Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Best/Worse of the Comic World in 2009

Bitterfanboy's call

Best Comic Books for your buck in 2009:

The Fantastic Four by Jonathan Hickman and Dale Eaglesham. The first story arc of this team blew me away. It’s what a comic series of a beloved, longstanding franchise should be…stories that are familiar and surprising at the same time. Not only does this team capture the magic of the FF in the days of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, but also the feel and look of the FF in ‘70s when creators like Roy Thomas, Marv Wolfman and George Perez told great adventure stories at a breakneck pace.

Ultimate Avengers Relaunch by Mark Millar and Carlos Pacheco. Carlos is and has been once of todays best pencilers. He’s the second coming of Alan Davis and deserves to be showcased on today’s top titles. Here he finally lands that big screen-like project with Mark Millar at the helm. Millar has always been a writer who can reinterpret yesterday’s heroes for today’s audiences but recently has had trouble telling a focused, strong tale. With this new Ult Avengers book Millar once again locks it in and gives us blockbuster film in a comic that would be better than any Avengers film could be realized on the silver screen. An action packed tale with a jaw dropping twist of the Red Skull being the son of the Ult Universe Captain America leaves the reader wanting nothing but more with each issue.

Green Lantern by Geoff Johns and various artists. Years and years ago, DC killed Hal Jordan for no other reason than the fact that lazy editors and writers ran out of good ideas for the hero. Then along comes Johns who proves that what Neal Adams used to always say is true: “There are no bad characters, only bad writers”. Johns not only restored Hal, the Green Lantern Corp and his title to glory for years now but Hal's ongoing story is also is the focal point of almost every large scale event in the DCU since his return. Green Lantern is THE most consistantly good book in the DCU and has been for some time now.

Deadpool: Merc with a Mouth by Victor Gischler and Bong Dazo. I have no idea who these creators are. It doesn’t matter. This title is a big, dumb, silly romp that is a blast to read. Amazingly, unlike Marvel’s problem with Spider-Man, all the of the many Deadpool spin offs so far are fun to read. Not all are must haves but this title in particular strikes the right tone with this character and also co-stars the Deadpool Zombie head from the Marvel Zombies dimension. Stupid? Yes. Fun? Hell yes!

Power Girl by Justin Gray, Jimmy Palmiotti and Amanda Conner. Like with Deadpool, this title is my guilty pleasure monthly. Its fun, it’s witty, it can be sexy and it’s another great example of a talented team of creators taking a lower tier character and making him or her popular by simply telling good stories. Connor’s simple, animation-like style grows on you. I still hate PG’s costume redesign though. Why the giant shoulder pad? That kind of useless item on the outfit is straight out of the Rob Liefeld school of costume design. Palmiotti is DC's New York, in-house golden boy currently who can be relied upon to turn in smart and fun scripts. Don't be surprised to see DC offer him an editor chair soon like Marvel wisely did with his old partner Joey Q years ago.

Invincible by Robert Kirkman and Ryan Ottley. The main storyline in 2009 was titled the “ Invincible War” and it was another blockbuster packaged in as a comic book. Ryan Ottley proved he could draw big, in-your-face action sequences like the best of ‘em along with quiet, dramatic moments that hang with you after the book has been read. Kirkman understands why anyone of any age wants to read a comic book and feeds great storytelling to you by the spoonful on one page then with a cannon to your face on the next. The character of Invincible is the best of old school Spider-man and Superboy stories wrapped up in a 21st century package.

Worst books that I spent money on in 2009 and now want a refund:

Hulk by Jeph Leob and various artists. Holee crap are we getting screwed on this title. The great “Who is the Red Hulk?” mystery…I’ve read 17 issues of this book and the plot has not moved forward in all this time. Yes, there has been action and guest stars and numerous splash pages but that’s about it. Nothing happens in this book! Ever! Leob doesn’t have a great plan here except to have whatever Marvel U characters he has an urge to write for jump thru the title, yell something, punch someone and then be on their merry way. A complete waste of any reader’s time and cash.

Spider-Woman by Brian Bendis and Alex Malev. For years Bendis kept teasing Marvel fans about a Spider-Woman title that was going to be so great the creators and editors had to take years to develop it for the great unwashed. Hell, even Apple was on board to help create and promote a new motion comic book that could really help usher in a new wave in online entertainment. It finally debuts in late summer ANNNNND it’s the most boring and ugly book Marvel currently publishes. Bendis is one creator that has lost his touch in 2009 and is now taking even longer to tell comic stories than he used to but this…this will absolutely put one to sleep at night. And while I typically have liked Malev’s work in the past, this has to be the ugliest interpretation of Jessica Drew since Carmine Infantino used to draw her in the ‘70s. This book won’t last 12 issues unless maybe the team changes. Ugh.

Batman & Robin by Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely then other artists. So this title starts off great then Quitely quickly jumps ship and since that loss a parade of artists begin to line up to soldier the book on. Sorry DC, once an artist like Quitely leaves a crazy Morrison storyline, the party is over. It’s like switching the lead cast members of a film one third of the way in. What the hell ever happened to these publishers stocking up on completed issues with problem artists before a title is launched?

All Superman and Batman titles by any current creative DC team. Let’s take both Clark and Bruce out of all their main monthly titles for a year or so and to boost sales! DC takes the two icons that hold the house up and remove them at the same time. This will go down as one of the dumbest ideas in comic publishing history. As the 2009 month to month sales figures show, this was a colossal blunder by editorial. We are at the end of a year of the mess and still have not found the bottom in monthly order numbers for any of the family of titles. It’s also a big problem DC refuses to face and doesn’t plan to course correct for at least another 6 or 8 months. Both storylines are so awful and dragged out that I can’t care enough to recap specifics here. I’ll go read older, better Supes & Bats stories again until the whole mess blows over. Fuck you Didido.

The Jury is still out on:

New/Dark Avengers by Brian Bendis and various artists. Great storyline at first but overly padded in 2009. Throughout all the crossovers, one-shots and mini-series tied into the Dark Avengers saga, all we have really come to learn in the past year is…'gasp!'...Harry Osborn is evil and crazy. Really hope this goes somewhere interesting very soon. Btw, dump penciler Mike Deodato and all his assistants off of Dark Avengers. The guy is awful at laying out a story and I’m sick of him tracing Tommy Lee Jones photos for Norman Osborn’s face. On New Avengers, really happy to see artist Stewart Immonen kick it up to the next level. His recent work on the book has been great. Surprisingly so since I can recall how dull his work on Superman in ‘90s was. Currently, he’s a keeper.

Flash Rebirth: Geoff Johns and Ethan Van Sciver. Look, I am one of the few still reading comics who have followed the history of both the Barry Allen Flash and Wally West Flash for decades and I can’t tell what the hell is going on. I have a soft spot for Barry as the Flash and want this series to be great. So far this does not feel like it’s going to pay off as well has Hal Jordan’s Rebirth did. The other disappointment so far is Van Sciver’s poor artwork. He’s become progressively worse as the issues pass by. His figures are ugly and he’s forcing himself to make too many poor panel/page layout decisions. Forcing small panels with too many tiny figures or action within them. It hurts the storytelling. And my eyes. All the Flashes legs are about as long as most people’s bodies.

Blackest Night by Geoff Johns and Ivan Reis. DC editorial finally figures out a way to get Zombie heroes and villains into the DCU. The build up to this saga was strong, the first issue was cool, surprising and drawn oh so well…but since then, again, a lot of padding has filled the recent issues. The storyline hasn’t moved forward in the past two issues. It feels like in the end, this will be at least a good storyline but the bad habit of padding is getting to be too much to take. Not telling clean stories with momentum is a serious problem both publishers have exhibited throughout all of 2009.

So DC, Marvel, here's a New Year's resolution for you: start moving these big storylines along in 2010. At $4 a book now, stop fucking with what readership you still have hanging on and tell more focused and less drawn out stories. Keep it moving!

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