My Favorite Things of 2012Posted: January 2, 2013
It’s that time when everyone is doing those ‘best of 2012’ lists. I haven’t done something of that sort for quite sometime, so I thought it might be fun. Here are some of my favorite things of 2012 in no particular order:
Left to Right/Top to Bottom: The Cage, DareDevil, Multiple Warheads, Prophet, Space-Mullet, Punisher, Last Train to Old Town, Cycles
The Cage, by Rinko Endo
Although you may not know who Rinko Endo is yet, you will soon. She has been building up a splendid collection of manga based on mental health issues and art therapy. This new personal manga is masterfully drawn and constructed. Rinko shows us a difficult struggle she went through growing up with “the chin cap”. Rinko pulls much insight and inspiration from her art therapy background, helping every reader empathize with this struggle. We all have things in our lives that hold us back, but with inspiring and insightful artworks like this we see that there is hope. Rinko’s actual drawings will blow your mind. She has an eye for detail that knows no limits. There are tons of textures and patterns which make each page pop. She also brings in the rich history of signs and signals present in japanese manga, giving way to some wonderful expression. If you can’t find this book, let me know and I’ll personally HOUND the artist until you get one. Or you can come to Quimby’s this month and beg her for your copy!
Daredevil, by Mark Waid & Paolo Rivera & others
A lot of great things have been said about this book (rightly so). Waid has dug Daredevil out of his dark hole from the early 2000’s and brought him back into a more adventurous-womanizer-swashbuckler kind of scene. There are also fun little one-shot interludes to break up those multi-issue stories. My personal favorite is when he was caught in a snow storm when taking a school bus of blind children on a field trip. Top that off with Rivera’s amazing art and you have a winner.
Multiple Warheads, by Brandon Graham
This book is nuts. Jokey, action-y, sexy, and beautifully drawn. Graham seems to constantly be pushing the ways the medium can be used in this book. His panels, word balloons, and character designs all show him assessing and pushing against the conventions of the medium.
Prophet, by Brandon Graham & Simon Roy & others
I’ve mentioned it multiple times before and pretty much everyone knows this book is amazing. It’s Conan in space. What more could a reader ask for? How about awesome short sci-fi backup stories from the best of the best indy comics artists? That’s in there too. If you don’t have this book on your shelf yet, go get it!
Space-Mullet, by Daniel Warren Johnson
I’ve mentioned Space-Mullet before. But let me be clear: Daniel Warren Johnson is an artist to watch. Jump on board now. Space-Mullet is one of those web-comics that works as individual pages released weekly, but also as an overall story. The characters are a great duo (think Calvin & Hobbs meets Jack Burton & Wang Chi) who seem to find themselves in precarious situations on a regular basis. Daniel is building a tale of intrigue, hinting at a dark past for one of our heroes. The real star here though, is Daniel’s artwork. Dynamic action featuring creative character designs wall to wall. His framing & motion are particularly strong. Tons of fun!
Punisher, by Greg Rucka & Marco Checchetto
Though I LOVE Frank Castle, I resisted this series for the first 5 or so issues. When it began, Marvel had just killed my old friend Frank in Punisher Max and I was still a tad bitter. And the Bryan Hitch covers were aweful. Though it did start slow, the series really picks up steam and builds a fresh look on ol’ Frank. Doing away with Frank’s inner monologue was a stroke of genius. Rucka also found incredible ways to ‘make Punisher work’ in the regular Marvel universe. He basically gives his ‘thesis’ statement around issues 14-15, as Frank explains to his accomplice what it really means to do what he does. It was really exciting to see another writer after Ennis ‘get’ the Punisher. Of course, this series is now canceled.
Last Train to Old Town, by Kenan Rubenstein
Kenan has been building quite a piece of work in this beautiful web-comic. On the technical side, this is the best presentation I’ve seen of a web-comic. The site gives you multiple viewing options, easy places to submit feedback, and creator insight all via a non-intrusive side bar. The comic itself blends form and content beautifully. Each character is given their own hand-written font to ever-so-slightly differentiate their speech. The backgrounds are done with minimal black, until characters directly interact with them. Conversations intersect within panels, making each interaction feel natural, bringing the reader into the characters’ world. If that’s not enough, Rubenstein’s done a print version of the first chapter of the story, which showcases his impeccable craftsmanship. It’s for sale on his website and worth 10 times what he sells it for. This is an artist hitting his stride and I can’t wait to see where the Last Train takes us in 2013.
Cycles, by Beth Hetland & Kyle O’Connell
“Hetland and O’Connell have crafted a comic as funny and thrilling as it is smart and skillful. Cycles is a deftly told tale of whimsical machinations that entertains from the first panel to the thrilling climax. Read this now!” Those were my thoughts upon first reading this book and they still stand. Hetland & O’Connell entertain you while weaving a story that gets better upon repeat readings. Hetland’s art expresses the whimsical and crafty characters that O’Connell has dreamed up. A true joy to read!
I also loved Building Stories by Chris Ware, but do any of us NOT know that he’s amazing at this point?
7 Psychopaths– A fun movie from the director of In Bruges. I generally can’t stand Colin Farrell, but he’s decent in both these films. This also features some of my favorite actors in Walken, Rockwell, and a quick appearance by Michael Stuhlbarg. A fantastic twist on the genre expectations.
The Grey– I have a serious love for Mr. Liam Neeson. From Crossing the Line, to Darkman, to Taken. He’s the man. The Grey is an intense film about group dynamics and man’s struggle with existence. And there are wolves. Really big wolves. Please don’t get upset that the wolves are not realistic. I think it’s fairly obvious they are not supposed to be.
Looper– Rian Johnson has a keen understanding of genre. This film is a prime example of what sci-fi films still have to offer. A slick blend of high concept, curveball plot points, and pitch perfect performances. Of course JGL and Willis are great, but keep your eyes out for Noah Segan & Garreth Dillahunt, who both give big (small) performances.
Dredd– Karl Urban loves comics and sci-fi. Dude didn’t take off his helmut for the whole film! Actors usually aren’t that brave (excluding John Hurt). This is a very stylized adaptation of Dredd. They made smart moves in adapting this by going for grit and keeping the humor dark. The set-up is akin to The Raid: Redemption (compliment) leaving a lot of room for wacky villians and gory action. I even enjoyed the 3-D, especially when the ‘slo-mo’ drug was in use.
The Master– I had a hate/hate relationship with P.T. Anderson until There Will Be Blood. That film blew me away (then tanked in the last 15 minutes). The Master lacks some of the highs & lows of that film, but is a phenomenal character study. Phoenix is completely transformed and steals the show from the usually scene chewing Hoffman. And this film is absolutely gorgeous.
I also enjoyed: Beauty is Embarrassing, Lockout, Cloud Atlas
clockwise: Fiona Apple, El-P, Killer Mike, Deftones
Fiona Apple, The Idler Wheel
I’ve always been a casual Fiona fan. This album really cements her as a fantastic singer and song-writer for me. The album pulls from so many different influences and fuses them wonderfully. The opening and closing of the album are by far the most compelling.
El-P, Cancer 4 Cure
El-P is an un-paralleled producer. This record sounds perfect. He really turns up the sci-fi vibe on this one, bringing us into a dark future similar to what we heard on I’ll Sleep When You’re Dead. However, I think this album sounds more complete, with highs and lows and much better guest spots. The Danny Brown and Nick Diamond contributions are particularly strong. This is one of those rare albums you can listen to front to back and enjoy every track.
Killer Mike, R.A.P. Music
And El-P also contributes here with Atlanta’s Killer Mike. Mike gives us something as aggressive as it is spiritual. He pours a lot of emotion & politics into many of the songs which rally the audience. R.A.P. Music puts me in mind of N.W.A and Ice Cube, while equally conjuring Mos Def and Outkast. I hope El-P and Mike continue to collaborate going forward.
Deftones, Koi No Yokan
Not many bands you like in high school continue to produce good music as you/they get older. Deftones is (for me) the exception to that rule. Koi No Yokan is a varied, but heavy record. Less melodic than Diamond Eyes, but more rhythmically complex. Every track feels dense, while never losing the hook. Chino’s voice and cryptic lyrics are as intriguing as ever.
What did you all enjoy in 2012? Let me know!
I was blessed to have an amazing year full of travel, art, friends, and family. I hope you all had an amazing 2012 and I wish you the best in 2013!