Sunday, January 11, 2009

Ryan's Best of 2008: Part IV

# 4: Wolverine - Marvel

Scripts: Mark Millar
Pencils: Steve McNiven

Wolverine is the # 4 book for 2008 because it was the most pedal-to-the-metal fun I had all year reading comics

I want to be clear about something before I start - when I say Wolverine, I mean "Old Man Logan". I'm not talking about what Jason Aaron and Mark Guggenheim did before him. I'm sure it was great. Well, I'm sure the Aaron stuff was at least pretty good. But I don't know, because I didn't read it. So there.

Of all the books on my countdown, it's the Millar titles that are the hardest to place. The problem is that when Mark Millar writes stories, you sit back and look at his concept and your jaw drops. You buckle up for the ride of your life, and for the most part you get it.

But there are also flaws, and Old Man Logan is no exception. Perhaps the most glaring weakness is that fact that you can read any of these issues in about 14 seconds. They are gorgeously rendered, the action is incredible, but it is horribly decompressed. Old Man Logan is the Fruit Stripe gum of comic books.

You also begin to recognize as you trod through the world of Old Man Logan that much of the scenery is actually hollow. There simply isn't enough time to give everything depth here, even without the terrible decompression. So after awhile you take a step back and go "wait a minute - I don't actually know very much about this post-apocalyptic future after all...he's just showing me an endless string of impossibly cool scenes!"

And you could feel bamboozled by that. But I have decided that I don't. I have decided for myself that the endless string of impossibly cool scenes trumps the fact that they occur in a world built of papier mache and cardboard. Cuz the scenes are that good.

If it sounds to you like this is not the kind of testimonial worthy of a # 4 book of the year, well, I don't blame you. I struggled mightily with the placement of this title, even briefly considered leaving it off the list.

But the facts are these: reading Wolverine was a genuinely guilty pleasure every time I picked it up, and I couldn't wait to see what that crazy fucker Millar had in store for me each time. It was the most fun I had all year, and that counts for a lot, actually.

I might wish for more depth. I might wish to have a detailed revealing of how the country was divided by the great villains of the Marvel Universe. I might wish to have a better explanation for why the territory is crawling with goddamn dinosaurs.

But that's not what this story is about. It's about two old gunslingers going up against impossible odds. It's about doing what you can in a world where the bad guys won. It's the mystery of how the planet's most feral warrior became a damn sissie. It's about cannibals. It's about Spider-Bitch.

And it's bloody awesome.

# 3: Green Lantern - DC

Scripts: Geoff Johns
Pencils: Mike
McKone, Ivan Reis

Green Lantern is the # 3 book for 2008 because Johns is ambitiously attempting an epic new comic book
mythos - and he's succeeding.

The event comics at Marvel and DC are designed to trade on the history of their respective universes. These things seem to "matter" because we've been watching them for years, our parents and grandparents knew who Superman was, and so when "big" things happen to these characters we are supposed to feel a certain gravitas about them.

That's why we're supposed to care about Brand New Day and Secret Invasion and Dark Reign and Countdown and World War Hulk and Final Crisis and Batman: R.I.P and Flash: Rebirth and Messiah complex and Annihilation: Conquest and Trinity. (Whew! Ran out of breath) We're instructed to care because these icons are supposedly changing - we're meant to believe we're watching history unfold.

Green Lantern is the only book out today that makes me feel that way. I believe that what Johns is doing with Hal Jordan and the core now is going to shape the way we view these characters for years to come. He is growing the mythos, and it is a wonder to behold.

I'm probably in the minority opinion on this, and I hear quite a bit of GL backlash. Steven Grant's # 1 wish for 2009 in his "Permanent Damage" column is a cease and desist order on more chromatic lanterns. Hannibal Tabu regularly slots the book in his "no, just no" section of "The Buy Pile".

I'll admit that names like Atrocitus border on the hokey, and that there might be such a thing as too many Lanterns. But then again, why would willpower be the only human psychological element you could draw power from? A multi-faceted Corps just makes sense to me.

Kittens puking fiery blood? I consider that precious. The stakes are high in Green Lantern every month, the relationships are complex. You have to love what Johns is doing with Sinestro, who is still very relevant, perhaps more relevant now than ever. This is a space opera done right and done smart.

If you want to watch the birthing of a grander Green Lantern, you need to be on this book now.

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