I have yet to finish rounding up 2012 in comics, more specifically graphic novels, mostly due to the fact that rather a lot came out in the US towards the end of the year that I haven't managed to get my hands on yet. However, what I am being asked about right now, is rather more forward facing: what comics am I most looking forward to in 2013, and what comics am I continuing to read into this year?
As one of those rare people who jumped on board monthly comic buying with the DC New 52 back in September 2011 (previously I was a trade waiter, which is slightly less addictive, but only slightly), the number of comics I am now reading on a monthly basis is... well a lot higher than I anticipated :D Last year was really fantastic for comics in general, and the trend looks set to continue!
Firstly then, what books am I still reading month to month?
By: Matt Fraction, David Aja
Hawkeye is a book I originally skipped on, purely because I very rarely read the newer Avengers books even in trade collections as it all seems to be event based and interlocking between different books and arcs and so on. I have read a lot of the older Hawkeye stuff though (along with his fellow old Avenger chums) and Matt Fraction can always be counted on to deliver a fun story. Almost immediately I was hearing fantastic things about this book, for both its clever storytelling and the brilliant art, and when I picked it up I was chuffed to find that it's pretty much a standalone book outside of the convoluted superhero epics.
In fact it doesn't read much like a superhero book at all, particularly when you take into account that Hawkeye himself is non-powered. David Aja is quite simply an artistic genius, with the sharp, energetic art within conveying a real sense of fun and also emotion. His initial covers are design gold, and really made this book stand out from the crowd on the Marvel shelves.
The upcoming cover shown here is by Annie Wu, and really underscores the more lighthearted whimsy of the book, but don't be fooled by all the fun into thinking this is just fluff; Aja's mastery of graphic storytelling really does set this book apart, with unique panel transitions, page breakdowns, and an ability to really energise proceedings for the reader.
By: Brian K Vaughan, Fiona Staples
Undoubtedly my favourite comic of last year, and a huge hit with readers and critics everywhere, this is a genuine modern classic in the making. Each installment leaves me desperate for the next issue, with the large cast of characters embroiled in their own adventures that I am longing to know more about.
In simple terms, it is a star crossed romance on a sci-fi scale, with warring factions and political intrigue. But it really is so much more, with wonderful characters on all sides, touches of pure fantasy, and its dastardly trick of quickly getting you far too emotionally invested with the various men and women. Brian K Vaughan specialises in writing incredibly addictive series, but this is his masterpiece. Staples' art makes this book sing, and I would give anything - ANYTHING - for a print of The Will and his cat on my wall.
By: David Liss, Colton Worley
Pulp hero of the 30s, with over 100 novels and two film serials to his name, it's the original arachnidan hero. Fighting crime in his city, The Spider doesn't quite hold true to the same rules as Batman, happily killing villains in order to keep the streets safe.
This is US author Liss' own take on the character, and for my money, the best crime-fighting book on the shelves. Oh yeah. Complex characterisation and a great supporting cast make this work, and Worley's storytelling is supremely suited to this dark noir style, with shadows caressing the page and suggesting much.
By: Brian Wood, Ming Doyle
Only one issue in, but I'm already hooked with the last pages providing a genuine out loud "gasp!", which is always a good sign. Wood is one of the few writers I immediately trust with women characters, and that trust is well placed here, with protagonist Mara well developed in just a few pages.
This is a 6 issue miniseries, so jump on board now!
By: Joshua Hale Fialkov, Andrea Sorrentino, Dennis Calero
One of only two titles from my initial New 52 pull list that I'm still buying monthly as well as in trade (not as a mark of disrespect to many of the other books, I just couldn't keep up funds wise and so wait for all my Batbooks in trade). But I just love this book. The art is so atmospheric and chilling, the characters always seem to be fitting some stereotype and then fwoosh! all change. It seemed to cross over a little with some other DC books for an issue or two which was a bit too confusing for me to be honest (err, hello Batman, wtf are you doing here?) but I'm glad I stuck with it for the introduction of more women characters who are badass.
The announcement of course came yesterday that the book is cancelled as of #19, which is heartbreaking. Bad move DC, this was ridiculously popular in trade collection.
By: Nick Spencer, Riley Rossmo
This is one of those books I picked up purely for the cover - but don't judge, they're by the ridiculously talented Frazer Irving. It also helped that the first issue was double sized, enabling the reader to really get to grips with the original concept. Madder Red is a psychotic super villain that makes the Joker look like a pussycat, and is finally brought to justice after a horrific murder spree ten years ago. However, he reveals that unless the police kill him immediately, he will blow up several nearby schools. The plan goes wrong, and Madder somehow blows himself up.
Except. What if his death was an elaborate ruse on the part of someone even more unhinged than Madder himself? Someone determined to tear him to pieces and rebuild him into an upstanding citizen? A citizen who decides to help the police in tracking down mad men?
Welcome to Bedlam. Welcome to madness, beautiful, twisted madness.
|Sword of Sorcery
By: Christy Marx, Travis Moore
Admittedly, I had not read the original series before coming across this one but I was hooked from seeing the promo art and have been enjoying it ever since #0. It has a real sense of Buffy type spunk to the characters, giving it a boost from the typical sword and sorcery fantasy fare, and SO MANY awesome women characters. Seriously, it's amazing.
Amy is a kickass teenage girl, who has been shunted around all her life and never stands still long enough to make friends. Plus her mom makes her undergo grueling training every night, with sword in hand. Her interactions with other teens are spot on, and when her life is suddenly completely upended, her sense of confusion and annoyance are well grounded in reality. At the same time, she is no entitled whiny brat, and the other sides to the story are put across well, with great characters being introduced.
Really excited to see what Marx is going to do with Birds of Prey (scroll down)!
|Punk Rock Jesus
By: Sean Murphy
This is my other pick for comic of 2012 - while Saga is the undisputed champion, Punk Rock Jesus is the punk underdog that very nearly stole the crown. And hell, it's never fair to compare an epic ongoing with a miniseries, so they can share.
A blend of the rampant capitalism of our society, the ever encroaching celebrity obsessed lack of privacy, and the terrifying march of religious fundamentalism, this book features a reality show based around the concept of reincarnating Jesus Christ and raising him in front of the cameras. An ex-IRA bodyguard and a brainwashed teen mom complete the picture, alongside the evil television network people, the baying public, and the religious right.
It's a punchy premise, and could have gone very wrong (and isn't it funny that it's been ignored by the mainstream press who are only to eager to leap on a gay Green Lantern to provoke ire?) but Murphy pulls it off with panache. It's a real Vertigo book this, a nod to the Transmetropolitan and Preacher of old, a risk taking comic that we don't see much of from that imprint anymore.
If this six issue mini is all we get... well, it'll be sensational, but the crowd will cry for more.
By: Ann Nocenti, Rafa Sandoval, Jordi Tarrogona
My other DC book on my monthly pull list, which others always seemed to find a contentious choice. I love Catwoman, and have done ever since I first saw Batman Returns at an impressionable young age. She's my favourite, and I loved the playful art of Guillem March who excelled at those cheeky facial expressions. Truthfully I miss that art dreadfully (March finished with #11), but that's meant as no insult to the newer team.
Nocenti took over writing duties from #13 and I'm still highly entertained by this title.
By: Kelly Sue DeConnick, Dexter Soy, Emma Rios
This is the first Marvel book I started reading monthly, entirely because I loved the concept of Ms Marvel taking on the role. I came for the concept and stayed for the superb writing and dreamy art, excited to see what further adventures Carol will get up to.
Again, this seems like a book that stands well on its own if you're not following the larger Marvel Universe storylines. I'm still a wee bit disappointed that the character didn't stick with the original daringly short hair we all thought she was going to have, but at least we still have Catwoman rocking the pixie.
By: Leah Moore, John Reppion, Aneke
Two Dynamite titles on my list! Did not see that happening back in 2011. Damsels is a fairytale book with a twist, but unlike Fables and Fairest, this is all about the women. Real women, with different shaped bodies and curves, evil and good, innocent and crafty. I love fairy tales, particularly the darker more original forms, but stories based on them are often not great from a feminist point of view. Damsels breaks that mould nicely!
There is evil brewing in the land, and the princesses in charge are not who they seem. Meanwhile, Rapa, a woman with brilliantly red long hair and a complete loss of memory, struggles to find out who she is.
Do give it a go!
By: Grant Morrison, Chris Burnham
But of course! Anything Morrison writes I am there (I haven't decided yet whether I'll continue Action Comics past his finale in #17 as I don't always get on well with Superman in general), and I adore that a lot of this book tells the newer, more bizarre, Bat-continuity to fuck right off. Nobody writes Damian as well as Morrison, and he is the star of the show here, alongside Burnham's epic page layouts and clever panel structures.
When he gets his kitten. THAT FACE <3
By: Kelly Sue DeConnick, Phil Noto
Publisher: Dark Horse
The conclusion of the four issue mini-series (plus #0 which collected the original three Dark Horse Presents issues) is out in March, so there's plenty of time to go back and get the others - it's a criminally underrated little title. It's a tightly plotted story, with gorgeous art courtesy of Noto, and works well either as a follow up to the old series or as a brand new title.
Our violence-prone Ghost is trying to find out who she is, with the help of a washed up ex-drunk and a bro, while very shady goings on unfold around them.
It's gripping reading, and fantastic to see Dark Horse bringing one of their best female characters back. With Buffy, Angel and Faith, Willow, Ex Sanguine and Orchid ongoing, and The Answer coming soon, the publisher is looking pretty good for women in comics.
By: Grant Morrison, Darick Robertson
The last issue was meant to come out before xmas but a slight delay sees it finishing in January instead. I've been enjoying this hugely, with a nicely shocking final turn in #3, and it's fun to see Morrison revelling in the horrible and miserable as well as the usually more upbeat superhero work.
Happy himself is of course adorable, a loveable ball of blue that highlights just how terrible everyone else appears to be. Though #3 put a nice wee spin on that as well.
I'm really hoping we see more Image work from Morrison in the coming months.
By: Paul Tobin, Juan Ferreyra
Publisher: Dark Horse
Another case of buying for the cover, with the most eye-catching (boom boom) comic on the shelves. This is quite possibly one of the prettiest horror books out there in fact, with Ferreyra surely a name to watch out for in future. The beauty on the pages is absolutely stunning, even when framing the darkest of acts.
Initially, I was a little hesitant about the concept, playing as it does with the theme of madness, what can cause it, and even what can fix it. However, it is a fantasy based on realities, and so doesn't seem to be trivialising mental illnesses as such, rather highlighting the real horrors they invite into peoples lives. I'm still not completely comfortable to be sure, but there are still two issues of this five part mini to go, and it definitely has me intrigued.
The character of Nimble Jack is particularly memorable, and Dark Horse is on a good course in repositioning itself as the home of horror.
But what about-- aha! I told you I was a trade waiter :P And those I wait for in trade include: too many DC to list; Daredevil and Deadpool at Marvel; Chew, Fatale, The Manhattan Projects, Prophet, and Revival at Image; Saucer Country (now also cancelled) and The Unwritten from Vertigo; Angel & Faith, Buffy and Conan the Barbarian at Dark Horse; and finally Rachel Rising from Abstract Studio. Phew. Purely because I can't afford that many comics month to month! That said, I do buy the collected editions of those I buy monthly as well - they are that good dammit.
So, it's time for the upcoming titles I'm most looking forward to, bearing in mind that there are still many comics and graphic novels to be announced (including some amazing ones I can't talk about, argh!) - complete with pretty pictures.
By: Grant Morrison, et al
A couple of months ago I had the utter pleasure of leafing through Frank Quitely's finished pencils for the whole of Pax Americana as Grant talked me through some of the points. Believe me when I tell you, this comic is going to blow everyone away. It is hugely ambitious, the detail and meaning is incredibly dense, and on top of all that, it is pretty as hell. And that's just one of the books!
From what Grant has hinted about what else is to come, Multiversity is going to be the comic of the year. I can't wait.
By: Greg Rucka, Michael Lark
There are some writers where I know immediately I want to buy their stuff. There are others where I know their women characters will be spot on. Rucka fits both of those lists perfectly, and is one of my all time favourite writers. Teaming up again with Lark (previously they worked together on the terrific Gotham Central), this is one of my most highly anticipated books of the year. Image are well on their way to being publisher of the year.
This is the story of Forever, a genetically modified protector in a near-future dystopian world who discovers all is not as it seems.
Really looking forward to this, particularly as Rucka is finished with The Punisher soon (boo).
By: Brian Wood, Olivier Coipel, Laura Martin
Full disclaimer: I love Brian Wood. I'm loving Mara, I loved DMZ, I'm loving Conan the Barbarian. And I love the X-Men, except that I hardly read them anymore. I used to read them a lot, going through their whole print history, but there are now so many books and so many events... there's just no great humping in point. And I rarely see the characters that I really love. Until now.
Starring Storm, Rogue, Kitty Pryde, Jubilee, Rachel Grey and Psylocke, the book also carries the historic plain X-Men title, and features the art of Coipel, who did such a wonderful job on The Mighty Thor with Matt Fraction.
After a disappointing 2012 when Marvel mostly got rid of all it's female led titles before bringing us the awesome Captain Marvel, this is another fabulous step in the right direction!
|The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys
By: Gerard Way, Shaun Simon, Becky Cloonan
Publisher: Dark Horse
The original concepts for this book informed the writing and music videos for the album of the same name from Way's band, My Chemical Romance - including "Na Na Na (Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na)" and "SING" which also starred Grant Morrison - and now Way is expanding on his world following those events and the mysterious young girl, hunted by the villainous Better Living Industries.
With a catchy tagline ("Welcome to Battery City, where the disease is the cure!"), Way's previous form with the excellent Umbrella Academy, and the fabulous Becky Cloonan on art duties, this looks set to be unmissable.
By: Kelly Sue DeConnick, Emma Rios
Emma Rios has popped up on a few of my favourite titles, including the recent Captain Marvel, as well as the very underrated Hexed. And DeConnick of course is way up high on my list of must buys. Put these two together on an Image book, and you can shut up and take my money!
Details are sketchy, other than it being a Western starring a scarred assassin.
By: Grant Morrison, Yanick Paquette
No information or art on this yet, other than that it is a graphic novel, Earth One, and that Morrison was really wanting to bring back the power and sexuality to Diana without sex being the focus of the book. Despite what the headline writers will have you believe, exploitation won't be on the table, and really Morrison is looking back to those Marston days (which we all know I love!) and trying to build the same realism around her as he has done with both Superman and Batman.
Prepare to be surprised.
By: Jeff Lemire
It's Lemire. That's all that really needs said!
Sweet Tooth is finishing up, and this is the next creator owned title on the table, billed as the last love story ever told. It's the first time Lemire has played in the realm of sci-fi, and it looks like it will be pretty amazing, starring two protagonists who fall in love despite being separated by thousands of years and hundreds of millions of miles.
And their love is the end of everything.
By: Ann Nocenti, Alex Sanchez
Ann Nocenti adds to Catwoman with this brand new title (and drops Green Arrow), with the current Birds of Prey member getting her own book.
Katana is a really interesting character, having floated around in the Outsiders and popping up in major events, and the premise of this title is her seeking to restore the Outsiders to their former glory while resisting the power of her blade.
Definitely one to try.
By: Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie
Far too many years ago there were two Marvel series that I absolutely loved: Runaways by Brian K Vaughan, and Young Avengers by Allan Heinberg. They are series that I'll always remember as a duo as I was reading them at the same time and they had a couple of crossovers. Both had tremendous characters, male and female, of different shapes, sizes, straight, bi and gay, not all white... it was a good time. So obviously both got cancelled.
How pleased was I then to find that not only was Young Avengers coming back, but that it was being written by Kieron Gillen, who did such a wonderful job with Journey into Mystery last year? Very pleased indeed. Especially with Kid Loki being added to the roster.
It's almost enough for me to forgive Gillen for Thori. Almost.
By: Mark Millar, Frank Quitely
A name change for the much anticipated reunion of Quitely and Millar (previously having worked together on The Authority), that looks at the children of great superheroes of old and how they don't quite live up to the reputation.
Not much is known about this, other than some character designs and a three page preview, but the names alone guarantee a good read. Quitely's art is stunning as always.
By: Neil Gaiman, J.H. Williams III
Well, this ones goes without saying doesn't it? The return of Sandman, the return of Gaiman, and paired with the gorgeous art of Williams. It's a no brainer!
Sandman remains one of the best gateway comics to give to unsuspecting readers by the way, so if you haven't read the original series yourself yet, get to it.
By: Brian Wood, Carlos D'Anda
Publisher: Dark Horse
I've yet to get my paws on this due to it being sold out seemingly everywhere, and it rather snuck up on me! As said earlier, I love Wood and everything he does, and yes I'll admit it, I love Star Wars. The original trilogy of course (plus the various great games), which fits this comic nicely.
Ah if only Cam Kennedy was still doing his outstanding Star Wars work, but this looks pretty indeed. Looking forward to picking this up.
|The Fearless Defenders
By: Cullen Bunn, Will Sliney
A duo of kickass women, Valkyrie and Misty Knight lead a new all female team that also includes Dani Moonstar and Hippolyta. The art looks pretty fun, and with this and X-Men, Marvel are really throwing down the gauntlet for women team titles here.
Definitely worth having a look.
|East of West
By: Jonathan Hickman, Nick Dragotta
Hickman is a big name with Marvel I know, but it's his Image stuff that I'm really excited about. The Manhattan Projects in particular is one of the best Image books going, and although he's got two new titles coming out with the publisher, this is the one I'm pre-ordering asap.
Because a) I love dystopian books, b) I love sci-fi westerns, c) it features the four horsemen of the apocalypse, and d) THAT cover.
|Birds of Prey
By: Christy Marx, Romano Molenaar, Vicente Cifuentes
Absolutely no offense to the people who have been on this book and who were going to be on it, but this immediately jumped on to my "must buy monthly" list as soon as Christy Marx was announced as writer.
Sword of Sorcery has been such fun to read and the way she's handled the cast there has been excellent - I can't wait to see what she does with the Birds. Marx takes over with #18.
By: Scott Snyder, Sean Murphy
Murphy was the maestro behind Punk Rock Jesus, so anything he does is automatically on my list. Add to that that this also has Snyder on board, the genius behind Detective Comics, and that this is from Vertigo rather than the main line, and BLAM. Must buy.
Described as an underwater sci-fi horror epic, I can see this and Trillium making it a damn fine year for Vertigo.
By: Daniel Way, Phil Noto
So much Marvel, it's a lovely surprise. I've not read the first 6 issues of this before the Marvel Now! repackaging, despite my love of Deadpool, Elektra and the Punisher, so let me be honest - it's the cover. I had an immediate "WANT THIS BOOK" reaction which is always good, and then my eye caught that Phil Noto was now on it and yes please, give me the comic now.
I hope it's good - I love these characters and Marvel is tempting me into trying all these team books I usually avoid. WAAANT.
By: Jeff Lemire, Ray Fawkes
So I really wasn't going to get this. I'm still genuinely worried about the future of Vertigo (despite at least three promising new titles in 2013) and Hellblazer had really suffered from a lack of good publicity work and shocking trade collection (lack of!) availability. But they put Lemire on it.
THEY PUT LEMIRE ON IT.
So now I have to have it and am starting to think of all the things they could do with a younger Constantine, and yes. I still don't see why they couldn't have kept Hellblazer going as well (with better publicity and trade collections dammit), but here's hoping John can live on well in this book.
By: Matt Minter, Joel Gomez, Beth Sotelo, Yasmin Liang
Currently still on Kickstarter and needing just a few more pledges, this is one of my picks for hottest debut of 2013, with a wonderfully put together story (with loads of big name backers as well) and issues that are very near to my heart. Matt has gone out of his way to get his female characters right, backup artist Liang is a star in the making, and the animal welfare and rights topics are truly important.
Channeling some of Morrison's We3 and Animal Man, this is a book about real heroes doing what they can. More info here!
By: Gail Simone, Jim Calafiore
The phenomenally successful Kickstarter project from the Secret Six duo is due for publication this year, and there is a lot of buzz surrounding this title. Simone is one of the most popular superhero writers around - the backlash of fans when she was dropped from Batgirl saw her reinstated in record time - and guarantees that this will be both great fun and a smash hit.
A horror survival story in a town where superheroes have turned into murdering lunatics, our heroes are a bunch of humans just trying to get the hell out of town.
For those who have been really missing Simone's team books, as well as Calafiore's terrific art, don't miss out!
Bit of a sneaky change of pace here! Graphic novels for later in the year have still to be announced of course, but this one immediately caught my eye. I am a huge, huge, huge fan of Jason, the genius Norwegian cartoonist who creates wonderful books, sometimes silent, sometimes dialogued, and always completely captivating.
If you've never read Jason before, I highly recommend picking up I Killed Adolf Hitler, Why Are You Doing This, or Sshhhh! Or any of his books actually.
So, which brilliant comics have I unwittingly missed out on? What fantastic upcoming titles are you looking forward to?