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!
And the Summer’s over! Really? That…went fast. I had fun, though. Hope you all did, too. Back to school, kiddies! I read 20 comics in August, and these were the best.
5. Invincible Iron Man #16
Matt Fraction’s writing is absolutely top-notch. Yes, this story will read better as a whole, but our connection to Tony, Pepper, and Maria is so strong, it hardly matters. The only thing that brings this issue, and the entire series, down, is Salvador Larroca’s Greg Land-esque art.
4. Ultimate Comics: Avengers #1
Speaking of Summer, you like those blockbusters that accompany the season, right? Well then, this is the comic for you! Just some awesome-kickass, supercool fun! Mark Millar gives it to ya, and Carlos Pacheco makes it look pretty. This opening salvo features a bombastic helicopter fight and a terrifying new villain.
3. Secret Six #12
Like my previous selection, this too is filled with action and good times, only with more twisted villainy. But this comic also has character and soul, and that counts for a lot. This is Jeannette’s issue to shine, and I think she blinded me. Carlos Pacheco’s beautiful interiors certainly contribute to UCA’s placement, but you know what? I’d put Nicola Scott up against Carlos Pacheco any day. Yeah, you read that right.
2. Batman and Robin #3
Holy hell, Batman! This series just gets better and better! The first and second issue topped my list in their respective months, and it’s only by some Marvel miracle that this one didn’t. Since I don’t have a proper review of this issue, I want to go over a few things:
Professor Pyg’s “sexy disco hot.” Who else had this song in their head?
Any guesses on who was watching Alfred? Could it be the same person who spied on Bruce & Jezebel all those issues ago?
Awhile ago, DC said, “Scarlet isn’t who you think she is.” That was a damn lie, and I’m pretty sure Red Hood is who you think he is too.
1. Daredevil #500
A phenomenal conclusion to what turned out to be a great run. Brubaker did DD proud, and definitely cast away Bendis’ shadow. On top of that, you get a great short story and a reprint of possibly the best Daredevil comic ever! Yeah, I’m pretty sure that this isn’t just the best comic in August, it’s the best Marvel comic of the year.
I love comics. When a comic reminds you of that, it’s pretty damn sweet. This is a medium where you can do just about whatever you want. You’re not hindered by the burdens that come with TV. So, Lindelof totally cuts loose. This comic is broken into five parts:
Part One: In Which Logan Pisses Off A Panda
Part Two: In Which Logan Loses His Head
Part Three: In Which We Once Again Flash Back In Time To Explain Things Better (How Original)
Part Four: In Which Logan Makes A Valuable Ally In His Toilet Bowl
Part Five: In Which Logan Ignores The Panda’s Advice And Thusly Screws Himself Good At The End Of The Issue
That’s actually what happens. Logan really does fight a Panda, which reminded me of this. Logan’s head really is detached from his body. Hulk and She-Hulk…wrestle with each other. Forge’s (Why is Forge everywhere right now?) head pops out of a toilet. All this stuff is absolutely ridiculous, but it makes for a highly entertaining and memorable comic. If it wasn’t my favorite comic this week, it was definitely the most fun. Oh, and Leinil Yu is still drawing really pretty pictures.
Spoilers, natch, for all of Secret Invasion, as well as the Dark Reign solicitation freebie.
I’m not even going to attempt to look at this from the perspective of just the mini. We’ve got the DC boys to do that. First, some comments on issue eight, followed by my thoughts on the total package.
So really, issue seven was the end of the series. The first third to half of the book basically consisted of Norman Osborne telling the President (as well as television reports) what happened at the end of the battle that led to the Skrulls retreating. Their big gambit with Janet Van Dyne failed thanks to the efforts of Thor. Norman Osborne used the tech/information he stole from Deadpool to kill the queen. Issue seven already proved that in a fair fight, the Skrulls have no chance against the combined power of the heroes of Earth (and why would they? They never have before), so when their bomb didn’t work and their queen was killed, they came to the decision that they would be better off running and attempting to find somewhere else to live. Works for me. I especially liked the quick shout out to Annihilation, where Teddy and Xavin had to let the heroes know that Earth really was a last ditch effort, and they have no planet to call their own. Janet’s death galvanized the right people (Thor, Iron Man, and Ms. Marvel, all of whom have been very close to Janet for years and decades), and the invasion was thwarted. We then see Iron Man discover the ship full of all the heroes that were replaced (something that was earned in a tie in issue, and as such I didn’t have a problem with it). Mockingbird is there, which is…well…kinda weird. It’ll be interesting to see just what that means in the grand scheme of things. We then get to probably the best part of the book, when Jessica Jones sees Jarvis on the ship and realizes that she left her baby with a Skrull. Kudos to both Bendis and Yu for making that moment have some true emotional depth to it. We get some tie ups and some reunions, followed by the second half of the book basically being devoted to the fall of Tony Stark and the rise of Norman Osborne.
Tony really gets beaten down here. The world sees him as the reason the Skrulls were able to get a foothold on Earth. Everything the Skrulls were able to do was made possible because Jarvis uploaded the virus to Starktech and single handedly shut down SHIELD, SWORD, The Raft, and countless other defensive measures. Tony’s bravado and his decision to put all his eggs in one basket ended up nearly dooming the planet. Then, in the middle of the climactic battle with all the media attention swirling around it, Tony was forced to flee the scene and fix his armor. So all the media sees is a coward who can’t clean up his own mess. Sure, he gets back to the battle in time to pitch in at the end in an older suit of armor, but Norman Osborne takes out Queen Veranke. Adding to that, the heroes still haven’t exactly forgiven him for his role in Civil War as architect of the Superhuman Registration Act. Thor hates him. Bucky hates him. The media is attacking him from all sides and both Osborne and the President want him to answer for his actions. He is a broken man.
And on the other side of the coin is Norman Osborne. A man that has been working tirelessly to sieze power ever since he was put into the position of Director of the Thunderbolts. We all know he’s an evil, evil man, but the world sees him as a reformed and conquering hero. He led his team in the battle that saved Washington DC from the Skrulls (Thunderbolts 124 and 125). He secretly stole the information that contained the way to kill the Skrull Queen (Deadpool 3). He then fought on the front lines (where the media would certainly see him there) and killed the Queen in front of everyone. The grand hero rising from the ashes of his former misdeeds. He is rewarded for his heroism (which truly is heroism. Let’s not discount that. It’s just done from a place of less than moral motives), and takes the place of Tony Stark as the man with the keys to the Marvel Universe. SHIELD is disbanded. Stark is on the run. Fury has to go back underground. Both the Superhuman Registration Act and the Fifty States Initiative are still in effect, now under the control of a crazy bastard. And of course, we’ve got that last double page spread with the new faces of the Marvel Universe sitting around the table while Norman tells them the score.
So that covers issue 8. What about the event as a whole? I just combed through my comic database, and as of today I own 87 comics that are branded as either lead ins or tie ins to the Secret Invasion event. That doesn’t include the Spider-Man Brand New Day mini or the New Warriors issues, all of which I plan to pick up in bargain bins at cons next year. That’s a lot of comics and a lot of money spent over the past year. So was it worth it? Was it worth $300 plus (cover price wise) of comics to tell this one story? Yes. I think that when you take all of this together, you have a massive, sweeping epic that touched nearly every corner of the Marvel Universe (except that wacky Daredevil) in some way. You see the ambition of the Skrulls. You see a race that has been the butt of everyone’s jokes. They’ve been decimated by Galactus and the Annihilation Wave. They’ve been played for fools by the Illuminati and the Kree. They’re the whipping boys of the universe. So they took one last shot. They made it a grand scheme. They planned for decades. They took the necessary precautions to make things go as smoothly as possible. They started replacing people slowly to allow for attacks from both inside and out. Then they attacked everywhere and everyone all at once. And at the beginning, it was looking pretty good. We saw heroes being beaten down in the US and Britain. In Wakanda and on the moon. The Skrulls were winning; they had finally done it. But then you started to see the cracks form. Brian Braddock returning to stop them from taking control of the world’s magic. A sneak attack in San Francisco from the X-Men. Hercules and his God Squad taking out their god. Black Panther and Storm sending them a deadly message. The Inhumans taking their revenge. It all unraveled in the way the Roman Empire did. The Skrulls spread themselves too thin and didn’t have the requisite forces to take everything down individually. Of course, this was their only real choice in the matter, because if everyone had banded together to take them out, they knew they couldn’t win (and indeed, they didn’t when it came down to that). This was the story of a last ditch effort from a broken down and endangered race biting off more than it could chew.
I read so many great books in the last year that came out of Secret Invasion. I was introduced to Norman Osborne’s crazy and dysfunctional Thunderbolts (which led me to pick up the Ellis run in back issues). I saw Black Panther kick unholy amounts of ass. I saw Hercules and Amadeus Cho put together a kind of dirty dozen team of gods. I saw the Inhumans band together and reinforce their familial bonds in the face of grave and total danger. I saw a new team take shape in Britain. I saw the history of the Invasion and just how deep the beliefs of the Skrulls ran. Some of it was fantastic. Very little of it was bad (thanks, Larry Stroman). But most of it was great. These were such good books. They all had their stories to tell, and they told them in engaging and fascinating ways. There is SO MUCH to this event that most people won’t see. And hell, I can’t blame them. It was an extreme monetary investment. And I can also see how your average comic fan that just read the eight issue mini would be let down. Bendis just scratched the surface. It was really all he could do with the pages with which he had to work. Nobody’s wrong here. And as I said before, I have difficulty commenting on just the main mini, because when I read an issue, I have all the tie ins in the back of my head. So I see the fall of Tony Stark and the rise and Norman Osborne as the culmination of months of Thunderbolts issues instead of a few pages in Secret Invasion. I know what everyone outside of New York and the Savage Land put on the line to give Earth a chance against the invading horde.
And I know that I’m super excited for the potential of what could happen in Dark Reign. Paging through the little Previews booklet, all I could see was stories that I wanted to read. I don’t want to buy these things because I’m a fevered collector and I have to get everything. I want to buy these books because the stories look extremely interesting to me. Who are the Dark Avengers? What the hell is Scarlet Witch doing in those Mighty Avengers issues? Who is the new lineup of the Thunderbolts? Just what is Emma Frost’s part in the “Evil Illuminati” going to be? I’ll give you a hint: SHE’S NOT EVIL. Where’s Marvel Boy going to end up? This event did not play out in a way that I think anyone was expecting. But I made sure to keep an open mind and go with the flow, and I got a truly enjoyable and epic story that I will revisit time and time again.
So yeah. 1700 words later, it worked for me. Good show, Marvel.
I have about an hour before I leave for an interview, so now’s as good a time as any to comment on the latest issue of Secret Invasion.
We knew going in based on the last pages of issue 6 (as well as the last page of Front Line #4, which I thought was a very nice continuity moment) that this thing would pretty much be all fighting, all the time. And that’s basically what it was. It makes you wonder if Bendis felt bad about making Leinil Yu draw as many characters as he had to in this book. Between nearly every New York based Marvel hero on Earth (and a lot of villains too) and the gaggle of Super Skrulls duking it out in every panel of every page, it’s a hell of a sight to behold. Yu manages to keep the foreground character detail pretty darned consistent, and to my eyes the art did not seem rushed or sub par. They may have shipped a week or so late from time to time on a couple of these issues, but the artwork has been astounding considering that the book has remained on schedule for all intents and purposes. I’m going to list some of my favorite moments bullet point style (while keeping as vague as I possibly can), as there isn’t a whole lot to talk about from a meaty plot perspective:
- The Thunderbolts remain some of my favorite characters in all of comics right now; there were some great moments with Norman Osborne and Bullseye just adding to the mayhem.
- I love the sequentials of the double page panels during the assault on Skrull Hank Pym.
- Stature is kind of a badass. There’s a really great image of her punching out Skrull Galactus in the shadow of The Watcher.
- Jessica Jones dropping everything to enter the fray? Awesome. Leaving her baby with Jarvis Skrull? Well, that can’t be good (apparently he made it out of that helicarrier explosion)
- Woo! Marvel Boy come to save the day! (You’ll hear more about this when I get a chance to talk about Mighty Avengers #19)
- Clint taking up Kate Bishop’s bow and doing exactly what he promised at the end of SI #5. This is another example of Yu doing stellar work.
- Of course, the issue ends with Janet Van Dyne’s comeuppance. I don’t know exactly what it means (or exactly what’s going on with her, for that matter), but it’s a great play off a one off moment during the first arc of Mighty Avengers. Is she going to be the subject of Secret Invasion: Requiem? Possibly, but she’s still alive and kicking at the end of the issue, so who knows?
This issue served better to spotlight Yu than Bendis. Bendis did his standard good work with some solid dialogue, but this was not the type of issue where you really feel Bendis’ voice come through. That’s not really a bad thing, as an issue like this really had to happen in order to set up the end game, and Yu’s artwork is so fantastic and enriching that it just makes the book work really well.
Yes, I’m alive, and yes, I’m for the most part settled in my new apartment. So I have a TON of catching up to do, and I’m going to try to do a lot of it today before Rock Band 2 comes out tomorrow and my free time no longer exists. I’ve also decided to for the most part stay away from plot points and look at this issue as a puzzle piece and how it fits into and affects the entire event.
We’ve entered Act 3. This event is not what most of us expected. Huge and sprawling, but not in the way we assumed would happen. The action is in the tie ins. But Secret Invasion’s main mini is not without its purpose. It’s obviously written from the perspective of Bendis’ own characters. Avengers and their outlying character bases. It’s pretty much his only option. He knows these characters. We know he knows these characters. It’s the best case scenario to write to your strengths. This way there is less of a chance that he’s going to step on the feet of other Marvel writers. Sure, the characters overlap, but that’s not something you can get around when you’re doing an event like this. There really aren’t a lot of characters here that Bendis hasn’t written before. You’ve got the Young Avengers and Runaways, the new Secret Warriors (which is a Bendis creation, so it’s not like he’s stepping outside his bounds here), and a couple people here and there that he hasn’t really touched upon. Two of those characters are the James Barnes version of Captain America and the post reboot Thor. So we get their confrontation, which was a heck of a lot of fun. It was also a beautifully rendered panel that showed the difference in stature between these two mighty heroes that are really new kids on the block that have been around in their current incarnations for ten issues or less (and I am SUPER IMPRESSED that this book hasn’t had lateness issues. Look at those last two spreads! Damn!). But Bendis doesn’t do a lot with them. We’re not looking at any kind of character development beats here. This is a huge fucking event where the entire Earth is at stake, and you’d damn well better believe that Cap and Thor are going to show up and do something about it, even if it boils down to throwing some shields and hammers, being a heroic presence and not doing much else. So they’re not the focus. Nick Fury is the focus. Jessica Drew Spider-Woman is the focus. And that feels genuine to me. It’s the new look of Marvel comics that Bendis has helped create.
Heroes versus Skrulls is arguably just as simple as an event like Civil War. But Civil War was for the most part a straightforward event from a character perspective. Cap versus Iron Man. Shiny heroes versus street level thugs. There was a unified voice on each end. That wasn’t the case for a good portion of the early part of Secret Invasion. The Skrulls certainly had a unified voice, and that voice was established as Queen Veranke/Spider-Woman and her religious holy war. The heroes did not have this unified voice. But now with issue six, we’ve finally got that unification. It took Nick Fury, Captain America, Iron Man and Thor to do it, but the folks of Earth are finally coming together. New Avengers, Mighty Avengers, Thunderbolts, Young Avengers and Secret Warriors all banding together to fight back the alien invasion force. And this is how the book has turned. But the beautiful thing about it is the fact that considering the little things we’ve heard from Bendis and Marvel via previews and Word Balloon interviews and Retailer Summits and so on, it sure doesn’t seem likely that the heroes are going to come out of this one on top. We can postulate that the seventh issue battle could easily end on the side of the Skrulls, whether that is due to sheer overwhelming force or the possible wrinkle in the plan that is whatever is going on with Janet Van Dyne. But either way, I think change will be embraced, forcefully or willingly. And it’s a concept that can allow for a lot of growth, and has a ton of room for new stories and characters.
I wrote notes for this review last night after getting home at about 1 AM from the Allston bar Big City. So this review was a little scatterbrained and also somewhat influenced by alcohol. I wouldn’t call it my best effort, but things should hopefully get better the more settled in my new environment I am. New books will be arriving on Monday, so I’ll have reviews of that and some of the small press books I got at the Super Show in the coming hours/days/weeks.