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.

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Listen to Episode 110, “#12”

Gobbledygeek episode 110, “#12,” is available for listening or download right here.

It’s been one year–and exactly half the show ago–since DC rebooted their entire line, dubbing this bold creative decision/shameless marketing ploy the “New 52.” Paul and AJ check back in on the New 52, pointing out what’s working (Animal Man, Swamp Thing) and what’s not (Justice LeagueDetective Comics). Has this whole thing been worth it? Has it made a difference for the company? And what are we to make of the editorial troubles that have been messily dragged out into the public? We can’t promise any good answers, but we sure try! Plus, AJ talks about the best birthday present he received and Paul has exciting adventures at the zoo.

Next: celebrate Gobbledygeek’s eleventy-first episode as the boys discuss the 1977 Rankin/Bass animated musical television special The Hobbit. BYOPW (bring your own pipe-weed).

(Show notes for “#12.”)

Last Month’s Comics: ‘Uncanny X-Men’ Ends (Until the Next Issue), ‘Spaceman’ Lifts Off

Welcome to Last Month’s Comics, in which I discuss, uh, last month’s comics. I get my comics in bi-monthly shipments from Discount Comic Book Service, and as such, I can be a little behind. So here we are.

This column is later than usual, as I was a little preoccupied earlier this month, but for all those still madly wondering about what October 2011’s comics had to offer, here we go…

BEST #1

Spaceman #1
Writer: Brian Azzarello
Art: Eduardo Risso
Publisher: Vertigo

I’ve read only a fraction of Azzarello and Risso’s acclaimed 100 Bullets, which ran for ten years from 1999 to 2009, but one needs no familiarity with their past work to be immediately sucked in by the opening chapter of Spaceman, their new nine-issue mini-series from Vertigo. It takes place in a weird, sad future, just a few monsters and flying cars away from the one in Joss Whedon’s Fray. Our protagonist is Orson, a monkey-ish man genetically engineered to travel to Mars, a trip the human race never got to make. Orson and his low-class friends speak in bizarre, disjointed slang; “okee” is how they say okay, and they actually say “LOL LOL LOL” instead of laughing. In this first issue, Orson has ominous spaceman dreams and becomes involved in the kidnapping of the adopted child of reality TV stars. Eduardo Risso’s art is terrific, Brian Azzarello’s storytelling immediately compelling. Choice line, as Orson’s alarm chirps “New day, new day, new day” while he opens the door on a bleak, cloudless future: “Why, you lyin machine…it’s the same fuck old day it always is.” (Plus: $1!)

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Last Month’s Comics: ‘Ultimate Spider-Man’ Swings In and DC’s New 52 Roll Out

Welcome to Last Month’s Comics, in which I discuss, uh, last month’s comics. I get my comics in bi-monthly shipments from Discount Comic Book Service, and as such, I can be a little behind. So here we are. This feature started last month.

So, September 2011, what kind of havoc did you wreak? Let’s find out…

BEST RETURN TO FORM

Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season 9 #1
Writer: Joss Whedon
Art: Georges Jeanty (pencils), Dexter Vines (inks), Michelle Madsen (colors)
Publisher: Dark Horse

To say that I was pleased upon finishing the first issue of the new “season” of Buffy is an understatement. Season 8 started off very well, with Buffy leading an army of 500 Slayers and trying to unmask the mysterious foe Twilight. And to tell the truth, it was great for much of its run, with an occasional stumble (vampires being outed to the public wasn’t handled with much finesse). But the last story arc, with the reveal of Angel as Twilight, cosmic sex, and general batshit insanity, was so damaging that even someone who considers Buffy the Vampire Slayer to be the greatest piece of entertainment ever given us by man had come to the conclusion that it might be for the best if Ms. Summers was finally laid to rest. The final issue of Season 8, though, was a dramatic 180 from the pace and structure of the last few issues leading up to it, and the Season 9 premiere continues in that vein. With Giles gone and magic vanquished, Buffy is depressed and adrift, working as a waitress and getting blackout drunk. It’s all done with Whedon’s razor-sharp wit and keen sense of twenty-something angst. The final “shock twist” is so humdrum and everyday it’s hilarious. In many ways, the metaphorical “party” is over for our Scoobies; now what? I can’t wait to find out.

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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.