Friday, February 8, 2013

Best Series of 2012

We're getting ever further from good ol' 2012, but I want to finish up that trip down memory lane by taking some time to talk about my favourite comic book series of the year.  Fair warning: there may be a bit of overlap between my top single issues and top series - it's almost like those were my favourite issues for a reason.

Number 10

Written by Joe Keatinge
Art by Ross Campbell

I only came onto this book in December of last year, but I was instantly taken with the title.  Joe Keatinge and Ross Campbell are telling one hell of a sci fi story that manages to walk the line of simultaneously being rather serious and super riduclous.  It's an impressive tight rope act, made all the better by how unique the book is.  Filled to the brim with non-traditional female leads with consistently enjoyable stories, there's a heck of a lot to like when it comes to Glory.  The only real downer is that I've discovered this book pretty late in the game - while Glory only got started last year, it's coming to an end with issue #34, which may or may not be dropping next month.  Despite that, the fact remains that its output for 2012 (read: virtually ever single issue of the series) was top notch.  If you, like myself, missed out on this book, then pick it up in trade.  You shan't be disappointed.

Number 9

Creator-Owned Heroes
Written and Drawn by Various
Spearheaded by Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray

Creator-Owned Heroes was somewhat of an odd beast.  A place for creators to tell short, multi-part stories, it was also chock full of interesting interviews, essays, and retrospectives about the comic book industry, comics themselves, creating, and much more.  I originally came onto it due to Kevin Mellon doing art for one of the opening stories, and while I was never particularly blown away by any of the comics I read in Creator-Owned Heroes, I was quite disappointed to hear of its cancellation with issue #8.  For while the comics never really grabbed me, everything else in these issues certainly did.  Palmiotti, Gray, and friends offered a unique perspective on all aspects of comics here, providing some really thought provoking pieces throughout Creator-Owned's short existence.  It had a nice pseudo-magainze feel to it, and I'll definitely miss the book moving forward.

Number 8

Uncanny X-Force
Written by Rick Remender
Art by A Boatload of Fine Folk (including Robbi Rodriguez, Greg Tocchini, and Phil Noto)

Uncanny X-Force wasn't really on my radar before 2012 (despite being up to issue #16 or so by that point), but I finally succumbed to the hype to check out what all the fuss was about.  And as I quickly learned, the fuss was about one of the better comic books in recent memory.  The year opened with Uncanny X-Force #20, and when all was said and done, the series concluded with issue #35.  That's 15 issues in 12 months.  And they were all quite solid.  "Final Execution", the aptly titled final arc, was particularly strong, taking all the groundwork laid by Remender and company to build a multi-issue story that really pushed these characters to their limits.  Realistically, Uncanny X-Force #35 should have been on my best issue list, because it was the perfect ending for all of these characters.  I was particularly taken with Deadpool and Evan's time together.  It's always sad to see good series end, but it's nice when they can have endings as good as this one.

Number 7

Sweet Tooth
Written by Jeff Lemire
Art by Jeff Lemire

Speaking of endings, Jeff Lemire's 40 issue spanning Sweet Tooth has also reached its end.  Technically, this happened in 2013, but I'm willing to turn a blind eye to that slight oversight as this is my list and I can do whatever I want.  I initially skipped over Sweet Tooth when it first came out, but after reading Jeff Lemire's Essex County, I knew that I needed to give this series a second chance.  After finding myself the issues I'd missed, I started following this series in singles from issue #19.  I actually thought I'd been following this series for longer than that, but I guess I jumped in just before the halfway point.  Regardless, Lemire has always told great stories in this book, and the final year of Sweet Tooth was no exception.  He managed to tie up all the major plot points come the end of issue #39 and then hit us with a fascinating oversized epilogue in issue #40 that answered questions I didn't even realize I had.  Often it's best to leave endings somewhat open-ended, but Lemire managed to finish things up with no stone left unturned, and the book was better for it.

Number 6

Adventure Time
Written by Ryan North
Art by Shelli Paroline and Braden Lamb (with occasional fill-ins by Mike Holmes)
Backup Stories by Various

Adventure Time was another series that launched in 2012, but unlike Glory, I was following this book from Day 1.  From the moment that I learned that Ryan North would be writing Adventure Time, there was no way that I was going to miss out on the series.  North has long been one of my all-time favourite writers for his brilliant work on Dinosaur Comics, and while I didn't know anything about the Adventure Time property, I figured if they had North on board then there must be something worth checking out.  I had no idea how right I was.  North managed to perfectly combine his personal style with that of the show, resulting in a whole that was greater than the individual parts.  An important part of that equation has been the uber-talented Shelli Paroline and Braden Lamb, as these two artists have managed the same trick, translating Adventure Time to the comic book page while adding in all manner of themselves into things.  It's perhaps not the flashiest example of it, but Paroline and Lamb did some pretty nifty things when it comes to visual storytelling throughout the past year's run of Adventure Time books.  And the cherry on top of it all is that the creative team's output has been unquestionably hilarious.  This book is filled to the brim with capital 'L' laffs, and that's a good thing.

Number 5

Written by Ken Garing
Art by Ken Garing

Planetoid was my absolute favourite find of 2012, bar none.  Ken Garing's gritty sci fi tale of exploration, people, and redemption has been fantastic since issue #1.  I came upon this book purely by chance, happening to read through it while preparing for my Weekly Crisis reviews back in June, and I was floored.  Garing delivered a 32 page, full colour comic that was unlike anything else I'd been reading.  Silas, our protagonist, was a pretty silent chap who crash landed on a planetoid (thus the series' title) and proceeded to spend the first issue exploring his new surroundings.  It was beautiful, and it was only the beginning.  Each successive issue changed the status quo and its storytelling style in subtle ways, constantly keeping the story fresh while also staying true to itself.  As I've already said, issue #3 was my favourite, but they were all amazing.  The only reason that this series isn't higher on my list is that Garing has encountered some delays on the backside of the series and we're still waiting on issue #5.  It can't come soon enough, because I'm dying to see how the whole thing finishes.

Number 4

Written by Greg Rucka
Art by Marco Checchetto, Michael Lark, Mirko Colak, Mico Suayan

Greg Rucka is another of my all-time favourite writers, and his run on the Punisher made me interested in the character in a way that I didn't think was possible.  His Frank Castle was more of a force of nature than anything else, sweeping in like a dark storm front on unsuspecting criminals to rain down some of his unique form of justice.  A form that involves a hell of a lot of bullets.  His partnership with Rachel Cole-Alves, which the entire series hinged on, was a fascinating look in character development - for both sides - that was a real pleasure to see develop.  Happily, Rucka's written talents were joined by the insanely good Marco Checchetto for the majority of issues.  I hadn't encountered Checchetto before, but I fell in love with his strong, concrete style that really made the whole story feel more real and present.  While he wasn't available for every single issue, his replacements were no slouches themselves.  I've already talked about how great Michael Lark and Rucka's issue was, but Mirko Colak and Mico Suayan were more than able to step up to the plate in Checchetto's absence.  I was said to see this title go, but I'm glad for the time we had together.

Number 3

Written by Matt Fraction
Art by David Aja (with fill-ins by Javier Pulido)

This title is really something else.  It's one of my favourite ways to approach superheroes, focusing on what Hawkeye gets up to in his everyday life as Clint Barton instead of his world-saving duties as an Avenger.  It's how the intro page of pretty much every issue begins, but it's what really makes this title unique.  Superheroes are inherently larger than life, but too many titles approach the genre in the same way, so it's great to have Fraction and Aja's lighthearted take.  Clint is an average guy who just so happens to be the world's best archer, but it's the former that our creators care about and not the latter.  His superheroic life still bleeds into this title, but it's far more about who he is than what he is.  The comic has a levity to it that will charm the pants right off you.  Fraction's dialogue is some of the best around and the same is true of Aja's art.  Aja draws in a style that no one else can even approach, really pushing ideas of what comics can and cannot do.

Number 2

Written by J.H. Williams III and W. Haden Blackman
Art by J.H. Williams, Amy Reeder & Trevor McCarthy (alternating)

Oh, Batwoman.  I know a lot of people feel like this book has lost something with the departure of Greg Rucka, and while I was initially concerned about the same thing, in the end I feel like J.H. Williams III and W. Haden Blackman have done quite well for themselves when it comes to the writing duties on this book.  My only real complain is that Williams can't draw every single issue.  No offense is meant to either Amy Reeder or Trevor McCarthy, who are both talented artists, but I think we can all agree that they aren't J.H. Williams III.  As much as I dig the writing on this title, it's the art that really puts it over the top.  And more than that, it's the way that the art and writing tie together so well under Williams' direction.  Comics are always about the interplay of words and images, but Batwoman takes it to the next level, constantly experimenting with layouts and styles in the pursuit of better storytelling.  And there were some fantastic stories told last year, including the evolution of Kate and Maggie's relationship (which for my money is the best relationship in all of comics), the brilliant issue #0, and Wonder Woman's amazing guest appearance over the course of the most recent arc.  It sounds like big things are coming for Batwoman in 2013, and while it doesn't look like Williams will be on art for much of it (damn you Sandman prequel), I'm excited to see what comes.

Number 1

Written by Brian K. Vaughan
Art by Fiona Staples

Saga burst onto the scene like a shooting star back in January of 2012, and its stock has only continued to rise since that point.  It was hoped by many that this series, which was Brian K. Vaughan's return to comics after an extend absence, would be able to capture some of the magic of his previous work like Y: The Last Man or Ex Machina, and I think it's safe to say that it not only met those expectations it exceeded them.  Vaughan's science fiction soap opera has been truly astounding, filled with a colourful cast who are, regardless of wings, horns, or television screen heads, some of the most human you'll find in comics anywhere.  This series has also signaled a coming out of Fiona Staples, who has wowed the industry and readers everywhere with her amazing interiors.  Saga was easily the best series of 2012.  It's really not fair to any other comics vying for the position, because this book has a distinct voice from top to bottom that you simply can't get enough of.

Honourable Mention

Written by Ed Brisson
Art by Michael Walsh

With only two issues out in 2012, it's hard to give this book a spot in the top series of the entire year, but I did want to take a moment to highlight it nonetheless.  Comeback is some brilliant comics.  Equal parts time travel and heist story, Ed Brisson and Michael Walsh's first book from a major publisher is incredibly well executed.  Brisson's taciturn writing works perfectly for the story he's trying to tell, and I can't imagine him finding a better collaborator than Walsh.  These two seem to be made for each other, as their styles really gel, providing for some awesome examples of strength building on strength.  They're joined by series colourist, Jordie Bellaire, who fits right into the team, providing the perfect accents and emphases for the book.  I've been praising this comic from the rooftops, and I expect to do the same for the remaining two issues.  Can't wait to get my mitts on 'em.

That was the year as I saw it.  Thank you once again for coming this far.  I hope you could take something from the exercise.  I know I did.

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