By Bobby Shortle
It’s the most wonderful time of the year! Top ten list time, and I will not waste much time before diving into mine. Part of the reason I love these things is that they are snapshots of one moment in time, and not a static document, so please let me know what you think, and tell what should have been here! First off here are some quick honorable mentions…
Really strong stuff, with a great cast of characters, was closest to breaking onto the list.
Punk Rock Jesus
Was on my list until the release of the last issue, which I thought was very good, but did not close off the loop of the story in as satisfying away as I would have hoped.
With all my other catching up I haven’t had time to finish off the run, but this is astounding work and I can’t wait to take it all in.
I love this series, but I don’t feel as if it has laid out enough of its framework for me to know if it’s truly one of the greats.
Sarah and the Seed
An amazing amount of emotion in such a short piece, it’s something I’ll keep coming back to over and over again.
Like a Neil Gaiman short story married an H.P. Lovecraft yarn, I was quite taken by the storytelling and main character.
Alright so without further ado, here…..we…..go…..
I was all set to be an outlier and not include Saga on my list of top ten books. It’s not that I hadn’t been really liking it, because I had, but that was just it, I really liked it. I was missing that spark that everyone else felt, that certain something that blew me away. So, on the first draft of this list it didn’t make the cut, and then I got on a plane, re read the entire series and BAM it hit me like a ton of bricks. This book is AWESOME. Not only is it beautifully illustrated by Fiona Staples, but it’s also oozing with originality, a complicated intergalactic mythology and set of layered, likable characters. Brian K. Vaughn is taking us on a journey, and while I have no idea where it will end up, I’m buckled up and ready for the rest of the ride.
9. The Cape
This is by far the most messed up comic book I have ever read, hell it may be one of the most messed up things I’ve ever read, period. However, it’s also one of the best comic books I’ve ever consumed and for that it has a place on this list. Joe Hill and Jason Ciaramella bring Hill’s short story to the medium and the result is a grizzly, sometimes sickening, but always amazing tale about just how bad human nature can really be. It’s a testament to the ingenuity of a story when you keep saying to yourself, “it can’t get any crazier than this” and yet it still does, and does again.
8. Cow Boy: A Boy and His Horse
This was perhaps the last new title I read in the calendar year 2012, and this book blindsided me like a free safety on a zone blitz of awesomeness. Much like a title that will appear later on my list, Cow Boy: A Boy and His Horse someone manages to do a circus act that goes from being downright adorable, to laugh out loud hilarious, and then takes a turn into being starkly profound about the nature of life. Nate Crosby’s writing is so clever and so sharp that you feel as if Charles Shultz himself would have mightily approved.
Geoff Johns is a master at exploring forgotten or ignored characters, and he has brought that expertise to bear on the King of Atlantis to tremendous success. Johns’ Aquaman is big, bold superhero storytelling with just the right amount of pathos, and it has amounted to it being one the most flat out entertaining books published right now.
Hawkeye is an adventure story, a heist film, and a modern day Robin Hood tale all squeezed into one purple and white package and its issues have yet to be anything short of stellar. What really sets the book apart is not just that, every word, panel, page and sequence of Matt Fraction and David Aja’s work oozes with style and charisma, but that they never let that style overcome the substance. Clint Barton is a fully realized character who you can’t help but root for and Kate Bishop is just full stop awesome.
Yale Stewart’s tale of an eight year old Justice League, isn’t sanctioned in anyway by DC Entertainment, and that is a crying shame for the company, because JL8 is a funny, moving, strikingly adorable, and faithful representation of DC’s biggest characters. Most of the installments of JL8 are done in small, Sunday paper comic strip length chunks, and yet tells a fully cohesive story over its entire run. On top of its ever expanding story, Mr. Stewart also manages to land some social commentary and complicated character evolutions along the way. It’s great for all ages, and I do mean all.
If you would have asked me six months ago if a Punisher title would ever be on my list, I would have most likely scoffed, but that was before I began my journey with Frank Castle under the stewardship of writer Greg Rucka. In his hands the tale of vigilante justice became a Fincher-esque cerberal crime thriller, and one that painted the Punisher as a broken man, too far gone to be saved, but with enough humanity left to try and prevent others from following down his path. The book is brutal, with artist Marco Checchetto rendering some of the most effecting hand to hand fights I’ve ever seen, but it also never revels in its bloodshed. This book doesn’t soften Frank Castle, but it doesn’t skirt the moral quandary of his existence either, and for that it gets a place on this list.
Mark Waid’s take on the Man Without Fear is so original and fresh that it has resulted in a series that takes us from laugh out loud humor in one issue, to tear inducing character revelations the next. The adventures of Matt Murdoch are sometimes scary, sometimes sad, but are always entertaining, and even though there are books higher on my list, this is the series I would give to anyone looking to get into comics.
Dark, intelligent, disturbing, beautifully rendered, but alway heroic, Batman is the epitome of what The Dark Knight Detective should be. There is a fantastic symmetry to the fact that the best book on the major superhero market, is also the biggest hero we’ve got. Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo’s Batman has not yet had a down issue, and has reached heights comparable to the best Batman stories I have ever read.
1. The Underwater Welder
There are some writers who just speak to you, and for me Jeff Lemire is one of those writers. His Underwater Welder blends strong characters, deep emotional baggage and tops it off with a science fiction dressing that, for me, is the perfect combination of genres. This is raw, honest work that is not only highly entertaining, but also the kind of story you’ll be thinking about long after you’ve turned the final page.