So Sayeth the Odinson: 2018 The Year in Review: Part 2 – The Comics

Happy New Years from the Odinson,

2018 The Year in Review: Part 2 – The Comics

To try and cover everything that hit the market in 2018 would be an exercise in futility, so the Odinson is going to touch on 15 comics, storylines, and events that made ripples in the lexicon of pop culture this past year.

Doomsday Clock – The very first thing I want to say about this series is that the artwork by Gary Frank is absolutely beautiful.  Not since George Perez has a comic book artist excelled in facial expressions and visual storytelling on a level that Frank is achieving here.  Gary Frank established himself as one of the Odinson’s Top 5 Superman artists during his Man of Steel run with Geoff Johns, a run that included Superman and the Legion of Super-Heroes and Brainiac.  Once again, Geoff Johns is giving Frank a strong canvas on which to stretch his incredible artistic muscles and weave a beautiful piece of modern day art.

However, look up slow burn in the dictionary and there will be a picture of Doomsday Clock.  The story is unfolding at an almost excruciatingly slow pace and together with the 2 to 3-month gaps between issues, the storyline seems to be walking toward a climax 3 years in the making.     

I hope it is worth the wait.

Odinson Rating: 3 ½ Hammers (with fingers crossed it will be 5)

Avengers: No Surrender – 2018 started off with a huge Avengers event that drew inspiration from classics like Contest of Champions and Marvel Super Heroes Secret Wars.  With stakes as high as they can be, two cosmic demigods play a cosmic game with planet Earth as the game board, the Black Order and the Lethal Legion as game pieces, and Earth’s Mightiest Heroes stuck smack dab in the middle of it all! 

No Surrender saw the startling return of the Hulk, but a Hulk unlike any we have seen before.  And, No Surrender left fans everywhere confused and tantalized with the question – Who is Voyager

No Surrender closed the door on the Marvel Now era and set the stage for the future of the Avengers franchise.

Odinson Rating: 3 1/2 out of 5 Hammers

Immortal Hulk – It’s 1-part The Incredible Hulk TV Series and 1-part Tales from the Darkside, and it’s all utterly delicious!

Writer Al Ewing and artist Joe Bennett are exploring the aspects of what it means to be a man with a curse, a man that cannot die, a man that by the light of the moon becomes something else, something to be feared, and something truly monstrous.  It’s a concept that Peter David delved a bit into back in the 80s with the return of the Grey Hulk, especially in stories like the one from Incredible Hulk #335.       

When the Odinson thinks of great runs on the Jade Giant legendary names like Stan and Jack Kirby, Herb Trimpe, Bill Mantlo and Sal Buscema, John Byrne, Peter David, and Greg Pak come to mind.  Well, I’m making the call right here, if they can maintain the level of storytelling they produced in 2018 and do it for an extended period of time, Al Ewing and Joe Bennett’s names will be added to this list.

Odinson Rating: 5 out of 5 Hammers

Damnation and Infinity Wars – Marvel Comics had two major crossover events in 2018.  One was much better and more entertaining than it had any right to be, and the other?  Well, let’s just say it happened. 

Las Vegas is known as Sin City, so it was only a matter of time before the devil would take up residence, right?  Mephisto invades the realm of mortals, makes Las Vegas his headquarters, and enslaves Earth’s Mightiest Heroes under his thrall.  Now, it is up to Doctor Strange and a ragtag team of supernatural heroes to save the day. 

Damnation is good popcorn fun.

Infinity Wars is so convoluted and uneven that I’m still trying to figure out why it happened, other than the obvious cash in on the title.  The artwork can be absolutely brilliant in one panel and cringe-worthy in the next.  It felt like the story was dealing with huge concepts that probably would have benefitted more if the Infinity Countdown lead in had been as good as the Countdown to Infinite Crisis was over 10 years ago.  One thing that came out of it was the super cool mash-up characters like Arachknight and Soldier Supreme

They made the Odinson feel a bit nostalgic for the days of the Amalgam Universe.

Odinson Rating: (Damnation) 3 out of 5 Hammers and (Infinity Wars) 2 out of 5 Hammers

The End of Invincible – I am on record as saying that Invincible is one of the best comic books series of the last 20 years.  2018 saw that series come to an exciting, heartfelt, and satisfying end.  15 years, 144 issues, 25 trade paperback collections, several spin-offs, 1-shots, specials, and crossovers later, and the Odinson stands by his original assessment – Invincible is one the best comic book series of the last 20 years.  

Thank you Robert Kirkman, Cory Walker, Ryan Ottley, and Bill Crabtree, it has been a fun ride.

Odinson Rating: 5 out of 5 Hammers

Dark Night Metal – DC Comics also had a huge crossover event in 2018 and it was not one that will be forgotten about anytime soon.  Dark Night Metal did what all crossover events should aspire to do – it challenges the heroes like never before, it brings change, it introduces new concepts, new characters, and new ideas, and it sets the stage for things to come.  

The Justice League was put into a no win situation when a dark god sets its eyes on the DCU.  The storyline signaled the end and was the culmination of the DC Universe Rebirth era.  It introduced some of the scariest new villains ever seen, not the least of which was the Batman Who Laughs.  And, it set the stage for a new era of DC Comics with The New Age of Heroes.   

This is one crossover event worth your time and hard earned money.

Odinson Rating: 4 out of 5 Hammers

Man of Steel and Superman – For the Man of Tomorrow, 2018 was certainly a rollercoaster of ups and downs.  For better or worse, a lot of well-established Superman tropes were removed and others brought back.  One moment Superman is talking in a very familiar voice, while other times Superman and his supporting cast seems to be acting totally out of character and saying things a lifelong comic fan like myself would not have imagined them saying. 

The artwork has been on point and amazing, and though I may not be comfortable with some of these changes, the Odinson is still in a wait-and-see holding pattern before passing full judgement on this new direction.

Without a doubt, the high point in 2018 for Superman was Action Comics #1000 and the Action Comics 1000 Celebration, a milestone very few comic book series have ever or will ever achieve.

Odinson Rating: 3 out of 5 Hammers

The Flash War – The debate is over!  This high octane, highly entertaining storyline definitively answers the question – Who is the Fastest Man Alive?!  That alone is worth the price of admission.

Here is a hint, it isn’t Superman.

Though the Odinson truly enjoyed this emotionally-charged, time-traveling tale, I still have a bit of an issue with the treatment of the character Wally West by the Powers that Be at DC Comics.  While I understand Wally would do just about anything to get his family back, I have a hard time wrapping my head around the fact that a seasoned hero like Wally West would risk destroying the space/time continuum at the behest of a known super villain?

Odinson Rating: 3 ½ out of 5 Hammers

Marvel Two-in-One and the Return of the Fantastic Four – Marvel’s First Family finally made their triumphant return to the Marvel Universe in 2018, and boy was it earned.  Marvel-Two-in-One set the stage for their return, and brought closure to Victor Von Doom’s interesting run as the Infamous Iron ManTwo-in-One was one of the best reads and most underrated series of 2018.  And, the year ended with, hands down, THE best and certainly long overdue Marvel Wedding Specials the Odinson has ever read.    

Odinson Rating: 4 out of 5 Hammers

Transformers: Unicron – If you were a child of the 80s, this storyline is tailor-made for you.  From the comics to the cartoons to the movies, THIS is the best Transformers story the Odinson has enjoyed since the Golden Age of the franchise in the 1980s. 

Plus, it didn’t hurt that GI Joe and ROM Spaceknight were included for good measure. 

Odinson Rating: 4 out of 5 Hammers

Looking for something that may have flown under the radar?

Every year there always seems to be a comic that pleasantly surprises me with just how much I enjoyed it, and this year there were three.  Here are three diamonds in the rough the Odinson thoroughly enjoyed in 2018.

Wrong Earth – Remember that classic Star Trek episode that featured Captain Kirk being part of a transporter mishap that sends him to a dark Mirror Universe where everyone is evil, as represented by their goatees.  Meanwhile, an evil version of Kirk is in the prime universe causing all sorts of trouble.  That’s the premise of this fun yarn.

Wrong Earth sees Dragonflyman, a very thinly veiled homage to the ’66 Batman Adam West portrayed, switch realities with The Dragonfly, a thinly veiled homage to the dark and gritty Frank Miller style Dark Knight.  Witnessing the juxtaposition of these two similar yet very different heroes interact with the villains, supporting cast, and the world they live in that is not their own is a nice change of pace and entertaining take on the super hero genre.

Odinson Rating: 4 out of 5 Hammers

Black Hammer: Age of Doom – Since its debut in 2016, Black Hammer has been consistently one of the best books on the shelf.  In 2018, in the pages of Age of Doom, the heroes and the readers all learn the secrets surrounding the true nature of their exile to The Farm

It’s a true gut-punch that just makes the Odinson salivate for more!

Odinson Rating: 4 out of 5 Hammers

Domino – I can honestly say that I have never been a fan of the Domino character.  At best she was just a C-List character that I knew existed, but I never related to, nor latched onto on any level.  That has all changed thanks to the amazing writing of Gail Simone and the fantastic art of David Baldeon.

Not only has this creative team turned the adventures of a C-List character into must read affairs for the Odinson, but they also include cult favorite characters of mine into the mix like Diamondback, Shang Chi, Morbius, and Longshot

Believe it, or not, but Domino is one of the best comic series going. 

Odinson Rating: 4 out of 5 Hammers

Tune in next week for the final installment of the Odinson’s 2018 the Year in Review when I take a look back at the movies and television of 2018.

This is Odinson bidding thee farewell     

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About Odinson

I am a lifelong comics fan and pop culture enthusiast. Comic books, novels, games, television, movies, I love it all. From fantasy to science fiction, drama to comedy, as long as the writing and execution are interesting, I love it, and I want to talk about it.

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