Thursday, December 20, 2007

2007 - The Year That Was - Part I

The blogging around here slowed considerably in 2007. I have to blame a new job that leaves little energy at the end of the day for reading, let alone writing about what I read. Hopefully, things are calming down a bit and I can work into a new groove.

Overall, the theme of 2007 seemed to be one of transition. We had two major events come to an end, and saw a handful of new ones start up. Even more attention was paid to the evolution of comics, from bookstore distribution of TPBs and OGNs to the major companies trying to figure out how the web would play a part of the future. The atmosphere seemed familiar to any one who was around for 1986 (Our Favorite Yearâ„¢) in that the medium was getting a large amount of attention from without, especially in the area of OGNs (American Born Chinese, Dark Tower and Fun Home spring to mind). That and the continuing crest of movies and television projects adapting or riffing on comics. Exciting times, though the cynic in me feels like I've seen it all before, and saw it come to near ruin. I'm not one for proclaiming the end of comics, though I do think about the inverse of all this attention and money, and it chills me a bit.

But enough loser talk. Here's what stood out (for me) in 2007:

Putting the "Awe" in Awesome
52 - The Immortal Iron Fist - Sinestro Corp War

Above are some examples of the best of the year for me. Seeing them together like this, I realize they have some facets in common:

  1. They feature strong central themes.
  2. They put forth genuine and imaginative efforts to reinvigorate characters and concepts.
  3. There seems to be a kind of geeky embrace of the past, no matter how embarrassing. I admire the fearlessness in someone thinking that they can make Booster Gold/Iron Fist/Guy Gardner really cool characters instead of punchlines.
  4. They remained relatively self-contained. All I needed to know to enjoy each series or event was contained between the covers. Sure, there was the WWIII offshoot and some one-shots for SCW, but they were by no means essential to enjoy or understand the story. They were optional.

Also, I'd like to acknowledge the unqualified success of 52. I would have never thought that a company could pull off a weekly comic with a sustained level of quality as this. It may not have been perfect, but it produced enough goodwill that I was able to overlook its occassional flaws and pick it up week after week.

Who Wants to Live Up to Expectations, Anyway?
Civil War - Eternals - Countdown - World War Hulk

And here we have Countdown proving how successful 52 actually was. Perhaps a certain amount of event fatique set in, perhaps it had too much to live up to, but I could not drop this series fast enough. It seemed half-formed, and where 52 did everything right, it proceded to go in a "different" direction. Looking at the other titles, I notice a lot of Marvel up there, and a lot of similarities:
  1. Simple, strong premises that get all botched up and watered down. Really, if Hulk has come back to Earth to kick the world's ass... wouldn't one expect him to take his fight outside of New York state? Less of a "World War" and more of a "Police Action" (not as catchy, is it?).
  2. Every single one of these had some kind of reboot-worthy plot development.
  3. Each one ended in a way that I could actually hear a cartoonish "wah-wah-waah" horn blow. Also, my head briefly turned into a giant sucker. I'd like to single out Eternals here... what the hell, Gaiman? The series read like either 1.) a lead-up to an new ongoing that never materialized or 2.) a massive reboot button for others to use later.

That's it for today. Next I'll talk about some more stuff about the Year That Was, plus a wish list for the Year That Will Be(?).

Friday, December 14, 2007

Comics: Week of December 12, 2007

Green Lantern #25 & Green Lantern Corps #19 - Overall, I found it a satisfying end to what DC treated as a minor side-event (that's what it felt like, anyway). I could be off-base, but it seemed like the company spent more time talking about Countdown and its various spin-offs than the Sinestro Corp War, which is a shame. The Corp War has much stronger central concept that tied in a lot of extraneous bits of continuity that left the two titles a lot stronger than it found them. The finale resonated strongly, as it tied into the beginning of this series and served as a symbolic homecoming to Hal, who began the run worrying about rebuilding Coast City and getting people to come back. He ends here with confidence that that will become reality at last.

I've said it before, but I really do believe that Johns has hit his stride with this book. He's retained a focus on this title that I don't think I've seen before. I nearly felt like applauding after reading the coda. It was as if he was saying "Hey, you thought that the Sinestro Corp War was kick-ass... wait til 2009!". Instead of ending with a bunch of loose tangents and unresolved threads left for others to pick up, it ended on a note of confidence... as if all this was set-up for greater things to come.

The epilogue issue in GLC was especially poignant, allowing some downtime and much-needed checking-in with the major players. I admire the way they've managed to turn Guy into a kind of one-note character to a kind of gruff, older brother figure. It suits him, and the Corp. He's the kind of mentor that no one else can be. One question, though: when did Ice come back? Did I miss that somewhere?

Suicide Squad #4 - Between picking up this title and tracking down issues of the original series, it's amazing at how consistent they are, which makes me love the new series even more. I picked up the first few issues of the original series back when they first came out, but I don't think I could appreciate them properly at that age. I just read the Secret Origins that introduced the Squad after their debut in Legends, which actaully helped set up this new issue perfectly. I'm wondering if Ostrander had the last page reveal planned af far back as the 80's. Not to knock the Secret Origins story, but it kind of seemed off in parts. Yes, it could be the result of a writer finding the right tone under a tight deadline, or it could be that he had the idea back then that some things weren't/aren't what they seemed.

Wonder Woman #15 - I missed the first issue of Simone's run, but the plot seemed accessible all the same. I've been looking forward to this takeover since it was announced. I've fished some of her Birds of Prey run out of dollar boxes over the Summer. She's a good writer, though sometimes her central themes get a bit wobbly for me. Where she surpasses many other working writers is her characters; she gives each a distinct voice and way of interacting with others. To me, she's single-handedly responsible for rehabilitating both Barbara Gordon and Black Canary, as well as a lot of other characters that have passed through her hands. It's something that Wonder Woman has needed for a long time. Perez did a good job on the revamp in the 80's, but it was more about world-building around Diana.

My only concern is how much will the company support Simone in the end. They may be looking to her to turn this character around in short order which, frankly, probably won't happen. They need to be patient and hands-off, editorially speaking. This title has been a well-documented fiasco since the restart. If the company lets Simone work, then what will happen is a slow build in character and readership that may pay off down the line. They have a shot of creating an iconic version of a character that hasn't really had one (in comics form, anyway).

Plus, I really like the idea of a good female writer on this title. It's about f*@king time. If the company starts screwing it up, it may send a bad signal in a profession that desperately needs a different point of view.