The World Of Digital Comics

“The definition of insanity is repeating the same action over and over again while expecting a different result”

Some guy that probably didn’t say that thing I opened this article with.

That line has been called the stupidest thing ever said by a smart person. It’s even stupider when you realize that no one actually knows for sure who the smart man who actually said it was.  But when it comes to how the comic book industry has been treating their digital strategy, it’s pretty much the only line that makes sense.

Why? Because we’ve seen this before. Remember when there used to be a music industry?

But all is not lost. We’re in the middle of a very exciting time for digital comic books, and for the comic book industry in general. If you’re willing to work hard, and be creative, there are lots of opportunities to be successful, AND to open up the potential of an almost new business model.

Let’s look at what’s happening in digital comics today, shall we?

The “Why Buy The Cow, When You Can Get The Milk For Free” model

A webcomic that actually made money.

This model is what people usually think of when they think of online comics, and it’s often referred to as the “Freak Angels” model, though web comics were around for almost 20 years before Warren Ellis & Paul Duffield took a stab at them.  The way it works is that you give away your content online for free, gradually.  Sometimes it might be a whole issue at a time (Old City Bllues by Giannis Milonogiannis is a great example of this), but usually it’s more gradual.  A page or two a week is the usual method for this sort of thing. You can try to generate revenue through ad sales while posting your content, though obviously this can vary wildly based on how many people are visiting your site. You can also not worry about the money part of it, and just use your free comic to drum up interest in you as a creator.

When you have a certain amount of content, you can do up a collection physically, sell it, and make your fortune. OR, you can sell toys, T-Shirts, or other crap that’s related to your content. The danger to this is the inadvertent “Give Away The Cow AND The Milk For Free” model, which is where you give away your content for free, but there isn’t enough real interest for you to sell your product in collected form.

Kill All Monsters by Michael May & Jason Copland.

Until a few years ago, most web comics were being done in a format that emulated a computer screen, which meant that collecting in a trade format was often problematic. With tablets, we’re seeing a lot of web comics going back to emulating the physical comics experience.

The Pros: It’s freakin’ cheap. No printing costs or physical distribution means very little up front costs. And by keeping the creative team relatively small (this is a model that can work well if you’re the only person making the strip), you can maximize profits in the long run, when ad money and collection money starts coming in. There are plenty of examples of this model working, in various degrees.

Girls With Slingshots

The Cons: While the potential for a strong back-end profit exists , it’s still pretty rare. At the end of the day, you have the same issue you have with print comics: Getting people to pay attention to them. You may be giving away your content for free, but you are still competing for an even more valuable commodity than money: time.  And although web comics are “cheap” to make in terms of money, they can take the exact same amount of time to make as physical comics. And every minute you spend making web comics that might not pay off for months, if ever, is a minute you could be spending on paying work, either inside or outside the comics field.

Cura Te Ipsum by Neal Bailey & Dexter Wee

While this model is the model that’s the easiest to use for up and coming creators, veterans and pros have been capitalizing on it in recent years. Warren Ellis, Greg Rucka, and Mark Waid are only a handful of the already-established creators that have experimented with this format. And while it’s a free-ish internet, having big name creators compete in a sandbox previously owned by indie folks means those indie folks have to work even harder to get noticed.

Not to say it’s easy for established pros either. While writers can juggle a web comic on the side while getting more immediately lucrative work from physical publishers, it’s not that easy for artists. So far, no A list mainstream artist has dabbled in this format in anything more than a passing manner. Rick Burchett’s Lady Sabre is a rare exception, and it’s no coincidence that it’s one of the best looking comics on the web. Artists like Cameron Stewart can juggle their web comics while working in mainstream comics, but the mainstream paying work usually has to come first.

Examples of this model: Cow BoyThe Gutters, Penny ArcadeFreak AngelsThrillbent, Cura Te IpsumKill All MonstersGirls With Slingshots….thousands of others.

The “I Am Buying Milk. You Can Keep The Cow” model

DC figured out a way to charge for something everyone else was giving away for free? Shocking.

This one isn’t new either, but it’s been springing up a LOT this year. It’s recreating the old newstand comics model, but in digital form. In this model you charge for ALL of your content, whether or not you sell by the issue, or by the collection. You can do this on your own, or through a middle man, and sell it through a site like Comixology.  Or you can use two middle men, and go through a publisher & then go through a digital distributor.  This model doesn’t bring in much (or any) ad money, but it doesn’t exclusively rely on trade sales either. Although this one has been around for a while, I would argue that it wasn’t really workable until the advent of tablet technology. Now that we have a digital interface that almost recreates the physical print experience, this is becoming more and more viable.

The Pros: Like the last model, this one is pretty cheap to produce. But unlike the last model you have some real potential for immediate revenue. No need to wait for trade, as you can charge a buck or two per issue. And because there are no printing costs, you get to keep the lion’s share of that buck or two. You pay the middle man their cut, and the rest goes to you. With the advent of tablet technology, selling a digital copy of the physical product on the same day is becoming more and more common.

Bandette, by Paul Tobin & Colleen Coover. Published by Monkeybrain Comics.

The Cons: Similar to the cons in the first model. Digital still doesn’t have the in-your-face presence that a physical comic in a comic shop does. And so while you can recoup some capital quite quickly, the size of that pie is still very small. By going into a comic shop, you are pretty much assuming an intent to buy. That kind of dollar loyalty doesn’t exist online yet.For someone to really takeadvantage of this model, a customer has to a) own a tablet  b) know about Comixology, or a similar digital distributor, and then c) have enough time to really figure out which comics are for them. Also, because much of the content being produced in this model (and in the last) comes from a more indie culture, getting consumers that only read superhero comics to expand their horizons is as difficult in digital comics as it is in physical ones.

This is one that’s really blown up in the last few years, and I think we’re going to see a lot of publishers and creators really try to make this model work. It’s the one that’s closest to the old physical model, and it’s one that in theory, means the least amount of change to the traditional way of doing things. DC and Marvel have both taken a few stabs at this. They are putting out digital versions of some (though not all) of the physical comics that they produce, but they’re also producing new comics for digital use initially (with a physical copy often coming out months later).

The quality of these have been pretty shoddy, though DC has made some real attempts this year at producing quality work for a digital audience. One of the biggest stories in digital comics this year has been Monkeybrain Comics. They’re using this model, and doing it with name creators, and with interesting properties. And the quality so far has been pretty high.

Examples of this model:  Monkeybrain ComicsDouble Barrel Comics

The “You Can’t Actually Buy This Cow, But It’s Milk Is Gamma-Irradiated And Will Give You Superpowers” model

This ones pretty new, and only a handful of creators are really using it. This is where creators actually use digital or tablet technology to create a product that is impossible to reproduce in physical print. There may be a version of the product that comes out eventually, but it’s not going to have the same level of interactivity that its digital counter part does.

Marvel has been experimenting with this model with their “Infinite” line. At this point it’s not much more than a pretty gimmick, but I could see this growing like crazy over the next few years. Especially with companies that have some money for an initial investment.

The Pros: By having a format that can’t be reproduced in physical comics, you have complete control over how your audience consumes your product. You are eliminating the physical costs entirely, and essentially creating a new audience to go along with your new content.

The Cons: Although your physical costs are nill, this is still going to cost some coin. Especially if you’re producing NEW content, and not just riffing on existing content the way that Marvel does with their Infinite line.

This is the one that’s going to see the most change in the next few years. As tablet tech evolves, expect to see the content created for that tech to evolve as well.

Examples Of This Model: The Thrill ElectricMarvel Infinite

So what does this all mean? Not much, other than there has never been a better time to get into self-published comics. Two of the main problems (distribution, and paper costs) that always hampered self-publishing are essentially eliminated in a digital-driven marketplace. Obviously digital has it’s own set of obstacles, but those seem to be problems with solutions.

The best part of this new digital revolution is that it’s the creators that seem best positioned to take advantage of it.

Movie Review: My completely spoiler-heavy review of The Dark Knight Rises

“I trust Christopher Nolan”. That’s what I’ve been saying to pretty much everyone who has asked my opinion on what The Dark Knight Rises was going to be like all year. He’s pulled off the impossible time after time, and if the critical and financial success of The Dark Knight Returns and Inception isn’t enough to buy him some fan boy credit, I don’t know what is.

Unfortunately, it’s a statement that might no longer be true.

Here’s how I usually do my movie reviews. I sum up the plot of the film without spoiling too much, then add a few things I like, a few things I don’t like, then sum up the whole thing with a paragraph that I think is funny, but that no one else seems to get.

But summing up the plot of Dark Knight Rises in a paragraph would be like summing up the history of earth in a Tripadvisor comments section, so we’re going to try something different.

We start the movie with Bruce Wayne enjoying his eight year retirement from being Batman (apparently he didn’t watch the end of the last Batman film where Bruce Wayne said that he would never stop being Batman, ever), though instead of  a watch Wayne gets to be crippled, poor, and have beautiful women throw themselves at him for no discernible reason.

Christian Bale looking confused after having read the script to The Dark Knight Rises.

Then Anne Hathaway steals from him but she’s not really stealing from him and instead she’s working for this guy that’s working for another guy that used to work for another guy from the first movie. The first other guy works out a lot and has a mumbling problem, and wants to blow everything up because that’s what the second other guy wanted to do even though the second other guy soundly rejected the first other guy. Despite having almost no evidence that this first other guy even exists whatsoever, Bruce Wayne becomes Batman again on the advice of a handsome orphan who somehow figured out that Wayne is Batman because he saw him once. (Alas, I’m not exaggerating that even a bit) Batman gets told by Michael Caine that he’s a terrible person and that he’s going to lose to the first other guy. Despite that rousing pep talk, Batman loses to the first other guy, who then shows his brilliance as a super villain by hiding Batman in a hole in the ground, telling Batman how to get out of the hole, and then acting really surprised when Batman gets out of that hole at the end of the movie and somehow beats him using the exact same strategy he used the first time they fought. But not before the first other guy  kills the first guy, and the second other guy explains the whole thing in a dream sequence/training montage. Oh, and Batman sleeps with a woman that he has no chemistry with, the handsome orphan runs around the city yelling at people angrily, and Anne Hathaway does bad things, then good things, then bad things again for absolutely no reason, but we’re supposed to forgive her because she looks good wearing a pair of heels longer than Tom Cruises leg.

P.S. This movie is a godforsaken mess.

I feel bad for thinking that way. Kind of. Christopher Nolan was THIS close to finishing off the greatest superhero trilogy ever made in style, but he seems to have gotten utterly bogged down with useless plotting minutia that he completely forgot what makes this character so great. A weak cast only compounds the effort, with Christian Bale sleepwalking his way through most of this film, as if he can’t wait to get to his new career of making movies where he doesn’t have to dress up like a giant rodent.  Hathaway does attempt to put forth a solid effort as Selena Kyle. But as usual with Nolan’s films, his female characters are either whores or saints, and it appears as if he didn’t have the time to let her know which one she was supposed to be. The rest of the cast flail about with vigour, all in service to a plodding script that seemed to have made sense to only one man.

Christopher Nolan’s films are known for “the big reveal”, and he works so hard to keep that streak going here that I have to believe he literally wrote this movie backwards. Great scenes are conceived, but then 10 minutes of exposition are shoe-horned afterwards to ensure that the those scenes “make sense”, making for an overly convoluted mess of a script.  When we finally find out who the villain behind the whole affair really is, we’re so numbed by the constant over-explaining that we can barely find the energy to shrug.

Tom Hardy as “Mumbles McGee”.

Though Nolan’s attention to character development has waned as his movies have gotten bigger, DKR has to be the straw that breaks the camel’s back. Nolan somehow manages to strip anything interesting out of a character that has held our interest for almost a century. The Bruce Wayne that starts this movie has lost his mission. But despite having 2 hours and 45 minutes to play with, Nolan forgets to give Batman any real reason to get his mission back. His city is in danger, but no more so than it was when Wayne was despondent and suicidal. His character arc in this film can be best described as: Sad Sad Angry Ouch Angry Yay, which also happens to be the character arc your puppy has when it accidentally bites a porcupine.

And so this is a negative review, of a film that inexplicably seems to have garnered universal praise. But I’m not too sad. Nolan gave us two very good Batman films already, and can hardly be faulted for not being able to close the deal here. In a year, or two, or ten, another film maker will be given the reigns, and will start the whole process again. The character can handle one bad movie. And quite frankly, so can Nolan.

He’s a strong film maker, and although this movie makes about as much sense as Christy Clark’s energy policy of “I’m against the rape of natural resources unless I get a cut”, I think that I still have to say, that “I trust Christopher Nolan.”

Just not with Batman anymore.

Rating: D-

Best Comic Books Of 2011: Best Ongoing Comics Of The Year

The very idea of what an ongoing series is evolving all the time, but here are the rules I used for this category: If it’s over 10 issues, and at least 2 of those issues took place in 2010, it’s an ongoing. Now, quantity does count here. The more issues a “good” title releases in the year, the better it’ll fare against a title of similar quality that only put out a few issues. And so titles that are still relatively new like Animal Man, I Vampire, Pigs, or Near Death didn’t make it on the list this year. And titles that I normally love, but that put out less than 3 issues in 2011 like Scarlet, Orc Stain, or Powers don’t make the cut either.

20) Lil Depressed Boy by S. Stephen Struble and Sina Grace (Image)

Lonely Emo hipster finds love. Love goes bad. Smiths are listened to. That’s the basic premise of this fine, emotionally engaging comic. In a year age when only action and superhero comics  seem to make it to the stands, this was a refreshing change of pace. The cautiously optimistic tone, as well as the likeable lead created by Struble, are the two main reasons to keep coming back, despite the pessimistic nature of the title. Hope to see more books like this in 2012.

19) Secret Avengers by Warren Ellis and various artists (Marvel)

No offense to Ed Brubaker or Nick Spencer, but this book didn’t really take off until Warren Ellis took over the writing reigns, and turned it from just another team book into a 25 page action-packed explosion of pages, panels, and colour. Each issue stands completely alone, and doesn’t require you to be able to tell an Avenger from an X-Man.These are superheroes kicking ass, in the simplest possible way. Ellis is telling some pretty generic, yet throughly compelling superhero stories here, and Secret Avengers contains some of the best plotting I’ve seen from him in a while. Extra shout-outs go to the extremely varied group of talented artists that helped Ellis make this work as well as it did.

18) Detective Comics by Scott Snyder, Jock, and Francesco Francavilla (DC)

Snyder has been getting a lot of praise for his work on American Vampire, but it’s his arc here, on this old bloated beast of superhero comics, that made me pay attention to his work. The story stars Dick Grayson, the young protegé who has had to step up to the plate and taken over the mantle of the Batman. This arc is probably the most convincing argument I’ve seen for why Grayson should have been allowed to stay in the cowl, as it manages to be both a pure Batman tale and a pure Dick Grayson tale at the same time. I’m aware that part of the reason I enjoyed this so much may have something to do with the fact that Grant Morrison has been systematically destroying my beloved Batman over the past few years, but I digress. If you miss the Detective in Detective Comics, I’d give this a shot. P.S. Jock and Francesco Francavilla have fairly disparate art styles, but I never felt as if they clashed, and thought that they made great tag-team partners throughout this entire run.

 17)  Jonah Hex/All-Star Western by Jimmy Palmiotti, Justin Gray, various artists (DC)

I’ll lump these together as a) they’re by the same writers, and b) they’re both vehicles for Jonah Hex, DC’s notorious wild west bounty hunter. Jonah Hex was one of the best comics DC produced before their much vaunted September reboot, and it’s follow-up All-Star Western manages to keep the quality fairly high, though perhaps it’s a little toothless in comparison. Part of the appeal of the original series was the stand-alone adventure nature of the book, and so the switch to a more serial, continuity driven approach wasn’t exactly welcome news. Still, the book remains a solid western adventure read to this day.

16)  Usagi Yojimbo by Stan Sakai (Dark Horse)

200 issues. You heard me. Usagi Yojimbo hit 200 issues this year. You know what other independent creator-owned book hit a milestone like that this year? Can’t think of one? That’s because there are no other currently running creator-owned books that have even come close to the commercial or creative longevity that Usagi has had. Usagi Yojimbo is about the continuing adventures of a masterless samurai (or ronin) in feudal Japan. He’s also a talking rabbit, but that’s never really explained, and kind of besides the point. He rambles through the Japanese countryside, looking for ways to earn a meal or a warm fire. It’s a simple concept, and that simplicity is part of the reason why Sakai has kept the quality so very high for so very long. The impressionist sensibility of Sakai’s pencils help to keep the tone light, yet fairly vibrant.

15)  The Spirit by David Hine and Moritat (DC)

Will Eisner’s Spirit. In comic book circles, those three words are enough to make even the most fervent of fanboys blush. The Spirit was a Sunday strip that was created by Will Eisner in the very late 30′s, and managed to run until 1950 or so. Although the strip’s quality was inconsistent, when it was good it was VERY good, and remains some of the best adventure comic storytelling of all time. The character has had a resurgence since Eisner’s death, with various creators trying their hand at the seminal crime fighter. Darwyn Cooke’s version remains the very best of these,  but I was happy to see just how good David Hines and Moritat’s adaptation had become, at least before DC cancelled it. Hines realized that The Spirit himself is actually the least interesting part of Eisner’s creation, and that the character should always be just a gateway to telling small, entertaining crime stories. Unfortunately very few of the new DC reboot titles have matched this level of quality.

14)  Echo/Rachel Rising by Terry Moore (Abstract Studios)

It’s probably unfair to label these together as the genres involved are quite different. But given that they’re a) both by Terry Moore, b) both have solving a mystery as their main premise, and c) both are character vehicles first, I thought lumping them together would be ok. Echo ended after 30 issues this year, with Rachel starting only a few months later. While Echo was pure sci-fi, and Rachel seems to be plumbing the horror genre, they both should be read by anyone wanting to learn how to set up a convincing, intriguing mystery comic. I wish more people would give Moore’s comics a shot, as he’s doing some really enjoyable genre work these days.

13)  Ultimate Comics: Spider-Man  Vol. 1/Vol. 2 by Brian Bendis & various artists (Marvel)

Spider-Man died this year. Yes, Peter Parker. Deader than a dictator. Big deal, yes? Then why haven’t you heard about this? Because it’s the not the regular Spider-Man that died, it’s the one in the Ultimate Universe. God you’re dumb. And they wonder why no one reads comics anymore. Despite the confusing continuity, the reality is that THE Spider-Man title to buy over the last decade has been Brian Bendis’ work on Ultimate Spider-Man. It’s a simpler, modernized version of the origin of our beloved webcrawler, and Bendis decided to take it up a notch by putting him six feet in the ground. And the best part of it was that it was actually a great story. Actually, I’m going to go as far as to say that it was a capital G GREAT story. And while Parker has remained dead (for now), Bendis has created a more-than-suitable replacement in Miles Morales. This new addition to the Spidey mythos gave the franchise a kick in the pants that it maybe didn’t need, but was definitely welcome.

12)  The Walking Dead by Robert Kirkman and Charlie Adlard (Image)

This sacred cow of modern horror comics is still going, and thankfully it’s still going relatively strong. It’s a testament to Kirkman’s skills as a storyteller (and for creating such an open-ended concept in the first place) that this independent comic book has thrived in such a difficult time for the market, and has even spawned a successful TV show. The premise is simple: Zombies have taken over the world. A group of people are trying to survive. Simple it may be, but Kirkman understands that emotional responses in survival situations are anything BUT simple, and constantly invents creative new ways to put his characters under the emotional gun.

11)  The Unwritten by Mike Carey (Vertigo)

Unwritten is the story of Tommy Taylor, the son of a famous fantasy novelist, and the model for his most famous creation. He’s struggling to find his own way in the world, until he finds out that the line between fantasy and reality isn’t as clear as he once thought. In short, this is a story about stories. About how stories affect our lives, our culture, and our history. And as such, it’s about as ambitious as comics can get, and this year saw Carey exploring genres ranging from noir to fantasy, and from superhero to horror. In some ways, I don’t love this series quite as much as I once did now that many of the mysteries are solved and now that it’s morphing into a pure fantasy book, but the imaginative way that Carey and Gross utilize fiction tropes to tell their ambitious epic keeps me coming back for more.

10)  Chew by John Layman and Rob Guillory  (Image)

Tony Chu is the star here. He’s a FDA agent in a world where chicken has been outlawed due to a catastrophic epidemic of Bird Flu. He has the unique ability to  get a psychic impression through anything that he’s eaten, which as you would expect means that we get to see Chu eat a variety of disgusting things. My appreciation of this book was strong at first, but then soured as the comic started to get whackier, and more farcical. I’m happy to report that I’m back on the side of praise now, and I think I finally have the measure of what Layman and Guillory are all about. It’s a very thin line between serious cop drama, bizarre sci-fi, and hilarious farce that these guys are trying to draw, but they’re really pulling it off. This year saw them leap a year forward in the narrative for one issue, only to go back to the original timeline  in the next. It was a bold move, and one that could tie the hands of lesser creators. But in the wacky, capable hands of these talents it just seems par for the course.

9) DMZ by Brian Wood, Riccardo Burchielli, and Others (Vertigo)

In the near future, America is at war. Not with North Korea, or Iran, or Syria, but with itself. It’s the near future, and America is years into a brutal civil war, with the island of Manhattan serving as a “neutral” demilitarized zone. That’s the premise of DMZ, and it’s one that’s almost disturbingly familiar. As I’m writing this, one last issue of DMZ  is about to hit the stands, and it’s a bittersweet end. Creatively, it’s always great when books end on a high note. But in this era of pre-packaged superhero mediocrity, it’s a shame any time a book of this quality leaves the marketplace. DMZ wasn’t just a good comic, it was an important comic, one that served as a warning to what we might become if we’re not careful. Watching Brian Wood evolve into one of the mediums great writers over the past decade has been a real joy, and I’m going to go as far as to say that DMZ might be one of the finest war comics the medium has ever seen.

8)  Punisher Max by Jason Aaron & Steve Dillon (Marvel)

Probably the second most intense comic on the stands right now, which isn’t surprising since it’s written by the same guy who writes the first. It mystifies me that this sells as little as it does, as it’s easily among the most consistently well-made comics that Marvel has produced over the past few years. Forget what you think this series is about, as it requires absolutely no previous knowledge of The Punisher, or superheroes at all, to really enjoy it. What it is, is the story of an old man. His family was killed 30 years ago, and he’s spent every second of the decades since trying to kill criminals in a futile attempt at avenging that family’s deaths. And his time is almost up. This series has taught me a lot this year about what  it means to strip a story down to its bare essentials, as I can’t think of a single wasted beat that Aaron’s made since it started. Every single panel, is about setting up what looks to be a blaze of glory for the tragic lead character, and this might be the most emotionally charged comic on my list this year. Steve Dillon is firing on all cylinders here, and is turning in some of the best work of his career.

7) The Goon by Eric Powell (Dark Horse)

After a two-year sabbatical, Eric Powell took the reigns back in 2011 on the book that made him famous. Not only that, but he went back to his roots. By the time Powell had finished his last run on the book, The Goon had evolved into a long, dramatic horror series full of convoluted plots and strategically built tension. Powell has stepped back from that ledge however, and this year in The Goon was all about what the book was first famous for: Short, yet terrifyingly funny action-packed horror stories, full of scary monsters, dialogue that would make a dead drunken sailor blush, and some of the most beautifully disturbing artwork to be found in comics.  Although I’m looking forward to Powell getting back into the epic business, it’s been great to see him having fun again.

6) Rasl by Jeff Smith (Cartoon Books)

That this brilliant science fiction masterpiece hasn’t gotten more attention from the comic community is a real shame. I would probably rate this higher if it came out a little more often, but I’m definitely not complaining. Like recent issues of Sixth Gun and Sweet Tooth, it seemed as if there was quite a bit of exposition to get through this year in the pages of Rasl. One feels as if Smith had been waiting a long time to bring the true story of Nikola Tesla into the science fiction of RASL, and he did it pretty seamlessly. This is a large, alternate-universe epic Smith is creating here, and the only problem I have with it is that I don’t see how he could possibly wrap it up in the handful of issues left that he has planned.

5)  Sweet Tooth by Jeff Lemire (Vertigo)

It’s been nice to see Lemire get some mainstream success this year with his superhero writing, but he’s still most effective when he handles the art chores on his own work. So I was a little surprised when Lemire had Matt Kindt partner up with him on a few issues of Sweet Tooth this year. I shouldn’t have been. Kindt is a brilliant storyteller in his own right, and his art is a perfect complement to Lemire’s quirky sensibilities.  Sweet Tooth is a post-apocalyptic road story about a mutant and his shadowy father figure, but recent issues have seen Lemire attempt to fill in some of the holes regarding the world they live in, and how it go to be that way. In that light, Lemire’s decision to use a different artist makes sense, though part of me can’t wait for the main narrative to be revisited. Lemire’s work on Sweet Tooth is some of the best dramatic storytelling on the stands right now.

4) Northlanders by Brian Wood and various artists (Vertigo)

After a rare, and brief dip in quality with the near-terrible Metal, storyline, Brian Wood brought his Viking adventure anthology back on track this year with some pretty incredible writing, namely as seen in his brilliant Icelandic Trilogy. Sadly, this wasn’t enough to save the book, and Northlanders is scheduled for cancellation in a few months, along with Wood’s other book DMZ. This was one of the jewels of the Vertigo line, and one that I recommend often to people who love great storytelling, but haven’t really appreciated the medium of comics before. Wood understands intrinsically what most writers take years to figure out:  Genre is meaningless if you don’t have a great lead whose actions you care about passionately. And so although Wood’s chosen setting of circa 900AD Scandinavia is important, it always takes a back seat to his compelling lead characters, and the action-packed scenarios he throws them in. It’s sad that this book is ending, but at least it’s going out on a high note.

3) Here Comes….Daredevil! by Mark Waid, Marcos Martin, and Paolo Rivera (Marvel)

This book represents everything that is good and great about the medium of comics. It’s a return to the fun, swashbuckling version of Daredevil that usually comes in second place to the more popular, brooding one, but this book is so much more than that. More than any other superhero comic book being published today, this book uses the medium of comics to tell you it’s stories. Now, that just sounds like common sense right? It should be, but the sad truth is that so much of comic book storytelling today is stagnant. It’s become far more about genre than it is about medium. People like zombies? Here’s a screenplay about zombies in Vietnam, with some pictures!  Want to add some edge? Here’s Super-Zombie! Waid’s DD transcends all of that nonsense. It’s a comic about a superhero, but most importantly it’s a comic. It’s bold, It’s bright, and it uses every square inch of every single page to tell you it’s secrets. The art by Marcos Martin and Paolo Rivera are going to be dissected by comic book historians for years to come.

2) The Sixth Gun by Cullen Bunn and Brian Hurtt (Oni)

I wish more comics were like this one. Not exactly like this one obviously. But it’s the ambition I admire here. Sixth Gun is a western/horror pastiche about.a woman who inherits a magical gun from her father, and finds out pretty quickly that the gun holds some very dark secrets. This is a bold comic book, in that it’s combining several less-than-trendy genres in a time where getting people to buy anything that doesn’t have the word Bat in front of its title is almost impossible. At first I thought there would be a years worth of stories in this concept, tops, but as more issues come and go, it’s obvious that Bunn and Hurt are weaving a complex, epic story here, and it’s one that is bordering on genius.

1) Scalped by Jason Aaron & RM Guera (Vertigo)

If this comic doesn’t constantly give you goosebumps in the tuckus, than I think you’re in the wrong blog. This is “just” a populist crime story about a modern day indian reserve in South Dakota, but it’s one that’s so visceral, so stirring, and so  character-driven that I’m always surprised that it’s never gotten the mainstream attention that lesser Vertigo series seem to garner. This series still kicks me in the pants every time I read an issue. This is powerful crime storytelling at it’s very best, and the fact that it’s ending soon is a little depressing. I’m comforted however by the fact that it seems destined to go out on a high note. I’m hoping that years from now people will be talking about this title in the same way people talk about Criminal, or 100 Bullet, although I think that it’s already proven that it’s their equal. Unfortunately, 2012 is going to be the last for this fantastic neo-noir.

Honourable Mention:

Incorruptible by Mark Waid and Marcio Takara (BOOM), I, Vampire by Joshua Fialkov and Andrea Sorrentino (DC), Animal Man by Jeff Lemire and Travel Foreman (DC), Pigs by Ben McCool, Nate Cosby, and Breno Temura (Image), Near Death by Jay Faerber and Simone Guglielmini (Image), Captain America and Bucky by Ed Brubaker and Francesco Francavilla, (Marvel), Secret Six by Gail Simone and Jim Caliofore (DC), Batgirl by Bryan Miller and Dustin Nguyen (DC), Batgirl by Gail Simone and Ardian Syaf (DC), Batwoman by JH Williams and W. Haden Blackman (DC), Butcher Baker by Joe Casey and Mike Huddleston (Image)

Would have gotten on the list if more issues had comes out: Wasteland by Antony Johnston and various artists (IDW), Scarlet by Brian Bendis and Alex Maleev (ICON), Godland by Joe Casey and Tom Scioli (Image), Orc Stain by James Stokoe (Image), Powers by Brian Bendis and Michael Avon Oeming (Icon)

Best Comics Of 2011: Best Mini-Series of the Year

The rules here are a little arbitrary but its probably the simplest way to categorize this. Basically a title is eligible if it’s between 2-10 issues long, and ENDED in 2011. Which means great minis like Matt Fraction’s Casanova: Avaritia, or Brian Azzarello’s Spaceman will have to wait until next year to be considered. Unfortunately this also means that titles that started years ago but aren’t finished yet aren’t eligible either, which leaves out things like Ben McCool’s Memoir. No worries, as there are still plenty of eligible mini-series well worth your time.

20. The Witch Doctor by Brandon Seifert & Lukas Ketner (Skybound/Image)

It was tempting to dismiss this as yet another of the dozens of shoddy supernatural adventurer comics that seem to clog up the stands these days. But Seifert and Ketner are definitely onto something here, with their whimsical Quincy meets Doc Frankenstein pastiche. They’re in monster-of-the-week territory for sure, but the basic premise is so sound that forgiveness is forthcoming. The addition of real medical explanations for supernatural happenstance is a welcome one, and Ketner is turning out some of the best monsters in comics.

19. Billy The Kid’s Old Timey Oddities & The Ghastly Fiend Of London by Eric Powell & Kyle Hotz (Dark Horse)

Billy The Kid Vs. Jack The Ripper, and in not in a slash fiction-y sort of way, which was nice. Yee-Haw! Powell kept busy during his hiatus from his seminal Goon series, and this odd little monster-hunting mini is one of the more pleasant results. Better than most of the LOEXG copycats currently clogging up the stands.

18. Xombi by John Rozum and Frazer Irving (DC)

Xombi was a series that run as part of the Milestone/DC universe back in the 90′s, starring a human/nanite cyborg that couldn’t die. Critics loved it. No one bought it. Fast forward 20 years later, and after decades of absolutely no one asking for it to be brought back, it was. I’m not really sure how this got greenlit at DC in the first place, but I’m glad it did, if only to highlight how devoid of originality and big ideas the two big publishers are right now. Xombi picked up right where it’s predecessor left off, highlighting the adventures of David Kim as he deals with the craziness that come with his new life as a techno-infested immortal. This really was like nothing else published by the big two this year, which is probably why it barely lasted 6 issues. But the convoluted yet entertaining scripts of John Rozum, and the effortlessly creepy pencils of Frazer Irving are well worth the time of fans of the weirder side of comics.

17. Atomic Robo: The Deadly Art Of Science by Brian Clevinger & Scott Wegener (Red5)

With his admittedly pulpy roots, it was just a matter of time before Atomic Robo got placed into a proper 1930′s pulp-hero adventure. The Deadly Art Of Science sees the mechanical adventurer team up with crime fighter Jack Tarot and his daughter/partner Nightingale, as they battle the evil science of Thomas Edison. Muuah-ha-and-a-double-ha.  I like pretty much everything that Wegener and Clevinger have done to date with their Robo character, but to me they haven’t quite recaptured the heights they reached during their epic Shadows From Beyond Time mini-series. Still, the fun inherent in the characters and concepts more than make up for it. Got kids? Get this.

16. Locke and Key: Keys To The Kingdom by Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez (IDW)

It’s one of the most original books on the stands, but with such ambition comes the danger of overreaching. Locke And Key hasn’t done that yet, but this epic ghost story is becoming so weird, and so strange, that getting new readers at this late date might be almost impossible. With Vertigo taking a break from being Vertigo this year, Locke & Key remains your best bet for bizarre, unconventional horror.

15. Axe-Cop: Bad Guy Earth by Ethan Nicolle and Malachi Nicolle (Dark Horse)

After the runaway success of the Axe-Cop webcomic as a viral sensation, Ethan Nicolle was approached by Dark Horse to create a print version of his brilliant tribute to stream-of-consciousness narrative. One month of intense playtime with his 6-year-old brother (and series writer) Malachi later, and we have Bad Guy Earth, a more than worthy addition to the Axe-Cop mythos. Yes, the writer of this comic is 6 years old, and it shows. Gloriously. As I wrote when doing my best webcomics list, there are no rules here, no shades of grey. Only good guys, versus the unyielding menace of..BAD GUY EARTH. 

14. B.P.R.D. Hell On Earth – Gods/Monsters by Mike Mignola, John Arcudi, Guy Davis, and Tyler Crook (Dark Horse)

Forget Marvel or DC. My favourite shared universe in comics is and has been for a long time, the Mignola-verse. Or if you’d like, the world where Hellboy lives. And while Hellboy hasn’t been associated with the BPRD in a decade or so, the BPRD is still going strong. Well, not really strong, as the Hell On Earth tagline that now accompanies all BPRD books isn’t so much a slogan as it is an accurate description of the world they now live in. In short, they’re screwed.  Gods and Monsters gave the characters a chance to catch their breath after the horrific events of The King Of Fear, and focus on what the Bureau’s role will be in this new, post-apocalyptic world. Monsters also saw the addition of Tyler Crook to the creative team, and in a very short period of time it appears as if Crook will make a more than worthy successor to the talents of Guy Davis.

13. Incognito: Bad Influences by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips (Icon)

 The original Incognito mini introduced us to Zack Overkill, a former super-villain trying to stay on the straight and narrow. In Bad Influences, Zack is in full hero mode, and is working for the forces of good. But for Zack, staying on the right side of the law is harder than it looks. My only critique of Brubaker and Philip’s follow-up to their critically acclaimed super-noir Incognito mini is that I’m not sure it was necessary. I loved the first mini, but the concept wasn’t one that screamed “SEQUEL NEEDED” to me. I’m happy to report that I was wrong. It’s obvious that Brubaker and Phillips are trying to duplicate the slowly building pressure of their much-missed Sleeper series here, putting their hero through horrific events that are bound to just get worse with every arc. I’m happy to say that I can’t wait for the sequel.

12. Mystery Men by David Liss & Patrick Zircher (Marvel)

This was Marvel’s attempt at fleshing out their pre-WW2 era mythos, and while I don’t know if they succeeded at that, they did succeed at staging an entertaining 1930′s pulp comic with exciting new characters that was better than almost anything else they put on the stands this year. It’s the story of five masked heroes in 1930′s New York, who team up to overcome a giant conspiracy. This was better than it had any right to be, and one hopes that Marvel doesn’t dilute its critical success here by giving us unnecessary sequels. Hope to see more of this team in the future.

11. Baltimore: The Curse Bells by Mike Mignola, Chris Golden, and Ben Stenbeck (Dark Horse)

The second of four Mignola-related books on my list, but it’s the result of real quality rather than any bias on my part. The work Mignola is producing these days with his collaborative partners is just that good. The character of Lord Henry Baltimore was conceived both by Mignola and by novelist Chris Golden to be the ultimate tortured vampire hunter. He’s on the hunt for Haigus, the vampire that a) is trying to take over Europe, and b) killed his family. Although Baltimore doesn’t have nearly the likability or charisma of other Mignola heroes like Hellboy or Sir Edward Grey, what the story lacks in fun it makes up for in terror, and there’s an edge here that’s often missing in other Mignola books.

10. Witchfinder: Lost & Gone Forever by Mike Mignola, John Arcudi, and John Severin (Dark Horse)

Victorian supernatural detective meets weird western ghost story, as written by two of today’s strongest creators, and drawn by one of the industry’s great pencillers? You had me at hello. Witchfinder is peripherally connected to Mignola’s larger Hellboy mythology, but these chilling adventures of Mignola’s Sir Edward Grey character stand up on their own quite nicely. In Lost & Gone Forever, Grey is in the American mid-west trying to track down a member of a mystical secret society. What he finds instead is…wait for it….HORROR! Ha. Like pretty much everything connected with Mignola these days, the quality of the work here is high. What makes this one so  special though, is the beautiful art of EC comics legend John Severin. I’m ashamed to admit that I was barely familiar with his work before this, and I’ve been trying to catch up ever since. If I was ranking just on quality of art work, this 89-year-old legend would have taken the top spot.

9. The Last Mortal by John Mahoney and Flip Sabilik (Image)

This got overlooked this year in lieu of flashier, yet lesser Image minis, but I’m hoping that an upcoming collected version will give this well-crafted thriller a second lease on life. It’s the story of Alex King, a petty criminal that finds out one day that he has a superpower: he can’t die. In the hands of lesser talent, that would be the end of it, and the entire story would coast on that conceit. But Mahoney and Sabilik understand that it’s characters that bring people back, and so they’ve created a tragic, and charismatic lead that we as readers can’t help but want to see succeed. The superpower stuff is just icing on the cake, and that restraint is the sign of real talent.

8. Comic Book Comics by Fred Van Lente and Ryan Dunlavey (Evil Twin Comics)

This was Van Lente and Dunlavey’s attempt at creating a somewhat comprehensive overview of the history of comics, in comic book form. This was an ambitious project by the creators of Action Philosophers, and as such took a few years to finish. In terms of tone, the closest comparison I could make it to are Larry Gonick’s fun and fantastic Cartoon History Of The World books. As far as essential books needed to full understand how comics became what they are today, I’d say that it’s pretty much indispensible.

7. Who Is Jake Ellis? By Nathan Edmondson and Tonci Zonjic (Image)

Edmondson has been on my talent to watch list ever since last year’s creepy The Light mini-series, and I’m pleased to say that his follow-up is as good, if not better. It’s the story of Jon Moore, a mercenary that’s on the run from various enemies. He’s completely alone, with one exception: Jake Ellis, a man who offers Moore logistical and technical support wherever possible. Only snag? Only Moore can see him.  This was one of the more overly cinematic books on the stands this year, with Tonci Zonjic’s moody but precise pencils providing a well-crafted canvas for Edmonson’s tight story.

6. Batman: Knight Of Vengeance by Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Risso (DC)

I won’t bore you with the details of what DC’s mega-event Flashpoint was all about other than to say that it’s a) over, and b) was terrible, but I will say that n this year of superhero mediocrity, it would take a hell of a lot to get me to rank a Flashpoint mini series  in my top 10 of the year. This, my friends, is a hell of a lot of comic. First of all, it’s by the team that brought you 100 Bullets, which pretty much guarantees a first look. Second of all, it’s one of the best superhero books I’ve read all year. The skinny: This is an alternate-universe tale, and one in which it was Bruce Wayne that was killed by a mugger’s bullet in that alley so long ago, not his parents. In this world, it’s Dr. Thomas Wayne that picks up the cowl of Batman in an effort to avenge the family he lost decades before. This sounds a little gimmicky, but Azzarello and Risso took this series very seriously, and put together a great three-part tragedy that will tear the heart out of pretty much anybody who reads it. P.S. Wait till you find out who the Joker is….

5. Hellboy: The Fury by Mike Mignola and Duncan Fegredo (Dark Horse)

Hellboy is dead. As a doornail. And this is the series that killed him. Mike Mignola has been building towards this monumental mini for a few years now. Like any major character death, the true measure of whether or not it was the right thing to do is if it caused a legitimate emotional response in its readers, and thankfully Mignola has evolved so much as a writer in recent years that he was able to pull that off without a hitch. Fegredo has become such a formidable partner for Mignola that his depiction of the decades-in-the-making battle of between Hellboy and the Ogdru Jahad is going to be talked about for years to come.

4. Echoes by Joshua Fialkov and Rahsan Ekedal (Minotaur/Image)

Brian Cohn is a sick man, but he’s doing better. He’s been struggling with a serious case of schizophrenia, but with the help of drugs and his supportive wife, he’s learning to cope. Until he learns that his father may have been a serial killer.  Bazaam. If I was doing a pure horror comics list, this would have easily crushed the top spot. Lots of horror comics being produced right now are either monster of the week books (BPRD) or apocalyptic gross-out sagas (Crossed), but few of them are actually scary. Echoes isn’t just scary, it’s terrifying. Fialkov isn’t just an up-and-coming talent anymore, he’s arrived, and if you want to learn how to build tension in a comic book, look no further than Echoes.

3. Ozma Of Oz by Eric Shanower and Skottie Young (Marvel)

In Ozma Of Oz, little Dorothy Gale encounters robots, talking chickens, and bulimic tigers. Just another day in Oz, then. Ozma is Shanower and Young’s third adaptation of Frank Baum’s original Oz books, and they’re pretty much guaranteed to be on my best of lists as long as they keep doing them.  Ozma sees Dorothy Gale return to Oz, and is more of a pure sequel to the Wizard Of Oz than the Marvelous Land Of Oz was.  These minis are fairly faithful to the originals, and as such are both enhanced and hindered by the wonder and weirdness of the original series. Thankfully Shanhower’s love of the source material, and Young’s original sense of visual storytelling make them the perfect collaborators for these projects.Want your kids to get into comics? This is a great start.

2. Sweets by Kody Chamberlain (Image)

I wanted to include this in last year’s list, but it didn’t actually wrap up until 2011, so I waited. And I’m glad I did. Chamberlain’s story of a New Orleans Detective on the hunt for a serial killer days before Hurricane Katrina hits is an emotional powerhouse, and one that’s best served all in one bite. Chamberlain sets up tropes familiar to those us who love modern crime stories: An at-the-end-of-his-rope protagonist. Political intrigue. A moody, evocative setting. But it’s the way he blends them all together that’s the real joy here. Can’t wait to see what Chamberlain comes up with next.

1. Criminal: Last Of The Innocent by Ed Brubaker & Sean Phillips (Icon)

What do you give the comic that has everything?  More praise, I guess? I can’t imagine anybody reading this blog that isn’t at least peripherally aware of the brilliant work that Brubaker and Phillips have been doing on their Criminal mini-series for the past five years or, but if you’re not, here goes: Each mini series is self-contained, and stars…wait for it….a criminal. Yep. Doing crime. And while it’s getting a bit redundant to say so, Last Of The Innocent might be the finest Criminal story to date. It’s the story of Riley Richards, a small town boy done well. He got the girl, he got the job, got the money…but he’s not happy. Yet. And he’s ready to do pretty much anything to get  there. This isn’t just a compelling story, it’s a masterclass on modern comic storytelling. Brubaker and Phillips use flashbacks in such a unique and exciting way that they’re not just telling you the history of their characters, they’re telling you the history of comics.

Honourable mention: Ruse by Mark Waid, Mirco Pierfederici, & Minck Oosterveer, (Marvel),  Undying Love by Tomm Coker & Daniel Freedman (Image), Chronicles Of Wormwood: Last Battle by Garth Ennis & Oscar Jimenez (Avatar), The Mission by Jon Hoeber, Erich Hoeber, and Werther Dell’Edera (Image)

New DC 52 Review: Action Comics, Detective Comics, Stormwatch, and a bunch of others…

Let’s review: DC Comics (home of Gorilla Grodd, Blue Beetle, and Ragdoll. Oh, and Superman and Batman) decided to reboot their entire line of comics. Every comic they published started from number one again, including the comics that had been running non stop since the 1940′s, and nothing that we have ever  read in a DC comic has actually happened before. The goal is to streamline their admittedly very confusing continuity, in order to make DC’s comics more accessible to new readers.

I’m a little surprised that I’m doing this, as I met the whole DC reboot thing with a resounding shrug of indifference. I’m not really doing much superhero reading these days, and continuity means less to me than ever before. I was reading exactly 5 DC comics before the reboot, and they were all cancelled (though to be fair, they probably would have all been cancelled anyways.) But as the day to the reboot got closer and closer, I have to admit that I got a little excited. Why?

Because superhero comics is what I grew up on. They’re what got me hooked on this medium, and no matter how many independent autobiographical graphic novels I read, I’ll always have a soft spot in my heart for superheroes. They were my first love, and you never forget your first love. The thing is, it takes a LOT for a superhero comic to impress me these days. When reading these, all I wanted was a good, enjoyable story. That’s it. I didn’t care about how the continuity didn’t jive with what happened before, or who the characters were. All I wanted were good stories.

Did I get my wish?

Batgirl #1 by Gail Simone and Adiran Syaf

A quick summary for those not familiar with Batgirl: For decades, she was Commisioner Gordon’s daughter Barbara. Who was then shot in the spine by the Joker, and ended up in a wheelchair. Barbara then became an information broker/IT support to DC’s superhero set under the name of Oracle, and as a result of the work that Gail Simone did with her on Birds Of Prey, proceeded to become one of the more interesting parts of the DCU. Other people went on to become Batgirl.

I had mixed reactions going into this book. Although I have all the confidence in the world in Gail Simone, I did think that this book was unnecessary. Bryan Miller had done an excellent job in getting me to love Stephanie Miller as Batgirl, and Gail Simone had also done an even better job over the years in getting me to love Barbara Gordon as Oracle. I loved that one of the more interesting players in the DCU was in a wheelchair, and I thought that putting her back in the Batgirl suit was gimmicky at best, superfluous at worst.

I hate to say it, but I think I was right.

Batgirl is a fine comic. There are some nice dialogue bits (always a Simone trademark), and I really liked Adrian Syaf’s action sequences a lot. And I really loved the concept of Batgirl being terrified to be Batgirl. We take it for granted that every superhero is a bucket full of courage, so it was nice to see one actually freeze up in the face of danger, and for good reason But I think one of the main things that the new DC books need to do is to show exactly WHY they should be replacing the books that they do. And there was nothing in Gail Simone’s Batgirl that accomplished that for me. You could have told the exact same story with Miller’s Batgirl, and in fact it might have made more sense, considering that character’s age, and lack of experience.

I think that Simone was put on this book because of her background with the Barbara Gordon character, but it’s pretty obvious that this isn’t the Barbara Gordon we know. Shared experiences aside, there is a casualness and joy about this version of the character that hasn’t existed in the character in decades, and it really feels like a step back for the character, not a step forward. And I guess that’s the point. But as far as I can tell, this Batgirl isn’t much different from the series it replaced, except that A)  The name of the character is different, and B) it isn’t quite as good.

Rating: C+

Batwing #1 by Judd Winick and Ben Oliver

This is one of the most underordered of the new DC books, but I picked it up based on the strength of Judd Winick’s skills. I’ve always liked his superhero writing, and while his talents are obvious here, I don’t think they are going to be enough to really make this book a success.Although the setting of Africa is somewhat untapped for a superhero book, at the end of the day, it’s just another costumed guy fighting other costumed guys. There is nothing “bad” about this book whatsoever, but there’s also not enough that’s unique about it to justify more than a first read.

Rating: C

Detective Comics #1 by Tony Daniel and Ryan Winn

While Daniel’s talents as an artist are obvious, his skills as a writer have been lost on me thus far, and unfortunately Detective Comics #1 doesn’t do much to change my mind. As with most of the other DC books I read today, this was a fine superhero comic book. Rights get wronged, bad guys get vanquished, etc. etc. But the dialogue here is overly heavy-handed at times, and there are a lot of words that most likely were best unsaid. For the most part, there seemed to be almost no difference between this Batman, and the Batman we knew two weeks ago, except that A) his costume sucks, and B) everyone is about 10 years younger.

But what’s getting people talking is the final page. And don’t get me wrong, it’s an AWESOME final page. One of the best cliffhangers I’ve read this year in fact. Unfortunately I had to slog through 24 average pages to read it.

Rating: C

Justice League International #1 by Dan Jurgens and Aaron Lopresti

The JLI is a beloved concept among DC fans. In its hey day, the title represented an excellent mix of humour and action, both of which are traits that are sadly absent in today’s first issue. It’s hard to see just how DC got this one so wrong. It wasn’t even 6 months ago that Judd Winick was finishing up probably the best JLI story NOT written by Keith Giffen. The team was re-energized, sales were good. And then this. It’s hard to imagine a comic less fun, less funny, and less full of the spark that got people invested in these characters in the first place. That this was actually published does not give me confidence in DC’s editorial team.

Rating: D

Stormwatch #1 by Paul Cornell and Miguel Sepulveda

When talking to people online, this seemed to be the book people were most curious about,probably because it involved the most obvious changes to DC continuity. Like I’ve said before, I don’t care about the changes so much. I have no problem with change. All I care about is good stories. And this, my friends, is NOT a good story. In fact, this was a terrible story. Kudos to DC for trying to bring back old Wildstorm characters, but what DC doesn’t seem to understand is that the original Ellis/Millar run on Authority had NOTHING to do with the characters. It had everything to do with what was happening in the world at the time, and in comics. Authority wasn’t about superheroes, it was a reaction against them. And with all due respect to the talented writers who tried to salvage the Authority after Mark Millar left the book, but it’s a comic whose time has passed. Every interesting story you could tell with a group of heroes who have positioned themselves above even earth’s premier superheroes has been done, and with the all-ages mandate that DC has, there is NO way that they’re going to be able to tell the edgy, dark stories that the concept demands. Paul Cornell is a writer that has been given much praise as of late, but there’s been nothing since his days on Captain Britain that has really impressed me. And this clumsy, half-baked, watered down attempt at reviving a concept that should have stayed dead does nothing to change that opinion.

Rating: D

Swamp Thing #1 by Scott Snyder and Yanick Paquette

I’ve never really cottoned to the Swamp Thing character. I know, I know. It’s the character that first introduced Alan Moore to North American audiences, and so there will always be a soft spot in people’s heart for the concept. But it’s never done that much for me, and I’ve ignored most attempts to update the character. So if I don’t care about Swamp Thing, then why did I pick this up? Two words: Scott Snyder. His run on Detective Comics really surprised and impressed me, and his new series for Image is intriguing as well. Unfortunately, he seems to be saddled with a LOT of baggage here, as the editorial committee at DC seems determined to cram a lot of back story down our throats. So even though in theory all continuity has been rebooted, there are still stories that apparently happened, and so most of this issue is about telling us how all of that stuff matters, even though it shouldn’t. This book looked pretty, but there was nothing in it of any real substance, and nothing that would convince me to get a second issue.

Rating: C

Men Of War #1 by Ivan Brandon and Tom Derenick

There have already been comparison’s to Garth Ennis’ work with this title, but I can’t see it. Other than the fact that it’s a book about military men, there is none of the emotion, or tension, or drama that you would find in an Ennis book when he’s at the top of his game. What you do get here is a solid, Sgt. Rock update. And while I have no problem with a solid Sgt. Rock update, and appreciate that there is room in this DCU for non-superpowered folks, this is simply just another ok book, among a lot of other ok books that were released today.

Rating: C

Animal Man by Jeff Lemire and Travel Foreman

This was probably one of the most anticipated of the new books, and I’m happy to report that its also easily the best of the bunch. By a lot. Why? Because this was the only title of the lot today that actually took any chances, and that was anything more than just a run-of-the-mill DC superhero book. And  it was also the only one to really try to take advantage of the slimmer continuity and try to really reinvent it’s character in a real way. I mean, any superhero comic book that starts with a full-page of TEXT, and then continues with 5 full pages of a family talking around a breakfast table has to be something special right? Or terrible. Thankfully in this case it’s the former. Jeff Lemire continues to show why he is one of the brightest young stars in comics today with a book so full of  emotion, drama, and character development, that I kept thinking I was reading a Vertigo book. So far, it’s only one of two of the new titles that actually made me excited to read the second issue.

Rating: A

Action Comics by Grant Morrison and Rags Morales

When reading online feedback about this reboot, variations on this theme kept cropping up: “At least Action Comics by Geoff Johns will be great right? “. It was nice to see that at least one prediction regarding this relaunch came true. At first glance, Superman is DC’s character most in need of a reboot. He stands for truth, justice, and is a black and white figure in a world full of greys.In other words, the character doesn’t really fit in today’s world. And so what does Grant Morrison do? He exaggerates every single one of the character traits that make Superman anachronistic to this era. Morrison’s Superman is a cocky, yet naive man-child stumbling from adventure to adventure, never once thinking about the consequences of his actions. There are bad guys. They need to be stopped. The end.

That’s the way Morrison’s Superman thinks, and it’s a wonderful character flaw to have in a character that has no actual weaknesses. The other thing that Morrison does here is to capture the sheer wonder that everyone in Metropolis regarding the miracles that Superman performs on a regular basis. On page after page, we see characters react in disbelief at what this man of steel can do. It’s a refreshing take on a world that is usually pretty blase about these sorts of things. I also need to mention Rags Morales here. He’s been one of my favourite superhero artists ever since Identity Crisis, but I think he surpasses that work here. He captures the dynamic energy of our hero so perfectly, that I can’t believe he hasn’t always been doing this book.

If it took upsetting the entire DC apple cart to get this book, it was worth it.

Rating A-

To sum up: Out of the 9 books I read today, I loved 2, liked one, despised two, and thought the rest were ok. The one thing that I think DC missed the boat on is to really start from scratch with these characters. Most of these books take place about 5 years after the first superheroes were sighted. So even though OUR history with these characters didn’t exist, they still do have a history, and too many of the books needed more exposition than should have been necessary for comics attempting to entice new viewers.

Still, not a horrible first week, I guess.

 

DC New 52 Review: Justice League #1

The new Justice League, 3 of whom aren't actually in this issue.

So if you’re at all interested in comics, or sleeping with someone who is, you know all about the big DC relaunch that’s coming. DC Comics is essentially wiping the slate clean, and rebooting their entire universe. None of the stories that you loved growing up actually happened, and they are rebuilding their entire continuity from the ground up. It’s like Greedo shooting first, but on an epic, cosmic scale.

I find myself in a perpetual state of not giving a shit. To me, good comic stories are good comic stories. The minute I stopped caring so much about things like continuity, is the minute I started really enjoying comics. And besides, I’m not reading much superhero stuff these days anyways, so they could put a Superman suit on a gay monkey and I probably wouldn’t notice. But because EVERYONE is talking about it, I decided to read the very first issue of the new reboot: Justice League #1. This issue is the first real peak that DC is giving us into their new universe, and as such should be designed to absolutely blow new readers away, and to give old readers a real sense of ‘HOLYCRAPICANTBELIEVETHEYDIDTHATTOSUPERMAN’

This issue succeeds on neither front.

Mediocre is a word that gets thrown around a lot, with usually a more negative connotation than it deserves. But sadly, it’s the perfect word for this sleepy, sleepy comic book. First of all, if you’re going to have a comic book about a team of heroes, I expect to see that team in the book. No? How about half the team? Just barely? Sigh. This issue focuses almost exclusively on Batman and Green Lantern, and one might suspect that writer Geoff Johns thought that his Green Lantern movie was going to be a hit when he wrote this, and thus decided to showcase the two heroes most recognizable to modern audiences. So basically Green Lantern and Batman team up to go after evil aliens, and find themselves on the run from the cops for most of the issue. This gives them plenty of time to snark at each other, and then at the end of the issue a guy shows up that I think is supposed to be Superman but couldn’t be because there is NO way that DC would ever allow such a bad costume design to actually get into one of their comic books.

And that’s pretty much the issue. Two people team up to take down a bad guy, and then another person shows up at the end. Hardly a world building blockbuster. This book wasn’t “bad” in the traditional sense. Jim Lee is considered one of the great living superhero comic book artists for a reason, and he makes pretty much every page pop here. And Geoff Johns put together a decent ‘Heroes put aside their differences” story. But this book is essentially the pilot for the biggest comic launch the business has seen since 1986.. Words like “decent” and “average” shouldn’t be used for this book. Words like ‘Skullripping” and “EyeballExploding” should.

Let me clarify: My negativity isn’t a backlash against the continuity changes they’re making here. I don’t care about any of that. I don’t care that it’s different, all I care about is that it’s good. And this ain’t.

I will still give some of the new issues that launch next week a chance. When it comes to superhero comics these days, It’s creators I care about, not characters. And so since people like Peter Milligan, and Gail Simone, and Nathan Edmonson, and Jeff Lemire, and Matt Kindt, have new books, I will definitely give them a try.
But if Justice League #1 is indicative of what’s in store for me, I’m not holding out much hope.
Rating: C

My review of Harry Potter & The Deathly Hallows, Part 2

I’ve been looking forward to this all week,  and I’m happy to say that I wasn’t disappointed.

Some spoilers: The movie started with a Liam Neeson voice over from the first film. He reminds us that every hero has a journey, but that if Bruce worked really hard he could become a legend. Then we cut to Commissioner Gordon. He says that Bruce didn’t work hard enough. Gordon apparently has had a bad day. He’s in the hospital, and he’s hurt. He’s mad at Batman for quitting, but says that he has to come back now that there is great evil in Gotham. As opposed to the rest of the time when Gotham is a rainbow-covered paradise full of unicorns and moonbeams, I guess. Batman whines a bit, but Gordon tells him to man up. Then we see Tom Hardy as Bane for the first time. We pee our pants. Then Batman sees Tom Hardy as Bane for the first time, and HE pees his Bat-pants. Then there is some yelling, and chanting, and that’s the end.

Commissioner Gordon in "Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows, Part Two"

I loved this. It told me everything I needed to know about the sequel that’s coming next summer. It had a great plot, interesting characters, and some solid acting by Gary Oldman.

Rating: A

The 30-year-old teen wizard that starred in the horrible film that was shown at the end of Harry Potter

P.S. At the end there was a two-hour piece of incomprehensible dreck about a 30-year-old man pretending to be a 15-year-old wizard, who seemed to be on a confusing Choose Your Own Adventure: Magic Edition full of gaping plot points, terrible, angst-ridden acting, and dozens of characters that show up with no explanation but then leave just as abruptly with no rhyme or reason. There was also  a guy with a pretty bad skin condition that either a) wants to kill the post-pubescent wizard, or b) wants to have sex with him, or c) just wants to know how an Oscar nominated actor of his calibre somehow ended up in this piece of swill. Although I can’t really tell you what it was about, I can tell you that every time it got too confusing some actor would just make up a new word to describe whatever was happening on the screen as if that would explain things, and about half way through the movie everybody took a break and did a flash mob where they kissed whomever was standing next to them, even though that was the first scene some of those people had together in the whole movie. At the end they thankfully fast forwarded through the next 19 years of these people’s lives so that we could see that anything remotely interesting about the characters had been sucked out by the gaping maw of middle age.

Rating: D+ (the + is for the best albino dragon I’ve seen on-screen this year. Well, other than Nancy Grace)

The Great Comics Book Cull Of 2010/2011 Part 27: DC Comics – Superman & Batman

Superman & BatmanGenerations 1 & 2

Much has been made of John Byrne’s descent into madness. Or at least mediocrity. Byrne was considered one of the preeminent pencillers of the ’80′s, and also quickly showed that he had considerable writing skills as well. However,  like Stephen Harper and common sense, Byrne and great comic books seem to have parted ways at some point, and much of the work I’ve read of his in the past decade or so is pretty close to unreadable. And unfortunately these two trades are shining examples of that.

Here is the premise: These series follow the adventures of Superman & Batman from the beginning of their careers to the far future. Unlike most superhero comic books, the adventures take place in real time, as opposed to super slow superhero time. Also unlike most superhero comic books, it’s god awful and should be barred from the sight of god and man.

I’m being harsh, but that’s because I’m comparing Generations to the work that Byrne has done in the past. You see, I’m a little ahead in my reading, and I’ve recently reread the work he did in the 80′s on titles such as Alpha Flight and Fantastic Four. And they were awesome. Absolutely awesome. And so as a big fan of the man’s previous work, I think I have the right to critisize, for what that’s worth. First of all, Mr. Byrne needs to stop inking his own pencils. Immediately. The man is one of the all-time great superhero artists, but these days his art is so unfocused that it makes Bill Sienkiewicz look like Jim Lee. That’s a little comic book art humour for those in the group that care about such things.

Secondly, he seems to have forgotten that comic books are a visual medium. So, if you have Batman standing on a building, and Superman is flying down to meet him, you don’t need to have Batman saying: “Hey, it’s Superman”. We know. We can see him. You’re the one that put him there.

Thirdly, this thing is cheesy. SO cheesy. And while I think that that may have been Byrne’s point at some point, it doesn’t make for interesting reading. I’m being pretty nasty here, so let me end by saying that no one would be happier than me to have Byrne take his rightful place back among the ranks of the comic book elite.

Superman & Batman - Public Enemies, Vengeance, Supergirl, Absolute Power

These were the first 4 trades of a series that still continues today.  I’ve talked a lot of smack about Jeph Loeb in recent months, and rightfully so. His strongest talent seems to be convincing great artists to make his scripts look amazing. And so while these might not be 5 star Superman/Batman stories, they are definitely solid 3 star stories. Excessively goofy at times, and formulaic to a fault, but still enjoyable in a high camp kind of way.

KEEP

Superman & BatmanEnemies Among Us

This was the first trade of the series after Jeph Loeb left, and the kindest thing I can say about it is that it made his writing seem brilliant in comparison. Although Mark Verheiden has done admirable work in both comics and film, he turned in a hackneyed alien invasion script that defied logic and common sense. Only Ethan Van Sciver’s beautiful, but menacing pencils make this worth reading, but unfortunately they’re not enough to make it worth keeping.

CULL

Next up: Teen Titans! They’re like superheroes, but with puberty!

 

The Great Comic Book Cull Of 2010/2011: A brief interlude to discuss superhero comic books

When I started this blogging project, the idea was to talk about how my tastes have changed over the years, and how my changing tastes may be influencing my feelings towards comics I loved when I was younger. I’ve kind of gotten away from that a bit, and changed it into a history/overview of popular characters.

So I thought I should take a second to let you know how I’m feeling about superhero comics right now.

I hate them.

Well, maybe hate is a strong word. As I’m doing my culling, I’m still going out every Wednesday and buying new graphic novels, and I find that I’m getting far more

Superman. I'm pretty sick of him right about now.

satisfaction from reading books like Northlanders, Acme Novelty Library, Two Generals, or Grandville Mon Amour, than I do from MOST of the superhero stuff that I’m rereading. So why am I keeping so much? I think a big part of it is familiarity. It’s comfortable to read a Batman comic where you know who all the players are, know the kind of the story you’re going to get, and also know that eventually Batman is going to win in the end. Or be hurtled through time while his protegé fills in for him, only to come back but for some reason announce to the world that Bruce Wayne is funding Batman even though that would just open up any businessman to a billion lawsuits and also make people start to wonder if Bruce Wayne really IS Batman after all? One or the other.

Don’t get me wrong. There are still superhero comics being put out that I enjoy, and I will ALWAYS love superhero mythology. Mark Waid’s Irredeemable, Gail Simone’s Birds of

If you HAVE to read a superhero comic, why not make it one that isn't horrible?

Prey and Secret Six, Roger Langridges’ Thor: The Mighty Avenger, Geoff Johns’ Green Lantern and Superman: Secret Origin, and Jeff Parker’s Atlas are all fun and interesting, and totally worth your time. Other recent superhero titles such as J.M. DeMattheis’ Savior 28 or John Arcudi’s A God Somewhere attempt to push the envelope as to how modern societal complexities can be tied into the superhero genre, and are the equal of any of the pretentious European bullshit that I love so much these days in terms of emotional resonance.

I’m finding that as I go, my tolerance for “just ok” stories is waning. I’m definitely starting to cull more, and once I’m done rereading my entire collection (based on my current rate of consumption, I’m predicting that I’ll be done in May or June), I think I’ll probably go back and cull some previous keeps. I also expect to cull a lot more Marvel than I did DC for some reason, though we’ll see how that goes when I get to it. For those of you who care about such things (i.e. my wife), I’m actually currently almost done DC in terms of reading, though I’m still only in the J’s when it comes to writing about the project. Next will be Marvel. Then the really big part, which is my “indie” section. It’s sorted by writer, and includes everything from Vertigo books to indie autobiographies, and so-on.

I do think age has something to do with it. As you get older, its natural for most people to want their entertainment to evolve as they do. But because the North American comic

The X-Men. Things happen to them every month that you are expected to blindly care about.

market has such a fixation with superhero comics, the publishers constantly pump out books that kids can at the very least not be offended by, and tend to err on the side of caution when it comes pushing any type of storytelling barriers. Superhero comics HAVE grown up to a certain extent, and now deal with themes such as death, sexuality, and politics in ways that mainstream comics of 60′s, 70′s, and early ’80′s never could. But they still cater to an audience that wants it’s storylines wrapped up in a tight little bow. Not to mention that both DC and Marvel are owned by major media companies that will never willingly push the envelope when it comes to content when a bit of judicious censorship will do the trick. And while you often read posts in blogs and articles by comic book fans complaining about how they wish superhero comics could go back to the way they used to be, the sales don’t back them up, and even the most critically acclaimed books that cater to younger readers don’t last very long. That’s fine, if your sales are strong in other areas. But even the sales of top comic books (Batman, X-Men) are decreasing every year, and so the comic book companies find themselves placating an increasingly shrinking fan base, with no real strategy for attracting new readers. So if you’re a comic reader in your mid 30′s and you are finding yourself increasing dissatisfied with the superhero tripe you are reading, you have two options: You either broaden your horizons, and try new comics that don’t necessarily have tights or guns in them, or you quit all together. Sadly, most people are taking the latter option.

So what’s my point?

I guess my point is this: There are good superhero comics out there. Just like there are good action movies and good fantasy novels. But limiting your entertainment

A book I'd rather be reading than more "Justice Society"

consumption to one or two genres is like only eating cheese. It’ll taste good for a while, but soon your urine will start to turn orange and then your liver will burst. So if you find yourself discouraged by DC’s latest “We actually came up with a good idea that should have lasted 7 issues but because they sold well we decided to extend it to 107 issues through 30 titles and you REALLY NEED to own every one” cash grab, or Marvel’s latest “Character X just died in a thrilling 10 part cross-over that you really need to buy every issue of even though we all know that we’re just going to bring them back next year when sales are soft again” remember that superhero comics are only a very small part of what’s out there.

Next up: More superheroes!

The Great Comic Book Cull Of 2010/2011 Part 14 – DC Comics: The Justice League!

This one almost killed me. Seriously. It turns out that no other book demonstrates how good DC comics can be, but also the horrible depths that they can fall to the way that Justice League does.

So before I start I need to give you some Justice League context.

1960-1984 – The “Let’s All Be Superfriends” Years:

Putting all of their popular characters into one team along with a few fresh faces worked 

The JLA's first enemy: Telepathic Space Seafood

well for DC in the 1940′s with the Justice Society, and so DC decided to do it again in the early 1960′s to coincide with the resurgence of the superhero genre. The book originally starred Superman, Batman, Flash, Aquaman, Green Lantern, Wonder Woman, and the Martian Manhunter. This is important to remember. The line up changed over the years, with some members going away for extended periods of time, and some new blood joining. But the core premise was always that this was earth’s premier super team, and so it always had a core roster of earth’s A-List heroes. They did bring lesser known heroes onboard occasionally (Green Arrow, Red Tornado, Firestorm, Zatanna), but for the most part, this book focuses on big epic adventures, and didn’t spend a lot of time dealing with its heroes personal lives. Although this era is fondly remembered, I find that when I reread these stories very little sticks with me, and it comes across as a faceless blur of spandex.

 

1984-1986 – The “Why are there homeless people on the team?” Years.

The greatest Justice League tribute band in the mid-westAt the time, Teen Titans and X-Men were selling like crazy, and so DC attempted  to add some teen angst drama to its flagship book. The old JLA disbanded, and a new team was formed, composed of the 3 LEAST popular members of the old team, a spoiled trust-fund baby, an offensive Latino stereotype, and a homeless person. To no ones’s suprise, everyone hated it, and it didn’t last long.

1987 – 1996 –  The “Never met a cheap laugh we didn’t grind into the ground” Years:

And now the strangeness begins. There’s some context to note here. DC’s Crisis On Infinite Earths megacrisis happened in 1985-1986, and it really did a number on JLA continuity (If Wonder Woman is just becoming a hero now, how was she a founding member of the JLA? If Superman is a fairly recent hero, how was HE a founding member of the JLA?  If Hawkman is just arriving from Thanagar, who was the guy wearing wings in the JLA in the 1960′s and 1970′s. Questions, questions. ) For now, DC decided to ignore a lot of those issues, and rebooted the team again, this time calling it the JLI (Justice League International).

For this version of the team, they went for a combination of veterans (Batman, Martian Manhunter, Black Canary), recent A-listers who had never actually been part of the JLA before (Guy Gardner, Captain Marvel, Dr. Fate), and new faces who were a prominent part of the new universe that DC was creating at the time (Dr. Light, Blue Beetle, Booster Gold), etc. They also decided to make this book funny. Yes, funny.

Although the line up changed a lot, this was the direction of the book for much of the next decade, as well as of its sister books, Justice League Europe, and Justice League Task Force. Although there are some good stories from this decade, I found that the increasing focus on comedy, as well as the ever decreasing focus on having A-listers on the team, made the JLA pretty much irrelevant.

1996 – 2006 – The “Magnificent 7″ Years:

DC apparently agreed with me, and in 1996 decided to bring the band back together. So

The band reunites to play at Aquaman's wedding reception

now the JLA was Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Martian Manhunter, Aquaman, the new (at the time) Green Lantern, and the Flash (Not the original silver age Flash who was a founding member of the original JLA but his young partner who was originally Kid Flash but took over when his uncle died in the Crisis On Infinite Earths. Except for the fact that we just found out recently that he didn’t die and he’s now back.) After an initial mini-series by Mark Waid, DC brought Grant Morrison on board to write this new JLA. And it was epic. Huge battles, huge concepts, huge EVERYTHING. The only personal issues that the JLA faced in this book were the ones that had to do with the team. This remains a high benchmark for the concept, and remains my favourite incarnation of the league.

2006 – 2010. The “I’m sure we’ll figure it out eventually” years.

It’s no secret that the League has struggled creatively in recent years. Revolving creative teams, and revolving team rosters, have devalued the League’s effectiveness. James Robinson seems to be trying a lot of interesting things in today’s League, but I can’t say it’s doing much for me. That being said, the concept is still a sound one, and eventually the League will be on top again.

Which brings us to the books. Although there are MANY JLA trades out there, most of the ones I own have to do with the Magnificent Seven incarnation of the League. I’ve got a LOT of them, so I’m splitting this into several posts.

JLA - The Magnificent Seven Years as written by Grant Morrison (New World Order, American Dreams, Rock Of Ages, Strength In Numbers, Justice For All, Rock Of Ages, World War 3)

So as I mentioned earlier, this a League full of A-List heroes, tacking A-List threats. I have never been quiet regarding my criticisms of Grant Morrison’s writing, and so it was a great pleasure to discover just how much I still loved his run on the JLA when I reread it recently. I have never felt that Morrison was a character writer. I don’t mean concept, he’s great at those. I mean character. But character is a BIG part of why this book works so well, and I think that a part of it was that Morrison didn’t have to focus on it much. Because this wasn’t a book about how Superman gets through the day with Lois, and the Daily Planet, and all of that nonsense, Morrison was free to focus on loftier concerns (How does Superman deal with having every single hero on earth look up to him?) There are character moments here, but they all are related to how these characters deal with each other, not how they deal with their own private lives.

As I mentioned before, Morrison’s League dealt with universe-destroying threats on a daily basis, and this book remains a highlight in the history of the League.

KEEP

JLAThe Magnificent Seven Years as written by Mark Waid (Tower Of Babel, Terror Incognita, Divided We Fall)

Arguably the greatest JLA run of all time is done, and the question is, who do you get to take over? Mark Waid of course, and he knocks it out of the park.

His League is of a slightly smaller scope than Morrison’s is. He’s using continuity more than Morrison did, and character interaction is slightly more front of mind in his run. Which brings us to “Tower of Babel“, the highlight of his run. Not only is this one of the great JLA stories, it’s also one of the best Batman stories of the modern era. Although Waid’s run wasn’t very long, it’s still holds up extremely well as a worthy successor to Morrison’s arc.

KEEP

JLAThe Magnificent Seven Years as written by Joe Kelly (Future Imperfect, The Golden Circle, Obsidian Age Vol. 1 & 2, Rules Of Engagement, Trial By Fire)

At the time, Joe Kelly had a well-regarded run on Superman, and so I guess it made sense to throw him the League. But he had some pretty big shoes to fill. Although I remember thoroughly disliking his run when it first came out, upon rereading it’s obvious that was just a reaction to some of the small changes Kelly made, as opposed to his run overall. It turns out that this was a solid run, with a bigger focus on character development than either Waid’s or Morrison’s. Of course, the highlight here was the incredibly ambitious Obsidian Age arc, a sprawling epic of time travel, death, and betrayal, with some beautiful art by Doug Mahnke. Probably the biggest misses here are the new characters that Kelly brings into the team. They never really gel with the existing cast, and didn’t seem to serve any real storytelling purpose other than for Kelly’s own ego.

KEEP

JLAThe Magnificent Seven Years – The Rest. (World Without A Justice League, Tenth Circle, Pain Of The Gods, Syndicate Rules, Crisis Of Conscience)

Crucifer is upset because he's in the worst Justice League story ever written

Joe Kelly was the last regular writer on this version of the JLA, and the rest of the run was a rotating cast of different creative teams. Most of this was absolute crap, with the worst of the bunch being a truly awful excuse for a vampire story by Chris Claremont and John Byrne, who seemed bound and determined to make you forget how much you loved their X-Men run when you were a kid.

Crisis Of Conscience, Syndicate Rules: KEEP. World Without A Justice League, Pain Of The Gods, Tenth Circle: CULL

 

 

JLA – The Magnificent Seven Years : Odds & Ends (JLA: Earth 2, Superpower, Age Of Wonder, World Without Grownups, Secret Origins, A League Of One, JLA Year One)

Because this version of the Justice League was so popular, DC pumped out an endless amount of one-shots, mini-series, and tie-ins. Most of these were wretched, and are covered in my next post. But there were a few that actually still hold up well today. Age of Wonder was one of many Elseworlds JLA titles from this era, and honestly the only one worth a damn (Justice League as Steampunk scientists: Hooray!). Although Year One, and Earth 2 still gets a lot of praise, A League Of One was a pleasant rediscovery, and I would go as far as to say that it’s one of the best Wonder Woman stories of the past decade.

KEEP

Next up: Lots of really bad Justice League stories!