Want to find out which comics made our personal favorites lists for 2013? Join Zedric, Troy, and Jason as they count down the series they enjoyed reading the most over the past 12 months.
We may all be on our holiday break, but thanks to the power of the WordPress publishing scheduler, we have traveled through space and time to bring you our lists of our favorite things of 2013.
The schedule of our list postings is as follows:
- Dec. 25: Favorite Comics Series of 2013 (today’s article)
- Dec. 26: Favorite Comics Writers of 2013
- Dec. 27: Favorite Comics Artists of 2013
- Dec. 28: Favorite Comics-based Internet/TV Series of 2013
- Dec. 29: Favorite Toys/Collectibles of 2013
- Dec. 30: Favorites of 2013—The Best of the Rest (Jason’s selections for favorite comics-based movie and comics-based video game, as well as Zedric’s choices for favorite graphic novel/one-shot, favorite reprint collection, favorite art book, and favorite translated comic)
Today, we’re listing our favorite comic series (ongoing or limited series) of 2013. Below are the qualifying criteria for selections:
- Series must have had at least two new issues (no reprints) published between Dec. 19, 2012 and Dec. 18, 2013.
- Series can be print or digital (including webcomics).
Remember, these are our personal favorites, not “critics’ choices.” We’re wearing our fan hats on this one. So without further ado, below are Zedric, Troy, and Jason’s picks:
Before I proceed with my list, I just want to make it clear that lots of titles that I actually really like didn’t make my “favorite comics series of 2013″ list for the reason that they didn’t qualify based on the first criterion outlined above: I’m several months, and in some cases even years, behind in reading them and haven’t read much, if any, of their issues published in the last 12 months. There just aren’t enough hours in the day to read all the comics I like as they come out. Some of these titles include John Allison’s Bad Machinery (webcomic), Fatale (Image Comics), Wasteland (Oni Press), Conan the Barbarian (Dark Horse Comics), Chew (Image Comics), and The Sixth Gun (Oni Press).
Also, I’m real wishy-washy when it comes to ranking favorites—I like to think that I appreciate them all equally well for different reasons—so my list of favorite comics of 2013, as all my other lists in the coming days, will simply be arranged in alphabetical order.
- The Activity (Image Comics) by Nathan Edmondson, Mitch Gerads, and others
The series features Team Omaha, a fictional special mission unit modeled after actual special operations teams, and employs the same streamlined and satisfying one-and-done format that Hama and artist Herb Trimpe used to great effect in G.I. Joe: Special Missions. In terms of overall pacing, The Activity has the feel of a throwback comic—each issue’s plot marches forward at a constant, rapid tempo. At the same time, Edmondson finds space to develop characters and let the narrative breathe in the interstices between the story beats. It’s an impressive balancing act that seamlessly combines the best features of classic, action-centered comics storytelling and a more contemporary, character-and-theme oriented approach influenced by screenwriting for cinema as well as a slightly naturalistic bent descended from documentary filmmaking and embedded video journalism.
- Deathmatch (BOOM! Studios) by Paul Jenkins, Carlos Magno, and others
From our review of Deathmatch, Vol. 2:
More than a basic deconstruction of mainstream superheroes, Deathmatch also engages in their reconstruction: Jenkins uses the tournament-to-the-death conceit to take the superhero types apart and expose their most fundamental inner workings and motivations to the reader, and then puts them back together again, clarified and better understood. The result is that Benny Boatwright (the superhero known as Dragonfly) is, in certain ways, a “better” Spider-Man than recent versions of Marvel’s Peter Parker and the book’s ersatz Batman, the cloaked crimefighter Sable, comes off as just as true to the spirit of the Dark Knight Detective as the character Scott Snyder is writing in DC’s comics.
- Dream Thief (Dark Horse Comics) by Michael Jai Nitz, Greg Smallwood, and others
From our review of Dream Thief #1:
[Dream Thief] is of a piece with the hybrid superhero-noir-horror of comics like Brubaker and Phillips’ Fatale or DeConnick and Noto’s recent revival of Dark Horse’s Ghost… … As strong a miniseries debut as I’ve read all year.
- East of West (Image Comics) by Jonathan Hickman, Nick Dragotta, Frank Martin, and others
East of West is a lot of things. It’s an alternate history tale of an America that’s been shaped by a different ending to the US Civil War. It’s a “future sci-fi/fantasy Western” with robot horses and cyborg warriors sharing space with shape-shifting witches. It features the biblical Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse as central characters while at the same time offering up commentary on the union of politics and religion. It’s Bravestarr on acid.
- Fury: My War Gone By (Marvel/MAX) by Garth Ennis, Goran Parlov, and others
Garth Ennis’ latest project for Marvel’s mature readers-rated MAX imprint, Fury: My War Gone By (a series beautifully illustrated by Croatian artist and frequent Ennis co-conspirator Goran Parlov), uses the hindsight perspective of Marvel’s un-aging super-spook Nick Fury to address the question: Just what were America’s clandestine Cold War operations in the developing world really for?
Garth Ennis has been picking at the scab of war profiteering for a while now, sometimes clumsily, such as in the controversial 303, sometimes in books that aren’t overtly military in nature, such as in The Boys and in key portions of his acclaimed run on The Punisher. For readers familiar with his oeuvre, Fury: My War Gone By can sometimes read like a remix of Ennis’ older material, filtered through the cynical, war-weary voice of Marvel’s nigh-immortal Cold Warrior. But the conflict-of-interest issues driving the book’s narrative are timeless…
- Lazarus (Image Comics) by Greg Rucka, Michael Lark, Santi Arcas, and others
From our review of Lazarus #1:
Where Lazarus marks a bit of a departure from Rucka’s past creator-owned work is in terms of genre, which strays from the modern noir and espionage the writer is most readily associated with. The book is “ten-minutes-into-the-future” speculative fiction, with a story set in an America where the divide between rich and poor has grown almost immeasurably, a country that has reverted back to, for all intents and purposes, a feudal society governed by the few families that control the nation’s wealth, material resources, and access to scientific know-how. In this setting we find Forever “Eve” Carlyle, raised and trained as a “Lazarus”—a genetically-engineered, virtually unkillable armed retainer, commander of a private army, and symbol of paramilitary might—for the rich Carlysle family. After thwarting and killing armed robbers encroaching on Carlysle territory to steal seeds, Eve finds herself dealing with what I can best describe as the effects of post-traumatic stress. Rucka does great work cultivating the character of Eve in the moments where she questions her role, and even when Eve is off-panel and off-page, that character development continues as the discussions held by other members of the cast seamlessly sketch out Eve’s past and provide a rich context for the issue’s events even as a conspiracy builds in the background. Masterful stuff.
- Prophet (Image Comics) by Brandon Graham, Simon Roy, Farel Dalrymple, Giannis Milonogiannis, and others
From our review of Prophet, Vol. 2: Brothers:
[Prophet’s] slow pacing strikes me as contemplative, with Graham and his crew letting the pages “breathe” so to speak—a lazy shorthand characterization of it would “Humanoids-esque” (in reference to the slow-to-build-steam quality associated with the French publisher’s sci-fi graphic novels).
The book’s detailed, sketchy, and wildly imaginative aesthetic is kept consistent throughout the book and between volumes, even with a virtual squad of illustrators contributing to the visuals. Little touches, like the panels featuring schematic/diagrammatic breakdown of equipment and geographical features or John Prophet almost compulsively taking every opportunity to eat animal protein to maintain his body, add a depth to the visual storytelling.
- Saga (Image Comics) by Brian K. Vaughan, Fiona Staples, and others
From our review of Saga, Vol. 2:
Saga tackles fairly heavy themes of sexual and ethnic/racial politics, the human cost of protracted armed conflict, the transformative power of literature, among other things, but it never feels like one is being lectured at. It might sound like hyperbole, but I offer this statement with all sincerity: Vaughan and Staples’ Saga is intelligent without being condescending, suspenseful without being maddeningly obtuse, beautifully rendered but not gratuitous in visual detail, funny but not frivolous, provocative but not offensive, and expertly measured in all aspects of its storytelling.
- Sex Criminals (Image Comics) by Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky
Fraction described the title’s premise during the summer’s Image Expo 2013 as “a girl finds out that time stops when she ‘makes whoopee.’ She meets a boy with the same power. They start robbing banks,” but that really undersells how effective the first issue is in establishing sex not just as a storytelling device, but as the narrative’s thematic foundation. Fraction’s story, told from the first-person narration of protagonist Suzie, touches on topics like sublimated grief, masturbation as an emotional refuge, the difficulty adolescents have in finding accurate information about sex, the broader subject of sexual exploration, among others, all against a backdrop of efficient and genuinely affecting character development. The draw of Sex Criminals might be in the novelty of the offbeat premise, but long before the end of the first issue, readers will have found themselves empathizing with Suzie and her often funny, sometimes sad, frequently awkward journey towards self-realization as a person defined not just by her sexuality, but by her upbringing, family, intellect, interpersonal relationships, and interests.
- Wild Blue Yonder (IDW) by Mike Raicht, Zach Howard, Austin Harrison, and others
From our review of Wild Blue Yonder #1
The first thing that stood out to me in this issue is Zach Howard’s detailed rendering that is reminiscent somewhat of Art Adams’ best work and is perhaps the book’s biggest and most obvious strength. It is meticulous and intricate without coming off as cluttered and gratuitously decorative.
… the design of the future world of Wild Blue Yonder is strongly informed by the past—Howard seems to have drawn from the same inspirations as the artists and designers of lauded anime such as Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind, Last Exile, and The Sky Crawlers, as the prop-driven aircraft, airborne dreadnoughts, and leather flight jackets used by Wild Blue Yonder‘s future aviators echo the technology and military fashions of the World War I, interwar, and World War II eras. The visual storytelling is cogent and compelling: Howard changes angles and distances during talking head sequences just enough to keep things from falling into tedium whilst keeping the flow of the narrative straightforward, but it is during the action scenes that the artist really impresses…
- Lazarus (Image Comics): It’s Greg Rucka. With Michael Lark. Just a great book so far.
- Velvet (Image Comics): Ed Brubaker and Steve Epting do spies.
- Wild Blue Yonder (IDW): If you’re not reading this miniseries, there’s something wrong with you.
- The Activity (Image Comics): Nathan Edmondson and Mitch Gerads with one of the best modern war comics out there.
- Other picks of 2013: Five Ghosts (Image Comics), Saga (Image Comics), East of West (Image Comics), Manifest Destiny (Image Comics).
- Indestructible Hulk (Marvel Comics): Mark Waid is killing it on this book, and making Hulk interesting to me again.