The Storm Comics Blog Review of the Year
A short, completely biased collection of my favourite comic-related things of the past twelve months.
Favourite comic title: Captain Britain
When the rest of Marvel seemed to be drearily going on about who was or wasn't a Skrull, Paul Cornell successfully revamped Captain Britain. Although rooted in Marvel's Secret Invasion, Cornell chose not to follow the obvious path but to focus on the Skrulls plans to vanquish magic, the roots of which are found within our very shores. It was an enjoyable though short-lived series that went from strength-to-strength. A nice cast of characters was built up and developed and Pete Wisdom is a much under-used character in the Marvel pantheon. The final Vampire State storyline was another twist on the usual blood-sucking saga as Dracula and Doctor Doom appeared to join forces to make Britain a nation of vampires. There was more going on in fifteen issues than normally goes on in a hundred of some other titles and despite a reasonably large cast and some complex ideas, the whole thing held together and was very enjoyable to read. Even Gordon Brown got a look in as widely reported in the British Press at the time. This series will be missed (by me, at any rate).
Favourite 2000AD Thrill: Cradlegrave
I am one of those tedious old bores that have been there since Prog 1 and nothing will ever tear me away from my weekly dose of thrill-power! Cradlegrave however seemed to be one of those strips that polarised its readers. I was clearly on the side of loving it even though it was a rather disturbing and twisted addition to 2000AD's ouvre; at times it felt slightly illicit as though you were reading something you shouldn't. John Smith is, I believe, very good at the limited series (Leatherjack, Cinnibar) and in Cradlegrave he built a very believable world and cast of characters. The art was consistently good throughout and this is probably the closest to the real world that 2000AD has ever ventured, a world of lost souls with no money, no jobs, living on a sink estate and with no hope or aspiration for anything better. It really was one of those strips people either love or hate in equal measure but either way I think it was abrave attemnpt by The Mighty One to try something different. I'm still not 100% what it was all about though; I don't know what that John Smith is on but I don't want any!
Favourite comic magazine: Crikey!
Now that Comics International seems to have vanished off the radar, Crikey has well-and-truly picked up the baton and run with it. Every issue gets bigger, glossier and jam-packed with interviews and features. It improves every time having reduced the nostalgia-quotiant to concentrate on the histories and development of British comics across the ages. It is good to see the likes of Pat Mills wrting for Crikey! as well, shedding light on some of the less-remembered people whose careers were steeped in comics in the days when it was an industry. Its only failing for me is in some of the editing where paragraphs get repeated from one page to the next, or dropped altogether and some of the illustrations which don't always bear any relation to what is written. But overall this is a terrific title and it is good to see it making it onto the shelves of high-street newsagents. It gives hope that public interest in comics is still there bubbling away beneath the surface; we just need to tease it out.
Favourite independent title: Harker
A tricky one this as it was a very close tie with Tony McGee's Outcastes. Harker won out simply by being the more easily accessible of the two to a wider audience.A fairly straight-forward tale of a quirky detective and his sidekick as they unravel the slightly unusual murders that come their way, the strip is deftly told with some very striking artwork. Anyone who enjoys any number of the cop dramas on TV will be more than familiar with the format and as such I believe anybody could pick this comic up and follow it, regardless of whether they normally read comics or not. I could easily see this sitting comfortably alongside the Vertigo range of titles. Outcastes is similarly good but its slightly twisted fairy-tale style and its use of comic-specific storytelling probably makes this cleverer but less easy for a non-comics readership to follow. Then again, who ever said it was for them? It is a great title, very different from anything else I can think of at present and both these comics are worthy winners.
Favourite comic-related book: Blazing Combat
Tricky, this one, as I was engrossed in the book 'Strange Days' about Steve Ditko earlier in the year. I enjoyed Marvel's omnibus edition of the old Marvel UK Captain Britain strips and recently I've been poring over Dark Horse's collection of Martha Washington in the 21st Century. However, the title that won out for me is Fantagraphic's volume collecting the four issues of the 1960's title written and edited by Archie Goodwin, Blazing Combat. Apart from being a great collection of stories told from many different angles, it wins out simply by being the one I keep going back to to gaze at the varied art styles contained within. It is a collection of work by some of the great artists of the period and shows what American comics might have been like had they not got so tightly wrapped up in their spandex. And it is worth reading for the Martin Gaines and Archie Goodwin interviews in the back that demonstrate how powerful comics can be in shaking those in power. Anti-war comics have never been better than this.
Favourite TV: Torchwood - Children of Earth
A kind of comic strip on TV and the Titan volume of strips was very enjoyable so I make no apology for including it here. The first series was very silly, the characters were all over the place and the series looked very uncomfortable, not really seeming to know where it belonged. By the second series, the characters were much more consistent and bonded, the stories had upped the ante and the finale was a real tear-jerker with the deaths of not one but two main characters (and one of them had already died once). And then they upped the ante even more when this year we got Children of Earth, a story that unravelled over the course of five nights on BBC One. And I found it completely engrossing. It was a powerful story with lots of layers, a complex cast in which even supporting characters would come to the fore and with the most chilling suggestion of what a government might sacrifice to save power. Peter Capaldi was fantastic playing a government pawn who got trapped within the moral dilemmas thrust upon him; the scene where he quietly walks into his two daughters' bedroom, closes the door and all we hear are several gunshots made our hearts go out to him despite some of the evils he had perpertrated in the name of government. The survivng team drifted apart at the end but If the BBC has any sense it will bring them together again for another TV event next year.
And so on into 2010...
Well that's my review over. Next time I promise I'll get around to Comic Book Design which if I'd read it earlier in the year might have made it to Favourite comic-related book. Maybe next year.
Unti next time, may I wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. May Santa bring you all the comics you desire and if he doesn't then head along to stormcomics.com and take advantage of our three for £8 only offer.
Ho, ho, ho!