Extant’s Pull List – 2015 Year In Review Part 1

I’ve been reading comic books in one form or another most of my life. I started collecting (mostly DC) comics just after the Death/Return of Superman storyline. In more than 20 years of spending money on Wednesdays, I have bought thousands of books. Several times in 2015, much like with pro wrestling, I considered giving it up entirely.

It wasn’t an altogether bad year. I’m going to try and focus on some of the high spots of the year here, but the lows have been frustrating, especially when it comes to DC Comics. Now several years into the most recent reboot, several of the characters I grew to care about are unrecognizable from their former incarnations.

Most disappointing to me has been the company’s treatment of Superman. In the second half of the year, DC Comics revealed his secret identity to the world, depowered him back to 1938 levels and has its entire world doubting him. That’s… not how Superman should be treated.

Of course, with all the complaints about what they’ve done to Superman, DC has introduced the pre-Flashpoint Superman and Lois – fresh from the waste of time that was the Convergence crossover – into the new universe, hiding under new identities with their son and trying to save the world in secret. So, at least there’s that.

Yes, there was a lot to complain about in the comics world throughout 2015, but there was a lot to like, too. So let’s forget the bad and focus on some of the better things I’ve read over the last 12 months.

DC You

After the success of a revamped “Batgirl” comic that was less grim ‘n’ gritty and more fun, DC commissioned a series of books that focused on a more diverse type of story and giving more options for readers. In addition to fun all-ages miniseries like Bizarro and Bat-Mite – Bizarro was probably the most fun book I’ve read all year – the mini-reboot gave female heroes Black Canary and Starfire fun new ongoing series.

In Black Canary, the hero is now the lead singer in a band called Black black-canary-1-cover
Canary and going on a tour constantly disrupted by spies and ninjas. Through the first six issues (issue 6 is released today), writer Brendan Fletcher is still establishing the world that Dinah Lance is now in, which includes a superpowered adolescent guitarist, a jealous ex-lead singer and her amnesiac ex-husband, who served with Dinah on one of her previous teams. It’s not a very DC book at all, and that works to the series’ advantage because it allows Fletcher and artist Annie Wu to build a new world for Black Canary to play in (although I wouldn’t mind a meet-up between the new hardened Dinah Lance and the young and still learning Green Arrow).

The second real ongoing highlight has been Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti’s Starfire. DC Comics took a lot of flak at the start of the new 524671069-starfire-01
for the highly sexualized nature of Starfire in the book she used to share with Roy Harper and Jason Todd, but the new series takes the character in a more palatable direction. On the advice of Superman, Starfire – also known as Princess Koriand’r of the planet Tamaran – has moved to the Florida Keys and has begun to assimilate herself into life on the beach. Conner and Palmiotti write Starfire as a fish out of water on the planet, learning about human customs. She befriends the local sheriff and her hunky brother; she gets a job at an aquarium and she saves lives from hurricanes and strong storms. But the real highlight is Starfire’s interactions with the other people in the community and, surprisingly, the fish-out-of-water routine hasn’t gotten old yet. It quickly became one of my favorite books each month.


My Favorite Licensed Properties

I don’t read a lot of comics based on TV/movie/toy licenses. I try but frequently lose interest, like with Transformers and GI Joe comics (although, I have been reading the Cobra World Order story in GI Joe: A Real American Hero – I keep waiting for Kevin Nash to show up and power bomb Duke through a table). But there were two licensed books I very much enjoyed this year.

DC Comics has held the He-Man and the Masters of the Universe license for a few years now and 2015 has featured a maxi-series called He-Man: HEMEW-13-Print-Cover-7fea0
The Eternity War
. After years of making Skeletor and his minions look like a fool, the final war for Eternia is waged in this series, written by Dan Abnett. The series has been a fun showcase of Masters characters, as He-Man and She-Ra lead their allies against the Evil Horde, with Skeletor and King Hiss’s Snake Men also playing major roles. The sprawling maxi-series is set to run 15 issues (No. 13 came out this month, so the story is wrapping up), and has featured more twists and turns than you might expect from a toy property being published by DC.

The majority of licensed comics come from IDW (which publishes GI Joe, Transformers, Angry Birds and several others), and my favorite has ghostbustersdefinitely been the company’s treatment of the Ghostbusters. The
Ghostbusters comics have been reverent to the movies while giving readers a new direction. In 2015, IDW produced a crossover, between IDW’s Ghostbusters comic characters and the Real Ghostbusters from the early 1990s TV show. The four issue miniseries, titled Ghostbusters Get Real, features the two teams from alternate dimensions forced to team up to defeat an elder god. All of the IDW Ghostbusters series have been fun, and I’m hoping to see more in the future.


The Biggest Surprise

When I was a kid, I would randomly pick up Archie digests when I saw them at the store. The stories were time-wasters bought on impulse. I never looked forward to a new Archie comic, I barely thought of it outside of when it was in front of my face.

That’s no longer true.

Archie Comics made some noise when they announced they would be revamping its characters and bringing the gang into the 21st Century. Archie2015-01-0-c385cWhile the company had released some highly-praised alternative versions of Archie in horror tales (Afterlife With Archie, Sabrina), I figured modernizing the line with a new art style would be a short-lived gimmick and we would all move on. Having read the first four issues of Mark Waid’s new Archie series, I hope it sticks around for a long time.

Waid starts at the beginning, reintroducing Archie and Jughead, building the world where Archie and Betty have just broken up over the “Lipstick Incident” (which is teased for the first three issues before it is explained in No. 4) and Veronica and her family are just moving to town. When Mark Waid cares about the characters, he writes with a reverence that can’t be beat, and you can see how much he adores these characters.

In addition to the main story, Waid also includes a classic Archie tale with each issue that has some ties to the new issue, which adds a little more value.

While Archie has been a strong comic each month, the similarly revamped Jughead comic (not written by Waid but by Chip Zdarsky) is a lot more uneven, unfortunately.

Coming tomorrow – more highlights and a couple lowlights from 2015.