Best of 2015: Best Issues

best issues 2015
Episodic storytelling is the name of the game in monthly comics. Month- or even multi-year-long arcs are fine, but a series lives and dies by its individual chapters. From self-contained one-offs to issues that recontextualize their respective series, this year had a ton of great issues. Whittling down those issues to a list was no easy task (and we look forward to hearing how your lists differ in the comments), but we would gladly recommend any (and all) of these issues without hesitation. These are our top 10 issues of 2015. Continue reading

Sex Criminals 12

Alternating Currents: Sex Criminals 12, Drew and Michael

Today, Drew and Michael are discussing Sex Criminals 12, originally released September 16th, 2015.

Drew: Human beings find meaning in things. It makes sense as a survival mechanism — recognizing patterns or hypothesizing causal links can lead us towards food or away from danger — but it’s also not something we can turn off. A friend of mine once pointed out that you can fill one of those logical analogies (you know, “puppy is to dog as kitten is to cat”) with four totally random words and it will still make some kind of sense — that is, we can find meaning in connections that are literally drawn out of a hat. To me, that means that “meaning” doesn’t necessarily have objective basis in reality — it’s a thing that we construct because that’s what our brains do. This has some rather profound existential consequences, but for the purposes of our discussion of Sex Criminals 12, I want to focus on what it means for the characters, as this issue finds them each extrapolating meaning that might not be there. Continue reading

Sex Criminals 11

Alternating Currents: Sex Criminals 11, Drew and Michael

Today, Drew and Michael are discussing Sex Criminals 11, originally released June 29th, 2015.

Drew: I’ve played the “what superpower would you want” game enough to know that most people will settle for “flight” or “invisibility.” Does that predictability speak to the overwhelming awesomeness of those powers, or some failure of those individuals to be creative? I think it might actually speak to how we think about superpowers: they’re so arbitrary as to be kind of meaningless. Indeed, there are relatively few characters whose powersets are actually limited to just “flight” or “invisibility,” giving even those most popular choices the air of not quite being enough. Which is why Sex Criminals is such a revelation. “A series about a couple with the ability to stop time” doesn’t get nearly the reaction as “A series about a couple with the ability to stop time when they orgasm.” Part of the charm is the novelty, sure, but the premise requires that sexuality play a central role in the series. That makes it unique beyond its superpowers, as issue 11 takes us into the private lives of virtually every character via their sex lives. Continue reading

Hawkeye 22

Alternating Currents: Hawkeye 22, Drew and Courtney

Today, Drew and Courtney are discussing Hawkeye 22, originally released July 15th, 2015.

Drew: Endings are hard. Whether they break our hearts or leave us wanting more, even the most satisfying ending must face the bittersweet truth of being the end. “The End” takes on a peculiar meaning in the world of month-to-month comics (especially where the next volume may already be a few issues in), but whatever we’re saying goodbye to — whether its a paradigm or a creative team — can still have an almost hallowed air of significance. This makes talking about comic book endings in a issue-by-issue format particularly difficult, as its tempting to use the final issue as a platform for talking about the series as a whole. I absolutely want to talk about Matt Fraction’s Hawkeye run as a whole, but I want to first give issue 22 its due respect as perhaps the perfect distillation of what made his run so remarkable. Continue reading

Hawkeye 21

Alternating Currents: Hawkeye 21, Drew and Spencer

Today, Drew and Spencer are discussing Hawkeye 21, originally released February 4th, 2015.

I shall not today attempt further to define the kinds of material I understand to be embraced within that shorthand description; and perhaps I could never succeed in intelligibly doing so. But I know it when I see it…

Justice Potter Stewart

Drew: I’ve never been a fan of classifications in art. I could go on at length about how sub-subgenres eventually become too specific to have any utility, while broader classifications face the opposite problem of being to general, but my real issue is that our definitions fall apart under scrutiny. We tend to accept the kind of “I know it when I see it” definition of basically every category we have, from gender to genre, but most working definitions have to allow for so many exceptions that they lose all meaning. Take “superhero” for example. We all have a lose idea of who a superhero is, what they do, how they act, but to try and pin down the definition reveals that none of those things are fixed. Are they heroic (courageous, noble, selfless)? Many are, sure, but there are plenty of antiheroes muddying up any moral definition. What about superpowers? Again, lots do, but with so many non-powered superheroes, it’s hardly a criteria. The closest I can come up with is based on our relationship to superheroes — namely, that we expect their actions to lead to their success. In that way, I’d like to posit Clint Barton — particularly as depicted in Matt Fraction and David Aja’s Hawkeye — as an antisuperhero. Continue reading

Sex Criminals 10

sex criminals 10

Today, Patrick and Ryan are discussing Sex Criminals 10, originally released January 28th, 2015.

Patrick: I think we’re slowly starting to emerge on the other side of the age of the anti-hero: when your Tony Sopranos and Walter Whites and Don Drapers were the coolest guys on TV. If there’s one thing these guys all have in common — other than your suspicion that you couldn’t be friends with them in real life — it’s that they all know what they want. The means and methods by which they achieve their goals can be questionable, but as long as they continue to express an honest desire, the audience never goes away. It’s strong, and somehow morally correct. Even when their worlds are crashing down around them, we have faith in the anti-hero’s unwavering need to get what they want. So where does that leave us with characters that don’t know or can’t articulate what they want? That’s a relatable trait, probably more relatable than any of us would like to admit. Continue reading

Best of 2014: Best Series Part 2

Best of 2014: Best TitleWe all love a good one-off or anthology, but it’s the thrill of a series that keeps us coming back to our comic shop week-in, week-out. Whether it’s a decades-spanning ongoing or a short-run miniseries, serialized storytelling allows for bigger casts, bigger worlds, and bigger adventures. Indeed, we’re so enamored of serialization that we decided to split our favorite series list into two installments. Here’s part 2 our top 14 series of 2014 (click here for part 1).
Continue reading

Best of 2014: Best Series Part 1

Best of 2014: Best TitleWe all love a good one-off or anthology, but it’s the thrill of a series that keeps us coming back to our comic shop week-in, week-out. Whether it’s a decades-spanning ongoing or a short-run miniseries, serialized storytelling allows for bigger casts, bigger worlds, and bigger adventures. Indeed, we’re so enamored of serialization that we decided to split our favorite series list into two installments. Here’s part 1 our top 14 series of 2014 (check back here for part 2 tomorrow).
Continue reading

Best of 2014: Best Writer

Best of 2014: Best WriterIn such a collaborative medium as comics, it can be difficult to say where a writer’s influence on the story ends, but there’s no question on where it begins: words on the page. Whether they thrill, elate, chill, or deflate, the best writers create characters, settings, and situations we want to return to, again and again. These are our top 14 writers of 2014. Continue reading

Best of 2014: Best Issue

Best of 2014: Best IssueEpisodic storytelling is the name of the game in monthly comics. Month- or even multi-year-long arcs are fine, but a series lives and dies by its individual chapters. From self-contained one-offs to issues that recontextualize their respective series, this year had a ton of great issues. Whittling down those issues to a list was no easy task (and we look forward to hearing how your lists differ in the comments), but we would gladly recommend any (and all) of these issues without hesitation. These are our top 14 issues of 2014.
Continue reading