The Pull List: Top 20 Comics of 2013
The Young Avengers has a weird publication history. It seems that they can never stay together for more than a mission, which is too bad because I like the characters together. Marvel actually likes the way it works out: that they go through these miniseries every so often. This one in particular was pretty cool. Wiccan tries to fix Hulking’s parenting problem by bringing his mother back from the dead. Instead, he unleashes an interdimensional parasite that takes the from of all the Young Avengers’ parents. They team with new recruits Kid Loki, Ms. America, Noh-Var, and former mutant, Prodigy. No Patriot though which I thought was weird. I felt like I was missing something. Like something had happened in a book I didn’t read to put him on the bench.
19. Batman, Incorporated
Grant Morrison was convinced that people would not like the ending of Batman Incorporated, which would see the end of his Batman epic that started in 2006. Fortunately, people seemed to dig. I sure did. I was actually expecting something more dramatic. Something bigger and more epic, but there is something always satisfying about an adventure that reminds Bruce Wayne that he can literally never stop being Batman, no matter how many times it is rehashed.
18. All-New X-Men
I expected this series to be a disaster. The original 5 X-Men are retrieved from the past by present-day Beast as some kind of Hail Mary play at knocking sense into Cyclops. Time travel has kind of become a curse word in comics, especially since Wolverine thoroughly screwed the timestream during the Age of Ultron event. To risk it again is like when they bring too many characters back from the dead in a row. You just instinctively roll your eyes. It has proved to be a big character building moment though. Seeing these kids who were on the cusp of Mutant Civil Rights to flash forward a few decades and realize that nothing has gotten that much better has been really satisfying, not to mention how the appearance of the long dead and often memorialized Jean Grey has complicated a number of characters emotions.
17 FBP: Federal Bureau of Physics
Originally called Collider, FBP is about a new branch of law-enforcement that investigates the breaking of the laws of physics. There doesn’t seem to be a big bad yet (although there is some conspiracy if you read between the lines). These are mostly random phenomenon that some gung-ho science whizzes try to diffuse before people get hurt. The gung-ho whizzes are more like physicist Indiana Joneses, blue-collar men of action rather than stuffy lab rats. Plus,as you can see form the image, the visuals are wild.
Deadpool is my favorite character of all time, but his previous solo wasn’t the best. They just kind of missed the boat on what makes Deadpool great. Hint: its the moments of self-realization and clarity between the long bouts of insanity. Its what made Joe Kelly’s runs great, and it’s why this one is great too. Adding stand up comedian, Brian Posehn, as co-writer was an inspired choice. They just finished up a great story where Deadpool took the fight to the Weapon Plus Program with the help of fellow Weapon Plus alums Wolverine and Captain America. The trio made for interesting chemistry, one where Deadpool wasn’t immediately short changed for being “THAT GUY.” The cherry on top are some very fun one-shot “lost’ adventures with Deadpool in different eras: enabling Iron Man’s booze habit in the 80s, teaming up with Heroes for Hire in the 70s, and getting all Kirby-cosmic with Black Panther in the 60s.
15. Fearless Defenders
This is one of my favorite new books this year, but it is sadly also seeing its end. Valkyrie is tasked with finding replacement shieldmaidens to protect Midgard, but she isn’t settling on members. Instead she creates the new Defenders, with the help of Misty Knight, a team of all females to pick up the slack until Val can find those destined to be shieldmaidens. In an industry often criticized for not having enough female presence, this was a highlight. It had well-rounded characters with great camaraderie and plenty of mystery and action. Sadly, this book maybe represents “women in comics” too well, because just like a lot of female driven books (or at least the fear behind publishing them) it didn’t sell. 😦
Jeff Lemire has been one of DC’s golden boys since the New 52 started. He has brought the weirdness out in Animal Man and the pulp/kung-fu hero out of Green Arrow (more on that later), and for Vertigo, he brought these 2 lovers together. One is a WWI vet exploring the lost Incan temples in Peru. The other is a botanist researching a strange flower on the other side of the galaxy in the year 3797. They find themselves connected through this ruin that seems to be in 2 different spots in the universe which bridges the time and distance gap. It is an interesting marriage of romance and science fiction that is pushing boundaries when it comes to the structure of the medium.
Although when it comes to the “FF” in the Marvel Universe, it usually refers to the Fantastic Four, it is actually referring to the Future Foundation. Created by Mr. Fantastic, it serves as one part think tank, one part academy. With the actual Fantastic Four off world, a new team was put in charge consisting of Medusa of the Inhumans, She-Hulk, some pop-star the Johnny Storm slept with right before he left, and the newly resurrected Ant-Man. It is a book that has not been really focused on the usual superhero adventurism although it feels like it is finally building to a big showdown with Doom the Annihlating Conqueror (yes, a 3-way combo of some of Marvel’s most threatening villains). The book has been focused more on the social science side of sci-fi (ethics and what-not) and strong character development especially when it comes to the grieving Ant-Man and Marvel’s next generation of super-scientists under his watch.
12. Uncanny Avengers
Rick Remender’s Uncanny Avengers is essentially a sequel to his incredible Uncanny X-Force, one of last year’s best books. The Uncanny Avengers, which is an Avengers/X-Men co-op led by Havok on Captain America’s order. It was off to a rough start blurring the lines between Avengers threats and X-Men threats in a really cheesy way, but the book really picked up steam when the children of Apocalypse (or more specifically the children of Warren Worthington III when he was the host for Apocalypse back in Uncanny X-Force) try to take over the world.
11. The Superior Foes of Spider-Man
Superior Spider-Man has been a surprisingly entertaining concept that for my money is starting to wear out its welcome. Although, for every annoying out-of-character moment for Spidey, there is an interesting universe building concept. Like Goblin Nation. Or Agent Venom. Or these guys, The Superior Foes of Spider-Man. Boomerang, now officially done with his Thunderbolt parole schtick, tries to put back together the Sinister Six…….but with only 5 people. Always keep ’em guessing, Boomer is thinking. Unfortunately between Beetle’s arrogance, Shocker’s insecurity, and Speed Demon’s laziness, Boomer doesn’t really have himself the crack team he wishes he did. It is like Ocean’s 11 meets It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. Another book that is proving that Marvel is reinvigorating their brand by making the superheroism (or villainy I guess) smaller scale and putting more focus on interesting character stories.
Jonathan Hickman can sometimes be a hard writer to read. I have started and stopped Nightly News and Transhuman dozens of times. But I love his version of SHIELD. On a separate note, you should totally check out his SHIELD if you get a chance. Hickman brought his out-there sci-fi creative juices to the Avengers in a big, bad way. He made the team really big, introduced some major cosmic threats and re-introduced some “New Universe” characters. Pair this up with New Avengers and you get a great one-two punch of the Marvel universe, the big battlefield stuff in this book, and NA‘s behind the scenes superhero politicks.
9. Thor: God of Thunder
The current Malketh storyline is kind of dull, sorry to say, but what came before it was so awesome. Our Thor, that is to say present day Thor, travels to another planet after hearing their prayers. He finds their “assigned” (for lack of a better word) gods dead thanks to the God-Butcher, a once devout member of an alien race who turned on belief and godliness as a concept. Thor also runs into him as his young arrogant self in the past and as his Odin-esque older self in the future. Eventually, all 3 team up to take him on. Come on! How awesome is that?!
8. The Wake
The Wake is the sci-fi action thriller book that has kept Scott Snyder so busy that he had to put American Vampires on hiatus (well, this and Batman of course). It stars a motley crew (aren’t they always) of scientists and explorers brought together to investigate a strange noise recorded in the dark depths of the oceans. This is when it gets interesting. They find a piranha faced merman who is only one of many. They refer to him as a “raindrop,” a term I have never heard of but kind of love. It refers to a real natural phenomenon that hasn’t been accurately studied and thus is the key to the different but too similar to be coincidence legends from around the world.
7. Wonder Woman
Wonder Woman was much higher on my list last year. It’s fall has nothing to do with any fall in quality. In fact, it remains one of DC’s most exciting and most consistent books in the market. Part of that recipe is that it is ignoring the DC universe at large. No Superman make-out sessions. No Justice League entanglements. Just some good old fashioned Greek mythology aged into the modern day. Diana lost some friends, found some new ones, and ended up earning her godhood. Damn! How ’bout that?
6. Green Arrow
Like I said earlier during Trillium, Jeff Lemire is DC’s golden boy. It was a genius move putting him on Green Arrow, which at this point in the new 52 was a watered down superhero. Lemire added mythology to Green Arrow that made his little corner of the DC universe feel bigger even though he was a street level hero. He found out his father was looking for “The Arrow” the totem weapon of the Arrow Tribe, a division of The Outsiders. The Outsiders is on big group made up of different tribes each with their own totem weapon. Ollie is now fighting a bigger fight, one that is kind of reminiscent of low production value but high stakes and concept of kung fu movies.
It’s strange to think that both DC and Marvel’s best books of the year happen to be their archers. The archers have always gotten a bad rap for not being able to stand on their own against the cosmic threats their respective teams face, and both have figured out the best way to deliver these guys. Hawkeye is essentially a Marvel Knights book now, one that has given writer Matt Fraction and his revolving door of pulp inspired artists to experiment with structure and re-focus on character. I can’t help but notice that that phrase keeps coming up when I talk about Marvel. “Focus on character.” You know, I think they might be on to something.
4. Hellboy in Hell
Picking up where Hellboy: The Fury left off, Hellboy is dead and stuck in hell. It might sound like it would be home, sweet home to Hellboy, but I doubt it. He’s been kicking demon ass since WWII. Hellboy creator Mike Mignola is back in action writing and illustrating the Hellboy story to end all Hellboy stories. Hellboy gets his own mini Christmas Carol with a few ghosts who take him on a little trip to all his past “sins” (Sins to demons, stuff like, oh, save the world) and has a mini family reunion. It only got 4 issues in before it went on hiatus, but that’s all it needed to prove how great and promising it could be.
3. East of West
This is Jonathan Hickman’s second book on the list. It is much more like SHIELD or Avengers than The Nightly News. It is about mis-matching genres and archetypes. It takes place in a post-apocalypse world that is still reeling from the last one, when 3 of the 4 Horsemen are risen yet again. Except they are without Death, so they go looking for him. This set the stage for a sci-fi Western of epic proportions where the Horsemen want to kill the President of the United States. Easily one of the current publishing comics I could not live without.
Last year’s number one slot slips just a tad, but like Wonder Woman it remains one of the most consistent books out there. I just love everything about it. The dialog is modern, but the design has that combination of lived in sci-fi and old-world fantasy look that Star Wars has. Our star-crossed lovers found a place to hide so their plot may not be set at rocket pace right now, but the mercs out to catch them and the reporters trying to get their story are finding themselves in plenty of trouble. The coolest book of the here and now!
1. Locke and Key
G-Funk called it a must read book, and he ain’t wrong. Joe Hill’s Locke and Key series has been a really inspired horror story, and this year with story arcs “Omega” and “Alpha” has completed the tale. Hill doesn’t just sneak up on you and screams “Boo!” He also pulls at your heartstrings and sooner or later, he breaks them and tap dances all over them. It was a somber but satisfying finale that makes Hill worthy of his legacy (psst, his father is Stephen King).