Sunday, December 13, 2020

Sunday Best: Catholic Skywalker Awards 2020 - BEST IN COMICS

 With 2020 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

HAWKMAN #29 | DC COMICS | Comics

This is a book that was cut short way too soon and should have been a runaway best-seller.  Writer Robert Venditti gave us the best Hawkman comic series I have read.  I adore Timothy Truman's Hawkworld mini-series and I enjoyed his series with John Ostrander.  The Geoff Johns run on the character was good, but it felt like it ended before it could really take off like his other series with the Flash and Green Lantern.  Venditti has given us a complete story that is epic in every way imaginable.  He expanded the lore and the mythic nature of the character's world while at the same time using those elements to deepen our interest in the character.  Throughout the course of the series, he let us share adventures with the Shade, the Atom, and the Justice Society of America.  In the final arc, the seemingly immortal Hawkman and Hawkgirl make a choice that puts them face-to-face with permanent mortality.  It is something we've never seen explored in the character and provided such new and fertile ground for exploration while connecting to the larger plot and themes present.  The series ended in a way that was open to further adventures but also at the same time giving us the happily-ever-after we crave.  Art by Fernando Pasarin feels classic and exciting.  If you get a chance, check out this series from start to finish.  

There are some writers whose work I will buy sight unseen because they have proven to me the quality of their work like Geoff Johns and Peter J. Tomasi.

And now that includes Robert Venditti.

The Flash
Justice League Dark

Best Mini-Series

Batman: Who Are the Three Jokers? | Den of Geek

As I wrote in my review for issues 2-3:

I wrote my review for the first issue of this mini-series a few months ago.  At the time I thought I knew where the story was going.

Boy, was I wrong.

The subversion of expectation has become a staple of post-modern storytelling.  We've seen it done very poorly, as we saw in The Last Jedi.  But if done correctly, it can be enlightening and moving.

And that is what I found in these last 2 issues.

In the first issue, we found out that the goal of the three Jokers was to "make a better Joker."  With that in mind, I thought I had figured out who they were going to choose.  To my surprise, not only did they not choose that person, but the Joker actually calls out this expectation in his dialogue.

Writer Geoff Johns has mentioned how this story is about scars.  This is the story of three broken people, and we are not talking about the Jokers.  Our three main heroes of this story (Batman, Batgirl, and Red Hood) are all broken in serious ways, some maybe beyond repair.  This story has pushed our heroes to the limits, not just physically, but morally.  

I have to say that this is one of my favorite Jason Todd stories.  He has been set up as the anti-hero of the Bat-Family, but I have never seen him so humanized.  You can feel his yearning to connect out of his loneliness.  There is a wonderful scene where he starts to realize that Barbara lives a life of pain the way he does and there is just a little bit more light in his life.

One of the best things Johns does is that he gives us moments that we remember.  At one point in the story, Batman has to go to Blackgate prison to speak to Joe Chill, the man who killed his parents.  The moment he speaks into his cell is something I will always remember in my Batman lore.

There will be some who will be disappointed that this story does not completely explain who the Three Jokers are.  Johns is not about to completely take away the mystery and mystique of the character.  But he does offer a revelation that blew my mind.  It is something that retcons something very traditional in Batman mythology, but it works emotionally.  

Again, the story is about scars and the question of whether or not we can heal.  And the deepest scars are the one that we cannot see.  In this story, Batman has to confront his biggest wound in a way I have not seen and it was beautifully written and presented.

Jason Fabok's art is beautiful.  I would let my eyes linger on the page longer than I normally do because of the way he is able to draw out the dark beauty of Gotham City and the people who live there.  His drawings feel like they have heft and weight in a way that many comic book art does not.  I can feel the impact of Batman's punches and hum of the Batmobile's engine.

Three Jokers is not the greatest Batman/Joker story ever told, but it is definitely in the top 10.

DCeased: Unkillables
DCeased: Dead Planet
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Last Ronin
GI Joe: Snake Eyes - Dead Game

Best One-Shot
ROBIN - 80th Anniversary Issue

Comic Excerpt] robin 80th anniversary by andy kubert, colors by brad  anderson (mar 2020) : DCcomics 

This year marks the 80th anniversary for many classic DC characters like Catwoman, Joker, and Green Lantern.  As a result, DC sent giant one-shots with stories from various writers and artist.  Most have been a mixed bag.

But the Robin issue was gold.

Robin is one of my favorite DC characters.  He was invented as a way for kids to vicariously share in Batman's adventures.  And being the kid brother, I was always Robin whenever my brother and I would safety pin blue and yellow towels to our shoulders and play.

This issue is not focused on just one Robin, but on all the ones in continuity who have carried the mantle.  We got stories about Dick Grayson, Jason Todd, Tim Drake, Damian Wayne, and even Stephanie Brown.  Each story showed how every Robin was different and a response to the era of comics from which they emerged.  And at the same time, you could see that what you united them was a belief in the rightness of Batman's mission and their desire to be a part of it.

This book was 100 pages, but it was fun from start to finish.

Best Artist

File:Jason Fabok on The Riley and Kimmy Show.jpg
Image by GRuban
I hear that one of the reasons why Three Jokers was delayed so often was because Fabok needed more time with the art.  I do not know if this is true, but if it is, it is completely worth it.  This is one of the most visually arresting books I have seen in a long time.

He draws in a way that makes his characters feel solid, but does a great job with the expressiveness of their faces.  So much of Three Jokers is told visually and Fabok gives you a feast for the eyes.

As I wrote in my reviews:

Jason Fabok's art is beautiful.  I would let my eyes linger on the page longer than I normally do because of the way he is able to draw out the dark beauty of Gotham City and the people who live there.  His drawings feel like they have heft and weight in a way that many comic book art does not.  I can feel the impact of Batman's punches and hum of the Batmobile's engine... I have not been this blown away by a book's art since Gary Frank on Doomsday Clock.  I could stare at his layered and dynamic images for a long time.  His take on Gotham is reminiscent of Brian Bolland in The Killing Joke, but is definitely Fabok's own artistic eye that informs the visuals.

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

Best Writer

photo from besignyawn

It will not come as a surprise to anyone who reads this blog that once again Geoff Johns is the writer of the year.  I have been incredibly saddened by the fact that he does not do as many monthly series for the company.  But now, every time he puts something out, it feels like an event.  The anticipation for Three Jokers was huge.  I did something I almost never do for a book: I bought every variant cover.

Johns has lost none of his mastery of comic book story telling.  While he is excellent with his dialogue, he understands that comics are a visual medium.  He gives his artists like Jason Fabok a chance to shine.  But Johns' writing is never overshadowed.  Three Jokers is tightly plotted, but it is ultimately an exploration of these three broken heroes.  But above all, beyond the fantastic skill on display in his books, Johns understands super hero comics.  Heroes should make us want to strive to be better.  I couldn't believe that at the heart of his mini-series was a mediation on the power of forgiveness.  It gave us one of the most touching moments I have ever read in a Batman story.

I do not know what, if any, projects Johns has lined up for DC.  But I will be waiting with eager anticipation.

Tom Taylor: DCeased
Peter Tomasi: Detective Comics
Robert Venditti: Hawkman
Greg Pak: Star Wars: Darth Vader

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