing/dove-tailing in terms of the two formerly-separate plot threads now becoming one. I’m not in a huge hurry to put this book in the rear-view mirror or anything — it’s been, and remains, quite good — but it’s hard to see where things would be headed if, in fact, they were to go on for much longer. I’m more than willing to be pleasantly surprised, though — and this comic usually manages to do precisely that.

Port Of Earth #9 is likewise the kick-off point for a new “arc,” and this series from Image/Top Cow had been sidelined for so long that I was beginning to wonder if it was ever coming back. Writer Zack Kaplan seems to be alternating between this and his other sci-fi book, Eclipse, and the same is true for artist Andrea Mutti vis a vis this and Infinite Dark, and what the hell — the de facto “rotation” works for all of ’em. The premise of alien/human relations becoming strained over Earth setting up a landing port for various intergalactic travelers and traders who then proceed to bust every rule in sight feels new again by dint of its absence — even if the TV segments that Kaplan over-relies on are starting to seem anything but — and characters and events have “moved on” in directions that make logical sense. Mutti’s stylish and “loose” art continues to get stronger and stronger, as well, which is indeed high praise as it was pretty goddamn good to start with, and Jordan Boyd’s color work is always serviceable, if well shy of spectacular. Glad to have this one back.

And that was the week that was, so now the only remaining order of business is to remind you all that this column is, as always, “brought to you” by my Patreon site, where I serve up exclusive thrice-weekly rants and ramblings on the worlds of comics, films, television, literature, and politics. Lately, in fact, it’s been a lot of politics. Your patronage there not only keeps things going, it also ensures a steady supply of free content both here and at my trashfilmguru movie site. There’s a whole lot of stuff posted up there already, so you’re sure to get good value for your money, and needless to say, I’d be very gratified to have your support. Please take a moment to check it out and consider joining up by hopping on over to https://www.patreon.com/fourcolorapocalypse