Paul & AJ’s Top 10 Comics of 2012

We’ve already listed our favorite TV shows and movies of last year, and we’ve got a couple more lists just before the new season begins. Here are our favorite comic books of 2012; check back tomorrow for our favorite albums (though, considering our extensively detailed history of not knowing how to talk about music, with YouTube clips instead of commentary).

PAUL: 10. THOR: GOD OF THUNDER (Marvel)

Thor in 'Thor: God of Thunder' #1. Art by Esad Ribic.

There was a period of time when Thor was my favorite character in comics. The golden Walt Simonson era was for me the height of otherworldly sword and sorcery super heroics. And while its been quite some time since the character has achieved anything close to that level of wonder, in recent years he’s enjoyed something of a renaissance. From his “death,” to his literal return to Earth under the guidance of J. Michael Straczynski, to his big screen debut, the petulant son of Asgard is kind of back in a big way.

Thor: God of Thunder is the newest incarnation of the title, with the unlikely writer Jason Aaron giving us a triptych of thunder gods, a tale of an alien butcher seeking to torture and destroy all deities told across three different periods of Thor’s life. We see young, arrogant Thor (pre-Mjolnir) and his first meeting with Gorr the God Butcher; modern-day Avenger Thor going full CSI trying to solve the mystery of who or what Gorr is; and far-future Thor, old and broken, sitting on the throne of an empty Asgard, the last surviving god, waiting for Gorr to finish him. It’s a brutal, bloody, and fascinating premise, though I do wish Gorr was slightly more imposing-looking rather than just being a Voldemort rip-off. Aaron creates a genuine mystery and sense of danger with real stakes for our hero, and the painterly art of Esad Ribic suits the romantic epic nature of the story. It’s not quite Simonson-level Mighty Thor (there’s thus far no Beta Ray Bill here), but Thor: God of Thunder is the best the character has been in a long time.

AJ: 10. ANGEL & FAITH (Dark Horse)

Angel, Willow, Connor, and Faith in 'Angel & Faith' #14. Art by Rebekah Isaacs.

I know Whedon fandom is crazy, but I might just be the biggest Buffy fan on the planet. That’s a huge claim, and while I haven’t tattooed James Marsters’ face on my ass or anything (yet), it really is difficult to describe how much Joss Whedon’s world means to me. Without Buffy the Vampire Slayer, I wouldn’t be here today. You wouldn’t be reading these words and I would have even less of an idea of what I want to do with my life. So it pains me greatly to say that the canonical Season 8 and Season 9 comics, though they have certainly had their moments, are largely disposable and occasionally worse. But then there’s Angel & Faith, which has done the impossible, making a monthly comic book series feel like the weekly television shows we fell in love with all those years ago. Christos Gage knows these characters inside and out, both their voices and their motivations. It’s never a question of if the comic will tie back into the shows’ stated mythology, but when and how spine-tingling those connections will be. These are the characters I have loved for a good deal of my life in a story that’s being brilliantly told by Gage and brought to life with wonderful clarity by artist Rebekah Isaacs. If you’re skeptical about Buffyverse comics, you have every right to be, but this one should be a priority.

Continue reading

Gobbledygeek Gift Guide 2011

On the new episode of Gobbledygeek, Paul and AJ told you about all the things you should buy this Christmas season, and now here’s a comprehensive guide! (Including a few items that weren’t even mentioned on the show.)

Note: Most links and prices are from Amazon.

BOOKS/COMICS

READY PLAYER ONE by Ernest Cline
$14.33

Hands down one of the best science fiction books I’ve read in recent memory. It’s like my admittedly overdeveloped nostalgia gland were milked and distilled onto the page. This book is my geeky, pop-culture DNA printed in ink. ~ Paul

Continue reading

The Truth About Cake: Portal 2 Comic Debuts

Valve, the company responsible for the darkly humorous and addictive action puzzle game Portal in 2007, has released the first part of an online comic that bridges the story between the original game and the upcoming Portal 2 (April 19). Titled Portal 2: Lab Rat, the comic, created entirely in-house at Valve Studios with the help of comics legend Michael Avon Oeming, will expand the Portal world and narrative, and introduces a character we all love but have never actually met, or even seen. (Not to mention brings back my #100 favorite character in modern pop culture.)

Part 1 of the tie-in debuted this Friday on IGN Comics. Part 2 will premier Monday, April 11.

UPDATE: And here it is.

UPDATE 2: Check out my review of Portal 2.

Comics 201: More Recommendations

In our latest episode, Paul and I mentioned a number of comics recommendations for beginners in a variety of genres. However, we also mentioned that we had to pare down our lists significantly so that the topic would even approach being manageable. Here, as promised, are our other selections.

SUPERHEROES

FANTASTIC FOUR #232-293 (John Byrne)

After his legendary Uncanny X-Men run, John Byrne took over Marvel’s first family, the Fantastic Four. Cinematic storytelling, emotional character shake-ups, shocking betrayals. And he grew up Sue Storm, taking her from the Invisible Girl to the Invisible Woman.

Westboro Baptist Church Is Picketing Comic-Con

Did you hear the one about the batshit insane lunatic and his inbred clan who spread the word of hatred and intolerance like Christmas carolers from hell? Yeah, there’s no joke there. Fred Phelps’ close friends and family–mostly family–who in the past have picketed the funerals of gays and soldiers, as well as many other political or gay events, are going to be picketing the first full day of Comic-Con, Thursday, July 22 from 1:15-2:00 PM. Why? Why, pray tell, are these soldiers of hate going to be picketing such a geeky, relatively unimportant event? I refuse to link to their website, so I’ll just post their rationale for you, though as you’ll see, rationality has nothing to do with it:

Are you kidding?! If these people would spend even some of the energy that they spend on these comic books, reading the Bible, well no high hopes here. They have turned comic book characters into idols, and worship them they do! Isaiah 2:8 Their land also is full of idols; they worship the work of their own hands, that which their own fingers have made: 9 And the mean man boweth down, and the great man humbleth himself: therefore forgive them not. It is time to put away the silly vanities and turn to God like you mean it. The destruction of this nation is imminent – so start calling on Batman and Superman now, see if they can pull you from the mess that you have created with all your silly idolatry.

So, um…yeah. Sort of speaks for itself, doesn’t it? I don’t post this to bring awareness to their so-called plight, but to make attending nerds aware. I can’t wait to see the counter-protest that is sure to occur. The only problem with these wingnuts, though, is that they don’t care if you’re mocking them or not because, bottom line, they think you are going to hell no matter what you do. They’re the righteous bearers of God’s word. I’m not a religious man, but it’s plain that they’re not.

I’ve been fascinated with Westboro Baptist Church, its leader, and his congregation for years now. If you’d like to learn more about the disturbing Phelps family, you can read the moving speech by his escaped son Nate, or you can watch the documentary Fall from Grace on Netflix Instant Viewing.

So, Hey, Wonder Woman Has Pants and Stuff

I’m still determining how much I actually care about this news, but everyone’s talking about it: writer J. Michael Straczynski and artist Jim Lee have redesigned Wonder Woman’s costume. Gone are the bustier, the star-spangled panties. In are pants–er, “urban leggings”–and a lil’ jacket, presumably for those colder nights aboard the Justice League satellite. But…er…is she still even a member of the Justice League? In a move that confuses the fuck out of me, Diana’s new costume comes along with a new origin. Apparently the gods screwed with the timeline–oh, those gods, always manipulating the course of human history–and the Amazons were attacked by a mysterious figure, baby Diana being whisked away during the battle. She’s raised in New York, and is now totally urban. Bitchin’!

Seriously, though, as much as I like Straczynski (and he alone is to thank for reviving Spider-Man after a decade of awful comics), what the hell? What is the point? As Straczynski rightly states, Wonder Woman has always been more interesting than her books, so he wanted to give her a modern, urban update. Wonder Woman? Urban? And as much as it makes sense for Diana to finally put some pants on while crimefighting, the costume itself looks like it’s been vomited forth from the dark recesses of the 90’s.

Again, though, I’m not sure how much I care. As we all know, this change is not permanent. Does anyone remember when Superman changed his costume? Or Spider-Man? No. This is not going to stick. Besides, though I like Diana, I’ve never been particularly drawn to her comics. I’ve enjoyed the Greg Rucka stuff I’ve read, and Gail Simone is a fine writer whom I’m sure did the character justice, but Wonder Woman is not a character or a property that I am deeply invested in.

But if you want someone who does care, just go read Nikki Finke, who is absolutely outraged that a man–A MAN!!!!–made Wonder Woman put on some pants, thus setting feminism back a thousand million billion years. Apparently she saw the whole objectifying panties thing as being super hardcore woman power stuff. Also, Nikki, and I hate that you’re going to find out this way, a man gave birth to Wonder Woman. Yeah. It’s awkward. Sorry. Though the fact that Wonder Woman is “the only comic book female character [you’ve] ever admired” means you don’t really know jack shit about comic books anyway.