Paul’s Top 10 Comics of 2014 (and AJ’s Lament)

'Saga' art by Fiona Staples.

‘Saga’ art by Fiona Staples.

Last week, we brought you our top 10 films of the year. It was different from past years in that while I still wrote words and words and words, Paul presented his list without comment. He continues that trend with his top 10 comics of 2014. Meanwhile, I’m getting into some unusual territory by admitting that I don’t have a list. Sure, I could have scraped something together, but it wouldn’t have felt right.

I adore comic books–look no further than the year-long Four-Color Flashback series on Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman we just wrapped in December–but this was the year they unfortunately fell by the wayside of my pop culture habits. There are a few reasons: comics are expensive, often going for $2.99, $3.99, or even more for a bundle of 20-25 sheets of paper; reading is a solitary, time-consuming activity which requires laser focus, unlike a lot of movies and TV (I’ll probably get in trouble for that), and this year I chose to devote much more of my reading time to prose; and lately, I’ve grown to prefer sitting down with one-and-done graphic novels or trade paperback collections to only getting a single hit of a story each month.

Then there’s the fact that 2014 was the year I (and Paul, and frenemy of the show Eric Sipple) published a book. I’ve always considered myself a creative person, but actually putting blood, sweat, and tears into finishing a real product available for purchase left me with a lot less free time. Video games were the first casualty–I played the very comics-oriented LEGO Marvel Superheroes for a few days, but that was about it–and then, completely by chance, I noticed comics becoming the second. Which is ironic, considering how heavily indebted The Deli Counter of Justice is to superhero comics.

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Listen to Episode 155, “Slott Bubbles and Pickled Ass”

battlesuperior

Gobbledygeek episode 155, “Slott Bubbles and Pickled Ass,” is available for listening or download right here, and on iTunes here.

Comics! They’re good for you! But wait, no! They’re also bad! This is an accurate description of the emotional roller-coaster Paul and AJ strap themselves into this week. First up, there’s X-Men: Battle of the Atom, an event the boys are surprised to enjoy chiefly because it’s one of the Big Two’s dreaded “events”; then there’s The Superior Spider-Man, about which there is much rage and sadness and talk of poop. There’s a lot of poop talk. Plus, Jurassic Park and Harry Potter are both going back to the well, and the boys pimp themselves and friends. They’re just a coupla classy guys.

Next: yet more Gobbledy-wonderment.

(Show notes for “Slott Bubbles and Pickled Ass.”)

Four-Color Flashback: Chris Claremont & John Byrne’s ‘Uncanny X-Men’ #136-143

Welcome to the final week in our analysis of Chris Claremont and John Byrne’s run on Uncanny X-Men. The first four weeks can be found here, here, here, and here.

Fearless readers, we have come to the end of Claremont/Byrne’s classic run on Uncanny X-Men. There are some very emotional points in these issues, but on the whole, this doesn’t feel like an ending so much as it does yet another springboard for future storylines. And that’s what it is: after all, Uncanny X-Men is still going 30 years later, and even with Byrne’s departure, Claremont had another ten years left on the title. What’s more, Claremont and Byrne had things planned out for a further seven issues until Byrne decided to leave. But more on that later. For now, we’ll dive headfirst into the final eight issues of their run together.

When last we left our merry mutants, Dark Phoenix was preparing to return to Earth, her appetite for destruction not sated by consuming a whole star. In advance of her return, Lilandra’s Grand Council plans her demise, President Carter (for whom Claremont brings back his regrettable dialects) tells Jarvis to assemble the Avengers, and Beast devises a “mnemonic scrambler” which the X-Men can place on Phoenix to limit her powers. The first place Jean goes upon re-entering Earth’s atmosphere is her family’s home in Annandale-on-Hudson. Claremont’s captions say that “[t]his is Jean Grey’s home, not Dark Phoenix’s,” “[y]et Jean Grey is Dark Phoenix.” Her parents, and her sister, are woken from their beds in the middle of the night, their minds now an open book for Jean to unwillingly read. She senses their fear of her, and lashes out, turning a potted plant to crystal as an example of her terrible power. And she would have done more were it not for an unnatural fog produced by Storm that draws Jean out of the house, allowing Kurt to slap the mnemonic scrambler on her.

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Four-Color Flashback: Chris Claremont & John Byrne’s ‘Uncanny X-Men’ #129-135

Welcome to week 4 of 5 in our analysis of Chris Claremont and John Byrne’s run on Uncanny X-Men. Weeks 1, 2, and 3 can be found here, here, and here.

Well.

This is not quite the reaction I was expecting. They’d fought Magneto, endured the Savage Land, tussled with Arcade and Proteus, and now the X-Men were preparing to go up against possibly their biggest threats yet, the Hellfire Club and Dark Phoenix. And yet I’m sitting here, after these seven issues, with a slight pang of disappointment. There are a number of things I could blame this disappointment on. First and foremost, as you may have noticed by the delayed episode this week, these last few days at Gobbledygeek HQ have been a mite rough. You’re also probably reading this column at least a day late. I don’t regard anything about this column as a chore–it was my idea, and there’s no money involved–but all the same, when you know you have something to do and not much time in which to do it, it can seem like a chore. Which I fully admit is not the best frame of mind to approach a work of art, be it a comic book, a movie, an album, what have you.

But the only reason I bring that up is because I don’t really want to consider the alternative: that for the first time during their run, and ramping up to the most iconic storyline of their joint tenure, Claremont and Byrne have stumbled. Nothing huge or damaging, but instead of continuing their ascent, a little fumbling of the ball. There are parts of these issues that are as epic as they should be, but something feels a little off.

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Four-Color Flashback: Chris Claremont & John Byrne’s ‘Uncanny X-Men’ #122-128

Welcome to week 3 of 5 in our analysis of Chris Claremont and John Byrne’s run on Uncanny X-Men. Weeks 1 and 2 can be found here and here.

From #122, “Cry for the Children!,” to #128, “The Action of the Tiger!,” almost every X-Man experiences considerable developments. Since I spilled a boatload of digital ink in the first two columns by going through each issue chronologically, I figured I’d take a different tack this week. I’ll discuss each X-Man individually, then offer some overall thoughts after the fact.

First up:

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