Thursday, January 09, 2020

2019 Comics in Review - Part 4

There were 12 artists that drew at least 110 pages of comics I bought this past year, which is the most since probably 2009, the first year I kept track of that kind of thing. Jen Hickman and Scott Wegener are each at 110 pages, Travel Foreman at 118 (which gets him back on the list for the first time since '09 as well, I think). John Allison, Juann Cabal, and Minkyu Jung were all at 120 pages. Audrey Mok is at 126, Joe Quinones at 128.5, and Leisha Riddel at 132.

Only 3 of the 12 broke the 154 page mark: Derek Charm (164), David Baldeon (173, he and Allison are the only two artists whose work is spread over multiple titles), and, for the second year in a row, the page leader is Giant Days' regular artist, Max Sarin, at 206 pages! Sarin joins Erica Henderson (2015, 2017), and Chris Samnee (2012, 2014) in the repeat winners category.

Sera and the Royal Stars #1-5: A princess is tasked with finding and awakening a group of, deities, elder beings, something like that, or else Bad Stuff will happen. Of course, while she's busy with that, her family's kingdom is under siege from her uncle, who dresses all in black, so you know he's a cranky dude. Jon Tsuei writing, Audrey Mok as artist, Raul Angulo as color artist.

High Points - Snark aside, I do like the conflicting pulls on Sera. The Royal Stars keep insisting she has to help them, because big picture, bad stuff will happen eventually if they aren't all awakened. But in the meantime, her loved ones are in danger right now. Her brother's already died, and her sister seems like the angry, reckless sort that needs someone there to watch her. I like the character designs and color schemes Mok and Angulo are coming up with. Lots of flowing robes and cloaks, but not in a way that looks clunky or difficult to move in. And most of them have their own, unique color combinations so things don't get too monotonous.

Low Point - I'm still unclear on what's going to happen if Sera fails. People keep alluding to time needing to resume its normal flow, so I'm guessing the season are out of wack, hence all the desert conditions, but not sure I'm right.

Smooth Criminals #3-8: Brenda and Mia plan their heist, pull of their heist, then get robbed of it by Hatch and arrested by the feds. They convince the feds Hatch is the real thief and they'll help bring him down, which they do, and everyone is happy. Except Hatch. It's most Kurt Lustgarten and Kirsten Smith writing, although Amy Roy joins in late in the proceedings. Leisha Riddel handles art duties, and Brittany Peer does most of the color work, although Jamie Loughran handles issue 7.

High Points - The two pages in issue 7 where Hatch is posing with the Net of Indra in all sorts of ridiculous ways. That one panel of him trying to rap "Ice, Ice Baby" in particular. On that note, his two poor henchmen, stuck working for such a complete fucking goober. You know what, issue 7 in general. It was really funny, between the scene above, Mia picturing Brenda in prison, Brenda robbing a bank to get thrown back into prison with Mia.

Low Point - I was sure this was originally a 12-issue mini-series, and the way issue 8 ended certainly contributes to the impression. You go from Riddel using mostly 4-5 panels a page, to two 16-panel pages where Hatch jams himself full of some green stuff that makes him into Burnt Umber Hulk, which fortunately then wears off really fast. We have to figure there's some reason he's not older, but that whole bit came so far out of left field so fast.

Steeple #1-4: John Allison (words/art) and Sarah Stern (color art) on a story about a young curate who comes to the town of Tredregyn, where a lot of stuff happens. The reverend spends his nights fighting monsters from the sea, while Billie ends up befriending one of the local Satanists.

High Point - Issue 3, when the Anglicans and Satanists unite against the wind turbines. Wind turbines which may be attempting to harness the latent energy of Tredregyn to usher in the Rapture. That's bizarre enough to be great. That or the bit in issue 2 where Billie explains to Maggie how she attempted to engage the local youth - crafts, community, and enhanced self-worth - and Maggie tells her God is stuffed if that's the best they have.

Low Point - The Witchfest is issue 4? I think it set up some stuff that will pay off in issue 5, but on its own, I didn't laugh nearly as much as I did at the three issues before it.

Test #1-5: Aleph Null is looking for the town of Laurelwood, which has a curious doorway into the future. Aleph figures the future will help them become someone they don't hate being, so that's the place to go. Except the future is pretty much like everywhere else, just fancier, so, you know, tough shit. Wherever you go, there you are. Christopher Sebela as writer, Jen Hickman as artist, Harry Saxon as colorist.

High Point - Issue 3, when everything starts falling apart and Aleph decides their best option is to go deeper, see the place people are observing from, rather than run around in the test environment itself. Which leads to a maze of inky darkness with portals and doorways with bar codes on it. Strange, vaguely human shapes with big swirly eyes. It makes a distinct change from Laurelwood, which is mostly our world, but with a few things that are shiny or weird. Like maybe Aleph is actually getting to where he thinks he wants to go.

Low Point - I don't know. There wasn't really anything that was egregiously bad to me in the series. It's not a happy story, since the same mistakes keep getting repeated by people, but I think that was the point? It's useless to look to some distant future when everything will be great, because people will still be people. So make the best of what you are right now?

Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #40-50: Let's see, Doreen convinced Iron Man to help hide a refugee Skrull from the Skrulls, rescued Peter Parker and Nancy from a puzzle-obsessed villain, had a team-up with her older and younger self against Kang, got dragged into a War of the Realms tie-in, then had to fend off a mass attack of villains led by Melissa Morbeck, which also exposed her secret identity. Then her book ended. Ryan North wrote it, and Rico Renzi colored it the whole way through. Derek Charm drew most issues, although Naomi Franquiz did the puzzle villain issue, and she and Erica Henderson helped on the Kang issue.

High Point - The Frost Giant in issue 46 being attacked by the whales they were going to eat. 'Food has backfired somehow!!' cracks me up. So does Ratatoskr's attempt to mimic whale speech. 'I am Whale!' Other than that, probably issue #42, the Kang issue. Kang trying to defeat Squirrel Girl by plantings traps in the past, only to be thwarted by continuously younger Squirrel Girls was a clever way of doing things. Plus, it was fun to see the different time periods drawn by different artists (Franquiz in the future, Charm in the present, Henderson in the past).

Low Point - I still think the solution to Squirrel Girl jumping on the quantum bomb Doom planted was kind of weak. There were so many other good potential solutions, besides "well, it just wasn't strong enough to kill her, even though Doom intended it to kill everyone in the vicinity, including Thors and Hulks and Fin Fang Foom".

And that does it for the rundown through all the titles. Tomorrow is the point when we pit the books and the creative talent against each other to see who lives or dies based on my entirely arbitrary rankings!

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