After looking at my favourite graphic novels for the year in the last blog, I am finally getting to the promise inherent its title to reveal my top ten comics for 2013. These are the ongoing comics or limited series which have caught my eye, exercised my brain and ultimately won my heart. It goes without saying that each of these titles comes with my highest recommendation, so go and talk to your friendly neighbourhood comic shop (that’s Comic Zone for me) about getting these titles in for you !
This is a book that is appearing on virtually everyone’s Top Ten lists, and with good reason. Saga is close to being the perfect comic, with a simple yet clever idea (Romeo and Juliet in space being pursued by all manner of folks who wish to do them harm), well-rounded characters who seem real (my personal favourite is the bounty hunter The Will) and a plot which rips along yet leaves plenty of room for interesting and revealing dialogue. This year we saw the star-crossed lovers Alana and Marko meet the author whose book spurred their actions in the early part of the series. The inclusion of this new character – with the delightfully silly name of D. Oswald Heist – has opened up a plethora of interesting plot turns, as Marko’s mother Klara falls for the hermetic iconoclast and the very presence of the fugitives and their family turns his world upside down.
The artwork from Fiona Staples deserves every last of praise it has earnt, with detailed environments in which beautifully rendered characters perform amazing actions. If you are one of the few unlikely souls who have yet to pick up Saga put your reservations to one side and dive into the book, as this is one time you can believe the hype.
“OK”, I can hear you’re thinking, “if Saga is so good then how come it is only number 10 on your list ?”. The answer to that is simple – the other books on my list all showcase the work of my favourite writers and artists, proving to me once again the reasons I keep gravitating to books created by these fine creators. It feels to me like each one of the books discussed from here on feature the work of comics creators who are at the to of their game, producing work I will not just enjoy in 2013, but for many years to come as I re-read these titles over and over again.
That is most certainly the case with RASL. Jeff Smith blew my mind early on in his famous magnum opus Bone in just two panels:
and continued to do so throughout the rest of the Bone series. So I had very high hopes indeed for the new series he announced back in 2007. These hopes were more than met, and in RASL Jeff Smith shows he is as accomplished a writer of sci-fi noir as he is fantasy. RASL is the story of an inter-dimensional art thief who is searching for his lost love. His story connects to Nikolai Tesla (every geeks favourite inventor !), The Philadelphia Experiment and Amerindian myths and has another two panels that blew my mind (I will not spoil them here, but man they were awesome !).
Finally, the series is so good I have cheated a bit to have it included on the list – the series ended in 2012, but as the coloured hardcover edition came out in 2013 I have fudged the rules a bit (yet again) so I could talk about it’s brilliance.
8. Suicide Risk
Mike Carey is a genius. That is why he is the only writer who appears twice on my list and one of the few authors whose books I will now buy as soon as I see them, without even a pause to see what the book may be about – that’s how good his output was in 2013 ! In Suicide Risk he and artist Elena Casagrande tell the story of Leo Winters, a cop struggling in a world in which people suddenly receive super powers, and become super villains. After he and his partner are severely injured by super-powered bank robbers, Leo decides he will take the fight to the villains by obtaining powers himself.
It’s a great idea which Carey keeps pushing in different directions, so the story is equal parts that of a neophyte hero learning how to harness their powers, a mystery surrounding why people are getting powers and a ticking clock thriller as we learn that some of the super-villains started out using their powers for good, but were slowly corrupted. Each of these plot points are spun in very interesting ways, and number 7 had a revelation that was incredible yet so very simple. I cannot wait to see where this series takes us readers next !
Mike Norton is another creator who had an awesome 2013. He was a key part of the Young Avengers and It Girl ! teams, had a second volume of is collected webcomic Battlepug published and released the miniseries The Answer ! to rave reviews (Wow, looking at that list has me tempted to say Mike Norton is the hardest working man in comics !). His co-creator on Revivial: A Rural Noir, Tim Seeley, also produced some great stuff in 2013, including a fantastic run on Witchblade that I enjoyed thoroughly. And yet, had the duo simply produced Revival in 2013 I would still be a very happy reader.
Revival is another comic that takes a simple idea and uses it to give us ripping plot twists, interesting characters with intriguing histories and clever, clever dialogue which drives the action. In this case the simple concept is the dead returning to life in a country town and the tremendous changes this invokes. This is more than just another zombie story, though, as Seeley and Norton invest their characters with such realism (and interesting secrets) that the best scenes are often those in which there are no risen dead. A creeping fear underlies every page of the story, and when the horror explodes into full force expect to have your breath taken away. Oh, and the cover to #6 is the best cover of 2013, bar none:
Mark Waid and superheroes go together like strawberries and cream, chocolate and caramel, coffee and donuts. That is, both are great one their own, but when you bring them together you have pure heaven ! Once again Mark Waid proved in 2013 he is the best superhero writer on the planet (apologies to Snyder and Morriaon, but the evidence speaks for itself !) with incredible work on The Indestuctible Hulk, The Green Hornet and the still free to read Insufferable (check out everything on Mark Waid’s digital comic site Thrillbent, you will find stuff which is great and a bargain at twice the price !). For me, though, Mark Waid’s work on Daredevil is pitch perfect, and with art from the amazing Chris Samnee (who also did the art on the incredible Thor: The Mighty Avenger book) the book simply sings. From thrilling action sequences – some featuring unlikely characters, such as the Silver Surfer – to heart-rending character moments Daredevil stood head and shoulders above any of the year’s big event books, and set the standard for how a comic from the Big Two should be done. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed Fraction’s Hawkeye series (especially the issues focussing on Kate Bishop) and recognise it is ground-breaking, however for this old school comics fan it was Daredevil that had me cheering for heroes, hissing at the villains and hoping that the bad stuff happening to the supporting cast would not end up being too bad.
Huh, looks like I have more to say on these books than I thought (those of you who know me are not surprised at all about this, I know !).
So, in the interests of keeping this somewhat brief, I will end the list here for the time being. Come back on Monday to see my 5 favourite comics of 2013, along with some other comics related stuff I enjoyed in 2013.
In the meantime, let me know what comics you enjoyed in 2013 !