And in case you missed the first two parts of this fantastic list, here is Part 1 and here is Part 2.
Super Spy GN by Matt Kindt
What I said then: It's almost like you have an actual World War II document in your hands with age spots and spilled coffee on them.
What I say now: It's strange for me to open a review about a great comic with a discussion of what is essentially its wrapper, but Super Spy has a fantastic design. The cover and interior pages are intentionally made to look old, with spots, stains, bents, and burns. The double ordering (triple, if you count the online version) of the stories makes for fantastic re-reading experiences, as you can read the shorts in the order Kindt intended, chronological order, or the order Kindt wrote them in (available online at Top Shelf Comix). All that, and I haven't even talked about the content.
Super Spy is made up of many interlocking short stories about many World War II spies from every side of the conflict. Kindt's spies are believable characters who fail just as often as they succeed in their various clandestine missions. Most of them have everyday problems that compound their jobs like raising children, earning money in their cover jobs, and writing to their girlfriends back home.
The art style and the color palette changes from strip to strip, keeping things visually fresh and exciting while the text keeps the stories moving in a myriad of storytelling techniques. I'm, almost positive Kindt pulled out Raymond Queneau's Exercises in Style.
Why it isn't Number One: As much as I like Kindt's many storytelling techniques, some of them are just a bit too cute, and I think the shorts attached to those particular techniques suffer because of it. All the "Polly" strips, for example, just aren't as good as the rest of them, and I think the Polly Peregrine stories at the beginning are to blame.
The Umbrella Academy by Gerard Way and Gabriel Ba
What I said then: The whole issue attempts to subvert the seriousness of the depicted actions by making the reader laugh at very inopportune times. (about issue three)
Gerard Way is more than just the front man for an emo rock band. He is a gifted writer who really understands how and why comics work. ... [Gabriel Ba's] style is so unlike anything currently on the stands (including his twin brother). His character work is wonderfully unique and inventive. (about issue four)
What I say now: Four issues of this wonderful series came out from Dark Horse last year, and each one was better than the last. Each issue (with the exception of the first, as I didn't review it) received my Skull of the Week award, and I can only assume the last two will as well (number five is out this week).
My expectations for this series were remarkably low, as Gerard Way, frontman for "My Chemical Romance," just didn't say comic book writer to me. In fact, he said "annoying emo singer" to me. I bought this book only because Gabriel Ba was doing the art, and I had fallen in love with him from his stint on the already mentioned Casanova. I didn't even read the first issue until the second one came out. My surprise and delight at how horrendously wrong I was buoyed every month as the series just kept getting better. Way has a real gift for familial strife, as well as for crazy-ass shit going down, with which he strikes the perfect balance between the relatable and the absurd that is usually very hard to maintain. It's child's play for Way (that rhymes, so it must be true).
Ba, who might look better in full-color than the duo-tone he used on Casanova, shows that he can just as easily draw the world's most absurd-looking superhero (Spaceboy is a man's head transplanted onto a gorilla's body who lives on the moon while wearing a spacesuit) as he can a mundane-looking (yet still awesome) secret agent.
Why it isn't Number One: I really wanted to make it Number One, but it's just not finished yet. The trade will most likely make the list next year, as it will be completed and I can recommend it without any conditions or fear of unavailability (so keep it in print forever, Dark Horse!)
Re-Gifters GN by Mike Carey, Sonny Liew, and Marc Hempel
What I said then: This is the quintessential coming-of-age story, only different and new.
What I say now: It was the second offering from DC's girls-only Minx line, following the decent launch title of Plain Janes. Unfortunately for DC's marketing department, this book isn't just for girls; this book is for everybody who has ever grown up. It's the fairly simple story of Dik Seong Jen aka Dixie, a Korean-American high school girl living on the edge of Koreatown in LA. Her mom makes jewelry as their main source of income, since her dad lost the family store during the LA Riots of '92, and her two twin brothers do their level best to drive her insane. And she's fallen for a cute surfer boy. All these details make up Dixie's growing up experience, and they're pretty focused (I don't know about you, but I didn't even know what Hapkido was before reading Dixie's competition in it), but it doesn't matter. Dixie's thoughts and feelings echo those of every high school student with a crush. All the details can easily be switched in and out to fit any person's life history because Dixie is such a relatable character in such a believable situation.
The team of Liew and Hempel keep the art simple, and a bit cartoony, which fits the written portion very well. It's believable, but at the same time fun and light, which is what the story is like as well.
Mike Carey, who's various mainstream superhero work is reviled far and wide, shows that he is being vastly underused by both of the major companies. This is what Carey should be writing all the time: young adult fiction about real people, instead of derivative superhero stories for entrenched fanboys.
Why it isn't Number One: Oh wait, it is. And it totally deserves it.
Surprised? You shouldn't be. Remember, these are scientifically proven results. You can't argue with science.