Another year has come and gone. The trees have bloomed and then gone back to their slumber. Another baseball season is behind us. And once again, the latest Call of Duty game has sucked up way to much of everyone’s time, but with good reason.
And then there are the comics of the last year. We watched as comic books in digital format began to take hold of fanboys’ hearts and wallets. We all witnessed the grand finale of Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy as well as the culmination of Marvel’s own ambitious movie plans in The Avengers. And this was the year that Image showed everyone why owning what you create leads to unbridled creativity while Marvel and DC continued the launch/cancel/relauch/repeat cycle.
Not to say the Big Two didn’t produce some great comics books over the past year, because they did. But for once, so did a lot of other people too. And so it is with great pride I give you my Best of Comics for 2012. And I hope when you’re done reading it you’re inspired to go out there and get some comics!
Best Comeback: Valiant Comics
When the old Valiant Comics went down in flames in the later part of the 90’s, I really thought we had seen the last of X-O Manowar, Shadowman, Ninjak and the rest. There had been a handful of attempts to revive the line over the years but they all fizzled out before they really began.
That changed in 2012 when Valiant not only returned to comic shops with a quartet of titles during the “Summer of Valiant”, but they did it with some of the top talent in the industry. And it looks like that was just the beginning of the greatness if the just launched Shadowman is any indication. It’s just a shame all comebacks can’t be as good as this.
Best Example Of Why You Should Own What You Create: The Walking Dead
If there was one story that got people’s attention this year that didn’t involve Marvel or DC, it was the phenomenon that is The Walking Dead. Between the hit television show, the best selling 100th anniversary issue or the continued success of the Walking Dead trade paperbacks, it seemed like Robert Kirkman’s zombies were everywhere this year.
And the great thing was that they were literally Robert Kirkman’s zombies. He owns them and everything else with the name The Walking Dead on it. And isn’t that a novel idea; the person who created something getting to reap the rewards of that idea becoming a mainstream hit and receiving all the credit due him. Sounds like a concept a lot of other comic book creators should think about before agreeing to write Avengers or Batgirl for someone else.
Best Comic Book Movie: The Avengers
This was a close one with Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Rises and I’m sure a lot of people would give the nod to Rises based on the previous two films. But for my movie money, The Avengers was the better comic book movie of the two. It just got everything right, from the portrayal of the Hulk to the action sequences and effects to the interplay among the members of the team; you really felt like you were watching a comic book come to life.
It’s just a shame we’ll have to wait so long for Avengers 2.
Best Trade Paperback: IDW’s Daredevil – Born Again Artist Edition
Since their inception, IDW’s Artist Edition series has taken the idea of the trade paperback to a whole other level. In them, they present the artwork in the original scale it was drawn with all the notes and details left there to see. It’s almost like getting to read a Director’s Cut of the book detailing the artist’s thoughts while they worked on it.
The best of the best though has to be the Daredevil – Born Again Artist Edition that was released this year. Each and every page of David Mazzucchelli’s gorgeous artwork in the actual size he drew it. The book is presented in beautiful black and white that helps to highlight all the small details that you can miss once the color is added to the art. Plus, you get what many consider Fran Miller’s definitive Daredevil story. Epic Win all around.
Best Moment: The Villain Behind The Court Of Owls Is Revealed (Batman #10)
Of the entire New 52 line-up, the book most agreed was the best out of the gate was Batman. Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo has somehow captured magic in a bottle and were crafting what was turning out to be the best opening arc of the entire relaunch: The Court of Owls.
In issue #10 it all came to a head as Batman (as well as all the readers) learned who the true villain was behind the whole affair; Thomas Wayne Jr., Bruce Wayne’s brother. As the new Owlman, he has tortured and tormented Bruce to simply prove that he was Batman’s equal. It made for a jaw-dropping comic that will stand the test of time as one of the best issue of Batman ever.
Best New Title: Saga
In a year when Image Comics launched wave after wave of incredible new titles, Saga stood head and shoulders above them all. Take Romeo and Juliet, give them a child, and place the whole story in one of the most original science fictions settings I have ever seen and you only get a small glimpse of what Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples have created.
Combine the stylistic storytelling ability of Staples and Vaughan’s multifaceted plots full of small, tender moments and you have what is easily the best new series this year. At it’s core, Saga is a story about family and what that means. It’s the kind of comic we need more of on the stands.
Best Artist: Fiona Staples
So how do you bring a series with such a large and diverse story to life? You get one hell of a talented artist to draw the thing for you. And that’s just what Brian K. Vaughan did when he decided to work with Fiona Staples on Saga.
The woman has one of the most unique styles I’ve ever seen in comics, with rich, detailed line work and storytelling ability second to none. Her camera placement is always where it should be, so much so that you almost always know what’s going on even before you read the dialogue. And the universe she is creating is one of the most imaginative I’ve ever seen. So many new ideas and concepts, it would make many artists weep at the thought of trying to draw it. But not only is Staples killing it, she’s making it look easy.
Best Writer: Terry Moore
Who knew the Strangers in Paradise guy could do horror?
That was my first thought after finishing Rachel Rising #1. The book was just creepy and weird and everything a good horror comic should be. But it didn’t end there. As the series has progressed, things have gotten creepier and weirder and a new issue will regularly send shivers down my spine as I read it.
The story of the dead girl come back to life and what that brings with it will haunt your nightmares, I guarantee you. It’s unnerving, eerie, and just a bit sinister. And the reason for all of that solely lies with Terry Moore. While the art is gorgeous as usual, Moore has taken his writing to a totally different place in Rachel Rising. He’s tapping into… something that most of us just don’t have.
And thank God for that.
Best Character: Hazel (Saga)
Saga opens with the birth of Hazel, the first child of Alana and Marko, soldiers from opposing sides of an interstellar war. She also serves as sometimes narrator and prism through which we see the rest of the cast and their universe.
Saga is Hazel’s saga. It’s her story and the story of her parents and their life. It’s a saga that promises to be a long, rich tale that none of us will soon forget. And even though I already want to know what happens at the end, the real fun is going to be getting there and watching as Hazel grows and takes us on the journey with her.
It’s been a very long time since I felt that way about a comic book character. But it’s also been a while since I enjoyed a comic book as much as Saga.