Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Comic Book Stuff For 2016

Comic Book Stuff For 2016

In the last few days of 2016, I did a few posts looking back on the year. However, despite my interest in the medium, those posts contained no observations about comic books.

Well, let’s take care of that today.

DC Comics

DC was in a downward spiral when it came to their comic books with declining sales and any enthusiasm for the line fading away. Scott Snyder’s Batman and Geoff John’s Justice League were the only DC titles selling well and were well regarded. So DC announced a line wide initiative called Rebirth. It was an announcement greeted with no small amount of indifference. After all, DC had gone to the reboot/relaunch well just a year earlier after Convergence with DC You. Before that, the New 52 spun out of Flashpoint. And before that there were relaunches after the Blackest Night, Final Crisis and Infinite Crisis events. So DC was going to shake up their universe like a snow globe one more time? Big deal.

But as the time for DC’s Rebirth drew closer, there were intriguing hints about where the DC line was going next. And the key word to that strategy was legacy. The New 52 roll out in 2011 was designed to start the DC Universe from zero and make everything old new again. But it was a reboot that jettisoned decades of DC history and with it any emotional resonance the audience might have with these characters. What Rebirth did was to make that history relevant again. The result has been a revitalized line up for DC Comics which even overtook Marvel Comics in sales for a few months and certainly improved the fortunes of the publisher from its own lows in the last year or so.

DC is also doing well in television with Supergirl making a successful transition from CBS to the CW. Supergirl’s crossover with her new CW neighbors Arrow, Flash and Legends of Tomorrow was a ratings success. DC’s Geoff Johns has recently hinted an announcement is forthcoming of a new DC super hero series joining the CW line up.

Meanwhile, DC at the movies is a mixed bag. Batman V Superman and Suicide Squad were both commercial successes, setting box office records and making tons of money. But both films were reviled for deficits in storytelling and character development. Even the bean counters at Warner Bros. had to take notice of the less than wonderful feelings people were expressing about these movies; after all, while the movies made a lot of money, how much more money could be made if people actually liked the movies? Here’s hoping the upcoming Wonder Woman and Justice League films make money AND be good or at least coherent. Meanwhile, it does seem like the DC and Warner’s attempts at a shared cinematic universe are fraught with some peril. The Flash movie keeps losing directors and Ben Affleck has recently called into question of his Batman is a done deal or not.  And while we are on the subject of comic book movies, let’s move to…

Marvel Comics

In 2016, Marvel was a mirror reflection of DC. While DC’s slate of movies struggles, Marvel’s cinematic universe continues to be a license to print money. Captain America: Civil War was an epic culmination of years of world building and character development that was mostly a lot of fun to watch even when it came down to super heroes battling super heroes. Meanwhile, Doctor Strange may have been derivative (Iron Man but with magic instead of science), it was still enjoyable and marks a new angle for Marvel movies’ shared universe. 

Meanwhile, Marvel on TV is still kind of “meh”. Luke Cage on Netflix did well enough to actually crash the network the days Luke’s 13 episodes were made available. But all the reviews I’ve read have not been all that enthusiastic. Over on ABC, Agents of SHIELD continues to be the Marvel Comics series nobody asked for but you’re getting it anyway. 

And then there are the comics. Seeking to tap into the zeitgeist around the Captain America: Civil War movie, Marvel launched Civil War II. Point of order: I have not read this series. What I have seen of it in preview pages posted online seems to underscore what I’m getting from others that have read it: It’s a hot mess. The dividing line comes down between Iron Man and a different Captain, Captain Marvel, aka Linda Danvers. Lots of death and talking heads; in other words, standard Brian Michael Bendis as far as I can tell.

It seems to me that Marvel also found itself unable to capitalize on post Secret Wars stuff with some considerable confusion about that what changed and what didn’t after that universe shattering event. And the constant relaunching of titles is starting to yield diminishing returns.  A new #1 from Marvel really isn’t that big of a deal any more. And with titles coming and going, it’s hard to get a fix on what’s what in the Marvel line up. It looks like Marvel is mirroring DC’s mistakes even as DC seems to be learning from their’s. At least when it comes to the comics. When it comes to the movies, DC's got a lot more room for growth. 

Image Comics
This company got a fair bit of my money last year thanks to work of one man, Ed Brubaker. I was following The Fade Out with his frequent artist collaborator Sean Phillips and when that ended, I had their next series, Kill or Be Killed put on my pull list. I even bought the Criminal one-shot by Ed and Sean. And I've been catching on Ed and Sean's Fatale series via the trades. And through all those stories, I can't say a bad word about any of it. Really, Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips makes for a powerhouse team. 

But Ed does good work with Steve Epting on their 70s set female spy thriller, Velvet, which sadly came to an end in 2016. Epting's working on a new Batwoman series for DC which I will be interesting in picking up but hopefully Epting can find some time to revisit Velvet with Ed Brubaker again. 

And it goes without saying (but I'll say it anyway), Saga by Brian K Vaugn and Fiona Staples continues to entertain and excite as they spin out an incredible space faring adventure that constantly challenges the reader's expectations. 

Those We Lost
Every year, we lose more of the writers and artists who produced comic books in the 1940s, the 50s and 60s. Sadly, that's the direction that time takes us. 

But 2016 saw two creators pass away who were still producing current, vital work. Darwyn Cooke and Steve Dillon both left us with a significant legacy of great comic art but both had the potential to produce so much more. 

Art by Darwyn Cooke

Art by Steve Dillon

But if I may, let's end this post on a happier note and take a look at...

The Best Thing That Happened In Comics in 2016

Which was this...

Lea Thompson appearing in Howard the Duck's comic book. 

How bad could 2016 really be when such wonders can be beheld upon this earth? 

Sorry, Lea Thompson invalidates your argument. 


And that's wrap on today's post. I'll be back with another one tomorrow. Until next time, remember to be good to one another.

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom

We went to see Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom  and let me settle something up front: Bryce Dallas Howard does wear high heels.  For a coup...