Sunday, December 19, 2021

Sunday Best: Catholic Skywalker Awards 2021 - BEST IN COMICS

  With 2021 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, if you are new to this blog 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
The Flash
The Flash #770 Reviews

It has been a long time since I've enjoyed a comic book series this much.  Don't get me wrong, there have been some amazing comics that I've read in the last few years.  But very few have been able to inspire the simple joy of reading comics again.  Perhaps the word "simple" is wrong, because it implies a lack of nuance or complexity.  And that is not the case with The Flash.  By "simple" I mean that the team behind this book have a straightforward goal: to give a sense of satisfaction and joy at reading their stories.

Joshua Williamson recently finished up his significangt run on the series, introducing concepts like the Still Force and the Strength Force that have left their mark on the Flash cannon.  When the new creative team came on, I stuck around.  The thing that took me by surprise was that the stories were centered on Wally with Barry as the "man in the chair."  This is a huge departure from mainline DC, especially since Heroes in Crisis.  But it wasn't until issue 770 that I began to understand this book.

As I wrote: "Wally ends up inhabiting the body of Golden Age Flash Jay Garrick in a fight with Hitler.  The story was fun, fast-paced, well-written, and felt like a throwback to the classic stories of the DCU.  The seamless incorporation of Wally, Barry, and Jay reminded me of the way Geoff Johns was able to keep all the Flashes in balance and makes their relationships so interesting to read."

And the quality of the book has only gotten better with time.  (more on this later).

If there is only one comic series that you can read, you should definetely make it The Flash.

Superman '78

Best Mini-Series
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Last Ronin

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Last Ronin: Eastman, Kevin, Laird, Peter,  Waltz, Tom: 9781684058419: Books

As I wrote in my review for issues 1:

The Last Ronin feels very much like Old Man Logan for TMNT.  That may sound like an incredibly odd fit, but it works so well.

Set in a dystopian future, one of the Turtles is infiltrating a walled-in NYC that is run by the Foot Clan.  Which Turtle?  It isn't readily apparent.  He wears a black mask and he has all of the weapons used by the four.  He is worn and weathered and he is on a mission that just might be a suicide mission.

The entire issue is pure action as he infiltrates the bad guy's headquarters.  The narration is simple, but that is a powerful plus in a book like this.  Turtles creators Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird are in no way phoning this one in.  Their writing and art with Esau and Isaac Escorza is perfect for the book.  

The thing that struck me about our hero was how as often as not he fails.  He is full of amazing skill and pulls off fantastic feats.  But he is facing such insurmountable odds that he sometimes barely makes progress.  Or we see how age and fatigue cause him to make near fatal mistakes.  He is not Batman who has ingeniously calculated 25 moves ahead.  But he is also not some washed-up, has been shell (no pun intended) of his former self.  He is prepared, skilled, and quick to improvise.  But those improvisations don't always work out.  The fact that he is not some unstoppable, invincible ninja makes the action all the more compelling and his struggle all the more desperate.  

In fact, we get to see our hero brought to his absolute lowest and it is so heartbreaking.  This leads us to the final page that has me excited for the next issue.

I don't know if the subsequent installments will be able to keep up this quality.  But this first issue was a great and fun read from start to finish.

DC vs. Vampires
GI Joe: Snake Eyes - Dead Game
Challenge of the Super-Sons

Best One-Shot
Green Arrow - 80th Anniversary Issue

 00181 GREEN ARROW 80TH ANNIVERSARY 100-PAGE SUPER SPECTACULAR #1 CVR H Back  Issue - Amalgam Comics & Coffeehouse

Most of the stories in this anthology are fine, but forgettable.

However, Larry O'Neil wrote a silent tribute to his father, the legendary writer Dennis O'Neil, who recently passed away.  Very few writers have had the influence on comics the way he has.  The story is only six pages.  But there is more emotional, humanity, and heart in those six pages than in hundreds of other pages of I have read this year.  That one story shows us this flawed and talented man who lived a simple life with ups and downs.  But he was someone who was captivated by the magic of imagination and took that magic with him to the end.

You can read the entire story here online for free.  Do yourself a favor and read it.

Best Artist
Bruno Redondo (Nightwing)

As I wrote in my review for Nightwing #78:

Artist Bruno Redondo (along with Adriano Lucas and Wes Abbott) do a wonderful job.  Unlike a typical Bat-book, most of the action here takes place in the daylight, which fits thematically with the new dawn of the character.  There is a fantastic two-page spread that I stared at for a good long while.  This creative team understands that comics are a visual medium and they can be transportive.  The double-splash page conveyed a sense of grandeur, joy, and freedom.  For a moment, you feel like Dick seemingly weightless, tumbling through the air.

Fernando Pasarin: Hawkman
Ivan Reis: Superman
Karl Mostert: DCeased: Unkillables
Raffaele Ienco: Star Wars: Darth Vader

Best Writer
Jeremy Adams (The Flash)

Jeremy Adams is currently one of my favorite writers working in comics.

This may seem a bit extreme, since I have only read less than a year's worth of his stories.  But he has given me such delight that I look forward to every week that Flash comic is released.

As a Wally West fan, I am incredibly grateful that Adams has brought him front and center back into the Flash universe.  While I love Barry as well, it felt like DC was wasting such a great character in Wally.  Adams' affection for Wally is clear and it is reflected in his work.

But Adams is not merely writing some fan-fiction in print.  He giving us some of the most entertaining Flash stories in years.  Every issues I can expect not only grand adventure but also fun character moments that make the emotional connection I've had with Wally come alive again.  Reading the Flash feels like reconnecting with an old friend.

And I have to say that Flash #776 might be the most one of the best single issues of a comic I have ever read.  As someone who has been seriously reading for over 30 years, this is no small feat.  This issue has Flash and Dr. Fate break the fourth wall and speak to the reader.  But unlike other issues that do this, Adams draws you in as an active, not passive participant in the story.  You have to help the heroes by interacting with the comic book in a physical and specific way.  This is something you can only experience with the actual book in your hand and not on a tablet or computer screen.  It is pure comic book magic.  But Adams invites you to take the action seriously: to believe that you really are a part of the story.  I decided to take that leap of faith and treat the story as if my choices mattered.  It made me work for the solutions with a seriousness I didn't think I would.  And in the end there was a wonderful satisfaction at going on the adventure.  Even if Adams never writes another story, I will remember this one forever.

But I can't wait to see what he is going to do next.

Tom Taylor: Nightwing
Peter Tomasi: Challenge of the Super-Sons
Robert Venditti: Superman '78
Greg Pak: Star Wars: Darth Vader

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