Friday, February 08, 2008

Fun Fifty of 2007: Part 5 of 5

Look! Fabulous stars and celebrities are arriving in their stretch limousines and stepping onto the plush red carpet to stroll into the amphitheater as we prepare for the Big Awards Night: The Top Ten of the Fun Fifty of 2007. Quick! Sidestep Joan Rivers before she makes fun of your outfit and avoid Isaac Mizrahi's wandering hands, duck away from Amy Winehouse before she collapses on you, and find your way to your seat. You may have to whack Jack Nicholson on the head if he's bobbing around in front of you, but look!: the lights are going down and the curtain is coming up, and here comes Billy Crystal soaring into the theater on a jet pack...oh my gosh look out Mister Crystal...oh, no! Oh no! He landed right on Miss Jolie! (Boing!) And Michael Douglas's hairpiece has burst into flames! Oh the humanity! Oh the humanity!

Um, so, while they're all sorting that out, let's duck quick to the café around the corner for a cup of tea and some hot buttered toast and do the rest of the Fun Fifty here, shall we? It's been a long a winding road that's brought us to this point in four parts (OneTwoThreeFour), but the end is near. In fact it's here:

#10: ALL STAR SUPERMAN Only four issues of the finest and funnest Superman comic came out this year, but I'll gladly trade four of Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely's comics for a truckload of most other creators'. All Star Superman (don't acronymize it!) has a modern spirit infused with the nanotechnology and quantum theory thinking that's a trademark of Morrison's works, while, like his work on Batman, at the same time it homages and salutes the joy and goofiness of the 1950s Superman stories without making them seem silly or outdated. It's like the Reeses Peanut Cup of comics: delicious, creamy nostalgia surrounded by a sweet savory twenty-first century shell. 2007's stories advanced the general meta-saga—the slow death of Superman—at the same time individual stories took front stage: the Bizarro World, new Kryptonians...but the stand-out of a fine year was #6's "Funeral in Smallville," bringing the concept of mortality home to Clark in a very personal way.

#9: THE SPIRIT Darwyn Cooke's year-long tenure on The Spirit is over, but I'm gonna look back on this run with extreme fondness. Cooke, J. Bone, and Dave Stewart clearly had a lot of love for Will Eisner's blue-masked mystery man and his extensive supporting cast (including the gorgeously re-realized Central City). With a great mix of humor and drama, the new Spirit has been brought up to modern times (including a street-wise but no-longer politically-incorrect Ebony). But there's still plenty of room to acknowledge the great stories of The Spirit's past, as Cooke has in a couple beautifully drawn and touchingly scripted Sand Sarif stories. Even #7 and #13's triple-storied anthology issues were a delight, which just goes to prove that The Spirit isn't simply a Cooke-only franchise. That said, while I'm very much looking forward to Aragonés, Evanier, and Ploog on the title, these first twelve issues will remain near and dear to my little satin heart for keeping the spirit of Eisner's great hero alive.

#8: THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD I try not to have a sense of fan entitlement (it's not becoming in a little stuffed bull), but the revived Brave and the Bold was one comic I was definitely being a back-seat driver: it wouldn't work unless Batman was co-starring in every issue; it needed done-in-one stories rather than a continued saga; you can't mix Legion of Super-Heroes mythology with the Batman mythos. And boy, was I wrong! There's been dozens of team-up titles over the years and I have a weakness for 'em, but Brave and the Bold may just outfun 'em all in my book. (Yes, even Marvel Two-in-One!) The initial extended "Luck Lords" storyline brought in everyone from Batman to Green Lantern to Supergirl and the Legion, and the inclusion of these diverse heroes seemed organic and logical rather than haphazard and coincidental. Bonus points for introducing the merged Batman/Tharok (Batrok?), minus a couple points for the slightly skeevy attraction of Green Lantern towards the teenage Supergirl. If the second story arc is half as fun as the first, however, then this series might have a shot at outlasting the original B&B. Heck, they can even bring back Bat-Hulk if they do it right.

#7: BIFF-BAM-POW! What this world needs: more comics by Evan Dorkin. Biff-Bam-Pow! (don't forget the exclamation point!) is an anthology title by Dorkin and wife Sarah Dyer with more action, humor, and pure punching power per page than all other comics released in 2007 had in their entire run combined! (Note: hyperbole about level of punching power is for entertainment purposes only and not a legally-binding contract). It an all-ages comic that's perfectly appropriate for kids, but manly, yes, adults liked it too! Meet One Punch Goldberg, the fightin'-est girl around: she can lay out a brigade of monkeys with a single fist! (And I'm not using monkeys metaphorically...they really are monkeys!) If that's not enough, the ever-thrilling Kid Blastoff, plus a couple comedy-action reprint comics (that I hadn't seen before) round out BBP!, and the only disappointment is that the comic comes to an end and there was only one issue in 2007. More, Mister Dorkin, please!

#6: RATATOUILLE Not merely the finest animated movie of 2007—Ratatouille is quite simply one of the best movies, period, of the year. You may not like may certainly not like rats in your kitchen...but rats in a kitchen in a movie is cinema gold, and for the folks at Pixar, a way to chalk up another acclaimed success. But look beyond the million computer-generated hairs on the plump little body of Rémy the rat or the gorgeously-realized cityscape of Paris's alleys and rooftops and you'll find a story of of food, love of your work, and love for a beautiful and spunky French chef (the quirky Collette, aptly voiced by Janeane Garofolo). In fact, it's the mix of human and animal characters that make Ratatouille more than just another Disney animal fable—to the little button eyes of this stuffed bull living among human, it's one of the first and one of the finest cartoons that have mixed the animal and human worlds without giving either species' story time short shrift. It may be that the CGI technology has finally reached the point where the human characters—charicactured tho' they may be—look as realistic within their world as the animal figures, but I think it's also because the script gives both its two- and four-legged heroes room to shine. Also, it taught me how to pronounce and spell the word "ratatouille," so it was educational as well.

#5: JACK OF FABLES Rogues and con men are always fun to read about (long as it's not your pocket they're pickin'...hey, hands off my Hello Kitty change purse!), which is why Jack of Fables overtook regular-flavored Fables on my fun list of 2007. After he was banished from Fabletown, I wondered exactly what sort of adventures Jack could possibly have. The short answer is: he's taking his act on the road, from that most famous of American destinations (Las Vegas) to his current extended road trip around mythological America, all in search of fame, fortune, gold, and a pretty girl. As the makers of The Han Solo Show will tell you, however, a rogue's nothing without his extended supporting cast, and Jack's got some of the finest: Gary the Pathetic Fallacy, sexy librarian (aren't they all?) Hillary, and certainly my role model when it comes to comic book heroes: Babe, the Tiny Blue Ox with a very rich fantasy life. While Fables itself seems to be heading towards an ending, Jack's still got plenty of road to travel, and I'm happy to tag along with him.

#4: DOCTOR WHO: THE TEN DOCTORS Nope, you didn't miss picking up this Doctor Who comic at your local Android's Dungeon: this is a fan-made webcomic that you'll find online here (click on the arrows in the upper right to progress through the pages) and you'll be transported into the dream of every Doctor Who fan: an extended, time-spanning adventure featuring not just one or three or five but all ten Doctors...their entire cast of companions (including several time-versions of some companions)...a rogue's gallery of the Doctor's Doctors' greatest villains from Cybermen to Daleks...and K-9, of course! Sure, this is fan fiction, but it's done with sincere love and knowledge of the characters and stories throughout Who-story. (If you're not sure who's who, so to speak, check out the comments below each page to get a gist of the characters). Rich Morris's expressive and fluid artwork deftly captures the Doctors' energy and idiosyncrasies, and it's fun to see Four teaming up with Seven, Eight taking control, and One and Ten, the first and the latest Doctor, have a conversation:

I'd love to see Morris's work fully inked and colored and lettered professionally (a few but not many finished pages are displayed on the site), but for the moment this story—eighty pages and growing—will bring even delight to even the most cynical Doctor Who fans. Rich Morris's ComixBlog Site.

#3: X-MEN: FIRST CLASS The best X-Men title being published today? Well, your mileage may vary. But don't let the complaints of anal fanboys that these stories "don't matter" because they "aren't in canon" keep you from picking up the most fun mutant-stuffed comic on the market. It's got the original X-Men of the Lee/Kirby issues, the light humor of the early Claremont/Cockrum run, and the "teen heroes" riff of the first few dozen New Mutants. There's a wonderful emphasis on learning experience for Cyclops, Angel, Beast, Iceman, and Marvel Girl in every issue: the discovery, so important to the theme of mutant comics, that hideous or monstrous does not equal villainous. At the same time the heroes are having a heck of a lot of fun (almost as much as we are): road trips, extra-curricular excursions, clever and inventive text page introductions and some of the natural teen dialogue without being over laden with quickly-outdated slang. The icing on this X-cake? Colleen Coover's occasional Marvel Girl backups are funny, charming, beautifully drawn and inventive. I don't care if canon tells us Jean and Wanda never hung out together—by golly, reading about them doing so seems right. And more important, fun.

#2: THE IMMORTAL IRON FIST P'raps the fact that it's been mostly divorced from the widespread super-upheavals of the past couple years (Civil, Hulk, and Skrull wars all cascading into one another) gives The Immortal Iron Fist its appeal and charm—stripped of the need for massive tight continuity with every other book in the line, Iron Fist is free to be an inventive globe-trotting adventure. Maybe it's just that deep down, Danny Rand was a heck of a character whose past has always been acknowledged but never deeply examined. Or it might be that this book features a high level of kicks to the face in every issue. Whatever! At the recommendation of Chris Sims, a man who knows kick-ass when he sees it, I picked up IIF in mid-story-stream but not only was I not lost, I rushed back to the store to grab as many of the back issues I could find. It has the same vibe I felt when I first read James Robinson's Starman: a legacy hero done right, even including periodic flashback tales that dovetail into the main narrative, but it's got its own vibe and energy, especially in the current storyline featuring an extreme fighting tournament against a cast of skilled warriors from competing mystic cities, while on the outside Luke Cage, Misty Knight, and Colleen Wing fight the Hydra hordes. It's that rarest of superhero comics: thoughtful and subtle, reverent of its past, but with amazing fight sequences. Kickassery. It does a comic good.

#1: BOOSTER GOLD 52's MVP makes the big leap to his second solo series. Like the first, it's got a gimmick, but this time it's custom-made for those of us who love comics: Booster is now the appointed guardian of the history timeline in the DC Universe. Like Doctor Sam Beckett, he travels back in time, putting right what once went wrong, hoping that his next leap will be the save his dearest friend. As a gimmick, it's dandy. What's even better is the execution: in the first six issues alone Booster zips from Green Lantern history to the Cosmic Treadmill-era Flash, from the old west of Jonah Hex to the hard-learned lessons of history and temporal causality when he tries to save Barbara Gordon from Alan Moore The Joker. And, a chance to undo one of the most misbegotten stories of recent years and reunite the Blue and the Gold? I'm with Booster all the way. Like the new Brave and the Bold, this series is a reward for those of us up on our iconic DCU history (but isn't inaccessible if you're not). In lesser hands, this might devolve into fan fiction, but the team of Geoff (Johns) and Jeff (Katz) clearly have a great love of the DCU, its varied characters and history highlights, and more important, a deft comic skill to give Booster some great quips without reducing him to a joke himself (a very thin line some writers trip over). There's a great joy in reading such a fun superhero comic—there's an even bigger joy when it's inventive and unique. I'm not certain how long the situation at the end of issue #6 will last, but for the moment, the return of a disappeared character made me grin and laugh with glee and excitement. That's the best kind of comic, I think—one that if it were a movie, you'd stand up and shout out "YEAH!" So..."YEAH, Booster Gold! YEAH!"

So! There ya go: fifty things that I found fun in 2007. That's five times better than most people's top ten lists. And if I didn't mention your favorite? Well, that's all well and good. There's plenty of fun things out there for everyone, and that's what makes it America, pal. Little pink houses for you and me. That's the most vital lesson I've learned from comics and other entertainment: all that's important is that you enjoy it. If you do, it's all well and good.

Unless you enjoyed World War III. Hoo boy, that was a stinker.

See ya next year, Fun Fifty!


Rich said...

Good stuff, Bully! Er.. stuffed.. Bully. Anyway, nice picks.

I share your excitement about the end of Booster Gold #6, although I'm afraid it means something not-so-nice is gonna happen in the near future.

Huzzah for Brubaker/Fraction/Aja too! David Aja, not the Steely Dan one.

Evan Waters said...

Whatever they do with this "Blue and Gold" arc, they're still keeping Maxwell Lord as a two-dimensional supervillain. That's what I really want changed.

SallyP said...

Booster saves Ted! Woohoo! Now if he could only find the REAL Max Lord, I'd be completely happy.

Boy, Bully, you have some excellent choices here.

Andy Goldman said...

The Ten Doctors! Man, thanks for the intro to that one, Bully. Great fun even though I am not familiar with all 10 of them.

H said...

You're right - that was five times more fun than a Top 10 list. Excellent mix of choices.

Phillip said...

Good to see The 10 Doctors gettin some well-deserved exposure! It's so good. A great list all around, Bully!

FoldedSoup said...

Thank you for the 10 Doctors link, Bully! I read every one of them while waiting for work to finish today! Bookmarked and now visited frequently! Very, very fun stuff!