My Creator-Owned Graphic Novel is Now on Kickstarter!

 

Have you ever had a dream? Have you ever wanted something so bad that it kept you up at night and made you feel even slightly nauseous when thinking about it for too long? Have you ever been so close to fulfilling a passion project that you’ve spent months, hours upon hours, and every last dollar on? Have you ever had a story you knew you had to tell and you knew were the only one who could tell it? Well, that’s where I am at this point in time with my graphic novel series, SEASONS.

Here’s the description of the series:

“SEASONS is an original, creator-owned comic book drama for readers who want be a part of a deep and serious one year journey that will challenge how they look at themselves, others and the world around them. The story of SEASONS revolves around one character, Fletcher Hart Iiams, a misunderstood, average young man who isn’t happy with his life anymore and has run away from almost everything and everyone. The entirety of this series will span over one year of Fletcher’s life as SEASONS is planned to be four separate but interconnected stories that follow the seasons of the year. The title has a two-fold meaning: the seasons of the year and the “seasons” people go through throughout their lives. There will be four graphic novel stories — Spring, Summer, Fall, and Winter — and each storyline deals with a combination of different obstacles, enemies, themes and problematic situations the main character will have to face all set in real time. Fletcher is given a new set of powers with every seasonal transition as well; as the world changes, so does he and his abilities. It is an allegorical character study piece ultimately about finding a reason to live in this world that will drag you down with it if you let it.

This is SEASONS, a comic book drama presented by Nandor Fox Shaffer and Anthony Gonzales-Clark”

 

 

My name is Nandor Fox Shaffer and SEASONS is my independent, creator-owned passion comics project that I began creating and writing a few years back. Last September I launched the series at http://seasonsthecomicbook.com. I’ve been posting two pages of SEASONS weekly every Monday and Friday on the official site since, where anyone and everyone can read it entirely for FREE and with the hopes of garnering a healthy and continually growing fanbase. As of today, the entire first three issues of SEASONS are up on the official website to read, and the site itself is just shy of 10,000 views/visits. The fourth and final issue of the Spring story arc, the first in the series, is currently being posted as we speak.

And, even more importantly, as well as the entire point of this whole process, I just launched the first Kickstarter for SEASONS Volume 1: Spring here at https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/306932693/seasons-volume-1-spring

I need the total of $6,500 to print, ship and distribute 500 quality hardcover copies of this first book. It’s not a small amount, but I most definitely believe we can make this happen.

 

 

 

“I am really glad you sent [SEASONS] my way. It looks really cool, and I can’t wait to see it unfold. VERY strong start.”
– Brian Michael Bendis (Modern-day Marvel Comics legend and writer of Ultimate Spider-Man, Secret Invasion, New Avengers, Avengers, Alias, Powers, Daredevil, Uncanny X-Men, Guardians of the Galaxy, and many, many more)

“You guys are making a strong comic and I love finding new stuff that I’m shocked at when I see the quality. It’s rare in the webcomic world. I can’t wait to follow what you guys do.”
– Jason Brubaker (Highly-successful self-publishing comics creator of reMIND, SITHRAH, and Unnatural Talent)

“With lovingly detailed and textured art in a style not unlike what you might see from a Sean Gordon Murphy or James Harren comic in the stores today, SEASONS asked me to take a breath, to step inside a frame of mind that was all too familiar, and to recall the excitement and angst that comes along with the territory.Beneath the daydreams and obsessions (and the self-torment that must always balance them), I discovered a psychological exploration of the strange and the unknown that reminded me of Twin Peaks, Alan Wake, or Legion, while tugging on thematic threads one might find in Dostoevsky’s Notes from Underground. It is very much its own story though, and I can tell it was written because it had to be written. And to me, that means it demands my attention.”
– Levi Hoffmeier (Creator, writer and artist of the beautiful sci-fi space-opera comic series Mayflower)

As you can imagine, it’s not easy running everything by yourself. Trying to self-publish SEASONS has been one long — sometimes frustrating, of course — learning experience. By the time I’m done financing SEASONS Volume 1: Spring, I will have spent over $12,000 out of my own pocket (don’t worry, you read that number right). I even went so far as to postpone earning my college degree because I want this to succeed more than anything. This series means everything to me, and I want to share it with the world. I’m hoping you’ll trust me enough and give me a chance to share it with you, too.

So, please, check out the Kickstarter page and back SEASONS today. We have some sweet and affordable deals for everyone (just buying the hardcover book is only $20), and I’ve laid out all the info regarding how much everything costs and when you can expect SEASONS Volume 1: Spring at your door. Backing it would mean so much.

And don’t forget, you can read SEASONS entirely for FREE @ http://seasonsthecomicbook.com if you’re not sure you want to pledge towards the Kickstarter. This way you know exactly what you’re getting from Anthony and I.

Thanks, guys. I hope to get SEASONS in your hands very soon!

~ N. Fox

Back SEASONS on Kickstarter — https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/306932693/seasons-volume-1-spring
Read SEASONS for FREE — http://seasonsthecomicbook.com
Support SEASONS on Patreon — https://www.patreon.com/SEASONScomic
Like SEASONS on Facebook — https://www.facebook.com/seasonsthecomicbook/
Follow SEASONS on Twitter — https://twitter.com/SEASONSthecomic
Follow Nandor — https://www.instagram.com/nandorfshaffer/
Follow Anthony — https://www.instagram.com/anthonydgclark/

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!

Comic Book of the Month Awards for April 2016

I picked up 13 comics this past April including my regulars, the second issue for International Iron Man, Sam Wilson: Captain America #8, Avengers Standoff: Assault on Pleasant Hill Omega #1 – the conclusion to the event – and Moon Knight #1 by Jeff Lemire and Greg Smallwood, an impulsive buy originating with sheer interest on my part. I barely know anything about the character, and this would truthfully be my first Moon Knight comic book. The first issue of the new Moon Knight series was unexpectedly the best comic book of the month on all fronts, with the runner-ups Doctor Strange #7, The Astonishing Ant-Man #7, and International Iron Man #2 trailing close behind in differing categories. I’m not sure if I’ll continue with this new title (money is money, after all), but it’s off to a very good start and I would recommend giving it a try. The extra-sized Flash #50 released this month, but I found it, as well as Nick Spencer’s final Standoff issue, to be disappointing. I’m liking Dan Abnett’s Aquaman so far, and the last issue of the latest Uncanny Inhumans story arc ended on a more satisfying note than how it began.

But out of these and the other four remaining nominees, why did Moon Knight #1 sweep the Comic Book Awards for April?

Cover of the Month Award: Moon Knight #1 

Cover By: Greg Smallwood

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The most obvious visual trait to Greg Smallwood’s cover for Moon Knight #1 is how much the color white overwhelms the image. Some may say this lack of color variety or artistic detail detracts from hypothetically “more interesting” cover art, but, on the contrary, these traits are exactly what furnish a stunning piece of artwork. Marc Spector gazes intensely at the reader, garbed with a straightjacket in a place that faintly resembles a solitary confinement room found in metal hospitals. Spector’s eyes and shadow, plus the brown straps of the jacket, help balance the visual impact of the cover. There is a serene creepiness to this image, and the big and bold simplicity of it is a success.

Art of the Month Award: Moon Knight #1

Artist: Greg Smallwood

Color Artist: Jordie Bellaire

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Whether it be the tremendous Bill Sienkiewicz-inspired first four pages, the intelligent artistic storytelling properties of the sophisticated layouts and colors, or a number of other interesting art qualities present within this book, Moon Knight #1 can rest assured as one of the visually deepest comics of the year as of yet. I’m not that familiar with artist Greg Smallwood’s previous work, but if this issue doesn’t put him on the map, then I don’t know what will. He has a down-to-earth, realistic style in how he draws the characters’ facial expressions and gestures that make them, and the book as a whole, feel grounded and alive. Smallwood also has an intriguing balance between overly simple and overly detailed. One small panel may just offer a bit of art to convey a scene and then the next panel or page is an explosion of crisp pencils and lines. The attention to detail in some of these pages, such as pages 1-4, 22, and 24-26, is very much praiseworthy in so many respects. It’s not everyday that you see a comic book with a 15 panel page (page 26). How colorist Jordie Bellaire accents these pages to consistently carry the reader through the issue’s story is also a great, noteworthy accomplishment. White being the central color to Moon Knight’s persona, its arresting visual presence in the comic, and the decision to emphasize it to separate panels with no outline borders, is without fault. Moon Knight #1 is a stroke of artistic genius in many areas, and how it accomplishes to tell such a captivatingly psychological first chapter in the five-part story with the art is just exquisite.

Story of the Month Award: Moon Knight #1 (“Welcome To New Egypt: Part 1 of 5”)

Writer: Jeff Lemire 

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The first issue of any comic book series is always exciting. They have the power to welcome in new readers, and, if the reader likes what he or she sees, produce a monthly subscriber to that series for a time being. I really liked what I read and saw in Jeff Lemire and Greg Smallwood’s Moon Knight #1. The issue begins with our protagonist experiencing a dream, and in this eerie vision/dream Marc Spector (Moon Knight) communes with the Egyptian moon god Khonshu, the source of his powers. Khonshu asks, “Mark? Mark, can you hear me? Mark, is that you?” to which he replies, “I-I’m not sure.” These first few lines of the first page set ablaze the theme of this entire issue as Marc Spector searches out his true identity. Waking up in a mental asylum, Mark is told the Moon Knight figure is a figment of his imagination and a side-effect of his mental disorder. He eventually tries to escape, not willing to believe his entire life to be a lie, and what he stumbles upon as he reaches the building’s rooftop shocks him. An Egyptian invasion force has took over New York; however, it appears to be unseen to the naked eye. The mysterious story of Moon Knight #1 keeps you guessing and you feel for Marc Spector’s confused predicament. At the end of the issue, I had to ask myself, “What is really going on here?” and I love that invested feeling a great comic book can give a reader.

Issue of the Month Award: Moon Knight #1 (“Welcome To New Egypt: Part 1 of 5”)

Writer: Jeff Lemire

Artist: Greg Smallwood

Color Artist: Jordie Bellaire

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The more I tell you how much I enjoyed Moon Knight #1, the more I want to continue reading what is in store for this character (sorry, wallet). By winning Cover of the Month, Art of the Month, and Story of the Month, this issue automatically places itself as Issue of the Month for April 2016. There’s not much else to say except that I strongly hope this series can continue on with this much talented care and quality. It’s commonplace for comic book series’ to start off a critical hit and then descend into the herd of subpar comics you see on the stands, but I think as long as Lemire and Smallwood continue to keep on keeping on, it won’t fall into this.

With all that said, go out and pick up Moon Knight #1! Like, right now!

Thank you all for checking out my awards for April and be sure to 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 of the Month for March

Hello there to the followers of my blog, to the new readers who are checking it out for the first time, and to those of you who clicked on this link by accident and immediately retreat to the previous webpage (why don’t you stay awhile). I apologize for delaying March’s Comic Book Awards. Life has been happening, as it always does, but I have finally found the precious time available to me to post March’s awards, and I will post April’s awards as soon as possible. I always hate these posts being late since it defeats the purpose of telling someone why he or she should pick up a comic two-three months old, and for a bit there I was thinking of discontinuing these series of blogs entirely. However, I just couldn’t make myself stop, and while it’s difficult to make a deadline of value to you, the reader, I enjoy analyzing and writing about comic books too much to flat out quit. So I’m not going to, and I hope you stick around and continue to read my Comic Book of the Month Awards for as long as I can write them. Stay tuned…

Honestly, March was a nice month in the comic book department. Avengers Standoff: Assault on Pleasant Hill Alpha #1, the start of Marvel’s Spring comic book crossover event, hit shelves along with Sam Wilson: Captain America #7, a continuing chapter of the event and a 65 page, 75th anniversary special featuring additional stories from Joss Whedon and John Cassaday, Tim Sale, and Greg Rucka with Mike Perkins. Both Avengers Standoff chapters were written by Nick Spencer, with Sam Wilson: Captain America #7’s storyline being the better out of the two, in my opinion. In this issue, we at last see Steve Rogers given back his super soldier abilities and youth. No more old, grouchy Steve; we now have our true Captain America back. The sister title debut to Invincible Iron Man, International Iron Man #1 written by Brian Michael Bendis and drawn by Alex Maleev, released this month. This series aims to explore Tony Stark’s past, and the mystery behind his real parents. This idea that Tony is not the actual child of his parents was addressed in Kieron Gillen’s Iron Man run a few years back (The Secret Origin of Tony Stark), which I never liked as a plot device to somehow make Tony Stark a more mysterious figure. It was sorely underdeveloped, even awkwardly strange, in Gillen’s run, but here’s hoping Bendis can turn it into a great facet to Tony’s character and origins. Aquaman’s 50th issue was double-sized, for some reason The Flash #50 didn’t release, the Eighth Doctor’s first limited-series comic book adventure concluded with issue five (thankfully, because I did not like this book), the third issue of Star Wars: Obi-Wan & Anakin hit shelves, and many others made it into my monthly batch.

Out of these and other nominees, which comics received the Comic Book Awards for March?

Cover of the Month Award: Captain America: Sam Wilson #7

Cover: Alex Ross

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Marvel has kept the great Alex Ross busy in recent months. Ross has been providing the cover art for All-New, All-Different Avengers on a consistent basis and a few variant covers for other comic book series’. To celebrate the 75th Anniversary history of Captain America, there’s only a small handful of artists – Alex Ross included in this group – that deserve such an honor. The cover Captain America: Sam Wilson #7 portrays the current Captain America, Sam Wilson (formerly the Falcon), diving in to administer a right punch to the original Cap, Steve Rogers, as S.H.I.E.L.D. agents fire away. The cover also spotlights the Winter Soldier in the bottom left corner. It’s not just the excellence of Ross’ work for this cover, but the throwback format it adopts that makes it stand out. The classic title font, propaganda-like image (Sam Wilson never confronts Steve Rogers in the issue), and lettering on the page present a fitting anniversary and nostalgic touch to commemorate one of the most iconic comic book characters of all-time.

Art of the Month Award: Captain America: Sam Wilson #7 

Artists: Daniel Acuna (Steve), Angel Unzueta & Matt Yackey (Sam), John Cassaday (“Presentation”), Tim Sale (“Catch Me If You Can”), and Mike Perkins (“Pas De Deux”) 

Color Artists: Laura Martin (“Presentation”), Dave Stewart (“Catch Me If You Can”), Andy Troy with Frank D’Armata (“Pas De Deux”)

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Double-sized, anniversary issues such as this can be a real treat to the reader. It’s true that this type of comic book costs more, but the short stories by guest writers and artists usually (not all the time, unfortunately) make spending the extra cash worthwhile. Captain America: Sam Wilson #7 is divided into five separate sections: the first eight pages tell of Sam Wilson and Winter Soldier’s meet up in Pleasant Hill written by Nick Spencer with art by Angel Unzueta & Matt Yackey, the following chunk of the issue observes a gruesome fight between Crossbones and Steve Rogers, who is renewed back to his super-soldier, younger self also written by Spencer with art by Daniel Acuna, and the last three sections feature stories by Joss Whedon and John Cassaday, Tim Sale, and Greg Rucka with Mike Perkins. The variety and quality of artwork found in Captain America: Sam Wilson #7 is really the underlying allure of the book, and the one double-page spread by Daniel Acuna which traces the life and memories of Steve Rogers on the verge of his supposed last breath is the selling point from an artistic perspective. There is a bulk of talent in this 60 or so pages; no doubt about it.

Story of the Month Award: Doctor Strange #6 (“The Last Days of Magic, Chapter One”) 

Writer: Jason Aaron 

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I have to say, Jason Aaron’s Doctor Strange is doing well for itself. The book is heading in the right direction with its dark and interesting tone, and the writing for the good Doctor is almost entirely spot-on. Doctor Strange #6 boasts the start of a new storyline – and it is to a certain extent – however, I find that to be misleading since the issue is completely a continuation of the events in previous five issues. Despite this minor irritation on behalf of the plot, this issue is terrifically wicked (pardon the pun). The Empiriku are sucking the last vestiges of magic in the world (as well as other alternate worlds and universes), and Doctor Strange makes a stand against the leader of the invading perpetrators, known as the Imperator. This battle between magic and science does not end in Strange’s favor as he is left on the ground, beaten and damned by his foe, and the last remaining ounces of magic are drawn from the earth. There is theme of desperation in Doctor Strange #6 that certainly keeps the reader on edge for its entirety.

Issue of the Month Award: Sam Wilson: Captain America #7 

Writers: Nick Spencer (Steve & Sam), Joss Whedon (“Presentation”), Tim Sale (“Catch Me If You Can”), and Greg Rucka (“Pas De Deux”) 

Artists: Daniel Acuna (Steve), Angel Unzueta & Matt Yackey (Sam), John Cassaday (“Presentation”), Tim Sale (“Catch Me If You Can”), and Mike Perkins (“Pas De Deux”) 

Color Artists: Laura Martin (“Presentation”), Dave Stewart (“Catch Me If You Can”), Andy Troy with Frank D’Armata (“Pas De Deux”)

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More doesn’t necessarily always mean better when it comes to creative content, but that isn’t the case concerning the amount of quality work present in Captain America: Sam Wilson #7. Marvel did the right thing in returning Steve Rogers back to his super-soldier self and how Nick Spencer brilliantly does so in this story is commendable. The three extra storylines to close out the issue are also great, albeit brief, reads as well. “Presentation” by Joss Whedon and John Cassaday is a nine page potent tale of Captain America during the war in the 1940s, Tim Sale’s “Catch Me If You Can” is a simple scenario of Cap infiltrating a Hydra base in the present day to retrieve a sentimental item, and Greg Rucka’s “Pas De Deux” reminded me of the good ol’ Ed Brubaker and Steve Epting years with its espionage, James Bond-style of storytelling (Mike Perkins’ art conveys this, especially). Overall, this is a excellent read for both present and past Captain America comic book fans with its respect for the history of the character and its strides forwards regarding the character’s future.

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

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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

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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 

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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!

Comic Book Awards for November

~Nandor Shaffer

Another month equals another wealth of comics on my desk. All-New All-Different Marvel marches on this November and all four of my new pickings are going strong with their second or third issues. I really enjoyed Tony Stark’s introspective look at himself in Invincible Iron Man #3, in particular. Brian Michael Bendis’ take on the golden avenger hasn’t let me down yet. Although the milestone 600th issue of Uncanny X-Men, also written by Bendis, was absolutely horrible, in my opinion. It’s interesting to me how the same writer can be finely attuned to a character(s) compared to others he leaves his mark on. I received a triple dose of Star Wars this month with the fourth and final issue of Star Wars: Shattered Empire as well as the eleventh and twelfth issues of the main Star Wars title, still written by Jason Aaron with impressive art from Stuart Immomen (whose talent might suit this book better than Cassaday’s work on the first six issues). Both Aquaman and The Flash’s plot developments disappointed me this month, unfortunately. Wonder Woman’s guest appearance couldn’t help the king of the seas and while it’s thrilling to see Zoom/Eobard Thawne’s debut storyline continue, it’s starting to falter and lose its appeal by the devolving script. I did pick up Doctor Who: The Eighth Doctor #1 from Titan Comics and plan to finish the miniseries off when it concludes next year.

Out of these and other nominees, which comics received the Comic Book Awards for November?

Cover of the Month Award: Uncanny Inhumans #2

Cover Artists: Steve McNiven, Jay Leisten, and Justin Ponsor

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I’m a pretty big fan of Steve McNiven’s work (Civil War, Old Man Logan, Uncanny Avengers). Even if I’m not buying the series he’s currently working on at the time, I can’t help but take a look through the comic just to satisfy my appreciation for his crisp, spectacular art. Thankfully he’s on the Uncanny Inhumans title for the time being and I look forward to every issue even more because of that. I wouldn’t say the cover for Uncanny Inhumans #2 is McNiven’s best cover offering by a mile, but what draws me to it is the perspective of the shot emphasized by Kang’s lurking, amused stare at those before him as he jabs the spear he’s wielding into the Inhuman device on the ground. How Black Bolt, Human Torch, and Medusa’s faces are erupting and crying from the residing cracks furthermore add to this image. This is also a great symbolic precursor to what transpires in the issue itself, which most comic book covers fail to do.

Art of the Month Award: Invincible Iron Man #3

Artist: David Marquez 

Color Artist: Justin Ponsor

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Did I have a fun time reading Invincible Iron Man #3. The first issue of this series took home the award for Art of the Month last month and this issue does in November for the majority of the same reasons. Marquez and Ponsor deliver on many levels. The slower, dialogue-heavy moments of Tony and Amara Perera come across just as great as the battle scenes between Iron Man and Madame Masque in this issue. The combination of both artists make for such a clean, pleasurable outcome and with how this book is looking I’m already becoming possessive of Marquez for this title, as I hope he doesn’t abandon the book in the recent future (by the looks of it, he’s jumping off after #5, however).

Story of the Month Award: Secret Wars #7 (“King of the Dead”)

Writer: Jonathan Hickman

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Jonathan Hickman’s Secret Wars has been notably absent in the last few editions of my Comic Book of the Month Awards. With Secret Wars #7, the sluggish pace of the last couple of issues meets its timely end. Survivors of the final incursion were transported to separate areas on Battleworld by the magic of the now deceased Doctor Strange (Secret Wars #4) and from this dispersion these heroes/villains have convinced inhabitants of Battleworld that God Doom is not at all who he states to be, that there is room for doubt. This converges into an all-out war in the midst of Castle Doom and leads to an action-packed, engrossing chapter in this series. The only criticism I have would be how easily it seemed some of the population of Battleworld were convinced to turn on Doom, but it’s no substantial concern whatsoever. There is a nice touch of humor in Secret Wars #7 as well, a side to Hickman you usually only see in his creator-owned material. Overall, this issue capitalizes on what the series has been building to in fantastic ways, and with only two issues left, the epic end of Doom is surely nigh.

Issue of the Month Award: The Astonishing Ant-Man #2 

Writer: Nick Spencer

Artist: Ramon Rosanas 

Color Artist: Jordan Boyd 

Cover Artist: Mark Brooks

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You don’t even have to be an Ant-Man fan to appreciate the smarts inherent in this title. The Astonishing Ant-Man is a comic book to watch out for in all respects and issue two of the series is consistently a joy to read. Last issue, we learned that Scott Lang has ended up back in prison (poor guy) and we’re still on the outs of how that actually happened. We’re not given the answer in The Astonishing Ant-Man #2, but casually we’re getting a better hint as to what lead to his unexpected imprisonment. As the cover suggests, this issue mainly focuses on Scott’s relationship issues with his now ex-girlfriend, Darla Deering (a.k.a. Ms. Thing). They had gotten together when the Fantastic Four assigned a new FF team to protect the world when they decided to go on a family trip across the universe (more backstory can be found in Matt Fraction’s lame run on Fantastic Four/FF). This issue brings some closure to their relationship and does so within a humorously clever plot. The creative team of Nick Spencer and Ramon Rosanas is at its peak inAstonishing Ant-Man #2 through and through to the excellent final page and pages eight and nine show off some of Rosanas’ most creative work in the series. There is truly no ongoing Marvel comic book I could recommend more than The Astonishing Ant-Man as of this moment.

Thank you all for checking out my awards for November and be sure check back sometime next month for December’s Comic Book Awards! I do want to add that I’m not positive if I’ll be able to provide my Comic Book of the Year Awards for 2014-2015 due to time constraints. It’s a very time-consuming process as you would imagine going through all of my comics from the last year, but I’ll see what I can do. At the very least, I may be able to pick the winners but giving my reasons may have to be cut. In any case, hopefully you and I will continue to be reading comics into the next month and everyone have a Merry Christmas! 🙂

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!

Villains & Vigilantes

Jack Herman and Jeff Dee co-created the classic 1979 superhero tabletop role-playing game Villains and Vigilantes back in 1979. They started Monkey House Games in 2010 when they learned that V&V’s original publisher, Fantasy Games Unlimited Inc., had ceased to exist in 1991 and that the publishing rights had reverted to them at that time.

Unfortunately, the old publisher’s former president was not willing to let go and so they have become embroiled in a lawsuit. The claim that the publishing rights reverted to them has been upheld in court, but their opponent is still fighting over the trademark to the game’s name. They’ve been fighting for their rights for several years, and frankly they need more money in order to carry this battle to a final victory. If you’ve enjoyed their game, or simply support creators’ rights, then they need your help.

Please visit the following URL, and share it with your fellow gamers via social media:

https://www.gofundme.com/monkeyhousegames

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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!