And now, while the groovy synthesiser sounds of Europe echo around your mind, I present to you my five favourite comics of 2013:
Greg Rucka once again brings us a kick-ass character who despite being able to kill you six ways from Sunday also has heart (which is sure to be tested to breaking by secrets that lurk in their past). I am an unabashed Rucka fanboy, loving just about everything he has written, from the Atticus Kodiak novels to the latest instalment of the Lady Sabre web-comic, and once again love the work Rucka and artist Michael Lark have produced. Lazarus depicts a dystopian future of a small number of haves fighting over the ruined world’s remaining resources, while millions of have-nots struggle merely to survive. Rucka and Lark takes us into this world through the story of Forever Carlyle, a “Lazarus” (enforcer, assassin and bodyguard) for the Carlyle family. Secrets surrounding Forever’s origins and the machinations of family members – both Carlyle’s and other families – are set to explode her view of the world and herself.
There is much to enjoy for fans of sci-fi, as Rucka shows us technology that is just beyond the current cutting edge and Lark provides an environment which is as gritty as the characters which inhabit it. Extremely enjoyable, even if the mirror of real world politics makes you angry when reading.
Fred Van Lente has written some of the best comics of the last few years, as he combines outrageous action with seriously clever ideas and hilarious comedy. In Archer & Armstrong Van Lente continues the trend and, building on the “buddy movie” oeuvre he used in The Incredible Hercules, crafts a story of two mismatched individuals doing their best to thrive in a world working against them. Obadiah Archer was raised with one purpose by his cultist parent, to kill the “Evil One” (Armstrong, an immortal) their religious sect has been battling for centuries. However, upon meeting the “Evil One” and being rescued by him, Archer realises Armstrong is really not that bad after all. In the last twelve months Archer has come to understand his destiny, has learnt a little about his past, become embroiled in a war amongst secret societies and come to think perhaps Armstrong IS that bad after all. Read this book to be entertained by hilariously strange characters (General Redacted for example), awed by clever ideas – such as the “Null Sect” worshipping on golf courses as they are full of “holes containing nothing” – and funny dialogue which zings with one-liners and pathos. Oh, and last issue’s cliffhanger was brilliant !
In an age of the Previews catalogue, comic news websites and a constant barrage of press releases from publishers, it is rare to stumble across a book by accident and not know what the story’s themes, plot points and characters’ basic personality are going in. Even more rare is to do so and become completely and utterly enchanted by the book. Luckily for me, this is exactly what happened with the limited series The Adventures of Augusta Wind by JM DeMatteis and Vassilis Gogtzilas. I saw the first issue of the series at the Comic Zone, and was struck by the incredible artwork from Gogtzilas – it was scratchy yet not overly rendered, simple yet detailed and skating the edge of a gothic surrealism (basically, his work was reminiscent of Sam Kieth’s The Maxx, so I had to read more). Here’s that cover:
What I found when I did read more was another enchanting story from JM DeMatteis (author of the equally enchanting Moonshadow and Kraven’s Last Hunt, one of my favourite Spider-Man stories) in which a young girl discovers the world is not as she believed it to be and strives to uncover her destiny. The story is full of beautifully surreal characters, like the Balloonies, Snabbit and the Omniphant. This is a perfect story for anyone who has ever enjoyed Alice in Wonderland or the Hunting of the Snark, or for those who enjoy cartoon-styled surrealism.
I spoke in the graphic novels list a few posts back about just how incredible this story from genius writer Mike Carey and artist extraordinaire Peter Gross is. And yet I still have more to say about it ! The Unwritten wrapped up at the end of 2013, with a massive event sending shockwaves throughout the worlds of fiction and reality, a detour by main character Tom into the realm of the Fables (the best crossover of the year, and it didn’t stray from the one series. I, and my wallet, would love to see more crossovers being done this way !) and a new focus for Tom and his companions. As always, the cover art was beautiful, the art inside the comic sublime and the plot exceptional. The Unwritten is a brilliant examination of the influence of fiction on reality and just how narratives shape our lives in an information saturated world. Every issue of the comic is available in trade paperback format, so catch up now so you can enjoy watching the world fall apart in 2014s The Unwritten: Apocalypse with the rest of us !
This comic was my favourite of the year not just because it featured stunning art from the master Jamie McKelvie and a sublime story of growing up by Kieron Gillen, the two creators responsible for the incredible Phonogram series. Nor was it my favourite due to it being full of the most naturalistic yet oh-so-cool dialogue of any comic published in the last five years, spoken by characters who seemed so real it seemed you could find them at the local cafe eating breakfast after a night of crime fighting. No, the reason Young Avengers by Gillen and McKelvie (more than ably assisted by Mike Norton) was my favourite comic of 2013 because it reinvented comics for the current age. The use of a Tumblr-style social media page to show recaps, sharp colouring, cool costumes and a great theme were just the start. Gillen and McKelvie both stated in interviews they wanted to make sure their action sequences were unique, not just from those shown in other superhero comics but from each other as well. This led to remarkably inventive sequences like this:
Amazing huh ? These guys have created a whole new way to present action in the comic form.So, for doing to comics in 2013 what Lee and Kirby’s Fantastic Four did for comics in 1963, Young Avengers MUST be my favourite comic of the year.