It’s the end of December, which means It’s time to take a look back at what’s been an exceptional year for comics. There’s been a lot worth reading, but these three Deadshirt writers can agree – there are some clear standout successes.
1. Guardians of the Galaxy (Marvel)
I originally started reading Guardians so I’d be able to rub my superior knowledge of the subject into most of my friends’ faces when the movie comes out next summer and that was really it. I had no other desire than to be crowned King Nerd. And then something happened: I fell in love with each one of the characters. Drax the Destroyer, Gamora, Groot, Rocket Racoon, and Peter Quill (AKA Star-Lord) are all so much fun and the chemistry between them all is so dynamic that it made me A) check out all the back catalog I could get my hands on, and B) get really excited for the movie. The relationships between crew members are the best part of this series. The close friendship between Rocket and Groot, the camaraderie and occasional conflict between Gamora and Star-Lord, even moments when the crew reaches out to a stoic Drax, these interactions all reveal history that speaks back to before Marvel NOW! relaunched the title, without making the book inaccessible to new readers. The last two issues, the Inhumanity tie-ins, are especially gorgeous with art and color from Francesco Francavilla.
I know this book hasn’t gotten much critical attention, but it’s the book that I was most consistently excited about this year. Can’t wait to see what 2014 brings for the Guardians.
2. Sex Criminals (Image)
This book is funny, romantic and touching (no pun intended), but it’s the letters page that gets me every issue. In a particularly memorable letters page, reader after reader revealed stories from adolescence where they found porn abandoned in the woods. There were a surprising amount of these stories, and each one was daring and honest, exactly like the book itself.
3. Hawkeye (Marvel)
What else can I say about this book? It’s fucking brilliant. Why aren’t you reading it? Get the fuck out there and buy it.
4. Young Avengers (Marvel)
Kieron Gillen is killing it with this book, you guys. Like Guardians, Young Avengers has a wonderful cast of characters. Not only does this book play with comics as a form, but it also has a diverse cast, including Kate Bishop.” When in doubt, be Hawkeye” is a universal rule of comics and, of course, that Hawkeye should always be Kate Bishop.
5. B.P.R.D. (Dark Horse)
In the Dark Horse universe of B.P.R.D., the world is literally in the process of ending. Lovecraftian monsters have destroyed most of the world and the Bureau of Paranormal Research and Defense is spread thin, doing what they can to combat these creatures and, more often than not, what they can do is very little. But, man, it’s fun seeing how this apocalypse scenario plays out. For a great companion to this series, I’d recommend Abe Sapien.
1. Hawkeye (Marvel)
Even with a strong creative team at the helm, no one seemed to expect much from Hawkeye when it launched in the summer of 2012. In that time, it’s gone on to become almost unquestionably the best book from the Big Two publishers and proof once again that the back corners of cape and tights stories can lead to some legitimately great comics.
The first issue of Hawkeye to drop in 2013 (#7) features battling bowman Clint and series co-lead Kate Bishop as they fight an unbeatable foe in the form of a real-life natural disaster, Hurricane Sandy. Written quickly with guest-art by Steve Lieber and Annie Wu, the issue could’ve easily been mawkish but what we ended up with was a heartfelt, slice of life tribute to Marvel’s (real-life and fictional) hometown, New York City.
My pick for best single issue comic of 2013? Hawkeye #11. It says something about the kind of storytelling risks this book is willing to do when they commit an entire issue to series mascot Pizza Dog attempting to solve a murder, with artist David Aja letting us see the world through the dog’s eyes. The issue largely consists of pictograms and mostly obscured dialogue balloons. The end result is a rare story that genuinely challenges our understanding of comics as a storytelling medium.
2. Batman Inc. (DC Comics)
Grant Morrison’s impressive seven year, multi-title run on Batman finally came to a close last July with the conclusion of Batman Inc. In many ways, this final volume is a decidedly sober, no bullshit accounting of Batman and his limits as a character.
3. Wolverine and The X-Men (Marvel)
The X-Men as a concept is at its best when it focuses on the school drama element that’s been a part of the book since day one. Wolverine and The X-Men kills in that department with a compelling batch of new mutant students, creepy villains and some expert long-game plot threads.
4. Daredevil (Marvel)
Under Waid and Samnee’s tenure, Daredevil has gone back to its colorful roots with bold stories showcasing curveball villains like psuedolegacy villain The Coyote, Anti-Daredevil Ikari and a surprising reinvention of one of his classic foes. A take that draws extensively on the character’s history while adding whole new elements, Daredevil is everything you could want from a superhero comic.
5. The Private Eye (Panel Syndicate)
Vaughan and Martin’s digital-only sci-fi noir is hyper-imaginative and visually stunning. The Private Eye’s analog future might not come true but we’re certainly looking at the future of comics.
1. Young Avengers (Marvel)
The Marvel Universe has always been full of youthful, relatable teen characters, dating all the way back to Spider-Man himself, but never before has a creative team so perfectly captured what it is like to be in your late teens. By taking very real, very honest trappings of teenage life and blowing it up over the vast expanse of the Marvel Universe, Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie have taken the Buffy The Vampire Slayer approach and taken it into the stratosphere, with each passing issue packing the sort of vital, liberating punch of a rock n’ roll single or a dance song. Bringing together the fandoms from both Allan Heinberg’s original incarnation of this team as well as Gillen’s old Journey Into Mystery crowd wasn’t an easy feat, but throwing in other great young characters from newer works like Marvel Boy and Joe Casey’s Vengeance makes for a great melting pot.
Stoking the zeitgeist with playful pop culture references, timely character design, clever storytelling devices that push the medium, and a streamlined pace that finds the right balance between an edgy cape comic and their more experimental creator-owned work, Gillen and McKelvie have been knocking it out of the park every month for over a year. Like every great scene, this too has to end, but at least when all is said and done, this era of Young Avengers will make a great addition to your bookshelf.
2. Zero (Image)
A simple conceit, that every issue take a seemingly random moment from spy Zero’s life and tell one self contained story, has helped turn writer Ales Kot from being spoken of as “full of potential” to being a must-watch talent. I cannot wait until years from now, for this series to be over and collected, and we can piece the tragedy of Zero’s life in espionage back together.
3. Saga (Image)
Every issue of Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples’ Saga is great in that reliable and typical way universally acclaimed comics have a tendency to be, but the deeper into the journey we go with these characters, the more incredible it begins to truly feel.
4. Daredevil (Marvel)
Everything interesting that can be said about how great Daredevil has been in the last few years has been said. Mark Waid and Chris Samnee figured out how to tell articulate, important and vital stories for Matt Murdock without just making his world a dark, depressing, unenjoyable one to visit every month.
5. Hawkeye (Marvel)
In an age where every mainstream superhero comic expects you to read twelve other books to even begin to understand what’s happening on a monthly basis, Matt Fraction and his too-good-to-be-true list of artistic collaborators (Annie Wu, David Aja, Franco Francavilla, SERIOUSLY???) drew inspiration from old Stephen J. Cannell shows to give you a digestible, consistently exciting and endlessly lovable story to follow at your leisure. We thank them for that.
We’re not done celebrating 2013! Check back for more of our compound Best Of… lists!