Thee Comic Column #67: My Favorite Comics of 2013

Yes indeed I am a little late with this, but things have been heating up the last few weeks what with the holidays and a crazy work schedule so I’ve not had the ample time to reflect on all the absolutely amazing comics that were published last year. Yeah, I know – excuses excuses. After doing a similar column last year with a ‘best of’ moments snapshot I thought I’d do another but focus more on the books that blew me away in 2013, as it was a grand year for comics all around. Below is a short list of some of my favorites.

image courtesy of marvel.com

Brian Michael Bendis’ X-Books. Both of them. Growing up a Claremont fan I continued to read the X-books for several years after his departure before I realized how bad they were. Don’t get me wrong, there were moments (Dark Beast), but overall not many of those even came to worthwhile conclusions. Then Grant Morrison turned in three solid years of New X-Men and I was in love again. And then he left and I no longer cared (sorry Joss). And that’s how it’s stayed. Until Rick Remender’s Uncanny X-Force showed me there were still great stories possible with these characters. I think it was that book more than anything that gave me a predisposition to give Bendis’ run a try. It took several months before I actually went through with it but when I did I picked up a few issues of both All New X-Men and Uncanny X-Men and then went back later the same day for every other issue on the stand. The idea of bringing Prof. X’s original students straight from 1960-whatever to the modern day and throwing them into the current mix seemed dodgy at first but MAN! That BMB is really making those characters soar. I originally figured the teenage Scott, Jean, Warren, Henry and Bobby would only be around for a little while before they were sent back but that does not seem to be the case and I have to say, I look forward to finding out what’s going on with them every month more than I do the rest of the cast. The way they’ve gone back and forth between the two current factions of X-teams has been fantastic. Oh, and major props for keeping Charlie DEAD and making grown-up Scott a villain. I’ve always disliked both Charles and Scott and with Charles out of the way Scott is insanely more interesting as a conflicted Magneto-type ‘by any means necessary’ bad guy than he ever was as the idealistic hero.

image courtesy of comicvine.com

Terry Moore’s Rachel Rising – Sick of hearing me sing this book’s praises yet? Too bad because it just gets better and better. And the idea that people aren’t reading it is just INSANE! Take one of the greatest talents in comics from the last twenty years – Terry Moore – and apply his seemingly effortless ability to create interesting, realistic and completely relatable characters to a story that spins out of one of the darkest corners of our country’s history – the witch trials – but tweak that history with layers of real witchcraft, occult intrigue and biblical horror and you have, well, a story that is just too good to be true. There’s death aplenty as Rachel and her friends try desperately to unravel the mystery that plagues their sleepy little East Coast town of Manson. Rachel is murdered at the onset and yet continues to function – more or less – and this is our introduction to a much larger story, one that slowly reveals itself via Moore’s fantastic artistic sequences and dialogue. Rachel Rising does not shy away from shedding blood or questioning tradition in the process. This year in particular I cringed more than once to see the re-awakening spirits of long-dead witches laying waste to the modern world of man around them, most notably the continued story of Zoe, a little girl harboring a particularly malevolent spirit.

PLEASE READ THIS BOOK!

image courtesy of palmtreeze.wordpress.com

Jonathan Hickman and Nick Dragotta’s East of West – After fellow Joup writer Thomas H. Williams wrote about this book back in April on his wonderful Heaven is an Incubator blog I was intrigued. However, initially I had quite a bit of trouble tracking down the first issue. When I finally did acquire a copy it was a third print. No biggie, glad to see it selling that well. When I read it, along with the then just-published #2, I fell head over heels in love with East of West. The story and art meet in a way that makes me feel as though I am watching the it instead of reading and that in itself is a trip. Of course, there is definitely a similar occurrence that happens when reading any book – especially in the age of the ‘widescreen comic’ – but this is a whole new level. And the characters and story are fantastic. Jonathan Hickman and Nick Dragotta are world building here like you wouldn’t believe and a large part of the beauty of the world of East of West is  that it is a deep and intricate one, and yet it’s intricacies are executed simply and cleanly. There is a very unique, pristine logic that dictates everything that happens ‘on screen’ and that makes for a very solid-feeling, satisfying read

Oh! And I can’t forget to mention Frank Martin’s colors and Ross Wooten’s letters because this is a book where every visual aspect plays a part in the overall tone they’ve achieved within. Great job all around.

image courtesy of geeksofdoom.com

Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples’ Saga – believe the hype and go buy this right now if you’re not already reading it. Saga is possibly the most original comic series to come out in decades – no bull. The art is amazing, the story is classic and the characters are unique on a Star Wars scale – Vaughn and Staples are utilizing the Sci Fi space opera jumping off point to create all manner of varied and mind-blowing lifeforms and then grounding that in very humanistic situations, dialogue and action. Saga is tender, cruel, tense, ugly and at times laugh-out-loud funny and I am totally, 100% in love with it.

You probably will be too.

 

 

 

 

 

image courtesy of http://jmartiniart.blogspot.com/

Jason Martin and Bill McKay’s Night of the 80’s Undead.  The inclusion of this book, a three-issue limited from Action Lab Comics , is thus far based solely on the first issue, as I somehow missed number two and although I have three of course I can’t read it out of sequence damnit! No worries, the fine folks at Action Lab informed me I can acquire a copy via their online store or digitally, I just haven’t had a chance to do it yet. But seriously, the first issue of this was something I picked up on a lark and it just blew me away with how fun! it was. I mean what an awesome concept: it’s the 80’s, couple’a teenagers show up at a neighboring celebrity’s house party in the Hollywood Hills only to find that the blow they’ve been doing has turned them into cocaine-fueled zombies! Man, now that I’m looking back on the year I’m thinking I have to get my ass in gear and finish this because the set-up is just too good! Way to go guys, this is the unexpected underdog of the year!

 

image courtesy of the New York Post

And although I did not number the above because they are not ranked I had to give the number one moment of the year a special shout out. There’ve been so many great comics, so many great continuing stories and revelations, but nothing dropped my jaw and made me shed tears except Batman, Inc. with The Death of Damian Wayne.

What more needs to be said, as in the microcosm Bat-verse of Grant Morrison’s intimidatingly academic epic seven-year run on the Bat books the, frankly, most important addition to the Bat-family since, um, forever DIED. Dead. Sure someone else will probably undo that or at least soften it with a clone (Morrison even left a little starter clip for them to do so) but the impact to those of us reading it monthly from the beginning with no plans on reading past Morrison’s tenure really felt the loss. Having re-read the entire opus this year upon its conclusion (with the help of the online annotations I know deem essential) I can honestly say I’m moved in a way no major company comic book has moved me before.

At least we’ll always have those glimpses of Damian as Gotham City’s future Batman courtesy of Batman #666 and #700.

……………………..

Can’t find a comic shop? You can always use old reliable Comic Shop Locator at 1-800-COMIC-BOOK. Or you can take some of my recommendations. If you live in the greater Chicagoland area I recommend any of the wonderful four locations of Amazing Fantasy Books. In Los Angeles it’s The Comic Bug. Las Vegas it’s Alternate Reality Comics. San Francisco? Try the Isotope Comic Lounge and if you happen to venture a little further North I’d say you have to visit The Escapist Comic Book Store in Berkley (with the wonderful Dark Carnival Books next door and owned by the same folks). Read on!!!

Shawn C Baker

Shawn C Baker

Shawn lives in Los Angeles where he co-hosts Drinking w/ Comics, writes screenplays and fiction and has been known to drink quite a bit of beer. Good beer.

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  10. Thomas H Williams

    Thomas H Williams Reply

    Some great picks man. Saga is so good, it’s not fair to every other comic book out there. Every issue continues to blow my mind. The universe that Vaughn and Staples are weaving is extraordinary.

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