Contrary to what you might hear, Comic-Con is, actually, sometimes about comic books—and that rings especially true for the yearly Eisner Awards ceremony that takes place at the convention. Ahead of tonight’s show, here’s a few selections from the swathe of nominees that you should definitely add to your reading list.
Adventures of Superman #14
Written By: Max Landis
Nominated For: Best Coloring (Matthew Wilson), Best Short Story
Sure, this isn’t even a recommendation for a series. Hell, not even a whole comic book—just part of one! DC comics have told countless tales of Batman and the Joker going up against each other. But The Sound of One Hand Clapping flips the script and gives us a scenario where the Joker heads to Metropolis and battles Superman. While Joker and Batman are more than a match for each other, the Joker can’t really go toe-to-toe with the Man of Steel—and yet Landis gets into the heads of each characters and tells an interesting tale about Superman’s psyche, and his approach to crimefighting in comparison to Batman. It’s small stories like these that prove that there are still new and interesting things we can discover about these decades-old heroes and villains.
Written By: Kurt Busiek
Artist: Brent Anderson
Nominated For: Best Single Issue or One Shot, Best Continuing Series, Best Cover Artist (Alex Ross)
The latest ongoing series to bear the Astro City name, Kurt Busiek’s ongoing series about the men, women, heroes and villains that call Astro City at home has long been an incredibly compelling alternative take on superhero comics. Each different story takes place from a different perspective—sometimes it’ll be straight superhero tales from heroes like the Samaritan, crime bosses like the Deacon, or ordinary people that get wrapped up in the crazy antics of superpowered beings. Astro City isn’t just great superhero fiction, it gets into the nitty gritty of the private lives of heroes and villains, and the citizens of the city they defend.
The Private Eye
Written By: Brian K. Vaughan
Artist: Marcos Martin
Nominated For: Best Limited Series, Best Digital/Webcomic
Currently exclusive to Vaughan and Martin’s digital comic service Panel Syndicate (and coming to print later this year!), Private Eye is set in 2076 Los Angeles, a future world where cloud computing technology lead to a major privacy leak, driving the populace paranoid as their secrets and personal information disseminated across the world. With no internet, and a world where people walk around in public with masked identities, Private Eye has a lot to say about our current debates over privacy and personal security while also telling a neat murder mystery tale.
Superior Foes of Spider-Man
Written By: Nick Spencer
Artist: Steve Lieber
Nominated For: Best Humor Publication
Superior Foes of Spider-Man is such a weird series. Following the sometimes brilliant, sometimes incredibly goofy escapades of the Sinister Six (which, naturally, has five members) as they try to live the villain high life, Spencer and Lieber balance laughs and action pretty much perfectly, while shining a spotlight on some lesser-known villains in the Marvel universe. A must read for Spider-Man fans, and anyone who loves discovering the secret lives of supervillains.
Written By: Noelle Stevenson, Shannon Watters, Grace Ellis
Artist: Brooke Allen
Nominated For: Best New Series, Best Publication for Teens (13-17)
We called Lumberjanes one of the best comics of 2014, so there should be no surprise why I’m telling you now that it’s still a must-read comic (not just for Teens either, despite the Eisner nomination!). Lumberjanes is one of the rare comics around today that just as easily caters to a young audience and an older one at the same time, as it tells its breezy tale about the weird and wonderful adventures of a band of teenage girls at summer camp. Stevenson and Watters nail the bond between their young protagonists, all the while layering in an ongoing story behind the strange goings-on at Miss Quinzella Thiskwin Penniquiqul Thistle Crumpet’s Camp for Hardcore Lady Types. Honestly, it’s worth reading just for that name alone.
Groo Vs. Conan
Written By: Mark Evanier, Sergio Aragones
Artists: Sergio Aragones, Tom Yeates
Nominated For: Best Writer/Artist (Sergio Aragones), Best Humor Publication
The unlikeliest of crossovers between Conan and the Barbarian and Groo, that walking pastiche of the sort of medieval fantasy heroes that Conan typified, is only part of what makes Groo vs Conan a fun read —it’s actually the metanarrative frame that makes it so interesting to read. While telling the stories of Conan and Groo, the comic also tells the zany story of how Aragones and Evanier pitched Groo Vs. Conan to each other, while they get caught up in ever-increasingly silly scenarios. It sounds bizarre, and by any sense it shouldn’t work at all. But it does, on top of also being a fantastic crossover book. You almost have to nominate Groo Vs. Conan just for having the sheer audacity to exist.
Written By: Fabien Vehlmann
Nominated For: Best U.S. Edition of International Material
This incredible French fairytale/horror series finally came to the U.S. last year. Beautiful Darkness is a stunningly apt title, as Kerascoët’s gorgeous watercolor art illustrates the hauntingly weird world of Princess Aurora, a pixie who rules over a sprite Kingdom built around the decaying corpse of a little girl. Aurora’s evolution from an innocent, good-spirited leader to a hardened survivor is compelling as it is dark, as it plays with fairy tale conventions to deliver a wonderful story. It’s about time people outside of Europe got to read this.
Written By: Noelle Stevenson
Artist: Noelle Stevenson
Nominated For: Best Digital/Webcomic
It’s been a great year for Stevenson, who hit the comics industry in a big way last year—not just with the launch of Lumberjanes, but for her breakout webcomic Nimona, which follows the adventures of the titular shapeshifter as she becomes the apprentice/best friend of the (not-so-sinister) villain Ballister Blackheart. Nimona’s mashed-up world of medieval knights and weird science is the backdrop to a great relationship between Nimona, Blackheart and their sometimes misguided rival Ambrosius Goldenloin, and about what it really means to be a hero.
Nimona also occasionally turns into a shark. It’s pretty great.
Written By: G. Willow Wilson
Artist: Takeshi Miyazawa
Nominated For: Best Writer (G. Willow Wilson), Best New Series, Best Penciller/Inker (Adrian Alphona), Best Cover Artist (Jamie McKelvie/Matthew Wilson), Best Lettering (Joe Caramagna)
Marvel has a strong presence in the nominee list this year, but one book stands out above all: Ms. Marvel. There’s a damn good reason for that, too—the revamped Ms. Marvel, with Inhuman teenager Kamala Khan taking on the mantle of the hero, is one of the best books Marvel currently has. Balancing Kamala’s coming-of-age story as she settles into being a superhero that juggles her life and her faith with a lighter look at the wider Marvel universe, Ms. Marvel is a hero for the teen generation (but just as lovable to read for us non-teens). And as you can see by the categories it’s nominated for, Ms. Marvel is more than just a great read—it’s a genuinely amazing book to look at, too. It stands out against Marvel’s traditional books, packed with the richest detail, right down to the way it uses its lettering to tell its story. Of all the Marvel comics up for Eisners this year, Ms. Marvel is the one you have to be reading.
Want to see the full list of this year’s nominees? Check it out here. Got any more recommendations from this year’s crop of comics? Let us know in the comments!