Top Ten Best Comics of 2009

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Better late than never, eh? This is my list for the top ten stories of 2009! Woo hoo! Now, before we get to all the fun of me voicing my opinions and you disagreeing with them, I have to get a few rules out of the way.

1. These are the top ten stories/arcs/whatever. Not comic in general, not trade, but best stories (What can I say, I’m trying to be somewhat unique).

2. These are stories that ended in 2009. They could begin at any time, but as long as they concluded in 2009, they’re eligible.

3. I tried to keep the list as diverse and reader-friendly as possible. I love certain writers, but it would be boring if it was three Morrison books, two Kirkman books, etc. So, a writer/artist will only appear once on the list. I tried to spread the love evenly. You will see Marvel, DC, and even indies on this list.

Wow, with all those rules, how did I come up with a great top ten? Well, I hope I did. Anyway, let’s begin the fun!

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Review: Final Crisis Aftermath: Run! #1

run

Final Crisis was an epic series – say what you want about the quality, but the scope was undeniably enormous.  When it was announced that there would be a series of titles spinning out of it, I was reluctantly excited.  Though Escape made no sense and had a minor-league creative team at best, the other three had, I felt, some promise.  

Run!, the first of the four minis, does not live up to any of that promise.  Sturges has done some excellent work, most recently over in Blue Beetle, and his Vertigo titles have generally been fairly high quality, but Run! feels bland through and through, with none of the boundless creativity of Final Crisis, the wit demonstrated in Blue Beetle, or the darkly comic horror seen in House of Mystery… and the book desperately needs to be grounded in one of those.

Instead, it, much like last year’s Salvation Run, is a generic book about a villain in over his head.  It is by no means a bad book – the art by Freddie Williams II is great throughout, aptly illustrating just how much of a slob the Human Flame really is – but there just isn’t anything to get excited about.  It’s too slow for a balls-to-the-wall action book, but with no compelling drama to back it up and a purposely witless narrator telling us the story, the human element doesn’t work either.

Final Crisis Aftermath: Run! is a book that could’ve gone anywhere, and, faced with so many choices, couldn’t make up its mind.   Sturges is clearly a competent writer, but he just doesn’t seem to have a handle on villains just yet, and while there are a number of genuinely fun moments in the comic backed up by some solid art, there’s little that begs for five more issues.

Grade: C

Read/RANT

Review: Final Crisis: Legion of 3 Worlds #4

Final Crisis Legion Of Three Worlds #4 (of 5)

Final Crisis Legion Of Three Worlds #4 (of 5) (Cover B)

(***)

Nice cover trick, putting Bart on the cover is a nice touch. This series feels like Geoff Johns’ version of Sin City. No, it’s not full of hookers, but like Sin City, this comic is incredibly indulgent. Just about everything and everyone Johns loves is in this book. I wouldn’t be surprised at all if Hal Jordan showed up in the last chapter. I won’t even bother to mention that Final Crisis, which finished late, ended three months ago.

I’m actually going to keep this review spoiler-free. I’m pleased with the return in this issue. If you want to know who came back, check this out. Even though there are too many characters returning from the grave, especially in DC, I was happy with this. It had a great “Hell Yeah!” feel to it, and it was explained well. I am, however, not that fond of Bart’s return. The Legion bottled his youth? WTF!? It’s a bit nonsensical.

George Perez provides the art, and it looks very pretty. “Some of his best work,” I would say. However, with the way Johns is writing this comic, and with Perez on the interiors, this really does feel like a 70’s comic, and that’s a bad thing. Now, I’ve talked about how Hulk feels like a modern Stan Lee comic, but it’s still modern. Legion of 3 Worlds seems to be leading the charge of an old man telling kids to get off their lousy skateboards. Attempting to regress the medium is horrible.

However, even with all of this book’s flaws, I’m still enjoying it. This issue is filled with exposition and action. Also, if you’re a fan of Johns’ recent Legion work, there are a couple of nice character moments. Once again, this comic provides a last-page reveal. I have a feeling that a lot of fans are going to be pissed about it.

For more comic goodness, go here.

Review: Final Crisis: Legion of 3 Worlds #3

Final Crisis Legion Of Three Worlds #3 (of 5) (Cover B)

(***1/2)

The third issue is here! Only two issues of Final Crisis: Legion of 3 Worlds left. Final Crisis…already concluded? Yeah, that’s pretty ridiculous. I find it amusing that Final Crisis finished one month after it was supposed to and everybody bitched about the delays. I haven’t heard any complaints about this book’s punctuality. I think it’s nice that Morrison included LO3W into Final Crisis continuity. So, in FC #3, Superman goes into Superman Beyond to save Lois. He returns immediately. Then he goes to LO3W. The Legion have always returned him to the right moment in the past, but this time he comes back in FC #6 to find Batman dead and Earth in the firm grasp of Darkseid. Oops! I hope Johns actually mentions this in the fifth issue. If not, why wasn’t this called, “Buy Adventure Comics!”

Having said all that, I actually do enjoy this series. It’s kind of a Silver Age throwback with a modern twist. That’s a good summary of most Geoff Johns books, actually. It’s not just Perez’s art. It also shares the Silver Age spirit of packing as much story as possible into every issue. This will take you a half an hour to read. That’s pretty refreshing in these decompressed times of ours.

While I’m on this Silver Age rant, why not talk about George Perez’s art? I’ve never been much of a fan. Perhaps it’s because I wasn’t reading comics during his hay-day. I do admire his work. If you want to cram an entire universe into two pages, he’s your man. But other than that, his art always looks bland and even a bit uninspired to me. However, LO3W is the best George Perez has ever looked. Maybe it’s because of a fantastic supporting team, but Perez’s work here looks genuinely epic. His renderings capture the book’s scope perfectly. And Perez makes the large quantity of story content possible. So much is crammed into every page, but thankfully, it doesn’t feel forced.

If you’re a fan of Johns or Perez, this series is a must. Both men are at the top of their game. They provide a thoroughly entertaining and dense adventure. It’s not perfect and I’m not the biggest Legion fan, but it undeniably gives you your money’s worth. Oh and as usual, this book is an essential part of the Geoff Johns mythos. This issue in particular. “Something big happens! Go buy now!”

Review: Final Crisis: Revelations #5

Final Crisis Revelations #5 (of 5)

(****)

Ah, Final Crisis: Revelations, I had such high hopes for you. Hindered by your promises and title and in the end, you really had nothing to do with Final Crisis. In fact, you suffered because of it. With a better shipping schedule, no tie-in obligations, and it all would’ve been more impressive if bigger and better things weren’t happening in Final Crisis. Seriously, could you imagine if this was just a usual in-continuity book? The zombie heroes and villains would’ve been much more impactful. Still, you were a pretty good mini, right?

I think your biggest claim to fame will be the recognition of newcomer, Phillip Tan. Fans (Including myself) were so impressed with his art that he already has a gig on the new Orange Lantern story. That’s pretty cool. Tan’s art was often the best part about Revelations. His skills were needed to capture the tone and scope of this biblical series. Though at times it looked like a 90’s Image book (Possibly because of his inker or colorist), Tan has established himself as an artist very much worthy of the big books in this medium.

As for Greg Rucka, this book was most rewarding for the fans of his earlier works. Those who’ve followed Renee and Crispus since the beginning were treated to some hard-hitting drama. Those who haven’t can still enjoy this thought-provoking epic. Though most of this series was knee-deep in oblivion, I’m happy to report that it all has a happy ending. Since Final Crisis’ conclusion is still very fresh in my mind, I have to ask Rucka to follow the story Morrison gave him, Montoya’s journey through the Multiverse. I believe it would challenge Rucka and such challenges often lead a writer to be the best he can be. After all, Crispus’ journey seems to have a nice conclusion for now. It’d be refreshing to see a new direction. At the end of the day, I think it’s safe to say that Final Crisis Revelations was not the story we expected. However, it was a fantastic tale that actually offered a positive, but not preachy, religious message.

Review: Final Crisis #7 – Spoilers!

Final Crisis #7 (of 7)

(*****)

Cover: I know a lot of you bought the Jones covers. For those who did, check the other covers out: one, two, three, four, five, six, and seven. Notice something? They get darker as they go along. It’s a nice Apocalypse Now trick. Cool, huh?

Pages 1-3: Anyone else get that Obama vibe? I’m sure that was intentional, especially with that Alex Ross thing. What’s funny is that Obama actually outsold Final Crisis #6. Can Morrison see the future?

Pages 4-5: Ok, if there was anyone who didn’t read Superman Beyond, GO READ SUPERMAN BEYOND! It’s great. It also features Mahnke art (Only it looks a lot better. This issue was VERY rushed and he had an army of inkers and colorists working with him) and it’s a BIG part of Final Crisis. Seriously, you will be almost lost without the knowledge of Superman Beyond. For those who did read it, remember all those Supermen Zillo Valla mentioned in the second issue? Some (All maybe?) appear here. Oh and Mahnke drawing Frankenstein again, total fanboy moment!

Pages 6-7: So this Lois scene is in the future. What do we see? Batman’s cowl (Shouldn’t someone be battling for that?) and he’s dead. Wonder Woman’s Furie plague thingy, so I guess she’s ok. Hawkman’s helmet, oh no, will something happen to Hawkman?! Lois sends a story (What Superman Beyond and now Final Crisis has been about) somewhere in a Superman rocket. That’s pretty cool. I wonder where that will end up. It’s been a while, but is this the same robotic JLA from that Classified Morrison story? I like how Luthor has an Anti-Superman ray.

Pages 8-9:“You turned your back and I wrecked your world.” Ooo, sick burn! That’s what you get for being selfish in issue #3, Superman! Punch him Superman! Rip out his…oh that’s Turpin, damn! “How can you hurt a foe made of people?” Darkseid is an evil bastard!

Pages 10-12: The Flashes are back, Darkseid! Here comes death! So this is when the time bullet is fired. Death comes to Darkseid. It appears to be normal Turpin here. Although “In all of us” is the last thing Orion said to Turpin. Could the son be reborn in the father? Arthur Curry is back and kicking ass as well. This is Morrison basically handing new stories to writers if they want it.

Pages 13-14: Superman is building the Miracle Machine (The culmination of the technology theme) we saw last issue with the help of others including the humorously disgruntled Luthor. Page 14 is a tip of the hat to Rucka. This is a reference to FC: Resist. The Black Gambit is failing. Rucka has something to work with including the Renee Montoya Global Peace Agent we saw on page 4.

Pages 15-16: Ollie and Dinah floating in space is awesome. Lord Eye is screwing things up of course. Carter and Kendra get the operatic lovers treatment. The Super Young Team and crew Boom away thanks to Sonny Sumo!

Pages 17-18: Yay! They all made it to Earth-51 and Kamandi is there too! Super Young Team, Shilo, Sonny and Kamandi is another story waiting to be told. Poor Overman, Morrison just had to get a Superman holding his dead cousin into this story. So Darkseid’s done, but what about the furies. And what about Luthor and an army of mind-controlled villains?

Pages 19-21: Yes, Frankenstein riding a big dog decapitating enemies and subduing Wonder Woman is very cool. The Luthor/Superman team-up where Lex takes all the credit is also sweet. Putting citizens in the “fridge” in the future is very…zany? Wonder Woman finally has a nice moment in this series. Read that Morrison interview at the bottom. He has some interesting things to say about this.

Pages 22-23: Even though he has no psychical body, Darkseid (Bastard!) continues to drag Earth down towards Mandrakk. Superman beats Darkseid with his voice. Again, you’re either on board with the creativity or you’re not. The lone Superman toils away on the Miracle Machine when suddenly…

Pages 24-25: Aaahhh! It’s Mandrakk! Again, go read Superman Beyond! He looks very creepy here, but Ultraman…not so much. But that bastard does have Kara. Why must the Crisis’s always pick on Supergirl? Hey, another tip to Rucka! Mandrakk has been snacking on the Spectre and Radiant. Actually, since Mandrakk feeds on stories, does this mean FC: Revelations was meaningless? It certainly didn’t have much to do with this book. Ha Ha! Mandrakk is screwed! The Miracle Machine works! The Green Lanterns can come in.

Pages 26-27: An Army of Supermen!!! Evil is toast! Oh and they’re apparently singing! “Let the sun shine in!” 

Pages 28-29: The heroes gather to thwart evil. And what a special gathering it is. Nix Uotan in his new badass glory, the Supermen, the GLs, the “Forever People of the 5th World” (Super Young Team) and three awesome animals that Mandrakk failed to eat. Man is that Rabbit hilarious! Those vampires get spiked!

Pages 30-31: I like the cowl, pyramid, and feather panels. To symbolize those we’ve lost (Except the Martian, but I guess he’ll be a Black Lantern). “Earth Endures. It’s as if we don’t know what else to do.” Aww, that’s nice to read in these dark times. It looks like the heroes are pulling (See the chains?) Earth out of oblivion. The Flashes are back and Nix Uotan wants to sever contact with our world.

Pages: 32-33: The New Gods are back! At least the New Genesis ones (Even Highfather). It almost appears they’re going to Earth-51 along with the new Forever People and even Kamandi I believe. All the Kirby characters alive and well. Kamandi even has a new tiger tribe. It also appears that this was the Final Crisis for the Monitors. They are gone now.

Pages 34-36: The Monitors end with the young lovers. Superman wished for a happy ending with the Miracle Machine. But it looks as though Nix is back on Earth. Hopefully he and Weeja can reunite. And so our tale ends the way it began. With the first boy, Anthro, who is now an old man. He was the original superhero and storyteller and as he dies, we see something else. The rocket sent in the beginning of the issue has landed. A utility belt lies gently on Anthro.

Page 37: Ah, this page makes me all warm and fuzzy. Batman is marking a bat on the wall.

For a very good reason, read Morrison’s interview.

Well, that’s it folks. I’ve already expressed what I love about Final Crisis. Morrison mentions more in that interview. It’ll be nice to not have to write these big articles anymore, but I had fun. Hopefully you did too. Final Crisis had some flaws (Mostly editorial), but it was the most dense, unique, and enthralling event I’ve ever read. It challenged the reader. You actually had to use your imagination. The birth of new characters, the death of old. The complete and utter shattering of current writing techniques. This series would have been forty issues long if Bendis had written it. Final Crisis is not for everyone, but I think the ones it was for, had a hell of a good time reading it. I know I did.

Review: Final Crisis: Superman Beyond #2

Final Crisis Superman Beyond #2 (of 2)

(*****)

Wow! This issue just blew me away. I find it interesting that so many people hate this comic because they “don’t get it”. Whereas others like me, love it. I can understand the complaints a little. Superman Beyond is a lot to take in. Heck, even the visuals (Does anyone else’s vision get weird after wearing the 3D glasses?) can be jarring. But I for one adore this book.

First off, just look at that art. It’s truly stunning. Mahnke produces the best work of his career. Morrison challenges him for sure, but he hits the right notes every step of the way. In a fantastic voyage (It even has a yellow submarine) such as this, the art is crucial. Mahnke captures both the epic (And boy are they epic) battles and the tender scenes beautifully. Even the 3D works better here. I read the 2D art with my normal vision and the 3D art with my funky (Can they seriously change the design of these things already) glasses. In the first issue, I had to constantly switch between the two, but here the first several pages were normal, then 3D, and then back to normal for the conclusion. It was more of a pleasant read and damn those 3D pages were awesome!

As for the story itself, it’s just packed with goodies. Some of the more subtle stuff (Although I don’t think it’s that subtle sorry) may be missed. But I would think that if nothing else this is a psychedelic journey about the original superhero trying to save his dying wife. This is the spiritual sequel to All Star Superman. Both portray Superman as the quintessential hero in new ways that don’t come off as cheesy.

Now, I’ll try to delve beneath the surface without spoiling anything. I love that the citizens of Limbo (Where forgotten characters go to rot. A concept that’s not only awesome, but also fits the book’s theme) fight the “yet to be”. I love that Morrison explains why these Supermen were chosen. Morrison acknowledges all the Supermen (Majestic, Icon, etc.) and even here he uses Captain Adam (Based on Captain Atom from Charlton Comics) and Captain Marvel (From Fawcett Comics). Hell, even Overman (The German word for Superman) comes from Friedrich Nietzsche’s original influence on Superman. I love the fact that Superman Beyond is a study of the story itself. It’s all about the pros and cons that stories bring to our society. I love that the villains are Vampire Gods. Vampires and Gods are two fictional (If God doesn’t exist. Just think of the Roman Gods. Please don’t hate me) creations that will outlast us all, much like Superman. And finally, I absolutely love the last page of this comic. Seriously, it’s the best last page in recent memory.