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Part Two of my Bests and Worsts of the Previous Year

Best Death - Ultimate Peter Parker

One of the highly publicised piece of news in the mainstream media in 2011 was the death of Spider-Man and his replacement with the biracial character of Miles Morales. Due to noncomicbook reader's basic laziness when it comes to researching such stories, many journalists seemed to think that it was the regular Peter Parker that had kicked the bucket rather than his (more interesting) Ultimate Marvel version, thus causing much uproar over such an iconic character being killed off in a "shameless grab for publicity" with his recasting. This is at least partially true, but it doesn't reduce the effect of the story of Peter's death or Miles' eventually stepping up to fill the void said death left in the city.

After getting accidentally shot by the Punisher in another book, a somewhat ironic turn considering that's what Frank was trying to do when he was first introduced way back when (yes, the Punisher started as a Spider-Man villain, go figure) Peter rushed back home to find that all of his enemies had gathered to openly murder his aunt and friends. This was because whatever universe he's in, Norman Osborn is a crazy bastard.

After a skuffle with the Fantastic Four and Peter's X-men-related friends, Peter came to save the day, squashing Norman with a minivan before finally dying of having a huge hole where a lot of his abdomen used to be. His death and the aftermath were both handled really well, made more effective by the fact that a lot of the time death actually means something in the Ultimate Marvel Universe as opposed to just being the equivalent of the character just going on vacation. Bravo.

Worst Death - Bucky Barnes, aka Captain America

The same can't really be said for deaths in the main Marvel Universe. As someone high in the company openly stating that they were going to have one major death every fiscal quarter basically making the idea of charater death even more cheap that it already was. This meant that two of the major deaths this year, Johnny Storm and Bucky, really didn't have as much impact as they should have.

In this case I am just focusing on Bucky's demise, as he's still dead while Johnny has just recently returned from the grave after getting blown up or having alien maggots eat his junk or something. It was a little confusing.

Bucky died in the crossover event Fear Itself, where a forgotten Norse God of Fear returns to the Marvel universe, teams up with some Nazis and go on the rampage, leaving mystical hammers around the place to possess heroes and villains into becoming his henchfolk.

Somehow an event that focussed on the Tom Strong/Indiana Jones/Hellboyish genre of Nazis with supertech and mystical stuff ended up rapidly loosing momentum, as delays in release dates and massively decompressed storylines made it all a lot more tiring than it should have been.

Added into the mix to make the God of Fear, aka the Serpent, seem more like a legitimate threat, the current Captain America Buck Barnes was chosen to be the mainstream character to cop it in this particular event comic. And, I don't know, maybe because Bucky ALREADY had had a dramatic death scene (getting exploded on a missile he was redirecting to keep from hurting civilians), him getting a second one kind of drained it of any impact it might have had. Especially as heroically getting exploded is a more iconic way to die than being squashed by a big hammer, and then stabbed with the end of the handle. Or maybe it's just me. The aforementioned "Kill a character once a quarter" deal definately robbed it any potential emotional connection to the character anyways, as did the fact that he returned in the series epilogue. After all, if the editors don't care about the characters, why should we?

Best Comicbook Adaption - Tintin/Batman: Arkham City
There were a lot of good comicbook movies out this year, Captain America, X-Men: First Class, Cowboys and Aliens (yes, it was a comicbook adaption), Thor... And a couple there were a good effort, but ultimately seemed to be messed about by the executives to the point that it was merely OK (Green Lantern).

Two adaptions of comicbook titles managed to rise above the rest this year by being simply stellar. Those two are Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson's Tintin movie and Rocksteady's Batman: Arkham City computer game. Although they couldn't really be any more different in tone, both managed to perfectly condense the elements of their source material into things that managed to perfectly capture the essence of both franchises.

Tintin was a bright, old fashioned adventure that remained funny, exciting and genuinely amusing where it was supposed to be. The interaction between Jamie Bell's Tintin and Andy Serkis' Captain Haddock retained the platonic chemistry from the books, while the rest of the writing and cast barely had a mistep between them. It certainly contained two of the year's best action sequences, benefiting largely from the decision to do in motion-capture, in the form of the pirate ship battle and the single-shot chase scene through the desert city.

Batman: Arkham City, however, was dark, action packed and visually really smart looking. The settings and game mechanic really allowing you to have the experience of actually being Batman, without all the baggage that comes from being a crazy orphan. Again, the performances from all involved were superb: Kevin Conroy continues his near twenty year streak of being the Best Batman Ever, Mark Hamill gives an excellent fairwell performance as the Joker, whilst the newcomers to the cast also provided suprisingly strong performances. Tara Strong (Twilight Sparkle in My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic amongst many, MANY other roles) did a really good job as Harley Quinn, Grey DeLisle (Azula in Avatar: the Last Airbender amongst others) did well as Catwoman, Maurice LaMarche (the Brain in Pinky and the Brain, Morbo and others in Futurama) performed one of the best versions of Mr Freeze in years, and Wally Wingert was suitably smarmy as the Riddler. Even the "Cockney" (he was born in the US, grew up in London and then moved back to the States, which could explain the somewhat inconsistant accent) version of the Penguin ended up being better than I thought he would be, so kudos to the voice casting guys on that part.

Not that Tintin and B:AC aren't without their flaws. Tintin carries over the originals tiny (as in ONE reoccuring character) female cast, and treats alcoholism as something of a joke despite Haddock accidentally ruining things several times because of it, though treating THAT seriously wouldn't fit with the tone of the rest of the film, I guess. The question of subject matter versus tone was also present in Arkham City too, due to the highly publicised complaints over the use of the word "Bitch" to describe the female characters, particularly Catwoman. But considering the word was being used by (mostly) violent or insane convicts in a game based towards the higher age range of the Batman franchise, it is somewhat justified... somewhat. Complaints over some of the convicts implying that they wanted to molest Harley and Selina were also present, but considering they also implictly were also abusing some of the weaker male convicts (and loudly proclaim that they're going to make Bruce Wayne their bitch towards the beginning of the game), it arguably could be said they're not treating it lightly and fits in with the tone of the prison being a thoroughly miserable place to be stuck.

Worst Adaption of a Comicbook Franchise: Wonder Woman

You know, a lot of people, myself included, have complained about the fact that Superman and Batman have around ten films between them, as well as umpteen tv shows and games, when Wonder Woman seems to be restricted to the Lynda Carter series and the DC Universe animated film. Not that the Superman and Batman movies, tv shows etc. are BAD, it just seems a bit of a let down that they advertise Wonder Woman as part of the trinity of the best and most marketable heroes in DC character stable, yet they don't seem that willing to do that much with her.

Well when news of a new, live-action television adaption of Wonder Woman reached people's ears, it rapidly became a case of being careful what you wished for.

Huge chunks of the character were changed, from Wonder Woman being a warrior diplomat on a mission of peace, to her being the owner of a corperation that secretly was Wonder Woman on the side... or something. Then it was the bizarre dialogue and attempts to tackle the sexism present in the comicbook industry with all the skill of someone who has both never read a comic in their life and never understood what people were complaining about. Leading to such events as the now infamous "Diana worries about her breasts" audition tape. And then there was the palava with the costume...

Audience attitudes towards the show ranged from derisive to cautiously optimistic while the show as in production. It might be good after all, they said. People didn't like the Batman or Batman: the Brave and the Bold when they were in production either, and both were eventually liked on their own merits after a while.

And then the pilot was made... and the show promptly disappeared out of sight, joining Global Frequency in the high publicised but ultimately cancelled comicbook adaption heap. The main difference between the two being, that while GF was leaked, was applauded and was cancelled despite the MASSIVE levels of praise that it recieved due to said leaking, Wonder Woman sucked. Sucked really badly.

The fact that NBC have decided to reuse the costume from the failed show in another of their programmes, where a delusional woman thinks that she's Wonder Woman, hasn't really helped matters after the fact.

Hopefully this hasn't made the character sink once more into the ocean of development hell, with the justification that Wonder Woman doesn't work as a character as the pilot flopped, but at this point we'll just have to wait and see whether she appears in liveaction in anything good. Though it will probably be in a Justice League movie, as opposed to a solo title. *grumble*

Best New Character (Webcomics): Tarquin, Order of the Stick
Occasionally a villain comes along who manages to be both a really effective villain, while at the same time remaining bizarrely likeable despite the horrible things that they do. Tarquin, father of Elan of the titular Order, is one of those characters.

A mixture of apparently confusing opposites, Tarquin is one of those villains that manages to be suprisingly horrifying in that he acts something like a regular person despite the atrocities that he performs in the aim of getting power. For example, he sincerely loves his son, and goes out of his way to be nice to him after they are reunited for the first time in decades, but although he's certainly friendly when he wants to be, that doesn't get in the way of the fact that he's a genre savvy dictator.

This is the moment that Elan twigged that his father might not be the "noble demon" ruler brand of villain that he wished he was,

Greatest Return to Form: Cassandra Cain (Black Bat) in Red Robin
After the kerfuffle surrounding her brainwashing and DC's subsequentbafflement of what to do with her after Adam Beechen's mini series about her didn't do as well (Gee, I wonder why that was), appeared to be doing the publishing equivalent of pushing unwanted vegetables around on their plate in regards to her. Cass Cain was the unwanted cabbage of the DCU.

Eventually, the associated baggage surrounding her (as well as the need to reshuffle Cass' only starring role, in the book Batman and the Outsiders, again following Chuck Dixon's departure from DC, and since Dan Didio was writing the book it's probably fair to say that he didn't want anything to do with Cass at this point either), DC seemed to decide that it'll be best just to reboot the Batgirl comic with someone else in the costume.

First they teased that it might be Barbara Gordon in her own brief miniseries, before settling on Cass' best mate Stephanie Brown for the role, which managed to go on from a somewhat wobbly start (Cass just appearing to dump the outfit on a rooftop for Steph to use and vanishing into the night) to being one of the most fun and consistantly funny books in the DCU (pre-reboot).

After this Cass seemed to be once again in nowhereland, before she reappeared in Hong Kong as an independant vigilante in Red Robin, where it was revealled that Tim Drake (the titular vigilante of the book) had been keeping in contact with her since she left Gotham. Partly so she wouldn't be abducted by mindcontrolling ninjas (again) and partly so she wouldn't feel excluded like how the Bat Family unintentionally did following Infinite Crisis (which resulted in her being abducted by mindcontrolling ninjas).

Following the return of Bruce Wayne after his magical mystery tour through time and space, Tim met up with Cass in Hong Kong, where he informed her that she was still part of the Family and gave her her old costume back if she wanted to going to Gotham. She didn't, but she soon afterwards sworn in as the Batman of Hong Kong (or the entirety of South East Asia, depending on who you ask) under the guise of Black Bat.

Although she did have a brief appearence in Batman Incorperated being kickass and hijacking a Triad helicopter in midflight, I feel that the moment where she once again begain acting like she had done prior to the braincontrol business was during Red Robin 25. Openly heroic with a dry sense of humour, it was nice to see her back to her old self. It's just a shame that it ended on a cliffhanger for her that will most likely never be resolved, ie her feud with the metahuman martial artist Cricket. Still, her next appearance in Gates of Gotham more than made up for that, personally.

Pretty much the entire issue was a parade of Cass-Related Win.

Best Return to Form (Writer) - James Robinson

After returning to DC with the... somewhat "questionable" Cry for Justice, James Robinson finally managed to get the Shade miniseries, starring the Golden Age Flash villain who was one of the lead characters in his Starman series from the 1990s, off the ground. And, man, what a change there is in terms of writing quality!

Very much in the style of his work in Starman, Shade thus far is about the titular ex-villain travelling the DCU to try and discover who exactly is trying to murder him, and carrying out the investigating whilst wielding nothing more than Wildean Wit and an elemental control over darkness and shadows. It does seem interesting within the book, that deprived of the long history that the character had with the likes of the now retconned Jay Garrick, the sense of history has now been replaced with one of geography, as it fills in more on the international range of heroes that Robinson had begun to develop in his Superman or Action Comics run, I forget which.

Brilliant book, great art and writing, definately the most classy thing on sale in either of the Big Two at the moment.

Date: 2012-01-02 10:25 am (UTC)
eyz: (Default)
From: [personal profile] eyz
If only, right? XD

Date: 2012-01-03 04:28 am (UTC)
lieut_kettch: (Default)
From: [personal profile] lieut_kettch
You got that right. I'm already imagining how they'd form their 'Zord: the Bug as the torso, the two planes as the legs, and the motorcycles as the arms.


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