January’s wrap up of the best in comics falls on yours truly this month, and I’m glad it came to me. This was a month of high highs and low lows, some huge moments, incredible work by writers and artists, and it was an exceptional month in comics overall.
Check out my choices for Best Book, Best Writer, Best Artist and more from the month of January after the jump.
This was an insanely competitive month for Best Issue. I mean, look at the competition: Vertigo titans like Daytripper, DMZ and The Unwritten, reinvigorated favorites like Ultimate Comics Spider-Man and Fantastic Four, and even new favorites like Stumptown.
Yet Grant Morrison and Sean Murphy’s debut issue of their Vertigo mini Joe the Barbarian was impossible to deny. This issue featured phenomenally restrained yet high concept writing from Morrison and art that was so good it made even the biggest skeptics turn and pay attention. Very rarely does a debut turn out so well, but much like the first episode of Lost, Vampire Weekend’s debut album, and Ichiro Suzuki’s first year for the Seattle Mariners, this release was both the best of the rookie class and of everyone. Exceptional work from all involved.
Runners Up: Ultimate Comics Spider-Man, The Unwritten, Stumptown, Fantastic Four, Daytripper, DMZ
Generally speaking, when you are reading a comic and regularly wondering exactly what is happening on a page, that’s not a good sign. I found myself routinely questioning who a character was, what they were doing, and being confused while reading the latest issue of X-Force. Typically an entertaining book that is almost entirely action oriented (save the exceptional recent X-23 issues), this issue wasn’t much different.
Where it failed mostly was horrendous art from Clayton Crain. I normally don’t particularly enjoy his art (Mike Choi is so much better), but this issue was a cataclysmically bad even for him. It was a complete mess of an issue with some of the worst art I’ve seen this side of Larry Stroman. It’s a shame too. I enjoy Crain’s figure work, I just think he is a very, very poor storyteller who cannot frame a shot or convey situations well at all.
Runners Up: Cable, PunisherMAX
I’m not going to go into any details. Just read the damn comic. The last page of the most recent issue of Brian Wood and Ricardo Burchielli’s phenomenal Vertigo series was shocking and probably the biggest game changer of any moment in any title in recent memory. It was a hell of a thing.
Runner Up: Playland is evacuated in Joe the Barbarian
While I didn’t quite respond quite like Dan Phillips did in his IGN review of PunisherMAX #3 (I could only describe it as abject terror), I was really off put with this scene. I mean come on, did this scene really need to happen like it did? Naked Mamma Cesare fighting The Punisher and Wilson Fisk for any length of time is disturbing, but the nude aspect just didn’t seem necessary save for the sake of being controversial. But that’s me…and evidently Dan Phillips.
Runner Up: Any page from X-Force, Cable and Hope vs. Bishop v. 1.2 million in Cable
Hickman won my best writer of the month award the last time I did this, he’ll probably keep winning this award until he stops writing such exceptional books like Fantastic Four and Secret Warriors. Both issues he wrote this month were exceptional, managing to be high concept, action packed, and thought provoking all in one package. To say he beat out Wood and his double dose of DMZ and Northlanders is really saying something.Continued below
Runner Up: Brian Wood
I couldn’t let my monthly breakdown go by without mentioning this: while I’ve enjoyed Swierczynski’s run on Cable to a degree, the fact that it has been 22 straight issues of Bishop trying to kill Cable and Hope is completely ridiculous. There is no dramatic tension anymore, only ridiculousness. This past issue was stupid beyond words. Come on Duane…we know you’re better than that.
Runner Up: Christopher Yost and Craig Kyle
Murphy’s work has long been hidden from us because of editorial gaffes and bad decisions by corporations, but his work on Morrison’s Joe the Barbarian is going to ensure that he never has a problem finding work again. His usage of darkness and unique point-of-views give dramatic weight to each and every scene within this issue. The level of detail he gives backgrounds is more work than most artists provide in the focus of the panel.
Really, with the lack of JH Williams III this month, it only makes sense that a new dominant force would come onto the scene. Sean Murphy is that dominant force.
Runners Up: Dale Eaglesham, David LaFuente
It’s hard to believe that a detective story written by Greg Rucka could be overlooked, but due to it being an Oni Press title it likely is. This is one of the best books on the market, bar none, and its sales didn’t touch the top 100 for the month. The story of Dex Parios trying to find Charlotte Suppa has been a joy to read and a thrill to look at thanks to Matthew Southworth’s art, and besides a few fellow Multiversity writers, I can’t think of anyone else I know that is reading this book.
Go to your store and add this to your pull. Pre-order it. Do whatever you can. Start hyping this book – it absolutely deserves it, and if you like quality comics you have to check it out.
Runner Up: SWORD