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AICN COMICS Celebrates the 13th Annual @$$ie Awards Day Four: Best Cover Art/Cover Artist! Favorite Villain! Best Writer!

Logo by Kristian Horn
@@@ 13th ANNUAL @$$IE AWARDS! @@@

Welcome, all, to the 13th 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 Mark L. Miller aka Ambush Bug, editor for AICN COMICS / AICN HORROR. This is the point in the Awards show where they comment on how on or off time they are. In this case, we are currently on time, unlike most publishers in the comic book industry.

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 the awards have grown in number through the year, so I decided to spread it out all week to post the @$$Holes’ picks for the best of the best in comics. Most awards are given around the turn of the year, but we think ours is kind of special, so while those outside of the know celebrate the time of the Oscar, we here at AICN COMICS celebrate the time of the coveted @$$ie Award. So sit back, crack the knuckles in your browsing hand, and scroll down as the @$$Holes pick the @$$ies!

And the @$$ie goes to…
(Click title to go directly to the category)

Best Cover/Cover Artist!
Favorite Villain!
Best Writer!

Best Comic Book Cover/Cover Artist!

Justin Burkhardt & @justinburkhardt - Jamie McKelvie (HEARTTHROB #1, Oni Press)

I absolutely love McKelvie’s covers. His covers always catch my eye when I’m checking out any comic store’s new release wall. My favorite cover from this year was the variant to HEARTTHROB #1 from Oni Press. The cover, done by McKelvie, is an homage to the Fleetwood Mac album Rumours. Jamie has also done some really cool tour posters for the band CHVRCHES (and also a music video this year) that are worth checking out as well.

Masked Man - Genndy Tartakovsky (CAGE #3, Marvel Comics)

Not to say there were nothing but bad covers this year, but very few of them stuck me as “Best of the Year” material. I often say a great cover is something you'd like to have as a poster. And one poster I'd love to have is the awesome Blaxploitation-ness of Genndy Tartakovsky's CAGE #3. Can you dig it! It's one half cool and one half cheesy (and I ain’t talk'n the cake), as was the whole series. Just MAD Magazine crazy that one. And Tartkovsky is just one of the best graphic storytellers ever.

Humphrey Lee – Mike Del Mundo (THE VISION, Marvel Comics)

Man, this guy just fucking gets the art of the comic book cover. Every time I see a book adorned with Mike Del Mundo’s artwork, it’s always something playful or resonant of the material underneath or degrees of both. And they are always, of course, absolutely gorgeous pieces of art to look at and set a high standard for the work inside as well. As long as this talented gentleman continues to be prolific in making these adornments for comic shop racks, I imagine I’m going to keep singing praises in these yearly columns.

Ambush Bug - Andy Kubert (THE DARK KNIGHT III: THE MASTER RACE #4, DC Comics)

As much as I loathe what this series unraveled to be, I have to admit, one of the coolest covers of the year came from Frank Miller’s limp back into Dark Knight territory. The image of rage-filled Kandorians bursting through the clouds lit by the Bat-Signal is iconically rendered by artist Andy Kubert. While I don’t necessarily want to see a DARK KNIGHT III: THE MASTER RACE movie, a version of this image on screen would be pretty amazing to see. Nevertheless, despite a tepid series, this cover simply rocks!

Optimous Douche aka Rob Patey - Andrew Robinson (BLACK SCIENCE, Image Comics)

Not only is Robinson able to do a hyper-realistic version of Scalera and White's interior pencils, but the extra large white gutters on the side of that imagery help drive home a covers' primary purpose in life - stand out on the shelves. PAPER GIRLS was a close second for me with it's bold pastel backgrounds, but the minimalist sketches of our 80's ladies has always been too subdued for me.

Favorite Villain!

Optimous Douche aka Rob Patey - Leukemia (PAPER GIRLS, Image Comics)

Sure capes and tights doing epic fights is what comic books are made of. But my most gut wrenching end to a hero in '16 was delivered to that hero while they were still breathing. For those that don't know PAPER GIRLS; take four girls from the 80', dump them in modern day, and then throw a bunch of crazy shit from 20 years after tomorrow. As the girls try to find their more womanly modern day selves, the bad girl chain smoking Mac learns from the current occupant of her former abode that the last owners moved after their daughter died of leukemia. Heady shit for someone who doesn't even have a smoker cough yet.

Justin Burkhardt & @justinburkhardt - Darth Vader (DARTH VADER, Marvel Comics)

Like the movie ROGUE ONE, STAR WARS: DARTH VADER helped to further established Vader as one of the most powerful villains in the galaxy. The Marvel series, which ended after issue #25 in October, gave us new Vader cannon that should be read by all fans of the Star Wars Universe. It also spawned a new on-going series, DR. APHRA, which features fan-favorite Dr. Aphra and the evil droids 0-0-0 & BT-1.

Masked Man - Captain Marvel (CIVIL WAR II, Marvel Comics)

No supervillain really stood out for me this year. On some level it seems like super villains don't get much play anymore. So I just picked the character I had the most hate for this year: Carol Danvers, Captain Marvel. She started a Civil War and killed Iron Man. And instead of Marvel recasting her as villain, they made her the most popular superhero in the Marvel U (no, "lock her up" chants?). It's funny how Marvel wants to turn Captain Marvel into their Wonder Woman, and just like DC they have no idea what to do with her.

Humphrey Lee – Deathstroke (DEATHSTROKE, DC Comics)

When you combine one of the more visionary writers in the medium with one of its most complex villains, you more or less expect magic to happen, but not on the scale that has occurred since Slade Wilson, aka Deathstroke, got his own REBIRTH treatment with Christopher Priest as his guiding voice. The torturer of many a Teen Titan, Slade his complicated code of conduct and actually goddamn insane family circle have been on full display and making for riveting as hell material since panel one. Whether he’s helping to topple dictators or using money trails from the operation to set up American politicians or using more or less nothing but his wits and uber-strategic mind to put even motherfucking Superman in check; Slade’s been every bit of the badass, scary skillful and smart villain (who occasionally dabbles in “anti-hero”) that you could ever hope a talent like Priest would do justice in making you kind of feel dirty about cheering.

Ambush Bug - Godspeed (THE FLASH, DC Comics)

It’s been quite a while since a new, formidable foe has been created in either Marvel or DC. These days, simply recasting an old villain or hero as the opposite gender or some unrepresented cultural group seems to be the only way we get new characters these days. But this year, as if he didn’t have enough Rogues in his Gallery, the Flash received a new formidable foe in Godspeed. While on the surface he may just look like another speedster, his back-story (which I won’t reveal here because it was a major mystery for the first few issues since FLASH REBIRTH) and a tweak on the speed powers (Godspeed not only can steal the speed of others, but he is so fast he can appear in two places at once—not even Barry can do that!) is all that is needed to make a brand spankin’ new foe. And while there seems to be a speedster for every color of the rainbow, Godspeed’s white costume just feels cool as shit to me. Though the Flash eventually beat Godspeed, I can’t wait for him to unleash another holy terror upon Central City again!

Best Writer!

Ambush Bug - Peter J. Tomasi (SUPERMAN/HOUSE OF PENANCE, DC Comics/ Dark Horse Comics)

Some writers are good at dialog. Others are good at coming up with big ideas. Others are able to compel you with vivid tales of terror and adventure. Others are great at developing memorable characters that touch the heart. And still others are downright hilarious. But to me, what makes an exceptional writer is range to not only do one of these things effectively, but all of them. Peter J. Tomasi has exemplified all of these writing traits through the year and this year he has topped himself. We knew he could write touching stories from his time on BATMAN & ROBIN, but he imbues a sense of iconic heft to the ground level stories of the Kent Family in SUPERMAN every month (which he co-writes with Patrick Gleason). And then he comes out and delivers a poignant, yet powerfully scary horror series like HOUSE OF PENANCE that would make for a horror movie better than the last ten BlumHouse put out. Being able to change genres and styles seems to be easy for Tomasi—a writer who can harness humanity in all of its strengths and weaknesses unlike most in the comics biz.

Optimous Douche aka Rob Patey - Tom King (BATMAN/SHERIFF OF BABYLON/THE VISION, DC Comics/DC Vertigo/Marvel Comics)

There were a lot of great contributions to the panels this year, but King gets my @$$ie this year for being one of the hardest workers in comics with the most diverse lineups of offerings. When he was thrust on the scene with SHERIFF OF BABYLON it made perfect sense that an ex-CIA guy could write a soap opera set in Iraq post Saddam Hussein. But then King kicked in our teeth with the silicon suburban nightmare that was THE VISION family. Not only did that series entertain, it melded horror into the philosophical questions of what constitutes a living being. Then he simply kicked ass rebirthing BATMAN over at DC with Gotham and Gotham Girl. Well done sir, well done indeed.

Justin Burkhardt & @justinburkhardt - Brian K Vaughan (SAGA/PAPER GIRLS, Image Comics)

I went back and forth between Vaughan and Tom King, but in the end, SAGA and PAPER GIRLS are two of the best on-going comics right now, so that’s why I went with Vaughan. SAGA eclipsed 40 issues this year and is still one of the best comics out there. PAPER GIRLS started its third arc this month and is a must-read for any children of the 80’s and 90’s.

Masked Man - Jeff Lemire (MOON KNIGHT/INHUMANS VS X-MEN, Marvel Comics)

Fan fav, Jeff Lemire has been around a while now. But as I'm mostly an action/adventure reader I haven't seen too much of his stuff, until this year. And it's clearly been the most interesting. He takes old concepts, twists them around and makes them interesting again. He doesn't rely on gimmicks, and seems to write more from the character's logic than plot forcing. If writer desires an “atta boy” this year, it's him.

Humphrey Lee – Jeff Lemire (Dark Horse Comics, Image Comics, Valiant Entertainment, Marvel)

I’ve always said here that I tend to (probably) unfairly back “workhorses” when it comes to this category. But when you buy and read something like fifty titles a month, plus another dozen or so more in TPB form, when someone is writing literally ten percent of that material and it’s always at the top priority of your pile, that makes an already compelling case into something that is open-and-shut. In 2016 Jeff Lemire launched two new creator-owned books with insanely talented artists in DESCENDER and THE BLACK HAMMER, both of which are at the top of my pile every time they release. He also is deconstructing and recreating MOON KNIGHT for Marvel in a way that is riveting and long overdue. He’s taking BLOODSHOT to a new level at Valiant, and while he was at it he wrote some X-Books, which I honestly don’t even read on the back of the convoluted state of X-Men books in general and yet I still regretted that every time I saw them on the shelf. When you’re batting a thousand (or near it) and coming up to the plate several times a month, you tend to win MVP. Bonus points to the man for being such a huge hockey fan as well, making my default to the baseball metaphor just now even more jarring.

Now it’s time to pick your own @$$ies in the Talkbacks. Thirsty for more @$$ie Awards? Here is a link to the rest of the picks from this week!
Best Single Moment/Single Issue
Best Miniseries
Best Publisher

Best One-Shot/Annual/OGN
Favorite Super Team
Best Artist/Art Team

Best Comic Book TV Show
Best Realized Comic Book Character on TV/Movies
Best Comic Book Movie

In Memoriam…

Look for more tomorrow when we pick Best Crossover, Favorite Hero, Best Ongoing Series!

Editing, compiling, imaging, coding, logos & cat-wrangling by Ambush Bug
Proofs, co-edits & common sense provided by Sleazy G

Remember, if you have a comic book you’d like one of the @$$holes to take a look at, click on your favorite reviewer’s link and drop us an email.

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