Schachat's Occasional Breakdowns
thanks, Cyborg, Jason Schachat prefers to stand.
The Best of 2005
year full of heroes turning into murderers, mutants turning
into norms, Spider-Man turning into SPIDER-Man, evil entities
launching doomsday machines/beasts/armies against unsuspecting
planets, A, B, and C-list characters coming back from the
dead, and way too much Liefeld.
try to find the good in it!
As we did last
year, this top ten list is based on an old Howard Hawks
method for rating good movies. We were looking for books
that had three great issues and no bad ones. Naturally,
any comic that did better than that scored higher, but,
to be fair, books that didn’t run for the whole year
were taken down a few pegs.
Top 10 Ongoing
Comic Series of 2005
Last year’s #8 moves up to the top spot this year,
thanks to the delightful fallout of “March of the
Wooden Soldiers” and, more importantly, the jaw-droppingly
awesome “Homelands” story arc. We knew big things
were coming in 2005, but who would expect Bill Willingham
and company to actually reveal the identity of The Adversary
and for it to be so flipping cool?
of the Wooden Soldiers” is a magnificent tale when
collected (which is what earned it so much critical praise),
but “Homelands” was the comic book equivalent
of cocaine; each issue was an pulse-pounding experience
that had you desperate for the next fix.
book, month after month. It ain't no Shrek.
Willingham ends this book, it’ll be a great loss to
Well, if you’re surprised to see an X-book on this
list, you’re not alone. The fact that it’s Ultimate
X-Men is even more shocking to me, but when you see
the name of Brian K. Vaughan attached to this title, it
all makes sense.
to form, Vaughan flooded us with great comic series in 2005,
but nothing was as much of a sheer delight as Ultimate
X-Men. Picking up the pieces left by Brian Michael
Bendis and Mark Millar, Vaughan re-imagined even the most
embarrassing heroes and villains of the X-franchise in ways
both unique and loyal, giving this book more momentum than
it’s had in quite a while.
...and now the
bastard has to leave!
just hope the upcoming runs can keep the momentum going
this time. Vaughan put so many pieces on into play, it’ll
be very easy to lose track of some smaller threads, but,
wow, what a rich tapestry they can weave.
3. Ex Machina
Yes, we’re all Brian K. Vaughan’s whores, here,
and that’s why we’ll put any book he writes
on our top ten lists.
that’s a lie.
just like last year, his books dominated. Ex Machina
retains its position at #3, though it was a little shaky
towards the end, there. The quasi-Golden Age meets The West
Wing feel of the book started to fade on a couple issues,
but artist Tony Harris kept the book worth the cover price.
Truth be told,
I’m actually rather baffled that it hasn’t been
cancelled yet. I mean, who knew a book that might be too
political for spandex-lovers and too... well... spandexy
for the literati would actually have a chance in this market?
we look forward to putting it on the 2006 list!
Legion of Super Heroes
we're getting Tyroc back?
I was pretty bummed last year when I had to write up my
list and simply couldn’t justify working Mark Waid’s
final issues on Fantastic Four into the top ten.
This year, he gave me a book I had no qualms about pimping.
of Super Heroes had to suffer through yet another facelift
(oh, let’s hope Infinite Crisis doesn’t
force more), but Waid and artist Barry Kitson finally made
it welcoming to new readers while retaining the epic feel
of LoSH stories. Tapping into the “kids vs. the adult
world” aspect lacking from most of the teen hero books
out there (see #5 below for another exception) pushed the
story into a different brand of soap opera, but the space
opera counter-balanced it beautifully.
the next “Great Darkness Saga”? Well... yeah,
I’d say that’s the level we’re approaching,
here. Once again, thank you Mr. Waid. Thank you for making
us love books we feared we’d never read again.
Yup, that’s three Brian K. Vaughan books in the top
five. Runaways was a runner-up, last year, but
the dalliances with vampires and Cloak and Dagger slowed
the pace down and thus ruined it for our criteria (despite
a pulse-pounding conclusion).
Runaways came back, this year, but without the
over-arching “supervillain parents” plotline.
Oddly enough, that works just fine. What killed the momentum
last time was that we’d become so involved with the
“kids vs. parents” story, any other arcs just
seemed to get in the way. Now that they’re gone, these
kids can get on with their lives– even if those lives
are dedicated to fighting crime.
2005 was a damn good year for Daredevil. After the disappointment
from Brian Michael Bendis and Alex Maleev’s enjoyable
but decidedly NOT life-altering 2004 arcs which were expected
to tell the story of Matt Murdock’s reign as Kingpin,
the team turned the heat up with “The Decalogue”
and the final chapter in their second run, “The Murdock
it was a little late in coming (especially for Bendis fans
who endured David Mack’s “Echo” run),
but that dark, nuanced plotting that made us fall in love
with Bendis the first time was back in force. It’ll
be sad to see this team go, but at least they’re going
out with a bang.
Oh, jeez... another X-book?
sorry kids; there was just no denying the glory of the Joss
Whedon/John Cassaday team. Sure, many people are fighting
over whether the “Danger” arc lives up to or
surpasses last year’s, but it’s hard to deny
that this is one of the best X-Men runs we’ve ever
the creative team had to take a sabbatical, so they couldn’t
make it into the upper portion of this list, but the combination
of powerful emotion, character, plot, and action pretty
much guaranteed Astonishing X-Men a spot on this
2006's return of the Hellfire Club (implying they actually
went somewhere?) May not hold quite as much appeal as the
Danger Room gaining sentience and attempting to exterminate
the X-men, it’ll be hard to resist this title as long
as Whedon and Cassaday stick with it.
I almost feel guilty for including this title on my top
get down to brass tacks, JLA Classified is more
of a collection of unconnected mini-series than a bonafide
ongoing. Nevertheless, when you can fit Grant Morrison and
Ed McGuiness’s return of the Ultramarines, the last
hurrah of Giffen, DeMatteis, and Maguire’s JLI, and
Warren Ellis’ “New Maps of Hell” into
the same year, you’re getting some kudos for making
a consistently enjoyable title.
if only the regular JLA were this good...
back, Bendis...Vaughan's just a fling...
Did everyone just forget about Powers since it
went over to Marvel or something?
I’m just out of the loop, but it seems like Thor,
New Avengers, and House of M have overshadowed
the great work Bendis and Michael Avon Oeming have done
on this book. Sure, it’s not set in the Marvel Universe
and the history that has built up from the Image days until
now are what it draws its strength from, but the creators
almost seem to be bending over backwards to keep it accessible
for new readers.
and the sheer coolness of Deena Pilgrim’s character
arc are enough reason to put it on this list.
Cable & Deadpool
Yeah, I’m deadly serious, even if the book isn’t.
put Cable & Deadpool on a list of the best
books of the year? Well, truth be told, I was inundated
with superhero books this year, so I didn’t get my
usual exposure to goth comics, art crowd stories about emotionally
crippled wage slaves, or manga sans oversexed tentacles.
I have the feeling that none of them would do what Cable
& Deadpool has consistently pulled off every month:
it actually makes you laugh out loud.
some reason, I never knew Fabian Nicieza could actually
tell a joke, much less a story (that reason is probably
called “Liefeld”), but this book has used Deadpool’s
manic gallows humor and tendency to get himself into the
most absurd of situations to make even dead wood like Cable
it initially filled the void left during She-Hulk’s
hiatus, but Cable & Deadpool has proven itself
to be both a gleeful romp through Deadpool’s killing
spree’s and an insight into Cable’s search for
a reason to still be in comics.
as Rob Liefeld never takes Patrick Zircher’s place
on art duties, this should continue to be a solid title
in 2006... but, yikes, you can just see Marvel doing that,
can’t you? Cross your fingers.
(in alphabetical order)
Judd Winick has done surprisingly well with the sad, sad
duty of being the one to bring Jason Todd back from the
dead. In fact, I really wanted to include this on the top
ten for that alone, but there just weren’t enough
“great” issues to justify it.
I just loved David Lapham’s mega-arc, and it’s
worth noting that his issues have given the book its strongest
sales since Ed Brubaker was the main scribe... but then
you take a look at the “War Crimes” crossover,
and you not only see some less than stellar issues, but
also a spike in sales that demonstrates how intolerant fans
are of arcs that take more than a year to complete.
Damn, Geoff Johns ended his run on this book in a blaze
of glory. Unfortunately, the issues following his departure
were as painful as root canal surgery.
it won't get a chance at redemption?
This was another tough one... No really bad issues, but
the few low-energy ones, Montoya’s increasingly depressing
struggle with her dark side, and that damned Infinite
Crisis crossover issue dragged Gotham Central off
the top ten.
Peter David’s “Tempes Fugit” arc rocked.
Then friggin’ House of M used him for one of their
few crossovers which, while somewhat enjoyable, ultimately
led nowhere. Still, it wasn’t until Daniel Way sucked
the life out of the book that it truly fell from grace.
Oh, this just hurt. Warren Ellis upgrading the character,
Adi Granov giving us some of the best art of the year...
but then they started missing deadlines, and the months
just kept passing by... and, well, that’s just too
few issues for us to consider it.
The core of this year’s New Avengers was “The
Sentry” arc. It finally delved into the story of the
(Stan Lee, you dog), and, rather than overloading us with
another round of David Finch art, we got some breathtaking
work from Steve McNiven. If not for the lagging endings
to “Breakout” and “Ronin”, this
would have been way up there.
Again, Geoff Johns gave us some big, big moments from the
return of Dr. Light, Robin’s dad dying, and Superboy
coming under the control of Lex Luthor... but then another
team took over for an arc, and, even though it was Gail
Simone on script, Rob Liefeld had the duty of punishing
our eyes with his crudely distorted screaming monkey art.
No top ten for you!
I was actually astonished that this book did so well this
year, especially when so much of that joy came from Mark
Millar rather than Warren Ellis (although “N-Zone”
was quite a good story). Still, the sluggishness of some
issues and the recent “Tomb of Namor” arc kept
it from being top ten material.
Here’s another damn shame. You start off the year
with the wrap-up of “Enemy of the State”, and
go right into the equally cool “Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D.”.
THEN Marvel tosses the title to a bunch of yutzes who make
Wolverine as dull as ever. Sure, the beginning of the year
gave us some of the best Wolvie stories ever told, but the
end of the year undid all that good in record time.
The Last Man
Let’s face facts: Brian K. Vaughan had too friggin’
many books on the list as is.
alright, there is also the problem that Y didn’t
have enough great issues to make the cut, but it was damn
close. In fact, I should probably re-check my count, but
Vaughan really DOES have too many books on the list, so
let’s stick it to that uppity over-talented bastard
and deny Y a spot, ‘k?
Crossover Event of 2005
Last year, we
named the top 3 mini-series and maxi-series of the year
and placed them in their separate categories, but this year
put us in an interesting position.
Firstly, a decent
number of the best mini-series this year are actually parts
of crossover events. But then we have to consider that adding
these series together into one story makes them count as
So, rather than
work out the ins and outs of what is what and which is which,
I took the coward’s way out and went with one big
winner for the best Crossover of the year:
Soldiers of Victory
Aside from a rocky zero-issue, this crossover has been one
of the most enjoyable experiences of the year. Every issue
of the seven mini-series involved plays an important part
in the cataclysmic event that links all the stories together,
but none of them fail to entertain as individual issues
and separate miniseries.
is how a crossover event should be. Rather than the rushed
snippets and poorly linked subplots that make up the other
events coming from the Big Two, Seven Soldiers
actually attempts to gives us rich, satisfying stories instead
of endless cliffhangers that force us to buy piles and piles
of irrelevant comics.
Seven Soldiers have a lasting effect or boost
any sales? I don’t know. What I can say is that it’s
been a blast to read.
...and I can’t
remember the last time I thought that of a multi-title crossover.