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Monday, December 17, 2007

Top 10 comics of 2007

Last year in response to an article I read I came up with my Top 10 comics of 2006. I had so much fun putting that list together, I decided why not do it again... here it is:

10. G.I. Joe: America's Elite
The G.I. Joe books were in such a sad state a year ago, that I considered dropping it. The stories were too far fetched, the art was horrible... there was nothing redeeming about it. Luckily for me, I have a great sense of loyalty and nostaglia and couldn't give up on a title that meant so much to me growing up. I stuck it out, and was treated to the current storyline, the yearlong World War III, written by Mark Powers and drawn by Michael Bear. Both have generated a sense of realism to the title that I've never before witnessed. It truly is the best run ever on any Joe title.

9. Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season 8
This is another book based on a franchise that I have a lot of loyalty towards. I was a huge fan of the television series, and was a big fan of the original Dark Horse comics (and the great future tale Fray). The original series had very uneven storytelling, but usually had the very attractive art of Cliff Richards. Characters I loved plus great art were the reason I kept coming back to this book... the stories always left something to be desired. That all changed with the announcement of Season 8 written by the series creator Joss Whedon. This has been a greatly written Buffy book. Easily one of my top reads of the year. While the second story arc (written by Brian K. Vaughn featuring Faith) has been a little flatter, this book is head and shoulders over the original DH release. The art has been spot on with interiors by Georges Jeanty (who I've liked since the short lived Weapon X series) and beautifully rendered covers by Jo Chen. This is hands down the best book Dark orse publishes.

8. Daredevil
One of favorite books of the past 5 years. Consistently great. Ed Brubaker and Michael Lark have picked up where Brian Michael Bendis and Alex Maleev left off. They simply have not missed a beat. Every month this book comes out it makes it into what I call my "A" pile. I definitely expected a drop-off from the previous creative team but am happy to say I do still love this book. It is the best real-world story in all of comics today. I don't think there is any hero I feel worse for every month. The hero most in need of a break is Daredevil. Until he receives that break I'll enjoy reading each and every challenge.

7. Justice League of America
This has been a great year for the JLA. From the end of the Tornado's Saga to the Return of the Flash, to the reforming of the InJustice League, it has been one main event after another. While I must say I love the Meltzer issues, I have only liked the McDuffie issues. I'm going to withhold judgement until the end of his first story arc (although I hated McDuffie's FF run... blech) only because I loved what he did with these characters on the animated JLU. What has been spot-on and consistent since the relaunch of this book has been the pencils of Ed Benes. Truly one of the top 5 artist in the books today. The second best team book in DC Comics to...

6. Justic Society of America
The senior squad of super-teams has a very interesting mix of older verteran heroes and newbies. All well-crafted by the best DC writer of today... the great Geoff Johns (you'll see his name again on the list. Dale Eaglesham's pencils have been clean and very action oriented. The covers by the great Alex Ross are some of the best covers on the stands today. Plus the introduction of the Kingdom Come Superman is the shot in the arm and the exposure that this title really needs. I think this book is poised for great things in 08.

5. X-Factor
Easily the best X-book of the year. As much as the whole line has gotten new life by the surprisingly good Messiah CompleX, the only X-book worthy of this list is X-Factor (sorry Joss... simply not enough issues of Astonishing X-Men). Peter David has long been one of my favorite writers, and it is clear that Jamie Madrox is one of his favorite characters. One of the the smartest written characters in all of comics. Jamie's quest to absorb all his dupes kept me on the edge of my seat all year. That plus the love-triangle with Monet and Siryn, and the incredibly interesting Layla Miller (she just knows things) has made X-Factor my favorite Marvel team book. My one gripe (not really) is that I wish there was a consistent artist on the series. While I have liked the art on the series I was a little frustrated over the rotating team. Ryan Sook, Renato Arlem and Pablo Raimondi have all great styles which work well with the book, I just wish they would stick with one gy and let him do his thing. That by far is the one unifying thread in this list. All the creative teams are long running and consistent.

4. Green Lantern
The most action-packed series of the year. This easily could have been the top pick of the year for me, but simply too much of the year's best war (sorry World War Hulk and Civil War) took place in Green Lantern Corps which left most readers of only Green Lantern missing major plot points that were being fleshed out in another title. With all that said Geoff Johns and Ivan Reis are crafting a best ever run of Green Lantern. This story will hold up for years to come. Johns continues to write superheroes better than any other man in the comcs game today. Ivan Reis is another top 5 artist. A true revelation. Easily the breakout artist of the year. His pages leap with action and emotion. He is one of the very rare artist who can capture both emotion and action seamlessly.

3. Ex Machina
The best superhero/political drama in comics today... wait, it's the only superhero/political drama in comics today. Brian K. Vaughn and Tony Harris continue to produce one of the best and smartest comics on the shelves today. The TV show Heroes with a super hero politician as well as a little boy who can talk to machines seem to have been influenced by this great series. The best Wildstorm book being published today. Who would have though anyone would care about a comic about a politician... BKV and Tony Harris make us care... they also continue to get this book out on time every month for 3 years running. A true accomplishment in these times were creative teams seem to have no concept of a deadline. Keep up the good work, I will be with you every step of the way.

2. Captain America
If you would have told me before this year started that Cap would die mid-year and his comic would not only go on but would flourish, I would have told you you were crazy. Brubaker and Epting (with some fill in work by Mike Perkins while Eptings family dealt with a great tradegy) are doing truly spectacular work on this title. Brubaker does real world heroes and crime better than any writer on the planet. The way he has taken this title and made us care about Sharon Carter, Falcon and the Winter Soldier is astonishing. I would never have thought it possible. It seemed implausible, but it has worked. I can't wait to see what else Brubaker has in store for us on this great run. Next year looks to be a banner year as a new Cap is poised to hit the scene in January.

And now as a reward for all those who have read this ridiculously long post the top book of the year is...

1. Catwoman
I can't say enough about this title. In a year where a lot of my favorite books took a step back (notice the lack of Super and Bat books on this list) this book took a gigantic step forward. No DC jumped as much in quality in the OYL storyline. When we first saw Catwoman OYL it was Holly while Selina was playing mom to her newborn Helena. That introduction says it all. We had Selina constantly rescuing Holly, then trying to clear Holly's name all while trying to keep baby Helena out of trouble all of which led Selina to eventually give her child up for adoption and try and have Zatanna wipe away any memory of her. Issue #72 was easily the most powerful comic I read all year. Catwoman weeping for the child she just gave up for adoption to keep her safe was the most powerful image of the year. Will Pfeifer did a great job of writing the pain and anguish she went through as she made this decision. David Lopez' pencils have also captured every aspect of the story perfectly. Everything from Catwoman fighting Hammer and Sickle to Selina carrying Helena were all beatifully rendered by Lopez. I guess as a father of a young girl this story truly resonated with me. Would I be strong enough to make the same decision Selina made. Could I give my daughter up to protect her... it's something no parent could truly ask themselves. Stories like that helped make Catwoman my pick as top comic of the year.

Here are some other books that deserve some sort of honorable mention: Trials of Shazam, Uncle Sam and the Freedom Fighters, Green Arrow and Black Canary, The Incredible Hulk, Umbrella Academy, The Sword, Madman, All-Star Superman, X-Men Messiah CompleX, Thor, Star Wars Legacy.

Here are some other characters and notable things I think occurred in the comic world in 2007:

Hero/Character of the Year: Bucky/Winter Soldier
No character more greatly evolved from sidekick to badass than Bucky (sorry Nightwing). Brubaker continues to make him a compelling character in Captain America. As well as his appearance in a flashback in Wolverine:Origins written by Daniel Way where we learn that Bucky always = badass.

Villain of the Year: Sinestro
From orchestrating the war to creating his own corps, no villain had a bigger or more high profile year.

Artist of the Year: Gary Frank
This is a pick I make with my heart, as Gary is now working on Superman. His pencils have always been clean and fresh, but there is now a greater level of detail than at ever before in his career. He has had quite a busy year from pencilling Supreme Power (Squadron Supreme) to the Incredible Hulk to now teaming with Geoff Johns on a great Action Comics run. It was a great year for Frank, and I look forward to seeing more super-pencils in 08.

Moment of the Year: The Death of Captain America
This was the biggest "duh" moment for me... nothing matched the death of an icon. Period. Nothing more needs to be said.

I think it was a pretty good year overall in comics. Spidey and X books (up until Messiah CompleX) continued to disappoint. To me the biggest trend of the year was how great the independent comic scene was in 07. Devils Due, Dark Horse, Image and imprints like Vertigo and Wildstorm all published great books. I look forward to that trend continuing because when the indy's push the envelope, the big two follow. Which means great books all around.



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