Sunday, February 7, 2010

GeemBeast’s Best & Worst of 2009

Yeah, it’s super late, but here you go anyway.

Comics: Best
Any Deadpool Comic: The sudden (and long-overdue) popularity of Deadpool has resulted in an onslaught of titles featuring the character and in the surprise of the century, they don’t suck. In fact, they are all great! It looks as though DP is the first Marvel creation since Venom to actually get traction and join the pantheon of the big boys, especially if Ryan Reynolds’ talk about keeping the film true to the comic is true (and if the film actually gets made). A 90’s Punisher-style burnout is still possible, but the quality of the multiple books would seem to indicate that fanboys won’t tire of DP’s antics any time soon.

Robert Kirkman’s Invincible & Walking Dead: Two books that started great and haven’t lost quality. A far greater achievement than it sounds in today’s creator burnout comic marketplace.

George Sprott: Seth is one of the greatest comic book creators working today, but is largely unread. Fuck Jimmy Corrigan, this is the shit. Moving, beautifully drawn and published in a fantastic presentation. Why haven’t you read it yet?

Fantastic Four: The new team does justice to the legacy of Lee, Kirby, Buscema & Sinnot in a contemporary style, and without the baggage of, say, Grant Morrison.

Jonah Hex: One of the few bright spots in DC’s lineup. Brilliant writing, art, and the only book that Darwyn Cooke has worked on for the big two in the last three years. Incredibly satisfying.

Beasts Of Burden: Great surprise to find this wonderful mini-series by Evan Dorkin (who knew he could write non-sarcastic?) and Jill Thompson. Weak-ish/unresolved ending will hopefully lead to ongoing series and resolution.

Comics: Meh
There’s a lot of other underwhelming stuff that belongs here too, but who has the time or space to cover it all? That said, there were a lot of high hopes for our solitary entry, and that’s why it is included here.

Haunt: McFarlane / Kirkman unite to create something unspectacular. Haunt feels like a combination of ideas from Spawn (Todd’s only idea of the last twenty years, apparently) and Kirkman’s Astounding Wolfman (about to wrap up). I didn’t expect much from Todd, but I thought Kirkman might pull him up. It’s working in reverse for Kirkman. For Further Evidence, see Image United, stunt publishing at its weakest.

Comics: Horrible
Any Spiderman Comic: It kills me to say this, but as someone who enjoyed the immediate aftermath of “One More Day”, the long tail on this event has reduced the Spider-man books to nothing more than a series of brief, easily-digestible, but ultimately meaningless stories by a rotating cast of artists and writers that are in some cases so wildly divergent in style that they are only adding to the feeling of disjointedness that permeates the book. The latest issues letters page where the editor defends the quality of the book by pointing out that they have managed to ship them all on time isn’t helping either. There are factories all over the world that crank out mundane shit on time every day. Who cares? If I wanted to read the contemporary Marvel equivalent of DC Superman books from the mid-70’s this would be my favorite title. But since I don’t care how many hamburgers Spider-man has to eat to save the world, it ain’t. Get it together guys – this is your flagship book.

Flash Rebirth Mini Series: I stopped caring about this POS after issue two. If there’s a plot, I’d like a flow chart that explains it. I bet it’d look like a diagram of a supercollider and cover a city block. As I said before, it is the only book being published that is simultaneously over drawn and under drawn (how is that even possible?). It hurts my eyes and makes me suspect that Van Sciver might be a dangerous schizophrenic.

Blackest Night: Longest Night is more like it. I suppose DiDio has to feed the machine with more of this horrific (but top-selling) crap to make up for the nosedive in editorial and sales numbers for the rest of DC’s stable that occurred under his Dark Reign, but that doesn’t make it right. After a decent enough start, fatigue has set in and obvious last-minute tie-ins like the “Cancelled Zombies” mini-series aren’t helping.

DC Comics: Come to think of it, aside from Jonah Hex and the rare Vertigo title, DC’s entire editorial output this past year has been underwhelming and even insulting in some cases. The universe has been mis-managed to the point of irrelevance. DiDio is to blame and I can’t imagine DC’s new overseers are not going to let this assclown keep his job through 2010 if they have a lick of common sense.

Frankencastle: Nothing more to say that I haven’t said already, except that to make matters even worse, the “real-world” Punisher book is not as good as previous post-Ennis Punisher books. It feels like the character is being sent to his doom.

Story Fatigue: Siege was seven years in the making? Is THAT ALL???!! Bendis has fine ideas, but they aren’t good enough to stretch out into interminable multi-year storylines. As a Green Goblin fanboy, I am now so over it that I cannot wait for Norman to die and have this unholy mess end. Please hurry!

Grant Morrison: This is the year he totally lost it. As this happened under DiDio’s Morrison-fawning watch, it makes sense – Morrison should not be allowed to write whatever he likes with no editorial direction. The only way to fix this is to put him in isolation with a stack of his recent output so he’s forced to realize he has been cranking out pure crap, or take away his drugs. In either case, I fear a Hunter Thompson-like outcome is a distinct possibility. Sad, but at least it would stop the never-ending onslaught of this garbage.

Rob Liefeld’s Twitter Feed: Just in case you weren’t sure he is a moron.

Comics: Looking forward to 2010
At this point, it’s hard to say. The quality of ongoing books can change suddenly depending on the creators in charge or the overdue firing of worthless editors. In addition the ongoing books I cited above, I am looking forward to the DC Ditko Creeper Hardcover reprint and more Essentials, Showcases and Rebellion 2000 AD reprints.

But mostly I’m looking forward to the fallout from the big shake-ups at DC & Marvel this year. It’s going to be fascinating.

Movies: Best
Inglorious Basterds: Return to form for Tarantino in a film he obviously loved making. Although heavy with long, dialogue-filled scenes, they never collapse under their own weight as they did in Death Proof. And who doesn’t prefer this ending to WW2 over the real one?

Star Trek: I am not a fan of the series in any earlier form. This was truly great.

Crank 2: This is what an action film should be absurd, funny, gory, and all moving so fast that you don’t get a second to analyze anything – it works for Family Guy.

District 9: Great film making, totally exhilarating idea, story and execution.

Up: Amazing.

Movies: Meh
Avatar: Certainly not the worst film of the year, but far and away the most unnecessarily worshipped film since Blair Witch. Welding the technology of the future to an early 90’s script and plot is not groundbreaking filmmaking. It’s a sign of artistic bankruptcy. At least in Titantic, I gave a shit if either protagonist drowned. In this film, I felt worse about the trees getting knocked over than I did about the talking characters. And by the way, how did the Naavi pick up human weapons and that were suddenly the right size for their much bigger bodies?

The Hangover: This is the funniest movie ever made? No it is not. It’s not even the funniest film this year. And Zak Galifakinootis needs to stop being in everything. He’s in danger of turning into Will Ferrell.

Jennifer’s Body: Nice body, shame about the script. Not as horrible as its reputation would suggest, but not great either. The parties involved should do better.

Movies: Horrible
Bruno: Everything funny and clever in Borat is conspicuous by its absence here. I smell Ricky Bobby spin-off.

GI Joe: A lost opportunity on many, many fronts - that will not likely come again.

Land of the Lost: Was this supposed to be funny? Dinosaur piss? Big paycheck for Will Ferrell in exchange for N O T H I N G. This and Bruno prove that even though you are willing to do anything in pursuit of a laugh, that lack of inhibition will not always get you the laugh, but possibly pity and a visit to the shrink.

Terminator Salvation: POS. The best thing to come out of this is Bale’s leaked rant. As pointless as his tirade was, at least it wasn’t as ill-conceived, overblown, contrived and full of plot holes as the movie. I’d watch Part Three over this any day of the week.

Wolverine Origins: Cliched and uninteresting. Repeat after me: “Deadpool was not in it. Deadpool was not in it. Deadpool was not in it.”

Looking Forward to 2010: Movies:
Iron Man 2. Jonah Hex. New Romero Dead movie.

Toys: Best
Hot Toys: God bless these guys or I may have walked away from toys this year. They continue to move the hobby forward with new innovations, incredible sculpting and compelling, if not always current, licenses. Their stuff is so good that I will buy HT figures based on properties that suck – I have two Spirit figures – IT’S THAT GOOD!

DCU Classics is the best Superhero line made by an American toy company. Before anyone at Mattel breaks out the bubbly, that’s damning it with faint praise, because based on standards of five years ago, this line is a regression in the field, not a step forward. The articulation blows, the sculpting is homogenous, the figures are impossible to find, the limbs are always deformed due to insertion in super-tight plastic trays (where they’re also bound by redundant rubber bands!?) and the former brand leader has an irrational hard-on for Super Powers that pushes the character choices toward the diabolically obscure. With all of these problems, this line is certainly is severe danger of being annexed by the higher ups.

Toys: Horrible
More DC Toys: But hey, DCUC is the good line. Infinite Heroes has even worse character choices, worse articulation, and the worst store exclusives in the history of any toy line ever. Worse than TRU’s PEWTER WOLVERINE!!

JLU: These never stood up in the first place, and now they are impossible to get and it’s all getting cancelled anyway, so nice one, guys.

And let’s not forget the competition; DC Direct continues to fail – and no surprise considering the guy running it knows nothing about making toys. Here’s a clue, genius. Articulation costs money – if you are going to add it, make sure the sculpt doesn’t render it redundant. You’re welcome. Three monkeys could manage this line better and probably not fuck it up so badly.

And Hasbro - thanks for killing Marvel Legends! The last series (an awful Wal-mart exclusive) arrived at my house from Canada before Christmas 2008. It hit select San Diego Wal-marts around the ComicCon dates in July and after a few scattered sightings, was seemingly dumped en masse as clearance in December.

The TRU/Diamond two-packs suffered a similar fate, with the second series still largely absent from stores heavy with Kree/Skrull sets that will not move without dynamite. Tie-ins to long- completed Bendis stories are not the route for ugly mass-market toys, gentlemen.

And the Marvel Puniverse promised slimy glistening mini-figures with decent articulation in a wide assortment of characters, but instead we got multiple flimsy, badly-proportioned versions of the same five or six mainstays with the rare new (no tooling required) figure thrown in to keep us quiet. These look like heroes on the package photos, but I’ve never had one come out of the tray looking better than, say, a paraplegic running a marathon. I truly hate these ugly, overpriced, undersized pieces of crap. If this is the price we pay for financing Marvel movies, I’m not sure it’s worth the trade off, but maybe with Disney and Marvel merging, the license won’t be renewed next time and we can finally get back to some well-made Marvel toys.

There’s a bigger problem at Hasbro – Mattel are encroaching on their domination in boys action. Matty may be overpaying for licenses to keep them away from Hasbro, but when Hasbro is flat on Joe and Transformers in years when both have movies, and Star Wars isn’t getting any major new drivers, it shows they are in need of something new.

Both proprietary movie lines were weak in 2009 – Transformers had little exciting to excite the fanboys and GI Joe was in the worst packaging I’ve ever seen on a mainstream toy line – dark costumed characters on dark cards – is there a design department in Pawtucket, or did they just grab a first year RISD student off the streets for this massive fail? Transformers at least sold okay, and the Joe figures did all right, but the vehicles and accessories bombed and if our sources are correct, there are many, many items in this line that are destined to show up on clearance and soon.

The phony Mego revival: This needs to stop. Yes, Megos were an important part of any boys 70’s childhood, but if you’re going to make them three decades after the line coughed up blood, they should reflect the technological improvements that have happened over those 30 years. Slavishly reproducing the far from perfect figures, warts and all, is a fool’s errand. Charlee Flatt was making better Megos in the 80’s and nothing made in the last ten are even close to his custom work.

Toys: Looking Forward to 2010
Ashley Wood and 3A’s upcoming line of 2000 AD figures in 1:6 scale. More 3A Aventure Cartel figures.

DCU Classics for as long as it lasts. I fear the worst as Mattel has put itself directly in competition with it’s customers (always the wrong move) and the stuff is still insanely hard to find at retail.

Improvement or Closure for Sideshow: Their 1:6 stuff just gets weaker and the rest of the industry has surpassed them. The GI Joe line needs to get on track, they need some new licenses and they should expand their Star Wars thinking beyond the same old, same old. Where is Boba Fett? Droids? No one needs another Anakin or Obi-wan and the clones are fine, but spread them out a little more, please. And I'm not sure who has the funds and display space for all these premium format figures, but they are not of much interest to the vast majority of fanboys, despite what must be a decent profit margin (why else would they make so many?). Finally FUCK COMIQUETTES!!! THEY'RE JUST STATUES!!

As Sideshow continues to decline, Hot Toys will continue to amaze.

If they ever get released (slow/non developing toys): GoHero’s Harryhausen 1:6 scale line. Hot Toys Inglorious Basterds 1:6 line. KISS Medicom Ace & Peter to go with Gene & Paul. Sex Pistols Medicom Steve & Paul to go with Johnny & Sid. Amok Time SD oversized Creature From the Black Lagoon vinyl. Hot Toys Marvel Comics figures. Supermegabot’s Wednesday 13 vinyl figure. Hot Toys rest of Watchmen – where’s Rorschach and Night Owl – at least?

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