The Comics Corner - 2009 In Review!

Diamond may be taking the week off from distributing comics but fear not, The Comics Corner is still here! With no reviews to do, well there is one but we’ll get to that later, this week I thought I’d countdown my favorite story lines from the past year. So without further delay here are my picks for the Top 9 Stories of 2009!

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Top 9 Stories of 2009

Number 9 – PunisherMAX

Considering only two issues in this new series came out in 2009 its inclusion on the list says a great deal about this series so far. Violent, gritty and unapologetic in its presentation, PunisherMAX gives you everything you’d want in a Punisher story. But the tale that Jason Aaron is telling goes beyond the norm as far as the Punisher is concerned. The first two issues have built Wilson Fisk into a perfect and terrifying nemesis for the Punisher. Creating two pillars of right and wrong Aaron is creating a relationship that could reach Batman/Joker status. Steve Dillon returns to once again draw the Punisher and there is debate on whether or not that’s a good thing. I believe it is a good thing as his work brings an instant familiarity to the character and the world he lives in. The first two issues are an amazing start to what could be a fantastic series as well as a fantastic start for our look back at the year that was.

Number 8 – Ultimatum

I can hear most of you groaning already. Many of you are probably doing a lot more than groaning. But hear me out. Ultimatum, for all its flaws, was what it was built up to be and exactly what Marvel’s Ultimate Universe needed. While events and event books seemingly dominate the store shelves very few deliver on their promises. Marvel’s Editorial Staff made a decision regarding the Ultimate Universe which they felt had become stagnant, drifting too far from its original goal. Enter Ultimatum. A massive event involving the entire Ultimate Universe that would essentially wipe the slate clean so things could get back to the way they were. We were told that massive and drastic changes would take place and that nothing in the Ultimate Universe would be the same. And Marvel delivered. Characters, a whole lot of characters, were killed off and things were truly happening at the level that was promised. When it was all over it was clear that nothing was going to be the same and there was no going back. It’s for this reason, despite the lateness and despite Jeph Loeb’s increasing decline in quality that this story makes the list. In the re-launched brand of Ultimate Universe books the effects of this event are still there, the consequences are lasting. Bravo to Marvel for seeing something that needed to be changed and making the most out of the opportunity and delivery on the promise. Hopefully they remember this lesson in 2010 with Siege.

Number 7 – Star Trek

The original televised episodes of Star Trek went off the air forty years ago. In all that time the Star Trek franchise has had tremendous highs and lows but few times here higher for Star Trek than 2009. The new Star Trek movie, directed by J.J. Abrams brought new life to Star Trek in a way few thought possible and was a success both critically and with audiences. The movie, in general, appealed to hardcore fans as well as new comers. Capitalizing on the hype, and then success of the new movie IDW released two new mini-series. The first, Star Trek: Countdown told the origin story of Nero and his crew and their relationship with Spock as well as many other familiar characters from Star Trek including Data and Captain Picard. It is a terrific lead-in to the movie and a must read for Star Trek fans and anyone who enjoyed the movie and wants to learn more. The second series, Star Trek: Nero fills in what happened between Nero’s arrival in the opening of the movie and his encounter with the Enterprise twenty-five years later. Both series focus on Nero and really establish him as a much better villain than he was given a chance to be on the big screen. Much like Darth Maul in The Phantom Menace, Captain Nero is reduced to a plot point and only later expanded into a much more sinister villain and shown as a worthy adversary. The comic series from IDW helped make 2009 one of the best years Star Trek has had in a long, long time.

Number 6 – Sweet Tooth

Comics like Sweet Tooth remind me how great it is being a fan of comic as a medium. Too often I get caught up in established characters from the mainstream publishers. While Vertigo is a division of DC Comics, it is far from the ‘tights and fights’ mentality. The story telling in Sweet Tooth is slow and methodical and four issues in there are still more questions than answers. Gus, the main character is too naïve for words and has suddenly found himself in the company of Mr. Jepperd, a bitter old man who claims to only want to help and protect Gus. While so far he has gone out of his way to defend Gus, Gus is unique to say the least and it’s hard to tell if Mr. Jepperd is defending Gus for Gus’ benefit, or his own. Their relationship is as unique and confusing as the post-apocalyptic world they travel. Sweet Tooth is another series that is barely underway but has already made a strong impression; I have to believe we’ll still be talking about it this time next year.

Number 5 – Old Man Logan

While the final chapter of this futuristic saga was delayed beyond belief therefore leading to the inevitable disappointment, this story line was still fantastic. The final piece of Mark Millar’s attempt to unite all his seemingly unrelated projects: Fantastic Four, 1985 and Old Man Logan, his tale of an aged pacifist Logan is remarkable. Not to mention the artwork from Steve McNiven is gorgeous and in many ways worth the delay. In a world where the bad guys finally pulled themselves together and took down the good guys Logan (don’t call him Wolverine) just wants to live out his life in peace and quiet with his family. Despite his wishes and best efforts Logan soon finds himself right back in the thick of things and forced to confront his past and the action that lead to his current position as a pacifist who refuses to acknowledge the past. Time will tell if this story will end up as one of the all-time great Wolverine stories but it certainly was the characters finest moment of 2009.

Number 4 – Fantastic Four

For many, many years the Fantastic Four comics carried a banner above the title that read “The World’s Greatest Comic Magazine!” While that may have been presumptuous it was tradition and the banner stayed on the covers for a long time, too long. So long in fact it was almost a bad joke. Fantastic Four just wasn’t what it used to be. One of Marvel’s premiere titles was no longer relevant, and more importantly no longer selling. Luckily in 2009 that changed. This year saw the end of Mark Millar’s ambitious, if flawed, attempt at putting new life into this once great series. Unfortunately his run just wasn’t what it could’ve been you can’t fault Millar for trying. At the very least he did have people talking about the Fantastic Four again. Enter Jonathan Hickman. Hickman had written two Fantastic Four mini series before coming to the main book in late 2009. Both mini series were well received and comic fans were eager to see what Hickman would do once he started with the one-time Marvel flagship. Hickman did not disappoint. He has created a wonderful take on the characters while staying true to everything that has gone into the comics since their beginning. Hickman clearly understands the Fantastic Four and has big plans for them. In 2010 the words “World’s Greatest Comic Magazine” may or may not return to the covers of issues but I am confident that in Hickman’s hands the issues will return to a deserved level of popularity and success.

Number 3 – I Kill Giants

I Kill Giants was another instance in 2009 where I stepped out of my comfort zone to try something new. There was a great deal of buzz around this series and when the trade came out I took the opportunity to see what all the fuss was about. What I learned was that I need to venture outside of my comfort zone more often. Charming and sweet while simultaneously dramatic and emotional I Kill Giants affected me in a way I had no idea a comic book could. Barbara, the main character, is a strong willed, opinionated young girl who has a bit of a problem when it comes to separating reality from her fantasies and imagination. It’s hard to go into much more detail without giving anything away. Barbara’s story is powerful, heartbreaking and unfortunately, very real. I found myself crying more than once before finishing it. To anyone who missed out on this series I can’t recommend it highly enough. For deeply personal reasons I Kill Giants will forever have a special place on my bookshelf and in my heart.

Number 2 – Dark Reign

Coming out of the events of Secret Invasion Dark Reign was the new status quo for the Marvel Universe which finds Norman Osborn, for all intents and purposes, as the most powerful man in the country. While not an event in the traditional sense Dark Reign was rather a company wide crossover with a new status quo. Single-handedly stopping the Skrull invasion Norman Osborn is chosen, by popular demand, to replace Tony Stark as the head of SHIELD. A nice commentary by Marvel that shows the media can make a hero out of anyone. Osborn restructures SHIELD as HAMMER, makes a few promises to his fellow bad guys including Loki and Dr. Doom and suddenly the Dark Reign had begun. With arguably more tie-ins than a typical event Dark Reign affected almost every major Marvel title. The bad guys were in charge and now had the law on their side. Many of the heroes were still considered outlaws because they had still not registered after the events of Civil War. Some books were unaffected for the most part with only vague references to Norman Osborn or HAMMER while books like Matt Fraction’s Invincible Iron Man dealt with it directly and with amazing results. Iron Man could have easily made this list this year with the “World’s Most Wanted” storyline but I felt it should be included in the larger whole of Dark Reign. Tony finds himself on the run and forced to protect his secrets from Norman Osborn and his Dark Avengers. One of my favorite elements of Dark Reign was the ‘Dark’ Avengers. Norman’s hand-picked group of super-villains all pretending to be the Avengers. My favorites being Venom as Spider-Man and Bullseye posing for Hawkeye. Dark Reign was the last of many steps leading up to next year’s Siege which promises to be the final chapters from several years’ worth of stories. Dark Reign has been a lot of fun and while I’ve enjoyed seeing Norman run the show from the top of the world I just know his fall will be even more entertaining!

Number 1 – Blackest Night

The best thing in comics during the year 2009 was indeed Blackest Night. While the top spot on this list may come as no surprise, luckily the series itself has been jam packed with them. Another massive event years in the making Blackest Night was first teased during the Sinestro Corps War storyline and has been building momentum ever since. The first half of 2009 was spent wrapping up the stories that would bring the various other colored Corps into the DCU. With Blackest Night #0, a Free Comic Book Day exclusive, Blackest Night was underway and Green Lantern and the whole of the DCU has been very exciting ever since. While on the surface Blackest Night seems like a Green Lantern event it truly is an event spread across all of DC’s titles. Even including the resurrection of the Flash and the death of Batman into its main storyline, Blackest Night is incorporating story-telling tactics previously unseen in comics. The planning and details that Geoff Johns laid out and followed through on are extremely impressive. The smallest details come back with huge pay offs and secondary characters are shown in new ways and continuing the notion that this event is about so much more than Hal Jordan. Like the events that preceded it the individual issue of this event keep building at an exponential level. Just when you think you know what’s going on or what’s going to happen next it goes in a whole new direction and gets even bigger and even better. A remarkable event and impressively handled from its origins to this point, it’s very appropriate that the last comic book released in 2009 was the latest chapter of Blackest Night.

Well friends there they are, my picks for the best comic stories of 2009. As you can see it was a wonderful year to be reading comics with something for everyone. What do you think? Think I missed something; maybe your picks didn’t make my list? Sound off comics fans and let me know, I’ll see you in the forums! In the meantime it’s time to start looking forward to 2010. Happy New Year!

---Submitted by: Ryan Porter
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