Sunday, January 04, 2009

Best of 2008: Top Ten No More

To kick things off with my best of 2008, I want to start by looking back and discussing the books that fell from the top ten since last year. Of course, some books that made the list last year like Shortcomings or The Nightly News were stand-alone books and couldn't repeat this year, but what about the ongoing monthlies that were among the best of 2007? How did they measure up in 2008 and why didn't they crack the top ten this year?

Gødland by Joe Casey and Tom Scioli (#10 in 2007). This fell to within the 25-21 range on this year's list and it wasn't because of a lack of quality, but more a horrible shipping schedule that made it easy to forget. When I make up my best of the year list, I go through my old posts here where I discussed what I bought and listed any book that I got as they appeared, and then, after I'd done every book, I began ordering them. For Gødland, I honestly couldn't remember what had come out this year except for the most recent alternate reality story. Where had 2007 left off and 2008 began? That's not a good sign and, so, the title kept getting bumped by other books that had made an impression. Honestly, this book also suffered because it was on my pull list in my hometown of London, while I live in Windsor, so I only read it when I visited home, so it seemed even more spaced out. Honestly, if I'd gone back and reread 2008's worth of issues, I don't think it would have cracked the top ten and since I don't list anything besides the top ten, where it fell outside that doesn't really matter. This is a very good book, though, and one that I can't wait to delve into with issue-by-issue analyses like other Joe Casey comics. Apparently, this next year will be the book's last, which sucks, but is also heartening only because it means that Casey and Scioli are ending it on their own terms--and, hopefully, it will mean two more of the lovely "celestial edition" hardcovers. I'll actually get into this book a little more in my Joe Casey-centric post on 2008 in a day or two. I should also mention that Scioli's art continues to get stronger and is lovely to look at. Very Kirby-influenced, but also his own.

The Boys by Garth Ennis and Darick Robertson (#9 in 2007). This book placed in the 15-11 range on this year's list and continued to be just as strong as last year. Hell, its ranking doesn't show it, but this past year was better than the previous, in my opinion. With a couple of four-issue stories that focused on the characters and their history instead of something more pressing, Ennis and Robertson took a bit of break to really give the book a larger scope. This is a book where many can't really get past the more extreme moments of violence and gross humour, but the relationship between Hughie and Annie has really drawn me in, as has the larger idea of exploring corporations' roles in government and the world. Robertson continues to be the perfect match for Ennis with his ability to draw the grotesque unlike anyone else, but also able to handle talking head scenes better than most. I can easily see this book making the top ten in 2009 as it narrowly missing it this year.

Thunderbolts by Warren Ellis and Mike Deodato, Jr. (#8 in 2007). This book also placed in the 15-11 range, barely missing the top ten again. Like Gødland, it suffered from shipping delays and, honestly, from Ellis and Deodato leaving the book. I dropped the book then, because I preferred to maintain the brilliance of their run unfettered--although I have heard good things about Diggle's first two issues, but an upcoming crossover with Deadpool has me thinking I was right to not jump back on board. This year saw the conclusion of the "Caged Angels" story, where Ellis's depiction of Norman Osborn stole the show with the fantastic scenes between Doc Samson and Penance also wowwing me. Really, what's sad is that a lot of readers probably didn't see Ellis's Osborn, which is essential reading for anyone who will be following "Dark Reign." It was Ellis's Osborn that was in my head when he took over for Tony Stark in Secret Invasion #8 and, if you'd read "Caged Angels," you'd know why that idea is so scary and powerful. Sadly, everything I've read since doesn't seem to have the same power with the character. They should have done whatever it would take to get Ellis back on the character somehow. It's obvious that this depiction of the character has set the standard and really was a lot of fun to read.

Immortal Iron Fist by Matt Fraction, Ed Brubaker and David Aja, and Duane Swierczynski and Travel Foreman (plus many others) (#3 in 2007). This book fell outside of the top thirty, which are the only books I kept track of ranking-wise. So, yeah, this book fell the hardest in 2008 for me, going from #3 in 2007 to dropped. Honestly, it began with a less-than-stellar end to "The Seven Capital Cities of Heaven," which couldn't quite support the weight of the numerous plots it had going. It wasn't bad, but it was certainly the beginning of the end. This was followed by the second stand-alone "Tales of the Iron Fist" issue and it was as weak as the first. The glimpses of past Iron Fists seems to work best in short doses, for me. Fraction and Aja's final issue on the book, #16 was rather good. Then, Duane Swierczynski took over with Travel Foreman and while I wanted to support it, the book wasn't bad by any means, but it wasn't good enough. Honestly, it was dropped mostly because it just couldn't match up to what had come before and wasn't worth reading as a result. What really killed it was the noirish special that was little more than nods to noir stories featuring Orson Randall. Others have stuck with it and enjoyed it, but I couldn't justify spending three bucks a month on it. I also reread "The Seven Capital Cities of Heaven" arc a couple of months back and it didn't read nearly as well as a whole, beginning very strong and ending weak.

Tomorrow, I'll discuss a few other books that didn't make the top ten, but warrant some end of the year praise, including the book that was in my CBR top ten, but got bumped when I did my final list on the first of January (as I don't do a final list until the year is over).