With 2018 and a whole slate of new comics on the horizon, the writers of WWAC looked back to reflect on their favorite big press comics of the year. Featuring superheroes, techno-barbarians, creepy towns, and much more, there’s something for everybody here. Here’s to a year of awesome comics!
Ulises Farinas and Erick Freitas (Writers), Ulises Farinas (Artist), Ryan Hill (Colorist)
I love Motro. It’s a comic that grabbed me from the first time I saw it on the shelf and as a collection, it’s a book I’ve read multiple times. Ulises Farinas is by far one of my favourite artists and it’s an absolute joy to see him once again be able to let loose and build an entirely unique world. A coming of age tale like no other, Motro follows a young boy who, at the prophetic behest of his dead father, dedicates his life to “saving people”. Armed only with his skills as a fighter and his best friend who happens to be a miniature motorcycle, Motro sets out on a life (and world) changing journey.
Erick and Ulises are a powerhouse creative team whose work on books like Amazing Forest and Judge Dredd: Mega City Zero have set them apart from their peers and the world of Motro cements their place as some of the most inventive and imaginative storytellers around. Motro isn’t really like any other book with much of the dialogue made up of a pictorial code, which means that the narrative really lies in the visual world that Hill, Farinas, and Freitas create. And boy is it a sumptuous one, a subversion of the techno-barbarian landscape of He-Man, a place that seems unlike any other but is also almost immediately familiar. Motro is a joy to read and was undoubtedly my favorite superhero comic of the year because don’t be fooled, Motro is a superhero. Just not the kind we’re used to.
Everyone’s An Aliebn When Ur An Aliebn Too
I read Everyone’s An Aliebn When Ur An Aliebn Too in two hours on my busy commute to work. It’s a comic that features an alien who is tasked with studying humans but instead learns a lot from Earth’s animals. I didn’t expect this cute little book to pack a powerful punch but it did. I felt called out! It ripped me open and laid bare my insecurities and fears: death, anxiety. But what it also did was offer comfort. It essentially said, “It’s okay to be scared, worried, anxious because that’s what life is all about and there’s always another side to it”. It had the power to make your problems universal and also specific while telling you it’s going to be okay. The simplicity of the art and the alien figure allows for the reader to insert themselves into the story and making those extreme emotions (raw vulnerability and comfort) possible.
Jomny Sun as a person seems delightful and his work is equally so. This is one of the best comics I’ve read this year that has left a memorable impression on me.
Sam Humphries (Writer), Robson Rocha (Artist)
No matter how much I’m in and out of Big Two comics, I have my weak points. I’ll always at least check out Lantern books for instance; while Ethan Van Sciver being the main artist on one of them means I won’t step near it, at least I have a Sam Humphries-penned alternate. (EVS does a bit of art in the first volume of this one, but is by no means a regular contributor.)
Humphries won me over back when he was writing Uncanny X-Force, and this is similarly wonderful, unafraid to address complex emotional issues (something that a good Lantern book should do). Neophyte Jessica Cruz suffers from chronic anxiety, and so must overcome fear in order to do her job (or even leave her apartment) every single day. It’s a far cry from the brashness of Hal Jordan or the buffoonery of Guy Gardner, and the result is heartfelt and charming.
Art by Robson Rocha recalls Ivan Reis’ work under Johns during his run on the main title, but Rocha has a better handle on comedy beats and those personal moments of home life than Reis ever did, something that really works in the book’s favor. I bought one volume on sale and then “whoops, accidentally” bought the next two a couple of days later, a very good sign. If you’re looking for a book with magic wishing rings and the ability to make you care about characters who aren’t default white men, Green Lanterns is probably the way you want to go.
Jeff Lemire (Writer and Artist)
Jeff Lemire’s Royal City brings the quiet poignancy of family drama, what has become the trademark of so many of his graphic novels, to the serialized comic book form. The takes place in Royal City (population 45,300), a manufacturing town that is slowly losing its lifeblood to post-industrialization. The series opens up with Tommy, the series’ narrator and the central figure, wondering: “Sometimes I wonder if it was hard growing up in Royal City. . . Or just hard growing up. I mean, there’s just something different about this place.” There’s certainly something special about Royal City within the world of the comic. The setting, in regard to both time and place, becomes a character of sorts. The series reverberates with the sound the early ‘90s, recalling all of the grunge angst of bands like Sonic Youth, Nirvana, and Soundgarden. This music is the soundtrack to the series both aesthetically and quite literally as each issue is accompanied by a Spotify playlist of songs that Lemire listened to while he was composing each issue in the first arc or that his characters listened to in the second arc. Look out for the variant covers for issues #6-10 that feature a Royal City enactment of famous album covers, like Nirvana’s Nevermind or Weezer’s Blue Album!
Issue #1, the finest in the series in my opinion because of its haunting final reveal, opens with the family patriarch, Peter, having a heart attack, which brings the family together to face its demons–or rather, ghosts. The Pikes are haunted, each in their own way, by Tommy, the youngest son and brother, who allegedly committed suicide at fourteen years old in 1993 (the exact circumstances of his death are yet to be revealed). Each character sees Tommy as the version of him that they need—a helpless child, a young priest, a drinking buddy—reflecting more about their own longings and personalities than Tommy’s. The first arc maps out each family members’ current relationship to their own ghost of Tommy, and Lemire maintains interest by refusing to disclose what is imagined and what is real. The second arc returns to 1993 and the events leading up to Tommy’s death. Before reaching the final page of the first issues, which show all the Tommys beside his gravestone, I thought to myself, “Wow, this family sure has a lot of kids named Tommy.”
I am a huge fan of all of Jeff Lemire’s work but am particularly compelled by the way that he so artfully turns the minutia of family dynamics into heartbreakingly beautiful page-turners. If you’re a fan of his Essex County, Underwater Welder, Roughneck, or Black Hammer like I am, you will enjoy Royal City. For the full experience, grab some issues or the trade paperback, throw on one of the Royal City Spotify playlists, and let yourself get lost in Tommy’s haunting narrative, which sounds eerily like the early ‘90s and smells like teen spirit.
Rainbow Rowell (Writer), Kris Anka (Artist), Matt Wilson (Colorist), VC’s Joe Caramagna (Letterer)
The resurrection of Runaways, the cult classic Marvel series originally created by Brian K. Vaughan and Adrian Alphona, begins appropriately enough with a resurrection. Chase Stein spontaneously appears in his witchy friend Nico’s apartment with a time-machine and his mortally wounded girlfriend—Gert Yorkes, one of the original Runaways, plucked from the timestream moments before her death. And with that opening scene, the new Runaways series is, well, off and running.
Though the series is only four issues in, it’s immediately apparent that new writer Rainbow Rowell gets it. This is perhaps unsurprising given her smash hit young adult novels, but she understands what made the Runaways (a diverse group of superpowered kids who rejected costumes, codenames, and pretty much everything that made the Avengers who they are) vibrant and unique in a medium already packed with spunky teen heroes. If anything, her depiction of college-age young people searching for meaning and direction in a hostile world feels more relevant in 2017 than 2004. It’s just that Karolina is a living, flying rainbow and Gert has a pet dinosaur.
And if any artist at Marvel is the perfect fit for Molly Hayes’s triumphant return to comics, it’s Kris Anka. His updated character designs for the characters are pure fire (perhaps nothing signals how much the former “dumb jock” Chase has changed more than his man-bun) and he’s mastered the devastating power of Gert’s thousand-mile stare. If you’re like me and have really missed seeing these kids on the page, Runaways is bolting in a bold new direction.