When I was picked to write this tribute to the memorable books and such in the comic industry in this, the month of September in the year 2015, my first thought was: Do these comic companies not realize that in this same month, I was able to play a game that allowed me to tie giant balloons to small animals and launch them into the sky? Like, why bother releasing anything this month? You won’t beat that! You might as well put your feet up and take a moment to think about who you hire for your books that don’t star straight white men.
Now, obviously, that was me being (mostly) sarcastic. September had some great moments for comics as well as some incredibly dumb moments. We are here to honor/crucify such moments.
Best Issue: Book of Death: The Fall of Harbinger #1
I talked about this way more in my review, but this is the new Valiant Standard. The “end” to Dysart’s Harbinger Saga was a culmination of plot points and character arcs. It’s why I scoff at people who say continuity impedes a book. This was the issue that truly lived up to the promise that “Book of Death” made, where issues like “Fall of Bloodshot” and “Fall of Ninjak” kind of fell short.
Honorable Mention: Batman #44
Best Writer: Joshua Dysart (Book of Death: The Fall of Harbinger #1)
An integral part of story is the character arc. Basically, a character should be fundamentally different at the end of a story from how they were at the beginning. And Peter Stanchek is one such person. When I first read “Harbinger” #1, I wanted to punch the kid in the face. When the original “Harbinger” series ended… I still wanted to, but I would’ve felt bad about it. And here at this issue, Peter has finally made the transition from a great and powerful person to a good person and it has been done in a believable way thanks to Dysart’s emphasis on character work over plot.
Honorable Mention: Scott Snyder & Brian Azzarello (Batman #44)
Best Artist: Jock & Lee Loughridge (Batman #44)
Look, I love Greg Capullo, Danny Miki and FCO Plascencia. They deserve every bit of acclaim they get. But seeing Jock on Batman again, even for a well-needed and well-crafted breather issue, that strikes a chord in me. It brings me back to “The Black Mirror”, which I still think is Scott Snyder’s best Batman story. And combine this with Lee Loughridge’s muted and drab (in good ways) color palate, you have something that seems like has been missing in “Batman” with all the Robo-Bats and God Joker: a Noir story. And yes, the use of news story print for backgrounds did remind me of Brian Michael Bendis’ first collaboration with David Mack in “Daredevil” once upon a time and that is used to great effect here as well.
Honorable Mention: Fiona Staples & Andre Szymanowicz (Archie #3)
Best Cover: Karl Kerschl & Msassyk (Gotham Academy #10)
Like the issue itselft, I love the nerdy over-the-topness of the cover. It wears its influences proudly. It’s unapologetically nerdy with its love of Shakespeare. Also, because I am an absolute out-of-touch moron, it was only going through these covers to make a selection that I realized what that cauldron was. So even more kudos to the foreshadowing.
Honorable Mention: Jock (Batman #44)
Best “Make Ken Feel Nostalgic” Moment: Archie #3
Liking “Archie” is weird. I used to ridicule the concept and find praise only in “Afterlife with Archie” because it was punishing these people for perpetuating that wholesome 50s Americana image that never existed. And here I am, liking Archie, Betty, Veronica and especially that charismatic asexual beast Jughead. But why did this scene make me incredibly nostalgic? Well, I am a fan of Impulse. He’s my favorite superhero in the genre (which you knew because it’s in my bio you read down below, you monsters). And that kid didn’t think in dialogue boxes but in cartoon pictures like this. And it’s written by Mark Waid, the co-creator of Impulse. So, yes, the nostalgia hit hard.Continued below
Best “Made Your Dad Proud, Son” Moment: DC’s “Omega Men” Stay of Execution
This goes to the moment where, when a comic company could have been rubbish, decided to turn to the other path and do something good. “The Omega Men” is a great series, a political, social and moral examination with the backdrop of space opera. It has received massive critical acclaim (including here on this site). To put it bluntly, it sold like a led balloon and it was met not with shock, but disappointment, at its cancellation. But then in came DC and decided to uncancel it, or at least give it the twelve issues it was promised to tell its tale. Will this book suddenly have a massive influx of sales? Probably not. Is this another example of the broken as hell distribution model that physical comics have? Oh yeah! Will DC get a financial gain from this? Probably not, but what they lose in money, they did gain in consumer confidence to allow this weird, esoteric book the space it needed to reach its natural end.
Best Trolling of Rabid Fanboys: Extraordinary X-Men #1 Preview Pages
On the far opposite side of the spectrum, this award, formerly known as the “Reservoir of Boiled Piss” Award, goes to the moment where a comic company knows exactly what buttons to push on it’s more… hmmm… “passionate” fans and smashes it in with nuclear warhead. Now, I’ve been known to push the button of the X-Men’s more, again, “passionate” fans. The fans that kept telling me that I wasn’t a “real” X-Men fan because I didn’t bow before Claremont or that for a book about change and such it’s still sticks to the “classic” (read: old) characters to the point of blowing up a younger generation in a bus or that maybe instead of doing metaphors about oppression to justify a majority straight white dude franchise, they should just do stories about oppression. But I am a mere novice to Marvel in terms of pushing X-Men fan buttons, as they showed with the release of the the first lettered pages of “Extraordinary X-Men #1”. Now, there are many X-Men fans who see the reduced amount of X-Men titles and the increase of Inhumans titles to grand total of three as the final fear that the sky is finally falling on the merry mutants (instead of considering that a majority of those X-Titles didn’t sell particularly well). These lettered pages, bringing the X-Men to the days of Decimation all over again with some added sterilization, has launched discussions of gentrification and what scenarios are the X-Men best at. I just personally think it’s brilliant marketing at play here to get people talking.
And then combine this with the mythological final issue of Bendis’ X-Men run and EXM #1 being pushed back to November, you just get more people talking.
Biggest “Why?”: Captain America White
Biggest “Why?” goes to the comic that is beyond saving. The lowest of the lows. The absolute abyss of either poor taste, shoddy construction or an amalgamation of the both. A piece of sequential art storytelling of such low, inane and outright insulting that it causes you to wake up in the middle of the night, all the world still, and as you gaze into the cold, dark recesses of the memory of said comic, one phrase comes to your cracked, trembling lips: “Why? Just…why?” And no comic, nay, comic series has earned such a dubious mention than “Captain America White”. As my comrades in righteous indignation Jim Johnson and Stephenson Ardern-Sodje have informed the world: “Captain America White Men Can’t Jump” is a miserable experience. When I could rename your book “Captain America: Agent of NAMBLA”, you have failed. And I have nothing wrong with baiting shippers. It’s fun to do! “Planet Hulk” was essentially a Steve/Bucky story and was better than this. Hell, 90% of the fanfiction in Steve/Bucky tag on Archive of Our Own is better than this! “Captain America White Supremacy” was an attempt to be a throwback to the era Cap was created in without any irony or even examination of said era. And, as Jim stated, so much digging into this era in the last ten years has been done that it just makes this “hyped” book so redundant. It wallowed in Development Hell and that’s where it should have stayed.