My 12 Favorite Trade Reading Experiences Of 2012

I write about a lot of trades on this site, about two a week if I’m on my game. But, I actually read a lot more than that. So, this particular list is the 12 books or runs that I enjoyed the most reading or re-reading this year. Most of them have been covered on the site, but others have not. I’ll give the latter a few more words than the former, but hope you enjoy.
outsiders looking for trouble  I read all of Judd Winick’s run of Outsiders this year, but didn’t write about it? Why? Well, it was a pretty big reading project, something that makes it harder for me to write about as a whole. But, I still really enjoyed this reading experience. Winick brings a realness to superhero comics without letting it get too in the way (if that makes sense). I know a lot of people think he forces issues into books, but I think these are the kinds of things that should be talked about and seen. Anyway, this was a fun superhero reading experience that made me remember how fun the DCU was back when this book and Geoff Johns’ Teen Titans launched. Good times. starman-omnibus-vol-3I haven’t written about James Robinson’s Starman because I haven’t finished the last omnibus yet. I haven’t finished it because I kind of don’t want to finish it and I also need quiet time to really sit down and finish it. This series is up there with Preacher and Sandman for me in my list of all time favorites. It lives in my heart and I was elated to discover that I still like it. This is what shared universe superhero comics could and should be. legend of grimjack volume 1I know I just read the first two volumes of Grimjack, but the experience has stayed with me. I love that world and keep thinking of great ways it could be interpreted for different genres. Right now I’m thinking about a Crackdown/Amazing Spider-Man style video game set in Cynosure where you take on jobs or just spend your day drinking in Munden’s Bar. If you dig Hellboy, B.P.R.D. or 100 Bullets, I think you’ll enjoy Grimjack. Frankenstein Agent Of S.H.A.D.E. Volume 1 War of the MonstersI’ve had a lot of different feelings about DC’s New 52. At first I was upset that “my” versions of the characters would only survive in my trade shelves and long boxes. Then I realized that I don’t really read new issues anymore and I still have my collection (and books I’ve never read from that era) to enjoy. I also realized that I’m almost 30 and have better things to worry about. With that behind me, I was able to dive into various trades with a mostly clear head and enjoyed them for the most part. I appreciate how DC was attempting to hit all different kinds of genres and audiences, of course, not all of those attempts were successful. The least successful tries in my opinion, though, were the books that just failed to set up a basic reason why that book existed aside from “to make money.” I still have a pile of them to read and am getting a sense of the new U, which is kind of fun. secret avengers vol 1 mission to marsEven though I read the second arc of Ed Brubaker’s Secret Avengers first and the first second, I had a great time reading this “black ops” take on superheroes. Bru writing Captain America/Steve Rogers is always aces in my book, but throwing in a lot of other street level-esque characters was even cooler. I’ve only read these first two volumes, but was satisfied with Brubaker’s ability to create an enjoyable sci-fi/spy mash-up story that felt well contained while still making me want to read more. the return of king dougReturn of King Doug came out of left field for me. It was gifted to me by a pal and I knew nothing about it, but Greg Erb, Jason Oremland and Wook-Jin Clark reminded me so much of the kinds of stories I love from the 80s, but while also doing all kinds of new, funny things I enjoy. Read this now. bprd hell on earth 2 new world gods And MmonstersI’ve said this before, but one of the things I miss most about not working at Wizard anymore is access to all of the Hellboy and B.P.R.D. comics that came out. I’m super behind, but I did get my hands on some B.P.R.D. trades this year for a little catching up (Hell On Earth: New World and Gods And Monsters). That’s still the best damn comic series around and has been for a while. hulk red hulkI don’t mind playing catch-up on some books. I’ve been super happy re-reading things like World War Hulk and catching up on Hulk, Incredible Hulk and Red Hulk this year. Super fun, popcorn books mixed with well thought out ongoing superhero tales filled with monsters? Yeah, I’m all over that. izombie vol 2 uVAmpireI read the first iZombie trade in 2011, but was delighted to get my hands on the second and third volumes in 2012. I wrote about the second one here and have a post in mind talking about the third. Anyway, this series is the rare mix of intriguing characters, wacky situations, rock solid architecture and mythology I want to study PLUS one of the greatest artists the medium has ever seen. So, so, so good. american vampire volume 1I’m pretty surprised there are two Vertigo books on here. It seemed like for a while I was reading nothing from them. Now iZombie and American Vampire are two of my faves. Then again Chris Roberson and Scott Snyder are two of the best newcomer writers around, so that’s no surprise. In this case, Snyder takes two things that have become old and boring — vampires and American history — and makes them both super interesting and intense. Can’t wait to see where the rest of this series goes.batman knightfall volume 1Batman: Knightfall Volume 1 was pure, nostalgic joy. All of the Batman comics that got me into Batman in one place in one fat volume? Yes, yes and yes. I have the second and third volumes waiting to be read. Maybe next month after knocking off a smattering of random trades I want to check out. lost_dogs_cover_sm_lgI don’t remember exactly why I didn’t write about Jeff Lemire’s Lost Dogs. It’s one of the few books I’ve bought through Comixology for my Kindle Fire. The long and short of it is that this story about a simpleton trying to save his family. It’s raw and rough and hits you in the gut. I don’t know if I liked the experience of reading this story, but it was certainly powerful. I can’t remember if it made me cry or not, but it came close.

I’m certain I missed a few books that I didn’t write about, but this is a pretty solid list by all accounts. I should probably branch out into more diverse trades and graphic novels — and I plan to — but what can I say? I love me some superheroes. I also happen to love all kinds of other comics, so let’s continue to make and talk about awesome comics.

Fantasy Trade Post: House Of Mystery Volume 4 & The Return Of King Doug

House Of Mystery Volume 4: The Beauty Of Decay (Vertigo/DC)
Written by Matthew Sturges with Bill Willingham, drawn by Luca Rossi, Werther Dell’Edera & Jose Marzan Jr. with Jeff Lemire, Richard Corben, Al Davison, Antonio Fuso & Michael W.M. Kaluta
Collects House Of Mystery #16-20, HOM Halloween Annual #1

House Of Mystery pretty quickly became my favorite ongoing Vertigo book. I had fallen off the 100 Bullets wagon (though I’m re-reading it right now) and never tried Fables (felt like too much to get through to catch up) and it certainly helped that it’s a fantastic book that takes bits and pieces of the old school horror comics that it takes it’s name from and, of course, Neil Gaiman’s Sandman. If you’re unfamiliar with the basic HOM concept, it’s actually a bar that’s in it’s own dimension where people from various times and realities come together to share a drink. Some of them are stuck there and they make up the main cast, but in order for the other folks to get drinks, they have to tell a story which is written by a combination of series writer Sturges and Bill Willingham with a new artist every time. These stories are fantastic because they really expand on traditional stories and do something new.

This volume focuses on heroine Fig and her fellow residents of the House trying to figure out why they can’t leave. It’s not a good volume to start off with because it’s pretty steeped in what had proceeded in the previous volumes (check out my reviews of 2 and 3, if you’re curious) and explores a lot of the relationships between the main cast and each other as well as with some of the more iconic looking regulars. The series takes such a turn that I actually thought this might be the final collection in the series, but was glad to discover there are three more. Reading this volume made me not only want to go back and read everything all together and see what happens next, which means it’s a pretty damn good installment.

The Return Of King Doug (Oni)
Written by Greg Erb & Jason Oremland, drawn by Wook-Jin Clark
Graphic Novel

The Return Of King Doug was passed my why by my pal Rickey Purdin this summer. I checked out the cover and it looked interesting but I put it in my to read box along with tons of other trades and wasn’t sure when I would get to it. A few weeks back, I was flipping through said box, came across this book and thought, “What the hell? Let’s give it a shot.” And oh my goodness, I’m glad I did because this was a fantastically fun book that takes “real world kid in a fantasy world” conventions and updates them while also flipping a good deal of them on their ear.

We start off with a kid named Doug in a fantastical world where he’s being pumped up as this huge savior against an evil leader. He seems into it and then, all of a sudden, he runs away because he can’t deal with the pressure. Cut to Doug in his 30s, he’s a pretty huge loser with a son and winds up heading to his parents’ property that housed the portal to the fantasy land. As you’d expect, his son winds up finding the place and gets wrapped up in the ongoing drama of the people versus the evil leader and Doug has to figure out how he’s going to save his son and whether he’s going to help these guys out.

The book’s sense of humor is what really made me fall in love with this book. You’ve got lots of fun pop culture references and grown-up Doug is genuinely funny. Plus, the art is just wonderful. Clark has a very thin line that reminds me stylistically of Jeff Smith on Bone, though they don’t necessarily look similar (if that makes sense). To me, it’s kind of a mix of Princess Bride and Bone with some Scott Pilgrim sensibilities in there. If you like any of those things, do yourself a favor and pick up The Return Of King Doug, but you can’t have mine cause I’m going to keep it and pass it around to friends.