Comics Should Be Good "Best of 2006" Extravaganza Part One!

Everyone loves looking back at the best work of the previous year, so here are the thoughts of the gang here at Comics Should Be Good!

There is so much to discuss, that we're even breaking this up into two parts! Today, you'll hear from Joe Rice, Pol Rua, Bill Reed and Brad Curran. Tomorrow, you'll hear from myself, MarkAndrew and the Gregs!


Joe Rice

Best Artist This is an exceedingly difficult category this year. Chris Ware came out with a new comic. Gene Yang came out of the gate galloping like a very fast horse. Jaime Hernandez continued to exist. But it really comes down to JH Williams and Frank Quitely, as it well should. They both had stellar years, as THEY should. Williams' work on Seven Soldiers showed amazing breadth of talent and skill. He told stories in multiple ways. The artist-imitation is no parlor trick: he actually got deep enough to storytell in their styles, not just draw. Every page was great, every page was his own.

Still, I give this one to Quitely. The sheer subtlety and depth of talent wins it here. Everything from body language to minor background details was perfectly rendered in All-Star Superman. Quitely, already a master, elevated his game beyond even what his most dedicated followers would have believed. Astonishing and sublime, he showed perfection of craft in a way no one else did this year.

Best Writer Brian K. Vaughan had an undeniably good year. Escapists was amazing and his ongoing work on Ex Machina and Runaways can't be ignored. Brian Wood didn't hit a single sour note while working on three books. Ed Brubaker continued a strong run on Daredevil and began Criminal.

But to give this to anyone other than the writer of All Star Superman and Seven Soldiers is utter folly. Nothing approached the mastery of storytelling craft featured in those two books. And, yes, Grant Morrison had some weaker moments this year, too; in particular his Batman was wobbly. But the complete and total mastery of craft and form was unheard-of in mainstream comics: this was Chris Ware level (Ware doesn't get this because his single issue wasn't singular enough).

Best One-Shot/Mini-Series If you don't think it's Seven Soldiers you're an idiot. No other comic did more, had the breadth or depth of vision, meant more, looked better, or was better. That's all there is to it.

Best Ongoing Series Sure, I wish it came out more often, but All Star Superman is everything a superhero book should aspire to be, and for being that light upon the hill, I'll make it my best. There are lots of great books out there, though, and there were all year. It's a wonderful time to be reading comics, as long as you're not stuck on reading the same stuff you read when you were a kid-and even some of that is good, too.

Best Moment I dunno, the climax of Seven Soldiers I guess. Seems a bit too Wizardish a question for me.

Pol Rua

Best Artist

JH Williams III. Because Seven Soldiers #1 made me grab people at random. And it made people who don't read comics say "Holy shit!" when I explained the whole thing was done by one dude.

Best Writer

Paul Grist because every issue of Jack Staff makes me remember why I read comics. And there's very little of that about these days.

Best One-Shot/Mini-Series

The Mike Allred Solo. Fuckit. I say it counts as a one-shot. If it doesn't Mouse Guard. Because I said so.

Best Ongoing Series

See I can't do BEST. I can do favourite. It comes down to three for me, Goon, Castle Waiting and Jack Staff. And as Eric Powell keeps winning Eisners which (if not for him) would have Kyle Baker's name all over 'em, I'm gonna count him out.

Solidarity. What it is.

So yeah, I voted for Grist earlier, so Castle Waiting gets the nod. Share the love.

Best Moment

I'll go with the first one off the top of my head. Frankenstein's Monster riding a flesh eating horse across the surface of Mars to rescue a Kirby Kid Gang.There were a shitload of others but that's my call.

Bill Reed

Hey there, gorgeous viewers. It's that time of the year again, when ol' Bill comes out of his hole and we find out whether or not we've got six more months of blogging. Will I see my shadow this time?

Mein fibrous fuehrer, Archduke Cronin IV, bade me to come up with the best in comics for '06, and I am happy to do my duty and do this ditty, dude-y. Hence, I sifted through my massive pile of comics for the year. I think I bought more this year than in a few previous combined, and I still haven't made a dent in the mountain of great comics that I know are out there. Regardless, I'll do my best to come up with some not-so-obvious choices for our categories. If it's obvious choices you're looking for, ignore everything I write and fill in the blanks with the appropriate All Star Superman related answers.

Best Writer: Well, let's see. I've forgotten everything I wrote about last year's comics, but I'm going to assume I voted Grant Morrison in for this category. One may think that would be the obvious choice for this year, too. I mean, after all, he finished off Seven Soldiers, ran with All-Star Superman, and still had time for a few other things you may have heard of. Oh yeah, and he had a less-than-spectacular arc on Batman. And his Wildstorm launches are running late, but at least we got the debut issues.

Then we've got Warren Ellis. What did I buy of his this year? Well, there was Desolation Jones ending one arc and starting another; there were a couple issues of Fell; the debut of Newuniversal; and Nextwave, one of the only Marvel comics worth reading. Then he did some stuff with Avatar and nearly finished Planetary, which I've got to read some day.

Both of 'em did good stuff, and I think I'll have to go for the coin toss on this one. I don't have a coin handy, though, so let's use this eraser. Alright then. Heads G-Mozz, tails Ellisaurus.

Tails! So congratulations Warren Ellis. In terms of the quantity of quality you've managed to put out this year, you earned it.

Best Artist: Another toughie, so I'm going to list out some good artists we had this year. There was Frank Quitely, of course, on the aforementioned and beloved ASS; there was Cameron Stewart on The Other Side, which you'll hear more of later; we had J.H. Williams on Desolation Jones, Detective Comics, and Seven Soldiers #1; and there was the affable Stuart Immonen on Nextwave. And there were plenty of others, let me tell you, like Darwyn Cooke and Gabriel Ba and Marcos Martin and I'll shut up now.

It'd be a crime, though, not to let J.H. Williams III take this one. Even if he only came out with, what?, four issues this year?, he did them beautifully. The main reason he's going home with the Bill Trophy is because of Seven Soldiers. I think I counted upwards of twelve different styles used in forty pages of story, all of which were illustrated masterfully. It's the best comics art object I've seen in years from the best comics artist the industry's got.

Best One-Shot or Mini-Series: It ain't Infinite Crisis or Civil War, I'll tell you that. And yeah, I count issues of Solo as one-shots. This, of course, puts the Sergio Aragones and Brendan McCarthy issues in contention. They were both beautiful. What else was there? The Other Side is a fine Vertigo mini that's still got two issues to go, but features a good script by Jason Aaron and fantastic art by Cameron Stewart. We got Seven Soldiers: Frankenstein to worry about too, as that finished this year. Hell, I even liked Batman/Spirit and Doctor Strange, and I'm not really a Loeb or Vaughan fan at all. I assume graphic novels count here, too, but I didn't read any because I'm exceptionally cheap. I'm told Five Fists of Science is the way to a-go-go, though-though.

Naturally, the winner's got to be Snakes on a Plane. Wait. No. Good movie, dreadful comic. The winner is Seven Soldiers #1, for all the Williams-related reasons I've mentioned previously plus the intricate and exuberant maelstrom of a script by means of Grant Morrison.

It's probably the best single issue of the year. And I'm counting it as a one-shot. And if not, it's the second in a two-part mini. Sort of. Just go along with it.

Best Ongoing Series: I won't even mention All Star Superman. Well, except for that. Heck, it might not even be an ongoing when all is said or done. Same goes for Nextwave, brilliant but cancelled. No, I'm giving this to Matt Fraction and Gabriel Ba's Casanova, from Image.

If this thing wasn't two bucks an issue, I may have given up on it after the first or second episode. That would have been a mistake on my part. Each issue is better than the last, and when you've got a kooky super sci-fi espionage series that's constantly improving, you've captured my heart, and my wallet. Looking back now, I love this thing. It's the comic I never knew I always wanted. Go buy it, dammit; it should be selling more than one-twentieth of Fraction's Punisher series.

Best Moment: This category is always difficult for me, and I like to find ways to cheat myself out of it. I mean, I don't care about Spider-Man unmasking or Superboy exploding or other things that probably happened that I don't remember.

I've decided to pick a moment from Nextwave. After all, it's the awesomest comic on the stands, by the official definition of awesome, which I think the Chris Sims Dictionary lists as meaning "something so kick 'splodey that it makes you squee with joy until your brain pops." Sounds good enough for me. There's even a little picture of Batman throwing a car battery at a dude.

But what moment? This is a series filled to the brim with brilliant moments. Is it Fin Fang Foom's pants? Is it the Captain's anguish at the many superhero names he's used? Is it the entirety of the coloring book issue? Is it the dancing Mindless Ones, or Rorkannu's penchant for Suicide Girls, or said Rorkannu getting the swirly of a lifetime? Is it the Nextwave crew getting stuck in various dimensions and art styles? Is it the cover to #11? No. No, it can only be... the return of Forbush Man. 'Cause really, who saw that coming?

That's enough from me. Was I still too obvious, in the end? U-Decide! Oh, and I saw my shadow and everything, too, though I should've expected that from all the unseasonably warm weather we've been having. I guess this means you might actually see some posts from me in the future. Just when you thought it was safe to log back onto the internet...

Brad Curran

Best Artist- Toughie. JH Williams's tour de force on Seven Soldiers #1 vs. Frank Quitely's sporadic but still more frequent work. But I'll throw a curveball in there and say Dave Stewart, the best colorist in the business and the Joe Sinnot to Darwyn Cooke's (among others) Jack Kirby; I think he does that much for his work.

Let's see if Cronin lets this fly [Fine by me-Brian]. If not, Quitely narrowly over Williams.

Best Writer- Warren Ellis. On the basis of Nextwave and Fell alone for his original material. Because I'm sick of gushing over Grant Morrison. Also, the only other contenders are Ed Brubaker (I don't want to give him the nod when I've only read Criminal 1 and 2 and his first issue of Daredevil in 2006; I finally read all of Sleeper, but that was all finished last year, so it don't count) and Matt Fraction (as much as I love Casanova, that's all I've read of his work). Also still, I like Desolation Jones a lot. That should make Greg Burgas good and mad at me. So, in summation, Warren Ellis.

Best One-Shot/Mini-Series- Batman/Spirit by Loeb and Cooke.

Yeah, I'm mentioning a Jeph Loeb comic in a best of. And not just for the admitted glee I will take if T. has an anuerism in the comments thread. Seven Soldiers would win if 31/32s of it didn't come out last year. I loved the Escapists #1, but I'm waiting for the trade on the issues that cost more than $1. Spirit/Batman is roughly 1,000,000 times less ambitious than anything Seven Soldiers; it's basically professional fan fiction. But it's fun, giddy, excellently crafted profession fan fiction, and as excellent as JH Williams work was on 7S#1, Morrison's script was a mess, to be diplomatic, and I probably would have been less happy with at as the capstone on what was an almost uniformly excellent series of comics if anyone else had drawn it. And Batman/Spirit had P'Gell seducing Jim Gordon. So it wins.

Best Ongoing Series- Casanova.

Even if it's barely an ongoing. It's the only one I read, really. I don't feel like Nextwave should count, probably because even if I like it immensely, it's still really slight. As great as Love and Rockets is, I read one issue of it all year. All those qualification aside, this is a damn good comic everyone should read if they don't want to be a jerk. It's the most consitently entertaining single issue reading experience around, in my addmitedly limited estimation; it gets better every month, and for my money, it started out pretty damn well. I like it better than All Star Superman, which is technically an ongoing even if ASS (I need a better acronym for it desperately) is the more polished, technically proficient work.

Best Moment- Fin Fang Foom's last words in Nextwave #2.

Although Nextwave #1 and #2 were like one giant fuck yeah moment, to coin a phrase. Honorable metion to Cooke's lovely splash page in Batman/Spirit. You know the one. Where the falling sign letters spell out Spirit.

Tune in tomorrow for part two!

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