Taylor - Jason Aaron
The ending of Scalped, one of the best long form comics ever made, was both eloquent and touching, proving that Aaron can not only write a good tale but finish one also. On top of this Wolverine and the X-Men is in top five books that Marvel release month in, month out, and the new Thor title is shaping up to be one of the better releases within the Marvel Now schedule. Aaron has gone from being a fan favourite to being one of the most important writers within Marvel's stable. 2013 should be a great year for Aaron and hopefully we can see him work his magic alongside the sublime R.M Guera again soon.
Ken - Jonathan Hickman
I think the best way to show how strong a writer Hickman is over the year was not his excellent runs on Fantastic Four, FF, Ultimates or Manhattan Projects, which continued to get better with each issue, but how strongly his issues of Avengers vs. X-Men were. Issue #6 in particular actually had the most depth out of the whole series, was the most balanced and character driven, and gave hope (not that Hope) to the series that it might not turn out as badly as it ultimately did. Hickman had every excuse to just phone it in on the summer event but didn't, and put all the other writers to shame. And with how well he wrapped up his Fantastic Four run, I expect great things from his Avengers run.
Ryan - Scott Snyder
Batman. And. American Vampire. These are two very different books and put together they show the amazing range we get from DC's strongest asset and voice right now. He's also snuck in an AV mini this year as well as Swamp Thing. Snyder knows how to deliver a damn fine issue amidst a larger tapestry of narrative. He drops wow moments that are insanely cool while also delivering the emotional beats that make you stop and appreciate. He's phenomenally talented and doing stellar things on all fronts. Whenever his name appears on the book, I feel assured I need to read the issue instantly and I'll no doubt walk away pleased.
Grant - Jeff Lemire
I've been gobbling up everything Jeff Lemire since I discovered Essex County a few years back, and this was a great year for it. Lemire was all over the place, dropping gem after gem on the comic book marketplace. His Animal Man run, while a little slow of late, had some brilliant issues earlier on this year. He was doing some fun stuff with Frankenstein before jumping over to Justice League: Dark to direct the ongoing adventures of DC's main magic users. He also made one of the best done-in-one issues of the year with Cully Hamner in National Comics: Eternity. And let's not forget Sweet Tooth, which has been heartbreakingly good and sadly comes to an end this month (and which he also draws). All that and he published a little something called The Underwater Welder back in the summer. Scott Snyder definitely had a similar quantity and quality of output, but I have to give the edge to Lemire.
Taylor - Simon Roy, Farel Dalrymple, Giannis Milogiannis, and Brandon Graham
Yes, yes. That is four artists and not the one as specified but when it comes to the team mentioned above, they come as a set. Prophet is as near to perfection as a comic can get in the modern era and that is mainly down to the immense talent on display. Their Aesthetics are very different to say the least, yet stylistically they compliment each other like a group of childhood friends who grew up playing Final Fantasy, watching Ghost in the Shell and reading The Incal. This is as good as comic book art gets people. And besides, Jamie McKelvie unfortunately didn't draw enough this year to be considered.
Ken - David Aja
Aja just packs so much art into his pages for Hawkeye, and the constant use of square panels just adds to the density of art per page. It's an admirable feat and allows for a greater storytelling experience. It allows for cutaways and character reactions that don't take away from the moment in the story. It's just pretty.
Ryan - David Aja
Yep, no one even comes close. This art is great and once matched with his sense of design, there is no holding Aja back. I could read books with only his art for the rest of my life. I would die happy. If you haven't checked out Hawkeye yet then know this man in the main reason, among a few great reasons, to check the book out and lose an afternoon worshipping.
Grant - J.H. Williams III
As much as I wanted to pick David Aja (and believe me, I did), I have to once again tip my hat to the astounding work that J.H. Williams III continues to do on Batwoman. He unfortunately isn't able to do the book month in and month out, but whenever he is drawing this title, you are going to get one of the most beautiful clinics in comic book art and comic book paneling that is physically possible. I say this almost every time I bring up Williams' name, but the man seriously manages to raise the bar in what is possible when it comes to page layouts, and he does it while drawing some of the most beautiful comics around. There is no one else in the business who innovates the way he does.
Best Art Team - Penciller/Inker
Ryan - Greg Capullo & Jonathan Glapion
These two guys have put together what is one of the best looking flat out cape comics in a long time with Batman. Capullo is going to go down as a titanic Batman artist in the Bat Hall of Fame and hopefully Glapion gets the dual respect he deserves. This book, from men to cities to cowls, has looked consistently amazing for a whole year without flubbing a single deadline. They only took one issue off and then got straight back into the art. It should also be noticed that not only are they pretty, they bring amazing storytelling game. Capullo was the one to come up with the tilting panels for #5 and it's insane how many times he's crammed in nearly a dozen panels per page and that's going beyond what Snyder has scripted. These guys don't get enough credit for so many subtle things in the book.
Grant - Diogenes Neves & Oclair Albert
While Paul Cornell's writing was a definite high mark of Demon Knights, Diogenes Neves and Oclair Albert's pencils and inks were just as important in my mind. These two made the world of Demon Knights come alive in a big way, and the book hasn't been the same since they left.
Ken - Greg Capullo & Jonathan Glapion
Ryan's right, Batman has been nothing if not incredibly consistent with the art this past year. The level of detail the dynamic duo give the book month in and month out is a key reason Batman stays at the top of the sales and critic charts, let them have a long and profitable run on the book.
Taylor - Dave McCaig
Dave McCaig is the unsung hero of American Vampire. He compliments Rafael Albuquerque's thick brushwork beautifully and his palette choices are bold and exciting. The way he lights scenes and figures can stop you in your tracks. Not content with just servicing the art, nor is he overbearing or too reliant on photoshop trickery, McCaig is the sort of colourist we need in the mainstream. Thankfully with up and comers like Matthew Wilson and Sunny Gho we may just get that.
Ryan - Dean White
White held together Uncanny X-Force and his insane palette experiments on the new Captain America book are really scratching some itches for me. White sets the tone of the word he colours, he lets you know what genre you are knees deep in, and then he makes you feel it come to life. It's nice to have colours smack you in the face from time to time and really make you take notice. White is a master of making the colour elements of his books pop in all the right ways.
Grant - Dave Stewart
Dave Stewart is one of the best colourists in the business in my mind. For one thing, this guy is prolific as hell, working on plenty of books this year including Hellboy, B.P.R.D., Batwoman, Conan the Barbarian, and The Massive, just to name a few. For another - and perhaps more important - thing, he's insanely good. Any book that has Stewart on colours is immensely better for it, which is the true mark of a talented colourist.
Ken - Dean White
Uncanny X-Force showed how a book with a regular colorist could help establish some consistency, and going from someone like Jerome Opena to Phil Noto was successful because of White's coloring. The dull, almost watercolor effect he uses is just pretty, and will surely spawn many imitators in the new year.
Taylor - Brandon Graham
The craft of comic book lettering is dying with the rise of some real fantastic comic book fonts. Thankfully, Brandon Graham hand letters Multiple Warheads and because of it, adds an extra layer of personality to a comic already full of it. Even the word balloons are bags of fun to look at, and you can't say that about every comic.
Ryan - Dave Lanphear
I've been majorly digging what Lanphear has been up to over at the Valiant side of the world. His balloons are emotive and reflective of the words within. He is a letterer you notice and yet for all the right reasons.
Grant - Jeff Powell
As you should well know, I'm a big Atomic Robo fan. Brian Clevinger and Scott Wegner do some wonderful stuff with their atomic powered protagonist, but they aren't the only members of Team Robo. Just as important is Jeff Powell, the man who has been lettering Robo since the beginning. Whether it's Robo's uniquely coloured and shaped word balloons or the surplus of saucy sound effects, Powell is all over it, and he makes it all better.
Best Cover Artists
Taylor - James Stokoe
James Stokoe is an amazing artist, definitely in the top ten comic book artists working in comic books today. His line work is lush and packed full to the brim with detail. Since becoming the writer/artist on the fantastic Godzilla: The Fifty Year War his cover work has gone from being amazing to legendary. With a skill that would bring a tear to the eye of both Geoff Darrow and Art Adams, Stokoe dares you not to pick up the comic and see what's inside.
Ken - Adam Hughes
Hughes has been drawing the covers for the Fables spinoff Fairest, and they've just been a treat. It only makes sense that a book dealing with the women of the Fable community would look better when Hughes gets a chance to draw them, they all have their own unique touches that also allows Hughes to go beyond his normal sexy pinup style.
Ryan - Julian Totino Tedesco
His covers for Uncanny X-Force certainly brought the series home but I was also wowed by his Season One covers for the string of OGNs from Marvel. Tedesco composes his images well and then brings great details and emotion to the cover.No seem to take extreme notice pretty much every time he has stepped up to the plate this year.
Grant - Cliff Chiang
I can't think of a book that had better covers this year than Wonder Woman. Cliff Chiang does some wicked interiors, but his covers at just as good, if not better. I always look forward to seeing what he'll offer up next, which is all that you can ask.
Taylor - Brandon Graham
This has been Brandon Graham's year. Already known as a great creator to the few, (and fans of the sublime Meathaus anthologies,) Graham's stock has risen to a point where he can now be considered a star. Beginning with the release of the fantastic King City, then with handling the writing chores on the game changing Prophet, now Graham is releasing his next opus, Multiple Warheads, through Image. Funny, exciting, and just downright weird, Brandon Graham is now sitting on the upper echelons of the comic book game, and deservedly so.
Ken - Dennis Hopeless
Who could write a compelling character in comics these days? It's Hopeless! See, these are the kind of play on words that will be in full abundance if Hopeless continues to rise in the ranks. His Ultimates work carried forward what Hickman set up, and he seems to have a firm grasp of how to write the characters in Avenges Arena and Cable & X-Force.
Ryan - James Tynion IV
This guy has been writing the Batman back ups and they have all been spectacular. If you really want to see someone breaking out, this guy is the definition. He's right on the cusp, and you can see the talent right there, and you absolutely know massive things are coming along. His craft on those back ups has been amazing and his DC title, shepherded by Scott Snyder but really a Tynion the Fourth book, has been good. I feel certain this guy is going to drop something insane on us in 2013 and I hope you're all prepared.
Grant - Justin Jordan
I'm a little tardy to the Justin Jordan party, but it's hard to deny the progress he's made this past year. He managed to parlay his work on The Strange Talent of Luthor Strode last year into a second series starring the titular character, but more than that, he's also become the writer for a slew of ongoings at other companies. First it was coming on as the writer for DC's Team 7, then Valiant tapped him to helm their Shadowman relaunch, and this month he officially took over Deathstroke as well. Jordan seems to be blowing up right now, and I hope that things continue well on his end come 2013.
Taylor - Tradd Moore
This time eighteen months ago no one in the comic community at large had heard of Tradd Moore. Then came The Strange Talent of Luther Strode and that all changed. With a hyper detailed style that is incomparable to no other artist in the industry, Moore has a knack for capturing the energy that superhero comics so desperately crave. The complete antithesis of the static photo referenced comics that unfortunately have infiltrated the mainstream, Moore will no doubt become a force to be reckoned with. In fact, he will be providing the variant cover for Young Avengers issue three, so expect more work from the House of Ideas soon.
Ryan - Tradd Moore
Gotta agree with everything Taylor says above. Tradd went from nothing to absolute phenom in 6 issues of less. His style is so insanely unique and inventive, there is no arguing or denying he's a major reason Luther Strode is killing it in his various minis.
Grant - Riley Rossmo
It seemed like Riley Rossmo was everywhere this year, and I'm happy to say that that's not a bad thing. He's been around for a bit, but it feels like 2012 is the year where things finally clicked for him. He came at us with the striking Wild Children with Ales Kot, offered another stirring collaboration with Kurtis J. Wiebe with Debris, and unleashed Bedlam upon an unsuspecting populace with Nick Spencer. I hope that 2013 holds even more in store for this talented artist.
Ken - Ryan Stegman
Stegman has a style that truly works for a superhero book. It's got a J. Scott Campbell feel to the way he draws faces, but he also has detail and can draw action scenes like Humberto Ramos. He's an artist who has shown he can hit the deadline and it's no surprise he jumps into the rotating stable of Spider-Man artists, even getting the debut issues of Superior Spider-Man.
That's it for today, check back tomorrow as we go with the best characters of 2012!