2018 Writers’ Choice Awards
Written by Bob Reyer, Sarah Miles, John Burkle, Tom Zimm, Lee Henry, and Kris Kuzeff
The Talking Comics Awards Show is a time honored tradition here, the pinnacle of comics awards shows. The writers here at Talking Comics love the shows so much that we decided to do a little list ourselves. As much as we love the show, though, we don’t always agree with the winners. So we have put forth a list here of our humble choices for the best comics of the year.
Each of these comics was voted on by six of the Talking Comics writers in a fashion similar to the show. Everyone listed here published materials on the site in the year, though there are others who were not able to join us this year, but hopefully will next year. Without further ado, here are the winners of the most prestigious award in comics you never heard of until today!
BEST COMIC SERIES: FANTASTIC FOUR!
When the Fantastic Four was unceremoniously cancelled years ago, I don’t think anyone expected it to be gone for so long. But now, with the acquisition of Fox by Disney and the return of the Fantastic Four movie rights, the first family has returned! Dan Slott, writer of the Eisner Award-winner Silver Surfer, might not have been everyone’s first choice, but he proved very quickly he was the best one. From the start, Slott proved he was ready to write a comic worthy of the biggest name in the Marvel Universe. He took his time, not even having the missing family appear until the very end of first issue. The story he has woven of family and heroics has made many here at Talking Comics wet in the eyes, and we look forward to every pitch perfect issue of Fantastic Four.
BEST WRITER: KELLY THOMPSON
To me, Hawkeye was Clint Barton. Going back to my first days of reading the Avengers, I gravitated toward the curmudgeonly archer. Yet today, when I think of Hawkeye, I think of Kate Bishop, and that all has to do with the wonderful writing of Kelly Thompson. When I first picked up her Hawkeye series, I quickly fell in love with it. It was quirky and smart. It was a super hero book with intellect and wit. Kelly Thompson quickly showed me that she has a gift for storytelling, with grand ideas somehow filled with wonderful character moments. She made the reader feel for Kate, through all of her difficulties with family, friends, dating, and of course her snarky mentor. Kelly Thompson quickly became one of my new favorite writers, and I have loved what she did during 2018. From the irreverent West Coast Avengers, to the darker adventures of Jessica Jones, and most recently with being named one of the new caretakers of the Uncanny X-Men. I can’t wait to see what she does in 2019, but I have no doubt that Kelly Thompson could easily be a repeat winner of the category.
BEST MOVIE: BLACK PANTHER
Black Panther bests a number of heavy-hitters to make it the best comic book adaptation of 2018:: Infinity Wars, Spider-Man into the Spiderverse, and I Kill Giants. The themes, which are connected to race-relations in America makes this story better than the rest.
Black Panther is a period piece tucked in a superhero film. The director, Ryan Coogler, utilizes a well-established villain from Black Panther’s rogue’s gallery to flush out deeper themes about race inequality and privilege. This film is part Lion King meets James Bond where that finds you rooting for the villain and sympathizing with his cause. The story has a few holes and the visual aesthetic is weak in spots. However, the story and themes more than makeup for it.
BEST MINISERIES: INFIDEL!
Dang! Infidel was the best horror comic in a long time, winning awards from all across comics and even unusual places like NPR. Pichetshote delivered a scary horror story that terrified its reader not just with ghosts, but with xenophobia. The constant, prevailing tension between the tenants leads to the reader down a road of death and hopelessness.But in the end, somehow, it all turns out “ok” in a way that doesn’t feel forced or formulaic. The art breaks off the page as demons scurry across the ceiling, and the faces weep on the page. The artistic team does a magnificent job of blurring the scenes in nightmarish ways, but focusing on the most important details to make your eyes shoot to them. Infidel has the complexity to be studied and taught, and the raw entertainment value to woo readers for generations.
BEST PUBLISHER: IMAGE COMICS
2018 saw Image continue some of its best loved series, with titles such as Paper Girls, Wicked and Divine and Saga putting out new issues, as well as taking chances on some newer books that might not have found a home elsewhere, such as Angelic, Maestros or Redlands. Far from simply being the home of post-apocalyptic nightmares, as is often joked about, Image also put out Bingo Love, Snotgirl, Scales and Scoundrels and (occasionally) Sex Criminals. Such a broad range of titles cannot be found on this scale anywhere else in the comics publishing world, and it is a testament to the medium that they can put out such a diverse range of books. I would refute anyone who claimed that Image did not publish a book that they would enjoy in 2018, and the majority of books that I lend to first time comics readers come from this house.
Another reason to love Image is the sheer quality of their product. I’ve dropped off books from other publishers in the past because the last quarter of the book is adverts, or because I’m getting into the story and a chocolate bar takes up four pages with and advertising mini-comic that ruins the flow. I don’t find this with Image books, and not do I ever worry about the paper stock that they use, the quality of the ink or whether when buying a trade the covers will mysteriously start to curl up halfway through reading.
Add in the cheaper pricing for volume one trades, reasonable cover prices across the board, and minimal delay from final issue or end of story arc to trade release, I couldn’t have given my heart to anyone better in 2018.
BEST COLORIST: MATT WILSON
Over the past 5 years, Matt Wilson has made himself one of the most well regarded and in-demand colorists in comics, and the sheer range and power he exhibited in 2018 reminds us why. The emotional resonance in every panel of Runaways, the sensuality and unpredictable weirdness of The Wicked and the Divine, and the undeniable gravity of The Mighty Thor’s final issues propelled him to be Talking Comics’ favorite colorist of the year. It’s his work on the last of those that first made me aware of Wilson several years ago, and frankly of the importance and individuality of colorists in general. At first view, a Matt Wilson page nearly overwhelms the senses; the electric blue of crackling lightning, the burning red of Thor’s cape, the pallid white of a dying hero’s face, all hit as hard as Mjolnir. But the longer you look, the more nuance and detail you find amid the power. Foster’s journey from hero to martyr to human had the quality of a Norse legend, and that would not have been possible without Wilson’s singular palette and instincts. His extended collaborations with Russell Dauterman and Jamie McKelvie reveal an artist with limitless range, equally adept at the epic and the intimate, and his continuing work with Kris Anka shows that Matt Wilson’s ascension to coloring godhood isn’t stopping anytime soon.
BEST NEW SERIES: WEST COAST AVENGERS!
The West Coast Avengers is one of my all time favorite mini-series and I followed the adventures of the ‘Wackos’ for the majority of their 100 issue run. I loved the team dynamic, the inter-personal turmoil, and most importantly the eclectic team members. The West Coast Avengers never consisted of a team that looked anything like their east coast brethren and this was one of the major draws of the team. Kelly Thompson was apparently a fan of the early West Coast Avengers since she and Stefano Caselli have reinvigorated the classic franchise and packed it with a mixture of heroes that makes no sense but works perfectly. With two Hawkeyes, American Chavez, Gwenpool, Kid Omega, and new comer Fuse the team could not be more eclectic. Yet the book works, with Kelly Thompsons stellar writing skills and the wonderful pencils of Stefano Caselli West Coast Avengers quickly became a fan favorite comic and was a worthy winner of Best New Series in a category that was crowded with incredible comics. The Best Series category better watch out, since if West Coast Avengers stays as great as it has already been I have no doubt it will be nominated for this honor next year.
BEST WEBCOMIC: BANDETTE
Despite their being just one issue this year (or perhaps because of it!), this Paul Tobin/Colleen Coover series about the world’s greatest thief remains an absolute treasure! Filled past the brim with crackling good humour and positive energy, one taste of the confection that is Bandette will have you returning to the patisserie again and again!
The importance of this series and the underlying truth that supports the emotional weightiness of this issue has to do with a simple truth: Jane Foster is worthy. Aaron establishes this truth through meticulously elaborating on Jane’s choices, over the past 2 years worth of stories, where she puts other’s safety over her own health and well-being. MIghty Thor’s self-sacrifice culminates in a glorious issue that shows the outcome of her choices: salvation for Asgard and cancer’s victory over Jane’s mortal body.
What makes a story important? What makes it work, stick, resonate? Relatability. The reader can feel a part of themselves, their experience, acted out in the characters they read. Jane suffers from an ailment, an incurable disease. Many, if not all of us, have lost a loved one to disease or health issues. Another draw to a story is the call to be a part of something greater than ourselves. Jane demonstrates a kind of courage that we, the common man, aspire to be like. We want to be a part of her bravery, honesty, and courage. We want to be like her. It’s amazing that Jason Aaron develops this urge to know and be with by changing the gender of Odinson from male to female, and race from Asgardian to human, and by doing so makes the character more relatable for this middle-aged male. Amazing!
The art in this issue and those that preceded is second-to-none. I could create a kind of adjective-salad, by using words like amazing, stunning, captivating to describe the art, and it would be true but it wouldn’t inform you about what made the visual aesthetic unique. I could also state that the coloring of the panels beautifully and effectively highlighted both Jane’s humanity and Mighty Thor’s deity, but words cannot recreate what the eye can see in the completed art. I could talk about the penciling and how each panel includes great detail in its depictions universe-level landscapes, as well as, intimate creations of human faces that perfectly represent the emotions of the characters. However, you wouldn’t feel the rush of emotion or the meaningfulness of the panels unless you read the book for yourself. And that’s my final recommendation and perhaps the only thing I’d ask the reader of this article to remember: go by the book, read the series, and enjoy!