I’m doing more and more reading in collected and OGN format these days, but some books just demand to be read the very day they come out in the single-issue format. Here are the top five from 2006:
Blue Beetle #7, by John Rogers and Cully Hamner. Yes, I’m as shocked as anyone that I not only tolerated, but really enjoyed a book that had “Infinite Crisis” printed on the cover. It could have been the end of Blue Beetle for me – the book had been suffering from some sluggish pacing and unfortunate fill-in art. But John Rogers’ first solo writing effort on the book turned me around completely: This may flash back to Beetle’s role in DC’s mega crossover, but it makes it all so much fun: This is a book about a kid with an alien suit of armour who’s recruited by Batman to go up to a space station and fight a bunch of killer robots. It’s got action, it’s got Batman and Green Arrow being funny, and it’s a nice piece of character work to boot. If this story had come a few issues earlier, the book’s sales might not be in such a bad place right now.
Nextwave #10, by Warren Ellis and Stuart Immonen. Nextwave has been a fun ride, with every issue better than the last. Honestly, I could have picked two or three different issues. This one stands out, though, because Stuart Immonen demonstrates that he’s not just very good – he’s totally awesome. After a vicious assault by Forbush Man (yes, Warren Ellis trotted out the star of Marvel’s old parody book as a major villain), the members of their team re-live alternate versions of their lives, and Immonen turns in note-perfect impersonations of other artists for each story: Monica’s other life as Captain Marvel is in the style of Paul Pope, Machine Man is as envisioned by Daniel Clowes, The Captain appears in John Paul Leon’s Earth X, and Elsa Bloodstone stars in a Mike Mignola monster mash. It’s the perfect display of clever insanity that makes Nextwave so great, and shows off that Immonen is even better than everyone thought he was.
All-Star Superman #5, by Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely. Another book that’s very good on a bad month, and simply divine on a good one, and this issue may be the best. It’s all about Lex Luthor, as Clark Kent travels to death row for an interview with the criminal genius. Luthor expounds his many views for the mild-mannered Kent, and naturally all of them go back to Superman, who doesn’t even appear in this issue. Instead, poor Clark has to repeatedly, and accidentally, save Luthor’s life from electrocution and a Parasite-induced prison riot. It’s a great issue that helps to humanize the still-villainous Luthor and show off some beautifully subtle art by Frank Quitely, who has to draw all sorts of action and adventure without really showing any of it. Also, it has a baboon in a Superman costume and Lex Luthor drawing on a sinister eyebrow. It may not always have Superman in it, but this is still the best Superman book anyone’s seen for many years.
Seven Soldiers #1, by Grant Morrison and J.H. Williams III. And here we have the long-delayed conclusion to Morrison’s epic, the only comics crossover that anyone needs to read. I could be negative and point out that this issue is only partly successful in capping off the 30-part story, that Morrison tries to do too much in too little space, and that it makes Mr. Miracle seem even more flawed, and it would all be true. But even so, this book is one of the most ambitious and accomplished failures you’re likely to read. The obvious and easiest selling point is the brilliant work of J.H. Williams. Like Immonen on Nextwave – but even better – he effortlessly assumes the styles of the artists on each of the Seven Soldiers minis, as well as a great Jack Kirby riff and some gorgeous styles of his own. Williams is one of the very best artists the industry has seen in some time, and this book shows off why. And while Morrison doesn’t quite cap things off perfectly, he comes so close; after a year of reading Seven Soldiers, I was wondering how on Earth he’d tie it all together in one, single issue; that he came anywhere near doing it is impressive as hell. Even if it feels rushed and overly compressed, it’s still a great story with action, epic scope, treachery, redemption, and heroic sacrifices.
Local #3, by Brian Wood and Ryan Kelly. Legendary indie band Theories and Defences returns home to Richmond to disband after a successful career, and Wood actually tells four separate stories: Frontman Frank does an interview, bassist Bridget tries to reconnect with an old love, drummer Kevin tries to make some extra cash, and guitarist Ross plays a solo show at a small club. It’s a perfect slice-of-life story, the sort Adrian Tomine does so well in Optic Nerve, about the end of one life and the beginning of another. Like much of Local, it’s about changing your life and taking responsibility for yourself, and as Wood usually shows us, some people are better at it than others. It’s a very simple story that packs a lot into one single issue; in a few short pages for each band member, Wood and Kelly tell us all we need to know about them and where they are in their lives.Comments closed