It's time for a list of the Nifty 9 - reading material you can find in a better-than-o.k. comic shop that premiered this year:
(In no particular order...)
1. Jim Henson's Tale of Sand: I found out about this book after it won the Will Eisner Award for Best Original Graphic Novel. This GN, an adaptation of an unproduced screenplay written by Henson and Jerry Juhl, is a psychedelic romp through Monument Valley in which an average everyman tries to match wits with his better-prepared, urbane doppelganger while on a quest to "follow the map", have a cigarette, win the woman of his dreams, dodge the mad sheik's army, stay out of the director's shot, be the town hero and cross the dessert while heeding the warning: "don't trust the map."
2. Transformers: More Than Meets The Eye #1: the quick-changing robots get the Justice League International treatment, beginning with this issue. Those of you only familiar with these characters (yes, characters) via the Michael Bay films will experience shell shock.
3. Case Closed - Volume #42: this manga series about a teen detective who turns into a kid detective and has to slowly solve the mystery of the clandestine organization behind his transformation, has been going strong for over 15 years, even if any hope for futher episodes of the anime spin-off being brought over to the USA seems unlikely. Anyway, this is the one - the volume I would recommend to someone who would be curious to try it. It's got some strong arcs and characterization, along with appearances and revelations from the semi-recurring characters that tend to pop in and out.
4. Doctor Who - Shada: this was the best read of the summer. Gareth Roberts had to rise to the challenge of cobbling together every draft, fragment and scribble of Douglas Adams aborted Doctor Who epic and reshape it into a proper full-length novel. Well, he did it. He really, really did it. My only question is: What will you do for an encore, Gareth? ... it just so happens that Tom Baker had written a script for a DW film that would have featured Vincent Price as the villain - titled Doctor Who Meets Scratchman, the film was almost put into production before the financing fell apart. When I had asked him on Twitter about it, Roberts reply was, "Good Idea." ...
5. The Secret History of D.B. Cooper: Oni published this series that offered a fanciful look into the life of that mysterious skyjacker whose fate has never been solved. The artwork is very Mike Mignola/Darwyn Cooke-ish, right down to the red gummi bear sidekick.
6. Idolized #0: From Michael Turner's Aspen MLT. The special premiere #0 issue of this comic starts off well. It's about the winner of a reality show in which super-powered wannabes compete for a rookie spot in an established team, The Powered Protectors, but there are hints that the protagonist is going to be their bad penny. BTW, this series is also notable for being the only comic book series I can remember that offered variant photo covers (in which they get a model to pose in costume as the lead character) that weren't bikini pin-ups in disguise. Vampirella, Glory, Ally Kat, The 10th Muse - all cheesecake.
7. Transformers: More Than Meets The Eye, #5: this standout issue is the conclusion to a medical mystery (yes, robots solving medical mysteries!) featuring fan-favorite Ratchet, is very entertaining, with an ending that's a laugh riot. There's a good reason the title of this chapter is not revealed until the last page...spoilers. ;)
8. Burt Ward, Boy Wonder: the problem with small press companies is that you never know if the premiere issue is the only issue, or in this case, a sneak peek offered on Free Comic Book Day. This was supposed to be a spin-off of a popular series of their hit Misadventures of Adam West series, in which Sir Adam West gets involved in different kinds of adventures in different genres (usually nods to gigs-that-might-have-been, like playing James Bond in On Her Majesty's Secret Service or a Western film without the Three Stooges or a serious Caped Crusader and even appearing as Indiana Jones or The Mad Hatter). Here, Ward gets his own turn. First we get an update of his life right now - running a non-profit animal rescue shelter and walking two amiable pooches around the location of the batcave from the 60s Batman TV series. Then we see him chase a mysterious masked man (looking suspiciously like The Red Hood) into said cave,with the dogs tagging along. Just as John Carter wound-up whisked into Mars, Ward and the dogs wind up on another planet. It sounded like a fun adventure - we'll have to wait and see if and when it resumes. An ad featuring a spin-off series about Julie Newmar was also solicited, but has not appeared on stands yet.
9. League of Extraordinary Gentlemen - Century, Part 3: 2009: And this is the one to recommend to everyone - be it the folks who are curious try it or the ones who found past installments inaccessible, and not just because they'll get the references to 30 Rock, Burn Notice, Lost, Heroes, 24, Centurions, Emma Peel, Mary Poppins, Harry Potter, Children in Need, The Dark is Rising and Wizards of Waverly Place - this is the best comic book of the year. 'Nuff said. 'Nuff said.
So there you have it - a Nifty 9 bon-bons from 2012. I'll see you in 2013. :)