Buy These Flippin’ Comics!!! Special Edition – Best Comics We Missed in 2013!
Admittedly, I don’t get out much. More often than not I can be found in the bowels of Spaceship Omega, hiberbating in my nanotumblr chrysalis-tomb, forever scrolling through pictures of Kate Upton and 80’s pop-culture ephemera. Time well spent, to be sure, but it also keeps me well behind the game – the game in this instance being knowledge of all the greatest media the current year in pop culture has to offer. Oh sure, I know about the Sagas, Infinities, Prophets, and X-Menonites, they big guys, but what have I let slip through the cracks? What great funnybooks have I failed to verse myself in, and in turn, failed bringing to you guys? These past couple weeks I’ve shed the nano-skin, hopped in actual clothing and went outside to the local brick and mortar to find some of the best and brightest books I was missing out on in 2013. Wanna know what I found? Hit the jump and read on, kids!
Daredevil – Marvel Comics
Mark Waid – Chris Samnee – Javier Rodgriguez
When Mark Waid was announced as coming on to write Dardevil beginning with Volume 3, he stated that he wanted to bring back the “happy-go-lucky” horn-head, a Matt Murdock that we hadn’t seen in quite some time. Kevin Smith, Brian Michael Bendis, and Ed Brubaker were the previous DD writers, and they’d put Matt through hell. So when Waid said he was making Matt a happier guy, I just couldn’t see it. Matt is the ultimate “Catholic-guilt” charcter, a man who dresses up like a demon, but more often than not plagued by his OWN demons. So I stayed away. DUMB. After hearing the rumblings about issue #25 having one of the greatest fights in recent DD history, I bought the issue and was SUPER-impressed. Matt Murdock isn’t happy. He’s arrogant, full of himself and his abilities. He constantly misjudges the people around him, and in no bigger way than in #25, when a warrior with Matt’s same radar capabilities (save for one crucial difference) squares off with him. “Try the red one” remains one of the cooler moments of the year. These fight scenes are brought to us by Chris Samnee, an artist who deftly balances his work between old and new-school looks. Waid and Samnee work so well together, they are even credited as “Storytellers” rather than Writer/Artist. This may not be the Daredevil that is cemented in my mind as the “seminal” run on the character, but the current team is making their mark. Duly noted, and I’m now on board! 2014 sees a new volume of the series open up with Matt now relocated to San Francisco, and I’m curious to see what the change of locale does for Matt & Co. (plus the world needs more West Coast Marvel).
Trillium – Vertigo DC Comics
Wait for trade. Wait for trade. Wait for trade. This was my mantra I would say to myself as each issue dropped, and each issues I was implored to give in and explore the epic sci-fi love story between Nika (a scientist from 3797) and William (a soldier/explorer from 1921) Jeff Lemire is telling with this book. Eventually I caved, and got caught up digitally. After reading, this is certainly a book I will also be grabbing in whatever gorgeous hardcover DC has in store. Equal parts The Fountain and Avatar (movies/experiences that I enjoyed in theory if not in execution), Lemire gives us a story both epic and intimate, forwards and backwards in time, in this timeline and in a parallel timeline. The sheer technical skill to tell a story like this in a straightforward manner is difficult enough, Lemire then proceeds to format issues in unique and even more technically challenging ways. Issue one is a flipbook reminiscent of Watchmen #5, each page mirroring in panel layout and theme its corresponding page in the book. Issue two has the two main characters trying to communicate with each other without understanding one another’s language – showcasing Lemire’s cartooning skills where body language and facial expressions have to do much of the heavy lifting because the dialogue cannot. Issue 5 again has a similar flip book format where the top half of each page tells one half of the story and then flip the book upside down and go back towards the front page for the story’s parallel in another timeline. Complicated? Not so much once you read it, and thoroughly entertaining. Lemire is one of my favorite creators in the game, and though Trillium was not “off” my radar, I was still missing out on one of the greatest comic endeavors of the year. Condition remedied.
The Private Eye – Panel Syndicate
Brian K. Vaughan – Marcos Martin – Muntsa Vicente
Speaking of favorite creators, Brian K. Vaughan (he of Saga, Y: The Last Man, and Ex Machina fame) teamed up with frequent collaborator Marcos Martin to bring us this digital-only private eye story, and the results could not have been more spectacular. The story doesn’t necessarily “re-invent the wheel” when it comes to detective stories, in fact borrows rather liberally from Chandler and other great detective authors, but what it DOES do is give us back the necessary anonymity to tell GREAT detective stories. When I was reading this book I was reminded of a tweet I saw from the makers of the SNAPCHAT app that said “You people DO realize we can see every snapchat you send, right?” This is the world of 2013 we live in, where the NSA probably isn’t the greatest villain to our privacy, but our own lack of sense in regards to what we share digitally. Cut to Vaughan & Martin’s 2079 Los Angeles – years after “The Flood,” when the great techno-myth The Cloud (y’know, that thing that stores all your music, movies, credit card numbers, passwords, photos, etc.?) opens up and rains misery on our nation. In an instant we no longer had secrets, and in the years subsequent America took the necessary efforts to reclaim a sense of self. People wear masks in public so that no one knows their face. The Internet no longer exists. Aliases are commonplace, and even then people still just use initials when conversing with others. This is a world in which detectives can again thrive (and I love Vaughan for creating this conceit), and from this set-up we have a fairly boilerplate murder mystery dressed in new and fascinating clothing. Some might say a mask? (see what I did there?)
Martin and partner Vicente are incredible on art chores, with Vicente bringing a color palette not typical for detective stories, but a more vibrant colors reminiscent of super hero comics, which parallels nicely with everyone (or nearly everyone) in the book wearing a costume. Shout out to personal favorite character “Gramps,” grandfather of main character P.I., a man from our generation who is going a bit Alzheimer-y, who still plays Call of Duty and yells at his old, broken iPhone. I hope I’m as fun to be around as he in 2079.
This book was hard to track down in 2013, since it was digital-only (and not available on Comixology)…it has very much the same independent feel of Louis CK’s comedy specials released the same way. Purchasers are allowed to name their price for each issue (Yeah, if you want to pay .50 cents, pay .50 cents…incredible), and the download is yours to keep as a PDF file. This is a grandiose DIY experiment, and not to be missed.
Batman – DC Comics
Scott Snyder – Greg Capullo
How many stories of Hercules have there been? How many iterations of King Arthur have been put to paper or film? How many versions of Ebenezer Scrooge have been visited by ghosts on Christmas Eve? I’m a firm believer in retelling and reshaping our myths, and Batman most certainly is one of our myths now, so when the new-52 was announced, I dug it. The only way for a myth to remain vibrant and relevant is to add to the story, to shape it to conform to the mores of the society it is being told to. For most intents and purposes the new-52 has been a disaster: poor editorial decisions, weak reinterpretations of characters, bland artistic choices, and a general sense of not knowing how to keep a character relevant. However, with Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo on Batman, their experiment has been nothing but a success, and most would say they had the hardest road to hoe. Not only is the Batman myth the most recognizable and retold in pop culture, Frank Miller’s Batman Year One is quite possibly the greatest Batman story ever told, one of the greatest superhero stories ever told, and in many people’s minds, the ONLY interpretation of the Bat-origin needed for comics. Sounds like a pretty steep climb for Snyder & Capullo, right? Well, they are doing a damned fine job, giving us a young Bruce Wayne taking his lumps and figuring out that he needs to be MORE than just a crime-fighter, MORE than just a crusader for justice, MORE than just a man. He needs to be a myth. This young Bruce Wayne found in ZERO YEAR is brash, undisciplined, and more than a little arrogant. He is a far cry from the more reserved, methodical, and cunning Bruce Wayne of “today,” and I love that Snyder is making the subject of Batman’s origins less about “criminals” and more about “terrorists,” which is a subject that is certainly more of a focus of today’s fears. The Red Hood and Riddler have Gotham under siege in Zero Year, their actions speak less to their crime and more to the fear they instill in Gotham. To become the legend he is to become, he needs to become a terror to the terrorists. He needs to become The Bat. Well done, Snyder & Capullo. I will never forget Year One, but Zero Year is an exciting and pulse-pounding re-interpretation of the mythology of Batman!
Thor: God of Thunder
Jason Aaron – Esad Ribic – Ron Garney
This comic is incredible, folks. This comic is if Metallica’s “Ride the Lightning” took some terrible, sentient form, and started eating children. This comic is soaked in beer, blood, sweat, and stardust. It is metal as fuck, brutal as hell, and more FUN than any comic has any right being.
I’m not a “Thor” guy, to be honest. I’m a Marvel-nut, to be sure, and that’s kinda what always turned me off the Thor character. To the rest of the science-heroes of the 616, Thor – Norse God of Thunder – is such an anomaly. He didn’t get his powers by accident, or by tampering with science, or by any other “self-made” method that most other Marvel heroes can attribute their powers to. He is a GOD. He was born a god, he will die a god, and he stands apart from the rest of the Avengers because of it. He is the MIGHTIEST because he is divine. That always kinda stuck in my craw, and why I always felt a huge disconnect or disinterest in the character.
CUT TO: Jason Aaron and Esad Ribic blowing the fucking doors off in 2013 and giving us not ONE, but THREE visions of Thor, each equally interesting, badass, and most importantly, different from one another. Aaron created an avenue through which he could not only tell the superheroic stories of the current Thor, but with the young, brash Thor he could tell violent adventuring tales reminiscent of Robert Howard’s Conan the Barbarian. And then there is Old Man Thor, who channels not the Odinforce for his powers, but the Thorforce, for he is the last of the Gods, the King of the Gods, and his stories are so Jack Kirby-esque it will bring a tear to your eye.
SMASH CUT TO: “The Godbomb,” the storyline that ran through most of 2013, and a continuation of “The God-Butcher” storyline. This time, though, the three disparate Thor storylines COMBINED, and gave us all 3 Thor’s fighting together, like some un-holy (or VERY holy) METAL SUPERGROUP thrashing and busting heads and kicking in teeth and showing all the other action-comics how it is DONE. Esad Ribic on art chores is sublime – he does each “era” of Thor a little differently, but all with that soft, watercolor-esque look that Cary Nord used on his and Busiek’s run on Conan a few years ago. I haven’t had this much fun in comics in years, and for 11/12ths of this year, it was completely unknown to me.
JUMP CUT TO: “The Accursed,” the tie-in to the Thor movie sequel, with tons of Thor vs. Malkieth action. What I love about Aaron and Garney’s version, though, is they ramp up the fantasy, making it damned near a Dungeons & Dragons adventure as Thor teams up with all these different races (trolls, elves, etc.) to take on the Dark Elf Malkieth. Aaron is not writing a superhero book, he’s writing a fantasy book with superheroics. Bless him for it. If you love fun comics, look no further than this one guys…this book went from totally off my radar to one of my favorites of 2013!
That’s gonna do it for this “Special Edition,” but let us know some of YOUR pleasant surprises or books you think we should know more about from 2013 in the comments below!
Thanks for reading, and see you back here Thursday or Friday for you regularly scheduled column!