I read a lot of comics this year, listened to a lot of awesome comics related podcasts, and went to a bunch of great conventions and shows. There were certainly more high points than there were low points and I thought it might be fun to look back at them now.
Some of the consistently best titles that I read are Jeff Lemire’s Black Hammer comics. This year the story was renewed with Black Hammer: Age of Doom with Lucy finding the missing heroes. We also got the Doctor Starr and Quantum Age mini series and the announcement of a new mini series next year, Black Hammer ‘45, that he’s doing with Ray Fawkes and Matt Kindt. While Black Hammer is a love letter to classic DC comics stories and characters, it is much more that than. It is a gripping story that is an excellent example of how superheroes can be so much more than powerful beings who save the world week in and week out. I would highly recommend this comic to anyone whether they are a superhero fan or not.
I think what makes a great artist is that they can evoke an emotional response when viewing their work. For me that makes Rick Remender a great artist. Every single issue of his comics that I have read has sparked big time emotional reactions. When I first read Seven from Eternity I was so blown away I read it again immediately. It was one of the things that inspired me to start this blog. Black Science has been a wonderful journey across time and space that has complexity and cliff hangers so exciting that it is thrilling when a new issue arrives.
This year Image released new collected editions of Fear Agent in softcover trade paperbacks. I read the first two volumes on two different plane rides, finishing each one just before landing. While I am really a huge fan of buying single issues and collecting back issues, there really is something to be said for trade paperback collections and being able to read a story in one shot. It is hard to describe how I felt after reading these stories. I was so excited it was all I wanted to talk about. I felt like I had been on an emotional roller coaster with the main character Heath Hudson. Even as I write this I find it difficult to put emotion to keyboard. Anyway, it is a great comic and Image published some very nice trades that were priced just right. I would recommend this series to any fan of science fiction or pulp style stories.
Back in May a group of podcasters got together for what I believe was the third or fourth annual JLAMay event. This year they were going to revisit the Mark Waid lead event JLA Silver Age from 2000. I had a few of the issues already and picked up the rest online. I read the series and followed along with all the podcasts. The series was okay, the podcasts were much better. I was a lot of fun reading the comics and then listening to the podcasts. I hope they do another event year.
It was a big year for Superman. Action Comics 1000 was released, Peter Tomasi finished up his wonderful run on the Rebirth Superman series, and Brian Michael Bendis was brought on to helm both Action Comics and Superman. I was quite disappointed to see Peter Tomasi leave. He wrote some great stories over the last two and half years including the Dinosaur Island tribute to Darwin Cooke, the country fair issue, the Manchester Black “Black Dawn” story, and the touching “BOYzarro Re-Death” story in issues 42-45. Brian Michael Bendis kicked off his run with a story in Action comics 1000, that continued into the Man of Steel mini-series. From there Superman and Action comics were re-launched as monthly series (previously bi-weekly).
The Man of Steel mini series was only so-so. The story could easily have been released as a 64 page giant as the lead in to the new series, but I’m not an editor at DC and no amount of fan mail is going to change that. Superman kicked off with a new number 1, Action continued with the legacy numbering, and both series have been very good. All the hand wringing and fret over Tomasi and Jurgens (Action Comics) being booted was for naught.
The arson and murder mystery going on in Action Comics has been very interesting with some clever details, like criminals knowing not to say Superman’s name out loud because he’s always listening. I’m a couple issues behind on Superman but I’m excited to see how the Phantom Zone story wraps up. Both series have featured some fantastic art; Joe Prado & Ivan Ries (Superman) and Patrick Gleason & Yanick Paquette (Action). Each series has been fun and as far as I know have been released on time. Again, I would recommend each.
I was fortunate enough to be able to attend several conventions this year. I went to the Connecticut convention, TerrifiCon at Mohegan Sun, for the first time. It was very well done convention with a lot of dealers selling all kinds of stuff, including plenty of comics to search through. There was a lot of fantastic talent too, Jim Starlin, Christopher Priest, Jerry Ordway, Mike Zeck to name just a few. The main reason I went though was to get Roy Thomas’s autograph. I don’t think he does too many conventions and I wanted to ask him to sign some issues of my favorite comics of all time, All Star Squadron. He was a super nice guy and a pleasure to talk for the minute or two I was able to while he signed my books.
I also made what has become an annual trip to the Baltimore Comic Con with my brother and a couple of friends. Baltimore is a convention primarily for people who still read and invest in comics but there is plenty of Cos-play and kids stuff for families to enjoy. This year I spent the bulk of my time collecting autographs and met quite a few creators. I was most excited to meet Wendy and Richard Pini and ask them to sign some Elfquest comics. They were awesome and seemed to appreciate every fan that they meet.
Finally I went to the Northeast comic con and collectible extravaganza a couple of times. This show appears every few months in different parts of Rhode Island and Massachusetts. There are a usually a good amount of dealers selling comics, at least enough to spend a couple hours digging through bins to find a few gems to make the afternoon trip worth my time. This year I picked up lots of good stuff but the real story was the issue of DC Comics Presents #47, the first appearance of He-Man that I found. I paid a price that was very much in my range due to two stamps that had been pressed into the cover. The stamps are barely noticeable and I was able to get one step closer to completing my collection of DC Comics Presents. I plan on doing a post on it next year.
Not So Highlights
I don’t want to write too many negative things about this past year (you can get plenty of that in the real world and elsewhere on the interwebs). Instead I’ll just touch on a couple of things that were either disappointing or did not work out too well.
Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed Zack Synder and Greg Cappulo’s big event book. It was a crazy story and was fun. Kicking everything off with Challenger mountain showing up in Gotham to the final defeat of the Dark Universe Gods it was a thrilling ride, but not without its problems. There were plenty of delays, which in my opinion, has been a big problem with DC events for years. A story that could have been nice and tight with cliffhangers making the reader look forward to each consecutive month really suffers when the first three issues come out on time and the rest suffer from delays. The delays really deflate the anticipation for the reader.
The other problem was that the tie in books were only so so. Some of the books were pretty good, while others were not (I’m looking at you Murder Machine and The Devastator). I know tie in books are just done to sell more comics but these were a little flat and with the release delays of subsequent issues brought only more of a let down.
Finally the New Age of Heroes books, that were launched from the Metal story, really had nothing to do with the events of Metal or only loosely did. I liked most of these titles, but other than The Terrifics, I don’t feel that any of them are “must read” books.
Truth be told I am really enjoying Doomsday Clock. I love Geoff Johns story, and feel it is a worthy sequel to the original story, or is at least the best use of The Watchmen characters since the original maxi series. Gary Frank’s art is breathtaking, I cannot remember ever being disappointed by his work. None of that is bad. Where the problem lies are the delays.
The twelve issue story that is supposed to move the entire Rebirth story to the next stage and what started in November of 2017 is now scheduled to finish in the summer of 2019. What should have taken a year to finish and now will take almost two and is just causing all the other story lines to have to wait. The kick off issue with Wally West and the Button stories were super exciting when released and unfortunately we fans are now spending more time waiting to see what happens next as the issues of Doomsday Clock trickle out.
DC’s Hanna Barbera comics
(The above issue of Future Quest presents was not a disappointment, it was just the first Hanna Barbera comic I found for a photo)
I have enjoyed almost all the Hanna Barbera comics. The Jetsons was fantastic and touching. Future Quest presents were fun stories featuring classic characters. The Supersons & Blue Falcon story is what all the crossovers should aspire too (I thought it was even better than the King’s Elmer Fudd story). What I think they need to move away from is having all the series try to recreate the magic of Mark Russell’s Flintstones series.
Most of the series; SnagglePuss, Rough & Ready, etc. all seemed to force beloved cartoon characters into stories with heavy social commentary. I liked them well enough but they felt very formulaic, heavy handed, and trite all at the same time. These characters are classic characters and I think that the first thought should be “what can we do that’s fun?” and then add whatever themes might work and not the other way around.
Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had a ton of fun writing this blog and the reaction to it has been more than I could hope for. What’s disappointing is that I had more plans for it than I was able to carry out. I had an planned for an ambitious read through of the entire Micronauts series in the summer but when I took a trip for work and spent every day working close to 16 hours I did not get to read much and fell behind. I’m not looking for pity, I just need to have better expectations for what I can get done and cannot when life gets in the way. For 2019 I’ll try my best to get a couple posts a month and be happy with that.
There are certainly lots more great things that I read in 2018, Margaret Atwood’s Warbears, the conclusion to Mister Miracle, the new Shazam comic, Daredevil vs the Beast and Mayor Fisk stories, and Plastic-man to name just a few. I discovered the seventies humor / weird anthology Plop! and was able to complete almost the entire run. I got a fantastic deal on Thanos Quest #2 (first printing), 50 dollar comics with Thanos Quest thrown in for free. I got to spend a weekend discussing nothing but comics with my brother and friends in Baltimore. And probably best of all I have almost finished converting all my long boxes to short boxes.
All in all 2018 was a pretty great year where my comic collection was concerned. I want to wish that everyone who happens to read this post a happy and prosperous 2019. I would also invite you to comment on the comics that you liked and didn’t like this year. Thank you for visiting. I’ll close out with one of my favorite variants for Action Comics 1000 by Patrick Gleason.