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Monday, December 21, 2020 

What Polygon considers best of the year

Leftist Polygon's laid out their "choices" for the best of 2020, and, as expected, it's all fluff-coated crumminess on their part. Curiously enough, at the beginning, they state:
On the surface, comics faced no more hurdles in 2020 than any other retail offering. As isolated people around the world turned to familiar sources of entertainment, distraction, and solace, comics were there for them, from nonfiction graphic novels to the latest dimension hopping adventures of eternally entangled superhero continuity.
If they feel that way, how come they've never clearly complained, or urged a boycott of DC/Marvel until somebody with a tasteful reputation is hired to clean things up into a more comprehensive horizon again? All those gushing commentaries they publish clash with the idea they think it dismaying.
Even as COVID-19 safety measures began to set new boundaries on everyday life, the American comics industry seemed handily poised to keep making comics. The life of a freelance comics creator is already pretty, shall we say, “socially distanced.” Graphic novels flew off of shelves at an accelerated rate, just like their drab counterparts, regular old books, as independent retailers rushed to pivot their businesses in the face of shutdowns, and retail conglomerates reaped huge rewards.
I find it most interesting they're bringing this up, seeing as news sites like these aren't especially opposed to the idea of conglomerates, so long as the top brass are leftists who'll work as gatekeepers, and ensure their ideology reigns supreme. This year, much like a few previous, saw closures of far more specialty stores than before, and Marvel/DC both have to shoulder some blame for foisting only so many politically motivated products on the shelves. Come to think of it, some retail managers may have to shoulder blame too, for relying so heavily on the Big Two's output when there could be a lot more independent comics out there, no matter their politics, that could've taken up space on the shelves. Maybe more importantly though, is the mistake of relying so heavily on monthly pamphlets instead of majority paperbacks/hardcovers. I've made the point before, and future retailers will have to consider.
But then, existential upheaval — the sole distributor of monthly comics issues shut down “until further notice” for nearly three months. Books were canceled, pencils set down, DC Comics broke the Diamond monopoly, and publishers of monthly comics are still digging out of the backlog. But just because fewer comics came out this year, doesn’t mean they weren’t as good.
The reason why DC's venture is otherwise a failure is because of the artistic and political disaster they've become - no good writing and artwork means no good sales to reap financial rewards from. Shifting to employment of different distributors is fine in itself; certainly if you can afford it. But refusing to improve their artistic quality renders the move meaningless. Yet Polygon won't acknowledge that, because ideology eclipses all. On that note, among the picks of the year, for example, there's Batman Universe, written by Brian Bendis, who else:
Frank Miller (Batman: Year One, The Dark Knight Returns) has called Batman the most resilient character in popular culture. No other archetype of our modern consciousness, according to Miller, has the flexibility to star equally well in a comedy, a noir mystery, a dadaist sci-fi romp, a Western, a fable for children, a gritty action blockbuster, or any other combination of scenario and tone you can dream up.

Brian Michael Bendis has dropped a paraphrase of this quote in many an interview about Batman Universe, and I can forgive the repetition only because that quote is simply what the book is about, deep down in its paper bones
. It is perhaps the best pure distillation of all facets of Batman into a single story since Batman: The Animated Series.

The book begins with Batman recovering a stolen Faberge egg from the Riddler and ends in a reality warping confrontation with Vandal Savage, a caveman who touched a space rock that made him immortal. But none of that really matters. What Batman Universe is actually about is watching the DC Universe’s most competent but strangely dressed straight man ping pong through its weirdest and most beautiful corners.
No matter how much a Bat-fan I am, it's idiotic to imply only the Masked Manhunter could possibly take up all these roles, when, using a little imagination and creativity, Nightwing could also be, and I'm sure Len Wein's creation of Christopher Chance, an agent specializing in disguises could be put in the same. Why, so could Superman But what really raises the eyebrows is the citation of comedy: It's not like, since the Bronze Age, there hasn't been a sense of humor in Batman stories, but the lurch to such seriousness today under emphasis of darkness has made it harder to find what to laugh at. That aside, Bendis is not one qualified to paraphrase, after all the harm he's been doing to both Marvel and DC. But it's no shock at all Polygon's writers would rank him so high among their preferences for writers. That's practically why they're so forgiving, and it has little to do with what the book's supposedly about. Another example of their favoratism is this comic called Magic Fish:
The Magic Fish is a poignant book about a 13-year-old, first-generation Vietnamese-American who uses fairy tales and other storybooks to communicate with his parents when the language barrier becomes too much. But Tiến is terrified to come out to his parents (he isn’t even sure how to explain being gay in their language) and turns to the power of fairy tales to help. Nguyen’s stunning art style and understated color choices just highlight the bittersweet beauty within this coming-of-age story.
This type of topic is only soooo big among the left today, and such a big deal, far more so than maybe a story involving heterosexual romances between young teens. And then, another choice of theirs that raised my eyebrows was Matt Fraction's modern solo book starring Jimmy Olson:
The best comics in 2020 made history relatable, transformed great works of art, displayed everyday life with heartbreaking or hilarious honesty, and brought superheroes to new frontiers in science fiction on a monthly schedule. Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olsen didn’t do any of those things.

[...] There are references to great moments in comics history, and also My Brother, My Brother, and Me. There’s a scene where Jimmy takes off his wetsuit to reveal a white tux underneath it, and then several pages later takes off the tux to reveal another wetsuit. The very first pages introduce a recurring role for the Red Lantern Dex-Star, which is to say, a perfectly healthy house cat that is constantly vomiting an impossible amount of blood.

[...] Eventually the whole thing winds up being vital to Superman canon, and also a commentary on the downsides of ad-driven journalism. It’s just about the best executed 12 issues of absurd joy you’ll find in one place.
Wow, if they could make use of something so gross as vomiting blood, I can only wonder what more unpleasant surprises are in store within the pages of this insult to the intellect. Don't be fooled by this approach to alleged comedy. By the way, when they speak of ad-driven, is that an attack on capitalism? One more example cited here is Jonathan Hickman moving the X-Men to an island:
In 2019, Marvel comics reinvented a decades-old, world-renowned superhero team. House of X/Powers of X becomes the only thing anybody in comics wanted to talk about every week for 12 weeks by baking modern science fiction concepts into a pulp tradition with the finesse of Paul Hollywood.

Usually, when an event of that magnitude ends, you want the creators of that series to keep doing it in exactly the way they did it the first time. But that’s not what happened with X-Men, both Marvel’s flagship mutant title and X-architect Jonathan Hickman’s first followup series to the event House of X/Powers of X.

X-Men is essentially a science fiction anthology. Big Two American comics are not without the odd anthology series here and there — the format is more thoroughly owned by manga publishers — but never in the book that is simply the name of the character or team.

The X-Men themselves are nearly tangential to Hickman’s exploration of the weird corners of science fiction, until they’re not. A true successor to HoX/PoX in content rather than form, X-Men is a garden for Hickman to plant seeds, debuting hooks for other writers to pick up on and feeding concepts to readers that blossom into events like X of Swords, building a trellis for the rest of the X-Men line to grow on.

Even at its worst, the book is interesting and entertaining, and at its best it is transcendent, containing some of the most memorable moments in modern X-Men history, produced with skill and style by his artist collaborators. Over the past year, many people have asked me which of the nearly one dozen post-Hox/Pox X-Men titles are the ones they should read. My answer is often different, tailored for their personal affections and reading predilections. But I’ve told all of them to read X-Men.
Seeing what they think of a book about homosexuality like Magic Fish, it's a sure bet the aforementioned memorable moments include Kitty Pryde's transformation to lesbian. And, you can be sure, they have no issues with Moira MacTaggart's transformation into a mutant, in an example of retconning a "civilian" character and removing what made her special for the franchise. It's one thing if a veteran character gains science-fantasy powers later in a later story, but it should still be consistent, because again, if you retcon them in such a contrived manner, it waters them down. And when the speak of anybody in comicdom wanting to talk about this stuff, chances are higher it's the PC establishment that did. I'd also think that, if the main X-Men series were an anthology, it'd risk defeating the whole purpose of team and related solo books alike, which is to focus on interactions between team members, with individual affairs occuring on the side. Yet, if there's nearly a dozen or more X-books in Marvel's output now, doesn't that compound the view that there's far too many overall? Just like the Batman franchise has quite a few related books coming out soon, not the least being the Joker's and Harley Quinn's, in another example of too much villainy. While Superman has barely half as many related books now.

Again, Polygon's proven what a laugh riot they are in terms of nominations for the year, to say nothing of their failure to offer more than some rather obvious choices that could be based on ideologies, political correctness and even cheapness.

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  • I'm Avi Green
  • From Jerusalem, Israel
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