Comic Book Awards for October

~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!

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