Saturday, April 08, 2017

RIP CA


Seems like just yesterday that I was dusting the blog machine off to say farewell to one of my favorite long-running comics (and other stuff) blogs, Dave Ex Machina, and remarking how a lot of the bloggers from those old days left for bigger outlets. In reality, it was just over a year ago, and that post is still on the front page, if that gives you any indication about where I'm at with comics blogging.

One of those bigger outlets was Comics Alliance, where you could find Chris Sims, David Brothers, and David Wolkin, some of the comics blogging voices I most enjoyed following. Through CA, I discovered Chris Haley and Curt Franklin, I enjoyed thoughtful pieces by Matt Wilson and Ziah Grace and Kate Leth and Caleb Goellner and Andy Khouri and Joe Hughes and J. Caleb Mozzocco and David Uzumeri and Jennifer de Guzman and Dylan Todd and James Leask and Betty Felon and Luke Brown and Janelle Asselin and Andrew Wheeler and Katie Schenkel and Kieran Shiach and Elle Collins and pal Charlotte Finn and goddamn legend Laura Hudson and probably a dozen others I'm forgetting. It's the only comics website I have linked in my browser toolbar, and I still click it like four times a day without thinking about it.

Comics Alliance was different in a familiar way. The main page of Comics Alliance never read the way that the main pages of Newsarama or CBR do. It felt like a blog, with regular long-form posts on interesting and important subjects, alongside long-running features by creative bloggers with distinctive voices. Where other comics news outlets were shuttering blogs and shifting hard into news content, Comics Alliance went the other way, even covering news with biting commentary. It was this incredible Voltron of the things and people I loved about old-school comics blogging all in one place.

More than that, Comics Alliance cared. It cared about the people making comics, it cared about the people going to conventions and comic shops, it cared about the people reading comics, it cared about what stories mean, who characters are, why representation matters, and it made you care about those things too. CA drew a lot of flak from the worst parts of the Internet for being unrepentant social justice warriors and wading into politics. I spent some time on the old Wayback Machine to get the image up above, wanting to get back to the earliest page of Comics Alliance as I knew it. I didn't succeed, but along the way I saw articles about superheroes and sexuality, articles about the culture of comic shops, and articles about Chip Zdarsky. That makes for a pretty consistent eight years of blogging.

The people who made up Comics Alliance aren't gone, and many of the ones I mentioned have transferred to other projects already. It's a damn shame that talented, good-hearted people lost a source of income, and it's a damn shame that comics media lost a major source of thoughtful, socially-minded commentary. There are other outlets with similar worldviews, but nothing quite fills the niche that Comics Alliance filled. I'm going to miss that, but it's the little things I'll miss the most.

I'll miss David Uzumeri's Morrison annotations, even if it's been awhile since he did them. I'll miss Chris Sims's "Hedging Your Bets" and "Ask Chris," which I looked forward to every week. I'll miss Elle Collins's "Cast Party," which was always fun and thoughtful. I'll miss Collins and Katie Schenkel's "Together Breakfast" Steven Universe recaps, which I always went to right after catching an episode. I'll miss Charlotte Finn's "Lost in Transition," which didn't get a chance for enough entries. I'll miss Kieran Shiach's "This Magazine Kills Fascists," which was so important for the current political climate. I'll miss all the articles I was holding out on—the TV show recaps for series I haven't caught up on, like Riverdale and Supergirl, Charlotte's Transmetropolitan series and Sims's old Transformers series, which I haven't managed to read yet. I hope some of these series manage to continue in one place or another.

I don't know how to end this. I've realized recently that I'm not good with things ending. I've been reading the same comics and books, watching the same TV shows, playing with the same toys, since I was a kid. Those were the constants throughout my life. I moved around a lot as a kid, and I realized recently that the things that ended for me most commonly were friendships. I don't know if that's why I can't finish things or get hit so hard by things ending. But the end of Comics Alliance feels kind of like that. Like I've lost a friend. 

Friday, January 20, 2017

Leaping Back In

The subject of a hypothetical Quantum Leap reboot came up on Twitter, and my ideas didn't fit well into 140 characters. Quantum Leap is one of a handful of shows and concepts that I think would work particularly well reimagined for a modern age, but revival attempts never seem to move past the rumor stage. So, here's my idea for the pilot and premise.
It has been 20 years since Dr. Sam Beckett stepped into the Quantum Leap accelerator and vanished. Project Quantum Leap lost contact with Dr. Beckett only five years later, and he has not been seen since. The timeline monitoring systems note that changes keep occurring, though it is unclear which changes are the result of Dr. Beckett's actions, and which are from outside influences. Unfortunately, the regressive changes threaten to erase Project Quantum Leap from the timeline, and the resulting paradox could rip the entire timeline apart. The project's only hope is to re-establish contact with Dr. Beckett and bring him home.

Enter Thomas Albert Beckett, Sam's 21-year-old son. Tom's feelings about his father are complicated, but his genetic similarity makes him the only person who might be able to track Sam's travels through time. He steps into the Quantum Leap accelerator...and vanishes.

He awakes to find himself in the past, facing a mirror image startlingly similar to his own. He's leapt into his own 19-year-old father, in 1972, on the eve of his piano concert at Carnegie Hall. Except Tom doesn't know how to play the piano, and he finds himself trying to help a young musician on the verge of giving up on her career. Oh, and he's caught in the crosshairs of an assassin from the future! His holographic guides on this journey are his "cousin" Capt. Georgia Calavicci and his genius half-sister, Dr. Samantha Jo Fuller.

If he succeeds, Tom will find himself leaping from life to life, driven as his father was to put right what once went wrong, and hoping each leap brings him closer to finding his father and setting the timeline right once and for all.
The pilot sets up our ensemble cast, with Tom Beckett as the young leaper, often out of his depth in ways that his father wasn't. He's clever, but he gets by more on charm and quick thinking than brains and multiple Ph.D.s. Georgia and Sammy-Jo trade off duties as the "Al" character, allowing for different interactions and more complex relationships between the protagonist and his partners. Georgia would be somewhat older, with her father's lusty streak, while Sammy-Jo is more like Sam was, and really should have been the Leaper. Throwing in a longer-term conspiracy angle that could loop in the Evil Leapers from the last season of the classic series, or more generally, other groups of time travelers with other agendas, allows for the kinds of arc-storytelling that modern sci-fi dramas typically require.

In terms of mechanics, the show would follow the same basic restriction to traveling between 1953 and the present day (which works for a variety of storytelling reasons) and the same basic format of exploring difficult times through the eyes of everyday people (rather than celebrities and world leaders). The old series did a good job for the late '80s of tackling difficult issues, and it'd be nice to do the same with the greater degree of empathy and nuance afforded us by 25 years of progress. Honestly, I think a show about how the past wasn't utopian and how to empathize with different people is kind of what we need right now.

To peel back the curtain here a bit, I started writing this post some months ago, and in the interim the first half of the first season of Timeless aired. It's not exactly Quantum Leap, but it has a lot of the things I liked about that series, and a lot of the things I'd expect to see in a new Quantum Leap reboot. Check it out!

Monday, January 16, 2017

Reinventing the Steel

"Superman's getting a new costume" is the new "Superman's getting a rebooted origin." Since the 2011 New 52 reboot, Superman has gone through five costumes, not counting those worn by Earth-2 Supermen or post-Crisis Superman before he assumed the mantle of Superman Prime. Also not counting the beard worn by New 52 Superman post-"Doomed".



Even with the t-shirt and armor overlapping for the first few months of the New 52, this is the sixth costume in seven years, and that's indicative of the problems DC's had with Superman since the New Krypton saga at least, and arguably since the Death of Superman or even Crisis. Superman doesn't get new story arcs so much as new directions, and it's rare that any of these directions get a chance to breathe, let alone to see if they're successful. That third costume up there? Existed for five issues. The last two got nine months and eleven months, respectively.

These shifting costumes are a microcosm of the approach to Superman for the last several years of throwing a bunch of stuff at the wall and forgetting that you're supposed to wait and see what sticks. Nothing is given any room to breathe, and it's all worked out there on the page rather than behind the scenes. There's no courage here; every attempt to do something radically different is course-corrected back to something more (but not quite) traditional within a few months. There seems to be no comprehension about what works, in part because nothing is allowed to work before being changed again.

Take, for instance, the costume. Jim Lee designs the New 52 armor suit as part of an effort to make the Justice League look more uniform. It being Jim Lee, the costumes are all full of unnecessary lines, and things are changed with no apparent reason. Why does Superman need armor? Why would Superman's costume look like Aquaman's when they have independent origins? From any perspective, it's not a good costume. Getting rid of the trunks causes the costume to be this largely unbroken blue jumpsuit, and the red belt (why does he wear a belt with no trunks?) doesn't do enough to correct the color balance issues. Removing the yellow belt and yellow S-shield on the back means we have these two colors, yellow and black, that are only present in small amounts. The colors don't tie together in any sensible way. And then there's the boots, which were changed for no apparent reason. The costume's like a Superman figure kitbashed from some '90s ToyBiz X-Men toys. Oh, and the S-shield has a sharper shape.

So Romita redesigns it, getting rid of the armor and removing a lot of the unnecessary lines for more understated piping. The color and boot shapes return to a more classic look (though a quick glance at a cover gallery reveals that the darker blue color was anything but consistent on the armor), but the black S-shield on the cape and the high collar are retained. The sleeves get a little longer, but no longer have little S-shield shapes on them, nor does the belt. It's hard to say if the S-shield has reverted to the classic, more rounded form at this point, because Romita draws it differently anyway, and this costume didn't really stick around long enough for many other artists to tackle it. It's a step back toward the classic costume, with a couple of minor new features thrown in.

Skipping over the Truth outfit, we have a fairly big step toward the classic as the pre-New 52 Superman returns to the role. The original rounded S-shield has returned. The yellow cape shield is back, but so is the darker shade of blue (again, not at all consistently). The sleeves are shortened a bit from the Romita design, and incorporate the gauntlet-cuffs of the "Man of Steel" movie costume.  The reduction of the belt to shapes and the removal of the red boots seems like an attempt to lean into the field of blue, but the result is to further upset the color balance and make Superman look like he's wearing footie pajamas.

Then there's the new costume:

The classic boots are back, and freshly polished. The blue is back to that classic almost-teal. Still no trunks, but we're back to a full red belt, tacitly acknowledging the need to break up all that blue. More significantly, there's a yellow buckle on the belt, tying in the yellow elements of the S-shield in the way that the classic yellow belt did. The extra lines and Man of Steel-inspired cuffs are gone, as is the high collar. If you saw a waist-up shot of this, it'd be indistinguishable from the original costume.

So why even bother distinguishing it? This next Zenoesque step back toward the classic costume seems, as the overall trend does, to recognize that the old costume actually wasn't broken in the first place. Every element that Jim Lee changed has reverted, except that the original trunks and belt got exposed to white dwarf star radiation. If you're going to come this close to restoring the old costume, why not go all the way?

Especially when, as the trend suggests, Superman will either be back in jeans or wearing the classic suit within a year?

So, how about those jeans-and-t-shirt outfits? I don't think it's too outlandish to say that those have inspired the most positive reactions of this group of costumes, and I think it's notable that the only costume here that doesn't fit the trend of "more like the classic costume" is the one that's "more like the street-level Rags Morales costume." The reason for that, I think is twofold: first, it benefits in comparison to the regular Superman costume because it's not trying to be a variation on that. It's something different, and something that fits right in with key elements of Superman that go all the way back to 1938—namely, Superman as a farmboy and champion of the common man. Second, I think, is because they're tied to story ideas that have sociopolitical relevance in the way that DC/WB has been trying to achieve for Superman for a decade or more.

The Morrison/Morales Action Comics concept, going back to the days of Superman taking down corrupt businessmen and crooked politicians, resonated in the post-Occupy Wall Street world, and Pak/Kuder's depowered Superman standing with a marginalized community against militarized cops resonated in the Black Lives Matter aftermath. Those comics got media buzz and mainstream attention, so naturally the former shared shelf space with Superman against alien elementals in a story the writer disavowed and the latter gave way almost immediately to a story about chasing Vandal Savage with kryptonite powers.

David Mann has a great, insightful essay about how the Superman of "Man of Steel" and "Batman V. Superman" appeals to people because he's a decent person trapped in a crappy world that he can't meaningfully change, which is a feeling I sympathize with. That's certainly one way to find audience engagement, and like it or not, the powers that be over the DC movies seem to be sticking with it.

Contrast that with DC Comics, whose every movement towards that kind of audience engagement has been followed by a drastic shift to something else entirely. I don't know if it's Eddie Berganza or someone higher up, but someone at DC/WB lacks the courage to let Superman bust the heads of billionaires and racists for more than a couple of months. Let's make him a luchador instead.

The shifting costumes, and the two poles they indicate, represent the audiences DC is chasing: the people who don't see Superman as a character who's relevant to the modern world, and the people who want Superman to go back to what they remember from the glory days (whether that's the Silver Age, the Bronze Age, the '90s, or the Reeve films). I think there are people from both camps in the writers' rooms, and I think there's a considerable overlap between those groups. But in zigzagging between the two for six years, they've managed not to attract either, and they've wasted a lot of talent, buzz, time, and goodwill picking courses without sticking to them.

I'm cautiously optimistic about what's coming out of Superman Reborn, but if nothing else, I hope it represents DC picking a direction, for better or worse, and sticking with it for more than six months.



Addendum: I got 3/4 of the way through this post before remembering that Bryan Hitch also redesigned Superman's costume for JLA, bringing us up to one new costume every year.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

The Smallville Legacy

At the end of last night's "Supergirl" finale, I found myself thinking how much the end reminded me of "Smallville," particularly in the choice to play a thematically appropriate contemporary pop song to underscore the season's emotional denouement. It started me thinking about what the impact of "Smallville" on the current superhero-saturated primetime television drama landscape.

"Smallville" was very much a product of its time, designed more or less explicitly to capitalize on the success of "Roswell." The first X-Men movie premiered the year before, "Spider-Man" was still months away, and chasing the "Dawson's Creek" demographic as well as the fans of leather-clad Mutants made the choice for costume-free superheroics pretty attractive. From the beginning, "Smallville" wanted to strike a different tone than the previous decade's "Superboy" and "Lois and Clark"—the latter of which only ended four years earlier. The "no tights, no flights" edict held, even though the mere rumor of a similar edict on "Superman Lives" made Jon Peters a laughingstock among comic fans, even after it seemed like everyone but Clark Kent had a costume and a codename.

My feelings about "Smallville" are complicated, and I last left off the series somewhere in the middle of Season 7, so someone with a bit more comprehensive knowledge could put together a more thorough post here. But there's a pretty clear throughline from that 2001 two-episode premiere to what we have today, particularly on the CW. "Smallville" made Oliver Queen a major character, and there's no denying how that (along with an inability to use Batman for various reasons) leads to "Arrow" as a series. The success of "Arrow" and an increasing willingness to embrace the more outlandish aspects of superhero universes leads to "The Flash" as a spinoff, and the success of "The Flash" allows showrunners Berlanti and Kriesberg to develop "Supergirl" for CBS, as well as "Legends of Tomorrow." Meanwhile, "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.," for all its reliance on the Marvel Cinematic Universe, is the only current series (mostly) following through on the plainclothes superheroics model pioneered by shows like "Smallville" and "Heroes," and "Gotham" is following through on the original idea behind "Smallville"—a show exploring the adventures of a young Bruce Wayne.

It's easy to look at "Smallville" and see some of the traits that have since become some of the worst features of modern superhero adaptations: that attitude of being too cool for the trappings of superhero comics, of rejecting codenames and costumes and trying to reduce the scope of things to something less ridiculous. That sense of being ashamed of the source material for being silly. The kind of attitude that makes Mr. Mxyzptlk a creepy Eastern European mind controller is the same kind of attitude that gets us a Superman movie where the word "Superman" is only spoken once or twice toward the end.

But I think "Smallville" largely grew out of that phase, and its direct descendants have cast off that attitude almost entirely. We've got plenty of tights and flights on TV now. We've got full-throated support for names like Captain Cold and Reverse Flash. And I honestly don't think we would have gotten to this point without ten years of Smallville slowly acclimating television audiences to the Justice Society and the Legion of Super-Heroes and Red Kryptonite.

Ultimately, "Smallville" is responsible for merging the soap opera dynamics of superhero comics with the soap opera dynamics of teen dramas, in a way that helped to form the template for the modern superhero drama series. "Lois and Clark" had its share of clones and amnesia, but played much more like a sitcom than a soap, and the original "Flash" didn't last long enough to make an impact. "Smallville" found that synthesis, and in doing so built the foundation for a lot of what's come after.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Batman V. Superman: Dawn of Hot Garbage

Let the record show that I didn't irrationally hate Man of Steel, that I consistently had a lot of positive things to say about it, despite having serious problems with the last part of the film.

I cannot say the same for Batman V. Superman: Dawn of Justice. If you're looking for positivity and charity, look elsewhere. Spoilers, snark, and bile ahead.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Man of Steel Liveblogging


It’s been three years since I watched this movie, but let’s be honest, it’s not like I’ve stopped thinking or talking about it for more than a few weeks at a time. For better or for worse, Man of Steel has had a major impact on how I think about Superman these last few years, even if it’s just because it crystallized the kinds of problems that make a Superman story go off the rails.

But I’m trying to be more positive here. I said in my original review that I mostly liked the movie, and while that didn’t hold as true on the second viewing in the theater, it still does a lot of things really well. So I’m going to focus on that. In addition, and possibly in conflict with that idea, a conversation I had some months ago has me wondering what people think of Superman in this universe. If you’re the average person on the street in Metropolis, how would you feel about Superman after all this?

With that out of the way, let’s fire it up.

Superman walking out of the Kryptonian ship.

Saturday, February 06, 2016

The State of Comics Blogging

Dave Lartigue closed Dave Ex Machina yesterday.

That's a part of what made me fire up the old blog machine this morning, and definitely part of what made me look at the sidebar. Clicking those links is a depressing enterprise. Less than half of the main blogroll is still active, and several of those post about as sporadically as I have been.

It's not too hard to see why, really. I can't speak for everyone, but I started this blog when I was in college and had tons of free time for writing. Eventually I grew up, I got a job, I got married, and all that meant less time for sitting in front of the computer or reading comics. My "to read" pile is basically a longbox and a half at this point. I suspect the same is true for a lot of the folks who fired up comics blogs in the halcyon days of the mid-'00s. A lot of the rest got snagged up by larger sites like Comics Alliance and Comic Book Resources and Newsarama, where they're still doing comics blogging, but under a bigger umbrella.

A lot of content has moved to other platforms, too. I spend a lot more time on social media than I do on Blogger, where it can sometimes feel like you're shouting into the void. Places like Tumblr and Twitter are good for short-form content and jokes that once would have been blog posts here, and allow for more quantitative feedback in the form of likes and reblogs.

Personally, I know I've never been good at finishing things or following a project through to the end. I've still got some ideas for this blog, and I'm not ready to let go of the format just yet. I'm certainly not ready to put a pin in it and close things down with that sense of finality, not when there's the possibility that I'll change my mind in six months. But the comics blogging landscape is different than it was five years ago, and it's littered with abandoned residences.

Sunday, January 03, 2016

2015 In Review

Happy New Year, everybody! I've made it my resolution to write more, and while I don't know if that'll translate to more posts on this increasingly depressing blog, but it would be difficult to do less writing here. It's not for lack of trying; it's mostly for lack of time.

But enough excuses, I'm going to share some thoughts on the past year, in the traditional form: a best-of list. The major caveat here is that I haven't read as much of what came out this year as I'd like, so I may be overlooking some gems that I didn't get around to reading.

Best Ongoing Comic Series: Unbeatable Squirrel Girl by Ryan North, Erica Henderson, and Rico Renzi.
This has not been a great year for my reading of comics. My to-read pile has been mostly just getting larger, and even books that I once would have read as soon as I got back from the comic shop have started gathering dust. Marvel's made that a little easier to get past with their digital copy codes, allowing me to read most Marvel books without having the physical copy present, but I still have to pick and choose what to spend my time on. And I always pick "Unbeatable Squirrel Girl" when it's an option. North and Henderson are both great for their own individual reasons, and together they've made Marvel's most surprising must-read book. It's consistently fun and funny, using obscure Marvel characters and continuity in new and fun ways. It's an all-ages book that never feels like it's talking down to the audience or oversimplifying the shared universe. It's given us Chipmunk Hunk and Koi Boi. If you're not reading it, what are you even doing?

Best Superhero TV Series: The Flash
This has been a banner year for superhero TV. Marvel's Daredevil and Jessica Jones have been incredible character studies that do things like "grim 'n' gritty" and "street-level superheroes" ten times better than most of the comics and media adaptations which have tried those things before. Agents of SHIELD continues to be fairly watchable, and I hear good things about Gotham even though I lost interest. But holy cow, The Flash. Aside from a few missteps, The Flash is the first superhero adaptation since Batman: Brave and the Bold which doesn't feel like it's ashamed of the sillier aspects of superhero comics. Sure, they made Firestorm an acronym (a common trope we see in comics adaptations, though I'm hard-pressed to see how it makes things less silly) and made Grodd a government experiment, but then they dropped full-on Earth-2 and Gorilla City in like it's no big deal. This show feels like a breath of fresh air, and I can't wait to see where it's headed next.

Honorable Mention: Supergirl
Supergirl is just about everything I want from an adaptation of a Superman Family character, including the single best portrayal of Cat Grant in any medium in the last 20 years or so. I feel like it's still finding its legs a bit (that love triangle has got to go), but it's well on it's way to being not just a great, fun superhero show, but the best Superman-related media in well over a decade.

Best Superhero Movie: Ant-Man
This wasn't exactly a big year for superhero films, so of the two I saw, I thought Ant-Man was better. It was fun, funny, well-paced, and it introduced a bit of legacy into the Marvel Cinematic Universe, helping to better tie together the increasingly sprawling timeline. Hopefully the next film will give us Janet Van Dyne and give Evangeline Lilly more to do. That this movie wasn't just "The Wasp" is its biggest failing.

Best Superman Series: Superman: Lois & Clark
I honestly think this year's been a pretty good one for Superman, all things considered. He's had a rough time of it since before the New 52 reboot, but this year's stories have been pretty solid. The "Truth" arc is somewhat controversial, but like "New Krypton" a few years ago, I'm willing to give a shot to stories that try new things with the character (within reason, of course). The arc has been a nice, stealthy way to bring the spotlight back onto Superman's supporting cast, who have been rather ill-served by the last several years of comics storytelling. But it also raises rather uncomfortable questions of putting genies back in bottles, meaning either inevitable retcons or piecemeal nonsense like when Wally West and Peter Parker had their secret identities restored. It'd also be nice if they weren't still persisting with the Superman/Wonder Woman romance, which seems forced and cursory even in its flagship title.
But Lois & Clark, only a few issues in, is a nice breath of fresh air. While it's purporting to bring back the "old" Superman, the pre-New 52 married Superman, with wife and child in tow, it's doing precisely the kind of new take on things that I've been enjoying in "Truth." A Superman who's lost not just a world, but a universe, working in secret to ensure what went wrong in the old timeline goes right, now? It's a bit of Quantum Leap, mixed with a bit of what this Superman did way back in the Byrne reboot. It's also easily Jurgens' best writing in years. I've enjoyed quite a few of the New 52 Superman stories, but this comic felt like coming home.

Biggest Surprise: Star Wars
Not even just the new film. The beginning of the end of my Star Wars fandom in the late '90s, when I couldn't finish "Tales from the Empire" and had no interest in the Hand of Thrawn Duology. I was still pretty into Star Wars, mind you, reading older novels, running RPG campaigns, and seeing the movies in the theater. I really liked The Phantom Menace; I saw Attack of the Clones twice in the theater (once at the midnight opening). While Revenge of the Sith didn't exactly kill what remained by that point, it didn't leave me with much enthusiasm for that universe. It would be years before I actually engaged with Star Wars media again in any fashion.
But this year, I decided to revisit the movies, in preparation for The Force Awakens, a film I was actually optimistic about. For the first time, I felt like I could pin down exactly what were the problems with the prequels, and I actually appreciated what they got right. Moreover, I recognized that I liked the wrong two back in the day, and that
aside from some really dumb bits, Revenge of the Sith is easily the best of the three.
I also started in on Marvel's Star Wars comics this year, on the recommendation of my local comic shop guy, and while I was really skeptical at first, I've enjoyed it all so far. I've never been much of one for Star Wars comics; reading Dark Empire early on turned me off to the whole enterprise. But putting top talent on the books (not to mention sweeping away decades of dodgy Expanded Universe continuity) was the shot in the arm necessary to make this new Expanded Universe feel fresh and fun. As with Superman, I feel like I'm finally seeing new things being done, new stories being told, with these familiar characters, and that's really vital.
And then The Force Awakens hit, and I quite liked it. I'm hesitant to say that, since my track record on critically evaluating the Star Wars films is not great, but I enjoyed the movie and look forward to seeing it again, perhaps with a more critical eye. Honestly, though, just returning to practical effects made a world of difference.

Honorable Mention: Secret Wars
It's not quite over yet, but Secret Wars is easily the best crossover event comic I've read since...well, a good long time, anyway (I admit, I haven't gotten around to all those Convergence tie-ins, or the miniseries). This year, I went back and read Hickman's whole Marvel opus, from Fantastic Four and S.H.I.E.L.D. on up through Avengers, and it was truly amazing to see how early he was laying the seeds of this event. All the tie-ins I've read have been pretty good, but the main book is where the real meat has been, and I'm excited to see how it all ties up.

And I think that about wraps this post up, too. Only two more posts to beat last year's number.