As 2009 comes to a close we reflect back on the year that was. On the whole folks complained about the $3.99 price tag norm while overall revenue seemed to slow. Could it be the recession? Could it be event fatigue? Price rebellion? One thing is for sure and that’s it’s not because of a lack of good stuff out there. Once again I found myself wanting to read more than I could afford and enjoying stuff I never dreamed could be any good. It was a good year to be a geek.
Here are my thoughts on what was good and bad in the past year. The guidelines are that I try not to include arcs or series that haven’t completed by the end of the calendar year. So Blackest Night proper is off the table for these “awards” but Blackest Night: Batman and Final Crisis are okay because it wrapped during the beginning of 2009.
Two were deadlocked this year.
Favorite Mini-Series: Back To Brooklyn
This was the most difficult call to make in this entire post. I grappled with this hard hitting, action packed mafia drama versus the extensive, historical account of the holocaust: X-Men Magneto’s Testament. I picked Back To Brooklyn because I read it in singles it kept me on the edge of my seat. I am punting here, but you will see why in the next category. I also loved Wolverine Manifest Destiny and Existence 2.0. All four are worth reading again and again.
Most Disappointing Mini-Series: Tales of Blackest Night
This three issue mini series selected a few supporting characters, some new and other old, that were to play a role in the whole war of light/Blackest Night saga. However, not only did these short stories not capture the same charm that the Tales of the Sinestro Corps had a couple of years ago, but DC also gutted their Blackest Night Free Comic Book Day giveaway and inserted it here as original material. Basically they charged people for their free comic book. At $4 a pop for these non essential issues I found this whole mini series to be something to pass on.
2008: World War Hulk Aftersmash: Warbound
Favorite Collected Mini-Series: X-Men Magneto’s Testament
Normally I don’t purchase trades if I own the single issues but this series was too good to pass up on in the collected form and it included a ton of extras in it. The volume had extensive information about the holocaust as well as some of the items used to research this story. If you did miss this mini series it’s probably better to pick up the collected edition because of all of the extras.
This category was impossible for me to pick one so it gets a rest in 2009. I simply didn’t read one annual that I found to be worthy of being selected above any other.
Annual Worth Reading: none
2007: Action Comics #10
2008: Action Comics #11
Annual Better Off Not Reading: none
Not finding one that I liked a whole bunch means I probably shouldn’t pick one I didn’t like either.
2007: Batman Annual #18
2008: Action Comics #11
A few crossovers in 2009 but its shaping up that 2010 will have a lot more wrapping up that began in 2009. I found a couple I liked though.
Favorite Crossover: What Ever Happened to the Caped Crusader?
This crossover only was made up of only two issues and it was a terrific out of continuity story. Batman’s life as seen through the eyes of some villains and some friends and capped by Bruce being comforted by a surprise source. This was worth it for just two issues and I loved the ending’s nod to Goodnight Moon.
Star Wars also wrapped up Vector in 2009 and it was very good. World War Skaar was also worth mentioning as it brought something to the table with regards to the Hulk and one of his offspring that was left dangling after Planet Hulk.
Most Disappointing Crossover: Messiah War (Cable & X-Force)
Bishop still chasing Cable, add in X-Force, Deadpool and some cool villains and you should have a crazy story. I don’t know where this one left off but it just didn’t seem to gel into a good story.
This is supposed to be stories that don’t have anything to do with an ongoing series. It’s such a gray area, but there were a ton of great ones to select from.
Favorite One-Shot: Elephantmen: Yvette War Toys
This one-shot draws on the strength of the character, Yvette, from the War Toys mini series. This issue weaves a tale within that series and it captures all of the same magic. It’s a terrific issue of war, pain and survival. This category also had a lot of other strong candidates like Lone Ranger & Tonto #1, World War Skaar Prologue, Star Wars Purge, Batman 80 Page Giant, Dark Reign The List: Punisher, Dark Reign The List: Amazing Spider-Man and Hellboy Bride of Hell.
2007: What If: Planet Hulk
2008: Final Crisis Rage of the Red Lanterns
Most Disappointing One-Shot: Transformers Spotlight: Cliffjumper
Unlike past Spotlight issues this one doesn’t really flesh out the character’s personality and gives the Transformer a non-descript villains to fight. The issue felt like any Autobot could have been placed in the exact same situation. Other one-shots that just didn’t grab me or use the full potential of their genre were Transformers Spotlight: Metroplex and GI Joe Helix.
2007: Captain America Fallen Son: Spider-Man
2008: What If: Wolverine versus Spider-Man
Generally an ongoing should have ten issues come out during the year which excludes some newer series or ones that had some delays.
Favorite Ongoing: Walking Dead
There are a lot of series that fit this bill nicely, Elephantmen, Star Wars Legacy, Green Lantern Corps, Green Lantern, The Boys, Scalped and some that didn’t ship ten times like Wolverine Weapon X, Chew and Batman and Robin. However, Walking Dead is the series that kept me the most engaged month to month. A lot of people read this series in trades and that’s fine but there is something about getting this series monthly that keeps the tension up.
2007: GI Joe America’s Elite
2008: Walking Dead
Most Disappointing Ongoing: Hulk
I realize Hulk is going through some changes with the Fall of the Hulks, but the issues leading up to this and for much of the year seemed to be simply a cast of guest stars confronting the red Hulk. It works when we have something to look forward to or a build up to something but some of them just felt like cool looking filler. The days of mindless Hulk stories are probably gone for good, but especially when you have an A-list creative team attached to the title you just need to deliver more than this.
Call it a franchise or a branding, whatever. It’s a direction of some character(s) that spans more than just one title.
Favorite Overall: Green Lantern
Green Lantern has had two titles humming along at a fast pace for over a year now. Both titles have great characters, villains and fantastic art. This is the height of this franchise for sure. Batman also turned in a great year, but I felt Battle for the Cowl could have really put it over the top and just missed.
Most Disappointing Overall: GI Joe
The reboot has three series that turned out about 25 issues. Besides Snake Eyes’ head catching on fire and Chuckles having to kill to stay undercover, there was nothing memorable about the franchise’s issues. The stories are slow and lack action, other than the Joes fighting robotic spiders, and much of the core cast have yet to be revealed. I got to the point where I couldn’t understand why one story was in the Origins title versus the main title as they seemed to cross purpose for no real apparent reason. The creative team is in place for this to be amazing. For some reason it’s not capturing anything that have made previous Joe stories so entertaining and successful. I’m totally lost as to this franchise’s direction.
Old Reliable: Green Lantern Corps
For the second year in a row I get this comic every month and I am never disappointed. It’s never late and it meets the same level of consistency in storytelling and art. Something is clearly working very, very well here.
2008: Green Lantern Corps
Missing In Action: Kick-Ass
Speaking of second year in a row we have this one. It’s been 22 months since this comic debuted and it’s shipped exactly seven issues. Star Wars Dark Times also can’t seem to ever get an issue out more than once a quarter. Flash Rebirth and Thor are also on the bad list. I’ve dismissed All Star Batman and Robin as never shipping again.
Favorite New Series: Chew
This was almost impossible to pick between this and Batman and Robin, but I give it to Chew because it came out of nowhere. Batman and Robin have Morrison and the iconic name of Batman. Chew is completely new and it’s an unbelievably creative and fun series. Wolverine Weapon X takes a close third place in this category.
Least Favorite New Series: Superman aka Mon-El
This is a gray area, but I’m taking liberties here. Superman was taken out of his own book and replaced with Mon-El. It’s not that this is a bad idea, but the support system wasn’t built up enough. Too many of his issues feel like they are stalling, waiting for something else to occur somewhere else. If this were its own series you’d have to wonder why it isn’t trying to establish its own identity harder.
Favorite Arc: Walking Dead: The Hunters
Walking Dead’s the Hunters arc. Everything that I like about the main characters you see in this arc. You also get a few nice shockers in here. The opening arc for Batman and Robin and Wolverine Weapon X were also strong contenders.
2008: GI Joe: World War 3
Arc to Avoid: Amazing Spider-Man: Redheaded Stranger
Forget that Parker got loaded and he had a drunken hook-up or that the Chameleon basically raped his roommate. This arc is (or was supposed to be) about Mary Jane and her return and it was a downer in a lot of ways. Too many questions and very few answers.
2008: Wolverine Origins: Deadpool
Favorite Anniversary Issue: Amazing Spider-Man #600
Despite the fact that it is the opening of the Redheaded Stranger arc you get over 100 original pages of material for $5 which is a pretty good deal.
Least Favorite Anniversary Issue: Hulk #600
Forget that the numbering to get to 600 defied basic math. This comic contained no stories from Greg Pak or Peter David. The two creators who brought the most to the Hulk franchise in the last twenty years. This was a major oversight.
Here are some other books that are worthy checking out or have some cool things happening in them not mentioned above as 2009 closes out:
Criminal, Captain America (Reborn), Invincible Iron-Man, Incredible Hercules, Cowboy Ninja Viking, Irredeemable, X-Factor, Secret Six, Power Girl, Supergod, Punishermax, Dark Avengers and Dark Wolverine. There are tons and tons more that are worth attention.
That’s it! Here’s hoping 2010 offers as much (less Dark Reign though) as 2009.