Sunday, December 18, 2016

Catholic Skywalker Awards 2016 - BEST IN COMICS

With 2016 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

Peter J. Tomasi has long been one of the most underrated writers working in comics.  His work on Green Lantern Corps was on par with Geoff Johns' Green Lantern book.  And his run on Batman and Robin help give the Dark Knight a strong beating heart in his relationship to his son and the rest of the Bat-Family.

Tomasi brings all of this to his Superman book.

One of the best things about this post-Rebirth DC Universe is that they have brought back the pre-New 52 Superman.  When they rebooted the DC Universe in 2011, it took away the Clark and Lois relationship and all of the wonderful character development they had.  But with the return of this version of the characters, not do we have a sense of nostalgia, but we have added a new element: their son.

The greatest joy of this book is that we get to see Superman be the dad of the DC Universe.  The angsty twenty-something of the Morrison reboot was interesting, but cold and distant.  Tomasi infuses this with all heart.

And Jonathan, the son, is full of fun, wide-eyed wonder.  I read that the character Robin was invented so that young kids could imagine themselves sharing adventures with Batman.  Watching Jonathan fly around with his father and discover this whole new world, I feel like those kids felt about those original Robin adventures.

And Lois is written better than she has been in years.  She is every much an equally compelling character as her husband or her son.

And Tomasi weaves in this appealing family dynamic with off-the wall adventures featuring Dinasaur Island or Frankenstein.

Doug Manke's are also gives the books a strong, dynamic style.  But at the same time, he is able to capture the quiet serenity of simple country life.

This is a book I look forward to reading every two weeks.  

Best Single Issue
Detective Comics #940

This series had been pretty good up through this point: Batman had Batwoman assemble a crack team of Gotham heroes: Red Robin, Spoiler, Orphan, and Clayface.  Together they started taking down a sizable threat that blossomed into a full-blown conspiracy.

But this issue was the final epic showdown.  And rather than be a showcase primarily of visceral action, it was instead a tale of gut-wrenching heartbreak.

The bad guys have set loose hundreds of drones to kill thousands of Gotham citizens.  One member of the team hacked into the drones and did the only thing he could draw them away from the innocent.  This person made themselves the target.

What follows is heart-pounding inevitability barreling down at our hero as they never give up, never complain, and never give in.  And when all hope is lost, instead of cursing the heavens, our noble hero takes the time to tell the people that they love goodbye and that they love them.

James Tynion IV's script is tight and tense while knowing how to extract every drop of sorrow from the reader.  And Eddy Barrow's art captures all of that emotional pain in every panel.  His full page spreads are especially devastating.  Watching Batman holding a weeping friend while crying himself... that's an image that sticks with you.

Best Graphic Novel/Deluxe One Shot

From my review of DC Universe Rebirth:

"This review will be very brief because it is almost impossible to talk about this comic book without spoiling its surprises.  And in this case, I think the label "spoilers" is very appropriate.  If I had known what happened in this book before I read it, then my joy would have been spoiled.

DC Universe Rebirth is the potential swan song of Geoff Johns at DC.  I hope that's not the case because he is the greatest comic writer of all time. 

Back in 2011, DC rebooted the entire DCU with the New 52.  As a sales technique, it was very effective for a few months.  I enjoyed a number of the fresh takes, but there was also a lot that was lost in terms of DC's history and legacy.  Some beloved characters were either removed or reinvented beyond recognition.  When you spend years with these characters, it can be difficult to see them go.

But DC Universe Rebirth feels very much like Johns way of addressing this problem and fixing it.

The art is fantastic.  I was so thrilled that some of my favorite artists working now contributed: Gary Frank, Ivan Reis, Ethan Van Sciver, and Phil Jimenez.  The visuals are gorgeous and Johns knows how to use them for maximum story and emotion.  And there are clues in the visual design of the comic before the big reveal that comic fans will notice especially on a second read.  Johns and the artists hit some truly iconic images and incorporate them into the story in a way that doesn't feel gimmicky, but organic and evocative.

Thematically, Johns again gets right to the core.  In fact the chapter titles spell it all out: Lost, Legacy, Love, and Life.  The hero who takes us through the narrative lays out the lead up to this problem and the potential pathway going forward.  As a Catholic, I love the idea that beyond all of the fancy mystical and science-fiction elements at play in these comics, it's the universal and transcendent truths that give our heroes their purpose.  What is life without faith, hope, and love?  Johns raises this question and foils it against the ultimate comic foe.

I will have to end my review here because to say any more will rob you of the joy of reading this book for only $2.99.  But one more thing about the big and sure-to-be-controversial reveal at the end.

The revelation and its implications would be stupid and silly in the hands of any other writer.  It would feel forced and cynical, like a gimmick beyond all gimmicks.  But I believe in Geoff Johns.  If he takes the story towards where it looks to be heading, he could have the makings of the greatest DC Comics story ever written."

Best Artist
Ethan Van Sciver
photo by badseed

I know that the art of a book is excellent when I go back and immediately re-read it just so I can let my eyes linger on the images.  That's how I felt when reading Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps Rebirth.

Van Sciver is no stranger to Hal, having been the main artist on the original Green Lantern Rebirth.  But he has lost none of his potency.  The tangible charisma with which he infuses his characters makes them nearly leap off the page at times.  He is able to take the stories and open up beautiful visual vistas while at the same time keeping the human drama front and center.  Excellent work here and also in his contributions to DC Universe Rebirth, working to tell one of the great stories of the decade.

Best Writer

photo from besignyawn

Readers of this blog may be sick of me constantly putting Geoff Johns in the best writer spot, but I refuse to penalize him simply for being so good.  His work on DC Universe Rebirth, as stated above, has been incredible.  He is still the best writer in comics today and my only complaint about him is that he has cut back on a lot of his writing duties in the last few years.

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

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