The Kamandi Challenge Is The Ultimate Kirby Tribute of 2017

This article was originally published at ComicBook.Com on January 1, 2018.

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2017 marked the centennial birthday of Jack “The King” Kirby and the world of comics did not fail to celebrate one of the most important contributors to the medium of any place and time. In addition to the innumerable articles and private tributes, publishers unleashed a torrent of commemorative covers, one-shots, new series, and other events designed to honor an artist who created so much. In the midst of all of these projects, one stood above the rest as the ultimate Jack Kirby tribute of 2017: The Kamandi Challenge.

The Kamandi Challenge was announced in 2016 as a 12-part maxi-series specifically intended to honor Kirby’s centennial. Each issue would be composed of a different artist and writer team, drawn at random from those who wanted to work on the project. No planning between teams was allowed in advance. Instead, each issue would present an impossible cliffhanger for the next set of creators to solve.

The result was something entirely unexpected. Many partners had never worked together before and every team had to plan for the unexpected while also delivering their own story and challenges. With the final issue landing just days before the end of 2017, it’s clear this project was unique and a grand tribute to Kirby for a few key reasons.

Kamandi: The Last Boy On Earth Was Special, Even For Kirby

Many of Jack Kirby’s finest creations came from his later years spent at DC Comics. Marvel superheroes like Captain America and Thor are filling the big screen, but for comics fans it’s his stranger DC heroes and characters that really show just how diverse his concepts were. Whether it’s the horrific The Demon, the epic Fourth World Saga, or the bizarre future of OMAC, Kirby’s DC work is consistently special. Yet amongst all of these titles and a titanic lifetime bibliography, Kamandi: The Last Boy On Earth still stands out as being something very special.

Kamandi: The Last Boy On Earth was the longest series Kirby created at DC Comics, running a total of 40 issues. Most of his other inventions struggled in their time—not even Mister Miracle or The Demon made it to 20 issues. This also marks Kamandi as the longest running series both written and drawn by Kirby. His work on Fantastic Four and Thor made for some of the longest runs ever, but in Kamandi that no collaborators would overwrite or alter Kirby’s intentions on the page.

The series is also notable for highlighting key themes within Kirby’s work. It’s focused on the power of youth, the potent variety and possibility found within an increasingly strange world, and optimism in the face of overwhelming odds. Kamandi is an encapsulation of decades of work that also jumps into new territory for Kirby, leaving all of the trappings of the superhero genre behind. While Kamandi has appeared in the pages of DC Comics events, the series itself was always far beyond the realm of capes. For all of these reasons, it’s clear why Kamandi has held a special place in many other creator’s hearts for so long and why it was the obvious pick for a tribute series.

The Kamandi Challenge Focused On Creators First

While we still admire and enjoy many of the comics created with Kirby’s characters, the man himself spent much of his life focused on creator’s rights and proper attribution. He was a proponent for building new things and rewarding the people who built them. It’s only right that a series dedicated to his life ought to put those making it at the forefront.

That’s how The Kamandi Challenge was advertised and it delivered on those advertisements. Rather than packaging the comics as “more Kamandi”, DC Comics emphasized the murderer’s row of artists and writers involved with the project. It’s obvious when reading the series that everyone involved enjoyed the work they were doing and were allowed to show off what makes them unique. Modern writers like Steve Orlando, Tom King, and Marguerite Bennett all do what they do best instead of leaning on Silver Age style. Artists ranging from Kevin Eastman to Amanda Conner contrast styles and make each issue their own.

The result is a series that can be just as engaging in single issues as a whole story. Readers who are familiar with the work of individuals involved are bound to find the same style and traits they seek out in comics already. In the issues with creators they don’t recognize, they may discover something new that encourages them to seek out more work. It’s the individuality of each artist and writer that makes them special, and The Kamandi Challenge emphasizes the worth of individuals over a cohesive, similar whole.

The Concept Encouraged Invention And Creativity

The Kamandi challenge didn’t just emphasize creators, it pushed them outside of their comfort zones and encouraged them to work with new concepts. In addition to starting each issue with a daunting cliffhanger, creators were supposed to move the story to different areas of the Kamandi world map and set up their own finales. All of this was in addition to crafting a unique narrative.

The results varied, but were consistently enjoyable and compressed in storytelling and ideas. It’s difficult to think of many DC Comics published in 2017 that contained as much story as each issue of The Kamandi Challenge. They moved at lightning speed often introducing new characters on concepts with every turn of the page.

Yet the heart of the creators involved was never lost, in spite of the incredible pace and density of ideas reminiscent of Kirby’s best work. Just consider The Kamandi Challenge #9 in which Kamandi is trapped in a bizarre lab filled with test subjects and no hope of escape. Writer Tom King and artists Kevin Eastman and Freddie Williams II create an entire biosphere, culture, and mystery, then pay it off as both a tribute and grander statement. It’s the sort of single issue that King excels at and it is perfectly constructed for his collaborators. The result is something that feels fresh and new, speaking to what these artists are capable of—just what the series was intended to accomplish.

That’s why The Kamandi Challenge was the best tribute to Jack Kirby in a year absolutely stuffed with them. It honors a great Kirby concept, celebrates modern creators, and pushes everyone involved to create something new and exciting. There’s simply no better way to honor the legacy of a true comics hero.

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The 10 Best Indie Comics of 2017

This article was originally published at ComicBook.Com on January 1, 2018.

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It’s incredibly difficult to assemble a “Best Of” list in comics given the massive variety of publications that arrive in a single calendar year. That’s especially true in 2017 when many of the largest direct market publishers offered some incredible shake ups to ongoing lines as well as some explosive debuts. In order to make sure as many great titles got an opportunity to shine as possible, this list is here to highlight the best indie comics of 2017.

These are all comics that come from outside of the direct market, ranging from hand-printed single issues to massive collections aimed at the book market. The stories are even more diverse including riffs on the superhero genre, mind-bending advancements of the form, and intricately sensitive autobiographical tales. Together they display the unique array of stories and styles offered within comics. No matter what you prefer to read, it’s impossible to argue these are 10 of the best comics published in 2017.

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  1. Jon

Created by Gale Galligan

Self-Published

Jon is a fancomic about Garfield. That’s true, but it also fails to encompass everything that this 10-page self-published comics really is. Jon is sincere and cute and funny. Jon is a story about how introverts struggle to relate to a world hungry for their unique personalities. Jon is a story about art and self-expression and how we build connections using our own skill sets. Jon is a story about the people who comfort us and how they allow us to flourish. Jon is a statement that Gale Galligan is a talent and who we should all hope to see many more comics from in the years to come. This story of a man meeting his significant other’s friends is all of these things and more. Most importantly of all, it is true.

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  1. Poppies of Iraq

Created by Brigitte Findakly (writer) & Lewis Trondheim (artist)

Published by Drawn & Quarterly

Poppies of Iraq makes a tumultuous and complex modern history and culture vastly more approachable through the use of perspective. Findakly’s life is combined with Trondheim’s cartoooning in order to provide glimpses of life in Iraq prior to the United States’ invasion. The comic moves between an autobiographical narrative and small memories of customs, life outside of the country today, and family photos. The result is an immersive experience that makes distant experiences seem both present and personal.

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  1. Twilight Of The Bat

Created by Josh Simmons (writer) & Patrick Keck (artist)

Published by Cold Cube Press

Twilight Of The Bat is the best Batman comic of 2017 and quite possibly since The Dark Knight Returns. Simmons and Keck delve into the post-apocalyptic landscape of G City with its only two remaining inhabitants Bat and Joke Man in order to both exploit the cultural weight of its mark and the dark themes swirling within that property. Its brutally direct confrontation with fascism, loneliness, and entropy would be impossible within the confines of Batman, which might be why the hero we need today is simply called “Bat”.

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  1. The Best We Could Do

Created by Thi Bui

Published by Abrams Comicarts

The Best We Could Do taps into the very heart of immigration as it follows one family’s journey from Vietnam following America’s departure. Both Thi Bui’s artwork and prose are poetic, forming together to form an almost lyrical portrait of the heartbreak and struggle found within such a dramatic change. Family roles and culture are covered in detail making the story of immigration relatable even for those that may never have left their hometown. It is necessary reading for Americans of any generation.

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6.COPRA

Created by Michel Fiffe

Published by Bergen Street Press

Whether you’re reading COPRA or COPRA Versus, there’s no comic more consistently stylish, innovative, or entertaining coming out on a semi-regular basis. Each of the few issues published in 2017 offered a unique reading experience, experimenting with color and format as the series barreled into some of its most shocking twists. The dual guarantee behind each issue is its ability to simultaneously act as pure entertainment and a workshop in comics as an artform, providing an infinitely re-readable experience that leaves us begging for more.

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  1. Sex Fantasy

Created by Sophia Foster-Dimino

Published by Koyama Press

Sex Fantasy is composed of alluringly sparse lines and gentle curves that pulls readers into the complex set of emotions that belie sex and relationships. Originally published as small handmade pamphlets, the collection of Foster-Dimino’s many comic provides a comprehensive perspective on the delicate world she has woven over many years. Narrative is not as important as the effect of unique moments or even individual panels, all of which build upon one another in fascinating ways. The result is something entirely unexpected that will linger long after the last page is turned.

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  1. Sticks Angelica, Folk Hero

Created by Michael DeForge

Published by Drawn & Quarterly

Sticks Angelica, Folk Hero is yet another illustration that there is no modern cartoonist as prolific, innovative, or surprising as Michael DeForge. The tale of Sticks is an intricately woven set of stories that include DeForge himself as an attempted biographer and many bizarre animals, some of which happen to share names with DeForge’s own colleagues. Through this lens the comic examines how we build narratives, both for ourselves and others, in a world that is unlike anything else on the comics page, but comes to resemble our own in the most curious of ways.

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  1. Boundless

Created by Jillian Tamaki

Published by Drawn & Quarterly

Boundless presents Jillian Tamaki as one of the greatest living comics creators of our era in a collection of short stories that often attain the level of transcendence. They range in style from the mundane to the fantastical, but are bound by a similar sincere and explorative tone that becomes transfixing when read together. Tamaki provides a spellbinding set of comics that encourages us to consider our relationships with society, one another, and ourselves through a diverse set of perspectives and settings.

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  1. My Favorite Thing Is Monsters

Created by Emil Ferris

Published by Fantagraphics

My Favorite Thing Is Monsters is reaping awards and praise for very good reason. Emil Ferris’ debut is a surprising work on almost every level. The complex narrative comments on the immensity of history and the complexity of the inner-self, often within the same page. The tale is constructed in just as fascinating a manner with a variety of styles presenting different layers all with ballpoint pen on lined paper. It is a comic that demands repeat reading and rewards readers with each page. Ferris’ talent is monstrous and the second volume of this comic promises to be a highlight of 2018 as well.

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  1. Spinning

Created by Tillie Walden

Published by First Second

Imagine someone taking their most personal and formative stories, preparing them with years of concentrated effort, and then handing them to you. They are stories of love, learning, and loss with all the messiness of real life, yet they are bound by inks and layouts crafted to provide sense and make the experience cathartic. This is a human being defined by art and you are able to find them by turning a page: This is what it feels like to read Spinning.

Walden’s autobiographical story narrates the experience of being a skilled figure skater navigating the many changes of adolescence in addition to a move to Austin and coming out as a lesbian. It is that perfect memoir that manages to make the deeply personal read as universal, wherein intense moments of unique triumph and terror tap into those same emotions we all endured. In doing so Walden reminds us of a shared humanity in the most delicate and precise of manners. The effect is nothing short of beautiful.

And Spinning is simply the best comic of 2018.

 

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10 Superhero Artists to Watch Out for in 2018

This article was originally published at ComicBook.Com on January 1, 2018.

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No matter how many epic battles, stunning twists, or meaningful moments are packed into a comics’ script, they don’t amount to a hill of beans without a great artists to make them real. While writers may guide the direction of superhero comics by planning many of the big events and character changes, artists bring it all to life and make us want more. That’s why we’re taking a look at the 10 comics artists we think everyone should keep an eye on in 2018.

Some of these artists are consistent quantities within superhero comics, while others have just started work at Marvel or DC Comics. Whether it’s because they bring a new vision to caped heroes or because they consistently deliver incredible stories, these are artists who will likely change the game in the year ahead. So click forward to find out who we expect great things from and be sure to keep an eye out for the names on your favorite superhero comics.

Nick Derington

Derington had another stellar year with DC Comics and there are no signs that he will slow down in 2018. On Doom Patrol he continues to deliver one of the most exciting and diversified superhero stories around, and his cover work on Mister Miracle has shown an even broader array of interests and merit. Any fans of his current work should check his Twitter feed where Derington regularly delivers iconic interpretations of superheroes from both Marvel and DC Comics. No matter what this artist chooses to do, he’s bound to delight fans.

Russell Dauterman

Dauterman has become one of the biggest artists at Marvel Comics due to his consistently outstanding work on Thor. It appears that his run, along with that of Jason Aaron, may be coming to an end soon though. That creates a lot of opportunities for Dauterman either at Marvel or elsewhere, and we are thrilled to see what project he will jump on next. Between the upcoming finale for Jane Foster and unannounced projects beyond, it’s bound to be a big year for Dauterman.

Joelle Jones

Jones has moved between her creator-owned projects like Lady Killer and superhero ones like Supergirl: Being Super throughout 2017. Being Super has received a lot of acclaim and been pushed in the book market for good reason. It’s a great take on a character with an increasingly large profile. With any luck 2018 will see Jones continue to work on special projects at DC Comics, bringing her talents to bear on characters in need of a fresh take and broader audience.

Sara Pichelli

Pichelli’s work for the past several years has been focused with collaborator Brian Michael Bendis on Miles Morales. Now that Bendis is leaving Marvel, there’s a big question as to what Pichelli will do next. Whether she chooses to test the waters at DC Comics alongside Bendis or try out an ongoing series outside of Spider-Man, readers ought to keep watch. Pichelli is an immense talent and is bound to shake things up wherever her next big project is launched.

Paul Renaud

Renaud is making a big splash at the start of this year as he returns to superhero comics in the pages of Rise of the Black Panther. The six-issue mini-series will remind longtime readers of Renaud’s talent and capture the interest of many new ones after the Black Panther movie lands in February. That still leaves six entire months for Renaud to fill with his rich, textured layouts of the most iconic Marvel superheroes. If he chooses to stick around, then there should be no shortage of readers ready for whatever he works on next.

Erica Henderson

Henderson is the most consistent cartoonist in superhero comics. Not only does The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl land on a regular basis, but it also has included graphic novels and various other projects with Henderson over the past few years. She is an artist worth following, if only for the 12 issues of Squirrel Girl we expect to see in 2018. However, her talent and work ethic suggests there will be even more coming down the pipe, and it will all be a lot of fun.

Christian Ward

Ward was one of Marvel Comics’ MVPs in 2017 with top-notch work on both Black Bolt and the collections of the newest Ultimates series. His psychedelic layouts and layered coloring provides a truly universal scope for stories that spanned the furthest reaches of Marvel’s tapestry. Whether he’s doing covers or interiors, Ward draws readers eyes and is being treated like the A-list talent he is. With more Black Bolt and many other unannounced projects to come, fans ought to keep track of Ward throughout 2018.

Gabriel Hernandez Walta

Walta is an artist that readers should follow to every new ongoing series he touches. Just looking at the past couple of years reveals a brutal stint on Magneto and the universally-acclaimed Vision. Now he has moved onto Doctor Strange with all of the small oddities and universal conflicts that title entails. Walta has an exceptional knack for picking out the best ongoing superhero series to work on, and dedicated readers are consistently rewarded both by his artwork and the stories he tells.

James Harren

Harren recently filled in for a complete issue of Thor in which he detailed the Mangog’s return along with an explosive battle against the War Thor. For readers who had not taken notice of Harren’s incredible run on Rumble, this issue was an attention-catching debut. The artist packs an incredible sense of speed and visceral detail into his action sequences; his monster designs are second to none. While Harren might only be filling in at Marvel, we hope to see more consistent work from him going forward, along with the insane level of action he brings to superhero comics.

Greg Smallwood

Smallwood’s run on Moon Knight helped bring his talent to a broader audience and highlighted a unique skill for blending styles and media. The artist is still on an exclusive contract with Marvel Comics, which is great news for superhero fans. He has recently touched Guardians of the Galaxy and Amazing Spider-Man, but no new ongoing series has been announced with the artist yet. We look forward to whatever character or team he tackles for a long stint next, as it’s bound to be another redefining run.

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10 Superhero Writers to Watch in 2018

This article was originally published at ComicBook.Com on January 1, 2018.

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Fans of superhero comics expect every year to bring new events and changes to the never ending adventures of their favorite caped characters. Whether you consider yourself to be a Marvel or DC reader (or a bit of both), you know that the news cycle spins far faster in funny books than in reality. In the greatest traditions of writers like Chris Claremont or Stan Lee, these modern soap operas deliver plenty of plot on a monthly basis. Just like in the days of Claremont and Lee, those twists and turns are driven by writers at both publisher. That begs the question: Which writers will have the biggest impact in 2018?

Looking at the rising stars of 2017, the big new hires and exclusives, and a few other criteria, we identified 10 of the most exciting superhero writers for the coming year. Consistent contributors like Dan Slott were left off the list, not because they don’t matter, but because they deliver on a regular basis. This collection of writers are the ones we expect the unexpected from. Whether it’s a new position or new projects, they will likely surprise us with changes big and small.

These are the 10 writers all superhero fans ought to keep a close eye on in 2018.

Brian Michael Bendis

Publisher: DC Comics

Bendis was the definition of a consistent writer— delivering an astonishing output at Marvel for more than a decade until his jump to DC was announced only a few months ago. DC Comics has yet to provide any details on what Bendis will be doing for them, but it’s bound to shake things up. He’s capable of crafting new characters (or entire new universes) and of handling the most titanic of teams. Whatever Bendis does first at DC will leave a footprint for years to come.

Al Ewing

Publisher: Marvel Comics

Ewing is Marvel’s new secret weapon. He has consistently taken ideas that fans thought were lost causes, like the Inhumans, and transformed them into some of the best superhero reads of the year. Ewing is getting a big opportunity to shake things up at the start of 2018 as he heads a weekly Avengers series. This is the writer’s best chance to impact the entire line with access to all of their biggest characters every Wednesday for the first half of the year.

Jeff Lemire

Publisher: DC Comics

Lemire has written at DC Comics before, but he is now taking a leading man role at the publisher. His announcement of The Terrifics this past summer was met with (well-deserved) anticipation. The Fantastic Four analog is utilizing four B-list DC Comics characters and turning them into stars. Lemire seems prepared to overhaul a variety of other characters, including a recent crack at Hawkman. Whatever he tackles at DC is bound to be reimagined for the better.

Ta-Nehisi Coates

Publisher: Marvel Comics

Coates made a big splash at Marvel Comics already, but he’s just getting started in the world of superhero comics. Black Panther continues to improve with each new story arc as it invents and reinvents key elements of T’Challa’s mythology. Perhaps more significantly, Coates continues to collaborate and boost new writers within the hallowed halls of Marvel. He is better positioned than ever to shape both Black Panther and the future of Marvel as we prepare for the character’s big screen debut.

Mariko Tamaki

Publisher: DC Comics & Marvel Comics

Tamaki comes from the world of indie comics, where she has created some of the most personal and effecting stories of the past few years. In 2017 she showed a knack for transferring those skills to superhero comics like She-Hulk and Supergirl: Being Super. Publishers have taken notice and would be foolish to not provide more work for this stellar talent. Whichever character Tamaki encounters next, she will certainly provide a new and fascinating spin.

Tom King

Publisher: DC Comics

King is another writer who has experienced a quick rise to comics stardom, but he doesn’t appear to have reached his peak. With the continuation of both Mister Miracle and Batman, King is set to dominate the most critically and commercially successful titles at DC Comics. That leaves open the question of what other projects he’ll pursue both in crossovers and future mini-series. Whatever King does, it’s bound to garner a lot of attention.

Christopher Priest

Publisher: DC Comics & Marvel Comics

Priest made Deathstroke the breakout series of Rebirth in 2016. He gave the Inhumans a new origin and took the reins of Justice League in 2017. There’s simply no telling what 2018 might hold. What is obvious is that both Marvel and DC have recognized Priest as the preeminent comics talent he is and are willing to provide him with opportunities accordingly. That’s a great thing for Priest, superhero comics, and, most importantly, all of us readers.

Kelly Thompson

Publisher: Marvel Comics

Thompson’s take on Hawkeye in 2017 landed on a lot of “Best of” lists and has fans clamoring for more Kate Bishop, even if it comes at the cost of less Clint Barton. With such a strong take, Thompson is perfectly suited to tackle more projects in order to boost the profile of newer characters. It’s almost certain that wherever Thompson goes next, both her star and that of whatever character she writes are bound to rise.

Peter J. Tomasi

Publisher: DC Comics

Tomasi established the most popular Rebirth series with relatively new characters in Super Sons this year. He has shown a unique talent for fusing legacy with invention and making it all sing to the best themes DC has to offer. Tomasi’s 2018 is looking exciting with opportunities both with Superman on Earth and the Green Lantern Corps in space. We expect him to discover plenty of new characters along the way and help the DC Universe discover its future without losing its past.

Matthew Rosenberg

Publisher: Marvel Comics

Rosenberg has made the leap from Marvel mini-series to Marvel mega-events just in time for 2018. His Rocket Raccoon mini showed a talent for blending his quirky stories with decades of continuity, and now that talent is being tested within the pages of the next big X-Men crossover: Phoenix Resurrection. With the X-Men returning to Marvel on the big screen, he’ll be in charge of guiding mutants back to the forefront of the comics page as well, providing some exciting opportunities.

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REVIEW: Hawkman Found #1 Reveals Great Possibilities For The Character And Creators

This article was originally published at ComicBook.Com on December 29, 2017.

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One can imagine the chorus “How do you solve a problem like Hawkman?” being sung around the DC Comics offices like they’re putting on a Sound of Music revival. Carter Hall, Katar Hal, Fel Ander. Hawkman has been a force at DC for decades, but time has done the character no favors. His history has only become more twisted with each attempt to unravel it, maintaining a fanbase and attraction in spite of a daunting Wikipedia entry. The newest attempt begins in Hawkman Found #1, a Dark Nights: Metal tie-in and it seems to have found a spark of hope in the cavern of continuity.

Above all else, Hawkman Found #1 is a good looking comic. In Bryan Hitch’s first collaboration with inker Kevin Nowlan, it’s clear that the pairing is an excellent fit. While many of the splash panels and pages provide static postures, there’s fluidity to the inks that lessen the impact and make each big moment feel more like a comic than a poster. There is real movement to be found between panels as Carter forces himself up cliff sides and leaps onto enormous alien ships. Hitch’s storytelling has not been this compelling since he completed work on The Ultimates.

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Hitch is an excellent match to the subject matter of Hawkman Found based on his own skills. The issue trades in sprawling landscapes, grizzled combatants, and brutal violence. Lemire’s script is as “friendly” as one could imagine and makes the collaboration one that could work well beyond the confines of a single issue. Not only does Hitch’s Hawkman look great when throwing his arms out and soaring over most of one page, but Lemire effectively makes this the essence of who Hawkman is within the story.

Rather than attempt to simplify or explain Hawkman, Lemire makes the complexity of his past a feature of this story instead of a bug. Carter Hall is every bit as confused about his position on a desert planet as readers are and hints at larger forces through fading memories. The conflict remains clear and does not require an understanding of continuity. Hall is facing overwhelming odds and a visually compelling enemy, both of which are efficiently established. The story focuses on the why of Hawkman above any other question and finds a compelling hook in doing so. Lemire and Hitch’s Hawkman is about the fight – accomplishing the impossible, pushing one’s own body, and reveling in the journey. This is the thesis Hawkman requires.

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These efforts are hamstrung at times by the necessities of an event tie-in. Lemire leaps from the small scope of one man’s battle to a multiversal forge and destinies, even though it’s clear this story only flies in the former. Hitch’s bubbling universal cauldron and beastly antagonist make these detours more bearable, but they are ultimately sections that could be clipped out to little effect.

As a return to DC Comics, Hawkman Found shows what Lemire brings to the table and why fans ought to be excited. He understands superheroes and works well even within the constraints of an odd event comic like this one. Above all of that his collaboration with Hitch and Nowlan reveals a writer who provides the best possible script for his artist so that they can make it soar. With any luck, some or all of these creators may finally be the ones to solve a problem like Hawkman.

Grade: B-

Written by Jeff Lemire

Pencils by Bryan Hitch

Inks by Kevin Nowlan

Colors by Alex Sinclair & Jeremiah Skipper

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The ComicBook.Com Best Graphic Novel of 2017

This article was originally published at ComicBook.Com on December 27, 2017.

As 2017 draws to a close it’s time to reflect on a year filled with great entertainment and recall what stood out and what will stay with us. This year everyone on the ComicBook.Com team came together to nominate our favorite creators and creations in the worlds of comics, television, movies, and anime, then voted on five finalists in every category. The results are in and they reflect some outstanding talent and a truly great year for pop culture.

While many of our comics awards focus on ongoing series or mini-series, this one emphasizes the distinct publications released each year often referred to as graphic novels or OGNs. Rather than focusing on serialized storytelling or maintaining readers on a monthly basis, they provide a single distinct story often the vision of a lone creator. These graphic novels highlight the greatest artistic achievements within the medium and what boundaries readers can expect to be pushed in the future. It is a category filled with truly great achievements and that’s as true as ever in 2017.

And the winner is…

My Favorite Thing Is Monsters created by Emil Ferris!

Emil Ferris has summoned a story so unique and expansive that it could only have been told in the medium of comics. My Favorite Thing Is Monsters tells the coming of age tale of a young girl in Chicago’s south side where her neighbor is murdered under mysterious circumstances. What truly makes this graphic novel stand out is how Ferris chooses to present it—utilizing notebook pages and ballpoint pens to provide the perspective of how someone else sees the world. In doing so the story becomes about far more than the plot, but a meditation on art, fandom, and how we are shaped and changed by adolescence. This is a comic unlike any comic or anything you have read before, and we could not recommend it more highly.

This was one of the most difficult categories to select nominees for, much less choose just one to vote upon. While My Favorite Thing Is Monsters is a stand out release that is being recognized across the board, others like Spinning, a very personal memoir of growing up in a figure skating community, and Sticks Angelica, Folk Hero, a surreal take on fame and storytelling, made big marks on the comics world as well. Checking out any of the comics on this list of nominees is highly recommended.

Be sure to come back and check out the rest of the winners as they are announced throughout the week, then share your own favorite picks from 2017 in the comments.

List of Nominees

My Favorite Thing Is Monsters [WINNER]

Created by Emil Ferris

Published by Fantagraphics

Fantasy Sports 3: The Green King

Created by Sam Bosma

Published by Nobrow Press

Spinning

Created by Tillie Walden

Published by First Second

Sticks Angelica, Folk Hero

Created by Michael DeForge

Published by Drawn & Quarterly

Boundless

Created by Jillian Tamaki

Published by Drawn & Quarterly

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The ComicBook.Com Best Indie Comic of 2017

This article was originally published at ComicBook.Com on December 27, 2017.

As 2017 draws to a close it’s time to reflect on a year filled with great entertainment and recall what stood out and what will stay with us. This year everyone on the ComicBook.Com team came together to nominate our favorite creators and creations in the worlds of comics, television, movies, and anime, then voted on five finalists in every category. The results are in and they reflect some outstanding talent and a truly great year for pop culture.

In addition to the many comics coming from Marvel and DC, we reserved a category where the “Big Two” were not allowed. This is a place for independent publications, creator-owned comics, and superhero stories from smaller publishers. That’s still a big section of comics today and the competition shows within our list of nominees. All of those different aspects of the industry were reflected in a set of series that highlight the immense variety of stories and talents on display today, but only one could be the best of 2017.

And the winner is…

Saga created by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples!

2017 could be called a return to form for Saga, but this series never really lost its way. Instead it continues to find new directions that challenge both its creative team and readers. Saga both concluded its biggest event, “The War For Phang”, and entered the most personal story arc of the series yet. The big moments soared and the decompression to follow was absolutely necessary. Throughout it all the series continued to focus on significant themes, addressing issues like refugees, proxy wars, and abortion through its character-focused lens. Even after 5 years, Saga still feels like the comic we need and it’s definitely the comic we want.

The list of nominees in this category speaks to the consistent quality found within the pages of Saga. Both COPRA and Seven to Eternity are bound to top lists of best indie and creator-owned comics, and both X-O Manowar and Secret Weapons continued to show Valiant as a great publisher of superhero stories. This is one category where anyone could say it was simply an honor to be nominated.

Be sure to come back and check out the rest of the winners as they are announced throughout the week, then share your own favorite picks from 2017 in the comments.

List of Nominees

Saga [WINNER]

Created by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples

Published by Image Comics

Copra

Created by Michel Fiffe

Published by Bergen Street Press

Seven To Eternity

Created by Rick Remender and Jerome Opeña

Published by Image Comics

X-O Manowar

Created by Matt Kindt, Tomas Giorello, Doug Braithwaite, and Clayton Crain

Published by Valiant Entertainment

Secret Weapons

Created by Eric Heisserer and Raul Allen

Published by Valiant Entertainment

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The ComicBook.Com Best Letterer of 2017

This article was originally published at ComicBook.Com on December 27, 2017.

As 2017 draws to a close it’s time to reflect on a year filled with great entertainment and recall what stood out and what will stay with us. This year everyone on the ComicBook.Com team came together to nominate our favorite creators and creations in the worlds of comics, television, movies, and anime, then voted on five finalists in every category. The results are in and they reflect some outstanding talent and a truly great year for pop culture.

This award is for the best letterer in comics. Lettering is an artform that’s often overlooked by fans and critics alike, but it could not be more critical to the storytelling within comics. Great lettering can be imperceptible, but even minor mistakes can become big distractions from the story. Letterers must carefully place and distribute text to guide readers through a story, as well as craft the fonts and sizes that best relate the tone and volume of the story itself. It’s only through the work of great lettering that we can “hear” the comics we are reading.

And the winner is…

Janice Chiang for works including DC Superhero Girls, Riverdale, and John Carpenter’s Tales of Science Fiction!

Chiang’s work is featured in a variety of stories for good reason. Whether she’s approaching the all ages audience of DC Superhero Girls or the more mature readers of John Carpenter’s Tales of Science Fiction, Chiang tailors her work to the story at hand. There’s an understanding of what the audience needs and expects, and her work on each title published in 2017 was nothing short of exemplary.

It’s an award well earned in a field filled with talented letterers. Whether it’s the consistent excellence of Joe Caramagna at Marvel Comics or Clayton Cowles diverse work at all of the biggest direct market publishers, the competition was fierce. Chiang earned her spot as the top letterer of 2017 though and we hope both she and her peers receive further attention and accolades in 2018.

Be sure to come back and check out the rest of the winners as they are announced throughout the week, then share your own favorite picks from 2017 in the comments.

List of Nominees

Janice Chiang [WINNER]

Notable Works: DC Superhero Girls, Riverdale, John Carpenter’s Tales of Science Fiction

Joe Caramagna

Notable Works: The Amazing Spider-Man, Ms. Marvel, Runaways

Clayton Clowes

Notable Works: Batman, Mister Miracle, The Wicked + The Divine

Chris Eliopoulos

Notable Works: Savage Dragon, Star Wars: Droids Unplugged, Spider-Men II

Marilyn Patrizio

Notable Works: Detective Comics

 

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The ComicBook.Com Best Letterer of 2017

This article was originally published at ComicBook.Com on December 27, 2017.

As 2017 draws to a close it’s time to reflect on a year filled with great entertainment and recall what stood out and what will stay with us. This year everyone on the ComicBook.Com team came together to nominate our favorite creators and creations in the worlds of comics, television, movies, and anime, then voted on five finalists in every category. The results are in and they reflect some outstanding talent and a truly great year for pop culture.

This award is for the best letterer in comics. Lettering is an artform that’s often overlooked by fans and critics alike, but it could not be more critical to the storytelling within comics. Great lettering can be imperceptible, but even minor mistakes can become big distractions from the story. Letterers must carefully place and distribute text to guide readers through a story, as well as craft the fonts and sizes that best relate the tone and volume of the story itself. It’s only through the work of great lettering that we can “hear” the comics we are reading.

And the winner is…

Janice Chiang for works including DC Superhero Girls, Riverdale, and John Carpenter’s Tales of Science Fiction!

Chiang’s work is featured in a variety of stories for good reason. Whether she’s approaching the all ages audience of DC Superhero Girls or the more mature readers of John Carpenter’s Tales of Science Fiction, Chiang tailors her work to the story at hand. There’s an understanding of what the audience needs and expects, and her work on each title published in 2017 was nothing short of exemplary.

It’s an award well earned in a field filled with talented letterers. Whether it’s the consistent excellence of Joe Caramagna at Marvel Comics or Clayton Cowles diverse work at all of the biggest direct market publishers, the competition was fierce. Chiang earned her spot as the top letterer of 2017 though and we hope both she and her peers receive further attention and accolades in 2018.

Be sure to come back and check out the rest of the winners as they are announced throughout the week, then share your own favorite picks from 2017 in the comments.

List of Nominees

Janice Chiang [WINNER]

Notable Works: DC Superhero Girls, Riverdale, John Carpenter’s Tales of Science Fiction

Joe Caramagna

Notable Works: The Amazing Spider-Man, Ms. Marvel, Runaways

Clayton Clowes

Notable Works: Batman, Mister Miracle, The Wicked + The Divine

Chris Eliopoulos

Notable Works: Savage Dragon, Star Wars: Droids Unplugged, Spider-Men II

Marilyn Patrizio

Notable Works: Detective Comics

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Advance Review: Twisted Romance #1 Is Everything An Anthology Ought To Be

This article was originally published at ComicBook.Com on December 25, 2017.

Twisted Romance #1 Review - Cover.jpg

“Old Flames” Art by Katie Skelly

“Old Flames” Written by Alex de Campi

“Leather & Lace” by Magen Cubed

“Red Medusa” by Sarah Horrocks

The best sort of anthology is the one that does not attempt to provide something for everyone. Anthologies can be collections of unique styles and perspectives, exposing readers to art they might never have encountered otherwise. They can be an entry point into the broader work of individual artists while simultaneously forming a coherent tone that will make the reading experience cohesive. They can be great when broken into individual elements or read as a whole. Twisted Romance #1 is the best sort of anthology.

Twisted Romance #1 Review - Katie Skelly.jpg

“Old Flames”, the featured comic, evokes trashy vampire cinema in the best possible fashion. The world it conjures is an ugly and mean-spirited place. So are the many characters who populate it, driven by petty motives and spitting nasty barbs at one another. The result is something ridiculously fun though. Every element is simultaneously over-the-top and self-assured so that it avoids classification as camp to become a heightened ride through an unrecognizable world.

Skelly’s pages, specifically sequences illustrating the city, a nightclub, or sexual encounter, all highlight what is most interesting about this strange place. Histories and mythology are alluded to, but the emphasis is on the now and digging any further into the how’s and why’s of the matter might just ruin that experience. The pacing is such that each new turn lands like a bullet and makes you want to flip pages until there are no more to turn. While there are twists and discoveries, it’s not the plot that makes “Old Flames” function, but the reading experience itself. Just like discovering an old movie that never quite entered the zeitgeist; it’s entirely yours for a moment and that moment is exhilarating.

Twisted Romance #1 Review - Sarah Horrocks.jpg

“Leather & Lace” is a prose entry and easily the most romantic addition to this twisted volume. Cubed offers a sexy twist to urban fantasy, one that makes it clear the genre is far from played out. What makes this short story function is how comfortable Cubed is in allowing the unspoken to remain unspoken until the end. She focuses on violence and bars, allowing the story to run wild about a small central mystery and flesh out its protagonists at the same time. What makes it truly sexy is that the tension becomes palpable from regular interactions rather than pining. In spite of the supernatural elements, there’s something about this romance that feels more honest about human attraction than in many romantic tales.

If Cubed’s story is the most romantic and human, Horrock’s comic “Red Medusa” is its opposite. The comic is raw and vital, tapping into the rush of blood that flows from the most passionate emotions, whether they be romantic or violent. This tale tests the boundaries between the two and emphasizes its ideas as much through visual concepts as narrative. There are strains of Hooper’s Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Greek mythology throughout, and they play off one another in a visceral fashion bound to evoke a response from any reader.

Whether a given reader enjoys all or none of these installments is beside the point. Twisted Romance is presenting some of the most interesting and talented creators working within comics today, and what they provide to this collection is representative of just why that is. It is not simply a matter of liking these pieces, it’s that they are all worth discussing and re-reading. It’s a stellar first issue of an anthology which clearly understands the purpose of this format.

Grade: A

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