Saturday, January 1, 2011

Dork Awards 2010: Best Funnybook

…And so we come to the end of the 2010 Dork Awards. The grand finale. The big award that everybody (all five of you) have been waiting for…

Best Funnybook

I suppose that, really, this is the award for “best on-going series” or some such, since single issues, OGNs, and mini-series have already been honored. And on-going series are different, an art unto themselves with different problems and strengths, and different writing tricks to play. But “Best Funnybook” just sounds better, so let’s go with that.

One of the great advantages of the on-going series is the open-ended storytelling format, which allows a writer to develop his characters slowly over time, and in greater depth than even a novel allows. The flip-side of that, of course, is serial characters that run on for too long, as is the case with the vast majority of the big corporate super heroes. Writing those properties is a neat trick, requiring constant slight reinvention to keep things fresh, but always keeping an eye on the status quo to ensure that things don’t wander too far off from the original concept.

So that’s what I look for in on-going series. And with that in mind, let’s take a look at the nominees, the first of which tosses all that right out the window…

by Malachai and Ethan Nicolle

The only web comic to make the 2010 Dork Awards. Axe Cop is a humor comic written by 5-year-old Malachai Nicolle and illustrated by his 29-year-old big brother Ethan. I cannot begin to express how howlingly funny this strip is. The stories and characters are pretty much the sort of thing you’d expect a 5-year-old to come up with, but Ethan gives his brother’s ideas the sort of narrative flow and polished appearance a little kid just isn’t capable of. That combination of professionalism with unbridled childhood creativity is what makes the strip work. It puts me in mind of The Tick, and that is high praise indeed.





Powers
by Brian Michael Bendis and Michael Avon Oeming

In 2010, the long-running police-procedural-with-capes peered deeper than ever before into the head of lead character Christian Walker, presented some of the year’s best super hero action scenes, and featured the most consistently interesting page layouts of any book on the market.









The Boys
by Garth Ennis, Darick Robertson, and Russ Braun

The plot really did thicken in this book in 2010, as long-standing situations came to a head, the old super hero chestnut of the secret identity was well and truly plumbed for all the hurtfulness it would probably cause in real life, and Garth Ennis once again showed his chops as a writer of human relationships. Even the very-nearly-but-not-quite controversial removal of Darick Robertson as regular series artist didn’t hurt the book, as Russ Braun brought the thunder for his extended guest run. Oh, and as our sample cover demonstrates… There was lots of blood and exploding body parts, too…






Batman
by Grant Morrison and Various Artists

A blanket nomination for all of Grant Morrison’s 2010 Batman work, including Batman & Robin and Return of Bruce Wayne. As I’ve said before, this has been one of the most complex super hero stories ever written, delving into mythology, philosophy, game theory, insane pop comics fun, and character writing so sharp you could cut your own throat with it. The only real failing of the series is artistic: though most of Morrison’s collaborators turned in stellar work (Cam Stewart and Frazer Irving in particular), the lack of a consistent artistic voice is disappointing in a series with long-term writing this strong.




Iron Man
by Matt Fraction and Salvador Larrocca

Marvel’s best on-going series kept chugging along in 2010, powered mostly by the almost-unspoken character dynamics between Tony Stark and Pepper Potts. Fraction’s doing some really delicate work on these two and their round-and-round not-love-affair, but Stark himself is the real triumph here. Fraction said recently that he’s writing the character as “a drunk who’s not going to meetings,” which was a total fist-pump moment for me: that’s how I’ve been reading it from day one. It’s a brilliant, freshening-up take on the guy, and the first one that’s ever kept me reading Iron Man on a regular basis.






Fables
by Bill Willingham and Mark Buckingham

I often think of this series as “the little funnybook that could.” It’s seldom brilliant, but it’s always good. Keeping up that sort of track record for 100 issues is nothing short of amazing, and it would deserve this nomination for that if nothing else. But Mark Buckingham turns in some genuinely great artwork here, and the surprise that Bill Willingham delivered in the 100th issue made me like the book more than I have since the war with the Adversary ended.








And the winner is…

Batman!

Bat-Party at Hurt's Place!

As with Grant Morrison’s win for Best Writer… Was there ever really any doubt? Powers may have won the Funnybook Battle a few months back, but in 2010, Batman really was the best comic I read. It’s a work of great thematic depth, plot complexity, and mythic resonance (sneak peek at my eventual giant lit-crit dissection of the run: Morrison’s been adapting the life of the Buddha into super hero form!). But it’s also work that shows a rock-solid grasp of character, especially the leads of Batman & Robin: Dick Grayson and Damian Wayne.

In 2010, Morrison made sense of Grayson as an adult character for the first time, bringing the character’s laughing daredevil “blitz of a boy” days in line with his more tight-assed Teen Titans years. Dick struggled to fill Bruce’s boots and still be his own man, and he brought a seat-of-his-pants grace to the role of Batman that’s been fun to read.

But Morrison’s really stellar character work was on Damian, giving the Bat-Brat a delicately layered personality. Half-hidden behind blustery walls of over-confidence and regal brattiness is a young boy desperate for his father’s approval, and in need of a subtle guiding hand. Damian’s slowly-developed “kid brother” relationship with Dick Grayson defined both characters in 2010, and their jokingly-combative dynamic was one of the more entertaining character interactions of the year.

So with all that going for it, Batman handily takes home the final Dorky of 2010.

BOOM!

And so ends the 2010 Dork Awards. Tomorrow, there’ll be one last look back at 2010, with honorable mentions for books that didn’t quite rate a nomination, stuff I didn’t quite get around to reading, some commentary on the industry as a whole, and of course the real final Dork Award: Biggest Let-Down…

3 comments:

  1. Special thanks to the I Love Rob Liefeld blog (http://iloverobliefeld.blogspot.com/) for including us in their computing of the internet's overall Best Comics of 2010 list. Can't wait to see how the tally comes out!

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