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I feel dirty ... 2006 edition ! (joss whedon mention)

Sunday 3 December 2006, by Webmaster

Last year I bought an issue of Wizard. It was the end-of-the-year issue, and I dissected it right here on this very blog (before we went big-time!) because it was fun. Well, I bought another issue of Wizard. Yes, it’s the year-end issue! What evil products are the people at Wizard trying to get us to buy this year? The answers lurk within ...

The first thing you always notice about any issue of Wizard is the “humor.” Aren’t the staffers older than, I don’t know, twelve? I suppose not. About Batwoman, someone said, she “enjoys drawing attention to her ass when fighting crime. I like this character!” This does not bode well for the rest of the issue.

But I didn’t buy this magazine for the quips, as HI-larious as they are. I bought it because I’m always intrigued by what Wizard considers worth your money. And the year-end issue always promises things to mock. So let’s see who paid Wizard the most money this year to pimp their product!

The short preview of what’s coming up in 2007 is interesting. I’m not entirely sure who has been waiting for so long for the return of Joe Madureira, but they mention his stint on Ultimates, if and when Millar and Hitch ever finish. Were people pining away for Madureira? Really? I mean, some people like him and others don’t, but do people sit around and say things like, “God, I wish Joe Mad would come back and finish Battle Chasers“? Maybe some people do. Meanwhile, there’s a brief mention of the new All Star titles, All Star Wonder Woman and All Star Batgirl. They call the existing titles a “one-two punch.” All Star Batman and Robin, whether you like it or not, shipped one title this year. That’s kind of a weak punch.

In the five things they want to see in 2007, they mention an ongoing focusing on the B.P.R.D. I mentioned this last year: the only indie book they ever seem to notice is either this or Hellboy, because they love Mignola. There’s nothing wrong with that, but there are other people working in independent comics. There are actually some mentions of other indie books, which is surprisingly nice.

Then we hit the year-end stuff. The Man of the Year? Joey Q himself. Take a bow, Joey Q! Oh, wait a minute: your backward-facing baseball cap might fall off. Seriously, Joe. You’re 43 years old. I realize that most people go into comics so they never have to take sweatpants off ever again, but you’re the Editor-in-Chief of Marvel Comics. Would it kill you to take the hat off, run a comb through your (presumably) thinning hair, and don a shirt with some buttons on it? Anyway, if you’re looking for someone to blame for Civil War, blame Bendis - apparently it was his idea. Wizard praises Joey Q for taking a chance on Civil War, which is somewhat odd. Not the praise, but the fact that they thought it was a “chance.” I suppose having the writer of one of your hottest books write it and have someone who was on some of your highest-profile books draw it is taking a chance! They bring up the horribly late shipping by claiming, “Perhaps sensing he was in the midst of a series that would be looked upon as legendary several decades down the road,” Joey Q insisted that McNiven draw every panel - even after giving him a lead time of only three months and pairing him with a writer who is apparently also very slow. But is it worth it? Is this really going to be a legendary series? Is the rumored sales drop on issue #5 going to continue? And why did this have to come out so soon? I know comics adhere to some weird, outdated “summer blockbuster” schedule, but why? Why not decide, in January, to ask McNiven how long it will take him to draw all seven issues (it’s seven issues, right?) and give him the time? Nobody needed this to come out in May, did they?

Anyway, Joey Q is Man of the Year. I don’t have that big a deal with it. I can’t think of anyone better.

Event of the Year: Yeah, you get three guesses and the first three don’t count, because if you said anything but Civil War, you’re an idiot. There’s a lot that’s wrong with Civil War, but it’s definitely an event, I’ll give you that. In a sidebar, Tom Brevoort is named Editor of the Year. I don’t mean to pick on Brevoort, because he seems like a stand-up guy, but shouldn’t editors, I don’t know, edit? The inmates are running the asylum at Marvel and DC, it seems, and guys like Brevoort are just there to do ... what, exactly? Not get McNiven to draw faster and Millar to write faster, I’ll tell you that much.

On page 40, Wizard gives us something that makes me sad. It’s an entire page dedicated to Marvel and DC characters who died this year. Yes, an entire page. How stupid it is when people think that characters dying are what makes a comic book resonate. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: it’s lazy writing. Anybody can slaughter a few dozen D-listers and think he’s “relevant.” And you’re always killing somebody’s favorite. Buried in the list is Looker, who apparently died in Infinite Crisis #7. I read that issue and didn’t notice where she died. But that makes me sad. I was so happy to see Lia (briefly) in Villains United, and then they go and kill her. She’s never been terribly popular, I’ll admit, but it’s a shame that she’s dead. See? Just idiotic. The fact that Superboy and his little friends cut a swath through the bottom rung of DC heroes doesn’t make Infinite Crisis any better. It just makes it a piece of shit with no soul.

Okay, that’s enough ranting. Back to the accolades! Artist of the Year is Steve McNiven. I like McNiven, but like last year’s “winner,” Ethan van Sciver, he’s a bit of a prima donna, isn’t he? I mean, he cranked out a whole five issues this year. (He was also the artist to watch last year. Good call, Wizard! Oh, wait, you gave out both “awards.”) Yes, it’s pretty, but to pick a name out of a hat, Eduardo Risso is better, and he’s on a tighter schedule (isn’t he? - I buy 100 Bullets in trade, so I don’t know if the singles come out in a timely fashion). And I’m much more impressed with people like Risso, who make us feel a mood as well as draw nice pictures. McNiven’s art is beautiful and kind of cold - like a lot of people Wizard likes (paging Greg Land). “Realistic” doesn’t mean better, after all. The artist to watch is Shane Davis. He’s another guy I have no problem with, but his art is way too early Image for me. We’ll see where he lands after Mystery in Space is over.

The Single Issue of the Year is New Avengers #22, written by Bendis and drawn by Leinil Francis Yu. Maybe; I haven’t read it. I was struck by one line in the description of the issue, however: “Together with artist Leinil Francis Yu, Bendis created a character-driven exploration of what make Cage one of the best heroes in the Marvel U.” Read that again. Really? Shouldn’t it read “what makes Cage one of Bendis’ favorites”? I mean, in what dimension is Cage one of the best heroes in the Marvel U.? At the very beginning of the article, they state that Luke Cage has never been taken seriously, and has often been played for jokes in his 30 years of existence. So now he’s one of the best heroes in the Marvel U.? It’s great that Bendis likes him and all, but that’s it. Luke Cage is a D-lister that a hot (and, let’s face it, pretty talented) writer had a nerd boner™ for, and so he writes him well. Is Animal Man one of the best heroes in the DCU? No, but when Morrison wrote him, he was brilliant. If Alan Moore stuck his head out of his rabbit hole and wrote a 12-issue maxi-series about Looker, would Wizard call her one of the best heroes in the DCU? (Sorry, I’m still upset about the news of her demise.) No. So let’s stop with the silly proclamations. Oh, wait, it’s Wizard. What am I saying? Carry on.

The Breakout Talent of the Year is Charlie Huston, writer of Moon Knight. I like Moon Knight a lot, so I won’t argue with this selection. I find it difficult to argue with this selection, because I never know if a guy has been around long or not. This is Huston’s first comic work, so I guess he qualifies. Wizard’s breakout talent to watch is Matt Fraction. Again, I suppose so, although he’s been around for a while, just not on any big playing field.

Then we get something else that bothers me: The ‘What The?’ Moments of the Year. Oh, they’re funny and all, and point out the ridiculousness that occurs in comics quite often, but Wizard praises some idiotic plot decisions (Tony Stark cloning Thor) but picks on Wolverine wearing a pressure-resistant suit to fight Namor, popping his claws, and not exploding instantly. This is a man who is well over 100 years old and has metal bonded to his skeleton and you’re worrying about realism?

The Boldest Move of the Year is 52. Again, I don’t have that big a problem with it, but how bold was it really? I think anything that Marvel and DC do that involves superheroes, short of not publishing any anymore, can’t really be considered a bold move. I mean, Geoff Johns, Greg Rucka, Grant Morrison, and Mark Waid aren’t really unknowns, are they? I like how DC has been able to keep it on schedule, but it doesn’t seem that bold.

The Writer of the Year is Brian K. Vaughan. I have no problem with this selection, either. Hell, I picked Vaughan last year when we did awards here at this very blog! For the sake of difference, I’ll probably pick someone else this year, but Vaughan had a very good year. Pride of Baghdad is on a short list for best graphic novel of the year, and Ex Machina remains one of the best titles out there. The writer to watch is Christos Gage. We’ll see.

Book of the Year is Daredevil. This is interesting, because last year Wizard picked Captain America, but in neither case did they pick Brubaker as Writer of the Year (I didn’t list a Writer of the Year last year, which makes me think they didn’t pick one - Geoff Johns was Man of the Year, so maybe that was enough). Anyway, I don’t have that big a problem with Daredevil being the Book of the Year. I like it, it’s enjoyable, and it appears Brubaker has a good handle on the characters and where he’s going with it. There are probably ten books I can name that are better, but none of them are “mainstream superhero books published by the Big Two,” and you know Wizard isn’t going to go outside that narrow framework. The book to watch in 2007 is JSA, by the way.

Hero of the Year is Superman. Another bland selection. All Star Superman is a great comic, and I’m probably going to get ”Up, Up and Away” in trade, as well as the Busiek/Pacheco stuff. It’s just such a vanilla pick.

J. G. Jones is the Cover Artist of the Year. Just like last year’s selection (James Jean), I have no problem with Jones. As long as it’s not Michael Turner.

There are a bunch of New Characters of the Year, but the Most Likely to Succeed is Damian, Batman’s son. So far Damian is probably the least interesting part of Morrison’s work on Batman, so I’ll reserve judgment. The Comebacks of the Year are highlighted by Moon Knight, which I’ll endorse. I know people have expressed skepticism about Moon Knight and why on earth Marvel would bring him back, but he’s always been an interesting character to me, and so far, Huston has been doing a good job with him.

Finally, Wizard realizes that there are other publishers out there besides DC and Marvel. They do this every year, throw the independents a bone, and this year it’s the Villian of the Year, as they select The Governor from The Walking Dead. Isn’t this the guy that got Kirkman a bit of bad press on the Internets? It sounds like he’s the dude from the all-rape issue, which I’m sure was charming. Anyway, I don’t read the book, but any mention of a book that’s not published by the Big Two is nice to see.

Which leads us to the Mini-Series of the Year, which is B.P.R.D.: The Universal Machine. That’s shocking, considering Wizard loves Mignola, as I mentioned above. This is another book I didn’t read, but I don’t have an issue with Wizard loving it. As usual with the way comics are built these days, there were a lot of good mini-series.

Finally, we get into the non-comics crap, like Movie of the Year (The Descent), TV Show of the Year (Lost), and Video Game of the Year (Ultimate Alliance). I don’t play video games, hardly ever see movies, and think Lost is great, so I won’t comment. Then we get the typical hype about other projects, including a funny sidebar about where the heck Spider-Woman went. It was the book to watch last year, but never came out. It’s still coming down the pipeline, though! I’m not holding my breath. There’s also an entire article about The Lone Ranger (which presumably only gets mentioned because of John Cassaday’s involvement and Joss Whedon’s peripheral involvement), and lots of trade paperback reviews, which are, surprisingly, somewhat thoughtful. I haven’t bought an issue, as I said, in a year, and these are new. It’s good to see, because Wizard does has some influence and has access to a lot of stuff that’s coming out, so it’s nice when they are actually critical of something (none of the trades they review - six pages’ worth - gets an ‘A’).

Then we reach the Indie Book of the Year, which is Scott Pilgrim and the Infinite Sadness. The Scott Pilgrim books just don’t sound like something I would like, but it’s nice to see them getting some press. Why Wizard feels the need to separate the “indie” books and not consider them for Book of the Year is beyond me. I have a feeling that if they took the best independent stuff and stacked them against the best superhero stuff, the indie stuff would make Civil War look like the crass, commercial money grab it actually is, so it’s best to segregate the two.

The icky price guide is at the end, as usual, but I read something interesting: the #0-13 issues of Rex Mundi are climbing in price, due to it getting optioned as a film by Johnny Depp. Price is no reason to buy a title, obviously, but with Dark Horse bringing out the trade paperbacks of these issues, there’s no reason for you not to read it! That is my plug of the day! Wizard also mentions that Amazing Spider-Man #300, the first appearance of Venom, is also rising in price, which is stupid. As every comic geek knows, Venom first had a cameo in Amazing Spider-Man #298, and we first saw Eddie and the Alien in all his glory at the end of Amazing Spider-Man #299. I know it was just a cameo, but it annoys me when we can’t acknowledge the “first appearance” of a character because it doesn’t count as one. How stupid.

So that’s my yearly reading of Wizard. It was actually not as horrendous an experience as last year, when I thought they blew it. And yes, I realize I like it better this year because I think they made better selections, but it’s not just that. It’s that the selections this year, once you got past the fellatio of Civil War, seemed to have more thought behind them. I certainly don’t agree with all of them, but at least the staff seemed to be trying this year. Wizard will never be a critical organ of comics, but they don’t have to slurp the Big Two constantly, either.

Am I going to hell for buying an issue?