Before we give 2013 its final sendoff, I’d like to thank all the members of the Thor crew for finding so many interesting things to say about comics this year, and for pointing me toward titles I’d otherwise have missed.

And if we have any readers out there thinking “Hell, I could do that!”… well, why not? Those of us who contribute regularly to this column can’t possibly cover everything worth reading (or, for that matter, everything that deserves to be slagged off), so we’d love to add a couple more writers to the crew.

If you’d be interested, go ahead and email me: jebdel@yahoo.com, and we’ll have you send along some writing samples.

 

The Year in Review: Adam X. Smith’s Best and Worst of 2013
By Adam X. Smith

Joy to the world and my bank account. The holiday season has come and gone, folks, so since there’s officially bugger all going on this week besides sleeping off hangovers and looking back on the recent past, I’ve decided to churn out what will probably be one of a slew of best/worst-of-year pieces coming out in the next week or so because apparently that’s what gets bums on seats at this time of the year. Yup, no sense doing something original in December or January – you’ll just get crowded out by a swath of festive and nostalgia-based programming. And whilst I could counterprogram against it, you know what – sod it, I need a good laugh. So here we go – my list in no particular order of the best and worst comics, companies and creatives in the industry for this year – the Raggies. Let’s get started with…

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Reason to Be Cheerful Part 3 AwardJL8 by Yale Stewart continues to be the one good thing to come out (semi-regularly) featuring the DC stable of characters. While Messrs Lee, Johns and Didio continue to put an emphasis on Image-esque grit and snarkiness to the detriment of everything else, and their parent company’s mismanagement of DC’s intellectual property is now extending to the people making cartoons based on them, Stewart – one artist, who does this strip for free on the internet for a relatively small but passionate audience – shows an understanding of humour, character and pathos that is unrivalled. And all this from a guy who is essentially making Peanuts with the Justice League instead of Snoopy and Charlie Brown. Now if only DC would do the smart thing and hire him like Marvel has done with Skottie Young. JL8 can be found on Facebook and Tumblr.

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I’m a Full Grown Man But I’m Not Afraid to Cry Award – It’s a rare privilege when you read something as a reviewer that genuinely moves you. Something Terrible by Dean Trippe is one such piece. In a world of sob-stories, this is one that genuinely hit home – a story of a young man trying to find closure after a traumatic childhood experience by escaping into the world of comics and pop culture. A condensed version can be found here and the full version can be purchased here for less than a dollar. Do yourself a favour and read it, and I guarantee you will have your heart broken and put back together. A print edition of Something Terrible is also currently getting Kickstarted here.

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Most Egregious Rip-Off Artist Award - Mark Millar has been working a long con for a while, and one that a lot of people seem to have fallen for. But not me, and no more. This isn’t even about Kick Ass 2 and Jupiter’s Legacy sucking, although God only knows that was bad enough. Every single time that I’ve given him a chance to impress me, he’s took a dump on my porch; the man is so crooked, so deeply and pathologically unhinged in his misogyny, misanthropy and general contempt for the human race that he needs to have his pants screwed on in the morning. For crawling so far up Fox and Matthew Vaughn’s arses you could call him a kidney stone, by leaching off Image Comics and Marvel’s Icon imprint to propagate his little ego empire Millarworld, by selling movie pitches instead of stories, and by insisting – all evidence to the contrary – that he is some sort of hot-shot insider among the Hollywood muckity-mucks – for all these reasons and more, I give Mark Millar the glowing endorsement of being the most smug, self-satisfied, talentless little hack to darken my doorway with his bullshit stories. Congratulations, Mark – you win the solid gold sledgehammer. Now rest your fat grinning head on this anvil and close your eyes.

Lesser of the Two Evils Award - As I mentioned above, it is very hard to credit DC with contributing anything to the industry this year other than driving away writers with their editorial policies, their handling of the Harley Quinn controversy*, the dwindling quality of their animated output and the dismantling and purging of Vertigo and Wildstorm that has turned them into ghost towns, satellite colonies, shadows of their former selves. Marvel, by comparison, is coming along leaps and bounds – largely due to the fact that they’re hoovering up all the good writers and artists that DC have dismissed, sued, disfranchised, blackballed, guillotined, run out, left in bulk, charged, hung, drawn or quartered, or needle-nardle-noo**. Granted, it’s still a little cookie-cutter, and the majority of the company crossovers still passed me by with nary a CaptainMarvel17_Finalcare, but you know what? When a title about Captain Marvel is one of your best regarded and progressive titles, when you’re actively trying to break DC’s grip on the graphic novel market, and when even titles that are at best mediocre (Superior Spider-Man, Avengers Arena) are providing something different from grim, spiky stories about human sides of beef hitting each other, then you’re doing something right in my book.

What was the big contribution DC made this year? “Well they had another big month-long event this September.” Oh really? Like the Zero Month from 2012 that I didn’t care about either? And what did that involve? “Well it was a Villains Month.” … And? What did that involve? What stories were there? “Well they took all the regular ongoing series, crossed out their names and made them number one issues for villains.” Umm… that’s not a story really, is it? That’s just a gimmick to sell more comics. “It is?” Yes. “Oh. Fuck. Wait! Don’t go! There’s more!” I’m listening. “Right… um… they retold the origins of some of DC’s greatest villains…” I don’t want to read the millionth fucking origin story of the Joker or Two-Face or the Masturbator. What’s so special about these? “Um… 3-D covers? That way DC can charge extra.” Ugh… Goodbye. “Wait! Come back! They have some really good writers and artists! Like… um… Hang on. Geoff? Dan? Who have we still got under contract?” So yeah. For now, I’m a Marvel guy. Don’t act surprised.

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Writer To Watch - Gerry Duggan (Deadpool, Nova)

Artist To Watch – Sean Murphy (The Wake, Punk Rock Jesus)

Best Independent Stable - Avatar Press (Caligula, Fashion Beast, Doktor Sleepless, FreakAngels)

Best Limited Series - Willow: Wonderland by Jeff Parker, Christos Gage and Brian Ching

Best Extant Ongoing Series - Ultimate Comics: Spider-Man by Brian Michael Bendis and Sara Picelli.

Best New Ongoing SeriesBrain Boy by Fred Van Lente and R.B. Silva.

Best Graphic Novel(s) - Avengers: Endless Wartime by Warren Ellis and Mike McKone leaguenemo_lgHellboy: The Midnight Circus by Mike Mignola and Duncan Fedrego.

Nemo: Heart of Ice by Alan Moore and Kevin O’Neill.

Best One-Shot - Multiple Warheads by Brandon Graham. That concludes my list of things that happened in the comic industry this past year. Happy 2014, everybody. Now go away.

*QED, my open letter to DC from last year for the whole miserable story of how DC managed to alienate me enough to not read or buy their books for a year.

**Ask a British person who’s over 40. Or Google.

 


Devon Bids 2013 a Fond Sort of Farewell
By Devon Sanders

FAVORITE WRITER: JONATHAN HICKMAN eastofwest_7-1

Within his creator-owned work, he brought us East Of West, a comic where the salvation of the United States rests upon the re-forming of The Four Horsemen of The Apocalypse. Heady stuff but in the hands of Hickman, it’s a fantastic geo-political thriller wrapped up in a spaghetti western. In 2013, Jonathan Hickman wrote Marvel’s flagship title, The Avengers and its sister title, New Avengers. Over a year into both and the big reveal was that it all was prelude to Marvel’s big event, Infinity. I should’ve been pissed but the execution of it all was pretty spectacular. Within the pages of Infinity, Hickman did what hadn’t been done in the pages of a big company-wide crossover, he actually moved the pieces around. Infinity ended with an Avengers victory and a celebration following The Earth’s Mightiest Heroes’ saving the universe. Elsewhere, the shadow organization, The New Avengers, knew the victory would be short-lived and that the universe was in more danger than ever.

FAVORITE MOMENT OF 2013: THOR THROWS HIS HAMMER AND IT IS GLORIOUS

On the comics page, Thor throws his hammer, Mjolnir. It’s simply what he does. Under Hickman, it becomes a prayer. “Hear me, Father. Am I worthy? If so, may I find your favor this day… see my heart and not just my hand.” With that Mjolnir is tossed into sky, blessed somewhere around the sun and… thortummy

BEST COMIC OF 2013: BATTLING BOY battling-boy-cover It’s just so damned good; 13 year old god takes on a world filled with monsters and mayhem. Paul Pope’s has been talking it up for years and it was worth all of the wait and then some.

THE DC IMPLOSION This was the year I gave up on DC Comics. This is sort of a big thing for me as for nearly four years I wrote a blog devoted to my love of all things “DC”. For decades, I adored this thing it had taken creators nearly 80 years to build. I loved the inter-connectivity of this world; that some thing or some hero from so long ago could still have an impact on the events of the day. In short, DC Comics felt like a place of legacy and two years ago, it was just sort of thrown away. DC rebooted their universe and called it “The New 52″ in an attempt to grab new readership. Unfortunately, in this grab for new readers, they left me behind. Gone was the accessibility that I came to enjoy. Interconnectivity was attempted but in a landscape where very little to nothing was established. bat_1The DC Comics of today is known more for creator being fired via email, creatives quitting due lack of clear direction from editorial, massive title cancellations, gimmicks that contribute little to nothing to story and capricious executives who seem to write it all off as “business”.in a landscape where very little to nothing was established.   I tried. I did. I stuck with Batman but I’m sorry to say, it’s gotten boring. Two years into Batman and basically only three protracted stories have been told within its pages. Chalk my discontent with DC up to me not being their new target audience or whatever but in these past two years, they’ve trained me well to look elsewhere for comics I like reading. That said…

PUBLISHER OF THE YEAR: IMAGE COMICS In the month of October, Image released three books I hope will be around for a very long while, Ed Brubaker and velvetSteve Epting’s Velvet, Kelly Sue DeConnick and Emma Rios’ Pretty Deadly and Amy Reeder and Brandon Montclaire’s Rocket Girl. The fact that three comics starring strong female leads wasn’t lost on this reader. The fact that it wasn’t trumpeted as an woman-centric event said more to who Image is as a publisher more than anything. They simply want there to be better comics on the stands. Image plays a huge part in making that happen with other creator owned books as Eric Stephenson’s Nowhere Men, Greg Rucka and Michael Lark’s Lazarus, Rick Remender’s Black Science and the upcoming Deadly Class. Image rapidly is becoming the publisher people are watching going into 2014.

 


What Did We Learn in The Comics This Year, Jeb?
By Jeb D.

My 2013 comics reading wasn’t as wide-ranging as I’d have liked, largely because many of the titles on my 2012 pull list remained so compelling this year that there was less time and money for adding new stuff (and following the fracturing of the Batwoman team, if DC has anything readable outside of the Vertigo books, I simply don’t have the resources to go looking for it, though a few issues of their best-reviewed title, Wonder Woman, left me with a bit of a shrug). As a result, I certainly can’t pretend that my personal faves represent anything like the full range of what’s out there, so here’s my ragged sort of sum-up. An asterisk means it was also on my Top Ten for 2012.

 

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 Astro City (Vertigo) It’s unfortunate that Kurt Busiek’s health issues have made this series’ appearances so sporadic  over the years, but it does keep the “slice of daily lives in a superhero universe” concept fresh when it does reappear. This latest incarnation is balancing evocative and incisive 1- and 2-issue character pieces with some table-setting for the upcoming year’s worth of stories, which Busiek says are ready to go. It continues to astonish me that Busiek can continue to mine Silver and Marvel Age concepts for memorable characters and plots that feel both comfortably familiar and cleverly innovative: I doubt that any other comics writer working today could have come up with both Americ an Chibi and Mister Cakewalk; I love the concept of an inbound call center for superhero distress calls; and I demand more adventures with Miss Progress, and the Blasphemy Boys. The team of Busiek, Brent Anderson, and Alex Ross (with colorist Alex Sinclair) bring an almost (?) unprecedented consistency to the third decade (!) of Astro City, with no sign of their collective imagination flagging.

 

Empowered (Dark Horse) It’s starting to look as though Adam Warren’s using the occasional Empowered Empowered Volume 8-001color “Specials” (like this year’s hilarious Animal Style) to concentrate on the genre parody and silliness, while focusing the main black-and-white volumes on deeper, more personal explorations of Emp and her supporting cast. Volume 8’s story of our peril-prone heroine and Sistah Spooky risking the literal fires of hell out of the bonds (so to speak) of friendship is Warren’s most tightly-plotted and emotionally resonant book in the series yet, and it manages to blend both a fully satisfying pair of stories with some great scene-setting for the next installment. And don’t get me wrong, it’s also damned funny.   

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The Fifth Beatle: The Brian Epstein Story (Dark Horse) I tend to lag behind on my OGN reading, since I usually have to wait till the library gets them (and I have hold requests in on Battling Boy, Boxers and Saints, and a few others I hope to get hold of soon, while Chris Ware remains on the Amazon wish list), but I had to spring for this one, and in some ways it’s even better than I’d anticipated. You’d expect a biography of the Beatles’ tormented young manager, gay in a world where to even admit such was a crime, to be a script-driven comic, but while writer Vivek Tiwary’s portrayal of Epstein and his world is a vivid one, it’s the filmic art by Andrew C. Robinson (with a couple of amusing interludes from Kyle Baker) that makes this such a compelling read.  

 

 

 

*FF / Journey Into Mystery (Marvel) Both these titles made my list last year under different creative teams, and Journey Into Mystery 655-000continued to flourish (briefly, in the case of JIM) with brand-new directions in 2013. Taking over FF from Jonathan Hickman, Matt Fraction is one of those writers who always feels completely in synch with the stylistic strengths of his artists, and art the team of Mike and Laura Allred, with writer Matt Fraction, gave the “new” FF the kind of pop-art frisson that perfectly illustrated the plight of a super-team as perplexed about their roles in life as any of their readers. Journey Into Mystery, of course, shifted Kieron Gillen’s Kid Loki saga over to Young Avengers last year, and gave way this year to a highly entertaining mix of sass and swashbuckling, with writer Kathryn Immonen and artist Valerio Schiti bringing Lady Sif front and center for Asgardian action that was at least as engaging as Jason Aaron’s Thor, but more fun, and more poignant. Immonen remains the most underappreciated and underutilized writer in superhero comics today, and you’d have thought a Marvel Now! relaunch would tie in nicely with Sif’s role in Thor: The Dark World. Guess that’s why I’m not in their marketing department.

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*Hawkeye (Marvel) Not much to add to what I, and others, have written about this wonderful book, save to note that it was every bit as strong in its second year as its first, and the decision to alternate focus between the David Aja-illustrated Clint Barton issues, and the Javier Pulido / Annie Wu-pencilled Kate Bishop issues, is almost like having two brilliant Matt Fraction titles for the price of one. And, yes, Hawkeye #11 was unquestionably the single issue of the year.

 

*The Manhattan Projects (Image) / Mind MGMT (Dark Horse) / Rachel Rising (Abstract Studio) I’m grouping these titles from my 2012 list together in the category of comics Rachel Rising 015-000whose mystery plots deepened satisfyingly in 2013, but which really need to be read from the beginning, or in trade collections. Of the three, Manhattan Projects is Jonathan Hickman without the brakes (side note: the structural integrity he brought to the typically ludicrous multi-title crossover in this year’s Infinity was damned impressive), Matt Kindt’s Mind MGMT is maybe the most fun you can have holding an actual comic in your hand these days, and Rachel Rising, besides being wonderfully black-humored horror, continues to defy belief with the degree to which a veteran artist like Terry Moore can continue to develop and refine his style.

 

Sex Criminals (Image) Sex Criminals 001 (2013) (Digital) (Darkness-Empire) 001I list below some new comics whose potential, based on just a few issues so far, is strong. But only three issues in, Matt Fraction (him again)’s Sex Criminals has already established itself as a piece of comic greatness: funny, wise, audacious, perceptive, inventive… and appropriately dirty, in the sense that Woody Allen understands the term, where the doctor asks if he feels sex is dirty, and Allen replies “It is if you’re doing it right.” I was vaguely aware of the name of commercial artist Chip Zdarsky before, but was absolutely gobsmacked to discover that this is pretty much his first go at sequential work. My favorite new comic series for 2013.

 

Superior Spider-Man (Marvel) Spider-Man has had more than his share of dire “game-changing” storylines in the Superior Spider-Man 011-000past (Clone Saga, Sins Past, One More Day, etc.), so I completely sympathize with anyone who figured this was just one more dreadful gimmick and skipped it. I can also understand those who miss the “comfort food” of the familiar Spidey status quo. But Dan Slott (with art primarily from Humberto Ramos) has somehow managed to make the Otto Ocatvius Spider-Man a fully realized character without betraying the concept of a supervillain deciding he can do the whole hero thing better than his predecessor (they even almost made me not hate the return of Venom to the series). The book is funny, well-plotted, has one of the most interesting romantic pairings in modern comics, and has featured some genuine surprises, none more satisfying than Slott’s refusal to use the reset button that he faked us out with: the “spirit” of Peter Parker that could have quickly returned things back to normal was dispensed with early on, and the solicitations for 2014 actually make you half wonder if they’re going to restore Peter in time for the next movie. And props, too, to the continued strength of Bendis/Picelli’s Ultimate Comics Spider-Man.

The Superior Foes of Spider-Man 001 (2013) (Digital) (Darkness-Empire) 001The Superior Foes of Spider-Man (Marvel) No matter how dubious you may be of the praise I lavished on Superior Spider-Man, you can consider Superior Foes on its own: this book has virtually nothing to do with the Superior Spider-Man title, save the fact that the low-rent supervillains in it have had their heads handed to them by Spidey more than once. Reading like a fresh, funny, emotionally honest mashup of Ed Brubaker, David Chase, and Elmore Leonard, Nick Spencer and Steve Lieber’s first story arc was a heist caper that had a level of wit, characterization, and engaging plotting that any superhero team book would envy. The second, just underway in issue 7 (with artist Rich Ellis), shifts perspective to show us the challenges involved in a woman’s breaking the glass ceiling of super-crime, and promises to be just as much fun, without repeating itself.    

 

 

Uber (Avatar) I’d be kind of interested to see what this book might look like from a different publisher, as Kieron Uber 003 (2013) (1920px) (Darkness-Empire) 001Gillen’s determination to show the horrors of war allows artist Canaan White to slip a bit too easily into the blood-soaked Avatar house style: having World War 2 look so much like Black Summer or Supergod is almost like starting off at second base. Having said that, Gillen’s scripting is a fantastically involving, and unusually credible, variation on the notion of science-based superpowers cropping up among the Axis and Allies. Its shifting locales means that there’s less time for individual character development among the diffuse cast, but his quick sketches of the Nazi functionaries who shepherd the Panzermensch project, and his dark portrayal of Winston Churchill, form a strong central core, even when they’re offstage. A truly disturbing book, just as Gillen intends.   

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Young Avengers (Marvel) Like Hawkeye and FF, Young Avengers is a superhero book told with a style we associate with more indie-minded creator-owned work. Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie and Mike Norton make this more than just Phonogram-in-spandex, and like Mind MGMT, it’s a comic that’s a joy to hold and play with, as much as to read. I’m sorry it’s ending, but unlike, say, Journey Into Mystery, I’m not left with a feeling of a job unfinished: Kid Loki’s transition into Tom Hiddleston will, I suspect, prove to be the best cross-pollination so far between the Marvel movie and comic verses.

 

In addition, many titles that just missed last year’s list (including Daredevil, Fatale, The Unwritten, Private Eye, the various Hellboy and Baltimore releases, and Captain Marvel) also gave much pleasure in 2013.  

 

Early Returns are Strong

A Voice In the Dark 001 (2013) (Digital) (Darkness-Empire) 001 Near the end of the year, there was an explosion of new books, largely from Image, that, on the basis of just an issue or two, look very promising, including Black Science, Letter 44, Pretty Deadly, Rat Queens, Sandman: Overture (duh), and A Voice In the Dark. Won’t surprise me to see some of these make my best of 2014 list.

I’d also be remiss if I didn’t mention the eyefuck that is Geoff Darrow’s Shaolin Cowboy: I might have enjoyed it more if I were more familiar with the character and backstory, but I can’t deny that it’s an artistic achievement.

And I do need to take another run at Saga someday.

 

 

 

 


Wringing Out The Old Whilst Ringing In The New, 2013 In Review
by Graig Kent

What stands out most for 2013 is the absolute surge of creator-owned work in the Mainstream. Though the big names of the industry can still be found working for DC and Marvel, more and more they’re also capitalizing on their names by doing work outside the major superhero universes, and getting readers to follow them in astounding measure. Image Comics, if it isn’t already, is poised to be sitting equal with DC and Marvel, but not by competing with tights and capes, but by letting creators follow a vision, not a corporate edict. Smaller publishers like Boom, Dark Horse, Oni, and others that have been in the creator-owned game for years are adding increased focus to it, and Marvel and DC are trying to no lose out on their best talent by offering their works a home with Icon and Vertigo. That’s not to say that superheroes are dead, not by a long shot. If anything they’re finally accepted as viable mainstream entertainment, but with added exposure through television and cinema, the focus has shifted from telling great stories to protecting brands and marks. This has left the door open for other heroic ventures to resurge and revitalize, like Valiant, Dark Horse Heroes, Dynamite’s pulp figures and IDW’s licensed properties. Beyond the doors of the direct market, digital comics are seeing record numbers in output, original content, free content and monies paid. Likewise Kickstarter and Indiegogo are becoming hot launching points for new talent, and equally popular landing pads for established creators to get new work funded and distributed. 2014 will only see these areas grow. As for the content itself, well, there have been more incredible comics by volume than perhaps any other year.

Here are some Mainstream highlights from my perspective:

storm_dogsImage Comics: with an outstanding 2012 even bested themselves in 2013 with a seemingly endless swath of new and amazing creator-owned books, Sex Criminals by Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky had perhaps the brightest debut of them all. Lazarus by Greg Rucka and Michael Lark envisions a very unsettling yet ass-kicking dystopian future that’s pure fiction yet grounded in the economy of today. Unsung heroes of the year: Storm Dogs by David Hine and Doug Braithwaite and Think Tank by Matt Hawkins and Rashan Ekedal. Read these books so we can get more. Of course there’s also Saga, Velvet, The Manhattan Projects, East Of West, Nowhere Men and so many others all worth your time.

Marvel Comics: in the wake of two very successful cinematic sequels, and a quartet of hotly anticipated features in 2014 (and shame about their underperforming television programs though), Marvel has still managed to keep their comics a viable entity on their own. Creators have largely been allowed to create, and the editorial side has been about containment, having events but also recognizing maybe everyone doesn’t want to be part of it. That a book like Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie’s Young Avengers came to fruition, gaining immense on-line popularity with honest and complex characters, pushing the boundaries of storytelling design and just being rad all around, is a testament to what Marvel is doing right. That’s aa1not to say that all their output is a success, but when even a seemingly derivative and fan baiting series like Avengers Arena by Dennis Hopeless and Kev Walker can pull itself into being one of the most entertaining, gripping and endearing books in the line is fascinating. Both of these series were born with intended limited lifespans, both running just over a full year, and the success of this “season” formula seems like something Marvel is intending to exploit in the coming years, with a lot of relaunches slated for 2014. It’s quite possibly a revolution for superhero comics in the making.

DC Comics: few publishers deserve less focus on the “best of” lists for the 2013 year end. DC Comics has driven even their most die hard supporters mad over the past year, yet they’re still selling comics and the New 52, 2+ years in, seems to have claimed a whole new batch of DC readers, as intended, but the net gain seems about even overall. Their best titles are written by the creators with enough weight to have minimal editorial interference, but that leaves far too much of their line is smallville-19-1driven from the top down. Wonder Woman by Brian Azzarello and Cliff Chiang is the best the title and the character has had in half a decade and is already near, if not the top of the best runs on the character in her 75 year history. Meanwhile, outside of the DC Universe, Smallville Season 11 by Brian Q. Miller (and various artists) has continued to present an alternate version of the DC Universe that is immeasurably more enjoyable than that featured in nearly 50 other titles. Miller reinvents characters by honoring their past but making them work in a completely different context (that being both a modern context and in the context of the TV show). Unsung heroes are the two Jeff Lemire-written titles, Animal Man (with Steve Pugh and various) and Green Arrow (with Andrea Sorrentino), carving their own little pockets in a troubled universe.

Notables from Other Publishers:

IDW continues to thrive on the backs of licensed properties, with G.I. Joe, My Little Pony, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Star Trek and Doctor Who, among others, all finding a bevy of creators doling ThunderAgents01-cvrAout stories that can at times rival their other media counterparts. It’s the new wave of Cartoon Network-based kids books – Powerpuff Girls by Troy Little and Samurai Jack by Jim Zub and Andy Suriano – that is most exciting. Likewise, T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents by Phil Hester and Andrea De Vito may well be the quintessential superhero comic book on the stands today.

Dark Horse has successfully revived their heroes and built new ones, while still continuing to provide excellence in both licensed properties and creator-focussed books. The latter is never more apparent than in the highly experimental but utterly captivating MIND MGMT by Matt Kindt. The-Sixth-Gun_Sons-of-the-Gun_2

Oni Press continues to release a small slate of books, with largely solid output, but it seems that The Sixth Gun (by Cullen Bunn and Brian Hurtt has gotten lost in the conversation of the best books on the stands, and it deserves to be there, and it spawned an off-shoot mini-series by Bunn and Brian Churilla that is a must-have companion.

In the digital realm, there have been a lot of surprises, with Monkeybrain and Thrillbent being some of the bigger and more dependable content providers. But one must not forget the vast realm of online comics, where Yale Stewart’s totally-safe-for-kids-and-everyone JL8 re-envisions the Justice League as 8-year-olds, and the totally not-safe-for-work-or-the-prudish sex farce Oglaf by Trudy Cooper and Doug Bayne co-exist in awesomeness.

Welcome 2014, you have some big shoes to fill.