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Hugh Likes Comics: The Top 5 of 2012

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Number 5:

Atomic Robo and the Flying She-Devils of the Pacific

Written by Brian Clevenger

Art by Scott Wegener, Colors by Nick Filardi

Atomic Robo” is a fun, smart action comic. The dialog sparkles, the art is bright and engaging, and the characters have a depth and grace that doesn’t get bogged down in ‘gritty’ melodrama.

This volume, set in the South Pacific after World War II, dealt with some heavy topics: the extreme determination of the Japanese Imperial Army, the discrimination faced by female pilots and mechanics in the second world war, and the abandoned stockpiles of ordinance and other deadly materiel after the conflict. It is a testament to Clevenger’s writing that the presentation manages to balance the slower character moments with dogfights, explosions, and mad science without any of the elements feeling forced or out of place. In fact, they support each other, lending the piece a sort of mad-cap gallows humor.

Number 4:

Edison Rex

Written by Chris Roberson

Art by Dennis Culver

Edison Rex is the story of a supervillain trying to make good. It is also a clever send-up of comics tropes and the industry itself. The series’s extremely flawed but charming protagonist is a fresh voice, and Roberson’s sharp wit, combined with Culver’s expressive figures and gorgeous sets, make this the comic your tablet was made for.

Number 3:

Skullkickers: Treasure Trove Vol. 1

Written by Jim Zub

Art by Edwin Huang

A massive collection of the first two trades, most of these comics came out before 2012, but the big collection came out this year, so it sneaks into this year’s list.

The mis-adventures of a human known only as “Baldy” and a Dwarf called “Shorty,” Skullkickers is an ultraviolent sword-and-sorcery buddy comedy. Equal parts Fritz Lieber and Marx Brothers, the pair struggle against fat werewolves, incompetent necromancers, and Disneyfied, but still incredibly deadly faeries. The main characters (I can’t quite call them ‘heroes’) aren’t discriminating. They’ll kill anything for 2 copper pieces. This series is over the top gory fun that manages to stay firmly on the side of slapstick. Zub’s dynamic writing and Huang’s art that makes the worst carnage downright pretty are the real saviors of this book.

Number 2

Wolverine and the X-Men

Written by Jason Aaron

Art by Various Artists

I love the X-Men, perhaps in theory a bit more than in practice. There are some iconic runs and great stories, but often the comic focussed on the down bits: The losses, the tragedies, and the plight of being different in a world that hates you. The X-men were great, but they weren’t FUN. Aaron’s team is approaching the concept from a different direction, and he’s pulling it off masterfully. With a new batch of students and a brand new school, the X-men cope with keeping everything running with a skeleton crew of adults. The characters are changing, accepting more responsibility, and still having crazy adventures fighting pre-teen arms dealers, killer space biologists, and even the dreaded League of Nazi Bowlers. The series is filled to bursting with crazy comic book moments and high concept shenanigans, but it all works and the Aaron keeps the plates spinning. I can’t wait to see where he goes next.

Number 1

Bandette

Written by Paul Tobin

Art by Colleen Coover

Bandette is an all-ages love letter to French comics, and hands down my favorite book of 2012. Coover’s digital ink-washed art is gorgeous, and unlike anything else out there today. Tobin’s writing is clever, funny, and gives you just enough of the mystery to leave you in suspense. And with a supporting cast of mysterious thieves, gruff police inspectors, and colorful villains, it can only get better from here.

You can find all of these comics on Comixology. Have your own picks? Leave a comment!

Hugh Likes Comics: Edison Rex #1

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Written by Chris Roberson, Art by Dennis Culvur, Colored by Stephen Downer, Lettered by John J. Hill, Edited by Allison Baker. Published by Monkeybrain Comics. Available from Comixology.

“Edison Rex” is a thinking person’s goofy superhero comic. The flagship of the Monkeybrain line of creator-owned digital comics, it is written by publisher Chris Roberson. Like the rest of the line, it is a short, periodical comic designed to be published around other commitments.

Roberson recently worked on a short and controversial run of Superman comics. Perhaps it is unsurprising that his new work focuses on the death of a Superman-like hero at the hands of his arch nemesis, the eponymous “Edison Rex.” What is surprising is that the climax of their relationship isn’t a titanic brawl. It is a conversation, and it is handled with subtlety and craft.

The hero Valiant arrives at the hideout of the criminal Rex, ready to bring him to justice. Rex doesn’t want to fight, he wants to talk. Roberson and Culvur guide us through the villain’s lair, the two characters’ personal history, and a few interesting science fiction ideas along the way. The dialog feels natural, without getting too deep into ‘as you know’ information dumps, and Culvur’s art prevents the issue from feeling like a talking head sequence. I especially liked the evolving design of Valiant’s costumes, and the expressiveness of his faces. It becomes clear that Rex is seeing the culmination of a plan he didn’t really think would work. These characters really feel like they might be ending decades of comic-book confrontations, rather than appearing in their first issue.

The comic ends with an implied question, which is going to be the backbone for the series: What do you do once you’ve reached your life’s goal? And if that goal is the destruction of the world’s mightiest defender, there might be some problems. It falls to our criminal genius to take up the cause of saving the world.

Edison Rex is a comic that perfectly balances the crafts that have gone into it. The writing, art, and design all compliment each other in a way that would fall flat otherwise. This is the kind of comic that shows just how and why comics work as their own medium, rather than the lesser sibling of film or prose. Rex is a standout comic, with a flawed protagonist that is thought-provoking while still being loads of fun. This is a series to watch.

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