Monday, December 15, 2008

2008 In Review: Graig's Take

It's the most wonderful time of the year,
where the blog words start flowing
and hipsters start showing
their impeccable minds, eyes, and ears
it's the most wonderful time of the year.

Yes, it's "best of" season, where all across the metaphorical landscape of das interweb, geeks, nerds and wonks of all shapes and colours start culling through the previous 11.5 months of acquisitions, observances etc. and constructing the penultimate list of favourite whatevers, which means absolutely nothing and yet absolutely everything at the same time.

The "list" is the effete blogger's way of wading through all that they have consumed, and bloggers blog in part because they consume so much that they have to let it out somewhere. The "list" shows us what, in each mind's eye, what was most notable, if not technically, subjectively or even objectively the best. We here at Second Printing are not immune, for we wouldn't be here if we didn't have something to say and some opinions to share. We love comics, so, for the most part, our lists, as they appear over the next week-ish, will be about the medium we love, for better or worse. Of course, we're each unique voices, with unique experiences and unique things to say, so there's no guarantees that we're staying on topic here. But we'll try... starting with this guy [two thumbs raise and arch back, indicating myself]:

2008 for me was an interesting year. In a push to get myself out of debt, I decided to do a "buy nothing year" on all my entertainment vices (comics, DVDs, music), which didn't exactly work out as expected (I wound up buying very little, yet still acquiring much by trading in old for new and doing a little work-in-trade). In the process of paring back pull lists and making decisions about what to buy and what to leave behind, I've come out a new man, no longer obsessed with having to keep up on everything or being the first in line for anything. DC and Marvel have also made it easy to pare back on reading their titles, thanks to near-universally middling product and the scaling back of the distribution limits at Diamond has made smaller press more difficult to find (good for my pocket book, bad for obtaining a well-rounded comics-diet).

My list (soon to follow any sentence now) isn't going to stick to format. It's going everywhere and anywhere it wants. I'll explain it all when I get there. You don't have to agree with me, it is afterall a matter of opinion... my opinion. In no particular order, but numbered for the sake of delineation:

1) The Dark Knight and Iron Man (and to a lesser degree Watchmen) - we're fooling ourselves if we don't think that these two films have done more for comics than any single printed book that hit the stands this year. Hell, the Watchmen sold tens of thousands of trades based on a trailer alone. At this stage, who cares if the film is any good (well, I'm sure we're all hoping, but I digress)? It's nice that cinema is able to put together comic book stories that resemble their source inspiration and not something "tailered for a wider audience". TDK and IM are two films which have broke the mainstream wide open, and the unprecedented reception these movies have had, Oscar noms or no, is more than enough to make them groundbreaking and noteworthy for the simple fact that they're no longer just "genre" pictures but substantial motion pictures. Superheroes and their "BAM POW" reputation for being kiddie fare has officially changed in the public eye.

2) Disappointments:
2a) End of line: John Rogers and Greg Rucka finishing their runs on Blue Beetle and Checkmate. Both titles unceremoniously cancelled within the year afterwards. Rex Libris has also taken leave for which we're all the poorer for. I'll let Devon lament Catwoman. Though designed to be for teenaged girls, for what it's worth, I found the now-departed Minx line to be a refreshing voice in the testosterone fuelled market.

2b) Returner: Chuck Dixon made an almost triumphant return to the Bat-universe he nurtured so well years before, but undisclosed difficulties sent him packing only a few months in. James Robinson also returned to the DCU, but wow... totally not worth hyping over. Meanwhile, indie favourite Scud: The Disposable Assassin and cult TV series Serenity made a re-appearance to comics this year, both lacklustre and unmemorable.

2c) MIA: Kyle Baker's Special Forces and Gutsville by Si Spurrier and Frazier Irving both failed to finish their respective mini-series runs. Also, all hope for a conclusion to the Morrison/Ha Authority was abandoned.

3) Triumphs of the mainstream - these are the books you should've been reading from the big two this year that you might, for some reason, have missed:

3a) DC:
i) Billy Batson and the Magic of Shazam - okay, sure it's only gotten two issues out in the past half-year but if you have kids (and even if you don't) you'll recognize there's something special in Mike Kunkel's interpretation of the legendary Captain Marvel. This is a character built to be a child's power fantasy, and Kunkel more than gets that. Hopefully his 2009 will be more productive.

ii) Secret Six - former Birds of Prey team Gail Simone and Nicola Scott have DC's only certifiable ongoing must-read right now. Slightly depraved, wildly chaotic, and darkly hilarious, the first storyline is like a super-villain rendition of "It's A Mad Mad Mad Mad Mad Mad World".

iii) Teen Titans: Year 1 - took a little longer than expected and the final issue of the six-issue mini was a bit of empty nothing, but Amy Wolfram and Karl Kerschl's early days of the sidekick collaboration was keenly entertaining and visually stunning... certainly the best the Titans have seen since the Wolfman/Perez heyday.

3b) Marvel
i) Captain America - who would have thought that a resurrected Bucky and a dead Steve Rogers would = the best Captain America comics I ever read? To be fair, I've barely read many Captain America comics until now, but that's a testament to Brubaker and company's storytelling, having made it must-reading every month.

4) Catching Up - two things I read this year for the first time and was crazy excited about afterward:
4a) Legion of Super-Heroes (vol 4? aka: 5 years Later) - coincidentally this was the Legion's 50th anniversary and I read well over 120 Legion comics this year, spanning the last 5 years of Paul Levitz's Legion through to the early Zero Hour reboot. But I have to say, for my money, (dug out of the discount bins) Tom and Mary Bierbaum and Keith Giffen crafted some of the most unique and audacious superhero/sci-fi/fantasy comics ever made in thier 50-issue Legion (14-issue Legionnaires) 5-year later run. The first 10 issues are a might confusing, but damn, it's a crazy ride 40+ issues afterwards which still seems way too short. I'm likely in a very small minority here in my appreciation.

4b) Daredevil - volumes 4 through 13 (apprx), the Brian Michael Bendis/Alex Maleev run on Daredevil is absolutely epic. You can forget Frank Miller's DD, compared to Bendis's grit that guy was a pantywaist crybaby. Brubaker's done a good run following, but I'll hold this massive run as up the quintessential DD for anyone that asks.


Cascade/Jordan said...

Guttsville is on hiatus. The artists mother was very ill, I believe in early 08' and he needed to get a real job to support himself and her. She is doing better now and he is back to work on the book.

I think he issued a statement through a forum of some sort.

KENT! said...

Good to hear on all fronts. Glad Irving's mother is better and glad Gutsville isn't on "permanent" hiatus. I noticed he's on the solicit for the Azrael mini-series in DC's March listings which is kind of a waste of talent, but I guess that's that "real job" you were referring to.

thanks for the update!