It’s hard not to take a bleak view of the world’s current situation – the war in the Ukraine, the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, the cost of living crisis, Roe v Wade being overturned, the potential for Trump to end up back in the White House in a couple of years, the UK changing Prime Ministers more times than Dr Who regenerates . . . man, it’s been something of a year, to say the least.
Here’s my now traditional (three years on the trot makes it traditional, right?) look back at the comics I picked up, choosing one per month.
Lady Mechanika: The Monster of the Ministry of Hell #2
A look at the origins of Lady Mechanika which we’ve been waiting for for a long time. In this issue as well, we get reacquainted with someone who was promised to be an enemy of Mechanika – Commander de Winter – as it turns out the two children are being held in the same asylum together.
Despite the erratic publication schedule over the years, Lady Mechanika delights with pretty much every issue.
Geiger 80 Page Giant #1
World building at its finest here as Geoff Johns and Gary Frank lay the foundations for the heroes and stories to come in the world of GEIGER, aided and abetted by a bunch of other top notch artists.
it’s a collection of short stories, mostly centring around the Las Vegas casinos and the weird mobsters who run them in the post-apocalyptic world of 2050, sprinkling out enough details to make each story satisfying, while still leaving you wanting to know more.
Rogue Sun #1
I picked up the first two RADIANT BLACK collections on a whim and enjoyed them enough to start picking up the other “Massive-verse” titles, and was more than happy to get this as it’s written by Ryan Parrott, whose OBERON mini-series from Aftershock a couple of years I ago was really good.
There’s enough of a feel of a shared world throughout these titles without it getting in the way, leaving each series room to breathe and ROGUE SUN has been consistently good throughout this year.
Flashpoint Beyond #0
While the New 52 experiment that came out of the original FLASHPOINT event was a very mixed bag, the world of that event itself was interesting with different takes on some familiar names, giving the opportunity to tell some different stories, much like the Tangent event of the late 90s. As always, some of them worked better than others, and while I’m not a major fan of Flashpoint’s Thomas Wayne Batman, him waking up in his home reality after JUSTICE LEAGUE INCARNATE #4 and not knowing what the hell was going on, was a nice starting point.
Throw in our Batman, the Time Masters, Mime and Marionette from DOOMSDAY CLOCK and Geoff Johns again sowing seeds for a wider story, and I’m not ashamed to admit I really liked this story.
Black Hammer Reborn #12
The final issue of the latest BLACK HAMMER mini-series, setting up what is likely to be the final storyline set in this wonderful universe that somehow manages to be a fresh take on some tried and test superhero tropes.
Multiversal madness, multiple worlds, different versions of heroes and villains alike, and an evil version of a main character who is tragic due to their motivation . . . it’s all here and all of it builds to the return of the big bad guy who’s been mentioned and shown in flashbacks since the start and whom everyone thought defeated. Anti-God is coming back!
Dark Crisis #1
It had to be this, didn’t it? The start of the massive DCU event that has been planned out for the last couple of years and which, at the time of writing, I am waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay behind on the annotations for. Hey, life gets in the way, you know?
DARK CRISIS certainly delivered on its first issue, though, spiralling out of the end of the JUSTICE LEAGUE series with the heroes having died, and the whole world in mourning as Deathstroke and his army – unwittingly pawns of Pariah – set out to snuff out the heroic legacy wherever it appears.
Public Domain #1
A very nicely done poke at the comic book industry and the movie industry that feeds on it, picking up the ideas and the vision, turning it into fodder for the masses and making millions of dollars from it, while the original writers and artists get a pittance if they’re lucky.
It’s a terrible state of affairs, highlighted a few years ago when Jim Starlin revealed he’d earned more from DC’s use of KGBeast in Batman vs Superman than he had from Marvel’s multiple uses of Thanos in the build-up to Infinity War and Endgame.
Swamp Thing #16
The last SWAMP THING series was a wonderful surprise – Ram V introduced a new avatar (Levi Kamei) with a new relationship with the Green, but continued with enough of the feel of the previous series from Scott Snyder and then Charles Soule that it felt right. It was successful enough that while original a 10 issue mini-series, it was commissioned for a six issue “second season” that culminated here, in a well-done wrapping up of plot threads and menaces, leaving enough for a continuation if needed.
I’ll admit it – the cover of VANISH #1 sort of makes me feel I’ve travelled back to the 90s and the biggest excesses of Image! But don’t be put off – inside the cover is a wonderful mash-up of magical worlds and superheroes where the main character is maybe less of a hero than you’d first thought, where he’s willing to do what he needs to protect the world again from the threat he thought he’d vanquished years before.
Junkyard Joe #1
Remember that world building I mentioned above in the GEIGER 80 PAGE GIANT? This is where it starts to pay off as we find out about the GI Robot inspired metal warrior who fought in the Vietnam conflict and went on to inspire . . . a newspaper funny cartoon?
As a concept, that seems a bit out there, but it works a treat, with Geoff Johns and Gary Frank once again teaming up to tell a damn good tale.
Stargirl: The Lost Children #1
Stargirl gets involved in a mystery surrounding the lost kid sidekicks of Golden Age heroes, most of whom were mentioned at the end of FLASHPOINT BEYOND in another example of Geoff Johns just tying things together and planting seeds as he goes along, mixing his metaphors with abandon.
It’s a convoluted and contrived mystery that Stargirl has to solve as most of the sidekicks never existed until now, Johns enjoying himself with a fair bit of retconning, but it’s done nicely, and is a fun read, something that’s been lacking for a while, and The Absorbacon has a good post about the reasons for the story.
Dark Crisis: Big Bang #1
And what a title to end the year on – a ridiculous plot that’s paper thin and little more than an excuse to wander through a dozen or more glimpses of worlds in the new DC Multiverse. And I loved it!
The 52 worlds of the post-INFINITE CRISIS and 52 events, as well as the MULTIVERSITY, haven’t been swept away, but instead have been updated and joined by another host of worlds, some of which have brought back discarded concepts from years before, others have introduced new ones. And with notes from Barry Allen at the end of the issue, there’s promises of even more worlds out there to be teased in other series.
A fun one-shot!
Honourable mentions go out to ADVENTUREMAN, BLUE AND GOLD, DARK RIDE, and HELL TO PAY among the other series that I’ve been enjoying this last year.
Oh, and a big dishonourable mention to ONE-STAR SQUADRON – a series featuring Power Girl, Red Tornado, and the Heckler among others which I was really looking forward to and instead became the first series in more years than I care to remember that was so bad I ditched it after the third issue. Seriously, it was HEROES IN CRISIS bad.
Still, a lot of issue #1s, and a fair bit from Geoff Johns. Not a bad year all told.