Best Comic Books of 2012

Tuesday Night Movies presents a look back at the best comic books of 2012. These are the books that reminded us in the past year why we’re comics fans. 

Billy says…

Hawkeye– If you are not reading Hawkeye, then you are missing out on Marvel’s best series. Matt Fraction and David Aja show what Purple Arrow does when he’s not on missions with the Avengers. Fraction’s scripts are thrilling and witty. Aja’s artwork is amazing. The way he breaks down the page story-wise is unlike anything being published today. I defy anyone to read issue #1 and not become a fan. I love this series so much that I want a pair of purple Chuck Taylors.
The Walking Dead– 2012 was the year where I went from reading The Walking Dead in the collected softcover books to buying the individual issues. The build-up to issue #100 was just too much for me. I used to be able to wait. I can’t anymore. When part 1 of Something to Fear was released in issue #97, I had to read it immediately. Issue #100 was a punch to gut. I love this series so much.
Spider-Men– The Spider-Man from the Marvel Universe, Peter Parker, meets his Ultimate Comics counterpart, Miles Morales, in this awesome adventure. Which was the better scene? Peter interacting with Ultimate Gwen Stacey or Ultimate Aunt May getting some more time with Peter?

Uncanny X-Force– Rick Remender, you magnificent bastard. What an end-cap to an amazing series. This series will make you a fan of Deadpool and Fantomex if you aren’t already. Remender’s Uncanny X-Force is an instant classic, and is easily the best X-Men comic to be released in years. When’s the omnibus for this series coming out?

Batman– Scott Snyder and Greg  Capullo are killing it with every issue of Batman. From the Court of Owls to the current Death of the Family story line, Batman is consistently the best book DC is publishing since the beginning of the New 52.
Earth 2– When DC relaunched their line of comics in 2011 with the New 52, the Justice Society of America was nowhere to be found. The series Earth 2 launched this year as part of DC’s New 52 Second Wave. It takes place on an Earth in another dimension from the main DC Earth. Green Lantern and Flash are here, but it’s their Golden Age JSA versions. Remember when it was in the news that Green Lantern came out of the closet? That was Earth 2.
Green Lantern– Geoff Johns’s run on Green Lantern has consistently been one of the best comics on the stands every year since 2005. This year saw Johns replace Green Lantern Hal Jordan with the first Muslim Green Lantern from Earth, Simon Baz. Baz is imprisoned by the US government when the ring chooses him as Hal’s replacement. The Justice League hunted him down, leading to one of my favorite sequences of the year:
Edison Rex – Edison Rex is a reason to own an iPad. The digital-exclusive series from Monkeybrain focuses on a Lex Luthor-like villain who manages to take out his heroic archenemy and has to figure out what to do next. And each issue is only $0.99! It’s a bargain for this level of quality!
Daredevil– If you told me two years ago that Daredevil would be one of my favorite comics, I would have rolled my eyes so hard that I might have suffered from a detached retina. But man, Mark Waid, Chris Samnee and Paolo Rivera have made this such a fun read, month in and month out. I love the new take on Daredevil’s radar sense. The art is stellar and the writing is great as well. This is Marvel’s best currently published title not named Hawkeye.

John Romita Amazing Spider-Man Artist Edition– I love Spider-Man. I love the art of John Romita. On the Wednesday this book was released, the staff of my LCS and I stood around trying our best not to drool on the pages as we flipped through this book. It is so, so pretty. I highly recommend buying a copy. The black and white art is reproduced in full color so that you can see every blue line, white out and editorial note on the page. IDW is coming out with an Amazing Spider-Man Gil Kane Artist’s Edition in 2013. Expect that to appear on my list at the end of 2013.

Nick says…
When it came time to make a “top 10 comics” list from this year, I ran into a slight problem: while I read a ton of stuff in 2012, a lot of it was not actually released this year – I re-read a few favorite series, finally got around to reading books I’d had for a long time, discovered a few things that were “new to me” but not anyone else, etc. So, with that in mind, I decided to put together a list of my favorite comic book related things from this year – some are comics, some are books, some are movies…but it’s all stuff I liked, and it all was released in the last 12 months. In no particular order:
Hawkeye, by Matt Fraction and David Aja – Last year’s unexpected hit for Marvel was definitely Mark Waid’s Daredevil series, which is a fun superhero book that exists outside of the company’s current event-driven mentality. Hawkeye is the same kind of book – a well-made series that doesn’t require a reader to know anything other than “Hawkeye is an Avenger, but he does other stuff when he’s not fighting aliens.” Fraction puts as much information as possible into each issue – I’ve never really minded “decompression” in comics, but as single issues get more and more expensive, I appreciate the effort to make each comic stand-alone. As for the art, David Aja is channeling David Mazzucchelli circa Batman: Year One, and it couldn’t be a more perfect fit. The comic is one of the best-drawn on the stands today. If you’re looking for an entry point, issue #7 is out soon, and Fraction will be donating all of his proceeds for the issue to Hurricane Sandy relief – it’s a good opportunity to check out a great book and support a great cause. Times are tough for any comic series without an “X” or “Avengers” in the title; hopefully Hawkeye will stick around for as long as Fraction and Aja want to make it.   
Groo Artist’s Editionby Sergio Aragones – Aragones is my all-time favorite cartoonist – a few years ago I flew from Charleston, SC to Baltimore, MD just so I could go to a comic convention for one day in order to meet him – so when I heard that IDW was releasing an Artist’s Edition featuring his work, I was ecstatic! I’d resisted the urge to buy past Artist Editions (I knew once I started, it’d be hard to stop) but this one was a no-brainer. This book reprints a four-issue story from the latter days of Groo’s Epic series, along with covers and two page spreads from other issues in the run – all at “actual size!” The only “downside” of the book is that, by this point, Aragones was such a good cartoonist that there’s hardly any “work” that can be seen. There might be some white-out here and there, but for the most part, looking through this book is an exercise in “let’s watch this craftsman be perfect.” But to be honest, that’s fine by me.  
King City, by Brandon Graham – Graham’s work may be my favorite discovery of 2012. I had heard a ton of good stuff about King City, and picked the collection up as soon as it was available. There’s a strong Manga influence in his comics, which I don’t have a lot of knowledge about, but there’s just something about his art that really grabs me. Even though he has a very simple line, his pages are just packed with visual information – there’s always something happening in the background. The story is great as well – Graham has taken many different story threads (some of which you wouldn’t think would work together) and created a story that deals with how our memories can influence (and in some case impede) our progress in life – of course, this is wrapped up in action and romance and sex and puns (so many puns!). Image is currently publishing Graham’s new Multiple Warheads series in full color, and I cannot wait to dive into them.
Marvel Comics: The Untold Storyby Sean Howe – This was released just in time for this year’s New York Comic-Con, and it made for the perfect plane/subway reading for my trip. This book is a must-have for anyone who’s ever loved Marvel Comics; it covers the entire history of the company, providing tons of behind the scenes anecdotes and stories. 
My favorite parts of the book were the chapters dealing with the company during the 1970’s – I started reading comics in the 80’s, and have gone back and read a lot of the classic books from the 60’s, but was almost completely unfamiliar with what the company was doing during that decade – it was interesting to see how the company changed as the old guard left and the books were taken over by younger talent. I also loved the chapters dealing with the formation of Image Comics in the early 1990’s. I highly recommend this book to anyone with an interest in the history of the comic book industry.

Richard Stark’s Parker: The Score, by Darwyn Cooke – This is the third of Cooke’s adaptations of Richard Stark’s classic crime series, and if you’ve read the others, you’ll know what to expect here. I’ve been making my way through the novels over the last few years, and The Score is definitely my favorite of the ones I’ve read so far – who could resist a story about a small group of criminals attempting to knock over an entire town? Cooke’s art keeps getting better and better, and he keeps finding interesting ways to make the books (which are very exposition heavy) into comics. In addition, he keeps most of Stark’s dialogue intact, with only a few tweaks here and there. I feel that Cooke’s involvement in the ill-conceived Before Watchmen debacle overshadowed this book’s release – I say you ignore all of that and pick this up. 
Sagaby Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples – Y the Last Man is one of my two favorite comic series ever, so I was super excited when this new series was announced. Only 8 issues have been published so far, but the book has already exceeded my expectations. Vaughan and Staples have created a sci-fi love story, leaning heavy on the “Romeo & Juliet in space” angle, introducing a huge cast of characters without ever getting too confusing. Staples’ art is fantastic, and she’s designed characters that are completely unlike those that we’ve seen in science fiction in the past, which is no mean feat. I know this list is not in any specific order, but if I was forced to assign numbers, this would be my #1 pick.   
The Dark Knight Rises–  First off, I will state for the record that this movie is a mess. The plot didn’t really make any sense and movie was filled with dei ex machina (in the case of “clean slate,” literally). That said, it was probably the most fun I’ve had at the movies this year, and I’m not just saying that because I have an unnatural love of (almost) all things Batman. One of the weird things about Nolan’s Batman films is that due to the acting talent on display, Batman almost becomes a supporting character in his own movies – but I think that that works – Gary Oldman, Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine – hell, I don’t usually care about Joseph Gordon Levitt but I loved him here. And I may be one of the few that absolutely loves Tom Hardy’s Bane voice – if I could sound like a jaunty Sean Connery, I would always talk like that. Billy and Bryan were kind enough to let me yammer on about the movie (and Batman) for like 2 hours on their podcast, so I’ll just say: as long as you don’t pay too much attention to the plot, The Dark Knight Rises is a ton of fun.
Hellboy in Hell, by Mike Mignola – Over the last 10 years or so, while Marvel and DC have been turning out endless iterations of phony deaths and “big changes,” Mike Mignola and his colleagues (most often John Arcudi) have been quietly creating the best superhero comics with his Hellboy and B.P.R.D. series. Over dozens of books, Mignola’s been able to craft stories where things change and stay changed, and where “nothing will ever be the same” actually means something. Favorite characters have died, never to be seen again, and cities have been leveled. Mignola took a few years off from drawing the Hellboy books, but Hellboy in Hell marks his return to the drawing board, and while only one issue has been released so far, it is (of course) one of the best looking books on the stands. The series picks up after the shocking events of the Storm & the Fury and allows Mignola to dive right in to what he does best – draw Hellboy punching monsters, and crackin’ wise. I don’t know if the series is necessarily “new reader friendly” (I’ve been reading them all along, so I know what’s happening/who’s who, for the most part), but I recommend giving it a try. Besides – if you like superhero/adventure comics, and you’ve never read Hellboy/B.P.R.D….well, boy, I don’t even know.    
God and Science: Return of the Ti-Girls, by Jaime Hernandez – Much like Sergio Aragones, Jaime Hernandez is a cartoonist’s cartoonist. He (along with his brothers) has been making Love & Rockets for 30 years now, and it’s one of the best series in the history of comics. I’m not really a fan of Gilbert’s work, but I’ve fallen hard for Jaime’s comics over the last few years, and this book is a prime example as to why. Most of the story was originally published in the first 2 issues of Love & Rockets: New Stories, but Jaime has added pages, turning this into its own book. The story (sort of) introduces superheroes into the “Locas” universe, and allows Hernandez to focus on Penny Century, along with some of the other characters that have been on the fringes. It’s a pretty light, fun story, and (as usual) is an absolute joy to look at.    

Scott Pilgrim Deluxe Color Editions, by Bryan Lee O’Malley –  Remember when I said that Y the Last Man was one of my two all-time favorite comic book series? Well, this is the other one – I’ve read the original comic series multiple times, and probably watch the movie adaptation every few months. That said, when these color editions were first announced, I was a little hesitant to double-dip – there was never a point when reading the original books that I felt like color was needed. Once I started seeing previews online, however, I knew I’d pick them up – these new editions are just fantastic. Much like the color editions Bone, the colors (by Nathan Fairbairn) add to the story without being overbearing. In addition, this has allowed O’Malley to make subtle changes to the art throughout the books. As an added bonus, there’s also tons of supplementary material in the back. Now that I’ve seen the new versions, the only downside of buying them again is that we have to wait until 2014 to get all six books. 

Dave says…
Justice League Dark– When I was a kid I always enjoyed the mystical C to Z list characters. When they would be involved in some sort of team-up with each other I’d wish it was a regular event. A series based on a team of mystic loners seemed always just out of reach. There was a group called the Conclave in the Fate series just after Zero Hour. Though Dr. Mist’s team, The Leymen in Primal Force almost fit the bill, that series was canceled almost as soon as it was started. Geoff Johns gave us the Sentinels of Magic in Day of Judgement but they never were given their own book. It took the horribly entitled; Justice League Dark to bring a team of magic based characters into a team book. I was really excited to read the first issue but the book didn’t live up to what I expected. It felt depressing, slow, and a tad boring. I didn’t read past there until Jeff Lemire took over writing duties with issue #9. I’ve been loving this series since then. If characters like Felix Faust, John Constantine, Zatanna, Deadman, Black Orchid, Dr. Mist, Tim Hunter, Amethyst, Frankenstein, and Madame Xanadu are you cup of tea, I’d suggest picking it up. 
Jeff and new co-writer Ray Fawkes start a new storyline in January with #15.

Batman Inc.– Grant Morrison has been by favorite writer for a long time and this series is one of the many reasons to love his writing. Relaunched a few months after the start of the New 52, this series continues from where Grant left off in his epic batman story he started back in 2007. The new series should be penetrable to new readers but is so much more rewarding if you have been reading from the beginning.

Spider-Men– I got hooked reading the adventures of Miles Morales with his start in his own series. Brian Michael Bendis was doing very interesting this with Miles in the series. This year it seems to have slowed down and with the past few issues being a crossover with  the rest of the Ultimate Marvel Universe I am becoming uninterested. This cannot be said of the limited series Spider-Men where the 616 Spider-Man (Peter Parker) makes his way into the Ultimate Universe to meet Miles. Bendis tells a very touching, action-packed, and heartfelt story here. I came out wanting to read more Peter and Miles adventures. I’d suggest picking this up in trade.

Aquaman– I recently was complaining to Billy how All-New X-Men by Brian Michael Bendis and Stuart Immonen was moving too slow for me. I felt like the first three issues of story I could have obtained from looking at the cover of the first issue showing the original X-Men time displaced in our present. I had almost the same complaint when I initially started reading Aquaman with the start of the New 52 except I felt there was too much action. I felt like tore through those books in a couple minutes. As the book as gone on that problem has seemed to dissipated. The story in this book has been great from the beginning. The first arc we meet a new life form from the seas that makes Jaws look like a guppy. And with the second arc series writer Geoff Johns builds on Aquaman’s mythos by giving him a whole team of new characters from his past which all builds to the “Throne of Atlantis” Crossover between Aquaman and Justice League. Johns and Ivan Reis are doing what they did on Green Lantern on Aquaman but ten-fold. These stories are funny, action-packed, gorgeous, and challenge the idea of who people think Aquaman is. Check this book out!
The Flash– Month in and month out Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato provide gorgeously written and drawn comics that make the make the reader stop, slow down, and take in the art. The Flash is anything but a quick read. It’s a book that always keeps me guessing and amped for the next issue. The only time I am not completely into this book is when there is a fill in artist. Manapul and Buccellato have such a distinct storytelling style it feels jarring when a fill in artist comes aboard, no matter how good he or she is. All in all this is a series definitely worth reading.


Action Comics– As I stated in my review of Batman Inc., I love Grant Morrison’s writing. What is better is I also love Superman and the art of Rags Morales. Grant brings us stories about the early days of Superman’s career. He reinvents much of Superman’s story. He gives it a modern twist and often a heartfelt one. This series starts off as a tale of Superman for the people. The story grows and twists and often requires more than one reading. I’d suggest reading this series in trade or re-read the single issues a lot to get the most enjoyment out of them. I highly recommend it.

The Shade– This 12 issue series should be collected soon because it just wrapped up a few months ago. When James Robinson writes the Shade he is at his best. When James Robinson writes the Shade with top-notch artists like Cully Hamner, Darwyn Cooke, Jill Thompson, and Gene Ha he is even better. The Shade was a character Robinson breathed life into in the Starman series from the late ‘90s. In this series he sends Shade on a globe trotting mission and gives us his origin. I highly recommend this series for anyone who is a fan of James Robinson, Starman, The Shade, Earth 2, JSA, or good comics.

Earth 2– James Robinson is also the scribe on Earth 2. The extremely talented Nicola Scott joins him on the art. Scott brings a unique style to this parallel world. The characters are reinvented from their original Golden Age/Justice Society counter parts with new updated origins. Robinson and Scott are building a diverse world of heroes that has nod to the old. This is a perfect comic for someone who doesn’t want to worry about the rest of the DC Universe because this is a universe unto itself.

Daredevil– Daredevil has been gorgeous, fun, and insightful since the start of the series. Mark Waid has brought a look at Matt Murdock we have not seen in a long time. This series shows how Waid knows how to write to his artist and his character. He is doing something here that will be looked at again and again in years to come.

Wonder Woman– This year Wonder Woman has edged out Daredevil as my favorite book. Brian Azzerello has turned Wonder Woman’s origin on it’s head and made her a much more interesting character. She now has a family of gods and goddesses that act like a crime family. Azzerello’s use of mythology reminds me of Neil Gaiman’s Sandman. This series is filled with reveals, twists, and gorgeous art.

Written by Billy Henehan, Nick Doyle and Dave Tomko.

Now it’s your turn. What are your top comics of 2012?