Tuesday, January 4, 2011
AVENGERS: EARTH’S MIGHTIEST HEROES
After a lengthy build-up, 2010 finally saw the debut of Marvel’s newest animated series, Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes on the Disney XD channel. The series features perhaps the largest cast of characters ever seen in a Marvel cartoon, ranging from the most recognizable core Avengers like Iron Man and Captain America to “Easter egg” characters like SHIELD Agent Jimmy Woo. Headed up by comics and animation veteran Chris Yost, A:EMH is incredibly faithful in tone and scope to the Avengers comics, though it does take some liberties with the characters—though all within reason and all fitting for the series. Featuring slick animation, quality voice acting, and superb writing, this series is not only already one of the best superhero cartoons of the last decade, but also the best comic book adaptation you’ll find on television (barely inching out the also excellent Walking Dead series on AMC). Though featured on a channel for tweens, this series should appeal to comic book and superhero fans of all ages and should absolutely not be missed under any circumstances. Oh yeah, and it features Wonder Man, which makes it infinitely more awesome.
Honorable Mentions: Walking Dead, Super Hero Squad, Smallville
SCOTT PILGRIM VS. THE WORLD
This was one of the hardest categories for me to pick a winner in, as 2010 saw several great comic book adaptations. Though the clear winner at the box office was Iron Man 2, several less successful films resonated better with comic book fans. Scott Pilgrim vs. The World won me over more than any other comic book film due to its undeniable charm and uncanny ability to capture the spirit of Bryan Lee O’Malley’s graphic novel series. The inventive film, directed by the brilliant Edgar Wright, may not have performed as well as many hoped at the box office, but was a huge hit amongst comic book fans thanks to the pitch-perfect performances of the superbly chosen cast and its dazzling visuals. Scott Pilgrim vs. The World brought the graphic novels to life in the most entertaining way possible and, for many, changed the way that we look at comic book adaptations.
Honorable Mentions: Kick-Ass, Batman: Under the Red Hood, Planet Hulk
Past Winners: Iron Man (2006), Sinestro (2007), The Joker (2008), Black Lanterns (2009)
It was a big year for the ever-villainous Norman Osborn. He began the year as the most powerful man in the Marvel Universe having been placed into a major place of authority after “saving the world” from the Skrulls in Secret Invasion. In this position he kicked off the biggest story of the year by leading an all out war against Asgard after working with Loki to fake a terrorist attack in Chicago. The ensuing battle, covered in the Siege miniseries, was one of the biggest stories of the year from Marvel Comics. Despite being captured and incarcerated, Osborn’s influence bled into a variety of titles throughout the year, most notably his own solo miniseries Osborn by Kelly Sue DeConnick and Emma Rios, and the amazing Avengers Academy, where his hand-picked group of young potential super-villains are being trained to be the next generation of heroes. While this has yet to be confirmed, I’m also willing to be that former Green Goblin also has his hands in all of the trouble that the Broadway musical Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark has been having.
Honorable Mentions: Gideon Graves (Scott Pilgrim), MAPPO (Elephantmen), Loki
Past Winners: Wolverine (2006), Booster Gold (2007), Iron Man (2008), Wolverine (2009)
It has been a huge year for the mighty Thor. As Marvel gears up for the release of next year’s sure-to-be-a-blockbuster Thor film, the God of Thunder received a ton of attention in 2010. The year opened with a bang as Asgard was at the center of the Siege event, which brought Thor back to the forefront of the Marvel Universe. Throughout the course of the year Marvel continued to keep him front and center with a slew of miniseries and one-shots that focused on everything from Thor’s origins (First Thunder) to the adventures of his companions (Warriors Three, Sif, etc). The main ongoing Thor series remained critically acclaimed despite a few creative team shuffles before the new regular team of Matt Fraction and Pasqual Ferry came on board late in the year. Outside of comics, Thor took on starring roles in both Super Hero Squad and Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes on the small screen, while the hype began on the Thor film with a cameo appearance by Mjolnir in Iron Man 2 and, of course, the amazing Thor movie trailer that debuted at Comic Con International. Also of this alone is more than enough to earn Thor the title of Best Hero and that is before I even mention Thor: Mighty Avenger, arguably the best comic of 2010. How could I choose anyone else?
Honorable Mentions: Steve Rogers, Hal Jordan, Casey (Morning Glories)
MICE TEMPLAR – “DESTINY”
Past Winners: Sinestro Corps War (2007), Iron Fist: Seven Capital Cities of Heaven (2008), Elephantmen: Dangerous Liaisons (2009)
The second volume of Bryan J.L. Glass and Michael Avon Oeming’s fantasy epic, Mice Templar, came to a close in 2010 and ended in a big way. After years of buildup, the young Templar and hero-of-prophecy completed his training and took fate into his own hands by storming the kingdom of corrupt King Icarus to free his family and unseat the ruler. Along the way we learned more about the schism that nearly destroyed the Templar and met more outcasts of the once noble group, as well as the Maeven Archers. The mythology of the series continued to expand while the plot remained localized upon Karic’s adventures, making the story both personal and epic at the same time. The arc built tension beautifully from the first issue and it all came crashing to a head in the amazing finale that closed out the volume. It was an incredibly engaging story that also introduced us to artists Victor Santos and Veronica Gandini, whose beautiful artwork brought the concepts and characters to life. This storyline raised the bar for the already stellar Mice Templar, but I wouldn’t be surprised if you see Volume III pull in some awards for 2011!
Honorable Mentions: Blackest Night, X-Men: Second Coming, Batgirl Rising
Past Winners: Marvel Comics (2008), DC Comics (2009)
I know that, to many, this will be a very unexpected choice. However, if you take a look back at 2010, no other publisher could meet the creative highs that Image Comics reached this year. Image continues to release some of the most wildly creative creator own comics in the industry like Elephantmen, Dynamo 5, Invincible, Chew, Walking Dead, Skullkickers, Dead @17, Hack/Slash, and, of course, Morning Glories (arguably one of the best comics of the year). When you add in their successes outside of the printed page with the fantastic Firebreather made-for-TV-movie and the runaway hit Walking Dead television series, Image has had perhaps their most creatively successful year since the initial Image Boom of the early 1990s. So long as they continue to focus own producing the best comics from the best creators—regardless of their publishing history or hype factor—Image will remain a powerhouse for fresh ideas and approaches. If you don’t believe me, check out a recent trade from any of the titles listed above and compare it to 75% of the books that Marvel and DC put out. Trust me, you’ll be convinced.
Honorable Mentions: Marvel Comics, Boom! Studios, IDW Publishing
TEAM GREEN LANTERN
(Doug Mahnke, Tom Nguyen, Christian Alamy, Rebecca Buchman, Shawn Moll, and Keith Champagne)
Past Winners: Norm Rapmund (2007), Mark Morales (2008), Norm Rapmund (2009)
It was once said that it takes a village to raise a family, but in the case of Green Lantern, it took an army to ink a comic. Artist Doug Mahnke had a banner year in 2010 as the regular artist on Green Lantern, producing some of the finest work of his career. He could not have done it without his entourage of inkers. The series featured six regular inkers in the past year and, in many cases, all six individuals were working on the same issue. Given how important an inker is to the final aesthetics of a page, it is amazing how well the inkers worked not only with Mahnke, but also with each other. Multiple inkers derailed a number of otherwise great books this year, but the Green Lantern team of inkers worked seamlessly to enhance Mahnke’s work as they made Green Lantern one of the best looking titles on the stands. It is simply staggering to think that such a large group could create such consistent work and that made them the incredibly easy choice for 2010’s best inker(s)!
Honorable Mentions: Jon Sibal, Butch Guice, Michael Babinski
Past Winners: Christina Strain (2007), Hi-Fi Designs (2008), Nei Ruffino (2009)
It’s back-to-back wins for colorist Nei Ruffino who wins her second consecutive honor for colorist of the year. Ruffino’s affinity for bold coloring choices and spectacular sense of lighting makes her one of the most dynamic and most easily recognizable colorists in the industry. After storming onto DC’s books last year, Ruffino landed some of the biggest titles the company has to offer in 2010, while still sticking to her roots coloring for Zenescope. Ruffino turned heads all year with her spectacular work on a wide range of titles, continuing the trend that she started in 2009. She doesn’t look to be slowing down any time soon, so don’t be surprised if she three-peats next year!
Honorable Mentions: Hi-Fi Designs, Elizabeth Breitweiser, Christina Strain
Past Winners: Mahmud Asrar (2007), Chris Samnee (2008), Marian Churchland (2009)
There wasn’t even a question for what creator had the biggest breakout year in 2010. Nick Spencer had been quietly building a buzz for himself with his Existence 2.0 and Existence 3.0 minis in 2009, but it wasn’t until the release of Forgetless and Shuddertown this year that he really started turning heads. By mid-year, the hype was building for the amazing Morning Glories, which firmly put him on the radar of readers worldwide. He supplanted these with the unbelievable awesome Jimmy Olsen back-up stories in Action Comics and the critically acclaimed T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents for DC. A year ago few knew of Nick Spencer, but in 2010, his inventive approaches to character writing and imaginative plotting have made him one of the hottest writers in the industry. No young creator had a year quite like Spencer in 2010 and I look for him to ride that momentum into an even bigger year in 2011.
Honorable Mentions: Joe Eisma, Jim Zubkavich, Chris Burnham
Past Winners: JG Jones (2006), James Jean (2007), Marko Djurdjevic (2008), Skottie Young (2009)
Dave Johnson has made a name for himself as one of the most inventive cover artists in the industry. This year saw Johnson continue to push himself into new territory with some of the finest work of his entire career. Johnson’s range was impeccable this year as he put out some of his most abstract work, as well as some of his most traditional. In a year that featured some of the finest covers the industry has seen in quite some time, Johnson’s work rose above all of the rest to make him the easy choice for Best Cover Artist.
Honorable Mentions: Skottie Young, Marko Djurdjevic, Amy Reeder
Past Winners: Mark Buckingham (2006), Justin “Moritat” Norman (2007), Gary Frank (2008), Mike Norton (2009)
This was one of the few categories that was relatively easy for me to choose. Chris Samnee has been on my radar for a few years now (all the way back to his work with Ande Parks on the original graphic novel Capote in Kansas), but he became a major force in the industry at large for the first time this year. Samnee is one of the most dynamic artists in the industry and he showcased that quite well this year. Everything that he touched was fried gold this year, from the dark, foreboding Area 10 graphic novel to the light-hearted Thor: The Mighty Avenger. Samnee’s dynamite design work, amazing expressions, and clear storytelling made him the cream of this year’s artistic crop. While his ongoing gig with Thor: Mighty Avenger has ended due to the title’s untimely cancellation, I think it is safe to say that Samnee will ride its creative momentum into 2011, where he will be a major contender for this title once again.
Honorable Mentions: Doug Mahnke, Amanda Conner, Nicola Scott
JIMMY PALMIOTTI AND JUSTIN GRAY
Past Winners: Brian K. Vaughan (2006), Christos Gage, Ed Brubaker (2007), Geoff Johns (2008), Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning (2009)
For the second year in a row, the award for Best Writer goes to a writing team as Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray put together a phenomenally impressive year that saw the duo write some of the most memorable comics that hit the stands. This year the duo juggled work for both DC and smaller companies, writing everything from horror to sci-fi to westerns and even to superheroes. There are almost no genres that the team didn’t tackle and of those they did write, they excelled at them all. Palmiotti and Gray did a brilliant job of combining high-octane plots with methodically crafted characters in their comics this year, satisfying both the readers that love action and those that prefer character studies. While their titles may not have been the most profile comics this year, they are amongst the most memorable for those who did check them out. I don’t think I read a single comic that was even remotely disappointing from this writing team in 2010 and that is what earned them this award.
Honorable Mentions: Geoff Johns, Gail Simone, Jason Aaron
BOOK OF THE WEEK AWARD
THOR: THE MIGHTY AVENGERS
Past Winners: Criminal and 52 (2007), Criminal (2008), Secret Six (2009)
The Comic Book Review Power Rankings Book of the Week award is given to the title that had the most #1 Rankings on the Comic Book Review Power Rankings. This year, we had a three way tie between Thor: The Mighty Avenger, Green Lantern, and last year’s winner, Secret Six. All three titles topped the Rankings four times over the course of 2010.
Past Winner: Cinderella: From Fabletown with Love #1 (2009)
All of Amy Reeder’s covers for Supergirl were amongst the best cover designs of the year, but this was easily her most striking. The yin-and-yang concept works extremely well with the twisted mirror image of Supergirl and Bizarro Supergirl in battle on the cover. I’m also really impressed with the amount of detail that Reeder was able to put into the cover, as she could have easily stopped with the main character images and it would still be a very strong cover design. I had a really hard time deciding on the best cover this year as there were literally hundreds of amazing covers that could’ve easily been chosen, but this is one that really stuck with me all year and helped firmly establish Reeder’s presence in the industry.
Honorable Mentions: Jonah Hex #53, Daredevil #506, PunisherMAX #1
Past Winners: Pride of Baghdad (2006), The Homeless Channel (2007), Joker (2008), Marian Churchland’s Beast (2009)
Christos Gage and Chris Samnee’s Area 10 from Vertigo was a brutally engaging and thought-provoking crime story that pushed the boundaries of the genre in all the right ways. Gage was masterful in his storytelling as he played with readers expectations from page one, while Samnee was at the height of his game here. This graphic novel is a perfect companion to books like Criminal and 100 Bullets and is an absolute must read for anyone that enjoys those titles. Few comics were as enthralling or as thrilling as this brilliant work that not only raised the bar for Vertigo’s line of crime story graphic novels, but for all crime comics in general.
Honorable Mentions: Jonah Hex: No Way Back, Scott Pilgrim’s Finest Hour
Past Winners: Villains United Special (2006), Sinestro Corps War Special (2007), Final Crisis: Requiem (2008), Elephantmen: War Toys – Yvette (2009)
One of the most unexpected Book of the Week winners in 2010 was the Sif one-shot that was released as part of the Women of Marvel initiative that was launched in 2010. Although I had little knowledge or interest in the character prior to this issue, the undeniable chemistry between writer Kelly Sue DeConnick and artist Ryan Stegman sucked me in from page one and continued to stick with me long after I had finished the comic. This finely crafted issue made a strong argument for a Sif ongoing series by this creative team with its great mix of superb storytelling and strong craftsmanship. Both Stegman and DeConnick had breakout years in 2010 and this issue is a great example of why they amongst the finest creators in Marvel’s stable.
Honorable Mentions: Bruce Wayne: Road Home – Batgirl, Valkyrie, Star-Spangled War Stories
Past Winners: Blue Beetle (2006), Dynamo 5 (2007), Guardians of the Galaxy (2008), Chew (2009)
Months before Morning Glories made its debut from Image Comics, the hype had already started. A cryptic marketing campaign introduced the lead characters and buzz was steadily building. Speculators began posting copies of the debut issue on eBay at highly inflated prices week’s before it hit the stands. A sell-out seemed inevitable as retailers adjusted their orders for the growing demand. As a cynical person, I doubted that all of this buildup would amount to much of anything, but vowed to check out the first issue just to see what the hubbub was about. Needless to say, I was completely blown away. The mystifying Morning Glories hit like a ton of bricks from its debut issue as it hooked readers into its mysterious premise and instantly relatable characters. Writer Nick Spencer and artist Joe Eisma became instant stars for their work on the series, which has been aptly compared to the television show LOST. The first story line recently completed and readers are still baffled about where the creative team is heading but remain completely enamored with the journey. Morning Glories was the buzz comic of 2010 and with good reason, as it was easily the best new ongoing comic of the year.
Honorable Mentions: Skullkickers, Avengers Academy, Young Allies
Past Winners: Agents of Atlas (2006), Umbrella Academy: Apocalypse Suite (2007), Elephantmen: War Toys (2008), Ender’s Game: Command School (2009)
When an archeological dig unleashes an engineered-plague that could potentially wipe out all life on Earth, a group must travel to the past to Nazi Germany stop a rogue time-traveling scientist from creating the threat in the first place. That’s the plot. Writers Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray, with art by Paul Gulacy. That’s the creative team. How could you go wrong by combining that premise with those creators? You can’t and that is why Radical Publishing’s thrill-a-minute miniseries is my choice for Best Limited Series. All three oversized issues of this comic filled to the gutters with brilliance and excitement. Time Bomb may have flown under the radar of most readers, but that didn’t stop it from completely blowing away those who did have a chance to check it out. A trade is set for release in early 2011 and I urge you not to miss this instant classic.
Honorable Mentions: Kill Shakespeare, Last Days of American Crime, Mice Templar II: Destiny
THOR: THE MIGHTY AVENGER
Past Winners: Fables (2006), Captain America (2007), Nova (2008), Secret Six (2009)
One of the biggest tragedies in the comic book industry in 2010 spun out of one of its greatest triumphs. Launched this past summer, Thor: The Mighty Avenger, was a new spin on the Thunder God of Asgard that took place within its own continuity, which allowed the creative team of writer Roger Langridge and artist Chris Samnee a tremendous amount of freedom to create their own superhero world centering around the title character. The series earned near-universal praise from critics and quickly developed one of the most devoted fanbases in the industry. The incredibly charming comic featured a brilliant wit and absolutely stunning art during its short run, which will end this January. While it may not have performed well on the sales charts, the series was tremendously accessible to new readers and was easily the most finely crafted comic of the year. Unfortunately, it failed to catch on with readers (many dismissed the series as being aimed at kid’s without ever checking out an issue simply because it took place out of the regular 616 continuity) and its cancellation was announced this fall. Despite only being with us for 8 issues, the brilliance of this series lives on through its dedicated readers. No other series could come close to Thor: The Mighty Avenger in terms of sheer craftsmanship and entertainment value in 2010 and its unlikely that any title will for quite some time.
Honorable Mentions: Secret Six, Green Lantern, Batgirl
SECRET SIX #24
Past Winners: Justice Society of America #1 (2006), Green Lantern #25 (2007), Final Crisis: Requiem (2008), Uncanny X-Men #512 (2009)
Once again, Secret Six was one of the best ongoing comics of the year that featured some of the most memorable issues of the year. The most surprising of these was the highly-unusual issue #24, a wild-west themed issue that took a break from continuity to transplanted the characters into an old west town that is ravaged in a battle between the Secret Six and an old west bounty hunter version of Deathstroke. Writer Gail Simone perfectly adapted the titular characters into Western archetypes without straying from their cores while artist Jim Calafiore produced some of the best work of his career (which I proudly own a page of). This downright unusual issue was incredibly unique and extremely entertaining. It was a perfect example of the superb craftsmanship this creative team is capable of. In a year full of memorable comics, none were as unforgettable as Secret Six #24.
Honorable Mentions: S.H.I.E.L.D. #1, Amazing Spider-Man #617, Mice Templar: Destiny #9
There you have it! The last Best of 2010 list that Weekly Crisis will put out this year. How did our picks stand up against yours? What comics and creators did you think were the best of the year? Share your thoughts, as we’d love to hear from you!