Wednesday, December 16, 2009

2009 The Year in Review The DCU

DC had a great year as Blackest Night has been lighting up the sales charts for DC with some astounding numbers. I would make the Blackest Night series one of the books of 2009. What Johns and Ivan Reis have done with this series is to make it feel like it was an organic event as opposed to a forced event that was being pushed for by the company. Infinite Crisis was a perfect example of editorial trying to mandate an event and then constantly putting its nose into the project and what happens is an event that never quite works out. I mean all you have to do is look at 52 that editorial basically let the writers alone and Countdown where editorial had a heavy hand in it and you see why the creators should be left alone.

Blackest Night has been building for awhile and DC was also smart to let the impact hit other major players in a separate mini-series so that Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman’s own stories would not have to be heavily impacted by Blackest Night and then any integration into their own books could be done naturally as opposed to just shoved down a writer’s throat.

This year also saw the end of Final Crisis where we had a book that was really about the New Gods, but it felt odd as we are all preprogrammed to think that something this big should impact the DCU. Now while Batman was “killed” by Darkseid, the actual mini-series had zero effect on the DCU at this point. I want to re-read Final Crisis in one sitting to see if it works better that way. I understand what Morrison was doing, but I thought it failed as an episodic comic.

When Morrison misses he misses, when he hits he hits it big (usually). Batman and Robin is a great series and one of my favorite books of 2009. Dick Grayson and Damien are the new Batman and Robin and when Bruce gets back I hope he is no longer Batman and becomes more of the mentor. The dynamic between Batman and Robin is fantastic and it really works having the happier Batman and the dangerously demented Robin. The battles with Professor Pyg, The Red Hood and the Flamingo have all been wonderful issues.

In fact DC did a good job with the entire revamp of the Batman line up. Personally I think Gotham Sirens will be a failure and Birds of Prey was a better book, but Batgirl, Red Robin, Streets of Gotham and Detective Comics have all been well done. In fact only the actual Batman book itself seems to have issues. Detective Comics has been spectacular with Greg Rucka writing and JH William III on art giving us our first extended look at the new Batwoman.

Power Girl was a great surprise from DC this year. Amanda Connor, who at first I was hesitant about her art style on the book but now love, has given us a great book with tons of expressive and humorous pictures. The writers have keep the book light hearted, but not made it into a kiddie book. Too many comics are still the grim and gritty material and too few have the old time lighter feel to them. This book keeps it light with strong modern writing and great art. Power Girl is busting out on her own this year and another winner from DC.

Two other series I enjoyed this year from DC are The Mighty and Rebels. The Mighty is one of those creator owned books published under the DCU banner and never get much attention (see Simon Dark). Both have been great concepts and may have fared better under the Vertigo banner. Rebels has been a delight and a joy for me as it has picked up on all the old LEGION and REBELS stuff from before. Tony Bedard seems to have a good long term story to tell and I hope this series last long enough that we will get to see the entire thing.

To switch gears let’s look at some of the things that have gone the wrong way for DC. Except for Superman Secret Origins, the entire Superman franchise is a mess. I know in 2010 we are building to a Superman event, but right now all of the Superman titles feel like the sub plots and not an actual main plotline. A year of little things happening and character building has burden and slowed down the titles Superman, Action, Superman World of New Krypton and Supergirl. All the books have all been treading water. Here and there we have gotten a decent issue, but all in all the sub plots need to be just that and a strong main story also needs to be told. Wonder Woman has been pretty tough this year also. Gail Simone is a great writer normally but the multiple story lines going on and the gorillas as her sidekicks and all the other elements seem disparate and never comes together for me. There are elements of a great story, but it never pulls together or works. Maybe it reads better as a trade.

Two other series that seem to have a level of importance for DC but are missing the mark a little are Justice League Cry for Justice and Flash Rebirth. I think both series are okay, but I think both series are serving the wrong master. What I mean by that are both series are setting up things and laying the groundwork for stuff to come, when they need to remember to be a good story first and foremost. It is okay to be laying groundwork for future events, but you have to tell a good dynamic story first.

We also got a hint of the First Wave coming out in 2010 with the Batman/Doc Savage special. This series looks great as we have a world that is both the 21st Century and 1930’s mashed together. Bruce Wayne is a rookie hero and a little bit of a hot head, Doc Savage is the cool and calm perfection of humanity that Bruce is maybe aspiring to be. We have the promise of Black Canary and other non-powered heroes showing up in this new world.

Last and far from least was Wednesday Comics. I will eternally love DC for giving us this weekly series. I have to think that there was no way anyone had a clue how well this would go over as you have to be a Sunday funnies fan of single page strips (like Prince Valiant) as well as a super hero fan. They gathered a wide array of talent and let them each tell us a twelve part story using the large single page of a newspaper size to tell their stories. There were great successes and some misses, but all in all it was glorious and well worth the money. Heck I got four copies every week and gave all four away to share the joy.

Finally we got back up features in a few DC comics and I like the idea, but not sure I like the extra buck I have to pay for them. Plus I would prefer it if the back up takes the front of the book every fourth issue or so. Not sure where the back up feature is going as Marvel has basically said screw it and charging everyone $4 whenever they feel like it.

Next up is Vertigo and Wildstorm as the year in review continues.

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