Saturday, January 09, 2010

Best of 2009: Joe Casey Comics

As is part of my best of the year tradition, I like to take a quick look at the comics of Joe Casey for the year. Obviously not in-depth reviews by any stretch, just some quick words, thoughts, impressions. You may notice one book missing, but that's only because it made the top ten and I don't want to write about it twice. The order is random according to my whims. If I forgot something (or someone as far as credits go), I apologise.

Gødland with Tom Scioli. Only five issues of Gødland were released in 2009, but it was a return to form for the series after a somewhat lacklustre run of issues for a while there. The series has become a good example of longform storytelling as Casey and Scioli juggle four or five plots per issue at this point, advancing all of them without it feeling slight in any way. Instead, each issue gives you enough to simply make you want more. The book is beginning to run for daylight and it's showing as the butterfly from the end of Automatic Kafka has shown up... I'll admit that that development and the inclusion of Kadeem Hardison in the book were the two things I liked best. Two small, slight things, but they seem to somehow tell you everything you need to know about the book and what can/will happen in it. It's also the only Casey comic of 2009 that began prior to the year and continues on after the year is over. (Unless Charlatan Ball returns that is...) Will it see 2011? We'll see!

Final Crisis Aftermath: Dance with ChrisCross, Andre Coelho, and Eduardo Pansica. Joe Casey writing characters created by Grant Morrison? This is what I've been wanting for years (at least when the idea of someone writing Morrison characters came up) since Casey always seemed the writer in comics most in tune with Morrison's sensibilities and the choice to have Casey write teenage superheroes created by Morrison is fantastic. If there's one area that Morrison and Casey seem most in sync, it's on how teens/young adults would act and think if they had superpowers. Of all of the Final Crisis Aftermath books, this was the most loyal to both the concept as set up by Morrison and the feeling of said concept. The Super Young Team were the same here as they were in Final Crisis, basically. Casey used Twitter posts to narrate the book, which many found a little too modern, but was an inspired choice and worked with the self-aware nature of Most Excellent Superbat, and acted as a more manageable version of the infoscroll he used in The Intimates (technology keeps progressing to shorter and more succinct forms of communication, so Casey goes with it). Most of the issues here were somewhat self-contained while tying into the larger story -- and, if they weren't self-contained, they still worked well on their own. In Dance, Casey explored the nature of superhero teams from a different angle than he's done before, explicitly treating the group as a product, and did a fantastic job of poking fun at fan culture in the third (?) issue. But, my favourite part of this comic was the furthering of his juxtaposing capitalism/business and superheroics. Somehow, the Super Young Team were seen as less heroic despite wanting fame and fortune, but Batman and Iron Man are allowed to be wealthy and heroic? The only thing separating the two groups was that the Super Young Team didn't distinguish between superhero and civilian worlds... they could do it all as superheroes and why not? Who says fame and heroism have to be mutually exclusive concepts?

Charlatan Ball with Andy Suriano. "When Andy and I collaborate, we create a certain style of comic that it seems like most people – reviewers especially – don't seem to quite get. Sometimes an apple is just an apple. Imagine if the Internet was around back when the classic Warner Bros. cartoons first premiered. Oy vey!" Casey on Charlatan Ball this summer. Only one issue of Charlatan Ball came out in 2009 and I gave it three stars when I reviewed it for CBR. I haven't look at the comic since then, so everything you need to know about it can be read there.

Youngblood with Derec Aucoin. Let's add this to the 'what might have been' column of Casey-penned comics as Casey and Aucoin were fired off of the book mid-storyline in favour of Youngblood creator Rob Liefeld returning to write and draw the book. I believe one issue has come out since that happened. Now, I will admit that this book wasn't blowing me away, but it had many interesting elements and was improving. If the duo had been kicked off after their fourth issue instead of their eighth, I wouldn't have minded, but things were on the upswing with an alien invasion, plenty of anti-authority intrigue, and action inside of the television. Now, I have to wonder... if you interact with shows inside of the TV, but not the people who filmed the shows... how does that work? That question was never answered and that kind of sucks. I should really return to this book sometime this year and write it up.

The Death-Defying 'Devil/Project Superpowers: Meet the Bad Guys with Alex Ross, Edgar Salazar, Jonathan Lau, Mike Lilly, Carlos Paul, and Jackson Herbert. Both books here fit into the larger Project Superpowers universe of Alex Ross and Jim Krueger, and are not Casey's best work. It's hard to know exactly how much is Casey's fault since on both projects, Ross is credited as the co-plotter and has considerable influence on the finished comics. The Death-Defying 'Devil ended incredibly poorly, not resolving either of its plots, which is owed to both plots of the mini-series tying into the main Project Superpowers book heavily. While that makes sense for the universe in question, it really undercut the mini-series. Part of the point of getting other writers like Casey involved is to bring their fanbase to the book and I think it was designed to hook readers into buying the main book, but turned me off. The Meet the Bad Guys mini was better with four self-contained stories revolving around new villains. 2009 featured Casey doing a lot of work on villains and the work here was better as a result. The best issue was the second one where Casey and Ross crafted an intriguing villain in the Revolutionary Kid, who is actually a good guy at his core, he's simply labelled a villain by society. While the character wasn't developed enough, he showed great potential and I would really like to see Casey do more with him.

Superman/Batman #64 with Scott Kolins. I really didn't like this comic when it came out. It's a comic that makes more sense now that Casey is beginning a tenure on Superman/Batman with this month's issue, but DC didn't exactly explain that... or give any indication what the fuck was going on with this issue when it was released. As a result, I'm shifting my opinion from 'bad comic' to 'wait and see' based on what happens in the title from now on. It's unfair to judge Casey on an issue that's obviously meant to set up a story when DC didn't bother telling anyone when (if ever) said story would happen. And, he's not to blame for there being a three-month gap between this issue and the ones that would follow it. It's some very bad marketing/publishing by DC. This issue sets up a menace from Krypton's past attacking Earth, but only just barely. Despite my shifting the blame to DC, I still can't call it a good comic since it doesn't even function as a solid first chapter. The story barely gets started... to the point where there's not a strong indication of a story happening. But, let's leave it at that.

Later today: my favourite comic critic of 2009. I'll give you a sneak peak of that post by telling you that the critic is neither myself nor Tim Callahan. You can just assume that we get the top two spots automatically, but I don't say so in the post because that would appear biased and self-serving.

Tomorrow: the top ten comics of 2009.