So, against all odds, we managed to make it through the year, doomsdays and raptures notwithstanding. Congratulations, all—and very, very happy to see you. Granted, we’ve all experienced some fairly grisly things in the past twelve months, but it’s worth keeping in mind all the good we can, if for no other reason than to prevent yourself from weeping helplessly. In that spirit, it’s time again to look at my favorite things of the year. Now remember, no judgments—we are all entitled to like what we like, whether or not they are qualitatively “good.”
There have been some mighty fine series out from the Big Two this year. While Hawkeye, Daredevil, Wonder Woman, Swamp Thing, and Aquaman are all strong contenders for my favorite ongoing mainstream book, none have impressed me on a monthly basis the way Batwoman did. Obviously, its artistic qualities are high on the list of strong points; whether it was the florid Amy Reeder, the kinetic Trevor McCarthy, or the king of invention, J.H. Williams III, himself, the art has never been anything less than dazzling and stylish. And Williams and W. Haden Blackman’s scripting has no less lived up to the visuals, being at once sensitive and complicated, grounded and imaginative, bold and vulnerable.
I admit to feeling some pressure, considering the overwhelming consensus from creators and reviewers across the land, to put Saga in this spot. Of course, I admire the book exceedingly and you can’t argue that it’s a gem of a series. But this isn’t really about what I objectively view as a “better” book; this is about the stuff that’s wormed into my heart and Saucer Country has done that. Somewhere along the way, Paul Cornell has made this series one of the most compelling, relevant, and possibly important stories I’ve read this year. It is a title that bathes in gray areas: the intersection of extraterrestrial and earthbound aliens, the thin line between reality and delusion, the question of whose interest is the right one. In other words, this title makes me think every week and that kind of feat is worth the highest praise in my book. Ryan Kelly’s superbly non-melodramatic soap-opera art doesn’t hurt, either.
More than the inherently powerful appeal of seeing six (arguably seven, if you count Nick Fury) of Marvel’s biggest heroes together, living and breathing and battling space invaders on a big screen in 7.1 surround sound, I love The Avengers film simply for the fact of its existence. The fact that Marvel managed to pull the movie off in near exactly the slow-and-steady fashion they planned is a commercial achievement of astonishingly solid, creative integrity. That’s worth critical acclaim and $1.5 billion in earnings in my book. Moreover, I commend the film for giving us exactly what we want from a superhero movie: a simple but credible plot, tons of action, special effects galore, good humor, and a spirit of adventure.
If comics occasionally have a rough time convincing the masses of their credibility as a medium, cartoons—Western ones especially—have it worse. But Young Justice weekly delivered plotlines and character work that not only avoided the common traps of over-the-top silliness or forced drama, but actually had context and logic that could only result from meticulously planned and debated storytelling, rendered in DC’s deservedly lauded animation. Granted, the show benefits from a slightly lowered standard of expectation in terms of what a superhero cartoon is meant to accomplish, but in the past year, YJ has pushed me to raise that bar a little higher. I basically follow YJ with the same avidity and interest as some people do with The Walking Dead or Game of Thrones—make of that what you will.
I don’t give artists nearly their due in my reviews, but it’s not because I don’t recognize their importance; I just don’t have the skill to properly critique their work. Like other artistically-deficient folks, however, I still know good art when I see it and at least, I know what I like. And I definitely like—okay, love—Pulido’s art. There have been plenty of artists who drew action with greater flair; whose characters looked more attractive or realistic; who had more fine-tuned eyes for detail. But something about Pulido’s work just rocks my socks like no one else’s; it’s his confidently loose sense of style that I gravitate towards. The best way I can explain my favoritism is that he draws visuals that would look as much at home in a swanky art gallery as on a comic book page.
As always, I’d love to hear from you guys about your own pet projects and creators and trends. Before we move on to 2013 in earnest relief, let’s spend some time reminiscing about the bright points of 2012.
– Minhquan Nguyen