Comic Book Awards for May

~Nandor Shaffer

The month of May was one of the most dynamic for my comic book titles. The biggest thing to report is welcoming back Steve Rogers as Captain America in the extra-sized (and now highly controversial) Captain America: Steve Rogers #1 ($4.99). Captain America has been favorite superhero character for years, and, while I think it’s unnecessarily convenient for there now to be two Captain Americas in the Marvel Universe, it’s so great to have my captain back. That is unless he is truly an agent of the evil HYDRA organization, an unexpected reveal at the end of the issue that got both fans and critics in a tizzy. There’s a lot that could be said about this, and I certainly am against this decision by writer Nick Spencer and Marvel, but I’m 100% confident this is something being blown out of proportion. It’s a common ploy in comics to get people talking, as well as get as much publicity as possible from the media, so rest assured, Steve Rogers will not be a part of Hydra for long (if he even is). Staying within the vicinity of Cap’s world, the Thunderbolts return under the leadership of the Winter Soldier in Thunderbolts #1. This was another one of those “impulsive buys” I’ve been finding myself doing recently, but I’m happy to say the issue wasn’t a waste of cash in the end. In fact, the ‘90s style of art by Jon Malin was entirely refreshing. May sought to give me double-doses of three of my books. Two issues of Uncanny Inhumans, Doctor Who: The Eleventh Doctor, and The Flashreleased. Uncanny Inhumans #8 and #9 explored the origins of Queen Medusa and Human Torch’s romance, the 11th Doctor’s hunt for who framed him for genocidal murder continues in #8 and #9 in his book, and The Flash ended its New 52 run, along with Aquaman, with issues #51 and #52. The “Rebel Jail” storyline concluded inStar Wars #19, while the exceptionally well written fifth and final issue of Star Wars: Obi-Wan & Anakin also hit shelves.

But out of these and other nominees, which comics received the Comic Book Awards for May? (Disclosure: I wasn’t able to pick up Moon Knight #2 because all of my local comic shops sold out curiously enough, but it is on order. Sadly, it is disqualified from being a potential nominee for this month).

Cover of the Month Award: Doctor Who: The Eleventh Doctor Year Two #9 

Cover: Mark Wheatley

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One thing I enjoy almost as much as watching the wonderful Doctor Who TV series is reading the spin-off comic books, which can include some marvelous artwork and images. Mark Wheatley’s cover for Doctor Who: The 11th Doctor Year Two #9 is one such example. The cover artists Titan Comics hires for not only the 11th Doctor comics, but for the other Doctors has been nothing short of exceptional. Every time I walk in to one of the comic book stores in my area and see an eye-catchingDoctor Who picture, it takes some doing to not buy the comic, if only for the sake of owning the cover (I’m a die-hard Whovian, what can I say?). What makes Wheatley’s cover so impressive is its spot-on presentation of the 11th Doctor, as played by Matt Smith. It’s impossible for the reader to mistake the face for someone else, and the way in which Wheatley captures Smith’s aura – his dramatic facial expression and fiddle of the 11th’s iconic bow-tie –  gives the cover an overwhelming pop and respect. The clarity and realism of it takes me aback entirely, as if it came straight from a scene in the show itself.

Art of the Month Award: Steve Rogers: Captain America #1 

Artist: Jesus Saiz

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The consistency of talented art is there enough in Steve Rogers: Captain America #1 to hold it high above the other books for May. Disregarding the escalating controversial nature of Steve Rogers: Captain America #1, the great artwork, done solely by artist Jesus Saiz, within the single comic book issue leaves little room for debate or disappointment. Steve Rogers: Captain America #1 feels and looks like a natural superhero book because of Saiz; all of the characters look tough, but distinct; the settings feel like they are from a comic book, but still convincing. Jesus does a very fine job at following Spencer’s script to the last line, his storytelling skills clearly apparent. Captain America comics are known for their action sequences, which Jesus knocks out of the park (pages 4 and 13, especially). Captain America’s new outfit in the midst of battle really steals the show. I did find some of his panels to look too stiff or too generic, however. The best thing about Jesus Saiz is his all-around talent. Contributing the pencils, inks, and colors for this issue, and most likely for the length of his tenure on the book, Saiz gives the reader his all.

Story of the Month Award: Star Wars: Obi-Wan & Anakin #5

Writer: Charles Soule 

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Being a huge, passionate fan of the Star Wars prequels, Star Wars: Obi-Wan & Anakin has been my favorite comic series of the license Marvel has put out yet. Since every single past Expanded Universe story about Anakin’s time at the Jedi Temple and training under Obi-Wan has now been debunked under Disney’s shadow, it was a tremendous surprise to get a new canonical tale of these brothers in the Force so soon. Considering how much Star Wars fans want to distance themselves from the prequels (an unfortunate fact), a story from this era is just as shocking to me as well. The plot of Anakin & Obi-Wan finds the master and his apprentice stranded in the middle of a planetary civil war between the tribes of The Closed and The Open on the planet Carnelion IV after learning of a distress call from the planet’s surface. To add to the tension, this is supposed to be Anakin Skywalker’s last mission as a Jedi disciple; he has decided to leave the Jedi Order for a time, which troubles Obi-Wan. The series has done a fair job at juggling these two threads of narrative, and the fifth and final issue features one heck of a payoff. The last few pages of this issue made the entire series worth it for me. I was really touched by how writer Charles Soule handled the relationship between Obi-Wan and Anakin throughout these five issues, and although the limited series felt slow, a bit underdeveloped, and didn’t deliver on the lightsaber-wielding action I had hoped for, the scope of it and underlying theme on what it means to be a Jedi made for a very agreeable read. More comic books on the young adventures of this master and apprentice, as well as from the prequel era, would be awesome to see more of in the future. 

Issue of the Month Award: International Iron Man #3

Writer: Brian Michael Bendis

Artist & Cover Artist: Alex Maleev

Color Artist: Paul Mounts

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There’s not a particular special quality of International Iron Man #3. Every significant facet of this issue from Brian Michael Bendis and Alex Maleev is simply solid, and these combine to produce a memorable, engaging comic book. Let’s start off by inspecting Maleev’s cover art. First off, the image speaks of legacy, the past meeting the present. Tony stares intently at the helmet of the most current iteration of his armor as his first, technologically handicapped suit looms in the backdrop. The way the tender blue of Tony contrasts against the bright orange and deep red surroundings of the page precisely captures the weighty presence of the artwork’s message. I’ve been an admirer of Maleev’s talent for a while now, and this cover only furthers my admiration for him and his skill. Moving on to Maleev’s interiors, I will say his work is not as impressive. This is most likely due to Paul Mounts providing his colors to Maleev’s pencils and inks. The two gel well together visually, but there are times I wish Maleev was doing his own colors for the book. Nonetheless, the crispness of Maleev’s work is brilliant in International Iron Man #3. I primarily love how he draws a young Tony Stark and portrays the sweet, reckless romance scenes between him and Cassandra. The point of the International Iron Man title is to give readers a more in-depth look at Tony Stark’s life outside of the mainstream Marvel universe. In the three issues so far, the book has been revealing to us a past romantic event with a Cassandra Gillespie from Tony’s earlier years when he was a college student. In the present day, Tony’s search for his real parents has led him back to Cassandra, now an international arms dealer. Gradually with each issue, we’re getting more backstory on Tony’s relationship to this character, and here we find out her attraction to Stark wasn’t all that sincere in the beginning. Bendis’ writing for the series is in its best form in some time, with smart and fun dialogue cohesively and consistently holding everything together in this third issue. I look forward to finding out Cassandra’s connection to Tony’s real parents in the coming months, and seeing how his past relationship with her eventually falls a part.

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

August Comic Book Awards

~Nandor Shaffer
If you are an obsessive Doctor Who fan (or a “whovian”, as they say), you may have heard of the little new comic book event being published by Titan Comics, Doctor Who: Four Doctors. This weekly event made its debut on August 12th, and will be running for five weeks (although I just read #5 was delayed, sadly). My point is, since I’m a positively diehard fan of the TV series, Doctor Who: Four Doctors, a timey-wimey adventure involving the 10th, 11th, and 12th Doctors as well as the War Doctor portrayed by John Hurt from the epic Day of the Doctor episode, is more than fanatically exciting for me. The good news is that the first three issues have not disappointed so far, and the great, surprising news is that it dominated August’s pile of comics in terms of superb quality. Speaking of Doctor Who, Year One of the 11th Doctor’s own title concluded with #15 to an appreciable end this month. I was also ecstatic to get my hands on the latest Bucky Barnes: The Winter Soldier issue with #10, as Mr. Rudy’s beautiful work ever keeps me in awe. Barry Allen faces his father in The Flash #43 under shady circumstances and a wanted Aquaman is still on the run from his Atlantis and Mera for his moral convictions in #43 of his title. Alas, the fifth issue of Secret Wars was regrettably stale compared against my high expectations for it. The one-shot Secret Wars Ant-Man tie-in faired better when all is said and done.
Out of these nominees, which comics received the Comic Book Awards for the month of August
 
Cover of the Month Award: Secret Wars #5
 
Cover By: Alex Ross
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Ah, yes, Alex Ross does it…again (it’s not my fault he’s this good). In no way am I insinuating that the other covers for the month of August or past months haven’t been excellent or even exceptional in some cases; it’s just that Mr. Ross knows where to perfectly hit that sweet spot I have for comic book/superhero artwork. The cover for Secret Wars #5 exhibits the grim face of Doctor Doom split in two, with the other half in a flaming rage as images of the Beyonder disperse in fragments. It’s somewhat of a hint as to what you will find in this issue, but more in a metaphorical sense. What remains to be true is that this is a striking image and the fiery gaze and gloom of Doom leaves a mark.

Art of the Month Award: Bucky Barnes: The Winter Soldier #10

Artist: Marco Rudy

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If the cover by Michael Del Mundo is any indication, what lies inside Bucky Barnes: The Winter Soldier #10 is an art and color extravaganza. Time and time again, Marco Rudy lets his creative, artistic vision fly to the outer reaches of conventional comic book art into a place all-too reminiscent of a cosmic space opera that comes close to defy the most heavenly body of actual outer space. Intense uses of colors add a punching mood to many pages and his repeating use of circular panels ask the reader to look at usual comic book storytelling in an unfamiliar, but freeing light. I think the writer, Ales Kot, notices Rudy’s powerful, expansive style and that might be the reason for the sparse dialogue throughout the issue (why handcuff Rudy’s talent?). My favorite pages would likely be pages 2 &3 (shown above), 8 & 9, 15, 16 & 17. There’s just so much dramatic life in these pages that is really stunning. With that said, I do hope others are seeing what I’m seeing: breathtaking quality.

Story of the Month Award: Doctor Who: Four Doctors #3

Writer: Paul Cornell 

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Positionally, the first two issues of Doctor Who: Four Doctors are mainly introductory issues taking you through the whims of the 10th, 11th, and 12th Doctors and their companions first meeting each other. Why are they here? What’s going on? How could running into each other lead to the “end of all things”? While these introductory issues have some truly brilliant plot and character moments, Doctor Who: Four Doctors #3 is where it’s time to get out your sonic screwdriver, adjust your bow-tie, and yell, “Geronimo!”. This issue gets to the heart of the series thus far, exploring important themes in the Doctor Who lore and further providing a mystery of mysteries. The Doctors and their companions arrive on a planet that the Doctors should remember…but don’t. As they scatter from an oncoming attack from nowhere, the eventual detonation of a Dalek continuum bomb thrusts all of our adventures through alternate timelines of key decisions throughout the Doctor’s life. It has all the makings of a classic, outstanding Doctor Who story and watching it unfold is as delightful as fish fingers and custard (for those of you who don’t know, that’s a Doctor Who pun…sorry, couldn’t resist).

Issue of the Month Award: Doctor Who: Four Doctors #1

Writer: Paul Cornell 

Artist: Neil Edwards

Colorist: Ivan Nunes

Cover Art: Neil Edwards 

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In all sincerity, I would have never guessed that BBC would give Titan Comics the go-ahead for a story featuring just two Doctors. It was only two years ago that the 10th and 11th Doctors first met one another as well as the curious War Doctor in the highly acclaimed Day of the Doctor special on BBC. Surely, this wouldn’t happen again on the air, or, at least, this soon. Sure enough, expect the unexpected when it comes to Doctor Who. Not only only do we have Doctors #10 and #11 and the War Doctor, we have the new (but old) kid on the block, Doctor #12 as well featured in Doctor Who: Four Doctors. Talk about a time paradox collapse waiting to happen.

This weekly event begins to take root as Clara, tagging along with her Doctor on an unnamed, jungle world, stumbles across The Museum of Terrible Fates, a silvery, physically changing alien bubble. She enters and it reveals to her an image of the three Doctors meeting, which will supposedly lead to the “end of all things”. She must not let this happen. Of course, though, it does. The plot moves straightforward from there and the amusing banter between the Doctors and their companions is fun, clever, and very well scripted. You might be familiar with Paul Cornell (he wrote a few episodes for the series and regularly writes for Marvel and DC) and Neil Edwards (artist on many books like Fantastic Four, Justice League United, etc.). Doctor Who: Four Doctors actually feels like a book being published by one of the big two comic book companies compared to previous Doctor Who books put out by Titan Comics. Cornell knows his way around a comic book and the Doctor Who universe while Neil Edwards’ sensational pen and inks make him the model man for the job. If you love Doctor Who and have never picked up a comic book, now is the time starting with this precise issue and series.

Thank you all again for checking out my awards for August and be sure check back sometime next month for September’s Comic Book Awards! Until then, hopefully you and I will continue to be reading comics! (Also, I thought it would be important to note that this post actually makes it a year since I started writing these awards here on Troy Christensen’s blog, The Emerald Tablet, and I just want to take a moment to say how cool it’s been and how grateful I am to be able to post my Comic Book of the Month Awards every month on here. Thank you very much for reading everyone. It means a lot.)

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I am so glad Nandor writes these fantastic Comic Book Awards.  It is hard to believe it has already been a year.  Brave, Nandor!

~Troy Christensen September 9th 2015

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

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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

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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!

Comic Book Awards for January

The new year is here and its first month has gone as quickly as it came, bringing with it the fresh artistic offerings from comic book publishers everywhere. A new year beckons the thrill of new beginnings which was taken advantage of in view of the fact that three brand new ongoing series’ made it into my monthly comic book purchases (as if I didn’t already have enough comics, mind you). Marvel finally had the motivation to give their tiniest – may I add greatly underrated – hero a chance with Ant-Man #1 in light of Marvel Studios’ Ant-Man film hitting theaters this July, written by well-received writer Nick Spencer. As sad as it is to say that Hank Pym, the original Ant-Man, is not the man under the costume, Scott Lang dons the insect-themed alias to very amiable results. That galaxy far, far away that we all know and love reunites with its first love at Marvel as well. Star Wars #1 by Jason Aaron and John Cassaday will make any Star Wars fan ecstatic, and you might even be hearing John Williams’ fantastical score in the back of your heads as you open up the respectful first issue. Picking up my first ever ongoing book from Image Comics, Jonathan Hickman and Ryan Bodenheim’s The Dying & the Dead debuted this month with a staggering 60 pages for only $4.50. Regulars like Aquaman, Hulk, Avengers, and many others released whilst Fantastic Four took the bold move of going back to its true numbering with #642.

But out of these and other nominees, which were the best of the opening month of the year? This proved to be one of the most competitive months in recent memory.

Cover of the Month Award: Star Wars #1 

Cover Artists: John Cassaday & Laura Martin 

2For context’s sake, the first ever Star Wars comic was published by Marvel Comics back around the time Episode IV: A New Hope released in 1977. As time went on, Dark Horse eventually became the proud home of the greatest sci-fi fantasy universe, launching with Star Wars: Dark Empire in the ‘90s, and held the reigns for over twenty-five years, producing incredible titles exploring never before seen timelines and characters. When Disney, then already having bought Marvel a few years earlier, acquired the Star Wars property, the stars aligned and the teeming inevitability of new Star Wars comics back under the Marvel banner would be an historic event in the comic book world. Here we are, almost forty years later, and Marvel’s Star Wars #1 comes to us presenting a blasting cover from John Cassaday and color partner Laura Martin.

One look shouts out classic Star Wars. X-Wings and Tie Fighters zoom overhead the hearts and souls of the Rebel Alliance as Darth Vader’s helmet silhouette of hyperspace stands in the backdrop in capturing, modeled symmetry. The detailed touches on the ships and almost pitch-perfect faithfulness to the looks of Luke, Leia, Han, Chewbacca, C-3P0, and R2-D2 from the beloved films is what you need to do to invoke the absorbing splendor of the Star Wars license. The cover for Star Wars #1 nails it.

Art of the Month Award: Bucky Barnes: The Winter Soldier #3

Artists: Marco Rudy (PGS 1-12, 17-20), Michael Walsh (PGS 13-16)

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Two issues of Bucky Barnes: The Winter Soldier came out in January (making up for no issue in December 2014), both exhibiting the talent of artist extraordinaire Marco Rudy. #4 mainly featured pencils and inks from Langdon Foss with just four pages given to Rudy, regrettably. However, #3’s seventeen magnificent pages from Marco Rudy more than make up for any disappointments, and still outweigh the artwork of the 10+ other comics on my reading list. That’s how remarkable this guy’s stuff is. Sublime is page after page of Bucky Barnes: The Winter Soldier #3. Serene colors caress the full, wondrous space and alien bound issue and a few one pagers will pause you for a second or more. Unique, extravagant panel layouts return with pages one, two, eighteen and nineteen standing out in considerable efficacy. There’s even a glimmer of romance in #3 that is shown quite tastefully. Regardless of Michael Walsh’s simplistic but firm four pages, one panel of Marco Rudy’s paints carries with it a deep, memorable signature.

Story of the Month Award: Avengers #40 (“We Three Kings”) 

Writer: Jonathan Hickman 

4With Jonathan Hickman’s Secret Wars now only four months away and his run on both Avengers and New Avengers coming to an end this April, the time for closure is at hand after two-and-a-half years of spectacular buildup. The climactic events of New Avengers #28 left us at an unexpected standstill between Steve Rogers’ army of S.H.I.E.L.D. agents and heroes and the clever Illuminati. The opposing forces lightly agree to a legitimate truce for the moment as the entire multiverse hangs in the balance due to the curious incursions plaguing the Marvel universe. Our heroes plan to get rid of The Cabal – consisting of the mad titan Thanos, Black Swan, Terrax, Maximus, Corvus Glaive and his wife Proxima Midnight – while a grueling confrontation Black Panther has with Namor is something we’ve been waiting to see since the very early issues of New Avengers. There is no holding back now.

Issue of the Month Award: Avengers #40 (“We Three Kings”) 

Writer: Jonathan Hickman

Artist: Stefano Caselli

Color Artist: Frank Martin

Cover Art: Dale Keown & Jason Keith

5Avengers #40 is a comic book you don’t want to pass over. This story chapter of Hickman’s continuing dark drama epic is fluid and shocking. The endgame of his Avengers is rising to its boiling point in too many brilliant ways. Stefano Caselli is the featured artist of this extra-sized issue; his smooth but crisp style a caliber of excellence. Colorist Frank Martin, the underdog trooper of the book, is in great form, too. You’ll find a host of familiar faces in Avengers #40 and also witness once more heroes make decisions that will take a toll on relationships in addition to status of moral ground.

Thanks for checking out my awards and check back sometime next month for February’’s Comic Book Awards! Until then, hopefully you and I will continue to be reading comics in the dawn of this new year!

September Comic book Awards

~Nandor Fox

Welcome back everyone for the third installment of my monthly annual COMIC BOOK AWARDS! If this is your very first time taking a glance at what this is all about, I’ll give you a brief rundown to catch you up just in case. This is the column where every month , out of the ten-plus comic books I personally purchase, I choose which individual comic book issue deserves the award out of the four categories: Cover of the Month, Art of the Month, Story of the Month, and Issue of the Month. It’s been a bit of a hobby I’ve done for a while mainly just for myself for the fun of it, but now I have the pleasure of sharing it, hopefully, to a wider audience like yourself. My Comic Book Awards are meant to simply entertain, inform, and maybe even possibly help you see what comics you might be missing out on that you might otherwise enjoy. Anyways, without further ado, here are my Comic Book Awards for the month of September!

The month of September proved to be an overall good as well as competitive month for comics. I honestly had a somewhat difficult time figuring which comic book issue was most worthy of an award over another and why due to the fact that many issues were, comparatively, on-par with each other. But that’s what makes this fun, right? September saw many extra-sized issues as they garnered a $4.99 price tag, special tie-in’s for DC Comics’ Future’s End event, and also the unfortunate end to Jason Aaron’s commendable Thor: God of Thunder series with #25 (which will be returning in October with Thor #1 featuring the controversial new female Thor). Avengers and New Avengers took a bold and mysterious turn as their current epic storylines take place eight months from now in the future, the 11th Doctor arrives with his latest companion Alice on a planet with whose citizens are all-too curiously happy, and the Red Skull’s menacing plan comes to a head in Captain America and Uncanny Avengers as Marvel’s Avengers & X-Men: AXIS fall comics event is upon us.

But out of these and other nominees, which were the best? The results surprised me.

Cover of the Month Award: Doctor Who: The Eleventh Doctor #2

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Cover Artist: Alice X. Zhang

Wonder. Imagination. Joy. Whenever I think about the amazing sci-fi BBC Doctor Who TV series, these are the foundational emotions that I feel. When I look at this cover for the second issue of Titan Comics’ Doctor Who: The Eleventh Doctor, some of those same emotions hit me. This gorgeous, almost transcendent, painted cover by Alice X. Zhang is an extravagant rendering of the 11th Doctor played by the unparalleled Matt Smith. The Doctor’s pose as he looks in amused delight at the shining lights above him, and that happiness expressed in its life-like fullness, carries this lovely work of art to warrant Cover of the Month in a heartbeat.

Art of the Month Award: Uncanny X-Men #25

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Penciler and Colorist: Chris Bachalo

Inkers: Tim Townsend, Mark Irwin, Jaime Mendoza, Victor Olazaba & Al Vey

I’d have to admit I’ve never really liked Chris Bachalo’s art. That’s not to say I think his art is bad; not at all. His diverse, true comic book style presentation is impressive and even needed in the comic book world today, but it’s not necessarily what I’m looking for in terms of art when I pick up a comic. However, when I finished Uncanny X-Men #25, I was taken aback. From the first two pages, there was a part of me unexpectedly drawn to this issue. Nothing about Bachalo’s work was different or altered — I just found myself being strikingly pulled in by it. The pages are filled to the max with unique panel formatting, and his storytelling is at its best, resulting in a packed, satisfying issue. Maybe it’s the great teamwork present involving writer Brian Michael Bendis and Mr. Bachalo, but, nevertheless, it is a fine example of a rewarding comic book.

Story of the Month Award: Avengers #34.1 (“The World In His Hands”)

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Writer: Al Ewing

Avengers #34.1 is a standalone tale spotlighting the character, and current Avenger, Hyperion. He’s not a well known Marvel character, but that doesn’t diminish how cool or powerful he is (think Superman powerful). The plot revolves around a child being abducted and Hyperion takes it upon himself to locate the child and kidnapper. What might sound like a straight-forward story becomes, actually, a touching one. Al Ewing expertly explores Hyperion’s psyche throughout the issue and, doing so, manages to make him a very likeable, thought-provoking hero. In the issue Hyperion questions who he is and why he does what he does, which all relates to his fascinating back-story. When you flip the last page, Avengers #34.1 ends up as a rich, character driven superhero story that captures something great about hope and how we can help people. Usually I pass over “.1’s”, but I’m so glad this particular issue was an exception.

Issue of the Month Award: New Avengers #24 (“The Cabal”)
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Writer: Jonathan Hickman

Artist: Valerio Schiti

Cover Artist: Gabrielle Dell ‘Otto

New Avengers #24 is not your conventional “next issue”. Why is that? The story takes place eight whole months after the last issue and is also a part of Jonathan Hickman’s grand Avengers masterpiece crossing over with his ongoing regular Avengers title. You’re put into the middle of dire times and circumstances in New Avengers #24 where there are more questions than answers, making for much intrigue. The Illuminati are in hiding, the Cabal is killing worlds left and right, and Doctor Doom is up to something…all this and more give way for a brilliant first building block in Hickman’s next step for this book. Valerio Schiti in addition returns for this thirty-page issue offering up his rising talent. With such cinematic grace, Schiti’s facial and action scenes are remarkable here. If you want a consecutively incredible comic book series, New Avengers is totally the way to go.

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