Best Writer: Ed Brubaker. Two years in a row? You bet! Last year, he won for the pulp madness that began his run on Daredevil, but this year, he managed to top himself by killing off Marvel’s top icon, Captain America. Not only was Brubaker able to keep the death a secret, he turned it in to one of the best stories of the year. Add Daredevil and Iron Fist, his creator-owned book Criminal, and his helping to bring the X-Men back from the brink of unreadable, and you’ve got one of the most talented writers in the industry today.
Best Artist: JH Williams. “Slow and steady wins the race” has never applied to a comic-book artist more than it has for a genius like Williams. He may not be able to put out 12 issues a year—heck, even eight might be pushing it—but it’s a sure bet that any book with his name on it is going to be one of the most gorgeously illustrated you’re likely to see on the new-release rack. His three-issue Batman run earlier this year showed his diverse range from beautifully rendered modern comic art to a perfect adaptation of the classic style of yesteryear. I just wish he were a little bit faster.
Best Ongoing Series: Captain America. Steve Rogers was assassinated while on his way to be tried for crimes committed during last year’s Civil War. That was eight months ago, and the Marvel Universe hasn’t been the same since. Writer Ed Brubaker did what no one thought possible and made Captain America (minus the main character) one of the most fascinating and compelling reads by elevating a supporting cast into one of the best-written—if not the best—ensemble action-dramas the comics world has ever seen. It’s something that fans wrote off as a stunt that would be fixed within three issues, but there’s still no Captain America, and the book is better than it’s ever been.
Best Mini-Series: New Avengers: Illuminati. Brian Michael Bendis catches a lot of flack because he enjoys writing dialogue more than he likes blowing things up. In this mini, teamed with newcomer Brian Reed, the two have taken the power players of the Marvel Universe and weaved their little secret society into huge events of Marvel’s past. With all the hard work and minor details involved in that, each stand-alone issue had wall-to-wall action, spot-on characterization and proved to everyone that Bendis likes the ’splosions as much as ichael Bay. It didn’t hurt that Illuminati was a great idea to begin with, and was executed perfectly.
The One You Might Have Missed: Cassanova. Matt Fraction may be a rising star in the Marvel Universe with three monthly series, but it’s his creator-owned work that got him there, and Cassanova is one of the most original and entertaining titles you’ll be able to find. It’s a sci-fi series about a time-traveling secret agent with parallel universes, aliens and more action than James Bond could handle. Sounds like a lot, and in lesser hands would be a mess, but Fraction handles it all like a seasoned pro. And the best part is that each issue only costs $1.99.
Best Comeback, But Still Disappointing: The Boys. DC abruptly cancelled this series after the sixth issue with no official reason, but it was probably because the super heroes being parodied bore a striking resemblance to those on the front lines of the real DC Universe. Dynamite Entertainment picked up the book and let Ennis and Roberston loose to do whatever they wanted. But it seems all they want to do are sight gags that 14-year-olds would find repetitive and juvenile. We’re 13 issues in, and still waiting for the brilliant book I know Ennis is capable of.