2013 was an amazing year, financially and creatively, for comic books. Sales are up nearly 10%, and that’s not even including the closely guarded digital numbers. And across the board, we saw some genuinely great books this year, ranging from smart reinventions of superheroes to new ideas. Here are the fifteen best comic books of 2013, in no particular order.
Batman has been in print for decades, and it can feel like every possible version of the character has been explored. But this year, Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo delivered a genuinely compelling take on Batman, whether it was the dark Death of The Family or the much more lighthearted retelling of his origin, Zero Year. While this is a strong year for Batbooks in general, especially John Layman’s great run on Detective Comics, this stood out the most.
On paper, Heck looks like a goofy adventure book from Zander Cannon; there’s Heck, looking like Doc Savage, and his adorable mummy sidekick. But in truth, this is a far more serious book, about lost opportunities, regret, faded glory, and going through your very own personal hell. It’s got plenty of action and adventure, and a twisty plot that keeps you reading, but what ultimately makes Heck stand out is its strong characters and its willingness to let an ending be bittersweet.
It takes forever for new issues to come out. It seems to get almost no promotion. But Nowhere Men is one of those books that, when you see it on the stands, you need to grab it immediately. Eric Stephenson and Nate Bellegarde put a lot of love into this comic, a tale of mad science and how it’s going to change the world, like it or not, as it deftly juggles several plot threads and dryly funny moments. Bellegarde’s elaborate artwork, with Jordie Bellaire’s stunning colors, is really the icing on the cake.
<!–pagetitle:The Mighty Avengers–>
The Avengers have so many franchises at this point, they might as well be Subway. But the Mighty Avengers stands out for a few reasons, not the least of which is that it’s a cohesive team with a sense of humor. It’s action-packed, and the snappiest, smartest team book Marvel puts out.
Donny Cates and Geoff Shaw have a seemingly simple idea for this miniseries: What if a superhero got all his powers from doing drugs? And what if, to save his life, he had to quit? The result is a smart, complex look at addiction set in a context of superhero comics that’s compulsively readable.
Astro City is a book we didn’t know we’d missed, until it finally came back. Kurt Busiek and Brent Anderson return with books that are essentially Silver Age comics written for adults, and it’s surprising how compelling and gripping Busiek’s stories are. Another nice touch is that you can dip in with some issues: Busiek has been using one-off stories and shorter arcs. So pick up an issue; you’ll probably want to stay a while.
<!–pagetitle:The Crow: Curare–>
J. O’Barr’s return to the Crow has been a mixed blessing. While it’s good to see he’s gotten his demons in line and has started working again, he’s also largely delivered light riffs on a theme; it’s not exactly a ground-breaking idea that the Crow might bring back a Holocaust victim for revenge on the Nazis.