Monday, December 31, 2007

2007 Wrap-Up Part Two

Comics

Last year I think I swamped you guys with a lot of unfortunate year-end reflecting regarding comics. Well, this year I have a job, and am no longer reviewing comics. Also, I honestly had a lot less time to spend thinking about comics.

MARVEL

Civil War, Death of Captain America, World War Hulk, One More Day... and I'm sure there's tons of stuff going on in the X-Books, but I haven't read those very much in the past several years.

Mainstream Marvel saw a year of chaos, and, generally the storylines were intriguing. Recognizing that an adult audience is looking for character development and plot development (often if they do not realize it or will admit it), Marvel took the liberty this year of actually changing the status quo in the Marvel Universe.

Masks and capes are now either federally regulated or outlaws, Captain America was taken down by a sniper's bullet and the Hulk took mainstays of the Marvel U to task for their perceived crimes, and there was nothing cute about it. One More Day is turning out to be Marvel's big goof of the year, and I foresee the results being reversed within a calendar year or two. Daredevil continues to be the most interesting "super hero" comic on the stands, but I recommend picking it up in collected formats. Strictly for adults, and the only title I can think of that seems to have a fully dysfunctional but believable super hero in the lead... Anyway, Daredevil continues to be a hell of a comic.

Add in Annihilation, and my faith in the Marvel U is once again piqued. (Especially since one of the post-Annihilation books featured Rocket Raccoon.)

I believe Quesada and Buckley are doing their best to make sure that when you buy a Marvel comic, you get something beyond "fight, chase, fight", and I'm not sure either DC or smaller publishers are painting their universes with such a diverse set of brushes right now.

DC COMICS

After a few good years, this was the year DC seriously shook my faith. The "One Year Later" event of 2006 collapsed back into a status quo by early 2007 in virtually every title. "52" had a satisfactory ending with a world of promise for the DCU as a whole, which editorial seemed to take in exactly the wrong direction. "Countdown" was simply unreadable from Week 46 to Week 26, and still, week 18, shows almost no signs of actually going anywhere. (I'm still not sure what I;m supposed to be getting out of the Piper/ Trickster storyline.)

Didio pretty clearly had a slate of writers who were willing to follow his mandates and hand in multiple scripts per month. The unfortunate part is that many of them (Bedard, Gray, Palmiotti) can't tell an intertesting story to save their lives, even with an outline in hand. Further, Didio's friends Bilson, Matteo and Green handed in stories that had a tremendous impact and were simultaneously DOA. The horrendous reboot of Flash ended with issue #13 this year and the pointless aging and death of Bart Allen (from Kid Flash to Flash in 13 easy issues). Meanwhile, Green decided he could outdo "The Killing Joke" and wrote an awkward and somewhat pedestrian re-imagining of the origin of The Joker.

Several key DC titles were running behind at the beginning of the year, including Action Comics, Batman, Wonder Woman and others. It does seem DC managed to get these titles back on track for the foreseeable future, and with the exception of the "Return of Ra's Al Ghul" storyline, they're some of the first books I read out of the stack.

Kudos this year go out to Geoff Johns (and Tomasi) for his work on the spectacular "Sinestro Corps War" in Green Lantern and the always engaging Justice Society of America.

The oddest bit of 2007 was that DC seemed to realize Things Are Not Working, and they semi-publicly seem to be taking steps to clear that up. Tony Bedard is no longer writing half of the DCU books, Countdown suddenly seems to be going somewhere, books are coming out monthly (even if storylines are wrapping up in annuals), and all titles are no longer beholden to Countdown. Furthermore, Didio saw a genuine success with the Sinestro Corps War, and I expect more events like that will be the status quo rather than Universe Wide events.

Oh, and while Supergirl still isn't very good, it's a hell of a lot better now that Berganza is no longer editing the books.

In 2008 I will be clearing a lot of titles off of my pull list. More announcements about that later.

In the meantime, go read Blue Beetle. He's the teen-age protector of El Paso! It's a darn fun comic.

Superman

2008 will be the 70th anniversary of Superman's publication, and so we may see some small events in publishing, etc... I'd expect 2013 will be the big year, with 75 years of Superman. And I'll be 38. Christ.

Anyway, 2007 saw Geoff Johns' work on Action Comics with the not-quite finished "Lat Son" storyline, the Bizarro Worls three-issue run with Eric Powell (a fun read. Highly recommended.) and the Legion story currently taking place in Action. Johns' work is fantastic, and while some of the folks who came to Superman in the Byrne age might be put off by the Bronze-Age flair the comics have, I'm really enjoying them.

Kurt Busiek has been writing his own mini-events in the oft-overlooked "Superman" title. What's intriguing to me about Kurt's run is that he's making a conscious effort to establish the elements of Superman's life and tell stories in a manner which went out of fashion about ten to fifteen years ago. In short, while he's writing self-contained stories, there's a general backdrop that doesn't seem linked only to six-issue stories aimed at a trade collection. He's in it for the long-haul, and its helping out the mainstream Superman books immeasurably to have that context.

Mr. Busiek is telling engaging stories with a greater thematic vision than "Superman meet bad guy, Superman fight bad guy" and taking a look at Superman's place within his universe in a way that other writers have tried to do (including Azzarello) and haven't necessarily succeeded. I did feel the "Fall of Camelot" storyline had a satisfactory ending, but felt it had been cut a bit short.

Looking forward to upcoming issues.

That said, Kurt... more Subjekt 17.

"All Star Superman" is a critical darling for a reason, and if I were to recommend picking up one Superman comic, this would be it. From Quitely's refreshingly metitative art work to Morrison's larger-than-life scripts, it's a comic that seems to have a bit of something for anyone. It does feel a bit like the Superman comic you always wanted to pick up and read, but just never existed until now.

I don't foresee All Star Superman making it past issue 13 or so as Morrison moves on, but I imagine it will live on in collected formats for some time.

Superman also starred in the straight-to-DVD movie "Superman Doomsday", which has little to nothing to do with the original Death of Superman comics from the early 90's. As DC's first PG-13 animated feature, it was a lot of fun to see Superman cut loose on the screen the way he occasionally does in the comics. Unfortunately, I'm not sure the second half of the movie lives up to the promise of the first half.

That said, it also doesn't seem to go off in the "all-action, no logic" direction of the original "Return of Superman" comics.

DIGITAL COMICS

Two big stories wrapped up the year in digital comics.

Firstly, Marvel launched Marvel Digital Comics Unlimited. Their service, for $60 a year, would give readers access to a partial library of Marvel comics. The project has been widely criticized for the lack of completeness, as runs of series currently available as collections are not available as part of the site. In short, Marvel seems to be asking readers to pay for a marketing tool.

At $60 a year, I'm not sure this is a bad deal or worth complaining about. After all, the cover price on most Marvel comics is $3, and trades run about $18 for around siz issues worth of comics. But as I have as of yet to pay $60 myself for the service, I can't say whether it's worth the money.

DC is watching Marvel closely, but they seem content to continue to publish printed collections of older material. I suspect DC's marketing research has told them that their audience is older and seems willing to pay for printed collections. As DC spent 2006 and 2007 ramping up their trade collections department, they've done a great job of bringing collections to their audience, and that audience has been happy to pay the fairly low prices associated with the collections.

One day, perhaps, DC will have a stronger online effort. I've heard in 2008 the Archives Editions may disappear in favor of another model. I'll be keeping an eye open for what they'll do next. But I suspect it won't be online.

The other big story was that DC and Marvel jointly began asking the sites which were illegally carrying scanned copies of comics to knock it off. Honestly, I have no idea what the sites were thinking. Their activity was pretty clearly illegal, and they were getting a lot of hits.

There is an argument in the comic community that the free comics online were nothing but great marketing for the print collections. From an informal poll I took at work (and we have lots of guys and girls at work who read comics), this is sort of true, but not really. The truth seems to be that the $3 cover price for comics is simply too steep for what they're willing to pay for comics they'll read once. And I'm increasingly in agreement. What they do not do very often is actually purchase any comics whatsoever.

What I personally found ludicrous were the voices online who were outraged that the free comics sites had been shut down. For people who read comics every day about de facto law enforcement, the understanding of legal v. illegal and what is stealing and what is not is a little shakey. If you're going to illegally download comics, at least know what you're doing.

2007 saw the rise of popular web strips such as Achewood and Perry Bible Fellowship, which give me a lot more hope for comic strips (in print OR online) than, say, Fred Basset. And I continue to enjoy the hell out of Daniel Fu's action comic "The Retriever" (bookmark it and check weekly for updates).



That's it

No list of my favorite comics. This went on way longer than I expected. Hope you kids enjoy. More comics in 2008!

3 comments:

Steven G. Harms said...

97. There have been at least two children given the name "Superman" in the UK since 1984.

The League said...

As much as I dig Superman, I'm not sure I could ever do that to a kid. And it would just be weird to say "I changed Superman's diaper today." Or when they get older, "Superman, go take out the trash."

Also, was there more to "97"? I am intrigued.

Anonymous said...

It's from here. Number 97.