Friday, August 12, 2005

The Shrew Ponders the First Half of 2005

Buzzscope put together a review of the first half of 2005. Since I got edited down to a single spliced quote, here's my full contribution. I stuck largely to mainstream books because that's where more people will agree or disagree.

Top Five Ongoing
Ex Machina
Legion of Superheroes
Manhunter
Ult FF (Ellis)
Young Avengers

Honorable Mention: Batman (Winick), Y - The Last Man

Ex Machina had me from the very first solicitation, when I saw the theme (NYC politics) and the artist (Tony Harris). It has never let me down and the Tag storyline, interweaving aliens, hot button politics, New York factoids, and sparkling banter along with Harris's beautiful art. Legion and Young Avengers have been joyous, giddy, intelligent stories featuring younger characters that appeal to grown-ups, too. Warren Ellis's run on Ultimate Fantastic Four was a perfect mating of geeky characters (Sue Storm and Reed Richards) with geeky writer and the results were sidesplittingly entertaining and believably about characters too smart for everyone's good who nonetheless never stopped being human beings, too. Manhunter has been the best female-driven action story in DC's catalog, blowing by Birds of Prey and carrying far more prickles than Wonder Woman; Kate Spencer is complicated, flawed, and has the potential to break out if DC can get Marc Andreyko some more exposure.

Honorable Mention to Judd Winick's Family Reunion arc of Batman, no matter what I think of Red Hood, for being an enjoyable and untangled book when the rest of the Batverse's has been largely unimpressive, and Brian Vaughan's Y, for being consistently excellent.



Top Three Minis
Sleeper: Season Two
Lex Luthor: Man of Steel
The Question

Honorable Mention: Ocean, Angeltown

Sleeper, the conclusion of the story Ed Brubaker began with Point Blank, was an unflinching, twisted, and blackly funny look at the game of cops and robbers when played by people with powers. It ended strongly, with neither a whimper or a bang, but with tremendous impact and never felt either rushed or decompressed.

Lex Luthor: Man of Steel and The Question are the extant parts of the scuttled Superstorm project. Both featured stunning art, by Lee Bermejo and Tommy Lee Edwards respectively, and tight, strong stories by Brian Azzarello and Rick Veitch that put some darkness and bottom into Superman's shining Metropolis. Azzarello, who missed the mark when he wrote Batman and whose aim got closer (but not perfect) with Superman, is shooting a bullseye with this look into the heart and mind of Lex Luthor. Veitch's Vic Sage is not the one folks remember from Greg Rucka's Huntress miniseries, but he's fascinating as a shrewd operator who uses his mystic connections as much as he is used by them.

Honorable mention goes to Angeltown, which despite its weakish ending was still a fun and mature urban noir, and Ocean, which is completely derivative but still a fast-paced good time.



Underrated
Batgirl
Detective (Lapham)

Honorable Mention: Books of Magick: Life During Wartime, Rex Mundi, Small Gods, etc.

There are a ton of books that more people should be reading and aren't, but I picked these because they are the Batbooks that dance on the edge of the spotlight. People keep plunking down money for the execrable Robin and the painfully frustating Nightwing (and the pointless Gotham Knights and Legends of the Dark Knight) and getting tempted with countless miniseries and tie-ins to movies and DC Events, and while the critical acclaim has been lauded on Gotham Central, David Lapham's run on 'Tec and Andersen Gabrych's resuscitation of Batgirl have largely flown under the radar. Lapham's story is dark and brooding and loaded with atmosphere, giving us a Gotham that doesn't want to be saved and a Batman who will try anyway. Gabrych, who has been stuck walking behind the Batverse's elephants ever since he started on 'Tec last year, has recently moved over to Batgirl and has given us glimpses of a very intriguing Cass Cain. Both runs deserve far more attention than they have been getting.



Overrated
Green Lantern: Rebirth
Seven Soldiers

Honorable Mention: Superman/Batman

Bringing back characters who have been dead as long as Hal Jordan should mean something and should accomplish more. Rebirth failed on both accounts, bringing back a cryogenically frozen Hal Jordan with his Silver Age larger-than-lifeness, but no hook and no angle into the twenty-first century DCU. Geoff Johns has not impressed.

Seven Soldiers should have been what Warren Ellis did with Apparat -- one writer doing several different genres with different artists resulting in a basketful of diverse styles... but one issue each. The first issues of the various series were largely interesting and intriguing and the art, especially Simone Bianchi (Shining Knight) and Ryan Sook (Zatanna), has been first-rate. But after that, it was all downhill and we've devolved into a mishmash. Except nobody wants to say anything because that would be tantamount to admitting that they're not getting the statement Grant Morrison's trying to make with the series as a whole.

Honorable mention to Superman/Batman because, taking away the fanboy squee of the Absolute Power arc, this has been a completely unnecessary title that nonetheless has managed to dictate DCU storylines and dominate sales charts.

1 Comments:

Blogger Guy LeCharles Gonzalez said...

Hey, sorry you're so underrepresnted in the quotes but your individual comments were all so short. :-(

To balance things, several of the linked reviews are yours. :-)

Sun Aug 14, 11:58:00 AM EDT  

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