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'Scalped' is year's top series, & The Rez is history

It's likely that 2009 will be remembered as the year that comic readers' appetite for dark characters and even darker stories reached its apex.

It's likely that 2009 will be remembered as the year that comic readers' appetite for dark characters and even darker stories reached its apex.

Marvel's line was dominated by the "Dark Reign," in which the villains have basically won and are in control of things. Meanwhile, DC's heroes had to deal with "Blackest Night," a story line in which nearly all their deceased friends, foes and loved ones - or at least their corpses - were resurrected by black-power rings and used as an army against them.

Smaller publishers like Dynamite, Bluewater, Radical and Zenescope saw their darker titles leading the way to critical and commercial success.

But in a year in which there were more quality titles on shelves than ever, and in which the sophistication of storytelling reached a new peak on the majority of them, the choice for Series of the Year was easy to make.

Nothing else comes close to "Scalped."

Writer of the Year Jason Aaron also penned some fine tales featuring Wolverine and Ghost Rider, but he would have won easily just due to his work on "Scalped."

Aaron uses the Prairie Rose Indian Reservation - a.k.a. "The Rez" - as a unique, fertile ground to tell fresh stories that are unmistakably his own.

He depicts those on "The Rez" as the defiant descendants of a once-proud people, who have survived more than a century of mistreatment by the American government, which put Indian tribes on the least desirable pieces of land and then, to paraphrase one character, forgot about them except when there was a John Wayne movie to film or a war to fight.

One man who is determined to overcome the odds of living on The Rez and not only survive but thrive is Chief Red Crow, the crime boss around whom everything in the book revolves. Seeing what "legitimate" institutions have done for his people, Red Crow is determined to use his power, money and influence to open a brand new casino that he bets will not only allow him to achieve the American Dream, but improve the lives of everyone on "The Rez."

At the beginning of the year, Aaron dedicated single issues to in-your-face and dark-as-hell character studies of the other major players in his four-color masterpiece.

There's Dash Bad Horse, a kick-ass soldier in the crime family of Red Crow - who's also an undercover FBI agent assigned to bring Red Crow down. As the year wore on, a heroin addiction and combustible relationship with Red Crow's daughter would complicate matters and put him in increasingly hazardous situations.

Baylis Earl Nitz is Bad Horse's FBI supervisor - an extremely flawed man on a bloody quest for vengeance against Red Crow and those he holds responsible for the decades-old murder of two close colleagues.

Britt "Diesel" Fillenworth is a sociopathic thug obsessed with being recognized as a real Indian who's in jail for multiple murders - but who's also Nitz's undercover ace in the hole.

Catcher appears at first to be nothing more than a burned-out, alcoholic mystic, but we eventually learn that he knows who killed Nitz's colleagues - as well as Dash's recently deceased mom.

To top it off, we were introduced to a mysterious man of a thousand faces who has come to Red Crow's reservation to swindle the casino with card-counting abilities that put "Rain Man" to shame.

Near the end of the year, this explosive set of personalities seemed ready to blow - and then Red Crow put gasoline on the fire by shooting an unarmed soldier of rival crime boss Johnny Tongue - who had helped Red Crow finance the casino.

As the year drew to a close, a witness to the killing who could also finger Bad Horse as an FBI agent was being hunted by all parties, and a bare-knuckle confrontation between Red Crow and Tongue was not going too well for the Chief.

"Scalped" is the type of book that gets richer with multiple readings. it has more story in one panel than many comics do in 22 pages. It is one of the best comic series of all time and easily the Best of 2009.

R. M. Guera's detailed, dusty scenes in "Scalped" were narrowly beaten out by Steve Pugh, whose incredible illustrations in "Hotwire: Requiem For The Dead" earned him Artist of the Year.

Hero of the Year: Superman.

Heroine of the Year: Supergirl.

With the line between heroes and villains more gray than ever, it was up to the Big Red S to once again put the "Super" in superhero.

In order, to prevent a battle between his adopted planet, Earth, and people from his home planet of Krypton, Superman decides to leave Earth and become a citizen of New Krypton.

This changes the Man of Steel's station in life dramatically. On Earth, he was a hero who was one of a kind. On New Krypton, his powers make him one in 10,000.

While it seemed at first that Superman took a position in the military to keep an eye on arch-foe General Zod, it soon became apparent that what makes Superman special are his values more than his powers.

Likewise, Supergirl tried to balance her loyalties to Krypton and Earth, please her domineering mother, deal with the loss of her father while hunting down his killer, try to overcome bad press and silly mistakes, all the while trying to solve the mystery of the new Superwoman's identity.

By overcoming adversity, trying to do the right thing at all times and succeeding more often than not while establishing herself as the Strongest Girl on the Planet, Supergirl is Heroine of the Year.

Team of the Year: Green Lantern Corps.

With eight new Lantern Corps to deal with as well as being on the front lines of the "Blackest Night," no team has had to band together or overcome more than the Green Lantern Corps, making them the Team of the Year.

Event of the Year: "Blackest Night."

Moment of the Year: Superman realizes that he will be serving under General Zod.

Crossover of the Year: "Blackest Night."

Best Single Issue: "Jonah Hex" No. 50.

Best Miniseries: "Battlefields: Dear Billy."

Best Movie Based on a Comic: "Watchmen."