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 September

~Nandor Schaffer

Having reached the one year anniversary mark for my Comic Book Awards (check out August’s awards in case you missed it), its back with September’s edition and is proud to summarize what my monthly batch had to offer its comic book readers across the globe. In the Marvel corner, the eleventh and final issue of Bucky Barnes: The Winter Soldier, Star Wars #8, and Star Wars: Shattered Empire #1 were the only three titles to make the cut for September (the sixth issue of Secret Wars is to be released in October). Marvel will also be inaugurating its All-New, All-Different line in October, so be ready for much more excitement coming from them. My two current ongoing DC titles, The Flash and Aquaman, had both their 44th issue published since the dawn of the New 52 and Titan Comics’ mega event, Doctor Who: Four Doctors, said farewell after its conclusion with issues four and five this month. I was additionally pleased to get my hands on Jonathan Hickman and Ryan Bodenheim’s The Dying & The Dead #3 from Image Comics after it skipped publication the last few months. Hickman’s note at the end of the comic explains the solicitation hiccups and, sadly but wisely, goes on to say that the series will not return until next year for time and quality purposes. In the meantime I recommend that you find the first three issues, read them, and be ready for what this ambitious independent book is going to bring in 2016. With all that said…

Out of these nominees, which comics received the Comic Book Awards for the month of September?

Cover of the Month Award: Star Wars: Shattered Empire #1

Cover: Phil Noto 

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Cover artist Phil Noto brings a lot of good vibes with his cover for Star Wars: Shattered Empire #1, a new comic book series taking place straightly right after the events of Return of the Jedi under the media-lapping Journey To Star Wars: The Force Awakens banner. Heroes from the original trilogy – Luke, Han, Leia, Chewbacca, C-3PO, R2-D2, Lando Calrissian, Wicket – all stand in celebration on the Forest Moon of Endor with shining smiles, recapturing that victorious moment when the Rebel Alliance defeated the Empire at the end of Star Wars: Episode VI. It’s a combination between this and Noto’s – metaphorically speaking – fragrant and lively iteration of that moment which had me pick it to receive this award. The attention to lighting and precision is delicately wonderful and to draw up that classic Star Wars feel is an envious artistic outcome to master. It’s, frankly, a beautifully magical cover.

Art of the Month Award: The Flash #44

Penciller: Brett Booth

Inker: Norm Rapmund

Colorist: Andrew Dalhouse

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I know The Flash has been awarded Art of the Month once or twice before and Brett Booth’s awesome, premiere superhero style of comic book art has still been an appetizing treat to look over in the last year despite it not getting recognized more often. How much goes into these pages of The Flash #44 appears daunting; the exaggerated panel layouts, excessive use of lightning and minuscule detail, and fast-paced action will keep your eyes moving and keep your mind at work. It would be my guess Booth has all the artistic freedom for the page layouts and what I love about how they are so sporadic is because they ideally suit The Flash as a character. Every page of The Flash #44 has this snappy energy to it, as do Booth’s previous issues on the series, and it’s absolutely rife with intensity from the outset. Of course, the comic does have slow points, but by the twelfth page and from then on, things get explosive as The Flash’s battle against two of Zoom’s team members sets off. At times, Brett Booth can handle the anatomy poorly, but there’s hardly any sign of that in The Flash #44. In all areas complimented by inker Norm Rapmund and excellent colorist Andrew Dalhouse, this is an art team that valiantly captures the form of the fastest man alive like they’ve been doing it all their lives.

Story of the Month Award: Doctor Who: Four Doctors #4

Writer: Paul Cornell

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Anytime you’re dealing with a Doctor Who story, especially one containing three Doctors within the story, there is bound to be serious complications and pivotal moments. There’s also the need for a satisfying payoff, one that isn’t rushed and manages to orchestrate a successful climax that gives credit to the beginning and middle of the adventure, wrapping everything up in a nice little bow(tie?…okay, I’ll stop). Doctor Who: Four Doctors #5 is the final issue for this comics event and, while it doesn’t exactly capitalize on an epic note, there’s plenty of excitement and great developments within the issue. I was surprised by how well Paul Cornell expertly maneuvered the pace and finale of such an (at least from where I’m sitting) challenging plot involving the three Time Lords and their respective companions. With the Doctors’ cleverness in action, all the characters do their part to put an end to what the old, renegade Twelfth Doctor has set in motion as the leader of the Voord. While I would’ve liked to have seen more fantastic instances of all The Doctors working together to save the universe in this issue and have their departures from each other to have been written with more care, the majority of the issue is a brilliant blast. This series is, on all accounts, a truly amazing Doctor Who story and most likely my favorite comic book story of the TV show that I’ve read. The Voord are an impressive addition to the numerous alien races within the Doctor Who universe and I wouldn’t mind seeing them appear in future episodes of the TV show, if that would be possible.

Issue of the Month Award: Doctor Who: Four Doctors #4

Writer: Paul Cornell 

Artist: Neil Edwards

Colorist: Ivan Nunes

Cover Art: Neil Edwards & Ivan Nunes

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Doctor Who: Four Doctors #5 might have the better story, but it is #4 that takes September’s award for Issue of the Month. The reason for that is this issue is the turning point for the series, where the adventure gets real and dire. After the astonishing cliffhanger of #3 revealing that an alternate, older version of the Twelfth Doctor was in fact the perpetrator of this entire situation, we are given his ultimate reasoning behind his actions and what this means for his previous incarnations and the universe. We get to see most of what occurs in Doctor Who: Four Doctors #4 from the perspective of the scarred Twelfth Doctor as well as Gabrielle Gonzales, and what carries the issue along is the curiosity of how the Doctors will come out of this incredible circumstance on top. It appears the Voord have the upper hand, and, as one companion falls, what might be the answer to saving the Doctor’s from creating their own destiny of loneliness and desperateness? You’ll have to read this issue and the next to find out. Another reason, a big one, why this issue deserves this award is because of Neil Edwards and colorist Ivan Nunes. Both their cover art and interior artwork is top of the line for Doctor Who: Four Doctors #4. This creative partnership for the series reminds me of artist Bryan Hitch’s work, and that’s a pretty steep evaluation. Edwards does a exemplary job at facial expressions and the storytelling aspects of the comic. Coming into the series, I knew he would do a good job, but, instead, he’s done a fantastic one. 

Thank you all once again for checking out my awards for September and be sure check back sometime next month for October’s Comic Book Awards (I’m excited to see how those turn out)! 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

July’s Comic Book Award

July’s purchases of comics put things into perspective for me on how drastically different my pull-list has become in the last few months. When counted, there are all-together about 6-7 comic book series’ that I discontinued following or that are simply no longer published. And in foresight, even with Marvel’s upcoming All-New All-Different lineup in November or DC Comics’ recent DC YOU push, I have my doubts that my pull-list will ever look the same again in the near future. I’m actually looking forward to the change-up, however, as the possibility of branching out to unfamiliar books and characters creates a fresh drive for this comic book reader. As for the present, July was generally quite a healthy month for my series’ I do have remaining.

Secret Wars is all the buzz right now, and with #4 of the title there’s timely proof for why that is. It well might be the strongest issue of the series thus far. Ant-Man Annual #1 was easily one of the best and one of my favorite issues of the month. Fans of the now concluded Ant-Man title (which is to return to #1 by the same creative team in November) should not miss this extra-sized issue whatsoever. Lively, delightfully humorous, and overall so much fun, this annual is an explosion of light-hearted entertainment. The 9th Doctor’s developing, hostile engagements of towering implications is turning the series around to my liking, while #14 of Doctor Who: The Eleventh Doctor was a more than excellent issue. I’m ever impressed with what the writers are doing in that book and the startling revelation on the last page of this issue might raise a controversy of why this moment wasn’t in the actual TV show instead of a comic book. Closing out the month were Uncanny X-Men #35, Aquaman #42, The Flash #42 as well as The Flash Annual #4, and, finally, Star Wars #7, a single-story issue with guest artist Simone Bianchi (whose work is just fantastic in this issue) focused on the exploits of Obi-Wan Kenobi during his time on Tatooine between Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope.

Out of these nominees, which comics received the Comic Book Awards for the month of July?

Cover of the Month Award: Secret Wars #4

Cover By: Alex Ross

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For the third month in a row, Alex Ross’ undeniable talent ushers Secret Wars to receive another Cover of the Month award once again. This time, doing my best to try and not reiterate my praise for Ross’ previous covers, you see a cunning attention to detail, lighting, and structure. Doom looms upon his throne of the World-Tree, Yggdrasil, with obvious authority as his chief supporters – Susan Storm, Valeria, Franklin and Doctor Strange – surround him. This image portrays a realism that is almost haunting, if you will, since the characters stare at you with modest contempt. It might not be what you would call an incredible cover, but, nonetheless, it’s much more than just an overall good one.

Art of the Month Award: Secret Wars #4

Artist: Esad Ribic

Color Artist: Ive Svorcina

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A consistent “look” of a comic book series is always important, and, as of yet, Secret Wars has truthfully had a distinct, specialized tone, feel, and look to it unlike the mass quantities of comic book series’ I have personally read. It “feels” like its own highly individual, seriously weighty comic when you’re reading it and that has to do with, yes, the writer and artist’s desired creative vision, but mostly with the artists’ finished work. Esad Ribic and Ive Svorcina’s faithful handling of Jonathan Hickman’s script in Secret Wars #4 carries each page along with efficiency that rivals the cinematic finesse of Hollywood. There’s a delicate, powerful care you’ll find in these pages and I’m fascinated with the hefty emotions a lot of the pages brought out of me while reading (the perspectives for some panels are especially brilliant). Esad’s signature style accompanied with his sense of storytelling really pulls you in with this issue, marvelously portraying crucial moments that will affect this entire series.

Story of the Month Award:  Secret Wars #4

(“All The Angels Sing, All The Devils Dance”) 

Writer: Jonathan Hickman

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The tides are starting to turn with the events that take place in Secret Wars #4. In this issue the battle between Battleworld’s enforcers of Thors and The Cabal rages, taking center focus for the story. Also, from the words of Doctor Strange it is explained to the survivors of Earth-616 (and the reader) just what Battleworld is and how it came to be. The last half of Secret Wars #4 is where you’ll find the most enjoyment. The ensuing battle is interrupted and by the last page, two vital characters stand no more. Secret Wars #4 is rife with gravitas and thrills which make it a pleasure to read.

Issue of the Month Award: Secret Wars #4 (“All The Angels Sing, All The Devils Dance”) 

Writer & Designer: Jonathan Hickman 

Artist: Esad Ribic

Color Artist: Ive Svorcina

Cover Art: Alex Ross

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Secret Wars #4 is a busy issue and this Marvel event moving forward will be all the more unpredictable in light of what transpires in this comic (I’m dying to read #5 right now). This series is technically at its halfway mark, so it’s reasonable to assume what Hickman and Ribic have in store will render these first four issues to pale in comparison. All together, the entirety of Secret Wars #4 – its superb cover by Alex Ross, Esad Ribic and Ive Svorcina’s outstanding interiors, and Hickman’s awesome script – make it a fine, stellar comic book that no one should have an excuse to pass up. This is July’s star book of the month for good reason.

Thank you for checking out my awards for July (I sorely apologize for being late) and be sure check back sometime in a couple weeks or so for August’s Comic Book Awards! Until then, hopefully you and I will continue to be reading comics!

Comic Book Awards for June

Despite the continuous slimming number of titles finding their way into my monthly comic book purchases, June was a month of quality over quantity. And, when all is said and done, that’s all you could ask for, right? This was an highly awaited and equally crucial month for the creative heads at DC Comics, as June saw the debut of “The New DCU”, taking place after DC’s Convergence event. Their entire line of titles, having now dropped “The New 52” banner, hit retailers with all-new storylines and directions for characters. A host of brand new series’ accompanied the overhaul as well. None caught my eye to pick up, sadly, by my two DC titles, The Flash and Aquaman even more so, came back strong. In the Marvel corner, the Secret Wars fever remains with #3, I said farewell to the short-lived but fascinating Superior Iron Man series with #9, the always beautiful Bucky Barnes: The Winter Soldier is still an art piece of wonder, and Star Wars #6 released. Titan Comics’ Doctor Who: The Eleventh Doctor #13 proved to be one of the best issues to come from the title, while Doctor Who: The Ninth Doctor #2 left me with a not so pleasant verdict.
But out of these nominees, which comics received the Comic Book Awards for the month? Finally, here they are.
Cover of the Month Award: Secret Wars #3
Cover By: Alex Ross
 

Secret_Wars_Vol_1_3_TextlessThere’s an instant throwback design to the great Alex Ross’ excitingly rich cover for the third issue of Secret Wars. The divide between good and evil represented and then prominence of a variety of characters’ faces is reminiscent of comic book covers of the past, a defining distinction which sets it apart from many comic book covers of the times. Mr. Fantastic and his evil counterpart of the Marvel’s Ultimate universe stand front and center, looking as realistically lifelike as ever, a characteristic of Ross’ work. The facial expressions behind each are just as striking – particularly those of the eloquently drawn Black Widow and Black Swan. The bright, intense palate of red, blue, and purple emphasizes and completes the explosive colorful flood that this image is.

Art of the Month Award:

Bucky Barnes: The Winter Soldier #9Artist: Marco Rudy

25d034689e80f9c3a93b5e750510d6d6Bucky Barnes: The Winter Soldier has ever been a dynamically colorful series. Issue 9 is no exception as Marco Rudy’s flavor for breathtaking pages meet a powerful shower of striking colors…even for this series. The comic opens to an overwhelming blast of light and dark green, pages 14 and 15 connect in a world of a singular dose of hot pink, and so on in differing degrees throughout the issue. It’s an effective tool that carries the story to incredible eights. This excess correlates with Rudy’s phenomenally unique panel work wondrously, too. Pages 7, 10 and 11 are fine examples of this, showing how Rudy can take the outline of a skull and turn it into full blown comic book art without missing a beat in storytelling.

Story of the Month Award:  Secret Wars #3 (“The Eye of Doom”) 

Writer: Jonathan Hickman

Secret-Wars-3-Spoilers-Preview-4In Secret Wars #2 we were introduced to what is called “Battleworld”, a place now home to Marvel heroes and villains we’re familiar with, but strangely where these same heroes and villains act in unfamiliar roles and, for some, have unfamiliar personalities. Battleworld is made up of connecting kingdoms from separate parts of the Marvel universe in addition to its alternate multiversal forms all under the metal fist of “God Doom” (or, Doctor Doom, as we know him to be). It’s a very interesting, involving premise and in Secret Wars #3, we get a slight grasp on what exactly is going on after both the Marvel and Ultimate Earth’s collided. The issue begins with Doctor Strange (referred to as the Sheriff of Agamatto) briefing Doom on the potentially escalating threats to the world and soon the issue takes one path, focusing on the survivors of the final incursion and how they react to what has drastically occurred. There is a brief, introspective scene regarding Doom that is a highlight of the comic while, in the course of reading the issue, we’re given information that Battleworld came to be through his and Doctor Strange’s doing. How is still yet to be revealed, however. Furthermore, Jonathan Hickman’s excellently worded dialogue enhances the grounded story all too well. What could be filler conversation is instead essential, or at least, smartly devised, in almost every single panel.

Issue of the Month Award: Secret Wars #3 (“The Eye of Doom”) 

Writer & Designer: Jonathan Hickman 
Artist: Esad RibicColor Artist: Ive Svorcina
Cover Art: Alex Ross

STK6739191-720x1092From a story perspective, Secret Wars #3 isn’t a comic book issue rife with shocking moments or game-changing twists. Rather, it is a comic book issue teeming with heft; a sense of appropriate confidence from the writer and artist can be found on each page. Hickman’s world-building is subtle but potent enough to invoke an uncommon, perplexing atmosphere and Ribic and Svorcina’s indispensable handling on the art matches the vision for Battleworld. And, surprisingly, this issue contains a memorable scene (page 11) that, because of a superb combination of writing and art, I can see will stand to be one of the most terrifically touching scenes out of the whole year. Well-plotted, well-paced, and with Esad Ribic persisting to put out some of my favorite work of his to date, you can’t go wrong with picking up Secret Wars #3 and following what is to be an event of all events.

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

Comic Book Awards for May

~Nandor Shaffer

I’ve been looking forward to the month of May for a considerable amount of time. This in large part has to do with what Marvel is calling “the event to end all events”, or better known to the public as Secret Wars. This eight issue series is in the position to forever alter the foundations of the Marvel Universe and from this month on, over some thirty tie-ins will be under the Secret Wars banner, contributing to the scope of this event and hinting at the changes to be implemented when it concludes and the all-new, all-different MU is established this Fall. Almost each of these tie-ins are brief limited series’ exploring past, future, and alternate timelines in the MU (like Old Man Logan, Civil War, 2099, Marvel Zombies, etc.), separately falling into either the Last Days, Battleworld, or Warzones! categories, and these titles will be replacing the majority of current ongoing Marvel comic books. This leads me to imagine that the following months will be strange for my comic book purchases, as I do not plan to buy many, if any, of the tie-ins for the sake of money and their worth, respectively (I’m not much of a guy for original tie-ins). I could already tell a big change between April and May since I bought half as many comic book titles that I did in April. By the end of Secret Wars, I have a strong feeling things will be switched up more than a little.

Even though it’s true that the numbers were slim for May, the quality was anything but. Scott Lang’s exhilarating opening storyline as the tiniest hero of them all finished with this month’s issue five of Ant-Man on an outstandingly admirable note. I’d go so far as to say the first five issues of this title to be the ideal success story for a fresh, relaunched book and revolutionary envisioning of an underrated character. I do not state that lightly given the fact I miss Hank Pym, the original Ant-Man, in the suit to a bottomless degree. I love Ant-Man and it is a perfect beginner comic book for any of you wanting to give comics a chance. The magnificence of artist Marco Rudy returned for a full issue of Bucky Barnes: The Winter Soldier after last month’s omission on the title. Once again, I cannot begin to describe the excellencies of his artistry in issue eight. The comic is basically an opulent art piece of two-pagers that need no narrative or thread to intertwine them because it’s so beautiful and powerful. Marvel continues its controversial and arguably disappointing creative harnessing of the Star Wars space-fantasy with issue five of the core title and Titan Comics’ Doctor Who: The Eleventh Doctor #12 brings the Doctor to a unpredictably exciting predicament. The second, final Convergence issues of The Flash and Aquaman hit this month as well, while we also say goodbye to Doc Green in the final issue of Hulk, and prepare ourselves for the milestone Uncanny X-Men #600 in June after this month’s Uncanny X-Men #34. This leaves us with what I’ve been leading to and saving for last. That is, Jonathan Hickman’s initial two issues of Secret Wars, which released this month and left me with nothing but unending, deserved praise.

But out of these nominees, which comics received the Comic Book Awards for the month? We may have a faultless comic book issue in our midst.

Cover of the Month Award: Secret Wars #1

Cover By: Alex Ross

header2An event on this tremendous scale need not ask for a finer comic book artist to market its value of epic proportions. The ever great, near to legendary, Alex Ross is the sole cover artist for the entire Secret Wars series and, true to form, reminds the reader of his matchless eye for perspective, lighting, care, and quintessentially pristine handiwork right here with the first issue’s cover. The specially manufactured material used for the cover also amplifies its striking impact. The representation is clear, with the drama of the two dozen or so characters’ body positions and reactions as the two earths collide before them deliver an expedient sense of urgency and hefty grandness. Ross’s realistic, life-like style makes the image jump off the page to excellent affect and the anatomy of the characters and piece as a whole is legitimately astounding. What staggered me even more was no matter how minuscule the persons drawn on the cover for Secret Wars #1 are, you can still tell who they are. It further surprised me to see that a generality of the characters dominating the cover are not as well known to the mass audience, such as Black Bolt, Machine Man, Captain Marvel, Cloak & Dagger, and so on. It’s a testament to why Alex Ross is the artist without pier; whomever and whatever he draws, it is forever iconic.

Art of the Month Award: Secret Wars #1

Artist: Esad Ribic

Color Artist: Ive Svorcina

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Header3AThe art of a comic book essentially drives the story of a comic book. Take away that, and, well, the idea of a “comic book” ceases to be. Just as necessary is the storytelling rendered from the authorship of the artist in a comic book. Many people can draw excellently, but can they draw or tell a story? There’s a gaping difference between the two and I find the keen hand of Esad Ribic captured in Secret Wars #1 to fully envelop both poles of the spectrum. There is a crystal, firm ambience to Ribic’s zealous pages in the commencement issue of this massive event. His detailed diameters portraying New York’s towering skyscrapers crumbling in the wake of gigantic S.H.I.E.l.D. Helicarriers raining down its explosive fire while his molds of numerous characters from both Ultimate and Marvel universes fight one another is some of the most graphic, cataclysmic imagery I’ve recently seen. This individual issue features scores of characters throughout in explosive action and it’s easy to see that Esad Ribic held nothing back whatsoever. Colorist Ive Svorcina has done the same on his part for this issue as well. His brilliant palate is on display in all its glory, providing Secret Wars #1 with an overlaying futuristically modern tone. Both keep in synchronous stride with Hickman’s prodigious script, branding this issue as an immediate must-buy.

Story of the Month Award:  Secret Wars #1 (“The End Times”) 

Writer: Jonathan Hickman

header4Words have meaning, words have power, and Jonathan Hickman may be the only comic book writer whose words stir me (at least on a month to month basis). The first few lines of Secret Wars #1 did just that and the final closing lines to the comic book issue left me with an emotional feeling only Hickman’s writing can generate. In-between these first and final pages, the reader is presented with the last gasp of the Marvel Universe (Earth-616) and the Ultimate Universe (Earth-1610), as they suffer the one last incursion. Picking up where Avengers #44 and New Avengers #33 concluded, the heroes of both earths focus all of their energies on each’s own survival. This historic encounter of these two universes is so engaging and there is not a single slow or tedious moment in the totality of the comic. Important characters of both universes are given the spotlight on equal terms and the satisfaction from this is phenomenal. Secret Wars #1 is a beginning and an ending, the culmination of what everything of the last few years has been leading to and a taste of what lies ahead.  Out of all the first issues of major Marvel events I’ve previously read, the story for Secret Wars #1 trumps them all.

Issue of the Month Award: Secret Wars #1 (“The End Times”) 

Writer & Designer: Jonathan Hickman 

Artist: Esad Ribic

Color Artist: Ive Svorcina

Cover Art: Alex Ross

header5This is a first for my monthly Comic Book Awards; a single issue that is the winner of every receivable award. An incredible feat, no doubt, and leave it to Jonathan Hickman’s introductory climax of possibly his greatest plot yet to do it. What is beheld in the double-sized, packed vastness of Secret Wars #1 is the faultless issue I hinted to earlier. The efficacious cover by Alex Ross, the power pens of Esad Ribic and Ive Svorcina, and Jonathan Hickman’s staggering developments raise this single issue above reproach. When a comic book gets you uncontrollably excited about what you just witnessed and even more excited for what’s to come, it has overcome what the plethora of usual comic books depart you with. Major comic book events are enacted to hold what regular ongoing series’ cannot and to drastically affect the universe it is a part of. From Secret Wars #1, this is inherently the case…and the event just started. There is an all-true common trend that events boast how “after this, nothing will be the same”, or, “this is the biggest event ever attempted to be put out by our company”, and, usually, the event turns out to become almost nothing of a sort. This is Jonathan Hickman, though, and this is his Secret Wars. Nothing is safe, and you can trust that when he’s at the head of something, mountains will move.

Thank you all for checking out my awards for May (a lot quicker than last time, eh?) and 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 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!

December Comic Awards

In the wake of the conclusion of 2014’s Comic Book of the Year Awards, we’re back to the regular routine of assessing the best comics of the month. The last batch of comics for the year brings 2014 to an excellent close as they pave way for the continuing exciting storylines and expected creative prowess to be let loose in the new year. Writers Robert Vendetti and Van Jensen proceed to finely embellish upon Barry Allen’s mystifying predicament in the Speed Force while the twisted Barry Allen from the future maintains his cover of playing The Flash in the present as seen in the pages of DC Comics’ The Flash #37. Doctor Who: The Eleventh Doctor #6 was a sure standout for December; an absorbing single-issue plot unconventionally starting at the end and ending at the start of the story in textbook Doctor Who timey-wimey fashion. The confrontation between Iron Man and Daredevil took an exceptional turn last month in Superior Iron Man #2 and we get to witness the outcome in #3, and, finally, the Fantastic Four’s struggle is further amplified.

But out of these and other nominees, which were the best for the closing month of the year? One comic stood above them all.

Cover of the Month Award: Avengers #38/New Avengers #28

Cover Art: Alan Davis, Mark Farmer & Brad Anderson 

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I’ve personally always liked when comic book covers carry the same image over multiple issues. Never mind my own reservations for artist Alan Davis’ recognizably bold, cartoony technique as this work is quite well done. S.H.I.E.L.D.’s Avengers team but-heads with The Illuminati in a corresponding stylized battle positions and the explosive energy emanating from this full-scale picture prepares you for what both issues hold inside.

Art of the Month Award: New Avengers #28

Artists: Mike Deodato & Mike Perkins

Color Artist: Frank Martin

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With the absence of an issue of the gorgeous Bucky Barnes: The Winter Soldier broadcasting Marco Rudy’s incredible artwork, this award was somewhat more competitive than previous months. Most of New Avengers #28 is drawn by comic book artist veteran Mike Deodato while four pages showcase the pin and ink of Mike Perkins. Why Perkins wasn’t credited on the cover of the issue, I couldn’t tell you, but this still remains the eye-catcher book of the month. Containing a few two-page splash pages (a rarity for a Hickman written book) and more of what you would come to bank on from Deodato’s sensationally amazing, muscular offerings, there is a lot to look at and love.

Story of the Month Award: New Avengers #28 (“You Can’t Win” Part II)  

Writer: Jonathan Hickman

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Following in stride after the actions taken in this month’s Avengers #39, Steve Rogers’ cat-and-mouse conflict with the on-the-run members that make up The Illuminati eight months from now turns violent. As Sunspot and his assembled Avengers World squad come to quell the rising tension, Steve Rogers has no plan to back down and decides to command a battle on two fronts. Sending in the captured Hulk from an alternate world, and deploying his Secret Avengers, New Avengers #28 is an exquisite balance of action and drama. It’s heroes versus heroes and just when you think you know what Jonathan Hickman is up to, there’s another curveball thrown in there to surprise you.

Issue of the Month Award: New Avengers #28 (“You Can’t Win” Part II)  

Writer: Jonathan Hickman

Artists: Mike Deodato & Mike Perkins

Cover Art: Alan Davis, Mike Farmer & Brad Anderson 

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I guess it’s kind of inevitable for the comic book issue that received all previous awards to also receive Issue of the Month as well. I apologize if I seem New Avengers biased, especially considering this title winning a good majority of my Comic Book of the Year Awards and so forth, but I can’t help the fact that this series manages to hit all the right beats. While I already touched on the primary aspects which justify why New Avengers #28 is the best comic of the month, I cannot emphasize enough the amount of fun to read an issue like this is. From the great dialogue, smart narration by Reed Richards, quality art, and hands down killer story, it keeps giving with each page.

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

Comic Books I Grew Up On

I stumbled upon three large boxes tonight full of old comic books that hold so many memories. Here in the next few weeks I may have to part with them and I had to take just one more glance through my old friends. Just like going to a class re-union, the memories of great times — late night comic sessions where a pile of comics, a bottle of coke, and a bag of M&Ms was all you needed to have a great time.

Star Trek, Conan, Star Wars, War Comics, Bug Bunny, Car Racing, Super Heroes of every kind and description, Weird Tales….the list goes on, all found in those boxes.

For now, they are safe but I fear soon I will say goodbye: