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Comics Daily Awards

Comics Daily Awards 2009: Most Anticipated

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As is customary, we kick off the new year by looking ahead to see what most tickles our respective fancies out of 2010′s already-announced comics…

Julian’s Pick: X-Men: Second Coming
Just the obvious one for me! I’ve made no secret of my fondness for Chris Yost and Craig Kyle’s take on the mutant franchise over the last couple of years, and it’s what looks set to be the finale of their X-Work (at least for the foreseeable future) which looms largest in my mind when I look out over the forthcoming year. While the “No More Mutants” plot device from 2005′s House of M event initially felt somewhat contrived, like Brand New Day it eventually managed to push the books it served towards a vein of rich, if familiar, material. Given that Second Coming effectively concludes not only the story which was begun in Messiah Complex, but also the ludicrously entertaining X-Force, there’s ample material available to fuel a compelling story.

Some of the momentum has been sapped from the X-Men since 2007. Matt Fraction’s reincorporation of the X-Men back into the wider Marvel Universe has resulted in some strong stories, but has somewhat diluted the focus of Uncanny and left some of that book’s present setting unexplored, while the always-dull Cable solo title means that the crossover writers will have to work quickly to bring a key element of the ongoing story. There’s no doubting the talent of the four sets of creators involved, however, and this weekly tale should provide an unmissable three months of action.

James’ Pick: Demo 2
This one almost edged out Dark Avengers last year, but by virtue of being pushed back into 2010, the stage is clear for Demo to take the top spot this year. Brian Wood and Becky Cloonan’s original Demo series was nothing short of a masterpiece, encompassing styles and genres across the board, delivering 12 fantastic one-off issues that, to this day, remain some of my favourite comics. The announcement of a new, 6-issue Demo series in the same format as the original came some time ago, but now the comics themselves are tantalisingly within reach. If they’re half as good as the originals, they’ll still be a must-buy.

Seb’s Pick: The Return of Bruce Wayne
Grant Morrison’s Batman epic has so far proven to be flawed at times, but never anything less than compelling – and somewhat against the odds, having Bruce Wayne out of the DCU for a little while has actually worked really well. His absence has hung over Blackest Night quite markedly, and despite inconsistencies in the artwork the Dick Grayson-starring Batman & Robin has already made for some enjoyable stories. More significantly, though, it’s also made his reappearance something to be truly anticipated – and the fact that Morrison will be telling the story in its own miniseries running concurrently with Batman & Robin is intriguing in and of itself. Not to mention the fact that the story sounds cracking – comparisons might be drawn with Captain America Reborn, but it’s clearly going to be a bit more of a full-on time-travelling epic, and let’s face it – there’s no character in the DCU better-suited to dealing with that than ol’ pointy ears. “Fun” has been the order of the day for the Batbooks ever since “RIP”, and that looks set to continue – this can’t really be anything less than terrific.

Alternate Cover Team | 1st January, 2010

Comics Daily Awards 2009: The Hall of Shame

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In our final set of awards, we allow ourselves a rare moment of cynicism to have a bit of a whinge about the things that upset us about the comics industry this year.

Like last year, we’re going to end the awards with a bit of whining before coming back tomorrow with our most anticipated comics for 2010. The hall of shame awards, should you wish to read them, are right behind the jump. Read the rest of this entry »

Alternate Cover Team | 31st December, 2009

Comics Daily Awards 2009: Other Awards

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Our “Best of 2009″ awards continue with a post dedicated to assorted bits and bobs we felt worth spotlighting from the last year. So without further ado, here are the awards that would be shown on ITV2 after the main ceremony had finished…

Best Colourist: Dave Stewart
There have actually been some excellent colourists working at the top of their game this year – Matthew Wilson on Phonogram and assorted Marvel books, and Alex Sinclair working harmoniously with Frank Quitely on Batman & Robin – but Stewart gets this for superb work on not one but two gorgeous- and very different-looking books, Seaguy and Detective Comics; neither of which would have looked the same without him. [SP]

Best Cover: Batman & Robin #4, Frank Quitely
It’s a shame that this cover fronted the first disappointing issue of Batman & Robin, but it really is a delightful (not to say mischievous) image – it says everything about the storyarc contained within, contains a brilliant piece of design in the bonkers-yet-genius Red Hood costume, summons up the spirit of Silver Age covers by having a descriptive slogan yet working it into the image itself in a Modern Age manner, and employs Quitely’s trademark expert draftsmanship (as ever, he’s able to give superb precision and detail to the smaller image of Batman and Robin in the lower corner). [SP]

Best Cover Gag: Umbrella Academy #4, Gabriel Ba
… that said, while Quitely’s Batman and Robin pieces were my favourite bits of cover art this year, this effort from Gabriel Ba was clearly the best cover idea. [SP]

Best Melding of the Storytelling Vocabularies of Videogames and Comics: “Continue?”, Scott Pilgrim vs. the Universe
Yes, this is something that Pilgrim has always done brilliantly; and James will probably argue that the peak for this device of O’Malley’s came with the sword in book four. But the single page in book five, with Scott in the centre surrounded by the blankness of snow, with the simple word “CONTINUE?” in an 8-bit style font above, does an immense job of summing up his feelings and situation in a thoroughly original and modern way. [SP]

Best Movie Star Likeness: Christopher Reeve as Clark Kent, by Gary Frank
You’d think the somewhat bizarre casting of Tommy Lee Jones as Norman Osborn throughout Marvel’s titles since his elevation to God and Overlord of the Universe would get this, but sadly a number of artists have let the side down by straying off-message. Meanwhile, Gary Frank’s determination to draw Christopher Reeve (and Margot Kidder) wherever possible, even during the pre-pubescent stages of Superman: Secret Origin takes some beating. [SP]

Best Re-Imagining of a Classic Super-Villain: Ultimate Mysterio
Throughout its original run, Ultimate Spider-Man‘s strength tended to come in the way it reposited heroes and supporting characters, rather than the quality of its reimagined villains. But it turns out that Bendis was saving the best until now – because having finally got round to Ultimizing Mysterio, he’s done rather a splendid job of it. While not losing sight of the original character or stylings of the 616 version, he’s turned the villain of Ultimate Comics Spider-Man‘s first arc into a genuinely challenging prospect for Peter, while still relying on all the classic tropes to do so. USM managed to stay a great comic for ten years with some faintly naff versions of villains (Green Goblin, Venom, Carnage) – if that aspect’s starting to improve, then it might just get even better. [SP]

Best Comic that Turns Up Right When You Need It: Wolverine #73
Hot on the heels of the excerable Wolverine movie, which had me questioning whether Wolverine could ever be taken seriously again, Jason Aaron and Adam Kubert’s story from Wolverine #73 was so brilliant that it actually had the foresight to turn up early, before the release of Wolverine #72. (Ahem.) Not only did it give Kubert a chance to draw Wolverine in a variety of fantastic one-panel “stories” interacting with the entire Marvel Universe, Aaron also used it to make some sense of the character’s over-exposure. Paired up with a second story containing some fantastic Tommy Lee Edwards artwork, Wolverine #73 managed to show you every cool thing about the character, mere days after the release of a movie which forgot to show any of them. [JHu]

Best tie-in Computer Game: Batman – Arkham Asylum
As the member of Comics Daily who doesn’t really find Batman very entertaining – in any medium – this game was one of the few things that managed to actually realise the true appeal of the character for me, and it did so while exploiting every strength of its medium. Rather than casting Batman in a generic beat ‘em up (hello, Wolverine: Origins) or a neutered RPG (cheers, Ultimate Alliance 2) or, indeed, missing the point entirely (what the shit were you thinking, Watchmen: The End is Nigh?!), Arkham Asylum allowed you the opportunity to not just view Batman’s adventures, but fully become Batman and experience them for yourself. Everything from frantic, multi-foe brawls to careful stealth to a rather large detective component, all wrapped around a psychological deconstruction of the character written by Paul Dini and featuring liberal use of Batman’s supporting characters and history. As a Marvel fan it hurts me to admit it, but there has never been a better computer game based on a comic than this. [JHu]

Best Movie Adaptation of a Comic: Watchmen
Worst Movie Adaptation of a Comic: Watchmen

Because, let’s face it, can anyone make up their minds about this film yet? By turns inspiring and frustrating, it’s either an astonishingly faithful work of sheer visual poetry, or a messy and muddled attempt to capture the comic while entirely missing the point of it. Or, quite possibly, it’s just both. [SP]

Alternate Cover Team | 30th December, 2009

Comics Daily Awards 2009: Best Moment

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This week, we’re handing out the Second Annual Comics Daily awards – one per day – between Christmas and New Year. Each award has been written up by a member of the Comics Daily team after a consensus was reached, and highlights what we feel have been the best of superhero comics this year.

plan27Best Moment: “You and me and her and him- we’re just getting started.”

This category was one of the most closely debated amongst the three of us, for a somewhat unexpected reason; we couldn’t decide which passage from Planetary #27 should win the award.

Warren Ellis often likes to end his creator-owned enterprises on a positive note, with The Authority and Transmetropolian both concluding with hopes for the future, despite the deaths of the lead characters, but neither piece of closure felt quite so hard-fought. We’ve been watching Elijah Snow’s struggles to create the world he seeks over the course of the last twelve issues of the book, as he strove to keep his temper in check in the face of the darkness which surrounded him. The writer played the question of whether the character was going off the rails as being one of the key elements of the second half of the story, with the supporting cast openly beginning to doubt their friend. The initial event when it becomes clear that the centurion has been right all along is overshadowed by the dialogue itself (“We thought it’d be funnier if I waited”), and it’s on this wonderful last page that the full extent of Snow’s victory sinks in.

Looking away from the broader significance of the moment, it’s still a strikingly well-judged piece of characterisation, with Snow expressing a typically grandiose sentiment through some extremely simple vocabulary. It’s this that stops the speech from appearing mawkish or triumphalist, with the Planetary Foundation’s leader displaying a subtle humility, making a touching contrast with his more typical cranky ranting. Incorporating a perfect combination of plotting, characterisation and tone setting, the conclusion of issue 27 ensures that its readers will look back upon Planetary with warmth, however disjointed the book’s delivery may have been.

Runners-up: “Apology accepted.” [Scott Pilgrim Vs The Universe], “I was with the doughface, on the moon…” [Grandville], “That’s magic enough.” [Phonogram: The Singles Club], The world goes “Pop!” [Umbrella Academy: Dallas]
Previous winners: 2008 – “We just don’t like to make a fuss” [Captain Britain & MI:13]

Julian Hazeldine | 29th December, 2009

Comics Daily Awards 2009: Best New Series

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chew01_c1This week, we’re handing out the Second Annual Comics Daily awards – one per day – between Christmas and New Year. Each award has been written up by a member of the Comics Daily team after a consensus was reached, and highlights what we feel have been the best of superhero comics this year.

Best New Series: Chew

It almost goes without saying for any entertainment medium, but feels especially true of comics, that ideas are paramount right now. With so many comics out there – both contemporaneously, and throughout seven or eight decades of published comic book history – if you’re launching something new and you don’t have a good enough hook, then you’re sunk; so, in this day and age – the higher concept, the better. Meanwhile, we’ve already discussed recently the growing influence that titles like Casanova are having on the industry – and one aspect of this is in not just providing a single “big” idea to drive a series, but to litter lots of small ones throughout. It’s a case of throwing every new concept that pops into your head onto the page, knowing that not all of them will stick, but that the ones that do will often have the reader shaking their head in awe at your bravura. It all makes for a rather fun time to be reading comics, at least if you’re looking at that slightly-below-the-top-layer-of-the-mainstream, creator-owned sort of area.

Chew is exemplary of this style of comic, on both counts. First off, the hook is simply terrific – the lead character, Tony Chu, is a “cibopath”; that is, someone who can get a psychic impression from something by eating it. It’s bonkers enough that no-one’s ever done it before, without being too absurd to want to read it. But Layman doesn’t stop with just one mad idea, and that’s what puts the book firmly in the “freewheeling” category – concepts come thick and fast, building a similar-yet-distinctly-alternate reality in which chicken is a contraband substance, hard-as-nails detectives have half-robotic reconstructed faces, and the FDA are the most powerful arm of the US government. Indeed, so packed is the book with ideas and characters that many can be picked up and exhausted within the space of a single issue. It makes for a read that’s often breathless, but never less than compelling.

Strong character work, too, has marked the series out even at this early stage – Chu is, despite his uncanny abilities, a bewildered everyman in the classic Arthur Dent mould, simply trying to come to terms with the rather insane world he’s been thrown into. And it’s to the writer’s credit that after just five issues, the massive twist at the end of the last arc came as such a gut punch. It’s a brave move to set up a status quo and then shatter and replace it so early on – you need to have the confidence that the reader will have been sufficiently hooked by the one you started, and that they’ll want to stick with you after the about-face. Happily, the first issue of the new storyline introduced another new character and dynamic that’s taken the book down a different but still intriguing route; and the current issue, released this very week, has once again reminded us that it’s a series in which nothing can be taken for granted.

Helping the feel that this is something fresh and exciting is the art of Rob Guillory – it’s energetic and vibrant, leaping off the page while coping well with some of the more surreal aspects that Layman throws in. I’ve mentioned it before, but there are hints of the likes of Jim Mahfood and Gabriel Ba in there, and it works well. It definitely makes for one of those situations where the book has hit the ground running as a package – writer and artist seem to share the same slightly warped aesthetic, and that’s always a good sign. It may not even have reached the end of its first year yet, but Chew is clearly already one to keep a vigilant eye on – it can sometimes be bewildering to see which quirky independent series catch the public’s imagination and the wave of the hype machine and which don’t, but in this instance, the fuss around it (just how many times has #1 been reprinted in various forms now?) seems justified.

Runners-up: SWORD, Irredeemable, Batgirl, Batman & Robin

Seb Patrick | 28th December, 2009

Comics Daily Awards 2009: Best Miniseries

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seaguy3This week, we’re handing out the Second Annual Comics Daily awards – one per day – between Christmas and New Year. Each award has been written up by a member of the Comics Daily team after a consensus was reached, and highlights what we feel have been the best of superhero comics this year.

Best Miniseries: Seaguy- The Slaves of Mickey Eye

Given that doing justice to Slaves of Mickey Eye in the space of four hundred words feels difficult, it’s hard to imagine what its creators felt during the book’s construction. Grant Morrison and Cameron Stewart manage to cram more into three issues than many writers manage in twelve parts of standard arc. The storytelling is so intricate, with metaphor layered on top of metaphor, that it’s a wonder that there’s space for a plot at all, yet Seaguy’s crusade against the dark heart of Comfort Zone Seven feels inevitable as the reader is driven forward.

Managing to continue Seaguy’s unique story would have been no mean feet, but Morrison actually manages to improve on his hero’s debut adventure. Where the second act of the original series felt like a slightly meandering traipse through quirkiness, every element of Slaves of Mickey Eye is integral to the plot. Unusually, the main source of bonding between the start of show and the reader is shared dissatisfaction with events, and helplessness in the face of the situation. At the story’s close, Seaguy has apparently succeeded in all his aims, with Seadog’s plan thwarted and the sinister Eye theme park burnt to the group. It soon becomes apparent, however, that this is not the revolution that had been hoped for, with the controlling force on the moon untouched by the drama on Earth, and Seaguy being co-opted into maintaining the status quo as the new ‘Comptoller’. For all the flying fish and fairytale romance, it’s an unusually mature book, featuring a world with problems more similar to our own than many more pseudo-realistic settings.

The most distinctive aspect of the book is its willingness to let humour and horror sit side-by-side. Mickey Eye in all his forms is easily the most disturbing creation that comics have seen for a while, and lacks the affection with which Matt Groening’s various parodies of children’s cartoons unfold. It’s important not to regard the corporate entity as simply a parody of the Disney organisation which is its most recognisable reference point, with Mickey’s fingers extending into the political religious and cultural areas of Seaguy’s world. Morrison captures the feelings of helplessness which most feel when presented with the various arms of western culture, with only a few cranks shown as being willing to step out of line. There are so many metaphors in each page that the first reading of the book introduces more bewilderment than comprehension. When Death is arrested for spoiling the party atmosphere, as a throwaway moment in a single panel, you know you’re entering deep waters.

With a reach that encompasses sociology, politics, feminism and capitalism, Slaves of Mickey Eye is a breathtaking masterpiece.

Runners-up: Phonogram: The Singles Club, Beasts of Burden, Ghostbusters: Displaced Aggression, The Umbrella Academy: Dallas
Previous winners: 2008 – Kick-Ass

Comics Daily Awards 2009: Best Artist

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batwoman1This week, we’re handing out the Second Annual Comics Daily awards – one per day – between Christmas and New Year. Each award has been written up by a member of the Comics Daily team after a consensus was reached, and highlights what we feel have been the best of superhero comics this year.

Best Artist: J.H. Williams III

If there’s a major flaw in the majority of online criticism, it’s in the discussion of artists. Comics is a unique medium in which the two major creative halves (let’s not get into nitpicking over the equally significant crafts of lettering, design, colouring and so on) are entirely equal in terms of importance to the overall quality of a work. And yet if you read written reviews – or even simple message board discussion – about comics, it’s clear that the writing (whether plot, character, dialogue, basic narrative construction or anything else) is what people tend to focus on. It’s not hard to see why. Anyone can pick up a keyboard and type – and I don’t think it’s unfair to say that a significant proportion of people writing about comics online are basically frustrated writers themselves. We all think we know how to write a good comic, and we think this gives us the critical faculties to discuss other peoples’ attempts. Far fewer of us, however, are artists. And when we don’t draw ourselves – or if we haven’t deeply studied the craft – then we don’t necessarily have the vocabulary with which to truly engage with comics artwork on a critical level. We can talk about whether we like something, and if we see some clever storytelling or good character work or just clearly lovely draftsmanship – but on the whole, artists will usually get done the disservice of a couple of perfunctory lines at the end of a review.

So it’s therefore incredibly telling to look up just about any piece of writing concerning the current run of Detective Comics, and find that in just about every case, it will lead off by talking about J.H. Williams’ art – with those perfunctory lines or paragraphs generally given over to Greg Rucka’s (actually pretty darned decent) story instead. (And I’m not saying, obviously, that the comics world revolves around online reviewers and forum posters, but I think they’re a pretty decent barometer of general opinion.) There have been plenty of spectacularly good artists turning in often-career-best work throughout 2009, but there’s no doubt that it’s been Williams’ year to capture the comics reading public’s collective imagination.

The spectacular work he’s turned in has been twofold in its merits – firstly, the simple matter of his figurework and style has been nothing short of phenomenal, a progression of work we’d seen before on the likes of Seven Soldiers and the “Club of Heroes” arc of Batman. His pages are simply, on their own merit, gorgeous to look at, as works of art – it’s perfectly possible to skim through an issue of Detective, drinking in the art like a fine wine without even tasting the meat of the story. But there’s something else about this work, too, that elevates it beyond many other lovely-looking books you might find. The page layout work (as seen above, click to see it big like) is generally phenomenal – it’s a different kind of storytelling from that which we tend to see in current superhero books, with action often suggestive rather than outright explicit. And it’s not as if many of the individual elements – disjointed chronology, large single images that still seem to dance chronologically from left-to-right, unique and symbolic panel shapes – have never been seen before, but the way that they’re all brought together makes it feel like something entirely new. Colorist Dave Stewart, meanwhile, deserves an enormous amount of credit for the use of a superb black-and-red colour scheme that slices through the page whenever Kate is in costume (although how much of that can be put down to stylistic edict from Williams, I’m not sure).

And then, when Williams has already been getting spectacular plaudits for the style of his work, he goes and turns in the “flashback” pages of Kate’s origin story, the book’s most recent arc. Here, the present-day scenes – using the style already seen – are intercut with scenes that use a beautiful, softer style, reminiscent of Mazzuchelli’s work on Batman: Year One. And the absolute tour de force came with last month’s issue #859, when the two styles were employed within the same panel, as the world of the Bat came crashing into Kate’s life for the first time. It’s rare that such experimental work is also so immediately accessible to the everyday reader, but when it does happen, it’s sheer delight to witness.

Runners-up: Jamie McKelvie (Phonogram: The Singles Club, SWORD, Cable), Frank Quitely (Batman & Robin), Gabriel Ba (The Umbrella Academy: Dallas, Daytripper), Jill Thompson (Beasts of  Burden)
Previous winners: 2008 – Jamie McKelvie

Seb Patrick | 26th December, 2009

Comics Daily Awards 2009: Best Writer

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Kieron GillenThis week, we’re handing out the Second Annual Comics Daily awards – one per day – between Christmas and New Year. Each award has been written up by a member of the Comics Daily team after a consensus was reached, and highlights what we feel have been the best of superhero comics this year.

Best Writer: Kieron Gillen

Last year, Comics Daily whittled down the competition to finally name Warren Ellis as our favourite writer for 2008, citing consistency, frequency and diversity as his virtues. This year, we applied those same criteria to search for our favourite writer of 2009. And as we crossed off more and more choices, it became clear that in our eyes, only one man’s output could contend. It was, inarguably, Kieron Gillen.

This year, no matter where we found Gillen’s work, it was never disappointing. At the same time, it defied our expectations about what sort of writer he was. At the start of the year, Gillen had still written more Phonogram than anything. 12 months on, he’s put out three miniseries (PHONOGRAM 2, BETA RAY BILL: GODHUNTER, DARK AVENGERS: ARES), a pair of one-shots (BETA RAY BILL: GREEN OF EDEN, X-MEN ORIGINS: SABRETOOTH) a couple of anthology shorts (DARK REIGN: THE CABAL, X-MEN: MANIFEST DESTINY) launched a new ongoing series (S.W.O.R.D) and started filling in on another (THOR). A year’s work that shows frequency, consistency, and diversity.

Of course, prolificacy is no guarantee of quality, consistency does not imply excellence, and diversity isn’t necessarily an indicator of ability. And indeed, part of the reason we chose Gillen as our favourite writer of 2009 is because alongside the superheroics and science fiction, he also put out a series that showed not only is he a capable writer – he’s one with greatness in him. We think not enough people read it, but if you’ve been reading the site you’ll probably be sick of hearing the words “Phonogram 2″. In which case, prepare to choke back your vomit one more time.

It’s not at all hyperbole to say that Phonogram 2 is easily one of the top series of the year, and probably the decade. It pushes the very form of comics without ever forgetting its duty to tell stories that people can relate to. It’s telling that Phonogram is one of the few series I own where I can say “I don’t like this issue”, not because of flawed writing or art, but because it’s an emotionally difficult read. A story that makes you smile? That’s easy. One that makes you feel like you’ve been punched in the stomach? That’s something only the best can deliver. And as part of a team that also features Jamie McKelvie and Matt Wilson, Gillen manages to be that good. You don’t want to use the phrase “tour de force” too often, but this is one time that it seems appropriate.

Ultimately, the only thing we could find to count against Gillen was the knowledge that 2010 will probably be an even better year for him.

Runners-up: Andy Diggle (Daredevil, Dark Reign: Hawkeye, Thunderbolts), Matt Fraction (Invincible Iron Man, Uncanny X-Men, Casanova), Jason Aaron (Wolverine, Punishermax, Ghost Rider), Grant Morrison (Final Crisis, Batman & Robin, Seaguy: The Slaves of Mickey Eye)

Previous Winners: 2008 – Warren Ellis

James Hunt | 25th December, 2009

Comics of the Decade: Alias

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aliasFor three Wednesdays, the Comics Daily team will be taking it in turns to pick a comic – a run, full series, graphic novel or even single issue – that we feel defines the last decade in some way. These aren’t necessarily our absolute favourite or objective “best” of the decade (if we could even pick just one of such a thing), just books that we think have been a special part of our comics reading over the past ten years. This week, it’s James’ choice…

Brian Bendis has been a major force in the comics industry throughout the decade, and could arguably fill out a top 5 list by himself. As writer of Powers, he proved that it was still possible for creator-owned superhero comics to punch above their weight. A record-breaking run on Ultimate Spider-Man helped anchor Marvel’s Ultimate line, which he contributed to extensively. Through Daredevil, The Pulse, New/Mighty/Dark Avengers, Secret War, House of M and Secret Invasion, he’s often seemed almost single-handedly responsible for steering the Marvel Universe. But his most impressive work to date was, in my eyes, on Alias.

Alias was launched as part of Marvel’s MAX line, a rival of sorts to DC’s Vertigo imprint intended to tell stories with subject matter unsuitable for children. And certainly, Alias did that, with its warts-and-all portrayal of Jessica Jones, a private investigator and former superheroine consumed by self-loathing. The fairer sex has received notoriously short shrift from the mainstream comicbook conpanies over the years, so allowing a male writer free rein to use graphic nudity, violence and swearing in a female-led series about a down-and-out superheroine – well, let’s just say it could easily have gone horribly wrong.

Instead, Jessica Jones might just be one of the greatest new characters to come out of Marvel in decades. Indeed, in creating a female character who wasn’t conventionally attractive or sexualised, who wasn’t exclusively defined by her relationship to the men around her, and who wasn’t portrayed as a fantasy girlfriend for the series’ readers, Bendis created a female lead who was almost unique in the genre. That alone made the series great. The fact that he also placed her in a gripping detective saga that also served as an ongoing character study just made it even better.

Collaborating with Bendis on the series was Michael Gaydos, an artist who translated the noir-influences and emotional depth of Alias into a unique look that capably placed real, human drama alongside the fantastical background of the Marvel Universe. Occasional appearances by Ultimate Spider-Man artist Mark Bagley helped the book evolve into a meta-commentary on female superheroes just in time for the series to conclude, too soon for the readers, but, in fairness, at exactly the right moment for the narrative.

Years after the series finished, there are still lessons that can and should be learnt from Alias, and it’s a shame that Jones herself has been relegated to the supporting cast of New Avengers, losing a lot of her character in the process. The planned Bendis/Gaydos Alias miniseries should remind readers of this frequently overlooked modern classic, but hopefully it’ll also serve to remind Bendis of the depth and nuance he once instilled in the character. Whatever her fate, there can be no doubt that the initial 28-issue series of Jessica Jones’ adventures deserves to be recognised as one of the best comics of the decade. If any Marvel comic can be considered a must-read, this is one that can.

Comics of the Decade: Casanova

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cas1For three Wednesdays, the Comics Daily team will be taking it in turns to pick a comic – a run, full series, graphic novel or even single issue – that we feel defines the last decade in some way. These aren’t necessarily our absolute favourite or objective “best” of the decade (if we could even pick just one of such a thing), just books that we think have been a special part of our comics reading over the past ten years. This week, it’s Julian’s choice…

While it’s become something of a cliché to describe Casanova as being one of the books which will influence comics over the next few years, it’s just as true to name is as a book which influences comics today. As this year has run its course, I’ve found myself using a particular word more and more frequently in ‘Daily’ reviews: freewheeling. The industry is starting to move on from the Brian Bendis-inspired decompressed arc model, with rising prices of single issues forcing creators to find ways of making the readers feel as if they are receiving more story for their money. Book after book is beginning to cram its pages with an apparent superabundance of plot and information, telling a story in the traditional way but adding in an array of detail and extraneous data that makes the world created feel so much denser and more interesting than a more minimalist approach to writing could convey. And it’s easy to see where this trend started.

But Casanova Quinn’s misadventures deserve to be remembered for so much more than their contribution to the storytelling medium they call home. While virtually every writer to tackle the archetype created by Ian Fleming has pile on the hi-tech elements of the superspy model, allowing their agents to achieve more and more remarkable feats, Matt Fraction approached this genre from exactly the opposite direction. He regards the hi-tech world of pocket teleports and instantly-reversible revisable sex-changes not as sources of wonder, but as the prerequisites which would be needed to make a character like Bond plausible.

It’s a remarkable piece of thinking in a type of story strangely resistant to change, but what the writer does next is even more extraordinary. With perfect timing, he brings to the boil the comedy inherent in each of the situations his stories create, without ever diverting from the plot. Indulgences such as the inconsistent acronym of W.A.S.T.E. are mere window dressing compared to the way that humour is used to progress the plot. When Cornelius Quinn needs to put something in writing but doesn’t have any paper, it’s only the director of E.M.P.I.R.E.’s stern manner which prevents the assembled cast from joining the readers’ laughter as the affidavit is carved into a metal desk. Fraction almost never goes for the cheap gag, with every piece of humour driving the plot forward, rather than undermining it.

For all its more conventional imitations, Casanova remains unique. While the completed seven-volume tale would undoubtedly tower over the rest of the medium, the achievement of ‘Luxuria’ and ‘Gula’ alone is remarkable.

Julian Hazeldine | 16th December, 2009