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?