Thursday, January 27, 2011

Quarter Bin #2 "From an Actual Quarter Bin, Part 1"

I’ve got to say, I’ve been excited about this column, because the comics I’ll be slogging through come from an actual quarter bin, boxes I pawed through and selected personally. It’s the first of two such collections I got last year at Escape Velocity, the shop I sometimes visit in Colorado Springs. Some of the comics are still a little more interesting than others.

From January 1988, this one has “Millennium Week 4” stamped on the cover, which helps prove to weary event book readers of the present day that fans of yore also had such troubles. This was an event that saw Manhunters from Green Lantern lore becoming interlopers among the human population, really not all that different than Marvel’s recent “Secret Invasion” with the Skrulls. John Byrne was the creator, and the Spectre guest-starred. It’s mostly about Superman freaking out over Smallville being directly affected.

From June 2006, this is the book that helped establish Fred Van Lente as one of the next great comic book writers, a predecessor to his other Evil Twin book COMIC BOOK COMICS (which details the messy history of, well, comic books). In this particular book, Van Lente made reading about great philosophers fun, and in this particular issue, he writes about Kierkegaard, St. Thomas Aquinus, and Wittgenstein, who is probably the most fun (not that he would have agreed).

From 1993, this was part of the Bloodlines project (and part of the Earthplague phase, for those keeping meticulous score). Reading this particular comic helped put me into a massive Sparx (who debuts this issue) craze last year, which will be reflected in later installments of this back issue column, trust me. I developed a whole comic I would still love to do for Vertigo, assuming my impossible mission of one day writing for comics actually comes true…

ASSASSINS #1 (Amalgam)
From April 1996, “Amalgam” actually means DC/Marvel, for those of you too young to remember MARVEL VS. DC, one of the biggest events of that decade, a comic both companies actively collaborated on, which led to a series of books that combined characters from them into slightly new and exciting concepts! This one features mash-ups of Catwoman, Daredevil, Elektra, Deadshot, Bullseye, Kingpin, and the Riddler (reading it, especially when the combinations make sense, this nonsense really was fun), among others. But what still jazzes me is that the artist on this particular book was Scott McDaniel, who was at the time and continues to be one of my favorite artists.

From 1989, I’ll be you’ll never guess in a million years what this was. What’s really interesting is that the adapting was done by Denny O’Neil and Jerry Ordway. I’m betting that even those who had no interest in the movie might have gotten a kick out of this comic. I am the night!

From July 1990, this was one of those really great finds, the fourth of five installments of Grant Morrison’s “Gothic,” some of Morrison’s work that I haven’t actually read yet (I only just read ARKHAM ASYLUM last year, for honesty’s sake).

From 1988, this was a Howard Chaykin prestige format effort, based around a character that was probably fairly obscure even in 1988, but then, good stories really don’t care if their subject matter is well-known or not, do they? Chaykin is an undeniable treasure in the industry, and I’m not sure enough fans realize that. What little I’ve experienced of his work continually attests to this, so this was another treasured find.

From June 1984; I didn’t even have to be a Shadowpact fan to be jazzed about this one, the debut and origin of the character. Now, of course I’ve been fully aware of Blue Devil’s origin for as long as I’ve been aware of the character, but it’s still a little surprising that he really does have such a wonky origin…

From June 1991, this was the first time Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale ever collaborated. In fact, I’m pretty sure this was Jeph Loeb’s first ever (or at least first regular) comics gig, and quite frankly, it’s a lost gem. The second wave of Escape Velocity quarter bin comics I’ll be writing about in a later column will detail the other issues I was able to snatch up from this book. I’m still in the process of tracking down the remaining issues, but suffice it to say, this one was my biggest find, and the one I most recommend for others to read.

COMICS INTERVIEW #88 (Fictioner)
From 1990, this was another neat find, an issue of this magazine that covers THE FLASH, the short-lived but excellent TV series that was a result of the brief superhero craze Tim Burton’s BATMAN (from a few comics earlier!) kicked off. If you have never seen this show, imagine THE CAPE but with an established character, and a little more affection from the creators, who happened to be Danny Bilson and Paul DeMeo, who happened to write actual Flash comic books a few decades after their brief experience helping to extend the franchise’s legacy. What’s funny is that they ended up writing Bart Allen, not even Wally West, who was the Scarlet Speedster at the time of the one season the TV show had a chance to chronicle for new fans the experience of Barry Allen behind the cowl. What’s sad is that about a decade after the show’s failure, CSI made it cool to watch police forensics on TV, and that was half of what the series was about, when Barry wasn’t running around in red, er, rubber. But COMICS INTERVIEW #88 really didn’t know how awesome the show was, either, so the lack of viewers wasn’t so surprising. For a generation of fans, this was Barry Allen. Truth be told, I think even Geoff Johns would be proud.

From October 1992, this was another lucky find, the debut of what was for a short time something of competition for the Green Lantern Corps (John Stewart actually became a Darkstar for a while, as did Donna Troy). It was a concept that I found pretty interesting during that early period of my comics experience, which eventually disappeared. But there are always chances for revivals in this medium, aren’t there?

From August 1986, credited by me to Marvel above, but actually one of the books that helped launch the short-lived Epic imprint. This was, of course, a Frank Miller project, which was another awesome find, and that title helps further explain the Amalgam book from a little earlier. You see how I could love the random fate of quarter bins?

From 1985, this was another John Byrne comic, featuring Skrulls and Avengers, plus the first family of comics!

From April 1995; it’s such an old trick by now, to try and launch a new comic book company by glomming onto some established name or property, but it’s always interesting to see the permutations. This was from a period just before some of Roddenberry’s files were investigated to bring a pair of new TV shows (EARTH: FINAL CONFLICT and ANDROMEDA, both of which I enjoyed and lasted for a good number of seasons each, but garnered little respect from the fan community, not having enough “creator cool” to satisfy they) to life, so the idea of creating some comics out of his ideas probably seemed like a pretty good idea. Then again, the company also had Leonard Nimoy collaborating on one of their books, so who’s to say what their real motives were? At the time, Star Trek wasn’t yet run into the ground (I say that in the context of its popular appeal, which in 1995 was about to take its first hits, not out of a personal opinion), so it’s fair to say that Tekno really hoped to latch onto properties it didn’t even have…

From October 1986, apparently while Marvel was celebrating its 25th anniversary. Yet another book available to me because some eager fan in the distant past bought some first issues out because they were stung by the Buzz Bee, and not apparently out of some personal interest.

HOUSE OF M #8 (Marvel)
From December 2005, this was the conclusion of the first of many Marvel event books inspired by the rise of Bendis, the very issue that followed “No More Mutants,” which for me now serves as a prelude to AVENGERS: CHILDREN’S CRUSADE.

From April 1989, another of those Buzz Bee stings, and so once again I come up the winner in this temporal exchange.

From 1989, what I extrapolate as possibly the only other Giffen/DeMatteis comic that fan got. All told, they probably could have done better. If they only knew…

From 1990; but wait, there’s more! This one features Mister Miracle, in one of the many attempts to make Jack Kirby’s New Gods popular with readers (sadly, it has never worked).

From November 1986, this is actually relevant to viewers of SMALLVILLE this season, as this is the event book that directly inspired this season’s arc. A number of legends happen to work on this book, including John Ostrander, Len Wein, John Byrne, and Karl Kesel.

From February 1987, it’s another issue!

MARVEL AGE #35 (Marvel)
From February 1986, this was an in-house magazine similar to COMICS INTERVIEW; featured is “A day in the life of Marvel comics!” I got a little bored after a while…

MARVEL AGE #56 (Marvel)
From November 1987, featuring a bunch of new G.I. Joes, which I’m sure the Tony of 1987 would have been more excited about. But I kid. Part of the real fun of back issues is discovering and/or reading about developments (which are now history) that can be found in such comics, and these MARVEL AGE books are chalk-full of that sort of thing. Referenced in this one, for instance, is that predecessor to “Grim Hunt,” Kraven’s last fight with Spider-Man. On the back of both issues are calendars of the very same style Wizard Magazine would copy for one of the periods where I was a regular reader, thereby once again confirming that, at least for a time, Wizard Magazine was virtually a Marvel fan magazine. I mean, it was in those pages where the recently sacrificed Sentry essentially debuted…

NEW X-MEN #115 (Marvel)
From August 2001, this was Part 2 of the three part “E is for Extinction,” the debut of Grant Morrison (along with Frank Quitely) with comics’ favorite mutants. Morrison worked on this book almost exactly during the period I wasn’t reading comics, so I missed this whole thing, but then, I missed a lot of Grant Morrison comics, which is okay, because I’ve also had a chance to read a lot of Grant Morrison comics. It’s nice to know there’s a lot more of them out there.

NEW X-MEN #152 (Marvel)
From March 2004; such as this one! Part of the “Here Comes Tomorrow” arc, the one that brought about the conclusion of Morrison’s run. It’s such a shame that Marvel basically decided to ignore everything he did with the X-Men, almost immediately backpedaling on the whole Xorn thing, for instance. I ask, what, other than “No More Mutants” and the Hope saga, has anyone actually done since?

NOMAD #1 (Marvel)
From May 1992, this series featured Jack Monroe, a character touched upon in the early issues of Ed Brubaker’s CAPTAIN AMERICA, and a version of Nomad that wasn’t Steve Rogers or that alternate Bucky from the Heroes Reborn era currently running around with the name. Brought to you, most importantly, by Fabian Nicieza, who had a full Marvel career before he came to DC, where I became familiar with him as more than just a name, one of my favorites.

OWLHOOTS #1 (Kitchen Sink)
From 1990, a Western ditty that I figured was worth a look. It was.

From August 2001, one of J. Michael Straczynski’s early stabs at comics was one of those universe books with an assortment of original superheroes, and this was something of a promo, possibly originally offered by Wizard Magazine, but definitely a reprint by Top Cow with a $2.95 cover charge. But it does contain an interview with Joe, in which he discusses his writerly origins, emphasizes his notions of total creator control, and kisses a little Top Cow ass.

From February 1988, featuring Amanda Waller, who underwent something of a renaissance some years later thanks to the Justice League cartoons (a way of saying, “was rescued from obscurity,” and can now be seen on SMALLVILLE), owning Batman in ways modern Batman comics would never in a million years allow. That’s another funny thing about reading older comics. Their versions of characters can sometimes seem somewhat quaint, or at least very different from what modern readers will be used to. Another appearance by John Ostrander.

From April 1987, featuring Bloodsport, a character who would about a decade later return to a facsimile of prominence when two villains claiming the name would square off, during a period where I was reading firsthand, so this was a nice find for me. Featuring the work of John Byrne (and once again the Compositor figures that John Byrne was something of a hobby).

Entering Titans county!

From May 1984, this is a comic I had randomly come across previously, so now I have two copies, and it’s just as well, since the issue marks the start of the famous “Judas Contract” arc, with Terra and Deathstroke. It figures that the Compositor would have at least a few Teen Titans comics, since they were one of the hottest things in the 1980s, no foolin’.

From Nov 1984, featuring a “bonus Flash Force 2000 comic” with art by Denys Cowan, either advertising a forgettable toy line, or a forgotten spin-off comic based on said toys, sandwiched in the middle of a story that history does not record as significant as “Judas Contract.”

From February 1985, featuring the wedding of Donna Troy, and Terry, who might as well have been gay. Suffice it to say, really significant at the time, but not really all that important anymore. I think Terry came back during Blackest Night, so there’s that.

From April 1985, featuring Cheshire and Jericho, Marv Wolfman, but not George Perez. Apparently, the next issue of the series was to feature some iteration of Azrael. I didn’t know one existed before Jo Quesada. So I will have to do some research.

From September 1992, featuring Mirage. Now, I know that comic book women are not real (unlike the vast majority of fans who were caught up in the bad girl craze, which has since morphed into the sexy girl subgenre, were the bad girl craze in truth began; a highlight for this crowd is the alternate cover, the one where this illustrated girl…is nude!), but certain characters (and I’m not talking about a Vampirella, Witchblade, or what have you) are drawn so consistently attractively, I tend to remember them somewhat fondly. Mirage is one of those characters. This book, however, could not survive on Mirage alone. This book, in fact, was about ten years irrelevant, and so that’s probably why you don’t remember it.

THE WEB #14 (Impact)
From December 1992; the final issue of the series. Impact was an imprint of DC. Tell me if some of its characters sound familiar: The Shield, the Crusaders, The Web…Yeah, so the company has been trying to revive these characters for a while. I was a fan of the latest incarnation of The Web. This version, not really comparable.

WILDC.A.T.S #1 (Image)
From August 1992, Jim Lee’s big contribution to the fabled launch of Image, a company that now exists almost as a shell of itself. I mean, it’s great that the whole creator-owned concept still exists, but if the guys who conceived of the company had realized that all their superheroes except for Spawn and Savage Dragon would be virtually forgotten in less than twenty years (which, admittedly, isn’t bad, considering that WildStorm, which became an imprint of and was subsequently shuttered by DC, and Top Cow, which survives on the strength of Michael Turner’s legacy and a Witchblade franchise, have recently still been viable commodities based on the original model) they might have thought twice. Most of them scrambled back to the Big Two after realizing they weren’t the creative dynamos they thought they were, and I say this not to insult them, but to suggest they hadn’t exactly thought everything through. After the giant explosion and implosion of the artist’s market, comics swung back to writing, and writing was never Image’s strong suit, unless you’re talking things not created by the original creators. And again, in that sense, Image was a huge and sustained success. But from the point of view of the average fan, Image really wasn’t. But to move onto another comic…

X-MEN #1 (Marvel)
From October 1991; hey, there’s Jim Lee, and the Buzz Bee again! Getting back to the Image question again, I can’t imagine greater hubris from a bunch of creators who had only barely made their names to suddenly claim the future belonged to them. I think Jim’s the only one who could legitimately claim that he has a viable legacy. No offense to those who still like Spawn, but even two hundred issues won’t make up for the fact that Spawn is a character with no actual direction, and whose purpose ran out a long time ago, when Todd and others just started spinning their wheels instead of writing comics that actually mattered. Jim, meanwhile, ditched those WildC.A.T.s and became simply a superstar artist again, the only one still capable of drumming interest among fans, and on a consistent basis. To blur the line between Image and what I mentioned early with Joe Straczynski, creator control only really matters when you’ve really got something to offer. I could write a column about Joe, but for now, I’ll simply leave it at the thought that sometimes, if really does end with that thought about legitimate contribution versus mindless vanity.

X-MEN 2099 #25 (Marvel)
From October 1995. The 2099 comics were some of the best things Marvel ever did; they were like the Ultimate line but without the illusion and/or pretension to suggest they alone were going to bring in a new generation of readers. What ruined them was when the creators and/or Marvel got bored, dropped the ball, decided to end and/or ruin them. X-NATION, the highlight of the experiment with Mark Waid and Humberto Ramos for the first couple of issues, was the one that really suffered from this meltdown. Spider-Man 2099 has made something of a comeback, but that doesn’t mean he deservedly has his own book back. And that doesn’t mean that anyone remembers that X-Men 2099 was a book that actually returned the mutant franchise back to the original point: a bunch of outcasts lost in a sea of bigotry and uncertainty. Which actually makes at least their fate fairly appropriate.

From January 1999, this was , beyond one of those Secret Files specials I wish DC were still producing, the predecessor, as it now stands, to the new cartoon series, but originally an intended replacement for the tired Teen Titans franchise, featuring Robin, Superboy, Impulse, and a bunch of characters Peter David created and/or used, including the still-improbable original incarnation of the current Wonder Girl. The problem with Peter David is that he has an inclination to juvenile instincts, which on the surface made him appropriate for this kind of book. It also makes him something of a junior version of Joe Straczynski, and sometimes, even Joe Straczynski can’t pull of Joe Straczynski…Anyhoo, there’s something of a joke in this particular Secret Files, since Pete’s got a character named The Secret in this team. Another character lost to the annals of time…

Most editions of this column won’t actually be this long, or lists of a thousand different comics, but what can I say, I’m giddy about quarter bins, and I rarely have the opportunity to indulge. So my pleasure is your pain!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Batman without Grant Morrison

For some people, I guess, this isn’t a problem. They think of Grant Morrison, and they think of that crazy writer who can’t even begin to be coherent to them, the one with wild ideas (and maybe predilections) who is best avoided or ignored all together. He’s the comics master who has never quite managed to join the ranks of Frank Miller and Alan Moore, from whose generation he comes. Where Miller and Moore have numerous iconic projects to their credit that fans are able to point to, Morrison alone among the three is still incredibly active…but without the same credit line. You can say ALL STAR SUPERMAN, maybe, or THE INVISIBLES, or even point to ANIMAL MAN, DOOM PATROL, ARKHAM ASYLUM, JLA. All these are famous Grant Morrison projects, and there are others worth mentioning, too, along the same lines, but they don’t really help or hinder my point, and that would be, Morrison tends to be a little harder to grasp than Miller or Moore. He hasn’t found the project that beyond a doubt can be called a classic, someone everyone can at least claim to love. He’s the consummate and ultimate comic book writer, will perhaps one day become the patron saint or even god of that forsaken clan. He’s perhaps too good.

His most concerted effort for the last half decade has been with Batman, and perhaps, here, he might find that missing piece of the puzzle. God knows he’s been working at it. Ed Brubaker is the only other creator who has been making the same kind of effort, or at least comparable. Brubaker, of course, has been doing it with Captain America, a project I followed for a while, but Brubaker is no Grant Morrison. He has the focus, but he doesn’t, ultimately, have the inspiration. His one idea was the return of Bucky Barnes, and now that Bucky is Captain America, it’ll be anyone’s guess if the writer who ultimately succeeds him will respect anything that he’s done, sort of like Ron Marz and Kyle Rayner. I would actually argue that the longer Brubaker stays on CAPTAIN AMERICA, the more his weakens his legacy. He needs someone else to prove writing Bucky is possible. The problem with writing Captain America at all has always been that it’s difficult to prove that Cap is actually an interesting character. Interesting idea, sure, and many writers have proven that, but as a character, there just isn’t that much to work with, and Brubaker has proven that much repeatedly.

No, what Grant Morrison has done with Batman is different. The way others wrote Batman, at their best, was always in some separate, sometimes alternate, continuity. Miller achieved it with YEAR ONE and THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS, of course. Loeb did THE LONG HALLOWEEN. Moore did KILLING JOKE. Morrison himself did ARKHAM ASYLUM. But now he’s done a whole series of stories, his own “Knightfall” saga in “R.I.P.” being the most obvious of them, but he’s also taken the idea of Bruce Wayne having a son and actually made it work. Damian is like Bucky Barnes done in 3D. Lots of other writers have thrown themselves over wet sidewalks just for a chance to write Damian. Dan Jurgens wrote Damian, and Dan is the version of Alex Ross that can actually write. Morrison has advanced and articulated the continuing legacy of Batman so that he no longer seems like a static concept but something that actually seems worthy of the hype.

Recently, of course, he finished a time-spanning saga that saw Bruce Wayne come back, but in such a way that didn’t totally through away everything that had been done in his absence, expanding it and evolving Bruce one step further, and that story is only just beginning. That’s what Grant Morrison has done with Batman. He’s completely owned the concept.

The funny thing is, unlike Brubaker, he hasn’t monopolized it. This isn’t to say that other writers haven’t been allowed to write a little Captain America here and there. There was an excellent CAPTAIN AMERICA: PATRIOT from the underappreciated Karl Kesel recently, for instance, but it was a throwback tale that didn’t even involve Bucky, much less Steve Rogers (so yes, there is now a rich legacy that could really be exploited by a Mark Waid, given the right and ongoing opportunity). Geoff Johns sort of goofed in an unintentional Brubaker fashion when he was writing ACTION COMICS. He created such an expansive version of Superman that no one DC was at the time employing to write the same character and/or family could compete with him (except, of course Morrison, on ALL STAR SUPERMAN). Kurt Busiek suffered in comparison. Greg Rucka and James Robinson stumbled all over themselves trying to finish what he started. So it’s a good thing, in some sense, that Brubaker has maintained his monopoly. It preserves the mystique, in one sense, and prevents any immediate need for comparisons. But I hate to be the poor sap who follows him, unless they are equally inspired by a singular and extended vision.

It just isn’t that way with Morrison, even though it seems like, more than any other example, it really should be. Okay, it was in the beginning. I like Paul Dini, love him for helping give us the animated Batman, but his DETECTIVE COMICS could never truly compete. It wasn’t until after “R.I.P,” when Morrison opened the table to other writers, that it truly became evident, what he was doing. He literally made it possible to consider Batman, one of the most established characters in modern fiction, a tabula rasa.

Instead of detailing how exactly that evolved, let’s skip to the present. Now, as we all know, Dick Grayson took on the cowl (for the second time, after his prior attempt in “The Prodigal,” a storyline that followed the whole “Knightfall” saga), and as was nothing like Bucky becoming Captain America and staying so even after Steve Rogers returned (any scholarly account of the parallels between Brubaker and Morrison’s writing would not favor Brubaker), kept it even after Bruce Wayne returned. So currently, you can read any number of Batman books and they might star either Dick or Bruce under the cowl. The book actually called BATMAN is currently being managed by Tony Daniel, a creator who first came to prominence as an artist working alongside Morrison , but who has since taken on the dual assignment and begun writing as well. He’s one of a handful of creators capable of doing so (Phil Hester and Stuart Immonen are two others, but they rarely do both at the same time), and he’s kept the book a bestseller since beginning the effort, to some initial surprise. But the real surprise is that he’s been doing so by continuing all sorts of legacies, none of them directly related to his work with Morrison, of all things. In fact, he owes more to Jeph Loeb (continuing the Falcone saga begun in THE LONG HALLOWEEN) and drawing artistic inspiration from Frank Miller and Jim Lee. The results are nothing short of astonishing, because Daniel would otherwise be a complete unknown, and to be doing this kind of work is unbelievable, and he hasn’t, beyond sales, gotten near enough credit for it.

It’s the only way he falls under the shadow of Grant Morrison, because otherwise, Tony Daniel has proven beyond a doubt that he’s as much a part of Batman’s continuing legend as Morrison, as crazy as that might sound. But you should be reading his BATMAN. Your future self will thank you.

Dini, by the way, is also still working on Batman, this time in BATMAN: STREETS OF GOTHAM, where he’s been continuing the legacy of Hush, along with Dustin Nguyen. It’s more work that deserves more recognition.

There’s also Scott Snyder, who burst onto the scene with the high profile AMERICAN VAMPIRE, but who recently inherited DETECTIVE COMICS. His first few issues prove that Dick Grayson is not as difficult a character to write as some writers have sometimes suggested. As a fan of Grayson and the Robin legacy in general, I couldn’t be more happy.

That’s some evidence, anyway, that there really is life for Batman outside of Grant Morrison. But yeah, Grant Morrison rocks.

Here’re some quick takes on comics from the period that inspired this week’s column:

BATMAN #705 (DC)
The Tony Daniel effort that introduced the Riddler’s daughter, Enigma, but also features other Daniel originals Peacock and I-Ching. Peacock’s characterization of Dick Grayson’s Batman is priceless.

I don’t really get why fans no longer seem to care about the Young Avengers, especially now that Allan Heinberg and Jimmy Cheung have finally returned to them. Heinberg gets to write the sequel to HOUSE OF M, and nobody cares? That’s what all that undiluted Bendis will get you.

WHAT IF? #200 (Marvel)
I’m a DC partisan if there ever was one. It’s not as if I haven’t given Marvel a lot of chances over the past five years, but the House of Ideas keeps finding ways to bungle them. Ironically, I have never really gotten into this particular idea, so I was happy to at least help celebrate this milestone. Poor Sentry finally gets to prove that he was at least a powerful character, if not a compelling one.

RED: EYES ONLY (WildStorm)
Cully Hamner throws his hat into the writer/artist arena with this prequel to the project he originally began with Warren Ellis, a little treat for those like me who loved the movie.

Okay, I may actually believe the hype surrounding J.T. Krul now. This comic was pretty awesome, and is exactly the kind of story Oliver Queen should be starring in. If Green Arrow is to walk around with a conceit like that, he might as well stumble into whole scenarios that can really exploit it, and having a whole forest and even one or two new supporting characters (who aren’t just sidekicks and/or love interests) is pretty awesome.

Did a little creative catching up here, the first two Scott Snyder issues, where he syncs up with Dick Grayson and finds a unique way to explore the legacy of Batman’s war on crime to boot. Also features a Commissioner Gordon backup.

Chris Roberson conjures some good juju by revisiting DC One Million, a Grant Morrison concept that I particularly enjoyed.

AZRAEL #15-16 (DC)
The “Killer of Saints” arc made this book immortal last year. Here, David Hine rounds out some of that story in anticipation of the upcoming cancellation. It’s too bad, but at least now there’s a useful legacy for the Azrael concept.

DC has been trying to do books with its space heroes for a while now, perhaps because Marvel has developed something of a cult around theirs. Well, this book actually has Lobo, so this time it will probably be worth sticking around for. Also, Kevin Maguire gives us Tanga, who looks like another troublemaker worth a thing or two.

I don’t know what DC has planned otherwise with “Reign of Doomsday,” but this appears to be the death of John Henry Irons, and I for one mourn the guy. This is a pretty worthy tribute to some of his forgotten history, making me wish all the more that he would’ve been a little more loved by fans, so there would be more stories to treasure.

James Robinson, I don’t really know what he’s been doing in JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA, because I haven’t been reading. CRY FOR JUSTICE was a classic (until it turned into a vehicle to help relaunch Green Arrow, which in itself turned out to be a pretty good thing), and with the right characters, Robinson is golden (ah, no pun intended). Word is he’s working on another project that might be more up his alley. This one was like a cross between James Robinson “good” and James Robinson “meh.”

OZMA OF OZ #3 (of 8) (Marvel)
Love, love, love Shanower and Young on these adaptations.

I like reading this book, but I can’t help but wonder if it wouldn’t be a little better a little more compressed. Still, consistently pretty interesting.

Somebody called this, and other weekly(ish) books that DC has done ADD comics. I would counter that anyone who can’t follow them suffers from their own attention disorders.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Quarter Bin #1 "DC Grab Bag"

One of the things I best like about comics is how random it can be to find and read back issues. There are so many years, so many creators, so many stories, it’s much more difficult than with books or movies to always have at least an idea of what to expect, and so many ways to search. Only music really compares. But this is not a music site. It is a comics site. And this particular column will detail my adventures with back issues, some of them coming from actual quarter bins (because there’s a certain thrill associated with those), others from any number of other origins, some that I specifically sought out. So this will be a pretty eclectic column.

The inaugural batch comes from a random assortment bought from Midtown Comics, a grab bag of DC titles, because DC happens to be my publisher of choice. Without further adieu, and in no particular order:

From May 2006, there’s not a lot to say about this except that it was a special that was put out after the initial mini-series that helped launch INFINITE CRISIS. Written by Greg Rucka during his period of greatest influence with the company, it helped launch the modern Checkmate, which has since become a subplot for the resurrected Max Lord.

From August 2005, this was obviously a companion series of the one that resulted in the above comic, from Dave Gibbons and Ivan Reis, during the period where DC really didn’t know what to do with Kyle Rayner after Hal Jordan’s return. Eventually, of course, Jade is sacrificed, which opened the door…to her recent return.

From April 2006, this special was anchored by an account of how Earth-3 Alex Luthor tricked Earth-2 Superman and the soon-to-be eeeevil Superboy-Prime into causing Infinite Crisis, thanks to Marv Wolfman, Dan Jurgens, and Jerry Ordway. Whatever happened to these Secret Files specials?

NORTHLANDERS #13 (Vertigo)
From February 2009, this is a comic I never read on purpose, and I guess I don’t really care to, even with this sample, even though it’s had good buzz. I saw nothing in this issue to change my opinion, anyway.

Ranging from February to April 2009, I guess for some reason Midtown either thinks these grab bags are being bought for family consumption or they really think the persons purchasing them want a complete survey. Either way…

MIRROR’S EDGE #3 (WildStorm)
Based on a video game, but not really that bad.

STORMWATCH: PHD #18 (WildStorm)
From March 2009. The recent shuttering of WildStorm caused a few people to unleash some laments about how little the studio was appreciated, especially because of that period where it was responsible for a whole slew of comics inspired by SQUADRON SUPREME (not that they were ever described that way), and Gen-13, which was extremely popular for about fifteen minutes. Otherwise, WildStorm really was just responsible…for another superhero universe. I would wager to say no real loss.

BANG! TANGO #1 (OF 6) (Vertigo)
From April 2009, this was a Joe Kelly project that was somewhat hyped by Vertigo at the time. My verdict? If Howard Chaykin had provided more than just the covers, it probably would have been relevant.

From January 2009, this was the start of Gail Simone’s “Rise of the Olympian” storyline, which was the beginning of a very swift decline in quality for her work on the title. It was basically a very, very uninspired version of “Doomsday.” I honestly don’t know what she was thinking. Or perhaps what Aaron Lopresti was thinking, assuming he designed the horribly designed villain. Lopresti is usually better than that. But at least Simone is finally off this book.

100 BULLETS #98 (Vertigo)
From February 2009, this was one of the final issues of this acclaimed series. Personally, I didn’t really see the point of it.

From February 2009, this was pretty interesting. I remember reading it when I originally got this random collection, but it is definitely worth revisiting, so I will probably do that. That, ah, means it’s probably worth looking at in general.

From February 2009, aside from a terrible title and a worse logo, is part of the strong push Supergirl got into being a legitimate member of the modern Superman franchise, from Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray, with art by Phil Noto.

SCALPED #24 (Vertigo)
From February 2009, the conclusion to the “Gravel in Your Guts” storyline. I was a semi-regular and then a regular reader of this Jason Aaron book (his best work in comics to date), but I got a little tired of things pretty remaining status quo indefinitely, like a bad TV procedural. I’m not saying this series isn’t worth reading, because it truly is one of the best comics being published today, but that it’s simply not something I can read on a regular basis.

52 #31 (DC)
From the week of December 6, 2006, a series I followed religiously when it was originally published, and still contend is a seminal work of modern comics. This particular issue centers on the horrors of Lady Styx, who admittedly didn’t really develop into anything special, but does feature the grizzly end of Captain Comet. Captain who? Well…exactly. That’s why that particular character was sacrificed during this series.

From January 1990...based on a role playing game.

From August 1990, and the married Kesels, who for years tried to make some incarnation of this DC duo relevant. Hey, so at least one version is technically relevant in the pages of BRIGHTEST DAY…

That’s the twenty comics included in the grab bag, and thus concludes this inaugural edition of this new incarnation of my Quarter Bin column, which if you were wondering if the origin of the “QB” in the QB50 ranking from last week. From here on out, I’ll be alternating between talk on new comics, spotlighting (as currently planned) one title or creator per week, and new editions of Quarter Bin. This is the only Midtown grab bag I’ve gotten so far, but as always, because that’s how I am with back issues, it may not be the last…

Thursday, January 6, 2011

2010 QB50

1. AIR (Vertigo)
The hugely unappreciated masterpiece from G. Willow Wilson (it shares the distinction with 52, which topped the 2006 and 2007 QBs, as the only book to repeat as my favorite comic during the five year existence of this list) released its final eight issues in 2010. While star-crossed lovers Zayn and Blythe finally found a chance for happiness, what really satisfied was Blythe’s accepting the reigns of her own destiny, however strange her journey has been over the course of twenty-four issues. Among the famous historical figures added to the fold in the final months of the comic was Jules Verne, who wrote a history of Blythe’s future she ultimately refused to read, a decision that helped shape her resolve. Hopefully the four trade paperback volumes that will now house this book will help readers discover AIR.

Seven issues of this comic were released in 2010, one less than the planned amount, but few people were reading this other unappreciated masterpiece (I swear, that word is not actually going to be thrown around cheaply), from Tony Bedard and Scott McDaniel, both of whom seemed born to work on this project. Following the adventures of a Chinese super-team originally seen in the pages of 52, the book explored individual members each issue (until a little creative compression saw Mother of Champions and Socialist Red Guardsman share the climactic #9), revealing a rich history and a distinct sense of character while unveiling a story thread that explored how each of them were ultimately connected, with each other and to a country that could sometimes fail to appreciate them, too.

Counting the annual released in September, there were twelve issues of this one to savor in 2010, which is not too bad for a book that was originally planned as a single mini-series when IDW acquired the rights from DDP for the Hasbro brand a few years back. The inspired choice to follow Chuckles as he explored the rumors of the emerging threat posed by Cobra proved more compelling than the company originally realized, and so last January the company launched a second mini-series, which it soon announced to be expanded into a full-blown ongoing run. Aside from Chuckles, the Paoli brothers, Xamot and Tomax, continued down their own uncertain fates, while Cobra Commander and Scoop also joined the intrigue.

4. RASL (Cartoon)
Jeff Smith released four issues of this fascinating parallel worlds project, his follow-up to the acclaimed BONE, in 2010, adding a lot more emphasis on the story’s connection to ill-fated genius inventor Nikola Tesla. The highlight, though, was #8, which saw flashbacks to protagonist Rob’s misadventures in the lab experiments that led to his life on the run, as well as a few more tantalizing clues about the nature of the bobble-headed girl who keeps showing up.

The best year of Geoff Johns’ run with Hal Jordan couldn’t have come at a better time, with BLACKEST NIGHT finally blowing the creator’s new mythology wide open, culminating in a dizzying series of questionable alliances, including Hal actually working with his arch nemesis, Sinestro, who had perhaps his most explosive issue with #52, when he was briefly the White Lantern. If you were jazzed by Johns’ simultaneous efforts with The Flash but were frustrated waiting for new issues of his own series, you could catch Barry Allen here, being brave and bold, and a little Parallaxian, too. Also of note is the LARFLEEZE CHRISTMAS SPECIAL, which ably demonstrates that Johns really has created something special with his Agent Orange.

6. GRANT MORRISON’S 18 DAYS (Dynamite)
This was not technically a comic book so much as a primer on one of Morrison’s more ambitious projects (but then, when aren’t they?), a cartoon adaptation of the Indian saga MAHABHARATA. Everything you might have wanted to know about that is included in his extensive notes, which also give you an insight into his creative process, while his vision is as impressive as the scope of this story, which he charmingly reiterates with no small hyperbole throughout this volume, which also covers the full scripts for the first few episodes.

While everyone started to gaga over WALKING DEAD, the comic and the TV show, the best post-apocalyptic comic continued to be WASTELAND, a fascinating glimpse at the terrible politics that will continue to plague mankind, even when everything else seems to have been lost. With three issues released during 2010 (Antony Johnston worked some mainstream comics, including SHADOWLAND material with Daredevil, to help support this project), there wasn’t a lot of material, but every page was impactful.

8. 45 [FORTY-FIVE] (Com.X)
One of the most innovative projects was clearly Andi Ewington’s interview-style exploration of a whole world of superheroes, with the exact number of the title, and the same number of artists supplying splash pages to accompany each of them, as a new father attempts to understand what his newborn can expect growing up with special abilities. Along the way, there’s a subtle arc sewn within the interviews, and you’re left hoping this graphic novel has a chance to expand further.

This faithful and lively adaptation of the Stephen King book continued, completing two more cycles, one of which marked the midpoint of the run, bringing the intrepid survivors of the Captain Trips virus to Boulder and the beginning of the end. A must-read whether you’re a fan of King or not.

It was a deceptively good year for the Man of Steel, but the biggest highlight was this Elseworlds treat from classic scribe Cary Bates, exploring the ramifications of Jor-El and Lara both surviving, along with the infant Kal-El, the destruction of Krypton, and making Earth home for the whole family, which expands and attempts to grow, adapting and becoming celebrities among humans. Even though Kal still assumes the identity of Superman and many of the familiar elements of his story fall into place, including a rivalry with Lex Luthor, there are surprises at every turn. This should become a classic.

From #6, in which many familiar DC faces are appropriated by the spectrum of rings (highlights include Scarecrow being drafted into the Sinestro Corps, an obvious and inspired choice, and Lex Luthor briefly sharing Larfleeze’s orange greed, which has led to a whole ACTION COMICS quest), to Sinestro briefly claiming the White Lantern in #7, to the epic conclusion on #8, in which twelve heroes and villains are resurrected, Geoff Johns did not disappoint, helping to solidify a hugely popular new era for Green Lantern.

Grant Morrison dips back into the tapestry style of SEVEN SOLDIERS in unveiling the epic journey of Bruce Wayne through time, helping a catatonic Batman continue to prove his impact is undeniable. Some of the impact from this book is shared by a few other titles, but taken as a whole, this is almost a little like Morrison trying to finish out FINAL CRISIS than explaining how the Dark Knight came back.

This absurdly hyped and bestselling “modern Superman” reads a lot like Grant Morrison’s acclaimed All Star interpretation, allowing Clark Kent to be the talented outsider looking for a way to fit in while also tweaking the exact causes for his origin, introducing antagonists who actually destroyed Krypton, something the regular books could never do, but here offers an entirely logical twist to what otherwise is pretty familiar. J. Michael Straczynski abandoned a few more projects to immediately begin work on a sequel, which I will now begin to hotly anticipate.

14. “Killer of Saints,” AZRAEL (DC)
Issues #10-13 saw David Hine assume creative control of this book, immediately punching it into high gear, embroiling Michael Lane in his own personal DA VINCI CODE and pitting him against the fanatical Crusader, whose insane mission rampaged sadistically against a conspiracy that eventually exposed Lane’s true mission, not just as the latest bearer of the Suit of Sorrows and weapon for some crazy religious order, but the new…Ah, why don’t you just read this one already? You will absolutely thank yourself.

Remember that crack about Straczynski abandoning things I made a little earlier? Well, here’s just one of them, THE TWELVE, which was basically a story that brought a whole team of Captain Americas from the obscurity of the Golden Age and WWII into the present. After nine issues, Joe jumped from Marvel and started writing for DC. This may ending up being a coda to the uncompleted work, released last March by regular artist Chris Weston, handling the writing duties as well for the occasion, but serves as a lasting testament that the project is still well worth remembering.

16. STEPHEN KING’S N. (Marvel)
There was a lot of King floating around comics in 2010, so it bears reminding that Marc Guggenheim helped adapt a standout story from the JUST AFTER SUNSET collection, a paranoid and psychologically devastating ditty about a series of people doomed by Lovecraftian circumstances.

17. “Grim Hunt,” “O.M.I.T,” “Origin of the Species,” AMAZING SPIDER-MAN (Marvel)
I have to be somewhat specific about which issues, exactly, are must-reads for the final year of Brand New Day, because I skipped the “Gauntlet” first half of the year as pretty unnecessary, which is exactly the opposite of at least “Grim Hunt” and “O.M.I.T,” both of which were culmination points for three years worth of stories. Issues #634-637 saw the “Grim Hunt” revival of Kraven, which pushed Peter Parker and his sparingly used mythology to its limits, while in #638-641, “O.M.I.T.” finally draws back the veil on the connecting material between “One More Day” and Brand New Day, with Joe Quesada personally handling the duties. Not a lot of critical acclaim to that one, but for this fan, it worked. “Origin of the Species” ran through #642-646 and wrapped up the saga of Menace as well as finally delivered the goods on the transformed Doctor Octopus. #647 was a pretty awesome conclusion to Brand New Day as a whole, and deserves to be read even if you didn’t like the preceding arcs. #648 is brilliant, too, with Dan Slott finally officially making Peter a professional science geek, something so completely natural it should have happened a long time ago. Technically, it also kicks off the Big Time era, but you can enjoy it for that reason alone. Fifteen standout issues is pretty good for this book.

The book that won Grant Morrison most of his love in recent years was pretty lively in 2010. The best issue, #8, in part of a sequence which helped make Batwoman interesting again, while the Dr. Hurt saga concludes in spectacular fashion with #13-16, with a healthy (an appropriate connotation for something associated with the Clown Prince?) dose of Joker tossed in for good measure. Paul Cornell and Scott McDaniel assume the title for later issues, introducing the new villain Absence, but the book known for putting Damian on the map still has plenty to say about him, particularly as mom Talia attempts to take control of him remotely in #11-12. If any of this had been particularly coherent as a whole, this would have landed in the top ten easily.

It seems weird to call this the new 52, particularly since I shamelessly referenced that book as having topped the QBs during both years of its publication, but I stand by that assertion regardless. The characters who most benefited from the first half of this biweekly series were Deadman and Martian Manhunter, who particularly benefited from artist Patrick Gleason, who should forthwith be attached to some future Manhunter project, assuming he survives this book. Anyway, Geoff Johns and Pete Tomasi are knocking this sequel to BLACKEST NIGHT out of the park. Go Aqualad!

Mark Waid is entering his third decade as one of my favorite writers, and these days he owes that distinction to this book. #13 was an early indication that this would be a good year for the series, while #17, where Plutonian reveals he knows exactly what Modeus has been up to, really kicked it into high gear. Recent issues have plunged the fallen hero back into circumstances that’ve obscured his chances for redemption still further, but made the book all the more fun to read.

Early in the year this book was still playing clean-up in the crossover wars, but after Tony Bedard took over with #48, it finally started to take on a life of its own, adding new anguish to the bitter existence of Cyborg Superman while finally purging the Alpha Lanterns of their emotional defects, and then moving on to an arc with the Weaponer who forged Sinestro’s original yellow ring (and was therefore responsible for the whole spectrum corps saga, other than the Guardians, of course), and wants revenge for it. This has the effect of renewing the focus on Kyle Rayner and Soranik Natu, who happens to be Sinestro’s daughter. The pair became an item during Pete Tomasi’s extended run, but Bedard has already done more with them. Tomasi did have some pretty cool moments with the book this year, helping purge most of the red rage from Guy Gardner before GREEN LANTERN: EMERALD WARRIORS thanks to Mogo in #45, for instance, giving the planet its coolest-ever moment.

Grant Morrison’s latest Bat book really took off with the second issue, released with minutes to spare for consideration in 2010, rounding out Bruce Wayne’s recruiting of the Japanese legacy hero Mr. Unknown, who sacrifices everything gladly to join the Dark Knight’s new global crusade. I have a feeling that this book is going to be, at least for the time being, Morrison writing in the same style as his JLA more than a decade ago, just pure superhero awesome. To reach this book, however, Grant also released BATMAN: THE RETURN, with David Finch, featuring a clever metaphor with an old bat, and a myriad of talent worked on the ROAD HOME books, notably Fabian Nicieza and Scott McDaniel on the Ra’s al Ghul issue.

23. “Odyssey,” WONDER WOMAN (DC)
I flip-flopped between this and “Grounded” from SUPERMAN after my initial drafting of this list when I learned Straczynski was basically abandoning both books, dropping the latter in favor of this arc, because this story will have more lasting impact. Beyond the new costume, which everyone fixated on, “Odyssey” is a real effort at creating an iconic story for Wonder Woman, something most writers shy away from. I can’t write a whole lot about what that ultimately means just yet, but the difference between what Gail Simone was doing and what Straczynski intended could be seen in the milestone #600 issue, when both approaches were on display before “Odyssey” officially kicked off in #601. With #605, Phil Hester introduces his own particular style to the saga, which may be what it takes to punch it into the next gear.

Eric Shanower and Skottie Young cannot be praised enough for their adaptations of L. Frank Baum, with eight issues of charming whimsy released over the past year. #8 of MARVELOUS LAND includes a huge twist that provides a perfect segue into OZMA, a book that itself should be familiar to anyone fortunate enough to have seen the movie RETURN TO OZ.

With three final issues scattered throughout 2010, Geoff Johns concluded his version of Clark Kent emergence as the Man of Steel, centering on his rivalry with Lex Luthor. It was difficult to continue reading this book while the regular Superman books finally stumbled into a redeeming WAR OF THE SUPERMAN under Greg Rucka and James Robinson, who couldn’t sustain the work Johns and Gary Frank had done before transitioning to SECRET ORIGIN, which in effect serves as a prequel. Rucka did the best work in ACTION COMICS, while SUPERMAN: WORLD OF NEW KRYPTON was an effective jam session with Robinson, and SUPERMAN #700 is a must-read, regardless of where you stand on “Grounded” and Straczynski. But stick with SECRET ORIGIN, EARTH ONE, and LAST FAMILY OF KRYPTON if you wanted unabashed Superman highlights.

Bill Willingham contributes this meaningful reboot saga featuring Mr. Terrific in which he basically concludes the story he began in 2009 with Kid Karneval, letting him win and establish a whole Nazi regime that basically defeats all the heroes, until Terrific finds a loophole to undo everything. But issues #36-40 are well worth reading to see how Willingham weaves familiar faces in and out of this saga. The best JSA post-Geoff Johns.

Greg Pak and Fred Van Lente have been writing terrific Hercules comics for the past few years, but after the end of INCREDIBLE HERCULES with #141, they started in on a number of spin-off books that eventually culminated with CHAOS WAR. But the most focused and best of them was actually the one that starred boy genius Amadeus Cho in his efforts to bring his pal back from the apparent dead, little realizing that he was actually establishing his own superhero credentials in the process. What this ultimately proved to me is that Pak and Van Lente need less Herc and more Cho in their future.

Judd Winick is often hard-up for a little respect, but after his “Under the Red Hood” was chosen to be adapted into an animated movie, he was given the chance to revisit Jason Todd in this mini-series, which explored the connecting material between the classics “A Death in the Family” and BATMAN ANNUAL #25, exploring how Talia, the daughter of Ra’s al Ghul, helped bring the revived former Robin back to form, with a whole new mission. It all sounds a lot more complicated than it needs to. Really, just read this book.

I haven’t typically included graphic novels in the QBs, and yet here’s the third standalone book (fourth, if you include 18 DAYS) on this year’s list, another compelling story, exploring a man who found, like Hiro Nakamura in HEROES, that he could freeze time and become a hero. Except there was a price to pay, when he decides to rescue every intended victim of a terrorist attack, living out his regular lifespan as he clears the blast area, one person at a time.

The conclusions to FLASH: REBIRTH and BLACKEST NIGHT: THE FLASH weren’t as compelling as the return of the Scarlet Speedster’s ongoing series, as Geoff Johns combines his love of the Rogues with a time-twisting mystery worthy of Barry Allen, as the seeds for greater things yet to come are sewn. Anyone reading GREEN LANTERN in 2010 should know that they need to be in on the ground floor with this one, because it’ll only get better.

In many ways, RETURN OF BRUCE WAYNE owed a lot more to this book than “R.I.P,” FINAL CRISIS, or BATMAN AND ROBIN, since Grant Morrison’s minimalist approach there was in full swing here, minimalist and fully epic, an evocative journey somewhat delayed thanks to the flurry of Bat books Morrison delivered at the end of the year. If you want to wait for the collection, you might as well thank yourself now, because it’ll be worth it.

It’s a shame that all the momentum from the launch of YOUNG AVENGERS some six years ago (back when Ed Brubaker started his CAPTAIN AMERICA run) has basically been lost thanks to Allan Heinberg’s busy schedule, because finally we’re reaching the culmination point, not just for this team but the true reward from Brian Michael Bendis’ “Avengers Disassembled” (not all the big events and spin-off books Bendis himself has been doing in the meantime). Anyway, this one marks the return of the Scarlet Witch, but it’s that team of Young Avengers who really command the story.

33. ATOMIC ROBO (Red 5)
The most offbeat comic being published today continues, as Nikola Tesla’s (there’s that dude again) robot creation fights monsters and dull storytelling with some of the most inspired writing in the business. In REVENGE OF THE VAMPIRE DIMENSION #3, he battles the nutty Dr. Dinosaur. In #4, he meets Thomas Edison. In the DEADLY ART OF SCIENCE series, he attempts to join the crusade of the unimpressed Jack Tarot. Robo also steals the show in Red 5’s Free Comic Book Day offering, thanks in no small part to the Giant Angry Chicken. These are primo shenanigans, folks.

As noted earlier, Greg Rucka does some worthwhile stuff with Flamebird and Nightwing early in the year (grab #886 for proof), but the book really kicks off when Paul Cornell and Lex Luthor take over with #890, ushering an instant classic story worthy of Luthor and Cornell’s best comics work since CAPTAIN BRITAIN AND MI:13 (and probably better). Seriously, if you like Geoff Johns and his Green Lantern work, that’s exactly what Cornell is doing here. If that doesn’t rub you, think of Cornell and Luthor like Morrison and Bruce Wayne. That’s the amount of creator-character synergy going on here. The creepy Lois bot looks a lot like Zooey Deschanel, which works for me, too. The Nick Spencer second feature featuring Jimmy Olsen, beginning in #893, is also a good draw.

Four climactic issues conclude Karic’s quest not only to revive the Mice Templar, but fulfill his something, something in this continuing, evocative look at the hero’s journey, complete with notes in every issue about influences, allusions, and explanations. The first issue of the book’s third volume, A WIDWINTER NIGHT’S DREAM, offers an intriguing look into how things don’t get any easier, even when everyone apparently gets the proof they need to believe in a miracle.

Comics legend Len Wein extends his modern legacy reinterpreting classic DC stories with this limited series taking a long look back at DC lore in general, hitting the history marks and characters that have defined the company over the years. #7 is especially impactful for anyone who actually read “Doomsday” and “Knightfall,” managing to condense both storylines effectively into a single issue. It was also interesting to see “Emerald Twilight” translated in the next issue. Any doubts that how exactly Geoff Johns was able to bring Hal Jordan back by apparently ignoring this story may now safely be put to rest.

Reviving the animated series creation, this mini-series also served as a sequel to “Hush,” one of the milestone stories of the past decade, while at the same time needling the Frank Miller supposition that Dick Grayson was destined for a bad end. You have to read it to see how Adam Beechen turns both points on their head. Breakout star: the new Catwoman. Another surprise success that turned into an ongoing series.

Those jazzed by WALKING DEAD and intrigued by my earlier plug for WASTELAND may actually want to check this book out instead, a simpler and more familiar post-nightmare narrative about what happens after an alien invasion. Marc Guggenheim released eight issues of this book in 2010, exploring the ramifications of discovering Bill Clinton, the last president before the Bugs wrecked Earth, is still alive, and concluding the current volume by revealing just why the aliens came here in the first place. For those who also read Guggenheim’s excellent GALACTICA 1980 comic from Dynamite, which concluded last January, it was a good bit of intrigue all around. Now, could he just leave Earth in peace for a change? Oh, and he also debuted HALCYON from Image. Turns out that’s just as complicated…

Kurt Busiek finally concluded the DARK AGE, which enabled him to tell the story of one of the most famous landmarks of Astro City, the statue commemorating Silver Agent, whose bittersweet saga is told here in its entirety for the first time.

This straight adaptation of the Philip K. Dick novel continued, issues #8-18 tracking Rick Deckard’s progress from Luba Luft to recruiting Rachel Rosen. It’s projects like this and THE STAND that help illustrate how illustrated comics, no matter what that means, can truly be inspired.

Between Scott McDaniel on THE GREAT TEN and Rafael Albuquerque on this book, it’s difficult to say which artist found a more perfect project for their talents in the past year. While everyone was gushing over Scott Snyder and welcoming Stephen King into his first original comics work, it was Albuquerque who stole the show. The first five issues, in which Snyder and King introduce Pearl and Skinner Sweet respectively, are the best ones to sample if you want to come and savor that art.

42. AGE OF BRONZE (Image)
This is a book I confess to not having had the opportunity to read from the beginning, because for a long time I was relying on local comic shops to buy my books, and this was very seldom stocked, but in recent years I’ve been able to begin remedying this oversight. I’ve been a fan of the Trojan War for years, and thankfully, at least one comic book creator, Eric Shanower, shares and exceeds my passion, as this extensive and exhaustive version proves. Two issues were released during the year, with the highlight being the tragedy of Cressida and Troilus, a tale told previously by Chaucer and Shakespeare.

43. THE ANCHOR (Boom!)
Part of what inspired me to keep “Odyssey” over “Grounded” from Straczynki’s abandoned regular DC books was the news that Phil Hester would be taking over the reigns of WONDER WOMAN. Hester is one of comics’ best kept secrets, and his signature work in 2010 was this book and its concluding five issues, a mixture of religion and heroics, heavy on heroics, light on religion (just so you don’t worry about that too much). The way Hester built his story over the course of eight issues crescendos beautifully in these issues, with gut-wrenching twists and a real emotional payoff. Hopefully this isn’t the end of the Anchor. But this is not the last time this list will be pining for a Phil Hester project to continue.

44. CHEW (Image)
This book is outrageously good. It’s been building a buzz, so you don’t really need me to confirm this, but I am more than happy to throw my hat in the endorsement ring.

Tony Daniel has rightly earned his place as a signature Batman creator (#696 helped solidify his legacy for me), so that covers that much about this book in 2010, but there’s more to talk about. Fabian Nicieza made something of a cameo with #703, completely nailing Damian (making me wish he had a commitment to write that Robin instead of Tim Drake). But Grant Morrison pretty much stole the show, and this book back for three issues, starting with the breathless #700 celebration. #701-702, “The Missing Chapter,” is pretty much his version of “O.M.I.T,” and would have single-handedly vaulted this book into the top ten, if Grant hadn’t been so busy elsewhere. Instead that nugget powers this title here, the true highlight of the year, and probably Morrison’s best overall work of the year. Makes me think I really should have ranked it higher…

Paul Dini and Dustin Nguyen have equally been buried, continuing the legacy of Hush in this unlikely of places, far out of the spotlight. #13 was probably the strongest issue in that regard, while Two-face stole #15 with a fake-out death.

47. DAYTRIPPER (Vertigo)
This was a critical favorite, so I don’t need to spend a lot of time justifying it. Worth the experience.

48. GOLLY! (Image)
Here was Phil Hester flexing his Grant Morrisons, a surreal and fantastic escapade with an unlikely protagonist and a circus at the center, and maybe a little God thrown in for good measure. Hester has promised to resurrect this one with graphic novels. I’m keeping him to it.

49. ONE MONTH TO LIVE (Marvel)
IDW did a creepily similar project at exactly the same time, but keep this one in mind, a fable about a guy given a last chance to be a hero, and since it was produced by a superhero publisher, that was pretty literal. Five weekly issues released in September, written by Rick Remender, John Ostrander, Stuart Moore, and Rob Williams; a little heavy-handed at times, but well worth it, featuring an assortment of established characters to supplement the unknown at the center.

Guilty, guilty DC still feels like making amends to the Bwa-ha-ha League, this time under the direction of Judd Winick, in this biweekly companion to BRIGHTEST DAY. #6 spotlight on Captain Atom and #12 spotlight on Ice are the obvious highlights. A KINGDOM COME tease with Magog ends with that hero’s death in #13. A new Rocket Red is probably the ongoing highlight of the book.

Owing to the fact that I read my comics with a bit of an Internet-ordering-and-shipping delay, I have not technically read all of my 2010 comics yet, but a few last-minute revisions with the arrival of a few of the stragglers has left me with hopefully a truly representative QB50 for the year. The good news is, new comics are always being made…