Monday, January 3, 2011

Merry Christmas from Batman and Robin!

Found this gem on my computer today and knew that I had to share it, even if it is a few days late! Happy Holidays!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

The 2010 Kellsies

The tension between "time well spent" and "time utterly wasted" seems to come up in my thoughts more around this time of year. As the days get colder, the nights get dark much earlier, and January 1st creeps up, it seems only natural to take stock of the passing of the previous year. For me this year could be marked by a few gateposts, including moving into my first apartment, taking my cats across 4 different states on the most nerve-wracking car trip ever, starting my second year at my job, and the sad reality that my body is not what it used to be, resulting in more trips to the doctor in 2010 than the past 3 years combined. While those were some big personal milestones, I will probably look back on these past 12 months and not think much of them.

Time really is a funny thing. As the year draws to a close, I'm once again reminded that sometimes my life seems to stagnate. Goals I set never got accomplished or were killed by lack of commitment, or directions I never thought I would take have become my path. Either that, or I look back and ask myself "What have I been doing for the past 12 months?" And to look ahead to the future is almost certainly scary. The future is hazy and truly out of my control, which makes the fact that I didn't use the past year to my full advantage sting that much more.

While I feel this way about my personal life, it's true that I can extend these sentiments into my comic reading experiences this year. Maybe it's because I didn't buy as many books this year, or because I bought more back issues than in previous times, but this past twelve months of comics by no means blew my mind. In some ways, the months and the issues just seemed to pass, with almost no major repercussions.

But that's not to say there weren't some bright spots. This past year of comic reading brought a renewed interest in Spidey, a continued adoration of the new Batgirl, a change of heart towards Judd Winick, an ever deepening connection to the Fantastic Four, and some truly fun moments with Felicia Day. These are the moments that I hope can fit into that "time well spent" category. These are the things I'm here to celebrate today.

So won't you join me once again, as I take the time to dole out a few awards to the best (and worst) of what I read this year? In other words, it's time for the 2010 Kellsies!

Kellsies 2010 Rules:

1. Kellsies are only given out for books that came out in 2010. In the case of mini-series or arc that started in 2009, a majority of it had to come out in 2010.

2. Kellsies are only for books I read or purchased. I had to actually sit and spend time with the thing to form a valid opinion. Internet spoilers don't really count.

3. I reserve the right to make up any category I deem fit. Don't be surprised if you see an award for "Best Out of Character Namor Moment in an X-Men Book."

4. Kellsies are by nature fully biased, partially arbitrary, and overall meaningless. It's advised that you take them with a grain of salt.

And for those of you just joining us, this is actually the fourth Kellsies post(holy $#@!). The inaugural edition can be found here, the 2008 posting can be found here, and the 2009 awards can be found here.

As always, the books chosen to receive Kellsies are classified under one of two categories. The stuff I liked, which was what I consider above average, is known as the "best." The stuff I read that I felt was unnecessary is unfortunately dubbed the "worst." While I feel bad about dogging out someone's hard work, the disparity between best and worst is often easy to spot, and ultimately worth noting for posterity. It's like a time capsule of sorts.

Enough with the exposition, onto the awards!

Best Series- Justice League: Generation Lost

Who would have thought that a series starring characters I don't really care for (Booster Gold, Captain Atom, Fire, Maxwell Lord), written by writers I don't really care for (Judd Winick and Keith Giffen) would win my heart for comic of the year? Well not me, obviously. But it did, and it's a testament to the greatness of Gen Lost.

Spinning out of the Blackest Night Mini-Series and tying into DC's company wide storyline "Brightest Day", Gen Lost excels due to the execution of its overall premise. The mystery of Maxwell Lord being resurrected and his cat-and-mouse tactics with the DCU's most famous heroes and villains lends itself to a compelling "what will he do next?" chess game of superheroics.

While a lot of my fondness for Gen Lost comes from Judd Winick's use of snappy characterizations and humorous nuances, I also realize that I should tip my hat to DC for putting this book out bi-weekly. Though I'll end up paying much more for the series in a year than the other comics I enjoy, Gen Lost's determined shipping schedule makes me feel that there is indeed a planned ending for the series, and that answers will actually be revealed. Plus Maxwell Lord is a total MOFO, and I like it. I might as well call him villain of the year, while I'm at it.

Best Cover - Superboy #1 by Rafael Albaquerque

I looked over a lot of covers in search of what I felt was the standout image of 2010, and this piece by Rafael Albaquerque really seemed to tower above the others.

What makes this cover for me is the overall tone, which seems to scream "youthful hero." From the deep yellow backdrop (not many comics with those!), to the undeniable focus on the "S" symbol on Kon-El's shirt, to the ever so slight smirk on the titular hero's face, this is how you want to present your #1 issue. Heck, the cover pretty much sold me on trying the series!

Best Mini-Series- The Guild

As a prequel of sorts to the semi-popular web series of the same name, The Guild really fired on all cylinders as a limited engagement. As an adaptation of another medium, it succeeded in bridging any weird transitional gaps that may occur from screen to page (unlike every Simpsons comic ever). With series creator Felicia Day writing the issues, all characterizations were dead-on, and the comic had actual credibility with fans of the show (a.k.a me).

Best of all, the comics gave us the backstory of how the characters in the show came to meet. While that particular storyline is often alluded to in the show, the only place to see it "in continuity" is within the comics, creating an interesting "bookend" (or in this case "bookfront") to the web show. So in other words, the Guild wins because it feels like a mini-series with a purpose.

Best Moment- The Death of Magog
Introduced in the 1996 Elseworld's tale Kingdom Come, the character of Magog was originally written as a critique of the over-the-top superheroes who dominated early 90's comics. Violent, headstrong, and powerful, Magog used lethal means to deal with situations where heroes of the old day may have show restraint. As a device for the story, he was an interesting juxtaposition to the aging ideals of Superman.
In 2007, writer Geoff Johns and Kingdom Come artist Alex Ross officially introduced Magog to the current DC continuity, in a story meant to incorporate more of the Kingdom Come universe into the regular DC mythology. While Magog wasn't the most interesting character to come along, his inclusion in the Justice Society was a pleasant surprise. I had zero problems with the character in such a limited capacity.

And then it happened.They gave Magog his own series.
DC tried to propel Magog forward as his own hero, someone worthy to stand aside Batman, Superman, Green Lantern, Flash, etc. Other legacy heroes with far more fans and possibilities were brushed aside for their own go at a series in favor of a D-list character with a backstory that had been spelled out pretty well already. It was at this point I wanted Magog to go away, and I didn't care how.

Enter Generation Lost #13. After getting a power boost from Maxwell Lord (the aforementioned MOFO), Magog battles Captain Atom, weakening him severely. Maxwell Lord then makes Magog blow off his own head.

Magog is seemingly vaporized, and Maxwell Lord's plans come to complete fruition. Everyone wins! Sorry to seem so sadistic, but this death came out of left field and made for a great issue.

Best, Heroine- Batgirl
No other book warms my heart like the monthly adventures of Stephanie Brown, a.k.a Batgirl. As a former small-time vigilante and one-time Robin, Steph came into her own as Batgirl this year. As both a young person and a hero, Steph has overcome every obstacle and nay-sayer to earn the right to join the Bat-Family.Steph even gained the approval of Bruce Wayne, a story a long time in the making. And if you need proof, check out issue#12 or the Road Home Batgirl one-shot.

Worst Series-Justice League of America by James Robinson

One lesson the comics world learned as a whole in 2010 is that the quality of James Robinson's 90's series Starman can no longer be used as a measure of his talent. The new standard by which to judge Robinson MUST be his current work, including what I am calling the worst series of the year, Justice League of America.

To be fair, I only read two issues of the series this year, #41, which was the big launching point for a new team, and #50, which was the oversized milestone issue. The nicest thing I can say about both issues were that they left feeling underwhelmed.The worst I can say is that both stories were steaming piles of literary excrement.

DC had promoted Robinson's run heavily, promising new characters, a new team dynamic, and lots of unique ties to the DC Universe. Instead we got an awkward collection of heroes who joined the team and then quickly quit, leaving Donna Troy, Jesse Quick, and Jade as the forerunners of the series. And while it's true that all of those ladies are interesting characters, they are supporting players at best. They could be in a JLA if it were led by heavy hitters like Superman himself, but even then, I probably still wouldn't read the comic.

.....For the next 2 issues!

Worst One-Shot - Batman: The Return

I read a lot of sorry excuses for one-shots this year, but none made me as utterly indignant as Grant Morrison's Batman: The Return. As the "official" (for $4.99 it better be official!) homecoming of Bruce Wayne as well as the kick off to the Batman Inc. era, this comic suffered from an overall lack of heart. While Batman isn't known for hugs and kisses, he returned like some kind of superheroic Donald Trump, with all his extended family acting as his Apprentice contestants (note the page where they all get their "assignments"). While I understand that the whole point of the story is to a.) show off David Finch's art and b.) Establish a newly repurposed Bruce Wayne, it doesn't mean I have to accept the status quo. While I will give the story credit for ironing out questions of how Bruce and Damian would operate in the future, its ending left me cold. If the idea was to get me to follow Batman Inc., this book had the opposite effect.

Worst Mini-Series- Shadowland

Billed as a "street level" event, Shadowland's goal seemed simple enough: New York heroes were going to fight an evil Daredevil. The first issue started out in event-worthy fashion, with Bullseye escaping his jailers, the people of New York becoming more distrustful of DD's empire, and finally the cliffhanger of our favorite blind lawyer doing the unthinkable (ok it was like the worst kept secret in comics this summer). It was good enough, and then it got....weird.

I actually read the DD tie-in issues, Shadowland 1-3, and the Spidey one-shot, and the momentum of this series died so quickly that I didn't stick around for the conclusion. The ultimate irony(is that the word for it?) is that this was the "street level" event that ends up with a demonic battle of wits. The supernatural background of it all totally negated the whole reason I actually wanted to read the storyline, which was to see a bearded Punisher shoot Spider-Man.

That put the "tease" in teaser image...

Worst Moment- Dry Heaves after Reading Flash #3
This summer on Hello Kello I went into some detail (and made a pretty good case, I think) about why Flash #3 was one of the worst comics I've read in a while. With each new issue the same sick feeling visits me after the initial reading, and I keep wondering when the book will become something I enjoy. I would hate on it more, but it makes me sad just thinking about it...

Worst Cover (or Most Distracting Cover Feature) Justice League Generation Lost #1

I love Tony Harris, and I truly enjoy all his art. But out of all the comics I purchased this year, there was one thing that bothered me so much on this cover that I really did think about intermittently it for months. I present to you the cover to Gen Lost #1, and ask you to look at Booster Gold.....
I just winced a little.

2010 Wrap-Up

Based on my predictions from last year, I was right about Magog getting canceled in 12 issues, Dan Didio's run on Outsiders has become a disaster, and Geoff John's Flash has failed to impress (ok, I'm the only one apparently).

2011 Predictions

- Green Lantern will be one of the cheesier superhero movies, but will have great special effects.
- The Thor movie will suck in proportions equaled only by Ghost Rider. But Lady Sif will keep me very interested!
- The Walking Dead will return to TV and lose a ton of viewers. I don't know why.
- People will take a second look at Fantastic Four, and be uber impressed by the massive story unfolding.
So there you have it. I want to thank you all for reading, commenting, and responding with your favorites. I also want to wish you all a Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah,happy Winter or Merry Jolly, or whatever. However P.C. you need it, that's what I'm wishing you and yours this season. Here's hoping 2011 is a great year for you, and a great year for comics!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Superman Destroys The World

Hey everyone, just wanted to share an image with you that I thought about including in my review of Superman: Kryptonite Nevermore, but ended up leaving out. I just think it’s a really cool page, drawn beautifully by the amazing Curt Swan. Hope you like it!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

December? Since When?

Happy December! If you're anything like me, you can't believe it's almost officially Winter. Icy windshields, slippery roads, and prayers for snow days are right around the bend. To be honest, part of me loves the entire frigid season. I like the feeling of bundling up and fighting the elements, gathering with loved ones on chilly evenings for awkward Christmas parties, and of course having a big chunk of time off for holiday break. So in the spirit of celebration, I'd like to present you with 2 things I'm really looking forward to this month:
Item #1.) Awesome Ornaments- While I can't have my own tree due to the inevitability of my cats destroying it, I've been spending time over the past few days dreaming up what a "Kello style" X-Mas tree may resemble. I know it would be the cheapest, fakest, ugliest tree you can imagine (purchased from a place not unlike Family Dollar), and would include the following ornaments:

I've also heard of people making ornaments out of the Blackest Night promo rings from last year, and I think that may be a spiffy way to make the holidays a little nerdier.

Item #2) KELLSIES! - You read that right, it's almost time for my favorite annual blog post. Although Hello Kello is no more, the Kellsies will continue on through this very site. As usual, the 2010 edition will be full of no-nonsense (ok, it's all nonsense) summations of the very best and worst of the comics I got my clammy mitts on over the past 11 or so months. I hope to have it up sometime around December 20th, so be on the look out!
Well, those are two things on my mind as we enter this new season. My question to everyone out there is, what are you looking forward to as Old Man Winter comes to town?

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

JT: Air Marshal - "Pilot"

J.T. is a complicated man. One part Clint Eastwood, one part Donald Glover, he's the baddest air marshal in the skies. The only problem? The local airport's "ethics committee" disagrees with his our man's methods. Thankfully his local government liason (and boss), the chief, is there to smooth out the tensions. But will J.T.'s bad a** ways lead the chief to an early grave?

Saturday, November 20, 2010

The Great Recommendation Experiment

As an unabashed fan of superhero comics from the "big two", I admit I have a rather narrow perspective as to what makes for good comics. While I've never needed anything more than a simple "tights and fights" type storyline with some believable character moments sprinkled throughout, comics as a medium provide a realm of infinite storytelling potential. With that belief in mind, I recently began a little experiment to branch out from the traditional stories I so often enjoy. So in addition to my usual pulls, I am going to try the big "it" books of the moment. While many of the books I've been trying still come from the more mainstream companies, their themes are a bit more diversified than another "Spidey saves New York" type of yarn.

This desire to try the new books comes from two places mostly, the first of which is sheer boredom with my current collection. I know other readers out there feel me when I say that even your most favorite of heroes can become a bit stale after awhile. The second (and more important) reason for trying something different is that I want to find out for myself why certain books seem to garner universal critical acclaim. There are books that always top the critics' "best of" lists every year, many of which I've never even seen in person, or have tried and hated, or was just never impressed by. I mean, is it just me? Or are thousands of other people wrong about this stuff? It's probably the other people.....

So with all this in mind, I started checking out a few of the "Mature Readers" only books I've avoided for so long. Taking the attitude that I'm in it for the story, I'm willing to overlook the cursing, sex, and graphic violence that pervade these titles. Given my feeling that many people in the comic book world automatically translate these "adult situations" into good storytelling, I wanted to put aside any biases I may have and look to see if there was something I was really missing.

So with inhibitions cast aside, will you join me as I survey some of the initial "recommendations" I checked out?

Recommendation: Chew (Image Comics)
Recommended By: My friend Matt, as well as a slew of other comic review sites.
# of Issues Read: Just the first one. It was $1.00.
Synopsis: Detective Tony Chu is Cibopathic, which means he has psychic visions about whatever food he eats, tracing it back to its origins. The only food he can eat without tasting all the chemicals, pesticides, additives, etc. is beets. Things get a little wonky when he eats a soup prepared by a serial killer and sees all of the guy's former victims. He then ends up cannibalizing the perp to find about ALL of the victims. Apparently this catches the eyes of the government who hire him as a special agent.
Thoughts:This is one of the only series where I didn't get to read the whole first arc. I thought this book was okay, and Chu's powers lend themselves to some interesting "what ifs", but I wasn't blown away. With its cartoonish art offsetting the gruesome nature of Chu's powers, there is a "black comedy" (the Gross Pointe Blank kind, not the Death at a Funeral kind) vibe throughout the whole issue. However, I had a really hard time thinking I could stomach (pun intended) reading a monthly about a guy who eats people. I could see trying the first trade, but I honestly could take it or leave it.
Verdict: I could see why people would like it, but I wasn't in awe.

Recommendation: Scalped (DC/Vertigo)
Recommended By: The reviewers of Comic Book Club, a lot of famous writers, and I'm assuming Satan.
Issues Read: 1-12 (and I picked up three other trades to read this weekend)
Synopsis: Taking place on an Indian Reservation in South Dakota, Scalped follows young Daishell Bad Horse, a full blooded Native American who left his reservation at the age of 13, as he returns home after a 15 year absence. Bad Horse is a bad MOFO, and he gets hired on by the corrupt chief to be a tribal cop. The twist is that Bad Horse is working for the government to bring down the corrupt chief.
Thoughts: This is the grittiest comic book I've ever read. Every other word is an F-bomb, plenty of heads are blown off, drugs are smoked/snorted/injected, and of course there's plenty of shacking up. Even the protagonist is a junkie killer who in one seen unloads two full clips of ammo on another undercover agent before shooting him in the genitals and brain. It's truly horrifying to think I'm even reading this.....BUT...There is something totally compelling about it all. Writer Jason Aaron has crafted such an atmospheric book that you really feel like you're part of the prison that is the "Rez" (what they call the reservation in the comic). None of the characters would be likable as real people, but you find yourself caring for them. The storyline is a big cat-and-mouse game, with each of the characters using the others for their own agenda. I think Ed Brubaker said it best in his introduction to volume 4 that good crime stories are about people falling down and going about as low as possible, and Scalped delivers this in epic fashion. Every page has a feeling of heaviness, accentuated mostly by the use of harsh language and deep inks.
Verdict: I'm still reading it, in fact I can hardly put it down. If you have no qualms about reading about the absolute pits of depravity, you may like this book. Also if you really like anything HBO or FX has ever done, you'll probably like this book.

Recommendation: Y: The Last Man (DC/Vertigo)
Recommended By: Marc, and Society at Large
# of Issues Read: 10 (first two volumes)
Synopsis: A mysterious virus kills everything on earth that has a Y-Chromosome, except for a young man named Yorick and his pet monkey. Now in a post-apocalyptic (a.k.a. Estrogen flooded) world, Yorick and some of his compatriots have to figure out how to save the human race from extinction.
Thoughts: There has been talks of this being made into a movie for a long time, and now I see why. This book provides an interesting look at issues of gender, politics, and society without getting too preachy. There are little nuances about the manless world that I never would have been considered. Because most of the mechanical/engineering jobs in the world are held by males, it's an interesting idea to think that all that kind of support could be lost in an instant. We also have the fact that most politicians are male, and the whole notion that maybe some women WOULDN'T want men in the world. Writer Brain K. Vaughn excels at creating a tense world which asks a lot of good questions, beckoning readers to examine the mysteries themselves. While the art is good enough, it is the one thing I've always thought was kind of lacking in Y. It just seems so plain, but it helps set the tone by maintaining a realistic feel.
Verdict: This is my new favorite comic book. I admit it everyone, you were right. I just wish I would have got into this back when I lived in Michigan, since the library there had all the trades. Oh well, now I'll just have to buy them all. Yorick's everyman (pun totally intended) quality mixed with the mystery of just what the heck happened to everyone, along with the ever present danger of the world make for a darn good read. And although I've only read 2 trades, I have to say my favorite character is Y's sister Hero.

Recommendation: The Walking Dead (Image)
Recommended By: My friend Nathan, Spike TV, and anyone who just started reading comics in the last 5 years (except JT for some reason).
# of issues read: 1-12 (first 2 volumes)
Synopsis: We follow a group of survivors of a zombie apocalypse as they simply try to survive.
Thoughts: I've known about this title for a long time, but always avoided it. Mostly due to the violence and language, but also because I was quite over the "zombies are awesome!" trend before it even started(I was all into Screamo at the time). But after watching the AMC show I jumped on the bandwagon, purchased some trades, and was quite impressed to find an interesting, character-driven comic that really manages to create something out of nothing. I mean, you know the people are going to run into zombies in different locales every issue, but it's always manages to put me on the edge of my seat. And the black and white art adds a nice touch to the overall feel of the book. I still don't have complete confidence in Robert Kirkman as a writer, but he has crafted a zombie book that is at the very least his own.
Verdict: I'm into this book now, but I have a feeling that as the excitement about the show wanes so will my heightened interest in filling up my collection with more of this series.

Recommendation: Sweet Tooth (DC/Vertigo)
Recommended by: Unanimous geek approval across the internet/ comic review sites. Oh and Geoff Johns has a quote on the cover calling this a "must read."
# of Issues Read: 1-5 (volume 1)
Synopsis: This takes place in a post-apocalyptic (are you sensing a theme here?) world and stars a youngin named Gus, who is a deer/boy hybrid. After living a sheltered life with his father, Gus finally ventures out of the forest and is hunted due to his Hybrid status. Gus is saved by a punisher-esque character named Jeppard, who promises to take him to a Hybrid reserve. Violence ensues, and Gus and Jeppard build a unique rapport.
Thoughts: Along with Y, this was one of the less graphic books I tried. While there are plenty of scenes of violence, some interaction at a brothel, and some naughty words, there is an innocence to this book. Mainly due to the naivete of the main character Gus, a.k.a "Sweet Tooth", we can't help but see the world of darkness through the eyes of a child (he's 9). With the juxtaposition of the gruff and deadly Jeppard, there is an undercurrent of warmth in the danger the two share.
Verdict: I read this through last week and I really didn't know what to think. People LOVE this book, and they think Jeff Lemire needs to be put on the $5 bill, but I can't figure out why. It's good, but maybe I'm not savvy enough to see how it's the greatest comic ever. I'll try the second volume at some point to see what happens with Jeppard, who is the main reason for me buying this trade.

So that's it for now. I also bought the first volume of Ex Machina, a few issues of Brubaker's Criminal, and I'm currently eyeing other titles such as Joe Kelly's I Kill Giants and Brian Azzarello's 100 Bullets. What do you guys think out there? Are there any books you get tired of hearing about as being the greatest thing since sliced bread? And are there any of the titles above that you've tried? Let me know. And until next time, Long Live Our Legion!