The Best Comics of 2013 – As Chosen By Actual Comic Creators
JAMES TYNION IV (Talon, Red Hood & The Outlaws, Batman)
1. Private Eye
I feel like everyone is going to put Saga down (and you might as well slip it into parentheses at the top of this entry), but I'm not seeing a lot of love out there for what is probably my favorite BKV comic book concept ever. Private Eye is not only incredibly written (I mean, come on, it's a Vaughan comic), but it's also building one of the most interesting worlds of the comic book medium. And it's all pay-what-you-want online!
Speaking of incredible world-building… The simple drum beat that counts the population at the start of each scene in tiers, it's such a simple note but it hammers in over and over again how different this world has become. This strange dystopia seems not only plausible, but rich with deep mysteries and history that Rucka and Lark could spend years exploring. And I sincerely hope they do.
3. Locke & Key
This one might be a bit of a cheat, because, I mean… Come on. We all know how freaking amazing Locke & Key is. It's been the best comic book in the industry consistently over the last 5 years. And now it's coming to an end, and it hasn't ever faltered, and these last few issues have been breaking my heart over and over again. And now we're finally at the absolute end this week… It's hard to believe. But cheers to what is sure to be an all time classic of the medium.
4. The Superior Foes of Spider-Man
Probably the most consistently underrated, but consistently great superhero comic book of the year. Nick Spencer and Steve Lieber have embraced the inherent shittiness of some of Spidey's C-List villains, and has made a whole world out of the NYC villains circuit that's consistently hilarious and engaging, but also deeply human. Folks keep name-dropping Hawkeye when talking about the book, but I see it as something with its own thoroughly distinct flavor.
5. Young Avengers
I love stories about young superheroes, and Gillen/McKelvie just delivered the master class on how to make those rascally youngun's feel vibrant and new for the modern world. Gillen writes incredible angst, humor, and humanity when it comes to these young heroes trying to figure out how they fit into the world. It's been on the top of my reading pile every week it's come out since the first issue.
ANDY LANNING (Revolutionary War, The Hypernaturals, Guardians of the Galaxy)
1. The Walking Dead
Still in there from last year. What can I say? I'm hooked on Kirkman and Adlard's continuing story of zombie survival. Love the TV series too, but the comic is the pure source – Zombieliscious!
Brian K Vaughn and Fiona Staples' space opera reads like a sci-fi novel with awesome art! Great characters, fantastic designs and concepts this book is a treat that keeps getting better with each issue.
3. The Superior Spider-Man
What Dan Slott and co have done with this book is nothing short of amazing (sorry, pun not intended but actually pretty good) – I must say I rolled my eyes when I heard the notion of Doc Ock taking over the dead Peter Parker to become Spider-Man, but they've pulled it off and reinvigorated both the central character as well as his wonderful rogues gallery of villains. Kudos to Steve Wacker too; who'd have thought it; he knows what he's doing after all!
4. The Adventures of Superman
For telling stories about the classic version of Superman, with an array of awesome writers and artists. The done-in-one form really makes for great read, reminiscent of the animated Adventures comics.
5. Anything by Emily Carroll
Beautiful artwork, haunting stories and masterly use of digital storytelling. If you haven't seen her stuff, you couldn't go far wrong – check it out here.Try Out of Skin – it's deliciously spooky.
I thought I would break from your traditional "best comic series" list and run down my five favorite single issues of 2013. Crafting an issue that can survive on it's on has certainly become dying art in the Age of the Trade Paperback, so I'd like to give a little credit to the folks who still try.
1. Optic Nerve # 13 by Adrian Tomine – Always worth the wait. Tomine came up with some clever storytelling devices that I haven't seen before. I'll probably steal them for the next Dream Thief mini-series.
2. Lobster Johnson: Satan Smells a Rat by Mike Mignola, John Arcudi, & Kevin Nowlan – Nowlan's art is the selling point for me but Mignola and Arcudi really don't get enough credit for their consistency in delivering fun and entertaining stories in an ever-expanding universe. Their track record is impeccable.
3. Daredevil #25 by Mark Waid, Chris Samnee, & Javier Rodriguez – Samnee is often praised for his immaculate cartooning but not enough is said about his spectacular sense of design. Every issue of this series is a treat but Samnee's amazing blend of design and storytelling stood out in this one.
4. Private Eye #1 by Brian K. Vaughn, Marcos Martin, & Muntsa Vicente- Perfect first issue. A lot has been said about this comic so I really don't need to pile on.
5. Task Force Rad Squad #1 by Caleb Goellner, Buster Moody, & Ryan Hill – Super fun story with gorgeous cartooning and vibrant colors. These guys managed to take the energy and imagination of those mini-comics you made in high-school and bottle it with the professionalism and polish of a seasoned storyteller.
JOHN ARCUDI (The Creep, Lobster Johnson: Satan Smells A Rat, B.P.R.D.)
5) Jack Davis's Artist's Edition from IDW is another masterpiece from the hands of editor Scott Dunbier (well, and Jack Davis, of course). Davis's brush work is gorgeous reproduced at any size, but to see these pages at the size of the originals, to really get an eyeful of where that ink flows, that's a huge boon to any artist – or to any lover of art, for that matter. I know I picked an Artist's Edition last year for one of my top five, and I'll pick one every year you ask me for as long as IDW continues to publish these vitally important volumes of comics art work!
4) Fantagraphics Books' Ray and Joe: The Story Of A Man And His Dead Friend And Other Classic Comics by Charles Rodrigues. This is long over due, and editor Bob Fingerman needs to be thanked for its arrival. Rodrigues unique and accomplished drawing style matches his sardonic, skewed wit, making for some very memorable work — I mean, the title of this book alone should give you an idea of what you're in for. But beyond the humor, look at the art. You won't see anybody else like Rodrigues in the field of cartooning today.
3) Dark Horse Comics' The Last of Us by Neil Druckmann and Faith Erin Hicks. I'll be honest with you, the real reason I'm picking this is because of Faith Hicks's artwork. Pretty much whenever she does anything, I have to go out and get it, and this book is another evolutionary leap for her! Really beautiful stuff, even stronger storytelling than what I've seen from her in the past. It's fun watching this already wonderful artist grow. And the covers by the masterful Julian Totino Tedesco do not hurt one little bit!
2) Image Comics' Prophet by Brandon Graham and Simon Roy (and other artists) continues to impress the bejabbers outta me! It makes absolutely no apologies for what it is; a science fiction epic that does not stop for anything. You either get on board and stay on, or you're left in the dust — but trust me, you WANT to get on board. I never would have expected one of Rob Liefeld's creations being re-imagined in so bold and bizarre a way, or that it would be so engaging. It's really unlike anything else out there.
1) Sabertooth Swordsman by Damon Gentry and Aaron Conley. This hardcover published by Dark Horse this past November is amazing! Fevered and hilarious script by Gentry executed to perfection by Aaron Conley, an incredibly talented artist who I can't say enough about, truly! But it isn't only the art; this is a complete package of insanity, Dada-esque surrealism, a bit of subtle satire, and a non-stop stream of action and laughs. This was my major revelation of 2013 and you're a fool if you don't check it out!