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Pull list for December 30 2015; A look back at 2015

December 29, 2015

So the year’s just about over, huh? Wow. Well, follow me on Twitter (@XMenXPert), and here’s what I’ve got for tomorrow.

I’ll go to the store for: Uh, nothing, actually. I won’t bother going to to store this week. There’s only one comic I want, and it’s not one I have strong feelings about, so I’ll just get it next week: Spider-Man 2099 #5, by Peter David, Will Sliney and Rachelle Rosenberg.

I’ll also review: All-New Wolverine #3, by Tom Taylor, David Lopez, David Navarrot and Nathan Fairbairn.

So, one review. Yeah, this is a light week. I mean, it is the last week of the year, so it makes sense. There actually are quite a few comics coming out, just none that I’m very interested in.

So, books I read over the past week. First off, I may as well say what I got for Christmas. My brother got me a Storm bobble-head, and a $25 gift certificate for the local comic shop. So that’ll cover me for next week, I suppose. Comics are expensive. The Storm is ’90s Storm. I prefer Punk Storm, but that hasn’t been made, so ’90s Storm is cool, too. My mom got me Zeus Is Dead, by Michael Munz; The Bookshop Book, by Jen Campbell; and Amazing Fantastic Incredible, by Stan Lee, Peter David and Colleen Doran. And here’s my review of that:

This book is delightful. It’s a lot of fun. It’s impossible not to hear Stan Lee’s voice as you read it, which just makes it even better. There’s a lot of humour, both self-deprecating and self-aggrandizing, but mostly self-deprecating. He has a lot of kind words to say about a lot of the people he’s worked with – there are very, very few people he says anything negative about. He’s got plenty of interesting anecdotes, with my favourite being how he married his wife. (Actually, the fact that he’s made his marriage work for 60 years may be the most Amazing Fantastic Incredible thing about Stan Lee. It’s really impressive, and very inspiring and sweet.) He also shares a few sadder stories, though he makes it clear he doesn’t like dwelling too much on those.

The book is almost as much a history of Marvel as of Stan Lee. It’s clear how much he loves the company, and how big a part of his life it always was.

The art by Doran and the various colour artists also deserves the superlatives in the title. It’s great work. Bright and cartoonish, as befits Stan “The Man” Lee, a bright and cartoonish person. She gives him a lot of humanity, but also makes him larger than life at appropriate times. She mixes things up now and then, making certain panels even more cartoonish. She even includes an image of Charles Addams in his own distinctive style, which is a cute touch. And the big splash pages for certain artists and characters are outstanding, capturing the styles and energies of those artists while still keeping Doran’s own style.

Honestly, if you like comics, and especially if you like Marvel comics, there’s really no reason not to read this. It’s a wonderful, delightful book about a wonderful, delightful man. Strong recommendation here.

I posted a few panels on my Twitter, if you want to go back to my Friday night posts. Which you probably don’t. But trust me, it’s great.

There was Friends With Boys, by Faith Erin Hicks.

This was really good. It was a very sweet, very funny, very heartfelt story. A girl who’d always been home-schooled starts attending high school, and has to adjust to it while also dealing with drama in her family after her mom left. It does a good job depicting young friendships, touches briefly on the pangs of first love, and also includes a random ghost. Because why not. The ghost does tie into the overall plot, but it’s never really explained. The characters are all good, with plenty of depth to them. The art is nice. Hicks is a talented artist, with a pleasant style that’s good at subtle expressions. She does a good job with setting moods of scenes, as well.

I thoroughly enjoy this comic, and I would definitely recommend it.

I like Hicks’ books. She’s got a couple coming out in 2016. The Nameless City, parts 1 and 2. I’ll definitely be pre-ordering those, once they have release dates set. She routinely posts (unlettered) panels of it on her Twitter feed, and it looks good.

I finished Kasmah Forma, by S. Vagus. My review:

I found this book to be OK. It’s basically telling three stories concurrently. One set in a desert, about a young woman with a life that gets increasingly awful; one set in a forest, about a young man with no idea what he’s doing; one set in a story, about an immensely powerful man trying to stave off boredom. All three stories are told fairly well. There’s humour and drama to be had. Some parts that are really sad. Each story is fairly good.

The problem is that they never end up feeling like they’re connected. Two of them connect at the very end, in a way that feels like it’s more setting up a sequel. And that’s ultimately the problem here: The story feels incomplete. It’s very much a slow-burn approach, which would be fine, if it still built to a satisfying climax. But it doesn’t. It builds up to right before the climax, and then it ends. It ends up being unsatisfying.

There’s a lot of philosophical discussion going on. Your enjoyment of the book will depend a lot on how much patience you have for that sort of thing. I was fine with it, myself. Other readers might not be.

Overall, while this isn’t a bad book by any means, it’s still not a book I’d be likely to recommend to anyone.

And my final book of the year was Page By Paige, by Laura Lee Gulledge.

This comic was phenomenal. Stellar work. It’s a book about being a teenager, making friends and falling in love. And that stuff is all handled in a really authentic way. But more than that, it’s a book about art. In this case, it’s specifically dealing with drawing, but most of it can be applied to any art form. How hard it is to make art, how hard it can be to share it with the world, how crushing it is to see criticism of it, but also how wonderful and rewarding the simple experience of creation can be. Gulledge’s own art gets across so much. When she’s drawing “real-world” stuff, it looks nice, fun and expressive. But she also fills pages with these symbolic drawings to convey ideas better than she ever could with words. Something I imagine is very much familiar with people who draw. Even people who can’t draw, though, will absolutely understand the feeling. There’s a boundless creativity to the book.

I can’t recommend this book highly enough. Especially to teens, and especially teens who are interested in drawing.

I posted a handful of panels from the comic on Twitter last night. It’s a great book, and I’d definitely suggest checking it out. It made me wish I had the patience to learn how to draw. But I don’t. So I’ll try to keep writing my shitty superhero story that sucks. The book did make me think I should spend more time working on writing. It really is a book that encourages readers to create. Seize the day!

I post these reviews in my pull list posts. But I want to mention that I also have the Goodreads widget, so any time I make a post on here, you can always check to see if I’ve done any new book reviews.

And now! My thoughts on 2015. Sort of.

It’s traditional to do a “Best/Worst of the Year” list. But I haven’t done that in a couple years. I’m too lazy. I don’t feel like going back through all the comics I read this year to pick out the lines and moments I liked. If I were smart, I’d keep a file with a list of those that I just add to each week, and then go through that every once in a while. I might try to do that this year. But I probably won’t end up doing it. So these thoughts will be basically off the top of my head.

In terms of X-Men comics, there were unfortunately few true standouts. Bendis finished his run, and he ended with some reasonably strong stories. I loved Scott’s rally in UXM #600. So good! ANXM’s final arc was . . . a little underwhelming, to be honest. It didn’t feel good enough to be the final arc. With UXM, the Matthew Malloy crap dragged on entirely too long, and sucked a lot out of that last arc. I enjoyed G. Willow Wilson’s arc on X-Men, and I’d be happy to see her do more X-Men stuff. Wolverines had some OK stuff and a lot of utter crap – the Fang arc was so stupid. A few other titles ended their runs this year, as well. X-Force, Amazing X-Men, Nightcrawler, Cyclops. All in all, this year felt smaller for the X-Men.

They did have some Secret Wars mini. Age of Apocalypse started off strong, and had a lot of potential, a lot of great stuff, but it couldn’t stick the landing, so that ended up hurting the series as a whole. House of M was OK, but it wasn’t one of the better Secret War titles. X-Tinction Agenda was great. It was a strong story, even if I hated the art. There was a lot of cool, interesting stuff, and I actually would’ve liked to have seen more from that world, which is always a good sign. E Is For Extinction was a lot of fun, and did a great job with the ideas Morrison came up with. Inferno was very good. Not without its flaws, but still a solid story. Giant-Size Little Marvel was an absolute delight.

But my favourite X-Men Secret Wars story – probably my favourite X-Men story of the year, in fact – was Years of Future Past. Bennett told a really good story that kept a lot of the tone of the original Days of Future Past, but did it in a really interesting way. Chrissie Pryde is a great character, so much like her mom, and I actually would love it if she ended up in the 616. I think Kitty would handle an alternate future daughter showing up pretty well. Probably as well as Nightcrawler did. The art on that mini was also fantastic. It was great work all around, and one of my favourite Secret Wars comics.

There were other great Secret Wars comics, though. Mighty Avengers’ Last Days story was goddamn amazing. That series had a strong year in general, with a story that followed up on Nextwave and tons of great character stuff, but its Last Days story was beautiful. That ending. Man. Man. That was one hell of a finale. (And then Ewing also did a great two-part Secret Wars story with Al Ewing, the Mighty Defenders, and it was really good.) Loki also used Last Days to great effect, to continue to explore the complexity of Loki, turning him from God of Lies to God of Stories, and making him reinventing himself a part of his character, which really means any writer can use him for any story. Silver Surfer and Ms. Marvel also had great Last Days stories, but those comics I’ll talk about in a little while.

For the actual Secret Wars mini, Ghost Racers was awesome. Big crazy action, and some amazing Ghost Racer designs. 1602 Angela was a gorgeous book in every way, though I’ll talk more about the main Angela series below. Siege was Gillen’s Marvel swan song, and it was one hell of a finale. Big action, ridiculous ideas, and bad puns. Loved it. Carol Corps was DeConnick’s Marvel swan song, and it was also great. It was a great exploration of not just Carol, but what Carol embodies, and what the Carol Corps itself embodies. The drive to go higher. Further. Faster. More. It was really good, and I’m going to miss DeConnicks’ Captain Marvel.

Speaking of her Captain Marvel, her final issue of the main series was definitely one of the most emotionally powerful issues of the year. (The year also got off to a wonderful start with Captain Marvel #11, another absolute standout issue, with a cameo from Santa Claus, because hell yes.)

Getting away from books that ended, though, there were some amazing ongoings. Angela’s been awesome from the start, with a wonderful mix of humour, drama and awesome action. We got a transgender superhero (sort of superhero) in Sera, who’s also just a really fun character, with a great sense of humour and a great sense of story. Bennett’s killing it on that book, and the art has been excellent, especially Stephanie Hans, who is just so amazing you guys. And Squirrel Girl has been delightful. It’s one of the funnest, funniest comics out there. I love it and I hope it lasts forever.

But the Marvel title of the year, as far as I’m concerned, is Ms. Marvel. That comic is just so damned good. A great balance of humour and drama, of heroics and personal stuff, with a lot of positive messages. It’s a comic about being good for the sake of being good. And it’s a rare superhero comic that treats violence as bad. Kamala talks about wanting to do good without hurting anyone. But I think the moment that best-exemplifies that “violence isn’t good” message is after she punches Kaboom (who is, as an aside, an awesome character). Initially, Ms. Marvel feels great. But then, soon after, she sees Kaboom on a stretcher and wearing a neck brace, and it makes her feel a little sick. She’s seeing the consequences of her violence, and she hates it. Of course, this year also had the long-awaited Ms. Marvel/Captain Marvel team-up, and it was very squee.

There were also some non-Marvel comics I should praise. To start with, Pretty Deadly is back guys! It’s only two issues into the second arc, but I’m loving it. DeConnick and Rios are amazing. DeConnick and Valentine De Landro also did some spectacular work on Bitch Planet. It’s a shame about the delays, because it’s a great series. It’s an unapologetically and unsubtly feminist work, and there’s also some nice elements of intersectional feminism – meaning, it touches on things like race, as well. The characters are human, and they’re compelling. (Penny Rolle should be everyone’s role model.) The art is also great, and has plenty of little touches that further push the message about how bullshit patriarchy is. The lesbian shower scene also deserves to be called out for how outstanding it is – it takes something that’s always used in a very exploitative, male-gaze way, and subverted it to hell and back. It really was fascinating.

We got another volume of Hopeless Savages, of course, and this time, Jen Van Meter teamed with Meredith McClaren, and it was beautiful.

And, finally, there’s The Wicked + The Divine, which killed throughout the year (maybe a bad choice of words). There was a lot of really cool, clever stuff going on. WicDiv #13 was one of the best single issues of the year, I’d say. That was a really, really incredible issue. But every issue this year was great. It’s an awesome series.

So, those are my (long-rambling) thoughts on this year’s comics.

In blog news, I’ve tidied up my Categories bar at the top. Almost all the writers and artists are now in categories. I left Chris Claremont in his own category because he’s Chris Claremont. Similar logic applied to John Byrne, though he also gets his own category on account of having been an artist and a writer, for comics I’ve talked about on here. I may try to go back through at some point and add all the various inkers, colour artists and letterers who’ve worked on issues I’ve reviewed already. That would be kind of a big undertaking, though. For Claremont alone, I’ve got 215 posts. 59 posts in the ’60s, 48 in the ’70s, 302 in the ’80s. So I’d be looking at 400 posts to go through, adding inker, colour artist and letterer for each one. It’d be a lot of work.

In personal news, 2015 was a pretty meh year. Nothing at all happened for me. I still have a shitty job as a cashier at Wal-Mart. I haven’t gone on any dates. I haven’t done anything. It’s been a year of absolutely nothing. I’ve kept the blog going, though, so that’s something to be proud of. I have no resolutions for 2016. I don’t make resolutions. I’ll try to keep doing what I’m doing. I’ll keep trying to get a library job. But other than that, I don’t like resolutions.

My schedule for this week: 10:45-7:15 tomorrow, 1:45-6:30 Thursday, 3-10 Tuesday, 11:45-8:15 next Wednesday. So I’ll put my next pull list up on Tuesday, and I’ll have posts Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday. Which will cover half the month of May 1987. The X-Men were really starting to get a lot of books by then.

And that’s all I’ve got for this week. Almost all I’ve got for this year, aside from talking a little about All-New Wolverine tomorrow.

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