by Benn Ray
Benn Ray is editor of the Mobtown Shank, he is a Signal (WYPR) contributor, he runs a daily comics tumblr called Mutant Funnies, and he has a weekly comic strip called Said What? which appears in the Baltimore Sun's B Paper.
(in alphabetical order)
Ant Colony by Micheal DeForge
DeForge's first original graphic novel is a bizarre and riveting look inside the world/lifespan of an ant colony. In DeForge's world, ants are as different as you and I. The world of the ant is largely allegorical for the sort of world we live in. What I'm saying is, we are the ant colony!
Andre The Giant: Life And Legend by Box Brown
With stylized and iconic art, Brown tells the story of the literally larger-than-life wrestler Andre The Giant. When I was younger, I was fortunate enough to see Andre wrestle live a few times. When I got older, I was surprised to discover he had a posse. Brown's story is an endearing and sensitive biography of a somewhat difficult icon while giving us some insight into the world of wrestling too.
Art Schooled by Jamie Coe
If you've ever read Dan Clowes' famous "Art School Confidential" comic from Eightball and wished it was more fleshed out, possibly with a nice coming of age narrative, then Coe's Art Schooled is what you've been looking for. Coe's artwork is fantastic, his observations, while sometimes a bit reactionary, are also spot on, satirical and biting. His coloring is every bit as good as his line work and his page/panel construction makes turning every page an exciting surprise. This should be provided to all art school students along as part of their freshman orientation.
Basil Wolverton Weird Worlds Artist Edition by Basil Wolverton
IDW's Artist Series has published quite a few impressive, over-sized, limited edition books , but this collection of legendary MAD contributor Basil Wolverton may be the best yet. It contains stories covering his career from Powerhouse Pepper, Spacehawk, up through his grotesques, his religious work and more. The result is simply WOW!
Barbarella Deluxe Edition by Jean-Claude Forest / Kelly Sue DeConnick
The comic that inspired the erotic sci-fi classic gets a worthy, gorgeous deluxe, oversized treatment. Limited. You'll kick yourself if you wait.
Bumf Volume 1: I Buggered the Kaiser by Joe Sacco
The early 1990s was a time rich with surrealist underground comics: famous for artists like Jim Woodring and seminal works Ed The Happy Clown by Chester Brown and Like A Velvet Glove Cast in Iron by Daniel Clowes. Joe Sacco, primarily known for his comics reportage of war zones, has taken his decidedly conflict-based frame of reference and turned in this first installment Bumf, a modern take on the surrealist underground comic. Bumf if ripe with post 9/11 images, Nixon, and a hard focus on buggering. It's brilliant, bizarre fun - loaded with intricate linework and a story that delights in both disorienting and reorienting the reader. Essentially what he have here is a new modern, underground, surrealist comics masterpiece.
Complete ZAP Comix by Victor Moscoso (designer) / Eric Reynolds (editor)
I was so stoked for this book to finally come in. Imagine my dismay when the distributor (Diamond Comics) shipped me a damaged copy. So I got on the horn and had them send me a replacement copy. And guess what? Diamond shipped me ANOTHER damaged copy. And now they tell me they can't get any more copies of the book. So all I was left with was a damaged copy to look through before returning it. I wasn't even able to get a copy for myself, which is a bummer because this goddamn thing is a masterpiece.
Is it possible for something to be too good? If so, this deluxe set of complete Zap Comix might just be it. This is the most important comics collection to be released in years - bringing together the complete run of the Robert Crumb-created underground comix version of MAD Magazine. It features comics by Crumb as well as S. Clay Wilson, Robert Williams, Gilbert Shelton, Spain Rodriguez, Rick Griffin and so many others. This set is worth every penny of its price tag. If you can get a pristine copy.
Fight Frogs by Jimmy Giegerich
Fight Frogs is a modern take on a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles-style comic. Light on story, heavy on fight and fun. The artwork is funny and gross, the characters almost seem custom-made for action figures and playsets. The story is essentially, the Frogs wake up and find their pad vandalized by the Dick Ducks. So the Frogs hop on their Ultra-Tough All-Terrain Mega-Dank Fight Frog Ultra Boards and travel the desert wasteland to catch up with the Ducks. A flex-off turns into an epic rumble. Grossouts and laughs abound.
Libertarian by Nick Maandang
A Libertarian decides to pretend to be something he isn't in order to trick a woman into having sex with him. Mandaag manages to create a comic that satirizes Libertarians, socialists, feminists, Marxists, vegans and while still keeping its heart in the right place.
Love Bunglers by Jaime Hernandez
Love Bunglers collects the landmark story from Love & Rockets: New Stories! I'll admit that Love Bunglers may not be the greatest graphic novel of all time. There are a number of other titles - Watchmen, Ghost World, Jimmy Corrigan, Black Hole, Maus and others who can battle for that title. No, what Jaime has achieved here is the perfect graphic novel. These are characters who have developed over decades of Love and Rockets comics, but it's not necessary to have read those stories to get this book. In Love Bunglers, you have a comics master in peak control of all aspects of the medium - the characterization is precise, the linework is impossibly perfect and the narrative is profound and emotionally devastating. Love Bunglers is the comics medium perfected.
Silent Mischief by Katrin Kagen
Katrin's collection of illustrations are hilarious and adorable, and this new book will have you laughing out loud. Katrin holds up a mirror to us all at an interesting angle, that sometimes reflects us back as animals and inanimate objects that still manage to reveal us in very surprising and amusing ways. Easily one of my favorite books so far this year.
Silver Surver Vol. 1 by Dan Slott / Michael Allred
Marvel restarts their Silver Surfer series, this time with Mike Allred doing the art (a stroke of genius, really). Slott's story captures the pop spirit of Allred's art - and the art really makes this book fun - there are times when the page almost seems too small to contain everything going on.
Theth by Josh Bayer
I've been a fan of Josh's for a long time now. With each project his work just gets stronger and stronger, and Theth marks his greatest achievement to date. It's the story of a costumed Seth (taunted by his schoolmates as "Theth"), who is going to school the winter of John Lennon's murder. Theth captures the confusion, ambivalence and import surrounding this profound event in everyday life (perhaps I relate to this as strongly as I do because I was the same age as Seth, and was reading similar comics at unfriendly newsstands, and remember hearing the news of John Lennon's death on the bus to school, and experiencing the cultural confusion it caused at the time). Will Theth and his family find a way to get a long? Will Theth turn bad? Was John Lennon really stabbed and not shot? This excellent new book by Bayer raises these questions and so many more and Josh illustrates them brilliantly.
Tomboy: A Graphic Memoir by Liz Prince
Liz's memoir has been one of the most anticipated books at Atomic in the past few weeks, with most of the staff asking at least once a day, "Is it here yet, is it here yet?" When I finally said yes, everyone dropped what they were doing and immediately grabbed a copy and started reading - and everyone is in agreement that Liz totally killed it with this book.
Trillium by Jeff Lemire
Collected into this book is Jeff Lemire's acclaimed time/space-bending epic of the last love story ever told. It's crazy and awesome, and it'll have you flipping the book around in weird directions at times just to read it.
Turtle Island by Kevin Sherry
Kevin Sherry is one of the best kids books authors out there. Turtle Island is coolly illustrated book with a great story: it's a tale of loneliness and the magic of community as seen through an island-sized turtle and some shipwreck survivors.
Twelve Gems by Lane Milburn
This excellent, retro space opera reads like a funny, alternative Infinity Gauntlet meets Guardians of the Galaxy - but way cooler than both.
Weirdo Years: 1981-1993 by Robert Crumb
If you claim to love comics and don't own a copy of this, collecting Crumb's great Weirdo series, you're a liar. Some of Crumb's best work ever - Weirdo is a must-have.
Witzend by Wallace Wood
This isn't so much a book as it is an event. I love it when Fantagraphics delivers these deluxe, multi-volume hardcover comics collections - it's as much a statement of publishing principles as it is a comprehensive comics artifact. One of my all time favorites by in this format was their Harvey Kurtzman Humbug collection. Wally Wood's Witzend is just as impressive - with hours of page-turning glory. This was an early indy comics anthology that provided a lot of amazing artists the opportunity to publish personal work without worrying about the commercial side of comics. And yow! Just look at that list of contributors!
Yeti Files #1: Meet the Bigfeet by Kevin Sherry
Kevin Sherry has created a fun, magical world of cryptids. They try to keep a low profile, but unfortunately, there's an idiotic cryptozoologist named George Vanquist who keeps trying to take pictures of them to prove they do exist. This conflict creates hijinks, but the real fun is Sherry's elaborate pages, full of childlike whimsy, fascination and fun.