What a wonderful year for comic book fans.
DC continued to ride the success of their New 52 reboot while Marvel began to re-launch much of their line to great success and the creator owned Walking Dead series from Image ended up having the best-selling issue of the year. The Avengers movie broke box office records while The Dark Knight Rises closed out a critically acclaimed trilogy and The Walking Dead continued to make new rules for television shattering ratings records along the way.
Fan favorite characters like Batman and Spider-Man were put through the wringers at their respective companies with creative teams infusing new life into characters that have been around decades while indies found stars of their own in acclaimed hits like Mind MGMT (Dark Horse), Great Pacific (Image) The Massive (Dark Horse), Rachel Rising (Abstract Studios), Revival (Image) and Underwater Welder (Top Shelf) to name just a very few.
More importantly, it was a very good year for creator owned comics. Superstar creators like Howard Chaykin, Matt Fraction, Jonathan Hickman, Mark Millar, Grant Morrison, Brian K Vaughn either launched or announced new creator owned work for Image. successful crowd-funding efforts helped smaller publishers like Bleeding Ink, Comix Tribe and yeah, even us, get attention in a crowded market while also allowing well known creators like Jamal Igle, Jimmy Palmiotti, Gail Simone get their own special projects funded.
Whether through comic shops, digital, direct through publishers via Kickstarter or websites there have never been as many different ways to read so many different types of comics are there are now. And the diversity within those books as never greater. There truly is something for everyone out there and easier ways than ever before to find them.
So while 2012 had its share of controversial comic book moments let’s focus on some of the positive as the Editorial team of GrayHaven recognizes their favorite comics of 2012.
Best Series– BATMAN (DC) The crown jewel of DC’s New 52 lineup, this series by Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo has brought more excitement to Gotham’s cast of characters than any book in years. From the sweeping, year-long conspiracy thriller “Court of Owls”, to the done-in-one introducing new Bat-kid Harper Row, to the beginning of the horror-thriller “Death of the Family”, no other book is delivering as many thrills per issue.
Best Miniseries – NEW DEADWARDIANS (DC/Vertigo) If there’s two concepts that are overused in pop culture today, it’s vampires and zombies. But somehow, this miniseries by Dan Abnett and I.N.J Culbard managed to put a completely new twist on both. Set in a post-Victorian England where a zombie plague has decimated the lower class and the wealthy voluntarily become vampires to escape it, this mash-up of Downton Abbey and Grimm manages to show there’s fresh blood in these concepts yet.
Best One-Shot/OGN – BATMAN: EARTH ONE (DC) – Geoff Johns and Gary Frank, the team behind some of the greatest Superman stories of all time, finally turn their eye to DC’s most popular hero in the second book in DC’s Earth One line. Combining flawless art with some unique twists on the Batman family’s most iconic characters, this book created a compelling vision of what a full-scale Batman reboot could have been.
Best Writer – Scott Snyder: A case could be made for several writers this year, but between Batman, Swamp Thing (including the creepy Rotworld event), and the powerful “Blacklist” saga in American Vampire, Scott Snyder once again made clear that this was his year. And with the announcement of “Man of Steel” in 2013, he may just be the man to beat next year as well.
Best Artist – Fiona Staples: While Saga may not be my favorite book of the year, it gets better with each issue, and a big part of that is the incredible art by Fiona Staples. One of the most challenging tasks in art is to create truly alien worlds and beings from scratch. Not only does Staples do that, she switches gears and creates a new one every few issues.
Best New Series – PLANETOID (Image Comics): Ken Garing has come out of nowhere to make his mark as one of the most impressive writer/artists in comics. The former webcomic creator has crafted a visually stunning tale of a space pirate who winds up stranded on a planet that no one can escape, encountering a strange cast of characters and enemies along the way. Robinson Crusoe meets Star Wars, this is the sci-fi comic to be reading right now.
Best Comic-Related Media – THE DARK KNIGHT RISES: This is an incredibly tough call, given that this is the year that gave us the biggest-scale comic book movie ever in Avengers, a fantastic character-driven take on Spider-man in TASM, an Emmy-worthy TV horror drama in Walking Dead, and a fully fleshed-out version of the DCU that rivals the comic book universe in Young Justice. But I have to give the nod to Christopher Nolan’s closing chapter of the greatest comic book trilogy ever. An intense, epic adventure film exploring themes of sacrifice and legacy, with well-done ties to real-world events, this will likely stand alone as the best movie of the year period.
Ray’s Top Ten Comics of 2012:
10. Fantastic Four (Marvel)
9. Sword of Sorcery (DC)
8. The 6th Gun (Oni Press)
7. The Boys (Dynamite)
6. New Deadwardians (DC/Vertigo)
5. Hawkeye (Marvel)
4. Justice League Dark (DC)
3. Batman: Earth One (DC)
2. Planetoid (Image)
1. Batman (DC)
Best Series- THE ACTIVITY (Image Comics) This was a tough call for me only because there were numerous series that could have gone here, including (for the second year in a row) RACHEL RISING from Terry Moore and Abstract Studios, BATMAN, DAREDEVIL AND HAWKEYE. It was simply a great year of comics across the board from the Big Two to creator owned and small press. THE ACTIVITY takes a realistic look at the special ops forces engaged in modern day global warfare.
Best Mini-Series- THE MINUTEMEN (DC/Vertigo). Even many of the Before Watchmen detractors haven’t found much to pick apart in Darwyn Cooke’s MINUTEMEN mini-series. Focusing on the inner workings of the Minutemen group, something only hinted at in the original mini, Cooke gets to craft his story without having to worry too much about how things fit with Moore’s Watchmen. Because of this the book doesn’t suffer from typical prequel fatigue of giving us the story no one wondered about. It’s also one of the best looking comics of the year.
Best One-Shot/OGN- THE UNDERWATER WELDER (Top Shelf) You may know Jeff Lemire as one of the most talented creators in the Big Two with ANIMAL MAN, JUSTICE LEAGUE DARK and SWEET TOOTH but the writer/artist created what I feel is his best work this year for Top Shelf with THE UNDERWATER WELDER. Wonderful characterization, inventive use of art and a deeply emotional theme of love and loss this is what all comics could aspire to be.
Best Writer- Nate Edmondson. From THE ACTIVITY ongoing to the great DANCER limited series and WHERE IS JAKE ELLIS mini from Image to ULTIMATE IRON MAN for Marvel, Edmondson showed versatility and consistency throughout the year in every project he touched.
Best Artist- Mitch Gerads. The other half of the fantastic creative team for THE ACTIVITY. As great as the story is, I don’t know that it would work as effectively without an artist as capable of Gerads. He brings realism to the page both in quiet character scenes and action packed moments without anything looking too heavily photo-referenced.
Best New Series- MIND MGMT (Dark Horse Comics). Probably the toughest call at all in a year where BEDLAM, HAWKEYE, MIND THE GAP, and SAGA came out but MIND MGMT is such a special comic book that is packed with detail from cover to cover complete with fake advertisements that may or may not offer keys to the complex mystery that writer/artist Matt Kindt has set up. A special breed of secret agents were trained secretly in the art of psychic warfare. With their agencies dissolved they are forced back into the real world with not so great results.
Best Comics Related Media- THE WALKING DEAD series on AMC. Yes, we had 3 pretty great superhero movies in the theaters including a record breaker, a wonderful finale to an acclaimed trilogy and a fresh and promising reboot to a classic character. But THE WALKING DEAD broke records of its own for television viewers and the quality of the program has gone up tremendously in the past 12 months. Not only that, but THE WALKING DEAD has arguably brought more new readers to comics than any of the other more recognized comic adaptations.
Andrew’s Top Ten Comics of 2012:
10. QUEEN CRAB
9. SMOKE AND MIRRORS- IDW
8. BATMAN- DC Comics
7. THE WALKING DEAD- Image Comics
6. SAGA- Image Comics
5. HAWKEYE- Marvel Comics
4. MIND MGMT- Dark Horse Comics
3. THE UNDERWATER WELDER- Top Shelf
2. RACHEL RISING- Abstract Studios
1. THE ACTIVITY- Image Comics
Best Series: THE BOYS (Dynamite). Garth Ennis’ final word on tights and capes ended just how it began, with controversy. Fantastic series from start to finish.
Best Mini Series: GODZILLA: THE HALF CENTURY WAR (IDW). James Stokoe’s art is insane! This is a beautiful looking book.
Best OneShot/ OGN: THE UNDERWATER WELDER (Top Shelf). Hands down Jeff Lemire created my favorite comic book work this year.
Best New Series: MIND MGMT (Dark Horse Comics). Matt Kindt’s Dark Horse series is amazing. Even the covers (front and back) add to the story.
Best Writer: Garth Ennis. 2012 saw the end of The Boys, and Ennis ended it the way he wanted. He also launched the brilliant new Shadow series.
Best Artist: Sean Murphy. Punk Rock Jesus is mind blowing in its brilliance, and the B&W art is the best I’ve seen from Murphy.
Doug’s Top Ten Comics of 2012:
10. League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Century (Top Shelf)
9. Wonder Woman (DC)
8. Daredevil (Marvel)
7. Godzilla: Half Century War (IDW)
6. Saga (Image)
5. Batman (DC)
4. Punk Rock Jesus (DC/Vertigo)
3. Mind MGMT (Dark Horse)
2. The Boys (Dynamite)
1. The Underwater Welder (Top Shelf)
Erica wasn’t able to get her complete list in on time but wanted to emphasize that Terry Moore would win for Best Writer, Best Artist and Best Series for RACHEL RISING
Best Series – RACHEL RISING (Abstract Studios). Terry Moore has me completely 100% invested into this story. The characters, the plot, the art. It’s just the total package when it comes to comics and the bellwether for me in terms of what comic creators should try to do.
Best Mini Series – LOCKE & KEY: CLOCKWORKS (IDW). Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez have a genuinely fantastic series that is about to draw to its conclusion and this was a really superb penultimate storyline. Of note: if two of the five issues didn’t come out in 2011, this category would have belonged to The Strange Talent of Luther Strode.
Best One-Shot/ OGN - LOCKE & KEY: GRINDHOUSE (IDW). In one single issue, this did what I was hoping to get out of reading Fatale (which is still good in its own way). This is the second well done one shot taking place in the Locke & Key universe.
Best Writer – ROBERT KIRKMAN. He’s responsible for three of my favorite series: The Walking Dead, Invincible and Thief of Thieves (at least plotting), not to mention the work he’s done with The Walking Dead on TV. All three are vastly different properties and show how much of a range he has as a comic creator.
Best Artist – FIONA STAPLES – Her artwork on Saga is breathtaking at times. She’s been in comics for about seven years now but this has been the clear breakthrough for her and it’s well deserved. I’m not sure if half of the stuff that Brian K. Vaughan has dreamed up for Saga would be as brilliant as it is without her art behind it.
Best New Series- – SAGA (Image Comics). This one was really in the running for Best Ongoing…period…but I had to give the slight edge to Rachel Rising. A very slight edge because if both comics had an issue come out the same week I’m really not sure which one I’d have to read first. Without Saga I would have really been torn between Revival, Hoax Hunters, Peter Panzerfaust and Hawkeye.
Best Comics Related Media – THE AVENGERS (movie). This one wins just as slightly over The Walking Dead TV show because it was a perfect movie-going experience. I saw it in the movies three times (never in 3D) and have already watched it a couple times on BluRay.
Marc’s Top Ten Comics of 2012:
10- Peter Panzerfaust- Image
9- Hoax Hunters- Image
8- Wonder Woman- DC
7- Invincible- Image
6- Locke & Key- IDW
5- Hawkeye- Marvel
4- Revival- Image
3- The Walking Dead- Image
2- Saga- Image
1 – Rachel Rising- Abstract Studios
Best Series- BATMAN (DC)-I’ve been a Batman fan since the days of the animated series. When Paul Dini was leaving the franchise I needed something to fill the gap and upon some recommendations checked out Snyder’s Detective run which I adored. I heard he was taking over Batman and I jumped for joy and couldn’t imagine him topping himself. Coming out of the gate with the Court Of Owls including the amazing issue 5 as well as telling a brilliant more personal story in Batman 12 and following it up with what seems to be the best Joker story in years Batman may be better than ever. This could be the definitive run of this generation and I for one and in it for the long haul.
Best Mini Series- JUSTICE LEAGUE INTERNATIONAL (DC) It ran for 12 issues and a mini so I’m counting it. I found it to be a very enjoyable series that focused on character study more so than its grandiose sister title. It featured some great supporting cast members, many of who I’ve never heard of but soon became solid faves. I was sad to see it end but am interested in the new direction one of my favorite characters (Booster Gold) will take after being hinted that there is more than meets the eye in the annual. Hoping it isn’t the end and looking forward to more from these characters!
Best One-shot/OGN- BATMAN: EARTH ONE (DC)-Just when you think the origin couldn’t be done a different way Geoff Johns and Gary Frank find a brilliant way. Delivering an all new version of Bruce Wayne’s war on crime while reimagining Alfred as a bad ass and changing Bruce’s mother’s last name to Arkham both Johns and Frank have made two very big changes in small ways. It’s a brilliant comic that made me want more immediately. I hope the quality of the Earth One book stays this high although if the last splash page in this book is any indication it certainty will.
Best Writer- Scott Snyder-Possibly the biggest rise in comics and deservedly so. He is not only crafting a brilliant run on Batman (see above) but also delivers on Swamp Thing and his own creative projects in Vertigo’s biggest hit since Fables in American Vampire and soon will be bringing his talent to DC’s most recognizable character in Superman. His star is on the rise and deservingly so. I also got to meet him and he was super nice, so he gets the nod for that alone.
Best Artist- Ryan Stegman-It’s been years since I’ve seen one artist make such a difference to a book. I’d never heard of him but Ryan Stegman brought real life to the title of Scarlet Spider and complimented the writing of Chris Yost perfectly. His talent shone in every panel and probably contributed a great deal to the books status as a surprise hit. I was sad to hear he was leaving even though it led to him finishing Jonathon Hickman’s Fantastic Four run but I am thrilled to hear he is joining the team of rotating artists on January’s Superior Spider-Man. If his work on Scarlet is any indication this could be amazing (pun intended) and I can’t wait to see where his career takes him.
Best New Series- THOR: GOD OF THUNDER (Marvel) After a long run by Matt Fraction it was time for someone new to take the reigns on Thor. In recent years Jason Aaron has shown his talent on various Marvel characters. Turning his attention to Marvel’s Thunder God Aaron has quickly set up an interesting plot involving various time streams and the arm of the destroyer. It has quickly caught my interest and I believe it to be the best of the Marvel Now launches to date. Time will tell if it can live up to its early potential but something tells me it certainty can!
Best comic related media: DARK KNIGHT RISES-It is a very decisive movie which some people love and some people felt let down by. I feel it is a perfect cap to the magnificent Batman movie trilogy Christopher Nolan has crafted. He not only brought Bane and Catwoman to life on the big screen for the first time in years and possibly delivered the definitive take on them in any adaption but he brought everything full circle. He ended it making that Bruce did make himself more than just a man, he made himself a legend. The stunning final moments of the film and how it led into the credits left me sitting in the cinema with my jaw open and that is something I won’t soon forget. A triumph for cinema and makes me pity whoever takes on the Batman franchise next.
Best Series-LOCKE & KEY- (IDW) Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez have been crafting an intriguing, creepy tale for several years now and with the release of the first issue of the recent mini Locke & Key: Omega, the story is coming to a close. I came into the series only a couple of months ago, but having read everything up to date in the space of a couple of days it’s easily been one of the most enjoyable and original comic runs I’ve read in a long time.
Best Mini Series- Not voting in this one. I’ve read far too many that I can’t really narrow down what started this year, what I was borrowing that was already completed but was out years ago and what started as a mini but has been upgraded to ongoing status already.
Best OneShot/ OGN- THE UNDERWATER WELDER (Top Shelf) I’m not a huge fan of OGN’s, for some reason. It’s not that I don’t enjoy them, but for some reason I find them very hard to get into. I’d tried a few of Lemire’s past works before, and while enjoyable, I found myself putting them down or getting distracted and just not going back to them. With this however I couldn’t put it down. Lemire’s moody artwork was perfect and the story was both realist and incredibly creepy at times. I don’t want to go into too much detail or risk spoiling it for anyone who has yet to read it, but it’s well worth the time to do so. Repeatedly.
Best New Series- RACHEL RISING (Abstract Studios)
This new series from Terry Moore is very difficult to break down what it’s about, considering every new issue seems to slap you in the face with some new mystery within the story that you just don’t see coming. But despite that, it’s been nothing but witty, original, creepy as hell and is without a doubt one of the few comics that’s managed to give me the creeps while reading it. It’s rare you’ll find a horror comic that’s deserving of that title, but Rachel Rising is easily one of those rare comics.
Best Writer- Joe Hill. I haven’t read a lot by Joe Hill, but for Locke & Key alone he tops my list for best writer. With several mini’s and one shots comprising the series so far, not one of them has felt out of place or pointless to me. He’s crafted a compelling, mysterious and horrific story and managed to make every single issue important to the overall story. Which is not something I can think of having seen in a long time, if ever. Even the runs I count amongst my favorites in the past have had a clunker arc or two within the story. Everything in Locke & Key has served the story, and served it well. He’s also managed to be one of the only writers I can think of who has written children that sound like children and not like an adult writing as a child, which considering the Locke children are the main characters in the story, is a giant plus.
Best Artist- Terry Moore. I was going to be a bit of a cheat here and pick the same guy in both categories. And considering how fantastic Terry Moore is on both duties, it’s incredibly hard not to. Terry Moore has a fantastic ability to get you invested in characters within a few pages of being introduced to them, even when they do the most mundane things. When he does use dialogue it always feels fresh and unique to each character, where other writers have common ticks that can be picked up almost instantly when you’re used to them and leave their characters enjoyable, but upon closer inspection very similar despite apparent differences. He also has an excellent knack for being able to swap between genres effortlessly. But his strength definitely lies in his artwork. He captures moods perfectly with absolutely no dialogue, sometimes going for pages without a single written word. And it never feels forced, or leaves you feeling like you’re missing something. The detail in his art is stunning and his characters have a very real, natural look to them that most other artists rarely seem to be able to capture. Any fan of comics in general, and comic art in particular, should be reading Terry Moore’s books.
James’ Top Ten Comics of 2012:
10. The Underwater Welder (IDW)
9. Fury Max (Marvel)
8. The Boys (Dynamite)
7. Wolverine and the X-Men (Marvel)
6. Swamp Thing (DC)
5. The Transformers: More Than Meets the Eye/ Robots in Disguise (IDW)
4. Daredevil (Marvel)
3. Batman (DC)
2. Rachel Rising (Abstract Studios)
1. Locke & Key (IDW)