I hate lists. I hate all those Channel 4 list shows. I hate Nick Hornby. I hate the fact that all magazines and newspapers forego real journalism at this time of year to become page after page of sodding lists. Fuck that. So, in no particular order, my cultural highlights of the comic book year have been:
1. SHAOLIN COWBOY #2. Fucking genius. An amazing combination of throwaway, inconsequential ideas being lavished with the most amazing, fetishized, laboured over, artwork (by Geof Darrow, natch). It should come across as a waste of time, but some crazy alchemy happens, and it all clicks.
2. HIP FLASK: MYSTERY CITY. Pity it takes the amazing Ladronn all year to draw one issue of this stuff. Really reminded me of the intoxicating possibilities the artform possesses. Like a spin back to 1986 to meet the real me, before I was replaced by that android.
3. SOLO from DC Comics, but #3, #5 & #7 especially (the Paul Pope, Darwyn Cooke and Mike Allred issues). A reminder that the work of the right editor can be as visionary as that of the creator. If only every editor languishing in the big two would show the taste and integrity of Mark Chiarello.
4. HELLBOY: THE ISLAND (#2 especially). Seeing new pages by Mike Mignola is becoming a rarer and rarer treat, so it's great that when the master does deign us with new material, that it's so retina-burningly fantastic.
5. SEVEN SOLDIERS. Every man and his dog is listing the amazing #0 (art by J. H. Williams III) as their highlight of the year, and it was great. But my favourite single issue of the whole endevour so far was THE MANHATTAN GUARDIAN #4 (art by Cameron Stewart). It was the key issue in really giving me a clue as to what shape this whole mega-series was going to take. Grant Morrison's had a great year all round, WE3 could have fit in here, as only #1 appeared in 2004, and that first issue of ALL-STAR SUPERMAN got the old "I'm too old to be enjoying a superhero comic, but what the hell" nerves tingling, too.
(Honourable mentions: SWALLOW #1, the art mag from IDW, DESOLATION JONES #1 by Warren Ellis and J.H. Williams III - that man again, plus the only comic this year I've emailed to recommend to anyone I know with a Hugo Award. And I've been wracking my brains trying to think of a standout Marvel comic to prove I'm not a total snob: got it - the four issues of the MARVEL MONSTERS fifth week event. Buy the hardcover, and send a message to the editorial team over there that you're not interested in the vainglorious, thud-and-blunder, crossovers they seem to be addicted to. And yes, I've sent this to press early so I can spend all tomorrow in the pub.)