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…
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.
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 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…
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.
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.