Comics Ate My Brain

January 4, 2006

2005 In Review, Part 3: From Slott To Shanna and Seven Soldiers In-Between

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tom Bondurant @ 12:40 am
In 2005 I read just about as many miniseries as regular series. Even with my miniseries intake inflated by Seven Soldiers and the Infinite Crisis cottage industry, that’s still significant. 7S gets discussed here; InfC later.

Some minis began (or resumed) too late in 2005 to finish before the end of the year. Batman and the Monster Men and Defenders are currently enjoyable. Captain Atom: Armageddon and Spider-Man/Black Cat could go either way.

Picking a favorite miniseries for 2005 was tricky, but for me it was Spider-Man/Human Torch (written by Dan Slott, drawn by Ty Templeton). As pervasive as they were, both Seven Soldiers and Infinite Crisis are technically still ongoing, so it’s hard to judge them based at least partially on expectations. Therefore, I can understand wanting to put an asterisk next to my choice, but in its own way I think it’s as ambitious and far-ranging as either of DC’s events. Each issue had several tasks: 1) evoke a particular era of Marvel Comics, including storytelling style; 2) satisfy longtime fans who bought it for that “historical perspective”; 3) satisfy new readers who just liked Spider-Man; and 4) be funny. S-M/HT did all that, topping everything off with a new development in the relationship between our heroes, and a genuinely touching denouement.

Almost as good were Adam Strange (a 2004 carryover), Batman: Dark Detective, Astro City: The Dark Age Book One, and G.L.A. Each had some minor shortcoming: Adam Strange was hijacked by Infinite Crisis; Dark Detective had a weird Young Bruce Wayne flashback that didn’t seem to fit with the rest of the story; Astro City sometimes struggled to find a balance between its feuding brothers and the Silver Agent’s trial; and G.L.A. ended up becoming almost as grim as the comics it parodied (although the GLX-Mas special was great).

City of Tomorrow, “Nightwing: Year One” (in Nightwing #s 101-06), and Serenity were enjoyable but not particularly memorable. I’ve written already about CoT and NWY1; so with regard to Serenity I will say that it was very evocative of “Firefly’s” crew, but just seemed like an appetizer for the movie and not a complete story in itself.

As for Shanna The She-Devil, the less said, the better, especially with regard to a certain hideous attempt at catchphrase.

By virtue of its volume, scope, and pedigree, Seven Soldiers almost dared readers to ignore it. Every miniseries began in 2005, and four concluded. Of those four, I liked The Manhattan Guardian best, followed by Klarion, Zatanna, and Shining Knight. Maybe this is because MG required the least amount of brainpower from me. Apparently each of these miniseries had deeper levels of meaning and interconnection than I had time, energy, and/or inclination to discern, but on balance that may be my loss for not devoting sufficient effort to analyzing them (or, in Zatanna’s case, reading all of Promethea). Among the final three, the single issue of Frankenstein was as good as the two issues of Bulleteer, but Mr. Miracle may turn out to be the project’s only real clunker.

Other commentators have really taken to Seven Soldiers, and from reading their essays I get the sense I have missed out on a lot of subtext. In my own defense, part of my problem with Seven Soldiers has been its publication schedule. It’s easy enough for me to remember what happens from month to month, but once issues start coming out less frequently, it gets harder for me to enjoy them. There are exceptions, naturally: Planetary produced maybe two issues in 2005, but I was still able to enjoy each on its own terms. Maybe if Seven Soldiers’ components had stayed fairly disconnected from each other, I could have assimilated them better. I don’t want to sound like I am either railing against “the elite” or saying I am too stoopid for the work — just that I think it will be several more months before I can really give Seven Soldiers the attention it requires.

Next: the elephant in the corner.

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