Thursday, December 29, 2011

Penny Reviews: 2011, Part III

I got a lot of comics in 2011, and as people often do at the end of a year, I've taken a moment to reflect on my purchases and share the resulting insights with you, the unwary reader. This is the last day, so if you’re visiting for the first time, I’m afraid you’ll have no idea what’s going on.

Midnighter, Vol 1 & 2 by Garth Ennis
The Midnighter and Garth Ennis do graphic, fun violence. Volume One was The Midnighter versus Hitler and time cops. The concept is so high that when high gets a long weekend, it gets Ennis’ Midnightered for three days straight. On paper, it’s diet pepsi and pop tarts.

The execution was pop tarts and the star Rigel. This analogy doesn’t work because those two things don’t “mix” and don’t make bad comics. Maybe it’s not Ennis’ fault. The Midnighter is admittedly a two-faceted badass character; it’s possible that he needs an ensemble to contrast with, or at least a straight man.
#1 Worst

The Authority: Stuff that came after "Transfer of Power," but before "The LostYear," not that TLY was all that great.
The Authority murders threats of the “armies of advanced beings who’ve spent millennia traveling between universes” class and lower. This makes writing The Authority hard; there is no escalating force and enemies don’t (often) come back from the dead.

You see sporadic character development in the margins of their spectacle fights, but Ellis’ big screen action and Millar’s militant liberal mary sue-ism weren’t what made The Authority legendary; it was that The Authority was nothing like anything in comics. As soon as someone tried to make The Authority like another comic book (even The Authority itself), the venture was doomed.
#7 Worst
Joe the Barbarian by Grant Morrison
If The Neverending Story had book babies with, um...I guess The Neverending Story, then you'd have Joe the Barbarian. That's not a bad thing; it's a big story and a small story simultaneously. It's an amazing concept and an exceptional read.

Also, it’s beautiful and Captain Picard is in it. On an unrelated note, it is hard to talk about why good comics are good, but easy to ramble about the failings of bad comics. It sucks that it’s hardcover, but that’s like complaining that All-Star Superman came out in a single trade after I bought the two separate volumes.
#6 Best

Unwritten Vol 1 by Mike Carey and Peter Gross
If I can forgive the parallels between Joe the Barbarian and The Never Ending Story, I can forgive Unwritten for coming across as being a bit too close to Harry Potter and The Truman Show. This alternate history of writers thing is interesting. I’ve heard nothing but praise for this series.

But no. The pat “solve Dad’s old mystery” and “evil conspiracy” angles don’t do a thing for me. Nothing has hooked me. I don’t like these characters. The protagonist never gets his feet under him and neither did I. I might read more, but I wouldn’t pay money to.
#9 Worst

FC:R is a 24-pack of Pop-Tarts. There's the, "Spectre and Rene Montoya as The Question? Let's fucking do this!" followed about an hour later with, "Let's never do this again. Can I please vomit now?" It's so much irrelevant, histrionic, artless crap. It addresses the question some (weird) fans might have had about the presence of The Christian God in light of Darkseid's destruction/assimilation of everything in existence. Let me answer that in a much shorter format with fewer pictures of people screaming, crying, and making the most/least obvious foreshadowing for a dues ex rectum in literary history: “Shut up.”
#2 Worst

Planetary Vol 4 by Warren Ellis
How do I explain Planetary to you? How do I explain one of the best comics ever written and illustrated? How do I explain that despite drinking deeply from the well of the 20th Century’s richest fiction, it remains something original? How do I explain that it plants a seed in the reader that grows into a brilliant light that makes them want something better from comics, from the world, and from themselves? How do I explain the joy that sinks teeth into the throat of cynicism with the challenge of real change? It is the best comic in comics.
#1 Best

Batman & Robin: From the return of Bruce Wayne up to The Reboot by Grant Morrison, Paul Cornell, Peter Tomasi, and Judd Winick
#8 Best
These aren't mind blowing, but they're consistently solid and, like Breaking Bad, they should be the standard to which their medium is held. Cornell isn’t afraid to present, “Yeah, they blew a whole in this woman’s head and now she’s smarter than ever!” That takes moxie. And I like moxie. Tomasi takes the eye rolling concept of people dressed up like phosphorescent angels work because the overused symbolism is created by a psychotic in context. Winick does a red-headed Jason story. My point is that this book was started by Morrison, but ended up being better than Morrison.

Runs away.

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