Thursday, December 29, 2005

2005 - the Year in Comics

I found this on line, and thought it might make for an interesting discussion of what happened this year in comic book land. I will make my own comments throughout the article. Feel free to share yours as well. My comments will be in ivory italics., Entertainment section. To see the original article click here.

TERRY MORROW: Bigger was better for the comic book world in 2005
Scripps Howard News Service

Bigger was better for 2005's comic books.
Is it REALLY? Or does this strategy just canabalize other non-cross over titles?

DC and Marvel Comics each had their own massive crossover stories that zigzagged into dozens of titles. The fallout from DC's "Infinite Crisis" and Marvel's "House of M" restructured the company's foundation titles. And those titles spun out a wealth of story possibilities for the next several years.
This is true. For better or worse, Marvel changed the X universe, and DC is going to revamp their universe as well. I think that there did need to be fewer mutants. However, they then used this to churn out a bunch of new titles instead of focusing on using this as a chance to make existing titles better. Where, it appears so far, with little solid information, that DC is using the opportunity to revamp current titles. Yes, they are adding some titles, but dropping some as well, and several titles will undergo a change of one kind or another. Rather than creating 5 new titles and/or mini-series like Marvel seems to have done, they are only creating a couple of new books but reinventing several existing ones.

"Crisis" and "House" created a perfect starting point for new readers to jump into. This was a very good year for rediscovering the joy of comics.
This is also true on one hand, and has really been a good thing for stores like mine. We get new people into these series fairly easily. Although, I must admit, it happens more with DC than Marvel. For some reason, at least in our store, it seemed like when Marvel did a big X-Men crossover with House of M people were like, “oh no, not another massive crossover.” But with Infinite Crisis, people were really excited to see what was happening and how it would impact their favorite characters. I am not sure why, but my one hunch is it’s because of continuity. Marvel has little of it, and even with House of M events things didn’t always fit together. While DC’s universe, for the most part, follows a similar timeline (except for their recent plague of late late late books). So, when something happens in DC it tends to naturally cross into other titles anyway.
On the other hand, these crossovers can be VERY scary for someone new. When we’d get people to pick up Identity Crisis they’d love it and come back wanting more. Then we’d show them Prelude to Infinite Crisis, and they love that. But then we show them the 4 mini-series that came out before the Crisis, plus the Crisis books themselves, and then they go on line and see the list of crossovers that have already come out and before you know it they’re totally overwhelmed and say they’ll just wait for trades. New people are easily overwhelmed by these crossovers. And people who got out of comics in the 1990’s because of these crazy crossover events shy away thinking nothing has changed in 10 years.

The best in 2005:
1. Infinite Crisis (DC Comics). The sequel to 1985's splendid "Crisis on Infinite Earths" is shaping up to be just as intriguing.
Certainly the storytelling is as strong, though the fallout may not be as monumental. We're already getting back the original Superman. More such dramatic turns are promised. With Geoff Johns, the best writer in comics, at the helm then anything is possible.
This is shaping up to be interesting, but I think it’s too early to call it the best. I might lean towards House of M here, since the series is complete, and once it was all said and done I thought it was quite good. If you are going to say Crisis, it might be better to say the “build up” was the best. I don’t read Green Lantern, but I think that a lot of people might put Green Lantern Rebirth at the top of the list for 2005. New Avengers was another very solid story this year that people really liked, Young Avengers too for that matter.

2. Ultimate Fantastic Four (Marvel Comics). In an alternate universe, the Fantastic Four are younger, less secure and easily swayed, creating compelling stories about responsibility and power.
I don’t read this, but the art has looked very good, and the sales numbers on it have picked up a bit over the last few months.

3. Walking Dead (Image Comics). It's a thrill ride on the same scale as the remake of "Dawn of the Dead."
I have only read it in trade, but it is quite good. When I recommend it to people, a lot of them say, “oh, no more zombies,” or “I don’t like zombie books,” or “I am not a horror fan.” But the truth is, this book is more about relationships and survival than it is horror and zombies. There are points when I think it could have moved quicker, but its being drawn out to keep the story going. But overall I’d say this is a good comic.

4. Wonder Woman (DC). For 60 years, she has been the toughest character in comics to write well. This year broke that. The Woman of Peace murdered. The consequences are fascinating and finally set her apart from other heroes.
I have enjoyed Rucka’s work on WW for some time now. When we first opened the store nearly 2 years ago we ordered a bunch of WW, and it did NOT sell. Not a single copy. Each month we’d decrease our order on it by a few issues, and each month it would sit and not sell a single copy. Then we stopped ordering it altogether and kept that way for at least 6 months. Then one day someone ordered a copy for their subscription here, and so we picked up an extra for the shelf – it sold. So, we ordered a few the next time and it sold. Then a couple more and most of them sold. Now we order 20! It’s almost a shame they are ending the book – but I’m sure it will be back. I just wonder what its changes will be and if it will help further increase the readership, or take us back to ordering only a few.

5. The New Avengers (Marvel). A new take on one of comics' oldest teams, the new Avengers is a new, take-no-prisoners version of a classic comic. It's a great shot in the arm.
As I said above – a very well written book. One of the best Marvel is putting out right now, in my opinion.

6. House of M (Marvel). The year's biggest event at Marvel Comics provided a thrilling alternative reality for many leading characters. Best of all, Hawkeye came back!
Hawkeye was only temporary! This was a bit drawn out, but overall it was good and I think it was necessary for the X Universe to have it happen.

7. Teen Titans (DC). For the series' second year, the team of teenage adventures saw their own futures - as hardened adults. It made for eye-opening revelations and a challenging read about personal choices.
I only pick up an issue here and there on this book, so I can’t really comment on anything other than it’s a fairly solid, average selling book. Not in the top 5 or the bottom of the barrel.

8. Exiles (Marvel). We finally learned the secrets behind who's manipulating this team of time-hopping mutants. Was it anti-climatic? No, it only stirred up the pot even more.
Again, I only pick up an occasional issue on this. It is not a big seller here, but those that do read it are quite faithful. I just don’t know that I’d have figured it to qualify for the top 10.

9. Green Lantern (DC). A hero seeking salvation was reborn this year, and we got an insightful chance to see a guy who gets that second chance he always wanted.
This definitely belongs on the list, this and the prequel mini-series that kicked it off, GL Rebirth. Many people wanted Hal back, and they got their wish. Johns did a great job writing it and month after month, despite some problems with lateness, the comic continues to sell very well. It was good to see some new life breathed into the Lantern Corps

10. Flash (DC). For more than 20 years we have grown up with this third incarnation of the Flash. This year he finally became a full-fledged adult, and the ride was a death-defying rush.
Again, I did not read this one (can you tell that I don’t read a lot of the super-hero stuff?). But, I know that it sold about average, picking up with the Crisis and the end of the Johns era. Then it dropped off a bit after Johns left. But, we still sold out of the last issue.

My top 10 would be: House of M, the Crisis prequels, especially OMAC and Day of Vengeance, because of the stories themselves as well as the great job they did building up events leading to the Crisis; the Seven Soldiers series, sometimes a bit bizarre, but always quite fascinating; New Avengers-I have read it trade only because it was selling out too quickly for me to read the early issues, but so far I have really enjoyed it – the characters are great as is their interactions with each other, plus lots of action; Astonishing X-Men (we did get issues of that this year, right?? It’s been so long), Fables, its always one of my first reads the week it comes out and I thought the Adversary reveal was great; Fell, a very interesting combination of horror, action and gritty police drama—reminds me of everything I liked about Casefiles: Sam & Twitch only it’s on time and less expensive; Wonder Woman-Rucka is one of my favorite writers and enjoy WW as a character as well; Gravity, a comic book almost anyone of any age could enjoy; and Green Lantern: Rebirth, which I only read the first issue of, but I put it on the list because of the fact that it sold VERY well here and it really made a big impact on the future of the Lantern corps. It was a bit too “insider” to me as someone who had no GL history, but for those who followed GL it was a very important book.

Events I am most looking forward to: Seeing what the Infinite Crisis actually is and what it does to the DCU; Wonder Woman returning – who she will be we don’t know, but I am looking forward to finding out; more Astonishing X-Men; more Gravity (hopefully written by McKeever) appearing; A good jump-in point for JSA-people seem to love the book and I want to give it a try; checking out Hawkgirl-the team is very good so this could really be a breakthrough hit for 2006; reading the latest installment of Powers in trade.

I thought about listing my least favorite books for the year, but decided to keep this whole thing positive

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