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Alternate Cover Christmas Special

Alternate Christmas

Turning up slightly late due to what can mainly be described as "The NTS server being inexplicably down throughout all of Christmas Day" are what I'm going to affectionately (and optimistically) refer to as "The First Annual Alternate Cover Awards." Just like every other comics reviewer out there, I feel it necessary to give out some kind of kudos to the comics that really made this year worth reading. Occasionally, that means I'm just going to invent a category to shove a comic in (Best Maxi-Series, I'm looking at you) so that I can include it, but usually it's all pretty standard fare and might make one or two of you wonder about what you're missing. Still, it's a change from the regular reviews, so hopefully we'll all enjoy it! On with the show.

All Star Superman #3

Best 'Ongoing' Series: All Star Superman

Despite coming out 4 times in 12 months, almost no series deserves the accolade like this one. Created by a team at the absolute top of their game, All-Star Superman is simultaneously a love letter to the Silver Age wonder of Superman, and one of the most progressive comics being published today. Almost no other pair of creators understand the medium of comics like Morrison and Quitely, and despite having virtually no interest in Superman as a character, the series has me hooked. Any self-respecting superhero fan should be stepping over their own mother to get this, and if she's not collapsed, hitting her in the head just to ensure that they can step over her to get it. It's that good.

Honourable Mention:
Ultimates Vol. 2 - Also managed to ship 4 issues this year, with the 13th and final one coming early '07. Looks and reads better than anything else Marvel are doing, but you're best advised to do what I do and wait for the collected edition on this one. Ultimates is the best action movie never filmed, with intricately detailed artwork and high-octane writing that'll have you squeezing the covers in anticipation of every page.

DMZ #5

Best Actually Ongoing Series: DMZ

Still, it seems unfair to the series that actually manages to come out on time, to choose the best ongoing as one where the creators involved are free of the constraints of a deadline. DMZ, on the other hand, has come out consistently, monthly, and broken new ground while doing so. Vertigo has enjoyed something of a revival in the last couple of years, after pulling back from the edge of becoming Goth Comics, and leading the most recent wave of new ongoings from Vertigo is DMZ. Set in a near-future America where a civil war has broken out, DMZ lifts the turmoil and violence of modern-day Iraq and transplants it successfully into the more recognisable setting of New York. Highly political, always surprising, and with a compelling series mythology building up in every issue, DMZ is a Vertigo classic in the making that's got all the right moves to eventually sit right alongside Preacher, Hellblazer and Y the Last Man on the bookshelves of the future.

Honourable Mentions:
X-Factor - Peter David turns his Madrox spin-off into the most hilarious and intelligent titles Marvel publishes today. The return of original Madrox artist, Pablo Raimondi, means that after a succession of artists, the title once again looks as good as it reads.
American Virgin - Steven T. Seagle and Becky Cloonan tell one of comics' unlikeliest stories, about a devout Christian poster-boy attempting to deal with the murder of his missionary girlfriend, seeking revenge and dealing with temptation, all while struggling with the limits his faith places on him. Deserves a mention just for being almost entirely unlike anything else in the mainstream.

Phonogram #1

Best Mini-Series: Phonogram

Certainly, there can be no other choice than Phonogram. The promo pages released for issue 1 was enough to convince me that it was going to be something big, because I have a Spider-Man t-shirt acquired in an identical situation as Kohl's Superman shirt. The covers - homages to classic britpop albums - are worth the price alone, but in addition you get an innovative Hellblazer-meets-the NME plot, clean and expertly-rendered artwork, and all kinds of zine-style extras in the back.

It's struggling to hit the monthly schedule due to various unavoidable factors, but Sod's Law dictates that the greater a comic is, the more chance it'll have delay (see "Best 'ongoing' series" above.) so in that way it's kind of a compliment. Phonogram hasn't even finished yet, and I can't wait to see what these guys do next, together or individually.

Honourable Mention:
Civil War - It's certainly not the best creatively, but as a unit shifter, you can't deny it's got something going for it. As far as event comics go, it's pounding DC's counterpart Infinite Crisis miniseries into the ground, though as an actual miniseries goes, it's disjointed and stripped of all but the barest of events. Spider-Man may have unmasked in the pages of Civil War, but you have to look elsewhere for a proper exploration of why, and what happened afterwards. As part of a crossover it's the finest example of its kind. As a stand-alone miniseries, I can't imagine it's going to read well at all.

Local #6

Best Maxi-Series: Local

This one's a bit of a cheat - I haven't really read any other Maxi-series this year, though to be fair, they're not that common, and this series needs to get the credit it deserves. Local is the conceptual successor to Wood's Eisner-winning series, Demo, and like its forerunner, it may well be responsible for one of my top 5 ever single-issue stories (there's an article for another time...) Set a year apart from each other, the series chronicles 12 episodes in the life of runaway Megan McKeenan, with some of Wood's most emotionally resonant writing and brilliant art from Ryan Kelly. Again, Local is limping out near-quarterly after events forced it well off its original 14-month schedule, so it may well end up winning this award next year too!

Honourable Mention:
52 - Ah, well, technically this is a maxi-series, I suppose. It deserves a mention if only for the sheer bollocks it needed to get going. It's nearly unbelievable that a modern US comics company has managed to release a comic weekly, without any gaps or lateness, let alone have it sell this well. Admittedly, it's something of a gimmick-driven series, but it's also an excellent way to tie things up following the Infinite Crisis crossover and explore the latest revision of the DCU, all under one title. Creatively it's been all over the place, and far from spectacular, but since it's almost completely unprecedented, you can kind of forgive that.

Project: Romantic

Best Anthology: Project: Romantic

I don't think I looked forward to any release in 2006 more than Project: Romantic. Having picked up Adhouse's previous 2 anthologies, I couldn't wait to see the third and final in the series. I could go on, but I did a full review here which you'd do well to read.

Suffice to say, if you're going to spend money on any collection this year, you should make it this one. Flight who? that's what I say. Adhouse doesn't deserve to get overlooked.You'd have to be insane to wilfully and knowingly not partake of this this veritable smorgasbord of comics genius.

Scott Pilgrim #3

Best OGN: Scott Pilgrim and the Infinite Sadness

Even though plenty of people were disappointed with it, I'm going to have to say Scott Pilgrim #3 simply because I came to the Scott Pilgrim party incredibly late and feel like making up for lost time. I, on the other hand, loved it as much as the previous 2. I'd compare it Spaced, but then shortly after I realised it was similar it emerged that Edgar Wright would be directing the Scott Pilgrim movie, so suddenly that seems like a lazy comparison to make. Oh well. It's got references from here to Monkey Island and back, it's layered with computer-game logic and plot (Scott is fighting his girlfriend's seven previous boyfriends, each increasingly more powerful) and the it's hilarious to boot. If I was only going to buy one comic a year, ever, it may well be the mightily thick annual volumes of Scott Pilgrim. It's like Harry Potter for people in their Mid-20s.

Honourable Mention:
Every Girl is the End of the World for Me - Jeff Brown's fitting epilogue to his "girlfriend trilogy" does wonders for a fan like me, but as a work in its own right it may lack sufficient context. His personal work (and make no mistake, this is personal stuff) is by far his best and having read so much of it, I can't help but feel incredibly grateful that he's updating his fans with his current situation, even if he's otherwise stopped writing that kind of material now.

Tales from the Clerks

Best Worst TPB/Collection: Tales From The Clerks

It's half-tempting to say that one of DC's Absolute editions - Absolute Sandman or Watchmen, for instance, is a shoe-in for best TPB, but then thinking back to the Alias Omnibus, and then further to two of the other Marvel Omnibus Collections - Uncanny X-Men and Fantastic Four, and the mind shuts down under the sheer weight of the decision. Genuine Classics versus cult classics versus modern classics. What sort of decision can you make between these releases, all impressively comprehensive, impeccably presented, and virtually must-own for any comics fan?

What I can say, though, is that the "Tales From the Clerks" comes in as the undeniable "Worst TPB/collection." Pimped for the new Clerks 2 material that was blatantly designed as a single-issue release, the bumper book contains all of the Askewniverse comics material to date. Yes, that's no bad thing, but with a 6-month delay (it was originally conceived to coincide with the cinematic release, and didn't even manage to coincide with the DVD release) and a ridiculous price tag of £25 in the UK, it really was a disappointing gouge for Kevin Smith and Jim Mahfood fans everywhere who wanted those few new pages of material and were forced to repurchase everything else to get it. I'm a huge Askewniverse fan (as evidenced by my use of the term "Askewniverse") and I've never felt wronged enough to criticise Smith's admittedly overt merchandise-whoring before, but this time I truly did feel cheated. He should be ashamed to have put this one out.

Spidey Unmasks

Best Moment: Spider-Man Unmasks on TV (Civil War #2)

Even when I figured out that it was coming, I couldn't believe that Marvel would actually let the character alter something so fundamental to his situation. No other moment in comics even remotely matched this one, so big that it got actual media coverage - even in the UK. Sure, the jaded fan in me knows that it's a bit of a gimmick and that eventually, however they do it, it's going to get undone, but the story possibilities for the temporary period before that are mind-boggling. Nothing in Civil War has even come close to matching this one.

Honourable Mention:
Sue Dibny's soul is transferred into a life-size wicker voodoo doll with a picture of her face stapled on the head as her husband Ralph and his allies inflitrate and attack the "sham" resurrection, burning down the building and incinerating Sue's highly flammable body as she grabs onto Ralph's leg with a straw hand and speaks his name, before being consumed by the flames, consequently driving Ralph completely and utterly out of his mind. (52) Will comics EVER get that dark again? It's unclear which diseased mind conceived this due to the nature of #52's collaborative and large writing team, but dear god, this is the first thing I've ever read that would convince me a horror comic could work. Bound to be overlooked again and again as one of comics' most brutally genius moments.

And that's it for 2006! Your next Alternate Cover will be turning up, in around a week, and who knows, maybe there'll be some slight format changes in 2007. On the other hand, maybe I'll run out of money trying to buy Civil War tie-ins. Only the future will tell.

About this entry


It's unclear which diseased mind conceived this due to the nature of #52's collaborative and large writing team

You think that was anything OTHER than a Morrison moment...?

By Seb
December 27, 2006 @ 10:29 am

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Well, I did, but he recently made comments that cast some doubt over the level of involvement he has in 52, specifically regarding the use of the Seven Soldiers characters and his control over that. ie - not very much at all. Reading between the lines, it's as if he was saying he's more of a high-level plotter than doing any actual in-the-trenches writing of the series.Still, that's speculation, only DC knows for sure...

Also, while it's tempting to attribute all the good stuff in 52 to Morrison, it's sort of unfair to automatically assume that, because the other writers are talented too ;-)

By James H
December 27, 2006 @ 12:49 pm

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You no admit Agents of Atlas is best miniseries. You evil. EVIL!

By Somebody
December 28, 2006 @ 7:58 pm

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Well, doing a miniseries about 50s superheros might be a little more daring than the usual fare, but it's hardly breaking the kind of ground Phonogram does!

By James H
December 29, 2006 @ 12:15 am

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