MARKLEY’S FEVERED BRAIN: PROS and CONS 2013
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by Wayne Markley
As this is the last blog I will write for 2013, I thought I would look back at the year and what I liked and what I did not like about the world of comics. I thought 2013 was a mixed year overall with some very good books and some which seemed to be searching for a direction. The industry as a whole seemed healthier, with sales increasing, but digital sales growing faster than print which is good in that it is bringing in new readers, but in the long term (ten years down the road), I worry about the future of print. but that is a long time from now so let’s not worry about that and instead look at the year that just slipped by.
I really liked the diversity of the titles that were released this year. I read a lot of books that were from numerous different genres and were all very good even though sales varied dramatically from title to title. I want to single out image Comics in particular in expanding the genres they publish outside of the original superheroes that launched them (Spawn and savage Dragon). Obviously, the most significant two books from image are the walking Dead and Saga. I dislike the special image did of walking Dead #115, with 14 different variant covers, and a midnight release event. Yes, they sold a ton of copies of walking Dead #115 with all of the covers and the gimmicks, but I wish they depended on telling good stories to drive sales, not gimmicks. I also would like them to run ads for the comics or the graphic novels or the walking Dead television show. I think that is a much better way to expand sales for both image and the comic book seller rather than gimmick covers. Saga on the other hand has grown and grown over time because of good storytelling and word of mouth. The trades sell continuously and I see much more and much more people coming into our retail store searching for Saga (and no other comic) than anything in a long time. When I ask them where they heard about Saga, they always say it was recommended to them by a friend. Word of mouth is the best sales tool. I would also like to mention a few other image titles I really like; Ghosted, Rocket Girl, manifest Destiny, Fatale, Clone, and numerous others.
One thing I do not care for in 2013 is the never ending storyline. When I say this I imply mostly the Avengers line of titles; in particular the titles written by Jonathan Hickman. To be honest, this was pointed out to me by a number of customers who come into the Westfield retail store and purchase all the Avengers titles every month – Avengers, new Avengers, secret Avengers, and so on – and every month they ask me if I have read that month’s issue, and I say yes, and then then always follow up with the question, “Does anything happen this month?” As much as I hate to say it, the answer is typically no. I find this to be a trademark of the style of Jonathan Hickman. He tells very fancy stories that tend to be fantastic if read in one sitting (for example his secret Warriors or shield series from Marvel), but his month to month books relocation along at a crawl. I have not gone back and read these Avengers stories in trade form, but from what I what I understand they read much better that way. maybe I ought to drop the monthly books and read the trades. (And to be fair, Hickman does not write all of the Avengers titles I mentioned, so I think this might be an editorial method versus a particular writer.) An Avengers title I do delight in you month to month though is the Mighty Avengers. It is light with a sense of fun that reminds me a lot of the early Stan Lee run. Of all the Avengers titles, and there are quite a few, I would highly recommend the Mighty Avengers above all the others.
Daredevil: end of Days
I also greatly delight in certain marvel titles, such as Daredevil and the Indestructible Hulk, both by mark Waid. I have written about both titles various times over the last year. I have also delighted in a number of other marvel titles, such as the trial of the Punisher and the Daredevil miniseres end of Days by Brian Bendis and David Mack with a number of artists. end of Days was the best Daredevil miniseries I have read in years as it kept you guessing through the last page as to who was whom and why what was happening was happening (and it pays homage to citizen Kane). It was as fine a story as I have read in comics in years. I also really delighted in the Age of Ultron mini-series by Bendis (again) because it actually had an effect on the whole marvel universe and set in motion changes that will affect the marvel universe for years to come. I cannot say the same for Marvel’s follow up miniseries, Infinity. Infinity was very different than Age of Ultron in that it was a cosmic story and had Thanos and set up the current ongoing Inhumanity story of the Inhumans, but it left me cold. In terms of cosmic stories, I tend to rate all of Marvel’s stories against the classic Kree/Skrull war from the Avengers, or Annihilation, which I thought was great (and is soon to be an Omnibus), but when I was done reading Infinity, I felt let down. It was good story, but there was no big build up, no tying up of plot lines years in the making, no classic villains (yes, it had Thanos, but even that seemed less threatening that I felt it ought to have). Overall, it struck me as just a set up for the next event with the Inhumans. I really wish marvel would make their events special in that they make a major change to the world of marvel (say, house of M for example) and not do it just because they feel they need to do an epic event every year or because it is a certain author’s turn to do their epic storyline.
Best of Archie
In 2013 I was also very pleased see to see Archie Comics take advantage of their rich history by reprinting a broad variety of material in a variety of formats. They continued their monthly digests, but they have added double double digests, with twice as numerous pages and reprinting selections of really classic material from the 1940s and the 1950s. They also did three best of Archie volumes reprinting classic stories from their entire history and there is a forth volume coming devoted to Betty and Veronica. They also have done three 1000 page huge collections, which are slightly larger than the digest but are packed with classic material. As I have written numerous time in the past, while the concept of Archie is fairly limited, young boy wants girl and other girl and both girls want him, they have managed to be creative and original (most of the time) for over 60 years. These stories are just fun to read.
I should say I am still rather down on the majority of DC’s output of books, but there are books I do still really enjoy. I think Batman and Robin (currently called Batman and Two-Face) is a highly underrated book with great storytelling and highly underappreciated art. I also really delight in Nightwing and Batgirl every month. Swamp thing has risen to the top of my should read pile because Charlie Soule took over as writer. Soule also writes another one of my favorite books, Letter 44 from Oni. This book has one of the most creative concepts I have read in years. A new president of the united states is told there is a secret space project where the us has detected alien space craft in the asteroid belt just beyond Mars. There are no great fights or tights and capes, just good suspenseful storytelling. I still really like All-Star Western from DC but I do wish they would put poor Jonah back in the Wild West where he belongs.
Overall, 2013 was a pretty good year for comics. one of my loves, comic strips, saw a huge selection be reprinted, everything from Batman to Dick Tracy to prince Valiant to Pogo and everything in between. It saw the conclusion to BOOM!’s outstanding planet of the Apes series. I still hope someone will do Showcase/Essential style reprint of all of the marvel planet of the Apes magazines from the 1970s. (Dark horse perhaps?) We saw one of my favorites, Usagi Yojimbo draw to a close, at least for the moment. A miniseries is coming in 2014, and who knows after that. Also, 2013 saw some of the most creative graphic novels in a long time, from a broad selection of publishers, such as Humanoids, Fantagraphics, Dark Horse, Cinebooks, and numerous others. overall it was a good time to be a comic book fan.
Everything written here is my opinion and does not reflect the thoughts of opinions of Westfield Comics or their employees. As always I welcome thoughts and comments at MFBWAY@AOL.COM. I hope everyone has had a save and fantastic holiday season and that everyone have a safe and better 2014.