While I have no problem writing Best Of and Top Ten lists, this is my first year coming up with a Best Of list for comics, and it has been a real challenge. First there is the whole “thousands of titles out there” deal, then there is the fact that these kinds of lists are a touchy subject to write. What may be on my Best Of list, is on the @$$ List for someone else. Regardless, it’s time to look back over the year and see what was tops when it came to comics.
1. DC’s 52
In this age of delay after delay for titles (Civil War, Wonder Woman, All Star Batman and Robin), who would have thought a weekly series would meet its deadlines. Crossover events from the past, which required readers to pick up every tie-in issue regardless of the title, are tough to market, because someone may not want to pick up the latest Aquaman just to find out what world changing event takes place. DC was wise enough to realize that keeping everything under one banner would sell better than any tie-in. 52 has kept me on the edge of my seat each week, and is the first title I read when my weekly shipment arrives at my doorstep. Whether it is trying to figure out the identity of Supernova, watching Ralph Dibny tread the fine line between life and death, or waiting for the ultimate demise of Vic Sage, I’m sold on 52 as the best title of the year.
2. Paul Dini writing Detective Comics
DC made another smart move by bringing Paul Dini on board to write Detective Comics. For fans of Batman: The Animated Series, having Dini write these one shots month after month is the next best thing to having the show on again. Dini brings back the detective in Detective Comics giving readers a glimpse into the method Batman uses to solve the crime. While all of Dini’s issues have been one-shots, I’m hopeful he will try telling a multi-part story in 2007.
3. Ultimate Spider-Man: Clone Saga
Lest you think I’m a shill for DC, I do have a fondness for some of what Marvel is doing. Case in point, my number three for the best 2006 had to offer. What made fans angry during the 90s telling of the Clone Saga, Brian Michael Bendis seems to have done right with the Ultimate Clone Saga. I was not a Spider-Man fan during the last telling, but I’ve come on board Bendis’ telling of Spider-Man in the Ultimate Universe. Sure, there were a lot of story telling clichés, but they were executed well enough to keep my interest for each installment.
4. Adam Beechen writing Robin (and LODK)
Having Adam Beechen write Robin’s adventures One Year Later is like a breath of fresh air. Beechen has tapped in the issues of his youth and brought them forward for all of us to enjoy (and to remember our own younger years). Beyond introducing new characters in a well thought out way (as opposed to the Goon of the Month with no back story), Robin has grown as a person in the few issues released in 2006 under Beechen’s eye, without going all Emo. While many fans have been screaming for his head, you have to give props to the man who turned Batgirl from smoldering jail-bait to hard core villain and not blink an eye.
Ok, it isn’t a comic book per se, but Heroes has been an extraordinary television series that has done more for the comic genre than Smallville and Saturday morning cartoons ever could do – it gripped us with the tales of awakening powers and those who choose to use those powers for good and those who want to destroy everything. Yes, the whole “Save the Cheerleader, Save the World” tag was kind of lame, but from the very first scene of episode one, I was hooked. Unlike Lost, which doesn’t have a path to the end, Heroes does have definite story closure and seems well thought out enough to last several more seasons.
Maybe it is because I read this issue on one of those days where life kicks you in the teeth, grins maniacally, then kicks you again, or it could simply be the fantastic job done by Schwartz and Wang, but I have to say this is one of the best titles I have read in a long, long time. Even with all of my fawning over DC’s 52, it doesn’t hold a candle to the emotional storytelling found in the pages of Meltdown. Meltdown deserves an honored spot as one of the Best of 2006.
Josh Howard has grown as an artist and a writer since we last visited the Dead@17 universe. When the new series kicked off, it was clear from the very first page that we were dealing with a brand new set of characters dealing with the doom and gloom of a potential apocalypse. Howard’s style is still the same, but continues to be refined with everything he works on.
8. Hellboy Animated
Fans just can’t get enough Hellboy. Even though a few Hellboy and related titles made their way to the stands this year, seeing Hellboy animated was a real treat. Producer Tad Stones did a marvelous job of bringing Hellboy: Sword of Storms to the small screen and to DVD. And even though Hellboy Animated reside in its own world, Stones does a brilliant job of telling a Hellboy story that stands alone yet honors what came before. I can’t wait for Blood and Iron, and am hopeful a green light will be given to all future Hellboy Animated projects.
9. Web comics
Web comics have been around for years, but this year I have seen more and more quality web comics start up and gain a large fan base. What make web comics stand out is their ability to thumb their noses at traditional media outlets and make a go for it on their own and be just as successful. Without having to spend a huge amount of money each month for printing costs, these new media artists are able to get their message out to a much larger audience and make a living doing it. What are my favorite web comics? That list could fill an entire entry, but let’s just say there are somewhere in the neighborhood of 50 that I read every day.
Yeah, I know, “What a cop out”, but I’m going to cop out in the same way Time Magazine made me the Time Person of The Year. The comic and related industries have had a boon year with attendance at conventions reaching overload, television and movies franchises growing, and the general interest in comics reaching even those that have never picked up a comic before. This wouldn’t have been possible without You!
I also say You are the Best of 2006, because without You, this site would not have grown in the way it has. In just six months, Major Spoilers is receiving more traffic than I ever expected, and it is due in large part to those of you who come day after day looking for news, reviews, and of course spoilers about the industry. I hope to make 2007 an even better year so You keep coming back, and making this a premiere site for fans around the world.
So there it is. There are so many other items I would like to have put on the list, but Ten is Ten. Things like Civil War, Fables, and so on, almost made it on the list, but were just edged out. So the big question is “What was The Tops for you; Civil War, Planet Hulk, The Outsiders, or something else altogether?” Give a shout in the Comments!