So yeah…. Cap’n swiped Captain America from me, so that’s out, but there’s still ample comic goodness to be talked about. I could spend waaay more time than you’ve got on this almost-a-holiday on Invicible Iron Man, Thor, Incredible Hercules, etc. etc, but I’m going to go a different route. My list is aimed at stand-alone comics and mini-series, along with what has fast become my favorite cross-title event in ages… Everything on this list is a damn fine read, so get your Christmas gift money burn list ready to go with my half of the Top 10 Comics You Should Have Read in 2009…
While DC has been floundering about with Zombies with Magic Breakfast Cereal Prizes in Space, Brian Micheal Bendis has been having his way with the Marvel Universe. He’s been throwing massive wrenches into the status quo of Marvel’s heavy hitters for about 7 years now (ever since Avengers: Disassembled), and Dark Reign is one step closer to realizing his master plan (the soon-to-launch Siege). House of M, Civil War, Secret Invasion? Bendis has been laying the seeds of Dark Reign throughout them all, and now it’s finally coming to fruition. Sure, it’s a little ridiculous to think that Barack Obama would put Norman ‘I throw teen girls off of bridges’ Osborn in charge of the newly re-christened S.H.I.E.L.D. (and by extension, the world), but what’s happened in the MU while Osborn, Doom, Loki, and The Hood have had their way with the world has made for some great reading. In your face, Blackest Night.
So far the only title of the list that I’ve not enjoyed was the Mr. Negative tie-in. Everything else has been top-notch fun. In a world where the villains can do no wrong, and the heroes can’t catch a break, every title has found it’s own niche. For one, thisstory line made Wolverine’s son Daken (not to mention the otherwise annoying Sentry) actually interesting, and like the Cap’n, I’ve enjoyed Moonstone’s time in Ms. Marvel’s, uh….unitard. Not to mention: A hell of a lot of DOOM! Hawkeye/Ronin as a character I don’t hate! And oh, crap, but the jokes Spidey gets off on Norman are priceless. Now that we’re THIS close to the wrap-up, it’s an excellent time to go back and traipse through the far more enjoyable version of “When Evil Wins” than DC’s Final Crisis freakout.
Note: While I’m utterly sincere in my statements, I fully admit this entry is partially designed to drive Team Tiger Awesome’s Nick Mundy completely insane with rage.
Writer Jeff Parker and artist Tom Fowler gave the world of magic a much needed kick in crotch with Mysterius the Unfathomable, a six issue mini-series that wrapped up this year. Less effin’ grim than John Constantine, and lacking Stephen Strange’s haughty charm, Mysterius is a pot-bellied man of mystic arts making his way through the world as an arcane gun for hire. Forever suffering the skeptics and the amateurs, Mysterius and his newly-minted assistant Ella are bounced all over creation after a seance goes horribly wrong. From there we’re treated to 60’s cult leaders, a Dr. Seuss like children’s author turned dimensional overlord, and all the reasons why I stay the hell away from Burning Man.
These six issues just glisten with con-man glee and sleight of hand fun. I’ll admit I’m a sucker for the not-quite-upstanding man of mystery trope, but when the chemistry and repartee are as snappy as they are between Mysterius and his not-always-faithful assistant, there’s just no way for me to resist. Now that the complete series is available in softcover trade paperback, I highly recommend spending some time with Mysterious…
Bryan Lee O’Malley’s slacker hero is about to hit the big screen (Summer 2010), but it’s still the printed page where would-be rockstar and romantic hero Scott Pilgrim rules supreme. Well, in his own mind, at least. The overall story is that Canadian slacker Scott Pilgrim is love with Ramona, the eclectic American girl with a shady past, but to stay together Pilgram must defeat her 7 ex boyfriends in combat (the resolutions of which result in some sweet video game power-ups for Scott). This volume has us 4 boyfriends down, but things are already rocky with Ramona and Scott, as his previous relationship to Knives has come to light and the routine of being together has started to let boredom and monotony creep in past the waning fires of infatuation.
While Vol 5 isn’t an ideal jumping on point (this is a series that pretty much requires you to hop on board with Scott Pilgrim’s Precious Little Life), Vs. The Universe still kicked enough ass to warrant being one of best titles of 2009. Oh, and Vol. 6 is oh, so close to release!
Ed Brubaker is kicking a metric ton of ass nowadays. Captain America has kept me hooked since he took over the title, Sleeper raised the bar on espionage in comicdom, Criminal might be the best crime noir series ever produced, but Incognito… Oh, man. Take The Incredibles from the other side of the legal fence, strip away the family and good-heartedness and you’re left with Zach Overkill; one half of a twin-brother dastardly duo who has spent the last few years chemically-depowered and hidden away in an office as part of a Witness Protection Program after testifying against his old boss. After a night of getting high with a fellow office drone, Zach realizes he’s overridden his de-powering drugs and decides to kick a little ass for old time sake. But rather than go back to his bad-old-days, he’s inadvertently thrown in a good guy role, and soon enough he’s dodging a pissed over government and an even more pissed off ex-boss as he tries to figure out the truth behind his abilities.
Brutal, bleakly funny, and one hell of a read.
Darwyn Cooke knocked this incredibly faithful adaptation of Donald Westlake’s noir classic right out of the park. Not only is it the first time the titular Parker (who movie fans have been introduced to via the Lee Marvin powered “Point Blank” and the far tamer Mel Gibson vehicle “Payback”) has been adapted with all the menace and amoral efficiency as the original novels, but Cooke can do no wrong with his gorgeous illustrations. Keeping the novel firmly in the time it was written (1962), Parker – The Hunter takes us back to a world in which a man could accomplish most anything given naught but confidence and a shakey moral compass. Having been left for dead (and subsequently arrested) after a job gone WAY wrong, Parker is out for two things: The money he’s owed, and one seriously heaping plate of revenge on those that done him wrong. Started with the bottom-feeders of the crime world, Parker beats the everliving hell out just about everyone that stands between him and his due. Is it the world’s most earth-shatteringly original crime story? Nope, but what makes this baby hum like finely tuned engine of destruction is Westlake via Cooke’s sense of purpose and grim humor as Parker just steamrolls over everything in his way.
This nice and hefty stand-alone graphic novel has me seriously anxious for the Summer 2010, as Cooke isn’t done spending time with Parker..
Honorable Mention: Planetary #27 –
Like Alan, I can’t in good conscious end this list without talking about the final issue of the much-beloved (by Team Buddha, at least) Planetary. Sure, we’ve been teased and dragged along like a teenage romantic for the last couple of years while we waited for the final resolution to the adventures of Elijah Snow, Jakita Wagner, and The Drummer (among others), but unlike those high-school vixens of my youth, this time the wait was worth it. While there were moments when I wanted to see Planetary take on a wholly original concept, all in all it makes for one of the best self-contained runs out there. That’s space I reserve for only a handful of series (Starman, Y the Last Man, and of course Archie vs. Punisher), but as soon as they release Absolute Edition (and re-release the first), Planetary will be sitting proudly up on that shelf.