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Brett’s Best Comics of 2014

It’s the first day of a new year and so that means we’re doing our “best of” listing of the top comic books for 2014. Generally these are comic books that came out in 2014, though some are from earlier times and I got around to reading them, or limited series that continued. Keep in mind, this is what I have read (and does not reflect what other contributors to this site might think). If it’s not on here, I just might not have read it.

This was a particularly tough year of choices with some categories easily having their own top ten or twenty-five. Check out below what made the cut!

Best Super Hero Comic – Ms. Marvel

Ms_Marvel_1_Cover2014 is defined by the diversification of comics. Publishers recognized comic book readers come in all shapes and sizes, and expanded their lines to bring more choices to fans. Marvel led the pack in this, launching an unprecedented number of comics with female leads.

This expansion of comics was summed up best with Ms. Marvel, Marvel‘s daring series that featured a brand new character, a Muslim teenage girl from Jersey named Kamala Khan.

The series written by G. Willow Wilson feels so real, and down to Earth, with dialogue, issues, actions, and reactions we’d actually expect from a teenager, and especially one trying to fit in, in more ways that one.

This is a series that delivers with every issue, and also is one of the most important to launch in recent times. If there was a signal of the “age of diversity,” this is it.

Runners Up:

  • Archer & Armstrong – We seriously don’t give enough love to Valiant comics here on the site (and that’ll change in 2015, you can see below why). This series which saw a break late in the year, and then a mini-series team-up with Quantum & Woody, was consistently funny, entertaining, and could make you think at the same time. This was social satire in ass-kicking form.
  • Avengers/New Avengers – Two series that were a bit difficult to split apart. Writer Jonathan Hickman has been guiding the two with a long-game story that sees the Marvel world actually shaken, heroes rise and fall, and actually something new, tough choices with consequences. All of this will continue into 2015 as “Time Runs Out,” and Marvel heads into its second Secret Wars. Hopefully Hickman sticks the landing when his run is up.
  • She-Hulk – When you need to, sue, when that doesn’t work, punch things. Another example of Marvel trying something new, they reached out to actual lawyer (and prolific comic writer) Charles Soule to give us a different and fun take on She-Hulk. The art was hit and miss, but the writing was always spot-on, like a well prepared case.
  • The Superior Foes of Spider-Man – The release of this series was a bit spotty, but each issue had you linger on pages to pick up on every small joke. I really hope we see more of this in 2015, but sadly it looks like the series, and hope for a new version aren’t in the works.

Best Non-Super Hero Comic – Southern Bastards

southern bastardsWelcome to Craw County, Alabama, home of Boss BBQ, the state champion Runnin’ Rebs football team…and more bastards than you’ve ever seen. When you’re an angry old man like Earl Tubb, the only way to survive a place like this…is to carry a really big stick

Jason Aaron and Jason Latour have created a Southern gothic noir series that once you think you’ve got it down, pulls the rug right out from under you. A bit of a riff on Walking Tall, the series is a must read, especially when you get to the end of that first arc.

It’s a brilliant exploration of the Southern community, especially its focus on sports and football. The second arc has begin with a greater exploration of its main villain, and with that has created a even more layered and fascinating read.

Runners Ups:

  • The Bunker – A time travel tale from Joshua Hale Fialkov and Joe Infurnari that’s trippy and keeps you on your toes. The future is a mess due to one group, and the hope to prevent it from happening is traveling back and telling younger versions of themselves what to do to stop it. But, are all motives altruistic? This is an amazing dissection of fate, time travel, and relationships.
  • East of West- A sci-fi western where the Four Horsemen on the apocalypse literally roam the Earth. Writer Jonathan Hickman again is the one responsible for this awesomeness, and he’s helped with amazing art from Nick Dragotta. In the latest issue, war has broken out, showing this past year has been all build up.
  • Lazarus- In a dystopian near-future government is a quaint concept, resources are coveted, and posession is 100% of the law. A handful of Families rule in writer Greg Rucka‘s all-too real world. The level of detail and thought that’s gone in to how this world works is amazing. This is social commentary in a sci-fi/action package. It helps the art by Michael Lark is beautiful to look at, and the series features a kick-ass heroine in the form of Forever Carlyle.
  • Letter 44 – Remember Charles Soule from above? Yeah, he also writes this too. This series sees a new President have to deal with a war in the Middle East, and also aliens setting up camp in deep space. This is a fantastic look at the choices our leaders make, and political maneuvering. If the last two issues’ revelations don’t have you excited… well, there’s no hope for you then.

Best Limited Series or One Shot – The Delinquents

DELINQ_001_COVER_RIVERARemember when Run-DMC and Aerosmith hooked up? How off the hook that was? Yeah, this is sort of like that, but involves an ass-map.

2014 saw Valiant bring together Archer & Armstrong and Quantum & Woody, two of their most entertaining series, and characters into this one insane comic. Seriously, what drugs were folks on when they were coming up with this!?

Revolving around a mythic mountain for hobos, a map on an ass, genetically modified beings, and an evil corporation, the comic is constantly hilarious, beautifully drawn, and beyond entertaining.

We took a break from the two teams’ own series for this, but you know, that’s ok, because this was beyond awesome.

No other comic had as many laughs per page, and we also got to learn about the hobo code too!

Runners Up:

  • Genius – Delayed many years, this mini-series was beyond timely. A tactical genius has brought together the various gangs of LA and decides to secede some blocks of the neighborhood. What’s also great, that tactical genius is a woman. Released weekly around when Ferguson was occurring, the series reflected the troubled society we live in.
  • The Midas Flesh – Don’t know this one? How about an edge-of-your-seat, save the universe adventure with two butt-kickin’ ladies and a dinosaur in a spacesuit. It might look a “kids” comic, but the debate about the use of weapons of mass destruction, and mass genocide is impressive, especially since the comic was so much fun.
  • StarlightMark Millar does his best homage to Flash Gordon (which had its own fantastic series from Dynamite) in this series with art from Goran Parlov. The series clicked for me, in a pseudo-retro pulp adventure that was full of heart. From a writer that usually goes for over the top shock, this was a much welcome change.
  • The WakeScott Snyder and Sean Murphy‘s series wrapped up, and all I wanted was more. It’s a series that looks at the bigger picture of humanity and our relationship with the world, in two very different parts.

Best Graphic Novel/Trade Paperback – On the Books: A Graphic Tale of Working Woes at NYC’s Strand Bookstore (World Around Us)

on the booksGreg Farrel and published by Microcosm Publishing, the graphic novel is the first-hand account of the 2012 labor struggle at New York City’s legendary Strand bookstore.

I know this’ll come as a shock, but I’m a political nut, so getting to see a graphic novel about this labor struggle was like finding gold.

What’s fantastic about this graphic novel is that it really presents an honest opinion. It covers the store and its troubles. It examines the difficult decisions and no win scenario of the employees. It also criticizes the union these employees belong to. It allows us the reader to explore all sides and come to our own opinion. For Farrell, it wouldn’t be unexpected that the story presented, and his experience depicted, to be very one sided. Instead though, he looks at all sides, especially his fellow employees, and does so with the views and opinions of his coworkers.

This wasn’t just a graphic novel, but a prime example of graphic journalism.

Runners Up:

  • An Iranian Metamorphosis – By Mana Neyestani and published by Uncivilized Books. The graphic novel was at the top of my list of books to get at this year’s Small Press Expo. One of Neyestani’s cartoons sparked riots in Iran, which landed him and his editor in solitary confinement. The graphic novel explores the complex interplay between art, law, politics, ethnic sensitivities, and authoritarian elements inside Iran’s Islamic Republic as well as refugee’s attempts to find safety and freedom.
  • Andre the Giant: Life and Legend – Andre the Giant was a 7’4″, 500 lb wrestling legend, but his nickname of “giant” also applied to his life in general, not just his size. If you grew up in the 70s and 80s, especially watching wrestling, it was hard to miss this legend of a man. In this graphic novel out from publisher First Second, creator Box Brown pulls back the curtain a bit on the larger than life sensation.
  • Ricky Rouse Has a GunRicky Rouse Has a Gun is part action story, part parody, part commentary on intellectual property, and totally entertaining. It actually might be “too smart” in its layered commentary and the fact itself is an homage, talking about homages. But beyond that depth, the characters are entertaining, moments are hillarious, and action worthy of the big screen. Ricky Rouse to me is an ode to action movies, and the sequels they spawn, with enough to get you to think about our remix/re-use culture.
  • The Rise of Aurora West – A follow up to last year’s Battling Boy, this graphic novel focuses on Aurora West and her origin in a way. A fantastic, entertaining read that is a sequel/prequel/stand alone story that’s perfect for adults and teens. More please!

Best New Series – Gotham Academy

gotham academy #1While Ms. Marvel above easily represents a new focus and the greater diversity of the comic industry, Gotham Academy from DC Comics shows off that publisher’s shaking up their own line of comics.

Written by Becky Cloonan and Brenden Fletcher with art by Karl Kerschl, Gotham Academy has a focus, bring young adult female focused lit to comics. It beyond succeeds with an energy, voice, and look that’s been painfully missing from comics for too long.

It might take place in Gotham, and Bruce Wayne might make appearances, but this isn’t just another Batman book, it shows you can build off of something familiar in a new way, and do that successfully.

The comic is as much teenage drama as it is mystery, and for that it is amazing. Hopefully DC decides its future looks more like this, and we get more fresh tales, with new characters, in familiar settings.

  • Copperhead – A sci-fi western that has a new sheriff, with a mysterious past, coming to town. It helps she’s a single mother too. Each issue just nails it as far as pacing and story with art that feels like a western throwback, just with aliens.
  • Evil Empire – Was there a series that kept you on your toes more than this one? Each issue feels like a shock as it focuses on how that evil government that seems to exist in so many stories actually got in control. It’s also a nice finger at politics, political parties, voters, and corporations. Each issue will leave you debating political philosophy with yourself.
  • The Fuse – Another sci-fi cop series (there seems to be a lot of those this year), this one takes place on a space station and plays out like the best police dramas. Each issue presents small pieces of the crime, and just enough clues to leave you guessing. Add in an interesting setting, and a global cast, you have one hell of a series.
  • Rasputin – I had no idea what to expect with the first issue, and even after reading that first issue, I had no idea what to expect. Three issues in, I’m still not quite sure. The series focuses on the very real Rasputin, giving us glimpses at the historical mystery. Each issue is amazing to look at, and after finishing them, I want more. In a year of genre busting series, this is one of the most unique.

Best Single Issue – Bitch Planet #1

BitchPlanet01_CoverAHave you had something that’s been built up, and then you get to it you’re disappointed yourself? Yeah, this isn’t an example of that. Kelly Sue DeConnick and Valentine De Landro teamed up for the very third time to bring us the premiere issue that actually lives up to the hype.

Their highly-anticipated women in-prison sci-fi exploitation riff is amazing on so many levels, making us examine our own views on society and feminism.

The issue plays out in a way that it’s a very enjoyable women in-prison exploitation story, a straight homage to the classics, but it’s that ending where the rug is pulled out from under you, making you go back and re-read the issue immediately.

The fact it came out in December, after numerous “best of” lists had already been released caused it to be overlooked by many, and it’s an example why you should wait until all comics are released. If it’s this quality with each issue, it won’t be overlooked when 2015’s best are announced.

Social commentary and comics at its best.

Worst Single Issue of the Year – The Multiversity

multiversity 1 coverOk, this is more than one issue, so sort of cheating. Writer Grant Morrison and various artists take us around the DC Multiverse for an adventure to save all of reality. The series is comprised of six complete adventures set in different parallel worlds with a two-part framing story and a guidebook.

First if you need a “guidebook” to help tell your story, you’ve got issues to begin with.

In general Grant Morrison is hit and miss for me, and clearly this series, which has seen five issues released so far, has been a miss.

While a appreciate what Morrison does in deconstructing comics, and comic history, I feel at times he becomes too referential in that if you don’t know the history of DC Comics in and out, you’ll miss much of the point.

His comics aren’t entertaining to me, I feel dumb, and left out, like I’m not one of the “cool kids,” a “fake geek guy.” Many have gushed at some of the issues, like Pax Americana, which riffs on Watchmen, and in that particular case some claimed better than the original. But too me, much of it comes off as pale imitations.

This is for the hardcore only, and as someone who is generally more a Marvel person than DC, I’m not the audience here.

Best Event of the Year – Aliens/Predator/Prometheus: Fire & Stone

alien vs predator fire and stone 1 coverI’m fairly new to Dark Horse‘s offerings of comics based on the world of Aliens and Predator, but 2014 saw the company relaunch that universe in comics with a four series event called Fire & Stone. Each series Aliens: Fire & Stone, Predator: Fire & Stone, Aliens vs. Predator: Fire & Stone, and Prometheus: Fire & Stone, all tied into each other, but also stood on their own.

Each series organically played off each other, as if evolving from each, in much the same sort of growth and evolution we’ve seen within the universe itself.

The series also did an impressive thing, it made me enjoy the movie Prometheus more, the much maligned prequel of sorts to the Aliens and Predator universe.

What’s truly great is that you could read each series, and really enjoy them on their own. At the same time, if you read them all, you saw how one played into the other to form a greater narrative.

Hopefully this is just the beginning and we get more in 2015!

Runners Up:

  • Armor Hunters – Valiant reigned destruction on their world in Armor Hunters, as aliens descended upon Earth to destroy X-O Manowar. Pulling in numerous series, the event was epic, and world changing.
  • Forever Evil – DC has been hit and miss, but this event has been pretty solid. Especially when you look at it as commentary between the dark and gritty villains of modern times versus the cleaner villains of yesteryear
  • Avengers/New Avengers: Time Runs Out– Jonathan Hickman has been weaving a hell of a tale catapulting us into the future of the Marvel universe, giving us alternate Earth’s almost destroying the 616, and choices with actual consequences.
  • Transformers: Dawn of the Autobots – IDW’s numerous Transformers series have been awesome and this is the culmination of what has been going on. Megatron is an Autobot and religious zealot. The Decepticons are scattered and in disarray. IDW has breathed even more life into the Transformers which celebrated 30 years in 2014.

Best Genre of the Year – Indie Comics/Small Publishers

Is it a “genre”? We can argue about that, but lets face it, 2014 was a year we saw major creators continue to shrug off the big two, instead launching creator owned series at other publishers, digitally or through Kickstarter. We saw more comics, in more varieties, on more subjects and more ways to consume them, than any time before. It really wasn’t the year of the Big Two, this was a year that we as consumers could continue to find something that would fit our varied tastes.

With more channels for distribution and more ways to produce comics, we’re in a golden age where the old ways of publishing no longer hold back the creativity that abounds.

We named Indie Comics “it” in 2013, and nothing changed in 2014.

Runners Up:

  • Zombies – Zombies have become a cultural phenomenon, lead marching shuffling along by The Walking Dead. Revival changed the genre a bit, with so many releases giving us so many other spins and perspectives. Afterlife With Archie continues to shake up what we think of Archie Comics. iZombie comes to the CW in 2015. The genre continues to cross over in to movies, television, books, toys and more. I thought the phenomenon would end in 2014, I was wrong.
  • Digital Comics – Digital first. Digital exclusive. Web comics. This was the year digital comics continued to break through with numerous platforms launching, many with different business models than the “buy each issue” one we’re used to. The sector is big enough to be noticed by tech giants, which lead comiXology to be gobbled up by Amazon. Expect even more of a digital land rush in 2015.

Best Surprise of the Year – Diversity

Women Symbol2014 saw diversity, and can be called the “Year of the Woman” when it comes to comics, in both good and bad ways.

As you can see above, Marvel focused on diversifying its comics with more series featuring women in the spotlight. Ms. Marvel, She-Hulk, Elektra, Black Widow, Angela: Asgard’s Assassin, and Storm were just some of what came out.

DC Comics expanded the women on the page, and the women creating comics with Gotham Academy, a revamped Batgirl, and the hiring of talented women to create that and more.

Characters had their race or gender switched such as Captain America, Thor, Solar: Man of the Atom, and Archie’s The Shield.

Comics began to reflect, and look like its readers, a diverse group of individuals who come from all backgrounds, and are in all shapes and sizes.

Women especially were the focus, with more women led comics than ever before, and much of the year fueled by discussion about the women fanbase, harassment at conventions and online, and how to get more women interested and creating.

It’s hard to tell if this was just a fad or here to stay, but 2015 will be a key year if we want to make this positive change permanent.

Biggest Disappointment of the Year – Kickstarter

KickstarterLast year’s disappointment continued to be so, as projects were delayed, vapor ware, or not as advertised. Also add in issues on the creator end of folks pledging high amounts and then disputing the charges, at times getting the goods. Add in the platform’s unwillingness to step in to deal with either situation and you get a tech company showing off it’s greed. What was once the toast of the town has shown its cracks which will only get worse.

The crowdfunding platform became a way for creators to raise funds for projects, only to get picked up by publishers, at times delaying projects and leaving bad tastes in the mouths of fans. If all creators were held to the standards of some of the best users of the system, there’d be no issue, but over 90% of the projects I’ve pledged to have been delayed or non-existence only creating angry backers and fans.

These issues have lead this site to rethink what we promote and how we do so, no longer choosing comics to promote, as we feel some responsibility for things gone wrong and your dollars being held hostage.

Kickstarter continues to be tone-deaf, and it’s only a matter of time before someone stands up and challenges the platform with a system that’s fair to creators, and protects those who pledge.

Oh how the mighty have fallen.

Publisher of the Year – Valiant Entertainment

VALIANT_logoThere is no other comic other that that’s done these specific three things this year.

  1. Every comic is entertaining – There hasn’t been an issue produced by Valiant that hasn’t been beautiful to look at, and a fun read. There just hasn’t been a bad comic at all. That type of record is impressive, and helps the company is focused on hiring top talent, and making sure their line is tight as far as what’s produced.
  2. They’ve created a universe that works – Read one series, or read them all, Valiant has created a line of comics where this is possible. If you read them all, you’re treated to a grand story as pieces of the greater puzzle is peppered throughout. If you read an individual series, they’re still great reads, and stand on their own. Add in the fact they’ve had some world changing events, and it gets even more impressive. This isn’t an easy thing to do, but Valiant pulls it off every month. This is the best “super-hero” universe out there right now.
  3. They’re willing to try new things – Keeping their line small. Trying different promotions like with a local coffee chain, being out there first when it comes to something new digitally, this is a company that’s trying to get a greater percentage of the market by growing its audience and finding new readers. That’s something a lot of publishers aren’t willing to do, or even try.

2015 sees the launch of their new initiative Valiant Next that’s bringing us new series that have organically grown out of what’s come before, and will guide us into the future of the Valiant Universe.

Runners Up:

  • BOOM! Studios – Last year’s best publisher is still fantastic and has put out some amazing comics over the past year. They diversified their line with BOOM! Box, some more licensed comics, and impressive deals with movie and television studios. But, more isn’t necessarily better, and while there’s been fantastic series, there’s been some misses too. The company has signed some impressive deals and is starting to bring in top names and creators for deals and releases you might expect elsewhere. Still, out of all of the smaller publishers, BOOM! remains the most poised to take the reigns from Image as number three out there, and challenge the big two.
  • First Second – Consistently putting out the best graphic novels on the market, First Second’s releases cover numerous genres, types, looks, and characters. They’re synonymous with quality, there wasn’t a graphic novel they released I didn’t enjoy on some level.
  • IDW Publishing – IDW is a publisher that thinks outside of the box when it comes to building it’s readership and that’s why they’re on this list. Not only did they continue to make a fantastic move tying in their comics with toys, they’ve also expanded into television and games. They’ve put out some fantastic new series like Winterworld. The company needs a few more creator owned original series, and they’ll be a big challenger for the top spot in 2015.
  • Image Comics – Image puts out some amazing comics, there’s no doubt about that. For all the hits though, there’s a lot of misses. It’s also a publisher that’s driven by the creator’s success, instead of building successes themselves. You also have to wonder, if some of the series everyone’s buzzed about would have the audiences they would if it weren’t for those creators. In other words, is Image the success, or the creators themselves?
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The Best of 2014 Has Begun!

the best comics of 2014I attempt to hold off as long as possible before starting to cover all of the “best of” lists for the year. They’re already trickling out from various sites, even with more than a month and 6 Wednesdays to go! We’ll have our list on January 1 out of respect for all of the creators out there.

But, in the mean time, we’ll be covering the horse race in a couple of ways.

  • First, we’re compiling a list of all of the “best of” lists out there. Here’s this year’s list which has already started. The rest of the sites are all the sites we found in 2013. If you don’t see a list on ours, please let us know and we’ll add it.
  • Second, we take all of those lists, and make on master list. We’ve already started it. We mark how many times a series was mentioned, if they were ranked, and then we sort it out to find the best reviewed comic and graphic novels of the year.

To make this all easier to find, we’ve built a handy page where you can find the two posts above and check back for regular updates. You can also find previous year’s coverage.

Any guesses as to who will top this year’s list?

Which are the Best Comics of 2014?

We’ve been keeping track of all of the “Best Of” lists for 2014, but overall, where do all of this years’ releases stand? Which comics stand out as the best of the best?

Below is all of those lists combined and sorted by the top books (how many times they’re mentioned) and then if there’s a tie, by rankings and alphabetically. There’s also a column with the “ranking” of the book if a list had such a thing.

This list combines regular series, limited series, trade paperpacks, and graphic novels, so it’s not a completely fair comparison, after all some people just reviewed one or the other, but it’s pretty clear which releases have stood out this year.

This will be updated as more lists are added to the tally.

The List of Best of 2014 Lists

awardEach year we gather the various “Best Of” lists focused on comic books and graphic novels. We’ll have ours on January 1, so as to give everything released in 2014 a chance to make our list. Below is the list of sites (and lists) we found last year. We’ll be focusing on this list, but if there’s a list we missed, either comment below, or send us a message in our contact form. Here’s this year’s edition:

We’ll be updating this with lists as we see them, but feel free to add lists in the comments or contact us!

Best Comics of 2013

It’s the first day of a new year and so that means we’re doing our “best of” listing of the top comic books for 2013. Generally these are comic books that came out in 2013, though some are from earlier times and I got around to reading them, or limited series that continued. Keep in mind, this is what I have read. If it’s not on here, I just might not have read it.

Best Super Hero Comic – Hawkeye

Hawkeye_2_CoverHawkeye, Marvel Comics’ least likely hit is as cool as the minimalist covers by David Aja. Written by Matt Fraction with art by Aja among others, Hawkeye follows the Avenger and shows him not as his cockiest (as portrayed elsewhere), but instead as a character who isn’t totally sure of himself. The series is a deconstruction of this hero, putting him at the street level, as likely to take on Hydra as his is some petty street thugs who say “Bro” a lot. For that, among many reasons, the comic repeats as the best super hero series out there.

The series has a pulp sense about it, but there’s something with Hawkeye’s simple story telling that makes it stand above the rest. The art, the story, the covers, it’s all there blending perfectly. It doesn’t hurt the series also boasted some of the best single issues this year.

There’s a fantastic mix of action, humor and simple human interaction that pulls together to make it the best super hero comic I’m reading. While last year it got recognition, that seems to have grown this year, with the series earning a devoted following and it’s place on not just this list, but many others.

Runners Up:

  • All-New X-Men – This series seriously shouldn’t work, but somehow it did. Writer Brian Michael Bendis has take an idea, pulling the original X-Men to the present, and gave us a solid series that actually spun into Marvel’s best event of this year.
  • Daredevil – A strong contender for this year’s top spot, and past winner, this series is still one of the best comics on the market. Mark Waid’s writing is fantastic as he took Matt Murdock down further holes (literally and metaphorically), and gave him the struggle of dealing with a real life situation, his best friend’s fight with cancer. Next year will shake up the series, here’s hoping it doesn’t suffer.
  • FF – The art, the writing, this series is one of the craziest superhero comics out there and one with amazing heart.  Not shockingly it’s also written by Hawkeye‘s Matt Fraction.
  • The Superior Spider-Man – Much like All-New X-Men above, this series is a concept that shouldn’t work. Dan Slott has switched Peter Parker with Doc Ock and given us the struggle of a villain trying to be a hero. We all know it won’t last, but it’s been one hell of a fun ride so far.

Best Non-Super Hero Comic – Saga

saga15_coverIt shouldn’t be shocking this Image series by writer Brian K. Vaughan with art by Fiona Staples is in this spot. It’s one of the most decorated comics both this year and last, dominating “best of” lists and it’s well deserved.

The comic is a mix of science fiction and fantasy, following two individuals from opposite warring sides who fall in love, have a kid, and go on the run, pursued by both those sides.

The writing and art are just superb with characters and settings so creative no description does it justice. This is the series I’d hand non-comic readers to show them how amazing the medium can be.

Runners Ups:

  • Imagine Agents – Take Ghostbusters and mix it with Men in Black and you get this series of agents dealing with imaginary friends. The series has been fantastic and I can only want more of it! A feather in the cap for publisher BOOM! Studios’ stellar year.
  • Mind MGMT- Matt Kindt is an amazing writer and this series involving mind controlling secret agents is trippy and exciting as they come. The art is his usual water color like style, unique and recognizable in today’s comics. The comic feels like Ah-Ha’s Take On Me music video, with psychics and world traveling, aka, it’s awesome and the best comic you’re most likely not reading.
  • Revival- Did you hear zombies are still big in entertainment? This new series follows a town locked down by the CDC after the dead come back to life. What’s the cause? What exactly is going on? Little by little we’re finding out, but the focus is really the realistic characters dealing with this strange world.
  • Think Tank – This series deserves more attention. Published by Top Cow and written by Matt Hawkins with art by Rashan Ekedel, it’s real world take and well thought out scenarios and technology make it eerily prescient and a reflection of what the world might really be like when it comes to war in the near future.

Best Limited Series or One Shot – The Wake

The Wake #4 coverScott Snyder is a hell of a writer and the first part of this maxi-series wrapped up recently, leaving me with my jaw on the floor. A story that spans centuries, to say more would be to ruin the shock.

What I can say is the series’ first part evokes classic horror movies and spins out into something completely different by the end. It’s just so good and I don’t want to ruin it.

Snyder is backed up with art by Sean Murphy whose gritty pencils add to Snyder’s scary (good) scripts. Catch up on it now before the next volume begins.

Runners Up:

  • The Black Beetle – Francesco Francavilla, he alone is the reason this series is on this list. The Black Beetle is a return to fun pulp comics of the past, and Francavilla’s writing and his amazing artist (my favorite of the year) make this an amazing read. Can’t wait to see, and read, more.
  • Buzzkill – Don’t know this one? This limited series deals with a hero who only gets his powers through drugs. The problem is, he’s trying to get clean. A solid series full of ultra violence. I’m hoping for a second volume, which would be interesting considering how this one ended.
  • Demeter – The final release of Becky Cloonan’s indie comic trilogy, it’s just creepy. I’d include The Mire and Wolves which round out the set, but those came out before this year. This shows how many of the best comics are independent comics.
  • Trillium – A max-series from Vertigo covers love across time and space. It’s trippy in ways I can’t describe. The series mixes heart and sci-fi in awesome ways. Luckily we have many issues to go over the next year.

Best Graphic Novel/Trade Paperback – March Book One

March-cover-100dpi.105340March is a brilliant accounting of Congressman John Lewis’ story for new generations and those with similar struggles around the world. This amazing biographical graphic novel is written by Cong. Lewis in collaboration with co-writer Andrew Aydin and New York Times best-selling artist Nate Powell. The result is one of the best graphic novels in recent memory and an amazing depiction of history that’s accessible to all.

This graphic novel is a piece of history, capturing the Congressman’s experiences testifying to a movement whose echoes will be heard for generations. This isn’t just a graphic novel for folks to pick up and enjoy, it’s a work of art and history that should be in every school teaching about our country’s modern struggles.

Seeing as it’s only the first book in a trilogy, expect it to be on a few more lists to come.

Runners Up:

  • Battling Boy – Comics should be fun and Paul Pope’s throwback series featuring a hero sent to Earth as a test is modern Jack Kirby. Just an amazing read with fantastic art, it was a pleasant surprise. The worst part was, I wanted to read more than just this first volume.
  • Boxers & Saints – Covering the Boxer Rebellion, this dual graphic novels take the perspective of the Chinese rebels and the Christian missionaries. Again, an excellent look at history, it’s two books that can be read apart or together.
  • The Fifth Beatle – The only book so far to look at the life of Beatle’s manager Brian Epstein, it’s writing is terrific and art amazing. It was a tough decision as to which would be the top graphic novel, and this one was a close second. Just a fantastic read for comic fans, history fans, music fans and Beatle fans. It’s both uplifting and touching. It’s being made into a movie, so expect buzz about this for many more years.
  • Red Handed: The Fine Art of Strange Crimes – Matt Kindt’s graphic novel follows a series of crimes and the detective who deals with them. There’s a twist at the end that makes this amazing. Add in Kindt’s unique and beautiful art, and it’s easy to see why this makes the list.

Best New Series – The Superior Foes of Spider-Man

SuperiorFoesOfSpiderMan_1_CoverMarvel’s “superior” line of comics has been just that and stands out as Marvel’s best line of comics and this series is a challenger for the best one of the line. Following Spider-Man’s C-list (ok maybe D-list) villains, we get to see things from their perspective.

The series so far has been amazing with writing that’s entertaining, fun, funny and witty. These are bad guys, and for some reason, each issue, I come out rooting for them to succeed. I also feel bad for them, because they’re just not all that good at their jobs.

Eventually Spider-Man will stop being superior, and I hope when that time comes, we don’t see the end of this, because the comics stands out as one that lives up to it’s title, it truly is superior.

  • Afterlife With Archie – I live an Archie comic! In fairness I dig Mega Man, but this is the first that features the Riverdale cast. That cast is now dealing with a zombie outbreak, but this adult Archie Comic has shown the publisher is willing to try things and the series is boosted by the art of Francesco Francavilla.
  • The Bunker – I had to include this digital series which comes to print next year. It’s apocalypse meets Lost story is beyond amazing and art is fantastic. More individuals will hopefully see what the buzz is all about when it comes to print next year, published by Oni.
  • The Fox – The second “Archie” comic in the list is a throwback character that’s fun and entertaining. This is a superhero comic that’s great for the family.
  • Letter 44 – Charles Soule is the hardest working many in comics, writing so far 7 comics a month in 2014. This is his creator owned series that mixes politics and science fiction. Two issues in, I want more!

Best Single Issue – Hawkeye #11

hawkeye #11 coverHawkeye is the top superhero comic of the year, and this issue alone would qualify it to be on any “best of” list.

The issue is told from the perspective of Hawkeye’s dog Lucky, who is now also known as Pizza Dog. The issue is from the dog’s perspective using iconography and muffled dialogue instead of the normal dialogue we’d expect.

I like the fact the comic is original and switches it up from the main character as quite a few issues in this series did this year. But, it’s a pretty high profile comic series focused on a dog! Gutsy and fun at the same time how can you not like that? To say the issue was unique this year is an understatement.

Overall, it’s a brilliant issue on so many levels, it’s just an amazing comic and one of the best for many years. The fact that it spun out a fanbase for the dog says enough.

This was a top issue of a series that had many stand-outs.

Worst Single Issue of the Year – Avengers: Endless Wartime

Avengers_Endless_Wartime_Vol_1_1Marvel announced it was releasing new original graphic novels and this was the much-hyped first release from the creative team of Warren Ellis and Mike McKone. If it’s goal was to gain new readers, boy did it fail.

While the comic has an interesting start, the set-up is much more impressive than the follow through. Underneath the shallow exterior, there’s a greater debate about modern war, both the outsourcing of the battles fought and the pressing a button to kill your enemies thousands of miles away through drones. Overall, the disconnect and dissociation of modern war is a recurring theme throughout the comic. That’s great, if it was discussed more than some glancing dialogue here and there. Unfortunately, that very important discussion and worthwhile exploration is presented with bad guys that seem like something out of a kids cartoon and in a narrative that at times doesn’t make much sense.

The art is average, matching a blah story. I think the character designs are a bit off from what we’ve seen and not always consistent throughout the book and the monsters that are battled aren’t quite clear as to what they are.

It’s the only purchase this year I’ve wanted my money back.

Best Event of the Year – Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: City Fall

180px-TMNT_25AI’ll admit I generally ignored TMNT for much of the year, but this event made quite a few lists and I sat down and read it all over the holiday and holy crap did I miss out. The series follows Shredder’s power grab of New York City and the Turtle’s attempt to stop them.

But the best thing was all of the moments that just made it awesome for long tim TMNT fans. With the appearance of Bebop and Rocksteady, Leonardo turning evil, and so much more, this was the culmination of a long time build up.

This has drawn me back in and has me reading the series now each month to make sure I don’t miss out.

Runners Up:

  • Battle of the Atom – Marvel has been not doing it for me when it comes to events so this one which brought X-Men from the future to deal with the X-Men from the past was a pleasant surprise.
  • Forever Evil – DC has been hit and miss, but this event has been pretty solid. Especially when you look at it as commentary between the dark and gritty villains of modern times versus the cleaner villains of yesteryear
  • Harbinger Wars – Valiant’s major event was full of damage, destruction and set the universe off in a whole new direction. this is how you do an event right.
  • Transformers: Dark Cybertron – IDW’s Transformers series have been awesome and this is the culmination of long going stories. Thankfully we have much to go to enjoy.

Best Genre of the Year – Indie Comics

Is it a “genre”? We can argue about that, but lets face it, 2012 was a year we saw major creators shrug off the big two, instead launching creator owned series at other publishers, digitally or through Kickstarter. We saw more comics, in more varieties, on more subjects and more ways to consume them, than any time before. It really wasn’t the year of the Big Two, this was a year that we as consumers could continue to find something that’d fit our tastes.

With more channels for distribution and more ways to produce comics, we’re in a golden age where the old ways of publishing no longer hold back the creativity that abounds.

Runners Up:

  • Zombies – Zombies have become a cultural phenomenon, lead marching shuffling along by The Walking Dead. Revival changed the genre a bit, with so many releases giving us so many other spins and perspectives. The genre has crossed over in to movies, television, books, toys and more. We’ll see how soon before it all comes grinding to a halt and rots away.
  • Digital Comics – Digital first. Digital exclusive. Web comics. This was the year digital comics began to break through. Lead by the platform comiXology, we also saw some creativity in how to sell digitally by Viz and Archie. This distribution method will only grow in 2014 as more ways to gain revenue from it are explored.

Best Surprise of the Year – Image’s continued come back

image comicsImage celebrated it’s 20th anniversary in 2012, and it came back in 2013 and kicked even more ass. It continued to do so this year, adding to the previous year’s hits with even more hot new series. Each release seemed to create bigger and bigger buzz with constant sell-outs. And should it be any shock this was the case?

Image drew some of the biggest talent in the comic industry as creators continued to throw off the shackles of the big two and instead released quality indie comic after indie comic. Pretty Deadly, Manifest Destiny, East of West, Black Science and more debuted in 2013 and that’s on top of The Walking Dead, Saga and many more of the hit comics they already published. It’s truly impressive how much quality and buzz the publisher generated with each release.

They also pushed the distribution envelope selling DRM free comics directly to fans, though questions do remain about that whole announcement.

There was something for everyone this past year from Image, and they continued to move beyond their reputation of big guns and pecks comics, instead bringing us varied titles that at times pushed the medium.

Biggest Disappointment of the Year – Kickstarter

KickstarterLast year’s “publisher of the year” showed its issues as projects were delayed, vapor ware, or not as advertised. Also add in issues on the creator end of folks pledging high amounts and then disputing the charges, at times getting the goods. Add in the platform’s unwillingness to step in to deal with either situation and you get a tech company showing off it’s greed. What was once the toast of the town has shown its cracks which will only get worse.

The crowdfunding platform became a way for creators to raise funds for projects, only to get picked up by publishers, at times delaying projects and leaving bad tastes in the mouths of fans. If all creators were held to the standards of some of the best users of the system, there’d be no issue, but over 90% of the projects I’ve pledged to have been delayed or non-existence only creating angry backers and fans.

These issues have lead this site to rethink what we promote and how we do so.

Oh how the mighty have fallen.

Publisher of the Year – BOOM! Studios

comics-boom-studios-logoA lot of thought has gone into this one and we discussed much of this on this week’s radio show. To me, the publisher of the year is BOOM! Studios and its imprints, KaBOOM!, BOOM! Box and Archaia.

For me a publisher should be more than just the comics it produces, and this one is, but lets start there. BOOM! has show diversity with it’s various lines, with interesting and fun series that span many genres and comics that are good for adults and kids. The publisher has licensed comics and original series that’s something for everyone.

Then there’s the fact they’ve expanded their market. The publisher merged with Archaia, adding to their impressive line-up and talent. Then there was the release of 2 Guns in theaters, a success for the first time movie maker. Then there’s the deal with 20th Century Fox that sees the comic creator as an IP generator for the movie studio. All solid moves that would be impressive to themselves.

Finally there’s the diversity of staff. The company has show diversity works. The amount of women working for the publisher in numerous positions is amazing and in an industry that has a bad reputation when it comes to inclusion, this was the publisher that showed it’s possible and leads to success.

It’d be hard not to applaud the company and they deserve recognition for their hard work that’s paid off.

Runners Up:

  • IDW Publishing – IDW is a publisher that thinks outside of the box when it comes to building it’s readership and that’s why they’re on this list. Not only did they make a fantastic move in including their comics in Transformers toys, an event first issue even, but they also used QR codes to get those toy collectors to check out their app. Also they’ve repackaged their My Little Pony comics to better sell in big box retailers, again something new and interesting as far as marketing. With this, plus some other moves when it comes to partnerships, expansion into tv and movies and games, the publisher is thinking bigger than the comic market.
  • Dark Horse – Conan, The Massive, The Strain, the Goon, Dark Horse Presents, Mind MGMT, Ghost, Buzzkill and I could go on and on. Dark Horse gave us some amazing monthly series, but also collections of modern comics as well as classic comic archives. Consistently some of the best comics out each week and some fantastic gems.
  • Monkeybrain Comics – The digital comic publisher is showing digital works and their move to collect series and get them into print second is a fantastic model I expect many others to try out. Add on top of that an expansive library with enough different titles to appeal to anyone, it’s not a surprise they’re getting accolades across the industry.
  • Titan Books – While none of their books made this list, this publisher would easily fill the 5-10 slots for most of these categories with amazing comics such as A1 (my top anthology), Death Sentence, Chronos Commandos, Tomorrowland and more. They have a second wave of books announced for 2014 that sounds like they’ll be competing for publisher next year and challenging for many of these categories.
Related articles

Which are the Best Comics of 2013?

We’ve been keeping track of all of the “Best Of” lists for 2013, but overall, where do all of this years’ releases stand? Which comics stand out as the best of the best?

Below is all of those lists combined and sorted by the top books (how many times they’re mentioned) and then if there’s a tie, by rankings and alphabetically. There’s also a column with the “ranking” of the book if a list had such a thing.

This list combines regular series, limited series and graphic novels, so it’s not a completely fair comparison, after all some people just reviewed one or the other, but it’s pretty clear which releases have stood out this year.

This will be updated as more lists are added to the tally.

The List of Best of 2013 Lists

awardEach year we gather the various “Best Of” lists focused on comic books and graphic novels. We’ll have ours on January 1, so as to give everything released in 2013 a chance to make our list.

Here’s this year’s edition:

We’ll be updating this with lists as we see them, but feel free to add lists in the comments or contact us!

Listen to Graphic Policy Radio’s Best of 2012 Episode!

Last night we had our “Best of 2012” episode of Graphic Policy Radio. The whole team was on, Brett, Elana and Kenneth. Who and what did we pick as the best comics of 2012? Listen in and find out!

Listen to
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A New Episode of Graphic Policy Radio Tonight!

GP Radio pic MondayIt’s Monday, and a new episode of Graphic Policy Radio hits the air tonight at 10pm airing on BlogTalkRadio.

This Monday, we’ve got the full team on the show and we’re discussing the Best Comics of 2012!

2012 was a banner year for comic books and fans could find more varied comics and be able to read them in more ways than any time before.

So join the team and hear what we thought were some of the best of the best and make sure to join in on the conversation and let us know your thoughts as to what were your picks for the best comics.

Join the chat on Twitter, @graphicpolicy, or call in at (619) 768-2952 to chat.

You can find Brett’s picks already and also see what the comic community as a whole thinks.

Best Comics of 2012

It’s the first day of a new year and so that means we’re doing our “best of” listing of the top comic books for 2012. Generally these are comic books that came out in 2012, though some are from earlier times and I got around to reading them, or limited series that continued. Keep in mind, this is what I have read. If it’s not on here, I just might not have read it.

Best Super Hero Comic – Hawkeye

Hawkeye_2_CoverHawkeye, Marvel Comics’ least likely hit is as cool as the minimalist covers by David Aja. Written by Matt Fraction with art by Aja, Hawkeye follows the Avenger and shows him not as his cockiest (as portrayed elsewhere), but instead as a character who isn’t totally sure of himself. The series is a deconstruction of this hero, putting him at the street level, as likely to take on Hydra as his is some petty street thugs who say “Bro” a lot.

The series shares a lot with last year’s winner Daredevil. Both have a pulp sense about them, but there’s something with Hawkeye’s simple story telling that makes it stand above the rest. The art, the story, the covers, it’s all there blending perfectly.

There’s a fantastic mix of action, humor and simple human interaction that pulls together to make it the best super hero comic I’m reading, but also one of the best debuts of the year. Hopefully the comic finds the audience it deserves as accolades are poured upon it, but if nothing else, this is a series that’ll be looked upon as at the top of it’s game, no matter the year.

Runners Up:

  • Daredevil – Last year’s winner is still one of the best comics on the market. Mark Waid’s writing is fantastic as he took Matt Murdock down holes (literally and metaphorically). We again questioned Murdock’s sanity and Waid was able to mix in pulp fun with super heroes and not make it all seem silly when we got our reveal at the end.
  • Idolized – Aspen Comics’ first entry into true super heroes was a comic I looked forward to reading each month. Centered around a reality tv super hero contest, we’re given a character we can relate to, cheer on as well as scold all at the same time. The art is top notch and here’s hoping it lasts for quite some time.
  • Batman – Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo have put together a Batman run that’s up there with the best. This year they’ve given us the Court of Owls and Talons which are villains that feel appropriate for Batman but also his equal in every way.
  • Wolverine & The X-Men – Wolverine is now the headmaster at a school that’s as chaotic as him in beserker mode. Each issue I walk away smiling after a few laughs. In a year of uneven “X” books, this one has been consistent fun.

Best Non-Super Hero Comic –The Massive

massivepromoNYCC_2_swimWriter Brian Wood‘s DMZ won last year, so is it any surprise his new series by Dark Horse is this year’s winner? This to me is not just the best non-super hero comic, but also the best “new series” and “best series” of the year. It’s that damn good. It’s the future after a massive environmental disaster and aboard a ship the Kapital is a crew of environmental activists on a mission to survive as well as find their sister ship The Massive.

The comic is as good as they come, with an amazing cast of characters that we slowly get to learn more about as layers pealed apart issue by issue. The world is destroyed and while familiar, the environmental devastation has left it so that we’re kept on our toes.

The cast of characters are some of the most realistic and interesting in any comic out there right now. It’s diverse and varied in backgrounds, motivations, attitudes, everything. There’s someone for everyone to cheer for and hiss at. We have heroes and villains and motivations that still remain murky and elusive.

The Massive is the one series I immediately read upon release no matter what I have going on. The downside is, I have to wait a month to do so between each issue.

Runners Ups:

  • Saga – Brian K. Vaughn has written some modern classics and Saga looks like it’ll be right up there with his past works. An epic in the making that’s a mix of science fiction and fantasy following two enemy soldiers who fall in love, have a kid, and go on the run. Each issue keeps you on your toes as to what expect next.
  • Revival- Did you hear zombies are still big in entertainment? This new series follows a town locked down by the CDC after the dead come back to life. What’s the cause? What exactly is going on? Little by little we’re finding out, but the focus is really the realistic characters dealing with this strange world.
  • Mind MGMT- Matt Kindt is an amazing writer and this series involving mind controlling secret agents is trippy and exciting as they come. The art is his usual water color like style, unique and recognizable in today’s comics. The comic feels like Ah-Ha’s Take On Me music video, with psychics and world traveling, aka, it’s awesome.
  • Rachel Rising – Another horror comic that’s fantastic each and every issue. Another people coming back from the dead comic that again keeps you on your toes as what’s going on plays out slowly over each issue. This is a slow build, page turner.

Best Limited Series or One Shot – Princeless

PRINCELESS_TPB_CVRFairy tales are rather played out. Girl needs a prince to rescue her from the tower and to do so, the prince must defeat the dragon. Then, comes in Princeless, which takes all of that and skewers it with some of the best female empowering political/societal skewering this year. The lead is a female black princess out to save her sisters. It’s girl power and it’s awesome.

The sly commentary about society and gender roles makes this first volume and it’s two one-shots stick out. The fact it’s done in a package that’s as fun for kids as it is for adults, makes it one of the best of the year.

The comic has gotten praise, landing on a few other lists and even receiving Eisner nods, all the accolades are deserved. We get a second volume in February, and you better pre-order it to make sure you get a copy.

If you’re looking for a comic to hand to your kids, female or male, this is a great one to start, but lets be honest, it’s so entertaining, you’ll be the one reading it.

Runners Up:

  • Point of Impact–  Image Comics released this series which is only in it’s third issue, but it’s basically Law & Order, the comic book. The story is as solid as you’d see on that show and should be a great crossover to draw fans of that television series over to comic books. If you’re a fan of that tv show, even a casual one, go grab this series if you can find it.
  • Stumptown Vol. 2Greg Rucka brings back his detective series for a second volume. This one focusing on musicians and the drug trade. The series is still playing out and man it’s good. The series also decided to try some things new visually, like having you turn the pages during a car chase. Solid story and innovative art to boot!
  • The New Deadwardians – Vertigo’s limited series is the British upper crust meets vampires and zombies. Did I also mention that it’s a detective thriller?
  • Archaia Free Comic Book Day – You have to give Archaia props for this free comic, not just due to the excellent content within, which included Rust, The Return of the Dapper Men and more, but it also was a hardcover comic. The absolute best presentation and giveaway for Free Comic Book Day ever.

Best Single Issue – Batman #5

Batman #5 CoverScott Snyder‘s Batman epic event Court of Owls was an amazing read, giving us a villain that seemed the equal or better of Batman. Something that hasn’t been felt in a long time. But, the story was helped by Greg Capullo‘s art. If you need evidence of how important that was, then go back to this issue. Though it came out in the beginning of the year, it’s stuck with me since.

Batman is captured and dumped in the Owls’ maze. As he’s drugged and descends in to madness, we’re taken with him. Before we know it, we’ve turned the issue on it’s side, then completely upside down as we go down the spiral with our hero. We’ve scene that sort of visual before, in movies, on television, but the tactile holding of the book, instead of the passive watching ads an element that drags us into the experience.

It’s a perfect example of the marriage of story and art and why comics are an entertainment medium unlike any other.

Worst Single Issue of the Year – Thunderbolts (Marvel Now) #1

Thunderbolts_01_CoverI’ve loved Marvel’s Thunderbolts in ever version we’ve gotten over the years. Even their latest time travel spin, while silly at times, ended well enough to justify the trip. Marvel NOW! was supposed to be the best creative teams creating some of the best comics, but this first issue is such a stinker, it’s sad and I wonder how it got approved.

The issue is the very non-creative gathering of the members of the team. In a movie, it’d maybe be 10 or 15 minutes, and possibly covered in the opening credits. Add on top of it we wonder how General Ross is getting from place to place, the entire issue is poorly plotted, thought out and just beyond boring. Add in a waste of art talent and I can only hope things get better going forward, cause this was really bad.

It’s a shame to see such cool character be used so poorly with a set-up that is predictable and at the same time, make no sense. The fact this is supposed to get people excited and draw them in since it’s Marvel NOW! just makes it even more of a travesty.

Runners Up:

  • Deadpool (Marvel Now) #1- Deadpool versus zombie versions of past Presidents. The story arc is silly and just pointless. This is not Deadpool at his best.
  • Happy! (any issue) – If there was an award for the most use of “fuck” in comics, this would win. If that’s supposed to be edgy and entertaining, I’ll pass.

Best Graphic Novel/Trade Paperback – Economix: How Our Economy Works & Doesn’t Work

Economix_Cover-300x426Take a complicated subject of economics and most people’s eyes glaze over just before they fall asleep. What this graphic novel does, is take a complicated and dense subject and makes it easy to understand, and somehow does it in an entertaining fashion.

The graphic novel begins in the early stages of economics and follows through to modern times, including the fiscal meltdown over the last decade. Not only are the philosophies that impacted the thought of the time discussed, but the major events of the time are added in to give us a perspective as to how it all fits together.

The graphic novel isn’t preachy at all, instead it allows us to make up our own mind as to how it all works together. We’re presented with the history without the personal opinion or perspective (for the most part).

This is a graphic novel that should be a required reading in all high schools and colleges. Not only does it educated, but it also entertains. In one read, I learned more on the subject than all of my education put together. For that the graphic novel deserves accolades.

This is a prime example of how graphic novels and comics have transcended their origins and are more than silly heroes in tights.

Runners Up:

  • My Friend Dahmer – Want to know the “origin” of Jeffrey Dahmer? Well here you go, directly from a person who knew him in high school. This graphic novel will leave you scratching your head and disturbed at the killer and monster he was, but also wonder how anyone could of stopped it.
  • Jerusalem: Chronicles from the Holy City – Guy Delisle’s latest about his time spent in Israel. The commentary and perspective of his experiences is amazing and really gets you to think. A travel guide like no other, Delisle’s work is beyond entertaining perfect for comic and non-comic fans alike.
  • Harvey Pekar’s Cleveland and Not the Israel My Parents Promised Me – These are some of Harvey Pekar’s last works before his passing this year. Both are as personal as they come discussing his faith and growing up in Cleveland. Masterpieces both.
  • Building Stories – The most praised release of the year is a collection of stories in a box the size of a board game. The interconnected stories make you rethink what comic books are and could be.

Best Writer of the Year – Brian Wood

Brian WoodThe Massive would put Wood in the running this year, but add in his run on Conan the Barbarian and his release of Mara and Brian Wood is the best writer this year. Each series is varied in topics and characters, but what they all have in common is strong characters.

Wood, throughout everything he’s written has focused on that. They voices he writes through run through the spectrum, and through it all he tackles some great socio and political commentary. His writing is a commentary in the world we live in or a world we could live in.

All three series are some of the top of the year, and with Star Wars on the horizon in 2013, there’s a good chance he’ll be towards the top of the list then too.

Runners Up:

  • Mark Waid – Waid is a master writer turning anything he touches into gold. He’s got Daredevil, last years best series, and take the reigns on the Indestructible Hulk, plus there’s his work at Thrillbent. I can’t wait to see what he releases in 2013!
  • Scott Snyder – The man has injected excitement and new ideas into Batman, giving us new bad guys that seem like a threat and the return of the Joker. On top of that there’s his work on American Vampire and Swamp Thing. 2013 sees Man of Steel from DC comics, we’ll see if he can give us the Superman we deserve.
  • Matt Kindt – Mind MGMT has gotten Kindt on to the list. The story and how it’s laid out, with fake ads and small details in the margins makes it a series that sucks you in, in every way.
  • Brian Michael Bendis – The man wrapped up his epic run on the Avengers and gave us the All-New X-Men after juggling the epic battle of Avengers Vs. X-Men. Probably the most controversial person on the list, he’s taken concepts that shouldn’t work and some how have made them so.

Best Event of the Year – Court of Owls

Court of OwlsScott Snyder’s Batman event has given us a threat that really makes us think Batman has met his match. Talons, undead assassins are unleashed on Gotham to cleanse it and bring in the reign of the Court of Owls a secret society that’s been around since the cities’ earliest of days.

We got some retconning and wedging in of the concept, but it all works. Snyder pulled it off giving us a hell of an exciting story and one I wish went on longer. It’s only downside was it was too short, but I’m sure it’s ramifications will be felt in the long run, setting up a plot line for Batman that’ll be around for years.

Runners Up:

  • Rotworld – Swamp Thing and Animal take on the Rot, which might consumer us all. The least talked about event and story-arc of the year is one of DC’s best.
  • Avengers Vs. X-Men – It should of been horrible, but every battle, every fight was entertaining and filled up that small part of us that want to see comic characters beat the crap out of each other. Oh yeah, and the Phoenix returned. It gave us the new Marvel status-quo, so it was also one of the most important story arcs.
  • Uncanny X-Force: Final Execution – Will Kid Apocalypse turn evil? This is what the series has been leading to, and in the end it’s all a comment on nature vs. nurture.
  • Return of Valiant – Valiant is back! And while the comics are all over the map in quality, they’re all good to great. 2013 sees the publisher’s first big events, so we’ll see where they land next year. Welcome back Valiant, you’ve been missed!

Best Genre of the Year – Indie Comics

Is it a “genre”? We can argue about that, but lets face it, 2012 was a year we saw major creators shrug off the big two, instead launching creator owned series at other publishers, digitally or through Kickstarter. We saw more comics, in more varieties, on more subjects and more ways to consume them, than any time before. It really wasn’t the year of the Big Two, this was a year that we as consumers could find something that’d fit our tastes.

With more channels for distribution and more ways to produce comics, we’re in a golden age where the old ways of publishing no longer hold back the creativity that abounds.

Runners Up:

  • Zombies – Zombies have become a cultural phenomenon, lead marching shuffling along by The Walking Dead. Revival changed the genre a bit, with so many releases giving us so many other spins and perspectives. The genre has crossed over in to movies, television, books, toys and more. We’ll see how soon before it all comes grinding to a halt.
  • Digital Comics – Digital first. Digital exclusive. Web comics. This was the year digital comics began to break through. Lead by the platform comiXology, we also saw some creativity in how to sell digitally by Viz. This distribution method will only grow in 2013 as more ways to gain revenue from it are explored.

Best Comic Tie-In of the Year – The Walking Dead Episodes 1 to 5

wd gameThe game has gained numerous accolades in the video game industry. It released as episodes, mimicking comic books and the television series it built off of. You make choices and try to survive in a world filled with zombies, with your decisions impacting the story. It also was a break through for episodic video game content, something toyed with, but not really ever gaining the acceptance it deserved.

This is the video game based on a comic book that didn’t suck. Something rare when it comes to video games. A second volume is out in 2013, so expect this to make numerous lists then too.

Runners Up:

  • Marvel and DC Lego Sets – How awesome are these? I have all the sets released, plus the key chains and some of the limited edition figs. All are awesome, and there’s more out in 2013!
  • The Walking Dead (Facebook game) – Take The Walking Dead and make it a fun social game you can play on Facebook. A fun time sink that plays off it’s source material perfectly.
  • Minimates – Kind of like Lego figures, but more points of articulation and so many choices to make. There’s over 50 sets out and the characters and properties they cover is massive. A great niche form of toys and one I got in to in 2012.
  • Marvel Universe – The out put this year seems to have dropped of these G.I. Joe like toys. But, the quality was up there. Topping the list for me was my Guardians of the Galaxy toy set with Rocket Raccoon and Groot!

Best Comic Book Related Movie/TV Show – The Walking Dead

WalkingDeadSeason3Poster-610x903This was a juggernaut. The television series based on the Skybound/Image Comics comic dominated television, putting up ratings that haven’t been scene before in a cable television series. It crushes the competition in key demographic categories and only seems to be getting bigger and bigger.

It become a focal point between AMC and television cable companies in their battles this year. It also has driven people to pick up the source material. The Walking Dead television series has done what no other movie or television series based on comics has done, it’s driven people to buy comics. The Walking Dead trade paperbacks have been in the top ten of lists for much of the year and stores can’t keep them in stock.

Issue 100 of the series was one of the biggest selling comics of the last decade driven by the popularity of the television show. It’s back in February and I’m expecting only bigger ratings and fandom to come.

Runners Up:

  • Comic-Con Episode IV: A Fan’s Hope – A celebration of fandom, the movie took us to San Diego Comic-Con and helped us understand the buzz and comic fans, never talking down about or making fun of them. A documentary that truly celebrates it’s subject.
  • Avengers- The movie was flawed, but Marvel and Joss Whedon pulled off what many thought was impossible, pulling together Marvel’s characters and creating a cohesive comic movie universe. That gets it to make the list.
  • The Dark Knight Rises- The end of Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy fails to stand on it’s own, but it’s a great end cap to the three movies wrapping up it’s themes nicely. The whole is stronger than any individual part.
  • Batman: The Dark Knight Returns Part 1 – The source material is fantastic, so not a shock the animated feature is any less. Now I want part 2!

Best Surprise of the Year – Image’s come back

image comicsImage celebrated it’s 20th anniversary this year, and it came back and kicked ass. Each released seemed to create bigger and bigger buzz with constant sell-outs. And should it be any shock this was the case? Image drew some of the biggest talent in the comic industry as creators threw off the shackles of the big two and instead released quality indie comic after indie comic.

There was something for everyone this year from Image, and they moved passed their reputation of big guns and pecks comics, instead bringing us varied titles that at times pushed the medium.

Biggest Disappointment of the Year – Marvel NOW!

Marvel ComicsI’ll start off by saying there’s some great comics in Marvel NOW!. But, there’s also some real stinkers. We were promised the best creative teams tackling the best characters, but so far, this big shake up has seemed like business as usual. Sure, there’s solid comics, All-New X-Men, Thor, Avengers, but for each good one, there seems to be some turds too.

Add on top of that, a promise of promotion that hasn’t been scene. There was Jimmy Kimmel, but that seemed to make fun of comic books. There was Jeopardy that every contestant avoided like the plague.

What should of been a huge multi-media event instead turned into another launch point aimed at people already reading comics, offering nothing new or different. Just the same old comics, with different creative teams.

Sure there’s the Marvel augmented reality, but do I want to pull out my phone to read a comic? It’s a toy added to what should be the real draw, the comic story and art. This just feels like an accessory to the action figure that’s not needed.

We also have a release schedule that makes me slap my head. Some issues see their fifth issue out in less than two months. Some are a weekly release, some are monthly. This is overload of the worst kind when it comes to releases.

Instead of innovating and challenging what comics are and who reads them, we get what’s come before with some new polish.

Best Character – Callum Israel

callum israelCallum Israel is the main character of Brian Wood‘s The Massive. A former mercenary who worked for a Blackwater like operation, is now the leader of an environmental group trying to find their sister ship in a world destroyed by ecological disaster.

We’re still learning more and more about this character, much like everyone in Wood’s amazing read. We know were he’s from, that’s brought up a lot. We know a bit about his past and partially why he stopped his former life. There’s a gap however between then and when he became an environmental crusader and so much else we don’t know about.

A leader whose mysterious and tough. Israel is a character I want to learn more about.

Runner Up:

  • Batman – A successful comic series and event(s) plus a successful movie that end caps a fantastic movie trilogy. That was followed up about rumors as to how he’ll be handled in the upcoming Justice League movie. This was Batman’s year when it comes to super heroes.

Publisher of the Year – Kickstarter

KickstarterI thought long and hard about who should have this mantle. I decided there should be a couple of factors when choosing the “Publisher of the Year.” I wanted a “publisher” that not only put out solid comic books, but in this digital age, pushed the envelope some how. While not technically a publisher Kickstarter did both.

Kickstarter is a crowdfunding platform where individuals put up projects and people submit pledges to help those projects meet their goals. Pledges may contain various gifts back, like digital comics, printed comics, posters, prints, t-shirts or more.

Kickstarter is now roughly the third largest publisher in it’s output each month, but what’s more amazing is that it’s democratized the creation process. In the past the publisher was the one that decided what was printed and what the masses could read. Sure there was indie comics, but for the most part the the decision process was top down.

Instead, Kickstarter is a publishing platform, allowing creators to pitch their ideas and creations and allow the masses to decide what gets funded, and by being funded, what gets printed. It destroys the creation process and throws out the out-dated beliefs.

Comics you’d never see otherwise are now getting created and in to the hands of fans. Some of the most buzzed about projects are starting there first and then going to publishers. Some of the industry’s biggest creators are going there to get their projects out there.

Kickstarter has really gotten the ball rolling in a change that will fundamentally change the entertainment we enjoy and will eventually lead to a publishing process years from now we don’t even recognize today. What’s more amazing is, it’s just getting started.

Runners Up:

  • Image Comics – Image has had a banner year, getting past stereotypes of the type of comics you’d expect from them and drawing in some of the industry’s biggest creators. It gave us some of the most talked about comics of the years, creating some of the biggest buzz. All of which during it’s 20th anniversary.
  • Dark Horse – Conan, The Massive, The Strain, the Goon, Dark Horse Presents, Mind MGMT, Ghost and I could go on and on. Dark Horse gave us some amazing monthly series, but also collections of modern comics as well as classic comic archives.
  • Viz Media – I don’t read Manga. I’m not the biggest fan, but I’m checking it out more and more. Why Viz Media makes the list is because they’re changing up revenue models. Not only did they launch Neon Alley, but they have given a digital Manga platform which you can pay for or read digital comics by watching ads. Add in a deal with CafePress and this is a company willing to try new things and see what works.
  • Archaia – Archaia has put out some of the most beautiful comics this year. They went digital first, which I think hurt a bit, but the comics themselves are fantastic. They really have something for everyone and if you want to get someone in to comics, this is a company to start with. The presentation alone will get people to change their minds. When I think of Archaia, I think quality.
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