Usually, I don’t tend to do end-of-year lists. Not out of disinterest, but because my memory is one big fog. My sense of time is completely out of whack and I can’t tell what was six months ago and what was two years. How long has 4thletter even been around? It could be the ten year anniversary right now and I wouldn’t be able to tell.
Luckily, when it comes to comics, I have an ace up my sleeve. As it goes, it turns out I have a weekly feature that archives every single comic book issue I’ve read. New ones, at least. I searched through the This Week in Panels backlogs and figured out my top 15 favorite comic issues of 2013.
15) Infinity: Infinite Comics #1
Jason Latour and Agustin Alessio
This digital side story to Infinity is absolutely breathtaking, especially on the art side. The story deals with the Silver Surfer’s role in the Builders’ rampage through the cosmos as he makes an attempt to protect a Skrull world against overwhelming robot forces. I think it says a lot that even the Surfer is out of his league here, even if the main story already showed off that even a planet of Space Knights aren’t enough to save the day. There’s also the neat dynamic that the Skrulls see their savior as the symbol of a world that’s about to die, which doesn’t exactly help their morale.
14) Wonder Woman #23
Brian Azzarello and Cliff Chiang
Wonder Woman is still one of the best comics of the New 52, but I’ll admit that it seems to survive on its character work. It feels that not much truly ever happens. #23 is a truly climactic issue, as not only does the First Born get to play the role of big bad, but we finally get to see War/Ares show his potential. Unlike the pre-reboot version of Ares and even the Marvel one, War doesn’t look all that impressive. Just an old man with no eyes. He gets to shine, First Born gets to shine, Orion gets punched in the face and they even throw in an Izuna Drop. That’s that thing in fighting games when somebody grabs someone, jumps up in the air, flips and drives them headfirst into the ground. The First Born does that to Wonder Woman. It’s rad as fuck.
All that and the ending pushes an interesting new status quo for our main heroine.
13) Batman Incorporated #13
Grant Morrison and Chris Burnham
I was let down at first when I read Grant Morrison’s final issue of his epic Batman run, but I soon came to realize that that was the idea. I was let down because DC let Morrison down. He was given Batman during a time when it was unanimously agreed that the character was too dark and untrusting and needed a more uplifting world. He sculpted a strong take on the mythos and then DC threw a lot of it out the window. Through the reboot, certain characters were suddenly off limits and Batman’s lengthy history had been cut down. Plus the new guy in charge of the character was writing a depressing horror story with the main Batman book. Morrison’s attempts at change did nothing and the once boastful, “Batman and Robin will never die!” became a cynical quote about the Hell that the character is cursed to experience by never being able to move forward in any meaningful way.
12) Burn the Orphanage: Born to Lose #1
Sina Grace and Daniel Freedman
The moment I heard about this comic, I had to read it. It’s Final Fight/Streets of Rage as a comic book. Rock is an angry, young man who was the only survivor when his orphanage burned down as a child. For years, he’s been looking for answers and getting into fights. Now he’s closer to figuring out who’s behind it. While Rock is your usual Axel/Cody balanced main hero in this situation, he’s flanked by big, slow bruiser Bear and the quick-footed girl Lex. They follow through on the usual side-scrolling fighter tropes. Then the second issue becomes a blatant Mortal Kombat and who knows what the third and final issue will be. It’ll be fun, that’s for certain.
11) Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Micro-Series: Alopex
Brian Lynch and Ross Campbell
I’ve been loving the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles series to death, but I thought this was the best standalone issue of the past year. Alopex is an original character created for this incarnation of the franchise and she started off as a pretty run-of-the-mill villain. A mutant arctic fox with no real personality other than loyalty to Shredder and the Foot Clan. Her spotlight issue starts by showing that she’s more honorable and that there’s more to her character than taking orders and barking at Raphael. We get the idea that she fights for Shredder not due to being evil, but out of pure loyalty. Unfortunately, as she discovers as the issue develops, blind loyalty to a dishonorable leader will only lead to disaster and we’re given a strong genesis for Alopex’s eventual face turn. As it is now, she’s primed to be something of a romantic interest for Leonardo.
10) Batman Incorporated #8
Grant Morrison, Chris Burnham and Jason Masters
I loved everything about the Dick/Damian version of Batman and Robin and even when Bruce came back, I still loved Damian’s part as the Robin with issues. That made his impending death that much harder to read because I always had the feeling that Damian was the future. Despite the apocalyptic future, Damian had the potential to be the best of both worlds between Bruce and Dick and instead, he was snuffed out. At least he and Nightwing got to have their last hurrah.
9) Afterlife with Archie #1
Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and Francesco Francavilla
One of the things I truly love about comics is when somebody takes an idea that should never work and instead churns out something amazing. Afterlife with Archie is one of those comics. It should have been the stupidest thing ever, but it feels so natural. Jughead and Sabrina the Teenage Witch accidentally bring forth the zombie apocalypse and nobody is safe. It’s a dark look at familiar and normally upbeat characters, which I suppose makes it more tragic. Chris Sims put it best when he said that it works because at the end of the day, the Archie characters are perfect throwaway horror victims.
8) Hawkeye #7
Matt Fraction, Steve Lieber and Jesse Hamm
I was hit by Hurricane Sandy (thankfully not too bad), so this issue spoke to me. We have two stories; one starring Clint as he helps his buddy Grills help get his estranged father to safety and another where Kate hits up a party in Jersey. Eh, I’ll be honest. The thing I love most about this issue (other than Kate’s, “JERSEY RULES!” and Clint smiling about how he’s great at boats) is the conversation they have about New Jersey in Clint’s apartment. When Clint badmouths Bruce fucking Springsteen, Kate delivers the most amazing angry glare and points at him to leave… even though it’s his home. And she’s right! Because Springsteen is the goddamn Boss and Clint is the guy from the Avengers that the non-comic-reading public refuse to take seriously.
7) Avengers #23
Jonathan Hickman and Leinil Francis Yu
As a whole, Infinity was probably the best event comic I can remember reading. It’s so solid. I’ve talked about it a bunch already, but this issue of Avengers is a beautiful thing just because it shows that the selfless acts of Cap and the rest have positive repercussions across the galaxy, forcing some of Earth’s biggest antagonists to band together and whup an alien general’s ass as a way of paying us back. The scene is completely badass too and that helps.
6) Action Comics #18
Grant Morrison, Rags Morales, Brad Walker, Sholly Fisch and Chris Sprouse
Grant Morrison comics have a tendency to make me go cross-eyed at times and I can’t fully explain what the hell is going on in his Action Comics run, but I definitely see it as something of the other side of the coin to how his Batman Incorporated run ended. While Batman’s fate is to always live in the muck of Gotham City and experience a shitty existence, Superman will always be Superman and that’s pretty awesome. He too fights against the evils of DC Comics editorial and shows that no matter how they try to pervert his image, even via attacking his very history, he’ll always rise up as a bastion of hope. Having such a strong connection to the 5th Dimension concepts made this all the much better as I’ll always be up for a good take on Mr. Mxzyptlk.
That moment of him calling to the reader to shout your name backwards to defeat the Devil is the best.
5) Sonic the Hedgehog #250
Ian Flynn and Ben Bates
I’m not a Sonic fan. I stopped caring about his games since the first Dreamcast one, not counting his appearance in Smash Brothers. On the other hand, I love Mega Man and was stoked about the Mega Man/Sonic crossover that spread across their books. Ian Flynn did the best job mixing their worlds and creating the bromance between Robotnik and Wily that made me wish they’d never have to implode. Sonic the Hedgehog #250 is the apex of this crossover, where it reaches its maximum level of fun. All the Robot Masters from Mega Man 2 and later are sent against Mega Man, Sonic and their friends in one amazing melee. There are a million great visuals here, including a big two-page spread of Sonic completely outclassing Quick Man while dashing around all the various Robot Masters like it was nothing. Plus there’s a sight gag of Sonic trumping Ring Man and momentarily running with two of his rings in his hands while acting confused as to why they aren’t working for him.
4) Deadpool #13
Gerry Duggan, Brian Posehn and Scott Koblish
When I did this issue for This Week in Panels, I couldn’t bring myself to choose merely one panel. This issue was too jam-packed with hilarious moments that I couldn’t stop. The current run of the series has a gimmick where in-between each arc, we look back at a “lost issue” of Deadpool in a different decade in Marvel history. First it was him helping Tony Stark deal with his alcoholism in the 80’s, then it’s him teaming up with Power Man and Iron Fist in the 70’s and even after that it’s him doing trippy Kirby stuff in the 60’s. I’m a huge fan of Luke and Danny, so I loved seeing afro-sporting Wade Wilson attempting to join their Heroes for Hire racket while they took on one-note joke pimp villain the White Man. The revelation that Deadpool accidentally created the Baseball Furies from Warriors is icing on the cake.
3) Injustice: Gods Among Us #5 (digital)
Tom Taylor and Bruno Redondo
Tom Taylor had an unenviable task when he was handed the project of writing the Injustice prequel comic. He was mandated to write a scenario where the Joker tricks Superman into accidentally killing Lois Lane when he was notably uncomfortable with it (he actually resurrected her in Earth 2 continuity as the new Red Tornado as his way of dealing with this). When I heard of the Injustice comic at first, it was how bad it was and the descriptions were pretty apt. The first few issues are dreadful and exist for the sake of getting the fridging of Lois out of the way. Then the fifth issue came out and showed that Taylor has the chops to make delicious lemonade out of this throwaway series. In the game’s cutscenes, all we know is Lois’ fate followed by an angry Superman killing the Joker and the knowledge that five years later, he’ll be ruling the world with an iron fist. Taylor’s since been showing that there’s a lot of interesting wiggle room in those five years and that Superman’s downfall isn’t nearly as cut and dry as the game suggests. As it is right now, Injustice: Year 2 has just started and there’s still a lot of story left to tell.
Anyway, #5 of the first volume is something I saw spread around on the internet and showed the potential of what became my favorite DC series. It follows Harley Quinn and Green Arrow with the latter trying to capture the former in light of the Superman/Joker incident. Arrow despises Harley, but isn’t willing to let Superman execute her too. Their interactions are classic and makes me wish the two would cross paths more in the mainstream.
2) Saga #14
Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples
In 2014, I resolve to read more non-Marvel/DC, but at least I have Saga on my pull. The series is every bit as good as everyone says it is and this issue is easily the best of them. Mainly because it features two of my favorite scenes. One is angry mother-in-law Klara going from being a cold nationalist to calming down for once and connecting with Heist, the war-hating author who lost both his wife and his son to the never-ending war between the horned people and winged people. It’s a really sweet, positive scene, but that has nothing on the single best page of the series. Sophie, the rescued child prostitute, hangs out with Lying Cat and starts talking about herself for no reason. She seems happy until she has a shamed look on her face while explaining that being forced into prostitution has made her dirty inside. Lying Cat interrupts her to say, “LYING,” and she hugs him while going to sleep. It’s the sweetest thing and I get emotional every time.
1) Deadpool #19
Brian Posehn, Gerry Duggan and Declan Shalvey
Only a handful of long-term Deadpool writers have really had a handle on the character and I’m happy to see that Posehn and Duggan are on that list. Their first storyline with the zombie presidents was pretty lacking and the demon-based second story was a step up. Then the third storyline, where Deadpool, Wolverine and Captain America end up in North Korea, was a grand slam. It had its moments of funny adventure, but it also hit some serious beats built off of the otherwise silly 70’s issue that I mentioned earlier on the list. #18 ended with a gutting moment of Deadpool openly bawling over one of his greatest failures and with one issue left, it had me thinking that if they could stick the landing, this would be one of the all-time best Deadpool stories.
And so, it’s one of the all-time best Deadpool stories. The final issue is centered around a confrontation between Deadpool and Butler, a Weapon X suit who has been making Deadpool’s life a living Hell for longer than Deadpool ever realized. Deadpool finds out that a lot of his past is implanted into him, but even though he’s mixed up in that regard, he’s able to see the truth about himself. He has done some bad stuff, but he isn’t a bad person because he knows he’s refused to be Butler’s guinea pig to create more killers and that has to mean something. When Deadpool does finally get his hands on Butler, the how and the what are both super satisfying and lead to a positive direction in Deadpool’s life. He’s able to live for once and at the same time, the two heroes he admires most now respect him more than ever.
Honorable mention goes to Street Fighter Origins: Akuma, a graphic novel that explains the backstory of Street Fighter’s mysterious antagonist. There are so many ways it could have gone wrong, but it ended up sculpting an origin that makes it understandable why Akuma would become what he would become without sacrificing any of his badass persona. It’s Anakin Skywalker done right and has one hell of a twist to wrap it together. Capcom really should make it canon with their games because I can’t see anyone coming up with anything better.