Saturday, December 22, 2012

2012 Comics of the Year

2012 was easily my best year of comics reading yet.  Not only did I read a ton of great comics, but I honed my tastes further and branched out in new directions. The result being that I was rewarded with some amazing gems.  Scarily, my comics reading pile continues to grow; I think I have enough comics to last me the next couple years...

As always, I read my fair share of both floppy single issues and collected editions, or as they're more commonly known: graphic novels.  My 2012 Comics of the Year list covers just the former, the single issue stuff, and there was so much good stuff it was pretty hard to choose just the top five.


#5. Prophet: Prophet has been one of my favorite monthly titles this year and a big reason is the sheer variety of talent that Brandon Graham has brought together for this title.  Ever since issue one (or technically issue 21), there's been a smorgasbord of talented artists associated with this comic.  Though the main players have primarily been Graham, Simon Roy, and Giannis Milonogiannis, there have been plenty of other awesome folks getting credits for this title. The result is that I've had the wonderful pleasure of being exposed to some amazing talent along the way.  Farel Dalrymple stands out as an artist who has worked on this book and impressed me greatly with his talent.

On top of all the great artistic talent associated with this comic, the story has been incredibly entertaining and intriguing.  Any week where there's an issue of Prophet is a special week.  Graham and company have created an absolutely fascinating universe to set their story in, and I love the feeling of discovery and exploration that comes with each issue.

The icing on the cake for Prophet is that each issue comes with a back-up short comic, and all of these have been fantastic. The back-up Shock Post by Malachi Ward and Matt Sheean stands out as one of the best comics I read all year.  Awesome, awesome stuff.

#4. Fatale: The combo of Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips is one of my favorite comic creating duos.  When these guys are together they create fantastic comics.  They did a couple of super powered spy stories in Sleeper and Incognito, then some straight up crime with their Criminal stories.  Their latest work is Fatale  a sort of crime-Lovecraftian mash up.  

I'll admit I wasn't totally enamored with this comic from the get go. I liked what I was reading, but I wasn't totally feeling it. I had enough faith and past experience with Brubaker and Phillips to keep plugging away and sure enough, everything congealed in the fifth issue.  We're two story arcs in now, the second of which was fantastic, and Fatale was an easy pick for this top five list.  

There's an awesome blend of horror and crime going on in this comic, a mix we don't see too often, and I think fans of both genres will find plenty to like here.  

#3. Godzilla The Half Century War: Despite the fact that I love monsters, I can't say that I've ever really been a Godzilla fan.  Well, that all changed earlier this year when James Stokoe started working on Godzilla The Half Century War.  

This is one amazing comic.  

It's amazing for lots of reasons, but one of the biggest reasons is that this is almost completely Stokoe's vision.  He does the writing, art, and lettering.  The only thing he doesn't completely himself is the coloring, and he gets "coloring assists" from someone, so he still has a hand in that aspect of the book as well.  That's an amazing amount of work to put into a comic, but the pay-off is great as there is no loss of vision along the way.  

This is one absolutely gorgeous comic too.  Stokoe is definitely one of my favorite artists, and his work here is some of his best.  His stuff is always hyper-detailed, and that skill is put to amazing use here as you really get a feel for the destruction and mayhem Godzilla can cause when he wrecks shop.  Add in some fucking phenomenal monster fights and Godzilla The Half Century War is probably the best treat for your eyes on the shelves. Oh, the story is pretty flippin' great too! A must read for any comics fan.

#2. Multiple Warheads: 2012 was the year of Brandon Graham in the comics world.  His King City stuff got recollected and republished, His amazing re-imagining of a Rob Liefeld comic, Prophet came out, and to top it all off, he started releasing his Multiple Warheads mini-series.  That's a pretty impressive output, but even more impressive is the incredibly high quality of it all...most impressive of all though is that fact that Multiple Warheads makes this list with a mere three issues worth of material on the shelves.    

Multiple Warheads, is completely a Brandon Graham entity as he handles all the comic creating duties: writing, art, colors and lettering.  To put it simply, Graham is a comic creating powerhouse of unique vision and artistic talent.  His comics simply aren't like anyone else's.  In fact, it almost seems like a deliberate effort is being made by Graham to not be like anyone else.  

And I love it.  

His stories meander, follow interesting paths until they are no longer interesting, then find another path to follow until something else comes up.  Along the way the reader is treated to some really beautiful art, and a boat-load of puns and jokes.  The misogynist parlor joke being my favorite so far.  Multiple Warheads is a shining example of how much fun comics can be, and I love and am grateful for every panel of every page.

 #1. Saga: It's not often that my most anticipated title becomes my most favorite, but that's exactly what happened here.  Saga stepped onto the scene back in March, and it has been absolutely top of the line ever since.  Frankly, I'm a bit surprised that a space opera about star-crossed lovers on the run could impress me so much, but it did. I love this story and I love these characters...with the exception of The Stalk, she scares the shit out of me!

What's impressive is that I can't point to either the writing or the art as the primary culprit of quality.  Both aspects are so wonderfully connected and work so well together that they seem to flow into one another. Granted, both the writing and the art are top of the line, and Fiona Staples has got to be the best discovery of the year for me, but it is impossible to talk about one without the other working the way into the conversation.  Simply said, Saga is a great example of how comics should work, how the art and the writing should be a combined effort.  

Month in and month out this has consistently been the best written and best looking comic on the shelves, and honestly, despite so many other really great comics, an easy pick for the number one spot.  

Most Honorable Mention: 

Sweet Tooth: Despite all the nice things I said about the comics above, Sweet Tooth is still my favorite monthly comic.  It hasn't had a dip in quality either, I simply didn't put it in the top five because I've covered it so extensively here at Battle Hymns.  I will be really fucking sad when the last issue comes out in January.  

The Sixth Gun: Another flat out fantastic comic which only gets better as the issues go by.  The fantasy-western combo has found it's home here.

Best Single Issue of 2012:

Stumptown Vol 2. #4: Holy fuck, this is an amazing comic!  This beauty gets top billing for one big reason: the best flippin' car chase scene in a comic ever. 

First, a little side story: Seattle has a bunch of drawbridges, which are really cute looking but it sucks to be stuck at one in your car while the wings raise up to let some rich prick in his yacht motor through on his way to a day of sailing. I've always thought about how cool it would be if someone just said "fuck it" and used the raising wings as a ramp to jump to the other side rather than waiting. 

It turns out Greg Rucka and Matthew Southworth have had the exact same thoughts, because that very scene, among many others that were amazing, plays out in this comic.

Ahh, wish fulfillment, even vicarious wish fulfillment, can be a wonderful thing

This issue would not have been such a success without the talents of Matthew Southworth. He not only made me feel like I was watching cars scream by me at break-neck speeds, but he also played around with the format of the comic so that when the cars turned, you had to physically turn the comic in order to continue on with the story.  This was a really cool concept, and brought me closer to the action. 

I don't think I've ever had such an overwhelming sense of fun and excitement while reading a comic.  A singularly great issue and an easy pick for best single issue of the year.

So there you go, my best comics of the year. Image almost completely swept the category.  What stuff did you folks read that you thought were deserving of mention?  

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