Tag Archives: Best Comics

Favorite Comics of 2017 (So Far)

I’m interrupting the regularly scheduled Wednesday new comics post in order to heap acclaim upon some of the best things I’ve read through the first half of 2017. With the Eisner Awards ceremony just a few days away (which, by the way, I’ll be attending for the first time; pretty excited about that), it felt like a good time to bestow some additional accolades upon the hardworking creators whose passion for comics continues to push boundaries and enrich the medium.

I’ve been doing these mid-year check-ins for some time now, and I usually know exactly which comics I’d like to single out, resulting in a neat & tidy Top 5. This year, however, my list excludes some books I’m loving, like Grass Kings by Kindt and Jenkins, Avengers by Waid and Del Mundo, 4 Kids Walk into a Bank by Rosenberg and Boss, Hostage by Guy Delisle, and Paper Girls by Vaughan and Chiang. So if you thought those books were good, check these out..!

Royal City – Jeff Lemire

Like the graphic novels that comprised his Essex County trilogy, beginning with 2008’s Tales from the Farm, Lemire’s new book is a realistic family drama set in smalltown North America. Unlike those singular, well-defined stories, however, Royal City is an ongoing title, a format that lends itself to longer “seasons,” if you will, and an opportunity to fully explore the Pike family and the human tremors that epicenter from the titular town. In his afterword, in fact, Lemire mentions being inspired by this Golden Age of Television. And I have to say, the first thing I thought of after reading the first issue was Netflix’s Bloodline. There’s a shaky familiarity to every tense exchange, every terse comment, like the way you’re afraid of a Eugene O’Neill play because of the truths it uncovers.

The inciting event, family patriarch Peter’s stroke, brings the three siblings and their associated baggage into focus. Patrick returns from the big city, where he’s a novelist struggling against writer’s block; Tara is a real estate developer looking to turn the city’s manufacturing center into a resort community; and Richard works at the aforementioned factory – or would work, if he was ever sober. And then there’s one more sibling, Tommy, who moves through the narrative as a haunting memory unique to each family member. We’ve been reading plenty of Lemire books lately, but it struck me that, apart from variant covers and his work on After Death with Scott Snyder, it’s been far too long since I’ve been able to appreciate Lemire’s art. His style is raw, like the emotions each Pike is unable to cope with, but with a brilliant attention to detail, creating a comic that is a layer of puzzles and mystery. It’d be more haunting if it also didn’t feel so disturbingly real. Royal City is a story that perfectly intertwines ghosts with the even more unsettling, the living.

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Best of 2016 (So Far…)

Idle Time was more or less founded on the principle that enthusiastically sharing the stuff we’re excited about naturally makes that stuff a little more enjoyable. Somewhere along the way, our innate affinity for competition and chicanery, catalyzed by pop culture obsessions, transformed into any number of ranking projects, contests, and year-end games. Water cooler recommendations are one thing, but we take our idle time seriously.

A midpoint check-in on the year, however, has only ever been to return to that simple exchange of so-far favorites: albums in heavy rotation, comics we all need to be reading, or movies good enough for a repeat trip to the box office. Check out these lists, all presented alphabetically, of the stuff we’re excited about through the first half of 2016.

Favorite Albums
BibsBeyoncé – Lemonade
Bibio – A Mineral Love
Black Mountain – IV
Chance the Rapper – Coloring Book
Frankie Cosmos – So Far
The Field – The Follower
Gold Panda – Good Luck and Do Your Best
Hinds – Leave Me Alone
(Hinds and four other first-half faves are featured in the latest Idle Time Tunes of the Month mix)
The Hotelier – Goodness
Kettel – Wingtip
Kendrick Lamar – Untitled Unmastered
nikiThe Last Shadow Puppets – Everything You’ve Come To Expect
Niki & The Dove – Everybody’s Heart Is Broken Now
Anderson Paak – Malibu
Esme Patterson – We Were Wild
Polica – United Crushers
Joey Purp – iiiDrops
The Range – Potential
Maria Usbeck – Amparo
Venetian Snares – Traditional Synthesizer Music
Leon Vynehall – Rojus (Designed to Dance)
Kanye West – The Life of Pablo
White Lung – Paradise
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Favorite Comics of 2016 (So Far)

eisnerawards_logo_11Comic book award season is upon us, and before this year’s Eisner Winners are announced in San Diego, it felt like a good time to reflect upon some of my favorite releases thus far in 2016. Outside of the conversations we’ve had regarding Marvel’s All-New All-Different initiative, and DC’s recent Rebirth, the funnybook-obsessed Idlers hadn’t really discussed everything else we’d been digging until just recently.

Nice to see we’re all on the same page regarding Vaughan & Chiang’s Paper Girls (although, personally, I’m rooting for Zander Cannon’s Kaijumax in the Best New Series category). We all snatched up Clowes’s Patience as soon as it came out. We all agree that Jason Aaron can’t possibly script enough books. Beyond that, here are five other highlights from the midpoint of the year.

TurningJapaneseTurning Japanese – MariNaomi

MariNaomi’s follow-up to 2014’s Dragon’s Breath is every bit as moving and personal as that collection of autobiographical comics, but with a more singular narrative focus. She recounts the exploration of her Japanese heritage, primarily following a move from San Francisco to San Jose in the 90’s, and a subsequent gig at one of that town’s underground Japanese hostess bars. She sets about learning Japanese, with a curriculum rooted in one of the most improbable and hilarious settings one can imagine. From there, it’s a year spent in Japan, more fully immersing herself in the culture and reconnecting with her family.


I’ve always been very interested in the notion of “home,” particularly as modern generations exhibit an increasingly restless disconnect with what defines that home, both physically and culturally. Similar to MariNaomi’s experience with the Japanese language, I didn’t learn Italian until later in life (although, unlike her situation, it was due to my own stubbornness – my folks tried like hell to teach me when I was a kid), and extended visits to Italy always filled me with an odd mix of pride and alienation. Her novel isn’t just a beautiful, often funny, poignant memoir of her own cultural affirmations; MariNaomi’s Turning Japanese is a tour guide for all of us wandering souls who haven’t given up on finding home, or reconnecting with some aspect of ourselves.

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