The Best in Comic Books of 2013

       I really love comic books and Alan Moore would label me emotionally subnormal, I’m sure. Still, there’s a lot to enjoy about the books that came out this year and there are quite a few people and books that need to be mentioned again.

I should discuss how I chose the books I read and how much they cost. I bought comics that were based on several franchises I’ve enjoyed since I was young (Star Trek and Star Wars) and from companies whose characters I like, such as DC. I really want to give Marvel comics a go, but the art and the $3.99 cover price really has me putting the books down. I was a Marvel Zombie in the 1980s and 90s, but since then I just don’t care for the art or the stories and if I can get a super hero title for a dollar less, I’ll go to that company. Dynamite Comics is the only publisher that’s been nice enough to send SciFiPulse.net preview copies (and if anyone at any other company wants to do so, I’d be more than happy to review them), so anything else I’ve reviewed I paid for out of my own pocket. I would have done so had I not been reviewing these books, so no regrets at all.

I bought 353 books this year. I paid $1,140.31, pre-tax. I bought 145 books at $3.99 and 141 at $2.99. The most I paid for any book was $7.99, of which there were three, while the least I paid was $1.00, of which there were six. I thought I was buying more books at $2.99, but I was wrong. The publishers I purchased from were as follows: DC (117 books), Dark Horse (114), IDW (65), Image (21), Aspen (12), Marvel (9), Red 5 (7) Dynamite (3–I wanted physical copies of some), Renegades (2), and one book each from Bongo, Monsterverse, and Moonstone.

This is a lot of books, but keep in mind I didn’t really buy the “big” titles monthly from DC; no Batman, Superman, Justice Leagues, or any characters that appear in those books. I don’t like major crossover books, and these had those to death. Plus, the cover prices were about $3.99 each, and I don’t want to pay that much if I can help it. No more “Drawing the line at $2.99,” eh? If they were a buck less, I’d be more inclined to follow them.  If DC is going to up their books to the same price as Marvel’s I’ll be dropping several of those titles. I don’t consider myself a typical comic buyer, since I don’t follow Marvel or the major DC titles, but I follow enough niche stuff to keep me in the thick of things.

Hopefully this explains why I gravitated toward certain books and not others. Well, that’s the nitty gritty of what I got and what it cost. Let’s get to the best of the year, shall we?

Best Marketing: Aspen Comics Hands down, their $1 first issues got me to try books I normally wouldn’t have, and I continued to follow a few at full price. The best were Charismagic, Trish out of Water, and Soulfire. IDW is copying this format with reprinting some of their titles’ first issues at a buck, but think of the volume they could sell if they were composed of new material and not reprint. I know I would try something new for a buck. Aspen Comics has a new follower in me because of this program.

Best cover artist: Alex Ross has been hailed a tremendous artist years ago and he’s continuing to be a major talent. Any of his Dynamite work (The Shadow, The Shadow: Year One, The Shadow/Green Hornet: Dark Nights, Lords of Mars) should be hung in a gallery. Runner up to Tim Bradstreet. His Star Trek work for IDW finished up this year and now he’s at Dynamite also doing Shadow work. To go from science fiction to urban hero flawlessly shows his unquestionable skill.

Best letterer: Rob Steen did some fine work on The Shadow/Green Hornet: Dark Nights that fit every moment of the book excellently, with his work on the scene setting being a perfect noir.

Best Colorist: Javier Mena on the cancelled Legion of Super-Heroes. Through a horde of different artists his work was consistently bright, showing that the future is not a dystopia. A pleasant change from most science fiction books.

Best inker: Dan Parsons on the Star Wars: Dawn of the Jedi mini-series. He’s inked superior penciller Jan Duursema for many Star Wars books and he consistently makes them look great. With all the detail Duursema does, his job cannot be easy, and it is definitely appreciated.

Best Penciller: Juan Jose Ryp of Clone. I have never seen a monthly book look this detailed. He’s done all twelve issues, the book has never been late, that I can recall, and it always has an outrageous amount of intricacies. If glass is broken, every shred is accounted for. If blood is spilt, and it is, every drop is on the page. Runner up to Jan Duursema of Star Wars: Dawn of the Jedi. Simply incredible art in each issue.

Best Writer This was unbelievably difficult to settle on. Stand outs included Jim Butcher for Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files: Ghoul Goblin, J. Michael Straczynsky for Ten Grand, Protector’s Inc., and Sidekick, Randy Stradley for Star Wars: Dark Times, Michael Uslan for The Shadow/Green Hornet: Dark Nights, and John Ostrander and Jan Duursema for Star Wars: Dawn of the Jedi. All of these writers’ books had me gasping and/or cheering in every issue. I have to give it to John Ostrander and Jan Duursema for making this period in Star Wars new and exciting to someone who was nine when the original opened in 1977. Just when I think I’ve seen it all done, this surprises me.

Best Mini-series: Unsurprisingly, several of the books under Best Writer fall into this category. Exceptional reads were Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files: Ghoul Goblin, Star Wars: Dark Times, Star Wars: Dawn of the Jedi, The Shadow/Green Hornet: Dark Nights, and To Hell You Ride. Even as big a Star Wars fan I am, I was floored by The Shadow/Green Hornet: Dark Nights. This is the series to make someone a fan of either character.

Best Children’s Monthly: Not much thought needed here. The Powerpuff Girls has been restarted by IDW and it is the perfect book for anyone of any age. I’ve laughed out loud at all four issues that have been printed and it is amazingly like the television series, in no small part due to writer and artist Troy Little.

Best Horror: I like some scares and there were some good ones with To Hell You Ride and Ten Grand (though I’d consider that more supernatural than horror, though there are several horrific elements), but I have to give it to a series that hasn’t finished yet. Army of Darkness Vs. Hack/Slash is an amazingly funny and gruesome epic with Ash and Hack seeking out missing pages from the Necronomicon and encountering a lot of resistance and a lot of major bloodshed. Perfect dementia.

Best Science Fiction and Best Movie Franchise: Star Wars: Dawn of the Jedi is amazing issue after issue. If you’ve grown despondent at where the prequels went, go further back to this time period and fall in love with the heroics and values of the original trilogy. I can’t rave enough about it.

Best Monthly: Clone is a godhead book for story and art. It continually twists and turns in every direction, mixing drama with Matrix level action. It’s been optioned as a television series and after reading an issue you’ll know why. A must read every month.

Those were the highlights of the year for me. I love comics and I hope you’ll give a few of these books a try!

 

Patrick Hayes was a contributor to the Comic Buyer’s Guide for a few years with “It’s Bound to Happen!” He had to give that up to teach 8th graders English for 19 years. He’s since moved to a high school where he’s taught 9th grade and currently teaches 10th graders English. He reads everything as often as he can, when not grading papers or looking up Star Trek, Star Wars or Indiana Jones items online.

 

 

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