Thursday, December 28, 2023

My Favorite Comics of 2023

The end of the year is always a time for me to make lists of my favorite stuff, and one of the lists I enjoy as much as dread making every year is my "Favorite Comics" list. Why? Well, not sure you noticed, but I read a lot of comics. 

Same thing as last year. Some REALLY great books in 2023, so as usual, this was not an easy list to assemble.

2023: Caveat

Maybe this is just my way to get an extra entry onto this list - it has been a wonderous year for comics - but due to my difficulties procuring copies of Chris Condon and Jacob Phillips' That Texas Blood spin-off/prequel series The Enfield Gang Massacre, I still have not read the entire series and thus, cannot in good faith add it to this list. There's nary a doubt that it belongs here with the best of the best, though. 

The climactic Issue Five came out two weeks ago, and with me now spending most of January in L.A., I probably won't have it in my hands until February or March, whenever I return to Chicago. This means I won't be able to actually read this series in its entirety until then. Condon and Phillips show no signs of relenting in their ability to turn out one of the most interesting mixtures of Weird Fiction/Crime/Noir around, now adding Westerns to the list of genres they can effortlessly tackle.

Favorite Comics of 2023:

10) The Ribbon Queen

It is so good to have Garth Ennis working in Horror again, especially when teamed with Jacen Burrows. The Ribbon Queen does what Ennis does so well - takes topical stress points from the headlines and juxtaposes them with ancient, otherworldly forces that ultimately just want to do horrible things to human flesh. In the case of this book, that methodology feels especially fresh and, dare I say satisfying. Nothing like seeing terrible humans suffer a brutal punishment. What makes this a cut above, though, is the added moral quandary of whether or not revenge is the answer, even if it feels like it is.

9) The Bone Orchard Mythos: Tenement

You might recall that I added a caveat to last year's list that stated I would hold off adding Jeff Lemire and Andrea Sorrentino's Bone Orchard Mythos until this year. Some might say that required a lot of faith, however, I did this primarily because, although we had received several entries into this mythos by the end of 2022 (The Passageway, Ten Thousand Black Feathers and the NCBD single) word was Tenement would really kick the doors open on what Lemire and Sorrentino are building. Happily, this book has more than lived up to any expectations set by those previous entries. What's more, as a standalone Horror story, Tenement excels. As with the duo's previous book, Gideon Falls, the frayed realism and vibrant humanity they bring to Horror, and the veil they reveal beneath the modern cityscape create such an otherworldly yet still relatable feeling that you're never quite certain what you're looking at, of, more importantly, if it will hurt someone you've grown to care for. 

8) Popscars 

Thanks to a chance meeting in the spring of 2022, I watched Pat O'Malley's Hollywood Revenge series Popscars go from a successful Kickstarter campaign to worldwide distribution via Behemoth (now Sumerian) Comics in 2023. This book is gritty and pretty at the same time - which is exactly how Pat and artist Santi Guillen planned it. A macro view of the illusory facade of Hollywood undercut by the stark, cold reality that lies in wait beneath it. Also, just about the coolest, most iconic character I've seen in a long time.

7) The Seasons Have Teeth

Gentle, brutal, horrific, serene, but overall sublime, The Seasons Have Teeth's high concept and eye-catching art grabbed me from the first issue and pulled me into a story that moved me to tears by the end. Dan Watters, Sebasián Cabrol and Dan Jackson's harrowing tale of Earth's mightiest retort to humanity's apathy is unlike anything else I've read and probably an annual read from here out. Now, what season should I associate with it?

6) Phantom Road

Leff Lemire and Gabriel H. Walta's Phantom Road is a book that brings me nothing short of pure joy. The story of two regular folks traversing a "between place," slipping in and out of the world they know and braving an unknown liminal space is so right up my alley that it kind of feels like it was commissioned by an alternate timeline version of myself. These are ideas I hold near and dear to my heart, and while I've certainly seen the themes of "Thin Spaces" and what lies in wait within them explored before, no one except Stephen King has ever come so close to capturing it the way I 'see' the idea. 

5) X-Men: Red

X-Men: Red is a BEAST. I've made the statement multiple times now that this book feels so much like Rick Remender and Jerome Opena's fantasy epic Seven to Eternity that I have to keep reminding myself it's an X-Book. This is where the Krakoa era - if it is truly on its way out - took some of its biggest swings and made the most impact. The ideas and concepts, characters and evolution have been nothing short of staggering, and I for one will be devastated to see this go. 

4) Void Rivals

The only thing that could have made this book better is if I'd followed a fleeting impulse and picked it up before I knew it would tie into Robert Kirkman's Energon Universe. This book sets an EPIC stage, and I have no doubt that Kirkman will deliver. After all, this is the man who kept The Walking Dead series my "MUST READ RIGHT F*&KING NOW" book every month for nearly sixteen years. I have no doubt he can do it again while mixing new characters and concepts with ones I've loved almost as long as I've been alive. 

3) Haunthology

Jeremy Haun put all of his hopes, fears and nightmares during the COVID lockdown into this collection of stories, so it resonates on its own level. There is an elegant simplicity to the storytelling here that absolutely blows me away, and I don't believe a single story herein ever pull their punches or take the easy way out. There's so much relatable pain in here, it's still a touch difficult to read, however, if you love Horror to pull your strings the way I do, there's no better tome in recent memory to go to than this one.

2) Something is Killing the Children

This is really the first year I've been a SIKTC fan, and I went all in. This book is so worth every bit of hype it receives, and the rabidity of the fanbase is earned. Hard Earned. The arcs fly by, no one is safe, and all manner of hell breaks loose over and over again. The fact that the first three trades or fifteen issues are all one location, one event essentially, is amazing when you stop to think about how much suspense and horror just explode from every single issue. And it's never slowed down since. 

1) Night Fever 

I have thought about Brubaker & Phillips' Night Fever every day since I read it back in May. 

Every. Day.

I love this book more than I can even begin to explain. Part Noir, definite 70s influence from the likes of Friedkin and Costa-Gavras, not to mention the cinematic flourishes and predilections of Kubrick and Mann, this one is, to me, the pinnacle of what Brubaker and Phillips have done to date.

1 comment:

Tommy said...

Night Fever kicked all the ass.