Now that 2002 is history and 2003 is underway, I'd like to take a look back at
what I picked up last year and what I'll be picking up this new year.
Way of the Rat
Age of Bronze (A-)
Eric Shanower's beautiful take on Homer's epic Iliad continued. His meticulous
research showed through in each issue as he captured the look and feel of a Classical
Greek world. Pick up the trade paperback, A Thousand Ships, you won't be disappointed.
Astro City/Planetary/Top Ten (C-)
Missing in Action.
Kurt Busiek's Kang War arc lost a lot of steam before coming to an end, but I
did like the wrap up issues, especially issue #56. Geoff Johns came aboard replacing
Busiek as the new regular writer. His initial story arc wasn't that noteworthy,
but the last couple of issues of the year shined with great character work and
stunning art from Gary Frank.
Black Panther (C-)
I gave the new direction three issues and it just hasn't grabbed me. All the elements
that I enjoyed simply aren't there. After 52 issues, I decided to drop Black Panther
from my pull list. The two-part western time travel arc was great fun and highlighted
all the elements that made this series work. While I enjoyed the old Black Panther,
you could tell that it was running out of steam. Marvel's price increase on second
tier series will kill this book sometime in the new year.
Captain Marvel (B+)
Despite the corny Marvel U-Decide event, the relaunch of Captain Marvel proved
to be entertaining and intriguing. I lost interest in this title around issue
#30, but was pleased to have picked up the new series. I really hope that this
title finds the audience that it needs to survive. Unfortunately, with its price
being raised by Marvel, I don't see this title surviving the year.
Bendis and Maleev, who worked together on Sam and Twitch, are a perfect complement
to each other. Maleev's dark gritty pencils work well with Bendis' carefully scripted
and tightly plotted stories. Their work is shaping up to be a defining run in
Daredevil's history. Unfortunately, the year ended with the weaker than average
White Tiger story arc drawn by a couple of fill-in artists.
Doom Patrol (B+)
Well, I expected this title to live up to its name and die sometime this past
year. But it didn't and I was really glad. Tan Eng Huat's art is amazing. He's
a spectacular find for DC comics. The fill-in issues by Seth Fisher were also
Fantastic Four (B)
It's been a bumpy year for the Fantastic Four. Before the new creative team came
on board late this year, the title limped through the year as it wrapped up the
Pacheco/Merino run and then filled in its schedule. Thankfully, the new direction,
Mark Waid and Mike Wieringo, has reinvigorated the series and secured itself a
position on my pull list.
Green Arrow (B+)
I picked up the first handful of issues and liked them, but not enough to put
the title on my pull list. Out of curiosity, I picked up Brad Meltzer's first
issue and found it much more to my liking. I even picked up the rest of the Smith
run to get caught up. Phil Hester and Ande Parks may not be the most spectacular
art team, but they are good and consistently deliver.
I've always liked the character and was happy to see that he got his own series.
Even more impressively, Hawkman's continuity problems have been neatly packaged
up and don't get in the way of the story. Unlike the story arc in the JSA, the
Hawkman series hasn't really impressed me. The first year of the new Hawkman series
has been acceptable, but nothing worth significant note. I'm keeping this one
on my list hoping that it will get better.
Bruce Jones came out of nowhere to take this series into uncharted areas. Instead
of rehashing Peter David's direction, Jones has focused on Bruce Banner and his
conflict with a mysterious organization that seems very interested in his savage
alter ego. This title will get some needed stability in the art department when
Mike Deodato comes onboard early next year.
Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning have restored the Legion to its former glory building
on a darker tone, similar to Giffen's run on the series. Coipel's art is spectacular,
but unfortunately he'll be moving over to Marvel's Avengers. Accessibility has
always been a concern for the series, but this relaunch has made it easier than
ever for new readers to jump on board. The Legion is definitely one of the quieter
titles in the DC Universe that deserve wider attention.
Lone Wolf and Cub (A+)
After 142 issues (28 pocket-sized trade paperbacks), the greatest samurai story
ever told came to an end. I originally picked up the series when it was published
by First Comics in the late 1980s. Unfortunately, First Comics folded after only
putting out 45 issues of Lone Wolf and Cub. A couple of years ago, Dark Horse
Comics took a gamble with this remarkable Japanese comic and published it in a
pocket-sized trade paperback format. Hats off to Dark Horse for completing the
run and allowing me to experience the most powerful and breathtaking epic this
medium has to offer.
Louis Riel (B+)
Toronto cartoonist Chester Brown continued his reexamination of a controversial
Canadian historical figure. Sharp, witty, and critical, Louis Riel challenged
the traditional views of this character who is seen as a traitor by most and as
a patriot to others.
Solid writing from Barbara Kesel, a unique dynamic setting, a well-rounded cast
of supporting characters, and a strong female lead character are all keys to the
success of this CrossGen title. Meridian is easily accessible to any reader, despite
their gender, and has proven to be a compelling and entertaining read.
The Path tells the story of a monk who has come to possess an artifact of great
power which is desired by a mad Emperor willing to sacrifice his kingdom to get
his hands on it. Bart Sears' panel layouts really controlled the story's pace
and his use of two page spreads adds a convincing cinematic feel. Unfortunately,
Sears is leaving the title this year to be replaced by Matt Smith who did a decent
job filling in for Sears in issue #9. I wish they could get Walter Simonson as
regular penciller. His fill-in art work in issue #5 was spectacular.
I really enjoyed the first couple of story arcs of the title which showcased some
impressive writing from Ron Marz and lavish artwork from Jim Cheung and Don Hillsman
II. Unfortunately, this past year has seen more than its usual complement of fill-in
artists. Combine this with the fact that the story seems to be caught in a bit
of a rut, I've decided to drop this title from my pull list.
I was going to drop this title from my pull list earlier this year, but I was
eager to see what Chuck Dixon would do with a science-fiction, action-adventure
title. Unfortunately, it just didn't work for me. I just don't really care about
the main character, Samandahl Rey, or any of the supporting cast. I'm not saying
that this title might not click with you, but that I've lost interest in this
title and have dropped it from my pull list.
Now this is what Scion should have been. Breathtakingly beautiful artwork by Greg
Land and a well-paced, compelling story by Ron Marz solidify this title's place
on my pull list.
Spider-Man, Amazing (A+)
Straczynski has single-handedly returned this title to its former glory by taking
this book in a new, fresh direction. Straczynski's success seems to come from
that delicate balance he's set up between the old and the new. I haven't enjoyed
Amazing Spider-Man this much since the 1980s when Roger Stern and John Romita
Jr. were on the title. Straczynski's dialogue is crisp and funny and gives Peter
Parker/Spider-Man that unique voice. Amazing Spider-Man beats Ultimate Spider-Man
in a photo-finish as the best Spidey title of the year.
Spider-Man, Peter Parker (B)
In 2001, this title was the most underrated and overlooked Spidey title. This
year it hasn't been nearly as strong. There were a few solid issues, but nothing
remarkable. Unfortunately, late this year, Zeb Wells stepped in as writer, so
I'll be skipping these issues. I'm looking forward to this series' relaunch which
will apparently still feature Paul Jenkins as the writer, but without Mark Buckingham
who will be sorely missed. Huberto Ramos will be the regular penciller on the
Spider-Man, Ultimate (A)
A treat to read every issue. Brian Michael Bendis and Mark Bagley continued to
produce an enjoyable, down-to-earth superhero title in the vein of this character's
defining run by Stand Lee and Steve Ditko. Mark Bagley and Art Thibert continues
to prove that they are Marvel's most consistent art team currently at 34 consecutive
issues without a fill-in. Bendis does an outstanding job balancing the character's
history, breathing new life into old plot ideas, and taking Peter Parker in familiar,
yet different directions.
I was a bit concerned when Jurgens was going to take on the idea of Thor as Lord
of Asgard. In the past, this storyline has been carefully avoided by writers.
Thankfully, Jurgens has been adeptly handling the new direction and has even managed
to sprinkle in a bit of political commentary as well. Early next year, the art
team will finally get some stability with Ray and Ben Lai.
Way of the Rat (A)
Chuck Dixon, who also writes CrossGen's Crux and Sigil, has quickly established
himself as CrossGen's number two writer after Ron Marz. The action sequences drawn
by Jeff Johnson and Tom Ryder are dynamic and elegant. They capture the swift,
smooth flow of hand-to-hand combat.
The series' protagonist, Boon Sai Hong, finds that his luck has finally changed.
He's gone from a down-and-out thief to being celebrated as the city's new champion
for defeating the warlord Bhuto Khan. Now that he has both the ring of staves
and the ring of blades, he finds himself in the crosshairs of several antagonists
each with their own agendas. And that's where the fun begins!
X-Men, New (C+), X-Men, Ultimate (B), and X-Men, Uncanny (C)
I'm grouping the X-titles together because my biggest complaint with them applies
to all the titles: a lack of consistency in the art teams. Each title has struggled
this year as a horde of artists stampeded through the X-Offices. For example,
on Ultimate X-Men, the last two story arcs have been disrupted by the juggling
of art teams who have, in my opinion, clashing styles. But it's the editors and
artists that give this book its dismal mark.
Miller has been writing some great stories and thankfully not just rehashing old
X-Men storylines. Chuck Austin is getting better with each issue. Morrison is,
I wasn't really impressed with Kia Asamiya's debut on Uncanny X-Men and didn't
think his style worked well with the X-Men.