Every site everywhere ends the year with their lists of the best books of the past 12 months, and Crave Online is happy to provide that service as well. It's fun. We like lists. They're psychologically satisfying. However, while we are, of course, trend-setting tastemakers, it seems very much worth the effort to seek out people who actually create comics for a living and ask them what their favorite comic books of the year were. You'd like to hear what professional chefs have to say about food you're about to eat, right? Why not do the same for comics?
So here's Crave Online's second annual gathering of golden opinions from creators around the comic industry about what books they've enjoyed reading most in 2013, and chances are you're going to learn of some new things you might want to check out. Let's let Comic Creators Pick The Best Comics of 2013, shall we? Here's who they chose, as explained in their own words.
SCOTT SNYDER (Batman, American Vampire, Superman Unchained, The Wake)
1. Lazarus. I love the concept of this book - it's simple, elegant, and terrifyingly believable. Imagine a near future in which all the wealth of the world is controlled by just a few families... Add a great dash of sci-fi, Gotham Central-level intrigue, and you have one of my favorite books of the year, by two of my favorite people in comics, Greg Rucka and Michael Lark.
2. Speaking of favorite people - Jeff Lemire is knocking it out of the park with Trillium, my second pick. A genre-bending epic that tells a love story spread across time and space.
3. Thor: God of Thunder. Jason Aaron and Esad Ribic's first arc on Thor is everything you could ask for from this book - or any book - it's ambitious, smart, emotional, fresh, and even funny. With Thors from three timelines fighting together against Gorr, butcher of gods, this series brings the thunder and then some to superhero books.
4. Superior Spider-Man by Dan Slott and Humberto Ramos. I'm the kind of reader who's always up for something that hasn't been done, so long as it's not done for purely sensational reasons, and so when it became clear that Slott's master plan was to have Doc Ock switch brains with Peter Parker and actually BECOME Spidey, I was game from the start. Admittedly, I had high expectations - Slott would have to do something great to pull off that premise, but I was excited. And Slott and Ramos have done that and then some, crafting a Spider-Man book that's energetic, fresh, dark, funny, and thought-provoking.
5. Batman and Robin by Pete Tomasi and Pat Gleason. Obviously, I love a lot of the batbooks - INC, Batgirl, Nightwing, Detective - but for me, the unsung hero of the line is B and R by Pete and Pat. Full disclosure: I'm not the biggest Damian fan; not because I don't like him as a character - I love him on the page - but simply because I find it hard to wrap my mind around Bruce taking his own biological son out on patrol. The great thing about this book is that Pete and Pat tackle that very issue head on - issue after issue, the series explores the rich, complicated, and heart-wrenching relationship between Batman and Robin.
GARTH ENNIS (Red Team, Battlefields, Garth Ennis Presents Battle Classics)
1. Charley's War Vol 10: The End
The conclusion to the best comic strip ever written and drawn. Pat Mills is right, collecting the later material alongside his work would be a mistake.
2. Johnny Red Vol 3: Angels Over Stalingrad
Hard to put into words how happy I am to see this stuff back in print. Fingers crossed they'll now move on to the John Cooper era. Bloody good subtitle, incidentally, whoever came up with that is clearly a man of enormous intellect and taste.
3. The Best of Milligan and McCarthy
A box of treasure from two of the all-time greats.
I often find myself wondering why I'm reading a monthly book about fucking space-elves. The answer, of course, is Brian Vaughan. I'd follow that guy anywhere.
5. Crossed: Wish You Were Here
I've said this before, but if there was one single reason for carrying on with Crossed after the miniseries, Si Spurrier provided it. The guy just goes from strength to strength.
CHARLES SOULE (Swamp Thing, Thunderbolts, Superman/Wonder Woman, Strange Attractors, She-Hulk)
MIND MGMT (Matt Kindt, Dark Horse) - I came to this series a bit late, but I literally couldn't put the first HC down once I picked it up, and immediately ordered the second as soon as I'd finished it. MIND MGMT is an extraordinarily smart, exciting story that takes the idea of a clandestine organization recruiting psychically powered people to do... something... and runs with it to amazing places. When the pieces click together in the story, you can almost hear it. Great stuff.
Saga (Brian K. Vaughan / Fiona Staples, Image) - As Saga continues, it's becoming pretty clear that BKV and the amazing Fiona Staples aren't telling a sci-fi action serial - they're telling a story about family, and relationships, and generations that happens to be set in one of the most inventive sci-fi settings I've ever seen. But that's fine with me. I'm fully on board, and can't wait to see where it goes, even if it ends up tearing my heart out at the end, as it inevitably will.
Batman (Scott Snyder / Greg Capullo, DC) - Full disclosure - I now consider Scott a pal, but even before I'd ever met him, I was buying his Batman stories. He and Greg are demonstrating how fresh and powerful a concept Batman is - it feels familiar and brand-new all at once. Should also mention his The Wake from Vertigo, which is one of the coolest, creepiest things I've read in a while.
Locke & Key (Joe Hill / Gabriel Rodriguez, IDW) - Man, I'll miss this when it's gone. Stories like this simply do not come along that often, and I have all of the collected editions to-date on my "classics" shelf, right next to Preacher, Sandman and Y the Last Man.
Satellite Sam (Matt Fraction / Howard Chaykin, Image) - Sort of Mad Men set in the early days of a Star Trek-like TV show, this series feels drenched in cigarettes, vodka, desperation and the kind of sex everyone ends up regretting almost immediately. There's nothing else like it on the stands, and I'm digging it immensely.