The Gold Standard: Joss Whedon Shows In Comics And Ten Books To Watch In 2011

I felt the need to open this up with a little bit of a ramble, just something that’s on my mind. Random fact, Astonishing X-Men was the first time I really was exposed to Joss Whedon’s work. I didn’t watch Buffy or Angel, I hadn’t even heard of Firefly, and Dollhouse was years from being on TV. I had no idea who this guy was, but the internet loved him. Then I read his Astonishing X-Men, and I have to admit, I was a fan. I watched a little bit of Firefly, then all of Dollhouse when it was on.

Over the past year I went ahead and watched all of Buffy and Angel, and then I just sort of dove in to the comics. I haven’t read Buffy: Season Eight yet, but I did finish Angel: After The Fall, and to be frank, I’m prepared to pull every Buffy and Angel project, as well as every Dollhouse project, that comes up in the pipeline.

Do these comic book adaptions of television seasons have the same overall effect of the original episodes? Not really, but the move to a far less limiting medium enables the writers to tell stories that with TV you’d have to ask yourself “Can we really budget this?” I mean, After the Fall was awesome, but I can’t imagine half of it working on the budget of a weekly TV show, and I mean the cooler stuff.

The characters were created with the intent of them existing in that sort of a format, but in the years since the shows were canceled they’ve been able to evolve. Joss has one of the most loyal fanbases in entertainment, and it’s deserved, his work is absolutely awesome (though I do understand that it’s not for everyone), and it’s the kind of fanbase that has followed him wherever he’s gone. Buffy Season 8 was outselling Wonder Woman at one point, and Joss wasn’t even writing it. That’s the kind of staying power his creations have.

And with their existence moving completely into the realm of comics, you bypass all the nasty things that come with live action TV in exchange for a monthly schedule, as opposed to weekly. Like I said before, you cut the budget out, and from there you eliminate the problems that arise as the actors age (James Marsters would not make a very good Spike these days just based on looks), or the fact that actors sometimes want to move on from jobs and move on with their lives (Sarah Michelle Gellar still acts but apparently spends most of her time as a wife and mother), or move on to new shows (David Boreanaz has been on Bones almost since Angel ended, Alyson Hannigan has moved on to How I Met Your Mother, and Eliza Dushku has done all sorts of everything), or they were Seth Green (Robot Chicken means he gets a separate mention). The shows simply can not go on forever, but with the magic of comics, they can.

It’s something really unique to the Whedonverse, and I really can’t think of anything else quite like it.

And now on to the top ten books you should look out for in 2011!

10. Booster Gold – The man himself is set to return home in May, as Dan Jurgens prepares to come back as the writer-artist of his baby, and just in time for Flashpoint! Booster under the pen of Jurgens was must read the last time around, and given that it’s set to be the only DC proper title (aside from Flash) to tie in with Flashpoint, this book could be one of the sleeper hits of the year.

9. Teen Titans – J.T. Krul went ahead and brought something to the table that readers of Teen Titans hadn’t seen in a while….a consistent and well written book that was actually entertaining to read. Finding the right mix between superheroics and teenage drama, we’ve finally got a version of the Teen Titans that actually feels like….the Teen Titans. This coming after years of teenage characters who either acted like adults, or acting like teens but had no real purpose. The book is finally good again, and I’m optimistically expecting it to stay that way.

8. Avengers Academy – With the first year being as good as it was, I only expect that much more from year two. Mike McKone may be leaving the book, but Tom Raney is replacing him and Raney does great work, and I feel will do a great job with the cast. We’ve been previewed a look at our characters all grown up, but I’m far more interested in seeing a further delving into the psyches of Striker, Veil, Mettle, and Speedball. It’s a great cast, and Gage has been supplying everyone with a unique voice. This is going to be a can’t miss book, count on it.

7. The Boys – Things have been getting incredibly interesting over the past few issues, with Homelander preparing something big with the other ‘heroes’, as well as the story finally being told of what happened with Mallory and Lamp Lighter. There’s also Hughie and Annie, and the fact that their secrets are finally out in the open. 2011 looks like it could be the year when The Boys finally make a move agains the Seven, and that means that we could be looking at an Ennis style bloodbath. There are few things more satisfying than an Ennis style bloodbath.

6. Venom – Have I ever mentioned that I hate Venom? Carnage too, but I really hate Venom. He was the epitome, to me, of a 90’s ‘cool’ character. He was a villain that everyone wanted more of because he was evil badass Spider-Man with a crazy design amalgamation of Todd McFarlane and Eric Larsen. Problem was, nobody ever knew what to do with him. Villain? Hero? Villain? Anti-hero? Government operative? Cannibal? Sane? Insane? He was a fucking trainwreck, and it was really Warren Ellis writing the Mac Gargan Venom in Thunderbolts that gave the character some redemption. So why is this Venom so high on the list? For one, you’ve got Rick Remender writing it, and he’s been pure gold so far in his Marvel tenure. For two, you’ve got Flash Thompson, one of the more iconic members of Spider-Man’s supporting cast, and one who has always been looking for a chance to be a superhero. And for three, you have the incredibly original premise of Venom being used as a government black ops weapon. I can’t resist.

5. Batman Incorporated – Grant Morrison has been redefining the Batman franchise on a regular basis since taking over the core title a few years ago. His Batman was great, his Batman and Robin was even better, and the Return of Bruce Wayne was something completely different. Now, with Batman Inc, he brings us a new take on Batman by having it be corporate sponsored (albeit by Wayne himself), and taking the operation international. Bruce traveling the globe and creating Batmen in other countries is something that could easily fail under most, but Grant Morrison has already shown us in just a few issues that he is more than capable of pulling it off.

4. Flash – Flashpoint is about to kick off, and that’s making 2011 look like a year belonging to the Scarlet Speedster. In 2010 Flash suffered from both delays and bad pacing, but crossovers and events is something Johns excels at, and given what he’s done with the Green Lantern franchise I have high hopes for Flash. All we really need now is a spin off book featuring the other characters in the Flash family, as I feel that Flashpoint will do a far better job than previous attempts at showing just why Barry Allen is a necessary character in the DC Universe at this time and place.

3. Green Lantern – Geoff Johns has been crafting one of the better superhero titles on stands for years now, bringing the same energy and enthusiasm that made his Flash so great but with a far more epic scope. Johns is the premier writer at DC these days, and this is his flagship title. It’s also been a series that’s spun into a franchise that has grown to thrive on events. The Sinestro Corps War, Blackest Night, Brightest Day, War of the Green Lanterns. War of the Gls is set to run up through the summer, but I’m looking forward to how this book spins out of it. I wasn’t a fan when the title launched, but after the Sinestro Corps War the book found its footing and has really been go-go-go ever since. On top of that, Blackest Night furthered strengthened the title. The moral of this? Johns does a great job coming out of events, and that makes Green Lantern that much more interesting as the year goes on.

2. Future Foundation – For as incredibly as Hickman’s Fantastic Four has been, Future Foundation sounds even better. We might not know the full details of what he has planned, but given that the Future Foundation was one of my favorite ideas he brought to the table, and that I’ve been wondering just how he’d handle Spider-Man, I can’t say that this title wasn’t instant pull list material. Also, his final two issues of Fantastic Four have shipped so far this year, and were both incredible. He’s riding a tidal wave of momentum into 2011, and I don’t see it stopping anytime soon.

1. Batgirl – Maybe it’s bias, sue me, but Batgirl has had an amazing year and a half thus far, and it looks like we haven’t seen anything yet. With Dustin Nguyen joining the book on art a few months ago, his style has been perfectly complementing the scripts of writer Bryan Q. Miller. Stephanie Brown is growing quickly into one of the strongest female characters in comics, and it’s by nature of excellent characterization and interesting stories that compliment her as a character. She’s in the Bat family, but she’s very much her own character, and while her interactions with Robin and Red Robin have been great, she’s truly at her best without the guest stars. On top of that, Miller has turned Wendy Harris into Proxy and she’s been an incredibly welcome addition to the title. With any luck, when I’m making these lists next year Batgirl will still be reigning supreme.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,