The entirety of Frank Miller and David Mazzucchelli’s BATMAN: YEAR ONE story was must reading, and this final installment wrapped the story up beautifully–a story more of hard-boiled cop Jim Gordon than really of Batman (who doesn’t appear in costume all that much throughout it. ) Mazzucchelli channels the best attributes of Alex Toth in his artwork, stripping down his style and employing an astonishing economy of line.
Having previously appeared in a number of short stories in DARK HORSE PRESENTS, Paul Chadwick’s creation CONCRETE was granted his own series. While on the surface it appeared to fall in line with any of a number of other super hero titles, Chadwick’s approach was very different, concerned with human moments and human triumphs more than awesome battles or defeating evil. In this first issue, Concrete uses the strength of his rocky alien-given body to attempt to liberate some trapped miners after a tragic cave-in. In subsequent issues, he’ll attempt to swim the Atlantic Ocean and to climb Mount Everest. It was a very different and very appealing take on having super-powers in the real world.
After the shaky stop-and-start road of Book Two of the modern, forward-thinking revival of Marvelman (a story that took something like five years and several artists to complete), MIRACLEMAN once again hit its stride (though the release delays would continue) as Alan Moore went into the final book of his superhuman trilogy. Joined by his SWAMP THING collaborator John Totleben, who gave the series not only a consistent art approach but some of its loveliest and most lyrical images, Moore applied the lessons he’d learned in working on SWAMP THING and WATCHMEN and others to improve on his original narrative, showing the ramifications on the world that such superhuman beings would naturally have.
After an extended run second only to the series’ creators Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, Walt Simonson took his bows on THOR with this massive and satisfying conclusion. Having trapped the Thunder God in a no-win situation by having Hela curse him to both never die and never heal, Simonson has a master stroke final turn planned, as Thor’s essence inhabits the indestructible Asgardian Destroyer and lays waste to Hel, forcing Hela to relent. All threads are tied up in a satisfying and complete manner, and Simonson’s tenure on the title passes into legend.
A forgotten classic, AIRBOY AND MR. MONSTER brings together creator Michael T. Gilbert’s creature-slaying Mr. Monster with the revived Airboy (the son of the original) as well as the Heap. But this heartfelt story is more of an allegory, as these characters all exist only in the imagination of a Golden Age comic book artist who is contemplating suicide after a lifetime of struggle and regret. It’s a great piece of work by Gilbert, who would much later go on to produce the similarly-successful MANN AND SUPERMAN for DC