Now is the time for the final part of my Thwipping Boys Outstanding Achievement in the Field of Excellence, and I am on to that which we love the most… Comics. Unfortunately I must admit, this is very DC-centric, there are a number of books I have wanted to read this year but found myself without the funds or time, but I hope any non-DC fans enjoy this as well.
Scott Snyder (DC – Batman/Swamp Thing)
I’ll be the first to admit, I have not read all that much of Snyder’s work, I have heard so much positivity regarding both his work on Detective Comics and his creator-owned American Vampire that they are on the top of my wish-list, but before the DC relaunch I had only minimal exposure to him. All of what I have just said goes a long way to prove just how brilliant a writer he is when I say that with just eight issues (his DC books combined) he is incredibly high up on my list of favourite writers. With Batman, Snyder (and his partner in crime, the exceptional Greg Capullo) is undoubtedly crafting one of the most intriguing plots in recent history, intricately weaving the history of Gotham, of the Waynes and the current status of Batman and the city itself in to a rich tapestry brimming with murder, conspiracy and possible deception (yeaah we’re looking at you Alfred!). I haven’t even covered Swamp Thing, a character I only really knew from being a comics fan, but have read nothing starring him, despite this lack of knowledge Scott Snyder has been able to tell a story knee-deep in Swampy mythology that is easy to follow and most of all, enthralling and entertaining. I do not know what 2012 holds for DC’s comics, but what I do know is, I’d follow Snyder in to the gates of hell, and on to any books he decides to write.
Francis Manapul (DC – The Flash)
The winner of this award would be a surprise to nobody who listens to our podcast. Consistently for 4 months now I have sung Manapul’s praises on The Flash, almost as hysterically as a Justin Bieber fangirl. I was quite worried when I heard Manapul would be co-writing the book, not because of his lack of writing experience, but because I feared it would impact on the quality of his work, I shouldn’t have been worried for a micro-second, his artwork noticeably improved in its creativity undoubtedly due to the fact that no one knows how he works better than himself, so who better to write for him? He has one of the most unique styles in mainstream comics, instantly recognizable for his fluid panel layouts, kinetic penciling and integration of external comic tropes (such as sound effects) in to the very actions of the comic themselves, possibly only bettered in this endeavor by Will Eisner and Frank Quitely. Manapul has developed a strong working relationship with Brian Buccellato since Adventure Comics and that is showcased here with possibly the strongest creative team in terms of internal production – Manapul and Buccellato co-writing, Manapul providing pencils and Buccellato colours.
I have said time and again, due to the sheer beauty of the book, and the need to see it on gloss paper, I will definitely be purchasing the trade paper back of this, and I only hope they release an oversized, wishful thinking I know.
Best Creative Team
Jeff Lemire/Travel Foreman (DC – Animal Man)
In my previous award I stated Manapul and Buccellato on The Flash was one of the strongest creative partnerships in comics at the moment, however, as much as I love them, they are not the best, that goes to Jeff Lemire and Travel Foreman on Animal Man. Jeff Lemire has some pretty crazy concepts and ideas inside that head of his, and the sole reason for this team being the recipient of this award is that it would be incredibly easy for those ideas to lose impact or feel ridiculous if they were not executed properly and Travel succeeds. From men with chicken hands, mutating animals, bodies being twisted and turned inside out, and cat skeletons drinking milk, Foreman has managed to convey Lemire’s (frankly sick) ideas in to gross-out moments that shock and surprise, but still feel understated and lack the gratuitous nature of a number of other books in the DCU at this point. I’ve said it before and I’m pretty sure I will say it again, but Animal Man would be adversely affected if either of these two great creators left the book, so I pray to god they are on this forever.
Batman #1 (DC – Greg Capullo)
The panel that, to me, put Capullo square in my mind as one of the coolest artists working at the moment, look at the bat symbol on the boot!!
Daredevil #4 (Marvel – Marcos Martin)
Gasp Yes yes I know, there’s actually something on here that is non-DC, and while I haven’t read Mark Waid and Marcos Martin’s run on Daredevil I cannot deny that #4’s cover, is an absolutely fantastic cover, and in my opinion the coolest of 2011. I am a huge fan of the use of stark colours in imagery, so the image of the lone, red Daredevil flipping through the air, his cable coiling through the blank white sky is certainly a powerful one, combine that with the visual metaphor on gun barrels taking the place of skyscrapers, billowing smoke as if chimneys, and you have a clear representation of who Daredevil is and the dangers he faces.
Action Comics (DC – Grant Morrison, Rags Morales and other cohorts)
What on earth is going on with Action Comics? This book was THE birth of superhero comics, and it looked as though it was ready to reclaim the mantle of the flagship DC title at the relaunch with Grant Morrison writing, but what we’re left with is a book that doesn’t seem to convince in any area. Morrison’s writing, especially his dialogue, has been shoddy at best, he has failed to capture my attention through his interpretation of the retooled characters, especially what little we have seen of Steel and Metallo and his plot and action is mediocre. Let’s not even start on Rags Morales, he may have proven himself a more than capable artist on Identity Crisis, but for whatever reason quality is sorely lacking in the artwork for this book, it is wildly inconsistent, with characters looking vastly different from panel to panel and it just not having the bite necessary for Action Comics. We have spoken about this point a lot of times before in the podcast, and I think Jonnyjon may have a point that Morales is simply not built for a monthly comic, he works best on mini-series or in short runs in which he can build up a nice amount of completed work before the first issue is even released. Morrison has kept us on this book by the sheer power of his name alone, but how much longer can we read a book just in case it improves? I for one am questioning whether I want to read each month, and sadly, in 15 years of reading Morrison’s work, this is the first time I have thought it simply isn’t good enough to warrant my money.
The One I Missed
Daredevil (Marvel – Mark Waid and Marcos Martin)
For this additional award I just wanted to highlight one book from 2011 I wish I had read but simply haven’t got round to it, and I have already talked about that book in these awards and that is Marvel’s Daredevil. The reason I failed to pick up this books is because I am YEARS behind in terms of Daredevil lore, having last read the book not long in to Bendis’ seminal run, and I wished to atleast try and catch up before moving on to Waid’s new volume. I feel I may have to detour the past material and Wikipedia it or something, as numerous Best Of lists have it listed as the best comic of the year, and with it being only a few issues in, it may be quite easy to jump in to quite quickly, which is a good thing for us Thwipping Boys as we are always looking for non-DC books, but it is usually quite a struggle!
Animal Man (DC – Jeff Lemire and Travel Foreman)
I’ve already rabbited on for hours on the podcast and earlier in this post about just how much I love Animal Man by Jeff Lemire and Travel Foreman, so I will not keep you long. Every month I seem to repeat myself by stating each issue is one of the best single issues of a comic I have ever read. Lemire and Foreman had big shoes to fill when they took over this book, as the only previous run on Animal Man anyone gives thought to is Grant Morrison’s, and it would be easy to have feared they would tread similar ground because of their link as “mature” comics, but this team are crafting a dark and gruesome tale of such quality that if the trend continues, could make their run just as legendary as Morrison’s. This book will be a definite purchase for me when the trades are released, and I will continue to funnel money in to the pockets of Lemire and Foreman for as long as they make my first Wednesday of each month enjoyable.
So, there we have it! The end of 2011 and the end of my awards! DC ruled the roost this year, but who knows, we seem to be dropping books quite frequently at the moment, so maybe just maybe, Marvel, Image, Dark Horse, or hell… IDW will get a look in next year! Hope you enjoyed, and be sure to either get back to us with your thoughts and choices on Twitter @thwippingboys or in this here comments section!