Archives for posts with tag: Before Watchmen

classybestof2014

For the second year, the World’s Second Greatest Detective presents an assessment of the comics I’ve read, awarding accolades to books that impressed me. Like last year’s list, this one comes at the beginning of September because my comics year begins and ends with Dragon Con in Atlanta. A lot of titles that I mentioned last year continue to turn out great work: Saga, Revival, Batman, Manhattan Projects– but I’d rather steer attention to titles that didn’t make last year’s list either because of my ignorance, their slow creep to trade, or the fact they didn’t exist last year. There will also be some categories this year. For example:

Best Comic Book Character portrayed in an animation

savethebatmandontcancelthisshow

Katana in “Beware the Batman”

I should remind you that I don’t read any Marvel books, though the announcement that Charles Soule is leaving all his DC titles and the particular temptation of his Death of Wolverine has me eying the other side of the fence a bit. My decision to abstain from Marvel Comics is sort of arbitrary, but not totally without reason- limits on time and resource do not permit me the luxury of reading every comic book, so I picked one of the big two companies and don’t read the other at all. Though I do read a lot of independent comics and that’s really where my heart belongs. I picked DC over Marvel because of many reasons, but the simplest is Batman.

Not all of the accolades will categorized. Nor may all those mentioned really be ‘comics of 2014’ in the truest sense. For example, thanks to a generous donation by Oni Press to the WonderRoot Jackie Ormes Comic Book Library. I had the privilege to read two series that knocked my socks off:

courtneycrumrinhasaposse

Courtney Crumrin is the fun story about a misanthropic little girl who lives a society worth hating, but luckily finds an uneasy friendship with her witch uncle and a few easier friendships with netherbeasts. It’s a clever book and the content is acceptable for most age levels.

sixthgun

The Sixth Gun is an epic story set in a very Wild West, shaped by all sorts of occult and heebie jeebie ghost stuff. Cullen Bunn and the other creators of The Sixth Gun have moved onto other things and the news that DC would cancel All Star Western saddened me a little. East of West is still kicking around, but 2014 has  introduced a Western title that I may enjoy more than all three of those titles.

MARVELCoverTemp copy.indt

Pretty Deadly contains some amazing art. Much like the best work of J.H. Williams III or Francis Manpaul, Emma Rios’s artwork stands out for her creative use of the medium. Panels and pages work together to create a fantastic pace. As Kelly Sue Deconnick’s writing takes the story in and out of stories and timelines, the art and especially the coloring distinguish the different parts of the whole quite well. Deconnick opened the Comics and Popular Arts Conference at this year’s Dragon Con with a rousing talk touching on a variety of subjects such as how we learn publicly and with record in a fast-paced technological society and how that empowers a ‘gotcha culture’ which in turn hinders our ability to learn; the use of the white male as the default character; the futility of overly emotional and aggressive responses to opposing ideas; and comic books. Her husband writes a pretty good comic too.

doing it and doing it and doing it well

Sex Criminals is a twist on Bonnie and Clyde, Robin Hood, Out of this World, 9 Songs, the Matrix, A Dirty Shame…and yeah, it isn’t. It’s an incredibly original story about a girl who stops time when she orgasms and a boy who also stops time when he orgasms. They discover this shared ability during the act of coitus and put it to good use, robbing banks to raise money for a library under attack by a viciously greedy bank that the boy happens to work for and where he poops in his boss’s office plant once a day.

Another catergory?

Worst Comic Book Character portrayed in an animation

For the video game-inspired animated movie Batman: Assault on Arkham, a bit of a revolution for the animated superhero movie with its Guy Ritchie-like pace, excessive profanity, explicit sexuality, and a level of violence exceeding even last year’s The Dark Knight Returns, DC made a Suicide Squad movie under the guise of a Batman movie. One thing I like about it is how they retained the original physical attributes of Amanda Waller instead going for the Angela Bassett model. One thing I didn’t like is how they turned King Shark from this:

Joker lipstick on a shark

King Shark in the comics to:

james bond jaws joins suicide swaud

King Shark in Batman: Assault on Arkham

He looks a cross between Bane and Jaws from The Spy Who Loved Me. Their motivation for desharking the shark is unclear to me. I also don’t understand why David Goyer wants to demartian the Martian Manhunter.

Best Comic Book Companion to a video game

supermanisthegimp

Injustice: Gods Among Us begins before the video game’s storyline. In the simplest terms, Joker has tricked Superman into killing Lois Lane who is pregnant with Superman’s baby. Superman gets so mad that he kills the Joker, beginning the fascist reign of Superman and a doting Wonder Woman. Because it is an Elsworlds story with so many DC characters involved, the opportunities for bringing the essences and flaws of these characters abound. Tom Taylor wastes none of them. The Bat family is especially well-done is the book- particularly Alfred and Catwoman.

Best Art in a Superhero Comic Book

jaelesssupermanbatman

Jae Lee did some of the best work of his career during his time on Grag Pak’s Batman/Superman. Of all the superstar artists from the 1990s that have continued in comics, I think the development of Jae Lee’s work has been the most interesting to watch. If you haven’t seen his work on Before Watchmen: Ozymandias, I highly recommend that one too. Batman/Superman is a dreamy book, but it is not without a strong sense of character and expression. This collaboration between Pak and Lee stands out as a triumph in comic storytelling.

Second Attempt That Makes The Most Sense in the New 52

Giving Deathstroke another chance at having his own title. Also looking forward to Gail Simone returning to her Secret Six roots later this year.

Second Attempt That Makes The Least Sense in the New 52

Why are the Teen Titans starting over again with issue 1?

Best Volume 3 collection of the New 52

Action_Comics_Vol_2_18_Textless

Grant Morrison’s run on Action Comics fulfilled its own prophecies in Vol. 3: At The End Of  Days. Morrison’s writes for the long haul and sometimes it works really well (Seven Soldiers of Victory, All-Star Superman, the epic story of Damian Wayne, Doom Patrol, Filth). His eighteen issues on Action Comics is separated into three acts, best illustrated by their separate trade collections. Vol. 1: Superman and the Men of Steel comes off as a pretty typical superhero comic- it’s action-packed and reintroduces many classic characters from Superman’s mythology such as Lex Luthor, Lois Lane, Jimmy Olsen, Metallo (Metal-Zero), and Brainiac. There are few weirdo moments, typical of Morrison’s work, but don’t overpower the straight-forward superhero elements. Vol. 2: Bulletproof is pretty weird, more distinctly Morrison. The story is all over the place, referencing itself, making the most out of the queer moments from Vol. 1: Superman and the Men of Steel, as well as introducing a Barack Obama doppelganger named Calvin Ellis- another dimension’s Superman. Finally, in Vol. 3: At the End of Days, all the kookiness starts to make sense and the details of Clark’s arrival in Metropolis in Vol. 1 become enriched by a Myxlplyxian plot that satisfies the patient reader.

Best Vol. 4 Collection(s) of the New 52

volumefours

While The Flash Vol. 4: Reverse, Wonder Woman Vol. 4: War, and Batwoman Vol. 4: The Blood is Thick all continued runs by outstanding creative teams, it is books like the Green Lantern family of books, Justice League Dark, and Green Arrow that have seen new creators come in and take the books in different directions to which I’d like to draw your attention. Much praise has been tossed to Jeff Lemire and Andrea Sorrentino’s Green Arrow, collected in Green Arrow Vol. 4: The Kill Machine. The art distinguishes itself from the unofficial DC house-style and the writing invigorates Oliver Queen as a character. I do think that in praising Lemire and Sorrentino’s work, a lot of undeserved criticism has been thrown Ann Nocenti’s way. Her depiction of Oliver Queen as an Ugly American in the People’s Republic of China is one of my favorite instances of seeing China portrayed in a superhero comic. Jim DeMatteis has seemingly inherited the Dark family of DC titles, emerging from his run on The Phantom Stranger. In Justice League Dark Vol. 4: Rebirth of Evil, he takes over for Lemire- moving the story from Trinity War to Forever Evil territory. The little demon Constantine‘s are great, but I wouldn’t have minded a bit more Frankenstein, my favorite member of the Justice League Dark. With the announcement of Charles Soule signing an exclusive contract with Marvel, I expect DeMatteis may take over Swamp Thing, which had a good, but short Vol. 4: Seeder. Matteis does interesting things with the character in Justice League Dark, but if I was going to pick the new writer of Swamp Thing, I’d go for either Tim Seeley, Kurtis Wiebe, or Angelo Tirrotto. To write an Animal Man title despite his joining Justice League United, I’d recruit Corinna Sara Bechko or Joshua Ortega with the instructions to keep Animal Man dark. Finally, the new slew of Green Lantern creators gave the ring-slingers an exciting year. Ranked best to least best: Red Lanterns, Green Lantern, Green Lantern Corps, Green Lantern: New Guardians. Outside of those Vol. 4s, I was disappointed with the Larfleeze title, but look forward to Cullen Bunn’s Sinestro.

Best Non-Picture Book Author to Write a Picture Book

the boys are dead and girl just wanna have fun

Toby Litt on Dead Boy Detectives

When I lived in Ireland, I discovered the work of Toby Litt, an author whose work was not available in the United States, and absolutely fell in love with it. Deadkidsongs, in particular, left me creeped out and inspired. When I heard he would be rebooting the Vertigo series Dead Boy Detectives I waiting in hefty anticipation for the trade to be released. While I was not disappointed, I must admit that Litt has not taken to the medium as quickly as the likes of Brad Meltzer who blew the comics world away with Identity Crisis. I do however see great potential in the future comics work of Litt as he adapts to the medium. Reading the trade, you can see him become more comfortable and, in turn, more capable.

Best Superhero Live-Action Movie

x-men-days-of-future-past-movie-still-15-blink

X-Men: Days of Future Past, like its predecessors, stands well above the rest of the Marvel movies (with the possible exception of Captain America: Winter Soldier). Jennifer Lawrence, Hugh Jackman, Michael Fassbender, and the rest of the classic mutants put on a great show and new arrivals like Quicksilver brought energy to the film. This and X-Men: First Class are my favorite of the X-Men movies. They somehow managed to make Fan Bing Bing look terrible, which is my only real complaint about the film.

fanbingbingcollage

In conclusion, I’m looking forward to more great comics this year though I have some concerns about a few creative teams at DC (Wonder Woman) and will miss some of my favorite creators and titles as they disappear from the shelves, hopefully replaced by new books of splendor, wonder, and ideas.

 

 

dragonconunicornandangel

To see more pictures from Dragon Con, click HERE

(warning: some pictures might not be suitable for all audiences)

Dragon Con this year went pretty well. I enjoyed nearly every panel which I attended, which was considerably less this year as I volunteered for the first time. As usual, the panels from the academic conference were the most interesting. I must admit I had the most fun at my panel, “Comics Through A Socio-Political Lens.” The other speakers were very nice and delivered witty papers. The crowd was engaging and even included a real life superhero- Jet from the Rock City, Alabama! I got to speak with a lot of artists and writers, such as Neal Adams, Jimmy Palmiotti, Amanda Connor, Brian Stelfreeze, Darwyn Cooke, Van Jensen, and others. Because I was a volunteer, I ended up meeting a lot of movie and TV stars including Malcolm Macdowell, George Takei, Edward James Olmos, and the guy who plays Hank on Grimm. I did feel a bit starstruck meeting the cast of Smallville, especially Allison Mack- talking to her was just like talking to Chloe Sullivan. Supergirl is even more beautiful in real life and Brainiac has been working out. The other volunteers I met were generally nice. Some of them were more interesting than others.

The most interesting person I met wasn’t actually a guest at Dragon Con. I was walking out the Marriott when I spotted a guy wearing a Strange Talent of Luther Strode t-shirt and I complimented him on it. It turns out he’s Tradd Moore and he gave me a copy of Luther Strode Vol. 2, which was pretty sweet.

dragoncontraddmoore

To see more pictures from Dragon Con, click HERE

After Dragon Con, I realize that I left two great titles from the past year off the list of best comics. Obviously the omission of Luther Strode is a bit embarrassing and perhaps even a little corrupt in light of his recent generosity, but it’s definitely a book that stood out this year. The other omission is the unreasonably controversial and incredibly well-done Before Watchmen series, which I really feel like rereading after hearing Darwyn Cooke and Amanda Connor talk about it.

dragonconbatmanbehindmileycyrus

To see more pictures from Dragon Con, click HERE

watchmencollageb4

When the “Before Watchmen” project was announced in February 2012, I had only recently rekindled my love affair with comic books. My first on-line contribution to comic book discourse came in the form a fanboy-type suggestion. I’d just finished The Long Halloween, Hush, and Jeph Loeb’s run on Superman/Batman, so I innocently posted a comment on a news article that I thought Loeb should contribute to the “Before Watchmen” project. Within seconds, I received a scolding from some other random netizen about how Jeph Loeb would only bring death and rape to the Watchmen universe. At the time, I hadn’t familiarized myself with Loeb’s Ultimate contributions in the Marvel Universe, so I didn’t really understand what the other commenter was talking about. I also didn’t think death and rape were out of place in the Watchmen universe. Watchmen is one of the touchiest subject in comics and its touchiness is largely manufactured by the comics and comics news industry, particularly by Alan Moore himself. I’ve discussed Alan Moore’s diva-like behavior on this site before and that’s not my intention here. I’m using this space to share my thoughts on the “Before Watchmen” project and will try to do so in as much of a Moore-Gibbons vacuum as possible. The series have been collected in four beautiful hardcover editions- like nearly all comics, I tried to avoid this series until they were all collected in trade editions.

bwm

Here’s the short version:

I really liked “Before Watchmen” and think the haters either didn’t read it or read it with their minds already sown up tightly by their off-putting and thinly developed cultural elitism.

bwm

Here’s the long version:

“Before Watchmen” does the comic book magic- taking the familiar and making it feel new. Looking at the original and looking at the prequels feels as radically different as looking at Golden Age comics and Silver Age comics. The comic medium has matured and it can clearly be seen here. The seriousness with which all of the creators approached this project with is apparent in every panel. The art is a serious departure from the tiny paneled original series. Similarly the text is less cluttered and more experimentally displayed than in the original.

While the four volumes could be read in any order, I will discuss them in the order that I read them, which worked well for me.

BEFORE WATCHMEN: MINUTEMEN-SILK SPECTRE

Darwyn Cooke and Amanda Conner should work together as much as possible. Their styles capture an essence of sequential art that other artists miss, a humanity unique to the comic book form. Cooke’s Minutemen story is largely the story of Hollis Mason, the original Nite Owl, and his struggle with the dark side of costumed crime-fighting. His unfortunate crush on Silhouette, the awkwardness of Captain Metropolis and Hooded Justice’s relationship, the commercialization inherent in Silk Spectre, Dollar Bill, and the Minutemen project itelf- all of these issues are seen through a somewhat existentialist Mason’s eyes as he comes to grips with the hypocritical society to which he belongs. Moving from the original Silk Spectre to her daughter makes the transition to Conner and Cooke’s Silk Spectre story logical. The mother-daughter relationship is explored, bringing to mind toddler beauty pageants and the millions of other ways parents suffocate their children, but with superheroes. Laurie runs away to find her own destiny, looking in LSD-riddled 1960s San Francisco. She encounters an enemy that Thorstein Veblen would certainly appreciate and causes her mother plenty of grief. While reading it, I sort of expected Mina Murray from LOEG Century 1969 to cameo in someone’s acid trip. I highly recommend this volume.

BEFORE WATCHMEN: OZYMANDIAS/CRIMSON CORSAIR

Len Wein works with several artists to provide more complete accounts of the Crime Busters’ Ozymandias and the Minutemen’s Dollar Bill. The bulk of the collection is the Ozymandias story, which relates most closely to the ultimate plot of the original series and explains Moloch’s role in everything clearly. Jae Lee’s art is top notch. If you compare the still amazing art Lee was doing for Namor twenty years ago to his work in Ozymandias, you can see how Lee has mastered his own style and how working with colorist June Chung bring his pictures to a whole other level. The art from The Curse of the Crimson Corsair and the Dollar Bill one-shot are very different from Lee’s high art style. Crimson Corsair sports the gritty pulp art of horror comics while Dollar Bill features colorful art that wouldn’t have looked out of place in the Before Watchmen: Minutemen/ Silk Spectre collection. To be honest, I didn’t really enjoy the Crimson Corsair story, but I didn’t really enjoy the Black Freighter stuff in the original series.

BEFORE WATCHMEN: NITE OWL/DR. MANHATTAN

J. Michael Straczynski pens three great stories here: Nite Owl, Dr. Manhattan, and Moloch. The Nite Owl story features the best recreation of Rorschach and a stomach-turning villain more suited to Rorschach’s brand of justice than Nite Owl’s more moderate approach. The Dr. Manhattan story delves into the practicalities of Shrödinger’s cat, modal realism, parallel universes, and the nature of time. The final product is a successful experiment. The final story told in this collection Moloch ties closely to Len Wein’s Ozymandias story. It’s a good villain story- in addition to my controversial stance that “Before Watchmen” is a worthwhile idea that was brilliantly executed, I’m also excited about September being Villains Month.

BEFORE WATCHMEN: COMEDIAN/RORSCHACH

I really like Brian Azzarello especially his Wonder Woman stuff. However his contributions here sit weirdly among the other ones. The Comedian story reads like an Elseworlds Watchmen story, one where the Comedian is best buddies with the Kennedys. In Azzarello’s telling, the assassinations of both brothers are pivotal moments in the Comedian’s development as a character, but they run contrary to previous incantations of the Comedian, such as:

comedianandjfk

or

vlcsnap-2013-07-21-16h36m00s241

Despite contradicting the original comic and Zack Snyder’s more blatant assertion that the Comedian played a role in John F. Kennedy’s assassination, Brian Azzarello’s Comedian is a compelling read rife with dark humor and a rich understanding of the Kennedys and how the military industrial complex matured in the decades following World War II. I also really like Hearts and Minds. While Azzarello’s Rorschach is also an interesting, it fails where Straczynski’s Nite Owl interpretation of Rorschach succeeds. Azzarello scripts Rorschach like Batman while Straczynski captures the fractured poetry of Rorschach. While writing of Rorschach disappoints, the art does not. Having worked with Azzarello on Luthor and Joker, Lee Bermejo brings his artistic strengths to every disgusting wound, stain, insect, and bodily fluid in Rorschach. Fans of Bermejo’s work will get lost in the gory detail and reborn with each breathtaking sunset.

bwm

In conclusion, I recommend all four volumes and strongly discourage arm-chair critics from attacking this project until they’ve given it a chance.

BraunLantern

Atlanta’s beloved science fiction convention Dragon Con will be coming at the end of summer and I will be presenting some of my ideas about the historical significance of the Green Lantern. Any of you who have looked at the timeline know that I’m pretty serious about the Green Lantern and its relationship to the American identity. I will be presenting on how Cold War realities and imagined realities appear through the Silver Age Green Lantern. It should be part of two tracks. I know one of them is the Academic tracks and I assume the other one is comics, but there isn’t a comics track mentioned on their website yet, which is weird but don’t worry. There’s a whole page devoted to comics related stuff where you can see some of the creators who will be attending and other practical information. I’m excited to hear that Darwyn Cooke, Amanda Conner, and Jimmy Palmiotti will be attending. I read the first two Before Watchmen trades and really enjoyed them. The Minutemen/Silk Spectre one that Cooke and Conner worked on is wonderful. Their art is quite special in superhero comics. The New Frontier is one of my all-time favorites, which shouldn’t come as a surprise. Darwyn Cooke is probably the top on my list of people I’d like to discuss the implications of the Cold War on the Green Lantern with (besides Gil Kane, Julie Schwartz, et al. who were creating GL in the Silver Age).

If you’ll be attending Dragon Con this year, I hope you’ll check out my panel. There will lots of pictures, argument fallacies, and over-reaching. I will dress sharp, but I won’t be doing cosplay. I appreciate the cosplay in others, but it’s not really my thing. I think I could pull off Yorrick from Y- The Last Man.

I’m not sure what my panel will be called, but you shouldn’t have too much trouble identifying it as there probably won’t be too many panels on the Cold War and the Green Lantern. In all likelihood, it will be in the same room as all the other comic book panels which is where I will probably be for most of the entire con. I hope there will be a lot of academic programming because I prefer joining discourses over fandoms.

%d bloggers like this: