Thursday, December 27, 2007

Ongoing Series - Best of 2007

This list is in no real order at all. The reason is that ongoing series each have their own rhythm and highs and lows occur in even the best ongoing books. The common thread that ties these series together is consistency and the same writer (or writing team) is on the book almost all the time (Blue Beetle did have a couple fill in issues which were it weaker issues).

Brave and Bold - Mark Waid (Writer) and George Perez (artist), do I need to say anything else. It should be All Star Brave and Bold as the portrayal of the characters is not 100% consistent with where the characters are in there own books, but who really cares. George Perez is at the top of his game delivering beautiful panel after panel. Mr. Perez is the best super hero artist in the business and has been for years. Bob Wiacek does a great job inking him and with as much detail as George puts into his pages, the inker has a heck of a lot to do. Mark Waid has managed to constantly rotate the people in the cast and tell a cohesive story and is now tying his entire run together with the "Book of Destiny".

Catwoman - Will Pfeifer (writer) David Lopez (penciller) and Alvaro Lopez (inker) and Adam Hughes on covers. First a little side note about the cover image to the left. The official DC website has that cover and the real cover her costume is unzipped to show off her assets. It is funny to me either sell the good girl aspect or do not, but be consistent. A minor point while getting to what has been one of the best books on the stands. Will Pfeifer should be getting critical acclaim from everywhere. he has taken us from the replacement saga, the Selina dealing with being a Mom, to dealing with the whole Zatanna playing with her mind, to the emotional and gut wrenching giving up of her baby. Lopez and Lopez have delivered great looking interiors, with the ability to render both emotion and action and make both believable. I hate that she has been pushed into Salvation Run, but hopefully Will can make that work also.

Hellblazer - By Andy Diggle (writer) and Leonardo Manco (artist). This book is coming up on its 20th Anniversary, which is a huge accomplishment in the fast pace market of comics today. A five year life cycle for many books is good, but to last 20 years that is something else again. The last few years the book has been okay, but never anything to make me stop and really notice it, until Andy Diggle came in and took over as writer. From his first issue you could get the sense that John Constantine was back. He had lost his edge and I hadn't even known what the book was lacking until Diggle took it over. Constantine is the arrogant, over confident and smart-arse bastard again. He has a heart, it is just buried deep and has been harden by a lifetime of seeing that humanity is not all it is cracked up to be. Plus John plays against bad people and has a tendency to piss off friends and enemies alike. Win or lose you know with Diggle's Constantine that he will ultimately make you pay a price. Manco's artwork is perfect for the book and has really been carrying the title for a few years when viewed in hindsight. This book also proves you do not have to relaunch a title, just get the right people on it.

Scalped - Written by Jason Aaron and art by R.M. Guera. We only have 12 issues of these series and it has made my list due to the series consistent hard edge. It is about a tough as nails character named Dashiel Bad Horse and he is an out of control agent of the FBI being sent back to his bleak and depressing reservation as an undercover agent. His job is to take down Red Crow, the leader of the tribe and the main owner of a new casino being opened. Not only do we get the main story but we get some wonderful portraits of people and their lives in the ghetto of what reservation life is for this tribe. How much research and personal knowledge the writer has is unknown, but it feels real. R.M. Guera does a wonderful job with the art and keeps it dark and moody, but not so dark as to be illegible. I'm curious to see if this is a story of Bad Horse or the reservation and look forward to another year's worth of stories.

Jonah Hex - Written By Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti, with art by many varied and different artist, including Russ Heath, Tony DeZungia, Jordi Bernet and many others. The one and done format with no continuity threads allows us to just catch episode after episode of Jonah Hex's life. From adventures from his past, to a time frame when he is an older man and all the times in between. Each story remains true to the essence of this hard edge remorseless man, who lives and dies by his own harsh and unforgiving moral code. This is one of the few series that I like to even get the trades of as I mail out the regular books I read to my daughters and a couple friends. I hope this book sticks around and that Justin and Jimmy continue their excellent writing job on this book as worthy successors to Michael Fleischer (who wrote the vast majority of the Jonah Hex stories in past years).

All Star Batman - Written by Frank Miller and art by Jim Lee. This is a love or hate it book. I was one of the people who initially really disliked the book. I have always thought that Frank Miller had an idea where he is going with this book. The lack of a consistent production schedule really hurt the overall feel of the book, but lately we have gotten an issue every few months. This is a mad / almost psychotic Batman who is living life on the edge and is willing to take out bad guys and anyone who gets in his way. Filled with versions of DC heroes who are both familiar and almost parodies of themselves. I now look forward to every issue to see where Frank is taking us next. I believe that the overall idea of the story is too show that Batman without a Robin loses himself to the fight and ultimately would lose the fight as there would be only a razor thin difference between him and the bad guys. I could be wrong and at this type of schedule it could be 2010 before the first arc is finished. Still Jim Lee's art is fantastic and he makes the book the glorious adventure it us and is worthy of the title of an All Star. I'll buy the Absolute Edition when it comes out.

All Star Superman - This series is by Grant Morrison (writer), Frank Quitely (pencils) and Jamie Grant on digital inks and colors. This is one of the best all time runs ever done on any comic. At this point if the quality maintains what it has been and Grant pulls off the overall story he started in issue #1, it will be one of the best of all time with ease. It is in Planetary, Watchmen and Sandman type of territory. The book is wonderful in so many ways. First off Grant has taken all the elements of Superman (especially the Silver Age) and made them seem new and fun again. Frank Quietly has redesigned the entire cast keeping their essences alive but making them over into a distinctive vision. Jamie Grant has inked Quitely very well and his colors are so vibrant and rich that the art almost jumps off the page. Best of all Grant remembers that what really makes any story work is relationships and Clark's love for his father, Lois and mankind is front and center in every issue. I know we only get maybe 4 issues a year, but that is enough with this book. A final note the cover I choose was my favorite cover of the year.

Blue Beetle - Written by John Rogers (and Keith Giffen was co-writer for awhile) with Rafael Albuquerque on art. This has been one of the best series to show a younger person having the whole super hero thing dropped on them and then growing up into the role. As a nice touch the newest Blue Beetle is also Hispanic. What has happened as you read this series is you see Jamie (the new Blue Beetle) do more what I believe I would have done if I suddenly became a super hero and that is slowly let people close to me know. As he is still living at home his parents learning about it and helping him deal with it makes sense. Adding the whole alien race (The Reach) trying to take over our world and only the Blue Beetle can see it makes it even better. This book is a prime example of why it is important to put new people under the mask and then move on. Jamie is a blank slate to write upon. Each adventure will be a new one and not the umpteenth time he has fought the Joker or Venom or Magneto or Dr. Doom or Lex Luthor or ... you get the point. We get real character growth and some great and surprising moments. One such moment is when Eclipso was trying to seduce Jamie and turned him into his secret desire which was a dentist, because they can make so much money. A series that is one that everyone who every enjoyed Spider-Man or Invincible should be reading.

Crossing Midnight - Written by Mike Carey with most of the art by Jim Fern. This is Mike Carey's best book so far (as he still has many years of writing left). I tried Lucifer and it was good, but I was not enthralled by it as I am this book. It is a mixture of Japanese mythology, horror, fairy tales and the tale of two fraternal twins born on either side of Midnight. Jim Fern's art has taken a leap with this title and the work he is doing in really in the upper class of artists. His realism and thin line style portrays whatever Mike Carey ask of him and this story demands many odd and bizarre creatures. The story line has an epic feel to it and I'm almost positive that Mike has the entire story laid out, but is just unsure how many issues it will take to get there. I'm constantly concerned that this book may have too small of a readership as it cannot be easily hyped in on or two lines. Still we have gotten the solicitation with #17 and that is Part 1 of a major arc, so maybe it will last long enough.

Iron Fist - Written by Ed Brubaker and Matt Fraction with the majority of the art by Daniel Aja. Daniel Aja is the biggest reason this book has made the list. His art work and fight scenes are very impressive and the fluid feeling his art has is perfect for a book that features martial arts fighting. The overall story has been one long story to date and we are on issue #11. While it is a good story, it has some flaws and the pace could be faster. In a book that is a monthly comic this type of slow pacing can make me lose interest. Ultimately it means it will read better as a trade. Sill Iron Fist was a character who I have always enjoyed and they have expanded on the mythology of the character and are telling an intriguing story.

Fables - Written by Bill Willingham with the majority of the art by Mark Buckingham. Fables is at worse the second best Vertigo series ever done (behind only Sandman). At best it could be one of the best long term series ever put together. We are well into five plus years on this book and have had only one issue that I did not enjoy. That issue was one where they answered a bunch of nitpicking questions for the devoted followers of the series. Currently we are deep into "The Good Prince" story line which has Flycatcher as the good prince who is sacrificing everything for the good of his people. Bill manages to switch main characters and still keep us enchanted by each story. Why this thing is not being reprinted as a series of hard covers is beyond me, but this will be a series that will have an unlimited shelf life. Along with Bill's great stories Mark Buckingham pours so much effort into the art work that you often want to slow down just to check out what border he has designed for this month's issue.

Green Lantern - Written by Geoff Johns with the main artist this year being Ivan Reis. I think that Geoff Johns may have been the bset writer in comics this year. Every book that he worked on was either very good or flat out great material. Geoff is writing Action, Booster Gold, JSA and Green Lantern. I give Green Lantern the nod because the Sinestro Corps War was the best "event" of the year and it was extremely self contained. You could have just read the first special about Sinestro and then just Green Lantern and really caught the entirety of the story. The GL corps and some additional specials were nice add-ons and gave us some additional back ground but were not needed in order to enjoy the story. Ivan Reis' art has grown by leaps and bounds over this year and the end of the war he really strutted his stuff with some great pin-up type action pages. I know the multiple "corps" and tying it all to emotions is a big and broad reach, but Johns is taking chances and I'm willing to let him play it out before saying it is a bad idea or not. I think it can work and I sense Johns is just getting us started and he has a good long term plan for Green Lantern.

Dynamo 5 - Written by Jay Faerber and art by Mahmud A. Asrar. A family book about the family you never knew that you had. This is one of the better group books on the market and they are truly a family of sorts. Gathered together by Captain Dynamo's widow these five young adults are all Captain Dynamo's children just by different mothers. Yes, Captain Dynamo had a lot of the NBA in him. Scrape, Visionary, Scaterbrain and the others are Dynamo 5. You get the feeling that Jay has most of their back stories already written and has a fair idea of where he will be taking this group for at least the next few years. Mahmud Asrar was new to me and he still appears to be young in his work, but is it very fluid and has a great style. We are not even one year into this book and it is already one of my favorite series. It has the feel of the early Fantastic Four and X-Men both. A fun book not only for the action but watching the kids grow up and grow into their powers.

Invincible - One of the best solo super hero books series every produced. Robert Kirkman (writer) and Ryan Ottley (artist) produce about 10 issues a year and hardly a page is every wasted. Right now we are building up to issue #50 and the last two issues have been about laying the groundwork for things to come. What is great is that Kirkman never seems to waste a single page. If he shows us something in the book it will usually pay off down the road. It maybe 10 issues later or more,but he does resolve his sub-plots. Watching Mark Grayson grow up, find out about his Dad, learn how to be a hero, a brother, a friend and a boy-friend, deal with college and fight super villains is always a great read. Creator owned books are the best because you really do not know what will happen next. Ryan Ottley is a good artist, he will not blow you away with his skills, but he delivers a solid job that fits the tone of Invincible like a glove. A book to look forward to issue after issue.

Walking Dead - Another Robert Kirkman written book on my list, this book is graced by the art of Charlie Adlard. I used to read this book as a trade paperback, but Kirkman effectively upped the ante in this latest arc and I have signed on for the monthly books. The concept is so simple, a Zombie plague has apparently effected the vast majority of the human population and the survivors must learn how to live again. We are given the perspective of a small group of survivors who have no way of knowing what happened or who else has survived. This latest arc is a battle between our group and another rival fraction who (due to their leader) believes our group tp be bad guys. Who will live and who will die is a real question and you really can not be sure if even Rick (who has been the central character) will survive. This book is blessed by Charlie Adlard's art, which is realistic and very well done, issue after issue after issue. The standard for post apocalyptic books.

Another unintentional theme to all the books I have choosen is for the most part they have stayed away from mega-events and remain in their own worlds. I know many are in the DC or Marvel unverses, but some titles managed to build their own worlds and use the shared Universe to their advantage as oppossed to being used by editorial mandates. Finally almost every title has actual growth of developement of the characters in it. Things happen in these books that have repurcussions to either thier history or thier lives. Finally there is no one actual item that completely ties these books together and that is a good thing as I liked to think that I have more then one interest or theme.


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  2. Yeah I've been reading Jonah Hex and Walking Dead form the beginning. Good stuff.

    I'll have to look into trade on the others...

    so much to buy...

  3. Never thought I would see the day All Star Bats would make your list.


    Must be one of the signs of the Apocolypse.