February is a time when I may have the most absolute fun as a comic book fan and collector. The second month of the year marks the annual anniversary sale put on by my local comic shop (shout out to The Antiquarium!) and everything store wide is discounted, respectively – and what deals there were. So while I spent all of my spare cash on numerous back issue comics I probably won’t get around to reading for a very long time, my regular monthly stack of new release issues have all been read and the awards for February’s comics are here. A total of fifteen books filled this month’s quota, the lot of them steadily maintaining their more or less consistent level of quality.
Marvel is continuing its privilege of distributing Star Wars comics with Star Wars #2 and the debut of the all-new ongoing Star Wars: Darth Vader series by the pen of Kieron Gillen (known for his work on Uncanny X-Men, Iron Man, and more) and pencil of Salvador Larroca (The Invincible Iron Man). Anyone who would like to follow the machinations of the iconic Dark Lord of the Sith after the events of Episode IV: A New Hope ought to pick this up. Bringing with it a somber, energetic tone authentic to the heart of Vader and the Empire, the first two issues show much promise. Salvador Larroca’s technical preciseness in drawing Darth Vader is so true to his look that no one could have been a better choice for the project. If there was an award for funnest comic book of the month, Ant-Man #2 would hold that award high and proudly. Scott Lang’s challenges of starting up his new business in Miami affords laughs and action in such finesse. At first thought dead, Aquaman finds his hardened mother in #39 of his title and in Hulk #11, Doc Green’s desire to rid the world of gamma powered weapons (including fellow Hulks) sees with it a mysterious and unforeseen spin.
But out of these and other nominees, which came first for the award ceremony? These are the ones I regarded as the most deserving.
Cover of the Month Award: Ant-Man #2
Cover Artist: Mark Brooks
It’s the idea of the cover for Ant-Man #2 that makes it not only so clever, but stand out amongst the droves of cover art you see on the comic book stands. The idea takes advantage of the nature involving the astonishing Ant-Man’s core characteristic – his ability to shrink – and puts him into an instant classic, earnest scenario as he is helplessly trapped within a…water globe featuring the city of Miami? Yep, that’s right, and the finished image is perfect. Mark Brooks successfully captures a genuinely memorable piece here. In great distress, Ant-Man attempts to break his way out of his unlucky predicament as his ant friends look upon in curious bewilderment. While we don’t know how, or even if, Scott Lang survives to tell of this atypical, but intellectually praiseworthy situation, the cover for Ant-Man #2 looks too gorgeous not to care for the little guy.
Art of the Month Award: Bucky Barnes: The Winter Soldier #5
Artists: Marco Rudy (PGS 4-19), Langdon Foss (PGS 1-3, 20)
You probably don’t need any more convincing from me about how much I adore artist Marco Rudy’s paints in Bucky Barnes: The Winter Soldier; especially after the three times his work has effortlessly landed the award for Art of the Month for this title in the last four months. It’s safe to say he’s been making my job in deciding a winner for this category a whole lot more easier than it should be. Finding the right words to describe his almost transcendent style is difficult. I’ve always found the word “psychedelic” to be appropriate, but that tacked description may be taken the wrong way if you don’t explain further. In issue five of this series, we’re prescribed with additional reasons to explore Rudy’s beautiful artwork and respect him as one of the best artists in the business’s history.
The vibrancy, which screams on each page of Rudy’s, is addictive to take in. After I finished reading this issue, I instantly went back over it to study every page to see what new illustrative gems I could find. Page 4 is drawn from a first-person perspective reflecting the face of the Bucky from the future off the Pao’ree soldiers’ helmets; pages 6 and 7 parade a lustrous two-page spread exploring the Pao’ree and telepathy on their planet of Mer-Z-Bow; the following two pages is another two-page spread of Bucky and Crossbones in brutal combat presented in edgy, bold panels…and there’s so much more I could say. I do want to briefly bring out pages 10 and 13, which exhibit the panel dividers as Crossbones’ skull logo with The Winter Soldier’s red star dripping down the skull. That, to me, is remarkably creative, and all of this is just the tip of the iceberg for Bucky Barnes: The Winter Soldier #5.
Story of the Month Award: New Avengers #30 (“Beyonders”)
Writer: Jonathan Hickman
The story told in New Avengers #30 investigates the multiversal trek superhero Hank Pym had begun to take. Sent out by Reed Richards and Tony Stark to search out and locate the Great Destroyer, Rabum Alal, Pym suddenly returned out of nowhere at the climax of New Avengers #29 to heed an alarming report not about the Great Destroyer, but of the frightening white lords from wild space, the Ivory Kings, now known as “The Beyonders”. The pages of New Avengers #30 unfold to reveal Pym’s journey and just who these Beyonders are and the universal threat they pose. As you might surmise, this is a pretty heavy and meaty issue. In Hickman’s high prose, we survey cosmic themes and a momentous battle between the Beyonders and lofty beings of existence. It’s straightforward, but so perplexing and unsettling. How will our heroes rise above the end of everything? Hank Pym’s final words on the last page leave us with no shade of comfort.
Issue of the Month Award: New Avengers #30 (“Beyonders”)
Writer: Jonathan Hickman
Penciler: Dalibor Talajic
Inker: RIck Magyar
Color Artist: Frank Martin
Cover Art: Alan Davis, Mark Farmer, Matt Wilson
New Avengers #30 is an excellent comic book issue. It amps up the already grim, intense storyline of this series to another level, which is something I didn’t know could happen. The interior pencils by Dalibor Talajic won’t blow you away, and is in some measure slightly indistinguishable from other artists, yet Frank Martin’s explosive colors impart life to the pages (pages 17, 18, and 19 specifically). Also, if you’ve really been paying attention, a trait of Jonathan Hickman’s writing, there are two things in this issue that hark back to New Avengers #8 (no kidding). After keeping up with my favorite comic book series of all time, it’s not going to be any fun to say goodbye this April when the final issue of New Avengers ships.
Thank you again for checking out my awards and check back sometime next month for March’s Comic Book Awards! Until then, hopefully you and I will continue to be reading comics as Spring gradually sets in.