Sunday, December 14, 2014

Sunday Best: Catholic Skywalker Awards 2014 - Best in Comics

With 2014 coming to a close, it is time for us to choose what the best entertainment of the year was.  And just as the Academy Awards have their "Oscars", so too the Catholic Skywalker Awards have their "Kal-El's"

Now, you may be wondering why a blog called Catholic Skywalker would choose a Superman statue as it's award, and not something from Star Wars.   The reasons are 3-fold:

1.  The Catholic Skywalker Awards will cover movies, television, and comic books.  Superman is an icon for all three.
2.  The pose he has here, revealing his inner hero, is symbolic of the revelation of truth and beauty that we should find in all good art.
3.  It's a statue I actually own, so I can use this photo on my blog.

Catholic Skywalker: Best in Comics:

Best Series
Justice League

The most exciting thing in comics is the post-Forever Evil Justice League book.  In it, we have Lex Luthor forcing himself into the League in a way that completely makes sense and is necessary.

What I love about the book is that even though it is DC's flagship title, writer Geoff Johns is still willing to shake things up tremendously.  This storyline could simply be chalked up to a gimmick, but there is real tension and power in these stories.  Luthor is a bad guy, but it forces all of the league members to reexamine their own ways of thinking and whether or not they believe in redemption.  This is also true of the comic reader.

In this case, Johns poses this question: do you as the reader really believe that Luthor can become a hero?  As a Catholic this is actually a challenging premise because if we do not give man a chance to be redeemed then he never will.  But by opening up that door, we make ourselves vulnerable.

 Part of the magic of his writing is that he dangles that real hope in front of you without sugarcoating or whitewashing his past evil.

The art by Ivan Reis is beautiful and I've loved the traditional stuff with Doug Manhke.  The current artist Jason Fabok is so good, I didn't even notice that it wasn't Reis doing the pencils.

It is THE book I can't wait to read every month.

Best Mini-Series
Forever Evil

This story suffered from interminable delays and so some of its power was lost.  But my goodness was it a ride.

Some comics tell us the story from the villains' point of view.  While they are interesting, they are ultimately unpleasant because you have bad people trying to achieve bad things.  But what Johns wisely does in Forever Evil is give you bad guys fighting for a good cause: defeating even worse guys.  And from that point of view, we can attach to our "heroes."

And what stood out to me was how this has been a natural progression for Johns leading up to this moment.  When to core group of villains join forces to save the world you have: Captain Cold, Sinestro, Black Adam, Deathstroke, Black Manta, and Lex Luthor.  These are all characters that Johns has had a chance to mold and define in substantial ways in other series.  And now we see the culmination of all of that character development.  Well done.

Best Single Issue
Forever Evil # 7

(from my review of this issue on my blog)
I never doubt Geoff Johns, but the extended absence of the main series made me think that the last issue would have less momentum.  And to be sure if it had come out a month or two earlier, it would have had a much more immediate impact, especially regarding the fate of Dick Grayson.


This is also one of the best and most intriguing moments with Batman that I've seen in the new 52.  One of the things that always impresses me about Johns is his ability to take the story to a place that is unexpected and yet obvious.  Something is revealed about Batman that I didn't see coming but seems so obvious now.  I don't want to spoil it and Johns doesn't dwell on it, but it has far reaching consequences for the relationships of some important people in the DCU.

The finale, with art by David Lynch is very good and appropriately dark.  It matches not only the mood of the issue but the threat level of the story.

Johns does the classic move of setting up the his next big story in the finale of his last.  The climax of the story occurs earlier in the issue than you would expect.  He then uses the remaining time to set up the new threats that are coming.

Best Artist
Ivan Reis (Justice League)
photo by Luigi Novi

I know a number of comic book fans preferred highly stylized and idiosyncratic art.  I am more of a classical guy, leaning towards the George Perez end of the spectrum.  This is why I fell in love with Ivan Reis' art this year.  Reis has always been a fantastic talent.  But this year with his work on Justice League, he is now able to play with a cast of characters that show off his amazing visual talent.    I particularly love his use of textures on Superman's costume.  When I know he is drawing a book, I can't wait to see it.

Best Writer
Geoff Johns (Justice League, Superman)

photo from besignyawn

I almost feel a little guilty for making these awards a Geoff Johns' admiration page.  There were some fantastically written books this year, like Tomasai's  Batman and Robin or the great Peter David's reboot of Spider-Man 2099  But the man is such a talent, I could not overlook his work this year.   Justice League has been fast-paced action and game changing character moments, from such unexpected places.  His stories are complex but not esoteric like Hickman's current run on Avengers.  He tells long-form stories while not failing to deliver on the immediate issue-by-issue thrills.

And once again this year he is the best comic book writer of the year.

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