Monday, January 02, 2012

2011The Year in Review

So Lee has been driving the blog as taskmaster and has commanded that a year in review be done. I’m curious to see if any of this rather disjointed and opinionated bunch will follow through, but since I stared this puppy lo those many years ago and was taskmaster for a long time I know being the big cheese is not always easy.

All years when looked at in retrospect have a lot happening. I sold my house, in the middle of a move to Florida, lost my beloved dog and have a new grandson as of December 22, 2011 Connor Jacob McLaughlin. Of course I don’t think Lee wants the Christmas letter that people send out he wanted more of a year in review of what happened in the comic book world.

The big things are Joe Quesada and Dan Didio are both kicked upstairs and we officially have Alex Alonso and Bob Harras running the day to day show and that impact is going to felt slowly over the coming months and years since their predecessors did not leave their influence will take more time to be visible.

Of course the biggest event of 2011 was the new DCU. The unprecedented re-launching of the entire DCU that culminating with 52 brand new series and temporary put DC on top of the sales charts. We are only on month 4 and while I have dropped 15 of the titles to date, that means I’m still reading 37 series from the DCU which is a good sign. I’m unconvinced this was needed and also not convinced it was a great idea. While the short term marketing gimmick worked like any gimmick it can only be played out for a short period of time.

The flaws I see in the plan have become painfully obvious to me as I have been reading all of the new DCU. It is too much being launched at the same time. Essentially I went from a lackluster universe that could be considered somewhat cohesive to a universe which contains characters I’m familiar with, but doesn’t really hold together anymore. My biggest problem is the Bat family as Nightwing appears too young, Tim Drake almost doesn’t even seem to be part of the family, Stephanie Brown has been all but forgotten in the new DCU and the rest of the characters are just starting to come together. Instead of knowing these characters, I now think I know them, but don’t really know them. That lack of familiarity has cut ties with my affinity for the DCU and I’m able to let go of things and no longer have that deep and abiding care about the characters. Week after week I find it easier and easier to cut books like Green Arrow, Legion of Super Heroes, Red Hood, Hawkman, JLI and others. In the end the books I like are going to be good books by good writers, so Scott Snyder, Jeff Lemire and Peter Tomasi are writers I will follow, but would have followed anyway. Seeing stuff by Josh Failkov (I. Vampire) and having names like Adam Glass, Kyle Higgins and others is a good thing, but I thing the massive re-launch was too much to absorb at one time. 2012 will give us the final tally as to whether the new DCU is a success or like Marvel’s Heroes Reborn a chapter to forget in the years ahead.

Marvel has been in event overload and with Fear Itself, Spider-Island, Hulk Wars. X-Men Schism and other such nonsense I have become burnt out on many of their titles also. I had just started to get back into Spider-Man and Spider-Island ruined that, getting back into Thor and Fear Itself destroyed that and the beat goes on. Again good books by good creators wins the day Brubaker and his Captain America work (all of it) has been very good, Jason Aaron’s new Wolverine and the X-Men has started off with a bang, Rick Remender’s magnus opus with X-Force was a thing of beauty and a joy to behold, but for the most part Marvel and DC are teaching me to follow the creator and not the character.

Both companies cannot make themselves actually advance their characters and after following this stuff for 50 years I’ve grown tired (finally) of that type of story telling. I can still enjoy great work and great Batman stories by Scott Snyder, watch Jeff Lemire play with Animal Man and enjoy Brubaker redefine Bucky and make him work as a covert operative, but for the most part I will look for my entertainment elsewhere.

This leads me to Terry Moore, Scott Snyder, Robert Kirkman and Joe Hill, who are producing some of the better independent titles. Terry Moore finished Echo and we now have Rachel Rising, Scott with Mr Tuft is giving us Severed, Kirkman has Walking Dead and Invincible and Joe Hill is crafting Locke & Key. Except for Kirkamn’s material all of these books are stories with a beginning, middle and an end. In Kirman’s books things that happen actually have long term and permanent repercussions to the characters. What you read matters in the context of the story.

The year in review for me has meant that I have reached a saturation point with a lot of what is happening in comics. I’m cutting way back on hard covers, reducing my weekly intake of comics to hopefully 15 books or less a week and may start getting more into the original art. This year is making me realize that less is more. If I only follow 40 or 50 series I can actually look forward to everything instead of just waiting for an arc to end and hope for something better.

As for what 2011 brought us is how about the writer of the year being Scott Snyder. As the old DCU wound down he brought us a Batman story that is one of the best in decades. Dick Grayson’s time as Batman will be a high point of the Batman mythos for all time. The new Batman series is the best super hero book on the stand, Severed is a great independent comic, one of Vertigo’s best series is American Vampire and the new DCU’s darker corner has a great series Swamp Thing. All penned by Scott Snyder with Scott Tuft on Severed as a co-writer. Scott is flat out the best writer in comics for 2011 and I expect him to become a long term super star in the industry. I just hope he does not got overworked as I see so many writers overreach and their work often suffers, see Bendis, Johns, Brubaker, Aaron and almost anyone else who becomes a star. That is not to say all their work suffers, just that no longer is every book their best work.

Next year should be interesting as I purge my collection of trades and hard covers and try to narrow my comic book focus. This will also leave me more time to read fiction and non-fiction prose material, settle into Florida and working from home and spending time with my adult children who both happen to live in Florida, plus playing at being Granddad. I love that life is ever changing, not like I have a choice, but I look forward to changes.

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