Emanation Revelation: Won’t the Real Darkseid Please Stand Up

The Multiversity Guidebook poses a lot of questions…

Who is The Empty Hand? What is the true nature of The Gentry and how are they linked to The Empty Hand? Why are the Little Leaguers robots? What Earth did Hannibal Lecter Sivana come from? How exactly does the heirarchy of comic book window-watching actually function? What are the seven unlisted Earths? Is one of them the Anti-Matter Earth? Shouldn’t one of them be the Anti-Matter Earth? What is Ultraa Comics and how does Earth-33 exist in relation to our real-reality? Why does the Marvel Family of Earth-5 seemingly commune with a Shazam at a Rock of Eternity that is totally different than Geoff Johns’ New 52 version? Why have some Earths clearly NOT been affected by Flashpoint? Which Earths specifically have not been affected by Flashpoint? Why are KNOWN alternate Earths (such as those belonging to Batman 66, Injustice, and other monthlies) not included? Are they outside of the local multiverse—and if so, are they with other universes in a non-local multiverse, which also contains DC’s movie and TV universes? How many multiverses is DC currently operating? Why does the Infinite Crisis video game use the correct Earth denotations from the Multiveristy Map, yet ostensibly take place outside of the local multiverse?

But for me the biggest question of all is: What’s the deal with Darkseid and the New Gods and their supposed multiple emanations?

I think I have a pretty decent answer, but before tackling the question, it’s first important to understand the word emanation is defined—in Webster’s Dictionary—as “the origination of the world by a series of hierarchically descending radiations from the Godhead through intermediate stages to matter.” Or in my own layman’s terms: “a splinter version of a higher-level über-God.”

A sequence in The Multiversity Guidebook takes us high above Earth-51 where we see the New Gods awake from a long slumber to realize that Darkseid has risen from his grave. They also bear witness to Ben Boxer, Kamandi, and Tuftan as the trio learns the true history of the multiverse. Highfather and Big Barda reveal that both Darkseid and all of the New Gods that have been shown in Justice League, Earth 2, Green Lantern, Wonder Woman, Batman & Robin and other New 52 titles are merely emanations. The New Gods in The Multiversity Guidebook claim that they themselves are the genuine, absolute über-Gods and everyone else is just a lesser New 52 splinter-version. All others are replicas unique to each universe, merely pieces or slivers of the Real Deals.
multiversity new gods revelation of emanation

But how did we get to this point exactly? Here’s the history lesson. At the conclusion of Final Crisis, the age of the Fourth World ended and the age of the Fifth World began, meaning the New Gods basically retired and the superheroes of Earth essentially filled their void. Retirement for the New Gods meant being sent to oversee a newly reformed Earth-51. The Multiversity Guidebook shows us that Darkseid was buried on Earth-51 and tells us that the New Gods have been “slumbering” ever since Final Crisis. Orion isn’t shown in The Multiversity Guidebook because, like Darkseid, Orion died and as was buried (as per Final Crisis as well). Anyway, we see that the New Gods are in Supertown, but this Supertown doesn’t float in the sky as the gleaming capital of New Genesis does. This Supertown sits atop the “Screaming Mountains,” implying that it is on Earth-51 as well. It’s a panopticon palace fit for higher evolutionary beings, but notice that it’s literally grounded to Earth. This is because, at the end of Final Crisis, the New Gods left the Sphere of the Gods and relocated to Earth-51! The intention of Final Crisis was to put all Jack Kirby creations into one single universe and retire them from the DC sandbox (as Dan Didio even said in interviews in 2009). Thus, Grant Morrison sent the New Gods to Earth-51 along with Kamandi, Ben Boxer, and Tuftan. With the New Gods on Earth-51 and Darkseid dead (and buried on Earth-51 too), New Genesis and Apokolips were left unneeded and empty… until Flashpoint created alternate emanations to fill the vacancies.

EARTH AD Map

Earth-51: Home to the pre-Flashpoint New Gods and their Supertown home, high atop the Screaming Mountains. Earth-51: Also home to pre-Flashpoint Darkseid’s corpse.

After the New Gods went into sleepy retirement following Final Crisis, a few years passed before Flashpoint occurred and altered DC’s continuity. Flashpoint affected multiple Earths, but NOT all. Whereas Final Crisis (like all the Crises before) was erased from Earth-0’s timeline by a line-wide reboot (Flashpoint in this instance), it wasn’t erased from the timeline of Earth-51, which stayed relatively the same. Some have argued that the New Gods pictured in The Multiversity Guidebook are standing on New Genesis, but, as I stated above, they likely are not and are instead standing in Supertown, Earth-51. It’s not simply that the Sphere of the Gods was above the influence of Flashpoint (even though maybe it was); it’s that Earth-51 and possibly other Earths were above the influence of Flashpoint too. Unknown to the slumbering New Gods on Earth-51 (and obviously the deceased Darkseid), Flashpoint created their emanations when it created a brand new New Age continuity (the New 52). These emanations have appeared as Darkseid in Justice League and Batman & Robin AND appeared as the New Gods in Green Lantern and Wonder Woman.

earth-51 is born

Final Crisis #7: Nix rebuilds the ravaged post-Great Disaster Earth A.D. as the new Earth-51 for the New Gods (and Kamandi).

Cut to now. In The Multiversity Guidebook, the pre-Flashpoint New Gods have woken-up from their hibernation to find the pre-Flashpoint Darkseid resurrected from his grave. The pre-Flashpoint New Gods and pre-Flashpoint Darkseid (i.e. the real true über versions of those characters, which have been sequestered on an Earth untouched by Flashpoint) have awoken to realize that their alternate versions have been running around on multiple Earths ever since the dawn of the New 52. Not only that, the über-New Gods realize that the New 52 versions are literally a part of them—emanations of their godhood.

Hard to understand? Put it in a familiar perspective. This is akin to what happened in the Modern Age with Kal-L, Superman-Prime, and Alex Luthor. Their timelines were completely obliterated with the original Crisis on Infinite Earths, but they continued on in a pocket world, watching and spying on their Earth-0 replacements until their eventual return in Infinite Crisis. Basically, the same thing occurs with Flashpoint in regard to Darkseid and the New Gods, except Darkseid and the New Gods aren’t watching and spying. Instead, Darkseid is a lifeless corpse and the New Gods are in hibernation (as a result of Final Crisis). And also unlike Kal-L and company, Darkseid and the New Gods aren’t in a pocket universe; they are on Earth-51, which, again, was largely unaffected by Flashpoint. The other big difference is that Kal-L and Kal-El were different characters entirely whereas New 52 Darkseid/New 52 New Gods are EMANATIONS of the pre-Flashpoint Darkseid/pre-Flashpoint New Gods shown in The Multiversity Guidebook. In other words, the New 52 Darkseid is merely a part of the pre-Flashpoint Darkseid. Whether or not New 52 Darkseid knows this remains to be seen.

This question of whether or not New 52 Darkseid knows he’s simply a part of the real Darkseid is just one of many new questions that arise from our lengthy answer of the previous question! Silogramsam asks some highly important and relevant related queries on the DCU wiki forum: “1) [Are the ‘versions’ of the New Gods and Darkseid from the New 52’s Justice League, Earth-2, and Green Lantern] controlled by the ‘real’ ones seen in The Guidebook; 2) [Do] those other versions KNOW that they aren’t the ‘real’ ones; 3) Are the ones in the Guidebook ACTUALLY the ‘real’ ones?—(although, these New Gods’ insight into what is going on with those other versions would imply that these are, in fact, the real ones. [I Also] wonder if the writers of those monthlies would agree—(better check-in on Earth-33)! 4) Are those encounters in other universes all planned, purposely, by the one and only Darkseid [or by The Empty Hand]?”

I AM DARKSEID

“I AM DARKSEID.”
Are you?

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The True History of the Multiverse and the Metaphysical Laws of Grant Morrison’s Psychedelic Hyperreality

Last week was great for Bat-related comics. Gotham Academy was dope and Scott Snyder penned IMO his best single book of the New 52 so far with the richly dense Batman #38. (I still have a lot of issues with Snyder’s poor handling of transitions and passage of time, and I hate his overuse of exposition where talking becomes a free action, but hopefully he reins it in a bit and we might finally have ourselves a worthy main architect of the Bat-line. It’s about time!)

The Multiversity Guidebook also came out this past week and it was delightfully much, much more than just a straightforward “Who’s Who” issue. It was a continuation of the non-linear ongoing story of the Gentry’s attack on the our “local multiverse.” Yes, the Gentry is attacking US as well! This is beyond meta, blowing meta out of the water, treading new territory in untried super-multi-layered ways.

While obviously insanely annotation worthy, I’ll save the annotations for the Rikdads and the Uzumeris. This article of mine is more in line with J Caleb Mozzocco’s thoughtful and elegant write-up on The Multiversity Guidebook for CBR. My sentiment definitely echoes Mozzocco’s—an appreciation for the pure joy The Multiversity offers. Mozzocco also took a grand look at the specific portion of the Guidebook that detailed “the true history of the multiverse.” I’d like to do the same, but by first reflecting back upon the precursor to The Multiversity: a little Morrison yarn called Final CrisisSuperman Beyond #1, to be precise. And then I will follow by examining Morrison’s kaleidoscopic meta-layering that drives the themes of The Multiversity.

In Superman Beyond #1, Superman visits Limbo, a space existing outside of regular time and space. There, Superman reads from the only book within the Library of Limbo, a brilliant cube of infinite information, which details the history of the multiverse. And here’s where the meta-narrative begins, but not just a metaphor or a pun or a wink or a nod or breaking of the fourth wall. The meta-narrative actively involves our world. It involves us and it is playing with the very notion of fiction in a very unique way. Fictional characters cease to be fiction because they exist—on paper, in comics, as a result of a higher power, unknown to them, having imagined them and imposed their will via scripts, pencils, inks, colors, edits, and, unfortunately, big business’ impact as well. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s get back to where we were. Superman and Captain Marvel read the opening pages of the book to learn how the multiverse began. Here’s what happens.

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Final Crisis - New Edition-125
The book starts with the blank void, created by The Empty Hand, which we will come up again later. Monitor and Anti-Monitor are naturally involved. Superman shockingly states, “This contains every book possible!” which is apropos because it is the literal output of everything DC has ever published, in a sense.
Final Crisis - New Edition-126“A conscious living void! With our entire multiverse growing inside it,” screams Superman. This is the Multiversity Map designed by Morrison and Hughes, seven years before they actually design it. And time moves forward. The vague “primal origin story” eventually takes us, after a significant ellipsis, to the original Crisis on Infinite Earths, shown above, which was DC’s first major reboot.
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Final Crisis - New Edition-128And after another very large ellipsis, we reach Final Crisis, which also had significant ramifications for the DC multiverse.

The Multiversity Guidebook shows us the same story—essentially the “narrativization” of the publishing history of DC comics (the real life company)—but with much greater detail. But by keeping the decades-old adage that our Earth (the one I’m currently writing from and sitting at my computer on) is a part of the DC multiverse (I think?—but more on that later), the meta-narrative becomes one that is a complicated wonder to behold. The Guidebook shows us Earth-51 as Kamandi reads the equivalent of the infinite Limbo book scratched in an archaic language onto a wall in the empty tomb of Darkseid.
multiversity images guidebookmultiversssss The Multiversity - Guidebook (2014-) 001-017

The Multiversity - Guidebook (2014-) 001-018

Or, in terms of publication in our reality, DC had a Silver Age reboot in the 1950s. In 1961, with “The Flash of Two Worlds” (“Flash #123″) by Gardner Fox, Julie Schwartz, and Carmine Infantino, the concept of a multiverse was firmly implanted into DC Comics. All the comics published in the Golden Age (spawned out of the white void by Bob Kane, Bill Finger, Jerry Siegel, and Joe Shuster) became retroactively a part of Earth-2 (as it would later be named), while the Silver Age ongoing titles would become a part of the universe of Earth-1 (as it would later also be named). An infinite number of Earths (or alternate storytelling realities or places to stick continuity errors) existed overnight. This allowed Fox and Schwartz to bring back old characters and have epic alternate Earth crossovers, as first seen in “JLofA #21″ in 1963.

These pages mirror what Superman and Captain Marvel saw in Superman Beyond—the “primal origin story” involving the omnipotent creator(s), blank void, and Monitors. But unlike the heroes in Superman Beyond, Kamandi has a better comprehension of the total picture. There isn’t a jump cut immediately to Crisis on Infinite Earths (we’ll get there soon enough). Instead, the history of DC continues…

The Multiversity - Guidebook (2014-) 001-019

We skim through the 60s, 70s, and 80s until “The Crisis on Infinite Earths” by Wolfman/Perez (1985-1986), which was DC’s second reboot, and first every complete line-wide overhaul that erased everything and gave a fresh start to the company. All previous titles were immediately merged into one single continuity (more or less). No more Earth-1, Earth-2, Earth-S, or Earth-X, just one DCU Earth. You know the story.

And where the history lesson in Superman Beyond stopped and did a jump cut to Final Crisis, we are treated to the whole thing in the Guidebook, showing what leads up to it and what comes afterward…

The Multiversity - Guidebook (2014-) 001-020

1994 brought about “Zero Hour,” a soft reboot that brought about several unpopular editorially mandated retcons and also began the approach of “time-sliding” in order to keep things fresh and relevant. Most of the changes from “Zero Hour” wouldn’t last, but the lasting impact of this crossover would make things so that the Modern Age continuity remained more current and up to date. In 2005-2006, “Infinite Crisis” had Superboy-Prime (from OUR Earth, or what had previously been our Earth?) infamously “punch reality,” a way for writers and editors to create more retcons galore. The single Earth that had existed in DC for twenty years was split into exactly 52 Earths (more or less), thus bringing back the multiverse, which was explored in the weekly series “52” and “Countdown.” The idea of Hypertime—where all realities could confusingly simultaneously exist even on one single Earth—could now be fully disavowed by editorial and spread about the 52 Earths.

The Multiversity - Guidebook (2014-) 001-021

Morrison’s “Final Crisis” shook things up yet again. And “Flashpoint!” rebooted the DCU for a third time, creating the New 52 in 2011.

From the beginning to the debut of the Golden Age to Flash’s “Crisis on Two Earths” to Justice League of America #21 to Crisis on Infinite Earths to Zero Hour to Infinite Crisis to 52 to Final Crisis to Flashpoint to The Multiversity—this is real world history of the major retcon/reboot stories that have effected the DCU over the past 75 years! But it’s all been made into something that it a part of the fictional narrative. And paradoxically, part of the fiction is that this has all been “written into the fictions of Earth-33 (our Earth).” This is incredible in and of itself because it’s a fiction about fiction that is actually non-fiction. (Or something like that—it’s quite hard to properly articulate.)

And comic book writers are the super-race that sculpt the multiverse…

lil batman

…in comic book form! Here we see Lil Batman (Dick Grayson of Earth-42) reading The Multiversity Guidebook (the very comic in which he is in, while we are simultaneously reading the Guidebook as well). Scarily, evil Sivana has read it too. Comic books are not just pieces of fiction. They are physical windows into understanding the complete histories of entire universes. And to add another meta-layer, not only do writers sculpt these books, we (the readers) can engage with and “move” time backward or forward by stopping, turning pages ahead, or turning pages backward, giving the other members of the “super-race” (we the readers) a pinch of the power that the creators themselves have.

On a side note, I also LOVE that Morrison says “These are files on the fifty-two KNOWN worlds of something called the local multiverse.” There will always be an infinite number of universes and multiverses because there will always be a myriad number of fictions that exist (and that have existed). We are just dealing with this one particular group of worlds. It’s a charming and sophisticated acknowledgement and one that is long, long overdue.

The Multiversity Guidebook is a beautiful and touching tribute to the history of the DCU. While the characters themselves can only remember and be aware of their own rebooted timelines, there is a history that goes back 75 years and even before that, which can be seen by the all powerful cosmic eye of you and I as we read our favorite DC comics from yesteryear. Everything is canon! Everything is IN continuity! And it always has been!

Beyond being a whimsical explanation of DCU’s past and a reminder that nothing really goes out-of-continuity (even stories that are from previous continuities), The Multiversity Guidebook functions as an experimental analysis of the exchange between our real world and the printed universe. Morrison acknowledges, in Supergods, that superheroes look like drawings or special effects in the real world. But it’s more than just elementary meta-fiction for Morrison. Meta-fiction is too theoretical for Morrison, who doesn’t usually deal in abstractions. For Morrison, if a comic book exists in the real world (and it does), it contains a piece of (or a one-way mirrored window to) a very “real” 2D universe that we can hold in our hands. The Multiversity allows Morrison to take his ideas about the “reality” of 2D paper characters—and how we engage with them—to new mind-bending levels never before explored.

Part of this exploration requires us to understand the psychedelic notion of Earth-33/Earth-Prime, which is tough to fully perceive. In previous incarnations, dating as far back as the 1970s, Earth-33/Earth-Prime has been much more transparent—a representation of the Earth on which we live in reality. Any depiction of Earth-Prime must happen on paper, which automatically singles it out, by very definition, as NOT being our Earth. If I’m sitting on my Earth reading a comic partly set on Earth-Prime, then the 2D comic version of Earth-Prime I hold in my hands is actually some sort of Earth-Prime-Prime or Earth-Sub-Prime. A chart, like the Multiversity Map, can indeed show that our very real Earth is a part of the DC Multiverse—a legit multiple dimension string theory world amidst a a bunch of paper 2D ones. But the second our Earth is shown on paper, it ceases to be our real Earth. If someone were to draw the Eiffel Tower collapsing on Earth-Prime, the Eiffel Tower wouldn’t collapse in real life.

In Animal Man, Morrison integrated an avatar “paper version” of himself with the 2D DC Universe. Morrison’s “demiurgic Gnostic overlords” (from Supergods), rechristened as the “super-race of Earth-33″ in The Multiversity, act as script-writers that need “drama and shock and violence to make the story interesting.” Morrison explains further (in Supergods), “The implication was that our own lives might also be ‘written’ to entertain or instruct an audience in a perpendicular direction we could never point to, interacting with us in ways we could scarcely understand but that could be divined in the relationship of the comic world to the world of the creator and audience.” If we follow this line of reasoning (or Morrison’s laws of metaphysics within his hyperreality), one can easily understand drawing one’s self as a “paper avatar” into a story—either bluntly and directly as Morrison did in Animal Man or more veiled, silly, and fun à la Dr. Thirteen story from Tales of the Unexpected. However, does the same thing apply to an out-and-out depiction of Earth-33? The only way this truly works is if Earth-33 is never shown on paper BECAUSE we live IN IT. “There was no physical Marvel universe New York,” says Morrison (again, in Supergods). “The only real Marvel universe New York there could ever be was a paper-and-ink virtual-reality simulation on the pages of the comic books themselves.” Likewise, there is no physical DC Earth-Prime. The only real DC Earth-Prime there can ever be is a paper-and-ink virtual-reality simulation on the pages of the comic books themselves.

Comic book images of Earth-Prime appear to function as “planetary paper avatars” standing in for our Earth, which seems to exist outside the “local multiverse” shown in the Multiversity Map. Surely, these images of Earth-Prime must be outside of the circle, especially since we humans here on our Earth are very aware of “nonlocal multiverses” such as Marvel, IDW, Boom, Star Wars, and many others throughout the omniverse. In spite of this highly common way of thinking about layers of meta-fiction, Morrison’s Multiversity seems to hint at an Earth-33/Earth-Prime that is meant to literally be our Earth. But can Earth-Prime actually be more than a representation? In The Multiversity, will we see Morrison somehow use his adept cosmic meta grasp to link the real world with the fictional real world, making Morrison’s Earth-Prime a whole different animal than any previous conception? Or are we (the readers), as I stated above, truly “outside of the circle,” making the Source Wall a literal-literal version of the Fourth Wall while making us (the readers) a part of The Source itself?

These are long-winded BIG questions about meta-fiction that may seem to have stupidly obvious answers—that it’s an indisputable fact that a fictional paper reality will always be no more than a close representation of our real reality, even if it closely resembles our own real reality down to the smallest detail. But I’d argue the contrary. I think we are all in for a big surprise by the end of The Multiversity–albeit one that I cannot rightly explain at the moment. And it’s because of my wide-eyed puzzlement at Morrison’s grand consciousness-expanding aspirations for blending/conflating reality with fictional reality that these questions warrant being asked. Stay tuned-in and you might find that dividing lines will be blurred to such an extent that fictional reality and actual reality will become one and the same.
i can SEE YOU!!!

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Is Batman Likable?

Lately I’ve been having a really hard time enjoying Batman comics. I don’t mean to be negative. I really want to like them. I’ve been a huge Batman fan for years. Batman was my gateway to the rest of the DC Universe and comics in general, though more and more I find myself not in the mood to read a Batman story in favor of other areas of the DC Universe like Birds of Prey, Green Lantern, JSA etc… How can this be? How could I not like Batman anymore. The answer is that I still do very much, although there isn’t a whole lot in recent comics that reminds me of what I like about Batman. I decided to scour Batman’s 75-year history to remind myself what it is that I do and do not like about this important character from a reductionist point of view to create a new head-canon of Batman continuity that reminds me why I love the character instead of making me forget.

I experience this phenomenon, as I assume many people do, where if I read a comic that I do not enjoy, it seems to damage my love for the medium. Conversely, when I read a comic that I love, it strengthens my love for the medium. Thus for my own sake, I needed to become a reductionist. That is, I need to abandon “completionism” in favor of removing as many stories as I can that I do not enjoy so that my head-canon can become stronger, and thus maximize my enthusiasm for the medium. I’m not sure how many people feel this way. It sounds kind of strange writing it out like this, but it is undeniably how I feel.

This train of thought all started when I decided to give Scott Snyder’s Batman run another chance. Running out of old runs to enjoy, I decided that it was important to leave the past behind and try to see the good in the New 52 so that I could enjoy future runs as a part of a shared universe. I know that stories should stand or fall on their own merit, but strong stories feel even stronger when they are a part of a rich canon. As a consumer of fiction, I long for this sense of awe again that I have since lost when it comes to Batman. I want to live in a world again where the next great Batman story is just around the corner to make the canon even stronger. So I tried—I tried really hard, but the current canon does not feature the Batman that I want to read. So… Is Batman likable? He used to be. Then he wasn’t and then he was again, but now he isn’t. Let’s go back in time…

Batman’s character tends to undergo extremely long periods of stagnation. During the Golden and Silver Ages, Batman’s character didn’t have a ton of depth but still underwent some character development. In his initial outings in costume, Batman was an unrelenting, grim crusader for justice with mysterious motivations. With the introduction of the Robin character about a year later, he became an adventure-loving father figure and essentially remained that way until Frank Miller changed the character significantly. Most fans would argue nowadays that the Golden and Silver Age interpretation of Batman is far too brightly toned for their tastes. They might be right, but if Bill Finger and Gardner Fox were on one end of Batman’s tonal spectrum, then Frank Miller was on the opposite end with an overly dark and dramatic tone. There was, however, a 10-year long period where the tone of the Batman books was in perfect balance: the 1970’s.

The problem with Frank Miller’s influence on Batman is that his character ended up becoming a total dick to everyone close to him. This was not the case during the 1970’s. The books, under the creative direction of pioneers like Dennis O’Neil, Len Wein, Steve Engelhart, Neil Adams, Jim Aparo and Marshall Rogers, became much darker in tone and made Batman much more brutal to criminals, yet retained his fatherly affection to his family. The best example I could find of this is during Steve Engelhart and Marshall Roger’s run on Detective Comics.

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And in regard to his brutality toward criminals, look no further than issue #2 of Len Wein’s Untold Legend of the Batman.

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This is the Batman I find likable. This is also the characterization of Batman that influenced the creators of Batman: the Animated Series, so perhaps I feel the greatest nostalgia reading Bronze Age Batman because I was 7 years old when B:TAS first aired. It’s this simple but overlooked tonal balance between light and dark that makes Batman a likable character, in my opinion.

That all changed when Frank Miller arrived on the scene. Although I don’t necessarily think Frank Miller’s Batman is totally unlikable, the writers that Miller would inspire certainly pushed him that way. From 1987 onward, Batman became a total asshole. Right off the bat (oh, puns…) in Batman #408 (the issue right after “Year One” ends) we get the tough-love Batman who no longer trusts his family to get the job done and who prefers to isolate himself to everyone else’s (including my) frustration.
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Batman stays like this for almost 20 years. It is during this 20-year period that Batman becomes far less interesting than the rest of the Bat-Family. Since Batman is a total dick, the remaining members of the Bat-Family have something to rally against, and characters like Dick Grayson, Tim Drake, Barbara Gordon, Cassie Cain, Selina Kyle and Stephanie Brown successfully outshine their leader in some truly fantastic stories. There was a saving grace post-Frank Miller who ignored Frank Miller’s influence for the most part: Mike W. Barr. Mike Barr’s run on Detective Comics following “Batman: Year One” largely ignored the tonal shifts implemented by Frank Miller, and unsurprisingly didn’t last. I would argue, however, that he produced the most likable version of the Batman character in the post-Frank Miller era, and was the only person until the 2000’s to have Batman undergo a character arc. In his masterpiece Son of the Demon, Barr had Batman go through a very believable and relatable character arc where love and hope returned to his life once again in the form of a pregnant Talia Al Ghul.
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Mike Barr made Batman happy and hopeful… and it was extremely interesting.
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It also included a very touching beat in the Batman/Ra’s Al Ghul dynamic.
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By 2004, the main Batman books had become increasingly dour. Crossovers like Bruce Wayne: Murderer/Fugitive and War Games plus the JLA story Tower of Babel had propelled Batman’s dickishness to new heights (or depths?).
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It was because of Batman’s lack of trust for his partner that all of the “War Games” nonsense happened in the first place. It should be noted that alongside these grim, asshole-Batman stories also ran Devin Grayson’s Gotham Knights which did a wonderful job restoring Batman’s compassion and family dynamic, but was unfortunately pretty short-lived and not influential.

By the time Infinite Crisis began in 2005, writers like Greg Rucka, Mark Waid and Grant Morrison began to notice the problem with Batman. In Mark Waid’s words during his interview with Alan Kistler:

AK: Right. Well, my question was, with writers like you and those I’ve mentioned and your emphasis on fun and wonder, is there any fear that we’re going back to the grim and gritty 80’s with stories like IDENTITY CRISIS, WAR GAMES where Leslie Thompkins is a killer, and where half of INFINITE CRISIS looks like it’s about Batman being betrayed? What do you think of that?

MW: The good news is, and I guarantee you this, when we’re on the other side of the CRISIS, those days are GONE. Just gone. We’re sick to death of heroes who are not heroes, we’re sick to death of darkness. Not that there’s no room, not that Batman should act like Adam West, but that won’t be the overall feeling. After all this stuff, after everything shakes down, we’re done with heroes being dicks. No more “we screwed each other and now we must pay the consequences.” No, we’re super-heroes and that’s what we do. Batman’s broken. Through no ONE person’s fault, but he’s a dick now. And we’ve been told we can fix that.”

Holy shit was this the best news for Batman fans. His characterization got so bad that Frank Miller, of all people, parodied the character in the form of All-Star Batman and Robin. More on that later.

During the weekly series 52, Grant Morrison began a transformation of the Batman character in an effort to return him to the adventure-loving Bat-dad of the 1970’s in the form of the “Thogal” ritual, wherein Batman goes on an inward journey of self-realization to purge his inner darkness. During Grant Morrison’s Batman run, Batman smiled again and began his first character arc in 20 years.
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By the time Bruce Wayne returned from his trip through time via the Omega Sanction, Bruce Wayne re-learned the importance of family after realizing that isolation and a lone-wolf attitude were not getting the job done. He recalls that Alfred was there to help him on that fateful night where he decided “I shall become a bat,” and concludes that the only way to accomplish his mission is to rely on his allies instead of pushing them away.
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This was the direction I really wanted to see the character go indefinitely. I wanted to see the era of Frank Miller’s influence end once and for all and move on to a new, more dynamic and likable Batman. But all that ended with Scott Snyder. This brings us to modern day Batman…

It did not take very long into the New 52 continuity reboot until I noticed that asshole-Batman was back. Scott Snyder now leads the charge of the Bat-books with a Batman who has clearly forgotten about his experiences with the Thogal Ritual and the Omega Sanction and has become a parody of himself once again. Recall the scene in Batman v2 issue #7 where Dick Grayson angrily (and rightfully so) berates Batman for being an emotionless asshole. How does Batman respond? He punches him in the face, of course.
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I realize he needed to get the Court of Owls fake tooth out of his mouth or whatever, but there were so many other ways to accomplish that without acting like an ass. Say…you know what this reminds me of?
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At least Frank Miller doesn’t have Batman hit Dick in the face for no goddamn reason.

Say what you will about Batman’s indifference to killing during the Golden Age, but Bill Finger’s and Gardner Fox’s contributions to Batman were nothing short of brilliant. I still find the original Golden Age stories very exciting, and when I realized that Scott Snyder was channeling that old continuity in his Zero-Year story, I was very excited. I couldn’t wait to see modern interpretation of the purple gloves, Doctor Death, and the first Bat-Mobile. The idea of departing from the Frank Miller continuity in favor of re-embracing the original continuity is fantastic and very Grant Morrison in its conception. If you recall one of the final pages of Batman Incorporated Vol. 2 #13 where a young Jim Gordon is seen comforting an even younger Bruce Wayne who just lost his parents, you probably remember having your mind blown because this directly contradicts Frank Miller’s seminal “Batman: Year One” story where Gordon is shown to arrive in Gotham at the same time as Bruce Wayne. Gordon’s presence in Gotham as a young Lieutenant even before the Wayne murders, however, was a pre-Crisis establishment.
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Unfortunately Snyder’s “Zero Year” fell flat for me even on a second reading. Seeing Greg Capullo’s renderings and re-imagining of characters like Doctor Death was thrilling, but the story is brought to its knees by cringe-worthy prognosticating, and it perpetrates what had already become a very tired cliché as worded by Grant Morrison in a recent interview.

“Every comic book hero — TV heroes too, like ‘Doctor Who’ — must inevitably, relentlessly, repeatedly face a dedicated threat to his or her very essence and core. It’s no longer sufficient to commit a weird sort of crime in Gotham City; any given baddie has to gnaw at the very roots of Batman’s being, fuck up the private lives of his friends and relatives, make him doubt his raison d’etre, set his postal district on fire and blow up his cave.”

Worst of all is the poor characterization. Surprise! Batman treats Alfred like shit to the point where Alfred’s will to participate in Batman’s mission is totally baffling.
image 17image 18image 19

Just fuck right off. Ok, Bruce? Thanks.

So “Zero Year” ended a few months ago, adventure-loving Bat-dad is gone, and Frank Miller’s influence is alive and well due to Scott Snyder’s undying boner for the man. The result is a Batman who treats his allies terribly, pontificates way too much and is arrogant to the point of ineptitude (see “Court of Owls”). But hey, people love it! Batman sells nearly 120,000 copies a month still, so what do I know.

Anyway, here’s my new, ruthlessly reductionist head-canon that I came up with. These are what I consider essential Batman stories (with a good characterization of Batman himself). While my actual head-canon includes a bit more, the vast majority of the stories not on this list I can honestly do without.

Batman: Year One (Batman v1 #404-407)
Detective Comics by Bill Finger, Gardner Fox (Detective Comics v1 #27-38)
The Joker/The Giants of Hugo Strange (Batman v1 #1)
The Origin of Batman (Batman v1 #47)
Eye of the Beholder (Batman Annual v1 #14, Detective Comics v1 #66, 68 )
When is a Door… (Secret Origins Special #1, Detective Comics v1 #140)
The Batwoman/Challenge of the Batwoman (Detective Comics v1 #233, Batman v1#105)
The Black Case Book (Batman v1 #65, 86, 112, 113, 134, 156, 162, Detective Comics v1 #215, 235, 247, 267)
Pavane (Secret Origins v2 #36)
Tales of the Demon (Batman v1 #232, #235, #240, #242–244; Detective Comics v1 #411, #485, #489–490; DC Special Series #15)
Batman by Neal Adams v1(Batman v1#200, #203, #210; The Brave and the Bold #75–76, #79–85; Detective Comics v1 #370, #372, #385, #389, #391–392; World’s Finest Comics #174–176, #178–180, #182–183, #185–186)
Batman by Neal Adams v2 (Batman #219; The Brave and the Bold #86, #93; Detective Comics #394–395, #397, #400, #402, #404, #407–408, #410)
Batman by Neal Adams v3(Batman v1 #232, #234, #237, #243–245, #251, #255)
Strange Apparitions (Detective Comics v1 #469-477)
Batman By Len Wein (Detective Comics #408, #444-448, #466, #478-479, #500, #514, Batman #307-310, #312-319, #321-324, #326-327,  World’s Finest Comics #207, DC Retroactive Batman – The 70s, Untold Legend of the Batman #1-3)
Batman by Alan Davis, Mike Barr (Detective Comics v1 #569-575)
Batman by Jim Starlin (Batman v1 #414-430, The Cult #1-4)
The Killing Joke (One-shot)
Birth of the Demon (Graphic Novel)
Son of the Demon (Graphic Novel)
Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on Serious Earth (Graphic Novel)
Dark Knight, Dark City (Batman v1 #452-454)
Vows (Legends of the Dark Knight Annual #2)
A Bullet for Bullock (Detective Comics v1 # 651)
No Man’s Land (Detective Comics by Greg Rucka)
Detective Comics by Greg Rucka (Detective Comics v1 #742-765, Death and the Maidens #1-9)
Gotham Knights by Devin Grayson (Batman: Gotham Knights #1–11, 14–18, 20–32)
Mad Love (One-Shot)
Detective Comics by Paul Dini (Detective comics v1 #821-837,839-845)
Suit of Sorrows (Detective Comics v1 #838)
Batman by Grant Morrison (Batman v1 #655-703, Batman and Robin v1 #1-16, Batman: The Return, The Return of Bruce Wayne #1-6, Batman Incorporated v1 #1-8, Leviathan Strikes #1, Batman Incorporated v2 #1-13)

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jamison Weber is a long-time comic book fan in his mid 20s with an Economics degree from UCSD. Currently he is working toward a graduate degree in mathematics education in Arizona, and continues to nourish his passion for comic books whenever he gets the opportunity.

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Best Print Comics of 2014, Part 4 (#8-1)

Howdy! Welcome to my Top List featuring the best print comics of 2014. Before continuing on with my favorite eight print comics of 2014, please be sure to check out what led us here.

-Best Print Comics of 2014, Countdown- Honorable Mentions

-Best Print Comics of 2014, Countdown- #24 through #17

-Best Print Comics of 2014, Countdown- #16-9
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And in case you might have missed it, here are my favorite archival/collected/reprinted comics of 2014.

And also, my favorite webcomics of 2014.

 

Okay, onto the ELITE EIGHT! (aama and Saga were #10 and #9, respectively.)

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8. LOKI: AGENT OF ASGARD by Al Ewing, Lee Garbett, Jorge Coelho, & various artists (MARVEL)
agent of asgard
Spinning out of the pages of the Young Avengers came Agent of Asgard, rushing through the gate to wow us all with its superb art, undeniable charm, excellent delivery, and legit handle on character. I never thought teen Loki could hold a candle to Kieron Gillen’s amazing boy Loki, but boy was I wrong. (And we also got a bit of girl Loki in there too!) This is such a stunning book. One of its primary strengths is in how Ewing, Garbett, and Woodard took a character that already has a predestined end point set in stone (and a distasteful one at that), but made us care about Loki and fight for Loki anyway! We believe there is good inside of him! He’s a GENUINE protagonist of the highest literary degree. We know Loki has to eventually become an old, shriveled-up asshole wearing his spandex green 60s outfit and spouting cheesy super-villain-isms… but thanks to Ewing, Garbett, and Woodard, maybe he doesn’t? Agent of Asgard made me feel as though the Marvel Universe is assuredly willing to shake up the status quo. Even lame, pesky, interfering line-wide crossovers (Original Sin and Axis, I’m lookin’ at you), which can so often ruin a book’s momentum, weren’t enough to break Agent of Asgard‘s stride. Kudos to that as well. In hindsight, I actually think merging with Thor for the Original Sin arc was a benefit to this title.

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7. THOR: GOD OF THUNDER & THOR Vol. 4 by Jason Aaron & various artists (MARVEL)
thor lady
My favorite from last year, God of Thunder, ended on a high note in 2014 and then soared even higher when it returned with the latest volume of Thor proper. I said it last year, Jason Aaron and Jason Aaron alone converted me into a Thor fan. And he’s kept me on board. The revolving cast of artists have hurt the title, but when the art is on, it’s super on—(Esad Ribic RULES, we need more Esad Ribic and we need him now). Where do I even start with the rest of the incredible stuff? A ton of things were great in 2014 for the Norse warrior. Dario Agger and Roxxon, IMO, are the first decent villains created in superhero comics for the 21st century. What is CATEGORICAL EVIL today? It’s corporations like Roxxon. Agger represents a dangerous new threat that captures something truly realistic and terrifying, much more than we’ve ever seen from Simon Stagg, Norman Osborn, Justin Hammer, or even Lex Luthor. Ditch the minotaur magick and this guy is the ultimate evil in all of comics. And duh, news story of the year, FEMALE THOR! Mega bonus points for Aaron taking Thor in this new status quo-changing direction, but even more points for doing it so well, so thoughtfully, and so goddamn dramatically. This wasn’t just media-service, a headline grab, or getting Whoopie to talk comics on daytime TV. This is the new Thor and she’s even more badass than the old. I’m willing to bet she’ll be even more developed as well.

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6. MOON KNIGHT Vol. 6 #1-6 by Warren Ellis, Declan Shalvey, & Jordie Bellaire (MARVEL)
MK 1323312!!!MK 02
Warren Ellis! Let me repeat that. WARREN ELLIS. Moon Knight is the Art of the One-Shot perfected. Each of these six issues by Ellis, Shalvey, and Bellaire tells a single weird story in the most pure and visual way possible. No exposition, just good old fashioned comic book storytelling. These are stellar individual superhero stories that meet hard-boiled detective tales—and it works. Moon Knight is without-a-doubt the toughest SOB in superhero comics. Shalvey and Bellaire combine to spin Ellis’s scripts into an ethereal and gut-wrenching visual adventure with their unique artistic flair. And the issue #6 coda that tied it all back to the beginning was indubitably cool and done quite well. There was a lot of thought put into this book, a title which could have easily been bungled by a different creative team. In fact, the awful sex-abuser Brian Wood has done just that, taking what was arguably the best of the year and turning it into birdcage liner in one issue. But I won’t waste any more text on Wood other than to say that I’ve read his entire oeuvre and he’s easily the most overrated writer in the history of comics. Moon Knight is a type of book we normally don’t see coming out of the Big Two, and it was certainly a breath of fresh air. This will be a highlight on my bookshelf when it comes out in trade.

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5. JUDGE DREDD: MEGA-CITY TWO by Douglas Wolk, Ulises Farinas, & Ryan Hill (IDW)
WOLK ON DREDD
The master historian and super fan-boy (I mean that in the best way possible) writes Judge Dredd! And Douglas Wolk’s uncurbed passion shines through. Wolk hasn’t really written any comics before this (that I know of)—but he’s written more ABOUT comics than almost anyone. For the past decade, Wolk has been an inspiration and personal fave when it comes to his views on comicbookdom. Reading Comics was one of the first books I ever read that spoke to me as a superhero comic book consumer. It’s amazing to see such a tremendous mind and an exquisite FAN get to write such a valuable comic. Each issue is slammed full of controlled-chaos in the vein of the old 2000 AD issues. “KEEP CALM…THRILL FACTOR OVERLOAD” is definitely what I feel as I turn these pages. Wolk knows the scorched Earth of the Judges inside-and-out and he adeptly sculpts a scintillating, dynamic environment that bleeds historical richness. And the “Dredd’s Comportment” endings offer encyclopedic blurbs about the Judges and the Mega-Cities, written chronologically and continuity-obsessively (in the best way possible) as only Wolk can. The brilliance continues with Farinas’s prodigious Geoff Darrow-esque art as well. There are a thousand-and-one Easter Eggs on each page. Take all of the excesses of Hollywood and celebrity-worship, amp it up on speed, set it in a meticulously detailed post-apocalyptic future, and add one perfectly-characterized pissed-off Dredd and you have yourself a comic that is pretty much unrivaled in 2014. I’d pay top dollar to see Wolk and company’s take on Luna-1, Hondo City, Banana City, Texas City, East Meg-One, Brit City, and all the other colorful locales of Dredd’s planet.

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4. HIP HOP FAMILY TREE BOOK 2: 1981-1983 by Ed Piskor (FANTAGRAPHICS)
hip hop 1hip hop 2
What can I add that every other comic book critic in the universe hasn’t already said about the incredible Hip Hop Family Tree? If Piskor keeps pace, he’ll be in everyone’s Top Five for the next ten years or more. It doesn’t matter if you know about hip hop or if you like the music, Hip Hop Family Tree is incontrovertibly a national treasure. Piskor’s talent with handsome layouts, pencils, inks, and colors matches his uncanny knowledge of the history of rap. His work has become a sort of bible to me, the ultimate chronicle of one of the most significant cultural movements in American history. I can’t stress how IMPORTANT this book is. When Hip Hop Family Tree ends, it should end with an image of Piskor writing and drawing the first edition of Hip Hop Family Tree. Piskor himself has become just as crucial to the ongoing legacy of hip hop. And to top it all off, this book is crazy fun and DOPE AS HELL. Like the rap gods before him, Piskor definitely “rocks it like that.” Look for a cut-and-paste job for my synopsis on next year’s list when Book 3 comes out.

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3. SILVER SURFER Vol. 7 by Dan Slott, Mike Allred, & Laura Allred (MARVEL)
silvie
When sublime art is introduced to a wonderful story, you get the latest volume of Silver Surfer. Slott had an unbelievable year and the Allreds always deliver. It’s so exciting to see the Allreds move from last years awesome FF to Silver Surfer, allowing them the opportunity to draw some of the freakiest cosmic creatures and outer space beings that Marvel’s sandbox has to offer. They unquestionably nail it on every panel and spread. Slott and the Allreds make me want to visit Marvel’s galaxies far, far away more than any other creators have in the past. I talked about relationship writing being at it’s peak with Saga and All-Star Western, but this takes the cake. Silver Surfer, however, went in a more adorable and heartwarming direction than those titles—dare-I-say more cute or old-fashioned than those titles. But cute and old-fashioned functioned in a fiercely phenomenal way for Silver Surfer! Silver Surfer is one of Marvel’s most endearing characters. Pairing him up with an opinionated human gal that refuses to not dress like a ladybug and who calls the surf board “Toomie” might seem like a recipe for disaster, but I’ll be damned if it doesn’t work. The TONE of this book is admirably spot-on and Slott, with great respect for continuity and history, has a real command for what he does with Norrin Radd. Much of this series thus far has reminded me of Gaiman’s old Sandman with Norrin Radd filling in for Morpheus. It’s comedic, character-driven, well-timed, and completely engaging. I won’t lie, this is the first superhero comic that has made me happily tear-up in a long time. As Norrin states, “A pentagonal cascade happens once in a millennium.” So does a comic like this. Make sure you stop to check it out.

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2. THE MULTIVERSITY by Grant Morrison & various artists (DC)
MULTIVERSITY RULES.
Like other titles on my Elite Eight, The Multiversity doesn’t require much more praise or recommendation than it’s already gotten. It’s all been said by now and unless you’ve been living under a rock on an alternate Earth where The Multiversity isn’t published, then you already now how magnificent this delightful mind-fuck of a comic has been. A project years in the making, it seems like a miracle that it’s finally being published. The occult-influenced “Multiversity Map” by Morrison and Rian Hughes alone might’ve ranked this high, but to add the incredible story and rotating roster of the world’s best artists along with it quickly moves The Multiversity into the stratosphere. Any comic that sparks the kind of internet dialogue and persnickety annotations that this series has accumulated is a worthwhile comic. And this comic has more value than diamonds or gold. Morrison’s fantastic ideas (regarding superheroes, the state of the comic industry, and the very fabric of reality) are flowing even more freely and unrestrained than his fans are used to in The Multiversity, which is welcoming and surprising, especially for a book so intrinsically tied to the usually tightly-leashed main line of the DCU. This is meta upon meta upon meta—the layers are astoundingly complex. And yet, despite the wildness of Morrison’s narrative, there is a distinct level of accessibility that saturates each issue, providing a chance for those less familiar with or actively hostile toward his work to get a foot in the door. This truly is the comic book for everyone: DC purists, fans of the superhero genre in general, and the conspiracy-theory-oddballs that can find hidden meanings in the tiniest of references or themes. The best two issues of the year came out of The MultiversityThe Society of Superheroes and Pax Americana—the latter of which, created with Frank Quitely and Nathan Fairbairn, did things with the medium that have never been done before (except maybe slightly in Morrison’s own precursor to Pax Americana, Superman Beyond). Morrison said Pax Americana is Watchmen DONE RIGHT. I have to agree, and done in an economical forty pages at that. We are talking some serious NEXT LEVEL SHIT. With The Multiversity, Morrison pushes superhero comics (and all comics for that matter) to previously unexplored heights just when most literary critics thought there was nowhere left to go except down. Morrison proves that, as fans and critics of superhero comics, we don’t have to sink into the doldrums or throw our hands up in defeat as we get older. The medium shouldn’t pass us by, it should grow and develop with us. Superhero comics are alive and thriving. They are the highest, purest form of art on our precious Earth-33 and superhero story architects can do insane things (if they are allowed free reign to do so) that you simply can’t do on TV, film, or other print media. The Multiversity is genius-level smart, boisterously fun, playful, inventive, cutting-edge, and absolutely deserving of all the accolades it has received thus far. There is puissant magick in the 2D world of the comic book. That’s not a metaphor either. The Multiversity is powerful proof the magick is real.

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1. MIND MGMT by Matt Kindt (DARK HORSE)
mindmgmt1mindmgmt2
Whew. We’ve finally reached numero uno and it doesn’t get any better than this. Not even close. This is my CLEAR CUT victor. Ever since last year, Mind MGMT has slowly been building toward a huge mega climax. With each release, my admiration and dedication to this title has grown. Matt Kindt has built a real winner with Mind MGMT, the kind of winner that goes undefeated. Seriously, each issue gets better than the one before. With its powerful female protagonist (and female Big Bad too), unique and lovable characters, strange art style, and thrilling “occult magick meets metaphysical science” story, Kindt’s untapped imagination is at hard at work within the sparkling pages of Mind MGMT. There are developments and concepts happening in Mind MGMT that are so on the cutting-edge of sci-fi and spy writing, they undoubtedly will be adapted (albeit cheaply) in some way, shape, or form into Marvel or DC in the future. Mind MGMT is what superhero comics should aspire to be, and I wouldn’t even necessarily classify Mind MGMT as a superhero comic! I can’t remember the last time a comic consistently made me stop reading and say “WHOA” out loud so many times. Kindt always delivers and he always takes his story to that next unexpected level. Even when I expect the unexpected, I’m still stunned time and time again. The way information is conveyed, both to the reader and to the characters within the story is so refreshing and awe-inspiring. There’s nothing quite like it elsewhere. The “Field Guide” text that runs vertically along the side of most pages offers a subtle and often creepy connection to the story panels attached to it (or that come later or before). There are times, due to the unorthodox construction of Kindt’s layouts, when Mind MGMT seems to be speaking directly to the reader, but not in the traditional breaking-the-fourth-wall kind of way. It’s hard to explain the method by which it speaks, and that is pretty damn scary! Kindt has turned Mind MGMT into a chilling exercise in opening up different layers of consciousness as one reads. When Meru meets the First Immortal and that “Field Guide” text about the “triconscious state” crawled off the side of the page from where it “belongs” to the middle of the image panel, I was so surprised that I nearly lost my shit and threw the comic down. With all the weird meta stuff going on in regard to reader interaction, you might assume that the focus on story might get lost in the shuffle. But you’d be dead wrong. The ongoing narrative is fucking clinquant edge-of-your-seat material that is second-to-none. Kindt’s pencil-work is admittedly an acquired taste, but its ostensible shaky inconsistency compliments the story so well once you get used to it. Mind MGMT‘s potboiler builds upon itself month by month in such a way that you can’t help but voraciously crave the next dangerous moment that will undoubtedly come. You live and die with the characters that Kindt has beautifully crafted and fostered. And Kindt has skillfully shaped and molded a vivid universe for his characters to move about in as well. Kindt is clearly at the top of his game here and Mind MGMT always fires on all pistons. I can’t wait to see where he takes Meru next.

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Thanks for reading. See you in 2015!

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Best Print Comics of 2014, Part 3 (#16-9)

Don’t forget to read my…
HONORABLE MENTIONS for print comics in 2014
AND my…
TOP LIST COUNTDOWN for print comics in 2014, BOOKS #24 through #17
before continuing below.

And in case you missed it, here are my favorite archival/collected/reprinted comics of 2014.

And also, my favorite webcomics of 2014, if you are so inclined.
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Howdy! Welcome to my Top List featuring the best print comics in 2014. I already posted the honorable mentions, and #24 through #17 but now it’s time for the TOP 16 of 2014!!! Here are books 16 through 9 (with the countdown eventually leading to my absolute favorite title of the year). The fourth and final part of my list (books 8 through 1) will follow soon. Thanks, enjoy, and leave some comments!
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16. ANDRE THE GIANT: LIFE AND LEGEND by Box Brown (FIRST SECOND)
andre badassss
I love pro wrestling. I love everything about it. So, naturally, a bio-comic about Andre the Giant is already right up my alley. And this book delivers in spades. An open examination of the complexity of Andre’s adventures, sometimes warmly touching and sometimes painting him in an honest negative light. Where does fact end and fiction begin? It’s often hard to tell when a celebrity is larger than life like Andre was, and even more difficult when the giant himself and those around him partook in a career based in performance and a weird mix of deception and hyper-reality. This is a comic I’ve been dying to see made since I was little and I’m glad that it finally exists. Brown’s renditions of classic wrestling heroes and villains are cute in just the right way. When I think of wrestlers, I often think of them as cartoonish caricatures flying around the ring, a sort of macrocosm for what goes on in the pages of your average superhero book. But wrestlers, the art of wrestling, and the backstage politics associated with wrestling, all have an intensely layered depth that most people don’t realize exists. Brown touches upon and balances all of this perfectly in his novel.

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15. THE RISE OF AURORA WEST by Paul Pope, JT Petty, & David Rubín (FIRST SECOND)
jt, paul, and RUBIN
Despite the fact that JT Petty is a personal friend of mine, this entry isn’t just a cheap shill for somebody I know. This book would have been on this list even if Dean Koontz wrote it—although it wouldn’t have been nearly as good! Plus, Paul Pope—nuff said! Last year’s Battling Boy was incredibly dope Pope stuff, some of his best to date. 2014’s prequel to Battling Boy contains all of the same elements, but this time in black & white. With kinetic action sequences and elegant, absorbing character-building through graceful and gripping narrative, The Rise of Aurora West is a perfect companion piece to the original work, one that truly enhances the already vivid world of Arcopolis. Prequels are always dangerous territory to tread in (think Star Wars or Psycho IV), but this is exactly how it should be done. I can’t wait for the next round.

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14. NEMO: THE ROSES OF BERLIN by Alan Moore & Kevin O’Neill (TOP SHELF)
NEMO
Anytime a new League of Extraordinary Gentlemen book comes out, it is guaranteed to be one of the best of the year. And this is no exception. However, critically, this was probably the least praised of the LOEG titles so far. Is this the weakest of the LOEG books because it has less pop lit references and more film references? Maybe, but it still love it. Also, as a student of film, I kinda dig the slight change. Moore clearly loves Janni Nemo passionately and it shows as we follow her continuing arc into Fritz Lang’s Rotwang-constructed version of Metropolis‘ Berlin, a city controlled by the tyrannical Charlie Chaplin Hitler stand-in Adenoid Hynkel. C’mon just read that last sentence back and tell me this isn’t a solid gold premise. Kevin O’Neill’s art on this one is a bit more frantic and messy, harkening back to his Marshal Law days a bit, but it works, fitting in with the frenetic pace of the story.

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13. SANDMAN: OVERTURE by Neil Gaiman & JH Williams III (DC/VERTIGO)
sandman overture #3
I literally jumped for joy when this title was announced a couple years back. This is another example of a prequel DONE RIGHT. Combine arguably the best comic book story of all time with one of the undeniable masters of the comic book art craft and you have a damn near perfect title on your hands. Slow down the pace of the title to releasing one issue every six months and you lose all of your momentum in a heartbeat. Such is the case with Sandman: Overture. Only two issues came out in 2014! It’s a testament to the greatness of Gaiman and Williams, though, that Sandman: Overture still ranks highly on my list anyway. Still in an interesting narrative set-up phase at the moment, I’ve no doubt that Sandman: Overture will explode and rise in the ranks in 2015.

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12. PROPHET by Brandon Graham, Simon Roy, and various artists (IMAGE)
prophet sick
Brandon Graham and Simon Roy’s twisted take on a dead Rob Liefeld vehicle from the 90s is consistently one of the most ambitious, complex, and out there concepts in all of comics today. The narrative and visual ideas that come out of this book in regard to future technology, cloning, space-travel, and much, much more are so high-end in their development that they really set the bar for sci-fi writing. This is world-building/universe-building ON ACID. And this is such a visceral book—you don’t just read it, you FEEL every gloopy bodily-fluid splatter, vomited-up alien Neonaught fetuses, and squishy inter-species copulation down to your core. The art is overwhelming, mirroring the the insane world in which the Prophets dwell. If any other creative team was attempting to pull off such a wild ride, they probably wouldn’t be able to. Three cheers for Graham, Roy, et al. Prophet is fucking solid.

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11. THE GRAVEYARD BOOK by Neil Gaiman & P Craig Russell (HARPER COLLINS)
graveyard book
P Craig Russell’s latest Opus (yes, he actually calls each of his published works “Opuses”) is such a wonderful feast for the eyes. Russell is one of the all time greats in comic book history and we are all lucky that he worked on the illustrative adaptation of Gaiman’s best selling Hugo and Locus award winning novel. Gaiman once said of The Graveyard Book novel that he felt it was like Rudyard Kipling in a cemetery. Russell, having already done a version of The Jungle Book before, therefore seems like the right choice for drawing The Graveyard Book. As you can see, the novel was ripe for adaptation and Russell’s eye-popping bright colors and neat and expressive pencil style, which he has brought to the table for decades now, fits like a glove, capturing the mystery, spookiness, beauty, and childlike awe of the story. I’m really surprised this isn’t on more End of Year Lists. So good.

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10. aama Vol. 2 by Frédérik Peeters (SELF MADE HERO)
aama vol. 2
TOP TEN! TOP TEN! Welcome to the TOP TEN. One of my favorites from last year returns to start it off! Frédérik Peeters is IMO one of the very best writer/artists out there today. Sharp, stylistic, bold, and daring. These words describe the edgy sci-fi weirdness that he brings to the game every time you turn one of his pages. Simply said, aama rules. And the story continues in 2014, revealing answers to old mysteries while opening new ones all at once. The art is fantastic, evoking the strangeness of a space opera, while evoking a strong sense of melancholy, which befits the nature of the tale. I said it last year (in my Best of 2013) that America needs to catch on to Peeters. America still hasn’t really celebrated him, but Angoulême (France’s biggest comic book awards) gave aama its top prize, so at least Europe gets it. C’mon people! Can’t wait for the next volume.

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9. SAGA by Brian K Vaughan & Fiona Staples (IMAGE)
saga baga
I agree with the general consensus—I think Saga was better than ever in 2014. This series, which deservingly won three Eisners (for art, writing, and best continuing story) has gone from being planetary brilliant to universally brilliant to COSMICALLY BRILLIANT. Just when you think Saga has peaked, it just gets better. I love it all. Every character, every Vaughan-type swerve and shocking twist, new developments, relationships bending until they nearly break, bizarre sci-fi concepts whittled down to the mundane banal world of the daytime soap, Staples’ impeccable pencils and colors, sexy characters being genuinely sexy—these are reasons to read this title. I’d live and die and soar through outer space and land on a million planets with Alana, Marko, Hazel, Izabel, and the royal Robots until the end of time. Vaughan writes such a damn good relationship. The saga in Saga is really an intense love story, handled with realism and a delicate authorial touch. Saga is destined to be one of the all time best. In fifty years, we’ll look back at this as a seminal title and think of it as a real game-changer, a classic beyond compare.

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COMING UP NEXT… LAST BUT NOT LEAST, THE ELITE EIGHT. STAY TUNED FOR THE BEST PRINT COMICS OF 2014!

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Best Print Comics of 2014, Part 2 (#24-17)

Don’t forget to read my HONORABLE MENTIONS for print comics in 2014 before continuing.

In case you missed it, here are my favorite archival/collected/reprinted comics of 2014.

And also, my favorite webcomics of 2014.
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And hello once more! Welcome to my Top List featuring the best print comics in 2014. We already tackled the honorable mentions, but now it’s time for the TOP 24 of 2014!!! Here are books 24 through 17 (with the countdown leading to my absolute favorite title of the year). Part 3 of my TOP 24 (books 16 through 9) will follow soon. Thanks, enjoy, and leave some comments!
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24. ALL-STAR WESTERN by Justin Gray, Jimmy Palmiotti, and various artists (DC)
jonah HEXXX
One of the things that makes DC so great is that it highlights its characters from different time periods. And the Wild Wild West of DC is one of my favorite places to visit (when handled well). Palmiotti and Gray have indeed handled it well. The New 52 reboot kept Batman and Green Lantern’s histories fairly intact, but most folks don’t realize that most of Jonah Hex’s history was spared as well! Palmiotti and Gray use a ton of references and nods to the classic Hex of yesteryear while forming a heartwarming, beautiful love story meets gritty, brutal Western. I don’t think I “shipped” harder for Jonah and Tallulah than any other couple in fiction this year. Palmiotti and Gray even brought Hex into the present for an arc—a usually disastrous move and something most writers would botch horribly—but it was amazing and fresh. Highly recommended.

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23. BATMAN AND… by Peter Tomasi, Patrick Gleason, Mick Gray, & John Kalisz (DC)
Batman AND AKWAMAN
What a stupendous year for this title, IMO the best Batman book of 2014. The revamped Two-Face origin is the best Two-Face origin BY FAR and quite possibly the best Batman arc of the year. “The Hunt for Robin” and the start of “Robin Rises” is also in the running. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, when I think of the quintessential Batman artists of the New 52 it is Gleason all the way. Gray and Kalisz’s inks and colors knocked it out of the park. Simply stunning.

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22. HAWKEYE Vol. 4 by Matt Fraction, David Aja, & Matt Hollingsworth (MARVEL)
SIGN-ING
There is a reason this book has won so many damn awards and has become the most highly decorated superhero title on the market. Fraction and Aja have turned “Hawkguy” into a living, breathing Master Class in design. Each layout is more interesting, unique, and awe-inspiring than the last. Just when you think it can’t look or feel and better, they wow you. Case in point above. You ain’t gonna see superhero comics like this anywhere else. Also mad props to the inventive lettering of Chris Eliopoulos.

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21. WILD’S END by Dan Abnett & INJ Culbard (BOOM!)
wild's end
I love Abnett and Culbard. This is their finest work since New Deadwardians and it’s been just as strong so far. Staying in the familiar realm of Victorian British Fiction with a sci-fi/occult twist a la GK Chesterton or W Somerset Maugham, Abnett and Culbard dream up a vivid and charming adventure mystery chock-full of anthropomorphic animal characters. Can’t wait to see where this War of the Worlds homage winds up.

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20. Annihilator by Grant Morrison & Frazer Irving (LEGENDARY)
annihilator
Grant Morrison is always lauded with praise every year. But 2014 is the first year in a long time where there doesn’t seem to be an equal amount of both praise and befuddled detraction. The average comic book reader is really starting to get Morrison. And it’s about damn time. Now, that being said, Annihilator isn’t necessarily an easy piece to digest or process with its layered meta narrative, multiple story-arcs, and running commentary on all things from sci-fi to the occult to Hollywood. However, Annihilator seems like Morrison’s most focused creator-owned work in over a decade. He’s found his stride with old concepts and made them refreshingly new again. And Frazer Irving, like Frank Quietly and Cameron Stewart before, has really become a “Morrison Guy.” This is an incredible thing. The stylized pencils we’ve come to expect, layouts, colors, spreads, marvelous epic backgrounds, you name it—Irving is dynamite on this title and it’s just as much his baby as Morrison’s.

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19. The Superior Foes of Spider-Man by Nick Spencer, Steve Lieber, Rachelle Rosenberg (MARVEL)
superior foes
Let me preface this with a bit of blasphemy. I’m not a Spider-Man fan. Not since I was a little kid. Just never saw the appeal compared to a ton of other characters. But I try, try, try my best to read as much of everything as I can. And I won’t lie, Spider-Man had a pretty killer year. From the ending of Superior Spider-Man to charming varied heroes emerging from the expansive Spider-Verse (I’m looking at you Spider-Gwen), I read some pretty decent stuff. But the best and most refreshing of it all was the ongoing Superior Foes of Spider-Man. Everybody knows I love a good villain book and everybody knows that I love a book that captures 80s Giffen/DeMatteis Justice League humor. Superior Foes has the best of both worlds. I don’t know jack about some of the characters featured in this book, but I’m obsessed with them now and I’ll be damned if I don’t love the Marvel Universe much more now than before I started reading. Spencer and Leiber inject real LIFE and PERSONALITY into their characters in a way that most creators can only dream of. Swoon.

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18. This One Summer by Jillian Tamaki & Mariko Tamaki (FIRST SECOND)
awago beach bumz
The Tamaki cousins have risen to prominence in 2014, becoming one of the most exciting creative duos on the comix scene. This One Summer is the first collaboration between the Tamakis since 2008’s Skim and it’s been way too long since we’ve seen their combined brilliance. The Shigeru Mizuki-esque art is gorgeous and clean. And the story instantly sweeps you away to the moody and complicated shores of Awago Beach. Coming in at just under 300 pages, this is a dense book, but it flows and captivates you so much that the pages seem to turn themselves. A touching and eye-opening coming-of-age tale that has a level of taste and sophistication (both visually and narratively) far beyond other similar comics or most YA fare dealing with similar subject matter.

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17. Zero by Ales Kot & various artists (IMAGE)
zero zero zero!!!
Ales Kot’s first ever creator-owned series garnered a lot of acclaim last year. This year, reviews have been a bit more mixed, but I think Zero really came into its own. The story itself, a non-linear tale about the life of a futuristic spy, is totally dope, but the thing that really hooks me about Zero is its rotating roster of artists. Every single issue has a brand new artist with a new take—and it’s always fresh and exciting. Not only that, Kot writes and directs his co-creators in such a way that every issue of Zero is a masterpiece of PURE VISUAL STORYTELLING. Zero is like Hitchcock illustrated. Sparse text, less exposition, more beautiful layouts and panels that tell the story through the images themselves. THAT is GOOD COMICS! I also love when writers pause within their story to speak about something important—the issue about rape victims during the Bosnian War was a gut-wrenching feminist scream. Whether or not Zero is your style, it definitely deserves your respect and attention.

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COMING SOON… the CHRONOLOGY blog’s “BEST PRINT COMICS of 2014 – Part 3,” which will feature my next batch of favorite books (#16 through #9).

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Best Print Comics of 2014, Part 1 (Honorable Mentions)

In case you missed it, here are my favorite archival/collected/reprinted comics of 2014.

And also, my favorite webcomics of 2014.
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And hello again! Welcome to my Top List featuring the best print comics in 2014. First, we’ll start off with the honorable mentions. These books were awesome, but didn’t quite have what it took to make the main list. The honorable mentions are in alphabetical order below. (I’m not including write-ups since these are only my honorable mentions. If you’d like to chat about ‘em or know more details about my thought process while compiling this list, please send me an e-mail or leave a comment! I WILL be doing write-ups for my Top 24 or 2014, which will be posted soon.)
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Bill the Boy Wonder: The Secret Co-Creator of Batman by Marc Tyler Nobleman & Ty Templeton (CHARLESBRIDGE)
bill the boy
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Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant by Roz Chast (BLOOMSBURY USA)
roz
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Daredevil Vol. 4 by Mark Waid, Chris Samnee, and various creators (MARVEL)
ddv4
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Dark Horse Presents Vol. 3 by various creators (DARK HORSE)
dork IN

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Elric: The Ruby Throne Vol. 1 by Julien Blondel, Robin Recht, Didier Poli, & Jean Bastide (TITAN)
elric!!!

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The Fade Out by Ed Brubaker, Sean Phillips, Elizabeth Breitweiser (IMAGE)
fader

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Hoax: Psychosis Blues by Ravi Thornton & various artists (ZIGGY’S WISH)
hoax

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Lazarus by Greg Rucka, Michael Lark, Brian Level, & Santi Arcas (IMAGE)
laz

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Miss Hennipin by Andy Douglas Day (SONATINA)
henni

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The New 52: Futures End by Brian Azzarello, Jeff Lemire, Dan Jurgens, Keith Giffen, and various artists (DC)
52

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ODY-C by Matt Fraction, Christian Ward, & Dee Cunniffe (IMAGE)
ody-c

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Safari Honeymoon by Jesse Jacobs (KOYAMA)
safari

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Sex by Joe Casey, Piotr Kowalski, Brad Simpson, & other creators (IMAGE)
sexy sex

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Subcultures: A Comics Anthology by Whit Taylor and various creators (NINTH ART)
sub cult
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The Superannuated Man by Ted McKeever (IMAGE)
mckeever
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Through the Woods by Emily Carroll (MARGARET K McELDERRY)
thru da woodz
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Transformers vs. G.I. Joe by Tom Scioli/John Barber (IDW)
gi joe

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Young Avengers Vol. 2 by Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie, & various artists (MARVEL)
YA v2

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COMING SOON… THE TOP 24 PRINT COMICS OF 2014!!! (With blurbs!)

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Best Archival, Reprinted, or Collected Comics of 2014

In case you missed it, here are my Top 14 Webcomics of 2014.

 

And without further adieu, here are my favorite reprinted/archive edition/collected print items that came out in 2014 (listed before you in alphabetical order). I’m not doing write-ups for them as I think these amazing titles basically speak for themselves. Lots of tremendously wonderful stuff was released this year.

 

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75 Years of Marvel Comics: From the Golden Age to the Silver Screen by Roy Thomas/Josh Baker (TASCHEN / MARVEL)
75 yrs marvel

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Batman: The Jiro Kuwata Batmanga (DC COMICS)
batmanga

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The Borgias by Alejandro Jodorowsky/Milo Manara (DARK HORSE)
borgias

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The Bungle Family 1930: Library of American Comics Essentials Vol. 5 by Harry J. Tuthill (IDW)
mr bungle

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Frankenstein Vol. 4: Roy Thomas Presents by Dick Briefer (PS ARTBOOKS)frankie

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JIM by Jim Woodring (FANTAGRAPHICS)JIM

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The Planetary Omnibus by Warren Ellis, John Cassaday, and other artists (DC)
planetary omni

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Miracleman by Alan “The Original Writer” Moore, Gary Leach, Alan Davis, and other creators (MARVEL)
miracle monkey

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Moomin: The Deluxe Anniversary Edition by Tove Jansson (DRAWN & QUARTERLY)
moominish

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Pogo Vol. 3: Evidence to the Contrary by Walt Kelly (FANTAGRAPHICS)
pogo bogo

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Showa 1939-1944: A History of Japan by Shigeru Mizuki (DRAWN & QUARTERLY)
showa 1

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Showa 1944-1953: A History of Japan by Shigeru Mizuki (DRAWN & QUARTERLY)
showa 2

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Walt Disney’s Uncle Scrooge & Donald Duck: The Don Rosa Library (FANTAGRAPHICS)
scroooooged

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Winsor McCay: The Complete Little Nemo 1905-1927 by Alexander Braun (TASCHEN)
windy mccool

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Zenith: Phase 1-2 by Grant Morrison & Steve Yeowell (2000 AD)
Zenith

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And don’t forget my TOP LIST of print comics for 2014 is COMING SOON!

xoxo

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Best Webcomics of 2014

I present to you, dear reader, my favorite webcomics of 2014. And posted before year’s end (for once)!

First, the honorable mentions.

The Sorensen Monologues by Jen Sorensen
Gunshow by KC Green
Kingdoms Lost by Boulet
Existential Comics
Subnormality by Winston Rowntree
Hey Pais by Sarah Bauer
Hark! A Vagrant by Kate Beaton
Garfield Minus Garfield by Jim Davis/Dan Walsh
This Modern World by Tom Tomorrow
Batgirl/Supergirl by Mike Maihack
All Along the Wall by Emily Carroll
The Hole the Fox Did Make by Emily Carroll
Octopus Pie by Meredith Gran

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And the top 14 of 2014.

14. Priya’s Shakti by Ram Devineni/Vikas K. Menon/Dan Goldman
shakti
Some webcomics are worth more simply because of the message the contain and the importance of the message that is being delivered. Priya’s Shakti is a call for sanity regarding the abuse of women, especially in India. Gender-based violence is so commonplace it is considered practically natural in some parts of India. This comic not only interactively manifests itself as a breathing form of activism, but does so nicely with Goldman’s trippy photo-meets-illustration art and Devineni and Menon’s effective narrative as well. The literal intervention of the gods in the story gives us a reason to believe that change doesn’t require a deus ex machina, only an liberal dose of humanity instead.
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13. Axe Cop by Charlotte O’Brien/Amelia O’Brien/Tom Martin
axe cop
Ya’ll know Axe Cop, right? Well if you don’t then shame on you! Axe Cop is an online strip that started in 2009 by 5-year-old Malachai Nicolle and his brother 29-year-old Ethan Nicolle. Malachai used the wild untamed imagination of his little kid brain to draft the most insanely amazing surrealist tales, which his illustrator brother Ethan turned into a fantastic action-packed comic. (The strip was collected into print comics and eventually turned into an animated TV show on Fox starring Nick Offerman.) But recently, the Nicolles turned the reigns over to 9-year-old Charlotte and her sister 5-year-old Amelia, with art duties transferring to their 37-year-old uncle Tom. The results were delightful. Axe Cop has always spoken to me, especially since I’ve done a similar concept in my Comic Book Workshops that I hold for kids in Brooklyn, NY. Hey writers out there, if you are ever suffering from a creative block, ask a kid for story advice!

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12. Blimpakind by Talya Modlin
blimpakind
Beautiful napkin-sketchy artwork combined with an intriguing and captivating ongoing narrative make Modlin’s strip one of my faves. The pretty, purposefully cluttered layouts and use of primary colors are winning eye-poppers (and brain-poppers). Super piece of work that is a definite must read.
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11. The Key by Grant Morrison/Rian Hughes
the key
Master writer Grant Morrison and master designer Rian Hughes didn’t just combine to make the amazing Multiversity Map for DC Comics this year, they combined to make a short scroll-down webcomic for BBC News’ Freedom 2014 as well. With no words, the comic is simple yet effective, reflecting the current patriarchal/capitalist/corporate society in which we live, through the lens of an elegant sci-fi tale about a totalitarian quasi-future a la Repent Harlequin Said the Ticktockman. Sometimes the best stories don’t require any text. This is an example of visual storytelling at its finest.
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10. As the Crow Flies by Melanie Gillman
as the crow flies
A teenage queer coming of age story set in the unassumingly scary backdrop of a Christian summer camp. What’s not to love? Gillman’s art is cute but serious all at once, an achievement only heightened by the fact that the whole strip is done entirely with colored pencils. This is the kind of heart-filled sex-political comic that should be educating our high-schoolers instead of what passes for “sex ed” in school these days.
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9. Demon by Jason Shiga
shiga demon
Demon is a definite page turner (or page clicker, I guess I should say). Shiga starts with his main character committing suicide over and over (akin to the best scene in Groundhog Day) for the first forty plus pages before getting to the meat-and-potatoes concept of a fugitive demon that can hop from body to body. Shiga’s simple cartoon style (done only in shades of red and black) mixed with gratuitous and graphic violence only add to the striking nature of his narrative.
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8. Tom the Dancing Bug by Ruben Bolling
tom the dancing bug's richard scarry
A slight Michael Kupperman vibe gives this funny satire comic enough dadaist edge to make it one of the best of the year. Tom the Dancing Bug has been around since 1990, but now that the popular strip has firmly made its digital mark, Bolling is still as culturally and politically relevant as he ever was. Having already garnered numerous awards in the past, it wouldn’t surprise me if Tom the Dancing Bug continued its winning ways based upon recent offerings. Bolling was bitingly on-point in 2014.
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7. Flowertown, U.S.A. by Rick Altergott
flowertown
Like Bolling, Rick Altergott has been making great comics for a really long time. Having long ago conquered the hearts, farts, and minds of print comics, Altergott has continued to make funny (and make weird) online. The latest version of Flowertown, U.S.A., given mainstream delivery via VICE.com, was an R Crumb/Peter Bagge-esque romp that showcased Altergott’s signature comix-style art and crass cultural commentary. Destined to be a comedy classic.

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6. Trigger Warning: Breakfast by anonymous
breakfast
One of the best things to happen this year was the introduction of The Nib at Medium.com, an amazing host for indie webcomics of every kind. I didn’t get to read as many comics on there as I wanted to, but I did read Trigger Warning and it blew me away. Nothing so simple and succinct and blunt (in recent memory) expresses rape culture quite like this comic. Rape culture surrounds us. It is everywhere, not just in the form of back alleyway assaults and acid attacks in India. It permeates every facet of our daily lives here in America and much of society doesn’t even realize it—either via ignorance or because society is a masking-construct that normalizes date rape, fraternity mentality, slut-shaming, victim-blaming, sexism, misogyny, etc… Our patriarchal nightmare has also turned “no means no” into a game of lose-lose semantics. And the author of this work portrays all of those ideas and more in quick, devastating fashion. This is a must read for all. Powerful stuff. The first step in changing the world is prying open the world’s eyes.
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5. Comics, Everybody by Eugene Ahn/Chris Haley/Jordan Gibson/Jessica Marrs
p9-colors
For years, ComicsAlliance.com has been sporadically publishing Comics, Everybody, a spin-off of Chris “Adam WarRock” Ahn’s Let’s Be Friends Again. And for years, folks have enjoyed how Ahn and company neatly spell out the convoluted and confusing continuity histories of our favorite superheroes. However, no one has ever really given enough praise to Ahn, Haley, Gibson, and Marrs for just how great this comic really is! Informative and hilarious, I get excited whenever a new one pops up in my blogroll. (They only did five comics this year and I wish they did more.) For fans of superhero lore and fans of good humor, Comics, Everybody really is for everybody. And everybody should read it.

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4. Blobby Boys by Alex Schubert
blobby boys!
Blobby Boys rules. This comic is beyond dope and I love it. Schubert’s fucked-up, cracked-out nods to Nickelodeon, Adventure Time, Snoopy, Wayne Coyne, Etsy, and hipsterdom make this one of the most hilarious of the year. A Koyama Press indie strip turned mega huge via VICE.com, Through the bizarre and often dadaist misadventures of its main characters, Blobby Boys gives us something that is so cutting edge and relevant that it seems to be coming to us from the future (of pop culture).

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3. Underwhelming Lovecraft Monsters by Patrick Dean
hp lovecraft
Noticing a trend? If it ain’t political, satirical, or non-sequitur weird, it’s something that forms mini-synopses of something else. And such is the case with Underwhelming Lovecraft Monsters, which takes HP Lovecraft stories and adapts them into comics, albeit with a funny or silly point of view. A true genius concept (wish I’d thought of it!) that never fails to satisfy. Imagine the scariest Lovecraft tale, the one that sends shivers down your spine to the tips of your toes and through the ground into the mad dark chaos of the Old Ones. Now imagine that mind-altering ground-breaking story as part of a simple six-panel funny-cartoon. Solid gold.

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2. Super-Enigmatix by Richard Sala
sala
Richard Sala has a fabulous bibliography dating back to the early 1990s. If you aren’t familiar with his work, please treat yourself and check it out. This year, Sala created Super-Enigmatix, a narrative webcomic about a dastardly but charismatic super-villain in the vein of Fantomas or Diabolik. (This webcomic has been collected as In A Glass Grotesquely.) Sala’s signature art flair shines through here down to the last detail, including the elegant lettering. And the story is riveting to boot. This story is something straight out of Alan Moore’s Black Dossier—Super-Enigmatix could easily have been dueling with the Les Hommes Mystérieux in the background of that book. I won’t spoil the story, but suffice to say, if you are into beautiful illustration, pulpy detective tales, throwback anti-heroism, and classic masked super-villainy, this is a gem made just for you.

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1. Failing Sky by Dax Tran-Caffee
dax 1dax 2dax 3Screen Shot 2014-12-18 at 9.51.05 PM
I can’t even do this comic justice by showing mere images. There simply has never been anything like this before. Peter Knapp calls it the “Sleep No More of the Internet.” I concur. The sheer innovative format of this comic alone makes it not only worthy of the accolades it has received already this year (see list of Eisner Award nominees) but also makes it a joy to navigate. This comic was made for the web (and made with the web in mind). Scrolling up, down, left, right, and in zigzags to get the full scope of the images and story, you couldn’t ever really do this with print. Even the images I’ve chosen to show above are merely parts of a greater whole, taking up the space of multiple screens, that have to be scanned and panned with your track-pad or mouse to see in full. And the “node” structure of the tale puts the concept of non-linear to shame. Chapters in Failing Sky can be read in a myriad of different ways and orders—and that’s half the fun. Tran-Caffee’s gorgeous art is something to rave about as well. His perfect white charcoal-looking inks and pencils only add to the mesmeric vision of ghosts, robots, lovelorn sailors, and genderqueer detective-heroes. The story is beautiful too! I’ve decided to separate my Webcomic Top List from my Print Top List this year, but if I hadn’t Failing Sky damn well might have been number one anyway. It really doesn’t get any better than this in 2014.

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That being said, please stay tuned for my Top List of PRINT COMICS, coming soon!

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Continuity Errors of the New Age Revisited and Rethought

It’s not often that I address previous blog posts by posting anew, but this, I feel, warrants such a response. My previous posts cataloging all the supposed errors of the New 52 were filled with lots of vitriol aimed at writers using topical references (X-mas, New Year’s, etc…) that seemed to contradict specific time references (“last year,” “last month,” etc…). Since the reboot, I’ve often been perplexed by these contradictions and have been forced to “pick a side” so to speak, leaning toward accepting the latter (specific time references) as canon and relegating the former (topical references) as bunk. This not only dramatically influenced my list of errors, but made me think that DC’s entire narrative line was still stuck in 2013. However, with the recent publication of Detective Comics #37 DC seems to be saying that we are operating—at least for the moment—in relative real time. Detective Comics #37 celebrates the end of 2014. Harvey Bullock and Maggie Yip celebrate Christmas 2014 and welcome 2015—just like us here on Earth Prime!

tec 37

‘tec v.2 #37: It’s been one hell of a year.

Of course, if this is true (and it sure seems like it is), then my previous two posts have a lot of fixing required. Most of the topical references (not all of them) actually are okay now. My apologies to the holly jolly holidays! Plus, the timeline of the New 52 shouldn’t be as compressed as I’ve made it out to be.* Therefore, I will be redoing the list of errors soon. I will also be redoing a large section of the chronology as well. This is a big task, but such is my life. The good news is that I think there will be less errors. The bad news is that the errors that do remain (or pop up) will probably be more glaring than before. For example, Batman Eternal has a ton of specific references to “five years ago” and “a few months ago” that definitely will no longer work. Batman Eternal is a mess no matter how you spin it. Not only has it been poorly constructed and the worst weekly since Countdown, it will now also become an even worse continuity nightmare, pin-pricked to death with post-it-note caveats. Keep on the look out for an update. Until then, see you next time!

dorkin dorkin

Dark Horse Presents #4 by Evan Dorkin. This is how I feel lately.

 

 

 

*There are a few variations of the New 52 timeline, most of which are totally incorrect. The main two, however, are more workable. The first is a tightly compressed timeline that squeezes “Death of the Family,” Batman Inc, Forever Evil, “Hunt for Robin”/”Robin Rises,” Superman: Doomed, and Batman Eternal #1-40 ALL in Year Six. Seriously, if you read all of these issues they basically all refer to “Death of the Family” as happening months ago, essentially starting off the crazy year. The second is a timeline that goes in relative real time, thus linking us up to December 2014 and giving us more room to breathe. This second timeline is clearly better, no? The problem is that the second timeline is necessary to get us where we are now, yet most editors and writers at DC have tried their best to make it seem like mere months have passed when a year or more have passed. An easy solution would be to just slide years back and keep everything nice and tight, right? The problem with doing that is that Batman’s entire history has to be believably sandwiched-in. This includes four Robins and a Batgirl, among many other things. You are damned if you do and damned if you don’t.

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