The Gold Standard Top Fifty Books Of 2012: 30-21

I promise, I’m not lazy, birthdays are generally not four day things for me. It’s strange, I figured I’d hang out with a few people, grab dinner, call it a day. Not have an entire weekend and then some put aside for it; it was kinda awesome, I could get used to it.

So where were we? A lot of digital love, some strong female leads, and only room to move up towards the bigger name stuff, right? Well, that’s what should be happening as my beloved digital first titles have been mostly used, but hey, that leaves room for stuff that more of you read! So let’s get to this, ready?

Action Comics 9 New 52 President Superman

30. Action Comics – It’s a strange title, to put things lightly. One month Action Comics may deliver an amazing and memorable story, and then the next you might find yourself asking why you even wasted your time. It’s maddening, but it’s also on occasion some really good Superman. The Krypto issue alone earns this book a spot in the middle of my list, but it has always felt like it’s being held back from being great. Like, there’s so much potential here for a fantastic Superman story for the ages, but with the limited timeframe set aside for his run, everything feels too rushed together. I need to sit back and read an extended chunk of this all at once.


29. Green Lantern Corps – Before Zero Month, this book wouldn’t have even cracked my top fifty. But right around that time, maybe a bit before, Peter Tomasi remembered the trick he had applied to his previous tenure of the book to so much success. He turned the focus pretty much exclusively to Guy Gardner, and never looked back. What did this net us? An updated origin story that stays true to Guy’s core (but giving him a background in law enforcement), Guy’s fall from grace, and him without a ring still kicking ass on Earth. And for John? Well, once that whole “John Stewart: Murderer” plot resolved itself, he went on a hunt for Mogo that limited him to two to three pages an issue. My interest skyrocketed.


28. Angel and Faith – For as good as Buffy has been, Angel and Faith has been better. Helmed by the always awesome Christos Gage, and featuring a far more structured story, the book has been the highlight of the Buffy franchise for two years now. So what did 2012 bring us? The return of Drusilla, Faith’s daddy issues completely delved into, Giles’ great aunts, Connor, Willow, and even Ethan Rayne! The quest to bring back Giles has been moving at a great pace, and the book has clearly defined itself as the best book of the Buffy bunch.


27. Worlds’ Finest – I was sold when the book was Power Girl and Huntress, wary when it was written by Paul Levitz, and then sold all over again when the art was George Perez and Kevin Maguire. The ladies of Earth 2, stuck on Earth 1, and all the things they get into. Karen building an empire to try and find a way back home, Helena taking her former mission global. Admittedly, I have a love for titles with strong female leads (this is the ninth on the list so far), but this one has just been fantastic. I had been of the belief that Paul Levitz was out of touch with today’s readers, and that he was another Chris Claremont (taking the work of younger writers that are more attuned to modern readers, while turning in work that tarnishes their legacy), but instead he’s very much like Earth 2’s James Robinson. Someone who just needed the right project to regain the creative spark. Highlight of the year? Huntress and Damian meet, realize that they’re the exact same person, and bond as brother and sister over a kickass mission. Issues six and seven, don’t miss them.


26. Captain Marvel – When Marvel cancelled X-23 there were a multitude of reasons why I was ticked off. It was the last book at Marvel featuring a woman in a solo spot, and it was also written by Marjorie Liu. Marvel made a smart move with Captain Marvel, bringing back the title of a character that should always exist, one that bears the company name. And then, rather than bring back Mar-Vell or some child of Mar-Vell, they took Carol Danvers, Ms. Marvel, and gave her a promotion. Kelly Sue DeConnick completes the package, not only by being a female creator, but by kicking all kinds of ass and making the book something worth reading every month. The book could stand for a bit more promotion, as Marvel has quickly forgotten it (recurring theme with books featuring female leads over there), but it’s more than worth checking out. Carol is awesome, her new costume is great, and she’s so far managed to be everything Geoff Johns claimed Hal Jordan would be before he said screw it and never stopped writing him in costume. Check out her Avengers Assemble while you’re at it, even more Carol by KSD (and had it had more issues by her in 2012 I may have listed it, but I skipped out on Bendis). A real gem that I really hope Marvel doesn’t just toss on the silent chopping block.

Justice League 12 variant Jim Lee

25. Justice League – Man, if this list took early 2013 into account, this book would be a bit higher. As it stands, 2012 was an up or down year for the League. Geoff Johns did the best he could, but his storytelling method clearly clashed with the way Jim Lee draws a title, and left it dragging on for far too long. Ivan Reis has been a welcome addition to the book since Jim left. Even more welcome, however, are the SHAZAM! back up stories with Gary Frank on art. The updated origin story has worked well, taking Billy Batson out of the silver age and moving him into the present with great results and giving the former Captain Marvel an alter ego that isn’t directly out of a simpler time. And hey, BLACK ADAM! Back to the title at hand, Justice League also features one of the ballsier moves of the New 52; the pairing of Superman and Wonder Woman. Once the stuff of fanboy dreams and Elseworlds, it’s now an actual thing with well handled characterization. Geoff is crafting the most powerful power couple in comics history on a team that came together to stop an evil God. Justice League is only going to get better.


24. Saga – Brian K Vaughan returned to comics and the results have been nothing short of amazing. He’s given us action, romance, war, people with TV for heads, and a hitman who draws the line at child sec labor. The book isn’t really easy to put into words, but it’s the kind of title where it’s hard to not get excited anytime you see it on sale. The book is a real gem, and I’m actually not ashamed to admit that my favorite character is Izabel, the ghostly babysitter bonded to the soul of the baby, Hazel. Now I just wonder how long until someone tries to option it for other media, because I think that a network could create an amazing sci-fi series out of it.
manhattan projects
23. Manhattan Projects – Jon Hickman, super science, and World War 2. A combination made in heaven. You take seven super geniuses, where maybe one of them is normal, and another is an AI programmed with the brainwaves of FDR, and another is an evil Einstein from a parallel world, and yeah. The book is pure insanity, and it gets better every issue. It makes me wish I read more of Hickman’s creator owned work.


22. Animal Man – The creepiest book out of the big two, hands down. Jeff Lemire has used the Rot to craft a top notch horror title with a super hero protagonist, at one point this year going as far as to kill Buddy off just so he could bring him back with new powers…and some really graphic gory details along the way. Truly a book completely brought together by its art, with Steve Pugh doing a fantastic job since taking over the reigns from Travel Foreman. If I were to have a single complaint it would be that Rotworld has dragged on a bit, but given just how visually messed up the whole situation has been? And the horror movie being crafted with the rest of Buddy’s family? Yeah, this book is a real must read.


21. Batman Incorporated – Grant Morrison has proven a lot of things over the years, but one of those is that he writes the hell out of Batman. This book has the unique status of being the only New 52 book to give the relaunch the middle finger with no regard. I mean, the OUTSIDERS exist, including the DiDio creation Freight Train, and a Metamorpho who openly talked of his Justice League days (which don’t exist in the new canon). Existing firmly within its own bubble has allowed Grant to keep doing what he does best. Tell crazy stories without having to shoehorn in anything he doesn’t care about. It means that Damian can be faking his own death successfully while maintaining his own title elsewhere in the line, and Jason Todd can be a part of Batman Inc instead of traveling around the galaxy. It means that Grant can tell his epic Batman finale his way, and that’s why I’m expecting to see this book even higher up on the list next year when it’s over.

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