Le Monde de Milo

Since the newsletter is going on a summer break, I wanted to highlight a series that gives off a bit of a summer vacation vibe (at least at the start). Le Monde de Milo is a fantasy series – but think along the lines of a Ghibli film – written by Richard Marazano with art by Christophe Ferreira. The latter has worked for years in the animation industry in Japan (working on the fantastic film Napping Princess — read an interview with him here), and so it’s no surprise that his style feels very animated/anime, with a setting and world that ends up looking like a beautiful melding of European and Japanese styles.

The story follows the adventures of a young boy who finds himself teleported to another dimension, discovering the truth of his lineage, presented in 2-volume arcs. Five books have been released so far, so we’re halfway through the third story arc, with the latest book having come out a couple of months ago. I like it especially for the art style, but the vibe is fun too, with the kind of characters you’d expect to see in a Ghibli film.

Les mondes d’Aldébaran

Today I highlight a series that I just started reading last week, and I’m already incredibly addicted and on the way to binging everything in the series. The overarching series by Leo (the pen name used by Brazilian Luis Eduardo de Oliveira) is called Les mondes d’Aldébaran (The Worlds of Aldebaran), and it’s made up of a series of “cycles” that follow the colonization efforts of Earth on other planets. The first series, Aldébaran, released in the 90s and made up of five books, tells the intriguing story of colonists on the planet Aldebaran who have lost contact with Earth for over 100 years. An authoritarian government has taken hold, and so we follow the story of a group of resistants – not a group at first – who over the series deal with the fantastic dangers of the planet they inhabit, while trying to uncover a mystery that will eventually lead to some major societal changes. It’s fantastic stuff, with characters that age (there are occasional jumps between albums of a few years), and that you end up caring for quite a bit. I binged that first series over a weekend (you can read it in a collected tome), and I can’t wait to read the follow-up series: Bételgeuse, Antarès, Survivants – Anomalies quantiques, and Retour sur Aldébaran.

Murena

When it comes to reading stories set in Roman times, my touchstone growing up was the wacky adventures of Astérix the Gaul, but a series I’ve quite enjoyed reading in recent months is Murena, written by Jean Dufaux with art by Philippe Delaby. Set during the reign of Nero, we’re presented with a highly detailed – and heavily researched, as the addendums suggest – look at life in the Roman capital, but with a healthy dose of intrigue, violence, and political maneuvering. There are ten books in the series so far (I’ve read the first nine so far), divided in cycles of four books. It’s great stuff, and if you want even more Roman reading, I can also recommend Alix Senator, which is a modern series (seven books out so far) that takes the young hero of Jacque Martin’s classic Alix series (that started back in the 50s), and revisits him at an older age, now a senator in Rome.

Servitude

When I recommended Thorgal a few weeks ago, I mentioned that I’m not a big fan of fantasy when it comes to BD, but I did discover another great fantasy series this year, called Servitude. Written by Fabrice David and Éric Bourgier, with gorgeous art by the latter, it’s basically Game of Thrones in feel and atmosphere, with the same kind of political manoeuvering between the various factions – and same goes for the violence as well.

Each book does a great job of not only telling the story we’re following, but also devotes extra pages to give a lot of background on the world and its history, and to explain what makes the world tick – think of a resource book for a traditional tabletop RPG. The series was supposed to span five books, but following the release of the 5th book last year, the creators announced that they will need one more book to finish their story. I look forward to reading how it all ends.

Stern

The world of BD loves to use a western setting, and there’s currently a boom in books set in the Wild West – I myself have just started reading one of the classics though, Jean-Michel Charlier and Jean (Moebius) Giraud’s Blueberry. But this week I’d like to highlight a new series I’m really enjoying called Stern, written and drawn by brothers Frédéric and Julien Maffre. Set in 1880 in Kansas, it follows an undertaker called Elijah Stern – who just so happens to love literature — who sets up shop in a small town. It’s slightly comical, but not in a joke-y way, with a dry humoristic tone. There are two books out, and they’re both great.

Mickey

I wouldn’t say that I’m a particularly big Disney fan, but I do have fond memories of reading Disney comics when I was a kid – especially the Donald Duck/Scrooge McDuck ones with the Beagle Boys – and I really like the recent Mickey Mouse animated shorts the company has produced (watch the first 10 shorts here). On the BD side, I’ve been enjoying a fantastic anthology series published by Glénat that sees a variety of BD creators, like Lewis Trondheim and Tebo, offer up takes on Mickey. These are gorgeous books, and they all have a retro feel to them that seeps nostalgia through and through – in fact, the Mickey’s Craziest Adventures book is presented as if it was made up of long lost pages (like the one below) from an original Mickey comic. Each book in the series has its own distinct personality – there’s even one that imagines Mickey as the one and only Corto Maltese – and I’ve loved reading all of them so far.

Isaac le Pirate

This week I bring up a wonderful series by Christophe Blain called Isaac le Pirate. It tells the story of Isaac Sofer, who initially sees himself as a painter, but ends up joining a pirate crew, which then leads to odd and sometimes grim and sometimes humorous situations. The love of his life also sees her story told while he’s away – as he struggles to get back to her – and we get to meet some other interesting characters as well (like Jacques, Isaac’s partner-in-crime, who gets a book named after him). The series is made up of 5 books, and although it’s never been said that it’s over, all 5 were released between 2001 and 2005. It’s well worth reading for its mix of humor, drama, and high sea adventure. I’ll also recommend Blain’s Gus series, set in the wild west.

Le Spirou de

Les aventures de Spirou et Fantasio is one of those classic series that most kids who grew up reading BDs have read – I loved the series so much that I even named my first dog “Spirou.” I continue to read the main series through its creator changes – with my favourite runs being by Franquin (1-19, 24) and Tome & Janry (33-46) – but what I’ll highlight this week is a spinoff series that started a few years ago. Referred to as “Le Spirou de” (The Spirou of) it’s composed of one-shots done by different creators who are allowed a more personal take on the characters. There have been 13 releases so far, and highlights include Yann’s Le tombeau des Champignac, Emile Bravo’s Le journal d’un ingénu, and Lewis Trondheim’s Panique en Atlantique – but they’re all really fun reads, and I love reading these “alternate” takes on such classic characters.

Thorgal

Yesterday, in the weekly team newsletter I help produce, I started including a “bandes-dessinées” (Franco/Belgian comics) recommendation column, and figured why not share it here too. Here’s what I started with.

I love the sequential arts, and have found myself reading comics, manga, and bandes-dessinées (BD) my entire life. After half a life spent in Japan, I drifted away from the world of BD, but since moving to Montreal I’ve been diving back into that world, discovering interesting new series, while also re-reading some of the classics – and I get all of these from one of our nearby libraries, since we find ourselves smack dab in the middle of the Mordecai-Richler and Marc-Favreau libraries. Each week I’ll highlight one of these series – and yes, they’re all in French, but even if you struggle with the language, comics are a great way to practise your reading skills (and some of these may have English editions as well).

For this first column, I’ll bring up Thorgal, a series I’ve been devouring in recent months. It’s a fantasy series – with a touch of sci-fi – that tells the story of man who is raised in Viking culture, but later discovers that his roots lie elsewhere. Written by Jean Van Hamme (XIII, Largo Winch, Wayne Shelton) with fantastic art by Gzegorz Rosinski, there are 35 books in the main series so far (Van Hamme handed over the reigns to Yves Sente from the 30th volume), and a few spinoff series as well. I never got into Thorgal when I was a kid – I think I found it too dark at the time – so this was my first time reading it, and I love it. I’m not the biggest fan of fantasy, but the stories here are epic, with ongoing storylines that keep you looking forward to the next book, and the sci-fi inclusions are fun too.

Favorite Media of 2017

Just like I’ve done for the past 7 years (201020112012201320142015, and 2016), I like to end the year with a gigantic list of my favorite media that I consumed throughout the year. As I warn each year, this is not a “best of” list, but rather a highly subjective list of the stuff I really liked this year — I like the exercise of it all, because it gives me a chance to look back at what I took in during that year, and hopefully it can act as a list of recommendations for others. I stick to stuff that was released this year, and so there’s always stuff that falls through the crack (for example, all the 2016 releases that I only watched this year). For each category, I offer up an alphabetical top 5, and then include a few honorable mentions.

Favorite Games
Not only did we get an awesome new console from Nintendo this year, but three of my favorite games of the year were released on it — yeah, Mario Kart is pretty much the same game we got on Wii U, but it doesn’t change that I played it again just as much, and I still play it regularly. I’d say the two games that just missed my top 5 were Untold Stories and Uncharted: Lost Legacy (my favorite entry in the Uncharted series). I don’t include For Honor because I was too close to it, I include Destiny 2 for the campaign (I haven’t really played much post-campaign), and I do have a copy of Yakuza Kiwami but I haven’t played it yet.

  • Assassin’s Creed Origins (PS4)
  • Super Mario Kart 8 Deluxe (Switch)
  • Super Mario Odyssey (Switch)
  • The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (Switch)
  • Yakuza 0 (PS4)

Honorable Mentions: Arms (Switch), Bound (PS4), Destiny 2 (PS4), Fast RMX (Switch), Ghost Recon Wildlands (PS4), Graceful Explosion Machine (Switch), Mario + Rabbits Battle Kingdom (Switch), Nier: Automata (PS4), Skyrim (Switch), Subsurface Circular (PC), The Fidelio Incident (PC), Uncharted: Lost Legacy (PS4), Untold Stories (PC)

Favorite Mobile Games
Let me start by saying that all these are played on iPad — I very rarely play games on my iPhone. I also include games like Super Mario Run that weren’t released this year, but still released new content this year (I love the “Remix 10” mode, which I still play). I included the Animal Crossing game because I played a lot of it when it was released, and was quite enjoying it at first, but I eventually tired of it.

  • Fire Emblem Heroes
  • Gorogoa
  • Monument Valley 2
  • Reigns: Her Majesty
  • Super Mario Run

Honorable Mentions: Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp, Card Thief, Old Man’s JourneyPhoenix II, The Elder Scrolls: Legends

Favorite Movies
I spent most of the year watching older movies, and so still have a lot of catching up to do with this year’s releases, but here’s what I liked from what I watched. And yes, Valerian is a deeply flawed movie mostly ruined by the casting of the leads, but I was wowed throughout by the visuals.

  • Atomic Blonde
  • Baby Driver
  • Blade Runner 2049
  • The Last Jedi
  • Thor: Ragnarok

Honorable Mentions: Alien: Covenant, DunkirkGet Out, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Kingsman: The Golden Circle, LoganNapping Princess, T2 Trainspotting, The Incredible Jessica James, Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, Wonder Woman

Favorite Movies of the 1980s
To anyone who follows my media consumption, you’ll be aware that this year saw me invest the majority of my movie-watching time looking back at films (one hundred in fact) from the 80s, specifically for the years 1985, 1986, and 1987 (I also dipped into 1967 and 1977). Since that was such a big part of what I watched this year, I thought it would be fun to list my fave 5 of the 80s for each year that I revisited.

1985

  • Back to the Future
  • Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome
  • Ran
  • The Breakfast Club
  • Weird Science

1986

  • Aliens
  • Blue Velvet
  • Ferris Bueller’s Day Off
  • Pretty in Pink
  • Stand By Me

1987

  • Evil Dead II
  • Full Metal Jacket
  • Good Morning, Vietnam
  • The Last Emperor
  • The Lost Boys

Favorite TV
Even though I list a lot of series below, this year saw me enjoying movies more than I have in years, which meant watching a lot less TV shows — or maybe it’s more a case that I ended up only watching stuff I really enjoyed. My absolute favorite TV series of the year was Twin Peaks — during the 16 weeks it aired, there was nothing I looked forward to more than Sunday nights for new episodes.

  • Game of Thrones
  • Halt and Catch Fire
  • Samurai Jack
  • Star Trek: Discovery
  • Twin Peaks: A Limited Event Series

Honorable Mentions: Abstract: The Art of Design, Better Call Saul, Big Mouth, GameCenter-CX, GLOW, Master of None, Mindhunter, Million Yen Women, Mr. Robot, Samurai Gourmet, Santa Clarita Diet, She’s Gotta Have It, Stranger Things 2, The Get Down, The Good Place, The Toys That Made Us, Wet Hot American Summer: 10 Years Later

Favorite Web Series
This is a new category, as I’ve noticed that I now watch and enjoy quite a bit of video content that’s produced directly for the web. For Jeremy Parish, it covers all of the amazing videos that he produces, from the various “Works” series to his enjoyable gin-soaked “let’s plays.”

Honorable Mentions: Jeremy Parish, New Territories, Screenland, The Manga Concierge

Favorite Music
Again this year, I only list my favorite albums, as I didn’t really pay much attention to singles. I will say that I feel like I didn’t spend a lot of time discovering new music this year, spending more time listening to older records, thanks to the “For You” section of Apple Music — and I did this happily, because I’ve always found that I spend too much time listening exclusively to new stuff, quickly forgetting older albums that I’ve enjoyed a lot.

  • Colors (Beck)
  • Drunk (Thundercat)
  • Django (Chip Tanaka)
  • Masseduction (St. Vincent)
  • Onism (Photay)

Honorable Mentions: Ash (Ibeyi), Halo (Juana Molina), I See You (The XX), New Energy (Four Tet), Rest (Charlotte Gainsbourg)

Favorite Comics
As with each year, my list tends to focus more on series, which is what I tend to read the most throughout the year, and then at the end of the year I check out the “best of” lists and catch up on all the great graphic novels that came out (which I’ll do again this year). I’ll also say that my American comics reading took a bit of a dive this year once I discovered my local library, and started binging on French-Belgian comics (bandes-dessinées, or BD) again.

  • Aliens: Dead Orbit
  • Batman
  • Mister Miracle
  • Shaolin Cowboy: Who’ll Stop the Reign?
  • The Black Monday Murders

Honorable Mentions: Britannia: We Who Are About to Die, Dark Nights: Metal (and various one-shots), Doomsday Clock, Extremity, Generation Gone, Groo (various mini-series), James Bond (various mini-series), Loose Ends, Magnus, Moonshine, Motro, Royal City, Savage, Secret Weapons, Southern Bastards, The Dying and the Dead, The Goddamned, The Wild Storm

Favorite BDs
What has excited me the most in the world of sequential art this year is that after an incredibly long hiatus (of practically two decades) I’ve gotten back intro reading French-Belgian comics since discovering my local library (or rather the one near the studio where I work, as well as access to the entire Montreal library network). I’ve been reading tons of books since the summer, but the majority has been older stuff, as I’ve been catching up on series I used to enjoy, and new ones that I’m discovering. But below are some highlights of what I’ve read that came out this year — I think that by next year I should be more up-to-date on my reading. Series title is followed by book title.

  • Carthago AdventuresZana
  • I.R.$.Kate’s Hell
  • KatangaDiamants
  • Soleil FroidL.N.
  • UndertakerL’ogre de Sutter Camp

Honorable Mentions: Lady S.Crimes de guerreLe Lucky Luke deJolly Jumper ne répond plusLe Spirou deLe Maître des hosties noires, Tebori (Tome 3)

Favorite Podcasts
For this category, the most captivating podcast for me this year was S-Town, and I couldn’t wait to listen to each new episode of A Twin Peaks Podcast (by editors at Entertainment Weekly) while the series was airing.

  • 8-4 Play
  • A Twin Peaks Podcast
  • Pop Culture Happy Hour
  • S-Town
  • Waypoint Radio

Honorable Mentions: All Songs Considered, Designer Notes, Kotaku Splitscreen, The AIAS Game Maker’s Note Book, The Stack