by Doug Smith
So, the gang at the Bad Genious was recently sitting around our secret headquarters, eating tater chips and drinking soda pops, when we realized we hadn’t done a roundtable in quite some time. Heck, the last time we did a roundtable, George W. Bush was President!
We quickly decided we should do a “Best & Worst of 2008” round-up. The decision was quick. The putting-together of random thoughts from a bunch of fanboys buzzing on caffeine and junk food? Well, that took a little longer. So, without further ado, I give you…the Best & Worst Comics of 2008!!!
Let’s start with Rory, still riding high from watching his own personal god (small “g”) perform at the Super Bowl…
Rory: Hm. Probably the best was Doctor 13 (although half was in 2007). Worst was Batman RIP.
Doug: That Doctor 13 series was an overlooked gem; I'll wager most people don't even know it exists. It didn't help that it was the back-up feature (in Tales of the Unexpected) to a mediocre Spectre lead story. But there's a trade out there for Doctor 13 and I would highly recommend it.
Brandon: My vote for best comic this year: Punisher #'s 55-60 (“Valley Forge, Valley Forge”).
This was one hell of a swansong for Garth Ennis on the Punisher MAX title. The framing device of using a new Punisher book about his time in Vietnam perfectly framed the story of how a group of military generals is trying to cover up their dirty past. It's a pity Garth Ennis has left this book, but I'm immensely pleased with this story. It's too bad because I feel as if this last arc was overshadowed by the glut of crossovers Marvel has been vomiting up all year.
Doug: I’m definitely suffering from crossover burnout. For the first time in years, I’m looking at some of these crossovers from the Big Two and skipping them. My days as a whore are behind me.
Speaking of whores, here’s our resident X-whore…
The General: I've pretty much just been buying X-titles and trades of things that came out four years ago. And, the X-titles rarely have high moments. They are generally either "decent" or "shitty."
Chris: I thought “Messiah Complex” was really good. Did that come out in 2008?
The General: It ended in January, so really the X-stuff I'd have to consider would all be the stuff that was released after “Messiah Complex”... and that's been a definite mixed bag.
Chris: Okay then and yes, I agree with your assessment. Gonna have to come up with some other stuff then.
While we wait for Chris to put down the chicken wings and come up with some answers, let's check in with our old friend Jon...
Jon Quixote: The Incredible Hulk #165-167 was fantastic.
Editor’s note: Jon is Canadian. This proves my theory that Canada is 35 years behind us in terms of pop culture. He’s also been raving about this “great” new band called Grand Funk Railroad, and he won’t shut up about how much he’s looking forward to Mel Brooks’ next movie, Blazing Saddles.
While we’re on the subject of people that are out of touch, let’s check in with our resident grumpy old man…
Doug: My vote for the best comic of the year goes not to one title, but a whole group of them: I think Marvel has done a great job with their C-list characters in the past year or two.
Immortal Iron Fist may just have been my favorite comic series of 2008, with Nova not too far behind. Guardians of the Galaxy, Captain Britain and MI-13, and The Incredible Hercules are also excellent books. Moon Knight got much better as new writer Mike Benson found his way flying solo. Ms. Marvel continues to be a solid book three years into its run, as does X-Factor. The Inhumans, while not having their own title, continue to play big roles in major Marvel events. Eternals is a strong new series. I wasn't as keen on Ghost Rider, Black Panther, or the just-canceled She-Hulk, but they've all had respectable runs of 30+ issues. Who would have thought, a few years ago, that Marvel would have success with these characters?
On the other hand...2008 was the first year I didn't buy a monthly Avengers series in over 20 years. (I don't count Avengers: The Initiative...it's a good book but it's not really the Avengers.) When I did get sucked into buying New Avengers and Mighty Avengers as part of the Secret Invasion cross-over, it just made me even more upset about the status of my once-favorite series. Those crossovers were a boring waste of time and money, and for the most part, didn't even feature the Avengers! Ah well....Dan Slott arrived on Mighty Avengers this month, so that book is back on my pull list.
The General: I think that Doug's comment about the second tier books being better than the main books is pretty interesting and accurate in many regards.
Editor’s note: I love it when people agree with me. Mostly because it happens so rarely.
The General: I do feel that the main titles have ranged from watered down, to unfocused to just plain boring or bad while many second string characters have had really solid books in the last year or so.
And, I think that holds true for the X-line as well. Uncanny X-Men has had potential, but not found its sea legs. Astonishing X-Men is pretty much irrelevant and uninteresting (the first was to be expected, but the second was the surprise with Ellis writing). The only main X-book that has been any good is X-Men: Legacy... but that's been by effectively turning itself into a second string book focusing on Professor Xavier.
Meanwhile books like X-Force, Cable and Young X-Men, in my opinion, have been more interesting and focused than any of the main titles. And, while they all have their short comings, I find myself reading them often before the main titles.
I would disagree with Doug’s assertion that X-Factor has been strong. In my opinion, all momentum on the title has been undermined by it trying to be tied into every event that comes down the line, which has really caused it to lose focus. The rotating cast of characters and artists has only made matters seem worse. It's pretty close to the chopping block for me.
Mr. Orange: : I'm going to agree with Doug…
Editor’s note: Somebody else agreeing with me? Maybe I should go buy a lottery ticket tonight! Let’s hear that again…
Mr. Orange: I'm going to agree with Doug and Tyler here, the smaller titles have been the best this year; they have been given a lot more leeway and allowed to shine. Books that have spun out of the major events have been really solid, surprisingly so.
I've never read a Deadpool book till Secret Invasion and really enjoyed it, especially as prior to this I’ve not been a fan of Daniel Way's light style of writing. Then there was X-Force, a book I was not expecting to enjoy, but picked up on a whim. It is dark, gritty, and very true to its mandate. So far it has stuck to its guns, and brought along not only action packed stories, but intelligently written ones too.
Though Guardians of the Galaxy hasn't been as great as Nova (which is a hard act to follow), the great scripting of Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning has really brought to life some very obscure characters, especially Rocket Raccoon.
Wow….high praise for a book that features Rocket Raccoon. That seems like as good a spot as any to wrap up our 2008 Best & Worst Roundtable!
Please join us for our next roundtable, which, if Jon Quixote has his way, will have something to do with his declaration that Gordon Lightfoot is the new Dylan.
by Doug Smith