A LOOK BACK AT 2000
Lots of people are looking back at the Year 2000. They've even put together their Top 10 Comics of the Year lists. Me? I'm way too sick of all the Top 10 lists I've seen already to add another one to it.
Instead, over the next couple of weeks, I'm going to slip in some various categories and looks back at a few of the books of 2000 and what categories they belong in.
I'll start with Best Finds of 2000. These are the books that have been out there and established for a time, but that I just started reading and loving this year. Here are the four books that fall into that category:
(I'm not entirely sure if LONE WOLF AND CUB would qualify in this category, so I won't list it here officially.)
DORK TOWER definitely gets a nod under here. John Kovalic does a wonderful comic strip-oriented bi-monthly comic set around the goings-on in and around a gaming store. You don't have to be a gamer to get it. He touches on everything from X-FILES to BABYLON 5 to comic conventions and more. It's the comic for the geek in all of us. And each issue is well worth the three bucks it'll set you back. While the interior pages are in black and white, the issues feature cardstock covers, more pages than your average comic, and are completely self-contained and continuity free. So jump right on in!
Speaking of comic strips, I can't leave out Frank Cho's LIBERTY MEADOWS. Now a monthly pamphlet collecting his daily comic strip, the book has a quirky charm and some wonderful art. For an even better art sampler, see if you can't track down the FRANK CHO ILLUSTRATED. There's some beautiful stuff in there, too.
BLADE OF THE IMMORTAL might have been the sole award winner, if I had chosen to give just one award away. I'll explain more and why it is so in Friday's column, which is dedicated to discussing this amazing piece of work. It's the best-looking manga on the market for my money, and quite possibly the best-looking comic on the stands, period. Yes, it's that impressive. But, like I said: Wait for it on Friday.
I should also throw in a mention for Will Eisner's works. I just read my first Eisner graphic novel this year in LAST DAY IN VIETNAM. That led me to CONTRACT WITH GOD and, I'm sure, more to come. I have to admire both his storytelling style and his business acumen. He owns the rights to all these graphic novels, himself, and has seen multiple printings of most of them throughout the years. And they still sell off shelves. That's pretty impressive.
More categories next week including Best, and Most Disappointing, Mini-Series.
BATMAN: GOTHAM ADVENTURES #34 is an excellent companion piece to the most recent issue of CATWOMAN recently discussed here. Whereas the other book satirized the animation industry, B:GA does a hilarious spoof on the movie industry. Maxie Zeus – one of the sillier Batman villains from the animated series – enlists the help of Hollywood to tackle his latest scheme. Sorta. I can't really explain it. You're better off reading it for yourself. Scott Peterson does a terrific job in both the grand scheme of the issue and in the little things, such as the construction foreman pointing out the error in Maxie Zeus' name, itself. Tim Levins and Terry Beatty are back on art, with pretty colors from Lee Loughridge.
Surprisingly, I haven't talked about SAVAGE DRAGON in here a lot lately. It's up to issue #81 now, and the new direction is officially five issues old. Yes, it's different from the old wild and crazy storytelling style Erik Larsen used for the first 75 issues. And while I agree with him that at times it seemed to get out of control, I found that to be half the fun of the book.
This new direction lets Dragon take center stage again, gives us single issue stories (so far), and explores a bunch of new and wonderful places, all the while dropping in little hints for us long-time readers about where various old favorites are and what they're doing. Storytelling takes precedent over gags or craziness. There are times when you'll almost swear that Larsen is trying to direct a Dragon movie every month or something. This is much more controlled storytelling on his part, showing greater focus and maturity in his storytelling skills.
The series 80th issue (behind only SPAWN's 101) puts Dragon in a dangerous undersea world where he's trapped in a zoo. Despite the promise of being well taken care of in the strange world, Dragon fights his way out. Some old friends and foes pop up along the way, just as an added bonus to old-time Dragon fans like myself who are itching to find out where everyone wound up.
You can safely pick up this issue, however, and find a good single-issue story without getting caught up in continuity.
Eric Canete steps in to draw ACTION COMICS #774. And although he gets off to a weak start on his splash page of Superman tilting his head just a bit too far, I think he does a great job. His look is as angular as ever, but his storytelling is key. He moves the reader through the landscape like very few artists can do. He's not afraid to draw extra backgrounds in, going so far as to draw a detailed ceiling in more than one panel. It would be interesting to see him draw something that Joe Casey writes, starring Superman. If they did, I would hope they could tailor Canete more towards his strengths, whether it be something more cosmic (MISTER MAJESTIC) or something with more armor and metal (LADYTRON).
The Martian Manhunter guest stars in this issue and Joe Kelly writes it all very smoothly, even throwing in some Chocos jokes for good measure. And let me say it again: A curse should be placed on whichever DC lawyer's head it was that decided the term "Oreo"couldn't be used in a comic again. This is insanity.
NEW YEAR'S RESOLUTION
I don't usually do resolutions, but I've been playing around with my comics spreadsheet a little this weekend (now that a full year is completed) and I decided it had to be done. I'm making a resolution. I'm resolving to get back into the letters columns in a big way this year. Of course, given the lead-time this requires, we won't know how successful this will be for three months, but until then I just have to start plugging away.
Last year, I wrote 91 letters to various letters columns. And that was a high for the past three years. (In 1992 and 1993, I wrote almost 200. That was pre-Internet days for me, though, so I had to shoot my mouth off somewhere!) I'm going to try to capitalize on this momentum. I'll let you know how it goes. So far, I've written letters to every book I've read in the past week.
Check out this week's THE PUNISHER #12. It's my first published letter of the new year and Joe Quesada cracked me up with his answer to it.
One other thing – I bought more comics this year than I ever have. I'm not counting back issues or trade paperbacks, although I'm fairly certain this was The Year of the TPB. Just in regular comics alone, I spent 66% more than I did last year, and bought 50% more comics total. I just barely bought less than 1000 comics off the racks.
And yet I still get letters insisting I should be reading one book or the other or I'm not a real comics fan. ::sigh::
Regarding my ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN review on Tuesday:
Uncle Ben, to the best of my knowledge, is not meant to be Jewish. So, I was right when I referred to him in Tuesday's column as "gentile." What I meant, however, was that he was a "gentle"man. One letter, big difference.
You can e-mail me your comments on this column, or post them for all the world to see and respond to over on the Pipeline Message Board. It's another New Year's Resolution of mine to get that thing jumpstarted, and it seems to be working so far. I'm posting Quicky Reviews of books as I read them, so feel free to jump in on those conversations. The big discussions right now are raging on about the new X-title creative teams.
There are now just over 175 columns archived here at CBR and you can get to them from the Pipeline Archive page. They're sorted chronologically. The first 100 columns are still available at the Original Pipeline page, a horrifically coded piece of HTML. Those columns are even migrating over here in drips and drabs. Eventually, they'll all be on CBR.
And, finally, I've begun writing DVD movie reviews for the gang over at DVD Channel News, where right now you can find my reviews of Airplane!, Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker, and Princess Mononoke.
See you tomorrow with a look at BLADE OF THE IMMORTAL!