by Bob Reyer As an adjunct to our year-end Best Comics of 2012 Awards, and to provide helpful information to aid in your voting, as well as to throw a spanner or two in the works in the form of possible write-in candidates (and also because I like to have the last word!), I’m here to set down my own Top Ten lists (which due to me being an ornery old coot will sometimes stretch to twenty!), focusing on Best On-Going Series and Best Overall Comic, with side-trips into Best Mini or Limited Series and Best One-Shot/Single Issue/Graphic Novel. (Confused? No, I didn’t think you would be; but would somebody explain it to me?) On to the business at hand; My Top Ten (plus 2) for Best On-Going Title: #12) Empowered: What began as a set of “fetish-y” commissioned drawings has been transformed into a series of great humour, sexiness, and yes, real character growth by writer/artist Adam Warren. #11) Fatale: Ed Brubaker blends his signature “Noir” style with Lovecraftian horror, and with the “Wally Wood-esque” art of Sean Phillips brought us to a very scary place. #10) Batwoman: I was late to this party, but thanks to my colleagues, I’m happy to be on board! #9) Saga: As with Fatale, this genre-bending book is one that you can recommend to those readers of “real books” who scoff at the notion of great story-telling in the four-color format! #8) Hawkeye: If you had told me a year ago that I would be buying (let alone loving!) a Hawkeye comic…wow, and thanks, Matt Fraction! #7) X-Factor: Away from the sturm und drang of AvDreck (sorry, AvX), Peter David continues to spin gold each and every month. #6) Batgirl: If one considers what heinous ground this re-booted title could have trod (see Catwoman) writer Gail Simone should be awarded a medal. Even after years of chronicling Barabara’s story, Ms. Simone’s ability to grant us new insights into Barbara’s psyche as she struggles to adjust to her return to action as Batgirl is truly a labor of love. #5) World’s Finest: Just a fun bit of old-time, professional craftsmanship by creators Paul Levitz, George Perez, and Kevin Maguire, and the best “buddy” book on the stands. #4) Thunderbolts/Dark Avengers: Even with the title change to Dark Avengers, Jeff Parker continued to give us some of Marvel’s finest character studies this year, as these two teams of villains-turned-“heroes” find their place in the super-human community. (Mr. Parker, if you see this, would you please pitch a Luke Cage series to the higher-ups?) #3) Captain Marvel: In the nature of full disclosure, I’m a push-over for characters that find a new life through a writer re-connecting them to their roots, and using those core values to bring something new to light about them. Kelly Sue DeConnick has, in this “new” version of Carol Danvers, fulfilled the promise of the 70s “liberated” hero, and created a heroine for the ages, and along the way re-energized a huge swath of female fans who had grown tired of reading the exploits of “exploitative” super-women. #2) FF: What seemed a gimmick on launch, instead became a masterpiece of family adventure, thanks to Jonathan Hickman. The “countdown” to the end of his “Fantastic” run came to perhaps its deepest emotional places in this book. #1) Fantastic Four: Despite the qualms of my colleagues regarding two “Fantastic” books in our Top Five, the combination of grand-scale epic adventure and intimate personal story-telling in Fantastic Four harken back to the Silver and Bronze Ages where super-humans began to be more “human” under the pens of the creators of that era. Jonathan Hickman, even within his years-long plot-line, never let Fantastic Four be anything but the story of Reed and Sue Richards and their extended family, and all without ludicrous “adult” elements, artifice, or pretension, and in doing so created a comic that can be celebrated as one of the best examples of what this medium can offer. It seems, although only two issues in, that new writer Matt Fraction has taken the baton from Mr. Hickman, and is prepared to embark on his own stellar run on this title. My Best Overall Comic list has some additions, which I’ll touch on as we go through: #12) Hawkeye #11) X-Factor #10) Wonder Woman Adventures 100-page Special: I’m sure I’ll hear howls as I say this, but for me, this is the best representation of the Amazon Princess in comics this year. Diana is both strong and heroic, yet always compassionate, and as this collection is aimed at the target audience for whom Wonder Woman was created by William Moulton Marston and Harry G. Peter all those decades ago, it is free of the now de rigueur violence and sexuality that has become too prevalent in the actual Wonder Woman title, at least to historians of this classic character, such as our podcast guest Trina Robbins, or to long-time fans such as your obedient servant. #9) Before Watchmen–Silk Spectre: Writer Darwyn Cooke and co-plotter/artist Amanda Conner gave us the one essential read of the whole “un-necessary” (Thanks, Stephanie!) Before Watchmen enterprise. They provided us with the events that would inform Laurie Jupiter’s decisions as a budding super-heroine, and as a woman, and in a way that never felt “‘shoe-horned” in. #8) Ghost: As I mentioned in my comments regarding Captain Marvel, I love “on-model” takes on under-appreciated or under-utilized characters, and Kelly Sue DeConnick hit her second “super-heroine home run” of the season with this fabulous re-visit to Dark Horse Comics’ spectral avenger. #7) Batgirl #6) World’s Finest #5) Thunderbolts/Dark Avengers #4) Defenders #3) Captain Marvel #2) FF #1) Fantastic Four In the Best One-Shot category, although we have five great nominees that all speak to the humanity within the characters, there are a few others that I would like to humbly submit for your approval: Batgirl #0: Writer Gail Simone provides us a look at Barbara Gordon’s first foray as Batgirl, and as usual for Ms. Simone, she shows us that it is Barbara who is a hero, regardless of her circumstance. X-Factor #243: Similarly, Peter David crafts a wrenching tale around the pivotal moment in Lorna Dane’s life and relationship with her “father” Magneto, and one that may redefine her as a heroine. Fantastic Four #605: In this issue, Reed and his father Nathaniel get to see the future through the travails of the now slowly-aging Ben Grimm. The emotions captured by Jonathan Hickman within this story, particularly the final pages, are what have come to be his hallmark during his tenure on “The World’s Greatest Comic Magazine”. I believe that our Best Mini category has a very strong slate of nominees, but let me add Matt Fraction’s Defenders to the mix. With a rotating cast of talented artists, this “un-planned” limited series told an ages-spanning cosmic tale of the beginnings and endings of a universe, all whilst grounded in the entertaining personal interactions of a rag-tag group of super-folk. With more than a nod to the first Defenders, but wholly original in its execution, this is a series to check out. By the way, the second TPB volume that completes the series will be out in late January. Our two most important categories, Best On-Going and Best Overall (our “Best Picture”, if you will) prompted some of our liveliest debates…and could we have used a Parliamentary procedure expert in the room that night! My complete lists for all our categories, plus my picks for our “technical awards” will follow, so armed with your own opinions, and whatever help your humble hosts have provided, please cast your ballots, and we’ll see you on the “Red Carpet” on Awards Night! Humour 1.) Love & Capes: What to Expect 2.) Empowered 3.) It Girl and The Atomics 4.)A-Babies vs. X-Babies 5.) Deadpool 6.) My Little Pony: Friendship is… 7.) JL8 Kids 1.) Wonder Woman Adventures: 100-page Special 2.) A-Babies vs. X-Babies 3.) My Little Pony: Friendship is… 4.) Wonder Woman: Story of the Amazon Princess Anthology 1.) Womanthology: Space 2.) Rocketeer Adventures 3.) Dark Horse Presents 4.) DC Presents Archival Project 1.) Miss Fury: Sensational Sundays (IDW) 2.) Dave Stevens: Covers & Stories (IDW) 3.) Wonder Woman Archives Vol. 7 (DC) 4.) Matt Baker: The Art of Glamour (Twomorrows Press) 5.) Flash Gordon: Sundays Vol. 1 (Titan) Breakthrough Writer 1.) Kelly Sue DeConnick 2.) Jeff Parker 3.) Amanda Conner 4.) J.H. Williams III Breakthrough Artist 1.) J.H. Williams III 2.) Dexter Soy 3.) Amanda Conner 4.) Chris Samnee 5.) Emma Rios 6.) David Aja Best Writer 1.) Jonathan Hickman 2.) Matt Fraction 3.) Kelly Sue DeConnick 4.) Gail Simone 5.) Peter David 6.) Mark Waid 7.) Jeff Parker 8.) Thom Zahler 9.) John Byrne 10.) Darwyn Cooke/Amanda Conner 11.) Paul Levitz 12.) Adam Warren Best Artist 1.) J.H. Williams III 2.) John Byrne 3.) Amanda Conner 4.) Dexter Soy 5.) David Aja 6.) George Perez 7.) Fiona Staples 8.) Neil Edwards 9.) Emma Rios 10.) Phil Noto 11.) Sean Phillips 12.) Adam Warren Best Cover 1.) Masks #1 2.) Halloween Eve (Dorothy) 3.) Before Watchmen: Silk Spectre #3 4.) Love & Capes: What to Expect #2 5.) Uncanny Avengers #2 6.) Saga #1 7.) Rocketeer: C.O.D. #2A (D.Cooke) 8.) Dark Avengers #182-3 (2-part cover) 9.) Ghost #2 (Phil Noto) 10.) Trio #4 11.) X-Factor #243 12.) Fantastic Four #605.1 Honorable Mention: Captain Marvel #5 (Joe Quinones) Breast Cancer Awareness Month Variant, a print of which is hanging in my kitchen! Best Web or Digital Comic 1.) Hark! A Vagrant! 2.) Lady Sabre & the Pirates of the Ineffable Aether 3.) You Go, Ghoul! 4.) Sara and the Seed 5.) JL8 Best Story Arc 1.) Fantastic Four/FF “Forever” 2.) Defenders “Everything Dies” 3.) Captain Marvel# 1-6 “In Pursuit of Flight” 4.) Batgirl #1-4 “A Breath of Broken Glass” 5.) X-Factor #241-247 “Breaking Points” 6.) World’s Finest “Lost Daughters…” 7.) Ghost “In the Smoke and Din” 8.) Thunderbolts/Dark Avengers #163-184 ”Time Lost” 9.) BW: Silk Spectre “Laurie’s Journey” 10.) Saga #1-6 “Run to the Rocketship Forest” 11.) Trio #1-4 12.) Fatale #1-6 “Death Chases Me” Best New Series 1.) Captain Marvel 2.) World’s Finest 3.) Ghost 4.) Before Watchmen: Silk Spectre 5.) Hawkeye 6.) Trio 7.) Saga 8.) Batwoman 9.) Fatale 10.) Steed & Mrs. Peel 11.) Rocketeer: Cargo of Doom 12.) John Byrne’s Cold War Best Single Issue/One-Shot 1.) Fantastic Four #606 2.) FF #23 3.) Captain Marvel #6 4.) Batgirl Annual #1 5.) Wonder Woman Adv. 100-page Special 6.) World’s Finest #1 7.) Before Watchmen: Silk Spectre #3 8.) Halloween Eve 9.) X-Factor #243 10.) Fantastic Four #605 11.) Batgirl #0 12.) X-Factor #240 13.) Steed & Mrs. Peel #0 14.) Love & Capes: What to Expect #1 15.) Dark Avengers #176 16.) Avenging Spider-Man #5 17.) Captain Marvel #3 18.) FF #1 19.) Fantastic Four #1 20.) Masks #1 Best Mini/Limited Series 1.) Defenders 2.) Ghost 3.) Before Watchmen: Silk Spectre 4.) Trio 5.) Rocketeer: Cargo of Doom 6.) Love & Capes: What to Expect 7.) John Byrne’s Cold War 8.) Avengers 1959 9.) Villains for Hire 10.) Spider-Men 11.) The Huntress Best On-Going Series 1.) Fantastic Four 2.) FF 3.) Captain Marvel 4.) Thunderbolts/Dark Avengers 5.) World’s Finest 6.) Batgirl 7.) X-Factor 8.) Hawkeye 9.) Saga 10.) Batwoman 11.) Fatale 12.) Empowered Best Overall Comic 1.) Fantastic Four 2.) FF 3.) Captain Marvel 4.) Defenders 5.) Thunderbolts/Dark Avengers 6.) World’s Finest 7.) Batgirl 8.) Ghost 9.) Before Watchmen: Silk Spectre 10.)Wonder Woman Adv. 100-page Special 11.) X-Factor 12.) Hawkeye 17 Responses Yorke January 4, 2013 Nice lists, Bob. A lot of top 10s have been similar, so nice to see a little variety. Several on here that I haven’t read, so I got some ideas of what to read on the next rainy day. Thanks! Log in to Reply Bob Reyer January 4, 2013 Yorke, Thanks for checking in! As you can see, I love making lists, but no one generally sees them, so it’s gratifying to know that you found some titles of enough interest to give them a spin. If you can, please let me know your “review” of any books you do pick up! Remember to vote! Bob Log in to Reply Luciano M January 5, 2013 There’s the love for Fantastic Four I was expecting. Good on you Bob. Log in to Reply Bob Reyer January 5, 2013 Luciano, Could there have been any doubt? As you’ve seen from my list, although I do read other genres, I’m most definitely a “capes & cowls” fan, and for me, the best example of a super-hero book, and one that literally, figuratively and successfully reaches for the stars, whilst never leaving its humanity behind, is certainly “The World’s Greatest Comic Magazine”, The Fantastic Four. Luciano, thanks for checking in, and I must say that your “Good on you” had me a bit verklempt! Bob Log in to Reply seanxxo January 6, 2013 Great lists. I’d actually like to thank Bob for getting me to give fantastic four and FF a try. I got the first couple of Hickman trades before Christmas and loved them, I’m now reading the second hardcover of FF. I completely understand why this series popped up so often in your lists! Thanks! Log in to Reply Bob Reyer January 7, 2013 Thanks for that “thanks” Sean! I know that I’ve said this before, but the two things that have given me the greatest pleasure about my Talking Comics experience have been the chance to meet and chat with so many interesting new people, and that I’ve managed through my own passion to entice comics fans to become devotees of Jonathan Hickman’s Fantastic Four and FF; in some cases these new fans have drifted backwards through the equally stellar John Byrne run, and of course the epic Stan Lee/Jack Kirby originals! Once again Sean, thanks for the kind words! Bob Log in to Reply RepStones January 6, 2013 What? In all those lists not one mention of Gambit 😉 Glad to see Masks #1 cover topped your list. As I said on another thread, it gave me goosebumps like no other cover this year. As regards best single issue, I gave my vote to New Avengers 29. Thinking back throughout the year, it really stood out for me as a brilliant moody piece of comic booking. Its the one where Cap is waiting hoping Namor will show up and he can try and talk some sense into him. I know a lot of folks thought it was too talky and not enough action, but I really liked it. I think an honourable mention in this years best ongoing or limited (UK m not sure if it is limited) has to be Fury MAX. Its been a standout for me, Garth Ennis dropping old Nick Fury into all the major conflicts of the 20th century. Ennis loves to do war stories, this is bloody and violent, so Goran Parlov’s art is perfectly suited to this little underrated gem of the year. Log in to Reply RepStones January 6, 2013 Apologies for typos – this tablet doesn’t like my fat fingers Log in to Reply Bob Reyer January 6, 2013 “Rep”, I’ve been a big fan of Alex Ross’ art since Marvels all those years ago, and when he works on classic characters, it is just breathtaking. If we had a category for “Best Art in a Single Issue”, Masks #1 would have been my clear winner, if for no other reason than the page showing the Shadow’s entrance into the story! VOTE MASKS #1 FOR BEST COVER!!! Bob ps) Just after Marvels first saw print, there was a small gallery in Soho (NYC) that did an exhibition of the original paintings from the book, and I could have bought the painting showing the wedding of Sue and Reed for $1500; big bucks I know, but I wonder what that piece would sell for today! rrr Log in to Reply Luciano M January 6, 2013 Don’t be to hard on yourself Bob. That’s alot of money for a painting no matter how big a fan you are. Log in to Reply Bob Reyer January 7, 2013 Luciano, I was bit more flush in those days, so I could have swung it. I feel much worse about how in the mid-Eighties I passed on buying a slightly over-priced, but under-graded NM Fantastic Four #1 for $1100 that now would sell for more than $50,000!! At the same Con though, I did purchase a solid VG copy for under $200, and that book was signed the same afternoon by Jack Kirby, and two years later Stan Lee added his autograph as well! That would be my “keeper” either way, but I shoud have been bold and thought ahead! Bob Log in to Reply Lauren Kolligs January 6, 2013 I bit my lip through the entire podcast on the Fantastic Four omission. I never thought I would get that emotional about a poll omission, but I felt very strongly about that comic, It was one of the greatest arcs/endings ever. In recently reading Writing For Comics With Peter David, all the components for a great comic is there. The hero/villain development, and story/plot/theme consistency. Even the guest spots blended in seamlessly. Hickman takes a group, and makes you care about everyone in it. Being a reader not fond of hero groups (JLA, Avengers etc.)I wanted to see what each one of the four is doing, and when they are together, an unbreakable cohesive. That combined with the FF series, was great adventure writing at its best. Hickman delivered the impossible, and turned Fantastic Four into one of the most memorable runs in comic history. Great lists overall. Even great suggestions. Looking forward to 2013! Log in to Reply Bob Reyer January 7, 2013 Lauren, Thank you so much for taking the time to offer your well-thought, and well-written opinion. When the book has been in good hands, what has separated Fantastic Four from other team books is that it is a family, and that bit of Stan Lee magic is something a writer who understands that dynamic can utilize in ways both small and large to create stories that touch the heart and lift the imagination. As you heard on that “Nominations” show, when the decision was made to omit Fantastic Four from our list, in a moment of poor broadcasting form, I allowed my…well, “journalistic face” to drop. (I do believe that “apoplexy” is the word that you’re searching for, Robert. Audrey) Might I suggest a late write-in campaign? (I’ll provide the party headquarters, where they’ll be fine wine, ales,coffees, and cheesecake for all!) Lauren, thanks again for checking in, Bob Log in to Reply Luciano M January 7, 2013 Wow! To have the issue that in a way started it all signed by the king himself is something to be truly treasured. Log in to Reply Bob Reyer January 7, 2013 Luciano, What is best about having that book is that serves as a reiminder of the lovely conversations I was able to have with two of my real-life comic book heroes, and that is even more valuable than the artifact itself. Ciao, Bob Log in to Reply Melissa Megan January 9, 2013 Longest ‘best of’ list I’ve seen! You are one thorough man. I haven’t read, um, any of these, but I’m sure if you say they are excellent, they must be. Perhaps it’s time to stretch my legs in to the super hero pool a tad. Log in to Reply Bob Reyer January 9, 2013 Melissa, Thanks for taking time away from Little Max to check in! Based on what’s on our own list (very scary, by the way!) might I suggest Fatale? If you did want to get your feet wet on the super-hero front, Batwoman by J.H. Williams might be right up your alley, either one of Kelly Sue DeConnick’s Ghost or Captain Marvel would be fun with their strong lead characters, and Matt Fraction’s Hawkeye is a hoot-and-a-half, and he’s doing some other book…the name of which eludes me for the moment…I’ll think of it eventually. Thanks again, Bob ps) I almost forgot Love & Capes: What to Expect; a charming romantic comedy about a super/non-super couple expecting their first child, the 6th and final issue of which came out today! rrr pps) I just remembered the other title–FANTASTIC FOUR!! rrr Log in to Reply Leave a Reply Cancel ReplyYou must be logged in to post a comment.