It's still 2008 in my time zone, so I might as well fulfill my duty as the straggler around here and toss in my contribution to the year end retrospectives.
1. DC's Deluxe Jack Kirby Hardcover Reprints- The wealth of Kirby reprints in general in recent years has been a beautiful thing (not even just by Marvel and DC, either; even Image is getting involved). It seems very likely that one day everything the man ever did will be in print in a deluxe hardcover.
It's DC's line of Kirby reprints that I've enjoyed the most this year, though. Having his entire body of work on the Fourth World finally collected is a thing of beauty, but it's also great that his less influential work is getting the deluxe treatment, too. There's OMAC, of course, possibly willed in to print by one brave South Carolina boy and his never ending evangelizing on its behalf. And once my mind recovers from the awe-inspiring wonder of those volumes, I have reprints in a similar style of the Losers, the Sandman, and the Demon to look forward to. What a time to be alive, man.
2. (Most Of) Spider-Man's Brand New Day(s)- While I was pretty bemused by the event surrounding Marvel's Spider-Man reboot (not the least of which that Joe Quesada considered an MJ and Peter getting a legal divorce untenable, but a Satanic one was a great idea), but I've enjoyed the comics that have come out of it, for the most part, and while I haven't bought it every week it comes out, I have
Of course, divorce or no, I have a hard time believing that I wouldn't enjoy a year's worth of Spider-Man comics by Dan Slott (his involvement is what made me give the thing a chance in the first place), Steve McNiven, Marcos Martin, Mark Waid, John Romita Jr., and Paolo Rivera under any circumastances. I also enjoyed some of the stories Bob Gale, Zeb Wells, Mark Guggenheim, and Joe Kelly have contributed thus far, despite not having been that in to their work previously (although Zeb did make a good impression on me when he frequented CBR's Spider-Man board way back when I was modding it and he was doing stories in Peter Parker, Spider-Man).
At any rate I'm willing to put up with this Faustian bargain as long as I get good Spidey, and so far, the "Brain Trust" is delivering that on a nearly weekly basis, which is no mean feat considering how little we got in the way of that for years (well, in the original/"real" Spider-Man comics, at least).
3. The Work of Fred Van Lente- Between his collaboration with Greg Pak on Incredible Hercules (which has quietly become my favorite monthly comic), to his work on Marvel Zombies 3 (or, as it would be called if I was President, Machine Man And Jocasta's Romantic Comedy/Zombie Adventure Where They Kill The Marvel Zombies), to making philosophy engaging in Action Philosophers (along with Ryan Dunlavey), I've really enjoyed everything I've read of his this year. Someone should really give that guy a day of some sort.
4. Ed Brubaker's run on Captain America- I was able to catch up with a massive chunk of his run via that ginormous omnibus last Christmas, and snapped up the remaining trades over the course of the year when I've found them.
That Brubaker found a way to make everything he did with Bucky (starting with bringing him back in the first place, much less turning him in to an amnesiac cyborg assassin) work is nothing short of miraculous. It's also impressive that he was able to find a way to integrate his noir and espionage sensibilities in to the series without it feeling like he's grafting them on in ways that don't benefit the series. The art fits the tone of the stories well, and even keeps me from
5. Immortal Iron Fist continues to be a fun read- Brubaker/Fraction/Aja and friends run ended with a pretty great blow off (to use one of my contractually obligated wrestling references) of the "Seven Capital Cities of Heaven" arc and a great final issue from Fraction and Aja.
What I've been really been impressed with is how relative new comer to comics Duane Swierczynski's run following them. He's found a way to build on what Frubaker did before him while also branching out in directions they didn't go in their run. And that's not counting his excellent, crime nourish one shot set in old Hollywood, "Orson Randall and the Death Queen of California". It's nice that, for once, a comic I started following solely for the creators can hold my attention after they move on.
6. Love and Rockets: New Stories- Jaime Hernandez draws female superheroes! Also, Gilbert does some stuff, too, including Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis vs. aliens. Can't beat that. I hate to give this issue short shift and plop it in the middle of a bunch of mainstream superhero comics, but, well, I'm not critically equipped to talk about it. Also, I enjoy causing Gary Groth psychic pain.
7. All Star Superman ends on a high note- It's telling that Grant Morrison’s best published work this year is the one that didn't set the Internet on fire. Now, I'll join with the rest of the Flavor Aid guzzling collection of Morrison
apologists scholars here against the filthy, unwashed masses who don't appreciate his genius when it comes to Final Crisis and Batman R.I.P. (Or, at least say I enjoyed them).
That said, as much as I liked his more controversial work this year, All Star Supermangoing to be the work I'll be rereading in years to come. I doubt I'll be able to say that about the other two "event" stories. It would be great if the end of a timeless, exceptionally crafted, self contained story about the biggest superhero icon were the event comic.
That bit of comics manifestoism aside, as sad as I am to see the end of extremely periodic installments of Morrison and Quitely's Superman, it's great that it got an ending and can now have a long, happy life in hardcovers the world over.
8. Matt Fraction's Marvel work- While I'd prefer more Casanova to the lot of it, Fraction's done some very good work at Marvel this year. I mean, he got me to buy Iron Man and Thor comics for the first time in my life (even if I had to catch up with his Iron Man run on e-bay), he (and Brubaker, when they were co-writing) brought me back to the X-Men after a long absence, and the Order was a lot of fun while it lasted. I hope we see more of his creator owned work in the new year, mind you, but I like being able to walk in to my superhero centric shop and being able to pick up a lot of his work too, you know?
9. Prince of Persia Graphic Novel- One of my favorite video games makes the jump to sequential art in this lovely GN from First Second, co-written by the game's creator. A damn fine book, with parallel narratives, drama, humor, a rich setting we don't see enough in comics, and lion fighting. Everything anyone could need in their graphic literature.
10. The Umbrella Academy- Just glad that this exists, really. Al Kennedy said in this podcast that it was what Grant Morrison should be writing (while pretty well dissing Morrison's Batman run), and while I can't entirely agree with the sentiment with it, he and his collaborator Paul O'Brien did hit the nail on the head when likening this book to Morrison's Doom Patrol (O'Brien even called it that book's spiritual successor). That this off kilter, energetic superhero/dysfunctional family saga is being written by the frontman of an emo band is just one of life's great unexpected surprises. If nothing else, it's great to see that Gabriel Ba move on from Casanova to a more high profile comic that I can actively enjoy.
I also enjoyed many other comics this year, from Phonogram to Hellboy and its spinoffs to Ice Haven to Whiteout (see, I'm eclectic!). Those 10 things are just what stood out to me from what was published this year. And because I'm a damn fanboy. Maybe my New Year's Resolution should be to read more alt/art comics. There's also the fact that a certain superhero movie helped geeks take over the world this year, but I don't want to cause anyone to threaten violence over the media/mediums thing again, and everyone's already covered that topic to death anyway. Still, as the last geek in the world to see it, I have to say that the Dark Knight sure was a hell of a film.
At any rate, maybe my New Year's Resolution should be to read more alt/art comics. I used to try to keep up with great American graphic novel set, but I've fallen off of that in recent years for the instant gratification of face kicking. Not that isn't an art form in and of itself, as this man has made abundantly clear(and I'd like to think I've help spread his gospel by obsessively linking to him). But maybe I should try for more balance in the coming year.
So, with 2009 bearing down on those of us in fly over country, I bid a Happy New Year to anyone who happens to read this. Sorry I was such a prick at times this year. I'll probably also add "don't insult the audience so much" to that resolutions list. I mean, sure, I'll break it, but it's the thought that counts here, I think.