Monday, December 30, 2013

Best Comics/Graphic Novels of 2013 Pt. 1

I read a lot of comics this year, stuff from all over the history of the form. As a result, I certainly didn't read any significant fraction of the year's new material. Here, comics differ from music, my usual beat; no music critic has covered a serious percentage of 2013's releases but some comic critics probably have. So, this list is by no means a definitive run-down of all the essential sequential art of 2013 but just a heavily biased look at some of the great work that arrived this calendar year. My biases are; I'm writer-centric but a huge fan of artists with a strong individual style, I'm a Marvel-ite but think Image is on fire of late, I think less of DC but some of the best older stuff I read this year was from DC and Vertigo. Oh, and I like a series with a sense of humour but dark undertones. My final caveat is that I read more trade paperbacks than individual issues, so a few things here may have been published in single-issue form in 2012 but it's TPB came out this year. For more cultural awesomeness (music, comics, film, politics etc.)

20) The Black Beetle by Francesco Francavilla  (Dark Horse)
Francavilla spins an entertaining pulpy yarn but it's the moody, dynamic artwork that really gets under your skin.

19) Today is the Last Day of the Rest of Your Life by Ulli Lust (Fantagraphics Books)
Lust's story of sex, travel and poverty is so finely detailed in word and image that the reader becomes completely shifted into her world.

18) Private Eye by Brian K Vaughan and Marcos Martín  (Panel Syndicate)
Fucking hell, does Brian K. Vaughan have any bad ideas?  Even his slight adaption of Michael Chabon's The Escapist was loaded with deft flourishes like the jock who just wants to be letterer. This ten-issue digital only series concerns the world of 2076 where after the internet bursts open privacy must be maintained by way of secret identities and it promises to be another Vaughan success.

17) Dial H for Hero by China Miéville and Mateus Santolouco and  (DC Comics)
One we lost in 2013 was Miéville & Santolouco's dark, twisted, funny and deeply bizarre take ("heroes" like Boy Chimney, The Iron Snail, Hole Punch, Captain Lachrymose and Cock-a-Hoop must be seen to be believed!) on the gimmicky Silver Age title "Dial 'H' for Hero".

16) Sex Criminals by Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky (Image Comics)

Y'know sex in comics is almost never well-handled; if The Guardian gave out a Bad Sex in Comics Award, they'd be too swamped with awkward nominees to ever declare a winner. So with all the forms' issues with human sexuality, how can Matt Fraction create characters who have the ridiculous ability to have magic orgasms, which they use to rob banks and say ludicrous lines like " your dick glowing" and still have it be insightful, relatable and laugh-out-loud funny? God, I don't know but clearly Matt Fraction is one dangerous bastard!

15) Edison Rex by Chris Roberson and Dennis Culver (Monkey Brain)
We've seen a lot of faux-Superman stories over time, we've even seen a few faux-Superman stories where the faux-Lex Luthor vanquishes his foe but none have been done with more heart, inventiveness and, yes, wit then Robertson and Culver's Edison Rex.

14) Rat Queens by Kurtis J. Wiebe and Roc Upchurch (Image Comics)
It's a character-driven fantasy story that's light on the exposition and heavy on the satire, kinda like early Cerebus only with four homicidal female leads ("Take that, Dave Sim!"). Rat Queens manages to be both gory (sensitive eyes be doubly-warned) and funny ("Come on! Candy is awesome..." says the blonde, lesbian Smidgen who's packed the rations for the quest).

13)  East of West by Jonathon Hickman Nick Dragotta (Image Comics)
Jonathon Hickman is insane and we are all the beneficiaries of his madness. Whether it's the historical-disemboweling of the scientists involved in The Manhattan Project, imagining a religious war that follows the return of a deity in God is Dead or the sci-fi western about the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse that is the fucked-up East of West, Hickman and his allies have spent the year delivering the mad goods.

12) The Fifth Beatle by Vivek Tiwary , Andrew C. Robinson and Kyle Baker (Dark Horse)
A landmark work that acts a political statement on the right of people to love whoever they want and an argument for the importance of the men and women who love the music enough to work out of the spotlight. Sure, there are some moments where the dialogue grows awkward (in that way they did in Walk the Line or Ray) but in those moments Robinson and Baker's inspired art carries the story.

11) The Superior Foes of Spider-Man by Nick Spencer and Steve Lieber (Marvel Comics)
Sure a comic done from the villain's point of view has been done before but never with the piercing wit and attention to small detail that Spencer and Lieber bring to this title. If Elmore Leonard had ever written a superhero comic, this would be it!
#10- #1 coming in the New Year





  1. I'm going to give a whole bunch of those titles a try! I've actually been meaning to check out a few of them already, but now they've got your endorsement! I met Kurtis Wiebe at a small press exp in Yaletown in the spring---super nice and smart fellow! He's definitely on his way to bigger and better things all the time. He collaborated with my friend Riley on Green Wake, which I highly recommend.

  2. Jeff-If you want I have TONS of Zap, FreakBrothers, and LOTS more of the underground classics from the 1970's, send me an email if you want and I'll send you a list of the files I have, it is an ENORMOUS list, I'm sure there are things on there as a comics guy you would desire! Keep up the good work!


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