Welcome to AICN COMICS: SIXTH ANNUAL @$$IE AWARDS, where your favorite @$$Holes pick the best in comics! I’m Ambush Bug. We’re doing this year’s @$$ie Awards a little differently. Much like our highly successful Best of the Decade Lists from last month, instead of having the entire awards show happen in one day in one bulky column, we’re prolonging the magic and spreading the @$$y goodness over a three day span for much easier consumption. As always, the @$$Holes can’t agree about anything, so each reviewer picked their own @$$ie winner for each category. So enjoy this, the first portion of our awards ceremony and join us all week to find out who will win the coveted @$$ie Award!
And the categories are…
(Click title to go directly to the category)
Best One Shot/Special/Annual
@$$ie Subcategories 1
Best Single Moment/Single Issue
@$$ie Subcategories 2
Best Cover/Cover Artist
Vroom Socko - YOU HAVE KILLED ME (Oni Press) Jamie Rich is a writer with personality, and his actual writing isn’t bad either. This neo-noir tale is a blast to read, but it’s the art from Joëlle Jones that pushes this over the top into Best Of territory. Damn but this woman can draw!
Stones Throw - With the war in Afghanistan showing no sign of ending any time soon, THE PHOTOGRAPHER (First Second Books), about a team of doctors taking medicine and aid during the Soviet invasion in 1986, should be required reading on both sides of the Atlantic. It’s a true story told through comic book panels and the actual photographs of one of the characters, Didier Lefevre, which, among other things, means it’s the best photo-comic ever.
Matt Adler - REALM OF KINGS #1 (Marvel Comics). A mix of traditional Marvel cosmic adventure with Lovecraftian style horror, this one-shot by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning introduces the next phase in Marvel’s updated cosmic setting. It also serves to reintroduce one of my personal favorite characters, Quasar, with a cool new costume and a dangerous secret. Add in beautiful art by Leonardo Manco and Mahmud Asrar, and you’ve got an excellent done-in-one story with the promise of more to come.
BottleImp - REALM OF KINGS One-Shot (Marvel Comics) H.P. Lovecraft references in comic books are nothing new, but rarely do those references manage to capture the prevalent theme of Lovecraft’s Mythos stories: Man’s insignificance in the vast, cosmic reaches of unknowable space and time. More often, the comics tend to focus on tentacles and pentagrams. But Abnett and Lanning’s One-Shot plants Lovecraft’s Mythos firmly within Marvel’s own tapestry of cosmic superheroes and places the emphasis on the eldritch and the alien in a way that I think even the Old Gent himself would have approved. Of course, anything Lovecraft still needs those tentacles, rendered here with ghastly beauty by Leonardo Manco. This comic is a brilliant marriage of two genres that makes a fantastic read for Lovecraft fans and superhero comic fans alike.
Professor Challenger - THE BOOK OF GENESIS ILLUSTRATED by R. CRUMB ( W.W. Norton) Taking on the full text of the book of GENESIS and illustrating it in comic book form had to be a chore like none other for Robert Crumb. At a point in his life in which most artists slow down and many retire, Crumb produced a work of art like no other in which he approached the text of the Bible with respect and literality. The style and characters are unmistakably “Crumb,” but the subject matter is so unexpected that the resulting stew of content and adaptation are mesmerizing to me. A timeless and beautiful work of art and what I consider to be the best Original Graphic Novel of 2009.
Optimous Douche - Granted the original 6 issues were written in 2002, but since the @$$ies are audited by a shit flinging chimp instead of PricewaterhouseCoopers I can slip the reissue hardcover of CLA$$WAR (COM.X) in as one of my best reads of 2009. While the hardcover presentation is simply beautifully crafted, the series that lives in between the cardboard keeps rising every few years like a phoenix because it was just that good. Look at what this story accomplished: it introduced the fantastic pencils of Trevor Hairsine to the world, was prophetic when originally written before Bush took office, and now serves as an eerie reminder of the first years of 21st century American politics (an even more impressive feat considering the writer is a Brit; and it was simply a gorgeous indictment of the lobotomized “order following” hero.
Humphrey Lee - ASTERIOS POLYP (Pantheon) At this point, I am almost at a loss for words as to what to say about this wondrous creation by comic book master Dave Mazzucchelli. I heaped tons of praise on it when it came out, admired its unique nature and skillful craft that oozed out of every page by putting it in as an entry in my Top Ten of the Decade list and, well, here it is again. All I can say anymore is that this book is an absolute masterpiece in the field, and exemplifies just how much creativity can be squeezed out of the medium. This was pretty much the easiest decision I had to make with all of these awards.
Ambush Bug - Sure I liked REALM OF KINGS and the BLACKEST NIGHT FCBD Edition was fun, but nothing compares to Jim Mahfood’s off the frikkin’ reservation one shot comic entitled CARL THE CAT THAT MAKES PEANUT BUTTER SANDWICHES ( more info found here). Carl is a cat that is usually busy saving the world when he’s not talking with his nymphomaniac girlfriend on his Bluetooth. He also makes wicked-good peanut butter sandwiches. Whip together your own PB&J and devour both it and this book. You’re bound to be satisfied. A good one shot is done in one, yet makes you wish for more. This one does just that. Here’s hoping Jim brings back Carl, his peanut butter sandwiches and his nympho girlfriend back some time soon!
superhero - RICHARD STARK’S PARKER: THE HUNTER (IDW Publishing) Darwyn Cooke and Richard Stark I’ve never read a Richard Stark novel but I do love me some Darwyn Cooke and Cooke delivered in this fantastic illustrated adaptation of a Stark Novel. Absolutely gorgeous and riveting from start to finish, PARKER: THE HUNTER is an A, B, C guide to how crime comics should be done. Fantastic work.
Mr. Pasty - WET MOON BOOK 5: WHERE ALL STARS FAIL TO BURN (Oni Press) WET MOON is not a graphic novel, it’s an experience. A lot of books claim to have stories rooted in an alternate universe – WET MOON embarrasses those efforts with a world that is populated with such a unique and fervent cast of characters that its massive 160+ pages felt too short. Ross Campbell’s illustrations are the stroke of a master’s hand, erupting in a controlled percussion of mood and atmosphere. Dialogue is understated and realistic while diary entries interspersed throughout the book help advance the story without compromising it. Despite its root in animation, WET MOON will strike you as nothing less than a real world filled with real personalities. It might not leave you dashing through your backyard wearing a mask and cape, but it will remind you why you read graphic novels in the first place.
Best Comic Book RobotATOMIC ROBO (Red 5 Comics)
The "Punisher in the 80's" Overexposure AwardDeadpool (Marvel Comics)
Best Unintentional One-ShotThe hilariously horrible YOUNGBLOOD #9 (Image Comics, July 2009), which marked Rob Liefeld’s triumphant return to writing and drawing a regular monthly series. We’re still waiting for issue #10…
Best Example of Disaster Relief That We Only See in Comics but Will Never See in Places Like HaitiULTIMATE COMICS: SPIDER-MAN #1 (Marvel Comics). Six months later and New York is pristine again…c’mahnn!
Most Interesting Use of Wonder WomanThe Princess’ guest appearance in SECRET SIX #12 (DC Comics) was better than the last five years of appearances in her own comic.
Most Shocking Moment of the Year In ComicsSure you may say it was the death of Frank Castle at the hands (or claws) of Dark Wolverine in THE LIST: PUNISHER, but we all know the most shocking moment of the year was when the editors said yes to Rick Remender’s Frankencastle pitch (Marvel Comics).
Best Revival of a Character That Hollywood Almost KilledTank Girl in TANK GIRL: SKIDMARKS (Titan Books)
Mr. Pasty - Captain Future shows off his super power - PROJECT SUPERPOWERS: CHAPTER TWO #1 (Dynamite Entertainment) How ironic that I would find the year’s best moment in a title I couldn’t stand. PROJECT SUPERPOWERS: CHAPTER TWO #1 was a pretentious comic that was so in love with itself it could barely hide the contempt the writers had for an audience they probably felt was lucky just to be reading it. Filled with outdated and goofy looking characters from an era we stopped caring about years ago, a harem of supertwits barges in on Captain Future, who apparently was as jaded as the readers from all their boring do-goodery. Anyway, Cap is caught banging some broads and when the heroes confront him about it, he responds by kicking the shit out of them. My kind of guy. I’m sure it was scripted to invoke disgust, but I found it to be a triumph.
Vroom Socko - The wedding of Maureen and Jameson in GIRLS WITH SLINGSHOTS Alternating from emotional to dramatic to gut-busting hilarious and back again, this moment also managed to bring many a plot thread to a close. And, since the story carried over to SOMETHING * POSITIVE, it also counts as crossover of the year.
Stones Throw - To the relief of many, the latest installment of LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN, CENTURY: 1910 (Top Shelf Productions) was a return to more conventional storytelling after the excess of THE BLACK DOSSIER, but its narrative was more artfully constructed than its predecessors. CENTURY: 1910 cut with theatrical precision between two different narratives and scenes, the Edwardian espionage of the 1910 League and the dockside underbelly of that society. In between and on the outside of both worlds, violently colliding the two parallel narratives in the conclusion, is Captain Nemo’s daughter Janni, who cleverly becomes Bertolt Brecht’s Pirate Jenny. LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN was the best single issue comic I read this year and it’s also Alan Moore’s best-written work since the demise of ABC.
Matt Adler - FINAL CRISIS: LEGION OF THREE WORLDS #4 (DC Comics) This issue itself is perhaps not the best of 2009, but it does have my personal favorite moment of 2009: Geoff Johns having the resurrected Superboy make his return by introducing his fist to Superboy-Prime’s face. A lot of us had been waiting for Superbrat to get his comeuppance, and the return of Kon-El was the perfect opportunity. The only thing that could have made it better is if Superboy had gotten a new costume (still hate the t-shirt and jeans), but other than that, it was a great comics moment rendered excellently by George Perez.
BottleImp - X-FACTOR #39: Madrox absorbs his baby (Marvel Comics) You ever had something lodge itself in the back of your mind so that whenever you had a quiet moment, you inevitably turned back to that moment and thought about it…and thought about it…and thought about it some more? For me, that something was this issue of X-FACTOR. For days after I had read this story I kept turning the heart-rending pieces over in my brain…the total sucker-punch of the incident itself…Madrox’s numbness and self-loathing, personified by one of his own dupes snarling in his face…Theresa’s panic and rage at realizing that the child she carried for nine months and just gave birth to was no more than an empty photocopy… with this single issue, Peter David got my attention like a slap to the face, and X-FACTOR 39 marked the beginning of the title’s upswing in excellence.
Professor Challenger - THE LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN CENTURY: 1910 (Top Shelf Productions) Alan Moore and Kevin O’Neil got their @$$es out of the stranglehold of DC/Wildstorm and hit the ground running over at Top Shelf with the first of the newest series of LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN graphic novels. CENTURY: 1910 was, if anything, more densely packed with apparently random esoterica than any previous volume (less perhaps than the “handbook” published in 2008 as THE BLACK DOSSIER) and it proved once again that Moore operates on an entirely different level of writing than any other comic book writer. Excellent.
Optimous Douche - X-FACTOR #39 (Marvel Comics) Peter David has been able to enthrall me now for the better part of my life with this team. As far back as the early 90s, I devoured every minute of conflict as X-FACTOR wrestled between their government mandates and doing what was right for mutant-kind. A generation later, while the team remained seemingly ageless, they did evolve. Now, as a hard-boiled (OK, maybe more soft-boiled) team of mutant detectives, their personal lives are almost more interesting than whatever case they’re tracking and it didn’t get more interesting than the Siren/Multiple Man pregnancy. We knew they would never be a conventional family, but I don’t think anyone expected the child was sired by a dupe or that Jamie would absorb the child the first time he held it. The follow-up was sheer human emotion, showing David does not write parlor tricks, but rather real human drama.
Humphrey Lee - Hellboy is King (HELLBOY: THE WILD HUNT #6, Dark Horse) I love lore, which is why I love Hellboy. And one of my favorite bits of lore, the Legend of King Arthur, finally reared its head in the Hellboy world, and in a huge, game-changing way for the rock-handed one. At first, THE WILD HUNT seemed like another Hellboy romp. Giant-smashing, some demon action, a vague quest and then BAM! We find out that not only is he the son of the Hell itself, but he is in fact the last in the Arthurian bloodline as well. Fun stuff indeed, and it gives me hope that now this book will start “playing for keeps” so to speak. The Miscellaneous Adventures of Hellboy are fun indeed, but I would like to see more advancement to this book itself. The revelation that took place this past year is as good a place as any to start making some.
Ambush Bug - He’s on his way back from being the butt of all jokes in FALL OF THE HULKS, but Nick Bertozzi’s M.O.D.O.K. one off story from STRANGE TALES #1 (Marvel Comics) was so incredibly wrong it went around the World of Wrong and ended up in a world of a whole lotta right. This issue was filled with indie artists making mainstream Marvel characters their bitches with the MODOK story being the absolute best of the bunch. Seek this book out and enjoy. Some die hard Marvel Zombies may find it offensive what these indie artists do to their childhood heroes, but I haven’t had so much fun reading a mainstream comic this year ever since reading this one. But that M.O.D.O.K. story…man, that was so, so wrong…
superhero - SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER PLUTO - The death of Atom/Astro Boy (Viz Media). Man, I did not see that coming and when it happened I kept thinking…that can’t have just happened. With this singular act Urasawa proved that PLUTO was playing for keeps.
The Indie Jones Indie Surprise AwardTHE ADVENTURES OF LIGHTNING SQUIRREL (Ronin)
Weirdest CoverThe one MARVEL ZOMBIES RETURN #2 cover where a zombie Iron Man is surfing on the back of a vulture. Don’t believe me? Check it out. Still trying to figure that one out (Marvel Comics).
Most Inventive Extrapolation of 24 Hour News Fear MongeringCHEW (Image Comics)
The Hanging Ten on a Wave of Nostalgia AwardNEW MUTANTS (Marvel Comics)
Best Noir ComicJoshua Hale Fialkov’s TUMOR (Archaia/Amazon Kindle)
Ambush Bug- Dave Johnson on THE MIGHTY (along with the stellar team of Pete Tomasi, Keith Champagne, Chris Samnee, & Pete Snejberg, DC Comics). This was one fantastic miniseries and my runner up for best mini of the year, so I had to mention the book somewhere. I guess here is good enough. A good comic book cover these days not only has to let the reader know what to expect in the issue, but it also has to be iconic. Poster-worthy. Each and every fantastic image on the covers of THE MIGHTY were just that. Using simple lines and bold actions, the covers of this miniseries both intrigued and enlightened. Just some fantastic stuff from this pair of fantastic artists who deserve to be recognized.
Mr. Pasty - Raymond Swanland This guy is an animal. Fanboys name-drop Swanland for his work in MAGIC: THE GATHERING and ODDWORLD, but he continues to dazzle me with his relentless covers on ALIENS and PREDATOR. Dark, brooding and oh-so-moody, he can tell more stories in one cover than a lot of so-called artists can in an entire book. H.R. Giger is so 1980’s. Long live Raymond Swanland!
Vroom Socko - HOUSE OF MYSTERY (DC Vertigo) Any other answer is wrong.
Stones Throw - J. H. Williams III for his weird and beautiful DETECTIVE COMICS covers (DC).
Matt Adler - SPIDER-MAN & THE SECRET WARS #2 (Marvel Comics) There’s not a lot I can say to explain this pick, other than that this cover, by Patrick Scherberger, just grabs me. It’s bright, it’s colorful, it’s humorous, and there’s a huge cross-section of Marvel’s most bizarre and dangerous villains just waiting to mow poor ole Spidey down. So sue me, it’s fun. That’s all I can ask for.
BottleImp - LOCKE & KEY: HEAD GAMES #3 (IDW Publishing) Used to be that all a comic needed was a painted cover to stand out from the crowd. Nowadays it seems like painted covers are the rule rather than the exception, and the stands are crowded with rows of full-value renderings of comic characters posing and/or preening. These days a cover needs to have a “hook” to make it stand out amongst all those attractive, if somewhat boring, painted pieces. So my vote goes to a cover that made me chuckle out loud when I saw it. Rodriguez’s image, an homage to EC’s CRIME SUSPENSTORIES #22 (drawn by Johnny Craig in 1954), manages to tickle my history buff funny-bone while also providing a great image for this LOCKE & KEY chapter. Fun fact: the EC cover was used as evidence during the famous 1954 U.S. Senate Subcommittee hearings that attempted to link comic books to juvenile delinquency, wherein when questioned as to whether this cover was in good taste, EC Publisher William M. Gaines replied, “Yes, sir; I do, for the cover of a horror comic.” Truer words were never spoken, Bill.
Professor Challenger - POWER GIRL #1 (both covers by Adam Hughes & Amanda Conner, DC Comics) Both the Adam Hughes painted cover and the standard art cover by Amanda Conner were the most eye-catching covers of the year. I bought both and plan to frame them side by side (after obtaining some autographs on them one day.)
Optimous Douche - J.G. Jones (FINAL CRISIS, DC Comics) If only the FINAL CRISIS story was as epic and awe inspiring as the covers.