Sean’s Best of 2005
(5) Captain America (Marvel)
Writer Ed Brubaker brings a "Sleeper"-esque espionage sensibility to the Cap relaunch, and transforms the adventures of the last boy scout into one of Marvel’s most intelligent and suspenseful ongoing series. From the first issue on, Brubaker has put Cap through the ringer, ultimately showing the underlying greatness of this character. He doesn’t give up. He doesn’t despair. A ballsy new direction that has seen The Red Skull assassinated (by long thought dead Bucky Barnes), Nomad assassinated (by long thought dead Bucky Barnes), and…ahhh…oh right, Bucky Barnes (as mentioned, long thought dead) returning from the grave!
(4) Rocketo (Speakeasy)
Finally, an imaginative and ambitious all-ages read! Though the series owes much to classic science fiction and fantasy influences (ranging from Jules Verne to Flash Gordon), Frank Espionsa’s Rocketo is undeniably a fresh and original comic. Floating science platforms. Epic battles. Giant robots. Genetically enhanced humans. Brave explorers. Gigantic sea creatures. High adventure don’t get no higher! And Espinosa’s wide-screen visuals are gorgeous. I’m loving this series, and can’t wait until my son is old enough to read it himself.
(3) The Wintermen (DC / Wildstorm)
Unfortunately, this series slipped under the people’s radar. But I am loving this smart tale about the hard world inhabited by post-Cold War Soviet superheroes. It’s part crime-fiction, part political thriller, part superhero deconstruction, part murder mystery. Bring those pieces together into one great collective and you’ve got a series worthy of the people comrade! An intelligent series with a great visual aesthetic. My only complaint: delays about as long as the food lines in
(2) Godland (Image)
Simply out of this world, daddy-O.
(1) The New Frontier TPB (DC)
I know that most (if not all) of the individual issues comprising this series did not come out in 2005, but the trade did – and that’s all it takes, baby, because I’ll find any excuse I can to put this at the top of my list. To be honest, this series would make my top five in any year – The New Frontier is simply one of the finest comic books ever published. To simply call it Darwyn Cooke’s love letter to DC’s silver-age superheroes is a gross understatement. This is an ambitious, moving and inspirational tale about heroism, specifically that of ordinary men and women. As such, The Losers, The Challengers of the Unknown, Task-Force X, Batman and Hal Jordon take center-stage. A beautiful – albeit bittersweet – comment on superheroes. Cooke’s masterpiece.
Sean’s Other Awards
-The “Bring Out Yer Dead” Award (tie) goes to Ed Brubaker and Judd Winnick for resurrecting long-thought dead side-kicks Bucky Barnes and Jason Todd, and not turning it into a cheap gimmick. Instead, both writers are using these events to push Captain
-The “Man, Am I Glad My Run of ‘Superman” is Over” Award goes to Brian Azzarello. Undeniably one of the better writers in the business, but Superman and Brian Azzarello… a match made in heaven it is not. His heart just never seemed to be it. However, in 2005 Azzarello got back to doing what he does best – writing about murder and crime, (100 Bullets and Loveless) and doing it in style.
-The “I Swear I’ll Review This Comic Eventually” Award goes to
-The “What the Fuck is Going On?” Award goes to Infinite Crisis. I know our main man Dave Davis hates it when I use profanity in any of the reviews (and I agree with him that it is the last refuge of the inarticulate). But really, what the fuck is going one with this series? I thought DC was going to try and make their continuity more accessible and reader friendly? Even my personal DC historian Chip Woods is confused (and when it comes to DC comics, that is a very bad sign). At least 52 sounds cool – and accessible!
-The “Please Bring this Series Back” Award (tie) goes to The Atomics and The Moth. Two very cool series that hold a special place in my heart. Just straight-up fun comics that don’t take themselves seriously – but damn if they don’t look gorgeous while (not) doing it. Steve Rude is thinking about putting together his own company (check out www.steverude.com for details), and The Moth is on the agenda. It’s wishful thinking on my part I know, but I’d love to see Rude and Mike Allred join forces.
Rob’s Best of 2005
5. Rocketo, by Frank Espinosa (Speakeasy)
Adventure! This book harkens back to early adventure comics like Flash Gordon and Tarzan. No angsty, gritty, whiny introverted sissy-boys here. This is a story about manly take-charge guys on a quest. This is fun adventure, which is what comics are supposed to be about.
4. Powers, by Brian Michael Bendis and Michael Avon Oeming (Marvel)
One artist, one writer. Powers is a perfect example of what consistency in vision can do for an ongoing plot. Other titles weave in and out of books in their respective universes and creators switch around like an arbitrary game of musical chairs. Powers started as a buddy cop story set in a city with superheroes and over time has opened up to an epic tale covering millennia.
2. DC: The New Frontier, by Darwyn Cooke (DC)
The big superheroes, the ones who’ve been around for four decades or more, are stuck in a loop. Publishers re-imagine, retcon, retell and reboot their origins like an obsessive-compulsive stuck in a loop. So do we really need one more retelling of the early history of DC’s superheroes? Apparently, we do. Cooke views our heroes through a darkly tinted pair of rose-colored glasses. The art is bright and rendered like an advertisement you might see for a 50s-era vacuum cleaner. Character’s uniforms have wrinkles and folds that point out how ridiculous it is to dress up before saving lives. All along, this series never forgets that the absurdity is part of why we love these characters. Cooke begs you to join in on the love.
1. Lucifer, by Mike Carey, Peter Gross and Ryan Kelly (Vertigo)
While Marvel was dealing with a White Man’s Burden-style world and DC promised infinite changes in their line-up, Lucifer had the most universally tumultuous event. The entirety of all creation (including the two most recent additions) was fading away. Beat that! Spinning off from (and superior to) fan favorite series The Sandman, this yarn only gets better every month. Complex philosophical and metaphysical ideas are toyed with metaphorically like a very modern day mythology. The Morningstar himself is played up less evil and more supremely selfish. He is not to be hated nor pitied, just feared. This book transcends anything else out there now, partly because it deals in subject matter that is offensive to the majority of the population. Satan never looked so good and if you’re not reading, you’re missing out.
-The So Long And Thanks For All The Fish Award goes to: Kurt Busiek. Busiek is going to try to breathe (water) some life into the Aquaman character by sword and sorceroring him up starting with issue #40. Good luck, man. It’s a good character, but as long as knuckleheads can make the same tired jokes about his super power "talking to fish" you have an uphill battle. For the record, the king of Atlantis doesn’t converse with marine life; he forces lower life forms to do his bidding through the power of his will alone. By this logic, the millionth guy who’s made the joke about late nights on the phone with flounders would have to kiss Aquaman’s throne if he so wished it.
-The Mental Note Award goes to: Robert Kirkman and Sean Phillip’s Marvel Zombies. Sure, it’s basically a What If The Marvel Universe Was Made Up Of Zombies? story. However, (as of this publishing) we are only two issues in and this is already the best zombie story I have ever read in comics (yes, I’m including Kirkman’s own The Walking Dead in this statement). It’s ugly, scary, creepy and fully engrossing. If they keep it up, this will definitely be on my five best list next year (mental note to remember this title for next year).
5. Vimanarama (DC/Vertigo) Grant Morrison & Phillip Bond
OK, so the ending doesn’t quit hold up but I’d been dying to see these two together since I’d bought my first Vertigo comic, the criminally out-of-print Kill Your Boyfriend, nearly a decade ago. Young girls dance Bollywood-style before the world threatens to come to an end. Standing in oblivion’s way? A young man readying a noose for his neck. Two reasons to pick this book up are Phillip Bond’s stunning Bruce Timm meets Steve Ditko artwork and a truly touching scene between two brothers who never see eye-to-eye. Unless your brother’s a crackhead who stole every stereo you ever owned, I defy you not to at least like yours after reading this.
4. Countdown To Infinite Crisis #1 (DC Comics) Various
Love it or hate it, DC Comics made their mark on comics again and it only took 80 pages to do it. In its’ 80 pages, we saw an intergalactic war break out before our very eyes. In 80 pages, we saw villains unite. In its’ 80 pages, we saw Batman’s paranoia spread affecting all of humanity. In its’ 80 pages, we saw magic die. In its’ final pages, we watched a hero fall. These 80 pages will be remembered as some of the most important in comics.
3. Villains United (DC Comics) Gail Simone & Dale Eaglesham
While Superman, Batman & Wonder Woman fight amongst themselves, Lex Luthor unionizes DC’s super-villains through promises of strength in numbers and fortunes beyond their realities of petty thievery. In the midst of all of this six C-list villains (Scandal, Cat-Man, Deadshot, Parademon, Ragdoll & Cheshire) say, “No.” to Lex Luthor and his society of super-villains. Six villains against the world? I’m in. In elevating these six characters to DC’s villain A & B lists, writer Gail Simone and artist Eaglesham elevate themselves to greatness with every turn of the page.
2. Punisher Volume 4: Up Is Down And Black Is White (Marvel) Garth Ennis & Leandro Fernandez
With Welcome Back, Frank, Punisher: Born or Punisher: In The Beginning under his belt, Ennis proves time and again, this is a character he was born to write. In Up Is Down, we find Nicky Cavella, a young mobster wanting to make a statement to his fellow made men. Cavella wants to hurt The Punisher where it hurts the most: his heart. I hear you asking, “What could anyone do to hurt The Punisher? He’s already lost everything. I mean, that’s the whole motivation of the character, right?” Right. Well, Cavella finds his answers in …
In Up Is Down, we learn that you don’t bring fire to a heart gone cold. In Up Is Down, we find Garth Ennis at the top of his game.
1. 100 Bullets #58 (DC/Vertigo) Brian Azzarello & Eduardo Risso
You read a comic for nearly six years and just when you thought you had it all figured out, everything changes. With one shot, one word, Azzarello & Risso make a great comic book even greater.
-Talent To Watch Out For In 2006: Justin Gray & Jimmy Palmiotti. Be it the mace-wielding adventures of Hawkman, the two-gun exploits of Jonah Hex or the sword-swinging journeys of Red Sonja, these two guys have proven that they know action. I can’t say but a little birdie told me that 2006 will see them breathing fire into a DC Comic we have every reason to believe dead.
-The “Why Isn’t Everyone Reading This?” Award for 2006: Manhunter (DC Comics). Kate Spencer smokes too much, has a young child she can never make time for due to her job as a San Francisco DA, an ex-husband always going between loathing her and loving her. After being prosecuted and delivered back to jail, the super-villain Copperhead breaks loose, finding time enough to eat two of San Fran’s Finest. Knowing ordinary guns won’t be enough to stop him, Spencer enters a police lock-up containing weapons (Azrael’s gauntlets, a loose Darkstars uniform) confiscated from super-villains, pulling whatever in order to stop the monster and a new Manhunter is born. Sturdy writing from Marc Andreyko with gorgeous no-frills art from Fernando Blanco combine to create a comic well worth reading. So stop paying lip service to wanting to see more women in comics and actually do something about it: read Manhunter.
-The “What The…” Award for 2006: Loveless & Jonah Hex (tie). DC Comics is publishing two Western comics in the 21st century…and they’re very good. Now, if only DC would only bring back Amethyst, Princess of Gemworld.
Russell’s Best of 2005
5) Godland (Image Comics): Just edging its way in is Joe Casey and Tom Scioli’s hallucinogenic masterpiece, a comic that is equal parts Kirby gosh-wow and tongue-in-cheek po-mo weirdness. Casey tells the story of a NASA astronaut granted godlike, sun-derived powers, and he uses every tool in his storytelling arsenal to keep you interested and laughing, while Scioli proves to be more than just a Kirby clone.
4) Ex Machina (DC Comics/Wildstorm): Brian K. Vaughn and Tony Harris’s political thriller-cum-superhero book continued apace this year, with storylines that involved a subway serial killer, a midtown fortune teller and mayoral jury duty. Vaughn walks a fine line between plausible and contrived, and pulls it off masterfully in the book. Harris’s artwork is tight and controlled, each panel a mini-gem. Plus, no one renders intestinal gore quite like him.
3) Fell (Image Comics): Only a couple of issues of Warren Ellis and Ben Templesmith’s seedy cop-drama saw print this year, but it was enough to position it firmly among the best. Ellis’s writing has never been more clipped, refined and elegant. By framing the book in an unusual formatting, with certain established parameters—only sixteen pages an issue, but a complete story every month—Ellis pulls off an amazing feat in that the book is heavy on action and dialogue, but never feels too thin or too short. Templesmith’s artwork is clear, his storytelling considered, his rendering precise.
2) Gotham Central (DC Comics): A cop drama centered around
1) Daredevil (Marvel): Admittedly a no-brainer for me, as it is my favorite character, but this past year, as writer Brian Michael Bendis brings all his threads together before his departure from the book, has been some of the best the book’s been in years. Full of murder, betrayal, lies, frustration, subterfuge and smoke-and-mirrors—and that’s just the protagonist, let alone the bad guys—this is the crown jewel of Marvel’s line, very quietly toiling at being one of the consistently best books on the stands. Top it all off with Alex Maleev’s interesting, multimedia artwork, and you’ve got a damn fine read.
-The “Special Edition Double-Dips Aren’t Just For DVDs Anymore” Award: Goes to DC Comics, for their holiday-timed, oversized editions of Crisis on Infinite Earths, Watchmen, Batman: Hush, and whatever-the-hell-else they put out. These hardcovers brim with well-thought supplementary, feature high-quality paper, sturdy binding, and are able to deliver a sharp blow to burglars in the dead of winter. Whichever DC book is your drug of choice, these Absolute packages will stand the test of time as definitive editions.
-The “Girlfriend Gateway Drug” Award: This sucker is a tie, but both Top Shelf’s Owly: Just a Little Blue, and Oni Press’s Scott Pilgrim vs. the World hit the streets this past year, much to the delight of every comic nerd’s girlfriend. Both are the kinds of books designed for cats who don’t read comics: Owly’s a silent book that features the misadventures of an owl and, as saccharine as that sounds, features some excellent, reductive cartooning; Scott Pilgrim is the world’s biggest shiftless lay-a-bout, the kind of guy who mooches off his friends and roommates, but manages to get away with it on his charm and pluck. Both books are great—or, at least, so says the girlfriend. I haven’t gotten to them, yet.
-The “Let’s Hope This Chip Kidd Gets Some Exposure” Award: Let’s face it—we were all skeptical when we heard they were re-releasing
-The “When Life Gives You Lemons…” Award: Proudly bestowed on Marvel’s current carnival huckster, writer Dan Slott. Not only does Slott have the brazen cahones to write characters like the Great Lakes Avengers or She-Hulk, but he also manages to make the books eminently entertaining as well. From laugh-out-loud invectives against the darker tones of the super-hero biz, to just plain off-the-wall wackiness like Squirrel Girl being an effective crime-fighter, Slott does what he does and does it well. If he’s able develop such also-rans as the Mad Thinker’s Android into characters you want to see every month, then imagine what he could do on a higher-profile project. I’m not talking rocket-science, here, Marvel! Get on it!
-The “Spreading the Word to the Gentiles” Award: With the proliferation of comic book movies the last few years, it’s nice to see companies like Warner Brothers and Miramax/Dimension including some of the source material in their respective DVD releases. So, with that in mind, the two companies share this award: Warner Brothers, for the teaser comics included in both the Constantine and Batman Begins Two-Disc Deluxe Edition; and to Miramax/Dimension, for including the entire Sin City: The Hard Goodbye graphic novel in the Sin City: Recut, Extended, Unrated two-disc set. Dove claps, all around.
Graig’s Best Of 2005
5) The Light Brigade, by Peter J. Tomasi and Peter Snejbjerg (DC)
Surprisingly released as a DC “Mature Readers” title, not a Vertigo title, this trade was released late this past December, collecting the 2004 mini-series and it quite frankly blew me away. The war in heaven spills out onto the World War II battlefield, violence, chaos and tests of faith ensue. Cinematic, gripping, and virtually perfect.
4) Legion Of Super-Heroes, by Mark Waid, Barry Kitson and various (DC)
Yet another relaunch of the Legion has come, but let’s hope this one sticks, because Waid and Kitson have distilled superheroics to its core and added heavy doses of TV melodrama, political intrigue, sci-fi action, and teenage angst into one extremely tight package. This is comics doing what only comics can do.
3) Nil: A Land Beyond Belief, by James Turner (Slave Labor Graphics)
Nil delivers smart, savvy, and hilarious Pythonesque humour about a hapless protagonist framed for murder and on the run in a nihilistic society in this highly inventive original graphic novel. Turner’s amazing black and white, computer generated vector graphic illustrations are visually stimulating and iconic. Tim Burton or Genndy (Samurai Jack) Tartakovsky should snap the rights up for an animated feature.
2) The Question, by Rick Vietch and Tommy Lee Edwards (DC)
The Question lives by the zen and fights on a different plane of existence as he delves into a Metropolis Superman doesn’t usually have time to see. It’s brilliantly illustrated, sharply written, but poor sales will likely nix the idea of a trade so troll the back issue bins kiddies.
1) Smoke, by Alex De Campi and Igor Kordey (IDW)
Espionage, intrigue, terrorists, politicians, albinos, fat people, guns, grenades, blood, fractured romance, and humour. The trade just came out for all you who passed on it the first time (and shame on you if you did).
-The "This is a resolicitation, all previous orders have been cancelled" award (aka: "the curse of Iron Man" award) goes to: (tie) Invicible Iron Man (Marvel) Adi Granov to accept (blame for the delays); Ultimate Iron Man (Marvel) Orson Scott Card to accept (blame for the delays).
-The "Everything Keith Giffen wrote this year was awesome except ‘Nick Fury’s Howling Commandos’ and that was because the art sucked hard" award goes to: Keith Giffen for Justice League Classified 4-8 (DC), Hero Squared (Boom Studios), Defenders (Marvel), Drax: The Destroyer (Marvel), Zombie Tales (Boom Studios) and Common Foe (Image).
-The "Holy crap, where’d this Frank Espinosa guy doing ‘Rocketo’ come from? He’s awesome" award goes to: Frank Espinosa for Rocketo (Speakeasy Comics)
-The "Can you cram any more detail into those pages…? Oh, I see that yes, yes you can" award goes to: (tie) Phil Jimenez for Otherworld (Vertigo) and Infinite Crisis (DC); Geoff Darrow for Shaolin Cowboy (Burlyman); and Seth Fisher for Legends Of The Dark Knight 193-197 (DC) and Fantastic Four/Iron Man: Big In
-The "When’s Brian K. Vaughn going to write something that sucks" award goes to: Brian K. Vaughn for Y: The Last Man (Vertigo), Runaways (Marvel) and Ex Machina (Wildstorm)
So ends this accounting of valiant warriors and high adventure! Return next week to honor still more comics. Praise Odin.
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