December 31, 2013

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Scott's Favorite Comics of 2013

In no particular order, here are my favorite comic books of 2013:

  • Thor: God of Thunder 1-11
  • Hip Hop Family Tree
  • Multiple Warheads (And Walrus, the All Bum Album)
  • The End of the Fucking World
  • Julio's Day
  • Fury Max V1 & 2
  • Sunny V1 & 2
  • Hellboy: The Midnight Circus
  • The Private Eye
  • East of West
  • 21st Century Boys V1 & 2
  • Mind MGMT
  • The Sixth Gun
  • Young Avengers

You can probably find me writing about most of these books at Wednesday’s Haul, Newsarama or Sound on Sight.  As I was putting this list together, I kept on struggling with the idea that it’s a very mainstream list.  And yet the most that I thought about it, the more I realized that the comics mainstream and my “mainstream” are no longer the same things.  Or maybe it’s just that the comics’ mainstream (meaning Marvel and DC superhero comics) just aren’t what they used to be.    

As I stated in my part of Newsarama’s Best Shots Best of 2013 piece and was echoed repeatedly by almost everyone else, 2013 was the year that Image comics made it’s play into comics’ collective zeitgeist by a two prong attack-- helping develop the new voices in comics and giving established creators a place to create what they wanted to.  To one degree or another, it’s what they and almost everyone else in comics has been doing for years now but Image seemed to turn it into a business model.  And when you do that, you get the writers’, artists’ and colorists’ true artistic voices coming out in the work.  

And that’s what I see in most of the books on my list of my favorite works of 2013.  It’s not about storylines or characters or events.  It’s about the creators of those books.  I could just as easily list the writers and artists and this list could be my favorite creators of 2013. More than in past years, this list is what it is because of people creating the comics I really enjoyed this past year.

The odd thing is that there are writers that I loved work from this year that have never really done anything for me in the past and I chalk that up to the artists they were working with bringing something new to their work.  I can see what people love about Preacher but as a writer, Garth Ennis’s brand of humor always undermined his stories but he hit the right blend of humor and sadness in Fury Max: My War Gone By, wonderfully drawn by Goran Parlov.  Jason Aaron and Brian K. Vaughan have always been writers who depended on technical prowess more than compelling stories but with Esad Ribic and Marcos Martin, their stories become about these events that you can actually connect with on an emotional level in Thor: God of Thunder and The Private Eye.  This is the year that Jonathan Hickman’s writing became more than an exercise in building a perpetual motion plot machine and that’s what East of West is but Nick Dragotta’s futuristic western approach to the art turns it into a highly enjoyable spaghetti western.

Then there are the storytellers who just continued to sweep me along in their narratives in 2013.  Cullen Bunn and Brian Hurtt.  Matt Kindt.  Mike Mignola and Duncan Fegredo.  Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie.  Naoki Urasawa.  These are all of the creators who I can just return to again and again.  It’s one part comfort food and one part that they do create the comic books that I like; heavy on the narrative but never lose sight of the character. The Sixth Gun is the best comic of 2013 that no one was talking about anymore.  I don’t really know what’s up with that other than I think we all just grew used to it.  Matt Kindt’s Mind MGMT is entering into Morrison’s Invisibles territory.  Young Avengers is a welcome book even if it is putting off more Phonogram longer than I’d prefer.  Hellboy- there’s nothing that really needs to be said there.  And I already miss regular installments of Urasawa.  Someone needs to pick up the Billy Bat rights toot suite.

And then finally there are the books that change the way that you view your reality.  Gilbert Hernandez told about a life within the pages of Julio’s Day.  Charles Forsman’s The End of the Fucking World still haunts me, months after I read it.  Taiyo Matsumoto makes me sad but hopeful for the future.  Ed Piskor made me realize what non-superhero readers must feel like whenever they pick up a Marvel or DC book. And Brandon Graham just made me love the strangeness all around me a little bit more and more with each panel.  These are the comics that felt like discoveries this year.  These were the books that shifted my perceptions noticeably and made everything feel just a bit different.

While I was putting this list together, it felt too mainstream but the more and more I think about it, I realize that this is what I want the mainstream to be.  There’s books from a broad spectrum of comics here and that’s what we need.  2013 was a year where the mainstream I want started to feel more real.  Maybe it’s actually happening and we’re finally getting away from our ghettoized mainstream and seeing the development of a broader, more inclusive norm.  If that is what’s happening, I can’t wait to see what happens in 2014.  
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Rob's Favorite Superhero Comics of 2013!

It's that time of year again!  Time for those of us with blogs to talk about what we liked from 2013.  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.  No matter how many comics I read--and let me assure you, I read a TON of comics--I'll never do more than scratch the surface of all that gets published in a given year. Anything you see here is based on what *I* found and read in 2013.

Here comes the last list, my look at the superhero comics I read in 2013. In some years, this list is a bit thin, but I actually had a very hard time narrowing it down to 10, with 5 honorable mentions. It's the first year that my short list was nearly as long as the one for minis and non-capes stuff, and some fun books (Larfleeze) lost out because there was just too many good examinations of the genre to sneak it on there.

That said, my idea of a great superhero comic doesn't look much like the mainstream. So what I thought were the best books I read in 2013 won't match most, I suspect. However, I really dug each and every one one of these, right down to the honorable mentions and I love that comics is so huge that I can have all these great books and someone who only wants to read the latest Justice League spinoff can have theirs, too.

Comics is a really large tent these days, even if some parts of that tent won't let the rest play in them. To which I say, "I'm sorry you feel that way. Now if you'll excuse me, I'll be hanging out with those who do."

What's a favorite superhero comic for me? Find out below...

10: Superior Spider-Man (Marvel Comics)

I am one of the people who comes down firmly on the side of "brilliant" when it comes to the questions of Ock-Spidey. While we all know Peter will be back someday, the idea that his greatest enemy, Doc Ock, was able to find a way to best him, physically and mentally, is a great concept. This would be even higher on my list, except that I often find the art sub-par (Humberto Ramos is one of my least-favorite artists) and a few too many issues suffer from either packing too much in or marking time for a big moment. Still, this was a favorite in 2013 and stands a good chance of being one again in 2014.

9:  Batman '66 (DC Comics)

The only thing better than getting this comic every week from writer Jeff Parker and a variety of artists (primarily Jonathan Case) would be a legal re-issue of the television show itself (because that bootleg edition gets more and more tempting every time I see it). Parker's ability to tell all-ages stories of high quality was established with his Marvel Adventures work, and letting him play in the over-the-top Adam West sandbox is a gift that absolves DC of its sin of putting out a lot of really mediocre comics in 2013. From adding the Red Hood into Bats '66 continuity as only Parker could to having Colleen Coover guest for a Catwoman caper, this one has been note perfect. Its placement here is a huge testament to the quality of the superhero comics this past year.

8:  Prophecy (Dynamite Entertainment)

What happens when you mix Red Sonja, Vampirella, Dracula, H.P. Lovecraft, and Sherlock Holmes into one mini-series? A lot of great storytelling, especially when you  make the stakes so high that it spreads across time periods like a wave, threatening to destroy everything and everyone unless an unlikely group of anti-heroes can stop it. Ron Marz handled the large cast with care, making sure everyone got a piece of the action, right down to the surprise cameos and minor supporting characters. While I didn't care for his Holmes (too arrogant for my taste), everything else was pitch perfect, especially Walter Geovani's artwork. Juggling the action like he was born to handle a superhero team book, Geovani impressed me at every step of the way, avoiding the exploitative possibilities and drawing a story, not a pin-up book. He's a modern day John Romita, Sr. and you'll see me talk about him again shortly.

7:  Extermination (Boom! Studios)

We've seen stories featuring Batman and Joker analogues before, but what if they had to work together to stay alive after an alien invasion destroyed nearly all of life on Earth? That's the premise of this series, which was another mini I enjoyed a ton in 2013, despite a few problems with the art as it moved along. Taking its characters in directions you never expect as you read, we soon learn that maybe our hero isn't as heroic as he first appeared, and as for the villain? Well, you'll just have to read to find out. I love the idea of putting familiar tropes and putting them into new concepts, as long as they don't feel cloned. After the initial superhero trappings, this one branches out to a logical conclusion for its protagonist, and was a big hit for me.

6:  Quantum & Woody (Valiant Entertainment)

I never thought I'd see another Valiant book vie seriously with Archer and Armstrong for my monthly favorite, but Quantum & Woody came extremely close. I shouldn't be a bit surprised that this re-imagining of characters co-created by one of my favorite semi-retired writers, Christopher Priest, was every bit as good as its hype. James Asmus, working first with Tom Fowler and then the amazingly talented Ming Doyle, captures Priest's style, using title cards to great comedic effect. He's not afraid to push jokes in uncomfortable directions (Woody, who is White, disguises himself as his African American adopted brother at one point) and they fly fast and furious even as a real plot grounds the proceedings. Aided and abetted by the great visual physical comedy of Fowler and Doyle, this one blew me away and is now my leading candidate for best comic you might not be reading, now that Edison Rex is getting some well-deserved exposure from places like USA Today.

5:  Red Sonja (Dynamite Entertainment)

Gail Simone and Walter Geovani team up to soft reboot the Robert E. Howard heroine moved into Conan's time period decades ago by Rascally Roy Thomas. Never afraid to break her toys, in the first arc, Simone gives Sonja the plague and an origin that fits well with the character, even if it's extremely sad. The Simpsons Comics writer shows off her ability to mix jokes with the action, too, but not so many that it feels forced or out of place. Meanwhile, as with Prophecy, Geovani draws the hell out of the book, using a style that has strong roots in the Marvel tradition. Whether it's getting just the right look on a character's face or depicting the grittiness of battle, he's got the answer for anything Simone images. I hope these two have a nice long run on this series, so I can keep putting it on my favorites lists.

4:  King's Watch (Dynamite Entertainment)

This is a year with a lot of repeat creators, and here's Jeff Parker showing up for the second time, working with three of Dynamite's Pulp characters as they take on an old Flash Gordon foe. As with Marz, he's able to give all members of the cast a role that feels both essential and fair in terms of screen time. His Phantom may be my favorite use of the character, making him a bit of a Batman-like figure whose humor comes from its intensity. While I love Parker's writing--who doesn't?--and his dialogue is top notch, the star of the show here is Marc Laming. Asked to combine science fiction with jungle adventure and a touch of magic, he switches between them as easily as I click Chrome tabs. His characters look amazing, the layouts draw the reader's eyes to just the right moments to emphasize the action, and he never fails to heighten the work Parker puts in, with little touches that punctuate a line of dialogue. Great work that shouldn't be missed.

3:  Archer & Armstrong (Valiant Entertainment)

Sometimes books lose steam over time, but not Archer & Armstrong, which barrels its way through the Valiant Universe, flinging jokes and downing drinks that makes me wish Armstrong would team up with Volstagg in a one-shot. Writer Fred Van Lente, working with various artists who draw the characters to make them fit the jokes, keeps the humorous pace going despite threatening every few months to take things in a more serious direction. Whether it's aliens facing off against Amelia Earhart in the Bermuda Triangle or a handy graphic checking the blood alcohol level of Armstrong while Archer pretends to be Frank Castle, this one is all about living live on your terms, not those dictated to you. It's a message we could all stand to think about, delivered without preaching by one of comics' best writers.

2:  Superior Foes of Spider-Man (Marvel Comics)

If you had told me that the best part of the Ock-Spidey saga would be watching a knock-off version of the Sinister Six get into hijinks together, I'd have laughed your right off Twitter. But here we are, a book that I admit I only picked up because I'll read anything Steve Lieber draws, finding its way to number two on my favorites list. With writer Nick Spencer knowing just how to exploit the quirks of these heroes whose most recognizable member is the Shocker (give that a minute to sink in, folks), Lieber is able to have fun, doing everything from showing the Chameleon-as-Hammerhead dropping a deuce in Boomerang's bathroom to Doctor Doom in Fantastic Four boxers. The pair of creators have amazing chemistry together that just keeps getting better with every issue as they scramble for a big score but can't because these are folks that Spider-Man hands off to Darkhawk because he's got better things to do. With Marvel letting them do just about anything they wish, Lieber pulling out every trick in his playbook (from Erika Moen Easter Eggs to cartoon thought bubble gags), and Spencer digging the characters into increasingly bigger holes, this one came out of nowhere to be Marvel's best book. Now if only it can keep up just enough readers to stay on the shelves!

1:  Edison Rex (Monkeybrain)

In a year with some amazing superhero books, this one stands just a bit above the rest because it is about as close to perfect as you're going to see in the genre. Chris Roberson and Dennis Culver didn't just set out to make an extended what if scenario for the Luthor-Superman dynamic. Issue by issue, back matter by back matter, they've crafted an entire world that echoes the DC Universe concept--going so far as to make an entire set of Golden Age heroes and their legacy characters--yet this never feels to me like an imitation. Thanks to making dynamic characters and not being afraid to do things that a Big 2 book cannot, Culver and Roberson make this their own. Rex-as-Luthor really does want to go good, not unlike Ock-Spidey, but his desire to fix it all and be liked is almost certainly going to be his downfall. Comics will be poorer for the loss when this finishes but for now, it's a clinic on how to make a unique superhero universe and use stories, not endless exposition, to create your world and characters. A final note on this one--as with King's Watch, a big reason this is my favorite superhero comic of 2013 is because of Culver. Watching him get better with every issue has been a real treat, as his big, blocky style belies an ability to use a ton of artistic subtlety to keep this epic story moving forward every month. Without a single reservation or hesitation, I'm happy to be part of an ever-growing chorus that's naming Edison Rex one of the best books of 2013.

Honorable Mentions: Double Life of Miranda Turner (Monkeybrain), FF (Marvel Comics), Glory (Image Comics), Prime-8s (Monkeybrain), and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (IDW)
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Rob's Favorite Non Cape, Non Horror Floppies of 2013!

It's that time of year again!  Time for those of us with blogs to talk about what we liked from 2013.  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.  No matter how many comics I read--and let me assure you, I read a TON of comics--I'll never do more than scratch the surface of all that gets published in a given year. Anything you see here is based on what *I* found and read in 2013.

This list is the second half of a personal cheat code. I read a lot of great non-superhero floppy comics in 2013, so many that I had a short list that was almost impossible to cull down to only 10. I put the horror ones in their own list, and these are the ones I thought were the best of the rest. My God, Comics--there's a ton of good stuff here. I had to make some hard decisions, which is definitely a good thing.

Now let's look at what I personally liked best from the world of non-horror, non-capes floppies in 2013:

10:  Amala's Blade (Dark Horse Comics)

A young woman trained to be an assassin is plagued by the ghosts of those she kills. Caught between warring factions who both want her dead, Amala fights to stay alive and make a place for herself in a hostile world full of steampunky creations, palace intrigue, and a touch of romance. A fun book that won me over by not going the typical route and making Amala a boy.

9:  Amelia Cole (Monkeybrain)

Like Edison Rex, this Monkeybrain launch title keeps going strong, with a consistent release schedule and a change in price and delivery. We learn more about the world Amelia finds herself in, as the writing team of Adam P. Knave and DJ Kirkbride start to work on the concepts they introduced in the first part of the series. More on this when it gets closer to the second printed volume from IDW in 2014.

8:  Real West (Monkeybrain)

I'm a big fan of anthology series and I grew up on classic Westerns, so it's no surprise to find this one on the list. Each issue features a different take on the Western genre, starting with a traditional tale and moving into a more comedic piece for the second issue. The third was presented as a newspaper strip. Taking advantage of the freedom of digital, this one's highly recommended if you want to see how this premise can be done well (I'm looking at you, All-Star Eastern.)

7:  Adventure Time (Boom! Studios)

Ryan North and company keep telling solid adventures of Finn and Jake, blending the nature of the show with North's peculiar--and funny--sense of humor. I do wish the storylines were a bit shorter, because the extended ones tend to stretch North's gag-writing skills to their limit, but it's been fun to see him really world-build, referencing past events in the comic in a way that the TV show might not do. The best reason to read this series, though, are the covers, which are outstanding, month in and month out.

6:  Lazarus (Image Comics)

Greg Rucka is at his best when he's working on his own creations, and this is no exception. In a world controlled by family factions, a woman who serves as one group's enforcer finds that things are far more complex than they appear. Packed with mystery and intrigue, Rucka takes his crime chops and applies them to a soft sci-fi concept. Meanwhile, Michael Lark's art sets the mood and builds the world, leaving Rucka free to tell his part of the story, rather than explain everything. Lark gets stuck with a lot of talking scenes, but gives them life and energy in this highly recommended comic.

5:  Magic Whistle (Alternative Comics)

Sam Henderson's periodic periodical released its 13th issue this year, and it was my first experience with the cartoonist, who is now a personal favorite. Able to take the New Yorker cartoon style and turn it on its ear by making incredibly funny "low brow" jokes while simultaneously skewering the urbane "wit" you'll find in literary magazines, Henderson varies from one-panel gags to extended stories. Not everyone can tell a dick joke that's actually funny, and Sam is one of them.

4:  Judge Dredd (IDW)

Duane Swierczynski got the unenviable task of writing new Dredd comics for IDW, and as with his Godzilla work for them, knocked it out of the park. Combining his strong crime writing skills with the over the top violence of the Dredd universe, his version of these characters feels very much at home with the British version, though I admit my experience with the latter is limited. Nelson Daniel does the artwork, making Dredd's world dreary and yet vivid, all at the same time. This is one you should definitely check out.

3:  Star Trek Countdown to Darkness (IDW)

If you weren't all that keen on the new Star Trek movie (I wasn't), don't let that hold you back from trying out this four issue mini-series, which came out just before the movie did, and set up my expectations to a level that the movie couldn't match. A cocky Captain Kirk runs smack dab into a situation that can't be solved by bluster and bold moves, and reveals that the Federation in this version of the Trek Universe isn't as good as the one we saw on television. Mike Johnson worked with Roberto Orci on the story, and David Messini handles the art, which is capable but didn't bowl me over. Trek fans looking for better than what we got on the tarnished silver screen should give this a look.

2:  Bandette (Monkeybrain)

It's hard to find new things to say about this one, so I'll just remind you that this is the story of a French female thief with an army of oddball assistants, a great sense of artistic taste, and flare for the dramatic. Aiding the police against normal crooks while robbing from those who deserve it, Bandette is all about having fun on the comics page. The husband and wife team of Paul Tobin (words) and Colleen Coover (art) enjoy their work, and it shows, especially in the line art, which is Coover's blend of digital work and inkwash, colored brightly to match the personality of the main character. There's a reason this won an Eisner, folks.

1:  Doctor Who Prisoner of Time (IDW)

It's really hard to believe that only a few years ago, I'd have scoffed at the very idea of Doctor Who comics, let alone put one as my number one favorite. But Alex de Campi opened my eyes, and I've been a huge fan of this show--and IDW's adaptations of it--every since. Sadly IDW has lost the license to the series, but not before going out with a bang with this 50th anniversary maxi-series that features all 11 Doctors, their most recognizable companions, and a villain who's both obscure and perfect for the role given to him. Each Doctor fights a battle that typifies their run, ranging from a historical meeting for Doctor 1 to the arrogant lover who fights for Rose against Doctor 9. Scott and David Tipton take advantage of being able to use anyone, living or dead, and we get a nice blend of familiar and one-off creatures to bedevil the Doctor across time and space. IDW got a ton of different artists to work on it, topped by Francovilla covers that popped out at the reader.  This was ambitious, bold, daring, and clever--exactly what Doctor Who fans love best, making it my favorite non-cape, non-horror floppy series of 2013.

Honorable Mentions:  Pretty Deadly (Image Comics), Saga (Image Comics), Skullkickers (Image) and Think Tank (Image Comics)

December 30, 2013

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Rob's Favorite Horror Floppies of 2013

It's that time of year again!  Time for those of us with blogs to talk about what we liked from 2013.  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.  No matter how many comics I read--and let me assure you, I read a TON of comics--I'll never do more than scratch the surface of all that gets published in a given year. Anything you see here is based on what *I* found and read in 2013.

So yeah, this list is totally a cheat. I read a lot of great non-superhero floppy comics in 2013, so many that I had a short list that was almost impossible to cull down to only 10.

"What the hell"? I thought--I'll just put the horror comics in their own list! Problem solved! Anyone who reads Panel Patter regularly knows I'm a huge horror fan, so it's no surprise that I had many horror-themed comics on my short list. This is a separation I may only do once, but I thought it was needed for my 2013 work.

I'm curious to see the reaction to this. Horror is popular like it hasn't been in a long time, I think, and there are definitely books in this genre that I'm not reading. I fully expect to get some "What about..." comments on this one, assuming anyone cares what I think!

Now let's look at what I personally liked best from the world of horror floppies in 2013:

10:  Five Ghosts (Image Comics)

Frank J. Barbarie and Chris Mooneyhan turned this adventure series with some horror elements from a mini-series into an ongoing by strongly channeling Marvel's 1970s horror books without aping the act completely. A man has the power of literary ghosts--if he's worthy enough to use them. Very atmospheric, this surprise hit should carry on strong into 2014.

9:  Eerie (Dark Horse Comics)

This one only comes out twice a year, but man, what we get in those issues is of an extremely high quality. The most recent issue (4) was particularly good. Written in the style of the Warren Magazine, each issue has several new stories combined with a reprint from the classic days. Anyone who loves horror comics should be reading this one.

8: Hoax Hunters (Image Comics)

Working with a variety of artists, co-writers Mike Moreci and Steve Seeley created this series about a group of paranormal explorers who cover up actual creature sightings by "outing" them as hoaxes. The cast is varied and complex, hiding secrets from the reader--and each other. The series works best when it's a combination of snark and scary, which I wish we'd see a bit more of, but I love the concept and the plotting is extremely strong, even if the art can be a little uneven.

7: Haunted Horror (IDW)

This reprint series goes against the grain, picking lesser known horror comics from the 1950s, including post-code horror, that might otherwise not see modern eyes. Working with collectors, the editors pick from a wide variety of publishers, showing off what a reader of the time would have found at the newsstand. There are lots of hidden gems in this one, and classic horror fans would do well to see what this has to offer.

6: Boo! (Monkeybrain)

A loving tribute/parody to the old horror anthologies, with the host segments filled with satire from Calamity Jon Morris. That alone would have been enough to land it a place on this list, but the stories themselves, from a variety of indie creators (such as Benito Cereno and Chris Haley), held true to the format while feeling very modern. I really hope we get Boo! II in 2014.

5:  Creepy (Dark Horse Comics)

Uncle Creepy gets his say more often than Cousin Eerie, so it's higher on my favorites list. Like Eerie, Dark Horse takes pains to make this feel like its Warren predecessor, but I'm not as keen on the reprints chosen for this one. They seem picked more for name value than quality. Still, the original work here--particularly in themed issues--is amazing, showing that short horror in comic form is alive and well.

4:  Godzilla Half Century War (IDW)

James Stokoe's highly regarded Godzilla mini was a lot of fun. Like the main series it ran concurrently with (more on that one in a moment), this one understood that the key to a strong Godzilla story isn't just watching the monster and his fellow kaiju destroy things. The best Godzilla stories are when he stands in for something. In this case, he's the changing face of war for a soldier. Great work, available now as a collection.

3:  Grindhouse Doors Open at Midnight (Dark Horse Comics)

Alex de Campi shows her love of the drive-in B-movies of the 1970s in this series that's roughly halfway through at this point. A series of two-part stories, de Campi and her artists are able to take this style of storytelling and make it work, taking elements and using them well rather than in a sloppy pastiche. Ranging from killer alien bees to floating prisons in space, and with more to come, this one is a lot of over-the-top fun.

2:  Moth City (Self-Published/Thrillbent)

If you'd ask me about it, I'd have told you that it would be nearly impossible to get me to put a zombie comic on the top ten list, let alone at number two, but Tim Gibson managed just that. How? By making it a story first, zombie feature second. That's the missing ingredient in a lot of the same old same old we see far too much of in Artists' Alley. Moth City is run with an iron fist by a controlling bastard who has to stop the outbreak before the Japanese wipe everyone on the island--living or undead--off the map. Nearing its finish, this one really blew me away and gets my highest possible recommendation.

1:  Godzilla (IDW)

As I mentioned above, the key to a strong Godzilla story is finding a way for the monster to have meaning to the humans it interacts with. Duane Swierczynski understood this, and with the help of Simon Gane's gritty, well-researched linework and solid coloring from one of the industry's best, Ronda Pattison, told the story of one man's quest for revenge against a force of nature. Featuring everyone's favorite creatures and even giving a nod to the idea of Godzilla as anti-hero, this was my favorite horror comic, among great competition, in 2013.

Honorable Mentions:  Anathema (Self-Published), Love Stories to Die for (Image Comics), X-Files (IDW)
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Rob's Favorite Mini-Comics of 2013

It's that time of year again!  Time for those of us with blogs to talk about what we liked from 2013.  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.  No matter how many comics I read--and let me assure you, I read a TON of comics--I'll never do more than scratch the surface of all that gets published in a given year. Anything you see here is based on what *I* found and read in 2013.

This is the list I dread making every year. Mini-comics are a very personal thing, and I know from my own zine-making experience just how much blood, sweat, and tears goes into thinking out every page. I'm also arguably closer to the East Coast mini folks than any other group of creators after years of interacting at shows and online.

Paring down this list felt like picking players for a pick-up baseball game. But I managed. I could easily have doubled this one in 2013, there were so many good minis. But these 10, plus the honorable mentions, were my personal favorites from this past year:

10:  Operation Margarine by Katie Skelly

Two girls with issues run away from their pasts on motorcycles and an agreement not to pry too much in the first four issues of this series that's planned for collection in 2014 by AdHouse books. I love Skelly's layouts, which use the black and white format extremely well. This one has a lot of great details to linger over, with the art doing a large part of the overall storytelling.

9:  Howzit Funnies 2 by Andrew Cohen

The second collection of Cohen's doggerel set to illustrations, ranging from a morose king to a horrible father to reflections on the nature of art. Andrew is the master of bending the page to his whims and adding in humorous rhymed verse just makes this even more fun.

8:  Madtown High by Whit Taylor

Panel Patter-er Whit was nominated for an Ignatz award for her collection of comics about her high school years, which feature moments that will be familiar to anyone of roughly the same age group and also elements that are unique to being a person of color in an overwhelmingly white area. Illustrated in Whit's sketchy style and filled with a mixture of hysterical moments and high drama, this was a great series to read in 2013.

7:  Snapdragon Queen by Carey Pietsch

Another mini-comic that excelled in using verse to good effect, this mini-comic by relative newcomer Carey Pietsch has me eagerly awaiting more from her. Telling a fairy tale well is more difficult than a lot give it credit for, as you must blend the genre elements with a modern ear. Pietsch gets that, and along with impressive linework for her characters, wrote her way onto my favorites list.

6:  Wild Women of the Kitty-Kat Galaxy by Sean Frost, Rafer Roberts, and Wendi Strang-Frost

The Frost and Roberts team return for this long-awaited project (at least by me) bringing back the Doctor and Billy for another adventure. This time, their experiments lead them into another dimension where cat women rule all--which doesn't stop the Doctor's arrogance from nearly getting them all killed. Rafer drops Easter Eggs all over the place in the art, with his signature intricate detailing making this feel like a B-movie come to the printed page, while Sean's dialogue is as satirical as ever. Highly recommended, if you can find it.

5:  Raw Power 2 by Josh Bayer

This comic makes the list not only for being very good but also being notable for changing how I look at "raw" minis going forward. Busting my personal biases like G. Gordon Liddy does noses in the main story, this one's a look at one man's deadly delusions and the man who fueled them. Bayer's art fits more with the Crumb and Co. side of comics than I'm usually comfortable with, but it's deceptively deep, once you take the time to look. Combined with an homage to Ben Grimm and Marvel Two-in-One, this was a surprise hit for me.

4:  Beach Girls by Box Brown (with James Kochalka)

2012 was the year of Box Brown for me, and while 2013 finds only this mini on my lists, it's another great example of Box's talent. This time, the surf's up, as some women vacation, meet up with local residents, and have adventures and relationships that feel very natural, with just the right hint of sarcasm and whimsy to keep it from falling into melodrama. Brown's art is only getting better, as his simple figure work belies deep panel constructions. Paired with a few short bits from James Kochalka, this shows that Box is only getting better as his creative star rises, with a bio-comic of Andrew the Giant in the works for 2014.

3:  Like a Virus by Ken Lowery, Robert Wilson IV, and Jordan Boyd

When is a ghost story not really a ghost story? When it's about pain, loss, and the inability to forgive yourself for what you've done in life. Taking one of the reasons for ghosts and telling the tale as if the phantom was as real as you or me, Like a Virus handles a difficult, sensitive subject with care while Wilson IV draws the hell out of the book. This oversized mini was a great book that shows just what the comics medium can do.

2:  Blammo 8 by Noah Van Sciver

Poor Noah! Once again, he's the Susan Lucci of my favorites list! The Panel Patter header designer once again just misses being my #1 favorite with his eighth installment of his one-man anthology piece. I'm of the opinion that Noah has virtually no peer when it comes to drawing stories about regular people who make mistakes, telling their stories straight up (as he does in the lead story) or in tragi-comedic exaggeration, such as when people die violently at his hands. Mixed with some surreal stuff and often self-skewering shorts, Noah Van Sciver will always have a home on my favorites lists with quality work like this.

1:  Cartozia Tales by Various

There was little doubt for me that this one would be my #1 favorite for mini-comics this year. I've written rather extensively about how good this series is, so I won't belabor it here. The brainchild of Isaac Cates, a creative team including Lucy Bellwood, Cates, Jen Vaughn, and others combines with guest stars like James Kochalka to create an entire new world, with an emphasis on maps and exploration. All-ages in the best sense of the word, this one's perfect for a new reader of four and an old reader of ninety four, if they have a love of the fantastic, the fanciful, and the joy of discovery. The story and art quality is top notch, and best of all, the production values are book-level quality, even at a half-sized medium, with thick paper stock and covers. It was an easy pick as my favorite mini-comic of 2013.

Honorable Mentions: Alternative Comics 4 by Various, Black Pillar 1 by Andrew White, Lou by Melissa Mendes, Nix Western #2 by Ken Eppstein and Others, and Stethoscope Microphone by Whit Taylor.
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Rob's Favorite Graphic Novels of 2013

It's that time of year again!  Time for those of us with blogs to talk about what we liked from 2013.  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.  No matter how many comics I read--and let me assure you, I read a TON of comics--I'll never do more than scratch the surface of all that gets published in a given year. Anything you see here is based on what *I* found and read in 2013.

Because of my continuing work with Newsarama and doing more here with established publishers and mini-comics creators, I actually read less comics that weren't serialized first than I have in the past. Part of this was due to the fact that I don't like my local library, and I expect once we're in Portland that I'll pick this back up a bit more. No matter how hard I try, I just can't get every type of comic balanced. (This is something I actually think of, and work on, from year to year.)

That said, what I read was incredibly good. I'm sorry I didn't get to some that I'd hoped to read before the end of the year, like the 215 Ink stuff I got at Baltimore Comic-Con, but man--comics just keep getting better.

Now let's look at what I personally liked best from the world of graphic novels/collections in 2013:

10: Scene But Not Heard by Sam Henderson (Alternative Comics/Top Shelf Comics)

Sam Henderson is a new favorite of mine, and I'm shocked I hadn't encountered him before this year. In this collection, Henderson's work for Nickelodeon shines in its wordless glory, with lots of innovative panel breaking and visual gags that work for comics fans of any age. (Review here.)

9:  We Can Fix It by Jess Fink (Top Shelf Comics)

Another creator I came to appreciate in 2013, Fink creates an autobiography that uses the plot device of a time machine to interact with her past and uses it to teach her future self that sometimes things happen for a reason. Playful and sex-positive, this one shows not all autobio comics have to be depressing. (Review here.)

8:  A Matter of Life  by Jeffrey Brown (Top Shelf Comics)

A longtime favorite of Patter-ers Erica and I, Jeffrey returns to the style of comics that he was known for, before turning into a New York Times Bestseller for incredibly cute Star Wars books. This time, he's reflecting on his difficult relationship with religion, a subject very dear to my heart because his experience is quite similar to mine. With his craft never looking better and the responsibility of being a father handled with care, this is one of Brown's best. (Review here.)

7:  Gods & Undergrads Book 3 by Monica Gallagher (Self-Published)

A relationship comic mixed with Greek mythology? It's like Monica's writing this one just for me. Like Brown, Gallagher's art continues to improve with every volume, and this one has a lot of little touches on the page that strongly support the increasingly complex plot. (Review here.)

6: Kill All Monsters by Michael May and Jason Copland (Alterna Comics)

Like the entry just above it, this is a collection of a webcomic that basically hits all the right notes for me, in this case, giant monsters bashing the crap out of humanity. Far better than Pacific Rim, this kaiju-themed comic is a hit from the first set of stories, and I can't wait to see more. (Review here.)

5:  Colder by Paul Tobin and Juan Ferreyra (Dark Horse Comics)

It's really hard to do something different in a horror comic, but Tobin's concept really felt innovative to me, turning the nightmares of mental patients into a world of terror that can only be crossed by accessing their damaged brains. With Ferreyra's art going with the flow and bending the rules as needed to make incredibly details and disturbing visuals, this was one of my sleeper hits in 2013--and about as far from Tobin's Bandette as you can get! (Review here.)

4:  Monster on the Hill by Rob Harrell (Top Shelf Comics)

A true all-ages book, Monster on the Hill features a creature who can't be menacing enough for his town's tourism needs go on a quest (with the help of a few humans) to hone his craft. Unfortunately, in doing so, he's left his city free to any who seek to prey upon it. The idea of monster-as-kinda-sorta-hero was a nice touch, and Harrell's got a great sense of sarcastic wit that never goes over anyone's heads. Brilliantly colored and cleverly crafted, this makes me want more full-length work from the daily strip creator. (Review here.)

3:  A Boy and A Girl by Jamie S. Rich and Natalie Nourigat (Oni Press)

This book is exactly why I keep my favorites lists open until Christmas every year. Delayed from its original release date, this one won't get a lot of Best-of love, but it should. Rich blends the strengths of a relationship comic into the philosophical nature of what makes us human in a near future tale that delights as well as surprises, without a single gotcha moment. Meanwhile, Nourigat's art tells us so much about the world of the title characters, leaving Rich free to use his dialogue for other things. She changes styles as needed, using exaggeration in just the right places and showing a deep bench of creative influences. Oni Press might have reclaimed their Relationship Comics title belt with this one. (Review here.)

2:  Boxers and Saints by Gene Luen Yang (First Second)

The National Book Award finalist was well-deserved, as this pair of historical fiction stories interact with each other by looking at two sides of the Boxer Rebellion. From the script to clever coloring to aptly comparing Joan of Arc to the Opera Ghosts of Chinese culture, Yang does everything right here. Instead of picking a side, Yanh leaves it up to the reader, allowing the complexity of the two sides to show, warts and all. This is one of the best historical comics I've ever read, and I rarely use the world best. (Review here.)

1:  March Book 1 by Rep. John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell (Top Shelf Comics)

Top Shelf had an amazing 2013, topped by this major coup for the indie publisher. Civil Rights activist and sitting Congressman Lewis tells his story in flashbacks with the help of Powell's art setting just the right mood of fond nostalgia and terrible cruelty. Pulling no punches, Lewis tells us how it was, even as he continues his struggles for equality to this day, getting arrested for fighting for immigration reform. A comic once inspired Lewis, now he's returning the favor, in this graphic novel that is not only important but also very good, making it my favorite graphic novel of 2013. (Review here.)

Honorable Mentions: Battling Boy (First Second), 50 Girls 50 (Fantagraphics), Hip Hop Family Tree (Fantagraphics), Science A Discovery in Comics (NBM), and What You Don't Get (Self-Published)