Yes ladies and Genetleman, it's the fourth edition of the Why I Love Comics awards where Eric pays his respects to the best of 2011, some things you may have missed. Everything from Best Writer to best collected editions!
Hello ladies and Gentleman of the internets (Yes there is an S in there....there are many of them!) and welcome to the fourth annual Why I Love Comics awards. I am of course Eric Ratcliffe, host of the Why I Love Comics podcast, column and columnist of Conversations with yourself! This year has been an incredibly strong one in the industry as well as pop culture in general. We've had everything from Ron Marz debuting a new series to Wolverine doing the most shocking thing of his career and that's just skimming the top of the list. So let's jump right into things starting with the best webseries of the year!
(Disclaimer, these are of course my awards and the things I think were the best of the year and in no way reflect the rest of the Staff)
Nuka Break – Nuka Break of course debuted as a fun little short fan film starring it's creator Zachk Finfrock as a vault dweller who ends up becoming friends with a ghoul and an escaped slave. It takes place in the Fallout universe and is incredibly faithful to the source material, while still being extremely fun to watch. The 3 leads are all unique and the dialogue is on par with any professional project.
The first season of the webseries hasn't actually finished yet but has featured cameos by youtubers SMP films and Katersoneseven as well as cult actor and all around awesome guy Doug Jones.
It has action, humor and the props/visuals and costuming all look like they come straight out of the game. It's something special and definitely worth the time to check out!
The Street Fighter – You ever have a bad day? The kind where you lose your job and have nowhere to turn but your friends? That happens in the Street Fighter, only the story quickly turns as the best friend helps the lead rediscover his love of gaming which quickly turns professional.
Layne Pavoggi of the Gamestation makes his directing debut in this 6 episode webseries, full of drama, gaming and things nerd culture is all about. It's a strong webseries and something I found myself quickly invested in as a fan. Plus Lisa Foiles really stole the show as well as Kassem did as the lead villain. I really can't recommend it higher and cannot wait to see what Layne and crew do next!
Jesse Coxe and Total Biscuit play Terraria – What happens when two youtubers decide to play a new game together? Well one of them is actually rational and the other....well he dies a lot. The reason I'm giving this series the nod is just due to the fact that the two guys both play so well of each other, comedically that you can just watch the two play the game for a half hour and not accomplish anything and you're still entertained.
As I mentioned, Terraria (Also one of my games of the year, look below for further details) is a 2-d action/adventure game with some building aspects to it and these 2 guys together just so you how much fun can be had in the game...even if it means dying a lot.
Marble Hornets season 2 – Almost forgot to put this one on the list but it's probably one of my favorite horror series in general. Especially of the last few years. Marble Hornets follows the story of Jay, a man who is given tapes of everything his friend Alex shot when he made his movie Marble Hornets. The problem? Alex has disappeared and the footage shows as during film he becomes increasingly agitated as less like the guy everyone on the crew knew.
Season 2 picks up as Jay finds himself in a hotel room, 7 months after the first season ended, no idea how he got there, why he's there or what his purpose is. Very slowly he regains his memory and delves deeper into the mystery of what happened to his friend, just who or what the Slenderman is and what the heck the arc is.
It's creepy, it's independent and it's got a strong grasp on horror and drama that you wish most actual film makers today would have. I know I'm looking forward to season 3 and just what's next for the characters.
Best Ongoing series
X-Factor – If you have to ask me why I'm giving this award to Peter David's amazing X-book, then it's obvious you haven't been reading it. Just this year alone we've had death, birth and a whole bunch of innuendo thrown at us...all in one arc!
I wasn't sure how well the aging up of Layla would work and just how many characters could stick into this book without it getting too crazy but I really find myself loving each issue. I really think it's one of the best X-books on the stands every month. Can't wait to have Havok and Polaris in a monthly book again, very excited by that as well!
Plus without flat out spoiling things, what PAD is doing with Madrox towards the end of the year is some of the coolest stuff you'll find in comics, can't wait to see where that plotline goes.
Best New Series
Venom – If you had asked me last year if I would have cared about reading a book about Flash Thompson and the Venom symbiote, I would have called you crazy. Then of course I read that first issue and realized...I was the crazy one. Venom is easily one of the best books at Marvel right now. There's a specific story point that went through the book during it's "Spider-island" crossover issues where Flash has to face something really close to home.
Not only did it resonate with me but I really think it made Flash a bit more human and not just a character in a comic book. It speaks to Rick Remender's writing that he can make these amazing Allegories to addiction and depression in a character like Flash and I cannot wait to see what he has going in year 2, especially with this vegas arc.
Wolverine and the X-men – Logan is now the headmaster of a school let that sink into your brain for a second. He's taken Iceman, Kitty Pride, Beast and a few others with him to this school. Basically to me as a reader, it feels like the material that Morrison established which Whedon then played with is finally being returned to in full form by someone. Aaron really has become that name to watch the last few years as he steps more and more into the Marvel Universe.
Its fun seeing these new kids being introduced, Bobbi/Logan/Kitty/Hank and the rest of the staff are dealing with things for the first time and it's really refreshing seeing the way Aaron brings in the greater Marvel U into this series. It's not just an X-book anymore; the school isn't just for mutants. It's extremely refreshing and after just the opening arc, this series is something to watch grow in 2012.
Madman Atomica /X-statix Omnibus – If you're as big a fan of Mike Allred as I am, then this was certainly a year for you. The Madman Atomica collects almost all the material that the Gargantuan didn't (an obvious exclusion being the Superman crossover) as well as all of the Atomics and a whole bunch of art done by different people, even some fantastic behind the scenes extras of Mike's process as an artist. It looks twice the size of the Gargantuan and it's just pretty to put on your bookshelf.
The X-statix omnibus is as strong of a collection and features art from not just Allred but some other big artists and while it doesn't have as many extras as the Madman Atomica it does literally have everything that the X-statix were in. Even has the very fun Doop/Wolverine mini and the short stories. All the material in both books is fabulously reproduced and I'd say Laura's coloring is as bright as ever.
The only negative if you got both of these collections? Your wallet might be broken for a couple weeks.
Feeding Ground – If there is anything you do the start of this year, do yourself a favor and grab/order a copy of Feeding Ground. Michael Lapinski's art is beautiful in this collected story as well as just the story itself. There's a forward and a whole section devoted to pin ups. I'll keep this short because honestly? I'm doing a review devoted to it pretty soon!
BPRD Plague of Frogs vol 1 – Do you want a Dark Horse horror collection on your shelf that's the same size as one of the Starman Omnibi's and has the stories to match it? Well this is definitely a book for you. Not to mention it has work in it from Skott Kollins/Geoff Johns/Mike Mignola and many more! Oh and the price tag for over 400 pages? Just 30 dollars! Easily one of my favorite collections of the year, especially if you've never read the BPRD before and are looking to get into the characters.
Best TV Show
Parks and Rec – 5 words for you: Adam Scott dressed as Batman. There you go, that's all you have to know in order to understand why this is one of the best comedies on tv right now. Leslie Knope is our lead as we follow the Parks and Recreation department in the small town of Pawnee. Leslie is actually capable and not played stupid for laughs and the show is constantly stolen by the supporting cast, especially Ron Swanson.
At the end of the day, Parks and Rec has one of the strongest casts in a comedy at the moment next to community. Rob Lowe is completely cutting loose as the current de facto congressman and like I mentioned Adam Scott shines as accountant/ex mayor of another small town Ben. Plus you have everyone from Amy Poehler, Aziz Ansari, Nick Offerman and Aubrey Plaza in the cast. It's a comedy nerds dream cast.
Plus like I said, Adam Scott in a batsuit.
Thundercats – Remember during the 80's just how ridiculous Thundercats could get? How much campy fun it could be? Well just like He-man before it, Thundercats has been relaunched while respecting the original source material to a T. Not to mention that the voice cast is led by fan favorite Will Friedle (Terry Mcguinnes on Batman Beyond) and has featured some powerful storytelling right from the start. Even having a few comic scribes pen a few episodes like J.M Dematties. Yes you read that right. The animation is smooth and you feel the emotions the characters are living through. It's something I've loved watching so far.
Young Justice – Yeah I was bummed about Batman the Brave and the bold ending too (Which by the way had one of the best last episodes of anything ever. Henry Winkler as Ambush Bug was pitch perfect casting) but then....Young Justice premiered. Young Justice is flat out fun. You have a cast full of teen characters from the DC universe we all know and love (though it's slightly tweaked, like Robin is Dick and Kid Flash is Wally....even though their personalities are a bit more like Tim and Bart) and Miss Martian is adorable as always.
The show can get dark and I feel its audience is more teenage in mindset than say something like Teen Titans. I'm really enjoying the voice work and the use of random villains. Going to be interesting to see how the network handles the show as the second season is an 8 episode mini.
Muppets – You ever just smile like an idiot at a movie? Or do your best to not sing along to a song you've known since you were a little kid? Or try not to make fanboy squeals when you see your favorite obscure character make a return after almost 20 years of obscurity? That was me throughout the Muppets movie!
Jason Segal hit on all cylinders, showing just how much of a muppet fan he truly is. Kermit and the gang felt like they were back under the control of Jim Henson again and it felt exactly like the classic movies did. Not only did you have Scooter/Rolph and even Bouregard make their long awaited returns but you had an actual fun reunion story here and mostly everyone got a moment to shine.
Not to mention if you loved that soundtrack it was because one half of the Flight of the Conchords aka Bret Mackenzie was responsible for it. It was a perfect all ages film with downright fun musical numbers and strong jokes throughout.
Captain America – Chris Evans managed to capture every single nuance of Steve Rogers and Captain America on the big screen. He may be a cookie cutter hero to some people out there but it was a pleasure to see the man who was Casey Jones/Johnny Storm and a certain evil ex boyfriend show that he had it in him to be something more than just a joker.
There's a scene in the movie for me that not only showed that the writers of the screenplay understood Captain America but showed that they actually did their homework. For me that scene was Steve trying to relax after a USO show gone horribly bad is sitting down as the rain hits him drawing himself as a dancing monkey on a tricycle. It was such a quiet moment and such a short one but showed that Steve wants to the hero for the right reasons and not just some sort of glory hound.
It was my favorite comic movie of the year because to me, Steve Rogers is still that kid from New York trying to do the right things and protect us from the evil that the world has in it. Not just to be in the papers but because he actually believes in what this country stands for and to me...that's exactly what the movie accomplishes.
Rick Remender – I'm not even sure I have to explain this one. Especially if people have been reading the year long Uncanny X-force arc. We got a story packed full of character development, actual status quo changes and plenty of action to really sink your teeth into. Rick Remender is writer of the year because simply put: No one else was doing what he was. Sure the X-force plotline lasted a full year but it absolutely never dragged and seriously had some huge repercussions that I wasn't expecting.
Not to mention Venom, have you read Venom? Talk about a character study in Flash Thompson. Flash has his demons but at the same time manages to be a good man and a hero you can route for. And for me Remender did that in just 1 full arc.
Riley Rossmo – Not only did he wrap up the end of Cowboy Ninja Viking this year but he also did some Daken issues as well as launch a new ongoing at Image and start a brand new miniseries. I wouldn't just call Riley artist of the year, but the hardest working artist in all of comics.
Seriously with the man's work load I am surprised he can keep up the pace and quality that he does. His style is just so unique and chilling that it's a pleasure to read each book he works on.
Best Limited Series
Screamland vol 1: Death of the Party – Technically this is an ongoing, I know that but for the record every issue of this first volume came out in 2011. I love how the book can completely change its tone and form like a chameleon at moment's notice. It can be a mystery, a look into the past, a horror book and just something completely just fun. From Carl and Travis's friendship to each individual character back-story it's not only a fully formed cohesive universe but something that you absolutely feel is real.
Hector's art can be chilling one moment and then fit the era in a flashback the next. While as I already mentioned Harold's story never feels like it's dragging. I actually legitimately felt something for each character as we discovered secrets about their past.
Best Horror Series
Green Wake – A man wakes up in a mysterious town, surrounded by odd looking people and chilling memories of his past. That's the start of Green Wake. A noir/horror/thriller by Kurtis Wiebe and Riley Rossmo. I'm so happy that it's an ongoing series now as I really think the world is just rich and deep to explore.
Our leads are interesting people, both with huge secrets that they hide even from each other. They have a classic detective/friendship that's easy to follow. The deformities and the overall mystery of Green Wake are what drive the horror of the overall series and pull you into its universe. It's also a title I will be watching very closely this year as the second arc very slowly forms. The pacing and the tone on the book are both insane and nail biting as well.
Shinku – Vampires, Shogun's, an American and Samarai's all thrown into a blender. It's the last Samaria meets Blade with a female lead. Everything about Ron Marz's Shinku feels original; it feels like a book we haven't got horror wise in a long time. He's not reinventing the wheel here; he's just simply changing the style of the rim in order to give us a unique story.
The mythology of the book and the look of the vampires is just amazing and creepy. It's a horror book with some actual action and a sense that you have no idea where things will head next. Ron has another hit on his hands and Lee Moder's art just fits the book to a tee!
Best Team Book
Uncanny X-force – Yeah I know, I'm handing out awards left and right to this book this year but you know what? There's a reason for that! Nothing else on the stands holds a candle to it! It's best team book because as I mentioned just a few awards ago it's team manages to stop an actual world ending threat in a really surprising way.
Deathlok/Deadpool/Wolverine/Fantomex...you'd think these guys would kill each other before managing to save the world but they did! It's best team book because even though these guys can flat out hate each other at moments, they still succeeded at the end of the day.
Publisher of the year
Same Day Digital is finally embraced – This one was easy for me. DC had a fantastic relaunch but that was just sales wise, a lot of the decisions have left me burned out. Marvel had a great year two, a lot of the publishers did. But they all had one thing in common...they all finally realized it was time to start capitalizing on the digital market.
Same Day digital is not the death of the comic market, not by a long shot. It's the 2011 edition of comics being in a supermarket or a 7/11. Same Day digital provides a service to people that may not have checked out a comic by going to a bookstore or a comic shop. The only problem right now is pricing, we're still on a learning curve for the digital market comic wise. Some have fully embraced it. (A lot of the image books, Atomic Robo and Dark Horse to name a few) Marvel hasn't fully embraced the fact that they can't be charging 3.99 for a digital book but at the same time they are actively trying to offer their products to that market.
Services like Comixology and Graphicly are seeing boosts thanks to smart devices and it's honestly healthy for the market to finally embrace the digital side of things. So congrats Publishers, you're finally on the right track.
Archangel – Try to take Apocalypses' place in the world, kill at least 3 of your friends and brainwash another....not to mention steal a whole world and you definitely get Villain of the year. Seeing the darker parts of Warren's personality come out because of Archangel was just flat out creepy. I mean it's been building for a few years now but to see this remorseless killer in charge of a mutant who was one of the first X-men was downright chilling.
To see him actually come close to succeeding was actually worse. I think this is the closest a Marvel Villain has come to actually almost succeeding in their plans in a long time. And the fact that he manages to corrupt Psylocke along the way certainly wins him some points.
Hero of the year
Fantomex – Who would have guessed I'd be writing this just a year after naming the book he stars in as best ongoing last year? Fantomex surprised me though; as I'm sure he did many other readers. The faux Frenchman does his best to put up a shield around everyone. He's a sarcastic ass who in the very first arc of the book murders a child in cold blood because no one else has the guts to do it.
But of course that's also why he's hero of the year because he not only clones that child and raises him in his own special way but manages to make said child a hero and show him the difference between right and wrong, basically saving our whole universe in the process.
Not to mention also helping to snap Betsy out of the brainwashing that Archangel instills in her just 2 issues before. Fantomex is hero of the year because he does the unexpected but does so not to impress others but because he's a deeply flawed man.
Moment of the year
The Secret Six and their final stand in Gotham – Not only moment of the year but I will actively go on record by stating very simply that this may be the best final issue of any comic I've ever read in my life. Not only were the stakes raised but you actively had a hopeless mission and a group of characters we'd been following for almost 4 and a half years facing impossible odds for just one final time.
Deadshot/Catman/Ragdoll/Scandal/Bane...everyone knew what was going to happen here and it just added that incredible element as you turned page after page hoping that the team would find some way to escape, some way to put the odds back in their favor. It was Gail Simone at her best ending a title about a group of morally grey people in the only way she possibly could. The last few pages, the dialogue is from the perspective of Huntress and just reading it not only brought a tear or two to my eyes but even managed to help push a villain who will be making his big screen rehabilitation in 2012 a new light.
It's moment of the year because absolutely nothing can surprise it. Its comic book storytelling at its best. Taking no prisoners and showing you just how a comic can be written if it truly has to end.
Most Anticipated of 2012
Rick Remender and Gabriel Hardman's run on Secret Avengers! – Rick Remender is taking over Secret Avengers and he's bringing one of the most underrated artists on the planet with him. Not only that but he's also bringing in a mysterious new Ant Man (My guess is the return of Scott Lang) Clint Barton as field leader, Captain Britain and Venom himself.
To not be excited about this run would be madness as it's going to be a companion title to Uncanny X-force as well as the chance for Remender to expand on his own little corner of the Marvel Universe.
Not to mention bringing Gabe with him who is just perfect for a book like this means that the book may have finally found its team again. It feels just like what #1 did under Brubaker and I'm very excited to see what the guys do with it!
Mass Effect 3 – "Finish the fight" That was the teaser we were given so far in the teaser trailers. Commander Shepard has made it back to Earth with his team and it's the final stand against the reapers. From the hands on demo, I could tell this would be something special. I've spent over 100 hours immersed in this universe. Decisions you made all the way back almost 6 years ago in game 1 will drastically effect how this game ends.
Not only is it one of the biggest experiments ever tried in gaming but it's Return of the Jedi/Return of the King to one of gaming's strongest Sci Fi drama's ever. If you've been playing these games from the start, you know just how major this ending truly is.
Written or Contributed by: Eric Ratcliffe