Thursday, January 27, 2011

Best of 2010: Not Good Enough

Every year, I like to spotlight some comics that I enjoyed throughout the year that didn't make the top ten. Partly, it's books that were on the top ten list I gave CBR and feel guilty about not talking about here. Partly, it's books that I just want to discuss briefly because, while they weren't top ten good, they were great reads or just made the year a little better. Everything in alphabetical order just to be fair.

The Various Avengers books by Brian Michael Bendis, John Romita, Jr., Stuart Immonen, Alan Davis, Olivier Coipel, Bryan Hitch, Mike Deodato, Mike McKone, and anyone I'm forgetting. Okay, so Siege didn't turn out as great as it could have, but the ending to both Dark Avengers and New Avengers were as great as they could have been. More than that, Bendis launched "The Heroic Age" with Avengers and it's some of his best writing. Big stories, lots of action to balance out his dialogue, and John Romita, Jr. on art. What more could you want? New Avengers relaunched with Stuart Immonen and was almost as good (yeah, I prefer Avengers). It was a year of Bendis working with great artists and playing to their strengths. It seems like he made an effort to grow as a writer and step out of his comfort zone post-Siege while still remembering that it's comfortable because he's good at it from time to time by delivering a fantastic script for New Avengers #7. I know there's a big chunk of people who don't like Bendis's work on the Avengers franchise, but, in 2010, he did some of his best work on the books.

Deadpool MAX by David Lapham and Kyle Baker. Holy shit, a comic that's meant to be funny that's actually funny! This comic is exactly what it sounds like: an adults-only Deadpool comic. All of the inane stupidity of a Deadpool comic, but with none of the restrictions. It's crude and mean and ugly and gorgeous and just funny as hell. The joke that made me laugh most was about a father beating his child with a baseball bat. I've begun to think it's a cruder version of Pynchon's writing (though he's not above a lot of what's here). Same tone, same structure... Kyle Baker's art blows me away the way he crafts the characters and the world. It has one foot in the photorealistic, another in the stupid computer colouring... it's a book that never sits still long enough to be a single thing. It is a joy to read everyone month and, if 2011 continues the way it began with issue four, this book will definitely be in the top ten next year.

Irredeemable and Incorruptible by Mark Waid, Peter Krause, Diego Barreto, Howard Chaykin, Emma Rios, Paul Azaceta, Jean Diaz, Horacio Domingues, and Marcio Takara. Irredeemable is the only book to drop from the top ten since last year. Every other book either remained on the list or was something that ended or was a single work like Young Liars or Asterios Polyp. I would say it was a slight downturn for Irredeemable this year. There were some fantastic moments like the Plutonian at the end of issue 17, but the alien invasion plot didn't do much for me. It seemed to cut short a story that still had a lot of mileage in it. It seemed more like something we'd get in year four or something, not year two. The fallout from that story has been interesting, though. While Incorruptible technically launched in 2009, that was just for a single issue, so 2010 was its first year and it held up. It wasn't as strong as Irredeemable, either in the writing or the art, but it made for a good complement book. I can't imagine anyone reading it who isn't reading Irredeemable, though. It's a reflection of that book much more than the other way around and, in that respect, it's surprisingly effective. It's one of the first 'secondary' books I've read that is a perfect fit with the 'primary' one. When events in Irredeemable affect it, that actually makes BOTH books more interesting somehow. These titles are ones that I always drop what I'm doing to read and that's a pretty big compliment.

Secret Warriors and SHIELD by Jonathan Hickman, Alessandro Vitti, Stefano Caselli, Mirko Colak, and Dustin Weaver. Secret Warriors is one of my favourite longform comics right now. It's telling a big story and Hickman's doing it in an interesting fashion. The skip over much of the Leviathan/Hydra war threw some people, but it was a smart choice. As he moves towards the end game, he's getting rid of anything that's not essential and it makes for a tighter, more engaging read. I can't wait to see how it works as a whole. SHIELD has a lot of promise, but isn't coming together how I'd like. I'm still wondering what the actual plot of the comic is. What's the point? Dustin Weaver's art is inconsistent, moving from gorgeous pics to unfinished, sloppy panels. I wish I'd jumped on Hickman's Fantastic Four to see how the three books all fold together, but I guess that's something for the future. Secret Warriors, like Deadpool Max and Thor the Mighty Avenger, got bumped off the top ten I gave CBR... part of what determines my top ten is how much I simply look forward to reading an ongoing comic. It's one measure of determing overall quality: if you don't look forward to reading every issue, how good can it really be? Secret Warriors is something I love seeing in the upcoming shipping list.

A whole host of Thor comics like Thor, Thor the Mighty Avenger, Thor: For Asgard, and Ultimate Comics Thor by Kieron Gillen, Matt Fraction, Pasqual Ferry, Doug Braithwaite, Roger Langridge, Chris Samnee, Robert Rodi, Simone Bianchi, Jonathan Hickman, Carlos Pacheco, and others. I read a lot of people shit on Marvel for releasing so many Thor books. You know who that was a problem for? People who don't like Thor. For me, it was fan-fucking-tastic. Two ongoings, numerous minis... I loved it. Thor is one of those characters that I have that unnatural fanboy attachment to. I could read quality Thor books all month -- and, for a month or two there, that's what Marvel let me do. I won't deny that Matt Fraction's tenure on the main title has been a disappointment, but it seems to be on the road to turning it all around. Thor the Mighty Avenger came and went, but that's still eight quality comics. Thor: For Asgard is depressing and dark and sold entirely on mood. Ultimate Comics Thor uses the ultimate setting to be very playful. I've also enjoyed the first two issues of Loki quite a bit. Surprisingly so. I can understand people talking about Marvel flooding the market, but, hey, I was that market and I loved the fall of 2010 for all its Thor goodness.

Tomorrow: the top ten.