@@@ 10th ANNUAL @$$IE AWARDS! @@@
Welcome, all, to the 10th Annual AICN COMICS @$$IE AWARDS, where comics’ best and brightest are recognized for 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 and so have the number of categories. Most BEST OF… lists are posted around the first 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 @$$ie Award. For the next week, every day the @$$Holes will present their picks in 12 categories for the best of the best in comics. 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)
Best Ongoing Series!
Well, we had TRINITY WAR, which was a good example of poor writing. AGE OF ULTRON, which was about as bad as bad could be. BATTLE OF THE ATOM, which was dull and unexplained. FOREVER EVIL, which had started well, but has been sitting in neutral since. Then there was INFINITY, which had a good Thanos story and an empty Avengers story. Meanwhile THRONE OF ATLANTIS, which just barely made 2013, delivered best crossover/event. Geoff Johns had built up a lot of good Aquaman plots and brought most of them to bear here. While the Justice League didn't offer much aside from the crossover part, THRONE OF ATLANTIS delivered its promised story with better execution than the rest.
Matt Adler: HARBINGER WARS (Valiant Entertainment)
Another frequently tough category for me, as I generally have not been a fan of today's sprawling, meandering mega-events. However, for an event, Valiant's HARBINGER WARS was exceptionally well plotted and story-driven, and introduced you effectively to all of their main characters, plus it had meaningful consequences--the good guys didn't exactly win. It's really gotten me more interested in the Valiant Universe, which I would say should be the major goal of storylines like these.
Henry Higgins is My Homeboy: BATTLE OF THE ATOM (Marvel Comics)
I really like Brian M. Bendis, as the record will show. And his X-Men event was…good? I guess? It wasn't bad, even if it was lacking. Characters got into fights for no reason beyond needing to pad the running length. The ending was convoluted and quickly lost track of things, loose ends were introduced for quick drama and then were never fulfilled, and it's just full of little plot holes, but here's the thing. It's not for the part of my brain that looks for errors in storytelling. It's not for the cynic, the critic or the grownup. It's for the kid in me who wants to see future X-Men, and apocalyptic realities, and Cyclops and Wolverine staring one another down, and conflict and drama and laser beams and Sentinels and romance and Wolverine threatening to stab stuff and then Beast transforming into some new kind of Beast and oh hey! Quentin Quire is the Phoenix! And Iceman becomes Ice Wizard?!? It's a comic that only appeals to the twelve year old nerd in you, and it's very good at doing it.
Humphrey Lee: INFINITY (Marvel Comics)
I stated a few awards ago that I am, the vast majority of the time, not so big on these yearly, overblown events that are inevitable anymore in mainstream comics. They are usually bloated and have little to no consequence either immediately or within five years of being published. I also figured, though, that if anyone could change my mind on such a trope it would be the writer of PAX ROMANA, EAST OF WEST, THE MANHATTAN PROJECTS, etc. And indeed he did, to an extent. INFINITY wasn’t perfect; it was a handful of issues in the realm of excess and I have a feeling the consequences of this storyline are only going to play out as long as Hickman is heading up the bulk of the AVENGERS line and until we get a run of Marvel’s premiere superteam on the big screen. Despite all that, it still ended up as a nice big slab of good old Good vs. Evil, with stakes that will shake the universe these characters inhabit. The levels the battles go to are galaxy-shaking, lots of shifting is done in the political landscape that is the Marvel Universe’s alien relations, and bunches of characters get their time in the spotlight being awesome at what they do, like my moment of the year with Thor unleashing his might in epic fashion. INFINITY may not have changed my overall opinion on the wallet suck that these things tend to be every year, but at least he made a very good case for his ability to tell larger-than-life stories and craft badass situations for more of these stories in the future, which is a win in its own right.
Mighty Mouth: INFINITY (Marvel Comics)
Maybe it was due to the bad taste AGE OF ULTRON and THE TRINITY WAR left in my mouth, but I was ready to give up on the big event books. Then INFINITY launched. Naturally, I was very hesitant. Now I can safely say that this is how big event books should be done. With superb storytelling and lasting effect on its characters, I haven’t enjoyed a crossover this much since CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS.
Optimous Douche: BATTLE OF THE ATOM (Marvel Comics)
Yes, I am a self-professed mutie lover (once you go mutie, there's no other booty), but I saw BATTLE OF THE ATOM sway non-mutant believers as well as a swath of readers that usually have murder boners for Bendis. Even with my zealot’s devotion I scoffed at the idea of the original fab five coming to today, since it sent my mind reeling with questions. "How will they resolve the fact these kids would have now come of age in the 90s versus the 60s?" "Wouldn’t Xavier find a way to come forward once his students are missing?" "Blech, the little fuckers will be back in no time!" Bendis and Marvel surprised all, though, by deftly sidestepping the trappings and sticking to their guns by trapping the originals in the here and now.
Ambush Bug: THE HARBINGER WARS (Valiant Entertainment)
The best crossovers are not redundant, don’t feel bloated or prolonged, and make every chapter relevant. THE HARBINGER WARS, which ran through its own title, HARBINGER, and BLOODSHOT, did just that. This story about a standoff between Project Rising Spirit, Harada’s Harbinger Corporation, Pete Sanchek & the Renegades, and Bloodshot & a bunch of super powered kids he’s reluctantly protecting set against the backdrop of Las Vegas had all the makings of a clusterfuck with so many characters and different ways of thinking colliding. But wordsmith Joshua Dysart managed to keep it all together and the crossover running like a well oiled machine. Under Dysart’s pen, you got to see major developments in THE HARBINGER WARS and then the microscope was adjusted to dissect the events ROSHOMON-stylee in BLOODSHOT and HARBINGER as they all battled for their lives. Tossing H.A.R.D. Corps in late in the game made it all the more exciting, but even before that this was one of the best-orchestrated crossovers I’ve ever read.
The Kid Marvel: FOREVER EVIL (DC Comics)
Of the crossovers and big events of 2013, the biggest two were the sometimes confusing, sometimes entertaining INFINITY for Marvel and the less confusing, still entertaining and overall more enjoyable FOREVER EVIL. FOREVER EVIL is still going on and coming to a close, making it a little drawn out for a story, but nonetheless, it was much better than INIFNITY in terms of crossover events. I didn’t even consider BATTLE OF THE ATOM because it was a huge letdown, and AGE OF ULTRON was all kinds of suck. FOREVER EVIL has a world in almost complete control by villains, has unmasked Nightwing, the DC heroes thought for dead, provided some cool tie-ins for villain origin stories back in the fall, and as we’ve heard will be pivotal in further shaping the New 52 world. I am not at the point where it’s dragging on for me, but I am excited to see how the entire event concludes, especially with so many rumors of Dick Grayson’s possible death.
Vroom Socko: SANDMAN: OVERTURE (DC Comics)
This may seem like a cheat, since only one issue came out in 2013. But really, Neil Gaiman writing a new SANDMAN story? With art by J. H. Williams III? And that intriguing, unexpected, and frankly baffling QUADRUPLE PAGE SPLASH at the end of the issue? This is certainly the event of the year, no matter how you cut it.
Vroom Socko: Cyclops (Marvel Comics)
Yes, I know I said Scott Summers was a villain earlier. But let’s face facts: he’s right. Mutants are under threat like never before, and he seems to be the only one willing to stand up to that threat, the only one to put the welfare of his people ahead of himself. That makes him a hero in my book. Not one I can admire, but a hero nonetheless. Also, I can’t help seeing a lot of SCARLET in Cyclops nowadays. And with that being easily the best book Bendis has ever done, it’s a blast seeing those concepts and ideas bleeding into a mainstream superhero book. Bravo.
Masked Man: Thor (THOR: THE GOD OF THUNDER, Marvel Comics)
From the excellent THOR: THE GOD OF THUNDER series by Jason Aaron and Esad Ribic to his membership in Rick Remender's UNCANNY AVENGERS to THOR: THE DARK WORLD, Thor is the superhero I had the most fun with this year. He mixed it up with his brother Loki, battled Apocalypse and Sentry, teamed up with himself to fight the God Butcher, and he still had time to out-drink a giant and sleep with a dark elf—yup, Thor was the hero to watch last year.
Matt Adler: Quicksilver (ALL-NEW X-FACTOR, Marvel Comics)
ALL-NEW X-FACTOR reunites the arrogant, impatient speedster and the writer who gets him best: Peter David. For that alone, ALL-NEW X-FACTOR would be worth following, but it's also got a truly amusing take on Gambit and a great dynamic between Quicksilver and his half-sister, Polaris. Still, it's Quicksilver I look forward the most toward reading about each month, and if he ever gets another solo book (yeah, he had one--look it up) I hope it is in the hands of Peter David, whose brilliant analogy about waiting in line for an ATM summed up everything we needed to know about why Quicksilver is the way he is.
Henry Higgins is My Homeboy: Quentin Quire (WOLVERINE & THE X-MEN, Marvel Comics)
In the last year, some punk brat created by Grant Morrison for a singular story became the most enjoyably heroic character of the year. By happenstance and his own history he was condemned, which he then used as a cover to go save his friends from the evil Jean Grey Institute (also, THE EVIL JEAN GREY INSTITUTE). He survived vicious torture by demons and Mojo and Sauron, and then he helped lead an escape. Then he got the girl, and shot people in the face with telepathic shotguns, and now Wolverine yells at him a little less then he used to, but still a lot. He's awesome. This book is awesome.
Humphrey Lee: Daredevil (DAREDEVIL, Marvel Comics)
Adversity and identifiability are why some of the best-selling and most endearing comic book characters/superheroes are so popular. We identify with that, whether it’s a Peter Parker trying to impress a girl while juggling school and work or even a godly Superman just trying to fit in with the humans around him. Matt Murdock, aka Daredevil, aka The Blind Punching Bag, faces more adversity by lunch than any other mainstream comic character out there--especially since Mark Waid got a hold of him. From his “final” clash with his deadliest foe, Bullseye, after being driven nearly insane by the dead shot’s pinpoint psychological attacks all the way to his current ordeal of his best friend’s fight with cancer, the Matt Murdock character leaps more mountains than most of his superpowered peers. And he doesn’t always do it seamlessly. Sometimes the despair swallows him whole and spits him back out, and we’ve all been there. But he always does what heroes do and jumps right back in that gaping maw again and again because there’s people he holds dear threatened with being dragged in as well. Mr. Waid’s run on the character has exemplified this constant conflict to and bittersweet victories in between to levels that may be the highest I’ve ever read for the character and I hope that it never comes to an end, exhausting as it may be at times.
Mighty Mouth: Aquaman (AQUAMAN, DC Comics)
Usually this is an easy one for me; it’s typically Spider-Man each and every year. However, with Peter on hiatus through 2013, I think I’m going with Aquaman. Yeah, that’s right--Aquaman. Ever since issue #1, I’ve been hooked; in fact, Aquaman is the only New 52 book I pick up faithfully. Geoff Johns and Ivan Reis have really done a superb job of re-establishing the character to A-list status. I hope 2014 is just as good to the king of the seven seas.
Optimous Douche: Joe from TEN GRAND (Joe's Comics/ Image Comics)
Everyone laments the loss of the one true Constantine, and I get it--I really do. The freedom he had under Vertigo lent for a much edgier look at magic than his New 52 inclusion. For anyone really assed up about this loss as opposed to seeing the silver lining of darkening mainstream continuity, I invite you to meet Joe in Image Comics’ TEN GRAND. His missions for cash are really just an excuse for five minutes with his lady love trapped in purgatory, which makes him kind of noble. His desperate hope to atone for and escape from his past life as a hit man makes him complex. His knowledge of the arcane, including heaven and hell, makes him damn interesting.
Lyzard: Juliet, (KILL SHAKESPEARE: THE TIDE OF BLOOD, IDW Publishing)
I might come off as a feminist broken record as not only is this another KILL SHAKESPEARE choice but than I have chosen women as my favorite superhero nearly year for the @$$ies, but it is hard to come by a good female superhero (hence my excitement for the upcoming MS. MARVEL). While Hamlet was the center of the first series, his girlfriend now takes center stage. Her being paired with the weak (up until the last issue) Romeo only makes her positive qualities that much more outstanding.
Ambush Bug: Major Charlie Palmer (BLOODSHOT & H.A.R.D. CORPS, Valiant Entertainment)
I always love characters who have seen and done it all and are still living to tell the tale. The sole survivor of the original H.A.R.D. Corps team, Major Charlie Palmer aka Gunslinger is the one trying to call the shots over a team of people who have gambled their lives away in order to have superpowers for one reason or another. Since pairing up with Bloodshot, Palmer’s been the Jiminy Cricket of the team, burdened with the knowledge that his team is a bunch of lunatics and that goes doubly so for Bloodshot, who barely acknowledges his experience. While he is a behind-the-scenes player in this series so far, he is a survivor, and I hope he does so in this pairing with the one man killing machine. Fantastic writing by Josh Dysart has made Palmer my favorite character at Valiant. Here’s hoping he survives this team-up long enough to have his own H.A.R.D. CORPS series someday.
The Kid Marvel: Superior Spider-Man (SUPERIOR SPIDER-MAN, Marvel Comics)
I am someone who is willing to admit when they are wrong, and in the case of SUPERIOR SPIDER-MAN, I was wrong and the story has grown on me over the last year. I am excited for Peter Parker’s return. As much fun as SpOck’s dry, villainous dialogue and hard lined heroing is, I greatly miss the sarcastic @$$hole that is Peter Parker’s Spider-Man. That aside, SpOck has made the NSA look like chumps with the amount of surveillance he’s put New York under, and with his own team of minions, you can’t deny that’s kind of awesome for story. I’m still not a fan of Slott’s shock and wow-based writing because it lacks depth, but he has turned SUPERIOR SPIDER-MAN into a story I looked forward to finding in my bin. Slot has made Spider-Man into truly a one man team of superiority in the hero department and actually being Peter’s superior in those terms. I’m hopeful that this superiority in comparison to Peter Parker will continue in AMAZING SPIDER-MAN’s return, actually allowing or forcing the character to grow and adapt because of the way SpOck actually decreased crime and killed killers. I’m giving Superior Spider-Man hero of 2013 for taking care of business and actually ending crime, even if he’s a giant douche.
The Kid Marvel: BATMAN (DC Comics)
Making my choice for this category was in some ways difficult and in other ways easy. I had my top series as BATMAN, THOR: GOD OF THUNDER, DEADPOOL, and SUPERIOR SPIDER-MAN, but Scott Snyder’s writing by far pulled out on top. With three of my category winners being Batman-related and Snyder being my top writer for 2013, it was hard not to award BATMAN with the Best Ongoing Series. Even if the other three were also noteworthy, between the epicness of THOR: GOD OF THUNDER, quality writing and story from DEADPOOL, and a surprising turn around for me in SUPERIOR SPIDER-MAN, really liking more elements about the story than I originally did, Batman still got my nod for best series. Between the writing, the characters and overall entertainment value, BATMAN has been consistent quality as a book throughout 2013, with the conclusion of DEATH OF THE FAMILY, ZERO YEAR, and the arcs in between; I’ve loved everything from the series for the entirety of 2013 with no missteps, at least for me personally. While most of the year has really been ZERO YEAR and focusing on the origins of the New 52 Batman without focusing on the new aspects of the Dark Knight, Snyder’s take has been extremely enjoyable and I like the take he is using with Bruce in his first year back in Gotham, with a lot of excitement for what’s in store for 2014.
Vroom Socko: LAZARUS (Image Comics)
If this was only a comic about the tyranny of economic disparity, that would be one thing. If it was only a character study about personal identity, inter-family alienation, and the search for self, that would be another thing. If it was just a balls to the wall action spectacular, then it’d be a Michael Bay storyboard waiting to happen. That it’s all these things, interwoven perfectly by Greg Rucka in an exceptional story, with Michael Lark making it all look so damn good? That’s the recipe for not just the best new comic book of this year, but the best comic book, period.
Masked Man: THOR: GOD OF THUNDER (Marvel Comics)
Ever since the mighty JMS left THOR, it has been a pretty weak series. But under Jason Aaron, with Esad Ribic and Ron Garney, it's back to being a book worth reading. This past year they wrapped up the epic God Butcher story, where Thor teamed up with Thor and Thor, had a really nice Superman-ish time out story, showing Thor's softer side if you will, then turned an obvious movie tie-in story into a chance to do some epic world-building. To a degree Aaron was crafting Thor's world the same way Geoff Johns crafted Green Lantern's (minus the all the odd rainbow squads). Combined with Ribic's epic artwork, and Ive Svorcina's colors, Aaron is on his way to a classic run here.
Matt Adler: ALEX + ADA (Image Comics)
This was the last of the tough categories, but for the opposite reason of the other two. There were so many good series, how to determine which was the best? Ultimately, it has to come down to the one that intrigued me the most, that made want to know what was going to happen next. That series was ALEX + ADA, and like Y: THE LAST MAN, which was my favorite of past years, it tackles questions of sexual politics that have baffled men and women since time immemorial. What makes a person a person? What makes a relationship a relationship? What do YOU want out of a relationship? I know what I want out of a comic, and this is it. Keep me guessing, Jonathan Luna.
Henry Higgins is My Homeboy: JUSTICE LEAGU-AHAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHAAAAAAA! HA, Ohhhhhhh, HA. HA HA. HA. It's WOLVERINE AND THE X-MEN (Marvel Comics)
I love teen superheroes. The mix of youthfully discovering one's self intermixed with goofy concepts and exciting action, it just appeals to me. They're always among my favorite books at any given time, and Jason Aaron managed to write one of the best, all year round. While other titles have been flashier or bigger or even more technically sound, WOLVERINE & THE X-MEN has been effortlessly charming, engaging, funny, creative, romantic, optimistic, and overall a pure joy to read since its very first arc. This year saw a major storyline punctuated by wonderfully written and drawn comics that centered on the past and present of the X-Men as a whole. It's a love letter to what's come before, while still finding ways to be unique and incredible in its own right. WOLVERINE & THE X-MEN is ending early next year. I'm going to miss it. It's been one of the best comics in years, and easily one of the best X-Men comics I can think of off the top of my head.
Humphrey Lee: MIND MGMT (Image Comics)
I think a solid chunk of us at some point have those thoughts and internal nudges at someday writing a comic book. Maybe we look at some of the more standard fare out on the stands and think “hey, I could do that, and wouldn’t it be fun to try it out? I might even be good at it!” And then you look around and see a book called MIND MGMT. MIND MGMT is the title that crushes your aspirations at “good.” It runs on a level of craftsmanship that you would have to be delusional to think you could ever aspire to, whether you are a newbie trying to get some skin in the game or a multi-title veteran. It’s on a playing field that few could even dream of stepping onto given the skill at which it breaks down and refigures what makes the medium what it is, while also working a story and a world of secrets and adventure writers would give their firstborns to have come up with. Every issue is crammed from front to back by Matt Kindt with detail and nuance and subversiveness that at the least makes it the best bang for the buck on the stands between page count and overall story content, but also cannot help but impress with each issue as the world builds upon itself. As long as this book is around it’s going to be a benchmark for what a monthly comic can be and make its rounds on my contribution to these yearly awards.
Mighty Mouth: DAREDEVIL (Marvel Comics)
2013 had a lot of good reads, but DAREDEVIL has been the one I look forward to the most. Mark Waid really brought his A game to 2013. Every issue strikes a good balance between swashbuckling adventure and heavy-handed adversity. Chris Samnee has been creating stunning visuals that lighten the darker tones of the book and only enhance the pleasure of reading such a well-written comic. If you’re looking for a title that has few meh issues, look no further; here comes DAREDEVIL.
Optimous Douche: SAGA (Image Comics)
I read a lot of books - A LOT of books. As such, I have to triage my reading: physical comps first, virtual comps second, everything else I buy last. There's a trump card, though, and it comes in the form of an alien woman recounting her birth and the galactic brouhaha caused by her parents’ forbidden love. I screamed at this book this year—yes, actually screamed--when favorite characters seemed fallen and hope always skirted, but never blessed our heroes fully. SAGA is a story about love, family and the unending torment of being a sentient species in this universe slathered within the kookiest sci fi concepts since Terry Gilliam's “Brazil”.
Lyzard: AFTERLIFE WITH ARCHIE ( Archie Comics)
Beyond the addition of Kevin Keller, I have not been impressed with the Archie comics in quite some time. However, I still had high hopes when I got the press release about their new horror series. It wasn't until BottleImp's reviews that I at last picked up the series, and I regret waiting and having him beat me to the punch with such a stellar write-up. Imp has pretty much said all that needs to be said about the series, especially how the writing and artwork are in sync, but as an ex-fan I will say this: up to this point, the residents of Riverdale were dead to me. This series respects the dead.
Ambush Bug: ALEX+ADA (Image Comics)
It was hard for me to pick one series I think is the best, as I tend to only follow books I feel are the best these days and feel less inclined to buy out of habit or to fulfill a collection anymore. So I guess, in order to pick one, I’d have to go with the one where I absolutely can’t wait until the next issue drops immediately after I finish the current issue in my hands. While this happens occasionally for THE WALKING DEAD, SAGA, DAREDEVIL, MANIFEST DESTINY and SUPERIOR SPIDER-MAN, the one that makes me feel that way every issue so far has been ALEX+ADA. Maybe it’s because of the subtle way Jonathan Luna and Sarah Vaughan are able to flip between the overarching story of machines becoming sentient and the complex evolution of a relationship between a man who has difficulty connecting with the world and his dedicated android who lacks feelings. Or maybe because the book is filled with moments of silence that resonate on decibels that would shatter eardrums and burst hearts. Or maybe because I’m curious as to how far this book will go in terms of perfectly illustrating what it means to fall in love, what that love means, and thinking outside of the box in terms of what we need in emotional connection. Or maybe I shouldn’t question why and just enjoy ALEX+ADA for what it is—the best comic book out there. Period.
Now it’s time to pick your own @$$ies in the Talkbacks. Thirsty for more @$$ie Awards?
Favorite Super Team!
Best Artist/Art Team!
Favorite Comic Book Movie!
In Memoriam 2013…
Best Cover Art/Cover Artist!
Favorite Super Villain!
And so ends our week-long celebration of the best of the best in comics! Look for AICN COMICS REVIEWS every Wednesday, SPOILER ALERT: AICN COMICS/POPTARDS PODCAST every Tuesday, Ambush Bug’s AICN HORROR every Friday, and interviews all the days in between! Thanks to the @$$Holes, those in and out of the comic book industry, and especially those of you readers and back-talkers in the Talkbacks! It’s been a great year and we look forward to continuing to point out the best and worst in comics each and every week here on AICN!
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