#50: FANTASTIC FOUR 2: RISE OF THE SILVER SURFER There's a lot to point out that wasn't that fun in FF2: the repeated poor use of Doctor Doom. The amorphous Galactus. That the entire FF weren't involved in the movie's penultimate fight scene. That the FF weren't involved at all in the final battle versus Galactus. Reed Richards's elastic disco dance. But there's also a heck of a lot that is fun and enjoyable in this sequel: the portrayals of Johnny and Ben are spot on target with the best characterization of the comics. The design and voice of the Surfer are pitch perfect (who'da thunk Laurence Fishburne, huh?) The goofy and self-conscious Stan Lee cameo (basically straight outta the comic, only missing Jack at his side). The FF movies will never be seen as high art or even the best examples of their genre, but there's moments of sheer, exhilarating, memorable fun in 'em.
#49: ASTONISHING X-MEN AXM would placed higher on my list if it had come out more frequently. Its 24-issue run logically should have taken 2 years. Instead, this series started in...well, it premiered around 1949, didn't it? Never mind. Removed from the extensive and convoluted contemporary current events of the Marvel Universe, AXM features solid action, quirky dialogue, vibrant art and a couple fastball specials of its own in sharp and surprising plot twists. Plus, who can resist a decently-written Kitty Pryde? (Not me, that's for sure.) AXM reads better in a stack or as a trade than as a
#48: MARVEL ADVENTURES: AVENGERS Ego the Loving Planet. Let me repeat that. Ego the Freakin' Loving Planet. Fast on the heels of the ish where all the Avengers became MODOK-ized, Jeff Parker's Ego as Barry White riff made this team of Avengers definitively more fun than the two groups being published in the MU proper, whether New or Mighty. Other issues featuring the Vision, Hawkeye, and Hercules brought these classic characters in the Marvel Adventures Universe in compelling new stories that don't violate the original spirit of the Avengers saga or the characters themselves, at the same time preserving a sense of adventure, fun, and action. If you're not picking up this because you think it's a "kid" title, hoo boy, bub, you're missin' the best Avengers title currently being published.
#47: KING CAT CLASSIX This hefty collection of the past ten years of John Porcellino's justly-acclaimed self-published comic is as thick as a brick and twice as solid. His bold but minimal lines belie the intensity and emotion of many of these tales, especially the heartbreaking story of his childhood dog. A hefty section of annotations and new comics makes this a must-buy even if you own all the originals. Giggles, tears, and wonder: an art and writing evolution over ten years leading to powerful and assured storytelling.
#46: JUSTICE LEAGUE UNLIMITED R.I.P. the Justice League/Justice League Unlimited animated cartoon, especially the brilliant last couple seasons, but the style and action of the series lives on in the comic book, preserving the crisp and distinctive design of the original while telling new, mostly done-in-one focus tales on individual members of the League. Highlights this year were #36's focus on the enigmatic Question (more incisive and entertaining than the recent focus on the Renee Montoya Question in the mainstream DC Universe) and #39's team-up of the three greatest detectives: Batman, Elongated Man, and Detective Chimp. Detective Chimp. All's right in the world when a comic can give us DC (hey!) and Batman and Ralph Dibny and Gorilla City in the same story. Long live the League!
#45: RASL PREVIEW I happily lined up at the Jeff Smith booth this past July at San Diego Comic-Con to plunk down my cash for the oversized, glossy RASL preview edition: Smith's upcoming 2008 new series focusing on a thief who can walk through different dimensions. Only six pages long (but taller than this little stuffed bull), it's no more than a short preview, but it's both gorgeous and provocative. If you thought Smith was a one-trick-Bone-y, think again: between this and his 2007 Shazam series, he's showing that his appeal can span different genres in the comics field. RASL is one of my most anticipated comics of the upcoming year. Will it appear on next year's Fun Fifty? We'll see!
#44: SPIDER-MAN LOVES MARY JANE In a year where the most highly-promoted Spider-Man story involved him giving up and losing the love of his life, this title preserved the romance and (for the moment) unrequited love of that famous redhead Miss Mary Jane Watson, in soap-operaesque but never banal tales of high school infatuation, gossip, cliques and friendships. The artwork of Takeshi Miyazawa is simply sublime and gives the series a unique look of its own: not quite superhero, not quite mangain a class of its own and utterly charming. Plus, Firestar! The series ended in 2007 but is set to start again this year as written by Terry Moore (Strangers in Paradise) and drawn by Adrian Alphona. It remains to be seen if I enjoy the new creative team as much, but one thing remains constant: Spider-Man does love Mary Jane. And in this universe, at least, that can't be wished away.
#43: SUPER-VILLAIN TEAM-UP: MODOK'S 11 Okay, hands up: who doesn't love MODOK (Mental Organism Designed Only for Knickers)? I thought so! Like Raymond or Hypnotoad, everybody loves MODOK, big-headed loveable supervillain that he is, so it's long past time he had his own book, this quirky and comical miniseries that teamed up a rogues gallery of second-string super-baddies in order to pull off the ultimate heist. MODOK, of course, has a more deadly plan in mind than just unlimited riches, and his team's falling apart with every issuethis ain't George Clooney at the helm! Subtract a handful of points for not enough MODOK in the later issues, but bonus marks to Marvel for the sheer chutzpah of producing a miniseries in which the villains all have sympathetic moments: even old big-head himself. You rule, MODOK. You totally rock, dude.
#42: HOUDINI: THE HANDCUFF KING Nominally written and designed for children (like this six-year old little stuffed bull) but entertaining and lovely enough to be appreciated by adults, Houdini is Jason Lutes and Nick Pertozzi's graphic novel biography not only of Harry Houdini but of his circle of friends, family, life and times. It's brief and brisk and fairly straight-forward (essay discussions round out the book in the back and add to its educational appeal), but for all its simplicity it's a lovely and detail-oriented look at the frenzy and fandom of an amazing entertainer in a true age of wonders.
#41: JOHN LUSTIG'S "SUMMER MOONSHINE" BY P. G. WODEHOUSE Yes, it's a one-page "book review" comic by John Lustig (Last Kiss) and yes, it's available for free on the internet (although I highly recommend ordering the limited print edition), but it deftly and colorfully combines two of my greatest loves besides Miss Knightley: comics and P. G. Wodehouse. Summer Moonshine is a book I haven't gotten to yet in my "A Wodehouse a Week" project, but when I do, I can't imagine summing up the book in a more concise and entertaining manner than Lustig already has. There's never been a Wodehouse comic book, but now I think there oughta be: Lustig preserves the joy, twists, and razor-sharp dialogue id the original (even adding a sassy "yo' mama" joke that made me giggle. It's plum fun.
So. Ten down, forty to go. And every single one of the remaining numbers is taken up by Civil War and One More Day crossovers. So tune in tomorrow for the Fun Forty through Thirty-One, and be sure to strap on your Captain America memorial black armbands!