Saturday, January 7, 2012
Top 5 Comics: The Best of 2011 - The Creators
While the Best Comics section was hard, the Creators section is infinitely harder. There are so many talented people working in comics, and the list of writers who had a banner year is longer than you would think possible. Still, compiling that lengthy list into something more manageable is my task at hand, so here are the nominees for Best Writer:
Brian Azzarello - Another writer who's been around for awhile, has always been talented and beloved for things like 100 Bullets, but this year put together a stellar showing that knocked the socks off of people. From the moral grey areas and shocking revelations in the pages of Flashpoint: Knight of Vengeance to the revamp and reformation of the Wonder Woman mythos, Azzarello has turned comic book expectations on their head. His work is fresh and new and zips and zaps in such a way that, like a cat following a laser pointer, we can't help but be entranced and race along to keep up.
Mark Waid - A creator with a variable pantheon of outstanding work under his belt, this year Mark Waid came back in a big way. People are still entangled in the villainy and creativity that is being shown in the books Irredeemable and Incorruptible, and I think it's fairly obvious how I feel about the start to his Daredevil run. Waid is a writer that never does what you expect, he circumvents the obvious and knows a thing or two about constructing not only action scenes that deliver, but character moments that are poignant and spot on.
Rick Remender - Any writer who can take characters like Psylocke, Fantomex, Archangel/Angel, characters that have typically been very bland, and create a continuous story that makes you give a damn about what happens to them deserves a slap on the back and a hearty, "You did the impossible." That teamed up with writing unique situations that felt more like an X-Book than any other X-Book has for years, and the humor/action that resonated in every single issue makes for a compelling case of why he's on this list. Also, let's not forget the ending to his long running Sci-Fi Pulp book, Fear Agent, which was pretty great too.
Scott Snyder - With the strength of his flagship Vertigo title, American Vampire, it seems that Scott Snyder can really do no wrong. Now with titles such as the superb run on Detective Comics and things like Swamp Thing and Batman under his belt, Snyder is fast becoming DC's top writer. His ability to tell stories that scare, intrigue, surprise, entertain, and bring forth that key component of being memorable, is the reason that his books are doing so well. He is a writer of the finest caliber, and it seems that he's only starting up.
Mark Waid can not be stopped. Not only do the stories that he is telling fall into the phenomenal category, but he's resurrected, in a sense, a favorite character of mine from the brink. He constantly surprises you, which as a reader, I am a fan of.
If you thought writer was hard, the visualization of comics and choosing artists that are the BEST out of a group that is so talented, may be even harder. Art in comics has come a long way and has changed so much in such vast ways. This list is a diverse group, styles that range from traditional to streamlined to a more stylized way of telling sensational stories. They are all, without a doubt, winners. Still, that isn't the purpose of this list. So in order to choose the Best, let's get to the nominees for Best Artist.
Jerome Opena - Uncanny X-Force keeps popping up on not only my lists of Best Of, but many other people's lists as well. As does Opena. There is a reason for that: He's damn good. Brilliantly matched with the story beats being told, Opena's artwork blasts and bellows and snikts with such intensity. He delves into the psyche of the characters, and is able to get across the most subtle thing in his visualization, but also handles End of the World action pieces too. He creates worlds that LIVE and inhabits them with characters that we want to see through his eyes. That's fairly impressive in my book.
Sean Murphy - Hyper-detailed but never, ever, static. That right there, that feat, is insanely hard to do. Murphy makes it look easy. Many artist can do the hyper detailed work, people like Bryan Hitch & Michael Lark, but while it looks fantastic, the trade-off usually is that the works feels frozen. Murphy's work from this year, Joe the Barbarian and American Vampire: Survival of the Fittest, explodes off of the page and into your imagination. The character depth, the splash pages, the action, the gore, the imaginative landscapes that burgeon with life...The package that is Sean Murphy is about as complete as you can get.
Paolo Rivera & Marcos Martin - I feel a little strange combining these two artists into one, but when I really thought about it, their artistic talents together, have made such an impact in the comic book world. Daredevil has a history of great artists, from people like Frank Miller, David Mazzucchelli, and Michael Lark. Both Marcos Martin and Paolo Rivera belong in that pantheon of greatness. They each bring something to the game, but their clean lines and explosive action is so compelling. You can tell the amount of thought that goes into every panel that they put their pencil to. The angles and decisions, the smallest things that most people would overlook, only adds to the excitement and creativity that is on display.
Sean Murphy stole the show this year for me. Joe the Barbarian was a swan song for any toy lover, and the work and imagery and the imagination that he put on display was downright amazing. On the flip side, the horror and violence and nuanced emotions that he was able to get perfect in Survival of the Fittest was just a huge exclamation point of awesome to an already outstanding showing.
J.H. Williams III