The Pull List: Top 12 Comics of 2012
Trying to do a top 10 list can sometimes be a tedious thing. Its hard cutting something that you know should get some recognition even though its not better than 10 other things. And then for some reason, if it is more than 10, I still feel like it should be multiples of 5. 15 was too many though, so here it is at 12. 12 comics for ’12, worked out nicely.
SPOILERS SPOILER YE BE WARNED!!!!
12. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
Kevin Eastman, one of the original creators of the Turtles, helps bring them back to the colored page in this IDW published on-going series. Since their first appearance in comics over 20 years ago, the Turtles have reached the height of pop culture zeitgeist pretty quickly. They have had resurgences every so often, but none cut to the core of the Turtles like this book does. This is like Christoper Nolan’s Ninja Turtles, going as far to address why the originally all wore red bandannas. This was about looking back over the entire shelf life of these characters figuring out what worked and what didn’t and mash them up so that they can be their absolute best version.
11. The Punisher
The Punisher can be a tough nut to crack. Just ask Hollywood. It isn’t enough to just depict a very stoic man dishing out brutal justice. Greg Rucka decides to surround The Punisher with characters who would carry the narrative function and emotional depth of the story allowing for The Punisher to JUST be The Punisher. The main character is Rachel Cole, former marine widowed during her wedding reception by a gang call The Exchange. Over the course of the book, Frank teams up with Spidey and Daredevil and is followed by a pair of detectives that mirror Brad Pitt and Morgan Freeman from Se7en. Best of all, Rucka holds a mirror up to Frank through Rachel Cole’s own pursuit of punishment. This spins off into Punisher: War Zone, where Spidey convinces the Avengers that they have let Frank operate for far too long.
The Hawkeye book is in its infancy with only 6 issues currently published, but this new on-going from the Immortal Iron Fist creative team (Matt Fraction and David Aja), plucks the Avenger from the big sprawling adventures and drops him into the mean streets of the Marvel Knights corner of the universe. He strikes up a friendship with his Young Avengers equivalent, Kate Bishop, where the thin line between Clint’s sarcastic, bull-headed exterior and his innate drive to be a hero. Fraction and Aja are clearly having a ball crafting the book as it is so fun to read and look at. Easily one of the books I look forward to reading everytime there’s a new issue.
9. Uncanny X-Force
This is one book I do not want to say goodbye too. With series writer Rick Remender going on to write Captain America, the book is spinning off in a new direction with Psylocke as its leader. This title had Wolverine leading Psylocke, Arcangel, Deadpool, and Fantomex against the forces of Apocalypse. There are a few detours like the team trying to save Fantomex from the Britain Corps and finding themselves up against an amry of Deathlok’s. Nevertheless Apocalypse’s ugly head was never too far behind this group ready to strike. Unlike its predecessor, which seemed like a chance to get some kill-friendly character a book where it was okay to kill, Remender really establishes sorrow and regret in these killer characters as they voluntarily shoulder the weight of their decisions so no one else has to.
Fairest is a spinoff from the very popular Vertigo title, Fables. This one is much more interested in the histories and secrets of the many princesses that are considered “Fables.” The first arc involved Ali Baba finds himself in a love triangle with Briar Rose, aka Sleeping Beauty, and the Snow Queen. Along for the ride is the spritely genie who for some reason I read in the voice of Joe Pesci. It was followed up with a neat noir tale where Beauty proves to have a little beast inside of her as well, as her boyfriend, The Beast, plays gumshoe trying to find her before St. George, the monster hunter, gets to her first. The newest story arc with Rapunzel is actually starting to lose me, but given the structure is makes it like a Fables Presents… (like DC Presents…), the potential for great self-contained stories is high.
7. Winter Soldier
Ed Brubaker returns to a character he created (sort of). Bucky has been a long-standing character, but his transformation into the Winter Soldier is one of the best character evolutions superhero comics have ever dealt with. I would never have guessed that the resurrection of a character who technically shouldn’t have been resurrected would amount to so much quality storytelling. Brubaker sinks his teeth into the mythology of the Winter Soldier digging up other members of the cyro-sleep Cold War assassin squad who are taking it really personally that their former mentor and trainer is gunning for them. At Bucky’s side is his girlfriend, Black Widow, who knows a thing or two about being brainwashed and forced into espionage. Brubaker might be leaving with issue #14, but he has already accomplished some really awesome storytelling with Winter Soldier.
6. Thief of Thieves
Thief of Thieves is Robert Kirkman’s (writer of Invincible and The Walking Dead) new writing experiment. Having worked with the writing staff for The Walking Dead tv show, he loved the idea of using a team of writers where one of the team would be the primary writer, but they would work on the general stuff together. So far, so good. Thief of Thieves is a really fantastic read. The panels are widescreen and has a lot of cinematic qualities. The dialog is based on a less is more. The art looks like it should be on the cover of a gritty paperback detective novel. It kind of reminds me of Mad Men, if Mad Men was about thieves instead of ad execs. The fact that the main guy looks a little like Jon Hamm certainly helps. In fact, AMC has already optioned it as a tv series.
Have you ever heard of the term “Bat-god?” It is the term that many people use to describe the Batman’s omniscience as far as being prepared for anything. Batman can also seem to go up against the same baddies that give Superman and Wonder Woman trouble with ease. Christopher Nolan saw that what makes Batman truly interesting is his humanity. That he has no superpowers to rely on. Writer Scott Snyder knows that two. He has put Batman through the ringer since the new 52 reboot. Batman has suffered physical and psychological torture at the hands of the Court of Owls and The Joker, who is more demented than ever. Its life and death situations around every corner and none of it is easy for Batman to overcome. Before Snyder took over, I wouldn’t have said the Bat-books needs an overhaul, but Snyder took it in a direction that I didn’t even know I was missing.
4. Underwater Welder
Underwater Welder is a graphic novel that comes to us from DC Comics’ Jeff Lemire. It is the story of a Jake Joseph who is obsessed with the water. He is employed as a welder for underwater pipes from an oil rig. He is also a husband and expectant father, as well as the son of an absentee father who died one Halloween. His father was an underwater treasure seeker, and this has sparked Jake’s fascination with the water. One day, he sees something in the water that draws his attention to a pocket watch that was once salvaged from the sea floor by his father. This starts a series events that puts Jake on a surreal existential adventure. This one is a must read for any sci-fi/fantasy fans. I literally could not put it down. Despite how surreal it is, it is surprisingly simple yet never not engaging. It is one of the more original works I have read in a long time.
3. Wonder Woman
Wonder Woman has had a lot of controversy since rebooted by Brian Azzarello. Gone are the peace-loving feminist warrior women DC always portrayed them as. In their place are a tribe that time forgot who seduced sailors to become pregnant and sacrificed all their male children to keep their ranks completely female. Something I guess is much more like the Amazons of actual myth. In fact, Azzarello has no qualms about showing the gods and monsters for what they truly are. What makes it work is that this isn’t just a revelation for us readers. It is new information for Diana as well. The whole book she is trying to come to terms with the horrors of her background and her desire to be a hero. She is attacked by monsters of all kinds. She also comes face to face with the members of the Greek pantheon that are brilliantly interpreted by Cliff Chiang.
2. Animal Man/Swamp Thing
It is impossible to talk about one of these title, without the other. The machinations of either story have been leading up to a grander epic where both heroes will stand in the way of the embodiment of death and decay, known as The Rot. Writers Jeff Lemire and Scott Snyder have attacked these books like Alan Moore and Grant Morrison would (funny, because both of those writers also worked on these titles). They reach back into the older issues of these heroes and repurpose their long standing myths. They also represent what I like the most about the new 52. For some reason, DC Comics has decided to focus on running their usual superhero fare through a horror filter. And in my opinion, it is working like gangbusters.
By far, the best series that I have read this year is Saga, brought to us by Brian K. Vaughn, the mind behind the brilliant Y: The Last Man. It stars 2 star-crossed lovers (literally) as their 2 races go to war. They become war criminals for their love and try to escape with their new born baby. This baby is also narrating the story presumably as an adult. Having the narrator being the child telling the story about how her parents met and ran away together makes its insightful in a very unique way. A way I do not think I have ever really seen before. Vaughn also has no problem being crude and modern when it comes to dialog and slang. It isn’t like Star Wars in the way that everyone but Han Solo sounded very proper in an Arthurian way. Instead, everyone sounds like Han Solo.