Favorites of 2020, Part 1: Comics

You know, I don’t think I’ve done a “Best of” list for any of the years I have been blogging (save for an end-of-year list at Required Reading). I think the reason for that is because I tend not to be “with it” when it comes to most entertainment. Aside from MCU and Star Wars movies, I don’t see a lot of new releases; I tend to be pretty behind on the “prestige television” that is on the airwaves; and I can barely tell you what is going on with the big two comics companies at any given time.

But part of The Uncollecting is finally getting around to those things I have neglected for the past however many years, so even though there were quite a few things that qualified for the “You still haven’t …?” question, I long ago stopped trying to collect “geek points” for being up to date or seeing something first. So what this will be is a few posts covering my favorites in various categories to wrap up the end of 2020. I’m putting them in no particular order, and some posts might have more items than others. Hopefully, you’ll find something you enjoy.

I’m going to start with comics, which I think is my most-reviewed thing on this site. I just finished another pile of books and by my estimate (to be updated at the end of the week), I’m just about done with the pile of comics that were marked as “unread”. So what did I really like coming out of this?

Star Trek (1st DC Series). I’ll start with the most recently read book, which is DC’s first Star Trek series from the mid-1980s. I’d been slowly collecting these through cheap bins at conventions and had bought the occasional slightly more expensive back issue. Then, after my Pop Culture Affidavit episode talking about the original crew movies with Gene Hendricks, J. David Weter sent me a DVD-ROM with every single Trek comic from the Gold Key series through to the end of the Nineties. Marvel’s offering was not very good, but things picked up almost immediately when DC took over the licensing. I think that these have been collected here and there over the years, but in the very least, they’re worth picking up in a cheap bin.

Starman. This is the Will Payton series, which I now own all of except for a single issue–#25. The name was obviously not original, as Ted Knight had been the JSA’s Starman from the Golden Age, but Roger Stern’s Marvel-esque take on a someone with a DCU-level power set is a really good journey that benefits from staying on the edge of the greater DCU. The occasional crossover does intrude, but it does not derail the series. I know what happens to Payton after the series has ended because I read Eclipso: The Darkness Within back in 1992 and also have read James Robinson’s series (though I am currently collecting that in trade so I can do a read-through). But because it’s really not available anywhere but individual issues (though I imagine that you can get it digitally), this remains a hidden gem of the late 1980s and early 1990s.

Starslayer. I fished this one out in various pieces when my LCS moved and was having a “we need to get rid of all of this excess inventory” sale. As a result, I have all but the first four issues of the series, one of which is going to be extremely hard to come by because it features an early (if not the first) appearance of The Rocketeer in a backup story. I didn’t expect much from this beyond the adventures of space pirates, and I got the adventures of space pirates. But they’re space pirates as written by Mike Grell and Jon Ostrander, so it’s some really good adventure. To my knowledge, only the original miniseries from Pacific Comics (#1-6) was collected in a “remastered” trade put out by … Dark Horse or Valiant, I think … sometime in the Nineties. Otherwise, it’s another quarter-bin special that’s worth the pickup.

Robotech Archives: The Sentinels, Vol. 1. You know, when Titan comics announced that they were going to be republishing the Comico Robotech series as well as the stuff that went beyond the original three series that were produced. When first solicited in Previews, they had a schedule for … well, all of it. I was really pumped, especially about the post-Comico stuff, because I recall seeing that solicited over the years and was curious about it but never picked it up. I had, though, read the Jack McKinney novels, so I had some familiarity with the material going in. This was a real treat because it was better than I’d expected and had me pretty captivated. Sadly, although the first volume of the Masters omnibus was solicited at one point, it hasn’t come out, and Robotech Remix hasn’t been published since before the pandemic, which makes me wonder if it was canceled. I guess we’ll see in 2021.

Suicide Squad. I know the Squad has been a hot property in various incarnations, most of which have to do with Harley Quinn, but this, to me, is the definitive version of the title. Written by Jon Ostrander with various art teams, it’s a series that I’ve mostly owned in individual issues with the exception of some of the more valuable ones dealing with early Oracle appearances. I did pick up some of those in trade and have since read them, and they were worth every penny spent (okay, full disclosure–I received them as gifts). This entire series has been collected in trade and is one of the best examples of a comic book version of a syndicated action series from the late 1980s/early 1990s that I’ve ever seen. And as someone who watched a number of those shows, that’s high praise.

Arak, Son of Thunder. This was a series that I’ve been collecting and reading since the beginning of this Uncollecting journey, but I got quite a few of the books this year and have to say that I really enjoy Roy Thomas’ sword and sorcery book. His writing can be a bit dense at times, but the action is always vivid and well-paced, and the way it just sits within its own world (without a connection to other DC books) is a big strength. I think I’m a handful of issues away from having the entire series, and I’m looking forward to seeing what I can find in the bins.

Banned Book Club, Kent State, and Tiananmen 1989. I’m grouping these three graphic novels together because they were published fairly recently (this year, in fact) and I had bought them more or less off the shelf. They’re also historical graphic novels that are about political upheaval in the 20th Century. Banned Book Club‘s story is about a revolution in South Korea to overthrow an authoritarian government, which is something I was completely unfamiliar with; after all, South Korea has always been presented to me as the “good” Korea. But this memoir about censorship and the freedom to read and spread ideas really hit home, especially during this time of our own political reckoning. Tiananmen 1989 has similar themes and covers the well-remembered uprising in China from 31 years ago. Kent State by My Friend Dahmer‘s Derf Backderf and is a well-researched, thoroughly told story about the Kent State shootings in 1970. I’d done some research into this when I was doing In Country, and had this been out when I did the historical context for May 1970, I certainly would have reviewed it. It’s a great piece of historical record, as are the others.

The Essential X-Men, Vol 4. I loved the Claremont/Byrne stuff and Dave Cockrum’s second turn as regular artist on the book was really solid, but man, that short run by Paul Smith is something else. I know that as we get deeper and deeper into the Eighties, the X-Men get more and more convoluted, but this is still in the time when they’re pretty easy to follow. Apparently, Smith had various deadline issues, which is why his run was so short, but man, these are some gorgeous books.

There’s certainly more, and I suppose I could do a whole entry on the current books I am reading and whether or not they’re good, and I can definitely tell you that I am looking forward to next year and seeing what it brings as I close out the back issue pile.

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