Monday, December 29, 2014

End of the Year Stuff (Comics)

What was big in the comic book world this year?  Lots of stuff went down, some of which I actually stayed on top of.  I'm mainly a DC reader, although I do check out some Marvel stuff here and there.  Both major companies put out a lot of game changing (or attention grabbing, at least) material that generated a lot of commentary.  Here are the ones that stood out the most with me.

Best Event Series: Forever Evil.

Marvel had Original Sin, Death of Wolverine, and Axis going on this year and while I heard good things about both I chose Forever Evil for one reason: a good resolution.  The Original Sin conclusion left a lot of people saying 'is that it?' and the Death of Wolverine ended in a way that a lot of people I talked to thought was pretty lackluster.  Forever Evil, in my opinion, did not do so.  One thing that I look for in an event series is an extraordinary resolution.  After all, these series usually center around an antagonist that has overcome all the usual methods of opposition or a problem that is beyond the conventional methods of solution.  (Spoiler Alert) Forever Evil put Batman in a position of having to work with Lex Luthor and having Luthor, Sinestro, and Black Adam help save the day.  The Crime Syndicate didn't just get brushed aside in two panels on the last page the way Thanos got dealt with in Marvel's Infinity.  The event also shook up the Justice League and "killed off" Dick Grayson.  It made changes that are not going to be undone in time for the next movie or that will be bypassed in 2015 like Marvel is going to do with it's re-imagining of older storylines. 

Best Stunt - Sam Wilson as Captain America

Marvel closed out the year by starting up story arcs with major changes to Captain America and Thor.  Thor was replaced by a yet-unnamed woman after Odin's son lost his worthiness to wield Moljnor while Cap was replaced by longtime compadre Sam Wilson (the Falcon) when he was drained of his super soldier serum during a fight with the Iron Nail.  Both were seen by many as stunt re-castings that were designed to drum up interest and would be undone just in time for Avengers: Age of Ultron to hit the theaters with Rogers and Odin's son in their traditional roles.  Having read both series during these runs, I have to pick the Cap as the better of the two.  It moves a lot faster for my tastes and has been almost nonstop action, and has played up the differences between Sam and Steve in action as Cap without hitting us over the head with it.  I also looks like, given that we've only gotten two issues of Sam as Cap and three with Lady Thor that these will actually continue past May when Age of Ultron drops. Stunt casting always earns a collective groan from longtime readers/viewers, for good reason but so far this one has been done well. 

Quietest Demise - Ultimate Marvel

I wrote about this earlier this year, and it looks to be coming true.  Within a month or so, the only remaining Ultimate Marvel series will be the Miles Morales: Ultimate Spider-Man book.  All-New Ultimates is ending in January and Ultimate Fantastic Four is ending soon as well.  Ultimate X-Men ended during the Cataclysm event and never returned once that was wrapped up.  The Ultimate Universe has become known for killing off characters in droves; by the time Cataclysm was over such stalwarts as Captain America and Thor and another well known character in the Vision were dead or presumed so.  A previous Ultimate Event series, Ultimatum, killed off damn near half the Ultimate Universes' X-Men including Wolverine and Magneto.  In the last five years it's been open season on Ultimate Marvel characters and the end result is slim pickings for any current books.  There have been stories on all the rumor sites about the Ultimate Universe ending next year, along with a cryptic poster from Marvel with all the living Ultimate Marvel characters with the words 'The End" emblazoned on it.  As far as I know the company hasn't made any official announcements so we'll see.  The Ultimate Universe was supposed to serve as an alternate, more modern version of the 616 Marvel Universe (from the standpoint of character origins at least) but as the 616 universe has come to look more like the film universe that's becoming less important, not to mention the difficulty of maintaining an entire alternate comic universe alongside the regular one without writing the same stories twice or going too far out in an effort to be different.  A lot of the things you see in the Marvel films from both Marvel and Sony are inspired by Ultimate Marvel stories, so if it does cease to exist the Ultimate world will live on for a little while at least in spirit. I'm guessing that Miles Morales will be brought permanently to the 616 world through some kind of space-time continuum chicanery soon and that will be the end of it all.

Best Twist: Lex Luthor, Justice League Member

The resolution and aftermath of Forever Evil saw none other than Lex Luthor cheered across the world as a hero.  Now this isn't the first time Luthor was held in high esteem by the world (he did get elected President in pre-New 52 world, after all) and it isn't the first time he worked alongside the usual good guys of the DC Universe but what's different I that now he's doing it as a full fledged member of the Justice League.  Now he's still the conniving snake that he's always been and the other league members don't believe he's had a real change of heart but it's been refreshing to see him around to poke jabs at the often self righteous and sanctimonious members of the league like Superman and to even top Batman I calling out the hypocrisy of the others.  Him telling Bruce Wayne that they're basically the same guy (which is true in a way) and Bruce's defiant reaction has been priceless.  The current story arc involving a virus that Luthor created when he was more villainous getting accidentally unleashed now that's on the good side has been a good illustration of the complex relationship that he has with Batman, Superman and the others and when the falling out inevitably happens and Luthor is back amongst the permanent rogues gallery it should be epic.

So those are the things that stood out for me the most.  Lots of other great stuff was offered from both companies from the conclusion of the Zero Year arc, Superman: Doomed, Red Daughter of Krypton, the Green Arrow Outsiders War, Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy series, the aforementioned Ultimate Spider Man series, and New Avengers, just to name a few.  Hopefully 2015 will bring as much good stuff as 2014 did.  Speaking of which....

Big Story for 2015: Comic world, meets film world

There were a few seeds planted in 2014, but one thing to really watch out for in 2015 and beyond is the convergence between the comic and film universes among the two major companies.  In the past we got movie/TV characters being later introduced in the print world, like Harley Quinn.  But now the print series are undergoing some changes to make them fit more with the TV/movie world.  Marvel is changing the origin of Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch so they are no longer Magneto's children; obviously this is because the Marvel Movie Universe does not include Magneto so their origin in Ultron will have to be explained some other way.  On the DC side, John Diggle and Felicity Smoak have been added to the Green Arrow series; the writers of Arrow have taken over as the creative team behind the book so what they're doing here is bringing some synergy between the two mediums.  The Marvel re-imaginings of several of their classic tory arcs will likely include some tweaks to line up more with the Cinematic Universe and as the DC Film Universe moves forward we'll probably see film versions of the classic characters that look a lot like their New 52 print counterparts.  This will likely be a polarizing move, especially on the Marvel side where classic stories and characters could be changed to fit the existing but still developing film world.  DC will have it a little different since their film world hasn't really unfolded yet, but the New 52-ish version of Superman and Wonder Woman that we are and may be getting will definitely have their detractors.  As with everything, we'll see how it goes. 

No comments:

Post a Comment