The House of Flying Scalpels 2014 Comic Awards!

Main Scalpel pic

Welcome to the House of Flying Scalpels 2014 Annual Awards post! I know this has taken some doing and I am a day late, but with approximately a hundred entries it is no real surprise. As always they are a joy to read and I am always left dumbfounded at the varieties of tastes out there. To try and whittle these down into such tiny categories seems unfair, but this year I really wanted to make the distinction between independent and mainstream books disappear. Hence only one specific top three question about creator owned books. This year has seen a further shift towards the indy scene as even the bigger companies are starting to see the worth in short creator focused books. I think The Bitter March and much of the soon to be cancelled Marvel Now run fit this modality. The world of comics are changing and I see it as part of my responsibility to chart that change personally, and try to reflect the views of the friends who share this passion. Take your time, read and enjoy and don’t be afraid to leave a comment.

I must make note that this post is the main award post to Section A. The second half takes a lot longer to write as it is essentially a critique of the books and peoples views. It will be up next week! Also please do not be upset that I did not use one of your comments because I place them all anonymously and use the best/most diverse ones. I have no idea who you are! Let me tell you that there have been some fantastic comments this year, better than ever before. 

So these results are listed as a top ten set of answers. They aren’t always because there may be a number of tied books further down, often too many to list. Note I used percentages for the single answer questions, but not for the top threes. Given a single comic cannot be 1,2 and 3, a percentage is not really a meaningful parameter. 

Best Publisher

untitled1. Image             59%

2. Marvel                   17%

3. DC                        10%

4. Oni Press (4%) 5. Archie (2%) =5. Boom (2%)

For the second year running we have Image heading up the publishers and there are multiple reasons why. But you don’t need me to tell you why, here is what you said:

Image, hands down. This is where unique ideas go to become a reality; and it is fantastic!

Image: It’s quite amazing the creativity that pours out when you give creators basic infrastructure & free reign to tell the stories they want.

I think they are putting out the best comics around. Even if I end up not enjoying an Image title, there’s still something about it that makes it feel top tier. They do things that Marvel and DC are, I think, scared to do.

Image Comics. No doubt. From laying down the gauntlet with their Image Expo to continuing their amazing success with Walking Dead breaking through to the mainstream to luring the biggest names in the industry to go creator owned with them while still offering a home to newer talent they’ve risen to the occasion time and time again.

Take any random person of the street and they will be able to find a comic they love by Image. Image is doing so many different and amazing things. If I don’t love an Image book, I can name at least 5 people that do.

Image: It’s a publisher that started out as the superhero mavericks and over the last decade morphed into the go-to place when you’re looking to read something with a true message, stories that matter, tear you apart and build you back up into a comics reader that cares.

Image has managed to really cement their status as the hippest puplisher in comics. In the peoples eyes they can do no wrong. No one scruntises when they cancel books or complain when they charge $3.50 a series. Their public image is so successful that if you don’t like their products you are deemed uncool by the mass comic book audience. For these reasons Image have been the most successful publisher of the year.

I bet everyone will put Image or Marvel. However if you want to talk about a company that has re-envisioned themselves it would be Archie. This year saw the birth of After Life With Archie, which brought so many new readers to the publisher but also showed that the Riverdale kids are more than just clean wholesome fun. Then bringing out a more adult and darker Sabrina got a lot of attention and with Sonic and Mega man still going strong I have to give the publisher to Archie.

Marvel! Yeah Image has the distinction of being the cool kid on the block and almost everyone will go with Image. Marvel is a huge corporate-y publisher who managed to put out a series of Avengers books that were written the way the writer wanted, made them HUGE in scoop when they could have easily ridden the wave of the movies and put out a normal Avengers batch of books. They put out amazingly creator driven books like Hawkeye, Superior Foes of Spider-Man, She-Hulk, Elektra, Ghost Rider, Ms.Marvel and more. You could say they took a page from the Image playbook.

I realised that I was trying to judge my Publisher of the Year based on which annoyed me least, which is probably the wrong approach. I’ve had to cut back on my pull list this year and when it came to the cut, it’s the DC books I can’t do without. I’m a huge Bat fan and DC’s move to put Mark Doyle in charge of all things Gotham has been brilliant. We’re getting some unique stories with art I wouldn’t have expected to see. I’ve dropped some Marvel titles to make room for extra DC Books… so for me that means they’re doing things right. And Grant Morrison’s Multiverse titles have been excellent.

I want to say image but for this year id have to say Oni Press. This year alone I’ve seen myself drop a whole bunch of mainstream titles from my pull and add on mostly Oni books. Life after, I was the cat and the Bunker have been great along with the republishing of the trades of Wonton soup, the ending of Wasteland and the trade of The Auteur.

I am going to say the Boom! Box and kaboom! I think they all fall under BOOM! Studios proper, but I don’t read any books from BOOM!, but I do read four from Boom! Box and kaboom! Both of these studios are putting out some amazing all ages books and I look forward to these four that I read most each month!

Archie Comics. In a year where Marvel’s events have laid bare their formula, and DC seems content with relaunching Wonder Woman as title which fails even basic tests for feminism, it’s nice to have a company looking at more substantial changes. And unlike Image, it’s not about the hype; it’s about the product.

Impossible to say, I fear. One of the remarkable aspects of comics today is the sheer number of quite excellent publishers. Trying to differentiate between them is impossible. How to rank the likes of Soaring Penguin Press, Dogooder Comics, Blank Slate, Dark Horse, Borderline Press, Sequential, Top Shelf, Self Made Hero, Monkey Brain Comics, Knockabout, Rebellion, Titan, Fantagraphics, David Fickling Books, Oni, Image, and so on and on? Whether we’re looking at the small press or corporate publishers or any point inbetween, the era is a fantastically rich one. All of which makes it a disappointment that both Marvel and DC have produced – relative to their resources and output – so little of note in the past year. Of course there’s been some entertaining and inspiring work appearing from both companies. Yet the ratio of the splendid to the run-of-the-mill has been exceptionally worrying where both publishers are concerned.

Best Writer

hickman_10001. Jonathan Hickman             72 pts

2. Scott Snyder                                       67 pts

3. Rick Remender                                   49 pts

4. Jason Aaron 47 pts 5. Charles Soule 31 pts 6. Grant Morrison 26 pts =6. Dan Slott 26 pts 8. Brian K Vaughan 24 pts 9. Matt Fraction 22 pts 10. Warren Ellis 12 pts.

I found this section fascinating because Aaron, Hickman, Snyder and Remender were featuring in almost everyone’s top three and I was itching to see who would take it. Once again Hickman consolidated 2013 with an amazing 2014 and features on top. Scott Snyder has jumped up a place but has yet to return atop from 2012. We must make note of Charles Soule, Warren Ellis and Grant Morrison heading into the top ten this year. Let us see why:

Jonathan Hickman – he is the only writer that I love ALL of his output, both creator owned and Marvel. The worlds and epics he creates are like no other.

Jonathan Hickman! He’s so good I can just feel the greatness of his stories even though I never actually know what’s going on. 

Scott Snyder – From Batman to helping guide the weekly Eternal series would be enough for many but he also dabbled in some Superman and came back to Image with one of the highest debuts for a creator owned book in years with Wytches. 

Scott Snyder – He is still so, so good. American Vampire returned and is still great, Batman Eternal is solid under his watch, Wytches has started off with a bang, and Batman is still the standard bearer for DC. What more can you ask for from the man? 

Rick Remender – Axis may not have lived up to expectations but that’s because the rest of his work helped create those expectations. Deadly Class, Black Science, Low. Uncanny Avengers, Captain America, All-New Captain America have ranged from solid to best comic book being published. He has had one hell of a year!

Jason Aaron – I’m reading Thor regularly for the first time ever and Southern Bastards was one of the best new series of the year.

Jason Aaron – I couldn’t even have ill will with him wrapping up his Wolvie & The X-Men run, with him continuing to excel on Thor and giving us two solid creator-owned books

Gerry Dugan Now wait, hear me out. The work he’s been doing the last few years on Deadpool is downright amazing, considering it’s his first real foray into comics; add to that his recent (and continuing) run on The Hulk, and he’s the guy to watch out for in the next few years.

Ales Kot – I can’t remember if I included him last year, but I’ve been supremely impressed with his work this year. Zero continues to be that mind bending book I need to reread every few issues, but I’m still hooked. He’s proven his worth on Secret Avengers as well; taking a more mainstream book into some really fun directions.

Ales Kot – A close runner up of loving both his Creator Owned AND Marvel output. Everything he touches is next level with layers upon layers to peel back and analyze.

Grant Morrison! No one pushes the boundaries like he does, and if anyone can blur the lines between the page and the reader it’s him.

Dennis Hopeless – No matter which character he’s writing he has a brilliant handle on them and he’s able to do so much with them in such a small space of time. He can perfectly balance between plot and character, basically he’s the best.

G. Willow Wilson – She’s created a character that could have gone so far on the wrong side of hipster but turned out brilliant and endearing. Also, I didn’t hate Wolverine in the two issues of Ms Marvel he had a cameo in, which is a real talent.

Steve Niles – The so original concept of The October Faction and too cool for school execution of dialogue, characterization, and pacing place him here among the best of the year.   

Best Artist

Capullo1. Greg Capullo             72 pts

2. Fiona Staples                        67 pts

3. Matteo Scalera                      49 pts

4. Andrea Sorrentino 20 pts 5. Chris Samnee 19 pts 6. Sean Murphy 17 pts 7. Francesco Francavilla 16 pts =7. Esad Ribic =7. Declan Shalvey 10. Nick Dragotta 15 pts =10. Jamie McKelvie 15 pts.

The best artist award always divides people more than any other essential question and there are so many artists listed. Hence why no one really shines above everyone else in the polls. Having said that Greg Capullo returns to the throne after lending it out for the year to David Aja. Sadly with the demise of Hawkeye we have seen little of Aja but it is amazing to see new artists hit the top ten including Matteo Scalera, Andrea Sorrentino, Declan Shalvey and Nick Dragotta. Both Green Arrow, Batman, lack Science and Dead Body Road allowed Scalera and Sorrentino to demonstrate their unique frenetic style and paneling dynamism. But let us not forget how impressively consistent Capullo has been on Batman, which remains high on everyone’s pull list.

Greg Capullo – Him & Snyder aren’t the new kids on the Bat-block anymore so it’s easy to overlook him, but his work on the Zero Year story was amazing, and then he goes and out does himself with the start of Endgame. He might just be the hardest working artist in the industry, and definitely one of the best

Sean Murphy – As long as he keeps producing, he will always be at the top of my list. His style is peerless and completely clicks with me. I will read anything he does, and then you match him up with top tier writers and you can do no wrong.

Wes Craig – Seemingly coming out of nowhere, he is at least a large part of Deadly Class’s success as Remender. The panel layouts and attention to detail leave everyone else in the dust.

Matteo Scalera – Black Science, Dead Body Road, Batman. Need I say more? Very few artists are able to express speed, movement, and dynamism as well as Scalera, but to do it with such a large output is amazing.

Andrea Sorrentino – Perfection. He deserves every high profile book that publishers can throw at him. I loved his work on Green Arrow, but his first pieces of work at Marvel (The Uncanny & All-New X-Men Annuals/ Black Vortex covers) have me extremely excited to see what The House Of Ideas has in store for him.

Fiona Staples – The world she has visualized in Saga is something special. She is a master of capturing the small moments while creating this larger than life universe. I can’t imagine anybody else doing what she has done with BKV. 

Michael Walsh – This has really been a hidden gem at Marvel for me this year. It took me an issue or 2 to really “get” his take on the characters, but I freakin’ LOVE them now.

Kev Walker – and not just because I now own some of this original art work. Both his work on Avengers Undercover and New Avengers has been stellar. He has a brilliant way of conveying emotion and he does something that for some reason a lot of artist struggle with which is draw teen characters differently to adult characters.

Declan Shalvey – his Moon Knight redesigns were beautiful and amazing in themselves but what he did each month on Moon Knight was really something special.

Adrian Alphona – seeing where he came from at the start of Runaways to where he is now is amazing. His art is breath taking with such real charm.

Marco Rudy – Between Marvel Knights: Spiderman and Bucky Barnes: Winter Soldier, he’s been delivering wild and varied pages that I would grab almost any two pages and put them blown-up on my wall.

Best Colourist

Jordie_Bellaire_sm1. Jordie Bellaire             36%

2. Matt Hollingsworth                    14%

3. Matthew Wilson                         9%

4. Laura Allred 4.5% 5. Dean White 3.4% 6. Brian Buccellato 2.3% =6. Nathan Fairbairn 2.3% =6. FCO Plascenia 2.3% =6. Frank Martin 2.3%.

I firmly believe that Jordie has become a champion of the colourist art form as she maintains her grip on first place. It is her name that we see everywhere and her uniqueness in every book she works on that has made the appreciation for  colouring all the more. I wanted to give a special mention to Bettie Breitweiser who performs so incredibly and has firmly made the partnership of Brubaker and Philips into a trio. This has been a personal challenge of mine to not only appreciate colour but to convey it to others. Let us see what you said:

Ive Svorcina, Matt Hollingsworth and Phil Noto are the holy trifecta of colourists right now.

Jordie Bellaire – each of her book has its own style but you can instantly tell it her on colours. The thing I really loved from her this year was the colours on the variants for Moon Knight #7 #8 and #9.

Matt Hollingsworth – I think colouring Jock’s line art is a pretty daunting task. With Wytches, Hollingsworth has taken sequential art colouring to a new level.

Jordie Bellaire has been prolific and wonderful and so varied in her work. Second choice goes to Frank Martin who does amazing work on East of West and sometimes on Avengers.

Frank Martin – His work on East of West is excellent, starting with the eye-popping covers. He never drowns Dragotta’s artwork and captures the tone of everything extremely well. 

Laura Allred – Her colours on Silver Surfer have bent the mind, twisted the senses and generally make her husband’s work pop off the page.

Laura Allred, as always, produces colours that refuse to look like anybody else’s. As wonderful as Jordie Bellaire is, Allred is the only colourist whose work I can pick out from a distance.

Runner up is Jordie Bellaire for her massive amounts of quality work on many different titles from Deadpool to Moon Knight. In fact, I’d say it was a tie but damn, that Conan series had simply beautiful art and color so Villarrubia edges out in front.

Brian Buccellato – I don’t know what it is about how he colours Manapul’s art. It’s almost like watercolours – I’m in love with the combination. Sometimes colouring, even cleverly selected, looks to be just delivered through Photoshop’s fill tool. I love it when you get the feeling that just as much care is going in to the final colouring as went in to the initial pencils. 

Matt Wilson is a stand out for me. His work on Wonder Woman has been memorable indeed. He really brought Cliff Chiang’s art to life and made the world and look of the Gods even more magical. Matt has a great sense of beauty and it shows in his colouring. He never seemed to hold back on his palette and some images were made memorably bold and/or scary by his work. 

Dean White will always be my answer here. His painted colours bring so much to every project he is on, and is the first colourist that I will buy any book he works on.

Best Creative Team

greg-capullo-y-scott-snyder1. Snyder/Capullo     Batman           10%

2. Gillen/McKelvie                   WicDiv                    7%

3. Aaron/Latour                      Southern Bastards  6%

=3. Vaughan/Staples              Saga                       6%

=3. Ellis/Shalvey                     Moon Knight           6%

6. Waid/Samnee Daredevil 5% and then tied with 3% are Aaron/Ribic, Brubaker/Philips, Fraction/Zdarsky and Hickman/Dragotta. As you can imagine there were many combinations on this list and people really struggled to choose a single combination. There are a lot of considerations to this question because it is not about your favourite book or creator but more how unified the partnership is. Only Waid and Samnee must be as consistently as high as Snyder and Capullo on a single book, and they have a rapport that just cannot be created artificially. They reign for yet another year and deservedly so.

Snyder/Capullo – It feels weird to congratulate a team for sticking with a book, when Marvel will chop and change artists every three issues and DC’s credits sometimes need a full page just to list the inkers. However, these two have not only defined Batman in a way that even Morrison couldn’t, they’ve kept his solo title at the top of the charts for over three years, a feat not seen since the heyday of Uncanny X-Men. Beyond this, their public dissent towards DC regarding the price point for the Endgame arc has seen readers benefit from reigning in the prices, a move I have never seen from any other creator working for hire.

Snyder/Capullo – When it is all said & done I firmly believe that they will go down in history as one of the greatest creative teams to ever work together, and their Batman run will be considered one of the greatest runs in comic book history. They are just so good together, and watching them jump from Zero Year to Endgame without missing a beat was a prime example of what makes them so special.

Favourite? Because of the true level of collaboration they do, Snyder and Capullo. Artists like Nick Pitarra are given a lot of freedom and a really loose script, but Snyder and Capullo collaborate unlike any other team I have heard about 

Warren Ellis and Declan Shalvey for their work on Moon Knight take this spot for me. I could’ve chosen a few other combos, but Moon Knight was a perfectly wrapped gift that these two left for us that I keep unwrapping every three months or so. 

Warren Ellis and Declan Shalvey created something incredibly special when they came together to write the first 6 issues of Moon Knight. The fantastic artwork, crossed with the perfect writing and pacing made for one of Marvel’s best books in a long time, and they helped turn Moon Knight from C-List hero into a big name. As one of my favourite characters, it’s great to finally see him have the series he deserves. 

The Jason’s for their work on Southern Bastards. Their ability to match the grit of the other is pretty spectacular. 

It’s a bit of a cliché but Saga is a book that has incredible synergy between writer and artist. I can’t tell where Vaughan’s ideas end and Staples’ interpretations begin, and I love it.

Willow Wilson & Adrian Alphona on Ms Marvel. They have created a character and a style that will have a lasting impact on the Marvel Universe and the way in which the medium will tackle teenage superheroes. 

Controversial as it may be, my favourite combo has to be Mark Millar and Goran Parlov for Starlight. It’s a golden age comic dragged kicking and screaming into the modern era. The art is compelling and stunning and Millar’s writing was on absolutely top form. There is not a beat missed, it is a streamlined pairing delivering a quality limited series.

Kieron Gillen & Jamie McKelvie – I’m not quite as excited about The Wicked and the Divine as many (though I certainly like it), but their online interactions are like its own series, which I would definitely buy. 

The Walta and Bunn team on most issues of Magneto are the standout of the year for me. Heavy, brooding, with a synergy of story and image that drew me right in. I wasn’t just holding a book and reading it. I was immersed in Magneto’s world, with his guilt, with his sombreness, and walking side by side him in the strange, bleak environment he lives in.  

There may have not been many issues, but Neil Gaiman and J.H. Williams III is just about the most spectacular team-up you could ever hope to have on The Sandman.

Finally I should mention Brubaker & Phillips. Between the end of Fatale & the beginning of The Fade Out, they have had a great 2014. They’ve been so good together for so long that it’s easy to overlook them on lists like this.

Best Comic

saga_hc01_585x9001. Saga             38 pts

2. Batman              33 pts

3. Deadly Class      32 pts

4. Avenger/New Avengers 26 pts 5. Southern Bastards 25 pts 6. East of West 24 pts 7. Amazing/Superior Spider-Man 8. Ms Marvel 17 pts 9. Multiversity 16 pts =9. WicDiv 16 pts.

I am genuinely quite shocked by this outcome, especially with the result of one of the later questions. Of course in including every comic into a top three there were a ridiculous number of entries but I was so excited to see Deadly Class, Southern Bastards and Ms Marvel up there. There is a wonderfully diverse set of exceptional books in this category and the comments are quite fascinating. There is quite lot of overlap with the comments so Ive included those books that did not make the list either.

Saga may not get the attention from the pundits that it has the past few years, but it is still one of the best comic books being published. Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples continue to be a near perfect creative team and I hope they work together forever and ever. 

Batman – Simply phenomenal. Zero Year may have pushed readers tolerances with the price increases and fill-in issues, but it has resulted in one of the strongest early-year Batman stories since Year One. This book never feels like it’s resting on its laurels or taking the readership for granted, and the constant drive for quality from all the creators (even those turning up for the backup strips) makes this the best value for money superhero book going.

Batman – Though most of the year was dominated by the Zero Year arc, Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo’s Batbook is a comic I’ve bought since 2011 and I did briefly drop it (when I thought it was going to be $4.99) I’m really glad that the title has gone back to the present as I’m really enjoying Endgame right now.

Deadly Class – Rick Remender’s stories can be hit or miss with me. But this is definitely a hit, delving into teenage problems during a crazy time (the 80s) in an insane setting (a school for assassins). 

I also think that Lee Loughridge’s work on Deadly Class is some of the best work I’ve seen this year. Just look at the scene on the Vegas Strip and compare it to the desert concert scene. The colour work is amazing. Not only do the colours pop out, but the sheer variety is extremely impressive. I hold that the Vegas Strip acid trip scene is the most beautifully coloured sequence of the year.

New Avengers is my favourite interpretation of the Avengers that I’ve ever read. The title is depictive as it’s not so much an Avengers book as it’s a series about impending doom for the Marvel universe and who’s going to stop it. I can almost convince myself when reading that this is the final story of 616 Marvel. That this is how it’ll all end. I’ve never felt that with any other book.

Multiversity – A part of me still can’t believe that we’ve got this book nearly 8 years after Morrison first floated the idea. This book shouldn’t work at all, especially for me – a vocal opponent of the Multiverse (What can I say, I’m a post-Crisis baby!). Except… it’s absolutely amazing. I still haven’t got my head fully around that opening issue, and I suspect I won’t until long after the first part has come out. The ‘JSA’ issue was a contender for my issue of the year, and then Pax Americana completely blew my mind. Morrison is completely on form here, unlike his Action Comics run, and his pick of artists has been exemplary.

Avengers Undercover – I really could go on and on about how much I loved this series and its predecessor but I won’t. I will say that since it ended there has been a massive hole in the amount of enjoyment I get out of comics that I’m only just slowly starting to get over.

AfterLife with Archie – This book totally put the Archieverse out there and it’ll propel it into a new age. Always an enjoyable, heavy, emotional read. I still get misty thinking about Archie’s poor dog Vegas! 

Zero – Ales Kot had created a mind bending super spy tale that delves into morality in a base and violent world. His picks of individual artists to fit into the theme of each issue are something that not many creators have the guts to do.

I would be remiss if I didn’t add Jay Faeber for writing Copperhead. I am over the moon about this book. I am fully into this world and I cannot wait to find out each and every secret that Copperhead holds.

Alex + Ada – I ignored this comic for way too long but I was floored by it when I came in. It’s a calm and fairly slow paced series but it’s some of the best writing I’ve read in a long time. The characters are brilliantly human and it’s one of the cleverest and plausible interpretations of the future I’ve ever seen.

Chew – Always a brilliant book that will go from hilarious one panel to utter sadness the next then back to hilarious again without any of it feeling wrong or out of place. There’s just nothing the same in terms of art as well, it does just as much of the storytelling and adds in so many fun little details.

The Wicked + the Divine – I know I didn’t include either of these guys separately, but together they make this book MAGIC

Hulk – Many Hulk fans including myself thought the book would fail after Mark Waid left earlier this year. Gerry Duggan inherited a Hulk that was infused with Extremis the result was a Hulk that was once again intelligent. Duggan and Bagley’s Doc Green looks set one of the best Hulk incarnations and it’s good to see the struggle between Banner and his alter ego again. 

I can’t choose just one. I’m sorry. But I have been particularly fond of Ed Piskor’s second volume of Hip Hop Family Tree, David Ziggy Greene’s Scene & Heard, Gillen and McKelvie’s The Wicked & The Divine, Terry Wiley’s new Verity Fair: Custard Creams & Pink Elephants and the first Bandette collection.

Best Comic Issue

DIG031165_21. Pax Americana             56 pts

2. Moon Knight #5                         25 pts

=2. Southern Bastards #4              25 pts

4. Edge of Spider-verse #2 15 pts 5. Hawkeye #19 13 pts 6. Batman #35 10 pts 7. Afterlife with Archie #4 9 pts 8. Deadly Class #2 #6 9. Southern Bastards #6.

Now I did enjoy the torture I put people through in setting this question, but in my mind the answers were ever so clear. Pax Americana was by far and away the most mind blowing single book I have maybe ever read, Moon Knight was the pinnacle of a joyous creation and Southern Bastards made me cry my heart out. I really wanted to put the Grayson: Future’s End one-shot in the top three but just couldn’t. I am so pleased that there are five books that are creator owned in this list but happy we still have the best of the big two. Isn’t it surprising that there is an exceptional Hawkeye issue there but it hasn’t featured so far on this list. Let us hear your thoughts!

Pax Americana – This comic encapsulated everything that I love about comics as a storytelling medium: Precise, intricate, and challenging.

Pax Americana – Morrison vs Moore have given the gossip-mongers plenty of fodder over the past decade or so, but nobody could have predicted that when Morrison came to rewrite Watchmen, it would be done so damn well. I can’t begin to count the number of ways in which this comic can be read, the commentary it brings to the original text, the commentary it brings to the commentary on the text, what it has to say about the characters, about our experience as readers. Quitely has never looked better. Sometimes, a conceptual Morrison comic feels like he’s playing games at the readers’ expense – not here. Simply brilliant, and a comic that will be talked about for a long time to come.

Moon Knight #5 – It was the perfect example of how to tell a super hero story without needing any unnecessary information or exposition. It was brilliant.

Moon Knight #5 – Ellis gives just enough story and one-liners to give Shalvey the opportunity to do probably the most perfect action comic ever drawn. Every panel was so thought out, detailed and moved in such a shunning fashion. Not to mention it was completely brutal in its execution.

Southern Bastards #4 – Wow, just wow. One of the most hardcore, brutal comics of the year with easily the biggest twist of any comic this year. 

Southern Bastards #4 – probably one of my all time favourite ends to an opening arc of any story. I’m still in shock.

Afterlife With Archie #4 – Because of the “My life for yours” segment which brought me to actual tears.

Hawkeye #19 – I commend anyone who tries to do more with what is actually a very limiting medium. Fraction and Aja telling half the story in sign language was a bold move and it should be commended

Batman #34 – stand-alone issues seem to be more a rarity these days. This one had an excellent creative team and gave us a throw back detective story for Batman. As strong as the long game has been in Batman, this single issue was the top of the run for me.

Thor: God of Thunder #21 – If future King Thor facing off against Galactus on the remains of Earth did not stir your soul, you are dead inside.

Amazing Spider-Man #1 – I loved seeing Peter Parker return, much to the dismay of many, but dammit, if that down on his luck, mopey, whining S.O.B isn’t one of my favourite characters. I loved seeing him return, loved seeing how Dan Slott had played out possibly one of the longest “long games” in comics. It was brilliant.

Batman #33 – Bruce: “Thank you, Alfred.” “Of course, sir.” *cries* ’nuff said!

Avengers #35 – Hickman jumps 8 months into the future. How much work, planning, and coordination with the other creators at Marvel must this have taken? Needless to say the last page reveal of Susan Storm in this issue is awesome. 

Adventures of Superman#14 – great issue featuring Joker and Superman written by Max Landis, a writer who has written an outstanding short story with equally good art by Jock, particularly the page where there’s every Joker incarnation to date.

Daredevil #7 – Comics don’t have a good track record when dealing with Big Issues, often coming across as A Very Special Episode, rather than a sensitive and understanding exploration. This is a very notable exception, as Matt Murdock’s mother explains her postpartum depression that caused her to leave her family behind. Unexpected and delicately handled, this comic took the time to explore a condition that rarely receives any focus in mass media.

New Avengers #23 because for a slow and simple issue the final page gave me chills. A perfect scene that follows on from everything that’s been building from issue #1.

Avengers Undercover #1 – Hopeless somehow managed to give seven characters the perfect amount of time each and fill in new readers quickly but without overloading them. Walker was excellent on art giving each character just that little bit of a make over.

Deadly Class #1 – Just took my expectations for the book & turned them on their head. The topics of suicide, mental health, homelessness are all tackled and set the tone that anything would go in the book.

Best Story Arc

Southern Bastards - Here Was A Man v1-0001. Southern Bastards – Here was a man            9%

2. Avengers/New Avengers – Eight Months Later                            7%

3. Deadly Class – Reagan Youth                                                     5%

=3. Thor – Last Days of Midgard                                                     5%

=3. Moon Knight – From the Dead                                                  5%

4. Batman – Zero Year 4% =4. Future’s End 4% =4. Ms. Marvel – No normal 4% =4. Spider-Verse 4%.

By now you have gathered that making my friends suffer has become a hobby of mine, but like myself, you do love to do it! There were some fantastic answers in this category and it amazes me how a book like Southern Bastards can surpass the might of Hickman’s Avengers. Well actually I can because it is the superior book but there were many others:

Ms Marvel – Kamala Khan’s origin story, she is Spider-Man for the contemporary age. Relatable, hilarious and up to date, the arc is a triumph in superhero storytelling.

Time Runs Out in Avengers & New Avengers has been so great and so big that it has overshadowed Axis in every conceivable way. Jonathan Hickman is known for his meticulous long term planning, and it shows as he alternates between the two titles. So many different pieces on the table being expertly juggled as “Earth’s Mightiest Heroes” enter the home stretch leading into Secret Wars. Every issue so far makes me realize why, and just how much I love superheroes.

I am sure legions of Scott Snyder fans will descend upon my house with pitchforks when they see this, but The Last Days of Midgard from Thor: God of Thunder was my favorite multi-issue run of 2014.

Southern Bastards: Here Was A Man. Although I primarily read for fun, there’s been a big gap for something gritty in my life ever since I finished Scalped. Trust Jason Aaron to do it again with a book I described to friends as being like “Clint Eastwood directed Road House!”

Superior Spider-Man – Goblin Nation. A great way to end the series with the return of Peter but also showing that Ock doesn’t have all the answers. It also had you worried what would happen to characters in the arc and also bitter sweet to see the end of such a fascinating and superior character.

Silver Surfer – New Dawn by Dan Slott. A triumphant return for a much loved character of the Marvel Cosmos – Slott’s writing has for the most part been great and the abstract art is something that has grown on me issue by issue.

Moon Knight – From the Dead – It’s not Ellis’ best work, but damn if this isn’t a perfect example of how to revamp a character; at the same time erasing and embracing the ultra-violent take on the character (see issue 5), while not glorying in the violence. Also, the artistic choices made are incredible.

I know the arc isn’t over yet but Conclave in Lazarus has been great. An expanded look at this world and the people in it but never feels too much to handle. And it was great to see the Lazari having fun in a world that has been shown to be so serious and harsh.

Afterlife With Archie’s opening 6 issues. Because I have never read Archie in my life but I was immediately sucked into the story and really cared for these characters. As I mentioned in the last question, it also made me cry, and I really love it when a comic is good enough to do that.

The road trip the main gang from Deadly Class takes to Las Vegas, and the repercussions of the jaunt was gripping stuff every month. And it’s still going!

The “First Born” arc in Azzarello and Chiang’s Wonder Woman, It really defined Diana and her world. I didn’t want it to end! Plus the baddie gave me nightmares!

Best OGN/Collected Edition

comics-seconds-1. Seconds – Bryan Lee O’Malley             8%

2. The Wrenchies – Farel Dalrymple                                 7%

=2. Saga Deluxe Edition – BKV & Staples                        7%

4. Amazing Spider-Man – Family Business – Waid/Robinson/Dell’Otto/Dell’Edera 5% 5. Andre the Giant: Life & Legend – Brown 3% =5. Nailbiter – Williamson/Henderson 3% =5. Teen Titans Earth One – Lemire/Dodson 3% =5. The People Inside – Ray Fawkes 3%.

OGN are difficult to spot at times as they sit at the bottom of the shelves below the new comics, well at my LCS anyway. If there is a trade out that I like I will often sacrifice any original work, but I am glad you guys aren’t doing that. For the record I bought Second but disliked it but a fait few of you were pleased with it. Let us see what you thought.

Andre The Giant: Life and Legend – I am not a wrestling fan, but this is a breath-taking look at a fascinating real life character. An artistic delight and a truly engaging tale, this is a comic everyone should read.

Reel Love by Owen Michael Johnson. A love letter to a boys cinephile awakening, harking back to me childhood and how the films I watched influenced the person who I became. Owen is a talent to watch for sure!

I want to give an honourable mention to Sex Criminals volume 1 for having the most enjoyable bonus material in any trade I’ve read his year, just don’t take it on the bus!

Saga Deluxe Edition – That was the most emotional thing I’ve read all year. All this time getting invested in Alana and Marko as a couple, just to see them fall apart was heart breaking.

Siegfried by Alex Alice. This year, I finally got around to reading Alice’s adaptation of Richard Wagner’s Ring der Nibelungen. It’s an elegant and beautiful comic book epic.

Punk Rock Jesus Deluxe Edition – I’d feel wrong choosing anything other than this, especially as the book is so important to me as it was the first non-superhero book I’d ever read and it opened up a whole new world of comics for me and I’ve never looked back.

Seconds by Bryan Lee O’Malley – I loved Scott Pilgrim and was hyped to see what he would do next, and he delivered in every way. The artwork was great, the colours were wonderful, and the storyline was fantastic. If you haven’t gotten around to reading it yet, then I implore you to. You won’t regret it.

The Absence by Martin Stiff – A superbly woven tale that was completely different to what I was expecting – I ordered the book expecting a gruesome horror but got a tale with some fantastic depth and strong characterization.

The Saga Deluxe Edition with the first 18 issues of the book is just so pretty. I’m all about that Fiona Staples artwork being shown off in a deluxe sized format.

I was hoping I would have been able to put Seconds here but it didn’t end up being the fun lovable book I was expecting. Also the Marvel OGNs haven’t been great so I’ll have to say my favourite collection has been the oversized Saga Deluxe Edition. Even though I did expect more in terms of extra content from it was a gorgeous collection.

I can’t choose just one. I’m sorry. But I have been particularly fond of Ed Piskor’s second volume of Hip Hop Family Tree, David Ziggy Greene’s Scene & Heard, Gillen and McKelvie’s The Wicked & The Divine, Terry Wiley’s new Verity Fair: Custard Creams & Pink Elephants and the first Bandette collection.

Best Crossover

Amazing_Spider-Man_Vol_3_91. Spider-verse             39%

2. Forever Evil                           18%

3. Original Sin                           10%

=3. Refused to choose             10%

5. Godhead 5% 6. Axis 4%.

There were some a fair few crossovers this year, which you will be pleased to know will be discussed in the second post. Most of them were not good but Spider-verse which seemed to be a childhood indulgence is actually turning out pretty decently. There were some very clever crossover comments:

I’m trying to avoid all event books but I end up reading them. I thought Original Sin was quite clever, I could cynically say that it was a way to get rid of the traditional Nick Fury to replace him with his son (who looks like the ultimate version) but it was done quite well, although editorial really need to tighten up continuity though.

I’ve been generally disappointed in a lot of the bigger events and crossovers but Spider-verse has actually been a lot of fun. I never thought I’d see a common story shared between newspaper Spider-Man, Spider-Ham and 60’s animated Spider-Man.

I liked Forever Evil quite a bit. The Crime Syndicate is one of my favourite villain groups and then you add in Lex and Captain Cold being “good guys” and that’s a recipe for success.

Forever Evil – It took established characters in new directions, and took the ideas of the Crime Syndicate and Legion of Doom to their ultimate expression. I grew up on Challenge of the Superfriends, and this was a great way to celebrate the history (even the rebooted history) of those teams.

Spider-Verse has been amazing (pun totally intended) so far. Not only has the actual event been great, but the build up was phenomenal. The way they introduced new Spider characters in the Edge of Spider-Verse prequel mini, and how they slowly built towards the story in Amazing Spider-Man was just great work. Spider-Verse is right there with Time Runs Out as the biggest and best that Marvel has put out in 2014

Spider-verse has to be my favourite! With the mess that has happened with Spider-woman and other storylines, it gave me back Doc-Ock and Spider-Gwen. For those two characters I’ll be forever grateful.

Revival/Chew Crossover: An awesome crossover, made all the more so with a clever Lying Cat cameo and this little dig at those who take their fandom too seriously.

Is it ok if I say none? I hate 90%+ of the Axis fallout so far, as “bad guy” versions of the heroes are basically just the heroes, but, like if Fox News created them. Not enjoyable or new at all. Doctor Doom’s putting together an Avengers team in Avenger’s World has been the one tiny highlight in an otherwise dismal event.

I couldn’t finish Original Sin, and Axis is ridiculous. I’m sorry, you asked for favourite.

I’m am eventicitis-ed out

Biggest Disappointment

53cd705ebdd7f1. Hawkeye             24 pts

2. The Big “Two”              23 pts

=2. Green Arrow              23 pts

4. Wonder Woman 22 pts 5. All New X-Men 20pts 6. Saga 15 pts 7. Amazing Spider-Man 14 pts 8. Hickman’s Avengers 12 pts =8. Earth 2 12 pts.

So we finally see Hawkeye feature more prominently on this post, and I am quite sad to see it at the top. There are legitimate reasons which are no way focused upon Fraction and Aja’s Clint story but we have barely seen this book this year. Given that last year Aja and the comic both won awards, it is no surprise that it has fallen so rapidly. There are a lot of disgruntlements with the big companies on the whole and the changes in creators on Earth 2, Green Arrow and Wonder Woman have not been taken to well. Before I continue to ramble I will let you guys do the talking.

*sigh* Hawkeye – When this book is out, it’s phenomenal, its one of my absolute favourite runs of all time. But my god the delays have ruined my enthusiasm for it. Months and months without an issue is a farce, its killed all the momentum the story had built up.

Green Arrow – It hurts my soul, but the fact that they are now basically doing a comic book, fan-fic version of the TV show means I have to step away from one of my favourite DC heroes for a while.

Green Arrow, the second that Jeff Lemire and Andrea Sorrentino left the book. Replacing them with creators who are just trying to capture the feel of the TV show, Arrow, when DC already had an Arrow TV show based comic.

Guardians of the Galaxy – Pichelli leaving, the instant movietization of the characters, the line up change, the lack of story, and the cover to issue 15 which touts Captain Marvel when she doesn’t even appear in the issue. It was all too much so I finally tapped out. 

All New X-Men – My lack of caring for the Ultimate universe and the fact that this team only crosses over with other Bendis books now has killed it for me. Maybe if BMB ever actually had the ANXM team on an adventure of their own this would change, but unfortunately that doesn’t seem likely anytime soon.

The Death of Wolverine or Wolverine in general actually – seemed long and drawn-out, too many spin-offs, and a character that’s already over-exposed.

Jupiter’s Legacy – Mark Millar really sold this to me in his interviews, and I thought Frank Quitely’s artwork was lovely. But then what? Did they even make 4 issues in a year, is it still being published? I stopped caring but not before being genuinely angry about it – What’s the point in spending money on something for the story to just disappear in to the ether. 

Amazing Spider-Man – I was one of those people who was sad when they killed off Peter, as he’d been my childhood hero for a long time, and was thrilled when they announced he’d be coming back. Unfortunately, a few issues later, I found myself not really caring for the situations he got himself into and the stories he took part in, and actually wished they’d go back to Superior Spider-Man. Hopefully one day I can go back to Amazing Spider-Man and enjoy them as much as I used to, but for now, it’s a series that’s dropped off my list, and not one I’ll likely go back to soon.

Earth 2 – Since issue #25 the series has really gone downhill, I’ve hated the World’s End storyline, and stopped getting that after only four issue. I’ll make my mind up about Earth 2 in the New Year, but I expect I’ll drop the title from my pull list. It’s been one of my favourite books for ages, so I’ve been very sad to see it go off the rails so badly. I’ve not even bothered to review any issues of Earth 2 for a while, I just can’t think of anything good to say about it to be honest.

Honestly, almost anything by Rick Remender. This Marvel stuff this year has been terrible at best most of the time and I’ve found his creator own stuff lacking something. The writing isn’t the same as the writing I fell in love with years ago.

Stopped CARING or stopped READING? I care about Batwoman and Wonder Woman very, very, very much as characters and titles, but I stopped reading both because of creative team changes. In the case of Batwoman, I gave Andreyko a chance, but he’s doing things with Kate Kane that I find in very poor taste. At best his run has been mediocre. As for Wonder Woman, the first issue of the Finch’s run was, I thought, the Absolute Worst. Turns out I was wrong – the second issue of the Finch’s run was the absolute worst. 

DC and Marvel – I made the decision to stop reading all DC and Marvel books this year outside of Batman (I have since added Detective Comics). I just don’t care about superhero books these days. I loved what Hickman was doing on the Avenger books (especially New Avengers), but I will catch up when we get an Omnibus.

Most of the Big Two’s stuff – I find it overblown and from what I have heard about a lot of it, very difficult to follow. I feel the creators are stifled under the huge media outlets that DC and Marvel have become, so the smaller companies like BOOM, Image, Comix Tribe are creating much more impressive books and encouraging some great new talent!

Most of the solo character books from Marvel have started going down hill for me, also Green Lantern because it seems every time a crossover ends here comes another one. It gets tedious and boring.

I can’t think of anything that I’ve dropped this year in such a fashion. I follow creators rather than characters, so it’s less likely that I’ll simply throw up my hands and ditch a title. It helps that the past few years have seen any lingering emotional attachment on my part to Marvel and DC’s characters wiped out by poor corporate storytelling.  

I plead the 5th Amendment… I’m in America, so it works where I’m sitting. Britain will just have to shake their collective heads at me.

Best Surprise

deadly-class-011. Deadly Class             6%

2. Batgirl                                  3%

=2. Birthright                            3%

=2. Gotham Academy 3% =2. Grayson 3% =2. Southern Bastards.

The next set of results had eight different titles all picked the same number of times! There are many books people pick up at different times and Deadly Class was the most chosen but it was so infrequent that to barely makes the top. It is more worthwhile reading peoples comments and delights at picking up a book they never expected to be decent. It is true I switched the last two questions around because it was far too negative. I wanted to end on a positive note and the best surprises of the year could not be a better question to end on.

Grayson without a doubt, once I’d found out what DC were planning with the character I was very nervous about how it would be handled, would it make sense, would the creative team “get Dick” but once I read Grayson #1 all those concerns were gone. Tim Seeley and Tom King just get the character and I’m really enjoying reading Dick Grayson again, now don’t get me wrong I enjoyed Kyle Higgins run on Nightwing but I feel it was hampered by the constant cross overs with Batman all the time. Mikel Janin is fantastic as the artist on the book and with Stephen Mooney as the fill in artist I think DC have done great, the entire creative team is all round perfect for the book. 

DeConnick’s Captain Marvel – I’d seen it hyped, heard it mentioned multiple times on Twitter and elsewhere. A friend physically sat me down in a coffee shop and made me read the first few issues. And I loved it. I’m not a Marvel guy, didn’t know anything about the character, but the stories got me. I’ve followed through and caught up to what’s happening now, and the 2014 stories have been consistently great.

Silver Surfer – I knew it would be a camp romp through space, but didn’t realise just how much of a fun frolic it would be, on par with the best of Doctor Who. It really impressed me and as a still relative new comer to the world of comics, it introduced me to Mike Allred’s, quite simply, amazing artwork!

I drifted away from Deadpool near the end of Way’s run when there was around seven monthly titles. So I was delighted to pick up Posehn/Duggan’s Deadpool from the beginning. Great action and comedy coupled with a real emotional investment in Wade and his supporting cast.

Rocket Raccoon – I bought it because I liked Scottie Young’s cover work and almost half expected to drop it once I’d collected a few issues. I really didn’t expect to enjoy it as much as I did – I find its light-heartedness refreshing, nothing else like it on my pull list. 

Copperhead – Was not expecting much from it, but immediately found myself super-invested. Which is odd because I am not a fan of westerns and I feel a little over-saturated with sci-fi this year. So a western sci-fi should be a turn-off, but it isn’t!

The Last Broadcast – I picked it up on a lark, because Boom has been stepping their game up, and was hooked by the end of the issue. Reminded me a lot of the movie Now You See Me, in the best possible way.

Gotham After Midnight – I picked up the first issue because my list was light that week. Ray Fawkes doesn’t have a good track record and the whole concept felt like it was forcing the Spectre into a Bat-shaped hole. And yet, it turned into a pleasantly enjoyable comic, with Templesmith’s artwork standing completely uniquely in the DC Universe.

Godzilla: Cataclysm from IDW. I just expected it to be a big monster battle and I would have been happy with it. But it quickly revealed itself to be emotion, spiritual, and moving. Hiroshi and his grandson were amazing facing the depth of emotions in this future of Godzilla.

Ody-C – I wasn’t sure if I was going to go for this. I knew I liked Matt Fraction’s work; it’s the take on The Odyssey I wasn’t sure about. I was wrong. It’s amazing.

The Fuse from Image was the one that took me by surprise. I didn’t pick it up on NCBD, as I was suffering from Image #1 fatigue (there are so many!). After seeing some very positive reviews I backtracked and it a decision I don’t regret. It has fast become one of my favourite current books.

The biggest surprises for me this year were the Gold Key books from Dynamite. I never cared a bit about Turok, Magnus, Doctor Spektor, or Solar: Man of the Atom, but the creative talent made me care: Greg Pak, Fred Van Lente, Mark Waid, and Frank Barbarie would be one hell of a line up at any publisher. The fact that Editor Nate Cosby was able to wrangle up that level of talent to give these characters the TLC needed to make them viable today was extremely impressive.

Goners – has to be the most impressive book so far, this year. In just three issues it has consistently creeped me out, made me cry and emotionally drained me, in the best way possible. It incorporates action, adventure, super-natural and family heartache in a cacophony of violence within the unassuming packaging provided by it’s very wide-eyed art.

The Mercenary Sea – by Kel Symons and Mathew Reynolds, great old school pulp style adventure, with amazing art that just like an animation film cell.

Flash Gordon by Jeff Parker, Evan Shaner and Jordie Bellaire and Wild’s End by Abnett and Culbard have both totally surpassed any expectations I had, though, I guess, Southern Bastards would take the top spot as I knew nothing about it when I picked up the first issue.

Transformers – I picked up the trade of Dark Cybertron and then started getting single issues and I was hooked. The dialogue is so scientific sometimes it’s hard to read but its so much fun and it captivates you into reading what is next. Also being a fan of transformers from the 80’s I like seeing what they are doing with these characters.

Deadly Class – I did not like this book for the first several issues, but I have since come to like it, but is not as good as @Punkrocksellout thinks it is.

Phew! And there we have it, Part A of the Annual House of Flying Scalpels Comic Awards! This one has taken so much longer than the previous two because there were so many more poignant and well written comments than before. I have tried to maintain a balance and equal representation, without labouring too many points. Well I hoped you enjoyed it and for those who managed to get to the very end, thank you so much this has truly been a labour of love and I cannot tell you how many days I have spent on this. But not everyone is always worth my time, eh Cam? Its an amusing answer I thought I would end on it!

Which single comic issues have been your standouts of the year? Top three issues, throughout all companies and may incorporate your favourite pages/panels.  

1. Not sure. (Kulbir to provide panels).
2. Something Marvel related. (Kulbir to provide panels).
3. My Little Pony? (Kulbir to provide panels).
Thanks @wasgo.

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