Wednesday, December 31, 2014

2014 in Comics - The Good, The Not So Good, The Bad and the Ugly

Depending on how things go, this week may see a flurry of 2014 in Review type posts here on the FBU, so I thought I would start the ball rolling with quick review of some of the good and bad books/series I bought in 2014. - Jim

The GOOD (in no particular order)

Superior Spider-man - Dan Slott (various artists)

Yeah, I know a A LOT of you dissed this book through its entire existence, but I suspect 95% of the people dissing this book A) Weren't reading it and B) Aren't reading Amazing Spider-man now that Peter Parker has returned as Spider-man. The bottom line is Dan Slott managed to wring surprises and fun out of this premise at every turn because he could do things with the Doc Ock Spider-man that you just can't with Peter Parker Spider-man. (And I'm not talking about lame grim and gritty antics, but actual, interesting character reveals.)

Multiversity - Grant Morrison (and various guests artists)

This one is a bit of a mixed bag, but I find myself enjoying it more than not. The latest issue featuring the Fawcett Universe is a love letter to the era. (Though it does have a few eyebrow raising moments at times...) Reading praise on various message boards about this issue, the overwhelming refrain was that the DC 52 needs more books like this.

Southern Bastards - Jason Aaron and Jason Latour

What we have here is what is intended to be an homage to the type of 70's one man against a corrupt patriarchal system as you might find in Walking Tall or Billy Jack. And if that was all it was, it would be pretty slight (even with the nice art by Jason Latour.) The thing that gives series more oomph is the focus on how the American Cult of Football obviates the sins of its heroes. In this Ray Rice/Steubenville era, the Southern Bastards is more topical than I suspect Aaron intended, but that just serves to give the story more gravitas.

The Woods - James Tynion IV and Michael Dialynas

The premise of this series sounds like a SyFy young adult movie: A highschool of kids find themselves suddenly transported to a strange distant planet where they must forge new alliances to survive. I'm sort of a sucker for hooky premises and this one intrigued me enough to get the first issue. What's kept me coming back has been how Tynion reveals the backgrounds of the various characters while quickly revealing surprises and plot twists. This is definite not a one-idea young adult knock off, but a well thought out concept with some good world-building.

The Invaders and The Fantastic Four - James Robinson and Steve Pugh and Leonard Kirk

It might seem strange to group these two as one item, but Robinson is interweaving storylines between the two titles via Jim Hammond, The Original Human Torch, so I'm counting them as one entity. Amidst the endless desert of Avengers crossover titles that is the current Marvel Universe, these two titles are like an oasis.  If you forgive the unfortunate detour into the Original Sins event which lasted two issues, both books have been great.

Star Trek Comics - Various

If you are a Star Trek fan, then IDW has something for you. Whether it's John Byrne's well made photo-comics using images from the original television show or the nicely illustrated version of Harlan Ellison's script for The City on the Edge of Forever. My latest buy is the no-brainer Planet of the Apes Star Trek crossover which I'm looking forward to reading as soon as I finish today's post!

The Not So Good

Batman Eternal - a bunch of people but supposedly helmed Jay Synder

This series started off strong, but man has it lost steam. It almost made it into the BAD list, but what saves it is that because it comes out weekly, you're usually apt to get one or two good issues a month out of the series. Unfortunately, you do find yourself getting obvious padding from time to time. And let's not even discuss the abomination that is the Joker's Daughter. On the flipside, I like how they reintroduced The Spoiler.

The Fade Out - Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips

This tale of murder during 1948 Hollywood has all the trappings of something I would love, but my biggest disappointment is I've seen a lot of this done better in the books of James Elroy. Still, putting that idiosyncratic criticism aside, Brubaker and Phillips are presenting a well crafted mystery in a era that's fun to visit, so I'll keep reading for now.

Annihilator - Grant Morrison and Frazer Irving

I enjoyed the first issue of this series, and read the second issue but somehow I've not been compelled to buy either of the latest two issues. I don't know. I think it was the killer Teddy Bear or something that probably caused me to loose interest.


Winter Soldier - Rick Remender and Roland Boschi

I bought the first two issues of this series when I did my State of Captain America comics article last April, but don't recall ever getting around to talking them. Here's the deal. This is supposed to be a period piece set in the groovy 60's or something, but instead, we get a confused story where people use mac computers and talk like they just stepped out of Starbucks. All I can think is that this story was retro-fitted for this series (or something) and the retrofit was half-assed.
Or it was just half-assed from the get go.

Sirens - George Perez

Because I have fond memories of Teen Titans and George Perez I picked up this first issue. Boy, was that a mistake. It was a ponderous mess of storytelling with way too many introduced with each one compelled to give you their entire life story or whatever. When modern comic fans talk about how they can't read old comics because they are too talky, this is what they mean. And it's a valid point. (btw - I blame Chris Clairemont for that shit, but that's a topic for another day.)

The Ugly

Marvel's Infinity Event - Jonathan Hickman and Jim Cheung

Y'know, there was a time when I was proud to defend Jonathan Hickman against naysayers who said his stories were too convoluted, confusing or slow moving. This series broke me of that. Between the over-saturation of the Avenger's franchise at Marvel and the constant themes of secret-histories and toyetic iconography that seems to infest Hickman stories, I think I'm done with his work for now.

And that's my wrap up. What did you read in 2014 that you liked or disliked? Feel free to let me know!

- Jim


MattComix said...

I can't really agree with you on "Superior" Spider-Man. As for reading now that Peter is back well, the same cook is still running the kitchen.

On the positive, I did enjoy that Thunderworld issue. The art in particular some of the best I've seen on the big red cheese in a very long time. If Thunderworld went to series I'd definitely want to see Cameron Stewart on board.

Jim Shelley said...

Matt - yeah, I knew you wouldn't like that choice but the comment on Thunderworld does raise a question for me...what other comics do you currently read and enjoy?

MattComix said...

@Jim. My comic reading for current stuff these days is very very sporadic. I read almost exclusively in trade or digital these days. There just isn't a lot that catches my interest because it's all a sea of grimdark and big bloated events for the most part. Sometimes something starts out ok and then eventually falls prey to a change in creative team or editorial shenanigans. I was enjoying the new Nova there for awhile. I took a shine to Miles Morales as Ultimate Spider-Man but I kind of wonder when the hammer is gonna drop on him. Recently checked out the new Ms. Marvel series. I had been reading Adventures of Superman and Smallville Season 11 as alternatives to New 52. Now both are gone. S11 wasn't always great in the art department but Bryan Q. Miller was able to weave a Superman out of the Smallville tv series that I could get behind.

I haven't really kept up with any of the Multiversity stuff but my wife showed me the Thunderworld issue in particular.

Jim Shelley said...

Matt, thank you for letting me know what books you've been buying. As it turns out Pierre was liking the new Nova series as well (I think up until there was a some crossover with Original Sin...)

Here's an interesting creative challenge for you: Could you conceive of a modern comic that would appeal to modern readers and old school readers like ourselves? As much as I (and other messageboarders) enjoyed Thunderworld, I don't really think a series like that would have legs. The last series that really tickled by Bronze Age funny bone was, believe it or not, the DC 52 revamp of OMAC. It felt like classic Len Wein Herb Trimpe Hulk from the 70's.


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