Last year in January, I asked a variety of 'comics people- critics, readers, cartoonists, etc. to write about one comic they'd enjoyed, been impressed by, or in some way found noteworthy, in 2013. Translations, strips, digital, re-prints- everything's up for grabs as long as it was published in 2013. I really enjoyed reading and collating people's thoughts; the comic choices were so varied and different in range, so I've replicated the experience this year with another batch of people contributing- the difference being that we're now discussing comics released in 2014. Before we dive in, I'd like to sincerely thank each person below for giving up their time to help build this piece, especially at what is an particularly busy time of the year- it's incredibly appreciated.
David Brothers (writer, content manager at Image Comics): Real, voume 13 by Takehiko Inoue, translated by John Werry
Takehiko Inoue creates comics about swordsmen and athletes that are actually about life-as-a-human-being. Job-as-metaphor. Action-as-education. What we do defines who we are, and the act of doing can further reveal who we are. In Real 13, the latest volume of his long-running series ostensibly about wheelchair basketball and living with a disability of some sort, the focus shifts to Scorpion Shiratori, a wrestler in recovery after an accident. It is time for his comeback, despite his ongoing rehabilitation, and this volume charts it from near-beginning to end.
It's about relationships. Inoue places Shiratori at the center, a man with natural talent who has known greatness in the ring and wants to experience it again. We see his support network of colleagues and family. We see his relationship with his fans. We see how he treats his family. We see how decisions made in his career—Shiratori is a heel, a villain, and a very good one—affect his life and mental health. We're familiar with his relationships with the other residents at the rehab facility, but now we see how they view his craft. We see him in the ring, in his element, and we see his relationship with the crowd.
It sounds like nothing, but it's everything. The community we build around ourselves can keep us sane, healthy, and happy. There is no "community of one." We're stuck together, we're going to ping-pong off each other for better or for worse, and we have the incredible ability to make someone else's life better just by being true to ourselves. Real 13 is as good a painting of that fact as I've ever seen, and I saw it through tear-filled, wet eyes on the bus.
There should be a word for how ancient you feel the first time you realize you’re not quite joking about your fear of technology. Once I knew a guy who taped a tiny piece of paper over his laptop’s camera because he couldn’t get the light next to it to turn off. We laughed about his old-man paranoia, but I never really understood how he felt until some dude insulted Gamergate in my mentions. I honestly didn’t think it mattered, but at the same time I broke out in a nervous sweat.
For me these past few months on Twitter have felt like a slumber party game where, if you say the wrong word, you might conjure some rabid nerd in your bathroom mirror. Probably he doesn’t exist, but then again he might totally rape you. Somehow Patrick Alexander used this ridiculous and frightening milieu as the raw material for the most delightful comic I’ve read in a while. That’s pure fucking wizard magic, first and foremost, but also an interesting rejoinder to all the turkeys that romanticize the artistic merit of comics that empathize with garbage people.
On a technical level I was impressed by the economy with which Alexander captures the many contradictions of Gamergate—what it says it’s about vs. what it’s actually about, its horror and its hilarity. Obviously he’s very funny, but beneath the jokes about anime and fleshlights, what makes this comic for me is the accountant’s visor on the Yip-Yip. I just love that image so much. I’ve really enjoyed clicking slowly through Alexander’s archives like a creep, but that single panel is the one that’s made my Internet a happier place. Now every time I see something on Twitter that makes me want to put my phone in the freezer, I picture the offending party in a little green visor. On some level it helps me see their humanity, but mostly it just cracks me up.
This is a book in which not much happens.
The cover shows a simple, empty six panel-grid, hinting at what’s inside. If the empty space between comic panels represents the unknown twilight that both separates and connects two moments in time, these gutterless panels butt up right against each other as if to remove that twilight and any potential ambiguity.
This happens. And then this happens. And not much else.
Each single-page comic illustrates the smallest and most uneventful of moments across its six panels.
We watch stalks of wheat blowing in the wind. Smoke billows from a factory’s chimneys. The foamy head on a pint of beer dissolves into liquid. A jet in the distance crosses the sky, leaving a wispy contrail in its path.
In the most overt example of these short meditations on the passage of time, the sands of an hourglass fall slowly, grain by grain.
These strips may feel like the product of a formalist exercise, and certainly their cumulative effect as a book is greater than any single specimen. But the more I am surrounded by epic graphic novels, grand stories, and bold, inventive compositions, these little haikus are a satisfying reminder of how simple and immediate comics can be.
This happens. And then this happens. And not much else, and that’s wonderful.
Lala Albert (cartoonist): "Close to You" two companion works- "Elsa" by Sarah Ferrick and "The Sky is Awake" by Scott Longo
When I saw these two were working on "Frozen" comics, I knew I should see the movie. I think they both work in these intuitive, idiosyncratic and emotionally vulnerable universes not contained by typical comics formatting. I'm drawn to the work, though I have trouble using words to describe. The two comics they've created in response to "Frozen" read well together. Sarah's is full of energy and angst while Scott's is a calm and pensive winter night.
"Elsa" works within the mind of Elsa, through her struggles in isolation and against her body to the construction of her icy palace sanctuary. Sarah's drawings are beautifully scratchy but soft and she uses text to great effect. We're shown Elsa's pain through words: a spread where "AHHHHH" is run through by what look like bee's stingers, degenerating repetition of song lyrics and thoughts brought on by extreme isolation, echoes of her name. Later, the word "ECSTATIC" is spelled out in crackling, sparkling frost trails. Drawn sketchy and urgent, Elsa's huge heavy eyes and frantic monologues are blown out and darkened by photocopy.
"The Sky is Awake" takes a lighter tone from Olaf, the snowman Elsa unknowingly brought to life. On the same night (?) that "Elsa" reaches its climactic scene, Olaf speaks of an inkling of her, "a white snow queen who comes to life when she counts to 3," to a violet in the snow. He, a snowman to a fragile flower, talks about companionship and the fleeting but sweet nature of existence. The center spread, a kaleidoscopic snowflake, appears like a flash. While most of the comic is small drawings and text set against blank white snow, the final spread is alive and playfully busy.
The two works are connected by the thread of release and awakening, relief from the isolation of an identity and actualization of new consciousness. I got these books at different times this summer and never read them together until just now, which was maybe a mistake. They work best both open at the same time, read in sync with each other.
Annie Mok (cartoonist): Dear Amanda by Cathy G Johnson
Annie Mok (cartoonist): Dear Amanda by Cathy G Johnson
Two twenty-something-age girls, Bélen and Ginette, meet at a counselors' training meeting for a kids' camp called "Girls' Club." The two hold balloons for an icebreaker activity. Bélen looks up at Ginette, smiling, as she asks Ginette her name. They talk, and Ginette takes a thumbtack and pops Bélen's balloon.
Some time later, they come together to try to soothe a crying camper and fail. Bélen asks Ginette for her number. The two share cheap wine, take a late night swim in the lake, and begin a shaky romance.
Bélen, a cis soft butch, keeps looking up at Ginette with the dumb smile of a young shonen hero. Ginette, a tall blond trans woman, wavers between engagement and guardedness. Bélen's letters to the unseen "Amanda" pile up throughout the story.
Cathy G. Johnson suggests these girls' worlds with a few stray words, shapes, and incidents.
The allusive, windy dialog that Cathy seemed to start playing with in their 2011 graphic novel, Jeremiah, has reached maturity. More breezy, conversational moments, like the tipsy first date, contrast the overtly lyrical bits, and make each style richer by comparison.
Visuals play against each other, too. A soft smudged-graphite atmospheric outdoor scene at the lake at night (this pop single's chorus) moves to a brightly-lit indoor sex scene (its verse), composed with overlapping contour lines. Romance pushes and pulls, dips and drags.
Ginette exists as a real, layered, sexual character who is also a trans woman. I know of no other trans woman protagonist, human and fully realized, from an American art comics creator who is not a trans woman herself. Cathy draws Ginette with a big nose, shoulders, and chin - features that get me and my friends shit daily. Dear other cartoonists who aren't trans women: it is fucked that I am so surprised to see my humanity reflected in our medium. Start seeing us.
Alex Hoffman (writer/critic): Dear Amanda by Cathy G Johnson
Of all the comics published in 2014, I think the most noteworthy for me is Cathy G. Johnson's self-published Dear Amanda. Dear Amanda is a lesbian romance comic featuring Belén and Ginette, two people who meet through work and develop a relationship. The two spend time together talking about the future and Belén’s desire to move to Amsterdam and to be a writer. Belén’s writing project, the Dear Amanda letters, are the catalyst for a variety of changes throughout the book.
It feels like graphite-based comics have grown in popularity this year and Dear Amanda is an example of how the style can be so compelling. Dear Amanda eschews inks for a tone that feels organic and spontaneous. The art is intense and emotional as Johnson communicates lust, embarrassment, joy, and shame through her drawing.
Dear Amanda is a complex and multifaceted work that focuses on secrets we keep from our loved ones, creative exploitation, and the stripping away and retaking of agency. It is a must read.
Daryl Seitchik (cartoonist): A Mysterious Process by GG
A lot of great comics came out this year, but I find myself constantly returning to one that isn’t finished, and not just because I want to know what will happen next. Toward the end of October, “A Mysterious Process,” by GG, began to serialize on the Comics Workbook tumblr at the rate of about two pages a week. It follows a woman who can’t sleep. She leaves her room, which appears to be in a hospital or rehabilitation ward, to see a midnight showing of an old film that stars her self. The only other person in the theater is a man with bandages over his eyes, and when the movie ends, the two of them get coffee at a diner and discuss the passing of time.
What keeps me looking at this comic is the way its story and form eerily mirror each other. Moments unfold like a roll of film; I read each page from top to bottom, seamlessly, without the interruption of gutters. The dialogue appears in white type reminiscent of subtitles, typically at the bottom of a panel, as if the voices were on mute. On every page, the high contrast of black and white at once reveals and conceals each scene, like the light in film noir. “Don’t you think it’s kind of sad?” the woman says to the blindfolded man. “Seeing the past. It’ll never be like that again. It’s like we’re watching ghosts frozen on the screen. While everything around keeps changing.”
Unlike in film, moments in comics exist all at once, in stillness. The woman looks despairingly into her cup of black coffee in one panel, but she’s still watching the movie of her memories in another, like a ghost frozen on the page. Only through the act of reading can these fragments form a coherent story, and come to life. But how can it come to life for the woman herself? She watches her past for clues about a present forever passing into oblivion, and moves backwards into the future. “Ah, what is life without change?” says the blindfolded man at the diner. “Is it really living?” To bring herself back to life, this woman must face change, not knowing what will happen. In the meantime, I look forward to finding out.
Laura Knetzger (cartoonist): Mis(h)adra by Iasmin Omar Ata
Laura Knetzger (cartoonist): Mis(h)adra by Iasmin Omar Ata
Iasmin Omar Ata's Mis(h)sadra is one of the best comics I read this year. A webcomic that updates with full chapters monthly, Mis(h)adra is based on the author's experiences as an Arab-American with epilepsy. The protagonist Isaac, a college student who has epilepsy, is a guarded young man who tries to keep his struggle a secret, but is beginning to break under the pressure. Intended as both a narrative and a teaching tool, Mis(h)adra details the intricacies of Isaac's life as his epilepsy overlaps and interferes his studies, friendships, and mental health.
Mis(h)adra's art and storytelling styles are clearly inspired by manga, hinting at the ornate symbolism of CLAMP and breezy storytelling of Naoko Takeuchi. Emotions and bodily pain exist as objects only Isaac can see, similar to Moto Hagio's manga. The threat of seizures follows him in the form of one-eyed daggers and strings of beads that encircle him. When Isaac has a horrifying, rare type of seizure he begins to exist on a different plane than the real world, in completely different panels on the same page. (That's a chapter with such innovative storytelling that it really needs to be read to be believed.)
Ata breaks away from her manga inspiration through evocative use of color. Each page has a vibrant yellow/bright magenta pallete, but potential seizure risks invade in a bright blue. When a seizure hits, Isaac is forced into a black abyss with neon bright blades attacking him.
Mis(h)adra excells at incorporating experimental storytelling into a touching story. Isaac has to avoid seizure triggers, but since his friends accidentally introduce them all the time, he has to choose between having friends and being healthy. A new friend, Jo, is the first one to try to understand what's happening to Isaac and re-open his heart. Mis(h)adra is a window into experiences most people have no frame of reference for, removing stigma and silence about epilepsy. It's beautiful and deeply human.
Joe Decie (cartoonist): Through the Woods by Emily Carroll
So, this year there have been only a few really good books, books that I'll recommend to people time and time again. Books that I love to give as gifts to comic fans and people who've never read a comic, silently saying “look, look what this medium can achieve.” Through the Woods by Emily Carroll is one of these. I've read horror comics before, mostly manga and although some have been great, what Emily does best is set a tone, a mood that pulls you in to her worlds. Through the Woods is a collection of gothic horror stories, tales you could easily believe have been told time and time again. That must be difficult to do, make new stories, without relying on time-old tropes and still have them feel like classics.
My favourite in the book is HIS FACE ALL RED which started life on the world wide web. I was worried it wouldn't translate to the printed page, but it does just fine (you should still check out the online version, it's use of scrolling to control the pace is immaculate) If you don't already own this book, when you buy it, treat it like a collection of fairy tales and read them one at a time. I think the experience is better that way than reading them all in one sitting. Allow each one to sit with you and haunt you for a while. I am a big fan of Emily's drawing and it fits the tone of her stories perfectly; all scratchy nib work and dry brush shadows. She has lovely handwriting too, this is important to me.
Michael DeForge (cartoonist): Old Ground 1 by Noel Freibert
Noel Freibert’s had a good year, and any single comic he’s drawn in 2014 was worth writing about - I could have just as easily made The Hole or his one-page 911 Police State strip my choice to write about. Every new comic is a triumph, every revolting turn is worth following.
Pain is a tricky thing to depict in art. It’s frequently suggested or inferred, but rarely deeply felt. No one depicts physical discomfort quite like Noel, and few do it quite so viscerally. Not a single form on the page is spared. Every object (person, animal, vehicle) becomes just another body for Noel to stretch to its limits - each one in flux, each one knotted, kneaded, torn and pierced. The sequences are mesmerizing and gut-wrenching. They’re also usually very funny.
Last month I wrote in my blog about my favorite books from 2014. Whenever I attempt to make lists of favorite things, it seems like an endless task of adding more and more things to the list the more I think about it. After weeks from publishing that, I can still think of two more comics I'd like to add to my list of favorites from this year.
One was the hilarious Commuter by Kris Mukai. Kris' visual style is lively, bouncing in rhythm with her fresh humor. Commuter is a comedic documentation of the disgusting kinds of things anyone living in a big city has to endure when doing their daily commute through public transport. It features different strips and short comics, in which we see Kris encountering all sorts of bizarrely mundane characters and situations in her commute. It's real and crude, and also one of those comics that actually makes you laugh out loud.
Another keeper was Old Ground 1 by Noel Freibert. Noel's work deals with the grim and gritty, with an authentic and innovative approach. In Old Ground, drippy shadows, poetic dialogues, tense action, violence and magic all come together in an old cemetery. There's different characters meandering about: a frog, a dog, two dead boys and two construction workers, all seeming equally evil and naive at first glance. The narrative has a haunting flow, enriched with intensely grotesque visual metaphors. The second issue of Old Ground is definitely something I'm looking forward to reading next year!
A friend shared Yumi Sakugawa’s Never Forgets with a caption like “Read this now!” I hadn’t heard of the story or the cartoonist before and this comic was an amazing introduction.
Never Forgets follow the story of a young woman named Ellie post-cosmetic surgery. She meets up with her friend Bri in the city, discussing Ellie’s new sense of self and the dread of seeing her parents. The questions “What did she used to look like?” and “What will her parents think when they see her?” are key to the pace and push toward the wonderful climax. The ending isn’t rushed or cheap. It invites you to sit in it and exist with it and feel the emotions of the characters.
On an aesthetic level, the confidently imperfect linework, solid blacks and select midtones mirror the story’s immediacy. The odd animal-like characters and one weird little moment at a nail salon run by tiny employees are great visual contrasts that only amplify Never Forget’s humanity. In one panel, Ellie’s dead-eyed cat friend Bri says “I cannot stop looking at your perfect face-” and I thought the same thing. Ellie’s character design is very simple, but charming, as her face itself is key to the narrative.
Douglas Wolk (writer/critic): Never Forgets by Yumi Sakugawa
For a couple of weeks in September, Yumi Sakugawa put up her entire minicomic "Never Forgets" on her Web site (only the first half of it is there now). I don't know if I'd have fallen in love with it if I'd only seen the opening pages, which present themselves as an extended, rambling setup: a young woman who's recently undergone extensive plastic surgery hangs out with her friend, anxious about what her parents' reaction to her new look is going to be. I enjoyed the friendly wobble of Sakugawa's line and lettering, the contrast of the barely doodled characters and the weird compulsive cityscapes, the deadpan comedy of a scene where the friends get elaborate manicures at the "Tiny Bear Nail Salon" (staffed by actual tiny bears), and the funny little riff on Instagram that takes up a few pages. But, I thought as I read the opening section, we can't really see what the fuss is about, because Sakugawa draws the main character so simply: she's just got little curves for ears and eyes and a nose, not even a mouth, and her friend has eyelashes and cat ears and literally no other facial features.
Then I read the second half, and realized that every artistic choice Sakugawa had made here that seemed like a way to avoid drawing difficult things was actually carefully considered and brilliant. The particular version of her style that she's adopted here avoids giving away a couple of crucial pieces of information until their moment comes--and, after it does, going back to that opening section makes every image pay off thunderously.
Steve Morris (writer/critic): Ghost Rider by Felipe Smith and Tradd Moore, Marvel
I suspect I'm here to bristle at the sea of risographs I doubtlessly sit within and instead offer a starry-eyed smile of glee whilst I talk about superhero comics. So!
This year has seen Marvel go in with the idea of actually allowing authorial voice in their comics, leading to a collection of unexpected writers and artists getting a chance to properly be themselves (within certain limits) and burn off in different directions. Charles Soule and Javier Pulido offered a considered take on She-Hulk, whilst Warren Ellis slunk in the background and let Declan Shalvey and Jordie Bellaire call the shorts in Moon Knight. However, it's been Felipe Smith and Tradd Moore's work on Ghost Rider which has been the most impressive and unexpected story to appear in a Marvel comic in recent years.
This is a story which only someone like Smith could have written - a genuine look at a different side of America, where new Ghost Rider Robbie Reyes (cannily styled on One Direction's Zayn Malik by Moore) is created after being gunned down by drug-runners in a backstreet alleyway. What follows is a storyline which pulls at brotherhood - within a community, and within unconventional family units – and offers a random element of responsive brutality which keeps the reader in constant fear. The characters are in a rough environment, but the fact they have a chance to paddle in safe Disneyfied storytelling distracts them from the very real dangers which lurk down every street.
The creative team often lead the characters in a direction of safety and romance and fiction, only to then haunt them with real consequence and fear – and that creates a tight-knit feeling of empathy for both Robbie and his little brother, Gabe. It’s tense, thrilling, and unlike anything Marvel have dared publish before. Forget all the other books which everybody flails about – All-New Ghost Rider is the most exciting thing Marvel put out this year.
Mike Molcher (PR coordinator, Rebellion): Southern Bastards by Jason Aaron and Jason Latour, Image Comics
2014 has been a standout year for one reason and one reason alone - I can’t tell you what the best comic of the past 12 months has been. However, one title does stand out, not because it’s necessarily better or more important but because it did what a great comic should always do - be a gateway drug for a new reader. Southern Bastards by Jason Aaron and Jason Latour from Image became one such gateway for my other half. Her lament of “but WHY do comics only come out every month?!” is the sound of a true addict.
So why is Southern Bastards a great comic? I think it’s because it makes you *feel* somewhere. I’m talking about more than the sticky counter surface in Coach Boss’ rib joint or the impenetrable language - to me, at least - screamed from the bleachers during a football game - all of which Aaron and Latour bring to uncanny, uncomfortable life. It makes you *feel* a story saturated by a sense of place, by the black hole pull of the past on a heart that walked away but never truly left. It’s about unfinished business and how a place can be a person in its own right, with a past and a purpose. In that true American pulp noir style it’s about how even the man with nothing to lose has something he doesn’t want to part with. High Noon with a stick, a racing heartbeat, and a hard ending. Aaron has some solid brass balls to take us there. But that’s another thing great comics should be - unendingly surprising.
(My favourite comic of the year I can’t really nominate due to job bias, but Rob Williams and Henry Flint’s Judge Dredd: Titan deserves an honourable mention for being the most morally complex Judge Dredd story for a long time and one which not only reinvigorated the character after something of a post-epic malaise but also riffed on a 30-year-old story you don’t have to have read - another story about the consequences of mistakes.)
Jog Mack (writer/critic): RAV 1st Collection by Mickey Zacchilli, Youth in Decline
This one was really interesting for both the comic itself and the way in which it seemed transformed by its means of collection. RAV started out as a handmade comic series, chapters of which Zacchilli would bring to shows and sell through her website, which inevitably placed her work in the (loose) context of post-Fort Thunder artists drawing gnarly genre comic riffs with an emphasis on lots and lots of heavy marks: ‘noise,’ was the old term of art, and if you’d seen enough noisy comics by Brian Chippendale or Mat Brinkman, or if you’d ever managed to find an old issue of Paper Rodeo or something, you’d think you had the lineage sorted out. Except - that kind of thinking did the work a disservice; it was a means for some readers (i.e. the type of context-addled goofballs prone to writing shit on the internet) (like me) to slot Zacchilli into a certain tradition, without looking as closely as they should have at her comics. Leaning into the backwash of what is expected from educated engagement to replace the basic use of one’s eyes.
So now comes this new Youth in Decline collected edition, a solid 276 pages’ worth of stuff, which is both a compilation and an argument, insofar as it presents the work in the format of manga, specifically the ragged-drawing alt-manga favored by publishers like SeirinKogeisha - and oh my god, put all together like this, you (*I*) can see very clearly now that Zacchilli is one of the most adept artists around at handling really longform storytelling in the absence of a terribly intricate plot. Like not a few of the old Fort Thunder comics, her story is basically a chain of occurrences following a bunch of funny characters around as they meet new people and have arguments and occasionally fuck each other and generally sort of participate in a community, roughly, but this variant reads really, really, really fast, expertly guiding your line of sight through these stretchy, decompressed images, surface-level ‘noisy’ yet as intuitive as anything else you’ve seen. The characters are also really fun, and pretty slyly shaded - I especially loved the sour non-heroine Sally, who discovers a magic ring in a crypt and hangs around with a lizard guy, chasing precognitions and coveting everyone else’s possessions. It’s that kind of story, which lets up nowhere near any sort of resolution - at least one more book is planned, while Zacchilli continues making individual comics, and I’m pulling for a library.
I've appreciated the work of Tommaso since 2004's 8 1/2 Ghosts, I've found his recent renaissance through his independent label, Recoil, to be nothing short of inspiring. While he works in a massive variety of genre, it's damned impressive how strongly his voice carries throughout. Every title is wildly different from the other, but inherently his. I do have a particular fondness for his epic, Viking's End, and the horror/suspense Don't Look Back! spinoff, King Blood, but I've enjoyed every single title from him, from Dry County to Yearling.
"Let's just say 'I like to fight,' okay?"
Blasting out of the (second) Bush administration comes Terror Assaulter: OMWOT (One Man War on Terror) - 32 risographed pages of adrenaline-pumping action from Traditional Comics that strides confidently up to you and makes you say "Aah. You broke my leg."
TA:OMWOT is, to my mind, Benjamin Marra's most entertaining book yet, and boils down his formula for hugely enjoyable comics to its base elements - exploitation riffs played completely straight for the laughs (think the Bourne films written/directed by the Zucker brothers), and some really nice cartooning in amongst the deadpan silliness and hyper-violence. Sitting ostensibly in the unstoppable-killing-machine genre TA:OMWOT follows the titular Terror Assaulter as he takes on a cabal of bad guys with no apparent cohesive ideology or background. Reference is made to a drug lord overseer, with plans for a cyber attack on America, but throughout the adventure our hero is confronted by ninjas, gangbangers, sleezy business men, and low-level security grunts, vaguely reminiscent of the disparate villains in Assault on Precinct 13.
The violence is in the extreme, and served nicely by the lurid four-colour risograph printing, with Marra ably jumping through the action genre staples of over-the-top shoot-outs, fist-fights, and car-chases. What really makes the book though, is the dialogue - with characters constantly describing what has just happened to them in a hilariously deadpan fashion ("You shot the gun out of my hands", "You chopped my neck. Choke. I'm choking.") as the insanity unfolds.
I got my copy at TCAF earlier this year, and spent an enjoyable weekend putting it in people's hands and watching them dissolve into laughter and then heading off to buy their own copy. If you can get a hold of it, then purchase it for the loved ones in your life, and hold them close as you realise that all this is really happening somewhere.
"Let's just say 'I kill the bad guys...'"