Tuesday, January 3, 2006

Looking To The Stars: The Fourth Annual Starry Awards

The Golden Globes. Mr. Blackwell’s Best & Worst Dressed List. And now (once again), it is time for The Starry Awards. Because it’s just not the start of a new year, without us yammering about the best and worst of last year.

In any case, welcome to what has become a yearly staple of the Comics Nexus: The Starry Awards for Excellence and Disgrace in Comics Writing.

Of course it has been pointed out that the comic industry already has the Eisners, the Harveys, the Eagles and the Wizard Awards. Why on Earth 2 then, these alleged people ask, do we need another damned award?

The Starry Awards were started so that I, the ever humble author of this column, might dispense awards to those I felt were most worthy of praise or damnation based on their works in the past year.

The Starries name ten stories in total. Stories, for the purpose of this award, can be single or multiple issues of one book or multiple books relating to one plot-line. The Starries are based solely upon the personal opinions of Matt “Starman” Morrison and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of anyone else.

Five Staries are awarded to stories which, more than any other stories this year, made me stand up and cheer, burst into tears or just stopped me in the middle of reading to say “This is damn good stuff.” Five Staries are awarded (if you can call it that) to stories that, for some reason, I found disappointing. Stories that left me feeling that a mark had been missed and missed badly. Some of them are stories that, in fact, I think are just plain terrible.

That said: Here are the winners and losers!

The Best of 2005

Best Moment All Year: Welcome Back, Jordan
(As taken from Green Lantern: Rebirth #5)

This whole series was excellent, but the best moment of all came when Hal Jordan and Kyle Rayner – two Green Lanterns of two generations – joined up to fight Sinestro, the greatest enemy to ANY Green Lantern anywhere. But as great as the fight scene was, the best moment of the year came afterwards when Hal offered his hand to Kyle and the two truly shook hands for the first time as friends and allies. What is more, as Kyle sold himself short... finding himself for the first time TRULY in the presence of the legend whom everyone measured him against... Hal cut him short and told Kyle that he was just as much a hero as him.

"Fighting from one end of the universe to the other. Risking your life to help someone who everyone else wrote off. Facing Sinestro One-On-One and living to talk about it. What do you think you've been doing, Kyle? Hiding under your drawing board?"

Mark Twain once said that "the really great make you feel that you, too, can become great." Such it is with Hal Jordan. With this scene, Geoff Johns gave both heroes a chance to shine while keeping them both in character and showed the generation of comic readers who grew up without Hal Jordan what my generation found so appealing. It wasn't just his courage or his fearlessness; it was the fact that he gave us the belief that we too could be better. And isn't that what superhero comics are all about, really?

Funniest Read All Year:GLA

A scathing satire of this year's trend to take unpopular and/or "joke" characters and kill them off, just for the sake of attracting attention and assuring the comic-reading public at large that "now things are serious", this book had more laugh out loud moments than anything else to come out this year.

Best Team-Up:Spider-Man/Human Torch: I'm With Stupid

Remember when comics were fun? Not funny, but just plain amusing. No brooding plots about the end of the world or realities being erased like mistakes on the blackboard. Just stories that just made you think that throwing on a pair of tights and running around on patrol would just plain be fun? Dan Slott does. And this mini-series was a tribute to those days even as it did address more serious matters. While I liked this book for the sheer silliness of moments like Peter Parker being forced into a job as Johnny Storm's personal photographer I loved it for the more touching moments where Spider-Man and Human Torch wind up talking about their lost loves while trying to build a Spidermobile that could climb walls. If that seems contradictory to you, then stear clear. But if you're the least bit curious as to how Spider-Man prompted Paste Pot Pete to change his name, track down this title in single comics or TP format.

Best Make Over: Red Sonja

Like Conan before her, she Roy Thomas lovingly nicknamed "Big Red" has returned in force to the world of comics. While the title has suffered somewhat from lateness (the fault, it seems, of the many pin-up artists working on the book's endless variety of alternate covers), it has proven to be one of the most engaging new titles this year. Thanks to Mel Rubi, Sonja the Red has never looked better and her dialogue is as sharp as her sword thanks to the wonderous Mike Carey and Michael Omening.

Best Retro Tale:Thor: Blood Oath

Speaking of Michael Omening, he proved capable of writing his own fantasy works solo in what is easily the best work done with Thor in recent memory. Mayhaps I am nostalgic for a monthly Thor title but Omening's mini-series, detailing the adventures of the God of Thunder and his brothers in arms The Warriors Three to go upon a quest for great items of legend in order to appease the angry king of the giants and prevent war, satisfied my mythological needs quite well.

The Worst of 2005

Most Likely To Cause Continuity Robots Heads To Explode:Every X-Men Team Book All Year Including House of M.

'Nuff said!

The “What The Hell Just Happened?” Award: JLA: Cold Steel

This book wasn't really all that confusing compared to some past nominees. I'm just wondering who thought there was an audience for books about Superheroes piloting mech versions of themselves, apart from the overgrown kids who still watch Power Rangers reruns?

The “I Waited For This?!?!” Award: All-Star Batman and Robin

It came down to a four-way race this year between every issue of All-Star Batman and Robin, Secret Wars #5, every issue of Ultimate Iron Man and every book written by Warren Ellis for Marvel Comics. I disqualified Ellis since he got this award last year and I felt someone else deserved a chance. And Ultimate Iron Man, while not worth the wait, did at least have some good ideas behind it even if the execution fell flat.

Secret Wars #5 was late, over-hyped and the ending suggested that on paper, nothing much had really changed. Anywhere. And yet, I still have to give this one to All-Star Batman and Robin. Because I actually had high hopes for it and there was actually a chance at quality.

It seems like a no-brainer; pair the most acclaimed Batman artist of the last twenty years with the most acclaimed Batman writer and watch the money roll in, right? Well, the money may be rolling in but the product is not the high quality piece of work we hoped for.

Miller is, quite frankly, writing Batman in a style that is more appropriate to Sin City than to the Dark Knight Detective. In fact, it would not be too far of a stretch to say that Miller is writing Sin City Gotham Noir. Batman kills cops, curses and calls Robin a retard and drives a big damn car that demolishes everything it hits. Things hit new depths this past week with Issue #3, which mostly centers around an Irish bartender at a place called The Black Canary starting a fight after getting sexually harassed once too often. Admittedly an engaging scene, but totally unconnected to the story or action at hand.

Worst Makeover of the Year: Shanna The She-Devil

While the artwork was decent enough, Frank Cho's attempt to revive Shanna the She-Devil was like most pop singers– nice enough on the surface but completely devoid of intelligence or substance where it counts.

I've discussed the specific history in past columns, but Shanna started out in the 70's as an attempt to bring a more feminist (i.e. not obsessed with clothes, motherhood or becoming a model) character into Marvel Comics. While the attempts were somewhat ham-fisted, the thought was there and Shanna was popular enough to guest often in Spider-Man and Daredevil.

Cho took all of the rich history and thought behind the character and scrapped it in favor of his own vision; a Shanna who would be free of all that boring independence and eco-friendly philosophy. This news Shanna would star in what basically amounted to a seven-issue full-color, full-frontal nudity stroke book.

Thankfully Marvel came to their senses on releasing such a book during a time when the industry as a whole was trying to emphasize the idea of kid-friendly comics and Cho was forced to cover up his genetically engineered Nazi superwoman version of Shanna with a relatively more modest burlap bikini. But nothing could cover up the fact that without the gratuitous nudity, cursing and violence that this book promised as a MAX title, it was as pointless as Jessica Simpson's inclusion to a think-tank.

The Worst Comic Of the Year Award: Liberality For All #1

Usually, when I write about a work I've reviewed previously in the year during this piece, I will try and write something new. This year, however, I cannot think of any way to improve upon what I wrote about this book previously. I have nothing to add save that we can now add "two months late" to this book's lengthy list of sins. Hopefully, the book's lateness is due to whoever was funding this piece of severely horrible immature twaddle deciding that with talk of impeachment growing every day, this is probably not the time to be courting the ever-decreasing neo-con comic-reading market.

Tune in next week. Same Matt time. Same Matt website.

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