Monday, January 11, 2010

Looking Back at the "O*'s" - The 5 Best New Titles of the Decade

For this list (part 3 of the 6 part series), I wanted to look specifically at some of the new titles that were brought to the forefront. These are not re-imaginations of a current hero, or rebranding of that hero with yet another title (I'm looking at you, Wolverine!). These are folks we'd never heard of (or barely seen) in the 90's and were suddenly introduced to.

1 - Vertigo - "Fables"

While I don't condone the violence, sex, and language of this title, I can't fault them for the storylines. The complete re-imagination of our childhood fairy tale characters into the real-world was genius. It's especially true when you consider how they changed them up.

The big bad wolf (the villain in more than one story) actually became a private investigator/sheriff werewolf named Bigby Wolf. Snow White, Beauty and the Beast, and just about any other fictional character you can imagine has been brought into the story even if in nothing more than a cameo.

This series is now approaching its 100th issue, so if you haven't read it yet you might want to give it a look. Just be careful of the content. It's not for children.

2 - Zondervan - "Hand of the Morningstar"

This title slipped by most people because it started as a web comic before moving to print. The artwork is done by one of Marvel's former artists, and the quality of the storylines are superb. This is a graphic novel rather than a monthly comic title and only 6 volumes have come out so far, but it's worth following.

Morningstar is basically about a group of people who receive super-powers from a being called the Morningstar. This mysterious being is only alluded to in the first issues and never really explained. As the stories progress, it becomes apparent that there's a good possibility the Morningstar might not be all they had originally thought...and might even be the villain of the story.

The heroes here are flawed, and some even become corrupt with power. They kill from time to time, and yet often find themselves desperately seeking to keep their humanity intact even while saving the world as superheroes. You should look this one up on Amazon, as it's possible to find the first few volumes for very cheap. While this is a Christian publisher, the series will appeal to most comic book fans...especially those who long for the days when comic book stories were fun and not filled with gratuitous violence and language.

3. - Dark Horse - Archenemies

Imagine if Superman and Doctor Doom were out to kill each other, but turned out to be roommates in their secret identities with no idea the person they hated most in the world was just a few feet away. That's the premise for this four-issue series from Dark Horse that was funny and imaginative.

Star Fighter and Underlord hate each other and regularly battle as hero and villain. Ethan and Vincent also hate each other and regularly argue as roomies. There are so many fun moments in here it's hard to mention them all. At one point, Vincent develops such a hatred for Ethan that he decides it's time to kill him off as Underlord. Unfortunately, Ethan (Star Fighter) believes Underlord has somehow figured out his secret identity and is trying to kill him and Vincent!

The story takes a lot of tragic turns and manages to cram a lot into four issues. The emotional development between the two is great and it seems to end just as it's getting good. There have been talks of this turning into a feature film, and some discussion of it returning for a few more issues. I, for one, would love to see both happen.

4. - DC - Green Lantern Corps

While the Corps have been around since Hal Jordan first put on the ring, they never had a title of their own. Fortunately, Geoff Johns knew how to breathe life into the title by giving us a real look at how they would pick and train these new ring bearers. Favorites Kyle Raynor and Guy Gardner took the forefront of the story, yet also managed to slide into the background when Kilowog and any of a half dozen other GL's stepped into the spotlight.

What's amazing is how DC is able to keep this Green Lantern book interesting with nary a visit from Hal Jordan. In the past the only time we saw the Corps was when they desperately needed Hal's help to stop some villain or another. Now we see them as a group of heroes who don't need his help at all.

With the events of Blackest Night running through all titles, you see him showing up from time to time, but for the most part this is a title standing on its own merits.

5. - Red-Handed Studios - "Fallen Justice"

Justice Theta is a Superman-type hero who saves the world time and again. One day he realizes he's feeling more tired than usual and having some power problems. After a quick check, he is informed by the local scientist that his powers aren't giving out...he's dying. He has three months to live.

There is no cure. There will be no last-minute save. He is going to die, and that is settled up front in the first issue. From that point on, it's all in how he lives his last days. Every time he uses his powers he pushes himself that much closer to death, but how can a true hero stand idly by while others die?

This series truly is amazing. While it's definitely adult in language and situations, it really does show an interesting take on what truly makes a hero. Not a big fan of the name "Justice Theta", but the character is well-written and you really get a sense of the finality of his situation as the story progresses.

Starting as a comic for the iPhone, this strip is newest on the list (it came out in February of 2009). Available online in the iTunes store, it's also available in print for those comic fans like me who prefer to feel the paper as you read. This one is still going on, so if you're interested, pick it up.

We've crossed the halfway point with our lists! Next week, we continue our look back over the last decade with a look at some of the best comic book related moments since 2000.

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