Friday, December 27, 2013

The Top Comic Books of the Year

As the year winds to a close, it is time for the various people that pontificate about every topic under the sun to come up with their annual lists of the 'greatest of 2013'. As this was my first full year of regular blogging, I thought I'd put my own two cents in about a subject I spend a fair amount of time on here at LiveJustToServeGod. This is my list of which comic books were the best of the year and why I chose them.

#10- DC's "Forever Evil"
This limited-series run is in its home stretch. While I am a little off-put by the negative vibes I get from the extended exploration of the worst of the human condition, I cannot deny that the artistry and literary value of what has been produced is pretty high. I enjoy the fact that DC has brought in a favorite villain team of mine, The Crime Syndicate, and their treatment of the team has been pretty good. The art has been top notch, and while there are some pretty big plot holes (like the darkening of the sun and the way that has been handled), I think the effect of the entire experience has been top notch. Geoff Johns gets a lot of flack, and much of it deserved, but he remains a brilliant comic book creator, and this book proves why. 

#9- Marvel's "Infinity"
Thanos has always been my favorite villain in all of comicdom. No force of evil is as intellectual, as interesting, or has the potential to be as destructive as that mutant Eternal from the moon of Titan. This book faltered in two key ways. It was too tied to other books like THE AVENGERS, forcing people to buy more than they should've needed to to keep up with the story, and the pacing suffered accordingly. However, there were some scenes here that in and of themselves would've qualified this series for a place on this list, and in truth the overall story held together strong enough to put the comic in a significant place in the Thanos mythology. We had some serious character development here and that is an amazing thing when you are dealing with characters that have been around as long as some of these. I loved seeing the Avengers cut loose and get galactic recognition, I loved the way Thanos was portrayed, and I thought the art was excellent. But for the flaws mentioned earlier, it would've been closer to the top of the list.

#8- DC's "Justice Leagues (JL, JLA, JLD)"
It may seem cheating to include the JUSTICE LEAGUE, JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICAN, and JUSTICE LEAGUE: DARK all in the same spot, but to tell the truth the three books have been so intertwined with the TRINITY OF SIN and FOREVER EVIL story lines it would be more of a travesty not to tie them together this year. While far more interesting in the former storyline than the latter, these teams continue to show why they are the flagship books of DC's universe. Relationships continue to be what draws me into team books, and it is the development of those relationships both within and between teams that made this year a big one for the JUSTICE LEAGUE crews. FOREVER EVIL has eroded some of the quality of the individual books, but not enough to drop them off the list. As much as I found the main FOREVER EVIL title commendable at least aesthetically, I look forward to seeing these teams become more internally focused and return to the kinds of stories that earned them a place on my list.

#7- DC's "Superman & Wonder Woman"
I've heard some people complain that this book cuts Wonder Woman short, and that complaint is not without merit. I hope they develop her more effectively going forward. But the relationship between Wonder Woman and Superman is very interesting, and like SUPERMAN UNCHAINED, this book gives something very important to the DC Universe: stories that focus on individuals and individual struggles rather than big universe-spanning conflicts. Some of the individual scenes from this book, like Apollo accidentally supercharging Superman with a blast of magical sunlight, were enough to earn the book a high place on the list. The pacing, dialogue, and art work are also top notch. Put that together and you have a winning combination. This book is in its infancy, but it has great potential/ 

#6- Marvel's "Guardians of the Galaxy"
While the story lines in this book have left something to be desired, at least in the last few issues, the dialogue is so good it really earns this book a spot on this list. Good dialogue is usually sorely lacking in comic books, and in fact bad dialogue and bad pacing are the most common weak spots for a book. The way the characters interact in this comic is convincing, and the stuff they say is almost always entertaining, funny, moving of some combination of thereof. Everything flows very naturally, and this also helps strengthen the all-important relational aspect of a good team comic. This book is simply the best ongoing comic that Marvel is offering right now and that is the reason that it is the only ongoing Marvel book on the list.   

#5- DC's "Earth 2"
Earth 2's last few issues have not elevated my spirit the way the early books did. In fact, I am kind of ticked the way Alan Scott has all but disappeared from the most recent issues. But the fact remains that the book delivers an interesting story, and is very good at character development. I liked the way Doctor Fate was introduced, and I especially liked the issue when Alan Scott gathered the team together for an assault on a new tyrannical army threatening the world. Things have gone a little south since then, but I cannot lie and say I am not riveted. Beyond the excellent writing, the art work is simply out of this world, perhaps the best in all of DC's offerings. This book is more than just a good read: it is a work of art. 

#4- DC's "Superman Unchained"
This book started off heavy on the mystery, and I liked that very much. Everything is mysterious without being too cryptic and that too is hard to accomplish. I enjoy the way Clark's individual everyday struggles are being explored and intertwined with a new set of challenges faced by his alter ego. There is something very personal about this book, and yet it doesn't loose the cosmic scope of its subject matter. There is excitement, there is fun, the pacing is good, the dialogue is good, and the story lines are good. Indeed, this is a book that has all the fundamentals to achieve true greatness. The best part of the book, however, is the art. Wow, does this book visually excite. This is one of the best things DC is offering right now.

#3- Big Dog Ink's "Legend of Oz: The Wicked West"
If you follow my comic book reviews should've expected this book high up on the list. This book first and foremost offers something few books on this list, or that were offered by any comic book producer this year, offers: a hopeful and positive take on life in general. The writers were very smart to hold off as long as they could on bringing Dorothy back into the story, and giving us time to really get to know the other characters involved in the story. The key words here are 'character development'. We have been given a chance to care about these characters, and without a loss of action and excitement. And like so many books on this list, this book is elevated by the visuals. The art is, as has always been true with this book, something above and beyond and even more so the coloring. You cannot take your eyes of the pages. If you are not reading this book, go out today and get the original limited series and the ongoing series, much of which is now available as trade paperbacks. This book elevates the entire field and is the best 'alternative Oz' type story out there, as far as I'm concerned.

#2- Archie Comics' "Afterlife With Archie"
See we are really getting into the best of the year with these last three. This book totally threw me for a loop. It was not at all what I was expecting. The mash-up of a classic humor comic and classic horror comics wound up being much more the latter than the former, and that was a very smart move indeed. This book is genuinely frightening, even as it approaches all the favorite characters in the way it needs to. Every beloved character has his or her core self preserved and transferred into this zombie apocalypse type setting. The gruesomeness and horror is deepened because we know these characters and have some basic connection with them. The nods to geekdom's tradition of Archie theorizing also made for some interesting twists and turns. While I usually don't like the pulp type art that is used it works here and transforms the entire experience. We are just beginning this journey and I have little doubt this book will be one of the best of 2014 as well. Check it out today.

#1- Image Comic's "Miniature Jesus"
This limited series is proof that comic books are more than entertainment, they are genuine works of art and are part of a tradition of myth making that reaches back to ancient times. There is something very basic about this book, like it reached into some other place and pulled down truth. It is gritty, and definitely for mature audiences only, but I reiterate an earlier statement that anyone who really wants to understand the struggle with addiction should read this book. It was all very familiar to me. The juxtaposition of mental and physical events captures, to my mind, the real encounter with spiritual forces both dark and light that makes up the inner of life of every self-aware and spiritually sensitive person. We traveled down a dark road with Chomsky, the main character, and the beings that confronted him as he confronted himself. The art by Ted McKeever captures that journey in a way no one else could. It was his story, I think quite literally, and it truly elevated the art form. There was not a bad book in the series, and I for one think this was more than just another comic book. If you are an adult who is interested in learning more about the struggles addicts face, I suggest you check out this book, and truly seek to accept it in all its absurd realism.

Other books that just barely failed to make the cut, but which very well could've include:
Zenescope's ROBYN HOOD Books
Zenescope's OZ
Marvel's HUNGER

No comments:

Post a Comment