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In an effort to piss off Greg Burgas (because what else in life is fun?!) I’m posting my best and worsts of 2012 before the year ends. As always, my feeling is that if I haven’t read it by the end of December (and there are MANY I have not read) then I’m not going to be able to get to it in time for it to make my bests and worsts lists anyway…so it’s all the same in the end.
Also as always, I didn’t get to nearly enough books this year. I especially failed on the Graphic Novel front, reading far too few on the whole and not getting to a ton that I’m really interested in – seriously, I’ve got a list as long as my arm to get to (and I have pretty long arms).
What’s going to be on the list? Well you can bet it’s going to be Hawkeye-Saga-rific! That’s of course not in an effort to piss off Burgas, but you know…BONUS! Seriously, I’ve never had a list so dominated by two titles…but what can I say? I really loved these books they did everything right and made me happy every time I read them.
Let’s get to it, shall we? And sound off in the comments about some of your favorites for the year.
Best Single Issue: SAGA #1
It was tough to choose between this and Hawkeye #3 (or #2, or #6 quite frankly) but on sheer number of pages alone Saga takes the cake. A first issue that effortlessly establishes a new world full of exciting characters, manages to get me invested in said world and characters, all while being funny and stunningly beautiful? It’s a home run. Putting down that first issue of Saga was so exciting because I knew I was at the beginning of a long and exciting journey in the hands of creators I trusted implicitly.
As usual this is a brutal category and I really struggled to pick just one cover. In the end I went with three because I liked them for completely different reasons and I just couldn’t decide:
I like Saga #8 because beyond being beautiful it is the definition of a character cover. You can learn so much about Alana from Staples choices on this cover and so without a word it speaks volumes. Add to all of that stunning composition, color choices, and illustration work along with perfectly executed text design and it’s a home run.
Hawkeye #3 may say less about character but it’s one of the most simply complex works of illustration I’ve seen in a while. On first sight it’s deceptively plain, but the more you look, the more you find. And I don’t even really like purple!
Spider-Man #700 makes the cut because, let’s face it, it’s just cool. Incredibly smart and perfectly executed enough to draw in even a reader that doesn’t care much for Spider-Man books. Well done.
Like last year, I’m going to do a rundown of my favorite 52 over on 1979 Semi-Finalist this week though. You know me, I love some gorgeous comic covers.
Best Mini-Series: THE NEW DEADWARDIANS
Dan Abnett and I.N.J. Culbard. Vertigo.
The New Deadwardians succeeds by taking tropes that should have died long ago (Vampires and Zombies) and making them beautifully new again. Like anyone I get sick of seeing the same things played out again and again but when someone can truly make them fresh and interesting again, what’s not to like? There’s a reason we liked those ideas in the first place, and there’s a reason they’ll resonate again in the hands of the right creators. Abnett and Culbard are those creators and their blend of Detective fiction, Vampires, Zombies, and History was delightful. Though the ending didn’t have quite as much punch as I hoped it barely diminished how great the series was on the whole.
Runner up: Stumptown Vol 2 by Greg Rucka and Matthew Southworth. This might have taken the category, if only it was over, but it’s hard to let it win for the whole year when I don’t have the whole story yet.
Best Webcomic – NIMONA
Noelle Stevenson. Self-published.
As I wrote about in November, Nimona is my happy new web obsession. Fun and lawless with absolutely no fear and endless creativity Nimona is doing everything I like to see in comics. Nimona is the shape-changing enthusiastic action junkie sidekick to Ballister’s surprisingly empathetic genius criminal mastermind and between the two of them nothing is ever boring and almost everything is funny. Go Nimona!
Runners up: As always I have to give shout outs to the always excellent Hark! A Vagrant, last year’s pick Meredith McClaren’s Hinges (as well as her awesome journal comic Scraps), The Abominable Charles Christopher, and the completely NSFW Olgaf.
Best NEW Non-Superhero Ongoing: SAGA
This was everything I hoped it could be and more. Saga feels perfectly conceived and executed, from its stellar creative team, impressive vision, sense of humor and drama, and its smart schedule. Allowing Saga to maintain the integrity of its original creative team by building in a natural break and a trade release (to bring in fans that might have missed out eventually) after issue #6 was a smart strategy and one more books should embrace.
Best NEW Superhero Ongoing: HAWKEYE
If Saga is the comic book I have been waiting for my whole life, Hawkeye is the SUPERHERO comic book I’ve been waiting for my whole life. I’ve talked a lot about this book already so I won’t give you a huge essay on why I love it. I am aware that not everyone loves it as much as I do (Burgas!) but I do think it’s wonderful from tip to tail. It’s funny and smart. It loves to make fun of itself and others, and you can read it without having to read any other comics. Add to that that David Aja is doing crazy innovative things with the artwork in this title and it’s so hard for me to understand what keeps everyone from loving it.
Best Original Graphic Novel: BUILDING STORIES
Chris Ware. Pantheon.
Can you even call this a graphic novel? It’s so much more than that, in the ways that only Chris Ware can manage. One part brilliant puzzle two parts brilliant comics and you’re almost sorta on your way to describing what Ware has done with Building Stories. I don’t really know what else to say I think you have to actually experience it to get the full affect. It certainly is a strong argument that print will never die so long as things like this can exist.
Best YA Original Graphic Novel: FRIENDS WITH BOYS
Faith Erin Hicks. First Second.
I’ve written about Hicks Friends With Boys so many times this year I’m not sure what else I can say about it. It’s lovely. With stunning black and white cartooning and great messages that never feel cloying or cliché. Hicks ending is particularly bold and well-earned in my opinion. It won’t be for everyone, but for those that appreciate a less traditional and more realistic story, it will ring powerfully true.
Best New Character: THE WILL AND THE LYING CAT
Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples. Image Comics.
So many great characters, just in Saga alone (I came THIS CLOSE to picking The Stalk but The Lying Cat tipped the scales in The Will’s favor). This talented but flawed “Freelancer” (aka Assassin) is complicated guy, full of all the shades of grey that make the best kind of characters. Set up potentially as the antagonist to our “heroes” Alana and Marko, it’s impossible not to see The Will as a protagonist in his own right…we’re all our own protagonists, right? It’s just a matter of perspective. The only problem with The Will and Lying Cat is that there are so many great characters in Saga that we don’t get enough of them…yet!
Best re-booted Character: GLORY
Joe Keatinge and Ross Campbell. Image Comics.
Having toe-dipped into Glory in the 90’s I never had a desire to return. In fact, she was everything I’ve come to dislike in comics. How then is it possible that her reboot is everything I have come to LOVE in comics? I think we all know that Ross Campbell is the answer here. Thanks to Campbell’s amazingly innovative design Glory became something wholly unique and interesting instead of just the pile of clichés from which she began. It’s a shame the book is ending as it’s truly one of the most innovative books from the last year but I’ll always be grateful for it, and for this new Glory.
Best Use Of An Existing Property – CONAN THE BARBARIAN
Brian Wood, Becky Cloonan, James Harren. Dark Horse Comics.
It’s easy for something like Buffy The Vampire Slayer to draw me in. It’s a property I’m already incredibly invested in and primed to like. Another story entirely is to get me interested in a property I’ve never had any real interest in. And yet Conan — short of my affection for Conan The Destroyer the film (I mean, how awesome is Grace Jones in that movie?!) I’ve never cared a whit for Conan. But Brian Wood, Becky Cloonan, and James Harren proved me wrong at every turn, creating one of my favorite books of the year. Conan. Who knew?!?!
Best Creative Team: MATT FRACTION and DAVID AJA
Hawkeye. Marvel Comics.
This was a tough one and I could have just as easily given it to Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples for their work on Saga, but I guess in the end I felt Fraction and Aja deserved it, if only because they somehow managed to convince one of the big two to let them do this crazy book. And thank the gods for that. Moar please!!!
Biggest Disappointment: WONDER WOMAN
Brian Azzarello, Cliff Chiang, Tony Akins. DC Comics.
In 2011 Wonder Woman was easily one of the books I was most excited about, despite some reservations, and it delivered so powerfully that I gave issue #1 five stars when I reviewed it for CBR. I talked about the book a lot until issue #7 when I wrote my last post about it and swore off the book. While there’s still a ton of quality work being done on this book, especially when it comes to Cliff Chiang’s beautiful visuals, I just can’t come along with the changes that have been made to Diana and more importantly to her Amazon people. It was easily my biggest disappointment of 2012.
Best Surprise: HAWKEYE
Matt Fraction, David Aja, Javier Pulido. Marvel Comics.
And I bet this pick isn’t a surprise! I’m even running out of Hawkeye images to share! As I wrote earlier this year, I was super annoyed to find out Hawkeye was getting his own series after The Avengers film while The Black Widow got a (seriously crappy) mini-series. But when a book is this goddamn good you can’t really be sad that you have it. I love this book and unlike Saga, I never ever expected to love it, so it easily clinches the best surprise of the year for me.
Worst DC Move: Man, so many things to choose from. I mean do we want to talk about their childlike and baffling behavior regarding Stephanie Brown, the constant and ill-chosen shifting of creative teams, continuing to cut Vertigo off at the knees, the cancellation of Hellblazer, the Wonder Woman/Superman romance, the treatment of Lois Lane (and countless others), the horrendous covers (especially for the ladies of DC), or their schizophrenic and utterly bizarre treatment of Gail Simone on the Batgirl title? There have just been SO many mistakes this year. In the end I think I have to go with a more general “continued lack of innovation on the “New” 52 line.” Almost universally the books I’ve read and the covers and solicits I see are incredibly dark. It’s wall to wall grim and gritty and it’s just become boring. There’s also little innovation when it comes to the ideas in general and the art in specific. So much of the art feels like an uninspired throwback to the worst of the 90’s. I’ve been nothing but disappointed in the new 52 line for the bulk of 2012 with a few shining exceptions. As a result I am reading less DC than ever before in my life.
Best DC Move: Honestly…I’m not sure there is one. DC has disappointed me time and again this year. I guess, not cancelling Dial H? That’s…gotta count for something? Maybe not completely shuttering Vertigo? Making a Katana title? Sigh. Even the stuff that seems like good and positive things I no longer trust. It’s a terrible feeling.
Worst Marvel Move: Joe Quesada’s ignorant and inappropriate comments that amounted to both insulting all the women of Hollywood AND all the women of Marvel in one fell swoop. I won’t bore you all again with the details, but if you missed it, you can read the piece where I ranted about this here if you like. Marvel has made a ton of smart moves that I’ve appreciated this year. Following up the huge success of The Avengers with such a small-minded comment from one of their top people was a huge misstep, one I’m grateful to see almost nobody else seemed to second or support.
Best Marvel Move: It’s early yet, but what I’m seeing of Marvel Now! so far is pretty damn good. While not all the books will be for me (as it should be) there’s a lot of variety, creativity, and a good amount of fun so far. I find myself more excited about Marvel comics than I have been in a long time, and by not undoing their entire line I don’t have to mourn the loss of everything I might have loved BEFORE the changes. And you know I’m talking Hawkeye here!
Biggest PR Snafu: DC handily wins this category this year on so many levels. While I’m glad (and appreciate like hell when it works out) that they appear to have listened to fans when it comes to things like the unprofessional and ridiculous dismissal of Gail Simone, it just proves how bad some of their decision making is that it can all be undone so easily with an outcry from fans. They’d be a lot better off really thinking these things through (and perhaps that involves hiring new people with different perspectives) before they announce so that it stops them from the embarrassing half-scramble they constantly find themselves in.
Best Comic Book Movie: THE AVENGERS
Joss Whedon, Joss Whedon & Zak Penn.
I did love a lot of things about The Dark Knight Rises and most especially the writing and portrayal of Catwoman, but pound for pound, for me, The Avengers was the better film. It was more fun and in its own way, as a big ensemble piece, more challenging. Joss Whedon (with a whole lot of amazing help) met that challenge and more. It has set the standard for how good superhero movies can AND SHOULD be.
What I look forward to most in 2013:
Honestly, that list is so damn long I can’t possibly list it all out. Between some of the Marvel Now! stuff coming up, the many great books Image is delivering in 2013 (Mara, Lazarus, Pretty Deadly Things, and more) plus huge events like Brian Wood’s Star Wars series from Dark Horse and it’s pretty hard to pick just one thing. I will be doing a more comprehensive column about this very topic for Lit Reactor in January, so keep an eye out for that!
Alright, kids. Happy New Years!
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