December and all associated holidays came and went, and now it’s a new year. That doesn’t mean it’s time to forget all of what went down in December, so here are some of my favorite books and moments from the last month of 2017 (thank goodness that’s over with.)
Best Book – “The Wicked + The Divine: Christmas Annual” #1
It seems fitting that my favorite comic of December would be some version of a Christmas Special. In series fashion, this “Christmas Annual” has very little to do with actual Christmas. Instead it hops about in time as the series is wont to do delivering an anthology issue as a commercial gift to its readers. In a series of strips that highlight little moments of the Pantheon from an earlier period we get more of the timeline fleshed out. It’s the sort of thing that makes me wonder if when this is done someone won’t try and reconstruct this series in linear fashion and how effective that remix would be. If my feeling of prior edits of Pulp Fiction and The Godfather are any indication, it won’t. These small moments work because of how the story has been told to us thus far. We have all this reader baggage we wouldn’t have if you rearranged everything. Getting to see Baal and Innana get together for the first time wouldn’t hit the same way. Same goes for Luci and Ami. While this issue has very little to do superficially with Christmas it gets at the core symbolic point of the holiday season: spending time with friends and maybe drinking a bit too much.
Best Writer – Christopher Priest – Justice League #34
A single-issue dose not a run make, and it isn’t all that shocking that Christopher Priest can write a good comic, however, “Justice League” #34 marked the start of Priests time leading DC’s biggest team and the strong direction he pointed it in is worth noting. In the lead up to, Priest talked about bringing realism to the book – even if his episodic structuring is anything but – and he delivered a brand that seems workable within the specific reality of the DCU. #34 is centered around a single dramatic question: what happens when Bruce Wayne is tired? Priests answer is nearly apocalyptic. It’s only a single issue but it is a clear statement of intent from Priest, which is the most you can hope for when new creative teams come.
Best Artist – Roberta Ingranata (illustrator) and Bryan Valenza (colorist)
While the first issue of the “Witchblade” reboot left room for improvement, the art team of Roberta Ingranata and Bryan Valenza made a strong statement on the aesthetic of the series. While the series may not be peak 90’s comics aesthetic it’s certainly a key symbol of that era of Image and Top Cow. Ingranata and Valenza go in the opposite direction of the series roots with smooth color shading and overall digital scheme. Character designs are functional that gain texture from Valenza’s pallet and aren’t overly reliant on black ink. Together they create a neo noir aesthetic that fits to the story being told.
Best Love is Love Moment
“The Wicked + The Divine” isn’t what one would consider an overall happy book. Which makes this moment, and strip overall, between Baal and Innana stand out. For once we get to see a union of shared happiness between two people. In a lot of ways, it feels like “WicDiv” in a nut shell: supremely powerful people in a constant state of change with limited time choosing to live in the moment and come together all the while fitting the larger theme of true change being an arduous process. For all that momentary pleasure it still hits that “WicDiv” bittersweet quality with reader knowledge of what’s to come and what happens in the very next strip.
Best Thine Own Self Be True Moment
Look, I get how using a transgender character’s life experience as a mirror for the shapeshifting character acts as an extension and continuation of the shapeshifter as metaphoric transgender/genderfluid representation instead of just actually doing that (shoutouts to Porcelain.) However, as someone with a brother who is transgender, Dr. Victoria October and Basil Karlo’s conversation hit an authentic chord. Tynion IV is spinning plenty of thematic plates in “Detective” this sequence points towards an uneasy conclusion to these investigations.Continued below
It’s also worth pointing out, that it is amazing that Tynion has gotten be to actually care about the emotional health and well being of Basil Karlo aka Clayface, and it’s because of scenes like this that attempt to deal in the humanity of these superhuman characters.
Best Return of an Old Friend
Big surprises don’t really happen with big media properties, either being revealed via ubiquitous cell phones and sharing technologies or through official channels in an odd attempt create buzz and profit. With Hellboy the sealed held for about as long as one could hope and if you happened to read this without that knowledge it was a gobsmacking moment to see Big Red again. Even if he isn’t really “back” it’s still capstone moment to an overall effectively built reveal. The holidays are about seeing friends and family again, and this is a friend we haven’t seen much of recently (despite his ubiquity.)
Best Book that’s Already on Ice
I was extremely pleased to get the email alert that my copy of “Iceman” Vol 1. ‘Thawwing Out’ was in my Kindle-Comixology library. I devoured the book, which for the many ice puns it can produce is a warm, empathetic, look at a man coming out to himself and the world around him and figuring out what all that means. In some ways they are different, in others Bobby is still Bobby. It was nice seeing moments that had been excerpted and shared via Reddit or Tumblr in a fuller context.
It was also somewhat bittersweet as writer Sina Grace had confirmed days earlier that “Iceman” will be ending with #11. (One of several titles recently cut that featured leads and creative teams who were either women, LGBTQ, or people of color.) Did I expect “Iceman” to get a Claremont sized run? Heck no, it’s a solo X-book being published by Marvel where going past 18 issues seems like a major milestone. But still, as a reader in trades and queer guy it hurt a little bit that I didn’t get to speak with my wallet before the hammer was dropped.
Best “no one’s ever really gone”
I’ve had The Last Jedi on my mind a lot lately, it’s a film worth consideration, but that line popped into my head when I saw the final pages of “Spider-Men II.” While the rebirth, reconstitution, whatever “re” word you want to use, of the Ultimate U has been theorized in the pages of “The Ultimates” and elsewhere, getting to see it and the Ultimates again just hit me hard for several reasons. From Ultimate Jessica Drew being alive and well, to the overall Ultimate aesthetic. Mainly it reminded me of something I’d might be willing to buy from Marvel in singles. I’ve stopped buying Marvel in floppies because $3.99 just isn’t’ a good deal when you can get a collection for cheaper (often much cheaper) with a bit of patients. But reading the Ultimate U in trades was one of the touchstones in my early comics fandom. With the market shifting, maybe it’s time for their new EIC to think about what his corporate sibling recently said in that wildly successful movie.
Best Reminder of what Superheroes are Really About In the End
If Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 or everything “Batman” ever hadn’t made it clear, Geoff Johns and Gary Frank nicely illustrate the strange core of cape comics: Daddy Issues aka parental issues in general. From sons and daughters donning cape and cowl to avenge their parents and eventually build the family they never had. To parents donning theatrical outfits out of similarly emotionally fraught feelings of failure or need to preserve. It all comes back to these unfilled relationships. Is “Doomsday Clock” supposed to be some spiritual sequel to “Watchmen” and an updated treatise on the nature of superheroes, yes. Which is why for all the cosmic and meta macguffery it’s all going to come down to parents and children … and maybe a 2001 style Space Baby.