2008 year in review…

yeah, so it’s that time of year again. you know, when everyone and their brother (and sister, and dog) is doing a “Year In Review.” which often tends to be depressing, if you ask me; these lists tend to turn into a drone of names of famous people who died, wars that started, and other really depressing stuff.

so i wasn’t going to do one.

but over on the You’ll All Be Sorry board at CBR, Gail Simone asked posters for their “best of” list of comics for 2008. and, after answering, i figured that it would make a basis for a 2008 review that wasn’t depressing – because it would have almost no connection to the real world.

so this isn’t really a “review” of the year – but it is a listing of what really struck me as good in comics. a lot of it is clustered around the end of the year, but that’s just how the books seemed to show up; like the movie biz, summers are full of blockbusters (that usually aren’t that “good”), while fall is when the more “artistic” books tend to show.

so, let’s go!

Best Mini-series:

Phonogram 2: Singles Club – though it’s only one issue in, Jamie McKelvie’s art is gorgeous (as usual) and Kieron Gillen’s writing is top-notch.

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Phonogram centers on characters called “phonomancers” who manipulate magical forces through music – and tend to be real wankers. though they do dress well. crammed to the brim with musical references (the first series’ covers were all homages to famous/important Britpop albums), the book sometimes feels too cool for the likes of us who don’t live and breathe pop music – but they’re helpfully annotated after the story for those who don’t “get” the references.

there are also “B-side” stories after the main tale from guest writers and artists. highly reccommended – and since it just started, y’all can get in on it now. issue #2 drops January 7 (the first issue sold out, but the second printing of #1 should also be on the stands in January).

honorable mentions: Haunted Tank, Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane: Season 2 and Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files: Welcome to the Jungle.

all of these are good books; Haunted Tank is another book that just began (so one can get into it now). it’s a modern take on the old Haunted Tank feature that ran in the G.I. Combat anthology from 1961-1987.

Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane: Season 2 just ended, so it should be available in trade soon. geared towards teen and tween girls, it’s still a good read for all ages – but don’t expect any superheroing. this is all about high school life and social dynamics.

a prequel to Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files novel series, Welcome to the Jungle is available in trade now. Harry investigates a series of murders at the Chicago zoo; did the gorilla do it? it’s a Harry Dresden story – what do you think?

Best Ongoing:

have to go with Jonah Hex. the done-in-one format is a nice relief from the rest of my pull list. and it’s consistently the best book on the stands, period.

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Hex is a western that follows the adventures of its eponymous anti-hero, Jonah Hex. Hex is a sort of comic book Man With No Name; he’s not a nice person – but as long as you don’t cross him, you should be safe. a relaxing change from superhero tales, particularly with each book telling a complete tale. no decompression here! pick up any issue to start this book.

honorable mentions: Buffy Season 8, Invincible Iron Man, Captain Britain and MI:13.

Buffy is, well, Buffy. but in comic book form. launching last year, it’s been a consistently good book, with very few stumbles. the first three story arcs are available in trade.

Invincible Iron Man is written by Matt Fraction, and has a lot of the “feel” that made this year’s film a hit. now would be a good time to get on board this book, with the tie-in to Marvel’s “Dark Reign” event, but the stellar first arc won’t be available in trade until March.

Captain Britain and MI:13 – see the next item.

Best New Series:

Captain Britain and MI:13, hands down. Cornell really gets the characters and how to balance the tone between humor and sobriety. it’s also got just enough continuity – long time fans of the characters get plenty of the stuff they love, but it’s not so much as to totally lose the neophyte.

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Captain Britain finally gets the respect he’s been lacking since the early days of Excalibur Vol. 1 – and once again, it’s with a British writer at the helm. the only thing about this book that i don’t like is the lack of Meggan – but there’s still hope. and it’s nice to read a British book with British characters (yes! someone remembered Blade was born in Soho! – pre Wesley Snipes, anyway).

honorable mentions: Invincible Iron Man, Incredible Hercules, Mercy Sparx.

see above for Iron Man.

Incredible Hercules actually launched last December, but over the course of 2008 this has become the best “buddy book” in comics. think Road picture, but Bing and Bob get replaced with a supersmart (and supersmart-ass) teenage genius and a drunken Greek demigod. hilarity ensues.

Mercy Sparx is a fun little book from DDP that tells the story of a minor devil sent to Earth – and she’d really rather not be here. until recently, she didn’t even believe the mortal world existed. but the poor girl’s been strongarmed into hunting down renegade angels for Heaven – so it’s not like she’s got a lot of choice in the matter.

Favorite Artist:

Jamie McKelvie. buy Suburban Glamour and Phonogram 2. you’ll thank me for it later.

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honorable mention: Georges Jeanty, Buffy Season 8.

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Favorite Writer:

Paul Cornell, Captain Britain and MI:13 and Wisdom. somebody who really “gets” the characters and the fans. entirely too rare in comics right now.

honorable mentions: Tim Seeley, Hack/Slash; Matt Fraction, Invincible Iron Man; Gail Simone, Wonder Woman.

it was a cover from Jamie McKelvie that first got me to buy Hack/Slash, but after that issue, i tracked down all the backissues i could (and added the series to my pull list). in some ways it’s a T&A book (the excreable “Suicide Girls” tie-in annual comes to mind), but it’s more another buddy book. the way Seeley controls the interplay of the world-weary Cassie Hack and innocent, gentle Vlad (who happens to be a grotesque, hulking giant) really makes for a fun book. the super-violent confrontations with nightmarish monsters are a hoot as well.

Gail Simone has been doing a bang-up job at the helm of Wonder Woman, excepting some questionable story lines that seem to have come from editorial mandates. it’s nice to have a woman writing Diana.

Favorite Moment in Comics This Past Year:

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this is from the first issue of Haunted Tank – the ghost of Confederate general “Jeb” Stuart learns that the descendant he’s come to guide and protect just happens to be an African-American. whoops!

Favorite Comics-related Film:

Iron Man. “Give me a scotch. I’m starving.” just perfect. and Gwyneth as Pepper? wow.

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i loved this movie. if you’ve not seen it, it’s out on video. wonderful thrill ride, fantastic acting, gorgeous special effects. not a single “off” note in the picture. this movie redeemed Tony Stark for me, after his crypto-fascist turn in Marvel’s “Civil War” crossover.

side note: i don’t get why people were/are so fascinated with The Dark Knight. while a better movie than any of the other Batman flicks except (perhaps) Batman Begins, i think it was more than a bit flawed. one stellar performance does not a movie make.

so, that’s my comics “Year in Review.” hope you enjoyed it – and if you didn’t, why are you still reading? as always, when i express an opinion, your mileage may vary.

happy new year, everybody!

quote of the day:

“Any reviewer who expresses rage and loathing for a novel is preposterous. He or she is like a person who has put on full armor and attacked a hot fudge sundae.” – Kurt Vonnegut

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One Response to “2008 year in review…”

  1. Don D. Lewis Says:

    I agree with you assesment of Dark Knight. Although I have only watched it once, I too preferred Batman Begins. I kind of know where DK went off the track for me, but I will need to watch it a few more times before I’m sure.

    Iron Man was rock solid for me the whole way through.

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