Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Best of 2010: Joe Casey Comics

Part of my 'end of the year' wrap up tradition is briefly discussing the comics by Joe Casey that came out during the year. This year has more than I thought it did. If you search with the 'Joe Casey' tag at the end, you'll find reviews of almost all of them in one form or another. But that won't stop me from saying a few words now on all of them.

Gødland with Tom Scioli. Three issues came out in 2010. That's not a lot to go on, is it? I guess the second 'Celestial Edition' hardcover came out as well, but I haven't gotten that yet (I will!). Casey has promised that this series will wrap up in 2011 and it seems like the delay has been more about putting that end off a little, gearing up for it, etc. The issue that stands out most is the origin of Nickelhead where I drew an immediate connection to Automatic Kafka. I still stand by that interpretation and it's the one I favour, but I also know that's a personal choice. There's no objective right or wrong in these situations, folks. If it's in the text, it's there. And I see it there.

Superman/Batman #68-71 with Jesus Merino and some editorial interference. Ah, the 'controversial' Joe Casey comic of the year. This was not a good story. Even without the editorial interference, "Big Noise" would be stuck in a section of Casey's bibliography for the shitty, hacky stuff. The plot had some potential with an ancient Kryptonian enemy, but it never really went anywhere. The writing never felt 'there.' It reminded me of Casey's writing on Adventures of Superman prior to that final fantastic year. Now, it wasn't total trash; it was mediocre. It did pick up a little bit as it went on before the odd final issue that was part Casey, part DC editorial, and all bad.

Avengers: The Origin with Phil Noto. The latest edition to the 'Joe Casey Fills in Stan Lee's Plotholes' line of comics from Marvel is a prequel, if you will, to his Earth's Mightiest Heroes, retelling Avengers #1 over five issues. As one would expect, the retelling of that issue is spread a little thin when expanded so much. But, there are some really good parts to the series. Noto's art is stellar, especially his version of Asgard. I like the way he draws Thor skinny ala Kirby. Casey writes a fantastic Hank Pym. This is pre-hitting Jan and even pre-Ultron, so he can actually be written in a somewhat interesting way that doesn't revolve around those two events. That character has been so penned in by those events that it's amazing how refreshing he is when they haven't happened yet. He's a neurotic genius. As a character piece, Avengers: The Origin works well, but it is a little light and fluffy. It just doesn't hold up for five issues.

Iron Man 2: Public Identity with Justin Theroux and Barry Kitson & Iron Man 2: Agents of SHIELD #1 with Tim Green II, Felix Ruiz, and Matt Camp. These comics were a little surprising. I only read the first issue of Public Identity, meaning to get the whole thing eventually. It was fine, but nothing special. Actually, Agents of SHIELD stood out to me mostly for the art of Green, Ruiz, and Camp, all illustrating different stories and making for one of the most visually impressive comics to come out that week. It was a little showcase of artists with Casey delivering steady, solid writing that allowed them to show off. What's weird is that Casey has written a surprising amount of Iron Man comics but never written the main title except for an annual. He writes a good Tony Stark -- and has done so in a few different time periods. I wonder what he'd do on that book full time.

Officer Downe #1 with Chris Burnham. Probably the best thing that wasn't Gødland that Casey wrote this year. Over-the-top extreme violence and direct thinking... Burnham's art had a strong Darrow and Quitely influence that was gorgeous. No wonder he's beginning to get work at DC on Morrison's Batman stuff. This was a comic that I kept flipping through weeks after it had come out. I'd just grab it and look through it. Casey's story was simple and full of funny little bits. I haven't gotten Nixon's Pals yet (I don't know why!), but definitely want to more after reading this pair's follow-up collaboration.

Two-page Zodiac story with Nathan Fox (in Age of Heroes #4). Yeah, I basically bought a four dollar comic for two pages. But, shit, it was pretty much worth it for the sight of Zodiac getting a blowjob from Death Reaper while she wears a Captain America costume. I wish they'd let Casey do more with this character, but, instead, I expect him to show up in three years written by a writer who, while talented, just can't get the tone right. Definitely a character that requires a specific perspective ala many Morrison characters. A villain that glorifies in being a bad guy. No redemption, no compromise, just FUCK SHIT UP. And it's two pages of Nathan Fox art. That's awesome.

2011 looks like a bigger/better year with the end of Gødland, the debut of Butcher Baker, the Righteous Maker, and possibly more stuff. 2010 was a little bit of a downer year, a breather year. Nothing major came out. Hmm.

Tomorrow: some 'not top ten' books.