Ah, comics, how you make me squee. As 2013 ends and 2014 begins, I feel obligated to put forth a list of my personal favorite titles from last year, if only to entice those who may not have read them to give 'em a shot. 2013 featured an astounding array of quality comics from a variety of publishers, making an official “Top 10” tough to iron out. What follows is MY Top 10, culled from the many stacks of comics I've accumulated since becoming a reviewer for comicattack.net (plug!).
One disclaimer before I dive in: Though I LOVE comics, they are pricey and as such I obviously couldn't read every single series out there. Some books (such as Locke and Key, Invincible, Walking Dead, Daredevil, Hawkeye) will not be on this list, as I'm behind on the single issues and I've been waiting to purchase the trades. Books like those mentioned are amazing, obvi, and likely well deserving of a Top 10 spot, but as I'm behind they won't be included (I said I'm poor, damn it!). With that out of the way, here are JEFF'S BEST COMICS OF 2013!
10. Velvet (Image)
Ed Brubaker, Steve Epting
I know, I know, this book just came out and it's already in the Best List! To some the #10 spot may seem generous given the book's recent release, but anyone who has read the book will back me up. Velvet is one of those books that just pops, the rare series that hits the ground running and pulls you in instantly. The comic follows heroine Velvet Templeton as she navigates the increasingly distrustful world of government espionage, dodging double crossers and would be assailants at every turn. From Brubaker's strong, assured take on Velvet to Epting's stunning cinematic visuals, Velvet has thus far been a perfect 10 and will likely find a much higher placement on the list come 2014.
Review of issue #1 can be found HERE
9. Red Sonja (Dynamite)
Gail Simone, Walter Geovani
Sharpen your blades and hide your booze, Red Sonja is back! The tag team of Simone and Geovani returned Sonja to prominence in 2013, delivering an exciting and personal first arc that sees Sonja face an old friend amidst a country devoured by plague. Simone has been busy this year, pumping out many a monthly, but Sonja is her crowning achievement. She and Geovani deliver a tale filled with blood, tears and non-stop action, the result a revitalized Sonja who knows no equal and bows to no man. 2014 sees the start of a new arc, so you'd best hop on now. So says the She-Devil!
You can find a review of issue #6 HERE
8. Quantum and Woody (Valiant)
James Asmus, Tom Fowler
Klang! Another surprise pick to some, but to me there's no question that it's well deserving of a top spot. This book is a hoot. Writer James Asmus scripts the book with unbridled glee, crafting some of the more ridiculous moments of the past year. Featuring super hero melees, mad-cap antics, even madder scientists, naked tip touches and one dangerous goat, few books proved as consistently entertaining. Add in great characterization, engaging art and a strong emotional core, and you've got one of the best books on the market, let alone last year.
7. Lazarus (Image)
Greg Rucka, Michael Lark
2013 featured a refreshing amount of female-centric titles, hopefully a welcome sign of things to come. That said, none were more interesting than Lazarus heroine Forever Carlyle. The assigned defender of her “family,” Forever's every move is controlled and every action pre-programmed. Such a premise could have resulted in a flat, emotionless character, but luckily creators Rucka and Lark gave us the reverse. Turns out, despite her cybernetic parts and programmed upbringing, Forever may just be the most human of the Carlyle clan. With top notch story telling and immersive, compelling art, Lazarus is a true treat.
Read why HERE
6. East of West (Image)
Jonathan Hickman, Nick Dragotta
Good gravy, did East of West come out of nowhere. Jonathan Hickman and Nick Dragotta prove a perfect pairing as they detail the exploits of Death and those who seek to deter him from his path. Hickman's scripting is a marvel, particularly his brilliant characterization, and artist Dragotta delivers some truly exceptional visuals that seem to get wilder and wilder with each passing issue. This is a BIG book, both in ideas and content, and in terms of sheer scope and magnitude you really can't do much better. Give it a look!
Yup, a review HERE
5. TMNT (IDW)
Kevin Eastman, Tom Waltz, Mateus Santolouco
What?! A TMNT story at #5? What is he smoking and where can I get some?! I know what you're thinking, but hear me out. Though a die-hard TMNT fan, I entered IDW's series with a certain level of trepidation. All that went right out the window immediately as City Fall (and the accompanying tie-ins) cemented itself as one of the best Turtles stories told in any medium. Writer's Eastman and Walz hit the familiar personalities of each Turtle in a fresh new way, while artist Santolouco delivers a seemingly endless supply of bodacious visuals. This book has real stakes, and the consequences thus far have been wide reaching. Cowabunga indeed.
4. Sex Criminals (Image)
Matt Fraction, Chip Zdarsky
How can a comic be so blatantly vulgar while also being darn right sweet? That's the magic of Sex Criminals, the brilliant new series orchestrated (or should I say erected) by Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky. With a premise that's a bit more adult then what you'd find in your average funny book (heroine can stop time whenever she reaches climax), the book could have been a simple gutter story worth a few laughs. What it is instead is a multi-layered, emotionally investing raunch fest with a healthy dabble of romance amidst the frequent ejaculations. Though only a few issues in, Sex Criminals has already garnered mass critical and fan acclaim, and for my money any book that successfully integrates “brimping” into the vernacular deserves a top spot.
More on Sex Criminals (less on brimping) HERE
3. The Fifth Beatle (Dark Horse)
Vivek J. Tiwary, Andrew C. Robinson
The only true “book” on this list, The Fifth Beatle is an easy pick. Following the ups and downs of famed Beatles' manager Brian Epstein, Beatle is a richly interesting and beautifully illustrated book that seemingly gets better with every read. It captures the unyielding spirit of a man whose vision and tenacity helped elevate music's most popular quartet into the pop stratosphere. If you're a Beatles fan this book is pretty much a must buy, and if you're not you should pick it up for Andrew C. Robinson's art alone.
Check my review HERE
2. Batman (DC)
Scott Snyder, Greg Capullo
It's been a busy year for Team Batman. Joker returned, a family died and Batman got a new(ish) origin. Tackling such giant (and highly revered) plot lines and characters is not without its dangers, yet Snapullo continues to attack the challenge with gusto. From Snyder's smart, interwoven plots to Capullo's dynamic, eye catching visuals, this is one of the best tandems working in comics today. Their passion for the characters is apparent in every word and pencil stroke, and as 2014 approaches you'd do well to hop on to what is quickly becoming the defining Bat run of a new generation.
1. Saga (Image)
Brian K. Vaughn, Fiona Staples
Yes, Saga is #1 and no, you're not surprised. When a book is consistently good it's easy to take it for granted, as you can only say “this book is amazing!” so many times before it seems old hat. That said, Saga is one of the rare great books that doesn't just meet high expectations, it consistently exceeds them. From the star-crossed tale of Marko, Alana and Hazel to the adventures of Lying Cat and The Will, each issue is jam packed with intriguing plot development, complex world building and in-your-face action (plus seals in overalls and giant, swinging troll testes). BKV snared me as a reader long ago, yet I'm still amazed by what he and Staples have created. Saga was the best book of 2013 hands down, with no sign of slowing in 2014.
Rat Queens (Image)– D&D with a shot of whiskey. This book is oodles of fun. Oodles!
Black Science (Image)– A brilliant debut, just too new for consideration. Read it anyway!
Buzzkill (Dark Horse)– Nearly cracked the Top 10; inventive, engaging, and above all, honest.
Half Past Danger (IDW)– Dinosaurs, super soldiers, and Nazis; need I say more?
The Wake (Vertigo)– Yup, you can scratch deep sea diving off of my “to-do” list. Art by Murphy is crazy good.
Imagine Agents (BOOM!) — A surprise fave of mine, just had too much competition. Fun for all ages!
And there you have it! 2013 was a banner year for comic fans, but 2014 is already shaping up to be even better. Hit up your local comic shop today and ask for some of these titles! It's what the cool kids are doing.
Agree/disagree? Hit me up on Twitter (@jtorinlake) and let me know what I missed!
Until next time,