WARNING ** Spoilers Ahead!
Welcome back! How was your week? Wait ..stop ..we’ve got too much to cover to waste time on small talk. If you’re just joining us, this is my faux awards show for all things nerd in 2013 (But mostly comics...actually all comics starting here.) Here’s a quick recap of the categories and previously announced winners for those who don’t want to go back and look.
Best Ongoing Series
Best Limited Series
Best Story Arc
Best New Series
Most Dangerous Book (more on this one later)
Best Single Issue
Best Movie: Man of Steel (Yes Man of Steel)
Best Live-Action TV Show: The Newsroom
Best Cartoon: The Legend of Korra
Best Video Game: Bioshock: Infinite
This week we’ll be focusing from Best Single Comic Issue all the way up the ladder to Best New Comic Series. I hope you’re playing along at home because this isn’t just for my own amusement. I would love to see what your picks were so far because my opinion isn’t the only one out there, and it certainly isn’t the only one that matters. (Except to me of course.) Sound off in the comments and let us know about things we may be missing out on! So.. without further babble..let’s do this thing!
Best Single Issue: Hawkeye #7 By Matt Fraction, Steve Lieber, and Jesse Hamm
Ok, I’ll admit I’m a little bit biased on this one. This is the Hurricane Sandy issue of the critically- acclaimed "Hawkeye" solo series. Although many people would call this a “gimmick” issue or something along those lines, I'm from New jersey and lived through Hurricane Sandy. My life wasn’t blown away by the natural disaster, but I know people whose were not so lucky. Fraction did a beautiful job in capturing the overall mood of life during and after the hurricane hit the East Coast. This issue hit me on an emotional level that many comics I've read recently could not match. Just thinking back on it in this writing makes me reflect on the indescribable destruction and hardship people I know had to go through and if a comic can stir up that level of feeling, it’s got to be pretty damn good. I also don’t agree with the people who called it a “gimmick” just because it reflects a real-life catastrophe through the eyes of a superhero. Like most issues of this comic, Fraction did a great job showing how Clint would have as much a hard time dealing with a hurricane as you or I. It also helps that Lieber is one of the year’s breakout artists, which really shines through on these pages. This comic series is fantastic and this subject hit me right in the feelings. A combination like that just can’t be beat.
Best Villain: Otto Octavius
Stop looking at me with the "deer in headlights" look on your face! Dr. Octopus owned this year because, simply put, he won. HE WON! Never in the history of superheroics has a villain so thoroughly came out on top than Otto has done this year in the pages of Dan Slott’s "Superior Spider-Man". Last year Slott made the very controversial decision to have Peter and Otto switch minds, and it, as a whole, has become the success story of 2013. Hate it or love it, you have to admit that Otto won, and the ultimate foal of most “supervillains” is to kill the superhero and win the day. In the beginning, Peter was still lurking inside his own head, but Otto eradicated the last iota of Peter from his brain effectively becoming Peter Parker and winning. DC had an entire month dedicated to Villains and none of them won as convincingly or as soundly as Doc Ock. (That’s mainly since we saw the whole affair, whereas DC is keeping the battle between the the Justice Leagues and the Crime Syndicate a secret.) Other than that one contention, there really is no counterargument on Otto being the greatest villain of 2013
Now this one was a tough choice since nearly every hero has saved the Earth multiple times throughout the year ...because they wouldn’t be superhero comics without that happening often. This category and best villain were harder to choose than I first thought and may disappear from next year’s list! All struggles aside, Captain America had one hell of a 2013. In his own book written by Rick Remender, Cap was stranded in a dimension ruled by Armin Zola. In "Dimension Z" he fought strange weather and even stranger mutant soldiers all while raising a cloned baby of Zola as his own. At the climax of events, he was forced to work past the fall of his “son” to stop Zola from launching a full-scale invasion on Earth, and he did just that. Shortly after this, he was called to arms by the Avengers to fight an impossible threat from not only destroying Earth, but countless worlds before it. Cap answered that call and brought together an amalgam of alien races who normally despise each other (the Kree, Skrull, and Shi’ar worked together) to fight the looming "Builder" threat. Both of these feats are so overwhelmingly impressive, I couldn’t find another hero better than Captain America this year.
Runner Up #1: Otto Octavius: Say What?!?!? Yes Otto was almost both best hero and villain since not only did he defeat Spider-Man, but he proved he could be a great Spider-Man as well. Unfortunately for him Cap proved himself superior because he saved the world a couple times over, in the same year, all while dealing with a horrible trauma. (And Otto’a a bit too much of a know-it-all douche...so we take off points for that.)
Runner Up #2: Thor- Thor was also instrumental in the defeat of the Builders, plus he saved all of the gods from extinction, but had help from two different versions of himself and his own children (it’s a crazy story that you should read sometime!) to do it. Also, in "Infinity" he did kill a Builder, but getting the Kree and the Skrulls to work together is actually more of an accomplishment.
Most Disappointing: Iron Man 3
I would like to preface this by saying I thought Iron Man 3 was a fine film and definitely one of the best films of the year, but it fell so short of expectations that this is the only award it could win. The third installment of Tony stark’s big screen adventures had everything going for it. New, qualified director? It’s Shane Black who has directed Robert Downey Jr. before. Check. Good villain? Ben Kingsley cast as The Mandarin. Holy crap it’s perfect. Check. Good story pulling just enough from the books so nerds like myself won’t get angry? The Extremis story from Warren Ellis’s run plus a cavalcade of new armors... Check and Check. So they took all of that and somehow made a sub-par Marvel Studios film in comparison to the previous films and other Marvel Studios films. The movie’s tone bordered on parody. The twist of Kingsley as the fake Mandarin was a debasement to Iron Man’s archenemies (and if you’re counting, Iron Man only has ONE arch nemesis!) He wasn’t even Iron Man for most of the movie. Plus, the Extremis story line doesn’t make any sense, which somehow has caused it to make less sense in the comics (It probably hasn’t, but Extremis has been making less and less sense in Gillen’s run, so who knows ..that could be connected.) Maybe my expectations were too high...or maybe it just wasn’t very good at all, but "Iron Man 3" gets to wear the Brown Medal of Disappointment on this day. (Maybe if you pin to the Mark 42 it’ll fall apart again)
Most Surprising: DC in Green
OK so this is a complicated one. I went looking back over this year and realized something. There is
a connecting link of really good and surprising things from DC this year, and that link is the color green. Don’t believe me? Let me explain.
1) Arrow- I gave up on this show last year right around this time, but I was hearing a bunch of good things from people whose opinions I trusted, so I looked back into it, and let me tell you, I was hooked. The action is great. The story is compelling. The acting is spotty at times, but there's hot John Barrowman, which if you’re a Doctor Who fan like me is always a plus. Aside from all of that, I think the most fun aspect of the show is the references to the DCU. It doesn’t matter... big or small... if they can get a reference in there they will and it not only makes the show more fulfilling, but also more fun. For example, there was an earthquake machine last season, and they could’ve called it anything (even a boring name like the Tectonic Collider or some such), but no, not on this show. They called it the Markovian Device, which if you are a rabid DC comics fan, you'd identify as a direct reference to Geo-Force or Brion Markov, a hero in the DCU who has Earth-moving powers. Overall it’s a fun surprise, but that’s not all…
2) Green Arrow by Jeff Lemire and Andrea Sorrentino- In the beginning of the New 52, "Green Arrow" was... well... there’s no kind way of saying this... a train wreck. After the success of the show, DC knew they had to change it, and boy did they. Lemire has a great handle on Oliver and the characters he’s surrounded by, and does a great job of working with the broken pieces handed to him by the last creative teams. He reinvented Count Vertigo in a very cool, new way, and wrote the only Villains’ Month comic really worth reading. On top of that, Sorrentino provides a style to the book
that has no equal in the DCU. It’s frenetic and focused at the same time, and the action sequences are choreographed like storyboards for a movie. All-in-all it’s one of the best books DC is publishing right now and judging from where it was at issue #1, that is an accomplishment all on its own.
3) The Green lantern books- This year saw the departure of Geoff Johns from his epic 7 (or so) year run on Green Lantern, and honestly it ended on a whimper. This, compounded by uneasy creative decisions, left the Green Lantern books in a bit of a haze. I was very unsure of what would happen when Johns, Tomasi, Bedard, and Milligan left. I’m pleased to say that the books not only retained their high levels of quality, but may have even improved. Robert Vendetti had the hardest task of taking over the main book and co-writing "Green Lantern Corps" with relative newcomer Van Jensen (after a rocky break-up with rising star Joshua Fialkov), and the book has actually become more focused and overall pretty damn good. We have praise for more than the central title as well! "Green Lantern Corps" has also been excellent, proving that John Stewart can be an engaging main character. Justin Jordan’s "Green Lantern: New Guardians" has been the "middle-of-the-pack" book of the bunch, but there’s’ definitely room to improve. Another surprise is how great Charles Soule’s "Red Lanterns" has been. To be honest I was on the verge of washing my hands of that book, but I took a shot with the new creative team, and it’s still fantastic today. (Maybe even the best of the bunch)
4) Swamp Thing by Charles Soule and assorted artists- Speaking of Charles Soule, he also took the reins of Swamp Thing from Scott Snyder this year. Although Snyder’s run was epic, scary, and thrilling all at the same time, Soule’s approach is a much different one, treating Swamp Thing more like a superhero rather than a pawn in the game of "The Green". I'm finding this take refreshing, and a whole lot of fun, epically right now with the whole Seeder conflict. (By the way I did not include The Green Team because I forgot about it. It just isn’t any good.)
Most Dangerous Book- Superman/Wonder Woman By Charles Soule and Tony Daniel
So I bet you’ve been wondering what this category means. No, it doesn’t mean "book most likely to take a school bus full of children hostage" nor does it mean "book most likely to get you arrested for containing cocaine". Most Dangerous Book means a new title or new direction for an existing title that got started late in the year and hasn’t had time to really flourish, but has the potential for greatness in the coming year. Now, when "Superman/Wonder Woman" was announced, I was apprehensive bcause I’m not really comfortable with them as a couple and the whole “Twilight” interview quote got me nervous. I picked it up anyway because I knew Soule was an amazing writer and Daniel is a fantastic artist, particularly when it comes to pinup-like art. Much to my surprise, this book exceeded all expectations. In just two issues, Soule had established their relationship stronger than anyone before, and actually found a way for the couple to have realistic issues. There’s conflict, both physical and emotional, and there are threats, but in the center of it is their relationship, which works really well. If If Soule can keep that balance secure, this book is going to quickly rise as one of the standout books at DC.
Runner Up #1: Amazing X-Men by Jason Aaron and Ed McGuiness- Nightcrawler is one of my favorite X- Men and I was really excited when I found out he was coming back, but I guess my expectations were too high, and so I was a little underwhelmed by the first issue.
That’s it for now. I’ll see you next time with the BIG awards!