So yeah, I know my last post on this blog was my favorite things of 2015. I’ve been making an attempt at engaging more frequently and in smaller bite size pieces on other social media. If you like what I have to say, I invite you to join me on the following:
I’m not saying this blog is dead permanently. I actually hope to expand on this kind of content in the coming years. So please stay tuned. But for the moment, some examples of things in 2016 that were pretty great.
It’s a very interesting time for comics. I think that a lot of change is on the horizon, and we’ll see some major shifts in the way material is released, distributed, and sold in the next 3-5 years I’m optimistic about these changes. I dropped a lot of monthly titles this year, but I did enjoy a few series and lots of indie stuff too.
Easily my favorite publication on the shelves of the LCS. I find Island to be equally progressive and a throwback to the days of Metal Hurlant. Each issue features a variety of stories by every type of comic artist you can imagine. It’s one of the few publications from a major publisher to prominently feature auteur comic makers working on their own. These types of comics are usually only seen in the independent corners of the market, so this kind of exposure has certainly shown me (and hopefully others) some of the talent out there which lacks wide distribution. There are of course some stand-outs in the Island pages, most notably Habitat (by Simon Roy) and Ancestor (by duo Matt Sheean and Malachi Ward). Both stories were eventually collected and released individually to much critical fanfare. But I want to stress that these stories wouldn’t have been possible without the venue of Island. Love it.
House of Penance, by Peter Tomasi and Ian Bertram
This haunting limited series showcases relative newcomer artist Ian Bertam. Bertram’s style is reminiscent of Frank Quitely, R. Crumb, and Raphael Grampa, with intense textured hatching mixed with touches of stylized figure work. The series explores the mysteries of the Winchester mansion, unfolding as a surreal horror story anchored in pathos and redemption.
Shampoo, Bastard Building, & Green Graves, by Liam Cobb
I’ve followed Liam for a while now, and been impressed by his ability to continue to change his style with each new project. This year, we see him strip away some of the intense detail from his previous work to embrace a clean line style accentuated by simple color swatches. These three risograph printed books have a surreal quality, with a mostly singular lead characters exploring different environments that shift and surprise them at each turn. Liam deftly utilizes different modalities of the comic medium that are both narrative and non-linear. He is easily one of the most exciting creators working right now.
Picnoleptic Inertia, by Stathis Tsemberlidis
Following the last year’s Gardens of Glass by Lando, Breakdown Press brings us another collection by the other half of the Decadence Comics Duo. Stathis’ work explores consciousness and the nature of reality through wordless comics often set in mind-scape type environments. His work is most striking when the textural hatching style intersects with geometric shapes. The collection feels very cohesive, with an overall artistic vision strongly coming through. Repeat readings are recommended.
Your Black Friend, by Ben Passmore
I’ve been lucky to know Ben, who is one of the most intelligent creators in comics. His tantalizing brushwork is beautiful and catches your eye, immediately inviting you in. Once you’re in, Ben addresses the experiences of ‘your black friend’ on a day-to-day basis. The book is not ‘confrontational’, per se, but openly presents ideas and situations with measured intensity. The work strides difficult political discourse and personal experience in a way only comics can. This book will always be a mind-opening read but is extremely relevant now, considering many of the tensions regarding race, economics, and political ideologies in America.
Someone Please Have Sex With Me, by Gina Wynbrandt
I’m sure I’ve talked about Gina before, but this new release warrants a least a couple fresh words. Gina is funny, but her work isn’t just jokes. Throughout the pages of SPHSWM we are presented a personal exploration of sexuality, culture, and self-image. Gina’s clean line style accents her dirty style of telling stories that confront your sensibilities and pre-conceived notions of dating and sex in the 21st century. Don’t get me wrong. This book is funny. REALLY funny. And REALLY sexy.
The Goddamned, by Jason Aaron and R.M. Guera
Jason Aaron has a unique ability to write stories that show the dark heart of man, while still being (for lack of a better term) seriously badass entertainment. This alternate take on the story of Noah’s ark and the lone man Cain is gruesome, sad, and action packed. Most notable though is the world that Guera builds with his Chiaroscuro style of art. The costuming, posing, and lighting of each scene is top notch and a real treat to look at.
Some quality stuff this year in cinemas. I felt like smaller, leaner, films impressed me most this year.
A brutal tale of a punk band trapped in a skinhead bar, desperate to escape. Green Room has been compared to films like Assault on Precinct 13 and Straw Dogs. Which are great comparisons and well-earned. The film is populated by relatable protagonists with limited skill-sets to help them in this desperate situation. The reality of their reactions to the situation are one of the highlights of the movie. Another reason to check out Green Room are the fantastic performances from Patrick Stewart, the late Anton Yelchin, and Macon Blair.
The Witch is a unique film in setting and execution. The portrayal of 1600’s America is rarely seen in such a clear fashion as it is here. The costuming alone is reason to see this film, but add that to some incredible cinematography and deep performances and you have a very unique piece of work. One of the major successes of The Witch is the quiet yet desperate confusion of the family as they are confronted with possibly supernatural occurrences. It’s a slow burn, but a constant one, with many high points that build to a satisfying conclusion.
It’s nice to see a big-ish hollywood film play with non-linear storytelling techniques to enhance the main plot and character actions. And I mean really playing with the perception of time, not just showing things out of order a’la Tarantino. Arrival does include some silly leaps in logic when dealing with the alien communication, but really the methods are secondary to their impact. As the film progresses, the whole picture comes into focus like a magic eye poster. Because of this, the emotional impact of the story is much more deep seated, reminding me of Terrence Malick’s films. Good stuff.
In a Valley of Violence
A fun throwback western from Ti West! Ti is EXTREMELY good at zero-ing in on how cinema from specific genre’s and time periods works, then using those techniques to tell a new story. I’m a sucker for movies with animal sidekicks, and this movie has a great one in Abby (Jumpy) the dog. Ethan Hawke plays the quintessential frontiersman with a dark past, while John Trovolta is (beyond all expectations) very good as the villain. Cover this base with a spot-on soundtrack and you have one of the best westerns of the year.
Hell or High Water
Filled with top-notch performances, Hell or High Water finds that magic balance between intensity, humor, and pathos. Ben Foster gives one of his best performances, complimented by an understated Chris Pine. Of course, Jeff Bridges is good as the old police officer, one part Tommy Lee Jones and one part Rooster Cogburn. The quiet moments play well with engaging dialogue, while the action scenes are filled with those nice awkward realistic touches that we rarely get in movies.
Yet another wonderful year of music. I’ve been really lucky that many of my favorite bands are basically alternating years with new releases or releasing something new every year.
Continuously evolving, Deftones is a band I’ve stuck with since high school. Gore is easily the best record they’ve released in the last 10 years. Every track is varied and unique, but all tie together to form a haunting but adrenaline pumping record. The wide variety of guitar riffs keep sucking me back in, showcasing how talented Stephen Carpenter really is (even though I hear he wasn’t a fan of the record?). Highly recommended!
John Carpenter, Lost Themes II
I mean, it’s another John Carpenter record. If you have ever read anything I’ve written or talked to me for more than an hour, you probably know I love John Carpenter. This record does feel a bit more cohesive than the first, causing me to listen to the whole thing without skipping any tracks. I also had a chance to see John in concert this year, and it was sublime.
Run The Jewels 3
Technically, the release date on this was 2017, but these rap heroes released it on Christmas for the fans. Yet again, we have two of the greatest hip hop artists at the very top of their game. RTJ3 does have a bit more of the late 90’s hip hop vibe to it and some elements incorporated from the southern rap scene. It’s a much more poppy record, but in the best way. Definitely give this a spin.
So there you have it, another year of inspiring art in the many mediums I enjoy most. I’m curious, what were your favorite things released last year? Let me know here, or on Twitter, Instagram, or Tumblr!