Tuesday, January 01, 2008

The Best of 2007

2007: The year that the Civil War ended, Hulk Smashed, Sinestro rounded up the troops, Captain America bought the farm, and DC fans half-heartedly began counting down to the glorious day when Countdown would finally be over.

It was a good year for comics, which means I have an epically long post to make here that lists my top picks of the year. Once again, this list encompasses all things comic related. I liked a lot of stuff this year, but after much careful deliberation, I have decided to name these twenty things the best of the year. These are not ranked in any particular order.

In short:

1. Shazam!: The Monster Society of Evil
2. Booster Gold
3. Sinestro Corps
4. Minx
5. The Death of Captain America
6. The Spirit
7. X-Men First Class
8. Spider-Man and the Fantastic Four
9. Marvel Adventures and other Kids Comics
10. Grant Morrison on Batman
11. Aquaman: Sword of Atlantis
12. Jeffrey Brown
13. Spider-Man 3
14. Geoff Johns and Richard Donner on Action Comics
15. Scalped
16. Doctor Thirteen: Architecture and Mortality
17. Essex County: Tales From the Farm and Ghost Stories by Jeff Lemire
18. The Brave and the Bold
19. I'm a Marvel/I'm a DC
20. The Immortal Iron Fist

1. Shazam!: The Monster Society of Evil

Jeff Smith stepped up to the superhero plate and knocked this one way, WAY out of the park. Though sadly only four prestige-format issues long, this comic got the same reaction when it came out as All-Star Superman: universal love from everyone. But this had the added bonus of being a perfect comic to recommend to kids, particularly the legions of Bone fans. Anything that gets kids into Captain Marvel is ok by me.

These comics have now been collected in a beautiful hardcover book that comes with a really nice poster. All hardcover books should come with posters.

2. Booster Gold

The biggest surprise for me this year was not how good this series is, but how surprised everyone else was by how good it is. I don't know what about Geoff Johns writing Booster Gold doesn't sound awesome to people. Basically a solo Booster Gold title is all I need to be happy, and having Johns write it is just gravy. (Of course, I'd be a little happier if it were a Blue/Gold team-up book).

This comic has been one of the most consistently enjoyable titles of the year. I am loving Booster's nerdy road trip through time, visiting a cavalcade of favourite characters from all corners of the DCU.

3. Sinestro Corps

And since we're talking about Geoff Johns anyway, lets talk about the best comic book event of the year.

I actually can't believe how successful this was. From the perspective of someone working in a comic shop, it was awesome to see the copies of Green Lantern and Green Lantern Corps fly off the shelves. Both were great titles to begin with, and now I have noticed an increased interest in all things Green Lantern.

So of course the exciting turning point in this series was when the Guardians enabled the Corps to use lethal force for the first time ever.

It got very awesome after that.

If I had to pick my favourite single issues of the year, both the Sinestro Corps one shot that launched this event, and the double-size issue of Green Lantern that ended it, would be on that list. It's rare that a big cross-over event has a great beginning and ending. World War Hulk started out really strong, but the final issue fell a little flat. And Civil War...well..you know. We don't even have to talk about One More Day.

And that is why Sinestro Corps is the best comic book event of the year.

4. Minx

When DC first announced a new line of comics aimed at teen girls, my first thought was "Siiiiiighhhhh." I've never been a fan of anything that's aimed at girls. Leading up to the big debut, there was much nitpicking about the name of the line (I believe someone remarked "Why not name it 'Slutz'?"), and also about the fact that there was, like, one woman total involved in the writing/drawing of these books.

I am saying all of this because despite my determination to not care one way or the other about this launch, I took home a copy of the debut title, The Plain Janes, and totally loved it.

And I realized that everything about the Minx label was good. First we have comics which authentically speak to teen girls with characters who are not only believable, but really great role models. All of the girls in these books are cool. They make embarrassing mistakes (usually due to teen crushes on boys) and learn lessons. Even if you believe, and rightly so, really, that these books are being read more by the usual comic fans and are not necessarily reaching a new readership, they are still awesome because it gives indie comic writers and artists a new platform. DC marketed the hell out of this line in 2007. I think it's impressive enough that one of the big two publishers is throwing their weight behind black and white, non-super hero comic one-shots.

My favourite Minx book so far was Mike Carey's Re-Gifters. I really liked the main character. It was a good tom-boy story.

Well done, DC! I look forward to more of these fun, affordable little books!

5. The Death of Captain America

This was one of those rare events where something that happens in comic books makes it into the mainstream press. It's always weird to hear about a superhero dying on CNN. What this means for retailers is that a million zillion people come into the store and buy five copies of issue #25 with bags and boards, and we never, ever see those people again. It's too bad for them because they are missing out on one of the very best comics being written now, or possibly ever.

This comic has been going strong since the death of its titular character. Brubaker has developed such a strong cast of supporting characters that readers really haven't been missing Cap at all. Sharon, The Falcon, Winter Soldier, Tony Stark, Black Widow and others have been putting on a very entertaining show for us, full of mystery, intrigue, romance, angst, and revenge.

Plus...hot, hot Winter Soldier.

6. The Spirit

Twelve wonderful months of Spirit comics by Darwyn Cooke and J. Bone will soon be at an end, but I have high hopes for the future. Cooke managed to breathe new life into one of the greatest comic characters of all time in a way that few could. Even Ebony had a dignified role in this series, which is something that Frank Miller won't even attempt to do in his upcoming film.

Great writing and stunning art made this a favourite of fans and critics alike this year. It should do well at next year's Eisner Awards. The first six issues have already been collected in a great-looking hardcover, but hopefully the full twelve issues (technically eleven by Cooke) will be collected in an absolute edition someday.

I am very happy that, despite the absence of Cooke and Bone, this series will continue. The bar has been set high, but it was set pretty damn high when Cooke took the project on to begin with.

7. X-Men First Class

If I were to pick the top three comic writers of 2007, they would be Geoff Johns, Ed Brubaker and Jeff Parker. Not only because they are all good writers, but because they all worked on a lot of stuff and it was ALL GREAT.

Hey, I know that X-Men First Class started up in 2006, but they brought it back for a second series in '07 and for that I am eternally grateful. As someone who enjoys the X-Men, but not any current X-Men title on the shelves, this is perfect. My main problem with the X-Men is that there are too damn many of them. This brings it back to the basics: four dudes, one girl and a professor. The writing is hilarious, the art is always nice, and the comic is always all-ages appropriate. Much like Spider-Man Loves Mary-Jane, I am confident recommending this to anyone. It just makes you feel all happy inside.

I am also grateful that they decided to include mini-comics by Colleen Coover! YAY!

In general I am pleases that Marvel is more open to having indie artists contributing to super hero comics. Projects like this one and Spider-Man Family, as well as the Fairy Tales books and all the other off-beat stuff lets writers and artists have some fun with the iconic characters. We haven't seen any fun like that over at DC since the Bizarro comic collections. Let's get another one of those on the shelves, DC!

8. Spider-Man and the Fantastic Four

Parker again! This time with the perfect antidote to all the whiny nonsense happening over in the main Spider-Man titles. This four-part series, written by Parker and drawn by the late Mike Wieringo, whose sudden death was the worst thing to happen to comics this year.

This series was everything that a Spider-Man and/or Fantastic Four series should be: funny, all-ages appropriate, and action packed. I loves projects like this that can just ignore current continuity and use popular characters in the ways that fans know and love:

You can buy the whole series as a paperback now. You owe it to yourself to read it if you haven't yet.

9. Marvel Adventures and Other Kids Comics!

Hold on, Jeff Parker! I'm not done with you yet! One of my favourite things about 2007 was the increased attention on comics for kids. Its a crazy idea. Imagine a comic book that even a kid could read!

Marvel added new titles to their already impressive Marvel Adventures line. Hulk and Iron Man got the all-ages treatment, just in time to get kids familiar before the 2008 movies are released. As well we saw Chris Giarusso's hilarious Mini Marvels comics added to the back of many Marvel titles. Spider-Man Loves Mary-Jane, Marvel Adventures Avengers, and Franklin Richards: Son of a Genius were all rocking the house in 2007, along with mini-series like the one mentioned above.

Marvel also started re-printing silver age Avengers comics in their Avengers Classic series. I'm really into that, except the back-up stories, which are new, are always gory and inappropriate for young kids. I don't know why they would do that.

DC also launched the new Legion of Super-Heroes in the 31st Century comic, to tie into the popular cartoon show. It's a great comic, and a great show, and I love that kids are familiar with the Legion now. DC is throwing down some new all-ages titles in the new year which I am excited for, including the new Shazam! ongoing series, the adorable Tiny Titans and the new Super Friends comic. 2008 could be a good year for kids!

10. Grant Morrison on Batman

It was exciting news for Batman fans when Morrison was announced as the new writer. Not only were Bat fans gaining one of the best writers in the business, but also one of the most prolific. If only Andy Kubert could stick around as long.

I really like Morrison's happier Bruce Wayne. And I've been enjoying the way he's had to deal with every obscure Batman chestnut that Morrison cares to dig up, be it an illegitimate son from 1987, or the reunion with the Club of Heroes. The latter storyline is, I think, three of the most brilliant comics of the year, and contain some of the best art of the year, by J.H. Williams III.

Not every issue of Batman since Morrison took over has been great, particularly due to the surprisingly dull Resurrection of Ra's Al Ghul cross-over, but I am glad to have Morrison on Batman for the long haul. I look forward to many more of his wacky ideas.

11. Aquaman: Sword of Atlantis

I was pretty open about my love of Tad Williams' run on Aquaman, and about my misery that it was canceled. It was fun, well-written, exciting, funny, and had great art. Every cover was amazing. I think I can confidently say it was the best underwater story I have ever read. The cast of characters were great. Black Manta was back in all his glory:

It was just a really great comic book, but I guess no one was interested in a new version of Aquaman, even if it was becoming clearer that this new guy was going to lead us to the original king of Atlantis that we all know and love. While all the hype was going on about the long, convoluted search for Ray Palmer, this was quietly providing a much better search story for a missing hero. Sadly, we'll never know how it ends.

12. Jeffrey Brown

Jeffrey Brown put out two absolutely hilarious, 100% emo-free books this year. Cat Getting Out of a Bag and Other Observations and Incredible Change-Bots are two of my favourite books of 2007, and have been really easy to sell people on.

Turn to any page of Cat Getting out of a Bag and you will be unable to put it down. It's just so damn adorable. And every comic in it perfectly depicts the hilarious things cats do all the time.

Seriously, we couldn't keep this book in stock at the shop. It's impossible not to like it.

And Incredible Change-Bots was a fantastic and loving parody of the Transformers, timed perfectly as the antidote to that terrible movie that hit the theatres this summer (It was terrible. I stand by that statement).

So there you have it! A great year for Jeffrey Brown!

13. Spider-Man 3

Alright, here we go.

This movie was awesome. Are you ready for this? It was my favourite of the trilogy. That's right. I not only liked it, I liked it more than Spider-Man 2. I was really surprised by the amount of people who hated this movie. I mean, I expected Venom fans to be disappointed, but who cares about them?

Naw, I'm kidding. Look, I grew up as a member of the Venom generation. I thought he was cool, and I loved that Maximum Carnage video game. But seriously...Venom should never have been a part of Sam Raimi's Spider-Man movies. But he was, and I didn't think it sucked. I thought the black suit was used well. It was tons of fun, actually. I don't care what anyone says: I love that in Sam Raimi's world, a bad ass Peter Parker is one who plays hot jazz piano solos and dances.

This movie was fun! Why didn't people want a Spider-Man movie that was fun?! After the movie was over the first time I saw it I heard someone say "Booo! Where's Carnage?" Seriously? It's too bad because Raimi couldn't win: having Venom in the movie pissed off classic Spider-Man fans, and only having him in the movie for a little while pissed off Venom fans.

I also think people who criticize the movie are forgetting something: Sandman was AWESOME.

And also: Harry was awesome. I mean come on. The movie opens with an awesome fight between him and Peter. Then he falls and gets amnesia and is a super nice guy, which is very entertaining. He has a GIANT PAINTING OF WILLEM DEFOE on his wall, which rules. And he makes omelettes and dances the twist with Mary-Jane! It's fantastic! And then he turns bad again, and is so crazy evil. My favourite part of the movie is when he tells Peter that he has a thing going on with MJ, and then Peter leaves, all heartbroken, and the waitress asks him how the pie is, and Harry just smiles and says "So good" in the best way imaginable. THIS MOVIE IS GREAT! Screw the haters!

14. Geoff Johns and Richard Donner on Action Comics

I think that this is going to get left off a lot of best of lists this year. Sadly, both Superman titles were plagued by delays which meant that perfectly great Superman stories were chopped up and released so slowly that most people just plain forgot about them. Geoff Johns' run on Action with Richard Donner has been great. The Last Son storyline, which we will finally see the conclusion of in February, has been a real treat for fans of the Superman movies. The three-issue Bizarro arc with Eric Powell was fantastic. And the 3D issue was totally awesome! Plus there was a really great Action Comics Annual this year. When you think about it, Action really was one of the most consistently awesome titles of the year.

15. Scalped

I don't venture over to the darker side of comics that often, but Scalped is really an amazing series. Bleak doesn't even begin to describe the reservation that the series is set on. Besides the fact that it's one of the most compelling comics of the year, it also treads new ground. I think I saw at least 700 reviews this year that compared this to the Sopranos, but the Sopranos is about the Italian-American mafia, which has been depicted on screen and in comics for decades. Corruption and brutal violence on an Indian reservation is fresh subject for a drama, and it serves as a way to educate readers about the utter hopelessness of reservation life in North America.

The art, by R.M. Guera, is perfectly suited to the story, and the Jock covers are always stunning.

16. Doctor Thirteen: Architecture and Mortality

Brian Azzarello managed to out-obscure Grant Morrison and everyone else this year with his Dr. Thirteen back-up story, featured in the Tales of the Unexpected mini-series. Thankfully, it has now been collected into a trade so everyone can enjoy one of the best, and funniest, comics of the year. Plus, with art by Cliff Chiang, it's one of the best-looking comics of the year.

Dr. Thirteen, that lovable non-believer from old Phantom Stranger comics, is forced to team up with a motley crew of DC throw-away characters. Despite hanging around this wacky team, which includes I...Vampire, Infectious Lass, Anthro and J.E.B. Stuart of Haunted Tank fame, Dr Thirteen is convinced that none of them actually exist. Add to that the fact that his teen daughter is secretly a witch, and you're having a pretty good time.

And of course the real brilliance of this story is that it leads our heroes to the Architects, who turn out to be the writers of 52 (Grant Morrison, Greg Rucka, Geoff Johns and Mark Waid). It ends up being an amusing commentary on the way characters stop being used and therefore cease to exist in the DCU.

17. Essex County: Tales From the Farm and Ghost Stories by Jeff Lemire

These books combine my two greatest loves: comics and hockey. And they both totally blew me away.

This is just beautiful storytelling. I'm not an emotional person, but I actually teared up at the end of Ghost Stories. I've been lending the book to everyone. I love it. I am really looking forward to the next book.

Lemire's art perfectly suits these stories. I absolutely love the way he draws the big bruiser hockey players in both books, with their wide, disfigured noses and giant hands.

I was standing next to Jeff Lemire at TCAF in August but I was too shy to tell him how much I loved his work. So this is what I'm doing instead.

18. The Brave and the Bold

Absolutely one of my favourite things to happen this year was the return of The Brave and the Bold. Not only is this title back, it's better than ever! The creative team of Mark Waid and George Perez so good that they could have called this an All-Star book.

What's different about this title compared to the original is that it's a continuing story, rather than a series of one-shots. Normally I'd be against that, but the story is so damn good, and leads to so many awesome and bizarre team-ups that I really can't complain. Supergirl and Lobo! Wonder Woman and Power Girl! Batman and the Legion of Super-Heroes! The Flash and the Doom Patrol! Green Lantern and Supergirl! Batman and the new Blue Beetle!

It's just delightful, and perfect for giant super hero nerds such as myself. The love that Waid and Perez has for their work and these characters really shines through in this title. Any week that has a new Brave and the Bold is a good week.

19. I'm a Marvel/I'm a DC

I always like to include at least one fan contribution on this list. These little webisodes, made and posted by ItsJustSomeRandomGuy, have been a smash hit on YouTube this year, and I love them. They started simply enough: a parody of the "I'm a Mac/I'm a PC" Apple ads using a Superman action figure and a Spider-Man action figure. The result was that Marvel came off looking like the cool company, based entirely on the amount of successful movies based on their characters. One skit led to another and now they have 10-minute episodes with giant casts of action figures and full sets with props. They are all very funny, and full of biting commentary aimed equally at both DC and Marvel. Plus, they keep you up-to-date on all the latest movie rumours.

You can watch all of the videos at this link.

20. The Immortal Iron Fist

This technically started up at the end of 2006, but it definitely qualifies as one of the best comics of 2007.

As I've said before, it's just really obvious to the reader that Fraction and Brubaker are having a lot of fun writing this. Danny Rand is a fun character to begin with, and he has one of the best supporting casts in comics. Plus all of his battles involve kung-fu fighting, so you can't really go wrong.

The art is excellent. The fights are excellent. And the most recent arc was basically a crazy video game.

Plus there was a really excellent Iron Fist annual this year. I'm just really glad Iron Fist gets his own title again. And it's awesome.

Honorable Mentions

  • Black Adam
  • The Umbrella Academy
  • Omega the Unknown
  • Scott Pilgrim Gets It Together
  • Daredevil Annual
  • Metal Men
  • World War Hulk
  • Green Arrow Year One
  • The Perry Bible Fellowship: The Trial of Colonel Sweeto and Other Stories
  • Captain Carrot and the Final Arc
  • The Return of Nexus
  • Midnighter
  • JLA/Hitman
  • Metamorpho Year One
  • JSA
  • Avengers: The Initiative
  • 52 Aftermath: The Four Horsemen
Phew! Finally finished! So there it is. The best and brightest of 2007, at least as far as what I got around to reading. I'm sure lots of great stuff came out that I haven't read yet.

2008 is gearing up to be the nerdiest year ever. If we look at movies alone we have a jam packed year of pop culture trash that will keep us all fat and happy. 2008 opens with a new Rambo movie and closes with a new Star Trek movie. In between we get Iron Man, The Dark Knight, Hellboy II, The Incredible Hulk, The Punisher, Indiana Jones, Wanted, Hancock, Where the Wild Things Are, Speed Racer, Get Smart, a new James Bond, Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince, and a new Harold and Kumar. PLUS the awesome-looking Be Kind Rewind. AND a New Frontier DVD movie and at least one or two new Futurama DVD movies. It's the Year of the Nerd! Bring it on!


FlatlineJack said...

See, this is why I wish I could be a customer at your store. I don't always have the same favorites and hatreds that you do, but I wouldn't miss the important things. On a balmy Wednesday afternoon I could stroll in and you would say "Say there, Jack, you're a gigantic nerd that loves things that are crap, did you know I...Vampire is in a new comic?" and I would jump around like a little kid that ate too much candy and run home happily clutching my stash. Instead I have to find out at the end of the year and figure out what shops around me are open at this hour.
Great year-end wrap-up, thanks for continuing to keep fellow geeks in the loop!

Scott said...

See, I don't really like a lot of the DCU stuff that you post about, but what I've seen of this best of list conforms to my own opinion pretty well.

Except the Richard Donner Superman comic. I don't know if it's a case of the editors forcing to much or letting the writer do whatever he wants, but it was a mediocre story that's been so F'd up by the terrible way the editors have let it drop.

Also, Spider-Man III was really bad, mainly because of the script. Peter's acting like a huge jerk a the start, then he gets a new costume that makes him act like a jerk. MJ decides she's going to break up with Peter, then Harry forces her to break up with Peter. There were so many redundant points that it felt like they fused two similar scripts together and filmed both. Spidey had a rough year.

MetFanMac said...

Big LOLs at Jaime going "Don't kill me!"

Jon said...

OMG, I need that cat book o_O

Johnathan said...

Yay! Good list! Brave and the Bold makes me happy whenever I even think about it and...

Aw, crap. Work. Apparently I have to keep doing it in 2008.

Great list!

Mike said...

Rachelle, I think you and I are like the only two people who like Spider-Man 3 the most out of the trilogy. In a way, it's cool, because it's like an exclusive club where people don't get us and somebody made a 250 million dollar movie just for us. That movie was awesome scene after awesome scene, and it's the one I'll probably rewatch the most.

Anonymous said...

Great list! Just for the record I totally agree about Spider-Man 3 too, definitely the best one. Also, I too now need the cat book.

j.hopkins said...

Much love for AQUAMAN!!!!!!

Great job.

Anonymous said...

Hmm. She hates 'Transformers' but thinks 'Spider-Man 3' was a great movie.

...and people wonder why girls get no respect in comic-land.


SallyP said...

Thank you for reminding me, that in spite of all the drek, there was still a LOT to be thankful for in 2007! Mainly Green Lanterns, Booster Gold, Blue Beetle, Dr. Thirteen and the Brave and the Bold.

Oh, and some other stuff too.

Man, I really do have to break down and watch Spiderman III. I must be the only nerd left that hasn't seen it.

David page said...

Good list though there is no way in heck that captain carrot (seen in your honourable mentions) would be anywhere on my list. I mean it started good it was like the book I read as a kid then WHAM that ending....

Chance said...

Fantastic list! I am now going to look for the items you rave about that I haven't read myself, like the hockey one. And the cat one.

Anonymous said...

I'll admit that when I read that page of the Transformers homage/parody, I read the transformation sound effects aloud.

By the way why is there a picture of a bloke in a wheelchair next to the word verification box?

Riddering said...

Harry's moment of pie appreciation makes the world a better place just by existing to bring joy to those who can appreciate it. If I was in charge of such things, James Franco would win an Academy Award just for that scene. I'm so glad that you feel similarly, Rachelle.

It was a lot of fun reading this post and remembering how many great things were in comics this year--and also reading about a couple I should check out. Thank you for posting this!

Captain Infinity said...

I just bought Architecture and Mortality last week. I am ashamed of myself for not having bought it sooner.

Rich said...

On board with most of this, other than Spidey 3. It had its moments, but it just didn't work for me as a whole.

Just ordered Jeff Smith's SHAZAM book this week. Looking forward to reading it.

zc said...

"I don't care what anyone says: I love that in Sam Raimi's world, a bad ass Peter Parker is one who plays hot jazz piano solos and dances."

Thank you. <3

I forget who said this originally, but anyone who is surprised by a Sam Raimi movie being silly really has no excuse. At all.

jayunderscorezero said...

Whilst, for appearances' sake, I publicly acknowledge SMII as my favourite part of the trilogy, Harry's pie-appreciating "So good!" and jazzy Peter are simply too awesome not to love.

You have no idea how happy it made me to read your review of SMIII and realise that I am not the only one who adores such things. Thank you!

rachelle said...

We should all start a Spider-Man 3 Ruled facebook group or something.

I thought Spider-Man 2 was my favourite, but every time I watch it I like it less due to the long, boring scenes of Mary Jane/Aunt May angst. But the good scenes in that movie are REALLY good.

Spider-Man 3, on the other hand, gets better for me every time I watch it.

ahtitan said...

I only discovered your blog recently, and I enjoy reading what you have to say. I did want to refute one thing, though. It IS possible not to like a book about cats if you don't particularly care for cats. I've read a couple of Jeffrey Brown books, and while these seem to be quite different from work such as "Clumsy," my experience with him isn't going to make me go out seeking more.

Re: SMIII, I will say that I liked it much better the second time. The things that bothered me the first time still bothered me, but not as violently the second time around.

Re: Iron Fist. Yes. I get my books in bulk from my previous town's store (my current one has no store, the heathens). I sort them in order of importance, and I put the last batch of IIF near the bottom of the stack, thinking it might be time to drop them from my pull list. Then I read them, and remembered how awesome it is. I did, however, hate the art in the Annual. Just how big do they think Danny's chin should be, exactly?

Anyway, keep on bloggin.

Grant said...

I'm so glad to see another person who loved Spiderma 3, I had some criticisms with it like Harry's 'New Goblin' costume that didn't have anything Gobli-like about it, Venom not being in it very much, another climax involving MJ getting kidnapped, but whatever, it rocked!

P.S: to 'Anonymous' who made that sexist comment, at least Spiderman 3 was about Spiderman not some horny teenager and didn't involve masturbation and semen jokes when its marketed to kids :)

Grant said...

My apologies for the typos there x__x