Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Reading Comics 178 "Tom King, the Breakout Talent of 2015"

I've been chattering a lot about Tom King lately.  Well, it's official: he's my favorite breakout talent this year.

After lavishing his Omega Men with repeated praise, it felt like time to check out more of his recent work.  The first came by accident, looking inside the Justice League: Darkseid War - Green Lantern special and realizing that he was the writer.  With all due apologies to Robert Venditti and IDW's Star Trek/Green Lantern, this is now my favorite 2015 Green Lantern.  King handles Hal Jordan like a pro.  He's the first writer since Geoff Johns to get him so clearly.  Which is to say, if you loved Johns' Hal, you'll love King's.

I've been reading good stuff about King's Vision over at Marvel (don't you let him get away, DC!), and so had a look at its first two issues.  Very literate, more like sci-fi prose than superhero comic.  It's the latest version of comics evolving past their stereotype (which will of course always have hopeless devotees, as these things tend to go).  DC (and Brad Meltzer, in the pages of Justice League of America...several volumes ago) tried doing this sort of thing with Red Tornado.  But bringing out a true "other" perspective from the Vision is exactly what you can expect to find here.

Lastly, King's Sheriff of Baghdad from Vertigo, which draws on the writer's own background, flashing back to the chaotic early days of the Iraq War.  As Eastwood's immensely popular film American Sniper did before it, Sheriff imagines a Western vibe to the events.  Like his Omega Men, you might need a few issues to get your bearing, but it's another example of King separating from the rest of the pack with vital writing that is among comics' best.

This guy will be one of the biggest names among a lot of fans soon enough...

Friday, December 11, 2015

2015 QB50 - The Year's Best Comics

Reasonably speaking, this will be my last QB50, at least for the foreseeable future.  It'll round out a full decade of keeping track of my favorite comics (although in the '90s it would be pretty easy to guess which titles would top such a list, from Mark Waid's numerous contributions in the pages of The Flash, Impulse, and Kingdom Come to other favorites like Ron Marz's Green Lantern, Chuck Dixon's Robin and Nightwing, Karl Kesel's Superman and Superboy, Stuart Immonen's Superman, Jeff Smith's Bone, Grant Morrison's JLA, and other offbeat choices like Extreme Justice, Sovereign Seven, Joe Psycho and Moo Frog...), and that's a good thing for someone who likes round numbers.  I've already begun new duties as my sister's live-in nanny, and I'm more than happy to leave comics (to a certain extent) on an incredibly high note, because 2015 was very, very good.

Without further adieu:

1. Annihilator (Legendary)
The final issues of Grant Morrison's latest big concept (a Hollywood screenwriter meeting his own creation, who's looking to find for death) were everything I hoped they'd be.  Annihilator was already my favorite comic last year, and its repeat status puts it in elite company (52 repeated in 2006-2007, Air did likewise in 2009-2010).  It fully deserves that status.  As far as I'm concerned, it's Morrison's best-ever work.

2. Wasteland (Oni)
A perennial favorite throughout the decade, Wasteland ended its epic run on an incredibly high note.  Hardly the easiest series to find in physical stores, Oni stuck with the series despite limited cult success, and was endlessly rewarded with a vision that matched its obvious ambition from the start.  Antony Johnston completely outdid himself for the final arc.

3. Superman (DC)
Geoff Johns concluded his run just in time for the Convergence hiatus that hit the DC line-up early in the year, unleashing a dangerous new power that led to drastic changes in the Man of Steel's status quo.  That's a logline that's fit for the '90s, but Johns and succeeding writer Gene Luen Yang found the ideal voice for the arc, creating a dynamic new Superman with the aid of John Romita, Jr.'s fresh eyes.  Put aside the rest of the creators working on the arc in other titles, and you have some of the best material this icon has ever had.

4. The Omega Men (DC)
I came very late to this one, but it's one of the binges I undertook to considerable enjoyment and reward this year.  A radical reinvention and remarkable relevance makes Tom King's work some of the best stuff DC has published in the New 52 era.  Years from now this will be regarded as a classic.

5. Divinity (Valiant)
This was the year I discovered Valiant, and perhaps not coincidentally the year Valiant put out it best work ever.  Divinity is the kind of superhero comic usually reserved for Marvel and DC's best - think Marvels or Kingdom Come.  Because that's what this is.  Thank you, Matt Kindt.  But more on that a little later.

6. The Sandman: Overture (Vertigo)
I came very, very late to Neil Gaiman's magnum opus.  I'm still in the process of collecting the complete annotated collections, so I can read the original series, but I'm glad I read this follow-up, because it's absolutely breathtaking, and it's another concluding title that nailed the ending.

7. Supreme: Blue Rose (Image)
Usually when I take a recommendation, it has to be so glowing I know the source is being sincere.  This was one of those cases.  Warren Ellis's new vision of the classic Image creation was unspeakably brilliant, and joined the class of 2015's concluding tales with high honors.

8. Descender (Image)
I latched onto Jeff Lemire and Dustin Nguyen's new series early and emphatically.  Lemire is a writer I've been working toward fully appreciating for years.  This is career work for Nguyen.  Can't say enough good things about it.

9. MIND MGMT (Dark Horse)
Here's Matt Kindt again, and my first great binge discovery of the year, plus the last of the great 2015 finishes (so, I discovered it just in time!).  Chock-full of great psychology, this was easily the most unique series I've read, and one of the closest I've come to full literary in comics, especially for an effort that didn't try to be literary.  It just was.  And it was great.

10. Prez (DC)
Mark Russell and Ben Caldwell took what could easily have been a terrible gimmick (which it was, in previous incarnations) and made pure gold out of it, a political and social commentary that was among the vanguard of DC's recent efforts to revitalize its approach to comics.

Star Wars: Lando (Marvel) #11 - The best of Charles Soule's considerable efforts and the best of the Star Wars comics I read this year...The Dark Knight III: The Master Race (DC) #12 - I honestly hope it's a big seller for DC, because it epitomizes what separates the company from Marvel...Bloodshot Reborn (Valiant) #13 - The best example of Valiant's ability to present fresh stories from its refreshed world of superheroes...Saga (Image) #14 - Still one of the best and most innovative comics being published...Justice League (DC) #15 - Geoff Johns is still creating some of the best event comics in the medium...The Multiversity (DC) #16 - Grant Morrison did his best work in this grand effort last year.  That can't be helped.  But the rest of it was still pretty good...Robin: Son of Batman (DC) #17 - Patrick Gleason proves he was paying attention all those years merely illustrating Peter Tomasi's work...Civil War (Marvel) #18 - Ironically I love the Secret Wars version a great deal more than its Mark Millar predecessor.  Credit again goes to Charles Soule...Martian Manhunter (DC) #19 - Throughout the decade this character has elicited some of the best material of his history, a trend that obviously continues...The Legend of Wonder Woman (DC) #20 - Hopefully this portends a bold new era in DC's digital first line...Captain America: White (Marvel) #21 - Incredibly, everyone seemed to forget how awesome Loeb/Sale are.  So it's a good thing this series is finally being published...Batman and Robin (DC) #22 - The end of Tomasi's grandest arc was so inevitable that it's almost easy to take it for granted.  Almost...The Valiant (Valiant) #23 - Not since Marvels has a company titled an event so obviously and been justified...The Unwritten: Apocalypse (Vertigo) #24 - Had I been a regular reader of Unwritten, this would probably have ranked higher...The New Deal (Dark Horse) #25 - Jonathan Case continues to prove that he's one of the great graphic novelists working today...Strange Fruit (Boom!) #26 - It feels good to see Mark Waid finally return to form...Ms. Marvel (Marvel) #27 - I've cooled on this series considerably, but it's still been a pleasure to be a part of the movement.  And to witness G. Willow Wilson at last get her just reward...Mister X: Razed (Dark Horse) #28 - This is the first time I've read original serialized releases for Dean Motter's signature creation...Batman: Earth One Volume 2 (DC) #29 - Geoff Johns continues to redefine the Dark Knight.  It's strange and yet somehow appropriate that this is the way the two have finally come together...Earth 2: Society (DC) #30 - A series with plenty of haters.  I'm definitely not one of them...Batman (DC) #31 - If "Endgame" had been Scott Snyder's only Dark Knight effort, I would probably have listed it much higher...Tuki (Cartoon) #32 - Jeff Smith continues to digitally serialize his third great adventure...Django/Zorro (Dynamite) #33 - This shouldn't have worked at all.  Except Matt Wagner was at the helm...Swamp Thing (DC) #34 - Charles Soule left his greatest DC work last...Grayson (DC) #35 - Has never quite reached the incredible heights of its Futures End issue, but still one of the leading series revolutionizing the DC landscape...G.I. Joe: Snake Eyes, Agent of Cobra (IDW) #36 - Mike Costa sneaks in a follow-up to his masterful work with the franchise...18 Days (Graphic India) #37 - This adaptation of Grant Morrison's epic vision of the greatest epic to come out of India does the thing justice...Convergence: Detective Comics (DC) #38 - The best of the would-be fever dreams of DC geeks everywhere is a more than worthy follow-up to the landmark Superman: Red Son  And that wasn't even the leading story...Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency (IDW) #39 - A big present for Douglas Adams geeks...Atomic Robo and the Ring of Fire (IDW) #40 - Robo's return to print, with a far more prominent publisher, will hopefully make him the cult icon he's long deserved to be...The Death-Defying Doctor Mirage (Valiant) #41 - My favorite discovery from the continuing comiXology backlog, and the reason I finally started reading Valiant...Convergence and Telos (DC) #42 - Jeff King's fresh eyes on the DC landscape created something new out of a lot of familiarity...Superman: American Alien (DC) #43 - Speaking of which, revisiting the Man of Steel's origins was once again a good thing...Doctor Who: Four Doctors (Titan) #44 - Perennial favorite Paul Cornell inevitably writes a very British icon.  A bunch of them...Red Lanterns (DC) #45 - Landry Q. Walker did the unthinkable: Make me continue to care about this series after Charles Soule's departure...Klaus (Boom!) #46 - Grant Morrison wasn't all magic this year.  I came very close to hating Nameless.  But I loved this...We Are Robin (DC) #47 - Strip everything else away, and this is finally Duke Thomas in the spotlight after too many teases...Star Trek/Green Lantern (IDW) #48 - Hey, it was easily the best Star Trek and Green Lantern I've read in a few years...Justice League: Gods and Monsters (DC) #49 - Have yet to see the animated film for which these comics were to created to support, but they were more than good enough to stand on their own...Convergence: Blue Beetle (DC) #50 - Ah, Scott Lobdell, someday the fans will love you...

So long, 2015, and thanks for all the fish.  And great comics!