@@@ AICN COMICS @@@
@@@ 8th ANNUAL @$$IE AWARDS! @@@
Welcome, all, to the 8th Annual AICN COMICS @$$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, @$$Holes will be presenting their picks for the best of the best in comics. Most awards are given around the turn of the year, but we think ours is special, so while those outside of the know celebrate the time of the Oscar, we here at AICN COMICS celebrate the time of the coveted @$$ie Award. 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)
Favorite Comic Book Team!
Best Comic Book Cover Art/Cover Artist!
Best Comic Book Miniseries!
KletusCasady - WOLVERINE -DEBT OF DEATH by David Lapham, David Aja & Betty Breitweiser
I really liked this story. I wish there was a series out that just had one shot stories about different aspects and times in Wolverine’s life, and David Aja’s wonderful art should be in every damn issue. As I said in my review of this issue, this story is good without all the superhero/robo-mech/secret agency craziness, but all those things added to an already great premise for a story and resulted in the awesomeness that is this comic. Even though I’m starting to think David Lapham might be an undercover maniac (see CROSSED & CALIGULA), he’s becoming one of my favorite writers and this issue is one of the reasons why.
Lyzard - FUBAR: EMPIRE OF THE RISING DEAD
Since I don’t keep up with DC or Marvel, I rarely come across any special or annual issues. Not sure if a graphic novel counts as a one shot, but I don’t care. FUBAR: EMPIRE OF THE RISING DEAD had to be my favorite graphic novel of the year. As I said in my review, I can’t think of many zombie period pieces, so the originality had to be one of my favorite aspects of FUBAR.
MajinFu - HELLBOY: HOUSE OF THE LIVING DEAD
Dark Horse Comics
It’s probably a little pricier than some of the other titles listed in this category, but for my money there was no better singular story this year. Continuing the one-shot from a year prior about Hellboy befriending a pair of luchador/vampire-hunter brothers, the comic combines many of the monster movie archetypes we have all come to expect over the years like the Wolf man, the Frankenstein monster, even Dracula, and manages to vivify their tired images with some new blood. Universal monster nuts will doubtless get a kick out of this story.
Vroom Socko- GINGERBREAD GIRL
Top Shelf Productions
Paul Tobin and Colleen Coover's most recent work is an examination of personal identity, a fun date, and a tour of Portland all in one. And, since the artwork is by Coover, the book looks simply ADORABLE!
Humphrey Lee - HABIBI
I had a conversation with a friend this past week concerning the quality of OGNs this past year. While we both disagreed on the overall spectrum of them (and I admit to not reading as many as I should have) we both concurred that Craig Thompson’s HABIBI was the proverbial “shiznit.” As always, Thompson’s story telling breadth is unparalleled in this book. The sweeping tale he takes his characters on in this story is unlike anything I have read in a comic before, from the events that occur to storytelling endeavors Thompson extends from his drawing arm. He really is a master of the craft and it’s both a godsend and a curse when his books come out, because the high from reading it usually means a downer of a wait until we get another.
The Writing Rambler - BATMAN: NOEL HC
Sure it was a Christmas book, and it was advertised ad nauseam in pretty much every New 52 launch book, but dammit BATMAN: NOEL was a really good read. Lee Bermejo gave us a modern classic in this reimagining of Dickens’ A CHRISTMAS CAROL, and it was a perfect ending to the year for me. His storytelling blended with his beautiful artwork made for one of my favorite Batman stories in recent memory.
Matt Adler - HABIBI HC
What can I say about HABIBI that hasn’t already been said? A moving story beautifully told and beautifully illustrated, with so much loving detail poured into every page there’s just no way not to share in Craig Thompson’s obvious passion for it. It’s a fable that blends antiquity with modernity so seamlessly you’ll forget this is not a true story.
BottleImp - SUPERMAN BEYOND #0
This One-Shot acts as a wonderful send-off to the Last Son of Krypton before the New 52 re-boot, much like Alan Moore’s “Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?” was to the pre-crisis Superman. Veteran Marvel creators Tom DeFalco, Ron Frenz and Sal Buscema apply the Mighty Marvel Method of storytelling to craft a simple yet elegant tribute to the enduring spirit of the Man of Steel. It doesn’t hurt matters that the story is set in the comic book version of Bruce Timm’s DC Animated universe—possibly the best representation of Superman and Batman ever conceived. This comic isn’t epic or world-shattering, but it doesn’t need to be. Just a great Superman story, very well-told.
Optimous Douche - GRODD OF WAR #1
I never gave two far-flung gorilla turds about GRODD pre-FLASHPOINT, but this one-shot presented a complex character as much at odds with himself as he is with the chaotic apocalyptic world around him.
Henry Higgins is My Homeboy - BATMAN: LEVIATHAN STRIKES OGN
To be frank, I am not a fan of the DC reboot. The missed opportunities, the forgotten characters, the inconsistent continuity, all of that. But nothing compares to my sheer disappointment that we have to wait for BATMAN INC to return. Grant Morrison knows just how to tease us, providing an exciting and enthralling series of battles between Bruce Wayne's army of heroes and the mysterious forces of Leviathan. With both players revealed, Morrison has set the stage for his Batman epic to end, and it's brilliant.
Russ Sheath - COBRA ANNUAL 2012: THE ORIGIN OF COBRA COMMANDER OGN
Cobra has a new leader; this annual give us an insight into his mysterious past.
Ambush Bug - ECHOES TPBK (Joshua Hale Fialkov)
Top Cow/Minotaur Press/Image Comics
Joshua Hale Fialkov’s relentless spiral into madness tale of a man investigating the last, ominous and ambiguous words from his father on his deathbed is one of the scariest and most heartbreaking books I’ve read this year. Is this all in our hero’s head or is his life really unraveling around him? Fialkov doesn’t provide easy answers and is not above misleading you throughout the story. I chose to put this collected miniseries in this one-shot special category because the presentation in collected form is packaged in such a beautiful way. Rashan Ekedal does a fantastic job of drawing both the emotive and the monstrous. Filled with horrific imagery and terrifying tomes, ECHOES is one of the most memorable horror yarns this year.
Ambush Bug - MYSTERY MEN
Having just seen that JMS decided to release the final issues of THE TWELVE, I’m reminded of a far superior comic released this year, MYSTERY MEN. This team of heroes was set in the same time as The Twelve, but writer David Liss and artist Patrick Zircher did what JMS failed to do—get a full series out this year. I fell in love with each of the troubled members of the ragtag team of vigilantes, especially The batshit crazy Surgeon who wraps his burned face like Hush and pulls a Dexter on any criminal who crosses his path. With The Aviatrix sexing up the skies and Achilles proving that just because you’re powerful doesn’t mean you’re confident, Liss and Zircher developed some fantastic heroes in just a few issues. Rounding out the cast are the vigilante team of the Operative and the Revenant, both complex characters themselves. This team may have shades of times lost heroes we’ve seen before, but unlike THE WATCHMEN and THE TWELVE, the creators set out to tell an exciting story, minus all of the pretentiousness. Here’s hoping the Mystery Men get another miniseries in 2012. They were definitely the best team I had the pleasure of reading about this year.
KletusCasady - SECRET AVENGERS
The Warren Ellis single issue bangers damn near kicked the shit out of everything else on the shelf. I love the personnel on this team and I love the one issue format on his run, mostly because it showcased what made these characters great and why each one of them was integral to the various missions. Even though I’m a big fan of Rick Remender & Gabriel Hardman (the new creative team), I was really bummed on hearing the news that Ellis was leaving. Warren Ellis helming this team was a great thing to see in action.
Vroom Socko - TAGON'S TOUGHS
What does this group have that the JLA, the Avengers, and the X-Men don't? Well, they've got a warship, an amorphous blob that eats people, and a contract to kill any lawyers they encounter. Oh, and they get paid to kick ass and take names. Top that.
Humphrey Lee - AVENGERS ACADEMY
Almost half a dozen AVENGERS titles out there, all with upper-tier talent on them, and AVENGERS ACADEMY is the only one I’m buying--it’s that good. This is easily my favorite batch of super-powered teenage misfits (and potential villains) since Brian K. Vaughan unleashed his RUNAWAYS on us. The personal ups and downs they face, combined with the wartime horrors they faced during FEAR ITSELF, has developed these characters that are less than two years old more than I’ve seen some characters that have been around for decades.
The Writing Rambler - GREEN LANTERN CORPS
Maybe I’m biased in my ignorance, but seriously, is there any better team than the fully assembled GREEN LANTERN CORPS? I mean, this is a universal collection of the greatest, most fearless warriors around. I don’t even know why this is a choice.
Matt Adler - THE BOYS
Garth Ennis has really taken this team to a new level, pushing some of the silliness to the background while making the characters, particularly Butcher and Wee Hughie, more real and more relatable by fleshing them out in their own miniseries. And it never hurts to see them go out and kick some superhero ass. The stakes have really been raised for this team, and when the end finally comes, I’ll be sad to see them go.
BottleImp - X-Factor Investigations, X-FACTOR
Superhero teams aren’t just about different powers—they’re about different personalities. As much as the heroes interact with their opponents, they need to have interesting interactions amongst themselves, or else the monthly adventures quickly turn bland and predictable. For my money, there’s no superhero team more interesting in their own interactions than Peter David’s band of mutant misfits. Here are characters more defined by their quirks and flaws than by their abilities, a team of third-string losers that somehow manage to work together to take on evil sorcerers, Asgardian deities, demonic assassins or even a picket line of demolition workers. They may not be as noble as the Avengers or as extreme as the X-Men, but X-Factor Investigations’ blue-collar vibe makes their adventures all the more enjoyable.
Optimous Douche - JUSTICE LEAGUE DARK
Magic and mystery are part of their history along with the secret of Gummi Berry Juice…ooops…wrong team. I really thought when the new DC was launched that my top pick would be JUSTICE LEAGUE INTERNATIONAL. Yes, I was basing this belief on nostalgia, and as we have seen this is not your Father’s (or your) JLI. JUSTICE LEAGUE DARK, even though it skirts the fringe of main DC continuity, is exactly what I wanted from JLI. The team came together for a purpose, isn’t afraid of snark and actually applies rules to magic instead of it simply being a golden parachute.
Henry Higgins is My Homeboy - UNCANNY X-FORCE
Never thought I'd be saying this about something titled X-FORCE, but, well, this is a fantastic series. The "covert squad led by Wolverine" plot has been used before, but nowhere near as engaging as it is here. Focusing on the characters within these grand events, Remender and Opena have constructed one of the most consistent and innovative series being put out right now.
Russ Sheath - RED HOOD & THE OUTLAWS
I had no idea who these characters were before the new 52, but Lobdell and Rocafort have made me a fan. Such a fun book and one of the books I look forward most to.
Russ Sheath - SUPERIOR
Millar's take on Millarworld's own Superman or Captain Marvel, with the trademark Millar flair.
Ambush Bug - CRAWL TO ME by Alan Robert
I probably would have chosen Alan Robert’s miniseries about twisted reality and madness descending even before I read the absolutely kick-you-in-the-dick ending for best miniseries, but read as a whole, I can’t help but push this book to be read by as many folks as possible. Robert both wrote and illustrated this one in his own photorealistic, computer-rendered drawing style. There are panels in this book that are just bone-chilling, and the story is structured to mislead and flip expectations. The story involves a dog, a child, a crawlspace, and well…I don’t want to ruin it. Just know that this is one of the coolest miniseries of the year and leave it at that.
KletusCasady - THE STRANGE TALENT OF LUTHER STRODE by Justin Jordan & Tradd Moore
Even though this has a very similar feel and a slightly similar story to KICK ASS, I might even like it more. It doesn’t seem more realistic, but it is more believable in my opinion, and the art is really great. Hell, I think I even like the writing better in this story too. It seems like they took everything that didn’t work with KICK ASS and made it better. The dialog is funny, the story is cool and the art kicks ass!
MajinFu - VENGEANCE
I reviewed this series several times last year so I’ll spare you the endless praise. Not since RUNAWAYS has youth rallying against experience been so exciting and unpredictable. VENGEANCE by Joe Casey and Nick Dragotta is a comic rich with unique characters challenging old villains and actually holding their own. If you like your super-folks a little less traditional, this is the book for you.
Vroom Socko - AXE COP: BAD GUY EARTH
Dark Horse Comics
Is there a comic that's crazier, more fun, and a grander example of imagination than AXE COP? If there is, it didn't come out this year, and the art wasn't as killer.
Humphrey Lee - SEVERED
Two things that Scott Snyder has shown me since he has come onto the comic book scene a couple years ago: The man knows horror and he knows Americana. AMERICAN VAMPIRE has thrived by keeping a foothold in both of these genres, and SEVERED has been well served by this balance as well. The terror that has been building since series lead Jack has met and “teamed up” with bloodthirsty sadist Alan to find his father has been absolutely palpable. Add to it the sense of American nostalgia rife in the setting – with outstanding art to compliment it – and this book has been a joy to read up to its soon to be end.
The Writing Rambler - FLASHPOINT: BATMAN: KNIGHT OF VENGEANCE
It was the best part of the entire FLASHPOINT event and probably my favorite book of last summer. This simple 3 part story about a world where Bruce had died in Crime Alley that fateful night instead of Thomas and Martha Wayne was better than both of Marvel & DC’s big events combined. Masterfully handled by the team of Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Risso, this book had everything and was just about as perfect as a BATMAN story could get.
Matt Adler - THE STRANGE TALENT OF LUTHER STRODE
I was a latecomer to this series, and it hasn’t quite finished yet, but it started in 2011, so gosh darnit, it’s eligible. And I’m glad, because I was really surprised by how much I enjoyed this. It starts off a little gory, but the core of the series is an exciting and suspenseful exploration of the classic maxim: be careful what you wish for.
BottleImp - WITCH DOCTOR
What do you get when you cross the acerbic wit and medical techno-jargon of television’s “House M.D.” with a supernatural world of demonic possessions, Lovecraftian monsters and the legend of King Arthur? You get the brilliantly executed WITCH DOCTOR, a genre-mashing four issues of blood, guts and, most importantly, a wonderful sense of FUN. Brandon Seifert writes the exploits of Dr. Vincent Morrow and his two assistants (the human Eric Gast and the less than/more than human Penny Dreadful) with a palpable glee, finding the humor in situations ranging from Fish People from the Deep to demonic changeling children. Artist Lukas Ketner brings an almost retro sensibility to the visuals, his loose brushwork evoking the classic horror artwork of CREEPY, EERIE, and the early work of Bernie Wrightson. Together, the words and pictures make WITCH DOCTOR one of the brightest and most entertaining comics to hit the stands in 2011.
Optimous Douche - BATMAN: GATES OF GOTHAM
Scott Snyder remembers one fundamental tenet in all of his writing: the setting is just as much a character as the meatbags who talk and walk. With GATES, Snyder ret-conned a little Gotham family history and breathed whole lot of new life into the City Never at Peace.
Henry Higgins is My Homeboy - HELLBOY: THE FURY
Dark Horse Comics
Mike Mignola has, with one short story, crafted one of the best departures in comic history. It's not just that it's a good conclusion to a great Hellboy story, or that's it's a great final bow for one of the most memorable characters introduced in the last twenty years; It's that it's a damn good story on it's own. A testament to Mignola's grasp on his universe, THE FURY manages to grab the attention of anyone, even those who aren't the biggest Hellboy fanboys.
Henry Higgins is My Homeboy - Joao Ruas (FABLES #111)
Joao Raus had one of the most undesirable follow ups in recent memory. No one wanted to be the person who followed James Jean on FABLES, and why would they? Whatever achievements they accomplished would be overshadowed by his past work on the title. But Ruas has somehow managed to give even the best of James Jean's portfolio a run. It's stunning, well crafted and, I realize that this might be an odd sentence, very comic book-y. It's well done art, framed as a funny book.
Russ Sheath - Bryan Hitch on the PUNISHER covers.
Check out PUNISHER Issues 1 to 8. Hitch has proven whether a one man vengeance-fuelled vigilante or a super team with a cast of hundreds, he can draw anything.
Ambush Bug - Lukas Ketner (WITCH DOCTOR)
Iconic and original, while lauding back to some of horror’s most memorable cinematic moments of terror, Lukas Ketner collaborated with writer Brandon Seifert to bring horror and procedural medicine together in unholy matrimony. But in order for folks to pick up the book, the miniseries had to have an iconic cover. Ketner delivered in spades, especially with this first issue cover of the good doctor taking the vitals on a possessed person doing Linda Blair’s famous crab walk from THE EXORCIST. It’s wacky and horrific all at once and my favorite comic book cover of the year!
KletusCasady - Raulo Caceres (CROSSED: PSYCHOPATH)
The covers for CROSSED: PSYCHOPATH have been fucked up, ridiculous, deplorable, offensive, bloody, disgusting, shocking, appalling, and definitely not something I feel comfortable with displaying at the comic shop--is that why I love them so much?!?! These covers are really great because of how awesomely repulsive they are, and each issue seems to want to take that repulsiveness a step further, and you know what makes it even better…the art is really good…hauntingly…good. The gore and the wrap covers are awesome (see the wrap or torture cover for issue 5) but the cover for the HC (shown here) is my personal fave…as fucked up as this comic is, the art and covers are great!
Lyzard - FUBAR: EMPIRE OF THE RISING DEAD
Though it may be redundant at this point, FUBAR had the best cover of the year for me. This was a hard choice, because there were many covers that tied in well to the stories. However, Danilo Beyruth’s cover for FUBAR: EMPIRE OF THE RISING DEAD had the most dynamic design. It caught my eye immediately, so I guess you can sometimes judge a book based on its cover.
MajinFu - SECRET AVENGERS #18 by David Aja
Is that cover by David Aja in 3D? It’s like a kung-fu movie is bursting through my comic book and exploding my face! As an unabashed Bruce Lee nut, this was a shoe-in.
Vroom Socko - SCARLET #4 by Alex Maleev
With one cover, Alex Maleev encapsulated not only this book, but the entire sociopolitical year. That, and it looks killer, too.
Humphrey Lee - DETECTIVE COMICS #880 by Jock
Not to add a qualifier to this, but my usual go to guy in this category is Dave Johnson, as I feel he is pretty much the premiere “career” cover guy in the business (basically the man who “gets it” when it comes to cover design). But this Jock cover absolutely kills it, so much to the point where Mr. Johnson himself, via his blog, says it should win awards, and he is absolutely correct. The design and detail of it alone are staggering, and it is the best example of a body of work on DETECTIVE COMICS this past year that are among some of the finest cover work I’ve seen in a long while. Oh, and he’s still killing it on his SCALPED cover jaunts as well. The only downside to this Jock explosion is that any time we see copious amounts of the man we usually see a recession following as he recoups and prepares to unleash his talents on the comic world once again. Might as well accolade the hell out of it while it’s here.
The Writing Rambler - DETECTIVE COMICS #880 by Jock
This is definitely my favorite cover of this past year (mostly because I’m afraid if I don’t vote for it, it will kill me when I’m sleeping). Artist Jock created one of the most simple, yet haunting images of the Joker I have ever seen, period. I dare anyone to stare at it for a minute straight without getting even the slightest bit creeped out.
Matt Adler - AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #665 by Paolo Rivera
Confession time: I don’t read ASM regularly. But even so, this cover just jumps off the stands. Paola Rivera is great on just about anything he does, and this is no exception. The concept, the design, and execution are all flawless—it takes apart the logo in a way that is innovative and clever, and yet leaves you no doubt about whose comic this is.
BottleImp - Cliff Chiang & Jared Fletcher, DEADMAN AND THE FLYING GRAYSONS #1-3
I’m judging this category by how well a cover convinced me to buy the comic to find out what was inside. For the Flashpoint miniseries of DEADMAN AND THE FLYING GRAYSONS, Cliff Chiang and Jared Fletcher created three retro, poster-like covers that nearly jumped off the stands and into my hands. How was the series itself? Not important—those covers did their job, and they did it well.
Optimous Douche - Chrissie Zullo on CINDERELLA
Zullo is one of the few cover artists that realizes style should never supersede purpose. While she portrays a cupie-doll almost child visage of characters, it was done with purpose on this series to juxtapose the expectation of CINDERELLA being a child’s heroine versus the very mature portrayal within the pages of the book. Oh, and they are damn pretty to look at.
Look for more @$$ie Awards Picks all week from the @$$holes at AICN COMICS!
Proofs, co-edits & common sense provided by Sleazy G