Monday, December 31, 2007

2007: The Year in Comics (1)

The first thing that comes to mind whenever I consider doing one of those end-of-the-year thingamalists is that I haven't read nearly enough comics to claim that the "best" of anything was among them. Consequently, I'm going to take a more subjective approach.

What you get here is nothing definitive, comprehensive or objective. It is, quite simply, in alphabetical order, a list of comics that I've enjoyed reading in 2007, and that I remember fondly enough to recommend. I'm sure I'm forgetting some, and, yes, I'm aware that some of this stuff didn't even come out in 2007 at all. I don't really care.

* * *

Jason Aaron, Howard Chaykin, et al. Wolverine. Well, the one issue of it there was, at any rate, which was #56. The double-sized one-shot tells the story of Wendell, a hired goon whose job consists of a shift's worth of shooting "The Man in the Pit" with a machine gun every day - that man being Wolverine, of course, who's the prisoner of some inconsequential bad guy and is constantly kept under fire due to his superhuman healing abilities. Based on this gloriously over-the-top high concept, the creators manage to deliver a neat little character study, as well as the best Wolverine story I've read in a very long time. (Marvel Comics, periodical)

* * *

Jason Aaron, Cameron Stewart, et al. The Other Side. In a nutshell, imagine every good Vietnam War film you've ever seen rolled into one and done as a comic, and you'll have an approximation of The Other Side. The book isn't shy about its influences, but it also firmly stands on its own two feet as a smartly crafted, well-researched exploration of humanity, by way of two soldiers fighting the Vietnam War on opposing sides. It doesn't need to hide from any of its cinematic ancestors, certainly. Based on this work, I'm very much looking forward to reading Jason Aaron's Scalped, which is somewhere in my stack. (DC Comics/Vertigo, paperback)

* * *

Ed Brubaker, Michael Lark, Stefano Gaudiano, et al. Daredevil. This is still very much Frank Miller's Daredevil. There are numerous twice-told tropes to be found here - the differences are cosmetic, really, and all the basic ingredients remain the same ones that Miller brought to the table 25 years ago. Fortunately, Daredevil also just so happens to be a good comic right now. Brubaker and company are pretty much the best caretakers you could find for superhero stories with film noir and pulp fiction influences these days, and it's tremendously entertaining to watch them making the material sing. (Marvel Comics, periodical)

* * *

Ed Brubaker, Sean Phillips and Val Staples. Criminal. Sure, it's great fun to read these ugly, coarse, splendidly told pulp sons-of-bitches of yarns about crooked people driven by creed, guilt and revenge - there's no doubt about that. What they usually don't tell you, though, is that it's really those little, sparse moments of kindness, love and redemption that bring stories like this one home. After all, if even the evil cocksuckers in Criminal can manage to find some ragged shred of happiness in their fucked-up lives, if only for the briefest of moments, then perhaps it's not so hopeless for the rest of us ... right? Bang. You're dead. (Marvel Comics/Icon, periodical)

* * *

Kurt Busiek, Brent Anderson, et al. Astro City: The Dark Age. Kurt Busiek and Brent Anderson are still successfully conning us into thinking Astro City is one of the best superhero books in the market today, when in fact it is, of course, a most profound expedition across the length and breadth of the human condition. Astro City is a North American city with a particularly high population of superheroes and super-villains. The 16-part epic The Dark Age chronicles its history throughout the seventies, as seen through the eyes of two regular human brothers - one a cop, the other a crook. The book has been coming out at snail's pace, unfortunately, but when it does show up, it still delivers. (DC Comics/WildStorm, periodical)

* * *

Kurt Busiek, Carlos Pacheco, et al. Superman. I'm not very fond of either Superman or DC's mainstream line in general, but the ten-part "Camelot Falls" arc was well worth my time this year. It's got a neat premise, for starters: A time traveler shows up from the future to inform Superman that all of his good deeds in the present only strengthen the "tide of darkness," and will ultimately lead to humanity's destruction. The time-traveler's solution: Superman has to stop doing what he does immediately, letting millions of humans die now for the long-term survival of humanity. So, what's he going to do? Admittedly, the ending is a bit of a cop-out, but it's still one of the best traditional superhero stories I've read lately. (DC Comics, periodical)

* * *

Mike Carey, Chris Bachalo, Humberto Ramos, et al. X-Men. Paul O'Brien said it best last week: "Mike Carey has been doing great work on the X-books lately, and shows a better understanding of the characters than many of his contemporaries. He's able to work with continuity and use it to his advantage, but he recognizes that this is not what the characters are ultimately about." Mind you, if you're not already familiar with the X-Men, now probably isn't the best time to delve into Carey's run, since the book is entangled in a big whopping crossover with the other X-Men titles. Come February, though, it's going to be revamped and renamed X-Men: Legacy. Unless something goes horribly wrong, I'm optimistic that it's going to be a good book. (Marvel Comics, periodical)

* * *

Joe Casey, Charlie Adlard, et al. Rock Bottom. What a strange beast. The protagonist is a man who literally turns to stone - not the convenient kind that allows him to walk around and become a superhero, mind you, but the real deal. On the one hand, Rock Bottom passes muster as a weird-science character study. On the other, it also has to offer a few worthwhile twists on the superhero genre, and as such fits in quite nicely with Casey's body of work. It's a flawed but intriguing comic. The book actually came out in 2006, but I didn't get around to it until this year. (AiT/Planet Lar, paperback)

* * *

Joe Casey, Tom Scioli, et al. Gødland. Protagonist Adam Archer is a cosmically powered superhero whose sidekick is a wise, old talking dog from outer space. Imagine a comic picking up where Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey left off, and spinning forth the story as a Kirby-styled over-the-top superhero epic involving swinging super-villains, Freudian destroyers, angry space gods and the origin of the universe. Gødland is like the mad cousin of Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely's All Star Superman - not the best superhero comic out there, perhaps, but probably the most fearless. (Image Comics, periodical)

* * *

Alright, that's it for today. There'll be more in 2008, as soon as I'll be willing and able to see and touch my keyboard again.

Thanks very much for your time, and have a happy new year.

No comments: