April 4, 2012

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Some Thoughts on the 2012 Eisner Nominations

Another year, another set of Eisner nominations.  This will be my third annual look at the awards, which this time were selected by a group of people that include my comics blogging friend Brigid Alverson!  It's a list that has a strong bias towards a certain comic and quite a few surprises, but overall, I think it might be the list that hews closest to my taste, in the years I've been paying attention.

So without further commentary, here's what I think.  All information taken from the official San Diego Comic-Con website.  For a complete list of the nominations, click here.  (I'm only discussing a category if I have knowledge of the comics/creators involved.)

Best Single Issue (or One-Shot)
Daredevil #7, by Mark Waid, Paolo Rivera, and Joe Rivera (Marvel)
Ganges #4, by Kevin Huizenga (Fantagraphics)
Locke & Key: Guide to the Known Keys, by Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez (IDW)
Princeless #3, by Jeremy Whitley and M. Goodwin (Action Lab)
The Unwritten #24: "Stairway to Heaven" by Mike Carey, Peter Gross, and Al Davison (Vertigo/DC)
This is one of several times where I am glad I'm not an Eisner voter.  However, I think the nod here has to go to Princeless #3, because while Daredevil has a lot going for it, Whitley and Goodwin really show what can be done with a comic when you want to make commentary without beating the reader over the head.  But I bet this is one of the many nods that Waid et. all get at the Eisners this year.
Best Continuing Series
Daredevil, by Mark Waid, Marcos Martin, Paolo Rivera, and Joe Rivera (Marvel)
Naoki Urasawa’s 20th Century Boys, by Naoki Urasawa (VIZ Media)
Rachel Rising, by Terry Moore (Abstract Studio)
Ultimate Comics Spider-Man, by Brian Michael Bendis and Sara Pichelli (Marvel)
Usagi Yojimbo, by Stan Sakai (Dark Horse)
Why don't you ask if I prefer eating or drinking?  With the understanding that I am behind on all five of these books, I'm giving the nod here to Daredevil, because I think it shows the best pop from issue to issue.  (I admit to being puzzled by Ultimate Comics Spider-Man being here, because what I read of it was slow-moving and confusing.)  Four of these are very solid choices, in my opinion, but I bet Hornhead's book wins this one, too.
Best Limited Series
Atomic Robo and the Ghost of Station X, by Brian Clevinger and Scott Wegener (Red 5)
Criminal: The Last of the Innocent, by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips (Marvel Icon)
Flashpoint: Batman - Knight of Vengeance, by Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Risso (Vertigo/DC)
The New York Five, by Brian Wood and Ryan Kelly (Vertigo/DC)
Who Is Jake Ellis? by Nathan Edmondson & Tonci Zonjic (Image)
Being up against Ed Brubaker is kind of like being at SPX and facing Kate Beaton.  Criminal will win this in a walk, but for my money, it's Atomic Robo all the way, and that's nothing against Brubaker (or, for that matter, Brian Wood.)
Best Publication for Early Readers (up to age 7)
Beauty and the Squat Bears, by Émile Bravo (Yen Press)
Benjamin Bear in Fuzzy Thinking, by Philippe Coudray (Candlewick/Toon Books)
Dragon Puncher Island, by James Kochalka (Top Shelf)
Nursery Rhyme Comics, edited by Chris Duffy (First Second)
Patrick in a Teddy Bear’s Picnic, by Geoffrey Hayes (Candlewick/Toon Books)
Easy pick here, because I'm only familiar with the Kochalka.  But I have a feeling he'll win, because of the "pictures of cats!" element.  It works on me, at least!
Best Publication for Kids (ages 8-12)
The All-New Batman: The Brave and the Bold, by Sholly Fisch, Rick Burchett, and Dan Davis (DC)
Amelia Rules: The Meaning of Life ... And Other Stuff, by Jimmy Gownley (Atheneum)
The Ferret’s a Foot, by Colleen AF Venable and Stephanie Yue (Graphic Universe/Lerner)
Princeless, by Jeremy Whitley and M. Goodwin (Action Lab)
Snarked, by Roger Langridge (kaboom!)
Zita the Space Girl, by Ben Hatke (First Second)
I think the smart money here is on Batman:  The Brave and the Bold, but personally, I'm torn between Langridge's twisted genius and Whitley's affirming message.  Since the target is 8-12 not 30+, I'm going with Princeless.  But that's a really, really hard call.
Best Digital Comic
Bahrain, by Josh Neufeld, www.cartoonmovement.com/comic/24
Battlepug, by Mike Norton, www.battlepug.com
Delilah Dirk and the Turkish Lieutenant, by Tony Cliff, www.delilahdirk.com
Outfoxed, by Dylan Meconis, www.dylanmeconis.com/outfoxed
Sarah and the Seed, by Ryan Andrews, www.ryan-a.com/comics/sarahandtheseed01.htm
I'm going to be annoying here and argue that there's a strong bias in this category against gag strips and against web-only creators in this category.  Having said that, while I enjoy the story of Battlepug and I love Mike Norton's slick art on the title, my vote is with Delilah Dirk, though I bet pug fans everywhere get the win in this category.
Best Graphic Album - Reprint
Big Questions, by Anders Nilsen (Drawn & Quarterly)
The Death Ray, by Dan Clowes (Drawn & Quarterly)
Richard Stark’s Parker: The Martini Edition, by Darwyn Cooke (IDW)
WE3: The Deluxe Edition, by Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely (Vertigo/DC)
Zahra’s Paradise, by Amir and Khalil (First Second)
Zahra's Paradise deserves to win, but Amir and Khalil don't have the big name factor to compete against Clowes, Cooke, and Morrison.  But if fans of those three cancel each other out...?  Anyway, here's betting the overrated (there, I said it) WE3 wins this one.
Best Archival Collection/Project - Comic Books
Government Issue: Comics for the People: 1940s-2000s, edited by Richard L. Graham (Abrams ComicArts)
The MAD Fold-In Collection, by Al Jaffee (Chronicle)
PS Magazine: The Best of Preventive Maintenance Monthly, by Will Eisner (Abrams ComicArts)
The Sugar and Spike Archives, vol. 1, by Sheldon Mayer (DC)
Walt Simonson’s The Mighty Thor Artist’s Edition (IDW)
If Eisner's collection wins an Eisner, will the fabric of the universe explode?  By Odin's Beard, those Thor pages are a thing of beauty and would get my win--if not my money, because I don't buy many deluxe books.
Best U.S. Edition of International Material
Bubbles & Gondola, by Renaud Dillies (NBM)
Isle of 100,000 Graves, by Fabien Vehlmann and Jason (Fantagraphics)
Like a Sniper Lining Up His Shot, by Jacques Tardi and Jean-Patrick Manchette (Fantagraphics)
The Manara Library, vol. 1: Indian Summer and Other Stories, by Milo Manara with Hugo Pratt (Dark Horse Books)
Night Animals: A Diptych About What Rushes Through the Bushes, by Brecht Evens (Top Shelf)
Isle of 100,000 Graves was one of my "Best of..." books, so I'm obviously rooting for it here.  I am sadly unfamiliar with the others.
Best U.S. Edition of International Material - Asia
A Bride’s Story, by Kaoru Mori (Yen Press)
Drops of God, by Tadashi Agi and Shu Okimoto (Vertical)
Onward Towards Our Noble Deaths, by Shigeru Mizuki (Drawn & Quarterly)
Saturn Apartments, vols. 3-4, by Hisae Iwaoka (VIZ Media)
Stargazing Dog, by Takashi Murakami (NBM)
Wandering Son, vol. 1, by Shimura Takako (Fantagraphics)
Have I mentioned how hard some of these categories are to vote on?  This makes me feel good about my manga habits, since I read three of these and put them all on my "Best of..." list.  Just to make my life easier, I'll go with my #1 from that list, A Bride's Story, but really, any of these are a good pick.  Great job to the Eisner judges on this one.
Best Writer
Cullen Bunn, The Sixth Gun (Oni)
Mike Carey, The Unwritten (Vertigo/DC)
Jeff Jensen, Green River Killer: A True Detective Story (Dark Horse Books)
Jeff Lemire, Animal Man, Flashpoint: Frankenstein and the Creatures of the Unknown, Frankenstein: Agent of S.H.A.D.E. (DC); Sweet Tooth (Vertigo/DC)
Mark Waid, Irredeemable, Incorruptible (BOOM!); Daredevil (Marvel)
No offense to the others, but this should be Waid all the way.  He's not only writing one of the best books currently published--he's writing THREE.  Lemire might take this one, though, as he's really popular right now.
Best Penciller/Inker or Penciller/Inker Team
Michael Allred, iZombie (Vertigo/DC); Madman All-New Giant-Size Super-Ginchy Special (Image)
Ramón K. Pérez, Jim Henson’s Tale of Sand (Archaia)
Chris Samnee, Captain America and Bucky, Ultimate Spider-Man #155 (Marvel)
Marcos Martin, Daredevil (Marvel)
Paolo Rivera/Joe Rivera, Daredevil (Marvel)
Yet another hard category to pick from.  I love Allred's art, and have for years.  Samnee is a new favorite of mine, and the Martin/Rivera team on Daredevil has created some lovely work.  Any one of them might win, but I feel like the Daredevils might suffer a bit here from nomination fatigue.  Since I've been giving that book so much love, let's go for Allred.  But it's okay if you pick someone else.  It's another great list from the judges.
Best Cover Artist
Michael Allred, iZombie (Vertigo/DC)
Francesco Francavilla, Black Panther (Marvel); Lone Ranger, Lone Ranger/Zorro, Dark Shadows, Warlord of Mars (Dynamite); Archie Meets Kiss (Archie)
Victor Kalvachev, Blue Estate (Image)
Marcos Martin, Daredevil, Amazing Spider-Man (Marvel)
Sean Phillips, Criminal: The Last of the Innocent (Marvel Icon)
Yuko Shimizu, The Unwritten (Vertigo/DC)
Now here on the other hand, Martin wins hands down, and that's with really tough competition.  His covers sing, in a way that uses the characters so that it can only possibly be DD or Spidey.  But oh, if you *have* to vote for Allred, Francavilla, or Phillips, I guess that's okay.

Once again, best wishes to all the nominees--this is a year where even if it wasn't my choice that won, I can easily see an argument for the eventual victor.  The 2012 Eisner Judges should be commended for doing an amazing job, and while I admit to a bit of bias, I still think this is a solid list that is hard to argue with, even if your favorite creator or book did not make the cut.  This is not a year of Superheros or all-Portland or DC/Vertigo dominance.  It's a list of great comics, and shows that, as I've said time and time again--we live in an embarrassment of comic riches!

Good luck, voters!