Saturday, December 30, 2006

Taking Stock

To begin, here's my list of the year's pleasures and pleasant surprises.

I. Ongoing titles whose appearance I eagerly await each month:

(1) Peter David's X-Factor (Marvel).

(2) Brian Reed's Ms. Marvel (Marvel).

(3) Brian K. Vaughn's Runaways (Marvel). Even despite Gert's death; Alphona's art is a crucial component.

(4) Gail Simone's Birds of Prey (DC). Without doubt, Simone made one of the most fruitful and effective uses of the One Year Later concept.

(5) Dan Slott's The She-Hulk (Marvel).

(6) Sean McKeever's Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane (Marvel). Takeshi Miyazawa's wonderful artwork is as important as McKeever's writing.

II. Satisfying individual issues:

(1) Grant Morrison's Seven Soldiers: Zatanna #2, art by Ryan Sook. There is so much going on here visually that I still re-read this comic with pleasure.

(2) Jeph Loeb's Supergirl #5. Bruce, Diana, Clark, and Kara confront the evil Supergirl and answer the question: who is this new Kara?

(3) Warren Ellis' Desolation Jones #2. I entirely agree with Mr. Fossen.

Three New Avengers (written by Bendis):

(4) Luke Cage and Jessica Jones get married in Annual #1;

(5) Luke Cage's Civil War tie-in issue (#22); and

(6) Jessica Drew's Civil War issue (#23).

(7) Ed Brubaker's Captain America #22. Sharon Carter's interactions with the outlawed Captain America.

(8) Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane #5. Gwen Stacy arrives in town, just when MJ decides...

(9) Marc Andreyko's Manhunter #26. Wonder Woman meets Kate Spencer.

(10) Gail Simone's Villains United Infinite Crisis Special. Setting the stage for the defense of Metropolis.

III. Enjoyable limited series, and nice runs within titles:

(1) Ted Naifeh's Polly and the Pirates (Oni Press).

(2) Krueger/Braithwaite/Ross Justice (DC).

(3) Mark Millar's Civil War (Marvel). What can I say? I'm enjoying it.

(4) Chris Claremont's issues of New Excalibur (Marvel).

(5) Stuart Moore's writing and Jamal Iggle's art made Firestorm: The Nuclear Man (DC) a pleasure to read. Another excellent One Year Later transition.

And now, 5 things that I found unsatisfying:

(1) I was disappointed in the ending of Infinite Crisis. For me, the resolution just didn't match the story's set-up. (Though I'll admit that it read better as a collected volume.) Call me bloodthirsty, but I can't help thinking that it would have been more compelling if Nightwing had died and if the Amazons had launched an attack in defense of Diana in the run-up to the series. After the second issue, I felt that the plot was structured around a series of "moments," eschewing character development and realization, things that fully engage me in a story.

(2) Speaking of Diana, I'm not pleased that the Wonder Woman re-launch has been stuttering and limping along, while Batman and Superman have landed on their feet after the One Year Later stunt. It seems to me that the marvelous character who appeared in Manhunter #26 should also be present in her own (reguarly appearing) title. Although the news that an Amazons Attack mini-series is in the works shows some sign that the editorial team recognizes that this corner of the DCU requires some attention, I don't think it will be sufficient.

(3) Wizard magazine informed us that this was going to be Spider Woman's year, and it just hasn't happened. Unfortunately, I thought the Spider-Woman: Origin series was just OK; I was expecting more. (Although this too went down better in a single sitting than it did in month-to-month readings.) And I enjoyed the New Avengers issues that focused on Jessica Drew's re-powering, her intrigues with HYDRA and Nick Fury, and her decision to choose a side in Civil War. What's really disappointed me is the absence of the promised stand-alone ongoing title which might have better established the character as an independent force in the Marvel Universe.

(4) I've been let-down by the Supergirl title. And it's not the characterization of Kara as a supremely powerful "little girl lost" whose brain has been pretty much fried by an evil parent; I thought this theme worked very well in Carrie, and there's no reason that it can't work here, too. It's just that the title's pacing is screwed up. Let me give you one example: why was the incredibly nicely drawn and entertaining Amanda Conner issue (#12) inserted between numbers 11 and 13, which clearly should have been published and read one after the other? Also, Joe Kelly's writing makes me feel like the book should have footnotes: who were the villains in #13? I mean, I don't have to know exactly who they are to get the story, but ...

(5) The resolution of the "who the daddy" question introduced into the Catwoman title let me down this year. You know, I don't have a problem with Selina Kyle being a mother. What I did find problematic was the non-resolution of the "paternity question" month after laborious month. There was no tension; it was clear that Selina was going to be a single mom; and by the time I was told the full story in issue #62, I had stopped caring who the father of the child actually was.


I'm VERY disappointed in you. You DIDN'T have The Escapists in your "best mini-series" section? That can only be, because you never read it. Well, I would suggest making it a point to go out and track down the issues (or the collected edition, which if not out yet, will be very soon). For me, this was the comic of the year (that being 2006, not 2007). If you haven't read this, you really need to.
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