Thursday, January 03, 2008

Best of 2007: Beyond the Top Ten Part 2

And so we continue the build-up to Sunday's top ten list with a few more books that I really enjoyed, but just didn't make the cut for whatever reason. Sure, this is just a way to recognise more than ten books, but whatever, all in good fun, eh?


Twelve months, twelve issues. Out of the various books I buy on a regular basis, this may be the only one that went twelve for twelve in 2007 and, let's be honest, that goes a long way in this age of "maybe ten issues a year." What keeps it from the top ten is really just the fact that the quality isn't top ten. This is a solid superhero book that I always enjoy, but it's just good, not great. As well, 2007 suffered (in my opinion) from the period between Garth Ennis and Keith Giffen's runs where there were three self-contained issues by Brian K. Vaughan, Christos Gage and the writing team of Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray. While those issues were good (especially the BKV one--a very interesting story told completely in reverse to play on Midnighter's ability to see a fight in his head from beginning to completion before the first punch is thrown), they didn't contribute much to the book and its direction.

2007 gave us four issues by Garth Ennis, three completely the story where Midnighter is sent to the past to kill Hitler. This story was good, very "Ennis," but not much else. It had the advantage of being a defining Midnighter story in that its goal was to hammer home the point that Midnighter is a killer, not a hero or a radical or a revolutionary--he kills people. Thankfully, the writers after Ennis used this trait and often played against it. Gage's story had Hawksmoor challenge Midnighter to do something that worked against his killing ways--but the story quickly became an excuse for Midnighter to fuck shit up. There must be a temptation to turn Midnighter into a Batman-type of hero where he's unique.

As well, Keith Giffen's debut arc has been interesting in its attempt to explore Midnighter's life before he became this unstoppable killing machine. The story has been a bit choppy, though, sometimes going off on weird tangents that slow things down a lot. The next arc, involving an arch-enemy tailored for Midnighter proves promising, so maybe this book will make the cut next year.

The lack of one artist hurt this book a little, but, at least, the self-contained issues featured guys like Darick Robertson, Jean Paul Leon and Brian Stelfreeze. If only the larger arcs could keep a single artist to maintain cohesion. So far, Keith Giffen's run has had five issues with four artists and that's no way to do a book like this.

Midnighter is a good read and definitely the "almost made the top ten of 2007" book most likely to make the top ten of 2008.

I Shall Destroy All the Civilized Planets

What keeps this fantastic collection of Golden Age comics by Fletcher Hanks out of the top ten is the enjoyment factor. This is an important and worthwhile collection of comics, but the antiquated sensibilities and stories don't do it for me the way modern stuff does. I know, I know, but that's how I feel.

Nextwave: Agents of H.A.T.E.

Only two issues of this series came out this year. Now, those two final issues of the series were glorious in their madness and fucked-up-ness, but two issues don't cut it.

The Order

Okay, this book is Midnighter's biggest competition for a move from "the almost top ten of 2007" to the top ten of 2008, I think. A slow start is what keeps this book off out of the top ten. However, this is a very well-written, well-drawn book that demonstrates that Matt Fraction is most definitely Marvel's future superstar writer. Up until this point, he's done very off-beat, very wacky comics that are great, but haven't demonstrated his ability to be a leading writer that could handle a franchise book. The Order does that as he juggles a large cast of very heroic, very ultruistic characters that are in very Marvel-esque situations like fighting Communist supervillains and getting evicted from their headquarters. Also, Fraction is very well-represented in the top ten and he really doesn't need another book there.

On Saturday, I will post my bottom five of 2007.