It’s Another Embarrassing ‘Best Comics of 2021’ List to Review


 

 

Film School Rejects did a list of 15 comics they think are supposedly the best of the year, and one of the most peculiar choices would have to be this one titled Full Tilt Boogie:

 

 

This wildly imaginative space opera from writer Alex de Campi and illustrator Eduardo Ocaña originally saw serialized publication in the all-ages 2000 AD Regened magazine, but earlier this year, Full Tilt Boogie was beautifully assembled in both softcover and hardcover formats.

Conceived from de Campi’s desire to have her own Gatchaman and Space Battle Cruiser Yamato (a.k.a. Battle of the Planets and Star Blazers), Full Tilt Boogie is a glorious adventure about found family, galactic unrest, and a cat hiding another dimension in its stomach. De Campi injects relatable humor into extreme circumstances, and Ocaña renders the saga with a master’s touch. Anime may serve as the narrative inspiration, but Ocaña’s art recalls Mœbius on his best days (which was every day).

 

 

Those familiar with the news she’d been inciting against writers like Scott Snyder might wonder why we’re supposed to care about a book written by somebody who was involved in the Whisper Network, and ultimately wound up alienating other writers in the field. After that crudely titled Dracula comic she wrote, I wouldn’t expect any improvement here. Another of the site’s choices is a GN titled That Texas Blood:

 

 

Chris Condon and Jacob Phillips‘ That Texas Blood travels into Sheriff Joe Bob Coates’ memory as he recalls a young boy’s murder, an even younger girl’s kidnapping, and the mysterious bat cult potentially responsible.

After releasing an exceptional first-volume potboiler last year, the two creators kick it up a notch with this somber stroll through violence already executed. You’re trapped upon Joe Bob’s tongue, waiting for him to reveal the next horrible detail, terrified that hope ain’t possible on this wretched, blood-soaked land.

That Texas Blood Volume 2 invites sinister forces into its Lone Star noir, weaponizing history against the reader, promising perpetual darkness, and supplying something surprising: a continuation. Life keeps on going even when most don’t.

 

 

Just what we all need. More graphic violence, and sensationalization of darkness. This is not healthy for comics, independent or mainstream. Which is why I didn’t find the premise of Barry Windsor Smith’s Monsters to be an improvement:

 

Rumors of Monsters‘ existence circulated for decades. Thirty-five years ago, Barry Windsor–Smith attempted to tell the ultimate Incredible Hulk story and was told “no” by Marvel. He did not accept their word. He pressed on, expanding his concept into a tome as thick and hard as its subject.

Monsters tells Bobby Baily’s story, a child born from violence, recruited into violence, and forced to make more violence. The comic is ugly, upsetting, and unrelenting. With so much anticipation baked into its release, there was fear that it could never match its reputation. Monsters exceeds what it promised. Barry Windsor-Smith produces his magnum opus, a comic that celebrates everything a superhero book could say but frequently runs away from instead.

 

Mainstream superhero books have seen increasing sums of jarring violence since the turn of the century. Why, what about the notorious Green Lantern storyline where Kyle Rayner’s girlfriend, Alexandra deWitt, was strangled to death by Major Force in 1994? These propagandists sure are out of the loop.

 

 

Another of the worst choices made here was Tom King’s Supergirl: Woman of Tomorrow miniseries:

 

We find Supergirl in a cantina that might as well be on Tatooine. She’s lost, drinking her sorrows away, trying to understand herself as someone apart from her Superman cousin. Then, a teenager tugs on her cape. Ruthye saw her father murdered, and she wants revenge. To get it, she could sure use a Woman of Steel. Supergirl is not a mercenary, but she also can’t imagine this child venturing throughout the galaxy and succeeding in anything other than death. With her spirits low, the Kryptonian accepts the mission.

Yes, Tom King is writing his True Grit. But that film donates a mighty fine skeleton, and artist Bilquis Evely unleashes a cosmic canvas that no cinematographer could ever pull off. Supergirl: Woman of Tomorrow is a lavish, mystifying soak of a comic. You read this one at a snail’s pace, afraid that the next page will be the last one. It’s the kind of comic you don’t want to end, and thankfully, we still have several months before it reaches its conclusion.

 

Yup, another depression-emphasizing embarrassment, capped off by depicting the Girl of Steel chugging alcohol, as though her endurance powers serve as an excuse, and accepting what appears to be a mission where she’s hired to perform an assassination. Why shouldn’t we want this to end? Easily the most blatant entry on this list.

 

 

And then, there’s a book starring Beta Ray Bill, the alien who appeared in Thor during Walt Simonson’s notable mid-80s run, titled Argent Star:

 

Do you know the ballad of Beta Ray Bill? He’s the Korbinite who once lifted Mjolnir against the mighty Thor, and in doing so, impressed the All-Father so much that he forged Stormbreaker as a second prize trophy. The horse-faced warrior is tired of his “A for Effort” status. In Argent Star, Bill flees his Asgardian shadow and seeks to replace his weapon with the Twilight Sword, the blade that once eradicated his homeworld

 

As a Beta Ray Bill fanatic, I would have read this comic no matter the creative team, and I’d have found enjoyment in however it turned out. In the same fashion, I’ll read whatever story Daniel Warren Johnson feels like creating. The cartoonist and his trusty colorist Mike Spicer make metal AF comics: Extremity, Murder Falcon, Wonder Woman: Dead Earth.

 

No other book looks like them, their characters screaming from the page, leaping into concussive reality. As you make your way through them, you’re pumping your fist, rapidly drumming your feet on the floor below you. Johnson’s comics build to crescendos, and you can feel them vibrating numerous pages back before they burst. Anticipating their raucous arrival hides the other punch his comics contain, the one directed toward your gut.

 

This year dished a lot of wallops, and many of them left me a heap in my bedroom corner. Ardent Star pulverized with every issue. Johnson pulls a beloved supporting player close to his chest, sensing Bill’s shivering heartache, and administers a hug. In tracing the character’s pounding self-loathing, Johnson renders relief for the character and the reader. All earned while the panel borders detonate with fire, body parts, and Fin Fang Foom’s neverending snake neck.

 

Wow, this sounds pretty defeatist and cheap too. “Body parts” suggests some very crude gore in store. One more reason why the reviewer’s claim he’d love this book no matter how it turns out is particularly insulting, because it strongly suggests that no matter how crudely written and disrespectful of the characters and past writers it is, he’d embrace it full force. That’s obsession of a most terrible kind, to say nothing of predisposition to liking a book at all costs. This is most definitely not the kind of person genuine fandom needs.

 

They may be film school rejects, but the writers for the site would only qualify as comics medium rejects too, if the managements were any saner than they are. Tragically, that’s not the case, exactly why you couldn’t be shocked if tomorrow, they’ll be hired unquestioned by DC/Marvel to write their books too, no matter how bad the scripts are they brew up.

 

Originally published here.


Avi Green

Avi Green was born in Pennsylvania in 1974, and moved to Israel in 1983. He enjoyed reading comics when he was young, the first being Fantastic Four. He maintains a strong belief in the public's right to knowledge and accuracy of facts. He considers himself a conservative-style version of Clark Kent. Follow him on his blog at Four Color Media Monitor or on Twitter at @avigreen1

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