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7th ANNUAL @$$IE AWARDS!
Welcome, all, to Day Five of the 7th Annual AICN COMICS @$$IE AWARDS, where comics best and brightest are recognized for stellar (and sometimes not so stellar) performances in comic bookdom. I’m Ambush Bug. There was a time when we could fit all of the @$$ies into one lengthy column, but the @$$Holes’ ranks have grown too big for that, so for the next week or so, a pair of @$$Holes will be presenting their picks for the best of the best in comics. Most awards are given around the turn of the year, but we think ours is special, so while those outside of the know celebrate the time of the Oscar, we here at AICN COMICS celebrate the time of the coveted @$$ie Award. In between picks, subcategories compiled by all of the @$$Holes will be interspersed. So sit back, crack the knuckles in your browsing hand, and scroll down as the @$$Holes pick the @$$ies!
(Click title to go directly to the reviewers’ picks)
Ambush Bug’s @$$IE AWARDS!
Majin Fu’s @$$IE AWARDS!
@@@ Ambush Bug’s @$$IES! @@@
Best Original Graphic Novel
A GOD SOMEWHERE (DC Wildstorm)
Even though the concept is not new, John Arcudi and Peter Snejbjerg have a tale of a super man gone wrong in a real world setting that stands above the rest. This is a painful study about absolute power corrupting absolutely, a well tread road in comics. But Arcudi writes it as if none of those stories ever existed and soon makes the reader forget about past tales with the vivid characters and surprising twists and turns. Arcudi develops characters to the point where you might mistake them for real. Snejbjerg’s panels are powerful enough, but his splashes of wanton carnage showing the central figure against an entire army introduced my jaw to the floor. What starts out as your typical super hero meets real world tale finished with me screaming “Holy shit!” out loud more than once. This overlooked classic deserves to be sought out and revisited. It pains me to think that DC Wildstorm is gone because it produced gems like this one.
THE THANOS IMPERATIVE #6 (Nova & Starlord go out in a blaze of glory against Thanos, Marvel Comics)
Doing their best Butch and Sundance impression, Nova and Starlord bookend Abnett & Lanning’s Cosmic Saga by sacrificing themselves to take out the over-powered Thanos. It was a bittersweet ending because I didn’t want to see the pair go since I’ve loved every panel they appeared in scribed by DnA, but written like this, at least I get to know they went out with a bang. I know death in comics is never the end and I’m sure Nova and Starlord will be back, but unless Abnett & Lanning writes them, they’ll never be written like this ever again. It’s one of those brave sacrifices seen in those old war movies that even allows dudes to tear up a bit at the heroism. Nova and Starlord had always been DnA’s Luke and Han. Here, they make their last stand and it was one of the best moments of the year.
Johnny Ryan (PRISON PIT BOOK TWO, Fantagraphics Books)
Though the art may not be for everyone, I fell in love with Johnny Ryan’s art this year because it reminds me of the scribblings one would find on the cover of a teenage metal fan’s Trapper Keeper notebook (to kids even have those anymore? Probably not). Sure, the obscenely crude and violent images seen in PRISON PIT (a stream of consciousness barrage of ultra-violence and gore from panel one to panel end) may warrant a trip to the school guidance counselor, but it still makes for an eye-catching book. PRISON PIT BOOK TWO has just a simple drawing of an alien berserker covered in blood with a little evil Doop creature for a hand, but it’s best for its visceral impact and iconic imagery. Just a bombastically violent comic with a cover to match.
JONAH HEX: NO WAY BACK HC OGN (DC Comics)
Right around the time the back-alley abortion that was JONAH HEX The Moobie hit theaters this past year, DC released this Hardcover Special by the same guys who have been writing the shit out of Jonah Hex for years now. This tale reveals more untold secrets of our scar-faced cowboy than his entire ongoing series ever has and unlike most comic book heroes with mysterious pasts when their origins are revealed, this story only makes our anti-hero all the more fascinating. Hex tracks down his mother, remembers his abusive father, and finds out he has a brother who is pretty much the heads to Hex’s tails. The adventure that unfolds ranks up there with UNFORGIVEN and TRUE GRIT as one of the best Western tales ever told. Had Hollywood made this into the big screen adaptation rather than the polished turd that went to celluloid, we may have seen Hex up for an Oscar as well as an @$$ie. Still, we have this gorgeous hardcover to revisit. NO WAY BACK is one of Palmiotti and Gray’s absolute best works.
Vril Dox (L.E.G.I.O.N. / R.E.B.E.L.S., DC Comics)
Hearing that R.E.B.E.L.S. is being cancelling completely bummed me out, mainly because I don’t get to see Vril Dox rat-bastard it up on a monthly basis anymore. Though I loved the conniving character in Giffen’s original run, Tony Bedard gave a wonderful modern take on the master manipulator. Whether he was matching wits with his father/Superman arch foe Brainiac, treating his son Brainiac 3 like a red-headed step-child, making the Green Lantern Corps look like amateurs, or battling the planet-conquering Starro, Vril Dox made it all a joy to read. He’s the kind of character you want to see go against just about any other character in the DCU because every encounter would be interesting, different, and fun. It sucks that you have to have the word GREEN in your title to be a space comic at DC these days. Here’s hoping Dox either gets his own book or shows up in some other book sometime soon. As it is, I’m going to enjoy R.E.B.E.L.S. and their opportunistic leader, Vril Dox’s last few issues while I still can.
GI JOE: HEARTS & MINDS (IDW Publishing)
Though GI JOE: COBRA did the impossible and made Chuckles cool and Vertigo-ized the Joe Universe, Max Brooks, Antonio Fuso, and Howard Chaykin elaborated on this sophisticated take on my favorite toys as a kid in this amazing miniseries. While Hollywood is hiring the director of a tween concert movie to helm the GI JOE sequel, IDW gets it right by hiring one of the coolest new artists, a seasoned pro artist, and one of the hottest new writers in horror/adventure to appear in years to handle this miniseries. Brooks promised a book like no other GI JOE book and delivered. Focusing on a single Joe and a single Cobra soldier in each issue, GI JOE: HEARTS & MINDS shined brighter than the rest of the miniseries this year. Most of the issues were quick reads, but they got me interested in more than just Snake-Eyes, Storm Shadow, Scarlett, and the Baroness for a change and reminded folks that the ranks of Joe and Cobra run deep. Stories featuring Deep Six, Firefly, Major Blood, and Tripwire revealed that the same characters Larry Hama created all those years ago—the same characters I’d play with in elaborate living room battles, can be as iconic as Superman, Spider-Man, and Batman. I hope we see more HEARTS & MINDS soon. Now if only Hollywood would take this property as seriously…
Janet Lee (RETURN OF THE DAPPER MEN, Archaia)
Having witnessed Janet Lee’s process at Con’s over the last year and a half as she worked on gorgeous page after page of RETURN OF THE DAPPER MEN, I have to give props where props are due and hand her this year’s Best Artist @$$ie. Lee’s technique elevates comic book art to a whole new level and the final project is something I have never seen before. Jim McCann’s fable about a city of robots and children sans adults is resonant and powerful. But it’s elevated to classic with Lee’s artistry. There are few books that were released this year that each page is worthy of being framed and placed on a wall with pride. Lee’s work in RETURN OF THE DAPPER MEN is just that. The first in a trilogy, I look forward to seeing Lee working feverishly at future cons to witness her intricate process and admire her gorgeous figures, her surreal landscapes, and her breathtaking composition.
Jason (WEREWOLVES OF MONTPELLIER, WHAT I DID.,Fantagraphics Books)
There aren’t too many comic book writers out there that I can safely say I love each and every story they’ve ever written. Norway’s Jason is just that. This year was a fantastic one for Jason fans. He released WEREWOLVES OF MONTPELLIER in the Spring which was a new story featuring his inscrutable animal people (this one was a horror/adventure starring a guy who breaks into houses dressed as a werewolf for the thrill of it, his lesbian friend, and a real werewolf). And later in the year he released WHAT I DID., a hardcover collection of his earliest works which read like the work of a seasoned pro. Reading both books this year cemented the fact that I’m a lifelong Jason fan. His stories are insightful and simple. His characters at first make one smile with their quirky animal heads and blank stares, but soon, once you read the poignant words Jason writes for them, you end up forgetting their outer visage and start caring about them. Jason is an independent voice that must be read. Mainstream readers may remember him from his Spider-Man story in the first STRANGE TALES miniseries Marvel released a few years ago that showcased indie talent. But that’s about as mainstream as Jason gets. With WEREWOLVES OF MONTPELLIER and WHAT I DID. Jason shines and proves that sure he can draw whimsical characters, but he can also write powerful stories.
This past year, I went to C2E2, SDCC, and NYCC and at all of these cons, Archaia’s booth was by far the most impressive in both product released and presentation. Whereas most booths circled their wagons in an impenetrable oval, Archaia set up booths and couches to make the place more inviting. It’s that careful thought in presentation that I appreciate. It invited me to come closer, sit down, and check out more of their books. Though they are staying away from super-heroes, Archaia ventures just about anywhere else and the company has proven itself through the last year to be one of the leaders in new and exciting ideas with original books like TUMOR, FEEDING GROUND, BERONA’S WAR, LUCID, RETURN OF THE DAPPER MEN, DAYS MISSING, SYNDROME, STARKWEATHER, and MOON LAKE. They are also kicking ass with books geared toward a younger audience with FRAGGLE ROCK, THE DARK CRYSTAL, and even MOUSE GUARD. Their hardcover books look and feel substantial. There are few smaller companies I am looking forward to seeing grow more than Archaia.
AMERICAN VAMPIRE (DC Vertigo)
When Y: THE LAST MAN ended its run, I searched far and wide for a new Vertigo book to replace it on my pull list. It took a while, but this year I finally found it. I know you may be sick of vampires. I am too and I think that’s the reason why this book isn’t more popular than it is, but for your money’s worth, you’re not going to read a more exciting, horrific, and narratively classic story than AMERICAN VAMPIRE. Scott Snyder evolves the creatures of the night and fills his ongoing story with rich history and even a commentary on America itself. Snyder’s vamp Skinner Sweet is our toothy tour guide through history. The first two arcs began in the flapper era, then skipped to the birth of Las Vegas, and the rest of the series promises to continue this shadowy slink through America’s past. Snyder’s American version of the bloodsucker has evolved into a tougher vamp; one with the same taste for blood, but without the weakness to the sun. More NEAR DARK (one of my favorite movies of all time) than INTERVIEW WITH A VAMPIRE, it didn’t hurt that Stephen King came along for a ride in the first arc telling the origin of Skinner Sweet. As Sweet sucks candy canes and necks through the ages, I’ll be there reading every gruesome panel. Consider my jones for a monthly Vertigo book filled with AMERICAN VAMPIRE.
Ambush Bug is Mark L. Miller, original @$$Hole / wordslinger / reviewer / co-editor of AICN Comics for over nine years. Support a Bug by checking out his comics (click on the names to buy)!
MUSCLES & FIGHTS VOL.3 & MUSCLES & FRIGHTS VOL.1.
VINCENT PRICE PRESENTS: THE TINGLER #1 and #2(interview, interview, preview, & review).
VINCENT PRICE PRESENTS #20 WITCHFINDER GENERAL(preview, review)
NANNY & HANK miniseries: #1, #2, #3, and #4 (interview, interview, interview, preview, & review, review, in stores now!)
Zenescope’s WONDERLAND ANNUAL 2010
THE DEATHSPORT GAMES miniseries: #1, #2, #3, and #4 (review, in stores now!)
Rick Remender’s FRANKEN-CASTLE arc (Marvel Comics)...just a terrible, terrible idea.
The Dirty Dozen Award of Awesomeness
Palmiotti & Gray’s TIME BOMB (Radical Comics)
Best Autobiography in Graphic Form
IN ME OWN WORDS: THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF BIGFOOT
by Graham Roumieu
Best Comic Book Mystery
Rick Geary’s THE AXE-MAN OF NEW ORLEANS (NBM Comics Lit)
Best Use of Poetry in a Graphic Novel
Best Zombie Comic
THE WALKING DEAD (c’mon it kicked @$$ this year!, Image Comics)
Indie Jones Indie Surprise of the Year
Brandon Dayton’s THE GREEN MONK
Best Silent Comic
AGE OF REPTILES: THE JOURNEY (Dark Horse)
Best Kids ComicJames Kochalka’s DRAGON PUNCHER (Top Shelf Productions)
Best Werewolf Comic
FEEDING GROUND (Archaia)
Best Original Graphic Novel
PARKER: THE OUTFIT (IDW Publishing)
The Parker adaptations are essentially art books, and the visual presentation has been refined nicely in this second iteration. Darwyn Cooke is a phenomenal designer, giving life to the gritty tale by utilizing simple contrasts and many retro flourishes. This is also a tighter story than THE HUNTER, with more variety in the presentation to keep it fresh. A must-read for pulp fans!
THE BRAVE & THE BOLD #32 (DC Comics)
I have always been a huge fan Aqua-fan. I grew up watching the Super Friends, where Aquaman could be seen coaxing some whales into pushing a ship out of the depths. Some people claim Aquaman is lame , but I’ve always felt there was a power there we’ve hardly seen tapped. He is master of over 70% of the surface world, after all. In this issue, you really get to see Aquaman let loose, and it’s a wonder to behold. Etrigan is just as cool, but in a totally different way. Created by the esteemed Jack Kirby, he’s a fire-breathing demon from hell, and he’s powerful enough to take on the Justice League alone. Oh, and if he has the “Rhymer” rank in hell then all his dialogue is written in rhyme, a fact that has led to some of the best dialogue ever written by some of the world’s best-known comic writers, including Alan Moore. So plop an uber-powerful demon down into the depths with the king of the sea and what have you got? A Lovecraftian tale of superlore worthy of the title THE BRAVE & THE BOLD. The story is narrated by a normal man who witnesses the events of the story, lending this issue a mythic quality worthy of the two main characters. Jesus Saiz illustrates the whole shebang with a very clean line style, but he knows when to pull back and show off as well.
STRANGE TALES II #1 (Rafael Grampa, Marvel Comics)
There were certainly more creative layouts this year, but for raw fanboy energy I have to hand it to Gramps. It’s the little details that really make the cover work, like Wolverine’s elbow guards and Thor’s sneakers. It reminds me of Paul Pope’s redesign of Batman for BATMAN: YEAR 100, somehow grounding the characters but also embracing the theatrical nature of the costumes.
OFFICER DOWNE One-Shot (Image Comics)
This comic is both funny and unapologetically brutal. Not for the squeamish, but definitely recommended to anyone who likes Arnold Schwarzenegger movies, or anything way over the top.
Dick Grayson and Damian Wayne (DC Comics)
With Bruce Wayne off playing caveman and pilgrims, it was up to the former Robin to take up the cowl and defend Gotham from the superstitious and cowardly. Luckily he has a little help from one of the most dangerously proficient kids this side of that boomerang kid from Road Warrior. Both Grayson and li’l Wayne had some great moments this year, particularly in BATMAN & ROBIN. Grant Morrison did an excellent job of bouncing the two off each other, while giving both characters room to breathe and develop individually. They make for one of my favorite duos since Blue Beetle and Booster Gold, but they have way more pathos, and could probably kick those guy’s asses. I’m just glad Papa Bat’s not getting in their way.
THOR: THE MIGHTY AVENGER (Marvel Comics)
If you didn’t get this, shame on you. This was an all-ages romp that anyone could enjoy, especially that third issue. It’s the live-action Speed Racer movie of the comics industry; colorful, heartwarming, densely packed with loads of action and laughs, but curiously ignored by a wider fan base. Make sure to check out the free issue when it comes out May 1st!
Chris Burnham, OFFICER DOWNE One-Shot (Image Comics)
Burnham showed in a single issue that he is one of the talents to watch in the industry. His layouts are varied but clear, his linework is clean but detailed, and it all comes together to make a beautiful package any comics reader would be proud to own.
Jonathan Hickman (S.H.I.E.L.D., FANTASTIC FOUR, Marvel Comics)
As the new writer of S.H.I.E.L.D. he’s shown a sense of creativity, and scope, while setting up an epic conspiracy that cuts into the roots of the Marvel Universe. As the new writer of FANTASTIC FOUR, he’s shown a precision and understanding of character that is perfect for such a series.
Dark Horse consistently produced excellent work all year, including some really phenomenal HELLBOY stories (see above), but the $1 re-release of classics like GROO and THE GOON really put a smile on my face this year. DC doesn’t get the award because they closed down WildStorm, a company that produced some of my favorite comics ever. Marvel released a lot of comics this year, but I only read a very limited amount, although I liked what I read. The rest were passable, so Marvel doesn’t get the reward either.
UNKNOWN SOLDIER (DC Vertigo)
This amazing series actually came to a close this year, but I will not soon forget the extremely potent and personal recreation of one of DC’s oldest war heroes. This was always the first comic I read every month, and it will be dearly missed.
Thanks Fu & Bug! Hungry for more @$$ies?
Check out BottleImp & Lyzard’s @$$ies here!
Check out Vroom Socko & Johnny Destructo’s @$$ies here!
Check out Prof. Challenger & Matt Adler’s @$$ies here!
Check out Humphrey Lee & KletusCasaday’s @$$ies here!
Look for more Thursday for our final set of @$$ies from Optimous Douche & Henry Higgins is My Homeboy! See you then!
Proofs, co-edits & common sense provided by Sleazy G