By Bobby Shortle
It’s been a weird, wonderful, tough and transformative year. This was in many ways the toughest year of my life. I saw the foundation of my family nearly rocked by addiction and I had the most trying financial time of my life. It was also the best year I’ve ever had. I saw Talking Comics gain more popularity than I ever dreamt possible, I shot a documentary in Israel, and got engaged to the love of my life. I will always remember 2013 as the 365 days that truly took me into adulthood and I look back on that and smile.
But we aren’t here for a therapy session, we are here to talk about comics, and oh what a year it was! If I have transitioned to being an adult in my personal life I’m an adolescent in the world of POWS and BLAMS. I still get amazed and surprised by my weekly pull, but I am beginning to develop a more comparative and discerning eye. I felt less exhilaration than my comic book childhood of 2012, but I can safely say that the quality of 2013 still blew me away.
There are some great books I had to leave off this list. The hardest cuts were Geoff Johns’ Aquaman, Jeff Lemire’s Animal Man, Brian Michael Bendis’ X-Men both Uncanny and All-New, and Gail Simone’s The Movement. I also loved Saga, B.P.R.D. Vampire, Lazarus, and The Witching Hour. But, this isn’t the runners up list this is the top ten, so without further ado…
Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie’s crisp, witty and entertaining tale of teenage superheroes was a breath of fresh air in 2013. Kate Bishop, Noh (don’t call him Marvel Boy) Varr, Wiccan, Hulkling, Miss America and Kid Loki tackled issues of maturing into adulthood, same sex relationships and parental abandonment all while keeping a smiles on their faces. This comic book literally punch a hole into the comic book universe and I had a blast watching them do it.
What can be said about Hawkeye that hasn’t been said. It’s funny, effecting, stylish and fun as hell. Writer Matt Fraction and artist David Aja’s take on the terrible life of Clint Barton is beautifully designed and their upped focus on not the Hakwguy has cemented Kate Bishop’s place as one of the coolest characters in the Marvel Universe.
No book surprised me more than Mara this year. What began as a sports story morphed into a military drama, then switched gears into a doomsday scenario and wrapped itself up with a treatise on what it means to be a human being. This staggering, wonderful work by Brian Wood is made complete by the stunning artwork of Ming Doyle. She renders the future landscapes as both familiar and fresh and she makes Mara a living, breathing person. If you haven’t read Mara now is the time.
The series had its ups and downs, but the fact remains that no book this year effected me more than Batman & Robin #18. I am uncomfortable with the term perfect when it comes to anything, but Peter Tomasi and Patrick Gleason’s tale of grief is damn near that. I can remember reading the issue almost holding my breath with every page turned. I felt like a player on a team with a pitcher throwing a perfect game. If I dared to think the book would be silent all the way through or dared to believe that it could be this great till the end, that it would fall apart. Yet, somehow it didn’t and I was left feeling pulverized by how much I felt the loss of The Boy Wonder.
Charles Soule’s math thriller is part Michael Crichton yarn and part morality tale which deals in complex ideas of causality without ever losing its human element. In fact Soule’s love letter to New York City is at its core an allegory for how the little things we do truly matter. One good deed adds to another, which adds to another and in the end that rights the balance of the world. It’s a message we can all stand to take to heart.
A book with “Cumworld” in it shouldn’t work. And yet Sex Criminals, a situational sex comedy with a cartoony art style, is probably the book I’m most excited to see come out in 2014. Matt Fraction is one of the most unique writers in the business and nowhere are his specific talents more on display than in Sex a Criminals. It’s hilarious, devilishly clever and engaging, Yet, as fantastic as Fraction is, it’s Chip Zdarsky’s Darwyn Cooke like visuals that gives the book it’s endearing qualities. Without his expressive faces and cute character designs the book would feel crass and would lack much of its charms. Oh and even if you don’t usually read letter columns, do yourself a favor and read this one, it’s one of the funniest things you’ll look at all year.
I began the year unsure of what Captain Marvel would be in 2013. The series had a strong start, but had gained a level as good, and not a great book. When the year wrapped up I found myself looking back at the series as a one of the most satisfying I’ve ever read. Too often the word hero is ignored in the superhero equation, but Carol Danvers embodied that word in every way imaginable. With fun, fisticuffs and emotions to spare Kelly Sue DeConnick and a team of artists made this book one of the most influential in all of comics.
Unflinching, continued excellence that’s the legacy of Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo’s Batman. The duo not only told one of the definitive Joker stories of all time, but has also managed to bring a fresh bent to the well worn paths of The Caped Crusaders origins. It would be easy to ignore it because its quality is so consistent, but that would be criminal. Batman wouldn’t abide that.
Mark Waid and Chris Samnee may very well be the best team in the business. Their Daredevil is a perfect marriage of art and writing, and one that has raised the title above the pitfalls that even the best superhero titles suffer from. There are no 15 part crossovers or event tie ins, but what is there is complicated and yet infinitely accessible. Daredevil is what every book at the big two should strive to be. Waid and Samnee continue to deliver unforgettable moments – Matt riding Silver Surfer’s board, Daredevil confronting Bullseye one lasts time- and they do it all with wink and a smile.
2013 was filled with a lot of great stories, but it contained only one which ranks with my personal favorites of all time. Joe Hill and Gabrielle Rodriguez’s Locke and Key has it all. It’s horror, fantasy, and family drama all packed into one sweeping mythological beast. Hill creates real people who you care deeply for and Rodriguez is one of the most adept in the business at going from emotionally wonderful in one panel to terrifying in the next. Locke and Key also did what few giant narratives ever do, it finished as well as it began. This is storytelling at its finest.