Comic Book Awards for May

~Nandor Shaffer

I’ve been looking forward to the month of May for a considerable amount of time. This in large part has to do with what Marvel is calling “the event to end all events”, or better known to the public as Secret Wars. This eight issue series is in the position to forever alter the foundations of the Marvel Universe and from this month on, over some thirty tie-ins will be under the Secret Wars banner, contributing to the scope of this event and hinting at the changes to be implemented when it concludes and the all-new, all-different MU is established this Fall. Almost each of these tie-ins are brief limited series’ exploring past, future, and alternate timelines in the MU (like Old Man Logan, Civil War, 2099, Marvel Zombies, etc.), separately falling into either the Last Days, Battleworld, or Warzones! categories, and these titles will be replacing the majority of current ongoing Marvel comic books. This leads me to imagine that the following months will be strange for my comic book purchases, as I do not plan to buy many, if any, of the tie-ins for the sake of money and their worth, respectively (I’m not much of a guy for original tie-ins). I could already tell a big change between April and May since I bought half as many comic book titles that I did in April. By the end of Secret Wars, I have a strong feeling things will be switched up more than a little.

Even though it’s true that the numbers were slim for May, the quality was anything but. Scott Lang’s exhilarating opening storyline as the tiniest hero of them all finished with this month’s issue five of Ant-Man on an outstandingly admirable note. I’d go so far as to say the first five issues of this title to be the ideal success story for a fresh, relaunched book and revolutionary envisioning of an underrated character. I do not state that lightly given the fact I miss Hank Pym, the original Ant-Man, in the suit to a bottomless degree. I love Ant-Man and it is a perfect beginner comic book for any of you wanting to give comics a chance. The magnificence of artist Marco Rudy returned for a full issue of Bucky Barnes: The Winter Soldier after last month’s omission on the title. Once again, I cannot begin to describe the excellencies of his artistry in issue eight. The comic is basically an opulent art piece of two-pagers that need no narrative or thread to intertwine them because it’s so beautiful and powerful. Marvel continues its controversial and arguably disappointing creative harnessing of the Star Wars space-fantasy with issue five of the core title and Titan Comics’ Doctor Who: The Eleventh Doctor #12 brings the Doctor to a unpredictably exciting predicament. The second, final Convergence issues of The Flash and Aquaman hit this month as well, while we also say goodbye to Doc Green in the final issue of Hulk, and prepare ourselves for the milestone Uncanny X-Men #600 in June after this month’s Uncanny X-Men #34. This leaves us with what I’ve been leading to and saving for last. That is, Jonathan Hickman’s initial two issues of Secret Wars, which released this month and left me with nothing but unending, deserved praise.

But out of these nominees, which comics received the Comic Book Awards for the month? We may have a faultless comic book issue in our midst.

Cover of the Month Award: Secret Wars #1

Cover By: Alex Ross

header2An event on this tremendous scale need not ask for a finer comic book artist to market its value of epic proportions. The ever great, near to legendary, Alex Ross is the sole cover artist for the entire Secret Wars series and, true to form, reminds the reader of his matchless eye for perspective, lighting, care, and quintessentially pristine handiwork right here with the first issue’s cover. The specially manufactured material used for the cover also amplifies its striking impact. The representation is clear, with the drama of the two dozen or so characters’ body positions and reactions as the two earths collide before them deliver an expedient sense of urgency and hefty grandness. Ross’s realistic, life-like style makes the image jump off the page to excellent affect and the anatomy of the characters and piece as a whole is legitimately astounding. What staggered me even more was no matter how minuscule the persons drawn on the cover for Secret Wars #1 are, you can still tell who they are. It further surprised me to see that a generality of the characters dominating the cover are not as well known to the mass audience, such as Black Bolt, Machine Man, Captain Marvel, Cloak & Dagger, and so on. It’s a testament to why Alex Ross is the artist without pier; whomever and whatever he draws, it is forever iconic.

Art of the Month Award: Secret Wars #1

Artist: Esad Ribic

Color Artist: Ive Svorcina

header3

Header3AThe art of a comic book essentially drives the story of a comic book. Take away that, and, well, the idea of a “comic book” ceases to be. Just as necessary is the storytelling rendered from the authorship of the artist in a comic book. Many people can draw excellently, but can they draw or tell a story? There’s a gaping difference between the two and I find the keen hand of Esad Ribic captured in Secret Wars #1 to fully envelop both poles of the spectrum. There is a crystal, firm ambience to Ribic’s zealous pages in the commencement issue of this massive event. His detailed diameters portraying New York’s towering skyscrapers crumbling in the wake of gigantic S.H.I.E.l.D. Helicarriers raining down its explosive fire while his molds of numerous characters from both Ultimate and Marvel universes fight one another is some of the most graphic, cataclysmic imagery I’ve recently seen. This individual issue features scores of characters throughout in explosive action and it’s easy to see that Esad Ribic held nothing back whatsoever. Colorist Ive Svorcina has done the same on his part for this issue as well. His brilliant palate is on display in all its glory, providing Secret Wars #1 with an overlaying futuristically modern tone. Both keep in synchronous stride with Hickman’s prodigious script, branding this issue as an immediate must-buy.

Story of the Month Award:  Secret Wars #1 (“The End Times”) 

Writer: Jonathan Hickman

header4Words have meaning, words have power, and Jonathan Hickman may be the only comic book writer whose words stir me (at least on a month to month basis). The first few lines of Secret Wars #1 did just that and the final closing lines to the comic book issue left me with an emotional feeling only Hickman’s writing can generate. In-between these first and final pages, the reader is presented with the last gasp of the Marvel Universe (Earth-616) and the Ultimate Universe (Earth-1610), as they suffer the one last incursion. Picking up where Avengers #44 and New Avengers #33 concluded, the heroes of both earths focus all of their energies on each’s own survival. This historic encounter of these two universes is so engaging and there is not a single slow or tedious moment in the totality of the comic. Important characters of both universes are given the spotlight on equal terms and the satisfaction from this is phenomenal. Secret Wars #1 is a beginning and an ending, the culmination of what everything of the last few years has been leading to and a taste of what lies ahead.  Out of all the first issues of major Marvel events I’ve previously read, the story for Secret Wars #1 trumps them all.

Issue of the Month Award: Secret Wars #1 (“The End Times”) 

Writer & Designer: Jonathan Hickman 

Artist: Esad Ribic

Color Artist: Ive Svorcina

Cover Art: Alex Ross

header5This is a first for my monthly Comic Book Awards; a single issue that is the winner of every receivable award. An incredible feat, no doubt, and leave it to Jonathan Hickman’s introductory climax of possibly his greatest plot yet to do it. What is beheld in the double-sized, packed vastness of Secret Wars #1 is the faultless issue I hinted to earlier. The efficacious cover by Alex Ross, the power pens of Esad Ribic and Ive Svorcina, and Jonathan Hickman’s staggering developments raise this single issue above reproach. When a comic book gets you uncontrollably excited about what you just witnessed and even more excited for what’s to come, it has overcome what the plethora of usual comic books depart you with. Major comic book events are enacted to hold what regular ongoing series’ cannot and to drastically affect the universe it is a part of. From Secret Wars #1, this is inherently the case…and the event just started. There is an all-true common trend that events boast how “after this, nothing will be the same”, or, “this is the biggest event ever attempted to be put out by our company”, and, usually, the event turns out to become almost nothing of a sort. This is Jonathan Hickman, though, and this is his Secret Wars. Nothing is safe, and you can trust that when he’s at the head of something, mountains will move.

Thank you all for checking out my awards for May (a lot quicker than last time, eh?) and check back sometime next month for June’s Comic Book Awards! Until then, hopefully you and I will continue to be reading comics!

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