Four Color Apocalypse 2018 Year In Review : Top Ten Single Issues

With the advent (ha! Get it?) of December, the time has come, once again, for our annual look back at some of the finest comics the year had to offer. We’ll be skipping the usual offerings for the next week or two around here, including the Weekly Reading Round-Up column, since re-reading is your humble emcee’s top priority for the next little while. A run-down, then, of the six different categories I’ve broken things down into is in order, and please keep in mind that I’m deliberately eschewing calling any of these lists a “best-of” simply because I haven’t read everything that’s out there — and who could? Think of these, then, as lists of the ten best entries in each category that I’ve read. Or my own personal favorites. Or something. Anyway, “brackets” are as follows:

Top Ten Single Issues – Pretty self-explanatory, I should think : this list focuses on individual comic books and minis, either stand-alones or part of an ongoing series.

Top Ten Comics Series – This list is designed to spotlight comics that are produced on some sort of production schedule and honors those of consistently high quality. Open-ended, ongoing series and finite mini-series both are eligible, the only qualification is that each series has to have released at least three issues over the course of the past year, since if they’ve only put out two, either one of them would represent 50% of said comic’s total “output” and should, by rights, probably land in the “Top 10 Single Issues” category.

Top Ten Contemporary Collections – This list will focus on collected editions of material previously released either as single issues or in anthologies, etc. English-language translations of Eurocomics, Manga, and the like are also eligible in this category. I have a fairly generous definition of “contemporary,” and have set an admittedly quite arbitrary “cut-off date” of the year 2000, since anything that presents work from the previous century will fall into the category of —

Top Ten Vintage Collections – Same rules as above, just for pre-2000 stuff.

Top Ten Special Mentions – This is a new one I’ve never done before and is somewhat amorphous by definition, so by way of explanation I’ll just say it’s a list designed to highlight my favorite comics-adjacent releases of the year : work that’s done by cartoonists but doesn’t fit the traditional sequential-art format, or else publications that are about comics, but aren’t actually comics themselves.

Top Ten Graphic Novels – Last but certainly not least, this category has fairly strict limitations : every work in it is one which was designed from the outset to be presented in the “graphic novel” format, and cannot have been serialized anywhere else, either in print or online, since those sorts of things are already covered by the “Top Ten Contemporary Collections” designation. These are long-form, wholly original works only.

Are we good? I think we’re good. So let’s jump right in with the Top Ten Single Issues list —

10. Goiter #3 By Josh Pettinger (Self-Published) – The strongest comic yet from one of the most promising “emerging” cartoonists out there, I’m glad to see Pettinger moving away from his Clowes/Ware roots and find an authentic perspective all his own with this superb story about a young woman in love with — a chronologically-displaced floating head? Moving, smart, authentic, and deeply emotive work.

9. Rookie Moves By November Garcia (Self-Published) – Probably my favorite autobio cartoonist working today is at her best in this fun and funny (not to mention endlessly charming) mini focused on her transition from star-struck fan girl to “professional” comic artist — who’s still a star-struck fan girl. One of the most earnest and refreshingly un-pretentious reads of the year.

8. Rust Belt #4 By Sean Knickerbocker (Self-Published) – We’ve heard a lot this year about comics that capture the current MAGA-poisoned “cultural moment,” but for my money none succeeded so well as the fourth issue of Knickerbocker’s ongoing “solo anthology” series, as he casts his increasingly-sharp observational eye on the dual personalities of a guy who’s an average enough husband at home, and a rising right-wing social media “star” in his spare time. You know the people in this comic — and while that’s a damn depressing thing to consider, it makes for utterly compelling reading.

7. By Monday I’ll be Floating In The Hudson With The Other Garbage By Laura Lannes (2dcloud) – The most exemplary collection of diary comics I had the pleasure to read in 2018, Lannes’ subtle and self-deprecating tone and smooth, fundamentally inventive cartooning chart the doomed trajectory of a Tinder “romance” in both real-time and a gorgeous, over-sized format. Remarkably restrained for something so personal, this one sticks in your mind long after     closing it.

6. From Crust Till Dawn By Sarah Romano Diehl (Self-Published) – The second chapter in Diehl’s ongoing memoir of her time as a pizza parlor employee unfolds with a dreamlike quality and ease that brings out the character, rather than the nuts-and-bolts specifics, of each instance it portrays — the end result being a joyously unique reading experience quite unlike anything else.

5. Cosmic BE-ING #6 By Alex Graham (Self-Published) – Graham enters her post-Angloid era with this awesomely bizarre and entirely singular look at the lives of the residents of her “Clown Castle” in the sky who will creep you out and crack you up in equal measure as they point out the absurdities of wage labor, group living, and other everyday taken-as-given situations large and small. The most assured effort yet from one of the most unique talents in cartooning today.

4. Tongues #2 By Anders Nilsen (Self-Published) – The most ambitious (thematically and visually) ongoing narrative in comics ups the mystery even as things come into view more clearly in its various and for-now-disparate plotlines. Gorgeously illustrated and colored, viscerally written, this is a true masterpiece-in-the-making that demands and rewards rigorous re-reading and examination.

3. Perfect Discipline And Unbending Loyalty By Tommi Parrish (Perfectly Acceptable Press) – In the space of just a couple of short years, Parrish has assumed comics’ mantle as the most astute chronicler of the emotional landscape of human interpersonal relations, and in this sumptuously-presented work they disarm, dissect, and ultimately empower their characters as they navigate generational differences with the same delicately understated honesty as they bring to their intuitive mapping of physical, sexual, and even mental intimacy between couples. Staggering, heartfelt, supremely confident work.

2. Frontier #17, Mother’s Walk By Lauren Weinstein (Youth In Decline) – Weinstein’s love letter to her newborn child is a testament to the power of motherhood and cartooning both as it traverses the eternal moment just before a new life enters this world in an elliptical fashion that encapsulates past, present, and future in an ever-present “now” that circles back in on itself and never ends — as is most certainly true of this comic itself, which breaks every pre-conceived notion still remaining as to what the medium is capable of. There’s been a lot of “hype” around this book recently — including from yours truly — but rest assured : none of it captures the full magnificence of all it contains, of all it is.

1. Now #4, Edited By Eric Reynolds (Fantagraphics) – The most significant ongoing anthology in well over a decade, Reynolds puts it all together in this issue (with plenty of help from cartoonists like Roman Muradov, Julian Glander, Nathan Cowdry, Matthias Lehmann, Walt Holcombe, Tommi Parrish, and Brian Blomerth, among others), more than living up to the “mission statement” in his book’s title, but going one step further in the process — this isn’t just where comics are at now, it also shows where they’re going in the future. The best, most varied, most effectively curated (I term I try not to use at all, but employ here with absolute precision) assemblage of sequential art you’re going to come across in this year and probably just about any other, this is a shot across the bow, a challenge for everyone to “raise the bar” and make comics that are as confidently-realized as those on offer here.

Whew! Okay! That’s quite the run-down! And we’re just getting started! 2018 really has been an amazing year for comics, and narrowing down each of these lists to just ten “winners” has been a very difficult task indeed. I feel bad about some of the books that didn’t “make the cut,” but I’m very confident in everything I settled on, as well as the specific places they earned. I hope you agree with my selections, sure, but more than that — I hope you’ve found some great new comics to add to your “must-buy” list!

Next up — Top Ten Ongoing Series! I’m aiming to have that list up tomorrow!

Weekly Reading Round-Up : 10/07/2018 – 10/13/2018, November Garcia And Ines Estrada

It’s no secret to anybody who’s read this site for any length of time that I consider November Garcia to be the best comics art import to come out of the Philippines since Alex Nino, and it’s equally-public knowledge that my adoration for Mexican (by way, the last few years, of Texas) DIY cartoonist extraodrinaire Ines Estrada knows no bounds, so when John Porcellino recently listed two new self-published titles from each of them for sale at his Spit And A Half distro site, you knew I was gonna be all over them in no time. Let’s have a look at ’em, shall we?

Rookie Moves  is a witty and never-less-than-completely engaging mini that charts Garcia’s “rise” from the ranks of comics fan-girl to published cartoonist in her own right and showcases her at her neurotic, self-deprecating best as she rubs shoulders with the likes of Gabrielle Bell, Jon Lewis, Iona Fox, Rob Clough, and others — including the aforementioned Mr. Porcellino himself. This is all a bit “inside baseball,” it’s true, but for those of us involved in “the scene” it’s a welcome chance to see just how unwittingly intimidating we can be, plus Garcia’s sharp observational skills are in top form — as is her illustration, which is clean, controlled, and emotive all in one go. Five bucks for my favorite NG comic yet? Quit dawdling, you know you have to get this now.

Besides bearing the longest title of any mini you’ll read this year, Great, Just What We Need — More Diary Comics From A Relative Nobody wins bonus points for truth in advertising, but I take exception to Garcia’s central premise : when diary comics are this good, we actually do need  them. A lot of these entries catalogue typical diary strip concerns revolving around the drudgery of daily life and navigating through relationships, no question, but the raw honesty with which our gal November documents even the most minute details is admirable, her art looks good even in when it’s clearly “rushed” as it is here, and there are some moments of genuine poignancy on offer, such as her shocked reaction to the death of cartoonist Mark Campos. Perhaps not an essential purchase to anyone other than the most dedicated Garcia partisan, but if  you’re among that rabble — as I proudly acknowledge myself to be — you can live without a measly three dollars a hell of a lot more than you can live without this comic.

Buckle up for bestiality in Ines Estrada’s It’s Too Much And Not Enough, a collection of purportedly “erotic” portraiture featuring people, plants, wolves, robots, and reptiles engaged in various (thankfully) impossible states of coitus that will probably make your stomach churn even as you can’t tear your eyes away. A heady mix of color and black-and-white illustration that showcases the most depraved corners of one person’s fertile, if slightly (okay, maybe more than slightly) disturbed imagination in the bright and unforgiving light of day, Estrada’s art is lavish and intricately-rendered, and while you’ll probably be glad your mind doesn’t conjure up this sort of imagery (unless, hey, it does), you’ve gotta admire anyone who not only admits that theirs does, but isn’t afraid to let the world (or at least the part of it that’s paying attention) know it. Six dollars is a little bit steep for 16 pages, it’s true, but these are 16 pages sure to burn their way into your memory permanently. Whether that’s a good or bad  thing I leave up to you to decide for yourself, but I’m glad to have this ‘zine in my library, and look forward to leaving it out on the coffee table for unwitting visitors to our home to peruse while I slave away in the goddamn kitchen.

Just kidding, Deinell and I never have company over, and now you know why — we have comics like this one laying around.

Roppongi Nights is a companion publication of sorts to the one just discussed, and also sells for six bucks, but this time out you’re getting 20 pages of entirely B&W sketchbook art, much (check that, most) of it again ostensibly”erotic” in nature, but there’s some relatively “tame” material mixed in with the animalistic debauchery, as well, so hey — if somebody put a pistol to your head and made you show one of these comics to a youngster, this might be the one.

Awww, who are we kidding? Just let ’em shoot you dead, because this stuff is plenty combustible enough to blow an impressionable mind to pieces, and who wants that on their conscience? Again, I’m more than pleased to have this in my collection, but your mileage may vary substantially, especially if you’re a hopeless square — which, I’m reliably informed, you (yes, you personally) aren’t, so why not give it a go?

And that’s probably more than enough to keep your brain full and your wallet empty for one week, so join yours truly back here in seven days as we see take a look at whatever delights, depravities, or both the dastardly combination of my LCS and the USPS serves up next. Until then, you can get any of these comics your heart desires, as well as a whole lot more, by aiming your browser of choice at http://www.spitandahalf.com/