Best Comics

A co-worker asked me the other day which are my favourite comics. In some ways this doesn’t happen enough. I love to talk about comics. In some ways it is an awkward question. My answer in never Superman or Spider-man or any other title most folks recognize.

“Huh?” Is the answer I get.

Anyway I won’t give a list today. I did one not long ago. You can check it out.

Here are some current titles I’m digging:

  • Locke and Key
  • Avengers Arena
  • Saga
  • Hawkeye
  • Snapshot
  • Fatale
  • Young Avengers
  • Wolverine and the X-Men

Plus I still like the Bendis oeuvre. It is mostly the same every week. Same strengths and same flaws. And his X-men stories are going nowhere. But I enjoy them all regardless: Uncanny X-Men, All new X-Men, Guardians of the Galaxy, Ultimate Spidey. His Icon stuff is flakier: Scarlet, Powers, Takio.

No DC on my list. I’m still enjoying the Vertigo books, but the core 52 isn’t grabbing me. Wonder Woman is a near miss for my list.

For today, that is all

Goodbye Karen

Today DC Comics announced that Karen Berger is leaving Vertigo. Her final day won’t be until March, but it feels like the end of an era. In fact it is.

I don’t really know the Vertigo history, but I know Berger was crucial to the founding of the imprint. And since its founding she has been Vertigo’s strongest editorial voice and leader.

Editorial voice is a weird term. Vertigo is known as being a place for distinctive creator owned work. Works as varied as Sandman, Fables, Preacher, The Losers and The Invisibles. Berger didn’t even edit all the books I just listed, but she did oversee the line. Vertigo was about creators, experiments, and a strong commitment to the work.

Berger is also known for editing many of the British creators: Moore, Morrison, Delano, Gaiman, Ennis. Bringing that new viewpoint into the comics is surely notable. Not all the British titles were Vertigo launch. Some had completed before. But most were retroactively rolled into the imprint for later printings.

And printings – before it was guaranteed for all titles, Vertigo led the charge in having titles collected and reissued in trade paperbacks which were kept in print nearly perpetually.

Strong editorial insight, vision, leadership, a new publishing paradigm, strong recruiting and a dedication to providing creators with new voices a place to express them. That is a lot.

Vertigo isn’t done when Berger leaves. But it won’t be the same anymore.

Unless Berger decides to retire, her unique talents will surely be in demand. I hope to see more projects emerge under her stewardship. Something new and exciting. That would be the best results of this news.

The top two: Comics Should Be Good posted the last of the top 100 runs of all time

Three parts of this list.

First the top two.

2. Chris Claremont, John Byrne and Terry Austin’s X-Men – Yes. The awesome era of Xmen. I said earlier that the acme for me is the Paul Smith run. But this has Dark Phoenix, Days of Future Past and other stories that make the comic what it is today.

1. Neil Gaiman’s Sandman – And this is my #1 run as well. 🙂 I need to match up with the list somewhere.

Ok. Let’s make my own personal top ten.

1. Sandman by Neil Gaiman
2. Lone Wolf and Cub by Kazuo Koike and Goseki Kojima
3. Astro City by Busiek and Anderson
4. Hell boy by Mike Mignola
5. Fantastic Four by Waid and Weiringo
6. Fables by Bill Willingham
7. Ultimate Spider-Man by Bendis and Bagley
8. Stormwatch by Ellis and Raney
9. Quantum and Woody by Priest and Bright
10. Bone by Jeff Smith

I’ve got two runs on my list that weren’t on the CBSG. Stormwatch is my personal favourite Ellis. As one of my favorite writers he’d show up again a couple more time in a top 20 list. Q&W – there were very few comedy works on the official top 100. But I giggled my way through issue after issue. This also was the time of my perusal of Usenet and this was big there.

Which brings me to my third part of the post: notable stuff missed. This is just a quick list from my shelves and from my brain and from comment lists on CBSG.

Priest Black panther
Macgregor Black panther
Losers by Diggle and Jock
Gruenwald – the list was weak on Gru stuff. Cap the biggest one missing. Bet that would make Dave’s top ten.
Michelanie – like Gru, he seems under represented.
Grell – especially Green Arrow
Matt Wagner – Grendal, Mage, Sandman Mystery Theatre
Rogers Blue Beetle – some much goodness
More Byrne – alpha flight, namor – and more besides
More PAD – super girl, young justice, aquaman
Older dc – Swan superman? And pre-Marvel DC.
Judge Dredd – or other items from 2000 AD.
More manga – only one manga book on the whole list.
Tintin, Asterix et Obelix – or other European classics
The tick and
Tmnt – the indie boom was more than just Cerberus
Wonder Woman runs –
CrossGen – ruse, way of the rat
Simonson FF
Busiek Thunderbolts

The list show a Marvel/DC superhero and a new comic bias. These make sense. And that matches my own collection and top ten list. But they are easily discernable biases nonetheless.

Still I loved this list. Thanks to Brian Cronin and all the readers and voters on CBSG.

Top Comic Runs

A website is doing a top 100 list of the best runs of comics of all time as voted by the readers of the site.  I will be commenting.

Note: This is best runs.  Not best storylines.  Most of these represent a long term view by a single creator or creators.

The master list is here at “Comics should be good”:  http://goodcomics.comicbookresources.com/2012/10/07/2012-top-100-comic-book-runs-master-list/

So far it is awesome.  Read Brian cronin’s writeups that explain the runs and their general niftiness.

My comments:

100. Daniel Clowes’ Eightball – I’ve only read one issue of Eightball.  I can only say it wasn’t my thing.

99. Jim Steranko’s Nick Fury – I’ve read none of this, but I’ve always wanted to.  My only worry is that the scripting might be a little purple for my current tastes.  The art, from what I’ve seen of many samples over the years, looks great.

98. Stan Lee and Jack Kirby’s Thor/Tales of Asgard – I have not read.  I’m not a huge Stan Lee fan.

97. Terry Moore’s Strangers in Paradise – So cool.  This might make my own personal top 10.  Moore’s current Rachel Rising and the previous Echo were stronger stories, but as a run SIP just rocks.  A Moore’s greatest strength is humour and that was paramount in SIP, but downplayed in his current work.  I’d like to see him take his current skills to a new humour book.

96. Jack Cole’s Plastic Man – I’ve read small parts of this in digests I had as a child.  It was wildly entertaining.

95. Peter David’s 1st Run on X-Factor – This run is what made me want to comment.  I just tossed my collection of David’s second run – despite the fact that it remains one of my favourite comics.  I still have the first run in bags and boxes.  Why toss the 2nd run?  My criteria was ‘would I reread it?’  As good as it is, I’m not sure I ever will.

94. Gail Simone’s Secret Six – Meh.  This just wasn’t my thing.  Simone is good and many of the artists she had are incredible, but underrated.  This was often just a bit too dark for me.

93. Chris Claremont’s New Mutants – Never read this.  Weird I know.

92. Frank Miller’s Sin City – As a story this is too dark for me.  As art and storytelling, it is just incredible.  The issue of Marv in the rain is one of the best issues of comics ever.  Miller’s Daredevil will also show up on this list somewhere… (not the Batman though as it won’t qualify as a run).

91. Chris Ware’s Acme Novelty – Not my thing.  It is just too sad.  Reading this while happy will dampen your mood.  I’d hate to read it while sad.  But, the storytelling of Ware is undeniable.  This is impressive stuff even if I don’t like it.

90. John Layman and Rob Guillory’s Chew – Meh.  I get why people like it.  Just not for me.  And it isn’t near in the same category as the books before and after it in this list.

89. Mark Waid and Mike Wieringo’s Fantastic Four – The second run that might be in my top ten.  This is just awesome in every way.  My favourite work ever by Waid and he has done lots of good stuff.

88. Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez’s Locke and Key – This is one of my current favourite series.  I’d wait until it is complete before adding to a list such as this though.  Even then it might not make my personal top 10.

87. Dan Slott’s Amazing Spider-Man – Have not read.  With this recommendation I might try and find the Slott/Martin issues.  Mostly because Marcos Martin is incredible.  If Slott holds up his side…

86. Bryan Lee O’Malley’s Scott Pilgrim – Hee hee.  I loved this as it was coming out.  I still reread it.  This would be on my top ten bubble.  I’m not sure it qualifies as a run though – it is only 6 issues.  (long issues, but only six.)

I think I get to see the next 5 tomorrow.  I can hardly wait.

Thanks to Comics Should Be Good.

 

Locke and Key

I’ve been a bit weary of many comics these days.  I’m on the lookout for something new and interesting.  Locke and Key fits.

An IDW comic by Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez, it follows the travails of the Locke family while they sojourn at Keyhouse.  I’ve read the first two arcs and the fifth is now seeing serialization.  The first arc is almost straight up horror.  The second has more of a Grant Morrison tinged weird fantasy touch.  The first arc was suspenseful and scary and horrifying.  The second wasn’t quite as good, but features some just stunning visual metaphors.

Bode, Kinsey and Travis are the Locke children.  The comic opens with a pair of psychopaths attacking first their parents and then the children.  As a result the family moves back to their Dad’s childhood home – a mansion on a promontory called Keyhouse.  In addition to their Uncle Duncan, Keyhouse contains doors, keys, locks and mysteries.  Including a malevolent spirit in the wellhouse.

The first arc plays as a children in peril horror story.  It works well both due to the creepiness of the house, the implacability of their tormentor and the fact that they DO go to adults for help.  I’m often annoyed at this type of story because the kids never do the obvious and tell an adult or parent of the threat.

What makes this work?  The characters are well drawn – in multiple sense of the word.  They are distinct and interesting.  They have backstories, emotions, and beleivable reactions.  The Locke kids in particular seem like the kind of people you might like to know.

The mysteries of Keyhouse are intriguing and fantastic.  The core conceit is that there are keys that allow for incredible events if used properly.  The number, kind and true purpose of the keys and the house is the central mystery driving the series.  The house, the keys and their effects are all portrayed niftily.  The normal people and events are shown in a cartoony, but grounded style.  The fantasy sequences are just fun and astounding.

A horror comic isn’t for everyone.  But if you have any interest in the genre…Locke and Key is just awesome.

AvX

Ignore this post.  It is an indulgence in high geekery.

The big summer comic event from Marvel is Avengers vs. X-Men.  CBR did an article about the four ‘generals’ of the two teams.  I think they got it wrong.  Which is unfortunate since the folks giving the details were two of the key writers (both of whom I like) and the Avengers editor (whom I also like).  So I’m going to re-hash it out Todd-style.

We will evaluate by these criteria on a four star basis:

  • Strategic Thinking
  • Tactical Thinking
  • War time experience
  • Ability to fight for ones passions
  • Ability to inspire others

The four captains are:

  • Captain America (Steve Rogers) – leader of the Avengers
  • Cyclops (Scott Summers) – leader of the X-Terminators (X-Men)
  • Luke Cage – leader of the New Avengers
  • Wolverine (Logan) – leader of X-Force and headmaster of the Jean Grey Academy

Not to leave you in suspense… Cap is going to win.

Strategic Thinking

  • Captain America – * * *
  • Cyclops – * * * *
  • Cage – *
  • Wolverine – * *

Cyclops wins.  He’s been studying strategy for years and deploys his people in the field with a purpose.  Cap is arguably his equal here, but I rank him less because the Avengers often don’t deploy with a strategy.

Tactical Thinking

  • Captain America – * * * *
  • Cyclops – * * * *
  • Luke Cage – * *
  • Wolverine – * * *

Wolverine has equal training and experience in this area to the top two, but I rank him lower because he is often single-minded on the battle-field.  It is often just him and the foe rather than the rest of the team.  Cap has an edge at the four star level.  This is his metier.

War Time Experience

  • Captain America – * * * *
  • Cyclops – * * *
  • Luke Cage – *
  • Wolverine – * * * *

Wolverine has the most experience here due to his long life time, but Cap has always been a Captain and leading troops.  Cyclops would rank four stars in this if Cap and Wolvie weren’t here.  In addition to leading a paramilitary unit since his mid-teens, he spent years in the future training his son.  Poor Luke loses every category due to this fact – he has never been a soldier.

Ability to Fight for Ones Passions

  • Captain America – * * * *
  • Cyclops – * * * *
  • Wolverine – * * * *
  • Luke Cage – * * * *

I’d rank Cap just a hair lower.  He’s often found other solutions than fighting (see The Captain and the end of Civil War).  Really this is what makes a super-hero.  I’d have to rank them all lower if Spidey was in this ranking, but otherwise…

Ability to Inspire Others

  • Captain America – * * * *
  • Cyclops – *
  • Luke Cage – * *
  • Wolverine – * *

Wolverine’s inspiration generally comes in mentor type relationships (see Kitty and Jubilee and others).  On the field of battle he’s always scary.  This is Cyclops’ big drawback.  His leadership is always questioned.  He leads through reasoned argument (or fiat) – not because he inspires.  I wonder about moving Cage higher on this one.

Total Stars

  • Captain America – 19
  • Cyclops – 16
  • Luke Cage – 10
  • Wolverine – 15

Poor Luke.  Wolvie comes higher than I’d expect.

And that is the tale of the tape.

 

 

Before Watchmen

Before I talk about Before Watchmen –

Congrats to my friends who just delivered a new baby girl last night!  Yay!

DC Announced a series of Watchmen prequels today.

Am I interested?  Yes.  But only because of the talent.  Brian Azzarello, Darwyn Cooke, JMS and Len Wein writing.  Darwyn Cooke, J.G. Jones, Amanda Conner, the Kubert brothers, Adam Hughes, Lee Bermejo and Jae Lee on art.  Many of these creators are on my ‘always buy’ list anyway.  That is just a solid list of creators.  Some are brilliant.

Will it be any good?  Trickier.  Moore and Gibbons didn’t really leave a lot of room for prequels in the story.  The individual characters all had their origins and early histories told in the original story.  Can you tell different plots, use different themes with the same characters? Sure and they might be good.  I’m not sure if it will really be Watchmen though.

Will it be as good as Watchmen?  Who knows.  Not likely.  25 years later and I think there have been several comics better than Watchmen.  Watchmen isn’t my favorite book.  Often a new distillation of previous ideas can result in something better.  More often you just get something watered down and wanting.  It can’t help but be compared to the original, but I’ll be happy if it is good on its own terms.

Should DC publish it? Sure.  It will probably make them money.  And it might be good.

The Interwebs are abuzz.  Twitter is twitterpated.  Most of the talk I’ve seen, including the PR announcement, takes a different view than my quick analysis above.  The questions asked are: Does DC have an ethical responsibility to follow Alan Moore’s wishes and just leave the property alone?  Are the creators crazy to get involved in such a project?  Will an updated project make Watchmen relevant to people today?

Bah.  Either it is good or it isn’t.  Look at those creators!

Or you can skip buying it.