As we hurtle towards 2017, let’s take a look at what happened over the last 12 months! How has the comics world changed in the last year? Let’s find out.
I’m going to break this down into three parts over the next week or so, with each edition covering four months of 2016. Since I focus mainly on DC Comics in my reading and my reviews, January through April was a period where the publisher was gearing up for some major changes. The company was moving the set pieces around so they were in place for the big Rebirth event in May (which will obviously be discussed in the second and third editions). But that doesn’t mean things were completely uneventful…
Say Goodbye To Hollywood
One of my favorite books from 2015 came to an end in January 2016, as Ed Brubaker’s and Sean Phillips’ The Fade Out reached its conclusion. The story followed a writer in 1950s Hollywood navigating his way around a mystery involving the reported suicide of a starlet while trying not to get himself killed.
Brubaker and Phillips are such a great team, perfectly complimenting each other with the noir stories they put out, and I think The Fade Out is probably the best work they’ve put out. Don’t just take my word for it, though. If you haven’t already, make a point of picking up the Deluxe Edition released earlier this year, collecting all 12 issues along with bonus material. It’s one of the nicest volumes I’ve ever seen collected for a comic book series, and the oversized print really lets Phillips’ art pop beautifully. It’s a worthy addition to anyone’s collection.
Every interview I’ve ever seen with Max Landis makes me want to punch him in the throat, just to get him to shut up. I won’t lie, the son of director John Landis can be obnoxious (I’ve heard that Jesse Eisenberg’s Lex Luthor in Batman v. Superman was based on Landis), but he wrote one hell of a Superman comic.
Well, it wasn’t REALLY a Superman comic. Superman: American Alien focused on Clark Kent’s formative years as he was learning how to be a man and what it would take to become a SUPERman. The seven issue miniseries started in November 2015, but the majority of the series ran this year.
Each issue featured a different artist, to capture the right tone for that particular chapter, but it never affected the consistency of the story, which saw Clark go from small town farm boy to big city journalist in what may be the best Clark Kent story ever told.
Who Ya Gonna Call?
The IDW version of Ghostbusters has consistently produced great stories about the original boys in grey, and at the start of the year, IDW took the Ghostbusters beyond the five boroughs and sent them around the world to fight spirits and specters in Ghostbusters International.
The series, which just recently wrapped up with issue 11, built to a battle with a demon who had manipulated events to try and firm up his place in the world. Along the way, Egon was seemingly killed and had to be replaced by the Egon of the Real Ghostbusters cartoon as the team travelled to Italy, Ireland, France, Iceland and even Hell. That’s definitely international.
While I was sad to see the series end, I’m happy to hear that more Ghostbusters series are coming in the new year, as the team gets to meet up with the all-female team from the 2016 movie (which I reviewed right here).
During the early part of the year, DC Comics had not only one… not just two… but THREE ongoing stories or miniseries that focused on multiple Kryptonians. Shockingly, two of those three stories have yet to be completed!
The one story that has seen a final issue was Neal Adams’ six-issue miniseries, Superman: The Coming of the Supermen, which focused on three heroes from the miniaturized city of Kandor coming to Earth – at full size! – to offer their help to Superman as he battled Darkseid and his minions from Apokolips. Superman could use all the help he could get – including assistance from Lois Lane and a young boy and his dog – as Darkseid teamed up with Lex Luthor to get what he wanted.
Superman: The Coming of the Supermen was written and drawn by Neal Adams and brought a little bit of the Silver and Bronze Ages back to the modern era. And at least the story shipped and ended on schedule… Unlike the other two books included in this section.
The third installment of the Dark Knight saga, Dark Knight III: The Master Race, first shipped at the end of November 2015 and 13 months later is looking at the release of its seventh issue next week. The eighth issue is planned for March. MARCH!
In the new, largely unnecessary, installment of Frank Miller’s Batman epic, Bruce and his new Batgirl, Carrie Kelly, need to work together with Superman and Wonder Woman to fight back an invading horde of Kryptonians, which includes the daughter of Clark and Diana.
I thought the original Dark Knight sequel, The Dark Knight Strikes Again, was unnecessary back in 2001-2002, so watching DC Comics go back to the well 15 years later is a bit much. Considering how long this miniseries is being drawn out (much like DKSA was), it’s also hard to get into the flow of the story. But where DKSA was only three issues, DK3 is nearly triple in size. The art, by Miller, Klaus Jansen and Andy Kubert, has been great, but the story by Miller and Brian Azzarello leaves a lot to be desired, and I hope we’ve seen the last of the Dark Knight world when this series ends, especially with the $5.99 price tag.
The third and final Kryptonian-filled series was Bryan Hitch’s Justice League of America. Serving as a secondary title to Geoff Johns’ Justice League, Hitch’s JLA kicked off in JUNE 2015 with a story about Kryptonians coming to conquer Earth. Hitch, who was writing and penciling the book, was never a quick artist, but the fact that this story has dragged out for more than a year and a half (the most recent issue came out at the end of November 2016) is absolutely ridiculous, considering all that’s happened in that time AND that Hitch is now writing the main Justice League title.
Team-Up in a Halfshell
I never knew I wanted Batman to cross over with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles until it was announced as a thing that was happening. The team-up between DC Comics and IDW saw the Turtles trapped in Batman’s Gotham City as Shredder and Ra’s al Ghul teamed up to try and reshape their worlds in their image.
The fourth issue of the miniseries, where Batman tracks down an angry Raphael to show the turtle how he became the Dark Knight, is one of my favorite issues of the year, and the crossover as a whole was one of the most fun series that any company has put out this year.
The two companies are capitalizing on the popularity of the crossover with a second one, the first two issues of which have already been released. This time around, the comic is done in the art style of the animated series and takes place in the Turtles’ New York City.
The biggest set piece DC Comics had to arrange as it prepared for its Rebirth in May was to get rid of the Superman who had been running around since the New 52 started. They’ve been putting him through the wringer, taking away his powers, having Lois reveal his identity and putting him on the run. And then, just as he was sorting things out, getting his powers back and making everything right again, his final days were upon us.
All the things Superman had been through over the last year: The Darkseid War, losing and regaining his powers, the battle with Doomsday that changed him into SuperDoom and dealing with the Kryptonian sun god Rao had taken its toll on his physiology, it was explained, and Superman began to make peace with what was about to happen.
While the Superman of the New 52 had a lot of problems over the last 5 years, DC Comics had really redeemed themselves in the character’s last 12 months or so, with a series of great stories, assisted by running the story through multiple books (Superman, Action Comics, Batman/Superman and Superman/Wonder Woman) to raise the scope. The Final Days of Superman was a great eulogy for a character that struggled to find a voice early on. No, it didn’t have the same emotional effect as the original Death of Superman story, but the quality was still there all the same.
Of course, DC Comics had a back-up plan waiting in the wings, with the pre-Flashpoint Superman and Lois Lane (and their son) having been relocated to this universe after last year’s disappointing Convergence crossover. But we’ll get into that more next time…
By The Numbers
Keeping track of my purchases month-to-month in 2016, assisted by Comixology.
January – 35 Comics, 1 trade collection
February – 33 Comics, 6 trade collections
March – 38 Comics, 1 trade collection
April – 28 Comics, 3 trade collections