Sunday, January 10, 2016

Comics 2015 - The Good, The Bad, The Ugly Part 1

Note: I was going to call this 5 Books I like and what it says about the current comics industry, but I realized that wouldn't be as click worthy as they title I'm using. I mention this as a sort of disclaimer for the last bit at the end of this post.  - Jim

Okay, without going into a lot of details, 2015 was a difficult time for me but I got through it. One of the few upshots was that I had a lot of time to read old and new comics.

Here are the Good:

Sandman Overture: If there was any doubt about whether a book like Neil Gaiman's Sandman would work in the modern comics market, this sure took the wind out of those sails. Not only did the series sell well, but the story with its historical settings and inventive worlds  seemed to be perfectly suited for fans of Dr. Who or Steampunk who may have never read Sandman. (Though I did wonder how "new reader friendly" it was at times.)

Still, even if the story had been phoned in, I probably would have included this comic on my list simply because of the fantastic J. H. Williams III artwork:

While Frank Miller's Dark Knight III seems to be getting a lot more attention, THIS is the type of 80's/90's comics revivals I would really like to see more of.

Kings And Canvas: This MonkeyBrains comic is a story of a fantasy world where Boxing, not swordsmanship, is featured as the dominant combat method. Introducing us to this world is a grizzled ex-champion boxer who has escaped from an island prison and is training a young mentor in the arts of boxing. I'm almost reluctant to call this a Fantasy comic as that tends to conjure up dull World of Warcraft knockoffs in my mind. This is more like a Fantastic World. Writer Neil Kleid has done a good job creating a world that has is more Frank L. Baum than Tolkien. I would also have to compliment Kleid on the fine work he's done in crafting distinct dialogue patterns for some of the anthropomorphic races in the series.

One of the tricks to selling a fantasy world is to have it look different. Artist Jake Allen succeeds here by coming up with clothing and scenery that feels like a mashup of old world European and Greco-Roman.

The above artwork is a good example of the clean and clever artwork in this book.  The series is just up to issue two, but the story has moved pretty quickly. I'm eager to see where this team goes with this world.

Star Trek - New Visions: This is probably going to be one of the most controversial picks on my Good list. I say that because I've heard other comic creators openly diss this series because (I suspect) of its photoshop assisted artwork. (There is probably a bit of John Byrne hate in the equation as well, though you don't really hear a lot about that now days.) So far, the stories have been pretty good, but even if they were just so-so, I'd get this comic simply because I'm dazzled by the amazing photoshop skills Byrne is displaying.

And while I completely understand the photonovel feel isn't for everybody, for an old TOS Star Trek fan like myself, this series has been a lot of fun. Where else am I going to see the return of Robert Lansing as Gary Seven and Ted Cassidy as Ruk?

Another good thing about this series is the stories are all done-in-ones. Not only does this replicate the weekly episode feel of the television series, it also makes it easy to read the comics in any order. In many ways, it's a perfect New Reader Friendly comic book.

The Vision: So far, there haven't been a lot of comics released in this latest All-New, All-Different Marvel initiative that have in fact felt All New or All Different. However there are two notable exceptions. The Vision and Patsy Walker, AKA Hellcat (which which failed to make this list because it's only had one issue so far)

Where the rest of the ANAD Marvel books seems mired in a world of fan driven continuity and corporate agendas, The Vision stands out as a unique story that combines family drama with science fiction in a way that I haven't seen done in a big two comic before. And while I know a lot of old school fans have said they would rather see the Vision in a traditional superhero comic, I've gotta call bull-shit on that because nobody would support such a book even if it did get published.

At a time when companies are trying to duplicate the success of the new Batgirl series (and mostly failing) writer Tom King and artist  Gabriel Hernandez Walta have actually come the closest by giving us a very different perspective on the superhero story.

I'd be hard pressed to put a label on this book. At times the atmosphere of looming violence and darkness make this comic feel  closer to a Horror comic than a Science Fiction or Superhero comic. Whenever Marvel continuity is evoked, there is a sense of dread and menace to it:

If I had to pick a comic that could eventually evolve into Marvel's answer to Sandman, this would be it.

The Imperium: I read a lot of Valiant comics last year. That company is doing a good job putting out superhero comics that don't feel like boring superhero comics. Imperium with its Anything Goes attitude my favorite at the moment (though I do like XO Manowar a lot too...) Written by Joshua Dysart and illustrated by Cafu, this book combines sentient mechanical men, alien warriors, extra dimensional beings and psionic despots to create a story that's as much driven by dramatic plot points as it is grand scale super-heroics.

I've often said that one of the keys to the Walking Dead's success (besides zombies) is that at anytime, something big can happen to a character and the impact will have real effects. When you read Avengers or Justice League, you know no dire consequence will have a long term effect on the story because that's just the nature of corporate comics. The Imperium doesn't play by those rules though. Like The Walking Dead, characters can do things and have things done to them that actually mean something.

The intense story line is supported by some great artwork by Cafu:

I don't know how this book sells (I'm afraid to look because so many of my favorite books end up getting cancelled now days...) but I encouraged by the news that Valiant is going to start making movies soon as that may help support what I think is an amazing title.

I'm going to end this post here and will return with Part 2 next time wherein I will examine The Bad and The Ugly of 2015.

- Jim


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