Monday, January 5, 2009

2009: The Year in Review

Wherein I Vivisect the Beating Heart of the Nascent New Year.

  • We bore witness to Libra's totally... uh... well, I guess, 1970s-ish origin! Which makes sense for the character, but in no way was worth four dollars, even with a slapdash sketchbook section at the back of the book and a one-page rundown of the Anti-Life Equation that may as well have said "ignore Countdown if you weren't doing so already and also pretend Death of the New Gods never happened."
  • Hank Pym quit a team he never actually joined AND Tigra's belly is full of evil green space-babies!
  • Ant-Man is inexplicably on the Thunderbolts now!
  • Bucky fought Batroc the Leaper and ran afoul of the Human Torch's oft-molested robot corpse!
  • I only read three books that came out on Friday!

Okay, fine, I was going to do a year in review for the year that just ended instead of the one that just started, but I work in a Goddamn toy store and the last month-and-a-half is a nightmarish mish-mash of old people treating me like a butler while their grandchildren run amuck like so many shrieking goblins. And so, here I sit, whiskey in hand, reminiscing some weeks late about a year gone by, now that I've had sufficient time to recover from actually having lived through it.

MARVEL:

THINGS Y'ALL DID RIGHT: The Avengers feel like a real franchise for the first time in, well, Hell, probably since they were created. Which is nice - it moves the getting-progressively-more-tired-every-day X-books out of the universe's spotlight, and I love the notion of the Avengers perhaps more than anyone ever should. Especially now that the team has moved away from a core group of characters who have their own books hanging out together for no discernible reason to the much more Avenger-y model of a couple of popular central characters and a bunch of outliers who couldn't carry their own title in a million years. Like Hawkeye, on whom I will always crush.

  • While the end of Secret Invasion was a bit of a let-down (more on that in a second), Dark Reign sets up enough interesting stuff that I'll let it pass. Between Ellis' Thunderbolts, the one issue of Invincible Iron Man we've seen him in, and the Dark Reign one-shot, Norman Osborn is the most interesting he's been in an incredibly long time.

  • Invincible Iron Man, incidentally, is the best launched-just-in-time-for-the-movie tie-in in history.

  • Captain Britain and MI-13 is the best launched-mid-crossover book, while I'm at it. Unless you count Starman, which technically spun out of Zero Hour. But no one does that.

  • The whole universe feels much more universe-y than it has since the Silver Age, which is awesome. I think the problem I've always had with DC events is that their idea of a big catastrophe is somebody rolling in an mucking about with all of creation - which is, admittedly, a pretty freaking big catastrophe, but not one I can even begin to relate to. Especially since the consequences tend to be ridiculous things like all of history collapsing upon itself (but the only things that have changed are that Batman knows who killed his parents and Superman used to be Superboy at one point. And also maybe a Flash died). But this is a digression I'll get back to in a minute. Secret Invasion laid out a new status quo for a lot of books, but it's actually a workable one - SHIELD isn't around anymore, its replacement is run by a crazy person who employs assassins instead of Ms Marvel, all the stuff Iron Man tried to do after the Civil War blew up in his face, and there're still two wholly different Avengers teams - which is more than I can say for most summer crossovers.

THINGS Y'ALL DID BAD: Hulk. Jesus.

  • Hardback trades. Marvel's trade division is still a million percent better than DC's, but there's no way I'm shelling out extra cash for a hardcover edition of, like, Ultimate Hulk vs Ultimate Iron Man.

  • Hawkeye's still dressed as a freaking ninja. This might be a personal gripe, I don't know, but if you do two separate scenes in eight issues where Clint Barton picks up a bow and royally effs shit up and I mark out like an eleven-year-old hearing John Cena's theme song both times, you really ought to consider making the guy actually Hawkeye again. I don't care that some kid in the Young Avengers took the name - there're eleventy Flashes in the DCU, like four Spider-Women floating around Marvel and, for a while back in the day, two different guys called themselves "the Shocker" - Hawkeye is freaking Hawkeye and Ronin is dumb.

  • The Ultimate universe is a debacle right now. Just an utter mess. Blob's actually eating people on-panel, Thor doesn't seem to know what universe he's in, the X-Men are hopped up on a magic drug made of Wolverine and there was just a Hulk annual about him wanting waffles and plowing a Squadron Supreme character in a motel.

  • Secret Invasion could very well have been seven issues long. Or four, really. I'm not sure when the eight-issue mini model became the standard, but I'm sure it was about ten minutes after somebody correctly guessed that people would be willing to pay for eight issues instead of four. Literally nothing happened in the last issue that couldn't have been shoehorned into the seventh.

DC:

THINGS Y'ALL DID RIGHT: Well, Final Crisis is pretty darned good.

Which leads me to...

THINGS Y'ALL DID BAD: Final Crisis would be one Hell of a lot better if DC editorial hadn't spent a year shitting on every single plot point they shouldn't have shat upon. Countdown was a disaster, especially knowing that Morrison had specifically requested that nobody touch the New Gods until FC started. Instead of, you know, doing that, we get New Gods dying all over the place and what should've been a shocking plot development - Orion dying in FC #1 - became a continuity clusterfuck.

When you have to effectively tell your reading audience to ignore fifty-two issues, plus their various and sundry utterly ridiculous tie-ins, you have done something incredibly wrong. Especially when your bread-and-butter is continuity. Every damned DC event is a cosmic plot-point circlejerk singularity based on the unfathomable opinion that people actually care if a story "happened" or not, and you can't transition from one of those stories into another with a bridge that you're going to throw out the window.

Morrison's given them the out that Darkseid's existence is screwing with time, plus there's absolutely going to be a giant Monitor-shaped reset button getting pushed at some point in the near future, but they knew full well that Countdown was cobbled-together guesswork at best and still went ahead with it.

Which is a dick move.

  • The Titans family of books is a gigantic trainwreck.
  • Good God, is the Gog story in JSA still going?
  • Oh, and one other thing - two minis in one year that boil down to three-panel fights over which character no one cares about sucks less? Awesome.

14 comments:

Jeff said...

Brilliant post. You summed it all up.

Jon said...

ha, not only is the Gog story still going, it spilled over into one-shots, because 500 issues of boring crap wasn't enough (atleast it feels like 500 issues). I couldn't wait for Geoff Johns to return to JSA, now I can't wait for him to leave.

CandidGamera said...

No, actually, the Gog story finished last Friday..

This list seems to reinforce my notion that this comic blog is completely at odds with my own personal tastes in comics.

Jon said...

Wait, so you disagree with four different people at once? That's almost impressive.

If it's just me, as Devon once put it, I only work a Shawn Michaels schedule over here.

Devon Sanders said...

CG:

At no time did was there ever an attempt to line up to anyone's specific and personal taste.

If that ever happened this blog, I don't think, be worth the reading.

That said, I truly hope you decide to continue reading with the above in mind.

CandidGamera said...

The contempt for DC mega-events and the embrace of Dark Reign as 'interesting'. The assertion that Marvel's Trade division is better than DC's. The complaints about the Titans books.

I'm admittedly a bit of a DC partisan - the only Marvel book I find worth reading at all is Incredible Hercules. But even the posts here that aren't just collections of opinions opposite mine aren't that compelling - not due to reasons of bad writing, just - not subject matter that appeals to me. The tone's just so.. negative, for the most part. I actually still enjoy comics - I don't seem to get the idea that most of you do.

Devon Sanders said...

CG:

I can only speak for myself when I say that you're right.

I DON'T enjoy my comics as much as I used to and quite frankly, I'm OK with that.

I must be because I'm still buying as many as I ever had.

We are, IMO, in a "fight-or-flight" pattern and being on some rah-rah nonsense while our hobby is being dragged down event by event does no one no good.

Being quiet about it doesn't do the hobby any good either.

CandidGamera said...

And I am not suggesting that you be quiet about it - just that I don't want to read the negativity, cause I don't feel the same way, you know? I dug the hell out of Seven Hells. The salutes to Lady Cop, etc. It was fun.

Devon Sanders said...

Trust me, if I could harness that lightning again I would but it's a totally different time and place.

There's gold in that Lady Cop stuff.

I want to more of that some day.

And to a degree, I believe I was a better writer then. I was given more to say by the very diversity and quality of the product out at the time.

I respect your right to read what you would like to read hopefully as mich you would respect my right to speak on what is on my mind.

Scotus said...

CG: As a fellow DC partisan, I'd love to be less negative about the DCU, especially since I don't have the funds or inclination to start reading Marvel. But I honestly can't get excited by much these days. What is there? All Star Superman? Booster Gold? Manhunter? (Whoops, Dan DiDio says not so fast on that last one.). Anything else?

Seriously, if there's something coming out of DC worth getting jazzed about, I'd be interested in finding out what it is.

CandidGamera said...

Scotus :

What, you don't dig Green Lantern? Or Dini's Detective run? Secret Six? I've seen people complain that Trinity is slow, but I'm enjoying the ride. Blue Beetle, Nightwing, and Legion may all be going away soon, but I'm happy with them while they last...

ChrisM said...

I'm sorry that DC has apparently let you down this year. I admit there's a lot that's been disappointing..but I disagree with a great deal of your opinions on these titles.

1. New Gods. Not a deliberate continuity gaff. My understanding is that when Morrison is done with the New Gods they will essentially not be recognizable as the old Kirby costumed super hero type "cosmic gods". He was going to make them frightening, brilliant and a bit more existential.
So, it was written in a few places that Didio wanted this Farewell to the "old" New Gods book...which was not necessarily continuity oriented. And that's what Starlin did. It wasn't bad. And frankly, the continuity didn't bother me much. Besides, isn't the Blogosphere constantly harping about the story and not the minutiae?

2. JSA. I still like JSA. I enjoyed Kingdom Come and a lot of the Gog/Magog stuff resonates well with me. Frankly, I still see the book as good as it was before..but I see many of the fans getting bored after seeing the same thing over the course of many years. I've heard the same complaint about the Simpsons...that it was "downhill" 4 years ago...it was most popular when it was fresh to fans and hitting its stride. Both are still good..but people would complain if it was radically different..and now they complain that its not better...oh well.

3. World War Hulk was awesome. The Hulk kicking the ass of every dickhead in the Marvel Universe. I loved it. Spin-offs were excessive but there ya' go.

4. Final Crisis. A bit thick and difficult but enjoyable.

But the spinoffs? Wonderful. And Frankly...who would read some of those if they DIDN"T have "Final Crisis" plastered all over them??
Requiem, "three legions", Rogues, esp..Last Will & Testament.

5. Other stuff. Frankly, in spite of it all..there were a lot of good titles this year...

Iron Fist, Daredevil..and even X-Men by Brubaker
Superman/Batman by Green
The Twelve by JMS
Punisher War Zone by Fraction
All Star Superman by Morrison
Superman etc. by Geoff Johns
Madam Xanadu by Wagner

and I'm sure there's more...

Derek said...

"Oh, and one other thing - two minis in one year that boil down to three-panel fights over which character no one cares about sucks less? Awesome."

Okay, maybe I'm thick, but what are you referring to here?

Jon said...

Countdown: Arena and Terror Titans.