Any list of the last decade’s top writers would have to include Mark Millar. Famous for his work getting Marvel’s Ultimate Universe off the ground and for horror-satire-mind-f***s like The Unfunnies, Millar had already made his mark by 2008, but it took the creator-owned gem Kick-Ass to cement his name as a true creative juggernaut. Kick-Ass capitalized on that bit in every fan-boy (or fan-girl) that wants to know what it would REALLY feel like to be a hero. Featuring smart dialog, plausible scenarios (mostly) centered around teenage angst, and some of John Romita Jr’s best art to date, readers have been held on the edge of their seats since February 2008 and loved every minute of it. Readers loved it so much in fact, that Millar garnered a Hollywood movie deal for his story before the damned thing was even finished. We at High Five! Comics may sit a little uneasy at the thought of Nick Cage fronting another comic inspired film, but we can’t help but applaud Millar and Romita Jr for the near universal love for this story.
Apparently, to us High Fivers, this was the decade of Warren Ellis. And if there was any book to sum up this decade for Mr. Ellis, it would be Planetary (if not for the fact that it took the whole damn decade for all 27 issues to come out). Basically, it’s about an organization funded by some secret guy called the Fourth Man, doing whatever they can to save the world and record its bizarre history. What I love about Planetary is that most of their adventures involve some sort of literary character (or, if not public domain, and homage to a literary character) in an attempt to, in Warren Ellis’ words, “take everything old and make it new again.” Sherlock Holmes, Godzilla, Doc Savage, and even a character similar to his own Spider Jerusalem pop up to either help or hinder the progress of our heroes.
John Cassaday’s art is compelling; much as his work in Astonishing X-Men, every page is so detailed and beautiful that it’s hard not to get engrossed in every panel. Planetary’s cover art is interesting as well, with each issue done in a different style (with no consistant logo) as a means of fitting in with the subject of the interior story.
Now, I haven’t read (and am slightly wary of) the Planetary/JLA and Planetary/Batman crossover books, so I can’t really attest to whether or not those are awesome (I mean, they’re also penned by Ellis so they gotta be okay at the very least) but, as for the main story, I highly recommend picking it up (and, hey, the last few issues are out in trade form come March).
I don’t want anybody else to ever write for Captain America ever, ever again. I know that seems kinda extreme, but I’m totally fucking serious. Between the constant references to the Golden Age books (so many amazing flashbacks to the days of the Invaders) and the unexpected twists on every other page, Captain America Vol. 5 is one of the most riveting books I’ve ever read. It also ended up being one of the most controversial. In 50 issues, Brubaker managed to bring Bucky Barnes back to life (he’d been confirmed dead since March 1964’s Avengers #4, over 40 years before), kill Steve Rogers (something so extreme that it was front page news here on Earth-Prime), allow Bucky to continue the legacy, and prove that the Red Skull is a fucking dick.
How fitting is it that Brubaker is also the man now resurrecting Steve Rogers in Captain America: Reborn? Granted, yeah, Steve’s only been dead for a few years so it might seem like a bit of a cop out, but even this is gearing up to be a bit of a tearjerker. I only wish that they would have kept Steve Epting as the cover artist for Reborn. Most of his covers during Volume 5 look a little like movie posters for 1960s exploitation films, a few of which even re-use art from Golden Age covers, and I love those damn things.
Take Homeward Bound crossed with Philip K Dick, and you have some idea of what WE3 looks like. WE3 is the name of a futuristic killing machine team that consists of a dog, a cat, and a rabbit in robot-enhanced bodies. They were created by the government to be assassins, and are the cutest killing machines you will ever see. About to be replaced by a newer, larger and more efficient creation, they make their escape from government tyranny. Grant Morrison is often accused of overwriting- making his stories wordier and more detailed than they need to be. In contrast, WE3 is remarkably sparse relying heavily on frequent counterpart Frank Quitely to move the story. Even the dialogue between the animals, which could come off as hokey and “Mr. Ed”-ish in the hands of a lesser writer, make perfect sense here. Despite the cuddly looking cyborg-animals, this not meant for kids. WE3 is dark, gritty, bloody and despite the look of its premise, very pro-animal rights. Quitely’s artwork is so expressive, especially with the interactions between the animals, it will jerk a tear or two from even the coldest heart. Morrison and artist Frank Quitely succeed at making dystopia warm and humane.
Cross-over Events are a giant fan-wank. Sometimes you get one that’s fun to read, and sometimes you get one scrawled in KY gel anticipating the collective fanboy ejaculation. Good or bad, crossovers exist in the world of continuity and rarely tell us anything interesting about the characters involved. What is remarkable about House of M is that for all the continuity mind-f***ing, at the heart of it is a compelling story by Brian Michael Bendis about a father, his two children, and their love for and disappointment in each other. This gut wrenching story was backed by solid character scripts from a notably limited cast. By limiting his cast Bendis opened up House of M to a humanity that most other Events are sorely missing.