• Lex Luthor Year of the Villain Featured Columns 

    2019 in Review: Best One-Shot

    By | December 18th, 2019
    Posted in Columns | % Comments
    Logo by Mike Romeo

    Ah, the one-shot. A comic that is intended to be a standalone experience, unmoored by connection to an ongoing series. Those, true, one shots are hard to come by, but the batch of books we are featuring today are, by their very nature, stand alone experiences. Though some encourage further reading, each of these is a self-contained comic.

    5. Giant Days: As Time Goes By

    One of the things I love most about “Giant Days” is that it was able to end when the characters’ story would naturally end, with their graduation from university. There wasn’t a desire like some properties to keep their core group together past that natural ending point, just to eke out one more season on TV or another 12 issue arc. (Looking at you, The OC. You too, Beverly Hills 90210.)

    So why, if “Giant Days” was to end with Daisy and Esther receiving their sheepskin from University of Sheffield, what is the necessity of “Giant Days: As Time Goes By” time jump and all?

    Well, there is that natural desire to want to check in with everyone and see how they’re doing. We invested so much in our Sheffield Three that it’s natural to wonder: how is post-college life treating them? Did Susan and McGraw stay together? How is Esther managing her Big City Job? Is Daisy finally happy in her own skin (something we all can agree eluded her time and again in the main series)? With “As Time Goes By” Allison and company deliver these answers alongside a self-contained story that calls back to those first self-published issues of the series and even the earlier “Scary Go Round” where the world met Esther de Groot for the first time. The title lends a nostalgic, wistful tone that you may expect from this premise, but this was never a series that made maudlin its calling card. Now, your levels of embracing this zany may vary, especially for those (like me) who discovered the series when it came to BOOM! Studios. And no doubt you have questions about others in the supporting cast that meant as much to you as the core dramatis personae. But you can agree, or at least value, Allison’s motivation in crafting this one last look at the Sheffield three: bringing it back to its roots, back to those Sheffield Three and their friendship.

    The final page of the issue leaves Esther with a bit of a crisis (which I won’t spoil here; you’ll have to read the issue, or at least our review of it). We don’t know how that crisis will resolve itself, but we’re left with confidence that Esther, and her friendships, will be all right. And that’s the most satisfying, comforting ending there is. – Kate Kosturski

    4. Superman: Leviathan Rising

    “Clark Kent Kidnapped!” the Daily Planet headline reads. So begins what is billed as “The epic struggle to control the DC Universe.” Superman scribe Brian Michael Bendis starts his first event at DC by making it clear the Leviathan we may have known is not the Leviathan we are dealing with now.

    Bendis fills the issue with character beats showing how much he understands Lois, Clark, and their world. From Lois’ comment about Clark’s acting to Clark’s actual acting these are characters as familiar as any 80+ year old character can be while still feeling fresh.

    One thing Bendis said when he started on Superman is that he wanted to be as additive as possible. He certainly has not been afraid of changing the status quo. He cleared the DC Universe of every secret society and organization I can think of while delivering one of the most interesting mysteries in the Superman books in years. I’m sure Leviathan will continue to be a challenge to Man of Steel and the rest of DCU for years to come.

    Yanick Paquette delivers throughout his sequences in the issue. Of particular note is Clark’s aforementioned acting moment when being kidnapped by Leviathan agents. The acting and pacing in that page is top notch and a delight to read. The action sequence with Mongul—which Bendis deftly uses as the opening scene for “Naomi”—is dynamic and well interspersed with the conversation between Leviathan and Marisol Leone. Finally, the Red Cloud taking care of Leone’s old head of security is shocking and incredible looking in equal measure.

    Continued below

    Sandwiched in this prestige format one-shot we are also given a preview of the new “Lois Lane” and “Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olsen” books—brought to us by Greg Rucka, Mike Perkins, Matt Fraction, and Steve Lieber—and updated the status quo of the Supergirl book—from Marc Andreyko, Eduardo Pansica, and Julio Ferreira. These are great introductions to a diverse array of books that have made the Superman family as a whole stronger than ever. – Matthew Vincenty

    3. Giant Size X-Statix

    2019 saw the return of Peter Milligan and Mike and Laura Allred’s most acclaimed and renowned project with “Giant Size X-Statix” #1. Originally published in 2001 as a new “X-Force” team with all-new members and an all-new premise, “X-Statix” became an instant cult classic with its examination of celebrity obsession and the damaging effects of fame along with its irreverence, humor, and subversion of established superhero tropes. While “X-Statix” had its fair share of controversy within the pages of the comic book, Milligan and the Allreds were both lauded and criticized throughout their three year run on the comic with Milligan being named an “It” writer in 2002 by Entertainent Weekly and blasted by the Daily Mail the following year for wanting to include Princess Diana as a cast of the X-Statix (for Milligan’s response to the controversy, read his op-ed in The Guardian).

    Years passed and Milligan would return to write a handful of miniseries featuring characters from “X-Statix,” but “Giant Size X-Statix” #1 brings back the original creative team along with the X-Statix cast together again. The one-shot centers around Katie Jones, the sister of Edie Sawyer (aka U-Go Girl from the original X-Statix team), attempting to move past the legacy of her sibling. Things are never straightforward in the X-Statix corner of the Marvel Universe and Katie is thrown into the next generation of the X-Statix team along with a new villains team called the X-Cellent. Milligan’s knack for fun, charming, and goofy characters are on full display throughout the issue. My favorite line of dialogue comes from Katie’s boyfriend who says, “I’m very liberal minded. I once dated a girl with a Coldplay tattoo.”

    Matching Milligan’s sharp wit are the Allreds in a flawless performance of transcendent comic book art. The consistency of the linework and the coloring technique from page to page is something every comic book fan should appreciate. Of particular note is how Mike Allred has refined his ability to illustrate facial expressions in his characters that is so pitch perfect that it adds an even greater surrealness to the story being told. Finally, the last page of the book ends with a tease for a new installment of X-Statix to come in 2020 with “The X-Cellent,” which may follow X-Statix’s more villainous counterparts. If we’re lucky enough to get more X-Statix in the months to come, count this one-shot as the beginning of another classic. – Erik Hyska

    2. DCeased: A Good Day to Die

    With “DCeased,” Tom Taylor proved that he is fully capable of reinvigorating the “super zombies” subgenre. However, there he was still focused on the bigger names around, including Superman, Wonder Woman, Batman, and more. With “A Good Day to Die,” Taylor shows that, much like his work in the “Injustice” comics, he is well versed in handing monstrosity to the wide berth of the DC Universe at large, specifically concentrating on a group of heroes who are not seen in the main series at all. With personalities ranging from the married couple Mister Miracle and Big Barda to best friends Blue Beetle (Ted Kord) and Booster Gold alongside scientifically inclined Mister Terrific and reluctant ally John Constantine, this group could only truly come together this way under his eclectic style, utilizing sadness, fear, and humor in variable levels throughout.

    Laura Braga and Darrick Robertson illustrate this tale in a way that is similar to that of primary artist Trevor Hairsine, but with their own slightly thicker lines and a greater sense of down-to-earth humanity even among those who are either on the level of actual gods or simply not human at all. Moments like John Constantine running away from a veritable wall of the Anti-Living only to see a tragedy mesh very well together, even more so with the concentration on close-ups of each person. Scenery is shown in such a style that it evokes feelings of despair even without a word, shows utter hopelessness in the face of the end times without driving readers away either.

    Continued below

    Much like in the limited series itself, Rain Beredo helps to establish a consistent style across the entire one-shot between the two illustrators. Any differences in style can at times even be forgotten due to such a consistent, empathically-connected selection and utilization of hues and tones. Fear remains consistent from the deepest shadow to the brightest light, and a sense of foreboding remains even between extremes as the hellscape of the “DCeased” Earth gets progressively worse. – Greg Ellner

    1. Lex Luthor: Year of the Villain

    “Year of the Villain: Lex Luthor” #1 is consistently several steps ahead of readers. The title starts out with a young Lex Luthor and quickly evolves into a character study of the notorious Superman villain. Writer Jason Latour attempts to discover what action can be potentially be taken to redeem Luthor. Latour walks readers through a gauntlet of Lex Luthor’s to find out who Lex is as a person. Latour and artist Bryan Hitch go beyond showing the current state of Lex that some of the other one-shots in the line fell into. Latour and Hitch bring readers the motivation behind Lex’s sins but do not seek to humanize or redeem him as a character. Luthor is a troubled man and Latour has dreamed up versions of him from several different realities and continuities that still don’t resolve who he is. The final couple pages make a predictable, but important point on Superman’s greatest foe and the obstacles preventing him from being truly happy. After going through a multiverse-spanning story Latour meticulously paces out the script so Lex has one last conversation at the end of the issue with two final versions of himself. Despite the complex, cosmic setting this story is surprisingly grounded.

    The artwork from Bryan Hitch is another impressively grounded feature of the issue. Hitch’s art is more streamlined in the story and more focused on anatomy and expressions as opposed to endless background detail. Hitch’s work feels fluid and captures the emotion behind some of the important conversations incredibly well. Each of the different Lex’s in the story has an interesting design as well. Hitch captures quite a few alternate contexts and scenarios for Lex incredibly well and shows just how far Hitch has evolved as an interior artist over the past couple of years.

    “Year of the Villain: Lex Luthor” #1 simply has it all. The issue takes the time to flesh out the motivations behind Lex as a character without making readers sympathize with him completely. Latour’s final thesis and conversation with Lex is particularly harrowing and true to his character. Latour and Hitch are not interested in making you care about Lex but they do want you to understand him. The multiverse-based angle of the story allows you to get to know Lex in a few different concepts but none of them ultimately make a difference to who Lex is. I hope to see these two creators back together at DC in 2020. I also hope that DC’s one-shots follow suit from this issue with the incredible amount of ambition loaded in this story. “Year of the Villain: Lex Luthor” #1 is a compelling, complete story that shows a writer and artist who have an adept understanding of their morally conflicted protagonist. – Alexander Jones


    //TAGS | 2019 Year in Review

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