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AICN COMICS 10th Annual @$$IE AWARDS Day Four: Best Cover Art/Cover Artist! Favorite Super Villain! Best Writer!

Logo by Kristian Horn
@@@ 10th ANNUAL @$$IE AWARDS! @@@

Welcome, all, to the 10th Annual AICN COMICS @$$IE AWARDS, where comics’ best and brightest are recognized for stellar performances in comic bookdom. I’m Ambush Bug. There was a time when we could fit all of the @$$ies into one lengthy column, but the @$$Holes’ ranks have grown too big for that. Most BEST OF… lists are posted around the first of the year, but we think ours is special, so while those outside of the know celebrate the time of the Oscar, we here at AICN COMICS celebrate the time of the coveted @$$ie Award. For the next week, every day the @$$Holes will present their picks in 12 categories for the best of the best in comics. So sit back, crack the knuckles in your browsing hand, and scroll down as the @$$Holes pick the @$$ies!

And the @$$ie goes to…
(Click title to go directly to the reviewers picks)

Best Cover Art/Cover Artist!
Favorite Super Villain!
Best Writer!

Best Comic Book Cover Art/Cover Artist!

Mighty Mouth: Jenny Frison (RED SONJA, Dynamite Entertainment)

There are a lot of comic covers that feature scantily clad women with ginormous breasts. This technique suggests that young men with raging hormones are still the top demographic for the comics industry. Most times it feels clichéd; with Jenny Frison handling the honors it feels truthful. Her work on Red Sonja is nothing if not breathtaking.

Optimous Douche: Fiona Staples (SAGA, Image Comics)

The cover for each chapter of SAGA is so spartan on backgrounds, yet so detailed on the focal point, the juxtaposition demands a look from people who aren't even fans of the series. SAGA is an epic, and each movie poster-style cover brings that point home month after month.

Lyzard: Simon Davis (KILL SHAKESPEARE: THE TIDE OF BLOOD #5, IDW Publishing)

As I've said before, the artwork was the true highlight of this miniseries and Davis was on the same level as Belanger when it came to this grotesque yet mesmerizing cover for the penultimate issue. It only makes sense that Davis, who drew the cover for the first issue of THE TIDE OF BLOOD, finishing off the series with an image that not only reflects the story but ties back to his first work as well.

Ambush Bug: Phil Noto, ALIENS VS PARKER #1 (BOOM! Studios)

I can’t say this is the best comic book cover of the year, but it is the one that stood out the most for me. Not because Phil Noto is not an excellent artist, because he is, but it appears that Noto may have been a bit rushed with this cover as he sort of forgot to give one of the guys legs. Now, had this been a story of a troop of soldiers who have to stand in close formation in order to keep their buddy with no legs upright in battle, I think this would have been an awesome comic. But it’s not. It did incite in me the most laughs I’ve had with a comic book cover this year, whether it was intentional or not. And that made it great for me.

The Kid Marvel: Michael Del Mundo (DEADPOOL KILLUSTRATED, Marvel Comics)

I’m giving Best Cover Art for 2013 to Michael Del Mundo’s work on DEADPOOL KILLUSTRATED. All of the covers are distinct, creative, and I loved every single one. Del Mundo’s covers were perfect for Deadpool or “Dredpool’s” killing streak of story characters, completely matching the stories themselves. I felt because the covers were so unique and memorable, I had to choose Del Mundo and his DEADPOOL KILLUSTRATED pieces as my Best Cover Artist of 2013.

Vroom Socko: Mike Allred (FF, Marvel Comics)

Pick an FF cover. Any FF cover. Hell, close your eyes and grab one at random.

Now open your eyes and take a look. It’s brilliant, isn’t it? Do you want to know why it’s brilliant? Michael Fucking Allred, that’s why!

Masked Man: Alex Ross (STAR WARS #1, Dark Horse Comics)

While good covers often tell you what's inside the comic, it's the ones I'd have loved to have as a poster on my wall that I consider great. Darkhorse's STAR WARS #1 by Alex Ross fits that bill. The perfect blend of iconic characters and iconic imagery by a master artist.

Matt Adler: Fiona Staples (SAGA #15, Image Comics)

Fiona Staples truly brings her A game to every cover of this series, but the cover to #15 makes me laugh so much that it stands out from the pack. For those not reading the series (shame on you!), it's a nod to one of the main characters' obsession with bodice-rippers written by her favorite author, D. Oswald Heist. But to truly understand why it's so funny would require reading the series, so what are you waiting for?

Henry Higgins is My Homeboy: Dave Johnson (AVENGERS ARENA, Marvel Comics)

I'm not picking an exact favorite, per se. Dave Johnson is awesome. His covers are always incredible, but HOLY SHIT. The cover gallery to AVENGERS ARENA is beautiful, full of striking images of violence and thought, perfect summations of characters in single shots, cheeky homages and brazen originality. It's impossible to pick a favorite. It's incredible.

Humphrey Lee: Dave Johnson (BROTHER LONO, DC Vertigo)

I mean, it has to be this guy again, right? I’m absolutely convinced that no one understands the art of the comic book cover more than Dave Johnson right now. I sincerely do not believe anyone understands what makes a good comic book cover relevant and reverent to the contents within better than Mr. Johnson. From the silky-smooth design that channels the essence of the word “hip” to the assurance that the cover will at the least channel the mood of the content, if not make some symbolic gestures toward the content within, Dave Johnson’s covers always have that pop that any competently designed cover should aspire to. Dave Johnson covers don’t aspire, though--they set the standard, which is why come this time next year, I’ll probably have to struggle to find another hundred-plus words to write about them.

Favorite Super Villain!

Humphrey Lee: Cancer. Fucking Cancer. (DAREDEVIL, Marvel Comics)

Despite Spider-Man usually being the poster character for “Holy fuck, give the guy a break” award, Matt Murdock by and large seems to be the most shat-upon character in comic books, a notion that Mark Waid has both throttled forward and back on in his current DAREDEVIL run. And Mr. Waid, that masterful bastard, after putting us on edge for months that Matt was facing a foe dedicated to mind-fucking him more than he ever has been and was going to take them down and cement that no amount of radioactive lemons he was handed would get him down again, gets absolutely decimated by the evilest, least discriminating villain ever as Foggy Nelson finds he has cancer. Not terminal, of course, because that would put DD’s life a little lower than, say, “Requiem for a Dream” on the “just kill the guy and be done with it” scale and we obviously crave the month-to-month drama such a life event brings to the book and the characters within. But still, it hangs around more than any fabricated piece of superhero nonsense drama that even a skilled writer like Mark Waid could concoct because of how close to home it hits.

Mighty Mouth: Otto Octavius/Superior Spider-Man (SUPERIOR SPIDER-MAN, Marvel Comics)

Not many supervillains can say they have walked a mile in their arch-adversary’s shoes, let alone their entire body. Octavius may have inherited Parker’s sense of responsibility when he took possession of Peter Parker. Nevertheless, that hasn’t stopped him from being the same pretentious jerk-face he’s always been. He may be attempting to play the part of a hero, but it’s ultimately his supreme egotism that keeps him going.

Optimous Douche: Toyo Harada, HARBINGER, BLOODSHOT, (Valiant Entertainment)

The best villains are the ones that make you feel like they aren't villains at all. There's no doubt that Toyo has a dark side with the means he uses in his Psiot activation process. However, when juxtaposed against the actions of his archnemesis Project Rising Spirit, Toyo almost comes off as the Mother Theresa of mutants. The heart of Toyo's villainy boils down to the question of whether the ends justify the means.

Lyzard: Women (Various Comcs)

I am not trying to start a gender war here, nor am I depending on my sex to save me from any wrath directed towards myself; however, women IN COMICS can be the bane of many males’ existence. In particular, their uncanny power to destroy men by the games they play with their hearts makes them a worthy adversary against any hero or superhero. In THE MAN WITH NO LIBIDO, it is friendzoning that leads the main character to such drastic measures. In KILL SHAKESPEARE you have two badass female villains in Lady Mac and Miranda, with the first overshadowing the actual supervillain of the series, Prospero. And like in THE MAN WITH NO LIBIDO, it is Juliet (with some help from Miranda) that drives Romeo over the edge as he is forced to be around Juliet and her new love, Hamlet. Betrayal. Rejection. Can you honestly tell me that in the history of comics male superheroes react reasonably and logically to such heartbreak?

Ambush Bug: Black Manta (AQUAMAN, FOREVER EVIL, DC Comics)

While VILLAINS MONTH didn’t impress me much, it did help solidify the fact that Black Manta is horrifyingly awesome. His recent brief but cold-hearted appearances in FOREVER EVIL as well as his constant fight with Aquaman for who killed who’s father is the makings of a single-minded yet diabolically clever villain. Sure, some scoff at the giant helmet, but to me Black Manta is the ultimate badass and one villain who shines out of them all in DC’s pantheon of foes. Sure Lex is all brainy and the Joker is crazy, but both are overplayed as all get-out. Black Manta is the one I wouldn’t want to have on my bad side, and Geoff Johns makes him scarier the more he writes him.

The Kid Marvel: Gorr The God Killer (THOR: THE GOD OF THUNDER, Marvel Comics)

One of my top comics for 2013 was THOR: GOD OF THUNDER, thanks in part to the scale of awesome that Gorr the God Killer or Gorr the God Butcher brought to the table. Gorr was going toe to toe against three different Thors across time, which is quite a feat. Seriously: we’ve seen Thor go up against every powerhouse and heavyweight in the Marvel Universe, either completely decimating them or giving them a run for their money, but Gorr? He took on three Thors at one time. Besides the obvious epic that it takes to battle three Nordic lighting gods, Gorr’s backstory bringing him to wishing the destruction of every god in the universe definitely worked, giving the story arc strength and good motivation for who Gorr is or was. When you experience death in the way Gorr did and are forsaken by your divine protectors, it does bring about a sort of vengeance and anger that obviously has real world implications, which made for great story elements for the comic arc. It also added a sweet writing conundrum of Gorr basically needing to become a god himself, without him realizing it, in order to defeat what he saw as evil.

Vroom Socko: Cyclops (UNCANNY X-MEN, Marvel Comics)

Let’s not mince words: Scott Summers is a criminal. A violent, unstable sociopath, a kidnapper of children. A killer. And while he’s certainly the main protagonist of UNCANNY X-MEN, he’s not a hero. He thinks he’s the only one who knows what’s best for mutantkind, and he’s willing to do anything to make the rest of the world see him the way he sees himself. That makes him a villain, no matter how you cut it.

Masked Man: Crime Syndicate (JUSTICE LEAGUE, DC Comics)

Well, to be fair, the Crime Syndicate hasn't really done much this year. The so-called Outsider defeated the Leagues and took over the world for them. FOREVER EVIL, itself, has been more about Lex Luthor than the Syndicate. But the fleeting moments showcasing the biggest, baddest supervillains of all time are the highlight of the series. Hopefully at some point they will be able to do something more than just be a foil for Luthor.

Matt Adler: Ultraman (FOREVER EVIL, DC Comics)

From the moment I saw this man snort a line of kryptonite up his nasal cavity, I knew I was in love. A new take on an old villain, Ultraman has been presented by Geoff Johns in the FOREVER EVIL miniseries as everything Superman is not: selfish, insecure, brutal, and vengeful. His confrontation with our world's Jimmy Olsen was worth the cost of admission alone. And like all great villains, there is one thing I absolutely cannot wait to see: when the real red and blue returns to show him the meaning of Truth, Justice, and the American Way!

Henry Higgins is My Homeboy: Otto Octavius (SUPERIOR SPIDER-MAN, Marvel Comics)

In the second issue of SUPERIOR SPIDER-MAN, Otto stares at MJ's breast. It's offensive, douchey, and self centered. SUPERIOR SPIDER-MAN has been one of the most engaging titles on the shelves for a year now, and that's always going to be how I remember it. Not for the fascinating way Otto tries to bring cold, hard logic to heroics, or how his differences in the role of Spider-Man elevate Peter on a grander scale. Not how he's implemented henchmen into being heroic, or sincerely tried to be a hero. I won’t focus on his dirty tactics to ensure certain developments. And I have to force myself to forget his recent "conversation" with Aunt May. Otto has been gripping, laughable, and DETESTABLE all year, and all the while wearing Peter Parker's face. It's a beautiful punch in the guy, and it was all telegraphed in the second issue, when he spent an entire date with the passionate, funny, kind, compelling woman we've been reading about for decades, and instead just focused on her tits. Otto's in it for himself. I wouldn't have it any other way.

Best Writer!

Henry Higgins is My Homeboy: Jonathan Hickman (THE MANHATTAN PROJECTS, EAST OF WEST, NEW AVENGERS, AVENGERS, Image Comics, Marvel Comics)

THE MANHATTAN PROJECTS is incredible. NEW AVENGERS/AVENGERS is taking the "Future Foundation" approach by being INSANE and AWESOME and CONFUSING and ENTHRALLING all at once, and applying it to Marvel as a whole. I'm currently a few issues into EAST OF WEST, and I'm trying to find ways to mention it in this article. INFINITY may have been flawed, but god DAMN did Hickman write the shit out of it. It was, for lack of a less clichéd word, epic, and that's the sort of thing we're looking for in our "epic" crossovers. I said he was the best last year, and I'm saying he's the best this year.

Humphrey Lee: Matt Fraction (CASANOVA, SEX CRIMINALS, HAWKEYE, SATELLITE SAM, Image Comics, Marvel Comics)

A little while ago I stated that it’s the personal touch that has really been bringing home Matt Fraction’s work the past year. I always thought the man had a unique sense of storytelling when he was making the rounds with works like CASANOVA and when he started cutting his teeth at Marvel with his double helpings of Fe on IRON MAN and IRON FIST. Come the year 2013 though, with outstanding books HAWKEYE and SEX CRIMINALS, things have become a little more real with Matt Fraction joints. You can feel in the pages that things have more real world weight. Hawkeye’s adventures are capped by a sense of responsibility for the people around him, a desire to stand on his own feet away from the Avengers, and a motivation to find his own place in the world and who he is. SEX CRIMINALS has hints of this too – sans the Avengers part, which would be weird – and comes packed with all the awkwardness and insecurities and happy little moments of finding someone you mesh with in the world of sex and dating. And all of it comes from a place that feels 110% sincere and therapeutic. Plus, while penning this he’s also throwing down a pretty entertaining and energetic murder mystery drama set in the 1950’s and the television business ala SATELLITE SAM to really round out his resume and to ensure that half his work is full of comedic blowjob bits, which I can’t help but respect.

Mighty Mouth: Dan Slott (AMAZING/SUPERIOR SPIDER-MAN, Marvel Comics)

I mean, when you write a story about a fictional character that gets you death threats from fans while simultaneously driving sales through the roof, you’re doing something very right. Slott’s characterizations, twists and subplots are among some of the finest I’ve seen this year. I was a skeptic at first when I learned what his intentions with AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #700 were all about, but now I’m a true believer.


The hallmark of a good writer is diversity, and I think Snyder fits that bill above all others. Not only does the man keep mainstream titles like BATMAN humming, but he also lives in the land of indie with books like AMERICAN VAMPIRE and THE WAKE. I also admire the hell out of the research he puts into each book. With each chapter of AMERICAN VAMPIRE he dissects with startling accuracy the decade du jour. With THE WAKE, I've learned more about oceanography than I received in my semester on college (to be fair to my professor, though, I was really baked for each class).

Lyzard: Yale Stewart (JL8, online comic)

There were single issues of various other series that had stellar writing, but Stewart, from the very start of JL8 back in BLANK, has remained most consistent with his writing quality. Childrens’ dialogue runs the risk of cheesiness far too easily, but Stewart has found a way of making these young Justice Leaguers come off as mature while still using age-appropriate language. Stewart benefits from also drawing the comic, making it much easier for him to know when it is best to rely purely on visuals rather than text to tell the story. Restraint, the understanding that sometimes brevity or the lack of words is best, is the sign of a great writer.

Ambush Bug: Brian K. Vaughan (SAGA, Image Comics)

Having just caught up with SAGA (for some reason I had about six issues to plow through that had been sitting on my nightstand), I think it’s safe to say this is the comic that is the best written of the bunch. SAGA continues to give me loads of character, action, and shocks in just about every issue. It’s a book that is sci fi to its core, but never forgets to be relatable. I can’t wait to see what corner of the universe Vaughan takes me to next, and then the one after that, and so on.

The Kid Marvel: Scott Snyder (AMERICAN VAMPIRE, THE WAKE, BATMAN, DC Comics)

If you haven’t noticed already, Scott Snyder’s work is littered across my picks for Best of 2013. While I’m not trying to be a fanboy or am, I can’t deny that I’ve loved Snyder’s work for 2013 with BATMAN, SUPERMAN UNCHAINED, and SWAMP THING. Obviously, the reason I felt he was the best writer if you haven’t noticed was not for SUPERMAN UNCHAINED or SWAMP THING but for the Batman titles, which I’ve absolutely loved. Snyder’s current take on Batman, ZERO YEAR, has been extremely entertaining, and while it was mostly in 2012 and finished with one issue in 2013, I was also a huge fan of “Death of the Family”. I’ve felt throughout 2013 Snyder’s writing was consistent and above average for the most part, and his writing and the books he covered for all of last year were some of my favorite, making him my pick for Best Writer of 2013.

Vroom Socko: Kurt Busiek (ASTRO CITY, DC Vertigo)

ASTRO CITY is back; is there any debate about this pick? Sure, the first issue was…I don’t want to say lackluster, but it was certainly odd (but that’s what happens when anyone but Jack Kirby tries to do Jack Kirby.) Issues #2 and #3 were typical of ASTRO CITY, which is to say amazing. But issue #4? It was easily the best “Done in One” single issue of any superhero book I’ve read in an age. Brilliant character, brilliant concept, brilliant storytelling, brilliant payoff…it may seem like I’m overselling this. I’m not. When Kurt Busiek is on his game, there isn’t a better writer of American comic books.

Masked Man: Jason Aaron (THOR: THE GOD OF THUNDER, Marvel Comics)

As the regular writer of THOR: THE GOD OF THUNDER, and writing a good set-up to INFINITY with THANOS RISING, Jason Aaron is my pick for writer of the year. He's always managing to craft great characters and great action, whether it's an epic battle with the God Butcher, some humorous moments with the League of Realms, or even some creepy scenes of Thanos becoming the Mad Titan. Seems that every issue of his I read this year was not lacking and made me look forward to more.

Matt Adler: Alan Moore (LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN, Trash-Talking Interviews Which May Or May Not Be A Limited Series)

Yeah, I said it. Wanna fight about it? Of course you do. Alan Moore is the most talented creator the internet loves to hate, and whether you realize it or not, he wants it that way. He knows when he's insulting people, and it is calculated to make you so sick of hearing from him that you will stop clicking on articles about him, thereby causing reporters to stop hounding him for interviews. Unfortunately for him, perverse @$$holes like me still find his cranky "get off my lawn, you damn kids" routine vastly entertaining, particularly when he comes up with lines like "the herpes-like persistence of Grant Morrison." I don't agree with half of what he says, and I suspect that if I handed him a few of today's best comics he might have some nice things to say off the record, but that isn't really the point. The point is, there's a lot worse things going on in the comics industry than Alan Moore saying mean/cranky things, and maybe sometimes we need a grump to point out just how f'd up things are.

Now it’s time to pick your own @$$ies in the Talkbacks. Thirsty for more @$$ie Awards?

Best Single Issue/Single Moment!
Best Miniseries!
Best Publisher!

Best One-Shot/Annual/Special!
Favorite Super Team!
Best Artist/Art Team!
Favorite Comic Book Movie!
In Memoriam 2013…

Look for more tomorrow with picks for…

Best Crossover/Event!
Favorite Superhero!
Best Ongoing Series!

See you then!

Look for AICN COMICS REVIEWS every Wednesday, SPOILER ALERT: AICN COMICS/POPTARDS PODCAST every Tuesday, Ambush Bug’s AICN HORROR every Friday, and interviews all the days in between! Thanks to the @$$Holes, those in and out of the comic book industry, and especially those of you readers and back-talkers in the Talkbacks! It’s been a great year and we look forward to continuing to point out the best and worst in comics each and every week here on AICN!

Editing, compiling, imaging, coding, logos & cat-wrangling by Ambush Bug
Proofs, co-edits & common sense provided by Sleazy G

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