Planetary Book One Written by Warren Ellis Art by John Cassaday
This was the first comic book work from Warren Ellis I was ever exposed to, but at the time, I wasn’t able to keep up with the series. However, what I did read was so powerful it has resonated with me for 20 years, and I decided it was time to go back to Planetary and read the series in its entirety. The dominant pervading feeling you get from the opening issues of Planetary is Mystery. The protagonist is shrouded in mystery, and the world as it unfolds one chapter at a time is mysterious and wondrous. This is a place where superheroes, monsters, aliens, and everything fantastical exists, but it has left a dark toll on humanity.
Watchmen (HBO) Season 1, Episode 1 – “It’s Summer, And We’re Running Out of Ice” Written by Damon Lindeloff Directed by Nicole Kassell
That opening is not an alternative history, an invention of the mind of Damon Lindeloff, or some parallel history that made up the backstory of the Watchmen universe. The Tulsa Massacre of 1921 was real, down the plane flying overhead and dropping explosives on the black people that populated the neighborhood of the Greenwood District. This place was known as “Black Wall Street” due to the financial success black people had experienced there, allowed to open their own businesses and create a community that empowered each other. If “separate but equal” would be the law of the land, then the residents of Greenwood would go their own, rejected by their country.
The Omega Men by Tom King (2015) The latter half of 2015 could be considered the Tom King period for me. I’ve consistently enjoyed almost everything he’s put out, even the stuff that seems to have a significant fan backlash. This 12 issue series for DC Comics takes the Omega Men concept (aliens united as the result of an oppressive force) and revamped it thirty years after its original conception. The Omega Men fight against The Citadel, an interplanetary corporation that uses the destruction of Krypton as a means to sell their services, stabilizing the cores of worlds. The rare metal needed to fix these planetary cores is only found in planets within the Vega System; thus, the inhabitants of those worlds have been enslaved, and in some circumstances, wiped out by genocide to ensure the resources can be harvested. The Omega Men kidnaps former Green Lantern Kyle Rayner so that they might have a witness to the atrocities done to their people and to see their retribution.
These are the comic books that I enjoyed reading the most that were published in the last decade. You’ll definitely see some recurring authors and characters, signifying my personal bias. I know there are a ton of great books I haven’t read from this period and as time goes on I plan on reading some (look for a huge Image Comics read-through in early 2020). Please let me know of any titles not on my list as I may have not read them and always appreciate recommendations.
Fantastic Four by Jonathan Hickman (2010) Jonathan Hickman came onboard Fantastic Four at the start of the decade with big plans for not just this series but Marvel as well. He adhered to that original Stan Lee/Jack Kirby of exploring the unknown and created an optimistic, diverse possible future. The best thing Hickman gave us, and what has been criminally underused since, is the Future Foundation. The Future Foundation was Reed Richards’ effort to cultivate the next generation of scientists, and it played with reader expectations. Of course, Franklin and Valeria Richards are part of the team, but Hickman also includes some adolescent Moloids, the android Dragon Man, and a clone of Reed’s foil The Wizard. Not only is this a great read, one of the best Fantastic Four runs we’ve ever gotten, but it’s also almost essential reading to understand this last decade of Marvel comics.
Promethea Volume 2 (2002) Promethea Volume 3 (2003) Written by Alan Moore Art by J.H. Williams
Alan Moore’s second volume of Promethea is probably my favorite of the bunch as it spends time developing out the Promethea myth and the people who have had her power. By the end of the second volume, we’re going into the long chunk that boils down to a treatise of human existence using the Tarot and Qa’ballah as a structure. I always felt like I needed volumes of background knowledge to get what Moore was doing here, and as a result, I felt lost most of the time. I would argue that Promethea as a whole is not a good comic book series, too personal a topic, and too close to Moore for it to be enjoyed by most readers.
Promethea Volume 1 (2000) Written by Alan Moore Art by J.H. Williams
Alan Moore has always been a remixer of comics history and iconography. In 1999 he started his own imprint of Wildstorm (which was then a division of DC Comics), called America’s Best. The name was a repurposing of a defunct line of comics from the 1940s, which featured superheroes now lost to the memories of the general public like Black Terror and Fighting Yank. Moore stayed in that vein of pulpy, Golden Age stories centering this line around four core titles: Tom Strong, Top 10, Tomorrow Stories, and Promethea. Each book examined an archetype comics in typical Moore fashion, deconstructing the tropes and reinterpreting commonly accepted norms.
Here are the things I have planned for the second half of the year on my blog.
I’ll start doing a bi-weekly short film review roundup on August 17th. I plan to feature quality short films that are available online so that readers can view them. I have the first eight posts planned with three short films on each post. The first post will feature reviews for the short films He Took His Skin Off For Me, Janciza Bravo’s Eat, and Ari Aster’s The Strange Thing About the Johnsons. I’ll be looking at films that come from all corners of media from classic French shorts (Le Jetee) to Adult Swim middle of the night surreality (the works of Alan Resnick).
Power Rangers: Shattered Grid Reprints Mighty Morphin Power Rangers #24-30, 2018 Annual, Free Comic Book Day Special, Go Go Power Rangers #8-12, and Shattered Grid finale Written by Kyle Higgins and Ryan Parrott (with Anthony Burch, Caleb Goellner, Adam Cesare, Becca Barnes, and Alwyn Dale) Art by Jonas Scharf, Dan Mora, Marcus To, Dylan Burnett, Patrick Mulholland, Hyeonjin Kim, Simone Di Meo, Daniele Di Nicuolo, and Diego Galindo
Power Rangers has seen twenty-six different versions of the original premise from the first Mighty Morphin variety to the current Ninja Steel just launched Beast Morphers. I came of age just a bit too old to be a fan, but due to younger siblings in the house, I ended up watch much of the first season of the Fox Kids series. I know of the original group of teenagers and the evil of Rita Repulsa. After that era, I go blank. Boom Comics acquired the license to make comics based on Power Rangers a couple of years ago, and this reimagining came from writer Kyle Higgins. The books are a little more involved, fleshing out the families of the Rangers and making the city of Angel Grove feel a little bigger. With Shattered Grid, Higgins does the impossible and brings together the two dozen versions of the Rangers in one epic tale.
Brightburn (2019) Written by Brian & Mark Gunn Directed by David Yarovesky
The premise “What if Superman was evil?” is nothing new to the world of comic books. Over Superman’s eighty year history we’ve had characters like Bizarro, Ultraman, and Cyborg Superman who explore those darker aspects to a being like Superman. There have been books like Marvelman and Irredeemable that also examine these themes with even more detail. So, for comic nerds like myself, Brightburn isn’t bringing anything new to the table. However, I acknowledge that general audiences haven’t seen anything like this before, and if you are someone tired of the same old superhero origin tropes, this does offer a different take.
Upgrade Soul (2018) Written & Illustrated by Ezra Claytan Daniels
Hank and Molly Nonnar have been married for 45 years when they agree to undergo an experimental to give themselves new bodies and a second lifetime. However, as these things so often go, there are complications, and the couple’s bodies and souls undergo something life-shattering. As the two are led through the recovery process by the unethical scientists and researchers at the institute, they begin to uncover truths about themselves and their relationship. Molly makes breakthroughs in her research and sees her typical day to day needs fading away. Hank finds intimacy in an unexpected relationship and begins to imagine a future beyond the walls of their hospital. But as more is discovered about their conditions the bleaker the outcome appears to be.