Sunday, December 30, 2007


numbered, but in no particular order...

1) CHUCK DIXON: 2007 was Chuck Dixon’s triumphant return to the Batman Universe, becoming the go-to guy for Batman and the Outsiders after a sudden writer change, as well as the announced return to Robin in 2008. Maybe it was the action-packed intensity of Connor Hawke: Dragon’s Blood that made this veteran too hard for DC editors to ignore.

Dixon also got the comic blogs roiling when he took on the Grifter and Midnighter mini-series for Wildstorm. After all, the buzzers buzzed, how could the conservative Dixon possibly portray a gay character (Midnighter) fairly?!? Dixon was also at the helm when DC teamed with Pontiac for Rush City, a high-octane mini in which a freelance finder-of-lost-persons screams through panels in his tricked-out Solstice. Tack on a run of horror in Nightmare on Elm Street and forays of humor in various Simpsons comics, the resume for this master of genre spills out of the filing cabinet.

2) CAPTAIN AMERICA: This year was the media-blitzed Death of Captain America which made Captain America #25 the best-selling comic of the year. Ignored in all of the hype was how well writer Ed Brubaker set up the murder in the preceding months to make it less of an “event” and more of a logical story climax. It is also Brubaker, with the one-two art punch of Steve Epting and Mike Perkins, who has made the Cap-less ‘Captain America’ one of the best regular reads for eight months, built on his own storycraft and his strengthening of Cap’s supporting cast.

) JOE KUBERT: This comics master’s major project of last year, Sgt. Rock: the Prophecy made it to softcover this year. Writing as well as drawing his most lasting creation, Kubert creates a Jewish fable, as he has in much of his recent work. His art seems effortless, not softened at all by advanced age, carrying an intangible wisdom.

Also released this year was Showcase Presents: The War That Time Forgot, 560 pages of American Joes fighting dinosaurs in WWII, coming upon them in heretofore uncharted Pacific islands. Kubert got the T-Rex egg rolling with the initial stories, but the bulk of them are by an underrated Ross Andru. Robert Kanigher supplies all of the writing, though the stories soon get repetitive, with the same types of dinosaurs appearing in nearly every story, and one case of back-to-back stories that have the exact same plot.

Kubert shined moreso on another reprint collection, howcase Presents: Hawkman vol.1, which presents the early stories of the Silver Age Hawkman and Hawkgirl. While the bulk of the stories are also by another artist (in this case Murphy Anderson), it was Kubert who laid the foundation for the look of the series and it’s continual cast of bizarre villains. Other than Rock, Kubert is probably most associated with his Hawkman work.

4) CONAN: Dark Horse made a smart move with the departure of fan-favorite writer Kurt Busiek by keeping series artist Cary Nord. I thought about jumping ship when writer Tim Truman came on board (nothing against Truman, but sometimes it’s cheaper to not know what you’re missing), but Nord kept a certain continuity. Truman, also, served the series by making no radical changes, with the transition being somewhat seamless. Busiek wasn’t totally gone, either, finishing his tales of a younger Conan later in the year. If you enjoy well-told adventure stories, this is still a solid read. This continues to be a high-quality series that is not tied to trends, events or other books. But it’s not stunt-free. Next year when this series hits issue 50, Dark Horse is going to restart it with issue #1.

5) ACME NOVELTY LIBRARY #18: If I didn’t know who Chris Ware was, after reading this I’d think he was a one-legged woman in her ‘30s with low self-esteem and a bludgeoned personal and professional life. That is a testament to how Ware captures his protagonist and introduces ideas and thoughts so personal, you’d swear they must be autobiographical. Her internal handicaps run so deep, I sometimes forgot she was missing a leg. It makes me want to keep my internal monologue quiet, for fear that Ware, or one like him, would capture it and put it in book form.

6) COMPLETE PEANUTS 1963-1966: The Book Description on Amazon lays it out as well as anybody. The 1963-64 book has 150 never-before reprinted strips, which is monumental when you consider that ‘Peanuts’ is the most reprinted comic strip ever. The 1965-66 book pits Snoopy against the Red Baron, launches Snoopy’s continually rejected writing career and introduces Peppermint Patty. The entire series is essential, but don’t miss out on the era that was a career high for Charles Schulz.

7) HELLBOY: DARKNESS CALLS Hellboy finds himself the pawn of witches who want to make him their king. At the same time, his old enemy Baba Yaga has unleashed a warrior who cannot be killed to bring her the head of Hellboy. At the same time, a talking hog and his cronies endeavor to dig up a long-buried crate which houses the remains of the Queen of Witches. A lot to chew on, as always, with Hellboy creator Mike Mignola writing the script, but handing over the art chores to a well-equipped Duncan Fegredo. This caused a critical stir, but didn’t bother me a whit.

8) BETTIE PAGE RULES!: Well, it's not really a comic, but I did get it in a comics shop, and the rules here on the list are pretty lax. Plus, it's got some beautiful illustrations by Jim Silke, so it's an art book in any event. Silke not only celebrates '50s uber pin-up Bettie Page here, he gives us a fascinating pictorial play-by-play of the proliferation of men's magazines after WWII. He also delves into the changing movie scene of the time, with Europe introducing more nudity. This is adults-only fare, but with a historical bent. Like Playboy, it's a thinking man's nudity (yeah, the wife might buy into that).

9) TRAPDANCING: THE AYM GERONIMO COLLECTION: Ok, truth time. I've read the individual stories but not the collection as I just got it from my pal, artist Todd Fox, this past weekend. TRAPDANCING collects the short stories that appeared in various anthologies and one-shots by creators Fox and writer J. Morgan Neal. Geronimo and her squad of "Post-Modern Pioneers" are all-purpose adventurers of the world-saving variety. It's not just making the list because Todd's a friend and I know having his work collected is a long-time dream of his comics career. This is solid stuff by guys whose love of comics is evident in what they bring to the reader. This book is not available in stores but can be ordered via the link.

10) MEANWHILE...:A BIOGRAPHY OF MILTON CANIFFWhat can I say that I didn’t already say here?

1 comment:

The Wife said...

Thinking man's nudity? I'm not buying it.