Comic Book Awards for February.

In February we got our first taste of Marvel’s upcoming spring event, Avengers: Standoff by Nick Spencer. Written by Spencer with art by Mark Bagley, Avengers Standoff: Welcome to Pleasant Hill #1 comes as an enjoyable prologue to the event and its many series’ tie-ins. The thrilling setup differentiates this Marvel event from ones in recent years so here’s hoping the rest capitalizes on what it has built up. My regular titles maintained their pace for the most part this month. The Astonishing Ant-Man continues to be a highlight and I was treated to two issues of The Flash in response to the book’s tardy release last month. Aquaman #49 and Uncanny Inhumans #5 flopped big time in February – the scripts for both issues were under-par –  but the good news is that Doctor Strange #5 was a stellar dip into the weirdness and spectacular flare of the Sorcerer Supreme. Star Wars #16, Star Wars: Obi Wan & Anakin #2, Doctor Who: The Eighth Doctor #4, and Invincible Iron Man #6 also made their way into my comic book pile this month.

But out of these nominees, which came out to boast an Comic Book of the Month Award? 

Cover of the Month Award: Uncanny Inhumans #5 

Cover Artist: Brandon Peterson 

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Artist Brandon Peterson holds to an distinct glossy, digital style. If you follow his work you’d begin to notice how vividly it pops from the page. You could say he’s an expert at making his work on the 2-D page look as though it was 3-D, even. Peterson provides the pencils and inks for the interiors as well as the entirety of the cover art to Uncanny Inhumans #5. The cover features a stunning face image of Black Bolt and within it is an image of the entrance to The Quiet Room, which is the focus point of the story in this issue. The white backdrop fits as a nice contrast to cap this cover artwork off.

Art of the Month Award: Doctor Strange #5

Pencils & Colors: Chris Bachalo 

Inks: Tim Townsend, Al Vey, Mark Irwin, John Livesay, Victor Olazaba & Jaime Mendoza

Dr_Strange_5_5

Chris Bachalo has been contributing some of his best work I’ve seen in these last five issues of the ongoing Doctor Strange title. While I still dislike how his panel flow is somewhat disjointed, it also makes his artwork interesting to study. Bachalo is also one of those few professionals to do both pencils and colors, sometimes inking on occasion. His color work is what really shows in Doctor Strange #5, giving a nice layer of haunting atmosphere to many of the pages. This issue is big in scope and it’s the dramatic action sequences between Strange and his encroaching foes that make a lasting impact. The designs for this new tier of villainy, The Empiriku, add an extensive creep factor to the mix, too. By and large, this issue is the most visually complex comic book of February.

Story of the Month Award: Doctor Strange #5 (“Pound of Flesh”) 

Writer: Jason Aaron

DRS2015005-DC11-ed382 (1)

Strange Tendrils 01

In recent years there’s been this theme of “paying the price” or a “cost” to Doctor Strange’s use of questionable magic at the heart of his character arc. You saw this brought forth especially during Strange’s exploits in the New Avengers series. Jason Aaron’s handle on the book thus far has emphasized that point a great deal, and in Doctor Strange #5 he explores it further. Wong, Doctor Strange’s loyal assistant and friend, has secretly orchestrated a system of magic conduits in the form of using real people to channel magic’s overwhelming “cost” (so, to explain, what the good Doctor should be experiencing after casting one black magic spell, the consequences of his actions effect the conduits instead). This is a side plot in light of the issue’s whole, but an important one that I think will have reverberations in future issues. The bulk of Doctor Strange #5 deals with The Empiriku making their way towards Earth to obliterate all the magic it holds, including its protectors and users. A global battle of magic ensues and the good guys come out on top…or do they really? What comes next beckons.

Issue of the Month Award: Doctor Strange #5 (“Pound of Flesh”)

Writer: Jason Aaron

Pencils & Colors: Chris Bachalo

Inks: Tim Townsend, Al Vey, Mark Irwin, John Livesay, Victor Olazaba & Jaime Mendoza

Cover: Chris Bachalo & Tim Townsend 

DRS2015005-DC11-ed382 (1)

The more I take time with Jason Aaron and Chris Bachalo’s Doctor Strange #5, the more I can’t help but admire it. It was a tough pick between Avengers: Welcome To Pleasant Hill #1 or this for Issue of the Month, but this comic book issue emerged in sweet success after all. This is truly a fine comic book issue, no one could hope to deny that. It capitalizes on what’s come before – adding in a new, tasteful turn of desperation for the series – and Bachalo lets loose to interpret the script with provocative results in an outstanding fashion (pages 2, 16, 18, and 20 are just terrific). With a tinge of humor, a weighty dose of Doctor Strange spell casting action, and a notable tone of comic book class, Doctor Strange #5 is a recipe of charming resonance. 

Once again, I appreciate all who’ve checked out February’s edition of my annual Comic Book of the Month Awards. Check back sometime next month for the Comic Book of the Month Awards for March! Until then, hopefully you and I will continue to be reading and enjoying comics!

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