By Owen Craig
Series of the Year — The Unwritten by Mike Carey and Peter Gross
Every time I finish an issue of The Unwriten I feel like I had read something special. Mike Carey and Peter Gross have crafted a wonderful comic, an engaging reading experience that gets better with each issue. This is especially notable since the first issue was one of the best first issues I read all year. Carey’s concept is a fantastic one, and he builds on it in fascinating ways as the series progresses, notably in the way the themes of literary and internet cultures are explored. At the centre of it, though, are the characters, and the characters are great. At the time of this writing they’re still rather mysterious, but in an exciting way rather than in off-putting way. All of this is backed up by Peter Gross’ fantastic artwork. At once both simple and detailed, he plays with style in a way that backs up all of Carey’s work while also building on the shifts in tone and storytelling method that go into every issue. The first volume will be out shortly, do yourself a favour and buy it. This is the best comic of the year, easily.
New Series of the Year — Chew by John Layman and Rob Guillory
(Note: even though it’s new this year I’m eliminating The Unwritten from competition, since it’s already won my “Series of the Year” award.) When a comic GAINS readers every issue that’s usually a sign that something great is out there. After I picked up the first volume of Chew I saw what all the fuss was about: this is a great series. It’s inventive, creepy, funny and a complete blast to read. The characters are well crafted, the stories are beautifully told and Rob Guillory’s art is a perfect fit. I’m thrilled to have picked up the first volume and can’t wait for the second. If more procedural cop shows were as original and engaging as Chew I might actually watch some.
Writer of the Year — Jason Aaron (Scalped, Ghost Rider, Wolverine: Weapon X, Punishermax, Immortal Weapons: Fat Cobra)
I hate Ghost Rider… Jason Aaron made me like a Ghost Rider comic. I hate Punisher… Jason Aaron made me like a Punisher comic. I was sick of Wolverine comics… Jason Aaron made reading a new Wolverine comic worthwhile. Noticing a trend here? Jason Aaron is freaking awesome. More than that, Jason Aaron gets comics. He gets how to write them, he gets why people read them and he makes them fun to read. No… that undersells it. Not only are his comics fun to read, they also get you invested. He combines his sense of fun with great character development, mind-shattering plot twists and wonderfully choreographed action scenes. And I haven’t even touched on Scalped, yet! Scalped is easily one of the best comics on the stands, a book I anticipate eagerly every time it comes out. It’s gritty, it’s intense and it’s got some of the best storytelling in comics today. If you’re standing in the store wondering what to buy, I say grab anything with Jason Aaron’s name on it and you’ll be in good hands.
Artist of the Year — JH Williams III (Detective Comics)
Miles and I don’t often agree on non-Brian K Vaughan comics, but I’m 100% with him here. JH Williams is unbelievable. His amazing pencil-work and work with colour isn’t enough, he goes beyond that and reinvents himself with every issue of Detective Comics. Between issues, scenes, or sometimes even on the same page Williams adapts his work to best fit the story being told. He certainly goes above and beyond what is expected of an artist on a book and the extra effort shows, making Detective Comics an amazing reading experience.
Cover of the Year — The Unwritten #4 by Peter Gross
I don’t know how to explain why I love this cover so much, but there’s something about it that made me stare at it when it was in my hands. I’m a big fan of any cover that’s not just the lead characters in generic poses, so already this cover had a leg up, but the way Peter Gross drew the map and integrated the main characters and key story elements into it looks amazing.
Villain of the Year — The Plutonian (Irredeemable)
This guy is nuts! Mark Waid has crafted a genuinely scary villain here, and what’s scarier is he used to be the world’s greatest hero. One of my favourite aspects of this character is the way he doesn’t even see people as people anymore. He kills them as if they were bugs. I’m looking forward to seeing Waid further develop The Plutonian, and I also can’t wait to see if he can make us feel sorry for this guy.
Hero of the Year — Hercules (Incredible Hercules, Mighty Avengers)
I loved watching Incredible Hercules gradually become my favourite Marvel comic, and on top of that watching Hercules gradually go from being a character I had no interest in to one of my favourites in the Marvel universe. He’s rude, self-absorbed and boorish, but he also shows a lot of compassion. His friendship with Amadeus Cho is one of my favourite relationships in comic and he also makes Mighty Avengers a better comic simply by being in it. He is currently in the process of saving the world, and furthermore he is making my comic-reading a better experience on a monthly basis. Pretty darn heroic, I say.
Splash Page of the Year — Adventure Comics #1 by Francis Manapul
In one image Francis Manapul made me want to read this comic. I had no interest in Superboy, but when I saw this image in a preview I thought that this looked like a comic I wanted to buy. How’s that for an endorsement?
Fight of the Year — Hercules dressed as Thor vs. Thor dressed as Hercules (Incredible Hercules #136)
Come on, how can it be anything else? It’s the funniest moment in comics this year, and is every bit as awesome as it sounds. Seeing these two beat on each-other, all the while conscious of how their performance in this fight will affect their opponent’s reputation makes for great reading.
Saddest Cancellation/Biggest Disappointment — Geoff Johns and Francis Manapul leaving Adventure Comics so soon
I mentioned before how I wasn’t that interested in this title when it was first announced, well after one issue I was hooked. I loved reading about Superboy’s adventures in Smallville, I loved the supporting cast and I loved the small-town setting. Finding out that Johns’ long-term plans would be delayed indefinitely (if they ever happen at all) because he was leaving the title left me crestfallen. Sure, the team was moving over to a Flash title, but I had gotten rather invested in Superboy’s story. Now I will probably never get to see that story come to pass. Sigh.
Most Pleasant Surprise — Irredeemable by Mark Waid and Peter Krause
Here’s a quick tip about how to make me NOT want to read your comic: “it’s a twist on the Superman character”. Yawn. Next. Needless to say I passed on Irredeemable, but the funny thing is I kept hearing good things. So I picked up the first trade (tantalizing priced at ten dollars) and was shocked to learn that it is really freaking good! Mark Waid has created a great world, full of compelling characters and a fantastically structured story. Slowly learning the story of how the world’s greatest superhero turned evil is incredibly engaging. Going from a comic I had no interested in, to one which I can’t wait for the next volume of is an impressive feat. Kudos, Mr. Waid.