Wednesday, 7 January 2015

2014 Moments in Comics

To finish the 2014 nostalgia, here's my favourite comics & graphic novels from last year. I made it too late to contribute to Forbidden Planet's 'Best Of' articles where I was one of many featured last year, so here's a short summary of what stood out to me;

COMMANDO: Great War Stories by George Low & Keith Page, covers by Ian Kennedy

This year, I’ve eagerly followed D C Thomson’s longstanding title as it ambitiously embarked on a monthly tribute to the range of ordinary characters caught up in the extraordinary events of The Great War. The pocket sized Commando format is perfectly suited to these tales across the many theatres of war often highlighting lessor know combatants and conflicts. The stories are necessary stand-alone but, through cameos, contrast the idealistic enlistment dreams of a young newspaper boy with the experiences of those already at war. Although the tales are not the graphic accounts of a Charley’s War or a White Death (see below), they are no less effective in bringing the stories of ordinary soldiers to a wider newsstand audience and that should be praised. Expertly written and illustrated by George Low and Keith Page behind exceptional new Ian Kennedy covers these are well worth seeking out and hopefully will be collected on the series conclusion.

WHITE DEATH by Robbie Morrison and Charlie Adlard   

Sticking with the First World War, this is the recent Image Comics re-release of the indie classic to tie in with the war’s centenary. Set in 1916 on the Italian Trentino mountain range it is unflinching in its portrayal of those soldiers caught up in the desperation of war. The futility of conflict is expertly played out through the eyes of a small group of Italian soldiers as their struggles with the enemy and their nihilist commander are dwarfed by the dangerous mountain terrain. The quieter moments really stand out with carefully chosen dialogue and images reflecting the horror of the soldiers experiences without being preachy. Not an easy read for sure but an important one, well deserving of its hardcover re-release from two of the UK’s leading talents.

MULP: Sceptre of the Sun #1 by Matt Gibbs and Sara Dunkerton

An absolute delight and a charming contrast to not only First World War stories but all other comics I’ve encountered this year. An anthropomorphic pulp adventure full of mice, mystery and exotic locations, what’s not to like! In the best adventure traditions, it’s rollicking fun with an Indiana Jones vibe as our heroes meet by an (alternative) Egyptian archaeological dig where their finds are under dangerous threat from spies working for a mysterious benefactor. Matt Gibbs clever and quick moving script allows Sara Dunkerton plenty of opportunity to show off her artistic skills with many dynamic locations and action scenes. As a fun first issue from two new creators this promises to be the start of something special.

Honourable mentions to Letty Wilson's delightful WEIRD MOOSE which I witnessed being created at Glasgow Comic-ConTop Shelf’s authentic American Civil Rights Movement book, MARCH, Jonathan Cape's SALLY HEATHCOTE: SUFFRAGETTE, Images Comics entertaining MANIFEST DESTINY and enjoyable indies BLACK FEATHER FALLS and HALF HANGED MacNAGHTEN from Soaring Penguin and Uproar Comics respectively.

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