Thursday, December 27, 2012

Best Superhero Comics of 2012

It's that time of year again to look back at the best that the year has brought us.  Of course there are titles that I didn't get a chance to check out that may have been included if I had, but that's how it goes.  I can't read everthing.  These are my ten favorite superhero comics from 2012, the top of which will also be featured on my forthcoming best comics of the year list.  This is purely my opinion, so obviously people will not agree with me on all of these titles, and that's cool.  Many lists I find out there certainly make me scratch my head.  But I find that if a book has only released even two issues and I really enjoyed them, then it will make this list if it's one of the most enjoyable comics-reading experiences I had in the superhero realm.  Some people may not agree, but I think that after two issues, you have the feel of a comic down even if you don't have a complete story quite yet.  Anyways, this is meant to point you toward enjoyable material that you may have missed this year, and I hope you enjoy it.  If you've read some superhero comics that you think others may enjoy as well, please feel free to mention them in the comments!!

1. Wolverine and the X-Men (Jason Aaron, Chris Bachalo & Nick Bradshaw) - In one of the more unique superhero comics coming out currently, Jason Aaron produces a blend of action and humor, perfectly suited by alternating artists Bachalo and Bradshaw.  Even when caught up in crossover events, Aaron manages to steer this book into high quality territory, evolving his characters during that conflict, and producing some great dynamics and relationships from out of it.  Of course, it's best when he's left to his own devices and is able to focus on the interesting students at the Jean Grey School, as well as the oddball faculty.  This year saw micro-Brood invade Kitty Pryde, Wolverine venture to an intergalactic casino with Quentin Quire, and a beloved student shot down, along with all of the Avengers vs. X-Men craziness.  But it's really the amount of character Aaron injects into subjects like Kid Gladiator, Broo and Rachel Grey, and the artists drawing the hell out of this book, that pushes it into the category of a "classic."   It's fun, whimsical and surprisingly moving at times, and it's easily the best superhero title of the year in my eyes.

2. Avengers vs. X-Men (Various) - It's not very often that company-wide crossovers are executed well.  Usually many "tie-in" titles are bogged down with it for months upon months of half-cooked stories for a semi-interesting final product.  Not so for Avengers vs. X-Men.  In this thoughtful mini-series event, not only were there great story notes that they hit along the way, from shocking moments to great character scenes, but any books tied into the main story could easily create a story around a pretty basic premise: battles between mutants and Avengers.  And books like Uncanny X-Men and Avengers Academy shined amidst the chaos.  But the real winner was the main story in the mini-series that pit Captain America, Thor, Iron Man, Hulk and friends against the likes of Cyclops, Emma Frost, Colossus, Namor and Magik.  It highlighted some epic fights people have been waiting to see, and had shocking moments and a satisfying conclusion, with plenty of gray area left in the dust of battle.  This is perhaps the single best crossover in superhero history, as it worked on so many levels, and so well.

3. Angel and Faith (Christos Gage & Rebekah Isaacs) - One of the most consistently well-executed books out there currently is this spin-off of Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season Nine, and what I think is the best thing to come out of Buffy in comic form period.  This book has a lot of heart and while it draws from its past, it's not bogged down by it like Buffy: Season Eight seemed to be.  Angel and Faith is a focused comic, circling the death of Giles, Buffy's watcher.  Angel feels guilty for his death and Faith is helping him to find a way to resurrect him, and so they are searching for ingredients and fragments of his soul to make that happen.  Along the way, they meet familiar faces like Druscilla and Conner, and Faith confronts her own troubled past, but even the new characters are fresh and welcome, like Giles' family.  This is just a really thoughtful character-focused work that is beautifully executed on every scale.

4. Uncanny X-Force (Rick Remender, Billy Tan, Mark Brooks, Greg Tocchini & Phil Noto) - I was a little late to the party on this title, but this black-ops X-Men title is one helluva book.  Remender really puts these characters through the wringer on his run of this title, but the wealth of imagination poured into this title really demonstrates that Remender understands the various corners of the Marvel Universe and can use them for great show-stopping stories.  He puts his own unique twists on familiar concepts while he has this team of X-Men confront horrible creatures, as well as their dark pasts.  There's a lot of blood and death in this book, but if you can take it, this is one crazy-fun journey.

5. Batman (Scott Snyder & Greg Capullo) - Relaunching Batman as part of DC's New 52 without one of Batman's famous villains was a bold choice for Snyder, but one that worked shockingly well, earning praise for originality and innovation. Through solid storytelling and focusing the lens on Bruce Wayne's past, Snyder created a sense of mystery and paranoia in this book that drew readers in and hasn't allowed them to leave since. Gotham City and her secrets haven't been this exciting in a long time.

6. All-New X-Men (Brian Michael Bendis & Stuart Immonen) - An intriguing premise, that of the original five X-Men coming to confront the modern Marvel Universe, is an intriguing one, and seeing as how the current state of the X-Men is pretty disastrous, it's like their worst fears have come true as they look at their future selves.  There are a lot of cool ideas bouncing around in this comic, and what we've seen so far has been an absolute blast.

7. Thor: God of Thunder (Jason Aaron & Esad Ribic) - Probably one of the new Marvel NOW! titles that I was least excited about has become one of my favorites.  I love Esad Ribic's art, that gives Aaron's mythic story weight, a perfect pairing for a tale about gods and magic.  And Jason Aaron knows how to build a villain, slowly revealing Thor's past experiences with a god killer, and uncovering its devastation in current time (not to mention the bleak future he is painting).  This is a tense comic that feels epic in scope and is drawn flawlessly.

8. Avengers Arena (Dennis Hopeless & Kev Walker) - I was quite a fan of the early days of Avengers Academy, so with its end, I was happy to hear that a new title would be taking its place, and I have to say, even with the new crazy premise, a complete one-eighty from that previous title, this is a fantastic read.  Borrowing teenagers from across the Marvel Universe and throwing them into Arcade's latest Murder World, Hopeless creates a battle royale for the young superheroes of this book, where only one will come out alive in the end.  From its bloody, shocking beginning, it promises quite a roller coaster ride, with cool new characters introduced, alliances being struck and death lingering around every corner.

9. Glory (Joe Keatinge & Ross Campbell) - Having little resemblance to its previous incarnation as part of Awesome Comics, this comic took a little time to find its footing, but once it did, it has only risen in quality with each passing week.  The hulking warrior Glory and her back story are interesting enough of a thread to carry the book, but it's really the current circumstances that Glory and her friends find themselves in that is cool, and the action and artwork that Ross Campbell depicts is at the heart of what makes this a successful book.  Full of great character and creature designs, this is a rip-roaring action title that's edgy, cool and visually stunning.

10. Wonder Woman (Brian Azzarello & Cliff Chiang) - Azzarello's stories and Chiang's stunning drawings of otherworldly gods brings this book of gods and mortals to a level that Wonder Woman has rarely seen before.  Consistent, full of danger and deception and a fun cast of supporting characters with motives of their own, this is just a delightful read every month.

Honorable Mentions
Aquaman (Geoff Johns & Ivan Ries)
Captain America (Rick Remender & John Romita Jr.)
Demon Knights (Paul Cornell & Diogenes Neves)
Frankenstein, Agent of S.H.A.D.E. (Jeff Lemire & Alberto Ponticelli)
Uncanny X-Men (Kieron Gillen & Carlos Pacheco)

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