Monday, January 28, 2013

Best Single Issues of 2012

Alright, so there hasn't been a heck of a lot going on here of late, so I figured why not throw something up to mix things up?  It's admittedly a little late for a best of 2012 list, but even though we did our fair share over at the Weekly Crisis, I never found the time to put together my Top 10 Single Issues of 2012 list.  Well, I actually did manage to get the list together, but never took the time to write up a post related to it.  It's a little too late for such an endeavour at TWC at this point, but this is my own site and I can do whatever I want.

So I'm doing this.

As you may remember, I ultimately decided that Batwoman #0 was my issue of the year.  This was a hard decision to reach, as there were plenty of wonderful books throughout 2012, but I think it's one that I can stand by even today.  However, I want to do me a top 10 list nonetheless, so I'll count down 11 through 2.  I know that I'm taking a bit of suspense out of it this way, but now you get to be on the edge of your seat as you wait to discover what I consider to be the second best comic of the year.  Pretty exciting, I know.  Failing that, it just means you get one more issue for me to rave about, and if you've made it this far in the post, I don't imagine that will upset you too much.  Let's get to this, shall we?

Number 11

Amazing Spider-Man #698

I didn't actually get the chance to talk about Amazing Spider-Man #698 at TWC, because it dropped while our site was down.  However, I did chat a bit about the issue the next month in my previews for the week, saying that it was enough to get me to "check out the final issues of the current run".  That may sound like faint praise, but I'd dropped off Dan Slott's Amazing Spider-Man completely earlier that year, feeling that Slott had worked himself into a somewhat formulaic rut.  Despite that earlier choice, I couldn't ignore how much Slott was pumping up the book's final issues, so I took the plunge to see what all the fuss was about with three issues to go.  The reveal of #698 felt fun and dynamic, like something new was happening.  I ultimately felt let down by the follow through that was #699 and #700, but I can't deny how thoroughly Amazing Spider-Man #698 grabbed me after dropping the series like a bad habit.

I also like how the cover technically spoils the reveal, but you'd never know without reading the book.

Number 10

Chew: Secret Agent Poyo #1

John Layman and Rob Guillory's Chew is one of my favourite books.  I recognize that I say that about a lot of books, but Chew also holds the distinction of being one of the books that's still coming out that I have followed for the longest (the only book that I've been following longer would be Mike Carey and Peter Gross's Unwritten).  This means that it holds a special place in my comic book buying heart, but also that it can be easy to take the consistent quality of this title for granted.  There were some delays in issue releases this year, which hurt the series' traction a little bit, but its high quality remained.  This is especially true of the Poyo one-shot that Layman and Guillory had been teasing for quite some time.  The book burst onto the scene like a thing possessed, taking the ridiculousness of the Chew-universe and jacking it up to 11.  Everything in this book was crazy and off-the-wall, and it was a lot of fun.  As I so succinctly put it at the end of my review for the book: "it's a comic with a luchador mask wearing rooster.  What else could you possibly want?"

Number 9

Batman 5

When I was working up this list at the end of December / start of January, I had this comic in mind, but figured it must have come out in 2011.  Upon consulting a calendar, I realized that it dropped just on this side of 2012, hitting stands in the first few weeks of January.  While I would not consider myself a big fan of Scott Snyder, Greg Capullo, and Jonathan Glapion's Court of Owls storyline, this issue was something special.  Focusing on a starved, sleep-deprived, and poisoned Batman, the comic looked at his loosening grip on reality in a really exciting way: the pages literally started flipping.  On one of the page turns, the next two pages were suddenly printed at a 90 degree angle, forcing you to rotate the comic in your hands to keep following along.  The flips continued, getting you to hold the book upside down and keep rotating beyond that.  You eventually got back to holding the thing right-side up, but it was such a clever storytelling mechanism that the experience really sticks with you.  For that alone, this issue deserves to be on this list in my books.

Stumptown #4 almost made the list for a similar tactic, as that comic had a couple of car chase scenes that all took place with the book flipped 90 degrees.  It was really cool, but I ultimately decided to leave the issue off as it wasn't as effective or memorable as what was done in Batman #5.

Number 8

Saga #1

I feel bad for putting Saga #1 so high up on my list, but that's definitely not a comment on the quality of the issue.  There was so much to love about this comic that it's hard to keep track of it all.  It was Brian K. Vaughan's return to comics.  It was Fiona Staples first big gig, and she absolutely demolished it.  It was also, like, 48-odd pages for the low, low price of $2.99.  I also don't mean to take away from how good this story is, but that alone was probably the best value in comics all year.  And then the whole thing just so happened to be pretty much the best comic of the year, too.  There could definitely be arguments made for this being higher up on the list or for other issues to crack the top 10 the whole thing is so good.  However, this is a list of top single issues, and there are others that I loved more.  Not many, but some.

Number 7

Adventure Time #5

I love the Adventure Time comic.  I picked it up solely due to Ryan North's presence as the book's writer, and it has more than exceeded my wildest expectations.  North's signature personality is there, but he manages to mix it perfectly with the weirdness that is Adventure Time that grabs me in a way the actual show was never able to.  On top of that, you have the crazy talented Shelli Paroline and Braden Lamb, who manage to do the same with the visuals of the book, keeping true to Adventure Time while infusing some brilliant comic book sensibilities.  When you add in the rotating cast of creators for the book's backups, you have a real winner in my opinion.  Adventure Time #5 just so happens to be the best issue of the bunch in my opinion.  It's Mike Holmes on art, who I'm a rather big fan of, but more than that, it's the introduction of Adventure Tim, who is a weird combination of Finn and Jake that is somehow two beings in one body.  It's a really odd concept, but it's hilariously handled by everyone involved.  I also have to give it bonus points for being based on a pretty bad pun.  Can't say no to such things.

Number 6

Batman #13

I feel kind of weird having two issues of Batman on this list (especially when I disliked the Court of Owls so), but it's hard to deny the impact of Batman #13.  This issue saw the return of Joker to the comic book page after being absent from DC books for an entire year.  The most impressive part is that, for most of it, DC was not making a big deal about the fact that Joker wasn't showing up anywhere in its books.  Only with a month or two beforehand was it revealed that there was going to be a big storyarc in the Batbooks involving Joker coming back from his sabbatical in a big way.  The whole thing could have come off as kind of gimmicky, but then Snyder and company hit us with this issue.  Its impact was visceral.  The Joker who returned to Gotham was terrifying.  Like, it was actually difficult to read some parts of this comic.  The whole thing was handled brilliantly, with the Joker being off-panel for the majority of the issue yet having a real (and brutal) impact on the world around him.  And when that reveal finally came, it was not a disappointment.  The mixture of the real-life absence and reading this comic made for an experience that I shall not soon forget.

Number 5

Animal Man #6

I love done in ones.  I could go so far as to venture that they're my favourite type of comic book story.  That might be pushing things a little, but it is true that there are quite few done in ones published nowadays, so every self-contained issue I find is a thing of joy to me.  Especially when they're as good as Animal Man #6.  This issue was amazing.  It managed to stand up on its own while also serving the wider narrative, looking in at Clint as he watched parts of Buddy's first indie film.  It was super cool how the film also stood up on its own, yet spoke to the issues that the cast of Animal Man had been confronting.  The whole thing was quite original and felt special.

Number 4

Hawkeye #6

Oh, Hawkeye.  You continue to amaze me by how good you can be.  Matt Fraction, David Aja, and Matt Hollingsworth's take on the character is one of the best things happening in comics right now, and I'm always thrilled to see a new issue by these guys.  They, too, seem to have a real knack for the done in one, and while Hawkeye #1 through #3 were quite good in their own right (I was not a big fan of #4 or #5 with their fill-in artist and two-part story), Hawkeye #6 was my favourite outing for the character.  It was a great little Christmas story told completely out of order that took a few read throughs to really understand, and it was a ton of fun.  It had the wittiness, aesthetics, and good humour that we've come to expect from the book, but I feel like it did it slightly better than those earlier ventures.

Number 3

Planetoid #3

Planetoid.  I could honestly rave about Ken Garing's miniseries all day.  You wouldn't believe the amount of restraint I had to show in not putting this issue higher up on my list.  Frankly, you wouldn't believe the amount of restraint it took to not put every issue on this list.  One of my favourite parts of this book has been how each issue feels like it's written in a slightly different style, focusing on a different aspect of the world Garing has created, while still maintaining on overall coherency from issue to issue.  While I loved them all, Planetoid #3 was my favourite by leaps and bounds.  I actually had to email Ken to tell him how much I loved this issue.  The founding of the settlement and its early development was fascinating and incredibly well handled. Garing also managed to pack in some wicked symbolism and small character beats throughout the whole thing, which really impressed me.  I'm still a little sad this book has hit some delays, but I cannot wait to see the final piece once it drops.

Number 2

Punisher #7

I almost put this as my Number 1 book for 2012.  I really did.  However, I ultimately relented because I felt that the choice would have been more due to my initial feelings on the book than anything else.  Punisher #7 was released the first week of 2012, and when I reviewed it, I called it an "early contender for issue of the year".  While that was maybe a tad pre-mature, I stand by that statement.  This issue was a nice little reunion of Gotham Central alumni Greg Rucka and Michael Lark as they told a wicked done in one that looked into the history of Detective Ozzy Clemons and his early meetings with Frank Castle.  It made for an amazing aside that continued the overall narrative in an unexpected way.  The funny thing is that I went into this book ready to tear it apart, as I was annoyed that Marco Checchetto, the regular artist for the series, was absent.  Imagine my surprise when I realized what was going on here.  Brilliant stuff.

Number 1

Batwoman #0

So not only did I already name this as my top issue of 2012 at TWC, I reminded you of this fact at the top of this article.  I wasn't going to write about it again, but I felt that it would be worthwhile to take a moment to reiterate just how moving this issue was.  The issue #0 month for DC was mighty gimmicky, and while few issues managed to actually provide meaningful origin issues for their characters, J.H. Williams III and W. Haden Blackman certainly did.  While Rucka and Williams had looked at a lot of this in their run with Kate Kane in Detective Comics, Williams and Blackman took a different approach, following the words and memories of Kate Kane as she voiced a message of forgiveness to her father that (it was finally revealed) he would never hear.  The story they weaved was beautiful, both in its art and its writing.  I am not ashamed to admit that I cried while reading this comic.

So yeah.  Here be my full list of Top 11 comics for 2012.  It's by no means perfect, and it could be reordered in any number of ways, but I'm willing to stand by it.  There were a ton of fantastic books that came out last year, but these are the ones that I think of as the best.

If you've made it this far, thank you kindly for humouring my babbling.  Until next time?

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