I’ve been reading comics since I can remember. I recall running around my house as a little boy with a towel tied loosely around my neck, pretending to be The Dark Knight, Superman, or Thor. Suffice it to say that comic books have always been an extremely important part of my life. However, this was the first year I was able to work as a critic for BD, and what a magnificent year it has been. Having to read comics and consider which ones belong on a “Best of the Year” list was quite intimidating at first, there are so many I love, so many that truly take the medium to a new plateau.
I had my list narrowed down to about fifteen titles, but when push came to shove, what it really came down to was, which books do I always have on the top of my pile week after week? Which books am I just bursting at the seams to read? Any of the books in the top 5 could have landed the spot as number 1, proving that it has been a groundbreaking year in the comics industry.
To be candid, there were not many Marvel titles that I was thrilled about this year, however, Moon Knight takes off in a totally different direction from any other mainstream book. Bendis examines a C-list narcissistic psychopath hero who believes he is Spider-Man, Wolverine, and Captain America all at the same time. Doesn’t get much wackier than that. Moon Knight is a vivid exposition of superhero madness that truly showcases Bendis’ emblematic writing style, with visuals to die for.
Many people have been saying that horror comics are dead, that there are none that represent the genre as it used to be. However, with their debut title, Brandon Seifert and Lukas Ketner manage to be completely rejuvenating horror comics. A cross somewhere between Dr. House, Herbert West, and a Lovecraft story, Witch Doctor is a rich and intriguing tale of terror that fans have been waiting for. What is most impressive about the book is the perfect balance of scares, gore, and laugh out loud humor. These two up-and-comers have something great on their hands, and I can’t wait for more.
Hailing from small town in Ontario, Jeff Lemire had an absolutely incredible year with his work for DC. Sweet Tooth combines Lemire’s dark and depressing thematic textures with his innocent and relatable characters delivering a bizarre, and dramatic work. Lemire is known for taking on both art duties and writing, however this year he teamed up with Matt Kindt for an arc, and not surprisingly, it was a masterpiece. Sweet Tooth is an aesthetically original dream that will always have it’s fair share of die hard fans.
Over the past few years, X-books have struggled to say the least, with very few coming to the front as fantastic must-reads. However, this year Rick Remender created one of the most memorable X-books in recent memory. X-Force offers deeply character driven book focusing on the relationships between team members rather than on cheap action ploys to maintain readership. The drama is darker than ever, the action is relentless, and the artwork is just magical. Uncanny X-Force marks Remender as a big Marvel name to watch for in the coming year.
It goes without saying that Scott Snyder is the hottest writer of the year, and his work on the pre-New-52 Detective Comics was a Bat-story that will be remembered forever. “The Black Mirror” arc took Dick Grayson on his final ride through Gotham city bearing the cowl, and what a dark, twisted, and gritty ride it was. Personally, I preferred Dick Grayson as Batman, and this story alone should be enough to convince anyone of that. The artwork is magnificent, meshing together the dark cityscape with the grimness and disparity of Batman and Gordon. Pure brilliance.
No book captures the essence of female struggles more than J.H. Williams III’s Batwoman. Batwoman is an insanely deep character sketch of a lost girl who tries to deal with her troubles by kicking some ass in Gotham. The book mixes wonderful moments of abject terror with touching character drama that you would be hard pressed to find elsewhere. The book really stands out in its absolutely innovative and unprecedented use of page-layouts, which are as baffling as they are elegant. Seriously, this book deserves to be put on display in art showrooms.
Locke & Key is one of the most mystery driven and stunning horror comics in years. Joe Hill has developed a family drama title about a descent into madness that should not be passed up by any horror fan, or comic fan for that matter. Locke & Key is an intense, beautiful, disturbing title, and though we may not see it on the small screen for a while, we can still relish in the wonderful world Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez have created.
Before the New 52 were released I highly doubt that anyone had Animal Man picked as a surefire hit. But, once again, Jeff Lemire deliveres the goods, successfully combining surreal horror with superhero family drama. The cliffhanger endings of each issue combined with Travel Foreman’s twistedly beautiful artwork make this one of the creepiest books of the year. Lemire’s ability to communicate true human emotion and family interaction is unparalleled. With the upcoming tie-in with Snyder’s Swamp Thing, Animal Man is one of the 2012’s most highly anticipated comics. Jeff Lemire has had a trailblazing year, and I have a feeling he’s just getting started.
When Green Wake was initially released as a mini-series, it was highly unlikely that it would become popular enough to be promoted to an ongoing series. However, sometimes a book is just so good, so novel, and so utterly different from anything else that the publisher has no choice but to keep it going. Green Wake is one of those. It is a disturbing tale of noir horror taking place in a mysterious, elegant, and complex world, not unlike David Lynch’s Twin Peaks. The dream teams of Kurtis J. Wiebe and Riley Rossimo have a created a magnificent story that is like nothing you’ve ever read before. This is the new face of horror comics and I can’t wait to see what the team has in store for us next.
Kill Shakespeare deserves a lot of praise it’s inventive and brilliant use of Shakespeare’s characters. Had the final chapter been slightly more tragic to go along with the Shakespearean theme, it would have easily been in my top ten.
Hellraiser because fans have dealt with a lot of shitty Pinhead stories over the past decade and Barker has finally returned to deliver a worthy title.
Severed easily could have made its way onto my list because of it’s throwback to classic horror tales. It is extremely creepy and very well written.
Sadly, House of Mystery saw it’s final issue this year and the crew went out with a bang. This book was anything but normal and it will be missed.
Hellboy because it always manages to be one of the best books around. 2012 will be a big year for Mignola and the gang.