December’s dozen or so comics said goodbye to 2015 on good terms for me. The second-to-last issue of Secret Wars released, a highlight of the month, with all-out war progressing on Castle Doom. Even if the conclusion will be an extra-sized issue, I’m remaining on the edge of my skeptical seat to see just how Mr. Hickman plans to finally finish what his very first Avengers issue began a few years ago and additionally birth this “new” Marvel universe. I had a great time with the humorous, mystery-narrative driven Doctor Strange #3 by Jason Aaron and Chris Bachalo and the third issue of The Astonishing Ant-Man picked up where #2 left off, Sam Wilson as Captain America asking Ant-Man for some assistance amidst Lang’s unfortunate but always entertaining troubles. Part III of the Vader Down crossover came in Star Wars #13 with excellent art from the popular Mike Deodato, the 9th Doctor’s miniseries concluded with #5 (soon to return from Titan as an ongoing series) as he and his two companions – Jack Harkness and Rose – extinguished the fight between the Unon and the Lect, and Kang’s toll on Black Bolt’s son, Ahura, is fully realized by the surviving Inhumans (including Black Bolt himself) in the intense Uncanny Inhumans #3. The fourth issue of Invincible Iron Man proposes Mary Jane’s introduction into the world of Tony Stark, but she’s only teased by the end of the comic. Doctor Who: New Adventures With The Eight Doctor continues to be somewhat of an underwhelming book with its second issue, however, Year Two of the Eleventh Doctor is living up to be a wonderfully written Doctor Who comic book in almost all respects.
And so, out of these and other nominees, which comics received the Comic Book Awards for December?
Cover of the Month Award: Uncanny Inhumans #3
Cover Artists: Steve McNiven, Jay Leisten, and Justin Ponsor
The cover for Uncanny Inhumans #3 – pencils by McNiven, inks by Leisten, and colors by Ponsor – is gripping. Former Inhuman king Black Bolt is roaring in anguish as spreading flames of fire terrorize his image and, despite the subject matter, it’s conveyed splendidly by the artists. I appreciate how close up and direct this cover is, and exactly because of that, it sells the thought of the torturous pain on Black Bolt’s angled face (this and his eyes slits of pure black to add dramatic effect). The prominent orange/red of the cover for Uncanny Inhumans #3 is vibrantly contrasted against the two bursts of bright white-blue coming from his antenna and mouth, also. Packing a real, impactful sonic punch, this is definitely the Cover of the Month for December 2015.
Art of the Month Award: Doctor Who: The Eleventh Doctor Year Two #3
Artist: Simon Fraser
Colorist: Gary Caldwell
It is my notion that those who critique comic book artists would likely agree with me in that penciller and inker Simon Fraser’s work is just shy of above average. From my limited experience of his artistic exposure, he is one of those artists that when you examine a page or panel he’s done, it’s simply fabulous, but then you flip the page or look at the following panel and then you all of a sudden wonder why a character looks like he or she was drawn in two seconds. Fraser has his moments, I should say, and while his lack of detail or accurate proportions hurts his style to an extent, it is also what enhances his style to better appreciate its own unique facets. He has been the strongest artistic contributor to the Doctor Who: The 11th Doctor comic book (rotating with Warren Pleece at times), and over the course of the series Fraser has exponentially grown on me. Providing Doctor Who: The 11th Doctor with arguably its best issues visually, along with colorist Gary Caldwell, Year Two #3 will be added to a top spot on the list. If you noticed, the issue alternates between one page splash pages and eight-panel pages throughout. The method works spectacularly for emphasizing key story points and this subtly opens up the structure of the comic in its entirety, making for such an enjoyable read. I’m not lying when I state these images that take advantage of the entire page (a.k.a. splash pages in comic book rhetoric) are some of the series’ most impressive to date and page sixteen may even give goosebumps to Whovians. Caldwell’s colorist abilities add to Year Two #3’s lasting result in essential ways with how he cleverly differentiates scenes and characters as well, leaving the panels with Alice and Squire with grey and purple values and the panels with The Doctor with a variety. Doctor Who: The 11th Doctor Year Two #3 is a comic book issue that you can tell was approached with shining confidence on an artistic, creative level.
Story of the Month Award: Secret Wars #8 (“Under Siege”)
Writer: Jonathan Hickman
Jonathan Hickman’s Secret Wars was initially supposed to be an eight issue limited series. I do not know the behind-the-scenes reasons for why they extended it to a ninth issue, but because of what, and how much, is going in Secret Wars #8, I can positively understand the extension. War has reached Castle Doom and with it a sky scraper-sized Thing, opposing kingdoms of Battleworld, and, by the end of the issue, the ghoulish undead lead by Namor and Black Panther, who courageously wields the treasured Infinity Gauntlet. Hickman isn’t known for action-oriented issues, but Secret Wars #8 breaks that mold. Galactus, controlled by Franklin Richards, engages The Thing in a monumental explosive clash and the Thanos confronts God Doom that reaches an ugly, terrific ending for the tyrant. Without giving anymore away from this historic run, the majority of the issue is an abundance of epic combat that is balanced by parts of tension-filled dialogue and you’ll be dying to pick up Secret Wars #9 (which is out now!) in the aftermath.
Issue of the Month Award: Uncanny Inhumans #3
Writer: Charles Soule
Penciller: Steve McNiven
Inker: Jay Leisten
Colorists: Sunny Gho and Java Tartaglia
Cover Artists: Steve McNiven, Jay Leisten, and Justin Ponsor
With just the four issues released so far (counting the zero issue), Uncanny Inhumans has already taken pretty bold steps. If you’re unaware of the current happenings in the storyline, Black Bolt gave his son to the time-traveling villain Kang in the event of the assumed “end of everything” heralded by the incursions from other universes (read Hickman’s legendary New Avengers for clarification). Since existence did not cease to exist, however, Black Bolt wants his son back (and tries to retrieve him in Uncanny Inhumans #1) but Kang, as you could imagine, will not have that whatsoever. To punish Black Bolt for his offense, Kang has set out to obliterate the Inhumans from the timeline and has taken Black Bolt’s son, Ahura, as his apprentice, using him to massacre his own ancestors. Uncanny Inhumans #3sees the confrontation between the handful of surviving Inhumans and their allies – Black Bolt, Medusa, Beast, Johnny Storm, Triton, Iso, and Reader (my personal new favorite) – against Ahura, who has aged decades. With that platform, the issue becomes an engaging twenty pages of raving, intense skirmishes. It wouldn’t have turned out as powerful without Steve McNiven’s remarkable interpretation of writer Charles Soule’s script. His crisp pencils give the prominent moments of the storyline a concise sting of beauty. Jay Leisten provides helpful inks but the colors by Sunny Gho and Java Tartaglia at times conflict with McNiven’s sketches.Uncanny Inhumans #3 features an intense chapter in a story that carries with it a tinge of desperation and, in light of the final page, resonating tragedy. The book is heading in a good, dramatic direction that, if kept up, will evolve to become one of the best comic book series’ of 2016, guaranteed.
Thank you all for checking out my awards for the final month of 2015 and be sure to check back sometime next month for the first edition of 2016’s Comic Book Awards!
I want to give an update and apologize for not posting my Comic Book of the Year Awards for 2015. I had every intention to do so before the year was over, but time was not on my side. They still may be posted in the near future (can’t make any promises), but I hope my monthly awards will be enough for the time being.
~ Nandor Shaffer