Anghus Houvouras on the best comic books of the year so far....
Hard to believe, but the year is half over. So far it's been a great
year for comics. Sure, there have been some disappointments. I'm
looking at you Age of Ultron. For the avid comic reader, there are
great titles to be found.
The mainstream publishers have
benefited greatly from recent reorganizations. While not everybody has
been in love with DC's New 52, their characters have felt more energized
than they have in ages. And the Marvel NOW! retooling has been a
creative home run delivering some of the most consistently excellent
titles hitting the shelves each month. The smaller publishers haven't
been slouching either putting out a run of offbeat and unique titles
that are rivaling the best runs of the independent era of comics. So
here, in no particular order, the ten best comics of the first half of
FF (Matt Fraction and Mike Allred)
been one theme that has worked well in 2013 it's been going with the
unconventional. So many of the comics I've been loving have featured
second tier characters elevated to regular series status. FF brings
together the unlikely pairing of Ant-Man, She-Hulk, Medusa, and a new
character Ms. Thing to fill in for the Fantastic Four while they take an
inter-dimensional road trip. The book is consistently entertaining and
has a tone and cadence that reminds me of great animated comedies like
Futurama. Mike Allred's art is, as usual, wonderfully composed and
Fraction's writing is whip smart.
Dream Merchant (Nathan Edmondson and Konstantin Novosadov)
wonderfully trippy title with some high concepts and mind blowing
artwork, Dream Merchant is one of those pleasant surprises that reminds
you the medium still has unexplored corners and original voices to be
discovered. This is the current gem from Image telling the story of a
guy plagued by a condition where he can't decipher dreams from reality.
His eroding mental condition leads way to the discovery of some dark
beings who inhabit his dream world which may be far more important than
he originally realized. A fun, epic journey into a surreal reality.
Dream Merchant is well worth your time.
Superior Spider-Man (Dan Slott)
were outraged at the conclusion of Amazing Spider-Man when everyone's
favorite web-slinger not only lost, but was also killed by the
villainous Doctor Octopus. In a masterstroke of mad-scientist madness,
Octavius took over Peter Parker's body and started a quest to become the
greatest hero the Marvel Universe has ever known. Readers kept waiting
for the reset button to be pushed, but and the status quo to be
restored. The most amazing thing is, that hasn't happened. Superior
Spider-Man has been a major surprise with the kind of crazy, outside the
box plotting that is usually reserved for alternate realities and issues
of What If? Spider-Man hasn't been this readable in decades.
the success of Superior Spider-Man has come some coattail riding
comics. By the title, you would thing 'Superior Foes' was a cash grab
book content to ride the wake of Superior Spider-Man's success.
Instead, we get a brilliantly written book about a cast of lovable loser
trying to achieve Super-Villain success. Led by the conniving
Boomerang, The Superior Foes benefits from the same kind of B-List
curiosity that titles like FF and Hawkeye have enjoyed. Some of the
most interesting characters in the Marvel Universe are the ones that
have not been explored at great length.
All New X-Men (Brian Michael Bendis)
was a time when the mutant filled corner of the X-Men universe was a
convoluted and confused mess with too many titles for any sane person to
try and follow. Marvel NOW! has made a great effort to streamline the
stories and make it somewhat accessible. Popular scribe Brian Michael
Bendis was tasked with two flagship X-Men comics. All New X-Men sees
the return of the five original X-Men due to some tampering with the
space time continuim by Beast. The young, idealistic X-men see a very
ugly disjointed world that seems far removed from the future they were
so intent on fighting for. The time travelling component has led to
some interesting stories that showcase just how far the X-Men have come
since their modest roots.
Uncanny X-Men (Brian Michael Bendis)
brings a completely different vibe to his other X-Men book. Uncanny
X-Men is the red-headed bastard stepchild of the mutant world. Cyclops,
Magneto, Emma Frost, and Magik are once again outcasts. Pariahs to not
only humans but to their fellow mutants. Their powers have been
broken, and they are desperate to try and build some kind of legacy.
They recruit new mutants to join their ranks and start an ideological
war with their former friends. Uncanny has been showcasing
unconventional stories and fantastic spreads from artists like Frazer
Irving and Chris Bachalo. Uncanny and All New X-Men have become the
Mark Waid finally
gave readers a Daredevil who was neither too dark or too slight. He's
found that perfect balance which suits Matt Murdock so well and delivers
the most entertaining super-hero book of the 21st century rivaling the
epic runs by Bendis and Frank Miller.
Jupiter's Legacy (Mark Millar and Frank Quitely)
Millar has built a reputation as a writer who likes to tinker with
conventional superhero stories. Jupiter's Legacy is another engrossing
read following in the tradition of Wanted and Kick Ass. The story of a
group of classic super heroes dealing with their addicted offspring
leads to an ideological dispute pitting brother against brother.
Quitely's art is, as always, pitch perfect. Millar seems to be crafting
another gonzo superhero universe where anything can happen.
Hawkeye (Matt Fraction and David Aja)
the trend of B-List superheroes making the list continues. Matt
Fraction is having a banner year. Along with Brian Michael Bendis, he
has two books in my current top ten. Hawkeye once again takes a
character from the perimeter and brings them to the forefront. I've
always been a huge Clint Barton fan, so a tried and true Hawkeye title
with exceptional writing and visionary art from David Aja feels long
overdue. Marvel NOW! is winning the comic war for me because the
editorial finally seems to be taking risks with regular titles. If we
could just get rid of all those pointless event comics....
Suicide Squad (Ales Kot)
most intriguing concept has finally gotten good again. A group of
criminal scum assembled to do the bidding of a shadow Government
Agency. A Dirty Dozen style story taking some of the most warped
minds in the DC Universe and assembling them for action. Deadshot, fan
favorite Harley Quinn, The Unknown Soldier, and King Shark headline a
team dealing with a lot of demons. New writer Ales Kot has tightened up
the narrative and the introduction of the malevolent James Gordon
Junior makes things even more interesting. There aren't a lot of New 52
titles that seem to be on the right track. Suicide Squad is hands
down, the pick of the litter.
Agree? Disagree? Let us know your favourite comic books of the year so far in the comments below...
Anghus Houvouras is a North Carolina based writer and filmmaker. His latest work, the novel My Career Suicide Note, is available from Amazon.