Help me out here. Every once in a while, the fine people at SFSignal (SF Signal – A Speculative Fiction Blog) ask me to participate in their MindMeld feature, an ongoing series in which a ragtag group (writers, rum-runners, bureaucrats in alien ministries, etc.) is asked a genre-related question. Past topics have included: MIND MELD: What Cultures Are Neglected in Science Fiction and Fantasy?, MIND MELD: The Best Women Writers in SF/F and, just in time for the holidays – MIND MELD: Great Gift Ideas For Geeks and Science Fiction and Fantasy Fans. [Check out the archive here: Mind Meld). Anyway, for their next MindMeld, they’re asking: “What were the best genre-related books, movies and/or shows you consumed in 2011? Not necessarily new in 2011, but new to ‘you’ in 2011.”
Hmmm. That’s a tough one. Unfortunately, I didn’t get the opportunity to check out as much genre-related fiction as I would have liked this year. In retrospect, it was time that would have been better spent checking out a few of my favorite authors or screening some SF, Fantasy, or Horror films. Ah, well. Live and learn. Anyway, I’m trying to put together a list and, frankly, having a difficult time. Looking back over my book list, I have one genre-related work I really, REALLY enjoyed. Plenty of comic books (thanks to this late reading spurt), a single t.v. series, but no movies. Did I miss something? Of course, I would know better than you but seeing as how I’m having a tough time remembering, maybe you could all help jog my memory. Help me prep! What were the best genre-related books, movies and/or shows I consumed in 2011?
I’m, of course, helping my cause by testing the comic book waters – and by “waters”, I mean a veritable “sea of comic books” – practically every ongoing series out there. Here the deal: I pick up at least 3 issues of each title, read ’em, and if I like ’em, I’ll continue following the series. If I don’t like ’em, I move on. So far, I’ve checked out 20 books and am sitting on a record of 11 likes and 9 not-for-me’s. A little over 500. That isn’t that surprising. What IS surprising is the titles have impressed and those which have failed to grab my interest. This long-time reader of the Avengers and X-Men has yet to find an Avengers or X-book to follow. On the other hand, titles I simply checked out for form’s sake, assuming they wouldn’t capture my interest, have impressed (Green Lantern Corps and Red Lanterns anyone?) But, as they say: “That’s why you play the game”.
Continuing the game play…
Hmmm. So here’s the thing: I was a huge fan of Mark Waid’s run on the Flash, so any subsequent take on the character is probably going to pale in comparison. Like this version. With all due respect to Barry Allen, I miss Wally and Linda and, while I found the book’s premise interesting, it didn’t really grab me. There were too many confusing moments in the narrative, either moments I assumed were flashbacks that actually weren’t, or strange reactions on the part of the characters. After thwarting a terrorist attack and discovering that one of the terrorists killed in said attack was an old friend, Barry is paid a surprise visit by the formerly deceased friend. Suddenly, they are on the run, being chased by a group of men. Rather than ask what the hell is going on, Barry says: “At least tell me it’s not over a woman.” and, later: “Seriously. How many angry husbands are chasing us?!”. He’s either incredibly naive or trying to lighten the mood. If it’s the latter, however, I don’t know why he’d waste time joking around when the obvious thing to do would be to ask his newly-undeceased buddy what the hell is going on? In issue #2, there’s a moment when he reveals he is able to see everything before it happens, weigh every possible outcome, and make the right choice. In the supporting visuals, it’s pretty clear that he is able to glimpse the future. If so, this is HUGE and makes one wonder how he could possibly ever make a wrong decision. A tricky development that risks undermining the tension of the series if he’s as powerful as we’re led to believe.
Verdict: Despite the nifty shock ending to issue #3, it’s not a series I’ll be continuing.
I think these stories would appeal more to new readers who could use a primer on the origins of these various Avengers. For my part, I already know their backstories (with the possible exception of Luke Cage which, I suppose, is why I found his dedicated issue the most interesting of the bunch) so I found it hard to emotionally invest in the narrative. Having said that, I think that some of these one-shots (Vision) work better than others (Scarlet Witch & Quicksilver) in delivering a engaging and nuanced narratives.
Verdict: Covers familiar ground for me. As such, not a series I’ll continue reading.
My thoughts about the Flash’s newfound abilities (see above) remind me of the problems I (and many others) have with the Superman. He’s just too gosh darn powerful. Outside of some handy kryptonite, how are you going to stop the guy? Well, as it turns out, this latest version of the Man of Steel is a little more vulnerable, a little more human, and a lot more interesting. Still, I had mixed feelings about Action Comics. I liked this new scaled-down Superman, the younger/goofier Clark, his budding friendship with Jimmy Olsen, the annoyingly petulant Lex Luthor, and the art by Rags Morales (whose work I enjoyed immensely on Hourman). I didn’t like the elements involving Lois’s father, General Lane. Yes, I know it’s not new, that this version of the character was introduced back in the late 80’s, but it feels like ground already trodden by Marvel with The Incredible Hulk. Also, not a fan of Big Blue’s short-sleeved look.
Verdict: There’s enough here to keep me onboard for the time being.
I join the X-Men’s adventure already in progress as they are trapped on a hostile world in another dimension. Again, some of the characters feel slightly different here than they do in other X-titles. Emma Frost, for instance, feels more haughty and erudite than other versions, a true ice queen while Magneto comes across as – well – dreamy. I preferred the ensuing story involving an oppressed nation’s attempts to secure an army of sentinels for their national defense but still experienced a few bumps with certain developments, chiefly the ones involving Domino. Why would the bad guys assume she’s dead? Not only do they not bother checking her vitals (which surely would have revealed she was very much alive), but they fast-track her to the autopsy room from where she makes her escape. Felt like a bit of a cheat.
Verdict: Still looking for an X-book to follow.
Overall record: 12-12