Top 10 Comics of 2013!
It’s that time again! As I upload this, it’s December 31st, and I’m the last person to upload a “best of” list”. Even Tim did one! I’m afraid I couldn’t do a video game list this year, as I’ve been a little behind in some stuff, and am only now playing a few things that came out this year. But as a quick note, I’ll just say my favorite game was Saints Row 4. Besides being a pure piece of fun when it come to playing, it’s also deceptively brilliant in it’s commentary on the industry as well as it’s own previous entries. Play at least 3 first if you haven’t, but boy. What a way to end a console generation.
But enough of all that! Let’s get to comics! I’m a little disappointed in myself that no… I don’t know, “indy” or “creator-owned” or whatever we might want to call it made my list this year. “Saga” was probably a close 11, and “Sex Criminals” wowed me, but only a few issues were released right at the end of the year. Buy hey, I like to think it really speaks to how the big companies (by which I mean Marvel… ah heh) is letting it’s creatives really let their specific voices come through. Plus, they relaunched like every book with new teams, so there was a lot of chances for fresh feeling books.
#10 – FF – Marvel Comics
Writer: Matt Fraction
Artists: Mike Allred/Laura Allred
It was a hell of a year for Matt Fraction. Among his various big projects, both at Marvel and creator owned, there was a lot of great stuff, but FF may have been the most pleasant surprise. The companion book to Fantastic Four (also written by Fraction), FF is all about the substitute heroes filling in while the Four are on vacation, and the Future Foundation, the think tank of gifted kids that have been brought together within the Baxter Building.
What FF ended up being was a fascinating tribute to the modern family. In wonderful harmony with the main title’s more nuclear family, FF became a collection of outcasts and lonely souls come together to create something that none of them quite expected.
Also it’s super weird. An artist like Mike Allred isn’t chosen at random, and the stories give him everything it can for him to play with. From the Negative Zone to the Impossible Man’s planet, Allred stretches his surrealist muscles all over while still bringing a charming spark to the gigantic cast.
#9 – Daredevil – Marvel Comics
Writer: Mark Waid
Artists: Chris Samnee
Daredevil came just short of my number one pick back on my list from 2011, and it’s been going strong ever since. After artist Chris Samnee joined on as the regular artist, he and writer Mark Waid have become one of the most impressive teams in comics (even teaming up for an incredible Rocketeer mini at the same time they were doing this book). They became full collaborators, with their credits on the book changing to “co-storytellers”, which speaks to what they became as a unit.
The peak was likely the end of the massive conspiracy story they’d built up, in particular issue #25, which is rightfully being often talked about as one of the most intense fight scenes in modern comics. Expect at every turn of it’s telling, and capped off with one of the best twists you can imagine.
Plus, there was an issue where Daredevil teamed up with a mummy and a frankenstein.
#8 – Those 2 Spider-Man Books That Do Not Feature Spider-Man – Marvel Comics
Superior- Writer: Dan Slott
Artists: Ryan Stegman, Humberto Ramos, Giuseppe Camuncoli
Ultimate: Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artists: Sara Pichelli, David Marquez
I’ve talked about Miles Morales and Ultimate Spider-man before, and how the character was a fantastic replacement to the departed Peter Parker. And that continued into this year. Between a devastating tragedy early in the year, to the far more fun story of him fashioning a makeshift team of teen heroes to take down Roxxon. It’s got a great cast and incredible art.
But with that, we still have good old Peter Parker in the regular Marvel Universe, right? Nope! He’s dead too! And Doc Ock took over his body and is now Spider-man. And that’s…. also great! You’d expect Superior Spider-man to be a redemption story about a bad guy learning to be good…. but that’s not quite it. He’s learning some lessons, sure, but usually for the wrong reasons. He does the right thing, but in the wrong way. Otto’s journey in becoming what he thinks Spider-man should be has been strange and surprising. While he’s remained kind of an awful guy, every now and then you kind of see the world though his eyes, and he becomes sympathetic for these little moments that add together to equate to what I assume is going to have to be a surprisingly tough moment when Peter comes back and it might not be the victory I thought it might be.
You know, Ultimate has female Peter Parker clone Spider-Woman, and Superior has Spider-man 2099 in it, so between the 2 books, there are actually 4 Spider-mans, none of which are actually Spider-man. Impressive!
#7 – Sonic the Hedgehog/Mega Man – Archie Comics
Writer: Ian Flynn
Artists: Tracy Yardley, Jamal Peppers, Ben Bates, others
Sometimes books are written just for you. This book was written for me. Both these books have been doing well. Mega Man had been broaching some very interesting subject matter for it’s age range before the crossover, and Sonic has been keeping me equal parts interested and nervous with it’s quasi-reboot after the crossover. But the crossover itself? The 3 title, 12 issue massive event book that it was? Fantastic.
There’s no point in denying that this is entirely a fan service choice. I’m not here to tell you that “World’s Collide” was incredible piece of literature. It was fairly typical as comic book crossovers go. The villains team up, and they trick the heroes into fighting each other, the heroes team up, the villains turn on each other. You’ve seen it before. Where it excels however, is how much they lean into just doing everything you’d ever want to see happen with this premise. All of Sonic’s allies are turned into robot masters. Mega Man has to defeat them, both restoring them to normal and copying their powers. All the Sonic characters are carefully matched up against their most thematically appropriate Mega Man bosses. The third act opens with the heroes facing down every single robot master at once, because why not!? There is half an issue joking about how they wound up with 2 characters named “Shadow Man”. It is indulgent. And I appreciate the complete embrace of that indulgence.
#6 – Uncanny/All-New X-men – Marvel Comics
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artists: Stuart Immonen, Chris Bachalo, others
2013 was the year of X-men for me. For the first time in my life I have drank the Kool-Aid. The whole bowl. Let’s do this thing. Let’s read old Paul Smith books and build a spaceship in a barn.
The centerpoint for the X-men this year was Brain Michal Bendis starting his two ongoing series. In All-New X-men the time-displaced original team deal with the horrible future (present?) they have in store for them, or Cyclops’ team of radical mutants trying to figure out how to be heroes and criminals all at once, the X-books provided a swath of great content all year.
Of real note was “Battle of the Atom”, the big summer crossover between 4 different X-books, including these 2. The big 50th anniversary of the X-men came with all the over the top time travel and betrayal turns and Colossus mustaches you could ask for. In a franchise so built around melodrama, it’s nice that they know that silly fun has just as much of a place.
#5 – Hawkeye – Marvel Comics
Writer: Matt Fraction
Artists: David Aja, Annie Wu
Hawkeye has been one of the biggest success stories in comics for the past couple years. It’s the most fiercely “must-read” book on any stack. It was almost much lower on this list because I somehow thought there were very few issues released this year. I guess a combination of not coming out twice a month like some books, and the fact that even 30 days seemed like an eternity to wait. 9 issues came out in total, so I wasn’t totally crazy.
Regardless, Hawkeye might have made the list even if it only had one issue released. Presuming that was issue 11. Maybe my single favorite issue of the year. It’s a detective story starring a dog. I’d say something snarky like “it’s that kind of book”, but what the hell would that even mean?
#4 – Superior Foes of Spider-Man – Marvel Comics
Writer: Nick Spencer
Artist: Steve Lieber
Superior Foes was instantly a book I was interested in. My favorite type of villain is the third rung, more average joe types, so a whole book about that type of guy was right up my alley. That it turned out to be one of the best (and funniest) books to come along in a while was just a bonus.
Revolving around 2-bit supervillain Boomerang and his new team of Sinister Six (which consists of 4-5 people, depending), the book is one part heist adventure, part crime drama, and part wacky sitcom. The book’s cast are all played to their personal extremes, and the plot continues to spin twist after twist into it’s overarching web until it’s become a fantastical farce.
Spencer and Lieber are pushing their own boundaries every issue, seeing just how weird they can get with these guys. Extended fantasy sequences, drunk Dr Dooms, cyborg heads attached to toy cars.
#3 – Journey Into Mystery – Marvel Comics
Writer: Kathryn Immonen
Artists: Valerio Schiti
The Lady Sif era of Journey Into Mystery was sadly short lived, but was pound for pound one of my favorite things to read month in, month out. We simply don’t get enough books by Kathryn Immonen, who’s one of the best writers there is at comedy heavy superhero books. She’s in top form here, infusing the typical Asgardian fantasy stories of JiM with hilarious character dynamics, and spot on comedic timing.
Comedy in comics can be tanked by the wrong artist, but Immonen’s collaborator Valerio Schiti brings it on his end. Every joke is timed so expertly I was in constant awe of the sheer skill. Facial expression, body language, and impeccable paneling all combined to sell every page as a perfect piece of comics. It was short lived, but I’m glad we got what we did.
#2 – Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles – IDW
Writer: Tom Waltz, Kevin Eastman, Bobby Curnow, others
Artists: Ben Bates, Mateus Santolouco, Ross Campbell, others
Something has been building the last few years, ever since IDW launched a new modern Ninja Turtles series. Starting from scratch, my favorite part of the whole endeavor was how they were planting seeds to draw from every previous incarnation of the franchise. It’s a very exciting proposition to a lifelong fan. While the series started out a little slow, booth those seeds and the series quality as a whole exploded this year.
From their fully original exploration of the history of the Foot Clan in it’s own incredible mini series, to the modernization to 80’s characters like Bebop and Rocksteady, or the Nutronians, to the fantastic twists on 2000’s characters like Karai or Hun, it’s all handled to the best possible ends.
All of these threads and potential all came together in the “City Fall” story. At the same time a sort of retelling to the older “City at War” storyline from the Mirage comics and 2000’s toon, and at the same time a wholly new story, as a selection of the more modern characters change the setup of the telling to create something totally unique. The drawn out element of Leonardo being brainwashed into a dark apprentice to Shedder feels completely new, and sort of amazing in that, as it seems like such and obviously great concept.
I don’t always expect the most top tier art from a smaller publisher like IDW, but TMNT has had maybe the strongest art teams in comics this year. Artists like Ben Bates (remember him from before?), Mateus Santolouco, and Ross Campbell rotating through various books in the series has made for the most varied but consistently amazing art around.
#1 – Young Avengers – Marvel Comics
Writer: Kieron Gillien
Artists: Jamie McKelvie & Others
I had to make my number one choice for a podcast a few weeks back, before I did the rest of this list. So under the duress of having to make a gut decision on my top book of 2013, I was actually a little surprised when I came up with Young Avengers.
Not that I haven’t loved the book. I have, obviously. It just wasn’t what I would have assumed would hit number one. It wasn’t necessarily the book I was constantly raving to people about, like TMNT or JiM. What it was, however, was the book I was most constantly impressed with. Every issue of this series had at least one, if not multiple “wow” moments. Moments that knocked me on my ass in amazement of the craft on display. Gillain and McKelvie are long time collaborators, and it shows. These guys are on their game every damn issue. Every month they pulled off some incredibly inventive piece of comicing. Every issue had at least one big trick up it’s sleeve, and they all worked. The cutaway floorplan fight that was like a combo of flight safety manuals and Family Circus. A dimension that controls the comic panels to trap people. Wiccan escaping time and walking across page layouts from across the story. You never saw these coming, and they all killed.
With 14 of it’s total 15 issues released since January, it’s also easy to single this out as a particular success story for 2013. In this first full year of the “Marvel NOW” era, where Marvel is seeing more and more success letting creators bring their very unique visions to books, YA can be held up as a mission statement.
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