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Best & Worst of ‘08

FORWARD

Welcome to WCBR’s second comic book industry report card. In essence, this report card is a list of offerings we’ve enjoyed and disliked for the entire year 2008. There was definitely a lot of debate over each editor’s pick, and in the end we just decided to let everyone have their say. Our next report will come in July of 2009, so be on the look out for that.  Until then, enjoy!

BEST ON-GOING SERIES

Green Lantern – Even though its release schedule has been uneven these past couple of months, Green Lantern is still easily the best on going book from any publisher. With its Sinestro War wrap-up and stunning re-imaging of Green Lantern’s origin, this was a book that kept its readers involved month after month. With “The Blackest Night” looming on the horizon, I only see this book (and its companion, Green Lantern Corps.) becoming more engaging in the coming months.  - J. Montes

The Walking Dead – Simple: The monthly comic I can’t wait to get my hands on. Every single issue this year has left me satisfied (at the least) and wanting more. – Rob G.

The Walking Dead – The only reason The Walking Dead didn’t win this category for the first half is because I had yet to experience it as a (near) monthly experience. Now that I’m truly on board with Robert Kirkman’s series and experiencing it as intended, I can easily say that it delivers the goods in every way. It has a great collection of characters, a shocking amount of depth, incredibly detailed artwork, intense (and shocking) action, and, well, Zombies! What more could you possibly want!? If you aren’t reading The Walking Dead, you are missing out on one of the best experiences the medium has to offer. Hell, I would even go as far as to say that it stands as one of the best works of fiction I’ve ever read. -Kyle Posluszny

BEST MINI-SERIES

Ultimate Origins – What can I say? I love the good parts of the Ultimate Universe and this series gleamed and constructed them into a nice series. – Rob G.

The Twelve – Here’s another book that’s release schedule has been marred over the past few months, but to deny its earlier merits would be criminal. J. Michael Straczynski has breathed new life into old characters, making them infectious, flawed, and incredibly entertaining. -J. Montes

Sky Doll/Transhuman – I considered Sky Doll to best mini-series of the first half. Now, upon re-reading it, I see that it’s actually the best mini-series of the entire year and a true creative success in every way. It’s an intelligent mix of philosophy, scathing social commentary, and biting satire wrapped up in some of the most breathtaking, disturbing, and vibrant visuals I’ve ever seen in a comic. I highly recommend it to all mature readers looking for something with bit more weighty than your average comic. Transhuman mixes philosophy, social commentary, and satire, but it’s target is corporations and technology as opposed to religion and control. Jonathan Hickman’s “mockumentary” is really only held back by lackluster visuals. -Kyle Posluszny

BEST NEW SERIES

Soloman Kane – There’s not much more to say about this book that I didn’t say earlier this year. It’s so gratuitous and over-the-top that it’s fun. A true guilty pleasure, grounded in reality, and yet not really. It’s a unique comic experience — plus the incredible art from John Romita Jr. helps tremendously.  - J. Montes

Invincible Iron Man – The hype around this book is well warranted. Great series. – Rob G.

Deadpool/Invincible Iron Man (Tie) – While they could not be more different, I can’t possibly choose which one I enjoy more. Deadpool earns a mention for it’s stylish, colorful visuals, creative storylines, and sense of humor. Invincible Iron Man earns a mention for it’s cerebral, weighty take on the toll of being a hero and the way it functions as an examination of one of Marvel’s most interesting characters. -Kyle Posluszny

BEST STORY (OR STORY ARC)

All Star Superman #10 – I’m rarely moved by superhero comics, but Grant Morrison managed to do it with this issue. Superman is dying and instead of feeling sorry for himself, he spends as much time as possible to help those in need and to prepare the people for a world without a Superman. It’s a touching story that brings out the best of Superman’s nobilities. It also serves as a model for what all mankind should aspire to be. This is the best Superman story I’ve ever read. - J. Montes

Green Lantern: Secret Origin (#29-35) – To help provide more depth for the upcoming event, “The Blackest Night,” Geoff Johns and Ivan Reis team up to provide a deep character study behind Hal Jordan, and to fine-tune the background behind Abin Sur and Sinestro. This prequel accomplishes three things: first and foremost it’s a strong character-driven story packed with lots of action, secondly it serves as good followup to the previous year’s big Green Lantern event, and finally it wets our appetite for the much anticipated Blackest Night. - Raymond Hilario

Walking Dead #48 – Still hard to believe what went down in this issue. Changes the rules and expectations of what comics can do as a medium. – Rob G.

The Invincible Iron Man’s “The Five Nightmares” – Ezekiel Stane proved to be an excellent antagonist in a weighty storyline that managed to be as intelligent as it was action-packed. It’s great for both new and longtime comic fans alike. Do yourself a favor and pick up the recently released hardcover, you won’t be disappointed. -Kyle Posluszny

BEST ARTIST

Marcos Martin (Amazing Spider-Man) – As much as I hate retcons, I’ve been digging Amazing Spider-Man’s “Brand New Day”. But nothing prepared me for the onslaught I was in for when my eyes graced over Marcos Martin’s work in Amazing Spider-Man #559-561. His artwork is amazing on a technical level, but it’s his Steve Ditko sensibilities that make this book feel so “classic”. Throw in Dan Slott’s writing and you have the best BND story arc yet. – J. Montes

Gary Frank – Created canonical images of the Man of Steel in his Action Comics run. – Rob G.

Gary Frank – All year long, Gary Frank has done an amazing job capturing and presenting two of Superman’s most importanat characteristics; his strength and his humanity. Never before has Superman’s power and vulnerability been so explicitly displayed on the cover and pages of Action Comics. - Ray Hilario

Stefano Caselli/Skottie Young – I expect 2009 to be an even better year for Stefano Caselli thanks to his high-profile spot as the artist for Jonathan Hickman’s Secret Warriors. That said, he is definitely going to have to put his best foot forward if he hopes to top the incredible work he did for Avengers: The Initiative. Skottie Young’s take on The Wizard of Oz is absolutely phenomenal. He probably would have won for best artist had more of the series been released within ’08. -Kyle Posluszny

BEST NEW ARTIST

Stjepan Sejic – One of the few artists I am willing to give a pass to when a monthly book fails to make it out on time, Stjepan Sejic makes Witchblade one of the most visually impressive series being produced. In addition, Sejic did some incredible work for Top Cow’s Broken Trinity event and worked on a number of great looking covers for Marvel. -Kyle Posluszny

R. M. Guera (Scalped) – He may not have the crisp of Jim Lee’s pencils or kinetic flare of John Romita Jr., but in my personal opinion, no modern artist in the industry can convey emotion, mood, and storytelling better than R.M. Guera. If you want to see a true master at work, pick up an issue of Scalped and prepare to be floored. - J. Montes

Tony Daniel (Batman) – Although he’s not necessarily new to the game, Tony Daniel’s work in Batman is certainly a breakthrough in the industry. His work in Batman has clearly outshined Andy Kubert, providing us a Dark Knight that’s as Gritty Frank Miller’s, as clean as Frank Mazzuchelli’s, and as fluid as Neal Adams’. - Raymond Hilario

Max Fiumara – His depression era art that featured awesome dragon designs in Four Eyes was truly memorable. Hope to see more of it, if this series ever gets going. – Rob G.

BEST WRITER

paxromana01Jonathan Hickman (The Nightly News/Pax Romana) – Amazing writing talent backed up by incredible visuals. Hickman may be wordy or overly preachy at times, but his social commentary and storytelling prowess are undeniable. - J. Montes

Matt Fraction/Jonathan Hickman (Tie) – Both authors are great at bringing high-concept material to the page thanks to their mastery of dialogue, storytelling, and use of narration. To pick one over the other would be a crime since both put out such impressive work in 2008. The scary thing is that I think they will both be even better in ’09. And I can’t wait! -Kyle Posluszny

Geoff Johns – Geoff Johns continues to be consistent in providing readers memorable and exciting stories that convince you of the change that a character or the universe undergoes. Furthermore, he’s the kind of writer that has his title plotted up for years to come — a true fan’s writer. – Raymond Hilario

J. Michael Straczynski – Makes me care about Thor, which is something that I swore off long ago. Issue #11 that featured an appearance from Captain America straight out of purgatory was truly memorable. – Rob G.

BEST TRADE PAPER BACK OR ORIGINAL GRAPHIC NOVEL

Too Cool To Be Forgotten – This book speaks volumes to those who grew up in the 1980s. It’s also a tale of coming to terms with your buried past and making peace with mistakes you’ve made. We all wish we could go back in time and fix a mistake we’ve made. This book explores this possibility in a grounded and realistic way. – J. Montes

Essex County: The Country Nurse – Jeff Lemire’s final installement in the Essex County trilogy is one of the most heartbreaking and nostalgic books of the year. The book is pure literary genius, filled with lots of conflict and relatable characters. To new readers, this book serves as  a memorable and cinematic story. To the fans, you get a strong feel for the characters as you will find yourself revisiting familiar faces. - Raymond Hilario

Joker by Brian Azzarello and Lee Burmejo – A visceral, gritty tale of one of the most memorable comic characters in history, Joker provides a disturbing look at both the Clown Prince of Crime and the seedy underbelly that he operates within. While not quite up there with Alan Moore’s The Killing Joke, the fact that it may even be considered to be is reason enough to praise it. Also, I must mention that although it is unconnected to The Dark Knight in any way, it proves to be a great compliment to the film for those that need another fix of a dark, disturbing Joker. -Kyle Posluszny

Daredevil Omnibus by Brian Bendis – Great writing with great art using a great character; all in one beautiful, giant hardcover. – Rob G.

BIGGEST SURPRISE

General Lane is alive and drafts Luthor – In the final pages of the Superman: New Krypton One Shot, General Lane is introduced to be alive as he drafs Lex Luthor in a secret war waged against Superman and the Kryptonians. The moment was definitely one of the most haunting scenes as you got to witness the birth of possibly one of DC’s most villainous teamups. – Raymond Hilario

Zacharia kills in Astounding Wolf- Man #7 – Not going to say who gets killed, but definitely the biggest surprise I read all year. – Rob G.

Superman is awesome again! – I’ve always been a Superman fan but I never quite found stories I could connect with (unless it was in his team books). But Geoff Johns and James Robinson have done the impossible and made Superman the best character in comics again. Even Alex Ross’ stab at Superman with his Kingdom Come one-shot was glorious! - J. Montes

The Walking Dead #48 – The prison massacre was, quite simply, one of the most shocking things I’ve ever experience in a work of fiction. I still get chills just thinking about it. Horrifically violent and extremely gut-wrenching, The Walking Dead #48 definitely left a mark on me. -Kyle Posluszny

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT

Secret Invasion – Talk about starting out with a bang and went down in flames. The last issue was not only irresponsible storytelling, but completely illogical. I’m sorry, but this new change of the status quo is the worst decision Marvel has made in years.  - J. Montes

That Urban Myths isn’t going to be made into a series – While I enjoyed Genius and Twilight Guardian, I can’t help but express how unbelievably disappointed I am about the fact that Urban Myth won’t become an on-going. In many ways, I consider Urban Myths #1 to be one of the best stand-alone comics I have ever read. As such, it left me wanting much, much more. The concept was great, the writing was great, and the art was great. -Kyle Posluszny

Grant Morrison - DC’s two big events (Batman R.I.P. and Final Crisis) have been nothing but lacklusters because of this guy and his taste of nonlinear narratives and obscure–and unimportant, references. This guy’s work is so bad, he has allowed the movie to tell a better story than the ongoing book. His work on the Dark Knight simply fails to be as compelling as the story told on the big screen.  And where was I when the Martian Manhunter died? Reading a fucking Marvel book. Congratulations GM, you’ve managed to turn away potential fans for one of DC’s biggest icons, and you’ve guaranteed another “Crisis” to clean up the mess you’ve made. DC, fuck you for trusting this chump, and Grant Morrison, stick to weird-for-the-sake-of-being-weird stories and characters, and stay away from the capes. Maybe Vertigo? With all what this guy has done, I wouldn’t be surprised if some people are wishing to bring back Jeph Loeb! - Raymond Hilario

Secret Invasion – Amazing how a bad finish can make a series retrospectively putrid. I knew something foul was in the works when the last issue began with the narrators conversing in the past tense. I still lose sleep, writhing in agony recalling that I actually paid for the Fantastic Four SI mini-series. – Rob G.

WORST ON-GOING SERIES

Batman – With all the nonsense being pissed on the pages by the chaos magician, the Batman title fails to invite the potential new readers that witnessed the unforgettable epic story told this summer. Furthermore, it does no justice to the cardinal rule of the book being better than the movie. – Raymond Hilario

Hulk – Why of why get rid of the best version of Hulk in over a decade and replace him with the dumb and boring Hulk that nobody likes? – Rob G.

Hulk – I went into reading Hulk thinking that it couldn’t possibly be as bad as some critics argue it is. I enjoy dumb fun…quite a bit actually. Then again, it turns out that Hulk isn’t dumb fun…it’s just Dumb…with a capital “D.” Sure the art looks nice, but that only gets something so far. -Kyle Posluszny

All Star Batman - I stopped following Cable because it sucked from the start. But my god, this book continues to be a steaming pile of turn. Why Jim Lee doesn’t quit is beyond me. This book is the perfect antithesis of All Star Superman. Pure crap. - J. Montes

WORST NEW SERIES

Cable – See my review here. - J. Montes

Avengers/Invaders- A supposedly “fun” series that was anything but, took an even worse turn when using the Holocaust as a plot ploy for android angst. – Rob G.

Ultimates 3 – I know that it isn’t an on-going, but I couldn’t let the end of the year awards go by without mentioning how absolutely awful I found Ultimates 3 to be. -Kyle Posluszny

BEST CHARACTER

Deadpool – The “Merc with a Mouth” came back in a big way in 2008. His Secret Invasion tie-in/launching point was one of the highlights of the event and the last two issues of his on-going prove that Wade Wilson can definitely carry a solo series. And 2009 looks even brighter for Deadpool thanks to his crossover with The Thunderbolts and his involvement in The Messiah War X-Men event. -Kyle Posluszny

Superman – The greatest superhero of them all is enjoying perhaps his biggest resurgance since his death. The Superman family of books are fresh, enjoyable, and thrilling that it’s hard for anyone to turn a blind eye on the events unfolding with “New Krypton”. I never thought in a million years I’d pick Superman as the best character of the year, but it just goes to show that life can still surprise you once in a while and you can teach an old dog new tricks (or stories in this case). – J. Montes

Tony Stark – Tony Stark is the epitome of a good story. He can be a relatable character, and his life and time are just filled with lots of conflict. Forced to rebuild his armor from scratch once again, and having lost his colleagues’ trust following the events with the Skrulls, Tony Stark has become a memorable character  of tragedy for the year. - Ray Hilario

Invincible, Mark Grayson – Robert Kirkman created an addictive character in Invincible. He’s easy to relate to, root for, and revere. Everything you want in a Super Hero. - Rob G.

MOST ANTICIPATED SERIES or EVENT of 2009

Raising the Prices to $3.99 - Can’t wait to see how people react to these outrageous prices. I’ve already cut 80% of what I buy now just out of protest. I’m sure many will follow suit and obtain their stories illegally or just wait for trades. I’m not condoning piracy, but I feel I am being realistic. - J. Montes

Green Lantern: Blackest Night – It doesn’t get anymore epic than the good and the bad teaming up, as willpower and fear must come together to save the universe. Plus it will be interesting to see how the former student-mentor and arch-nemesis relationship will pan out as Hal Jordan and Sinestro go into war together. – Raymond Hilario

Miller Verse – The idea that Miller’s three Marvel Universe projects over the past year- Fantastic Four, Wolverine, and 1985- will all tie-in together is a totally unique event in comic book history. Plus, seeing a touch of this at play in the most recent FF arc brings confidence that this event will not only be novel, but also good. – Rob G.

The Deadpool/Thunderbolts crossover and the launch of Secret Warriors – The crossover features many of my favorite characters while Secret Warriors is being worked on by what is pretty much my personal creative dream team of Jonathan Hickman, Stefano Caselli, and Daniele Rudoni. I expect great things from both. -Kyle Posluszny

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One Response

  1. Was just randomly checking out older stories and came across the best of 2008. I love your commentary on the price of comics! Wonder if some people in the industry got the message!(Im looking at you DC :D ) Keep up the good work.

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