By Isaac Mills
Series of the Year: The Amazing Spider-Man
Though the disconnect between Spider-Man and the rest of the Marvel universe caused by “One More Day” has hurt my interest in Marvel Comics, Spider-Man hasn’t been this relevant in years. One more year of the thrice-a-month release schedule, and in terms of pure volume, we will have caught up to the Straczynski output that we had to put up with since the year 2000.
“But Isaac, those stories weren’t bad!”
Really? Do you know how often Dr. Strange popped up in Amazing during those years? Yeah, that’s right.
I remember the weight that was lifted with just the first issue of “Brand New Day”, when I looked up and realized I had spent years not buying real Spider-Man comics. The return of web-shooters made me smile and enjoy the world even as I waited in the cold for a bus to school.
Writer of the Year: Grant Morrison
All Star Superman.
Oh, yeah, I guess I could write more here.
Morrison continues his love letter to the comics medium in Batman, incorporating long-discarded elements of Batman’s past to give us what could almost be described as the real All Star Batman and Robin in regular continuity — when you stop and think about this, can you believe that the man got away with it?
There’s no doubt that there were frustrating times during “Batman RIP” — when you just wanted to know how it was all going to work out, and it felt like forever between issues — but the payoff was worth it.
Plus, I respect his work on Final Crisis like nobody’s business. It requires more effort to tell an incredibly high-concept story, especially in a cinematic style (which often doesn’t fit in a pure comic format, but if this were made into a movie, peoples’ reactions would be very different) — and there have been too many moments in all of his work that just blew me away. I freaked out for like two minutes when the one guy solves the Rubik’s cube. Read it and you’ll understand me, I hope.
Artist of the Year: John Romita Jr.
As much as I harp on the Straczynski years of Spider-Man, during that time and before, there’s no doubt that John Romita Jr. was the main Spider-Man artist. That’s so true, in fact, that I began to take him for granted.
He went and did other things, like Wolverine: Enemy of the State, and it was like getting a postcard from an old friend who’s gone to Cuba or something. Well, I assume that’s what it feels like; I’ve never gotten a postcard under those circumstances.
Last year, he worked on World War Hulk, which highly impressed everyone — before bringing his A-game to triumphantly return to Spider-Man for the “New Ways to Die” story, when I stepped in a rose-coloured time machine to witness the importance that this artist has had on Spider-Man for the past decade and beyond into the future.
Cover of the Year: The Barry Allen variant to Final Crisis #2
You know, there’s a part of me that could have gone nuts and answered every category with some iteration of “Barry Allen”. Hero of the year? Barry Allen. Most pleasant surprise? Barry Allen. Villain of the year? Barry, for not showing up sooner. I could have even said that Barry Allen was the best writer and artist of the year, but for those categories I probably would have been lying for the sake of keeping up the charade. The reason for those lies is that I’m so excited about Barry Allen’s return with Geoff Johns at the helm, and this cover image was the true herald of the greatness of Barry’s return. His beautifully rendered expression of a haunting, hopeful, focus is a perfect example of a hero without hubris, just doing his best to do right.
Because just about every other hero around is also trying to impress a girl or something, what with their squinty eyes and square jaws.
Villain of the Year: Norman Osborn (Special Mention to Darksied)
It’s Norman Osborn! The guy has just been placed in charge of the world’s peacekeepers, and he’s so crazy. So crazy. My brother asked me if getting this kind of public office was really enough to be villain of the year; he asked me if, supposing this was the year Lex Luthor was President of the U.S., would Luthor be villain of the year? And I would emphatically say, yes!
Also, I’m not ashamed to admit that I still hold Ben Reilly’s death against Osborn. Well, I would, except Ben is totally alive the second I get a Marvel comic to write. Once again, I’m giving fair warning to everyone with regards to my intentions towards Marvel comics. Are these honourable intentions? Well, I’d say that’s also a big yes.
Hero of the year: Batman
Was there ever any doubt? DC has given so much love to Batman this year, with Detective Comics‘ Paul Dini’s extremely satisfying detective stories (makes sense), Grant Morrison getting Batman to punch out a helicopter, and The Dark Knight in theatres, of course.
Why would Batman take the blame for Two Face’s murder when you have a perfectly psychotic Joker hanging around to take the fall? It just wouldn’t occur to Batman to blame a man of something he was innocent of, even if he deserves it. That kind of action doesn’t conform to his sense of justice. But someone had to take the blame for the sake of Gotham City, and Batman is ever willing to sacrifice himself for the cause. Hero of the year? Try “Awesomest Hero of the Year”.
Saddest Cancellation: The Amazing Spider-Girl
As the little series that could, the fact that it’s been cancelled is still hard to accept. We’ve got an issue or two left to get our affairs in order, but then Spider-Girl will be relegated to the Spider-Man Family book. This series followed what I consider to be the true future of the Marvel Universe. You know, the future that had Peter Parker and Mary Jane married and raising baby May to young adulthood, with the clone Kaine hanging around, and Darkdevil being the son of Ben Reilly and Elizabeth Tyne.
You don’t think I’ve mentioned Ben Reilly too often in this article, do you? Yeah, I agree, you can never have too much Ben Reilly.
Most Pleasant Surprise: The Iron Man Movie
I had high hopes for this movie and I wasn’t disappointed. Yes, no one is denying that you have to mix things up for the big screen, you just can’t fit thirty years of continuity into a two hour movie — but if you’re not true to the source material and Spirit (*cough cough*) of the characters, then by all rights you’re going to fail. But did anyone think they were going to love Iron Man this much? It was a perfectly timed facelift for the fascistic looking star of Civil War to get the heroic treatment and gain a lot of fans.
Biggest Disappointment: Chuck Dixon not writing Robin and Batman and the Outsiders
I’ve disliked the Robin comic for so long; I didn’t care for Willingham’s run (as much as I love Fables), and Adam Beechen went all Adam Beechen on it, so that’s extremely unfortunate. But then Chuck Dixon arrived, and proper characterization happened, a long-forgotten supporting cast returned, and it was just sweetness all around.
Not only that, but Chuck Dixon also started Batman and the Outsiders, and had Catwoman, Green Arrow, and later Geoforce on the team! Not only that, but Batgirl was there and getting fixed after Beechen messed her up in Robin. Oh, the good times!
But then something happened. Catwoman was gone from Outsiders, which would have been bad enough, but then BAM — Chuck Dixon was just gone. Was he fired, did he quit? Let me know if you figure it out. All of a sudden I’m collecting two extremely sub-par comics over here that I had been really enjoying for all too short a time.
Why is this still on my pull list: Ultimate Spider-Man
Nothing happens in this comic! Okay, cool stuff happens eventually, but you have to buy three issues or more of filler before we get to the good stuff. I love spending, what — nine dollars on filler? Yeah, great.
I’ve got to say though: Stuart Immonen’s art is gorgeous. He came on at just the right time to sucker me into continually buying this thing. Yes, the ultimate clone saga was a good story, but did Peter Parker ever put on the Spidey jammies even once in that whole thing? Do you know how often I have to ask that question about Ultimate Spider-Man comics? Just give me Spider-Man, I really don’t ask for much.