It's the end of the year, and as such, the 'Best Of' lists are rolling out in force. However, instead of proffering my own list of the best books of 2012, which would pretty much be a Transformers-fest due to my ridiculous fervor for those IDW books, I got the bright idea to put the word out to comic book writers and artists themselves to submit their best of 2012 lists. I figured this would be a great way to spread a little love around the industry this holiday season, and that these professionals would definitely tell us about some hidden gems that may have slipped through our radar this year. I was certainly right about that.
The response was great, especially considering how busy these people are and the added demands of the holiday season. So let's get to showing you the selections and recommendations from the swell folks who were gracious enough to participate – and it's worth noting that more would have liked to if they had the time. It's also possible that there will be some late entries coming in, and if/when they do, we'll fold them right into this piece as an update. As it stands, the clear winner right now is Saga, by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples.
So, without further ado, we'll start with the wonderfully talented Christos Gage, a gentleman who might need some holiday cheer after seeing his fantastic book Avengers Academy ended in favor of Avengers Arena, wherein one of the characters he lovingly crafted was unceremoniously murdered in the first issue – or maybe that's just me.
Writer: Avengers Academy, Angel & Faith, Absolution, Superior Spider-Man: Age of Ultron, Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes, Avengers Assemble Annual
In no particular order:
LOCKE & KEY: Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez have brilliantly constructed an elaborate mythology around the Locke family, Keyhouse and its magical keys, all without ever losing sight of the characters that make it all matter. I am devastated that this book is coming to an end soon, but can’t wait to see what happens.
DAREDEVIL: Mark Waid and my old pal Chris Samnee (shameless plug: we did a Vertigo graphic novel called AREA 10 together, check it out!) prove every month that you can achieve success by just producing great superhero stories made with love and care and brilliant talent. Which gives me hope for the world.
FATALE: And really, anything Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips do together…CRIMINAL, INCOGNITO, it’s all fantastic. Fatale brings together crime noir and Lovecraftian horror, and here again I’m seeing a really cool mythology take shape, but character is always at the heart of it.
ALL-STAR WESTERN: I was thrilled to see this book be one of the successes of DC’s New 52, because I am a huge fan of what Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray have been doing (in collaboration with an all-star cast of art luminaries) with Jonah Hex for years now. This series continues their stellar take on the orneriest Western anti-hero of all, now seasoned with intriguing ties to the past of Gotham City and the DC Universe. Regular artist Moritat provides gritty yet pretty art. Check it out, and if you like it, you’ll love the JONAH HEX trade paperbacks collecting the earlier series.
HARBINGER: Josh Dysart may be a liberal-elite hipster, but he’s mainlining everything that makes superhero comics awesome with this revival of the classic Valiant property. Each character has a strong, distinct personality and voice, with Faith standing out as the lovable everygeek we can all identify with. It doesn’t hurt to have the likes of Barry Kitson and Khari Evans drawing it, either.
FURY MAX: Garth Ennis may be the greatest living war comics writer. Turn him loose on the Cold War, as reflected on by an old, haunted Nick Fury, add Goran Parlov following beautifully in the tradition of Alex Toth, remove any restrictions on content and you’ve got a hard-hitting modern classic.
As for reprint material:
The CREEPY and EERIE ARCHIVES from Dark Horse – along with Dynamite’s VAMPIRELLA ARCHIVES – reprint some of the best comics of all time, the Warren Magazine line, in handsome collections I can’t get enough of. Richard Corben, Berni Wrightson, Archie Goodwin, John Severin, Russ Heath…it’s a murderer’s row of talent. The new material in CREEPY COMICS and EERIE COMICS is worth a look, too.
The IDW ARTIST’S EDITIONS are things of beauty. Not many can afford original comic art by acknowledged masters of the form, but these volumes scan the original art in high-definition color and reproduce it as faithfully as possible for an experience that’s the next best thing, and a darn sight cheaper than the six figures or more you’d have to pay for entire issues of original pages by Joe Kubert, John Romita, Gil Kane and other giants.
I’m going to leave out IDW’s COBRA and AMAZING (now SUPERIOR) SPIDER-MAN, both of which I’ve co-written with regular writers Mike Costa and Dan Slott, because recommending them would seem like a crass attempt to sell my trade paperbacks, but they’re both really good too.
Writer: Batman, Swamp Thing, American Vampire, Man of Steel.
My top comics are totally subjective picks – just ones that I loved and that taught me something about writing.
1. Underwater Welder by my friend Jeff Lemire. A haunting mediation on the influence of the past on the present, and on the power or love.
2. This isn't out yet, but Justice League of America #1. I just read the first issue, and like Justice League #15, it signals the start of a huge, game-changing story. The thing that impresses me most about Geoff' Johns' work – the thing that sent me back to my own script for the third issue of our Superman book to improve it – is how every moment is both a sincere character beat, and an engaging plot beat, loaded with mystery. That double layering is something I want to get better at, and no one does it as well as Geoff. Every moment in JLA #1 has great characterization and great plotting.
3. Batman and Robin by Pete Tomasi and Pat Gleason. An unsung hero of the DC line and a shining example of how a comic can be action packed, smart and deeply deeply personal.
4. Thor by Jason Aaron and Esad Ribic. What I love about this series most is its ambitious scope. Nothing excites me more than when I pick up a comic that starts an arc and I get a sense, right away, that this is going to be a story that matters, something fearless and bold.
5. There are a lot of other series I'd love to mention, from The Walking Dead to Saga to Prophets to Hawkeye, but I'd love to choose a book that caught me off guard for this last slot: Revival by Tim Seeley and Mike Norton. A wonderfully fresh and layered take on the zombie story. Part noir, part family drama, part horror. A great read.