The year’s best writer

December 31, 2007

brubakered4193.jpgNeedless to say, being an aspiring writer myself, this is a big category. This year no one is more deserving of the award that Marvel script writer Ed Brubaker who writes among other things The Uncanny X-Men and Captain America.

Brubaker may be Bendis’ equal amidst Marvel’s elite writers and is the man responsible for the biggest surprise of the year: The demise of Captain America in that comic book’s now celebrated 25th issue. In fact, it has been retold countless times how Brubaker revitalized the title after doing the unthinkable: bringing Bucky back from the dead.

The previous sacred cow of the comic book pantheon, Bucky’s death was as iconic as Spidey’s blue and red threads (thought I guess that wasn’t the best example as Marvel tinkered with that back in ’84) and there had to be a lot of trepidation at the House of Ideas at the mere thought of resurrecting the character in this day and age considering his roots to the cold war and his near perfect death.

captainamericadead.jpgHowever, in the aftermath of the super hero civil war, Brubaker managed to pull off the biggest surprise of the year by killing of a character as iconic as Captain America The A.P. quickly picked up the story, proving how ingrained these characters have become in the public’s consciousness but also catapulting an already talented writer into the stratosphere.

That Brubaker had already accomplished something amazing on his run on Cap by bringing back Bucky from the dead at a time when death and resurrection in comics had become somewhat of a cliche was impressive. However, Brubaker wasn’t afraid to tackle one of comicdom’s longest standing legacies by not only bringing back Bucky to life, but transforming him into a new and compelling character: The Winter Soldier.

In fact, Captain America’s real triumph wasn’t restricted to bringing in more fans to the book, the writer skillfully also managed to make the book even better, despite the fact the titular character has been dead for over half a year.

Brubaker’s feats aren’t limited to his Marvel work, though he has done solid work on titles like Daredevil and Uncanny X-Men where he continued the Messiah Complex storyline. He’s also brilliantly penned his own created comic Criminal. Writer of the year? You bet he is!

The Chain: Best single issue of the year.

December 29, 2007

cover.jpgThose who don’t know me may be surprised by my choice of Dark Horse’s BTVS #5 (“The Chain”) as the best single issue of the year but I am not alone in my choice. Wizard magazine named Buffy the best series transition from TV to comics and I wholeheartedly concur.

Though other media have spawned comic book material in the past (i.e. Robocop, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Star Wars and many others) and vice versa, there is no other single comic transitioned from a defunct tv show that I can think so that has made such a seamless connection. Perhaps the fact that series creator Joss Whedon has continued the story in comic book format has a lot to do with it, but I also believe that it is the quality of the art team which should also be given credit as penciller Georges Jeanty has done an amazing job with the artistic chores on the book.

That makes it ironic because the best single issue was pencilled not by Jeanty but by guest penciller Paul Lee from a script by Whedon, although that has been a staple of the book, its ability to bring in industry superstars like Brian K. Vaughn and not skip a beat. 

I won’t rehash the plot specifics here, though I provide this link to my original review in case anyone wants to read it. Suffice it to say this tale of Buffy set in the post-Sunnydale universe worked as a one shot due to the fact it came closest to the original premise of the show, featuring the chain of Slayers which has existed throughout history and spotlighting a single Slayer other than Buffy.

This along makes it the single best issue of the year in my opinion.

Twas the Dark Knight before Christmas

December 26, 2007

Very well done!

Comeback of the year: The mutants race for survival!

December 24, 2007

xfact025019_col.jpgMake no mistake about it, though War World Hulk may have been more of a commercial success, Marvel proved that they had vision by placing their team of mutants back on top with the Messiah Complex mini series running through all the x-titles currently.

While X-Factor by Peter David and New X-Men by Kyle and Yost have always been excellent, especially of late, their status has been enhanced by their inclusion into this story arc which the House of ideas presented as a follow up to the “Endangered Species” arc, Messiah has increased the tension and delivered on almost every single issue.

The opening shot was fired by superstar writer Ed Brubaker featuring artwork by, among others, Marc Silvestri! and it brought me back into the fold as the X-titles haven’t been this good since Chris Claremont was writing Uncanny X-Men. OK maybe not that good, but pretty good.

The premise is simple, following the Endangered Species storyline  in which Beast was looking for a way to reverse the effects of M-Day, there’s a mutant birth for the first time since M-Day, prompting a frantic race for the baby between the X-Men, the mutant hating Purifiers and the Marauders to ensue. Soon the X-Men find themselves squaring off against Mr. Sinister and there’s a monster called Predator X running around loose killing off mutants. That’s all in the first 3 or 4 installments! This series is non stop action and intrigue and as such, one of the best of 2007. I highly recommend picking up the individual issues, especially to those who love the X-Men.


Superhero of the year: The Invincible Iron Man

December 22, 2007
On this the first day of winter and 3 days before Xmas, I continue my countdown of the best of the year in comics by presenting the superhero of the year. Wizard called Iron ironman1.jpg Man their character of the year 2007 in their year end wrap up edition and I concur. This has been the most interesting Tony Stark has been in years, due in large part to his stand in the Civil War but also due to his actions in a post Civil War Marvel universe.

Marvel’s decision to make Iron Man the flag bearer for the pro Registration camp during Mark Millar’s epic storyline was a risky one for them considering they have an Iron Man movie starring Robert Downey Jr. out next year. It served to alienate some fans from the character. I talked to many of them at the shop and at the conventions who flat out said they thought Iron Man was an a-hole.

Nevertheless, no character in comics was more influential or as compelling than Iron Man this past year, from his stance in pro-registration to his eventual promotion to director of S.H.I.E.L.D. to his handling of the World War Hulk situation, Tony Stark was everywhere this year and a highlight was his battle with Thor. When the thunder god came back from the dead in Thor #3, he didn’t take lightly to being cloned during the war and had more than a few words with his former Avengers team mate. Yes boys and girls, for this and many other reasons, Tony Stark, the cool exec with a heart of steel and abundance of wealth and toys was the most interesting superhero of 2007.

The Best of 2007: Umbrella Academy

December 20, 2007

apocalypsesuite.jpgIt’s time once again for me to list the best in comics of the past year, before we say goodbye to 2007. I am not going to rank them as I have in previous blog entries because I simply can’t decide and takes way too long, so I thought it would just be good to tell you what rocked this year and what wasn’t so great. So making the list, no surprise is The Umbrella Academy from Dark Horse. This could possibly be the best indy book out there (though Dark Horse is pretty mainstream so not sure if calling it that is 100 percent accurate). This is only a 6 issue series and only halfway through it, it’s already been pretty spectacular with artwork that will blow you away from Brazilian cartoonist Gabriel Ba who is reminiscent of Mike Mignola but with a style all his own.

Don’t be fooled by those who put the book down because of the fact it was written by the lead singer of My Chemical Romance. This book has been written about everywhere and featured even on MTV but I can honestly say that it makes no difference who wrote it and the recognition is well deserved. I think it advances the industry with some innovative storytelling.

This comic which I’ve heard described as an “emo” version of the X-Men is simply a gem. Pick up the first 3 issues if you can and read the entire series, it’s one of the best in the industry and one of the best of the past year.

grunge lives! (at least in retrospect)

December 17, 2007

6a00c2251fe8738fdb00d09e6cd6f4be2b-500pi.jpgContinuing my examination of the music styles, albums and artists which I like, I have returned to the much maligned era of grunge. Thought it was once popular throughout the 1990s, grunge did not outlive other music genres and it received a big blow with the passing of Nirvana lead singer Kurt Cobain. I remember talking to a friend at a party telling him that Kurt was like John Lennon for our generation, he was that important musically and it was tragic that he died so suddenly like Lennon and like other musicians who died young like Janis Joplin or Jimmy Hendrix.

At any rate, the grunge era did produce one of my all time favorite soundtracks. Of course, I am talking about the Singles soundtrack. Maybe the movie wasn’t as successful but the soundtrack was a grunge fan’s dream featuring a smorgasbord of grungy goodness including songs from artists I normally wouldn’t give two cents for.

It opens with Alice in Chain’s “Would” and if you were a fan of this band but got sick of “Man in the Box” and other songs then this is a refreshing alternative. As a testament to Pearl Jam’s popularity there isn’t one, but two of their songs included. Frankly, I am bored by everything Pearl Jam has to offer post 1991 and their brilliant “Ten” album but the songs here are an exception, “State of Love and Trust” being an exceptional rocker and my absolute favorite PJ song of that era.

Other treats include “Chloe/Dancer Crown of Thorns,” a little gem by the defunct grunge pioneers Mother Love Bone and the surprisingly haunting and beautiful Chris Cornell offering, a little song called “Seasons.” Even the Heart (going by the name of Lovemongers) cover of Led Zeppelin’s “Battle of Evermore” is well done and dare I say, every bit as good as the original.

This soundtrack is rife with bands left over from the transition of heavy metal to grunge days like Mudhoney, Soundgarden, The Screaming Trees and even The Smashing Pumpkins. It’s like a time capsule ready to explode with nostalgic sonic power. One of my all time favorites.

Sounds of the season

December 12, 2007

Well not exactly. I was uploading mp3s into my player the other day because I was tired of listening to the same old tunes when I came accross my Van Halen albums. I ripped some into the player and decided that I would share with  you guys some of my favorites just in case you haven’t heard some but would like to get into them. So according to me, these are some of the most memorable albums EVER!

Even though most people would disagree with me, 1986’s 5150 album is Van  Halen’s unparalled masterpiece. While former lead singer David Lee Roth parted ways with the band (not amicably to say the least) Eddie and the boys made one of the few seamless transitions to another lead singer in rock history when they acquired Sammy Hagar to be their next frontman. Hagar could never fill Roth’s shoes, how could he? Diamond Dave was one of the most flamboyant lead singers since Mick Jagger pranced on a stage, but what Sammy lacked in style he more than made up in technical chops (he could also play guitar) and he was obviously gelling with his new bandmates. It resulted in VH’s first new #1 album.

5150’s sound differs from earlier VH albums, while it’s a little more on the soft rock side than previous offerings, Eddie doesn’t shy away from his fierce and legendary ax grinding. I heard some radio d.j.s say it has a “Journey” sound to it, but to describe it that way would be to do it a great disservice. Like most rock albums of the era it’s got a haunting ballad (Love Walks In, about aliens!) but other tunes exhibit the band’s stylistic musical flare such as the title track and the wonderfull and catchy “Why Can’t This be love?” and the radio and stadium friendly “Dreams.”

In fact, when that clever intro to “Why Can’t This be love” comes accross my car radio, I just turn up the volume and get ready to jam. Oh yea! BTW 5150 is the police code for a crazy person and you’d be crazy not to give this record a chance.

NFL week 14: This is when it gets fun

December 8, 2007

Mid December is a football fan’s dream time. This is when the playoff picture to determine future super bowl participants comes into clearer focus and there are some monster games on tap. this Sunday my San Diego Chargers could clinch the western division with a win over the Tennessee Titans and a Denver loss.


San Diego had a disappointing season following their league best 14-2 record of a year ago, but has rebounded of late with back to back wins to post a 7-5 record. The defense in particular has played better than in earlier season losses, recording 8 sacks against the Chiefs last week, and despite claims that La Danian Tomlinson, MVP of a year ago is having a sub par year, he still leads the NFL in rushing touchdowns.

Meanwhile, the afternoon game features undefeated New England playing against their toughest opponent yet, the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Steelers are 9-3 but possess the highest ranked defense and highest rated ground game in the league. The Patriots have looked vulnerable two weeks in a row, after dominating their first 10 games by an average of 40 points a game, New England struggled against both Philly and Baltimore and are sure to be tested again by the Steelers. Steelers QB Ben Roetheslisburger has guaranteed a win, but they better play a near perfect game to pull it out.

If you’re a huge football fan, your place come Sunday is on the couch with a drink and maybe some chips nearby. You don’t want to miss these!

I am Legend-Retro review

December 3, 2007

richardlegend1.jpgWith the impending release of the movie this month, I thought it would be appropriate to do a retro-review of the graphic novel. Some people viewing the trailers for the new Will Smith movie may not know that this is the latest film based on comic book or graphic novel material, albeit in an indirect way.

The graphic novel was based on legendary sci-fi writer Richard Matheson’s masterpiece about the last man on Earth and how he deals with the loneliness and isolation of his situation. The science fiction elements of the novel are interesting because Matheson attributes vampirism a scientific basis, thereby turning the protagonist into a desperate being turning to science for survival and re-inventing the vampire mythos.

IDW has republished the original graphic novel series (to coincide with the release of the movie of course) adaptation by Steve Niles who would later go on to pen his own classic vampire epic 30 Days of Night for the same publisher.

I reread the graphic novel recently and I was surprised how faithful it is to Matheson’s original book and how relatively simple but effective the artwork by Elman Brown is, a testament to how good black and white comics can look for the proper story tone. Since Hollywood has a tendency to bastardize source material, (already I found no hint of acknowledgment that vampires are even referenced in the new film referred to as some kind of mutation instead) I will have to reserve judgment on the film until I view it. Suffice it to say, I cannot recommend the graphic novel enough.