So it's time once again to return to the Dork Awards...
Iron Man Annual #1
by Matt Fraction and Carmine DiGiandomenico
This story recreating the Mandarin as a villain for the 21st Century is perhaps Matt Fraction’s best Marvel work to date, and is almost certainly the best single-issue corporate spandex story of the year. It’s only competition, in fact, is…
by Brian Michael Bendis and Alex Maleev
A thrilling literary exercise kicks off this series, with Bendis breaking out some new montage narrative tricks, and bringing us a heroine who’s not an unreliable narrator, per se, but definitely a manipulative one.
The second (and final?) Phonogram series wraps up with a rather brilliant silent issue starring instinctive phonomancer Kid With Knife. Much like the Kid himself, it’s simple, fun, and to the point. A nice capper to a series that was sometimes too cerebral for its own good.
And the winner is…
Another tough choice, but one that found me being true to the spirit of the category: stand-alone stories. Scarlet and Batman & Robin might have been better comics, truth be told, but they’re dependent on the rest of their series in ways that the Iron Man Annual just isn’t. You could pick this book up without ever having read a single issue of Iron Man, and it would be just as good.
And it is very good indeed, from all the perspectives that matter. The story involves the Mandarin kidnapping an acclaimed director to film his life story, a situation that slowly evolves into a battle of wills between the two. Fraction drew on his own experiences directing a music video for Kanye West for the story, which lends it some verisimilitude, and the director’s plight is genuinely harrowing. But what really impresses me is Fraction’s characterization of the Mandarin himself. Vain and eager to hide his own less-than-impressive background, Mandarin changes his life story on a whim, and it’s implied that one of his own rings may make him believe the hype. Corporate spandex doesn’t get much better than this, and so it takes home the Dorky.