THE 2014 EISNERS

Time for my annual round up of the major categories of the comic book version of the Oscars, and my thoughts on what they got right (and wrong). Lots of great comics came out last year, but few were Marvel and none were DC. And yet Marvel still got the most nominations for a single book (well, sort of: Hawkeye tied with The Wake). For DC, only Batman got a nom. The “big two” publishers put out more than half of the total comic books published each month—so for them to trail far behind in the nominations is an indicator of just how mediocre their product—and the marketplace—really is. And justice was served in the end: Image Comics, the best publisher of the year (by far) got the most nominations: 21 total.

Let’s see the “experts” selections by category…

Best Single Issue (or One-Shot)

  • Demeter, by Becky Cloonan (self-published)
  • Hawkeye #11: “Pizza Is My Business,” by Matt Fraction and David Aja (Marvel)
  • Love and Rockets: New Stories #6, by Gilbert Hernandez and Jaime Hernandez (Fantagraphics)
  • Viewotron #2, by Sam Sharpe (self-published)
  • Watson and Holmes #6, by Brandon Easton, and N. Steven Harris (New Paradigm Studios)

I haven’t read any of these except Hawkeye, and it was not a surprise to anyone to see this issue nominated. Nor will it be a surprise when it wins. Although, to me, it was more of an exercise in page design than an actual story. Still, it was good and I can’t argue with the selection.

Best Continuing Series

  • East of West, by Jonathan Hickman and Nick Dragotta (Image)
  • Hawkeye, by Matt Fraction and David Aja (Marvel)
  • Nowhere Men, by Eric Stephenson and Nate Bellegarde (Image)
  • Saga, by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples (Image)
  • Sex Criminals, by Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky (Image)

Now we have a contest. East Of West is a thrilling, suspenseful update of the Western genre. Hawkeye is probably the best example of superhero comics around right now. Sex Criminals is one of the most original series in years. And Saga is Saga. It wins every year. There are good reasons why any of these should win. Except Nowhere Men. How did that get up there? I don’t see Sex Criminals winning because it’s just a little too … Sexy. East of West is good, but it’s not better than the other ones up there. Hawkeye is good and probably should be recognized over Saga, because Saga wins every year. So my pick is Hawkeye, but I bet the award goes to Saga (unless East of West takes too many votes from it).

Best Limited Series

  • The Black Beetle: No Way Out, by Francesco Francavilla (Dark Horse)
  • Colder, by Paul Tobin and Juan Ferreyra (Dark Horse)
  • 47 Ronin, by Mike Richardson and Stan Sakai (Dark Horse)
  • Trillium, by Jeff Lemire (Vertigo/DC)
  • The Wake, by Scott Snyder and Sean Murphy (Vertigo/DC)

Francavilla’s Black Beetle is a beautiful thing, but the art is much better than the story. Same for 47 Ronin. Trillium tried really hard, especially when it used the “turn the comic book upside down” technique to tell two concurrent stories, but in the end I didn’t feel a real pay off. The Wake, on the other hand, is brilliant in every way: Story, concept, art, nuance…It’s the whole package, and it should and will win this award.

Best New Series

  • High Crimes, by Christopher Sebela and Ibrahim Moustafa (Monkeybrain)
  • Lazarus, by Greg Rucka and Michael Lark (Image)
  • Rat Queens, by Kurtis J. Wiebe and Roc Upchurch (Image/Shadowline)
  • Sex Criminals, by Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky (Image)
  • Watson and Holmes, by Karl Bollers, Rick Leonardi, Paul Mendoza et al. (New Paradigm Studios)

I hate to do this to Sex Criminals, because it’s the comic book I read first on Wednesdays, but Lazarus is absolutely fantastic and gets my pick. But it won’t win. The winner will be Sex Criminals.

Best Publication for Teens (ages 13-17)

  • Battling Boy, by Paul Pope (First Second)
  • Bluffton: My Summers with Buster, by Matt Phelan (Candlewick)
  • Boxers and Saints, by Gene Luen Yang (First Second)
  • Dogs of War, by Sheila Keenan and Nathan Fox (Graphix/Scholastic)
  • March (Book One), by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell (Top Shelf)
  • Templar, by Jordan Mechner, LeUyen Pham, and Alex Puviland (First Second)

I read all of these except Blufton and Templar, and all are good. Battling Boy is a truly wonderful superhero story that has both emotional depth and complexity, but at bottom there’s not much that sticks to you after its done. March has recent historic importance going for it and will probably win, but Yang’s book about the Boxer rebellion is genius. It blends multiculturalism and religion in a way I’ve never seen before. So Boxers and Saints is what I’d pick. A word about Dogs of War: It’s about dogs used during war. Very good stuff, but about halfway through I felt like there wasn’t much more to say and I stopped reading.

Best Humor Publication

  • The Adventures of Superhero Girl, by Faith Erin Hicks (Dark Horse)
  • The Complete Don Quixote, by Miguel de Cervantes and Rob Davis (SelfMadeHero)
  • The (True!) History of Art, by Sylvain Coissard and Alexis Lemoine (SelfMadeHero)
  • Vader’s Little Princess, by Jeffrey Brown (Chronicle)
  • You’re All Just Jealous of My Jetpack, by Tom Gauld (Drawn & Quarterly)

Good stuff here, too. I’d give it to Jeff Brown for Vader’s Little Princess. I love his work.

Best Reality-Based Work

  • A Bag of Marbles, by Joseph Joffo, Kris, and Vincent Bailly (Graphic Universe/Lerner)
  • The Fifth Beatle: The Brian Epstein Story, by Vivek J. Tiwary, Andrew C. Robinson, and Kyle Baker (M Press/Dark Horse)
  • Hip Hop Family Tree, vol. 1, by Ed Piskor (Fantagraphics)
  • March (Book One), by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell (Top Shelf)
  • Today Is the Last Day of the Rest of Your Life, by Ulli Lust (Fantagraphics)
  • Woman Rebel: The Margaret Sanger Story, by Peter Bagge (Drawn & Quarterly)

Again, March is a strong competitor here—but Hip Hop Family Tree has gotten tons of love. If it were up to me, though, I’d go with The Fifth Beatle because I never knew about Epstein’s struggle with his own sexuality—and I never realized how the Beatles were kind of insensitive about the whole thing.

Best Writer

  • Kelly Sue DeConnick, Pretty Deadly (Image); Captain Marvel (Marvel)
  • Matt Fraction, Sex Criminals (Image); Hawkeye, Fantastic Four, FF (Marvel)
  • Jonathan Hickman, East of West, The Manhattan Projects (Image); Avengers, Infinity (Marvel)
  • Scott Snyder, Batman (DC); American Vampire, The Wake (DC/Vertigo)
  • Eric Stephenson, Nowhere Men (Image)
  • Brian K. Vaughan, Saga (Image)

I hate to knock such a rabid supporter of the medium and wonderful internet presence, but what is Kelly Sue DeConnick doing here? Captain Marvel was much better last year than this year, and Pretty Deadly is just good. Not great. Certainly not best. And Jonathan Hickman? His work on Avengers is obtuse in the extreme. His work on East of West and Manhattan Projects might redeem him, but MP was also much better last year than this one. Snyder’s work is fine, but just fine. I get Matt Fraction—he’s writing two of the best books on the market. So I guess I’d go with Fraction—especially since Brian K. Vaughan wins every goddamn year. It’s time for a break from giving Saga all the awards. Even though it’s still amazing.

Best Cover Artist

  • David Aja, Hawkeye (Marvel)
  • Mike Del Mundo, X-Men Legacy (Marvel)
  • Sean Murphy/Jordie Belaire, The Wake (DC/Vertigo)
  • Emma Ríos, Pretty Deadly (Image)
  • Chris Samnee, Daredevil (Marvel)
  • Fiona Staples, Saga (Image)

This is David Aja’s category, all the way.

As for the remaining categories, I don’t know enough to comment other than to say that if you’re not reading Rachel Rising, you’re an ass.

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