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Captain Comics: Top 10 list of all things nerd from 2017

Andrew A. Smith, Tribune News Service on

Published in Comic Books

It's customary to look back at this time of year, and as it happens, 2017 was pretty good to fans of nerd culture. Here's the Captain's Top 10 list:

10. Horn of plenty: At the beginning of 2017, comic-based shows had already taken over TV. Seventeen shows filled my DVR: "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.," "Arrow," "Daredevil," "Fear the Walking Dead," "The Flash," "Gotham," "Iron Fist," "iZombie," "Jessica Jones," "Legends of Tomorrow," "Lucifer," "Luke Cage," "Outcast," "Preacher," "Supergirl," "The Walking Dead" and "Wynonna Earp."

At the end of 2017, 10 more had joined that list. "American Gods," "Defenders," "The Gifted," "Happy!," "The Inhumans," "Legion," "The Punisher," "Riverdale," "Runaways" and "The Tick" all debuted, with varying degrees of success. (Yes, "American Gods" is based on Neil Gaiman's novel, not Dark Horse's comics adaptation. But 10 is a nice round number, so I'm including it.)

9. "What the?" moments on TV: Given all those shows, it's difficult to narrow down a list of heart-stopping moments. But here are a few:

--Carl's reveal on the "Walking Dead" midseason finale was as shocking as it was unexpected;

--The season premiere of "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." was one wild discovery after another. By the midseason finale, "S.H.I.E.L.D." was must-see television.

--Time stood still when Jim Gordon (and the audience) suddenly realized how thoroughly he'd been played in the midseason finale of "Gotham."

--"The Punisher" was a brutal, irresistible narrative that was good TV. But the PTSD subtext elevated it to art.

--Showrunner Noah Hawley expanded the tools and language available to tell stories on television with the unreliable reality of "Legion."

8. Dynamic DC: Despite tepid response to its movies, DC Comics had some of the best moments of 2017:

--Shockingly, Mr. Miracle tried to commit suicide in the first issue of his new series. Did Darkseid make him do it? Or was it something more mundane, like depression or PTSD? Plus, what is real and what is he imagining? DC's "Mr. Miracle" is a complex, hallucinatory, troubling experience that may be the best comic book in America.

--Batman proposed to Catwoman. That's not really new, as it's happened before. What's new is writer Tom King's exploration of the relationships and personalities of the Bat-family and friends as Bat and Cat embark on a life that appears based on an impossible compromise. Is that the definition of love, or just a surrender to need?

--Playing with other Warner Bros. properties has paid off, especially "Future Quest," a 12-issue series teaming up Jonny Quest, Space Ghost, the Herculoids and other Saturday morning staples in a well-received adventure. "Scooby Apocalypse," a serious take on the Mystery Machine gang, also received good response. And one of the best books of the years was, believe it or not, the "Batman/Elmer Fudd" one-shot.

7. Marvel misery: Fandom Assembled rejected Marvel's "Secret Empire" crossover event, at the center of which was a fascist Captain America. Is that event fatigue, or Trump fatigue? Either way, it left Marvel begging fans to give the story a chance and read it to the end.

To right the ship, Marvel booted Editor-in-Chief Axel Alonso, and promoted an outsider to the U.S. wing of the company, C.B. Cebulski, who was previously vice president brand management and development, Asia. But the honeymoon ended quickly when it turned out Cebulski had used a Japanese pseudonym to write for Marvel a few years ago while keeping his day job as an editor. What's the Japanese equivalent of "Oy vey"?

Meanwhile, Marvel tried to counter DC's successful "Rebirth" initiative with its own back-to-basics soft reboot called "Marvel Legacy." However, the effort seemed lackluster and superficial to critics, leaving some retailers calling it more label than labor. Sales did not improve, and almost a dozen titles have already been tagged for cancellation.

Whatever happens in 2018, it will probably seem like "up" to Marvel Comics.

6. Mayhem in the multiverse: All the DC heroes on The CW -- from "Arrow," "The Flash," "Legends of Tomorrow" and "Supergirl" -- teamed up to fight Nazis on a parallel Earth where evil versions of themselves ruled with lethal efficiency. Even if you don't watch the four shows regularly, "Crisis on Earth-X" is a must-see.

5. Horn of plenty, the sequel: 2017 was perhaps the biggest year yet for geek fandom, with more than 30 genre movies. Adaptations led the way, including:

--Children's books ("Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle")

--Comics, American ("Atomic Blonde," "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2," "Justice League," "Logan," "Spider-Man: Homecoming," "Thor: Ragnarok," "Wonder Woman")

--Comics, French ("Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets")

--Comics, Japanese ("Death Note," "Ghost in the Shell")

--Fairy tales ("Beauty and the Beast")

--Mythology ("King Arthur: Legend of the Sword," "mother!")

--Novels (Stephen King's "The Dark Tower," "IT")

--Toys ("The LEGO Batman Movie," "Transformers: The Last Knight")

Franchises like Alien, Blade Runner, Kingsman, The Mummy, Planet of the Apes, Power Rangers, Pirates of the Caribbean, Resident Evil, Star Wars and Underworld all provided new entries. And Hollywood even managed some original SF/fantasy material, like "Bright," "Downsizing," "Life," "The Shape of Water" and "The Space Between Us"

(For the record, my definition of "genre movies" excludes most horror and animated films. Why? Because it's my list, and those are my rules. Feel free to make your own)

4. "What the?" moments in film: Among those many movies were some jaw-dropping scenes at a theater near you:

--"Thor: Ragnarok" blew our minds with the (supposedly impossible) destruction of Mjolnir. Toss in the incineration of Asgard, Hulk vs. Thor, a lot of humor, Loki being Loki, the deaths of the Warriors Three, Valkyries in larger-than-life battle and every single thing Cate Blanchett said or did, and the Thunder God will never be quite the same again.

--"Star Wars: The Last Jedi" seared our eyes and ears with the spectacle of two ships trying to occupy the same space at the same time. There were also some notable deaths (no spoilers) and an expansion of, and possible re-definition of, both The Force and what a Star Wars movie can be. Bonus: lovable, ice-covered dogs/wolves that would feel right at home with Thor's frost giants.

--"Logan" drew unexpected tears with the death of a beloved character many thought couldn't die. ("So this is what it feels like," he muttered at the end.) Also, the terrible fate of the X-Men? They died as collateral damage, and are largely forgotten. Ouch.

--"Kong: Skull Island" and "War for the Planet of the Apes" suckered us into feeling real emotion for fake simians.

3. Welcome home, Spidey: "Spider-Man: Homecoming" had a lot of great bits. The scene where Adrian Toomes (The Vulture) realizes the kid he has in his back seat is Spider-Man was terrifying. The scene where the web-spinner is trapped under rubble was straight out of a famous issue of "Amazing Spider-Man" from 1966. But this movie's (metatextual) triumph is Marvel's flagship character returning to the fold.

2. Mouse eats Fox: Disney buying Fox's entertainment production facilities, platforms and intellectual property happened off-screen, but is such a big story that it makes this list anyway. The good news: X-Men and Fantastic Four return to Marvel. The bad news: Fewer studios, less competition, reduced experimentation. Cross your fingers.

1. Showstopper: From performances to imagery to soundtrack, "Wonder Woman" was easily the best superhero movie of the year, and gets its own entry on this list at No. 1. When Diana shrugged off her coat and advanced fearlessly into No Man's Land, it was easy to forget that was this was the first time we saw her "in uniform." When Amazons battled Nazis so ferociously, it was easy to forget that they brought swords to a gunfight. When Gal Gadot inhabited the charming and principled Amazon so effortlessly, it was easy to forget how beautiful she is.

Wonder Woman's greatest feat, though, was not just crashing through Nazis -- it was thoroughly demolishing the glass ceiling. Hollywood was long convinced that women couldn't headline big superhero movies, an idea now residing in the ashcan of history. And with powerful men falling right and left on charges of sexual bullying, Wonder Woman becoming the symbol of superhero success in 2017 is timing so good, one wonders if Athena has taken a hand.

In comics, movies and TV, at least, 2017 was a very good year. Bring on 2018!

(Contact Captain Comics at capncomics@aol.com. For more comics news, reviews and commentary, visit his website: comicsroundtable.com.)

(c)2017 Andrew A. Smith

Visit his website at comicsroundtable.com.)

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

 

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