The new year is here and its first month has gone as quickly as it came, bringing with it the fresh artistic offerings from comic book publishers everywhere. A new year beckons the thrill of new beginnings which was taken advantage of in view of the fact that three brand new ongoing series’ made it into my monthly comic book purchases (as if I didn’t already have enough comics, mind you). Marvel finally had the motivation to give their tiniest – may I add greatly underrated – hero a chance with Ant-Man #1 in light of Marvel Studios’ Ant-Man film hitting theaters this July, written by well-received writer Nick Spencer. As sad as it is to say that Hank Pym, the original Ant-Man, is not the man under the costume, Scott Lang dons the insect-themed alias to very amiable results. That galaxy far, far away that we all know and love reunites with its first love at Marvel as well. Star Wars #1 by Jason Aaron and John Cassaday will make any Star Wars fan ecstatic, and you might even be hearing John Williams’ fantastical score in the back of your heads as you open up the respectful first issue. Picking up my first ever ongoing book from Image Comics, Jonathan Hickman and Ryan Bodenheim’s The Dying & the Dead debuted this month with a staggering 60 pages for only $4.50. Regulars like Aquaman, Hulk, Avengers, and many others released whilst Fantastic Four took the bold move of going back to its true numbering with #642.
But out of these and other nominees, which were the best of the opening month of the year? This proved to be one of the most competitive months in recent memory.
Cover of the Month Award: Star Wars #1
Cover Artists: John Cassaday & Laura Martin
For context’s sake, the first ever Star Wars comic was published by Marvel Comics back around the time Episode IV: A New Hope released in 1977. As time went on, Dark Horse eventually became the proud home of the greatest sci-fi fantasy universe, launching with Star Wars: Dark Empire in the ‘90s, and held the reigns for over twenty-five years, producing incredible titles exploring never before seen timelines and characters. When Disney, then already having bought Marvel a few years earlier, acquired the Star Wars property, the stars aligned and the teeming inevitability of new Star Wars comics back under the Marvel banner would be an historic event in the comic book world. Here we are, almost forty years later, and Marvel’s Star Wars #1 comes to us presenting a blasting cover from John Cassaday and color partner Laura Martin.
One look shouts out classic Star Wars. X-Wings and Tie Fighters zoom overhead the hearts and souls of the Rebel Alliance as Darth Vader’s helmet silhouette of hyperspace stands in the backdrop in capturing, modeled symmetry. The detailed touches on the ships and almost pitch-perfect faithfulness to the looks of Luke, Leia, Han, Chewbacca, C-3P0, and R2-D2 from the beloved films is what you need to do to invoke the absorbing splendor of the Star Wars license. The cover for Star Wars #1 nails it.
Art of the Month Award: Bucky Barnes: The Winter Soldier #3
Artists: Marco Rudy (PGS 1-12, 17-20), Michael Walsh (PGS 13-16)
Two issues of Bucky Barnes: The Winter Soldier came out in January (making up for no issue in December 2014), both exhibiting the talent of artist extraordinaire Marco Rudy. #4 mainly featured pencils and inks from Langdon Foss with just four pages given to Rudy, regrettably. However, #3’s seventeen magnificent pages from Marco Rudy more than make up for any disappointments, and still outweigh the artwork of the 10+ other comics on my reading list. That’s how remarkable this guy’s stuff is. Sublime is page after page of Bucky Barnes: The Winter Soldier #3. Serene colors caress the full, wondrous space and alien bound issue and a few one pagers will pause you for a second or more. Unique, extravagant panel layouts return with pages one, two, eighteen and nineteen standing out in considerable efficacy. There’s even a glimmer of romance in #3 that is shown quite tastefully. Regardless of Michael Walsh’s simplistic but firm four pages, one panel of Marco Rudy’s paints carries with it a deep, memorable signature.
Story of the Month Award: Avengers #40 (“We Three Kings”)
Writer: Jonathan Hickman
With Jonathan Hickman’s Secret Wars now only four months away and his run on both Avengers and New Avengers coming to an end this April, the time for closure is at hand after two-and-a-half years of spectacular buildup. The climactic events of New Avengers #28 left us at an unexpected standstill between Steve Rogers’ army of S.H.I.E.L.D. agents and heroes and the clever Illuminati. The opposing forces lightly agree to a legitimate truce for the moment as the entire multiverse hangs in the balance due to the curious incursions plaguing the Marvel universe. Our heroes plan to get rid of The Cabal – consisting of the mad titan Thanos, Black Swan, Terrax, Maximus, Corvus Glaive and his wife Proxima Midnight – while a grueling confrontation Black Panther has with Namor is something we’ve been waiting to see since the very early issues of New Avengers. There is no holding back now.
Issue of the Month Award: Avengers #40 (“We Three Kings”)
Writer: Jonathan Hickman
Artist: Stefano Caselli
Color Artist: Frank Martin
Cover Art: Dale Keown & Jason Keith
Avengers #40 is a comic book you don’t want to pass over. This story chapter of Hickman’s continuing dark drama epic is fluid and shocking. The endgame of his Avengers is rising to its boiling point in too many brilliant ways. Stefano Caselli is the featured artist of this extra-sized issue; his smooth but crisp style a caliber of excellence. Colorist Frank Martin, the underdog trooper of the book, is in great form, too. You’ll find a host of familiar faces in Avengers #40 and also witness once more heroes make decisions that will take a toll on relationships in addition to status of moral ground.
Thanks for checking out my awards and check back sometime next month for February’’s Comic Book Awards! Until then, hopefully you and I will continue to be reading comics in the dawn of this new year!