Friday, August 28, 2015

2015 Annual Hammy Awards

Another year is in the books for the HCB and that means it is time for the annual Hammy awards. This year I will be living vicariously through the HCB staff writers for I took my talents to mainland China over a year ago and am still here. China has many things, but one thing it does not have is comics or comic culture. As I find myself increasingly removed from the world of sequential art, more than ever I count on the boys in the trenches to keep me appraised of what is relevant and what to avoid. Here’s to all of their hard work, and to another year of an uncensored, critical look at the contemporary funny book.
- William R. Davis, Jr.

Madman's Picks:

Comic of the Year:
I must, in good conscience, give this to Manifest Destiny. MD has been my rock; it is consistently fantastic across the board. If you haven’t read the book, then you’re truly screwing yourself over royally.

Best Cover Art:
Manifest Destiny . . . no contest. Every single cover is frame worthy, every single one.

Best New Comic:
Copperhead. I called this after I read the first issue. Jay Faerber is easily on my list of top five current writers in the biz, he’s a true master of character development. I love me a good space western and Copperhead scratches that itch in all the hard to reach places.

Most Overrated:

Marvel mega events…no…please, just no. Fire everyone who had a hand in any of this crap.

Most Underrated:
God Hates Astronauts by Ryan Browne. The first 10 issue run from Image has just ended but hopefully there will be many more in the future. Each issue of this book is a hilarious adventure through insanity. The artwork is fantastic. The story is entertaining as hell and to be perfectly honest I have no idea what the actual plot is but that’s perfectly fine because it doesn’t matter. My favorite part of Browne’s work here is the way he does all his sound effects; they’re similar to the Adam West Batman sound effects but much more legit.

Most Disappointing:
What happened to The Walking Dead? Bueller? . . . Bueller? . . . anyone? Polishing the brass . . .

Most Likely to make you throw up in your mouth:
Island by way of Image. I paid $8 for this turd. Image puts out a lot of great comics but this thing was just plain butt mud.

Best Mini Series:
Veil from Dark Horse. I loved the creepy characters. Not sure if I’ve ever read anything other than Veil from Greg Rucka, but I want to. Toni Fejzula can pleasure my eyeholes any time he wants. Buy the trade…thank me later.

Worst Mini Series:
I’m throwing Spiderverse under the bus on this one. This abomination just seemed to drag on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on . . . some people started writing it not knowing what it was and they’ll continue writing it because this is the arc that never ends . . . some people started writing it not knowing what it was and they’ll continue writing it because this is the arc that never . . . and on and on. I hold Spider-Man above all other four color superstars but I just got sick of seeing so many alternate dumb ass versions of the web slinger. Except Spider-Ham. This I will allow, I love that guy.

Writer of the Year:
My man Jay Faerber gets my highest honor for his wordsmithing. Copperhead, I’m telling you.

Artist of the Year:
By default I should go with Fiona Staples because even if BKV let Saga’s writing slip for a bit, Fiona’s outstanding work on the art never faltered from absolutely best of what’s around. I bet she jams Eye of the Tiger while she works . . . maybe not. My non-default pick would be Ryan Browne, simply because of his hilarious, fresh, skill at drawing . . . everything. More cow head!

Art Bee's picks:

This has been a boring year in comics. We have watched the Big 2 take the majority of their product lines and flush them. The only saving grace for Marvel was starting the Star Wars line. They have definitely put Dark Horse’s work to shame in a very short time. Meanwhile Image continues to grow steadily and methodically.

Currently my pull list is absent of DC, 3 Marvel titles, and all the rest is Image.

Comic of the Year:
God Hates Astronauts vol. 2 is my pick, hands down, for the Hammy of Comic of the Year. Ryan Browne delivers great artwork and a surgical stitch busting dose of humor that would make a cow pie jump back up the anus that birthed it. Enough said.

Best Cover Art:
Marvel Star Wars #2 cover featuring Han and Chewie hiding behind debris, while Han is holding his finger in a “Shhh” sign. Meanwhile Darth Vader and dozens of storm troopers stand all around with AT-ATs looming over head. This cover is beautiful, funny, and catchy. People should have been drawn to it just to look at it closer.

I am just weak to anything Star Wars.

Best New Comic:
This Hammy in my opinion should go to Postal from Image. Brian Edward Hill delivers a unique storyline based on a completely original main character. Hill takes a leap of faith to deliver a griping and suspenseful story. Isaac Goodhart accompanies this with a fantastic display of drawings.

Most Overrated:
Death to Wolverine is the Most Overrated comic series in the last year. The covers were the best part in my opinion, and I almost chose one for Best Cover Art. I thought the death of one of the most loved super heroes was a mistake. Marvel seems to always have a way to undervalue the old for the new.

Most Underrated:
Wayward is the Most Underrated comic in my opinion. This series has really grown on me over the last year. Writer Jim Zub and Artist Steven Cummings have put together a gripping tale of super heroes of a different flavor. The Japanese culture and setting they use really adds to the mystery of the story. Also, at the end of each comic, space is used to educate the reader in Japanese mythology and other cultural information.

Most Disappointing Comic:
Secret Six from DC had a great first two issues. What happened? They waited too long for the third book, and we are still waiting on the fourth. It sounds to me like there is a commitment issue on the side of the creators, so they need to step up their work. They already lost me. I am not that patient.

Most Likely to Be Burned First for Heat in the Event of a Post Apocalyptic Earth “This is the End” Scenario AKA The Rob Liefeld:
Image produces a lot of great books. Apparently all the stories that don’t make the cut get sent to a deserted island to be left to die. Someone at Image decided to try to make a buck on this crap and published it for $8 as Island and dumped it in our laps. Thanks, guys. I promise to return the favor.

Best Miniseries:
Best Miniseries is the hardest for me to decide this year. There were so many good miniseries this past year. I pick would have to be Wildfire from Image. This short miniseries had me enthralled from first to last issue, and I am currently writing from a stage of stasis while I wait for volume two to be released this fall. As Tom Petty said it best, “waiting is the hardest part.”

Worst Miniseries:
Return of the Living Deadpool is a decrepit follow up of Night of the Living Deadpool, which was good in my opinion. Return of the Living Deadpool started off all wrong. Had this been a darts match, Marvel would have hit the metal separator and fallen to the floor.

Writer of the Year:
Artist of the Year:

My vote for Writer and Artist of the Year is one in the same, Ryan Browne. Call me biased if you like. This has been a major year for the independent comic creator. He went from self-published on his own site to being multi-nationally published by Image. Way to go, Mr. Ryan “launched to go nuclear on the world” Browne.

Will Dubbeld's picks:

Comic of the Year:
Star Wars. MF'N. STAR. WARS. I cut my teeth on Marvel's original SW comics and that was my original Expanded Universe. Dark Horse just didn't quite have the same punch with their adventures in a galaxy far, far away, so I was overjoyed when Marvel did right by me on this new series. Jason Aaron seems to understand the cadence of the Star Wars universe, and tossing John Cassady on art detail always guarantees a win. Kudos to all involved.
"Chewie, we're home."
Fuckin' A, Han. Fuckin' A...

Best Cover Art:
DC Comics Bombshell variants. I love vintage/Pulp/retro everything, especially '30s and '40s-themed pieces, so DC captured my love of nostalgia with these covers depicting the ladies of National Periodicals as superheroines of the Greatest Generation.
Because when you belong to the group that beat Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy and Imperial Japan, you're damn right you can call yourself the Greatest Generation.

Best New Comic:
Humans. This book is crazytown. It's Planet of the Apes as a 1970s grindhouse biker movie.
And I love both of those things.
Foul language, drug and alcohol abuse, gratuitous ape-on-ape violence and graphic ape-on-ape sex abound, often on the same page. Primate biker gang exploitation at its finest.
Also Vietnam flashbacks.

Most Overrated:
Batman. Goddammit, it's Batman. I wish it weren't so, as Batman jockeys for top spot in my All-Time Favorite Superhero list, but, damn, does this book not live up to the hype. Snyder has some great ideas, plants some interesting seeds, and comes up with some compelling (or at least interesting) characters, and then seems like he's unsure how to pull it all together. The result is Face/Off (maybe immortal?) Joker and Jim Gordon as Batman in a mech suit that reminds me of the Rabbot from the first episode of Aqua Teen Hunger Force. I just want to throw a hardcover collection of Alan Grant/Norm Breyfogle Batman at him and yell, "Do better!!!"
Capullo does a fine job on art, albeit it seems better suited to Hellspawns and Witchblades than Dark Knights. His background work and mechanical design is phenomenal, but I'm just not enamored with his figure work.
Maybe next year, Detective . . .

Most Underrated:
Ragnarok. Walt Simonson dropped the hammer on one of the most phenomenal Thor runs in Marvel history and gets back to his Nordic roots with Ragnarok. Set after the Norse extinction level event and starring a badass looking undead Thor. Simonson absolutely murders it on art detail, and the writing is clever stuff. The book also features the neatest looking Mjolner I've ever seen, but that's only a smidgen of the wonder contained in this underappreciated gem.
Go buy this book.

Most Disappointing:
Deathstroke, hands down. The initial Nu52 series was weak, and the new one followed suit. I was a big Slade Wilson fan back in the good ol' DCU pre-Flashpoint, back in his glory days as a Teen Titans villain and right up to and including when he defeated The Atom with a laser pointer.
I keep hoping, but those halcyon days are gone, and in a big way.

Most Likely to be Used as Toilet Paper in the Event of Nuclear Holocaust:
Actually, there weren't any books that raised my hackles to a vomitous level this year. There were Disappointments, for sure, but nothing that inspired Age of Ultron or Before Watchmen-level hate.
I guess if I had to pick one, it'd be that Chick Tract I found in the lobby of a Chinese restaurant. It involved some guy damned to hell for choosing poorly in life and something about learning the error of your heathen ways or somesuch. As much as I love some good propaganda, Chick Tracts are just the worst.

Best Miniseries:
It's a tie, ladies and gents! I couldn't choose between The Big Con Job and Rocket Salvage. Con Job is a caper story a la Ocean's Eleven involving a group of washed-up celebrities and a plot to rob San Diego Comic-Con. Great art and humorous, at times heartwarming, writing net a win for Jimmy Palmiotti and company.
Rocket Salvage is a science fiction tale about a washed up Podracer (for all intents and purposes...), his daughter, his clone, a wacky mad scientist, evil alien gangsters, superweapons, a sexy sci-fi lady, and all the good stuff that makes space opera great.
But it's mostly kinda about the importance of family, and that's the real deal.

Worst Miniseries:
Original Sin. I wanted to love this book so hard. A whodunit about The Watcher getting murdered? A Dr. Strange/Punisher buddy cop angle? Jason Aaron and Mike Deodato collaboration? It screamed win.
The first few issues were good, Deodato killed it on art duty and mad props for Aaron utilizing Midas and Oubliette from Grant Morrison's amazing Marvel Boy mini, but the series fell apart about halfway through. The 'Man on the Wall' angle was pretty ridiculous and after a certain point it reeked a bit of editorial mandate to retire Nick Fury from the scene.
But it had The Orb, so there's that.

Writer of the Year:
I'm gonna have to go with Kelly Sue DeConnick on this one. Her work on Captain Marvel has been stellar nearly across the board with almost no missteps in my opinion. I'm showing a bit of character favoritism as I've been in love with Carol Danvers since she punched Rogue into low orbit in an old issue of Uncanny X-Men, but Kelly Sue has evolved Captain Marvel into an almost ‘Rosie the Riveter’ role model archetype, strong and empowering.
I applaud her work on Captain Marvel, but the real reason writer of the year goes to Kelly Sue DeConnick is Bitch Planet.
Outward appearance leads one to believe that Bitch Planet is a sci-fi take on the old ‘Women in Prison’ exploitation genre, but behind the veneer of sadistic wardens and shower scenes the book is a well- crafted masterpiece about strong as Hell women. Mad as Hell and we’re not gonna take it women. The kind of women that inspire readers to get tattoos of the book’s ‘noncompliant’ mark and wear it like a badge of honor. Whereas Captain Marvel is a ‘Yes We Can!’ type of book, Bitch Planet is geared towards more of a ‘We’re Not Gonna Take It!’ aesthetic. I applaud both. Go get ‘em, girls.

Artist of the Year:
Jordie Bellaire.
These Four Color funnybooks of ours aren’t worth a whole helluva lot without a good colorist, and Jordie is among the best. Although colorists are an oft-overlooked facet of comicdom, her work pops off the page and demands attention. Magneto, Moon Knight and The Kitchen were the three books I read this year that featured her colors and I was ecstatic. Moon Knight and The Kitchen especially demonstrated her palette mastery and enhanced the storytelling to another level. Everyone has read a comic that, while otherwise good, has been diminished by rushed or poor colors. It can ruin your enjoyment of a comic and cause you to never revisit the piece.
I guarantee none of those books were colored by Jordie Bellaire.

The Hammy Awards will return about this time next year, dear readers.
-The HCB staff.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Madman at The Secret Stash

Post: Cody "Madman" Miller

I first heard about Kevin Smith’s comic book store, Jay and Silent Bob’s Secret Stash, way back in my angst filled youth, in the late 90’s. At sixteen or seventeen New Jersey seemed like some far-off alien land that might as well be on the moon . . . but I wanted to go so, so bad. No question: a pilgrimage to Red Banks, New Jersey, was soundly on my top ten list of things to do before I died. In truth, my true motivation wasn’t necessarily to buy comics because for one I didn’t have any real cash at that age. You see, I saw the Stash as a sort of Mecca. It was a place where the fun was. I wanted to hang out in front with Jay and Silent Bob while listening to Brodie and Randal go off on a rant. What can I say? The world and my brain worked differently back then.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

REVIEW: Gun #1

Story & Art: Jack Foster
Letters: Greg Sorkin
Review: Will Dubbeld

I wouldn't go so far as to say Kickstarter has completely revolutionized the world of independent comics, but it certainly changed its face. A creative team with a great pitch, a slick video and sound business plan usually has a good shot at getting their comic book made.

I've backed quite a few of these projects and have always been impressed with the results, but I missed out on Gun during its Kickstarter campaign. As fortune would have it, a friend of mine turned me onto the book. Writer/artist Jack Foster was a former co-worker of said friend, and I scouted out the book and ordered some copies.