The Top 15 Comic Book Series of 2012 — Part One!
Now let’s jump into my second Best of 2012 list, my list of the Top 15 Comic Book Series of 2012!
First up, some honorable mentions. They didn’t make by best-of list, but I really enjoyed The Manhattan Projects, Secret, The Massive, the publication of Alan Moore’s last scripted issue of Supreme, the conclusion of RASL, Ultimate Spider-Man (dropping off my best-of list for the first time since I started doing this, but still a great comic book), Daredevil: End of Days, and Peter David’s X-Factor.
15. Batman Beyond: Unlimited — I am loving this continuation of the world of Bruce Timm’s animated Batman Beyond series. The comic has picked up on many terrific story-lines left hanging by the show’s conclusion, including Terry’s membership in the Justice League, Superman’s return to Metropolis, Terry’s relationship with Dana, the tragic events that befell former Robin Tim Drake (as depicted in the Return of the Joker DVD movie), and at last the introduction of Dick Grayson into Batman Beyond continuity. With the Justice League and the New Gods front-and-center, as well as a revitalized Jokerz gang, the stories feel suitably big and epic. I love that each issue is double-sized, with several serialized stories running concurrently. The art is a little inconsistent on some of the features, but I love Dustin Nguyen’s work, and I am absolutely delighted to see the great Norm Breyfogle once again illustrating a Batman comic.
14. Winter Soldier — Ed Brubaker’s final Captain America story-line has been terrific, returning full-circle to where his Captain America epic began years ago, with a still-alive Bucky Barnes operating on the fringes of the Marvel Universe, trying his best to be a hero in the murky world of spies and shadows. I love the relationship between Barnes and the Black Widow. I love how heavily SHIELD and Nick Fury are involved in the story. I love Butch Guice’s spectacular illustrations, at once retro and very modern. This is a great noirish super-hero story, and I’m going to be sorry to see it end.
13. Batwoman — J.H. Williams III’s lavishly illustrated series continues to impress me. Without question, the main draw is J.H. Williams III’s jaw-droppingly gorgeous art, so creative in terms of page and panel layout, and his use of different artistic styles for different characters/settings. But Mr. Williams has also been doing fine work as the writer, spinning a great mystery yarn that is grounded but not afraid to embrace the supernatural or the super-heroic. The latest story-line, featuring Wonder Woman, has been terrific. The series would be higher on my list if the issues not illustrated by Mr. Williams hadn’t been so shaky.
12. Wonder Woman — I can’t believe I am buying a Wonder Woman comic book at all, let alone that it is one of my favorite series of the year. But Brian Azzarello (100 Bullets)‘s reshaping of the Wonder Woman series, embracing its roots in Greek mythology, has been phenomenal. Complex and surprising, Mr. Azzarello is crafting an epic story that has me fully engaged. Cliff Chiang’s artwork is superb. His art has a slight cartoony simplicity, but also an incredible attention to detail. I love his depiction of Diana: strong and sexy without being too cheese-cakey. (I am less fond of the artwork on the issues not drawn by Mr. Chiang. Like Batwoman, this series would be higher on my list if every issue was illustrated by the series’ main artist.)
11. Brian Michael Bendis’ ICON series: Powers/Brilliant/Takio — None of these series have come out on anything approaching a regular schedule, which is disappointing (not a single issue of Scarlet was published in 2012), but I sure do enjoy them when they are published. Powers (illustrated by Michael Avon Oeming), the story of the cops who investigate super-heroic crime, got big and crazy and I am excited for the next iteration of the series (Powers: FBI, to be published some-time soon, I hope). Brilliant (illustrated by Mark Bagley) has been very intriguing. The story of a bunch of college-school friends who discover how to create super-powers has really started to heat up, and I am enjoying the series’ cast of characters. Takio, Mr. Bendis’ all-ages series (co-created by his daughter Olivia, and also illustrated by Michael Avon Oeming) has also been a lot of fun, appropriate for kids but not dumbed-down-stupid. These are great comic books. I would love to be able to read them more often!
10. Green Lantern — I wrote a lot on the site this year about my discovery of Geoff Johns’ Green Lantern epic, and I have really dug this year’s run of the main GL title. The story-line with Sinestro having been re-accepted into the Green Lantern Corps, while Hal Jordan has been drummed out, has been terrific. I absolutely love the Hal-Sinestro partnership, which has been an entertaining fountain of new stories. I also have loved the return of the Black Hand, the exploration of the Indigo Tribe, and the introduction, towards the end of the year, of a new Muslim Green Lantern, Simon Baz. Doug Mahnke’s incredibly detailed artwork is continually superb, the perfect artwork for the book. This is great stuff.
9. Brian Michael Bendis’ Avengers & New Avengers — Mr. Bendis concluded his decade-long run on the Avengers books this year, and his two titles were as entertaining as ever, chock-full of super-hero punch-em-ups and great dialogue. I was amused to see Mr. Bendis working hard to put his toys nicely back on the shelf where he found them, undoing some of his plot twists from the course of his run (returning Janet Van Dyne to life, returning Simon Williams to sanity). I was pleased to see Luke Cage and Jessica Jones get a lot of attention in this final year. I will be sorry to see them stepping off of center stage with Mr. Bendis’ departure from The Avengers. I know there are plenty of comic book fans out there who didn’t care for Mr. Bendis’ run on The Avengers, but I have been throughly entertained from start to finish.
8. Spider-Men — They finally went and did it, crossing over the main Marvel Universe (616) Spider-Man with the Ultimate Universe Spider-Man. But what made this story finally worth telling is that, in the Ultimate Universe, Peter Parker is dead, and there’s a new Spider-Man: the young Miles Morales. What began as a fish-out-of-water comedy, with 616 Peter Parker getting accidentally zapped into the Ultimate Universe (where everyone knows Peter Parker was Spider-Man), became something much deeper and more heartfelt with the magnificent fourth issue, in which Aunt May and Gwen Stacy encountered this adult, very-much alive version of the boy they loved. Peter’s missed moment with MJ was devastating, absolutely shattering to me as a reader. This is what super-hero comic books should all be. This is a story that shouldn’t have worked, that could have been a stupid cash-grab by Marvel. Instead, with Brian Michael Bendis’ skillful writing and Sara Pichelli’s gorgeous artwork, this was one of my favorite super-hero stories of the year.
7. Mark Millar’s MILLARWORLD series: Secret Police/Supercrooks/Kick Ass 2/Hit Girl — Big, loud, profane, juvenile, and otherwise pretty much awesome, I have been having great fun with Mark Millar’s various creator-owned mini-series this year. Secret Police (illustrated by the great Dave Gibbons) has been my favorite of the bunch, telling the story of an unflappable James Bond-type British Secret Agent and his troubled teenage nephew, who he is trying to whip into shape while at the same time defeat a world-menacing new threat. Supercrooks (illustrated by Leinil Yu) was also pretty great, a heist-story starring a motley crew of super-villains. Neither Kick Ass 2 nor Hit Girl (both of which were illustrated by John Romita Jr. and Tom Palmer) quite hit the highs of the original Kick Ass mini-series, but both have been a lot of fun. I love Mr. Millar’s independent spirit, crafting the type of crazy over-the top super-hero stories that he wants to tell.
6. Saga — Speaking of independent spirit, all hail Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples’ magnificent new sci-fi action/drama/romance/whatever new series Saga. This crazy comic is staggeringly unique, creating a wonderfully rich world that mixes sci-fi and fantasy. There are robots, there is magic, there are space-ships that grow on trees, there are monsters with giant testicles, there is new craziness every issue. Ms. Staples’ art and design work is gorgeous, and Mr. Vaughan’s modern dialogue brings the fantastical situations to vibrant life. I have huge love for this new series, and hope it continues for many years to come.
I’ll be back here tomorrow with numbers five through one!