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. Check out yesterday’s picks here! And now, the second portion of our awards ceremony and join us all week to find out who will win the coveted @$$ie Award!
And the categories are…
(Click title to go directly to the category)
@$$ie Subcategories 3
Best Comic Book Character
@$$ie Subcategories 4
In Memoriam 2009
Best Artist/Art Team
Humphrey Lee - LOCKE & KEY: HEAD GAMES (IDW Publishing) Since I couldn’t quite determined if L&K’s format of a new mini per story arc justified it as an Ongoing or not I figured, fuck it, let’s spread out the love. And there is much to love when it comes to this creation from the spawn of Stephen King, Joe Hill..there’s such a rich tapestry of story unfolding here, as the mystery around family estate, the Keyhouse, has not even begun to show its depths. And the Locke family themselves makes for an interesting, deep pool of characters to give the mystery and drama surrounding them some significant weight. I’ve said it before, but this title reminds me a lot of LOST in the way it plays off this huge, overlaying mystery set piece but also keeps a heavy hand on the human element, a great combination that will always keep me coming back if properly executed, something that Hill and his partner in crime Gabriel Rodriquez have yet to falter on. This series is absolutely aces.
Ambush Bug - G.I. JOE: COBRA (IDW Publishing) This miniseries was the type of high concept, smartly written, tension filled, comic booking GI JOE fans always wanted in a Joe comic, but never got. Here the unlikeliest of heroes, Chuckles, an action figure I used to hate as a kid, turns out to be the most interesting of all of the Joes as he slowly creeps his way up the COBRA food chain as an undercover Joe operative. Get this trade and I swear, more than once, you’ll check the cover to make sure the intense and mature read is a GI JOE comic. You won’t find a better comic book miniseries from last or any year.
superhero - PLUTO (Naoki Urasawa and Takashi Nagasaki, Viz Media) There was a bit of debate as to what constituted a mini-series in the @$$hole clubhouse and being that this series will only span eight volumes this amazing sci-fi re-imagining of Astro Boy is my pick for Best mini of 2009. Urasawa takes his masterful storytelling and applies it to the world of Osamu Tezuka’s Astro Boy and just knocks it out of the park. I could have given a flying fig about Astro Boy but PLUTO takes Astro and makes it deeper than any version of the character I’ve ever seen. Almost as good as Urasawa’s MONSTER.
Mr. Pasty - UNDERGROUND (Image Comics) When Chief Running Site asked me to take a look at a book about small-town rangers fighting to preserve the integrity of some underground caves, I politely smiled and thought “Man this guy must hate my guts.” In fact, I even whipped out issue #1 after climbing into bed, expecting to conk out by page three. Instead, I was up for hours digesting the next two issues and marveling at how a series devoid of “superheroes” could be so friggin’ entertaining. UNDERGROUND grips you and envelops you in a world that is so completely realized and populated with characters so thoroughly fleshed out, it’s not an exaggeration to call this the year’s best miniseries. Hollywood writers who dig through a creative trash can to find anything salvageable for the next big movie or TV show could learn a lot about storytelling from just one issue of UNDERGROUND.
Vroom Socko - FARSCAPE: THE BEGINNING OF THE END OF THE BEGINNING (BOOM! Studios) Yes, this is a massive fanboy pick, but as far as I’m concerned any new FARSCAPE stuff is a good thing, especially if Rockne O’Bannon is involved. Yes, I’ve been a fan for ten years. Yes, I laugh at farting Muppets. Yes, I named my glock Winona…
Stones Throw - Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips’ INCOGNITO (Marvel Icon) was up to their usual high standards on series like SLEEPER and CRIMINAL; a great take on noir shifted into the realm of superheroes and super villains. Brubaker has a talent for terse dialogue and dark plot twists and Phillips is a master of his art.
Matt Adler - THE LIFE AND TIMES OF SAVIOR 28 (IDW Publishing) A truly moving and thought provoking series by writer J.M. DeMatteis and artist Mike Cavallaro that poses several important questions. It examines the idea of the superhero, and asks us if the ideas the superhero represents are an effective approach to the world’s problems. More broadly, it asks, does violence beget anything other than violence? An important series in these reactionary times.
BottleImp - THE LIFE AND TIMES OF SAVIOR 28 (IDW Publishing) Yet another superhero deconstruction in the mold of WATCHMEN, but SAVIOR 28 rises above being just an also-ran and turns out to be a thoughtful look at the roles of violence, force and pacifism in both the four-color world and the world in which we live. Writer J.M. DeMatteis also manages to meld the garish absurdities of the conventional superhero comic with real-life politics (which in lesser hands could feel forced or contrived) in a way that reads smoothly and compellingly. Mike Cavallaro’s stylized, Kirby-esque art provides the visual clarity to perfectly complement DeMatteis’ words. For any comic book fan who ever wondered why superheroes always talk with their fists, this series is a must-read.
Professor Challenger - TERRA (DC Comics) As I looked back over the past year’s worth of miniseries I realized that I basically only stuck with 3 of them and only one of them actually finished in 2009, so guess what? TERRA wins my pick for Best Miniseries because the quality of these 4 fun-filled issues kept me coming back for each successive issue – which is tough to do. Writers Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray teamed with Amanda Conner to produce a series that charmed me and entertained me like no other…at least until the POWER GIRL series, of course.
Optimous Douche - INCOGNITO (Marvel Icon) No one can make you root for the bad guys like Brubaker. While certainly not as in-depth as CRIMINAL, INCOGNITO was a wonderful diversion into the mind of a maniac. While I enjoyed peeling back the psyche of man waiting to feel alive again, what really made this series great was the complete world Brubaker fleshed out to bring this book to life.
Most Over-exposed Character (who isn't Wolverine)Barack Obama (from every other comic this year)
Best Use of Time TravelDAYS MISSING (Archaia)
Lamest Use of Time TravelCAPTAIN AMERICA (Marvel Comics) Red Skull’s lame attempt to get rid of Cap by bouncing him through time. Pinky and the Brain had better evil schemes…
Looking into the Future: Next Year’s Lamest Use of Time TravelWhatever half-cracked scheme Morrison has to bring Bruce Wayne back from limbo (DC Comics).
Best (and by “best” we mean “worst”) Homophobic Remarks by a Comics ProfessionalRob Liefeld’s cringe-worthy online forum hissy-fit when his one-dimensional creation Shatterstar was “outed” by Peter David.
Most Forgettable CastThe chick that goes fast…the douchebag Aborigine rocker…uhm…wait…don’t tell me…some fat wizard…uhhhh…Ares’ kid…and the rest of the SECRET WARRIORS (Marvel Comics) that aren’t Nick Fury and Dum Dum Dugan.
Skipping Record AwardThe BLACKEST NIGHT Crossovers which read like a skipping record over and over and over where basically the exact same shit happened starring a different set of heroes and zombified villains in each one (DC Comics).
Optimous Douche - Dick Grayson (DC Comics) It’s been a long hard year for Dick. If things weren’t hairy enough simply having to take on the mantle of the Bat, Dick’s also been juggling the balls of a partner with such arrogance and bravado the kid is one “tsk” away from having a 900 number determine whether he lives or dies, and trying to bring some semblance of self to a book that has been Bruce Wayne’s since the 1930s. Dick (and the able team of writers crafting his future) has more than risen to the occasion; he has proven that Batman and Bruce Wayne can be mutually exclusive.
Humphrey Lee - Batwoman (no, seriously) (DC Comics) I almost wanted to give Greg Rucka “Best Writer” credit just for doing what he accomplished on his DETECTIVE COMICS run with J.H. Williams III… he made Batwoman a real character. When she was introduced way back when in the pages of 52, I thought it was a joke. She barely got any screen time, and what little she did was basically to scream “Lipstick Lesbian!!!” and run away. Fast forward a couple years, and I want her own ongoing. The turnaround on this character has been fantastic; a new light has been shined. Mr. Rucka did a tremendous job in fleshing out the past and motivations for this creation of his. Her relationship to her father, the tragedy in her past and how it shaped her life, her motivations and her somewhat self-destructive tendencies: This is a character with some depth. Combine that with her rough edge in her costumed pursuits, her sense of self, and her social “jaunts” and playful nature, this is a character I have grow very fond of in a short amount of time. Here’s to hoping that she has her own place to stay in the DCU.
Ambush Bug - The Ghost (THUNDERBOLTS, Marvel Comics) I have to admit The Ghost has always been one of my favorite villains, but until this year, he’s been used sparingly. In fact, since the Armor Wars, he’s hardly been seen at all (aside from the cool appearance in the miniseries IRON MAN: INEVITABLE with cool Frasier Irving art). But since his recruitment into the THUNDERBOLTS this year, he’s been popping up all over the place creeping everyone the hell out and causing all kinds of ambiguous chaos. I wouldn’t characterize him as a hero or villain -- an opportunist is a more accurate a description. I do know that every time the Ghost showed up, be he showing his more paranoid side in THUNDERBOLTS by keeping his quarters in an impenetrable tomb or proving he still has what it takes to take on the big leaguers in IRON MAN, I paid attention and muttered the word “cool” under my breath. The best part about the Ghost is that he’s a character who hasn’t been played out with too many appearances. It made every issue he did appear in damn cool.
superhero - Gesicht from PLUTO (Viz Media) The detective robot/android who’s investigating a series of robot murders across the globe. Throughout series, Gesicht is revealed to be one of the most fully developed comic book characters I’ve ever read. In the course of his investigation Gesicht is shown to be a synthoid with a heart in a world that still doesn’t fully understand what to do with or how to treat artificial lifeforms. He is at once confident and sad, a professional with a job to do but one with concerns that weigh on him heavily. Through the course of the series, as cliché as it sounds, we get to see Gesicht become more human than most of the actual people he’s surrounded by. A fantastic character and one that I’ll remember for a long time.
Mr. Pasty - The Kingpin (PUNISHER MAX, Marvel) PUNISHER MAX has brought us an incredibly detailed account of Wilson Fisk’s rise to power and in true MAX fashion, The Kingpin is a bad motherfucker. He doesn’t clomp around like a bellowing bully or get on his soapbox and whine about why he is the way he is, he just runs through town fucking women, killing thugs and setting up his boss – all before going home to tuck his son into bed. When it comes down to it, Fisk basically plays one note throughout his endeavors – but he plays it better than anyone in the Marvel universe. Love me some Kingpin.
Vroom Socko - MADAME XANADU (DC Vertigo) I’m not that big a fan of the mystic side of DC, so much so that before this series I’d never even heard of Madame Xanadu. Six issues into the series and Matt Wagner had me won over. By the end of issue 16, I was in love. You’ll love her too.
Stones Throw - ASTERIOS POLYP (Pantheon) was the first time since WATCHMEN, FROM HELL and MAUS that I got the sense I had read something that deserved to stand as art when I closed the back cover. I wouldn’t quite put it on the same level as them but it was complete enough in its ideas to stand alongside them. The basic theme, best expressed in Mazzucchelli’s different styles of drawing, is how our perceptions combine and interrelate with those of others and affect how we build relationships in our time here, and Asterios Polyp, the smug, arrogant architect who was tragically born an only twin is the perfect vessel for Mazzucchelli’s vision.
Matt Adler - Captain America (Marvel Comics) Steve Rogers or Bucky Barnes, take your pick. Ed Brubaker has done ‘em both justice this year, first by establishing Bucky as an excellent Captain America in his own right, and then by taking Steve Rogers on a personal journey back to his rightful role in REBORN. Kudos to Brubaker for masterminding what could have come off as a clichéd stunt and instead turned out to revitalize a character for a generation.
BottleImp - Savior 28 (THE LIFE AND TIMES OF SAVIOR 28, IDW Publishing) We’ve all seen comic book superheroes expressing doubt about their actions, but none of them have ever been written as well or as human as J.M. DeMatteis’ Savior 28. Passionate yet sometimes petty, noble yet arrogant, Savior 28 is a complex, multilayered character that combines the archetypes of Superman and Captain America with the tragic humanity of the Stan Lee classic Marvel hero, and manages to do so without feeling implausible or awkward. There are lots of comics out there that boast that their characters aren’t simply black-and-white, but for me, none have been so vibrantly colorful as Savior 28.
Professor Challenger - Batman (Dick Grayson, DC Comics) Something I never thought could happen this year is that Dick Grayson as Batman overtook Green Lantern for Best Comic Book Character. Based solely on my reading the character within the pages of the BATMAN & ROBIN comic book, I found Dick to be the single most interesting character of the year as he came to terms with the “death” of Bruce Wayne, the responsibility of being both brother and father to Damien, and assuming the role of “Batman” finally.
Worst Continuing TrendUnfinished series—we’re still waiting on THE TWELVE and MARVELS: EYE OF THE CAMERA. Come on, guys!
Best Mystery ComicRick Geary’s FAMOUS PLAYERS: THE MYSTERIOUS DEATH OF WILLIAM DESMOND TAYLOR HC OGN (NBM Comics Lit)
Best Vampire ComicTie: Jesse Blaze Snyder’s DEAD ROMEO (DC Comics) & Ryan Mecum’s VAMPIRE HAIKU ( HOW Books)
Character We Want To See More of in 2010 AwardKirkman’s THE DESTROYER (Marvel Comics); a damn fine old @$$-kicker comic!
Best Romance in ComicsClint (Hawkeye) and Bobbi (Mockingbird) in Jim McCann’s NEW AVENGERS: THE REUNION (Marvel Comics), not since Dave and Maddie on MOONLIGHTING have we cared so much about a fictional couple getting back together.
Professor Challenger - Amanda Conner (POWER GIRL, DC Comics) I have always appreciated Amanda Conner’s art, but this past year, with her work on the TERRA mini-series and then the POWER GIRL ongoing series she jumped immediately to the top of my list. Nobody else out there with a definite cartoony style can evoke such pure sexuality and sensuality in every line while also bringing out the humor, both subtle and slapstick. Conner is a master of depicting the female form but especially of delivering facial expressions that tell the reader everything they need to know. She is a master of storytelling and pacing and it is my pleasure to read her work every month.
Optimous Douche - Frank Quitely (BATMAN & ROBIN, DC Comics) I quite simply love this man’s art and let’s face it, he’s the greatest weapon in Grant Morrison’s arsenal. Frank, thank you for continuing the covers on BATMAN & ROBIN -- now please come back to the interior panels as well.
Humphrey Lee - J.H. Williams III (DETECTIVE COMICS, DC Comics) This is a category that I have to admit I go with a personal bias on most of the time. JHW3 is honestly my favorite comic book artist I’ve come across. I absolutely love how much of a chameleon he is and how he can turn his art into seemingly any style necessary to drive home the scene. His line work is impeccable, his painted pieces are gorgeous, and what he does with his panel designs and flow, I think, is a turning point in how comics are presented artistically. Thing is, he usually does not get too many comics out in a year due to the intensity of his style, and I typically refuse to nominate anything that didn’t come out for at least half the year. Thankfully, due to some scheduling shenanigans, Greg Rucka and his Batwoman material got all sorts of saved up and has had a tremendous run for most of the year with everything I just said above ringing just as true in this run. So here he is, the easiest decision I made during this whole @$$ie process. Just amazing stuff.
Ambush Bug - Paul Pelletier (REIGN OF KINGS, WAR OF KINGS, GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY, INCREDIBLE HULK, many other Marvel books). In years past, I’ve tried to honor up and coming artists with this award, all the while admiring artists like Mr. Pelletier without going so far as mentioning them. Pelletier has been around comics since the nineties and has been delivering art that is straight-up strong-as-an-adamantine-boner. When you think of modern artists who can draw in the Mighty Marvel Manner, you think Pelletier. His work on Lanning and Abnett’s cosmic books is always fantastic, grounding the outrageous effects and dynamic actions with bold yet fluid lines. His figure design is as flawless as his artistic imagination is endless. And those signature round faces…just damn awesome. My one complaint is that Pelletier never seems to land that big book with that big writer so he gets the recognition he deserves. Pelletier on an AVENGERS book is making my eyes drool as I write this. Maybe this is the year Pelletier will get that steady gig on that big book. Until then, I’ll enjoy his work in whatever comic I find him in.
superhero - Naoki Urasawa (PLUTO and 20TH CENTURY BOYS, Viz Media) At this point, do I really have to explain why? Screw it, I will anyway. With PLUTO and 20TH CENTURY BOYS Urasawa has created two comics that I will probably never forget. While neither of these two have approached the greatness of MONSTER they have provided me with more pure excitement and anticipation than any other title I’ve read this year. Every time one of these books comes out I’m either pre-ordering it on Amazon or making sure I stop at the local bookstore on the way home from work so I can get it as soon as possible. I love Urasawa’s work and by releasing two fantastic series in the U. S. this year he pretty much stacked the deck against anyone else.
Mr. Pasty - Walter Geovani (RED SONJA, Dynamite Entertainment) The 26-year-old Brazilian tops my list because he draws women that I would like to chloroform and lock in my wine cellar. In case it wasn’t apparent from my reviews of the tepid MODELS, INC. and the downright putrid ATHENA, I have a soft spot for animated chicks (please marry me Neytiri) and Geovani (ahem) does them better than anyone. He completed the latter part of the RED SONJA series with some outstanding visuals and I can’t wait to see what he has in store for 2010.
Vroom Socko - Stan Sakai (Dark Horse) Sakai’s work on USAGI YOJIMBO is, year in and year out, exceptional. But this past year, with his watercolor work on the UY special YOKAI, his art hit an entire new level of amazing.
Stones Throw - No one created more memorable characters or told stories through pictures better than David Mazzucchelli in ASTERIOS POLYP (Pantheon).
Matt Adler - Gary Frank & Jon Sibal (DC Comics) This team has to take top honors this year, if only for their fantastic work on SUPERMAN: SECRET ORIGIN. Even though the mini is not yet completed, the first few issues really blew me away, not the least because of Frank and Sibal’s Christopher Reeve-styled portrayal of a young Clark Kent. They deftly captured the awe, wonderment and fear that young man discovering such secrets about himself would feel, and made even the simple act of flying look like we were seeing it for the first time along with young Clark.
BottleImp - Gabriel Rodriguez (LOCKE & KEY, IDW Publishing) This is always a hard category to narrow down, since there are so many talented artists out there whose individual styles work perfectly for certain subjects, but perhaps less favorably with others. But if there is any artist working today who deserves the title of “The Next Eisner,” my vote goes to LOCKE & KEY’S brilliant Gabriel Rodriguez. Rodriguez combines the expressiveness of caricature with an impeccable knowledge of dynamic figure drawing, animates these lively characters against a backdrop rendered with an almost architectural degree of solidity and perfection, and adds to this already potent mixture a boundless, imaginative appreciation of the fantastic and mysterious. I can imagine no other artist whose style would work so well with Joe Hill’s comic book world.