I have no excuse for the lateness of this, I really think I’m just horribly lazy and unmotivated. That or I’m just doing a LOT of reading. I dunno, I’ve been strange lately. So anyway, be sure to go back and remind yourselves of the first thirty entries, then have at thee!
20. All-New X-Men – The lone Marvel NOW! book on my list, it has nothing to do with problems in the other books, just how important it is to note this book. Despite only releasing a handful of issues in the brief two months of 2012 where it was available, Brian Bendis went ahead and proved to everyone that he has an understanding of the X-Men that I honestly didn’t think was possible. This is the guy who drove me away from the Avengers faster than he brought me in, and who I was thankful was only writing a Spider-Man I didn’t read. I expected extremely mediocre writing from X-Men when I bought it, and I bought it because I LOVE the X-Men. Bendis rewarded me for giving him a chance, and again for coming back every month. In ten years of me reading Bendis comics at Marvel, this is the most excited I have ever been for a book. Four issues in 2012, three more since then. If I was counting those three issues in 2013, this book would be fighting for a spot closer to ten than its current spot at twenty. Brian has made Beast a star, given us layers upon layers of Scott (both young and old), and finally shown us what happens when Wolverine teaches a class. Avengers vs. X-Men has found its worth in the fact that it led to this renaissance of all things X.
19. Aquaman – I knew that Geoff Johns would write a readable book with Aquaman, but I had no idea that I’d enjoy it this much. He brought the same big time feel that Green Lantern has carried for years, and it really helped that he brought Ivan Reis and Joe Prado aboard to do so. He showed us the secrets of Arthur’s past and reinforced the dynamic of Arthur being torn between two worlds. We saw his first trip to Atlantis (though not what happened), the origins of his brother Orm, and the debut of Vulko…and given how 2013 begins, these are all beyond major. Above all else, though, Johns put just enough work in to establish that, yes, Black Manta is a fucking badass. The book has been a top tier superhero title, and the longer Geoff stays on board, the more important Aquaman is not only going to seem to be, but the more important he will become.
18. Daredevil – Daredevil has become the place where writers would go to have a measuring contest. The measurement? Who has the darkest mind and the most interest in leaving a character radioactive after the fact. Bendis outed him and threw him in jail, Brubaker drove his wife insane and then put him in control of a ninja army, and Diggle? Diggle made him into Parallax. Last year I praised Mark Waid for making Daredevil fun again, and this year I have to reiterate that. Waid spent this year teasing Matt’s mental instability, making it hard for his fans, or even for Matt himself, to trust him. We had Megacrime after him, Dr. Doom payout a personal grudge, and the most screwed up take on the Spot ever. Really, the book has just been fantastic, and the art helps it along just as much. Paolo Rivera, Marcos Martin, Khoi Pham, Chris Samnee, and even an issue by the always amazing Mike Allred. Far and away the best Daredevil I’ve ever read, and it’s all because Mark Waid isn’t trying to sell his readers on shock value.
17. Uncanny X-Force – Why is Rick Remender writing Captain America and Uncanny Avengers? Because Uncanny X-Force was one of the most must read titles Marvel has put out in the last few years. Sure, 2012 started with the horrific Otherworld arc which featured an attempt at doing a great Omniverse and Captain Britain story (these things never work), but from there the book turned on the afterburners and charged full speed ahead. There was this awesome one shot with AoA Nightcrawler going after his past, trying to kill the AoA’s Iceman once and for all. The Final Execution was the stuff of brutality. Gateway? Dead. Fantomex? Heart ripped out. Evan? Captured by the Brotherhood to try and force him to go full Apocalypse. The bad guy? Wolverine’s own son, Daken. Remender blew everything to hell and back on his way out, putting a final stamp on the book. The final fight between Wolverine and Daken, and Sabretooth’s explanation for everything? Sick, twisted, and utterly perfect for this title. If Sam Humphries can channel even half of what Remender did here, then we’re in store for a fantastic second volume.
16. Amazing Spider-Man – It’s hard to believe that two years ago I was settled in my Spider-Ban, because I haven’t missed an issue since Spider-Island and don’t see that breaking any time soon. Dan Slott revitalized Spider-Man more on his own since taking over as the full time writer than was ever truly accomplished by the various Brand New Day creators. He’s brought a level of focus to Spidey’s world that is accented by the consistent voice, so instead of the important sub plots and supporting characters depending entirely on which creator is in charge….we’ve got the singular vision going now. That means that characters sound the same, plots make more sense, and the book flows perfectly. This year brought the fun and the big time action. We saw Peter try to save the world from it ending in the next twenty-four hours in one of the most original two part stories of the year. Pete helped Johnny get readjusted to being out of the Negative Zone, and then Spidey went to the Ends of the Earth to stop Doc Ock before having an epic confrontation with the Lizard just in time for the movie. What else could have happened? Oh, yeah, Alpha. Spidey’s failed sidekick who is looking to have a big 2013. And this little story arc where Ock becomes Spider-Man and sets up the current top selling Superior Spider-Man. So long as Dan Slott stays on Spidey, it’s going to be among the best books Marvel has to offer.
15. Revival – For as many zombie books as we’ve grown accustomed too, Tim Seeley gave us something a bit different. Cast in Wisconsin in a town where the dead have started to come back to life, they aren’t truly zombies. Fully reanimated people brought back through mysterious means, able to talk and act and fit in with normal people…sometimes. Some are driven insane, or were insane even before they came back, while others have to cope with just how they died. Like the main character’s sister, who came back knowing full well who her murderer was…even if no one knew she had been murdered in the first place. It’s a chilling modern noir that is just beyond creepy. Easily one of the best new books of the year, and really, the only zombieish book I actually follow.
14. Hawkeye – I remember reading the first two issues and thinking that the book is absolutely amazingly stunning in every way save for the requirements for suspension of disbelief. That Clint is super rich, and that he and Kate are double tapping people with arrows through their eyes and throats and nobody is dying. Drove me insane and damn near drove me off of the book entirely. Thankfully I have this deep seated love of Hawkeye, and a real desire to see Matt Fraction succeed (despite Fear Itself I really do think he’s a phenomenal talent), so I kept at it. By the time the year was over there had been six amazing issues, with the best coming in January (worth noting), and I had absolved Frac of all sins from his crossover event. This isn’t movie Hawkeye, or really even Avengers Hawkeye, it’s the same sort of magic that Fraction worked on Iron Fist about six years ago. The icing on the cake? David Aja reunited with Frac for this, so it has the same visual flare that Iron Fist brought to the table. Easily one of Marvel’s finest.
13. Earth 2 – I was not totally sold on Earth 2 when it was being sold to us. James Robinson hadn’t had a hit since Starman ended, and I’ve never really cared for a JSA that wasn’t written by Geoff Johns. I was going to give it an issue, maybe two, see if James couldn’t sell me. So glad that I did, as I was in love with the book by the end of the first issue. In one issue he did the first six issues of Justice League better than Johns did, and in the issues since then he’s crafted us a world and the characters in it with the same mastery that made Starman a must read. The characters are unique and engaging, the changes brought about due to the aftermath of the war with Darkseid have crafted a completely unique world. It’s Opal City on a global scale, from the destroyed craters where Terry Sloane nuked Apokolips ruled territories off the map, to the World Army operating both overtly and covertly. There is so much going on in this book, but it never feels overwhelming. James Robinson is back in the biggest of ways.
12. Hack/Slash – This is a weird entry to make, because I honestly could not tell you off the top of my head what happened in the first half of the year. I mean, I read it, and I do remember it, but last year at this time I was trying to live up to my New Year’s Resolutions. One of them was to read more books outside of Marvel and DC, and among the first books I decided to try out was Hack/Slash. I’d heard good things, enjoy horror flicks, and have a high opinion of Tim Seeley, so it was a natural fit. So between February and May I read EVERYTHING. Omnis, trades, digital issues, the works. By June I was current and it was on my pull list….and by August I moved it purely to digital when I realized that the print cover price was half a buck extra. Savages. Anyway, the book is addicting, and apparently this year featured quite a few fill-in creators doing arcs that I didn’t even realize weren’t Seeley. Really, this is the hardest write up, because all I can really tell you is that in 2012 I read a lot of Hack/Slash, and then when I was current I started reading a ton of other books at Image. I mean, come on, didn’t I just talk about Revival? Marvel really missed the boat not giving Tim more work.
11. Avengers Academy – Christos Gage really did manage to pull off the impossible with Avengers Academy. He crafted a book featuring teen characters without a single marquee name amongst them, and then anchored it with a staff of established B and C list Avengers characters. On paper this book was the recipe for six issues and canned. Instead it lasted for thirty nine issues, tied into two big summer events, and never dipped in quality. Last year saw the return of the Runaways, the full expansion of the roster, and all sorts of AVX. While most small books tend to fall apart under the weight of the big event banners that help boost sales, that was never the case here. A few of the characters have moved on to Avengers Arena, and one of them was the first to go…but that’s not really a consolation, is it? The book came full circle in its final issue, doing a full on happy ending despite the troubling choices from the preceding arc. The first issue introduced us to a group of brand new characters…and Reptil who was pretty much new (I think he had two actual appearances in comics before that), and a hook that they could all possibly be super villains. The ending was them finally being told, by the mentors they thought feared them, that they are heroes. Period. Despite Striker’s arrogance, or Finesse’s complete and total lack of emotions. They graduated, and hopefully Finesse’s lack of involvement in Avengers Arena means that we might see her soon in a non-fodder role. She was my favorite. Kid Taskmaster.