Saturday, December 29, 2012

Panel Patter's Favorite Superhero Comics of 2012


It's that time of year again!  Time for those of us with blogs to talk about what we liked from 2012.  I know most of these use "Best of" in their terminology, and I even did in 2011, but I just hate the use of the word "best."  It implies you have reviewed all of the candidates.  This year, I am going back to favorites.

Today we look at a category that probably looks very different from most of its cousins from other bloggers.  I don't read a lot of Marvel and DC superhero comics anymore, except years later via Marvel Digital Comics Unlimited or at the library, because while I sometimes hit on a really good story, more often than not, I tend to find them drawn out affairs with art issues.  I'm just not willing to read *any* Batman or Spider-Man story given to me. simply because my two favorite characters are in it.  (In fact, while my list does have two DC titles on it, one was cancelled and the other is an online-only feature.)  If you're looking for whether I think Batman was a better book than Avengers Vs. X-Men, I'm afraid you'll be disappointed.

What you will find, however, are books that explore the nature of superheros in new ways, that aren't afraid to leave characters dead, or understand that part of reading adventure comics is to have an adventure.  If that intrigues you, read on!

Let me preface this list by saying, there are hundreds of comics out there and no matter how widely I read, it's never going to be everything.  My selections here are based on what *I* have encountered and read over 2012.

Without further ado, here we go:

10:  Witchblade (Top Cow)
I would never have predicted this one, given I was dismissive of it for so long.  But I trusted Tim Seeley and was rewarded with a great comic.  Sara is getting a bit older and has uprooted her life, something I can relate to, and both of those issues intertwine with her life as the Witchblade.  It's not merely a pinup comic, though there certainly are no shortage of attractive people of both genders.  This makes it on the list because it's a lesson in not making assumptions, shows that good stories can be told with any character, and of course because I enjoyed reading this one every month.

9:  Irredeemable (Boom!)
This was last year's number one favorite for me, and it's nine here not so much because I didn't like it but because there are are other comics I liked a bit more this year and it ended early in 2012.  Mark Waid wrote the best alternative Superman story ever in this series, and really took pains to show just how badly things could go wrong in a superpowered world, setting the bar for future dytopian stories with capes characters.  Best of all, he neatly tied the story into its own origins in a way that I thought was both cool and respectful at the same time.

8:  OMAC (DC)
The first of my two DC entries, this one I eulogized on Newsarama not too long after its final issue.  A love letter to Jack Kirby, co-created by a man (Keith Giffen) who clearly loves the King and a man whose motivations are mysterious sometimes (Dan Didio), this New 52 title never had a prayer, given what we know now, namely that DC plans to ax any book that isn't meeting a sale threshold.  It was fun while it last, though, with titles that used the OMAC acronym, a random guest appearance by Superman, and over the top action that never once considered the real world.  It just went out there and had as much fun as possible, and I enjoyed every minute of it.

7:  Supreme (Image)
Alan Moore's legacy on this title got one last bit of life, as Erik Larsen worked to finish off his final storyline, bringing us the insanity of infinite Draxes and Supremes and leading up to a climax that hopefully will see print in 2013.  Delay after delay plagued this title, which really is a shame because the writing was good, the art was perfect for the story, and I thought it did a great job of modernizing Silver Age ideas without worrying which characters lived or died, because the series doesn't need to be ready for movies or cartoon shows.

6:  Legends of the Dark Knight (DC, online first)
I'm not a fan of the current New 52 Batman books, but thankfully, DC has a weekly online short with a rotating creative team that fills my need for the Dark Knight and uses him in ways that feel far more in character.  Everyone from Jeff Parker to Steve Niles to Ethan Van Sciver to Phil Hester show up here, telling their version of Batman in the tradition of the original print comic.  I don't understand why DC can make an accessible to all web-series, but is unable to do that in the flagship book, but I am grateful this exists regardless of format.

5:  Teenage Mutant Ninja Turles (IDW)
My childhood cartoon favorites are having their original comic adventures re-imagined by Tom Waltz and co-creator Kevin Eastman for IDW, while their adventures in the Frank Miller-inspired 1980s stories are also reproduced by the publisher.  I'm enjoying reading both quite a bit, both for the historical fun (I missed the comic when it came out initially) and the creative changes made by Eastman, Waltz, and the others writing for the new series.  I really like that they've stuck to the basic ideas presented in the original, while making it feel modern, especially in the cases of April and Casey Jones.  Any fan of comic or television has a lot to like in this new heroes in a halfshell.

4:  Extermination (Boom!)
Imagine an earth invaded by killer aliens who nearly destroy the world--and most of its heroes and villains along with it.  Now picture that an even more driven Batman must rely on the wits of the Joker in order to survive.  That's the premise of Extermination, and it's every bit as good as you think it is.  Neither of the two main characters is a one for one lifting, especially in the case of the villain, which makes this all the better, as we explore this shattered world and see what is left of humanity.  The manipulations on all sides and ever-present threat of utter extinction give this story great life that I look forward to reading more of in 2013.

3:  Archer and Armstrong (Valiant)

Fred Van Lente told me he's going to keep adding crazy things to this series until the resurrected Valiant Entertainment tells him to stop, and I hope they never do, because I can't think of anywhere else where I will get villains dressed in Mammon masks called "the one percent" who want to blow up Greece to stabilize the Euro, fundamentalist home schoolers trying to forge an artifact of great power, and my personal favorite so far, Ninja Nuns.  Van Lente is more than gags, though, as a young man with great power tries to figure out what his responsibility should be after having his world shattered by an immortal who's even more gluttonous than Hercules to hide his own demons. Read this one on a Tuesday for the best effect.

2:  Daredevil (Marvel)

Hey look, it's Mark Waid again!  I almost gave this the number one slot, but honestly, the fact that it's coming out semi-monthly for no other reason than to out-game DC comics in market share hurt it just a bit.  Waid is doing an amazing job of fixing up a character who's always been a favorite of mine but has festered in the dregs of "how dark can we make a comic" for years now.  He's had awesome artists to help him that, in true Ditko-style, know how to make the character use his powers in a visually amazing way.  Best of all, Waid even acknowledges all the crap that came before and is using it to tell even better stories now.  This one killed at the Eisners and for good reason.  It is only mainstream superhero book that I can recommend to anyone without hesitation.  But it's just not quite as good as my number one title...

1:  Atomic Robo (Red 5)

What can I say about Atomic Robo that others haven't, including me?  I dunno, but I'll keep preaching about this one until such time as it reaches the 100,000 plus readers every issue that it deserves.  This comic embodies the joy of adventure comics, right down to calling its spinoff title "Real Science Adventures."  Brian Clevenger and Scott Wegener chronicle the adventures of a robot created by geek cult favorite Tesla and show him at different points of his life, using plausible (if fake) science ideas ala Fringe or Star Trek to drive the plots, while Robo spouts acidly sarcastic quips and battles everything from WW2 sleeper agents to a talking mad scientist dinosaur.  And if that last sentence doesn't intrigue you, nothing else will get you read my favorite superhero comic of 2012!

Honorable Mentions:  Ame-Comi Series (DC, online), Bloodshot (Valiant), Bloodstrike (Image), Birds of Prey (DC), Glory (Image)

Stop by tomorrow for my last list, my favorite Mini-Comics of 2012!  What photocopied fun did I enjoy the most this past year?  You'll have to wait and see!

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