Sunday, December 31, 2006

Double Articulation Digest: The Year in Review (Part 2)

On Saturday, I looked at my favorite books of the year. Today I cast an eye over books that are ripe with potential but are still finding their feet, as well as books (or partial runs of series) worthy of particular praise, even if they don’t quite make the cut for “Best of the Year.”

Promising and Notable Books (2006)

1. Justice Society of America – The most exciting #1 of the year. Hands down.

2. Batman (Morrison/Kubert) – A tantalizing and overdue return to a more colorful Bat-sensibility, but where’d it go? There’s something cozy about the merely passable Ostrander/Mandrake “Grotesk” story arc currently in progress, but its tone couldn’t be further removed from the James Bond Batman that Morrison was developing. A “re-imagining” of the magnitude Morrison promised requires consistency to work, even if it is only within a single Bat-title. It would be too bad if Morrison’s jauntier playboy Batman ends up to be just a missed opportunity.

3. Wonder Woman – Alan Heinberg and the Dodsons? I love it. I’m even prepared to wait for it. My only complaint is that there are too many superheroics (and heroes and villains) hogging the spotlight in this frantically-paced opening arc. Let’s hope this is followed up by one of those “day in the life” issues laden with character moments and subplots, hmm?

4. Checkmate – Intelligent and compelling. Arguably DC’s slickest, most adult mainstream book. And it reintroduced the sorely missed Suicide Squad.

5. Justice League of America – I haven’t liked the pacing of this opening arc at all. (Meltzer needs to worry less about the feints and reveals and more about basic storytelling.) It has been an undeniably exciting ride nonetheless. More than anything else, I’m excited about the possibilities for this book down the line and the incredible JLA line-up that exploits the as yet untapped potential of DC’s lost 80s generation (about which you will be hearing a lot from me this year). Vixen? Geo-Force? “Doctor Jace”? Black Lightening? Arsenal? Trident? Cyborg? This is the first time since Morrison that the JLA has felt like a truly fresh property.

6. Nightwing – Wha… huh? You bet. The Wolfman is back, baby. Granted, Marv’s first story arc was saddled with the turgid pencils of Dan Jurgens, but thank goodness for the return of some old-school storytelling. The half dozen issues of this title prior to Wolfman’s assignment as writer were mind-bogglingly unreadable. Truly awful stuff. What a breath of fresh air to have this character back in the hands of the writer who defined him. You show those punk kids how it’s done, Marv. Your reward? The talented Jamal Igle!

7. Manhunter – May the appearance of Wonder Woman in the new arc finally help this entertaining and distinctive book find the elusive wider audience it’s been seeking.

8. Green Lantern – I’ve been enjoying the return of Hal Jordan for the last couple of years, but I haven’t been completely grabbed by the series until the last few Global Guardians issues (I especially enjoyed the reintroduction of all those weird Green Lantern science fiction villains in issue #15). After a year or so of housecleaning and set-up, the series finally feels like its heading into interesting territory. And finally, the return of the only Green Lantern villain worth getting really excited about: Star Sapphire! Reis is the ideal artist for this series, and I hope he stays because the book would take a serious hit without his sumptuous visuals.

9. Jonah Hex – It’s wonderful to read a book as assured as this one, whose gritty and engrossing re-energizing of the Western genre continues to impress. The current Hex origin story is fantastic, and I wish that Bernet would stay on as artist indefinitely; failing that, I’d love it if they could tap Eduardo Barreto as regular artist.

10. Detective Comics – It’s been awhile since I’ve been a regular Batman reader, and I’m enjoying Dini and Kramer’s stand-alone Bat tales quite a bit. Kramer’s art looks better here than it did on JSA and Dini is doing a very nice job of rebuilding Batman’s rogues gallery—in fact, the storytelling “model” here feels very similar to what Geoff Johns did on Flash, and that’s a good thing.

11. Moon Knight – Brutal, ugly, gratuitous...and ingenious. One of the few Marvel books that I enjoyed this year. Can Huston and Finch sustain the momentum? Here’s hoping.

Wednesday: Year in Review Continues with: On Probation, Disappointments, and Unmitigated Catastrophes

No comments: