Comic Book Awards For December

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December’s dozen or so comics said goodbye to 2015 on good terms for me. The second-to-last issue of Secret Wars released, a highlight of the month, with all-out war progressing on Castle Doom. Even if the conclusion will be an extra-sized issue, I’m remaining on the edge of my skeptical seat to see just how Mr. Hickman plans to finally finish what his very first Avengers issue began a few years ago and additionally birth this “new” Marvel universe. I had a great time with the humorous, mystery-narrative driven Doctor Strange #3 by Jason Aaron and Chris Bachalo and the third issue of The Astonishing Ant-Man picked up where #2 left off, Sam Wilson as Captain America asking Ant-Man for some assistance amidst Lang’s unfortunate but always entertaining troubles. Part III of the Vader Down crossover came in Star Wars #13 with excellent art from the popular Mike Deodato, the 9th Doctor’s miniseries concluded with #5 (soon to return from Titan as an ongoing series) as he and his two companions – Jack Harkness and Rose – extinguished the fight between the Unon and the Lect, and Kang’s toll on Black Bolt’s son, Ahura, is fully realized by the surviving Inhumans (including Black Bolt himself) in the intense Uncanny Inhumans #3. The fourth issue of Invincible Iron Man proposes Mary Jane’s introduction into the world of Tony Stark, but she’s only teased by the end of the comic. Doctor Who: New Adventures With The Eight Doctor continues to be somewhat of an underwhelming book with its second issue, however, Year Two of the Eleventh Doctor is living up to be a wonderfully written Doctor Who comic book in almost all respects.

And so, out of these and other nominees, which comics received the Comic Book Awards for December?

Cover of the Month Award: Uncanny Inhumans #3

Cover Artists: Steve McNiven, Jay Leisten, and Justin Ponsor

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The cover for Uncanny Inhumans #3 – pencils by McNiven, inks by Leisten, and colors by Ponsor – is gripping. Former Inhuman king Black Bolt is roaring in anguish as spreading flames of fire terrorize his image and, despite the subject matter, it’s conveyed splendidly by the artists. I appreciate how close up and direct this cover is, and exactly because of that, it sells the thought of the torturous pain on Black Bolt’s angled face (this and his eyes slits of pure black to add dramatic effect). The prominent orange/red of the cover for Uncanny Inhumans #3 is vibrantly contrasted against the two bursts of bright white-blue coming from his antenna and mouth, also. Packing a real, impactful sonic punch, this is definitely the Cover of the Month for December 2015.

Art of the Month Award: Doctor Who: The Eleventh Doctor Year Two #3

Artist: Simon Fraser

Colorist: Gary Caldwell

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It is my notion that those who critique comic book artists would likely agree with me in that penciller and inker Simon Fraser’s work is just shy of above average. From my limited experience of his artistic exposure, he is one of those artists that when you examine a page or panel he’s done, it’s simply fabulous, but then you flip the page or look at the following panel and then you all of a sudden wonder why a character looks like he or she was drawn in two seconds. Fraser has his moments, I should say, and while his lack of detail or accurate proportions hurts his style to an extent, it is also what enhances his style to better appreciate its own unique facets. He has been the strongest artistic contributor to the Doctor Who: The 11th Doctor comic book (rotating with Warren Pleece at times), and over the course of the series Fraser has exponentially grown on me. Providing Doctor Who: The 11th Doctor with arguably its best issues visually, along with colorist Gary Caldwell, Year Two #3 will be added to a top spot on the list. If you noticed, the issue alternates between one page splash pages and eight-panel pages throughout. The method works spectacularly for emphasizing key story points and this subtly opens up the structure of the comic in its entirety, making for such an enjoyable read. I’m not lying when I state these images that take advantage of the entire page (a.k.a. splash pages in comic book rhetoric) are some of the series’ most impressive to date and page sixteen may even give goosebumps to Whovians. Caldwell’s colorist abilities add to Year Two #3’s lasting result in essential ways with how he cleverly differentiates scenes and characters as well, leaving the panels with Alice and Squire with grey and purple values and the panels with The Doctor with a variety. Doctor Who: The 11th Doctor Year Two #3 is a comic book issue that you can tell was approached with shining confidence on an artistic, creative level.

Story of the Month Award: Secret Wars #8 (“Under Siege”)

Writer: Jonathan Hickman

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Jonathan Hickman’s Secret Wars was initially supposed to be an eight issue limited series. I do not know the behind-the-scenes reasons for why they extended it to a ninth issue, but because of what, and how much, is going in Secret Wars #8, I can positively understand the extension. War has reached Castle Doom and with it a sky scraper-sized Thing, opposing kingdoms of Battleworld, and, by the end of the issue, the ghoulish undead lead by Namor and Black Panther, who courageously wields the treasured Infinity Gauntlet. Hickman isn’t known for action-oriented issues, but Secret Wars #8 breaks that mold. Galactus, controlled by Franklin Richards, engages The Thing in a monumental explosive clash and the Thanos confronts God Doom that reaches an ugly, terrific ending for the tyrant. Without giving anymore away from this historic run, the majority of the issue is an abundance of epic combat that is balanced by parts of tension-filled dialogue and you’ll be dying to pick up Secret Wars #9 (which is out now!) in the aftermath.

Issue of the Month Award: Uncanny Inhumans #3 

Writer: Charles Soule

Penciller: Steve McNiven

Inker: Jay Leisten

Colorists: Sunny Gho and Java Tartaglia 

Cover Artists: Steve McNiven, Jay Leisten, and Justin Ponsor 

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With just the four issues released so far (counting the zero issue), Uncanny Inhumans has already taken pretty bold steps. If you’re unaware of the current happenings in the storyline, Black Bolt gave his son to the time-traveling villain Kang in the event of the assumed “end of everything” heralded by the incursions from other universes (read Hickman’s legendary New Avengers for clarification). Since existence did not cease to exist, however, Black Bolt wants his son back (and tries to retrieve him in Uncanny Inhumans #1) but Kang, as you could imagine, will not have that whatsoever. To punish Black Bolt for his offense, Kang has set out to obliterate the Inhumans from the timeline and has taken Black Bolt’s son, Ahura, as his apprentice, using him to massacre his own ancestors. Uncanny Inhumans #3sees the confrontation between the handful of surviving Inhumans and their allies – Black Bolt, Medusa, Beast, Johnny Storm, Triton, Iso, and Reader (my personal new favorite) – against Ahura, who has aged decades. With that platform, the issue becomes an engaging twenty pages of raving, intense skirmishes. It wouldn’t have turned out as powerful without Steve McNiven’s remarkable interpretation of writer Charles Soule’s script. His crisp pencils give the prominent moments of the storyline a concise sting of beauty. Jay Leisten provides helpful inks but the colors by Sunny Gho and Java Tartaglia at times conflict with McNiven’s sketches.Uncanny Inhumans #3 features an intense chapter in a story that carries with it a tinge of desperation and, in light of the final page, resonating tragedy. The book is heading in a good, dramatic direction that, if kept up, will evolve to become one of the best comic book series’ of 2016, guaranteed.

Thank you all for checking out my awards for the final month of 2015 and be sure to check back sometime next month for the first edition of 2016’s Comic Book Awards! 

I want to give an update and apologize for not posting my Comic Book of the Year Awards for 2015. I had every intention to do so before the year was over, but time was not on my side. They still may be posted in the near future (can’t make any promises), but I hope my monthly awards will be enough for the time being.

Thanks again,

~ Nandor Shaffer

1016 and all that

The start of a new year seems a good time to take a really long, backward look at history. I’m going to do this in one thousand year leaps. So today, here are a few things which happened in the year 1016.

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The start of a new year seems a good time to take a really long, backward look at history. I’m going to do this in one thousand year leaps. So today, here are a few things which happened in the year 1016.

Earthquakes hit Jerusalem and partly destroy the Dome of the Rock.
In England, Aethelred the Unready dies and is succeeded by his son, Edmund Ironside.

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Ironside defeats Canute of Denmark in battle in April and, in his turn, is defeated by him in October. Both young kings agree to divide England between them.
In November Ironside dies, possibly murdered, possibly by Eadric the Grasper, one of the greatest villains of English history. Interestingly, given the 14th century picture of Ironside to the right, he may have been murdered while sitting on the toilet.
Canute becomes king of England, adding it to his Danish lands which became the core…

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Comic Book Awards for November

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~Nandor Shaffer

Another month equals another wealth of comics on my desk. All-New All-Different Marvel marches on this November and all four of my new pickings are going strong with their second or third issues. I really enjoyed Tony Stark’s introspective look at himself in Invincible Iron Man #3, in particular. Brian Michael Bendis’ take on the golden avenger hasn’t let me down yet. Although the milestone 600th issue of Uncanny X-Men, also written by Bendis, was absolutely horrible, in my opinion. It’s interesting to me how the same writer can be finely attuned to a character(s) compared to others he leaves his mark on. I received a triple dose of Star Wars this month with the fourth and final issue of Star Wars: Shattered Empire as well as the eleventh and twelfth issues of the main Star Wars title, still written by Jason Aaron with impressive art from Stuart Immomen (whose talent might suit this book better than Cassaday’s work on the first six issues). Both Aquaman and The Flash’s plot developments disappointed me this month, unfortunately. Wonder Woman’s guest appearance couldn’t help the king of the seas and while it’s thrilling to see Zoom/Eobard Thawne’s debut storyline continue, it’s starting to falter and lose its appeal by the devolving script. I did pick up Doctor Who: The Eighth Doctor #1 from Titan Comics and plan to finish the miniseries off when it concludes next year.

Out of these and other nominees, which comics received the Comic Book Awards for November?

Cover of the Month Award: Uncanny Inhumans #2

Cover Artists: Steve McNiven, Jay Leisten, and Justin Ponsor

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I’m a pretty big fan of Steve McNiven’s work (Civil War, Old Man Logan, Uncanny Avengers). Even if I’m not buying the series he’s currently working on at the time, I can’t help but take a look through the comic just to satisfy my appreciation for his crisp, spectacular art. Thankfully he’s on the Uncanny Inhumans title for the time being and I look forward to every issue even more because of that. I wouldn’t say the cover for Uncanny Inhumans #2 is McNiven’s best cover offering by a mile, but what draws me to it is the perspective of the shot emphasized by Kang’s lurking, amused stare at those before him as he jabs the spear he’s wielding into the Inhuman device on the ground. How Black Bolt, Human Torch, and Medusa’s faces are erupting and crying from the residing cracks furthermore add to this image. This is also a great symbolic precursor to what transpires in the issue itself, which most comic book covers fail to do.

Art of the Month Award: Invincible Iron Man #3

Artist: David Marquez 

Color Artist: Justin Ponsor

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Did I have a fun time reading Invincible Iron Man #3. The first issue of this series took home the award for Art of the Month last month and this issue does in November for the majority of the same reasons. Marquez and Ponsor deliver on many levels. The slower, dialogue-heavy moments of Tony and Amara Perera come across just as great as the battle scenes between Iron Man and Madame Masque in this issue. The combination of both artists make for such a clean, pleasurable outcome and with how this book is looking I’m already becoming possessive of Marquez for this title, as I hope he doesn’t abandon the book in the recent future (by the looks of it, he’s jumping off after #5, however).

Story of the Month Award: Secret Wars #7 (“King of the Dead”)

Writer: Jonathan Hickman

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Jonathan Hickman’s Secret Wars has been notably absent in the last few editions of my Comic Book of the Month Awards. With Secret Wars #7, the sluggish pace of the last couple of issues meets its timely end. Survivors of the final incursion were transported to separate areas on Battleworld by the magic of the now deceased Doctor Strange (Secret Wars #4) and from this dispersion these heroes/villains have convinced inhabitants of Battleworld that God Doom is not at all who he states to be, that there is room for doubt. This converges into an all-out war in the midst of Castle Doom and leads to an action-packed, engrossing chapter in this series. The only criticism I have would be how easily it seemed some of the population of Battleworld were convinced to turn on Doom, but it’s no substantial concern whatsoever. There is a nice touch of humor in Secret Wars #7 as well, a side to Hickman you usually only see in his creator-owned material. Overall, this issue capitalizes on what the series has been building to in fantastic ways, and with only two issues left, the epic end of Doom is surely nigh.

Issue of the Month Award: The Astonishing Ant-Man #2 

Writer: Nick Spencer

Artist: Ramon Rosanas 

Color Artist: Jordan Boyd 

Cover Artist: Mark Brooks

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You don’t even have to be an Ant-Man fan to appreciate the smarts inherent in this title. The Astonishing Ant-Man is a comic book to watch out for in all respects and issue two of the series is consistently a joy to read. Last issue, we learned that Scott Lang has ended up back in prison (poor guy) and we’re still on the outs of how that actually happened. We’re not given the answer in The Astonishing Ant-Man #2, but casually we’re getting a better hint as to what lead to his unexpected imprisonment. As the cover suggests, this issue mainly focuses on Scott’s relationship issues with his now ex-girlfriend, Darla Deering (a.k.a. Ms. Thing). They had gotten together when the Fantastic Four assigned a new FF team to protect the world when they decided to go on a family trip across the universe (more backstory can be found in Matt Fraction’s lame run on Fantastic Four/FF). This issue brings some closure to their relationship and does so within a humorously clever plot. The creative team of Nick Spencer and Ramon Rosanas is at its peak inAstonishing Ant-Man #2 through and through to the excellent final page and pages eight and nine show off some of Rosanas’ most creative work in the series. There is truly no ongoing Marvel comic book I could recommend more than The Astonishing Ant-Man as of this moment.

Thank you all for checking out my awards for November and be sure check back sometime next month for December’s Comic Book Awards! I do want to add that I’m not positive if I’ll be able to provide my Comic Book of the Year Awards for 2014-2015 due to time constraints. It’s a very time-consuming process as you would imagine going through all of my comics from the last year, but I’ll see what I can do. At the very least, I may be able to pick the winners but giving my reasons may have to be cut. In any case, hopefully you and I will continue to be reading comics into the next month and everyone have a Merry Christmas! :)

Comic Book Awards for October

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~By Nandor Shaffer

If you are a regular comic book reader, you’ve by all means become aware of Marvel’s obsession over relaunching a series. Frankly, you can’t make it through a year without seeing comic titles renumbered back to their “first issue”. Keep in mind this is a comic book companies’ way of drawing in and compensating for new or on-the-fence readers, but for veterans, including myself, it can be a nuisance, albeit a minor one. This year, the latest push from Marvel comes in the form of their All-New, All-Different Marvel line which launched just this October. As a whole I wasn’t all that excited for the offerings this ploy would bring personally (and still find it odd that Marvel didn’t wait until the conclusion of Secret Wars to launch it), and there are many reasons for why. But, fortunately, there were a few books I was looking forward to that debuted, however — Doctor Strange, Invincible Iron Man, and Uncanny Inhumans. These three titles will be added to my monthly purchases indefinitely for the foreseeable future. The other comic book titles I picked up this month were the regulars, Doctor Who: The Eleventh Doctor and Ant-Man merely taking on fresh headings as Doctor Who: The Eleventh Doctor Year Two and The Astonishing Ant-Man. The second and third issues of Star Wars: Shattered Empirereleased as well, with its fourth and final issue coming out in November.

Out of these potential winners, which comics received the Comic Book Awards for the month of October? And did my pickings from All-New, All-Different Marvel prove to have any merit? The verdict is barely a few scrolls down…

Cover of the Month Award: Invincible Iron Man #1

Cover Artists: David Marquez & Justin Ponsor

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It’s uncommon to see the kind of cover design artist David Marquez delivered for Invincible Iron Man #1. I’m partial to binding comic book covers such as this one and so when I catch sight of them I’m always delightfully impressed. Not only is it impressive in how an artist goes the extra mile, but when the front-to-back cover image turns out to look as dramatically sensational as this, there are no complaints or critiques to be had. Blasting off of the Stark Tower roof from the back cover, the golden Avenger Iron Man shoots his latest suit of the classic red and gold armor into the forefront, modeling a heroic pose in flight. While Iron Man absolutely grants the piece its strong presence, the striking detail Marquez gave the cityscape below is jaw-dropping. His handling of the shifting perspective from back to front is just excellent, and every rooftop and skyscraper is equally abounding with acute attention. You can even make out the bustling traffic on the city streets. Finally, I love the way New York City blossoms under the heels Iron Man, the figure-ground relationship presented to balance each other out. In artistic terms, this cover is edgily close to invincible.

Art of the Month Award: Invincible Iron Man #1

Artist: David Marquez

Color Artist: Justin Ponsor

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David Marquez and Justin Ponsor provide the interior artwork together as well for the first issue of Invincible Iron Man, and if the cover art is any indication, this book looks just as fabulous on the inside. Marquez and writer Brian Michael Bendis have worked together on some issues of Ultimate Comics Spider-Man and All-New X-Men, so I’d imagine they have a comfortable team system. I say that because their smooth collaboration seems apparent in Invincible Iron Man #1 (pages 4-6, especially) with how the comic flows nicely itself. I did have one or two instances where I wasn’t quite sure which panel followed which due to the connecting panel layouts, so that is a concern, but the majority of the comic is perfectly fine in that regard. This being my first comic drawn by Marquez, I found his style to fit the character well, and the moments where Tony Stark’s sleek, new Iron Man armor is featured are indeed where he and colorist Justin Ponsor shine. Sponsor’s rich, radiating colors are really what make the book stand out. Madame Masque will be a recurring character in this storyline and I don’t think I’ve ever seen her mask look as gleaming or vibrant before, which enhances the character’s appearance in a notable fashion. Also, the new Iron Man suit design is a nice touch. A fun part of Iron Man’s character is evolving his suit every now and then, and I’m fond of this elegant iteration.

Story of the Month Award: Doctor Strange #1 (“The Way of the Weird”) 

Writer: Jason Aaron 

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At last, the wait is over. The Sorcerer Supreme has his very own ongoing comic book series. I’ve been wanting a Doctor Strange book for at least three years now (when I started loving the character) so holding the first issue of his comic is surreal. I wondered for the longest time how a title starring Stephen Strange would be in the current comic landscape. What epic stories about heaven, hell, demonic spirits, and black magic could be told? Where would these stories take the good Doctor on an individual level? I didn’t get exactly what I expected from Doctor Strange #1, but what was given was more than enough. One thing I became worried about when I heard Jason Aaron was on board to write Doctor Strange was that he might bring an overabundance of humor or, shall we say, corniness, to the book, not taking it very seriously, as he did at some points during his runs on both Wolverine and Thor: God of Thunder. It’s too early to tell from the first issue alone, but its tone left me with a positive aftertaste.

Mr. Aaron does a good job introducing Doctor Strange with the action-packed opening pages accompanied with backstory narrative told from Strange’s perspective. This issue acts a terrific introduction to the character, familiarizing you with what kind of threats he faces and his distinct mindset. At the same time, it sets up a larger plot Jason Aaron is building up to (there’s a short story that pertains to this at the end of the issue, too). I can tell it takes a few steps in the cheesy, somewhat streamlined, direction, but, as a whole, a giant leap into the right direction for the Sorcerer Supreme. The important thing is that there is now a Doctor Strange comic book and its first issue was superb. Here’s hoping it can keep itself above the dreaded cancellation waters.

Issue of the Month Award: The Astonishing Ant-Man #1 

Writer: Nick Spencer

Artist: Ramon Rosanas 

Color Artist: Jordan Boyd 

Cover Artist: Mark Brooks 

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There have been so many times I’ve wanted Nick Spencer and Ramon Rosanas’ Ant-Man to receive either the Story of the Month or Issue of the Month Award. It never has (though close at times)…until now. The Astonishing AntMan #1 is an adequate first dip into Scott Lang’s tangled life, however, it’s basically Ant-Man #7. The “astonishing” adjective is purely there to spice things up for the title’s all-too-soon relaunch (thanks for that, Marvel). With that said, please pick up those past six issues (plus the Annual) if you can before you read this. It’s not totally essential, but you’ll be extremely happy with yourself if you do ASAP. Cutting to the chase, I love, love, love the Ant-Man comic. The light-hearted humor is the best of any comic book I’ve ever read in all my years of reading comics and the stories are so much fun to read. The Astonishing Ant-Man #1 carries the same playful charm of the issues that have come before it: Scott Lang is still struggling to get his life stable on a day to day basis, the dialogue/narration will have your mouth hurting from how much sincere laughing you’ll be doing, and at the end of the comic, you’ll say to yourself, without a doubt, “that was good”. 

Ramon Rosanas’ part in making the comic as brilliant as it is cannot be understated. His simplistic form contributes to the simple, but clever, storytelling to an indispensable degree. To top The Astonishing Ant-Man #1 off as Issue of the Month is the exceptionally stylized cover by Mark Brooks. Villains accompany Ant-Man, whom curiously has his fingers crossed behind his back. Scott Lang has a shady history in the comics, so what this cover may be hinting at for the future of the series is intriguing. What is the not-so-lucky Ant-Man up to? The surprising final page of the issue may give you a hint.

Turns out All-New, All-New Different Marvel made a good impression, I’d say. Thank you all for checking out my awards for October and be sure check back sometime next month for November’s Comic Book Awards! Until then, hopefully you and I will continue to be reading comics!

Book Blurb

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One of the things I noticed is that not many indie authors have a book blurb. A book blurb is often a single image with the author’s book, a snazzy background, and a bit of text on the story or quality of the novel. It is a great way to advertise your book and its far more eye-catching.

Perhaps the reason few authors have them is because it can be complicated or expensive to make. Having worked in the printing industry for years, I have acquired some skill in Photoshop and design.

Not to be confused with an expert, I am handy and deft with putting together a fairly competent book blurb. I am willing to help others for a fraction of the cost of other sites. My basic book cover, background image, and text you provide is just $10. I then will give you a a 300 dpi jpg and the psd if you desire (original image quality will determine true dpi).

If you are interested, please send me an email at: clay pyramid @ gmail.com [remove the spaces].

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The Tome, 2nd Edition

Available today on Amazon, my 2nd edition of The Tome is available for 99 cents.

Wild Bill Coyote never played a hand of poker unless his back was to the wall, except the time when a kid put a bullet through his brain. Jim Jason wasn’t going to make a similar mistake, as he nestled himself in the corner of the Wallace Terrence Library gazing across the large open atrium. Jim Jason harassed, berated, and bullied at school never thought he would be able to exact revenge against his fellow students. Then one day he finds an ancient book, the tome. The many varied short stories whisper to him, telling Jim how to get even, to take what he wants in the world. He realizes the power on the yellowed pages and focuses all his lusts and desires onto the one girl he wishes to have. What are the costs for this power to bend time and the minds of others?

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You can buy the book here:  http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00OX15778

Comic Book Awards for September

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~Nandor Schaffer

Having reached the one year anniversary mark for my Comic Book Awards (check out August’s awards in case you missed it), its back with September’s edition and is proud to summarize what my monthly batch had to offer its comic book readers across the globe. In the Marvel corner, the eleventh and final issue of Bucky Barnes: The Winter Soldier, Star Wars #8, and Star Wars: Shattered Empire #1 were the only three titles to make the cut for September (the sixth issue of Secret Wars is to be released in October). Marvel will also be inaugurating its All-New, All-Different line in October, so be ready for much more excitement coming from them. My two current ongoing DC titles, The Flash and Aquaman, had both their 44th issue published since the dawn of the New 52 and Titan Comics’ mega event, Doctor Who: Four Doctors, said farewell after its conclusion with issues four and five this month. I was additionally pleased to get my hands on Jonathan Hickman and Ryan Bodenheim’s The Dying & The Dead #3 from Image Comics after it skipped publication the last few months. Hickman’s note at the end of the comic explains the solicitation hiccups and, sadly but wisely, goes on to say that the series will not return until next year for time and quality purposes. In the meantime I recommend that you find the first three issues, read them, and be ready for what this ambitious independent book is going to bring in 2016. With all that said…

Out of these nominees, which comics received the Comic Book Awards for the month of September?

Cover of the Month Award: Star Wars: Shattered Empire #1

Cover: Phil Noto 

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Cover artist Phil Noto brings a lot of good vibes with his cover for Star Wars: Shattered Empire #1, a new comic book series taking place straightly right after the events of Return of the Jedi under the media-lapping Journey To Star Wars: The Force Awakens banner. Heroes from the original trilogy – Luke, Han, Leia, Chewbacca, C-3PO, R2-D2, Lando Calrissian, Wicket – all stand in celebration on the Forest Moon of Endor with shining smiles, recapturing that victorious moment when the Rebel Alliance defeated the Empire at the end of Star Wars: Episode VI. It’s a combination between this and Noto’s – metaphorically speaking – fragrant and lively iteration of that moment which had me pick it to receive this award. The attention to lighting and precision is delicately wonderful and to draw up that classic Star Wars feel is an envious artistic outcome to master. It’s, frankly, a beautifully magical cover.

Art of the Month Award: The Flash #44

Penciller: Brett Booth

Inker: Norm Rapmund

Colorist: Andrew Dalhouse

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I know The Flash has been awarded Art of the Month once or twice before and Brett Booth’s awesome, premiere superhero style of comic book art has still been an appetizing treat to look over in the last year despite it not getting recognized more often. How much goes into these pages of The Flash #44 appears daunting; the exaggerated panel layouts, excessive use of lightning and minuscule detail, and fast-paced action will keep your eyes moving and keep your mind at work. It would be my guess Booth has all the artistic freedom for the page layouts and what I love about how they are so sporadic is because they ideally suit The Flash as a character. Every page of The Flash #44 has this snappy energy to it, as do Booth’s previous issues on the series, and it’s absolutely rife with intensity from the outset. Of course, the comic does have slow points, but by the twelfth page and from then on, things get explosive as The Flash’s battle against two of Zoom’s team members sets off. At times, Brett Booth can handle the anatomy poorly, but there’s hardly any sign of that in The Flash #44. In all areas complimented by inker Norm Rapmund and excellent colorist Andrew Dalhouse, this is an art team that valiantly captures the form of the fastest man alive like they’ve been doing it all their lives.

Story of the Month Award: Doctor Who: Four Doctors #4

Writer: Paul Cornell

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Anytime you’re dealing with a Doctor Who story, especially one containing three Doctors within the story, there is bound to be serious complications and pivotal moments. There’s also the need for a satisfying payoff, one that isn’t rushed and manages to orchestrate a successful climax that gives credit to the beginning and middle of the adventure, wrapping everything up in a nice little bow(tie?…okay, I’ll stop). Doctor Who: Four Doctors #5 is the final issue for this comics event and, while it doesn’t exactly capitalize on an epic note, there’s plenty of excitement and great developments within the issue. I was surprised by how well Paul Cornell expertly maneuvered the pace and finale of such an (at least from where I’m sitting) challenging plot involving the three Time Lords and their respective companions. With the Doctors’ cleverness in action, all the characters do their part to put an end to what the old, renegade Twelfth Doctor has set in motion as the leader of the Voord. While I would’ve liked to have seen more fantastic instances of all The Doctors working together to save the universe in this issue and have their departures from each other to have been written with more care, the majority of the issue is a brilliant blast. This series is, on all accounts, a truly amazing Doctor Who story and most likely my favorite comic book story of the TV show that I’ve read. The Voord are an impressive addition to the numerous alien races within the Doctor Who universe and I wouldn’t mind seeing them appear in future episodes of the TV show, if that would be possible.

Issue of the Month Award: Doctor Who: Four Doctors #4

Writer: Paul Cornell 

Artist: Neil Edwards

Colorist: Ivan Nunes

Cover Art: Neil Edwards & Ivan Nunes

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Doctor Who: Four Doctors #5 might have the better story, but it is #4 that takes September’s award for Issue of the Month. The reason for that is this issue is the turning point for the series, where the adventure gets real and dire. After the astonishing cliffhanger of #3 revealing that an alternate, older version of the Twelfth Doctor was in fact the perpetrator of this entire situation, we are given his ultimate reasoning behind his actions and what this means for his previous incarnations and the universe. We get to see most of what occurs in Doctor Who: Four Doctors #4 from the perspective of the scarred Twelfth Doctor as well as Gabrielle Gonzales, and what carries the issue along is the curiosity of how the Doctors will come out of this incredible circumstance on top. It appears the Voord have the upper hand, and, as one companion falls, what might be the answer to saving the Doctor’s from creating their own destiny of loneliness and desperateness? You’ll have to read this issue and the next to find out. Another reason, a big one, why this issue deserves this award is because of Neil Edwards and colorist Ivan Nunes. Both their cover art and interior artwork is top of the line for Doctor Who: Four Doctors #4. This creative partnership for the series reminds me of artist Bryan Hitch’s work, and that’s a pretty steep evaluation. Edwards does a exemplary job at facial expressions and the storytelling aspects of the comic. Coming into the series, I knew he would do a good job, but, instead, he’s done a fantastic one. 

Thank you all once again for checking out my awards for September and be sure check back sometime next month for October’s Comic Book Awards (I’m excited to see how those turn out)! Until then, hopefully you and I will continue to be reading comics!

Dragonflight, Anne McCaffrey

One of my classic science-fantasy reads from my childhood, I always dreamed to live on Pern. Although as Megan admits, there is some wacky story elements, I can overlook them for the pure visceral atmosphere of the world. Perhaps now if I re-read the series, I may find them less entertaining but in the late 70s and 80s they were fantastic.

SF Mistressworks

DragonflightDragonflight, Anne McCaffrey (1968)
Review by Megan AM

It’s about humans who leave Earth for a new planet, shun existing technology, adopt feudalism, breed lizards into genetically enhanced dragons, and even figure out teleportation and time-travel (by way of the fire-belching dragons).

And beat their women.

Unfortunately, I read these books out of order. I tend to do this a lot, normally by accident. Other times, I think I can get away with reading the meat of the series, without the appetizer. In this case, I really thought that Dragonflight, born of McCaffrey’s Hugo Award winning novellas, was an appetizer and would be absorbed into the follow-up novel Dragonquest. I was correct in my assumption, sort of, but it was bland and unsatisfying, so I went back and read the first novel, and I’m so glad I did. Dragonflight is time-jumps more enjoyable than its sequel, the 1972…

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