Tuesday, January 02, 2007

The Incredible Shrinking 2006 Overview

I want to do something similar to the exhaustive 2005 year-in-review posts, but haven't had as much time to pull it all together for '06. Therefore, while I may still do a more comprehensive by-the-numbers look (and comparison with '05) later on, for now here's a little different take on the comics I bought last year.

I was really sorry to see Solo and The Thing go. I enjoyed Solo's diversity and hope it gets at least a best-of collection. The Thing was a good read all around, and obviously a labor of love for writer Dan Slott.

Honorable Mention: Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight, Flash, Gotham Central. Each of these made way for a "newer, better" use of their characters and/or format, but I didn't think any of them had run out of potential -- especially LOTDK, which limited itself too much to a particular generic-Batman style.

The Rest: Adventures of Superman, Batman: Gotham Knights, JLA, JSA. Not really cancelled in any meaningful sense.

It's a toss-up between 52 and Seven Soldiers. Both focused on DC's lesser lights (yes, I am copping-out somewhat by lumping all the miniseries together), and both featured varying degrees of Grant Morrison. Likewise, both have been hard for me to categorize -- 52 because I'll have to wait until the end before really evaluating it; and 7S because I am dumb. If I had to choose one, though, Seven Soldiers' nonstop barrage of ideas and energy puts it ahead of 52's remarkably endearing (if somewhat uneven) week-in-the-life approach. The end of Infinite Crisis and its companion specials (including Brave New World) round out this category.

Matt Wagner blows away the competition with his two Batman miniseries, Batman and the Monster Men and Batman And The Mad Monk. They're throwback stories that don't position themselves ironically, but they don't wallow in retro trappings either. Mad Monk delivers the goods especially well, creating a very spooky mood that sets it apart from the rest of the Bat-fare. They would also have made a perfect couple of LOTDK arcs.

Honorable Mention: Astro City: The Dark Age Book Two, Fantastic Four: First Family, Secret Six, Sgt. Rock: The Prophecy, Star Wars: Tag & Bink Episode I, Star Wars: The Return Of Tag & Bink, Tales of the Unexpected (the Dr. 13 stories)

The Rest: Captain Atom: Armageddon, Crisis Aftermath: The Spectre, Fantastic Four: The End, Green Lantern Corps: Recharge, Guy Gardner: Collateral Damage, Marvel 1602: Fantastick Four, Omega Men, Spider-Man/Black Cat, Tales of the Unexpected (the Spectre stories)

Except for The Escapists, this would be the "old-school Marvel miniseries" category: Agents Of Atlas, Beyond!, The Escapists, and Marvel Romance Redux. I'm tempted to go with Beyond, because it both introduced me to Gravity and made me care about him, but that's just because AoA hasn't concluded yet.

and Nextwave headline this category (and the latter was definitely Cancelled Too Soon, but it still has an issue to go). Criminal didn't pull me in right away, and Nextwave was cheerfully simple.

Honorable Mention: Checkmate, (Welcome To) Tranquility

The Rest: American Virgin (dropped after #4)

Darwyn Cooke competes against himself with The Spirit and Superman Confidential, and both are good so far. The other series in this category is Batman Confidential, which didn't impress me with its lone 2006 issue.

To me, the most successful relaunch this year, hands down, was Kurt Busiek and Carlos Pacheco’s Superman. Superman doesn’t do well with angst, and starting with the “Up, Up And Away!” crossover, Busiek (with co-writers Geoff Johns and Fabian Niceiza on Action Comics) brought the Man of Steel back to a happy place. I’m also enjoying Allan Heinberg and Terry & Rachel Dodson’s Wonder Woman, whenever it appears.

Honorable Mention: Batman, Detective Comics, Justice League of America, Justice Society of America

The Rest: Action Comics, Hawkgirl

Among The All-New Atom, Aquaman: Sword Of Atlantis, and The Flash: The Fastest Man Alive, Atom has the most fun with its concept. Aquaman can’t decide how connected it wants to be to the rest of DC-Earth, and Flash fails utterly to make the case for Bart.

A late entry overtakes the field as Winter Soldier: Winter Kills, the Captain America tie-in, tells the poignant story of Bucky Barnes’ last Christmas of his youth and first of his rejuvenation.

Honorable Mention: Astro City: Samaritan, Marvel Legacy: The 1970s Handbook, Marvel Legacy: The 1980s Handbook

The Rest: Fantastic Four: A Death In The Family, Giant-Size Hulk, Superman Returns Prequel: Krypton To Earth

I picked up Civil War #1 and Eternals #1, but didn’t stick around for the rest of either one.

Tryouts that did hook me (sometimes after a break) included Birds Of Prey #s 98-101, Manhunter # 26, and Nightwing #s 125-27. Of these I’m happiest with BoP, which is really getting exciting with its more inclusive approach. Manhunter was also a pleasant surprise; now I have to get the paperbacks. Titles that weren’t so lucky included Amazing Spider-Girl, and One Year Later Robin and Supergirl.

This is the catch-all category for books that just kept doing their regular thing in 2006. All-Star Superman, Captain America, Firestorm, and She-Hulk 2 were perennial favorites, as was Hero Squared (which graduated to regular-series status). I found myself enjoying (Supergirl and the) Legion of Super-Heroes more as well, and apart from an off issue to close out the year, Green Lantern was good too. The nod goes to All-Star Superman, for knocking it out of the park every time.

Honorable Mention: Green Lantern Corps, JLA Classified, Peter David's work on Marvel Adventures: Spider-Man, Planetary

The Rest: All-Star Batman & Robin, Fantastic Four, the "Detroit" issues of JLA Classified and JSA Classified, Star Wars: Rebellion, Superman/Batman, and What Were They Thinking?

Finally, my big purchases were Absolute New Frontier, Batman Illustrated By Neal Adams Vol. 3, Dynamic Duo Archives Volume 2, and Fantastic Four Masterworks Volume 10. If there's a "winner" in this category it's between Darwyn Cooke and the last FF issues of Stan and Jack; and as nice as ANF's presentation was, I can't pick it over the Lee/Kirby FF.

So there you go. It looks like my favorite titles across these various categories were Solo, The Thing, the various Seven Soldiers miniseries and wrap-up, Batman And The Mad Monk, The Spirit, Superman Confidential, Superman, The All-New Atom, Beyond!, Winter Soldier: Winter Kills, Birds Of Prey, All-Star Superman, and Fantastic Four Masterworks Volume 10.

Again, this is meant to account for the books I bought, and I've tried to include everything (except trade paperbacks, about which I couldn't say much). If your favorite isn't here, I probably don't own it. More numbers, coming soon.


Anonymous said...

I agree about The Flash, it's really time to bring back Wally! I think in the time he was The Flash he really OWNED it-- moreso than Barry even did.

I like Bart, I do-- but it's just not his time yet.

Tom Bondurant said...

The new Flash mentions that Wally's "out there somewhere," but Bart doesn't know how to find him. Sounds like a back door to me. Also, thanks to JLA Classified, I think Wally may actually have appeared in more books than Bart in 2006....

Anonymous said...

I've also read rumors of a big change in Nightwing which may even mean a new Nightwing (perhaps, Jason Todd?) with Dick either retiring from crime-fighting to marry Oracle/Babs Gordon or to replace Bruce Wayne as Batman.

Actually I think they could do an interesting story bringing Wally back without his speed (initially) to open a detective agency with Dick Grayson and maybe have them "re-assume" their alter-egos when circumstances beyond their control make it necessary.

Tom Bondurant said...

That raises the question of just what exactly Wally is trained to do nowadays. In Teen Titans I got the impression he was going to college to get some kind of physics degree, which would make sense. However, after being called back into action in Crisis On Infinite Earths, he apparently dropped out of school to be the Flash full-time. Not long after, he won the lottery, lost all his money, and started living off a Justice League salary, I suppose. There was also some business with a "Barry Allen Foundation" in the Messner-Loebs era, and eventually Geoff Johns set him up as a police mechanic. Personally, I think he should go back to school and get the rest of his credits -- maybe become Ryan Choi's lab assistant for a while...?

Anyway, just thinking out loud.

Anonymous said...

I guess I'd just like to see more interaction between Wally and Dick Grayson as they were pretty close back in their Teen Titans days.

I think the idea of making Jason Todd the ONLY Nightwing, on a temporary basis is a good one. I really can see kind of Holmes/Watson dynamic developing between Dick & Wally if they were to become Detectives together (with Dick being Holmes and Wally being Watson-- can't you just see Grayson saying, "Elementary, Wally." I don't see it as a long-term story-arc just a short term thing.

I do like your idea of Wally going back to school-- if he's stripped of his powers briefly or permanent it would make some sort of degree or livelihood a requirement for him and would make for a rather interesting story arc as he comes to terms with being a civilian... especially if his kids DO end up having super speed.