A true fan would have had Bones taking out Wolverine. For real.
I think a little background would serve well to illustrate why I am writing this entry. I am an English major, in addition to a comic enthusiast/shop manager. I published a novel early last year, that can be found on Amazon though I don’t ask that you read it, as there are literally thousands of books that you could better spend your time delving into. If you still wish to purchase it, I certainly won’t stop you, but you have been warned.
Anyhow, I’ve spent a good deal of the last few years reading different works of literature from a varied selection of genres and time periods, and in the course of my readings only one comic book was entered into discussion, that of course being Alan Moore’s “Watchmen.”
I haven’t taken a course centered around comic books, though I’m told one is offered at the university. I would like to take it if time permits, but here and now I would like to offer up the selection I would offer if I were a professor teaching a class on the intricacies of graphic literature as a medium. This will be a recurring column, with new entries added every week in the hopes of compiling a sort of omnibus of books that just beg to be read and analyzed.
Up first is one of the greatest pieces of graphic literature in the history of the medium. One of the longest running and critically acclaimed indy series in the history of comics, “Strangers” has the sort of intricate plotting that wins countless awards for cable television shows, blending humor and pathos with vivid characterization and close attention to detail that is unparalleled in a medium known for continuity flubs and retroactive continuity fixes.
Writer Terry Moore poured his heart and soul into this book for over a decade, and the care he put into the characters shows with every panel. That alone earns it a spot as worthy of study and dissection on a scholarly level. Any work that has such a lengthy run by a single creator is worth a cursory glance, in this age of revolving door creative teams. Add to that Mr. Moore’s masterful storytelling and wonderful art, both of which are astonishing in their realistic portrayals of human emotion and anatomy, and you have a book that could be dissected a million times over.
I had the good fortune of meeting Mr. Moore at a gathering for the 2009 “Free Comic Book” day event where I was signing my own book. A highlight of the day being when he jokingly referred to me as “a real writer,” when flipping through my clumsy prose. Aside from being one of the more talented creators in the medium, he is also a gracious and hospitible man who I was able to discuss, at some length, topics ranging from the local music scene to the state of comics both indy and mainstream. He clearly has a great deal of love for his own creations, and yet he never came off as a man of inflated ego.
“Strangers” is definately the kind of book that deserves to be studied. To be honest, a single issue of this series could be dissected for hours on end. The whole series would likely require at least a whole semester, if not two.
Next up is Brian Michael Bendis’ first appearance on this list, and believe me he will show back up again later. “Powers” is the kind of book that defines a writer’s style and sensibilities so well that every reader who picks it up knows what to expect out of that writer down the line. That isn’t to say that all of Bendis’ work is identical to “Powers” but it definately establishes Bendis as a writer whose main talent lies in crafting character voice and fluid dialogue. The people that populate the world of “Powers” are a diverse and eclectic group, with every character’s arc taking them somewhere that the reader may not have expected.
Bendis’ work here will make you angry. You will experience emotion while reading this book. In that, he is special. There are few writers who can write a book filled with people you actually care about. How many major characters have the big two companies killed off where the reaction you experienced was akin to passing a car wreck on the side of the road where your only thoughs are centered on how horrible it really looks without giving a second thought to the emotional weight of the situation?
That is not what happens in “Powers.”
Bendis writes a comic book that utilizes everything the medium has to offer in the forms of storytelling technique and at the same time writes in a manner that nobody else can quite nail down without coming off as skewed and off balance. Bendis has critics that feel his style doesn’t work within the traditional confines of the comic book medium, arguing that he comes off as dense and needlessly wordy, whereas I would argue that he simply knows how to tell a story and those who don’t like his style are simply too familiar with the tried-and-true mainstream storytelling methods to truly appreciate his work.
While his style doesn’t truly fit other projects like the “Secret Invasion” mega-event, where people expected a Michael Bay-style thrill-a-thon and instead got seven issues of Bendis’ hyper-realistic character interaction, books like “Powers” prove exactly how talented Bendis is as a writer.
Jonathan Hickman is proof of evolution. Where Bendis, Kirkman, Johns, and a whole slew of others are the logical progression of what Alan Moore and Grant Morrison ushered in with “Watchmen” and “Doom Patrol,” Hickman is the evolution of the Image generation and the post-modern revivial of comics.
Where Bendis is all about the dialogue in the context of the medium, Hickman is all about manipulating the confines of the medium to fit the message and all of that can be seen on display in “The Nightly News” which is about as perfect a book as one can possibly fathom. It blends the sort of graphic design wizardry that has come about in the fast-paced media sphere we now occupy with the biting social commentary of the eighties boom.
This is a book that begs to be read and re-read in order to capture every detail. The truth of the matter is that the book is somewhat hard to read, because we as readers are not used to this sort of stylistic delivery of the narrative, but when you find the rythym that Hickman has created, the book cracks along at breakneck speed and weaves a tale that would not be done justice by any other creator.
Originality is the name of the game here, and I don’t doubt that others will shamelessly ape this approach in the years to come, because it really is quite effective.
That concludes the first installment of this series. Next week another selection will be added to the syllabus and if there are any suggestions that you’d like to see covered down the line, don’t hesitate to leave a note in the comments section, as I assure you I want to cover as many diverse titles as I possibly can.
I kicked the blog off with a rundown of 2009’s best storyarcs, an entry that was hard as hell to write because honestly there were tons of good books last year and while I wanted to showcase only a chosen few, I didn’t want to leave out anything that needed to be showcased. On the other side of the coin, we have today’s entry, a look at 2009’s most abysmal outings. My criteria for this list is not quite as exclusive as the “best of” list, because sometimes you don’t need a story to be finished to realize it’s a piece of shit. Usually if it’s three issues in and you’d still rather pluck out your own pubic hairs with a rusty pair of tweezers, it won’t change by the end of the arc.
So here we go!
It started in ’08 but it ran through the first chunk of ’09 and as far as I can tell, I swear to God, Jeph Loeb is a sleeper agent, placed in the Marvel offices by DC to destroy their publishing lineup from the inside. It’s like a retarded 24 plot played out in slow motion so every mind-numbing detail can be drawn in until the mind can’t handle it anymore.
I’m not going to go after the book for being dumb. I mean, it’s an event book and nobody can make an event book NOT dumb. (I’m looking at you Geoff Johns.) My main problem with the book is that it is so sloppily written, and so disjointed that as a reader you sometimes don’t even know how bad it truly is until you go back and re-read the pages over again trying to figure out exactly what the hell you missed that led you to be so confused.
Also, the Blob eats the Wasp. That’s just wrong.
I’m probably gonna catch flak for this one but people, this shit was sub-par and the publishing delays only made it worse. The fact that the “epic conclusion” was a veritible anti-climactic letdown is all you really need to look at in order to see what a throwaway piece of tripe this storyline really is. Aside from some nice art, this whole thing was a wash, no matter what the sales say. People buy dumb shit all the time. Don’t believe me? Go talk to the guy who invented the “Snuggee.”
The truly sad thing is, everybody ate this thing up like it was the best thing since sliced bread when Jason Aaron’s excellent Weapon X book doesn’t get nearly the credit it deserves. That book utilizes the continuity of Wolverine without being confusing, moves at a breakneck pace and is worth every penny while still managing to come out on a monthly basis. Old Man Logan was an uninspired and unoriginal idea that people went nuts over for a reason that eludes me entirely.
Let’s take everything that drove me away from comics in the 90’s and put it in a single book. That’ll work right? *facepalm*
I would say that my hatred of the Twilight phenomenon is completely rational. After all, how any sane person would look at the success of such a lazy and contrived series and still manage to think that our society hasn’t sunk into an irrepairable cavern of stupidity that is only 15 degrees off “Idiocracy” is completely beyond me. The fact that someone decided it would be a good idea to publish a comic book biography of the woman responsible for this crime against humanity simply edges me toward clawing my own brain out with an olive fork.
The fact that the book exists is enough to qualify it on sheer “WTF-factor” alone, but the book having art so bad that it borders on the laughable earns it a legitimate spot on the list. Not to mention that Stephanie Meyer is essentially the most boring person this side of John Kerry and thus the book itself is nothing short of a chore to read even if you never look at the art.
Comics Alliance basically said everything I ever could in the review they posted back when the book was released on shelves. The only difference is they still have the energy to mock the book whereas I can only shake my head and try not to vomit.
This should have been excellent, but then I remembered that Chris Claremont hasn’t written anything of any quality since the 80’s and by then it was too late. I had already added the book to my pull and was damned to read what may be one of the most effortlessly tired books in the Marvel publishing line.
The problem with the book is that it wants us to get all nostalgic for the days of Claremont and Byrne but the Claremont we all fell in love with is gone and what remains is a madman who is following up on his own work in such a manner that it’s hard to tell that the same person who wrote all those classic stories is able to give us such a winded and uninteresting take on the X-Men.
This one takes the coveted biggest disappointment award for 2009. Such a tragedy.
Like X-Men Forever, this one makes the list out of disappointment. Larry Hama writing a GI Joe origin story from scratch? Yes please! Wait… What the hell is going on here? What am I reading? MAKE IT STOP! WHY LARRY?!?! WHY?!?!
Yes, the former master of the Joes has turned in one of the sloppiest and mind-boggling Joe stories of all time. Considering that Hama is the man who made GI Joe what it is today, for him to do such a disservice to the franchise by delivering such a bland and cliche outing in the Origins book, it’s like watching your childhood hero bang a tranny hooker on the hood of your car. You’re willing to put up with a lot, given that he’s your hero and all, but this is JUST. GOING. TOO. FAR!
And there are others; Green Arrow/Black Canary continued the downward spiral for both characters, Superman didn’t even have Superman and seemed like the title had died but continued on only out of habit, Justice League of America languished in mediocrity, and there are others that fit the bill just as badly. The above are the ones that really stand out as the losers of ’09.