• Everything But Imaginary #380: The Best of 2010

    It’s almost time, my friends. It’s time for auld acquaintances to be forgot and never brought to mind, lifting up that cup of kindness, setting off small but still potentially lethal amounts of explosives, and celebrating the fact that we’ve survived another 12 months, which means that in an arbitrary sense that we cling to like grim death we’ve got a chance to start over and try, once again, to get it right. In other words, happy new year!

    That also means, however, that it’s time for everybody to start putting together their lists of the best/worst/juiciest/lowest in cholesterol of 2010, and we here at Everything But Imaginary Global Headquarters are no different. Once again, to celebrate the things that were great in the previous 365 days, I’ve compiled a list based entirely on what categories I feel like talking about and what comics, books, movies and TV shows I feel deserve some recognition in 2010. As always, this list is 100 percent subjective and consists only of my personal opinions – your mileage may vary, and if I left out something you think is truly worthy of praise this year, by all means, let’s hear what you’re thinking about in the comments section. But for now, friends, let’s get into the good stuff.

    Best Superhero Title:
    Winning the award for the second year in a row, I’m giving it all up for Green Lantern. With Blackest Night over this book still hasn’t lost any steam, spiraling straight into the story of the New Guardians, the mysterious (well… less mysterious if you’ve read the last issue) figure who is capturing the entities that embody each of the Corps, some delicate politics between Hal, Carol, and Sinestro, continued development of some of the other characters that have been introduced in the last few years, and Larfleeze. Oh, Larfleeze. One of the best characters Geoff Johns has ever created totally stole the show this year, and I can’t wait to see what else is in store for him in 2011. Any week that Green Lantern was in my comic shop stack, it rose immediately to the top to be read right away.

    Best Science Fiction Title:
    I’m so happy to be able to award this title again. Fantastic Four is, in fact, my favorite Marvel property, it stars my favorite Marvel character, and while it may not quite be the undisputed world’s greatest comics magazine again, it’s finally in contention for the first time since Mark Waid left the title. This year Jonathan Hickman has continued to bring in amazing concepts, developing an entire alternate version of Atlantis, delving into the secret of Galactus’s corpse, using the Reed Richards of infinite worlds to great effect, and bringing the kids of the Future Foundation to the forefront and making them a significant part of this title. (I’m currently betting, in fact, that the upcoming name change to FF will include a greater focus on this group, if for no other reason than because “Three” begins with a “T”).

    Best Fantasy Title:
    This year I’m giving this award to what amounts to a series of mini-series, two of which have been in publication at some point this year. So let’s hear it for Eric Shanower and Skottie Young’s work on The Marvelous Land of Oz and Ozma of Oz, based on the second and third Oz novels by creator L. Frank Baum. For my money, these two books are the best in the original series of 14 composed by Baum himself, even though most readers aren’t familiar with anything past the original Wizard of Oz (and, to be honest, most people know that work mostly through the Judy Garland movie). These two books had more life and imagination and expanded the world and cast of Oz dramatically. After these two, you could kind of tell that Baum was starting to get frustrated that he was “the Oz guy,” and some of the spark was gone. But this was the point where he was doing his greatest work with his greatest creation, and Shanower and Young have done a brilliant job of adapting those works for the comic book medium. The cuts and pacing to fit the comic book page are exemplary, and Young has truly established himself in my mind as the greatest Oz artist of a generation. I’m totally in love with these comics.

    Best Horror Title:
    This was a tough one this year. There aren’t a lot of books that fall full-bore into the “horror” category anymore, at least not many that I’m reading, and even the book I chose shares a lot with other genres, but I had to give it to Chris Roberson and Michael Allred’s new title, I, Zombie. This title has made itself one of my favorites in its first year of publication. Gwen is a zombie, technically, but she’s not a mindless Romero-style gutmuncher. She’s kept her faculties and mostly manages to pass as human, but there’s one little catch – she has to eat a brain about once a month, or she’ll turn into one of those stereotypical rotting flesh-gobblers. This title is a totally unique take on zombies, and that would be good enough all by itself, but it goes further than that. This world is also fully populated with vampires, ghosts, and not just werewolves, but were-“virtually any animal you can name”s. Roberson has brought in all of the classic monster tropes and come up with a fantastic unifying backstory for them, making this a really intriguing, tight story that has limitless potential.

    Best Humor Title:
    This always hotly-contended category was tough for me this year. There are always a lot of really good choices, and it was hard to single out just one, but ultimately I went with Art Baltazar and Franco’s Tiny Titans. This book from the Johnny DC imprint has been funny from the first page, with stories that clearly draw on the classic DC Universe without being slavishly devoted to it. It’s also totally unafraid to mock some of the sillier aspects of superhero storytelling in the confines of an all-ages series. While this book is one of the few out there that’s completely acceptable to give to even the youngest of readers, it has a degree of wit and a wink-at-the-camera perspective that people who’ve loved the DC Universe for years will fall completely in love with. There are lots of funny comic books being published. None of them make me laugh as frequently as Tiny Titans.

    Best All-Ages Title:
    To me, what makes a book “all ages” is content that is enjoyable to young readers, teens, and adults alike, and there are very few comic books out there that meet that criteria. Darkwing Duck, for my money, is the title that’s best for all three categories of readers. Adult readers grew up with this character, and we love seeing him again. Ian Brill and James Silvani have brought back the world of St. Canard, with all our favorite heroes and villains, but they haven’t been content to just re-tread old ground. In two story arcs, they’ve made some pretty interesting changes to the status quo of Drake Mallard and family, and they’re not one-off changes. What’s more, the book is entertaining whether you grew up with the characters or not. Teens and children who have never seen an episode of the cartoon are picking up this book, loving it, and seeking out the DVDs. What more can you possibly hope to see in a comic book?

    Best New Title:
    First, the criteria. By “New Title,” I’m looking for an ongoing series that premiered after the first day of 2010 and isn’t just a relaunch or revamp of an existing title or set of characters. (Those books are eligible for the “new beginning” award, given a few paragraphs down.) And I said it in my review of the fifth issue, and I’ll say it again – Morning Glories is without a doubt the best new comic book of 2010. I was one of many, many people who had to pick up a reprint of the first issue of Nick Spencer and Joe Eisma’s series, but I managed to hop on-board with issue number two and I’ve been eagerly awaiting each issue since. This story has thrust us into the world of Morning Glories Academy, a school for exceptional students who discover on the first day of class that they all seem to have the same birthday. And that’s just the beginning of the weirdness – phone calls home are met with parents who claim not to remember them, students go missing, teachers put them through brutal tests, and the book is really one giant question mark. What’s going on? I haven’t the foggiest notion, but that’s okay. Because it’s clear that Spencer does know, and if I feel like the writer has a plan and is executing that, I’m willing to wait for answers. This is a book that has you questioning everything in every panel, and that makes it an enormous amount of fun to read, if you’re willing to put your brain to work.

    Best Comic You're Not Reading:
    Speaking of books you aren’t reading, dammit, let’s give it up for Brian Clevinger and Scott Wegener’s Atomic Robo. The title is currently on its fifth miniseries, and each one has been even more entertaining than the last. Robo, for the many of you who have never tried it out, is the story of a self-aware atomic powered robot built by Nicola Tesla who has lasted this long to become the head of a science lab dedicated to changing the world. As Robo was around for virtually the entire 20th century, the storytellers are constantly bouncing around in time, telling stories of Robo in the 20s, in World War II, through the nuclear age, and right up into today. Robo has done battle with interdimensional vampires, the time-splicing creature that inspired H.P. Lovecraft, the ghost of Thomas Edison and a dinosaur who isn’t nearly as smart as he thinks he is, just to name a few. In the current miniseries, Atomic Robo and the Deadly Art of Science, Robo – bored with his life in the sciences – is trying to become the partner of Chicago mystery man Jack Tarot. There is so much awesome in this paragraph I don’t know how you haven’t rushed out to get the trade paperbacks and issues already. Go, man! Get to it!

    Best Webcomic:
    It’s an upstart this year, but a webcomic that just came on to my radar in the last couple of months has vaulted ahead to become my favorite. Adam Huber’s Bug is a daily dose of surreal humor, a commentary on pop culture or real culture, all acted out by Huber’s adorable insect characters. There’s no ongoing plot or storyline, just a topic thrown out every day and three or four gags that tackle that idea, usually with a cynical or sardonic response. It doesn’t hurt that Huber seems to have come from the same generation as many of his readers (myself included) so he constantly drops in references with particular meaning or resonance with us. The main Bug, who seems to be Huber’s avatar in the strip, is a laid-back sort of guy with a quick wit and a great sense of humor. Check it out Monday through Friday at www.bugcomic.com.

    Best Movie:
    I’ve got to admit, this one wasn’t hard. It wasn’t a great year for movies. Sure, I loved Inception, and Iron Man 2 and Tron: Legacy had the cool factor, but there weren’t a lot of movies that had true resonance for me. Even in a great year, though, think Toy Story 3 would have vaulted ahead of most contenders and become my favorite. It’s rare to see sequels that surpass the original. It’s even rarer for the third film in a franchise to be the best. But Pixar pulled it off handily, going back to the characters that first made them an animation juggernaut. Enough time has passed that Andy – and the original audience – have grown up, and that’s truly what this movie is about. We see Buzz and Woody and the gang forced to accept that life changes and doesn’t always turn out the way you want, but that doesn’t mean you can’t still have a happy ending. This story was sweet, powerful, and truly magnificent. If a movie has you in tears because you’re afraid Mr. Freakin’ Potato Head might not make it out, you know you’re dealing with a masterpiece.

    Best TV Show (Drama):
    I broke this up into two categories this year, although honestly I could have broken it into a dozen. I’ll leave the more in-depth look at TV to Andrea Speed, though. There were plenty of great shows for geeks this year, including Lost and The Walking Dead, but when I stepped back and evaluated which show I enjoyed the most, I had to give it to Doctor Who. The show had the unenviable task of replacing both a highly popular showrunner and a highly popular star, but Steven Moffat and Matt Smith (respectively) stepped up, took over those two roles, and made the show their own. The new series and the new Doctor carry a sense of wit and humor, but also a dark quality that makes you wonder if the Doctor’s laid-back attitude isn’t merely a cover for some great pain. The great thing about Doctor Who is how the property established itself early as a series that can reinvent itself every few years. The Eleventh Doctor is most definitely not the tenth, or any of the nine prior, but he’s still Doctor Who, and this year, he was great.

    Best TV Show (Comedy):
    Because somebody has to say it, there was no funnier show this year than NBC’s Community. In its first season, Community started as a strong ensemble comedy about students at a community college in danger of being buried under the weight of its lead. Somewhere along the way, though, it evolved and changed. Instead of being “Joel McHale and his cast of goofballs,” we’ve got a cast of goofballs, one of whom happens to be Joel McHale. While he’s still an integral part of the show, he’s not the primary focus. The show has a magnificent cast, and any of the seven members of the “study group” can step forward and take the lead for an episode, just as any can step back and allow the others to run the show. What’s more, somewhere along the line the show took a bizarre turn into mountains of meta-humor. It’s not just a comedy, it’s a comedy that can ruthlessly mock any kind of story. We’ve gotten a mob drama hidden in a story about chicken fingers, a paintball fight that turns into a pastiche of every action movie, a flu outbreak that turned into a zombie apocalypse, and a Christmas episode that tapped into every great stop-motion special while still giving us added depth and insight into one of our principal characters. And those are only the most blatant examples. Whatever you love, Community will make fun of it, and make you love them for doing it.

    Scott SiglerBest Prose Novel:
    A word, first. Obviously, I did not read every novel published in 2010, any more than I read every comic book or watched every movie. Like all of these, this award goes to the best out of the ones I happened to be exposed to. Nor did I read most of the books that would probably be deemed “important.” I find that most of those books, and the people doing the deeming, are usually unbearably pretentious. All I can go by is what novel was the most fun for me, and that goes to Scott Sigler and The Starter. This is the second novel in Sigler’s Galactic Football League series, the follow-up to 2009’s The Rookie. Quentin Barnes has taken his Ionath Krakens out of Tier Two football and into the big leagues, Tier One, where the hits come harder and the stakes are much higher. Sigler amazes me – he can shift gears so easily from hard sci-fi/horror (such as he did this year with Ancestor) to a lighter sci-fi that’s less about the genetics and physics and more about the characters. This series has all the earmarks of a great sports story, a fun space opera, and even a bit of the mob drama. Both The Rookie and The Starter had limited print runs, and I don’t know if it’s possible to get either of them in book form any more, but you can certainly get them both in eBook format.

    The Rookie for Kindle
    The Starter for Kindle

    The New Beginning Award:
    Each year I give this title to the property that does the best job of reinventing itself. Sometimes it’s a new series with old characters, sometimes it’s a book that changes direction, sometimes it’s a character that comes back – it could be any number of things. And this year, I’m giving it up for Teen Titans. Let’s face it, for the last few years, the book has stagnated terribly, with weak plots and characters who didn’t behave like themselves. But J.T. Krul and Nicola Scott have taken over the book, giving us a (seemingly, at least) stable line-up of classic Titans, the promise of a new character to join the team, and best of all, the introduction of Damian Wayne. Damian has become one of those characters you love to hate – he’s obnoxious and insufferable, but the interaction between him and the rest of the team is wildly entertaining. Plus, Scott is one of the best artists in comics, and she’s doing a beautiful job with these characters. If you gave up on the book in the last couple of years, nobody can blame you, but this is a time to give it another chance. It finally feels like the Titans again.

    The Happy Trails Award:
    Usually, I give this award to one comic book that was cancelled during the year that I wish was still around, but I’m going to change it up for 2010. This year, I’m bidding a “Happy Trails” to Wildstorm Comics. After 18 years, the DC imprint has shut its doors. The creator-owned and licensed comics will continue, filtering in to either DC proper or the Vertigo imprint, but the characters that made up the Wildstorm Universe have been put on the shelf for the time being. I’ll be honest, I’ve never been one of the biggest Wildstorm readers – the only Wildstorm Universe properties I’ve read in the last couple of years were Welcome to Tranquility and Majestic – but I really respected the imprint’s efforts to bring in new and different ideas. Books like The American Way and The Twilight Experiment gave superheroes a shot in the arm, much like Victorian Undead and North 40 turned horror on its ear. And let’s not forget, this imprint has been the home for years to Kurt Busiek’s Astro City, which will move over to the DC side, as well as to hits like Ex Machina, Red, and the various titles that fell under America’s Best comics. They gave us some unique properties, and Wildstorm shall be missed.

    I’m going to skip the usual “Favorite of the Week” trophy because all of the contenders for that title happen to be books that I’ve already talked about in this column (including Morning Glories, Atomic Robo and Fantastic Four). That’s all I’ve got, friends. As always, if you’ve got another book you think deserves some buzz, tell us about it. In the meantime, have a great New Year’s and a happy 2011!

    Blake M. Petit is the author of the superhero comedy novel, Other People’s Heroes, the suspense novel The Beginner and the Christmas-themed eBook A Long November. He’s also the co-host, with whoever the hell is available that week, of the 2 in 1 Showcase Podcast and the weekly audio fiction podcast Blake M. Petit’s Evercast. E-mail him at BlakeMPetit@gmail.com and visit him on the web at Evertime Realms. Read past columns at the Everything But Imaginary Archive Page, and check out his new experiment in serial fiction at Tales of the Curtain.
    Comments 3 Comments
    1. Andrea Speed's Avatar
      Andrea Speed -
      Let's see ... my favorite comics would be: Chew, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, King City, Morning Glories, and Incognito: Bad Influences. At least we have Morning Glories in common.

      As for best TV drama? Far and away, Breaking Bad. No contest. As for best comedy, I liked Community a lot, it's in my top ten list, but I'd have handed the prize to the Venture Brothers.
    1. Blake Petit's Avatar
      Blake Petit -
      Oh, I do love Chew. And if I was doing a top five list, it'd certainly show up.

      Venture Brothers isn't bad, but I've never really fallen in love with it. I've never actually seen an episode of Breaking Bad.
    1. Andrea Speed's Avatar
      Andrea Speed -

      Man, good lord, I love Breaking Bad! (Also, the Venture Brothers, although I will admit the first season of VB did nothing for me. It got better starting at season two.)