We've not made it past the apocalypse yet, but I've been writing this piece all year. Whenever you may read this, I'm probably still writing it. The frantic "best of" list is inescapable.
The mainstream media would say that Clark's choice in romantic partners and Xavier pretending to die again were the big deals in the land of comics this year, but we of course know better. Dig past the always good Batman and the ever consuming Marvel events with their procreating covers and we find punk prophets of doom, forests of interplanetary craft, and phantasmagoric storytelling of the highest order.
A list then my loves, that most subjective and redundant of human addictions. Give one of these comics to your gran, another to your little brother, and a third to weird cousin Earl that lives in the dark soul of Glasgow. But for gods sake, don't keep them to yourself!
By: Brian K Vaughan, Fiona Staples
Review: It's almost passée at this point, to say that Saga is the comic of 2012. But it is. Star crossed lovers, ghosts, aliens, assassins, ass kicking ladies, television headed royalty, transporting trees, heads on legs, and as much space combat as you could hope for. Vaughan goes nuts while Staples licks it all into shape; a universe of Doom Patrol proportions.
Like all the comics on this list, one page glance will have you hooked, and I for one would not object to a large print of The Will and his cat on my wall. Hell, I just want this artwork everywhere.
By: Terry Moore
Publisher: Abstract Studio
Review: I picked up the first trade of this after spotting it on one of my rare ventures into an actual comic shop. I had heard good, albeit vague, things and made the grave error of reading the first page before I got into bed. Hours later, in the middle of the night and still perched on top of my duvet, I finished the book.
The dead come back to life, but not as zombies. It's resurrection in all its impractical horror, and although I'm not as attached to where the story seems to be going later, this first collection is perfection, in all its anticipatory glory.
By: Joshua Hale Fialkov, Andrea Sorrentino
Review: Of all the New 52, this book has been by far my favourite. Sorrentino's stunning art has me fearing for what the upcoming artist change may bring, as his dreamlike visuals fit Fialkov's plots so well.
Tie-ins with Batman and Justice League Dark have been, to me, an annoyance but one I am willing to overlook. Low sales perhaps reflect the misjudged initial covers that gave a misdirection on the contents of the comic, bizarrely reused for the first trade collection. This comic does ooze animalistic sex appeal, but not in the de-fanged dark romance approach that continues to haunt our cinemas. Look past the sparklebutt-esque decoration, and delve within.
By: Grant Morrison, Darick Robertson
Review: Action Comics made me love Clark again for the first time since All-Star Superman, and Batman Incorporated brought the most truthful Damian to the page once more while Chris Burnham ran storytelling circles around his peers, but those are the obvious books to pick, right?
Happy on the other hand is what happens when you lock Morrison in his room for a year writing superheroic adventure histories and histories of adventuring superheroes while the vampiric nature of comics criticism sucks the life from the page: pure fucking madness. A city of shit and a shit of a man, but punctuated by the sweet stab of blue that represents the small unquenchable flame of optimism in us all. Or at least, those of us that aren't complete bastards.
Blacksad: A Silent Hell
By: Juan Diaz Canales, Juanjo Guarnido
Publisher: Dark Horse (originally Dargaud)
Review: If you haven't read the first Blacksad stories, go now and pick up Dark Horse's lovingly bound volume of the original three French albums, translated for your delectation. I'll wait.
Right, well by now you've already gone and bought A Silent Hell as well, but for the lazier sods who haven't, this is pure delight on a plate. Canales' plots are solid affairs, noir adventures in a world of red scare, racial segregation, and the jazz age. Guarnido's art though - ah! It is like a bullet of beauty to the heart, each page destined to be pored over time and time again.
By: Leah Moore, John Reppion, Aneke
Review: The first of two Dynamite titles on my list, I was initially drawn to Damsels after seeing Aneke's line art for her characters: a twisted fairy tale focusing on women characters? Sign me up! Happily, I was hooked from the first issue and with the reader thrust right into the middle of numerous plot strands, this will make a wonderful trade collection.
This isn't Fables, with our first hero clearly unaware of who she really is, and some dastardly women villains plotting behind the scenes. I'm surprised this hasn't had more love from the critics, as Moore and Reppion are killing it here.
Bulletproof Coffin: Disinterred
By: David Hine, Shaky Kane
Review: When Bulletproof Coffin hit the shelves two years ago, critics were falling over themselves to lavish bowel churning and often nonsensical glorifications at the feet of Hine and Kane, as if the comic had so thrilled their sensory deprived brain meats that they had joygasmed themselves into a drooling shell. It's quite good.
Disinterred steps things up a notch, moving past putting meta in your meta and instead revelling in the sheer lunacy of a fragmented non-linear narrative to its fullest possibility. It's like [insert faux-popular 2012 reference to pop culture success here] but better. A question dear reader: did you cut up issue #4 as instructed? Or did you ignore the tremor in the traitorous voice in your head that claimed you could do it really. If you really wanted to, you could. Sure.
Punk Rock Jesus
By: Sean Murphy
Review: Take our celebrity obsessed materialistic society, blend it with the religious fanaticism of the comfortably privileged, and stick it all in a sterilised reality tv show with a naive girl, an ex-IRA bodyguard and the reincarnation of Christ raised with lies, and you get exactly what it says on the tin: Punk Rock Jesus.
It's a bombastic premise, and in other hands could have been a sensationalised gory mess, but this is a clever wee book with fully rendered characters and an all too believable premise. There is aggression in every line, the stark black and white blasting from the page. Saga might be the beautifully finished comic of the year, but this is the punked up underdog that steals the crown. If this series really does finish after only six issues, there'll be a fucking riot.
Kiki de Montparnasse
By: Jose-Luis Bocquet, Catel
Review: Apparently this just came out in the US this year, meaning that I can extend my love for it into 2012. Kiki of course was a real person, Alice Prin, who wowed the Parisian scene in the 1920s and stole the hearts of the artists and bohemians around her, including her most frequent paramour, Man Ray.
Above all else though, Kiki was in charge of her life; an independent woman and her own muse. Catel's art, so full of life and joy and emotion, brings Kiki to life in a manner that the Queen of Montparnasse would most assuredly approve of. As she weaves in and out the lives of Picasso and Cocteau, Foujita and Picabia, it's the unbelievable truth of the legend of Kiki.
By: Matt Fraction, David Aja
Review: Hey bro. You gotta read this bro. Hawkeye has been around the block once or twice before, hitting all the team books and occasionally partnering up for a merry jaunt, but his solo titles often lack that certain something. Riding on the new adoration that the Avengers movie has brought him, finally we see the non-powered cheeky sod getting a book deserving of his awesomeness.
I get the sense that Fraction, while always solid, has been let off the leash a little here as there is mad genius in the storytelling and the little offbeat moments that make this sing. Aja, master of a thousand styles, here goes for a deceptively loose indie style, with clever panel work and incredible design-boner covers. Read it bro.
Angel and Faith
By: Christos Gage, Rebekah Isaacs
Publisher: Dark Horse
Review: As a member of the Buffy generation, I just wasn't interested in the comics for a long time. Reading a comic with the faces of actors was just too weird to me. And so, you see, I am an idiot. Season 9 of Buffy has been addictive, the Spike mini is great, but Angel and Faith is where the real story lies.
Because lets face it, Faith is cool. She's been good, she's been bad, she's the best you never had. And she has no time for being sappy over brooding Angel. Together they kick ass. Isaacs is bringing her best work yet to the page, with dynamic fight scenes and brilliant character work.
The Abominable Charles Christopher
By: Karl Kerschl
Review: A webcomic? Surely I cheat? But no, as the second volume of collected strips is being shipped before Christmas, bound in beautiful red to match the previous volume's forest green. Kerschl's masterpiece is the one comic I always struggle to describe to people. It's about a creature, a man-beast, and his adventures. But sometimes it's about the forest animals and birds and their little domestic spats. Or the animals trapped in the circus and one who escapes. It's humour and it's drama, it's simple and complex.
In the end, all I can say is just read it. Please.
Journey into Mystery
By: Kieron Gillen, Richard Elson
Review: Amidst the finite series and the beginnings of new adventures, there is one more established ongoing that is worthy of mention. Gillen's Journey into Mystery has been a joy for many to read, and it is a sad time indeed now that his run is finished to make way for the seemingly pointless relaunch.
What really makes this comic great, apart from the wonderful intros to each issue, is the fact that enjoying it requires no prior Marvel knowledge at all. You can walk into this blind and not miss a damn thing. Be warned though, this book will punch you right in the Loki feels. Sob.
By: Tim Seeley, Mike Norton
Review: I'm a little surprised that this list hasn't overflown with horror comics, as I read so many, but I'm trying my best to be strict. At first glance you could be forgiven for confusing Revival with Rachel Rising, but it's quite a different sort of beast. We're more into traditional chiller territory here, with a character driven piece that keeps turning up the creepiness and adding new personalities to the mix.
This is a slow burner, a psychological horror, with humour and mysteries aplenty. Norton's art is as lovely as ever, and I recommend checking out his other works, It-Girl and the Atomics and his webcomic Battlepug.
By: David Liss, Colton Worley
Review: Not to be confused with that other Spider fellow, The Spider is a pulp hero from the 30s who had a couple of early film outings and a few previous comics adventures. This is Liss' own take on the character though and the book is - wait for it - quite possibly the best crime fighting title on the shelves right now. Yeah. I went there.
Richard Wentworth, the arachnidan alter ego, is a complex character in himself, and the supporting cast is particularly well rendered. Worley's storytelling skills are immense, with action flowingly as easily as the conversations, the shadows caressing the page. The Spider drinks, he smokes, he kills and he fucks up. If you're not reading this one, you won't forgive yourself.
And that's all she wrote. Yes, I know, there are many others. 2012 was a particularly good year, as much as we like to tell ourselves that it was all so much better back in the good old days. Prophet, Fatale, Spaceman, Alabaster: Wolves and so on. There are many, they are legion.
But the above are mine; my top of the pops. Adds yours in the comments, write your own lists, shout out your favourites to the heavens. But make sure you buy them - buy them and GIVE them. Share the love and spread the wealth folks, because next year it's all change again.