Wednesday, January 08, 2014

Top 20 Comic Reads of 2013

I am an avid reader.  I read a lot.  But among all the media of reading, the easier to make a list of – and most fun – “the best of the year” for is on comics.   Why?  Well, the year’s comics are more conveniently acquired than the year’s books.  Any book I acquire and read during the year were not from that year (but were published or released from previous years).  Hence, I can’t make a list of 2013 books (i.e. books first released in 2013) I read in that year for I haven’t gotten nor read any.  Comics, on the other hand, are another matter.  I have read lots for they are easier to get hands on.   Assembling a list then for comics is easy. 

So here are my most notable comic reads of 2013…     


Of course, the best days of the Ultimates were during “The Ultimates” and “The Ultimates 2” at the hands of Mark Millar and Bryan Hitch.  “Ultimate Comics: The Ultimates”, for me, is the second best.  This year, we get to have this cruder but hipper alternate-version of the Avengers in some fascinating and insane exploits – stuff you won’t ever see happening in Marvel’s main continuity.  America was plagued by secessions and insurgencies, and President Captain America and the Ultimates were in the frontlines to quench them.  Then, they had to take on Kang, Mr. Fantastic, Quicksilver, and the Hulk who got hold of the Infinity Gems and successfully conquered the world.  The Ultimates overcame all of that.  It was great, insane fun.   I will surely miss the Ultimates (for the entire Ultimate Universe is coming to an end).  
19.) EARTH 2

I love Earth 2 for seemingly being DC’s version of Marvel’s Ultimate Universe.  The stories in Earth 2 have the feel of the Ultimates’ kind and scale of stories.  This is a universe wherein Batman (though there is currently a new Batman roaming around, but his identity remains a mystery), Superman (recently revealed to be still alive, but corrupted and under Darkseid’s control), and Wonder Woman had sacrificed their lives to stop the Apokolips’ invasion of Earth, thus, the focus are on hip reboots of DC’s Justice Society of America superheroes (which are called “wonders” in this universe instead of superheroes) as well as a few new names, like Captain Steel, who is, interestingly, a native Filipino but is an American citizen. 


I purchased the latest compilation of Pugad Baboy, the greatest comic strip in my book, as soon as it was out.  Though it’s not Medina’s best work, it’s still a goldmine of Filipino cleverness and hilarity. 

This book featured (finally) another serial-type story in a long time, “The Bourne Ambrosity”, which had Brosia in a Jason Bourne-like adventure.  As what the cover hinted, the storyline also brought about epic cameos of the adventurous alter-egos of Pugad Baboy characters.        

17.) A + X

I did check out Uncanny X-Men and All-New X-Men regularly in 2013 but the X books never really made me enthusiastic about it (but I did like 2013’s “X-Men: Battle of the Atom” event and the time-displaced original X-Men’s crossover with the Hulk and the Superior Spider-Man in “The Arms of the Octopus”).  Hence, no X books are in this list.  The closest thing to an X book in this list would be A+X, a book that features bite-sized stories of team-ups between an X-Man and an Avenger – a welcome delight of story format amidst a crowd of long serialized tales in comicbooks.


2013 was an Avengers year.  Avengers titles dominate my major comic reads.  With the sole exception of Avengers Assemble I closely follow all Avengers-branded books (even though New Avengers and Secret Avengers have never been made into official Avengers teams yet).   There are a couple of upcoming new Avengers-branded books this year, and this year did too much Avengers goodwill to me, that I will willingly check them out and follow the first few issues (but I might drop Young Avengers this year, for the team no longer has Kid Loki, and Uncanny Avengers, for I’m close to getting tired of it; it hasn’t done anything for me). 

One of the best Avengers stuff this year is this graphic novel, Avengers: Endless Wartime.  It’s not what I found as the most exciting Avengers tale this year, but it’s still a compelling one nonetheless.  The story connects particular pasts of Captain America, Iron Man, and Thor, and how, with the assistance of their co-Avengers (the story’s roster is composed of the Avengers movie’s line-up plus Captain Marvel and Wolverine), they proceeded to bring closures for these.     


IDW’s Samurai Jack only has three issues so far, for the series has just started late this year.  However, it’s one of the books I got excited about for it implied that it will give a well-deserved conclusion of the adventure and mission (which the classic animated series never gave) of this iconic samurai.

It does annoy me that this present New Avengers has not been given an official status as an Avengers team yet (Come on, Marvel, make Black Bolt an official Avenger already!).  Nonetheless, the world-saving dilemma that this team of Illuminati members has to face is quite different from any other superhero team’s, making this book a captivating read.    


This galactic event, in the scale of the “Thanos Imperative” (which I immensely enjoyed), was a bona-fide epic.  The galactic empires of the galaxy, which had even been adversaries in the past, had to band together to save their galaxy from an unstoppable invasion force called the Builders.  It was an unwinnable scenario for this coalition of empires, but the Captain America-led Avengers, which came from the insignificant planet Earth, succeeded in what the galaxy’s empires failed in: become the catalyst of victory.   This would earn the Avengers the gratitude and respect of the entire galaxy.  (And while the Avengers were busy in space, Thanos and his forces proceeded to invade Earth.) 


This is Jeffrey Brown’s follow-up to his awesomely adorable, “Darth Vader and Son” (my favorite read of 2012).  I think the first one was better (maybe because of the novelty) but this book is nonetheless as clever and rich with creative Star Wars reference as it now focus on Darth Vader’s hypothetical parenting on Lea rather than Luke.  Below are my favorite parts. 


The manga and the anime are my most favorite manga and anime in 2013, respectively.  Yes, in 2013, I enjoyed Kuroko No Basuke more than I ever did One Piece, Naruto, Fairy Tail, or Bleach. Maybe I’m just too sucker for over-the-top sports-themed anime (with Eyeshield 21 being the best of such) but I got immersed into the story and characters, enjoyed the ridiculous but kickass basketball action, and rooted for Kuroko and his team almost as much as I do with my beloved Lakers in real-life. 


Hawkeye was my most favorite comicbook series from Marvel in 2012 for producing down-to-earth, sometimes funny, sometimes dramatic, “heartful” anecdotes on the Hawkeyes of the Marvel U, Clint Barton and Emma Bishop (especially her, since she’s far more interesting in her depiction here than in the current Young Avengers, which is all Kid Loki).  In 2013, though this series is demoted to the tenth spot, it has nonetheless retained its appeal and coolness. 


The start of this new Mighty Avengers book is pretty promising.  How this new, independent Avengers team was brought together during Infinity; how they were oozing with badass chemistry right from the start; and the mystery of the new Ronin made it so.  It has the feel of being Bendis’ New Avengers (Volume 1) all over again.  And that’s pretty awesome. 


I never expected that I would love this book.  I checked out the first issue out of curiosity… then I was hooked from there.  Henry Pym, in his years of being part of many Avenger line-ups, has never been more perfectly fitted in any Avengers roster as he is with this team.  Vision – with his new abilities (like deconstructing into countless microscopic nanobots) – has been so cool.  Victor Mancha and Alexis have been surprisingly non-boring but have proven to be actually interesting.  And Doombot – the most awesome thing in this book – will win you over easily.  Age of Ultron was a bane of awful storytelling last year, but it has ushered in Avengers A.I., and I’m happy for it.           


Though the current arc is kind of weak, the book’s opening arc this year has been exciting.  It was about Batman and Superman during their early superheroing days (in the “New 52” universe).   These two heroes are tight bros in the present, but during their first meeting and adventure together, they couldn’t stand each other (they even came to blows more than once).  In this first adventure, a demon transported them to Earth 2 (see no. 19 of this list), where they encountered their counterparts (who were still alive then) in this alternate universe – who are older, thus, more experienced and better than them (of course, it wouldn’t be a comicbook without the expected, initial melee between the meeting heroes before any “team-up” happens).   It was revealed in this story that the Batman and Superman of Earth 2 have been bestfriends since they were kids, for in this universe, Bruce Wayne and Clark Kent had met already when they were young boys.  It was pretty cool seeing the young New 52 Batman and Superman hanging out with their older Earth 2 counterparts.   If a “Batman and Superman” team-up is awesome already, then the first few issues of Batman/Superman had twice the awesomeness because of that.    

Right now, I’m more thrilled about and engrossed on this team than I currently am with the X-Men, which I consider the greatest superhero team ever.  That’s the biggest compliment I can give about this comicbook.  The original Thunderbolts had been one of my favorite superhero teams ever, but this new Thunderbolts team – which, take note, has never referred to themselves as the “Thunderbolts” – is very different from the original Thunderbolts (whose team’s concept has been absorbed into the Dark Avengers, and whose status quo is currently unknown after the series’ end in 2013) premise, but is more interesting – from their black-and-red team motif, to their diverse personalities (which will get more diverse with Ghost Rider’s inclusion to the team this year), to their arrangement of picking missions, to the nonchalance of killing baddies (what do you expect from a line-up made up of anti-heroes like Red Hulk, Agent Venom, the Punisher, Elektra, and Deadpool?).          


Batman, for me, has remained DC’s best comic in 2013, just as it was in 2012.  Ever since issue 1 (back in 2011), this book has been a gripping and powerful read, and it has effectively continued to be so last year.
Early in 2013, “Death to the Family” had Batman in one of his most intense showdowns in comicbook history with his main archrival, the Joker.    Then in the second half of the year, “Zero Year” went full flashback as it started telling us the origin and early days of the New 52 Batman.         

Another thing I enjoy about this book are the supplementary short tales at the end of some issues. They provided some interesting backstories, like glimpses of Bruce Wayne’s skills training during his hiatus away from Gotham prior his debut as Batman, and how the Joker broke the Riddler out of jail or, rather, how Joker “convinced” the Riddler to get himself out of his cell (it was an awesome moment for both Batman villains). 


This is cheating a bit... the 4th spot goes to Superior Spider-Man and Superior Spider-Man Team Up (and to the Avenging Spider-Man title prior to Team Up).   You should know by now how much I despise SpOck, but the whole concept is just too novel and the comics are just too friggin’ amazing that I’m compelled to come back for more.  Heck, I’m so invested in Superior Spider-Man – in hating, but at the same time, (confusingly) enjoying the character and stories – that it made me write something about it… not once… not twice… not thrice… but four times during the year!


Despite being entertained by Superior Spider-Man, I desire nothing more than the return of Peter Parker.  I’m disappointed that this whole SpOck blasphemy lasted for a year (and is likely to extend until this year).  That’s why even if they were mere flashback stories, I was glad of the Peter Parker comics in 2013: Marvel Knights: Spider-Man and Amazing Spider-Man 700.1 to 700.5.      


I’ve always loved Scarlet Spider right from the start – an “All of the power, none of the responsibility”-kind of Spider-Man.  It’s brilliant.  The premise of the comics was simple: Kaine Parker sincerely sought redemption by attempting to be a hero in Houston as he struggled with his inner darkness.  This made him a very likable and deep character (and deserving of some A-ttention).  It also helped that his supporting cast – the close friends he unexpectedly gained – are likable, too.  Add all those elements up and it was a delightful issue each month.      

So sad this got cancelled this year. (Why not stop Superior Spider-Man instead?!)        


The new era of Avengers, which was brought about by Marvel NOW!, produced its most extensive, most powerful, and most diverse roster ever.  That has always been one of the main reasons this book interest me immensely.  And the team continued to expand and grow in might this year, making the line-up more exciting, hence, making the book more exciting. 

Each issue has been greatly entrancing and enjoyable, but it was the epic Infinity (see no. 13 of this list) event the greatly helped in boosting my fondness for Avengers

Why is Avengers the number one for me in 2013?   Simply because it was the comic that was most consistent in delivering thrilling comicbook-reading moments during the year.

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