Thursday, December 30, 2010
I wouldn't feel right doing a list of negatives without a list of positives, so even though my interest in following monthly comics has diminished, I still read plenty of good stuff this year. Named for the world's greatest cat, here are the awards for the best of the best, the comics that had me genuinely excited.
BEST NEW SUPERHERO SERIES: Avengers Academy by Christos Gage and Mike McKone. Yeah, it sounded like just another teen team book...until the end of the first issue, when it was revealed that all the teens are at-risk superhumans with troubled pasts, and the adults are only training them to keep them from becoming villains. Then it was clear that Avengers Academy would be an excellent new book with a complex cast of characters. The fact that they're younger doesn't mean they're treated condescendingly by the creative team-- in fact, these kids are just as competent as the adults (though when the adults are all failed Avengers, it might not be saying too much).
BEST ONGOING SUPERHERO SERIES: Invincible Iron Man by Matt Fraction and Salvador Larroca. Last year's World's Most Wanted story was, and still is, my all-time favorite Iron Man saga. This year didn't quite measure up to that, as a lot of it was set-up needed to rebuild everything Tony had lost. But even when the story was going too slow, I didn't find it less interesting. Last year had Tony going on what appeared to be his final mission, sacrificing his entire legacy down to the last brain cell so it would stay out of Norman's hands. This year had Tony wake up with an incomplete memory, learning about the horrible mistakes he'd made without having any attachment to having made them, and trying to redefine who he is. Making a new company out of a small group of trusted partners, ditching the military entirely to just focus on his clean energy, and using Pepper's Rescue identity as a symbol for the ideal future of Iron Man were moves that indicated that Tony was A.) determined to make the world a better place, and B.) desperate to move forward to the point of not thinking the implications of his moves through.
In the process, we got a lot of great stuff, including the Iron Man Requiem back-up strip (that, in a move of metatextual tragicomedy, has the brain-damaged Tony hallucinate that his origin was AGAIN in Vietnam), a rather creepy look into Tony's sub-conscious, a brilliant reinventing of the Mandarin as egotistical despot a la Kim Jong Il or Christian Weston Chandler, an excellent-looking new armor, and the villains forming into a family act. Like the Aristocrats, except...well, given how it's the granddaughter of Justin Hammer/daughter of the Mandarin and the son of Obadiah Stane, it's pretty much the Aristocrats.
MOST SATISFYING SUPERHERO MOMENT: Siege #3 by Brian Michael Bendis and Olivier Coipel. After letting the world fall apart in the midst of their petty in-fighting, the Avengers get their shit together and take back their country. Captain America leads the charge against Norman Osborn, Iron Man shuts down the Iron Patriot tech with a condescending push of a button, and Spider-Man punches the bastard in the face. It wasn't brilliant, but damn did it feel good to see.
BEST SERIES CONCLUSION: Scott Pilgrim Vol. 6 by Bryan Lee O'Malley. This series has become popular not just for its video game references mixed with twentysomething angst, but the fact that it's actually quite well-done. After having broken up with Ramona in the previous volume, Scott regresses to his irresponsible man-child ways, only to find that it's no longer even remotely endearing. Embarassed, he has to pull himself together and fight Ramona's final evil Ex, Gideon Graves. But it's not Scott who gets the spotlight, but Ramona, who finally realizes that she can move past her baggage, and joins in the magically realistic fight. The ending doesn't go directly for happily ever after, but for the idea that Scott and Ramona now have the chance to movee on, and it doesn't treat Ramona as a prize to be won or lost, but a capable agent in the story.
Oh, and Gideon is finished off with a move from Chrono Trigger. Can't forget that.
BEST WEBCOMIC: The City of Reality by Ian Samson This series about a cartoony, hyper-idealistic city representing an isolationist paradise in a really horrible cosmos is one of my favorite webcomics ever. Unfortunately it went on hiatus this year, but it had some utterly great stories, most particularly the utter collapse of Reality's attempt to open its borders. This series made optimism cool, and hopefully Ian Samson will get back to it sooner rather than later. But don't take my word for it.... you can see the whole site Here.
BEST TEAR JERKER: The Boys #47, by Garth Ennis and Darick Robertson. The gratuitous violence and debauchery in this series obscures the brilliant storytelling and character depth. For years we've seen Wee Hughie, the only member of the Boys who is actually a nice person, dating Annie January, who (unbeknownst to him) is a member of the decadent military-industrial super-team known as the Seven. When he finds out not only this fact, but sees footage of her giving a group blow-job to get on the team. Given how a member of the Seven carelessly got his last girlfriend killed, Hughie is furious with Annie and throws ever horrible insult he can make at her. Annie, who has been feeling horrible and traumatized about what she had done, doesn't defend herself and begs for forgiveness. Hughie knows she's right, but leaves her anyway. It was an extremely tragic moment for the characters whose relationship was the heart of the series, and it was done perfectly.
Friday, December 24, 2010
Originally I had entitled these end-of-year rant posts the "Humperdoozie ", after the inbred descendant of Christ from Preacher. However, I realized that might come across as though I equate crappy comics with developmental disabilities, and I don't want that. So I've changed the award name to something more specific and less offensive-- except to people who can't get it up because of nanite arm stump infection. Fortunately, none of them are coming forward any time soon.
Here's the best way I can express my opinion about the year's comics-- 2010 was the year when I stopped identifying myself as a superhero comic fan. I'd enjoyed a lot of the stuff from 2009, and I still enjoyed some things in 2010. But this was the year where I finally emancipated myself from specific allegiances, because I'd found other interests that filled the void. I've found franchise superhero comics largely an Ouroburos that somehow kept finding more of its tail upon which to nosh, and I don't know if it was just getting fed up with the directions of comics, or focusing my attention on other mediums that told the kinds of stories I actually wanted to see.
But let's put it this way...you know how Mark Millar wrote his own afterword for Superior #1, saying about how comics fans needed new superhero characters to replace the tired constructs of the Golden and Silver Ages? Well, I found my new hero. His name is Solid Snake. :P
Anyway, onwards with the awards...
Worst Story Resolution: X-Men: Second Coming. After dragging the DeciMation out for five years, Marvel resolves it via living deus ex machina Hope Summers, whose Phoenix powers revive the mutant race with....five new mutants. That's equal to the amount of mutants killed in the crossover, significantly less than the amount of mutants killed since the DeciMation, and not even remotely worth the moral compromises Cyclops made in the name of chasing a messiah child without any evidence to support his faith. Yet now Cyclops is the hero, and everyone loves him, even though he's treated every mutant he wasn't sleeping with (re: every mutant except Emma and maybe Wolverine ) as expendable. Seeing Scott awarded the Medal of Honor by Captain America was especially jarring, since Cap wouldn't have stood for the shit Scott did, even in a wartime situation.
Worst New Direction: JMS' Superman. Walking through small towns trying to find the real America was corny when Green Lantern and Green Arrow did it in the 70's. But at least they were open to learning from their experience. Superman's just ditching his responsibilities to the entire world so he can slum it with mere mortals and feel better about himself. At best he's a politician going on a campaign trail to win his constituents' favor, and at worst he's an anthropologist fascinated by the behavior of us chimpanzees. Neither seems like a good use of his talents, and it's an especially jarring waste of a year's worth of comics.
Worst Move For Diversity Of Representation: DC Comics killing off the Ryan Choi Atom. Was Ray Palmer such an original and compelling personality that he had to return to the role at the cost of the new guy's life? What made him so much more " iconic " in that minor role, that he would have his competition eliminated by divine intervention...oh, wait, he's a white Silver Age character. And Ryan's a Chinese-American from the current generation. That explains it, and it's hardly the only example of the classic white guys taking back roles from their more diverse counterparts. At least in this case, people who enjoyed the All-New Atom comic/don't enjoy DC's current direction got a karmic bone by seeing the villain who killed Ryan sentenced to death by Snoo-Snoo.
Worst Comic About A Junkie Ex-Sideckick Who Cradles A Dead Cat During A Heroin Hallucination After Being Unable To Get It Up With The Supervillain Babymama Of His Dead Daughter Due To A Nanobot Infection In His Arm Stump: Rise of Arsenal. Okay, it didn't have too much competiton, but still, you can't make that shit up. At least, you couldn't until a professional writer DID.
Worst Trend: Identity Sub-Franchising. The Incredible Hulk has become The Incredible Hulks, with every character of his supporting cast now being a similar gamma-powered monster. Batman has become Batman Inc., franchising his identity built through a lifetime of suffering out to anyone who passes the job interview. Wolverine's gone from a solo X-Men spin-off to his own franchise, with a team book of is own and books for his clone daughter and evil son. There are two Captain Americas, a family of Flashes, and a Lantern Corps of every color. Has everyonejust given up on the idea that being a superhero can be inherently special? Or is it just
Limp Arrow 2010 Lifetime Unachievement Award: Mark Millar. See the above comment, except that his " new " concepts are a book about comic book fanboys playing at being heroes, a book about a Batman rip-off acting like a Joker rip-off, and a book about a Shazam rip-off. If you don't want to do the same old thing as everyone else, don't do the same old thing as everyone else! Filing off the serial numbers and adding a lot of swearing and "timely" pop culture references isn't good enough.
Monday, December 20, 2010
As Baby New Year 2010 has become Dying Old Man 2010 thanks to the terminator genes engineered into him by the Patriots, we start making resolutions for 2011's arrival. 2010 was a big year for me, as I started doing freelance writing, got a lot of Ruby's World comics done, found a wonderful new fandom in Metal Gear Solid, and a horrifying new interest in Sonichu. But I digress...
People who have been keeping up with the Ruby's World comic know that it's coming to a close, and is going into the next chapter, entitled Ruby Nation. After being transformed, ostracized, and appalled by the world, our nine-foot-tall heroine is going to start her own country with a new, uncorrupted system. Joined by the comrades she's made along the way, and funded by the US government's black budget ( in exchange for military services against Beagle Labs ), Ruby plans to take an island military base off the coast of Southern California and make it into a refuge for other nanotech-enhanced young people, allowing them a place where they can live in peace and feel accepted.
It will NOT be an easy task.
This story is the story I actually want to tell. Consider Ruby's World a warm-up, what was necessary for me to gain the storytelling abilities and set up the framework for Ruby Nation. I've always been bothered by the reactive nature of hero stories, how most characters simply respond to threats instead of trying to build something positive. And most of the hero stories that do have the heroes try to reform society end up going into aggravating slippery slope parables, where taking the risks to do something positive makes the heroes into extremists or outright villains. This is going to be a more complex examination of what it requires to build something pure in a fallen world than, say, Iron Man being treated as a despot for trying to change the system from within.
The launch of Ruby Nation will not be for another few months, because I wanted to wrap up this saga in a properly heartbreaking fashion. And I will not be updating this weekend or next, due to the holiday vacation. However, when the story returns to regular scheduling, you'll see what the point of divergence between World and Nation is-- and who'll actually get through it alive.
Monday, December 13, 2010
If I've seemed lax with blogs/responses/horrifying you all with Sonichu reviews, it's partly because I've been busy getting the hang of a new job; Video Game News Editor at ConsolePress! I help find and write-up news across the video game industry.
You can check out the site and its daily updates ( some of which are mine ) Here.
Tuesday, December 7, 2010
-- You find yourself in the same job and wardrobe that you had in your twenties. If you are in your twenties now, you find yourself in the same classes and wardrobe that you had in high school. All of the progress you have made since has been nullified via convoluted circumstances that reset your status quo.
-- Similarly, elements of your outdated wardrobe are now given intense personal significance. If you wore leg-warmers, you've started wearing them again because they were given to you by a friend who was hit by a bus. If you sported a mullet, you have once again chosen that hairstyle because it reminds you of the uncle who touched you, and gives you the feeling that you've conquered your past.
-- All of your friends and family throughout your entire life history are hanging around. You find that your life is basically just one big family reunion, with kindergarten playmates, high school sweethearts, bitter workplace rivals, and dead grandparents popping up. Oh yeah, and I forgot to mention...
-- All of the people who've passed on in your life have come back. They may be traumatized after having been dead, but they're back to life and healthy. Any sense of loss is gone, replaced with confusion and a vague irritation at being manipulated by the powers that be.
-- In addition to everyone who'd been in your life having returned, you also find that a bunch of new people with close ties to your old associates have appeared. If you are in a poker league called " the Kitchen Table Crew ", they now face competition from the mysterious " Breakfast Nook Crew ", the bizarre and unpredictable " Linen Closet Crew ", and the sinister " Waterbed in the Basement Crew ".
-- Your rivals have become much nastier. The schoolyard bully who gave everyone wedgies now rips peoples' spines out through their buttocks. The guy who makes offensive racist jokes at work now keeps the bodies of his minority victims in his basement, and uses their coffers to put on puppet shows. And the obnoxious teenaged clerk at the convenience store has laced all the hot dogs with neurotoxins that cause four hours of mind-blowing pain before death.
-- Last but not least, you are having vision troubles because narrative caption boxes expressing your personal problems obscure everything you see.
Wednesday, December 1, 2010
Didn't I Tell You It Gets Worse
Previously in Sonichu, Chris-Chan had defeated the B-Manajerk and Merried Seinor Comic who threatened to stop him from soliciting for sex at the " Mal-Wart " food court. However, he was confronted by the WM-Manajerk, a human head attached to a giant robot body*. Now, Chris-Chan is getting the crap beaten out of him by this new Manajerk. Fortunately, his gold-armored " Cherokian " ancestor appears in a vision, and tells Chris-Chan what he needs to do in order to summon his dream sibling....Crystal Weston Chandler.
Crystal is basically the female twin of Chris-Chan ( not Christian Weston Chandler, mind you, but his idealized avatar ). She wears a hedgehog medallion and a gaudy striped shirt, transforms into a Rosechu, and wields the same " Curse-Ye-Ha-Me-Ha " black magic as her brother. Her personality is entirely supplimentary to Chris'; she assists him in defeating the WM-Manajerk, and lectures the defeated severed head on why her brother's Love Quest is noble, but doesn't show any outside independent thought. Chandler created Crystal as the exact kind of woman he wants, a servile distaff counterpart to himself. Yet he chose to make this woman a blood relative, the kind that he couldn't ethically touch ( even by his own flimsy moral code ).
So why would a man capable of creating the woman he wants to be his dream mate instead create a sister he can't touch? Well, Chandler wants someone who understands and approves of him and his plans. By creating a clone of himself, he's made sure that his ideal friend understands what it means to be him. And by making the clone female, her approval of his Love Quest is meant to carry more weight. Back in high school, Chandler had several " gal-pals "**, females who were friendly to him but not romantically linked. Perhaps making Crystal a sister is Chandler's way of ensuring that she stay as his friend, because even his libido wouldn't make him commit the incest taboo.
It may also be the case that Chandler doesn't want to get a girlfriend without having " earned " her through a Love Quest, which is why he can't get a girl even in his own fictional universe. This is possibly the only concession that can be offered to Chandler, that he isn't so absorbed in his fantasy world that he can invent himself a sweetheart. Then again, Chandler isn't above having his avatar get laid; in later chapters, he travels to the future and fucks his future self's wife, taking advantage of the mistaken identity.***
And the sad part is that at this point, Chandler at least approaches his Love Quest with honest ( if deluded ) conviction. But we're still seeing things like his ad for Axe Deodorant, where Rosechu tells Sonichu that she wants to " orbit your belt " because he uses the Orion scent. The pretense that there's anything noble about Sonichu gets flimsier and flimsier.
* Which appears copied from the Transformer Jazz. It's likely that Chandler owns that specific toy of the character, given everything else upon which he's blown Virginian taxpayer money. And yet he doesn't draw the body with any attempt at proportion or perspective, thus negating even the POINT of plagiarizing.
** Having mainly platonic female friends is commonly associated with gay men-- ironic considering Chandler's vicious homophobia.
*** I'm worried about how well my sanity will hold out until that review. :P