Sunday, December 30, 2012

My Favorite Comics of 2012

It's that time again, nerds. As always, this is a list of my favorites out of the comics I read this year, which is nowhere near the number of comics that were released. So don't take this as a comprehensive list of the best comics of the year. All the big comics websites are doing that anyway; Comic Book Resources' Top 100 list in particular has given me some food for thought for next year's reading.

But enough of that, let's get to the important bit: Where I rave about Hawkeye.
When Marvel announced that Matt Fraction and David Aja, the guys who did a story about Iron Fist punching a goddamned train in the face, were doing a series about my favorite Avenger, my first thought was, "And I didn't get them anything." Then I actually read the thing, and holy crap, this is a great comic. There have been only six issues so far, but each one has been a gem. Like the preview page says, the series is about what Hawkeye does when he's not being an Avenger, that being fight tracksuited Russian mobsters, steal money from supercriminals, get into naked car chases, make himself a human target for the benefit of SHIELD, and watch something called "Dog Cops". I did not make any of that up. Aja (along with pinch hitter Javier Pulido, who did issues 4 & 5) draws it gorgeously, too, doing stuff with a comics page that I never thought was possible. Each issue is a thrill ride, an episode of the best crime drama not on television. Why you're reading my blog instead of this comic right now, I'll never know, but fix that.

When you get down to it, this was really Marvel's year, as far as my reading list went. I didn't give a damn about Avengers Vs. X-Men (except to the extent that it derailed an otherwise stellar year of Rick Remender writing Secret Avengers), but the Marvel books I was reading were firing on all cylinders. Another new launch, Captain Marvel, elevated Carol Danvers to the star position she deserves, delving into what makes her tick while providing some sweet-ass grrl power stories and giving readers an image of the heroine punching a giant robot made of planes and battleships. X-Factor, a perennial favorite, started strange and got stranger, as the team overhauled itself in preparation for 2013's big "Hell on Earth War" story. We also saw the Reverend John Maddox again, in a story that kinda helped me keep my sanity together on one of the worst days I've had in a long time. And there was that Marvel Now! thing. It's a bit premature to make any long-term judgments, but the first issues of the new Avengers and Deadpool series have been kind of awesome. The former features an expanded roster and threats of cosmic proportions, courtesy of Jonathan Hickman, who's surely got some kind of epic adventure boiling there. And the latter is sick, goofy fun of the type we haven't seen since Joe Kelly's famous run on Deadpool back in the day. There's also the ghost of Benjamin Franklin.

DC didn't have as good a year, unfortunately. Two of my books there, Resurrection Man and Frankenstein: Agent of SHADE, are already on the cancellation pile. Mitch Shelley's adventures ended on a good point, though, that leaves the character out there for someone to pick up eventually, I hope. Frankenstein has one more issue to go, and it's been a wild ride, too. Jeff Lemire left mid-year, but Matt Kindt picked up the reins admirably, keeping the book's weird tone while delving a bit deeper into Frank's character. Demon Knights is still going, although writer Paul Cornell has left the building after delivering some top-notch, character-driven medieval adventure and intrigue, and proving that Vandal Savage is a badass no matter what century he's in. Here's hoping Robert Venditti can keep the torch going. But hey, at least Grant Morrison is writing Batman, Incorporated again.

Speaking of British magicians moonlighting as comics writers, League of Extraordinary Gentlemen wrapped up its century-spanning third volume this year, and boy was it something. Much has been written about the story's use of one literary character in particular. Frankly, I enjoyed the story from beginning to end, unflattering pastiche of a book series I quite enjoued included. Moore's creepy, atmospheric version of the story, where everything went all wrong, was a pointed satire on the modern franchise-driven entertainment industry and what it means for literature and popular culture. If our bespectacled hero is an AntiChrist, he's ultimately a pathetic one, twisted by forces he can't comprehend into something he never asked or wanted to be. And, in a surprising but welcome twist, the story itself turns out to be Moore's own little Moonchild, an attempt to bring about a new vision of literature and culture for the 21st Century, while putting the 20th to rest with a mindful reverence. The League has been a story about the journey of the human imagination for quite some time, and in that respect, Century has reminded us that the next step in that journey can be whatever we want it to be. Also, Harry Potter kills Alan Quatermain with lightning from his dick. I don't think I'll ever not enjoy that.

What else? Well, I got caught up on Hellboy and BPRD, probably the greatest ongoing comics saga not being strip-mined by Disney or Warner Bros. Fantagraphics released not one, but two Carl Barks Duck Stories and Floyd Gottfredson Mickey Mouse collections, featuring the classic material that got me into comics in the first place. Brian Wood and Becky Cloonan picked up the reins on Dark Horse's Conan, chronicling Conan's time as consort to the pirate queen, Belit, as portrayed in Howard's "Queen of the Black Coast." And hey, IDW teamed up Star Trek: The Next Generation and Doctor Who, so thanks for that particular nerdgasm, Chris Ryall.

Digital also arrived, finally. I'm a print purist, myself, but anything that has more people reading more comics is a good thing, as far as I'm concerned. On the webcomics front, The Abominable Charles Christopher continued its sometimes silly, sometimes scary, always enjoyable adventure, and I started reading the absurd, wonderful magnum opus of Mike Norton, Battlepug. The world needs more comics with giant pugs in.

Here's to 2013, then. May my favorite comics get even favorite-er, and may we all discover some truly awesome comics we never dreamed could exist.

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