Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Best of 2007: Beyond the Top Ten Part 1

Since it's now 2008 and I'll be doing a "best of 2007" thing with some other bloggers soon, I figured I'd put aside the Joe Casey stuff for this week and, in its place, mention a few books each day that didn't make my top ten, but would be in the top twenty.

The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: The Black Dossier

Technically, both writing and art, this book should be top ten. In fact, it was on the list until this morning, listed at the number ten spot with another title as I was unsure which to include. Then, I thought about it a bit and it came down to this: I enjoyed the other book more. If The Black Dossier had a giant fault, it's that I didn't enjoy it as much as the other ten books that made the cut. Like I said, it is technically impressive, but it's not fun. You can tell that it's supposed to be fun and contain a lot of energy, but that's not Alan Moore's strength. One of the reasons why I enjoy works by lesser writers more than that of Moore is the fact that almost everything he's done (that I've read) comes off very stiff and sterile, very planned and meticulous, and totally lacking energy. That isn't necessarily bad as Moore's stuff is usually fantastic, but I like energy in my comics, music, movies, books, etc.

The Black Dossier raises the question of fan fiction since, let's be honest, that's all The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen is in a sense. Someone made a comment when this book was being discussed on some site (it was actually in the comments section, which is why I can't be more specific, sorry) that, at this point, most of the mainstream comics market is fan fiction. That got me thinking since usually the line is ownership; it's not fan fiction if the owner of the property is allowing you to write it. But, since Moore is using public domain characters, wouldn't that mean everyone (and therefore no one) owns them, making it legitimate, in a way?

Fuck, that reminds me, I was just reading something in the past month and I can't remember what. It was all about how contemporary writers use allusion to create resonance, which is the current hot thing. Instead of just creating something new and worthwhile, they give their work "meaning" by referencing other pieces of art--in a way, piggybacking on those other works in an effort to gain credibility. It sort of relates here, I think. Of course, I don't agree with allusions being bad--in fact, I'm one of those people who like them--so long as the work itself stands up on its own. Shit, I really wish I could remember where I read that. I'm getting forgetful in my old age.

Doctor 13: Architecture & Morality

I'm still puzzled why this book didn't wow me more. It's got an offbeat sensibility, witty writing, fantastic art, and all sorts of of metafictional shit. And yet here we are, not in the top ten at all.

I think one thing that bothers me (and it shouldn't) is the inclusion of Grant Morrison among the Architects, mostly because he's always been the sort of creator who loves to bring back the old goofy characters that seemingly don't fit in anymore. I know, the jabs at the four guys behind 52 weren't serious, but it, strangely enough, took me out of the book. I was like, "Um, yeah, no."

It could also be that I don't like Doctor 13. The character is a representation of every bullheaded whackjob that refuses to recognise reality because it would fuck up his worldview. It's hard to root for a guy who is staring at a vampire and goes "Vampires aren't real." You kind of want big things to fall on his head.

Since my main criterion for the top ten is enjoyment, those two things are enough to fuck it up.


I'm buying this in the trades, but volumes two and three came out this year and were quite good, just not good enough. The second volume, in particular, got me, but the third didn't so much. I really enjoy this series and look forward to each collection, but I have a feeling this will work better as a whole and, sometimes, the little storylines don't work as well on their own.

More near-misses on Thursday.