The Second Annual Vulcan Quiche Awards: Part 2

zivaKQHIn 2012, Marvel saw the advantage of focusing on a relatable, realized, rounded character in Clint Barton. The explosion of fan support to Matt Fraction’s Hawkeye showed the potential focusing on characters can have. The Big Two as well as the independents zeroed in on their heroes in 2013 and it’s time to recognize the successes in character building for the year.

The Riker’s Beardies- Awarded for excellence in character growth and increased visibility and fan support.

Runners Uptumblr_mryiboJWVj1s5zf6fo2_1280Brian Wood and Olive Coipel were the perfect pair to revamp Jubilee as a hip, in over her head, would be mother but it’s still too early to tell how the character’s revamp is going to go. Going in a drastically different direction, Charles Soule turning Guy Gardner into a Red Lantern, in the wake of the war with the First Lantern, was a master stroke which finally plays to the character’s savage, impulsive strengths. While her appearance in Avengers Arena was great, Nico didn’t really benefit from her portrayal, despite becoming a nearly godly source of magic.

Tenth PlaceComicBookCast-GuardiansOfTheGalaxy3Review459Star-Lord: Peter Quill – Guardians of the Galaxy

Focusing on Marvel’s cosmic characters was a risky gamble but Brian Michael Bendis absolutely delivered with a host of great artists to create a fresh take on the team with none receiving more attention than Peter Quill. Turning the hero into a whip-smart wise-cracking, rebellious space pirate in the Han Solo mold made the character an instant, relatable hit and the secrets he’s hiding about his seeming return to life just add additional mystery to a character readers already want more of.

Ninth Placeharry-daghlian-investigated-by-doctorsDr. Harry Daghlian – Manhattan Projects

Manhattan Projects has never spent a lot of time focusing on the struggles of it’s characters but two issues in 2013 were spent on the challenges of the man turned atomic zombie, Dr. Harry Daghlian. His struggles to find someone to connect with followed by Fermi’s betrayal showed the human costs of the team’s monstrous actions. Daghlian’s heartbreak in Manhattan Projects #12 was one of the most emotionally wrecking moments of the year and most of it was thanks to focusing on the doctor’s attempts to continue to express his humanity.

Eighth Placetumblr_mwky58ZPj31r82wlpo1_1280Doctor Nemesis and Forge – Cable and the X-Force

Make no mistake about it, Cable and the X-Force is not a good series but the relationship between two of the smartest mutant minds in the business has been occasionally thrilling. The cold, nerdy superiority of Doctor Nemesis is a fun counter point to Forge’s relaxed, spiritual, inspired genius and the pair’s banter has given the book a breezy sense of fun it couldn’t achieve during the early issues of the series.

Seventh Placetumblr_mlsnjhHlOg1s5k9amo1_1280Wasp: Janet Van Dyne – Uncanny Avengers

The return of the Wasp left the character with something of a blank slate. After the success of “Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes” cartoon, particularly the breakout success of Janet’s character, there was a real chance to capitalize. Luckily, Rick Remender, focused on Janet’s place as a peacemaker and champion of the Avenger’s mission first, and an indomitable sass machine second. She’s one of the best parts of an increasingly dour (and after #14’s ridiculous, pointless violence, dire) book. Her adventure with Captain America and Havok is one of the funniest and sweetest parts of the Avengers franchise this year.

Sixth Placefatale1Jo – Fatale

In the first year of Fatale, Jo was little more than a plot device, designed to advance the stories of the predominantly male protagonists and audience surrogates. That was before she took control of her power and influence in Fatale #10 and went in search of what she can do. Through looks back at what she’s experienced in the past, the powers of her ancestors and her reappearance in Seattle, Jo has taken a hand in her fate. At any given time, she’s the most powerful, dangerous person in the room. Her sexuality is no longer a liability or something to be dealt with, but a weapon and an asset.

Fifth PlaceIceman05_zps487fdbcbIceman: Bobby Drake – All New X-Men, Amazing X-Men, Astonishing X-Men, Wolverine and the X-Men

Of the original five X-Men, Bobby Drake has gone through life relatively unscathed. He’s lived and grown, gaining power and finding love but he’s really come into his own in 2013. Seeing the young, boisterous Iceman along side the mature man he becomes has give additional coloring to both characters and watching and he tries to find love with a woman who he’s always considered a friend has been one of the X-Men’s sweetest romances in years. Seeing him come to terms with his family and changes as well as finding and losing a woman who means so much to him has been a fascinating and emotional ride for a character who has finally seen the hero he can be.

Fourth PlaceSaga1102_zps1cc52accAlana – Saga

Alana has always been one of the driving forces of Saga’s success but writer Brian K. Vaughan showed a much wider side to the character in 2013. Alana is a passionate woman, both in protecting and doing what’s best for her child. She’s obsessed with books and sexually confident and in control and showed such a wide and powerful range of character throughout the year. Her range somehow made Saga an even better comic in 2013 which seemed almost impossible.

Third PlaceHawkeye_14_panel_1Hawkeye: Kate Bishop – Hawkeye, Young Avengers

There’s no character who better defines the new age of comic fans on the internet than Kate Bishop, the surly, impulsive, compulsively fun would-be PI. Kate’s appeal is simple, she’s the girl you want to have a drink with, get pancakes with and desperately ask out on a date. Kate’s effortless charm and no-bullshit take on super-heroing and growing up has made every one of her adventures a must-read, regardless of who’s writing it.

Second PlaceSuperiorFoes5_02Boomerang: Fred Myers – Superior Spider-Man, The Superior Foes of Spider-Man

There’s no one more fun to root for than the underdog and there’s no bigger underdog than perpetually in over his head, constantly scheming and always on the run, Fred Myers. Pursued by Chameleon, his parole officer and, occasionally, his own teammates, Boomerang constantly thinks he’s one step ahead only to realize how far behind he is. His failings don’t stop his always running internal commentary, mostly focused on homicide, binge drinking and the next step of his scheme to make a quick buck. I can’t wait to watch him try and fail all through 2014.

First Placexmenlegacy20658David Haller: Legion – X-Men Legacy

Si Spurrier’s take on one of the X-Men franchise’s most controversial characters is a fascinating, relentlessly creative and insightful study of a deeply flawed man. David’s struggle to be a hero, not a super-hero, is a deeply emotional and wonderful look at what it means to impact real change on the world and a persecuted people. Spurrier’s look at David has allowed readers to question exactly what it means to be a hero and how that can be done while dealing with the very real emotional and mental issues many people deal with.

Coming Up: It’s time to look for those moments that make you take a step back, namely the best scenes of the year. It’s going to get raw, occasionally sexy, tear jerking, and really, really violent.

The Second Annual Vulcan Quiche Awards: Part 1

WHATIFAVX2013002_int_LR-3-4It’s the end of the year and so that means it’s time to look back at this year in comics with the returned Vulcan Quiche Awards. There are new categories this year, many of which will be looking at the top ten issues or books of the year but it’s time to recognize the best miniseries or one-shot of the year.

The Shorties  – Saluting excellence in a limited series or one-shot.

Runners Upthanos-rising001
Jason Aaron and Simone Bianchi really tried to give the titular character a strong origin story in Thanos Rising but just sort of made him look weak, pitiful, whiny and uninteresting, despite some standout moments. In the same way, What if…Avengers vs. X-Men stuck the landing and hit massive high points but didn’t have the time to really sell the dangerous insanity of Magneto’s schemes. Batman Black and White is exactly the kind of artist and writer showcase DC needs to be doing much more often but the series massive shifts in quality couldn’t land it a top spot.

Fifth PlaceAssassinationofadandookuStar Wars: Agent of the Empire – Hard Target

It’s rare that Star Wars books get into the gritty details of how the Imperials maintained control of a vast and diverse galaxy but the Agent of the Empire series has always looked at the politics and compromises which go into control through the lens of Jahan Cross. The grizzled and ethically compromised spy, assassin and much more is dispatched to Alderaan to install a regime which will be supportive of Emperor Palpatine but the scheming of Adan Dooku and a double cross on Boba Fett make the operation much more difficult and bring many of the universe’s power players together to decide the fate of a planet which will soon be destroyed. It’s not a heady series but it’s a great, focused look at one of the most venerable pop culture franchises.

Fourth PlaceScreen Shot 2013-08-28 at 4.09.47 PMBatman Incorporated Special #1

The message of Grant Morrison’s run on Batman Incorporated is the idea that Batman is an eternal force, always in place to battle corruption and crime. He’s there, unchanging and unwavering but by series’ end, Bruce Wayne’s life and Batman’s empire is in shambles. There’s nothing left to build from. Taking some of the writers and artists intimately familiar with Morrison’s epic, Batman Incorporated Special #1 shows the effect Batman Incorporated has had on the DCU and the inspiration Bruce’s fight has had for a new generation of worldwide crime fighters. It’s a slightly more optimistic ending for one of the best Batman stories ever.

Third Placetumblr_mju3dz0CmO1s5k9amo1_1280Sledgehammer ’44

While Mike Mignola’s franchises have always had a great reverence for the sacrifices made by soldiers in World War II, Sledgehammer ’44 humanized and focused the death and destruction of the conflict to one man’s decision. After the Allies drop a steam-punk Iron Man in occupied France, one soldier has to decide if his soul is worth the cost of saving his comrades in arms. It’s a beautiful, wonderfully rendered series which focuses on the results of destruction more than the violence which caused it and with Sledgehammer ’44: Lightning War just starting, it’s nice to see the Hellboy franchise continue to focus on one of its most human and most tragic heroes.

Second PlaceBullseyes-booze-DDEOD4Daredevil: End of Days

“Matt Murdock was my best friend. I don’t think I was his best friend.” This line, part reverence, part obligation and part self-pity define the quest of once famed journalist Ben Urich as he goes about trying to recreate the legacy of the slain Daredevil in this exceptional series. Like the surviving villains and heroes, Ben is haunted by the memories of the angel of Hell’s Kitchen and defined by his actions, long after Matt meets his bitter end. Daredevil: End of Days is all about collapse, the fall and changes in a city, characters and world but it’s hopeful and willing to look to the future and influences one man can have in a world which seems to eternally resist such change. It’s some of Brian Michael Bendis and David Mack’s defining work on the character and the legacy The Man Without Fear created but it’s also a fitting end to the series defining run these two creators had.

First PlacemaxresdefaultAmerican Vampire – The Long Road to Hell

Scott Snyder doesn’t spend a lot of time on the innocent victims in American Vampire. While the series is mostly the tale of a vendetta between the psychotic Skinner Sweet and his once victim-turned-hunter Pearl, it’s also a retelling of American culture in the 20th Century, namely how “The Other” is viewed. More often than not, The Other in the series are the vampires themselves, but The Long Road to Hell focuses on a recently turned couple, slowly figuring out how and if they can feed themselves ethically on the blood of human cattle. Unbeknownst to them, their moral barometer, vampire hunter Travis Kidd, is coming and no one can survive. It’s a single issue bold enough to cast one of its premier heroes as a cold, remorseless serial killer and it does so confidently and with aplomb, making the wait until the new miniseries in March even more difficult.

Coming Up: 2013 was a year defined by characters and relationships, with all the companies angling to invest readers in their icons. Let’s recognize the characters that defined the year and broke barriers over the last 12 months.