Best of 2016: Best Issues

best-issue-2016

Episodic storytelling is the name of the game in monthly comics. Month- or even multi-year-long arcs are fine, but a series lives and dies by its individual chapters. From self-contained one-offs to issues that recontextualize their respective series, this year had a ton of great issues. Whittling down those issues to a list was no easy task (and we look forward to hearing how your lists differ in the comments), but we would gladly recommend any (and all) of these issues without hesitation. These are our top 10 issues of 2016. Continue reading

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Superman 4

superman 4

Today, Mark and Shane are discussing Superman 4, originally released August 3rd, 2016.

Mark: Ever since they started teaming up, Batman has been the yin to Superman’s yang. And after 5 years of Peter Tomasi and Patrick Gleason tackling the Batman/Damian dynamic, it’s an interesting exercise to watch them explore the similar-yet-not-at-all-the-same dynamic of Superman and his son Jon (aka Superboy). Jon is the anti-Damian; reluctant to use his powers, he has no problem keeping his nose clean and following the rules. An eager to learn Jon has provided Superman the perfect opportunity to reiterate his ethos, and by extension allowed Tomasi and Gleason to hammer home their operating thesis: Superman isn’t super because of his powers, he’s super because of the strength of his character. Continue reading

Superman: Rebirth 1

superman rebirth 1

Today, Shane and Michael are discussing Superman Rebirth 1, originally released June 1st, 2015.

Shane: It can be incredibly difficult to lose a hero. This year has seen a lot of notable role models pass — David Bowie, Prince, Mohammed Ali, and others. To be entirely honest, though? I know that they meant a lot to a lot of people — many close friends were crushed with Bowie’s passing, as an example — but although I appreciate them all, they weren’t as influential to my own life. In fact, I have a hard time thinking of any real-life famous figure who notably inspired me…but Superman? He was my hero. Reading his adventures during my formative years genuinely helped impart a true sense of right and wrong, to try to not just take the easy route, to genuinely do better and make a difference if possible. Continue reading

Superman 44

superman 44

Today, Michael and Mark are discussing Superman 44 originally released September 30th, 2015. 

Michael: Modern superhero tales have a troubled history with placing too much emphasis on the “how.” How did they get their powers? How did they become a superhero? How would this actually work in the real world? As always, there are exceptions to the rule, but many creators often spend too much time focusing on the “how” instead of placing the emphasis on what happens next. Case in point: Gene Luen Yang and John Romita Jr.’s Superman 44. Continue reading

Superman 38

superman 38

Today, Mark and Michael are discussing Superman 38, originally released February 4th, 2015.

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Mark: Well, it’s finally happening. DC announced late last week that starting in June, following the events of the Convergence event, The New 52 will no longer exist. Having run for almost 4 years, it’s not hard to understand why as The New 52 branding was getting a little long in the tooth. What does this mean for our favorite characters? Apparently not much, as no continuity reboot is planned. I mention this because when I first read Superman 38 before the post-Convergence announcements last week, I assumed that the two major revelations in this issue were being unloaded now so they could easily be walked back in only a few months. Continue reading

Superman 37

superman 37Today, Spencer and Mark are discussing Superman 37, originally released December 24th, 2014.

“Humankind cannot gain anything without first giving something in return. To obtain, something of equal value must be lost. That is Alchemy’s First Law of Equivalent Exchange.”

Edward Elric, Fullmetal Alchemist

Spencer: Equivalent Exchange isn’t just applicable to alchemy (or anime) — it’s a principle we all follow every day. We exchange our time for money. We exchange money for goods. We can even (metaphorically) give our hearts in hope of gaining affection in return. The point is, nothing comes for nothing, and the more we hope to gain, the more effort we have to put out to obtain it. This is even true of Ulysses’ Great World — it turns out that the price to maintain its “perfection” is five million human lives. Geoff Johns and John Romita Jr.’s Superman 37 finds Superman and Ulysses debating the morality of the Great World, and in doing so, they draw some compelling parallels to our own lives. Continue reading

Superman 32

Alternating Currents: Superman 32, Drew and ScottToday, Drew and Scott are discussing Superman 32, originally released June 25th, 2014.

Drew: When I was five years old, I told my then four-year-old cousin that he was adopted. Nobody had told me that he was, and certainly nobody told me that I wasn’t supposed to tell him, but he was immediately distraught, running to his mother to assure him I was lying. A young kid’s relationship to his parents is his whole world, and the thought that there might be something unusual about it is understandably upsetting. Totally unintentionally, I put my aunt in an incredibly awkward position, forcing her to confront a truth outside of her terms, when her son was already distressed by the idea. Complicating the issue was that his brother is not adopted, which only creates more potential for feelings of alienation. Superman has long been the poster child for adoption, but what if his adopted home had its own “last son” that seemed to be every bit as “super” as he is? Might Clark grow a chip on his shoulder about being “the adopted one”? These are exactly the questions Geoff Johns and John Romita Jr. set up in Superman 32, stopping just shy of showing us the answers. Continue reading

Superman 31

superman 31Today, Shelby and Scott are discussing Superman 31, originally released May 28th, 2014.

Shelby: I hate being in the way. Like, to the point of anxiety: if I’m with people, trying to help, but just getting in the way, I have a really hard time with it. It’s frustrating on two levels; not only am I not helping like I want to be, I’m probably making things harder by being in the way. Apparently, I’m just like Superman; he’s infected with Doomsday spores, and while all he wants to do is, you know, help save the world over and over, he’s stuck being in the way. And by the way, I mean threatening everyone and everything around him. Heads up, I’m not reading Superman OR Doomed, so I am definitely approaching this from an outsider’s viewpoint.

Continue reading

Superman: Lois Lane 1

superman lois lane 1Today, Greg and guest writer Shane are discussing Superman: Lois Lane 1, originally released February 26th, 2014.

Greg: When I was a little kid, I dealt with some pretty heavy duty separation anxiety. Going to first grade was a nightmarish ordeal on a daily level. I would do and try anything to get out of it — faked stomach aches, insistence on a high temperature, temper tantrums like nothing else. And if my parents did manage to get me to school, I was still a wreck — crying over nothing, lashing out at teachers and latchkey supervisors, generally weirding out my classmates. Eventually an attempt at a solution was posed: go to school, but bring a photograph of my family at home that I could look at whenever I wanted. I only had to try this once to know immediately that the pain this caused wasn’t worth it. Rather than soothe my anxieties, it stoked their fires. Looking at this photo and knowing I couldn’t be there evoked a cutting sense of nostalgia, the meaning of which comes from, as Lois Lane reminds us, the clash between the desire to return home and the pain of knowing you can’t. Superman: Lois Lane deals with these evocative themes like separation, reunion, melancholy, yearning, and family with aplomb, showcasing mature and heartwarming storytelling even amidst plot-busy coverups and set pieces.

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Superman 23.2: Brainiac

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Today, Mikyzptlk and guest writer Mogo are discussing Superman 23.2: Brainiac, originally released September 11th, 2013. This issue is part of the Villain’s Month event. Click here for our Villains Month coverage.

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Mikyzptlk: Hands down, the best kind of villain is a complex one. Long gone are the days when it was acceptable to portray a villain as a mustache-twirling evil-doer wanting nothing more than to do evil for the sake of evil. Today’s villains need a reason to get up in the morning and do what they do. Villain’s Month is a great opportunity to explore what those reasons are, and it has had a varying amount of success with that so far. Superman 23.2 goes to certain lengths to give Brainiac some new motivations. Unfortunately, it falls a bit short, leaving me just a tad disappointed.  Continue reading