Entry for November 14, 2007: Current comics faves

Fellow genre entertainment fans, here's my long-promised list of favorite comic book titles, updated from June 2007 to November 2007:

1. Favorite Fantasy: Conan. This sword-and-sorcery series has stayed faithful to Robert E. Howard's pulp novels about an ancient world, with spin-off Red Sonja close behind. Fantasy fans might also like Disney's Gargoyles or various adaptations of Dungeons & Dragons novels.

2. Favorite Historical/Literary Adaptation: Age of Bronze. Eric Shanower's thoroughly researched retelling of the Illiad approaches the Trojan War without its usual mythological trappings. Still, the historical accuracy and tangle of relationships make this epic engrossing. I also still enjoy Dynamite's Lone Ranger.

3. Favorite Family-Friendly Title: Mouse Guard. If you're fond of Watership Down, Redwall, or Neotopia, you'll probably like this anthropomorphic epic about medieval mice. It's a bit violent, but the painted pages are impressive to behold. Mice Templar, Marvel Adventures: Avengers, and Teen Titans Go! have a similar all-ages appeal.

4. Best Retro Book: The Spirit. It remains to be seen if the next writer/artist team can do as well as Darwyn Cooke at updating and honoring Will Eisner's gumshoe and if Frank Miller's live-action movie will capture its style and verve. Paul Dini's pulpy Madame Mirage is in a similar style, with femme fatales, crime bosses, and guns blazing.

5. Favorite Horror Franchise: Buffy: the Vampire Slayer. Creator Joss Whedon has managed to turn a failed horror/comedy movie into a successful franchise, with the early 2000s television show and Angel garnering a loyal following. For those of us who wondered what happened after the series finales of Buffy and Angel, the new comic books are considered canon. The Tron, Highlander, and Battlestar Galactica titles are in the same vein.

6. Favorite Dead Hero: Captain America. Even with its title character dead for several months and about to be replaced, if only temporarily, Cap has been an engrossing read, thanks to writer Ed Brubaker's espionage sensibilities. Artist Alex Ross, in addition to working on Justice Society (see below), has designed the updated uniform of whoever will be replacing Steve Rogers. I also recommend Thor, which Babylon 5 creator Joe Michael Straczynski has rebooted.

7. Best Team Title: Justice Society of America. Although I generally enjoy team titles, this one does the best job of balancing multigenerational drama with idealized and idealistic heroes. As I discussed in a previous post, DC and Marvel's convoluted continuities and a darkening tone have made Justice League of America/Countdown to Final Crisis, Titans/Outsiders, Legion of Superheroes, New/Mighty Avengers, and X-Men: Messiah Complex less fun to follow. Speaking of ensembles, as with Buffy and Star Trek, NBC's Heroes is moving to graphic novel format.

8. Favorite Superheroines: Birds of Prey. I'm as much a fan of cheesecake as the next guy (see Sheena, Shanna, and Frank Cho's Jungle Girl for examples), but I like "BoP" because its mostly female ensemble is portrayed as intelligent and relatively realistically complex people in addition to being butt-kicking hotties. Let's hope writer Gail Simone can work her magic on Wonder Woman, which has struggled to make its title character both iconic and approachable. I also look forward to the continued adventures of Black Canary in her new shared title with Green Arrow, one of my favorite DC heroes.

9. Favorite Solo Superhero: Batman, in Detective Comics. As you may have seen from one of my Halloween costumes, the Dark Knight is still one of my all-time faves, thanks in part to the 1990s animated series. It's no coincidence that Bruce Timm has been entrusted with DC's direct-to-video animation and that Paul Dini gave Detective a boost with one-off stories before helming the Countdown to Infinite Crisis tangle. Despite rumors that Bruce Wayne may join the late Steve Rogers next summer, I'm still enjoying Batman, Catwoman, Nightwing, and Robin in the meantime.

10. Favorite Science Fiction: Star Trek: Year Four. As with other space opera franchises (Star Wars, Battlestar Galactica, Firefly/Serenity), the crew of the classic 1960s television series continues its adventures in comic books. Although I've read the old Key Comics, Marvel/DC versions, and even the manga, the latest iteration has been well done, with thoughtful plots and clean art. By the way, here's a cool computer-animated spa
ce battle: www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ho-uIXGTE9g

Books that were on my previous list but that didn't make the cut this time around, mostly because of delays between issues, include All-Star Superman, Astonishing X-Men, Astro City, Marvel's Mythos, and Powers. In terms of multimedia, we'll see how Marvel's online initiative pays off, and I expect DC's New Frontier to be one of the better direct-to-DVD adaptations.

In addition, Green Ronin will be publishing sourcebooks based on the "Wild Cards" novels for its Mutants & Masterminds 2nd Ed. role-playing game, marking a continuing shift in support for superhero role-players from GURPS Supers 3/4e to D20/True 20. As friend and game design professor David I.S. has noted, we also have the Lego Star Wars, Batman, and Indiana Jones videogames to look forward to! City of Heroes may have competition for our attention…

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