Grotesque Anatomy
Monday, January 12, 2004
  2002 in Review in Review
Since my attempt at a "Best of 2003" list is so late that it would now qualify for nostalgia, I've pretty much given up on finishing it.  Instead, I decided to look back at my picks from 2002 and see "Where Are They Now?"

10. THE POWER COMPANY: Cancelled.  Did not end on a strong note.

9. RAIJIN COMICS: I dropped this manga anthology right before Gutsoon announced that it was changing the publishing frequency from weekly to monthly, a decision that didn't sit too well with many of Raijin's more dedicated fans.  Of the series featured in the anthology, Slam Dunk is the only one I have any interest in keeping up with.  Gutsoon recently sent me some of their books to review, though, so I'll be taking a fresh look at their titles soon.

8. SPX2002 ANTHOLOGY: As I wrote last year, the SPX Anthology is "one of my favorite comics every year."  This year proved no exception.  For the second year in a row the anthology had a unifying theme.  This time it was travel.  I was worried that this theme would be too limiting (I expected many stories to be the sequential art equivalent of neighbors pulling out their vacation slides).  Instead, many contributors came up with novel variations on the theme, including an account of the 1918 influenza's travels across the globe; a retelling of Prince Cadmus' founding of Thebes as a travelogue; and a "Choose Your Own Adventure"-style travel board game.  A great bargain (290 pages for ten bucks) and a wonderful introduction to many small-press creators.  (I'm especially excited about R. Kikuo Johnson's forthcoming graphic novel, Nightfisher.)

7. CrossGen's COMPENDIA:  Yikes.  I wonder if every reviewer runs across something like this at some point:  An embarrassing favorite that causes one to shake one's head and wonder, "What was I thinking?"  Even more embarrassing, I ended my description of why I liked CrossGen's Compendia with this fateful prognostication:  "With CrossGen's recent repackaging of the Compendia line (smaller trim size and reduced cover price), I expect that even more readers will become hooked on this winning anthology format."  Instead the Compendia became a huge financial drain for CrossGen (Mark Alessi admitted this in response to fans angry that the books had been solicited through a certain number but then cancelled before that point) and stacks of remaindered copies can be found littering used bookstores.

So for those who get tired of my Shonen Jump boosterism, here's something you can throw back in my face whenever I start to get too annoying.

6. PROMETHEA: Still an excellent series.  It's been interesting in recent issues to be reminded that the ABC line is a shared universe (although one with little time remaining).

5. SUPER MANGA BLAST!: The tedious "Hypernotes" installments completely killed my waning interest in this manga anthology, although I still plan on reading Club 9 and What's Michael? in collected form.

4. OH MY GODDESS: 2003 saw three new trade paperback collections (Hand In Hand, Mystery Child, & Traveler) for one of my favorite manga series.  I like this series so much I don't even flinch at prices nearly twice that of other manga books.  (Mystery Child carried a price tag of nineteen bucks, although it did run 272 pages.)

3. THE FILTH: To be honest, I can't remember much about this series, although I do remember enjoying each individual installment.  Someday I'll go back and re-read the whole series end-to-end and see what I make of it.  Or at least that's what I keep telling myself.

2. UZUMAKI:  Finished reading this series in 2002, but it was interesting to note how many other people discovered this and enjoyed it in 2003.  I think someone even referred to Uzumaki as a great example of a "gateway manga."

1. SHONEN JUMP: Yet another manga anthology that I loved in 2002 but dropped in 2003.  And with Shonen Jump, I'm not even continuing to read any of the series in collected form.  I'm still sending my niece and nephews a gift subscription, though, and they've recently written to make sure I renew their subscription for them.

I also looked over my list of the TEN MOST DISAPPOINTING COMICS OF 2002.  With many of those books, they either ended or I stopped getting them altogether.  I gave a second chance to just one series -- Morrison's New X-Men -- and was much more impressed with the second hardcover volume.  Also, a year ago I had this advice for myself:  "It looks as though I bought too many superhero comics that I was ultimately unhappy with, so perhaps I'll be more selective in my superhero picks in the future."  In 2003 it seems I was able to follow my own advice:  I dropped several superhero books that I had been getting more out of habit than anything else (JSA, Avengers) and I was less patient with series that didn't hook me right away (Outsiders, Teen Titans), and not just with superhero comics either:  Lone, Criminal Macabre, Blackburne Covenant, and others were all dropped early on, even if I was only an issue or two away from having the whole series/storyline.  In general, I think my comic-buying habits were healthier than in the past (especially if one ignores the amount I spend on comics each month):  I worried less about "completeism," and superhero titles began to represent less and less of my purchases.  Looking back at the comics I read in 2003, I think there was more diversity there, and overall I enjoyed comics much more than I had the year before.  Let's hope I can look back at my choices in 2004 and say the same thing.
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Iron Fist

by John Jakala

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