Creators Pick The Best Comics of 2012
Senior Editor: IDW Comics Hasbro Titles, Writer: Transformers: Robots In Disguise
Matt Fraction & David Aja's Hawkeye
Godzilla: The Half-Century War. James Stokoe's Godzilla comic. I'm a huge Orc Stain fan, and seeing Stokoe cutting loose his inner Otomo on Godzilla is amazing. Incredible art, great writing, and makes up for only getting one Orc Stain in 2012. It's a story spanning 50 years of one guy's battles with Godzilla, but the storytelling, and the small touches, really add up into something that has to be experienced to be understood.
The Judas Coin. On one hand–or, er, one side of the coin – it's disappointing that something this good, from a mainstream publisher like DC, with frickin' Batman on the cover, goes relatively under the radar. Do people not remember who Walter Simonson is and how good he is RIGHT NOW? He's been great from the beginning and getting better – consistently – for as long as I've been alive! And The Judas Coin is fantastic – up there with his Thor and Fantastic Four and Manhunter (my favorite) and the Alien adaptation! On the other side of the coin, maybe there's actually so much good stuff coming out, it's easy to miss this amid all the other great comics. Either way, this hardcover–which traces one of the coins Judas got for betraying Jesus from the crucifixion to the far-flung future via a bunch of short stories involving DC characters–is drop-dead fantastic. Pushes the form of comics by doing each story in a different style, not just superficially, but with a different storytelling grammar in each story. Absolutely beautiful.
Glory. Prophet was my first favorite from the Extreme Studios relaunches, and as much as I still love that comic, Joe Keating and Ross Campbell's Glory has slowly made it's way up to the top spot. Exciting, unpredictable, over-the-top – as a one-time Wonder Woman analogue gets really, really out of control. But, I mean, there's way more to it than ultra-violence and art nouveau flashbacks… I love that I have no idea where we're going to go next, and how fearless the comic is with how it portrays its main character.
The Manhattan Projects. Jonathan Hickman and Nick Pitarra knock it out of the park on their third comic together. I love the pairing of these two (hey, I edited their first comic together, but they knew each other already – I can't take credit, except passive-aggressively like I just did) and this story of the other, secret experiments going on while they pretended to just be working on the atomic bomb is bananas. Einstein, Oppenheimer, Von Braun, Feynman–some of whom, if not all by now, are fakes – serving a secret alliance of scientists; FDR as an artificial intelligence; aliens… and crazy science – right up my alley.
Saga. Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples made the breakout hit of the year, and all the praise is deserved. A grand space saga with a Whedonesque sense of itself. Not that they're aping Joss Whedon – the comic just has that sensibility that it knows you know what comics like this are like – and then the comic refuses to be like that. Great characters, beautiful art, crazy, crazy, crazy locales… way too much fun for one comic.
Hawkeye. Marvel is on fire right now, in my opinion – the Marvel Now launches have been terrific. But my favorite of theirs – and my favorite comic of the year – is still Matt Fraction and David Aja and Matt Hollingsworth (and Javier Pulido, too!)'s formalist breakdown of superhero comics. The medium of comics and the genre of the superhero are both dissected, atomized, and put back together into something different. The DNA is probably 98% the same as an Avengers comic, but the gene sequence is completely reordered. Like the difference between a chimp and a human. I don't know if Hawkeye is the chimp or the dude, because my metaphor got away from me, but damn I love this comic. Laugh-out-loud funny and gasp-inducingly constructed. If you took their Iron FIst series and left in on Australia for 2 million years to evolve, cut off from the rest of the planet, this is the kind of arrow-wielding kangaroo you'd wind up with.
DISCLAIMER FROM MR. BARBER: "A couple things I have to say – just had a baby last year (anyway, my wife did), which probably ate into my comics time – and into my specific comic tastes for the year. Which looks more mainstream comics than it'd usually be (not that there's anything wrong with that). Very specifically: I haven't read Chris Ware's Building Stories yet; I'm kinda setting that aside to read right after Christmas because I'll have some time to really dig into it then. Man. That sounds crazy, I don't usually schedule my comic book reading months in advance. Plus, I'm excluding any comics I work on in any capacity, and trying not to sound like an IDW shill (but TMNT is awesome!!!)!
Oh, and also, I'm sure as soon as this goes live, I'll remember The Greatest Comic Ever that came out this year. "
Publisher: Image Comics, Writer: Nowhere Men
Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples' Saga
The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Vol. III Century: 2009 by Alan Moore & Kevin O'Neill (Top Shelf/Knockabout)
As the song goes, "ain't nothing like the real thing." Just as DC launched its myriad and needless Before Watchmen prequels to Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons' classic original, Moore and League co-creator Kevin O'Neill returned with the third and best installment of LoEG, Vol. III: Century, a brilliant and instant reminder of why Moore remains one of the best writers comics has ever seen. I suspect Century as a whole is going to read better when it's eventually collected in one volume, but this particular chunk is pretty fantastic on its own. The quality of Alan Moore's work often gets somewhat obscured by the fact that he is ALAN MOORE, but once you get past whatever is said in interviews or on the Internet or whatever, he's just a damn good writer.
Parker: The Score adapted by Darwyn Cooke (IDW)
Darwyn Cooke is hands down one of my favorite artists working in comics right now. Not only does he do dynamite work, but he has impeccable taste. I think that shows in his lovingly crafted adaptations of Richard Stark's Parker novels, all of which are filled with the kind of cool, uncluttered illustration that wouldn't be out of place in the advertising of the era Cooke's recreating with this early '60s crime noir. Cooke's a great writer, to boot, and considering that The Score didn't exactly set the gold standard amongst Stark's original Parker novels, I think it says something that Cooke manages to transcend the limitations of the source material to make this volume just as good as the previous two.
A Wrinkle In Time adapted by Hope Larson (Farrar, Straus and Giroux BYR)
The first three books in Madeleine L'Engle's A Wrinkle In Time series (five in all) were firm favorites of mine growing up. The original book, A Wrinkle In Time, was read to me when I quite young and then I read it again myself a couple years later before discovering there were two more. I've read it a couple times since, too, because even though it's technically a YA novel, I love the story and the characters as much now as I did when I younger.
So I had pretty high expectations for Hope Larson's graphic novel adaptation, and happily, they were not only met, but exceeded. In the hands of a lesser talent, this could have been a tragic mess, but Larson hits all the right notes here, making this illustrated version just as enjoyable as the original.
Scott Pilgrim Color Edition hardcovers by Bryan Lee O'Malley (Oni)
When Oni first announced Scott Pilgrim was being re-issued as a series of color hardcovers, I have to admit, I was kind of put off. I loved the original books and thought they worked just fine as they were. Not everything has to be in color, after all, and I took this kind of irrationally purist viewpoint that the originals were in black and white, so the new color editions were automatically inferior.
Well, I was wrong. Very, very, VERY wrong. These books are gorgeous, and Nathan Faribairn's colors have had an almost transformative effect on Bryan Lee O'Malley's already incredible work. The whole package, at least for the two volumes I've seen so far, is beautiful, and best of all, it got me to go back and read these fantastic books all over again.
Saga by Brian K. Vaughan & Fiona Staples (Image)
I went back and forth on including this, because on the one hand, it probably seems weird and self-serving that I'm including something Image publishes on this list. On the other hand, though, it's my favorite new series of 2012, and I feel like it would be somehow dishonest to put something else in its place.
The thing is: I love this book. There aren't a lot of comics I read multiple times between issues, especially not comics that I'm directly involved with, but I do that every issue with Saga. On a recent trip to England, I read the trade paperback on the flight over, and then again on the flight back. I read these stories when BKV sends me the scripts, I read them again when the art is finished and everything is lettered, and even then, I can't wait to get the printed copy so that I can read it all over again. And, as it turns, again after that. Saga is a masterclass in comic book storytelling, and as much as I'm honored to publish it, I'm even more thrilled to read it.
Writer: Incredible Hulks, X-Treme X-Men, Dead Man's Run, Doctor Strange Season One
Hope Larson's adaptation of Madeleine L'Engle's Wrinkle in Time
A fantastic adaption of a book I loved as a kid that perfectly channels all the beauty and creepiness of the original. Larson's fluid, expressive art brings out all the quirky realness of its everyday heroes while gorgeously evoking the mind-bending fantastical elements of L'Engle's tale.
Brian K. Vaughn & Fiona Staples' Saga
Saga stole my heart in issue one when the ram-horned Marko tells his bat-winged bride and newborn child, "My family… I loved you so much." This is an insane sci fi book that crams a billion loopy ideas into every page — while slowly, surely, and beautifully building a deep, true story about love in all its forms. I love this book so much that as a fellow writer I kind of hate Brian. It's really that wonderful.
The Viz/Studio Ghibli reissue of Hayao Miyazaki's Nausicaa of the Valley of Wind
Nausicaa is one of my favorite graphic novels ever, and now for the first time I can read it in full-size in a gorgeous, affordable two volume hardcover collection. Thank you, Viz!
Paul Tobin & Colleen Coover's Bandette (and the promise of Monkeybrain)
Tobin and Coover's creator-owned labor of love is a lighthearted crime romp about as far from grim 'n' gritty as you can get — but with compelling adventure and fantastic cliffhangers. I also love the brave new world of distribution that its publisher, Monkeybrain, represents. It's creator-owned work being released independently through Comixology for ridiculously affordable prices. I hope everyone who loves comics gives as many of the Monkeybrain books a try as possible. If the audience can grow to sustain books like these, we'll see a huge flowering of talent.
Brian Azzarello and Cliff Chiang's Wonder Woman #0
My buddy Fred Van Lente and I delved deep into Greek mythology while writing the adventures of Hercules in the Marvel Universe for almost five years, and it was a total blast. So I've always been intrigued by what writers have done with Wonder Woman's connections with Greek mythology in the DC Universe. Azzarello knocked it out of the park with Wonder Woman #0, which tells a deeply affecting story of a very young Diana coming of age as the greatest student of Ares, God of War. It's got all the power and twisty truth of a great fable. Wonderful storytelling.