Monday, December 30, 2013

The Best of 2013 - Titles

Welcome back to another edition of our best of 2013 lists! Today we'll take a look at the best titles of 2013, from best ongoing to best digital comic and a lot more in-between. So hit the jump and see if you agree or disagree with our choices.

Best Ongoing

Grant - Sex Criminals

There were a lot of amazing comics this year.  A ludicrously stupid amount.  This was obviously a boon for readers, but it does make reducing them all down to a single best book for the past twelve months something of a challenge.  Saga was the critical darling last year - rightfully so - and to be perfectly honest, it continued to be so good this year that it could have taken the title yet again.  However, I'm going to go in a somewhat different direction and name Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky's Sex Criminals as the year's best book.  I know that it's only had three issues thus far, but they were stunningly great issues.  In Suzie and John, our creators have found the perfect outlet for their science fiction romantic comedy about two twenty-somethings who have the power to stop time when they climax (because why not?).  If you feel the concept is somewhat ridiculous, you're not alone, but Fraction and Zdarsky make it work.  Sex Criminals is irreverent and hilarious, while also treating relationships and sex in a frank, beautiful, and genuine manner.  For my money, there is nothing else like it on stands right now, and I'd say there's nothing better either.

Gord - Thor: God of Thunder

As Scalped came to an end I was really worried about where I could get my Jason Aaron fix. I knew it wouldn't be in Wolverine and the X-Men because... well, because. I found it here in Thor. I know that Aaron promised some crazy epic heavy metal Viking, but so many other Thor writers prior had made the same promises only to give us Ragnarok once again. Aaron's run is fresh. He gives us three generations of a Thor who work together to take on belief itself. Godbomb is the Thor story we'd been waiting so long for that captures the tone that so many writers have promised. It has consequences for our Viking god in the past, present, and future. Each issue is important and Esad Ribic is a master of his craft. Each panel is a masterpiece deserving of display in a Norse museum of culture. Fantastic stuff.

Ken - East of West

Manhattan Projects' younger brother, though equally as sinister. The alternate tale of the USA if it was divied up around the second half of the 1800's, with the horsemen of the apocalypse looking to finally ring the doomsday bell and get revenge against their fellow member Death. The alternate countries, from the West Coast belonging to Chinese immigrants to a South that still seceded, it's deep and fascinating and ripe for storytelling. A simple revenge story at it's core, all the other layers of the onion make it stand out against everything else this year, complete with Nick Dragotta's excellent and subtle art. It's a great western, a great what-if history tale, and it's a great sci-fi book.

Best Miniseries

Grant - Six-Gun Gorilla

Six-Gun Gorilla came out of nowhere and had me instantly smitten.  Simon Spurrier's writing was right up my alley, presenting a fascinating dystopia where creativity and imagination have all but disappeared, replaced with the latest, most intimate reality television.  A sterile world where life is watched instead of lived.  And artist Jeff Stokely was the perfect collaborator for the project, making this crazy, beautiful world feel real and present - which is saying something when one of the main characters is a talking, six-shooter wielding gorilla.  This miniseries might not have been grounded entirely in reality, but Spurrier and Stokely came together to tell a story all about the importance of stories and the power and meaning they can hold.  But it wasn't all metaphor and literary techniques, as this book had its fair share of humour, character moments, and good old fashioned throw downs and dust ups.

Gord -Polarity

A fresh take on an old concept Max Bemis meets it head on as the necessity of a substance for powers is even more real. What if your antipsychotics were something else a little more dubious and gave you strange powers that you don't really want. This sounds heady, but it was an incredibly fun mini and the art in it was something different than what you might expect. Each issue had a moment of laugh out loud while still maintaining its serious premise.

Ken - Buzzkill

It was something that caught my eye in the previews, but as each issue came out it was hooking me more and more. A guy gets a variety of powers depending on what vice he uses, and with that powerset he becomes a liability after one nasty binge to defeat one of the biggest villains in his world. We see the other side of the mask in some nice character development, and the series sticks a strong landing where many times books simply fizzle out.

Best New Title

Grant - Rat Queens

While I could technically give this category to Sex Criminals as well, that seems like something of a cop-out, particularly when there was such a wealth of excellent new books published this year.  So instead, I will happily give this award to Kurtis J. Wiebe and Roc Upchurch's Rat Queens, which is one of the best action-adventure comic book I've had the pleasure of reading.  Wiebe has been all about trying different genres in his work, this time moving over to that of sword and sorcery with his lovable cast of leading ladies, those titular Rat Queens.  We're still in the midst of our opening arc, but already the book has set its tone as a crass comedy that will pull no punches in its jokes or action.  I've long been a strong proponent that comics should be fun, and Rat Queens is fun in spades.  Hilarious, bloody spades that will probably insult you in some unexpected - yet surprisingly enjoyable - way.

Gord -Next Testament

This comic reeks of horrific and trippy world building. While presenting what is pretty typical fare for a Clive Barker concept, there is commentary on this fictional world which is staggeringly true to the now. Mark L. Miller has a classic on his hands or an under rated freak show of a cult. How would we react if a diety made a return to earth? Probably something like what's found in here, complete with all of the gore and satire that can only come from this perverted cynicism. As well, Haemi Jang is giving us art unlike anything I've ever seen in comics. The colouring compliments thin and graceful linework. Looking forward to the balance of the series in 2014.

Ken - Quantum & Woody

It's hard to do funny on a consistent basis but this new addition to the Valiant line is the modern day incarnation of Justice League International. Asmus' writing is as sharp and funny as it was back when he first showed up on my radar with his Escape From the Negative Zone story at Marvel, and seems to be firing on all cylinders compared to his Gambit series. Fowler and Doyle's art work perfectly for the bickering and completely different superhero brothers, making clones and evil goats feel perfectly fine in this world. Very rarely do I laugh out loud when reading some comics but this is a book that has succeeded in that quite a few times.

Best Single Issue

Grant - Hawkeye #11

How can it be anything other than "Pizza is My Business"?  While the publishing schedule for Matt Fraction and David Aja's Hawkeye was a tad wonky this year, the series still delivered issue after issue of quality superhero comics unlike anything else offered from either Big 2 company, and in a year of great issues, Hawkeye #11 was easily the best.  You know the story by now, but it bears repeating, this was a story focusing on and told from the perspective of Lucky, Clint Barton's dog.  That in and of itself is amazing, but Fraction and Aja absolutely killed it, taking advantage of the unique elements of the comic book medium to tell a story that really felt like it was being told from a canine's point of view, while also advancing the overall plot of the series.  This was a true team effort, with colourist Matt Hollingsworth delivering his signature style and Chris Eliopoulos chipping in for the book's overall look.  This issue was brilliant.  It was beautiful.  And it was a barking good time.

Gord - Shadowman #13

It seemed like Valiant put most of its stock into Harbinger Wars for this years big event. This isn't a bad thing, but once it was over we were left to try and find something truly amazing in their universe. Thankfully, XO-Manowar was there to usher us towards something even more interesting. Then among all of the Sect War and Unity we get the surprise that comics legend Peter Milligan has taken over writing duties on the weakest of Valiants offerings. This is a welcome change and it gives us something that comic readers should take note of and reasserts Milligan's status as one of the industry greats. This issue gave us so much to look forward to and I can't wait to see what comes in the new year from this title.

Ken - Astro City #1

There were quite a few books that took a run at this award. East of West #6, Zero #2, New Avengers #6, but the return of one of the best single titles that showcases everything right about comics is my pick for issue of the year. It takes the strange new visitor angle to a new and much needed angle, where there's complete earnestness and heart in the story Busiek and Anderson are trying to tell. I reread it again just to make sure this was the right choice, and it was. You just want to smile after you finish reading it.

Best Original Graphic Novel

Grant - Delilah Dirk and the Turkish Lieutenant

I only came across Tony Cliff's Delilah Dirk and the Turkish Lieutenant through my preparations for New York Comic Con, but I'm mighty glad I did.  This wonderful graphic novel, published by First Second Books, is brilliant tale of action and derring-do through starring a strong female character, with the added bonus of being all-ages appropriate (something which we all know I love).  Delilah Dirk is Cliff's first long form comic book story, but he shows great storytelling talents throughout.  The writing is fast and fun, developing some engaging protagonists to lead us through its 19th century Mediterranean.  It's exotic without exoticizing, focusing instead on the mad cap hijinx that Delilah and Selim continually get up to.  And Cliff's art is something to behold.  His layouts and scenes are grand as grand can be, creating a comic that reminds me of the style of European bandes dessinĂ©es that almost jumps off the page.  All in all, it makes for a beautiful comic that begs to be published in a larger format to really appreciate the artwork, but remains enjoyable in whichever size you can find it.

Best Digital Comic

Grant - High Crimes

Chris Sebela and Ibrahim Moustafa dropped one of the best Monkeybrain books this year with their "high altitude noir" comic (which is saying something when you consider all the amazing stuff that's been coming out of that joint).  Set in the Himalayas, the book initially revolves around Haskell Price and Susanne Jensen, a couple of climbing guides who moonlight as grave robbers, retrieving the bodies of dead climbers from mountains for their surviving loved ones - and a pretty penny.  But when they discover the body of ex-government operative Sullivan Mars, the heat really comes down on them.  Sebela and Moustafa have been delivering issue after issue of pulse-pounding action, with a fascinating, well-developed female lead.  Susanne (or 'Zan' as she prefers) is incredibly human, having more than her fair share of baggage, and she has been an excellent point of view into the book's action and plot.  Sebela's writing has been rock solid, pacing the story well and keeping the reader engaged, while Moustafa's art has been getting better with each and every issue - which is saying a lot considering how good it was from the get-go.  Like Delilah Dirk, there's a definite European vibe to the whole project, as it offers a type of story that really isn't being told anywhere else in the industry.

Gord - Where She Walks

Brother and Sister team of Nathan and Erin Miller bring you trippy and cool scenes of an office workers delirium. The world of "Where She Walks" is detailed and vast as Nathan adds some saturated watercolors to deep thick personalities. Erin mixes poetry with the sequentials which is reminiscent of Can't Get No by Rick Veitch. I love it and if you're not into it right now, get into it. Fans of The Maxx by Sam Keith will no doubt enjoy the dual worlds where imagination and doldrum compliment each other. Cool stuff.

Ken - JL8

It's a webcomic, but that's digital, right? Chris G's Mini Marvels is loved by nearly everyone (and rightfully so, the concept should still be around today), but the same concept is used in Yale Stewart's take on the pint-sized versions of the Justice League. Not officially endorsed by DC, it's actually got more fun and more heart than nearly 75% of their actual books. In a sobering realization, these kids are more like their pre-Nu52 counterparts than the current characters are. Clark is happy, Bruce thinks he's the greatest thing around, and Booster Gold and Ted are still causing mayhem on the side. The series is currently on hiatus because it's actually propelled Stewart into some higher profile work, but hopefully we see more of the story in the next year.

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Eric van Schaik said...

Hi guys,

Best wishes from Holland!

Best ongoing (kind of) is Hawkeye.

Thank you Ken for JL8. This is really fun. My kids like it also.

Because of my dad passing away in november this is the best i can come up with.

I hope my list will be longer next year.

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