And here, the Ambidextrous Year End Extravaganza comes to a close…
Please check out chapters one and two before venturing into our rousing conclusion, which is capped by some more personal reflections about what I wanted from ’08 versus what I got from ’08. Enjoy, and post any additional thoughts below, if so inclined.
Man of Action-
You start a list of the most underappreciated writers in comics, and Joe Kelly’s name is going to be near the top of the list. My love for Steampunk is already well documented, but I think he has some fine work on his résumé that certainly puts him in league with some of the other writers people often obsess about. His original Deadpool run with Ed McGuinness was pretty fantastic---hopefully this is something Marvel will considering collecting since the character is enjoying something of a resurgence leading up to his movie debut. And since Ed is delivering his best artistic performance ever on Hulk. And Kelly is making it clear he was destined to write Spider-Man. And it’s one of those runs that’s well regarded by more than enough people to be highly profitable. Probably some other reasons that I’m forgetting, so please feel free to point out any I missed.
He’s also written some of my favorite Superman stories including Never-Ending Battle, For A Thousand Years, and the much debated What’s So Funny About Truth, Justice, and the American Way? He wrote an issue at the end of the Emperor Joker storyline that is one of the great Batman/Superman stories. His Superboy was tight. His Space Ghost was surprisingly cool. And his JLA run with Doug Mahnke was pretty dope too, especially when you consider he was following Grant Morrison and Mark Waid on the book. He’s just one of those guys that never gets enough credit for writing good comics, so it’s cool to see him all over the place now with the aforementioned Spider-Man gig, and a host of creator-owned projects from Image, led by the superb I Kill Giants and Four Eyes. Hope he gets an Eisner nomination for Giants, which is going to make a nice looking trade or hardcover later this year.
Buy This Book-
Invincible Iron Man, by Matt Fraction and Sal Larocca
The first time these two got together, they produced a wonderful Eisner-nominated Spider-Man annual that was probably one of the best Peter/Mary Jane stories of all time, which is doubly ironic if you consider that the story was visually referenced by Quesada in One More Day. For an encore, they launched this great series on the heels of the Iron Man movie, and even though Fraction insists that he had no prior knowledge of the tone and scope of the film, the work suggests otherwise. If anything, the level of synchronicity between the characterizations and the core ideas only demonstrates just how perfect Fraction’s take on Tony Stark and his world is, especially for a new audience. The first issue really did it for me and is probably one of the best first issues I’ve ever read. Every single thing that’s relevant about Stark is laid out in that very first installment, and folding it into a larger narrative about Tony’s “five nightmares” was a great decision.
In a time when Tony was being routinely vilified by nearly everyone important in the Marvel U, this book really went a long way in humanizing him again and showing you just why he’s so damn cool. Now, with Norman Osborn in control of everything that matters, this book can stand front and center as Stark’s redemption arc comes back around, and the minute they revealed the solicits for the World’s Most Wanted storyline, I smiled a bit. Isn’t it great that Tony is now protecting the database of superhero identities he assembled as Director of SHIELD from a power-mad Green Goblin? Isn’t it greater that he thought the best way to do that was to download the entire file directly into his brain? The book started off well, but with the new status quo that resulted from Secret Invasion, there’s no question it’ll get even better in the next couple months.
Fifth World Stunt-
Would I be alone in thinking that a small line of Fifth World titles spinning out of Final Crisis would be a fantastic move for DC? Just from a branding standpoint, it would provide another stable of interesting characters to tell stories about, and creatively, Morrison is proving there’s a ton of material to be explored there. If the series is truly about the day evil finally wins, culminating in the horrible ascension of Darkseid, the obvious question is…what’s next? Because as chilling and awesome as that final scene from issue five was, we all know the heroes are going to ultimately save the day. As Hal Jordan says before being given a directive that feels like a moment out of 24, they’re going to kick his ass. So what are these New New Gods going to do to make sure it never needs to happen ever again?
This could be another opportunity for Grant Morrison to have his own little corner of the DCU, that doesn’t directly effect everything else, giving him full license to write the most bizarrely glorious superhero god comics anyone’s ever read. I mean, do I really have to do the math for you---one of the greatest minds in comics unleashed on a mini-imprint of characters destined to become a new pantheon of gods? How could that not be successful? And more importantly, how could that not be good? Yeah, I know he probably doesn’t have time for it, and we really want to see the next great Vertigo series he’s cooking up, but just imagine this for a second. Morrison in charge of the development of the next wave of gods for the DCU---characters that could potentially survive as long as Kirby’s managed to.
Never According to Plan-
This has been an interesting year. When it started, I’d just moved into a new apartment with a pretty girl and her dog, after realizing that I was wrong about something else in my very structured, inflexible worldview. It was possible to have it both ways, and completely unnecessary to forego any semblance of a life while pursuing my dreams. I’d had several people over the years politely warn me of being devoured by my own ambition, and thankfully I’d either started to listen, or just realized on my own how ridiculous I was at times. So my personal life and state of mind had never been in a more positive place, which put me in a great position to make some real moves on the professional front, as I entered what I thought would be the Year of Miranda Mercury.
I was extremely encouraged by the response the Miranda-related columns were garnering here, and in my initial proposal to Matt Brady, this was one of the major features I pushed aggressively. The actual creation and marketing of an independent comic seemed like something that I would’ve read given the chance, and a rather organic slant for the column. It also provided an undeniable spotlight and platform that not every book enjoys, especially one created by veritable unknowns, and we were all very fortunate for that. And for the great reviews and commentary that came upon the first issue’s release. We knew going in that the book had a few things going against it, but most of the folks that could find it had really positive and encouraging things to say. I started to get the feeling that “this might be it” and I was finally on the verge of making a true run at this professional writer thing. In hindsight, this probably should’ve been my first sign that I had some surprises coming.
When the news broke that Archaia was restructuring and suspending publications before we were able to even get a second issue out, it was incredibly disappointing. The stories and overall production got better with each successive issue, and to have our momentum just stopped dead like that was a major, major setback. The plan was to build everything around Miranda, as we hoped that after it dropped people would start to look at us differently as creators, which would make it easier to secure more paying work, which would make it easier to more reliably do the book, etc. etc. We were getting a good vibe on that front, probably because it was obviously the best thing we’d ever done, but I could tell everyone was like, “Okay, that was pretty good. What else you got?” Which is a fair question that we were confident we had a decent answer for, only nobody was in a position to hear it. Without the actual comics, it’s all just words, and I’ve got almost 300 columns full of those.
We did our very best to remain focused, but the whole thing took the wind out of everybody, and it was hard to really grind on it with no idea of when or where it’d be coming out. With that concern now settled, the challenge becomes in how to effectively handle the upcoming relaunch. There are a number of things I think I did backwards in the presentation and initial promotion of the book that’ll be fixed up, and I’m committed to turning this situation into an advantage. Once official announcements are made, we can begin talking specifics, and I’ll be soliciting some input from you guys as well in regards to what really influences the books you buy. I want us to hit the ground running this time---no more excuses, false starts, or imitations. We’ve devoted too much time and too much thought to these characters and these stories to just lie down, and seriously, have I ever proven any good at that? Kicking and scratching for every small victory is just what I do now.
I’d like to thank Matt for coming up with the crazy idea of running this series in a single week, and I’m officially boarding up the column for a couple weeks to finish two Miranda scripts and return with the new outlook only the new year can inspire. If we’re lucky, nothing has gone horribly wrong yet, and we’ve still got an untarnished set of months laid out in front of us, just waiting to be filled with all manner of great things. The last couple years, I’ve come up with a mantra of sorts that I feel accurately defines what my focus and mission statement for that particular year is. I’m a bit of a psycho organizer in that sense, and after ’07 (Die Trying) and ’08 (Settle Never), what I want to accomplish in the year 2009 is to quite simply…Seal the Deal.
Further details to follow, and everyone have a great New Year. I’ll see you in 2009.