Comic Book Awards for April

~Nandor Schaffer

Welcome to April’s edition of my monthly annual Comic Book Awards! I apologize for the late posting since last month’s awards, although I’m always ever appreciative for those of you who take the time to read these. I personally have quite amount of fun writing this blog and I hope the same can be said for you, the reader, just as well.

I think it would be safe to say that the month of April was a month of endings. Avengers, New Avengers, Fantastic Four, and Cyclops (much to my surprise) – four ongoing series – all saw their final issues hit the newsstands this month in bittersweet crescendos. This is because of the Secret Wars event starting in May and we can expect more titles to end and new ones to return after the event’s conclusion this fall. I’d like to thank the creative teams behind each series and for making my purchases all the worth while throughout the last couple of years. Bucky Barnes: The Winter Soldier #7 and Uncanny Inhumans #0 were highlight issues in April, with the former being a touching, dark character study following the Crossbones of an alternate universe, and the latter featuring artist extraordinaire Steve McNiven on a tale of the Inhuman king, Black Bolt. The Convergence tie-ins hit this month in the DC corner ash both the Flash and Aquaman issues had engaging plots of DC’s past (it truly made me want pre-New 52 DC Comics back).

But out of these and other nominees, which comics broke through and came out on top? The Comic Book Awards for April are just a scroll away from finding out.

Cover of the Month Award: The Avengers #44

Cover Artist: Dustin Weaver & Justin Ponsor

comic1

In concept, the cover for Avengers #44 strikes gold. Here is a wrap-around cover of Captain America and Iron Man locked in harrowing battle as two earths collide behind them. And it’s drawn and inked by the sharp, technical, detailed hand of Dustin Weaver, a new favorite artist of mine (with Justin Ponsor providing his brilliant colors). The balance between Weaver’s clean and precise technique with the harshness of the piece is incredible. It’s like a before-and-after image that is in your face and very “in the moment” of a pivotal battle of brothers. It also represents an accurate foreshadowing of the content inside the comic. Truthfully a premiere cover to promote the final issue of Avengers.

Art of the Month Award: The Avengers #44

Artists: Stefano Caselli and Kev Walker

Color Artist: Frank Martin

comic2Two artists contribute to the pages of Avengers #44. Stefano Caselli, a series regular, lends his talent to the meat of the issue while Kev Walker, whose name might sound familiar for his work on a few recent issues on the sister-title, New Avengers, opens and closes the book. Caselli and Walker’s styles differ from each other in a lot of ways and this helps with the two corresponding plots unfolding in the issue that each tackle. Even though I prefer the smooth, realistic touch of Caselli, I would have to say Kev Walker got the better half of the issue depicting Captain America and Tony’s relationship and eventual one-on-one emotionally charged clash. Most of what Stefano Caselli brings in this issue doesn’t offer as many eye-catching moments compared to Kev Walker’s brutal action pages towards the end and his work is what ultimately makes Avengers #44 really rise to the forefront of the month.

Story of the Month Award:  New Avengers #33 (“In Latveria, The Flowers Die In Summer”)

Writer: Jonathan Hickman

comic3Last month in New Avengers #31, it was revealed who Rabum Alal, the Great Destroyer, the harbinger of the incursions, is. This was one of the biggest, most shocking revelations that shaped the reader’s perception of the entire New Avengers series, and in #33 we how Rabum Alal came to be, the reasons for the incursions, and the Beyonders’ motives for multiversal genocide. I still wouldn’t want to spoil who exactly Rabum Alal is for the sake of ruining the reveal for those of you who have yet to read the issue, so I’ll do my best to work around that while explaining why the story for New Avengers #33 is exemplary.

I’ve grown accustom to Jonathan Hickman’s highly intellectual, thread-weaving superhero adventures, but even with that in mind, this issue is heavy. You’re thinking about the implications of what is gone over and expounded upon in this issue at the same time you’re trying to understand and comprehend what is actually written. The answers are plentiful, but from them even more questions arise in the extra-sized issue. The final pages of New Avengers #33 carry with them some of the best lines and one of the most sweat-inducing encounters to ever be printed on a comic book page. There’s not necessarily a pay-off to the series (that will be Secret Wars’ job), which is slightly disappointing for the last issue of any title, but it stands to show the reader that Hickman isn’t slowing down and the real finale has only just begun.

Farewell New Avengers. And thank you for being my all-time favorite comic book series ever. What an epic run.

Issue of the Month Award: Avengers #44 (“One Was Life, One Was Death”) 

Writer: Jonathan Hickman 

Artists: Stefano Caselli and Kev Walker

Color Artist: Frank Martin

Cover Art: Dustin Weaver & Justin Ponsor

comic4

Call me nostalgic, but I can still remember the day I bought and read Jonathan Hickman’s first issue of Avengers at the end of 2012already interested in how well he’d approach these characters after his undeniably “fantastic” work on Fantastic Four/FF – and falling in love with his vision for the book after the first couple of pages. It’s strange to think that it’s been forty-three issues (seventy-six counting New Avengers) since that day, and that at the end of May I won’t be seeing a Hickman Avengers comic included in my comic book pile any longer. It is a fact that all writers leave a series eventually, but it’s been a while since I’ve honestly dreaded that fact. The final issue of Avengers leads right into Hickman’s Secret Wars and you know the writer must feel great to finally be nearing his end game he’s had planned since the very beginning.

The issue starts off with a flashback meeting between Steve Rogers and Tony Stark that suddenly turns ill when Captain Universe sparks an outburst of rage. The following twenty pages is set in the present with the legions of galactic Shi’ar warships attempting to destroy the Earth to quell the end of the universe. We also witness what the Ultimate Universe plans to do as their Earth is beginning to collide with the Marvel Universe’s Earth and, as this comes about, a savage battle between Captain America and Iron Man. The majority of the issue is a stepping stone to Secret Wars. Like the final issue of New Avengers, you won’t get the cut-and-dry finale you may have wanted, but it all makes sense in the context of Hickman’s intentions for the plot. There’s so much going on and there are strong moments of dialogue throughout. Hickman remains possibly to be the best at writing dialogue scenes between characters with so many memorable lines of weight in Avengers #44. This is especially apparent in the final pages. By the end of the issue the gloves come off and the Captain America and Iron Man fight is action-packed as well as emotionally intense. Avengers #44 is an absolutely terrific comic book and a praiseworthy, respectable last issue of the title. The Secret Wars now cometh

Thank you again for checking out my awards and check back sometime next month for May’s Comic Book Awards! Until then, hopefully you and I will continue to be reading comics!

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