As my comic book reading is sporadic at best (although my buying is steady as evidenced by my “to read” pile), I didn’t feel qualified to put together a “best of” list for 2014; instead I thought I’d throw out a few observations regarding comics and SF TV.
Let’s get the bad out of the way first.
Does Steven Moffat need a break?
If you read my review of the Doctor Who Series eight finale, you know I pretty much loathed it; I have yet to watch it a second time. Peter Capaldi’s debut season was ultimately a disappointment despite some interesting ideas and his fantastic performance. Beyond bringing back the Master as a woman, which was a twist I didn’t see coming, series eight lacks a vision. After the 50th anniversary episode and Matt Smith’s Christmas 2013 swan song, I thought we were going to see The Doctor seek out Gallifrey, but there’s no mention of it until the end of the season. Meanwhile, Clara’s only purpose is to fall in love with a guy in a storyline that seems rushed and forced. The upside is that the Christmas special was pretty good, although not the best to date, and provides some hope for next year. Ultimately, it felt as though aside from making the series darker this year, Moffat didn’t have a plan for Doctor Who. When he’s on his game, he’s a great writer, but he needs an editor. And maybe a break from the show. And I know some haters would like to see him gone completely.
The (Not So) New 52
The rebooted DC universe has been around a few years now, and I will say it’s a failure, if only because I’ve had no interest in reading DC books of late. I look at the shelves and I see a big mess. The only DC title I’ve read consistently this past year is Batgirl, and that may change with Gail Simone no longer writing the title. I used to be primarily a DC reader, but it feels like the publisher is in constant “major event” mode with all sorts of DC-universe changing storylines. It still bugs me that they reset the numbering for long-standing titles such as Action Comics and Detective Comics. It also looks like a bunch of titles are to be cancelled in the New Year, which doesn’t bode well for the New 52. And I miss the DC bullet logo.
The disaster that is DC is a great segue into what was good in 2014.
Steady on, Vertigo
DC’s imprint for grownups is still quite solid, and the publisher should take heed of why readers like Vertigo and not mess up something that works. Hinterkind is an original, entertaining title, as is Coffin Hill. And while Fables is wrapping up, it’s been entertaining until the end. We also had the return of Neil Gaiman’s Sandman and the second cycle of American Vampire. It’s too bad Hellblazer was cancelled and Constantine was rolled into the New 52.
Truly a Marvel
As I mentioned, I’ve traditionally been a DC reader, but the New 52 prompted me to look at other publishers, including Marvel. I’ve never been an X-Men or Avengers reader, although I’ve enjoyed the Marvel movies. Ms. Marvel has been a standout title this year. A fresh take on the superhero, with a strong female character supported by great writing and visuals.
The Best of Two Worlds
As an SF fan and a comics fan, 2014 has been a great year, because some of the best SF is happening in comics right now, and the titles are not coming from DC or Marvel. Drifter is a solid new series, as is Low, both from Image, while there’s FBP from Vertigo. I really enjoyed Greg Rucka’s Lazarus, and I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Saga. The first five issues of Alex and Ada had some good ideas in it, although it has some flaws. I sometimes wonder if DC’s fumbling is a broader indication of the future of superheroes comics. And the alternative can’t always be supernatural horror books.
TV is the Future
If DC is botching it in book form, it’s doing better on the small screen. Superheroes are finally hitting their stride on TV. Arrow has done a great job of balancing the gritty tone of the Mike Grell print era while staying connected with the broader DC universe, and The Flash is – dare I say it? – even better in its in freshman year. I’ve not watched Gotham or Constantine, but that’s four series from DC alone. Remember when all there was Smallville and for a brief instant, Birds of Prey? Meanwhile, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. appears to have found its groove in season two and Agent Carter debuts in early 2015. Coupled with all of the development deals announced by Netflix, 2015 is going to a great year for comics on TV.
My resolution for 2015 is to catch up on my reading pile, which includes trade paperbacks, recent releases and old stuff I’ve migrated from my parents’ basement over the past while. Not much room for anything new in this one bedroom apartment, but it won’t stop me from hitting my local shop every Wednesday.
Happy New Year!