Posted by Don MacPherson on January 4th, 2008
And we’re back, as the Glass Eye Awards for 2007 continue. Earlier in the week, I shared my thoughts about the best comics and graphic novels of the year, but it’s also important to remember that there are creative voices behind the genesis of those comics. In this second part of the best of 2007 feature, we honor the efforts of the people — writers and artists — who were involved in making the best examples of sequential art of the year. I must reiterate — this list should not be considered all-encompassing. There’s no way for anyone — even those whose full-time jobs revolve around comics — to read most, let alone all, the industry has to offer in the course of a year. These are just the names that came to mind when I did up my notes. Omissions are not only likely but unavoidable. Now, onto the Glass Eyes…
Best Writer: DC’s Vertigo imprint has always been a home for the works of some of the best writers in the industry; in fact, it’s with Vertigo titles that many writers first grab the attention of a wider audience. Two of the imprint’s mainstays in recent years make my list for the best of 2007, and both were on my list last year as well. Brian Wood‘s DMZ and Northlanders are both strong Vertigo offerings, both steeped in war and violence yet radically different as well. And one can never overlook Wood’s work on Local from Oni Press; though its publishing schedule has been sporadic, the strong characterization has never wavered. And then there’s Brian K. Vaughan, who will wrap up his post-apocalyptic, gender-politics epic Y: The Last Man shortly. That Vertigo title has managed to break out from beyond the niche market of comics readers. Vaughan’s work on Ex Machina (along with a spinoff limited series and one-shot) in 2007 stood out as some of his best work on that title, and he wrapped up the best Dr. Strange story in decades with Dr. Strange: The Oath early in the year.
It was a great year for writer Jeff Parker as well. He gave Marvel’s young-readers line a boost early on with some standout, oddball stories in Marvel Adventures The Avengers, and so well liked was his work on the X-Men: First Class limited series that it spawned an ongoing title. Agents of Atlas wrapped early in 2007 as well, but its strength was recognized with new stories and appearances, penned by Parker, in other titles, such as Spider-Man Family. Though I wasn’t as taken with his scripts on Spider-Man/Fantastic Four, there was no denying the love for Marvel’s characters and traditions, not to mention the reader-friendly and all-ages-appropriate qualities of the story. As good as Parker’s work at Marvel was, the publisher was blessed to be the home of Ed Brubaker‘s writing in 2007. Though I never delved into his X-Men work, his other efforts – such as Daredevil, Captain America and The Immortal Iron Fist – were among Marvel’s very best titles last year. And Criminal remained his shining achievement of his time at Marvel, mirroring the strength of earlier creator-owned projects such as Scene of the Crime and Deadenders.
Ultimately, my pick for the best writer of 2007 had to go to Brubaker’s co-writer on The Immortal Iron Fist: Matt Fraction. Fraction’s sense of humor and off-the-wall sensibilities are quite apparent in Iron Fist, and they’re let loose and uncontrolled (to great effect) in Casanova from Image Comics. He was also responsible for the challenging, well-realized and entertaining comic that stood out as my pick as the best new ongoing title of the year: The Order. 2007 was definitely Fraction’s breakout year, and it was thoroughly satisfying for those of us who read his Rex Mantooth stories and Last of the Independents. We already knew what a great talent Fraction is.
Best Penciller/Artist: With The Spirit from DC Comics, Darwyn Cooke did right by the late Will Eisner, maintaining the noir atmosphere, playfulness and sharp sense of design that characterized the medium master’s work over the decades. At the same time, Cooke updated the visual style of the property for a new century and stayed true to his own personal approach and influences, making him an easy pick to be on my list as the best artists of 2007. Also on my list is an artist who’s been a personal favorite going on three decades now. George Perez‘s return to monthly (well, almost) comics storytelling with The Brave and the Bold revival was great news for Perez fans such as myself, and there’s no shortage of them. He did what he does best: bring powerfully kinetic action, vivid detail and a variety of divergent characters to life in a super-hero genre romp.
Gabriel Ba is hardly a newcomer in the comics industry, but 2007 was definitely his breakthrough year. His work on Casanova and The Umbrella Academy: Apocalypse Suite brought him to the attention to a lot of readers who probably hadn’t heard of the Brazilian artist before, but those projects have doubt transformed him into one of the more in-demand talents in comics today. His elongated figures and strong eye for action and movement make him perfect for oddball adventure comics. Stuart Immonen‘s 2007 began with an ending: the unfortunate but amazing conclusion of NextWave: Agents of H.A.T.E., and the longtime super-hero artist saw his profile bumped up again when he landed the gig as Mark Bagley’s replacement on Ultimate Spider-Man. He’s done fantastic work on that title, never missing a beat, and he’s also offered up the strongest art in Marvel’s new anthology series, the revived Marvel Comics Presents.
My choice as the best comics artist of 2007 goes to the man responsible for my favorite graphic novel of the year. It was actually the result of many online recommendations (including that of the late, great Mike Wieringo) that I decided to check out Brandon Graham‘s King City, and I became an instant Graham fan. He proved that Tokyopop book was no fluke with Multiple Warheads #1 from Oni Press, and I’m dying to see the next issue in that series. Again, Graham’s not a newcomer, but 2007 was a big year for him — and justifiably so. His original visions and odd, organic designs are thoroughly attractive and make him worthy of the top spot in this Glass Eye Award category.
Best Cover Artist: Nothing is more important to the success of a comic book than the cover. If it doesn’t grab the reader’s attention, the book is in trouble from the start. But fortunately, there’s also more than just marketing concerns that go into the craft of cover art. There are several professionals in the industry who handle cover work incredibly well, time and time again. Among them is Alex Ross, a mainstay of such lists when it comes to cover artists. Just look at his covers for Justice Society of America in 2007, with those solitary figures standing against a black background. The images are undeniably attractive and eye-catching. His work on the covers for Justice was also dazzling and helped that series to stand out from the crowd. Sean Phillips gave his and Ed Brubaker’s Criminal a boost (not that such a great series should need one) with his lovely painted covers, filling both the front and back cover space of each issue. Phillips’s style shines through in those covers, but the paintings show that he is also capable of a level of detail that his wonderfully effective noir line art doesn’t usually exhibit.
Brian Wood not only writes his award-winning comics, but he always has a hand in the cover designs as well. His sharp eye for dark, pop, urban design always enabled DMZ to stand out as the coolest-looking Vertigo title; Wood brings to comics a modern visual sensibility that’s unlike anything else in the industry. Also bringing a sharp but simple eye for design to cover art in 2007 was Jamie McKelvie. The artist wrapped up his Phonogram limited series with writer Kieron Gillen, and those comics (and the trade paperback collection) always boasted eye-catching covers. McKelvie improved upon that even more with the first two covers for his own Suburban Glamour mini-series, conveying the youth, magic and modern pop qualities of the book with seeming ease and minimal images.
My pick as the best cover artist of 2007 will come no surprise to most. James Jean‘s soft, melancholy images, adorning the covers of such titles as Fables and The Umbrella Academy: Apocalypse Suite, never fail to draw one into surreal worlds and the lives of the oddest characters. But at the same time, those images also humanize the fantastic characters, evoking emotion as much as they do imagination.
And with that final Glass Eye, the 2007 awards come to a close. Please share your comments and personal best-of lists below.