Manga in Minutes: Top 10 Comics of 2013
As you know by now, CBR has posted its list of Top 100 Comics of 2013. As one of the site contributors I took part in it, but naturally not everything I selected for my personal Top 10 made the list. With that in mind I thought I’d try something a little different to kick off the new year and post my personal Top 10 Comics of 2013 as my first column of 2014!
A little information regarding the criteria for this list. The comics/manga has to have come out in 2013 or, in the case of mini-series, the final issue had to have been published in 2013. Also, any foreign material that first saw print in the US during 2013 is eligible.
With that out of the way, here are my Top 10 picks, a runner up, and my thoughts and comments.
1. Blade of the Immortal, Vols. 26 + 27 – Hiroaki Samura’s samurai epic continues to be an absolutely amazing read, as it speeds to its climax. Samura’s long been a master of fight scenes, and in these two volumes he gets to show off his chops while delivering a blood soaked, showdown that’s been years in the making. The aftermath is surprisingly touching and emotional, and it serves to highlight what a vicious cycle revenge can be, while also displaying Samura’s other skill that’s helped make Blade of the Immortal so amazing, his ability to handle the quieter more emotional scenes as adeptly as the action scenes. With only a handful of volumes left in the series, I can’t help but anticipate the climax and dread it as well. To paraphrase John Travolta from Face/Off… I’m gonna hate to see it go, but I’m gonna love watching it leave.
2. Attack on Titan, Vols. 4 – 9 – Hajime Isayama’s Attack on Titan is currently riding a wave of popularity and for good reason! What starts out as a zombie-esque humanity under siege story has been full of twists and turns from the start, and after 9 volumes there’s virtually no sign of this slowing down. Isamaya throws out revelation after revelation, crafting an intriguing world that you can’t help but be drawn into. Add in some of the most kinetic action scenes to grace the printed page, and it’s easy to see why it’s become such an international hit.
3. Lazarus #1 – 4 – The opening salvo of Greg Rucka and Michael Lark’s sci-fi series delivered an incredibly fascinating, disturbing and all too believable world of the future ruled by massive family owned corporations. Into this world comes Forever Carlyle, a living weapon created to defend the Carlyle Corporation. Full of conspiracies, technology pulled from cutting edge papers and articles, and based upon political and economic policies of today, Lazarus has quickly become one of my most anticipated reads. With a new arc kicking off focusing on Forever’s relationship with the rest of the family, and the training she underwent, the next year looks to flesh out her character which can only help this already great series.
4. Astro City #1 – 5 – After a nearly three year absence, Astro City returns! Kurt Busiek, Brent Anderson, Alex Ross and the rest of the team return to put on an absolute clinic on how amazing superhero comics can be when they’re done right. The series is largely comprised of stand alone tales, focusing on different heroes, villains and those on neither side, who occupy the city of Astro City and the large world in general. This time though, Busiek’s seeding an ongoing arc involving the enigmatic and unstable Broken Man. Exactly how the individual issues tie together has yet to be revealed, but as sling as they keep cranking out fantastic stories like the two parter about superpower people attempting to live ordinary lives, Busiek can take all the time in the world.
5. Empowered, Vol. 8 – Adam Warren’s superhero comedy series has been one of my personal faves since its inception, and this volume does an amazing job at showing just why that is. It’s an emotional roller coaster ride that can have you laughing out loud one moment, then choking back tears the next, and at no point do these shifts in tone feel forced or unnatural. The characters are well rounded and their relationships feel believable and genuine and their growth natural and unforced. Despite it’s annual release schedule, “Empowered” remains one of my favorite series at the moment, and one I always look forward to getting my hands on as soon as possible!
6. Godzilla: Rulers of Earth #1 – 6 – I went into this with managed expectations, figuring that it would simply be an ok but forgettable read that I’d drop after 3 issues. I’m pleased to say that I couldn’t have been more wrong! Writer Chris Mowry, with artists Matt Frank and Jeff Zornow have done a fantastic job at capturing the feel of a 60’s and 70’s Godzilla movies, but with updated sensibilities and aesthetics. The result is an incredibly fun read that is arguably the most enjoyable Godzilla comic to date.
7. Kitaro – Originally created in the 60s, Kitaro’s long been a fixture in Japanese pop culture, but it’s only now that we in North America are getting our first glimpse of this historic series thanks to folks over at Drawn and Quarterly. Full of tales and figures drawn from Japanese folklore, Kitaro blends horror, comedy and even political commentary into a wonderfully enjoyable, slightly creepy read. This collection of short stories from Shigeru Mizuki’s most popular series is an absolute treat and one that only scratches the surface of the decade long series.
8. Wasteland #43 – 50 – Antony Johnston’s sprawling post-apocalyptic sci-fi epic has always been one of my favorite series. The world building and character growth has been one of the high points of the series from its get go, and this past year has seen both begin to pay off in spades. A number of ongoing subplots which have been slowly building over the years come to a head in a explosive story arc which dominated the series for most of 2013. It’s only going to get crazier from here on out as well, as Wasteland looks to be heading into its final year after this arc’s conclusion!
9. Wonder Woman #16 – 25 – Azzarello continues his intriguing take on DC’s Amazon Princess. His willingness to mix his crime comics sensibilities with greek myth has resulted in a fresh and engaging take on the character. It continues to be the best DC comic to come out of the 52 relaunch.
10. Battling Boy – Paul Pope’s long awaited superhero fight comic finally dropped this year, and it turned out to pretty good. Mixing superheroics with fictional mythology and more, Pope crafted a fun, entertaining fight filled read. The most surprising aspect of Battling Boy was its supporting cast, most of whom are actually more interesting and intriguing than the titular character himself. Thankfully Pope and his publishers foresaw this and they have a spin off focusing on Aurora West, daughter of the ill fated protector of the city prior to Battling Boy’s arrival!
Except that’s not the end! I must confess that while compiling this list I was running tight on time and in an effort to meet the deadline threw Battling Boy in at number ten, only to later find my head meeting the desk as I remembered another comic from 2013 that I had enjoyed even more. The title in question is included as a “Runner Up/Special Mention” below:
Storm Dogs – Written by David Hine with art from Dough Braithwaite comes this underrated and overlooked gem from 2013! Storm Dogs is a fantastic sci-fi murder mystery set on a frontier-esque world which resembles America’s Old West in more ways than the mere visual elements. Hine and Braithwaite work together beautifully and craft an interesting setting, compelling characters and mystery full of twists and turns. In the end everything comes together in one of the better cliffhanger and twist endings that I’ve come across in recent years. It’s an ending that makes perfect sense, and one that will cause readers to re-evaluate their own thoughts and impressions of the cast at the same time. I can only hope that Storm Dogs Season 2 happens and happens sooner rather than later.
And that’s it for my Top 10 Comics of 2013. It was a pretty good year and I hadn’t really realized just how varied my reading had been until this year. Admittedly, there aren’t a ton of new series on the list, The regular reviews will be resuming next Wednesday.