Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Best of Comics 2012

Warning: Spoilers

2012 has been a really good year for comics. I can't remember a time so many good titles where being put out, from Marvel's Marvel NOW, to DC's continuing New 52, there are a lot of good books out there. (You do have to look for them, though). Here's what I thought was best in comics for 2012.

Best Event/Mini-Series: Avengers vs X-Men

This big summer event promised defining changes for both the Avengers and the X-Men, and it delivered. The culmination and resolution to the Scarlet Witch and Hope Summers was long in the making - and tied together well, as both teams where split on how to handle the returning Phoenix Force.

There where several writers and artists working on different issues during the 12-issue 6-month schedule - but a coherent voice and message continued to ring throughout. Besides the fighting between characters, there where some wonderful defining moments for characters. Wolverine steadfastly stood against Cyclops, was even betrayed by Captain America, and still managed to work towards doing the right thing, amid a constantly shifting battle field.

Spider-Man had a great moment in issue #9, where he faced down a Phoenix-Empowered Colossus - and was beaten near to death, as he tried to protect everyone; he even used his smarts, in playing Colossus off of his little sister - leading them to fight each other instead of finishing him off.

Cyclops, though, was the biggest recipient of change during this series. The already militant-leaning mutant leader was desperate to use the Phoenix force to save the mutant race - and things simply went to heck, when he accidently became bearer to the Phoenix Force. A decent into madness inevitably followed, with the death of a major character at Cyclops' hands.

A wonderful mini-series, it hit all the fanboy wish lists, while also delivering a compelling story.

Best Creative Team: Brian Azzarello and Cliff Chiang

I only started reading the new Wonder Woman recently - but already I can see the magic springing to life between Brain Azzarello and Cliff Chiang. Issue #0 was an excellent example of how well these two mesh - as Azzarellos hardcore and uncompromising story, mixes elegantly with Cliff Chiangs classic/noble looking art style. The New Gods are now stepping up to the plate next, with Wonder Woman due to go toe-to-toe with Orion. The re-interpretation of the New Gods simply couldn't be in better hands.

Best Story Arch: Doctor Octopus is Spider-Man

Having read comics for quite a long time, there is an inevitable jaded-outlook to things you read. When a comic promises that this character is dead, and will never come back -- you're almost guaranteed to see a resurrection in no time. So to actually surprise me - shock me, even - is quite a feat! Dan Slott did it, though!

The best reveal in Comics in a long, LONG time, came as a dying Doctor Octopus, from his death bed, began saying "Peter Parker". My first thought? Oh, OK - Doc Ock knows Spidey's identity. Been there; done that. When Spider-Man is brought in, to find out what Doctor Octopus knows - its an utter bombshell when the words "P-peter P-parker..." turn into "I'm Peter Parker..." Doctor Octopus has done the unthinkable - he's managed to switch his mind with that of Spider-Man! This is all leading into issue #700 - upon which the series will end, and a new Doctor Octopus/Spider-Man era will dawn, with "Superior Spider-Man". Yes, yes - things will get reversed, in time. Still - this was such a bomb shell, and so well planned and lead-up to. Dan Slott has remarked that after this issue came out, he'd have to hide from angry Spider-Man fans. That may well be true; but they aren't angry - they are excited, as the series and character are being taken in such an amazingly unexpected direction. Good job, Mr. Slott!

Best New Series: All New X-Men

A new era of X-Men comics have begun, under the new tenure of Brian Michael Bendis - who is going to write Uncanny X-Men, and the new series "All New X-Men". The X-Men, simply put, are back! After years of isolationist policies, the X-Men are finally back - fighting to protect a world that hates and fears them.

Cyclops' tenure as the Phoenix has indeed given the world reason to fear mutants. Now that the race is revived, and new mutants are popping up - its in a world that hates them more than ever. Cyclops, though, isn't about the learn the error of his ways. Breaking out of prison, with Magneto and Magick at his side, Cyclops has started a revolution - and is in a race against Wolverine's School, to reach new mutants first. Its sort of like the old days, when Xavier and Magneto where waging a war of capturing the hearts and minds of new mutants. Cyclops, sadly, is firmly on the side once held by the Brotherhood.

Beast, who in the first opening pages is revealed to be undergoing a new mutation (which will probably kill him), decides on a radical course of action to try and stop Cyclops from committing mutant genocide. Going back in time, Beast brings back the original 5 X-Men - bringing them face to face with a future they will consider a horror. The idea is for younger Cyclops to confront, and show the elder Cyclops, how far he's actually fallen.

I don't know if its simply a case of Bendis tapping into the rage against the machine, the 99% mentality, or the undercurrent of new racism in America -- but Bendis perfectly captures whatever it is that makes the X-Men the stellar team, and morality tale, that it has always striven to be. The spirit of the X-Men, as an analogy for race relations, hasn't been this palpable in years! This is the start of the grand new era for the X-Men, and here everyone has a perfect jumping on point - as the Younger X-Men confront their older selves.

Best Ongoing: Batman

Here's a concise way of telling you how good Batman has been the past year: I had planned to drop the book after 6 or so issues. Once the Court of Owls storyline ramped up, suddenly I'm swearing to drop it once that story was over with. Now, 14 issues later, I'm still firmly on the book - as Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo deliver one compelling issue after another. The Court of Owls, which concluded with "Night of the Owls" pitted Batman against his greatest (and newest) foes ever - as an illuminati-style organization, dating back centuries in Gotham's past, have revealed themselves as the true masters of Gotham -- and some rich billionaire in a Bat costume isn't going to stand in their way.

Nearly being driven insane, trapped in the the Court of Owl's Labyrinth maze, Batman fights back against this shadowy organization - and manages to escape the Court's clutches.

A full scale attack is launched on Wayne Manor, as Court assassins, called "Talons", are revived en-mass. The entire Batman line of books tied into this, but never once was it required to enjoy this single narrative. Oh, and Batman broke out his awesome new Bat Armor!

There's even a personal revelation given at the end, supposedly revealing Bruce Waynes' lost younger brother. There simply hasn't been this good of a modern Batman story since No Man's Land!

The series continued afterword with a wonderful one-shot story about a young girl, who works the electrical grid beneath Gotham, and her confrontation with Batman.

The next big storyline, though, promised the long awaited return of the Joker -- who, last we saw him in Detective Comics #1, had cut off his own face. Well, he's come back, with his cut-off face strapped to his head - making for one of the scariest version of the Joker, ever! I don't know wether a re-transplant will occur, but for now Joker is on a mission to hurt everyone in Batman's inner circle. The stakes have never seemed higher - as I'm unsure wether certain characters will come out of this story alive or maimed.

I was thinking of dropping the series after the Joker storyline was over. If things go as expected, I won't be dropping this title until Snyder ends his run. Its seriously been THAT good.


  1. You really should think about reading some indie comics. I think Snyder's Batman is the only one of these that even comes close to touching stuff like Saga, The Manhattan Projects and Prophet.

  2. 'A wonderful mini-series'
    Full of so many OOC moments I won't read any time soon.