This article was originally published at DC Comics News on December 29, 2013.
The DCN crew continues their look back on the best of 2013. This time, the gang lets us know which titles should have been on your pull list month after month because they were too good to pass up.
Best New 52 Title
ASH: Wonder Woman – I said it before and I’ll happily the say crap out of it again: Azzarello is kicking some serious ass with his Wonder Woman run. After years of Diana feeling like the most undeserving of DC’s trinity, I finally get the appeal of Wonder Woman. This title had everything: superheroes, mythological monsters, the Greco-Roman pantheon acting like dicks, and even the New Gods! … Also kind of acting like dicks. It was awesome.
MAX: Phantom Stranger – This title began in late 2012 and it got off to a really good start. Dan Didio totally reinvented the Phantom Stranger in a way that was new and exciting. DC giving the Phantom Stranger a concrete origin story upsets a lot of people, but personally, I think it’s a brilliant move that has really allowed him to grow as a character. Once J.M. DeMatteis took over, the series went from being just good to absolutely astounding. With brilliant, smart storytelling and lots of cool ideas, this series is an absolute treat to read, and although it has low sales numbers, it consistently keeps up a standard of quality I haven’t seen rivaled throughout all of 2013, and that’s why I say it’s the best book of the year. Now go out and buy it so it doesn’t get cancelled, please.
DAN: Wonder Woman – Enough cannot be said for Brian Azzarello’sWonder Woman. What is effectively an ensemble title is the one of the best offerings in all of comics, let alone DC. Azzarello has crafted a mythology for Diana that is as strong as the character deserves. From Diana’s extended Olympic family, the reintroduction of the New Gods, and a climactic battle against the First Born, Wonder Woman is easily worth every penny spent.
CHASE: Batman – Scott Snyder, Greg Capullo, and FCO Plascencia have crafted one of the most consistently enjoyable titles amongst the New 52 line up. Snyder’s stories vary from the lengthy “Death of the Family” and “Year Zero” to two issue tales without losing any effect. Beyond that, he has reshaped Batman into a horror comic, as much as a superhero one, allowing him to explore new material with a seventy year old character. Capullo provides rich pencils that do justice to beloved heroes and villains, while providing backgrounds of Gotham that make the city a character itself. These are only enhanced by Plascencia’s colors, which enrich every page. This is a book loaded with talented creators, all doing some of their best work ever.
MATT: Batman – I am extremely biased because I love Batman (just check out our sister site that I run, www.DarkKnightNews.com) but Scott Snyder’s take on the character is unbelievable. It makes me not want to miss a single issue.
JAY: Justice League Dark – No other series in the New 52 was as consistently entertaining as Justice League Dark. While most of his run could be summed up in “The evil wizard did it!”, those evil wizards sure knew how to keep the JLD on its toes! With the conclusion to “War for the Books of Magic”, the “The Death of Magic”, and into “Horror City”, Lemire showed readers that a magic-themed Justice League could be just as entertaining and engrossing as the more mainstream League titles. Constantine was obviously a regular source of aggravated enchantment, but Lemire really went above and beyond to showcase Madame Xanadu, Swamp Thing, Zatanna, and even The Flash (during the “Horror City” arc). Mikel Janin’s artwork is also a big contributing factor to how awesome this series has been in 2013.
Best Vertigo Title
ASH: Astro City – I gotta be honest, I’ve barely read any Vertigo this year. But I have picked up a couple issues of Astro City and I thought it was pretty solid. While it’s not quite up to its previous level of awesomeness, I think it’s a nice alternative from the constant doom and gloom of the New 52.
MAX: Sandman: Overture – Admittedly, this is the only Vertigo title I currently read, so I kind of have to default to it. Still, I take no shame in that fact, because it’s NEW SANDMAN BY NEIL GAIMAN. I personally don’t feel the need to try and defend comic books as an artistic medium, but if I had to be forced to pick an example of a comic that is, it’s Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman. It’s clever, explores tons of themes, mythologies, and ideas, and is masterfully written. I consider The Sandman a paragon of what the comic book medium can be, and even though only one issue is out so far,Sandman: Overture looks to be bringing back that standard of quality. Now if only they could get the second issue out on time, that’d be just great.
DAN: Trillium – Billed as “the last love story ever told,” writer/artist Jeff Lemire has been a pillar in the rebirth of Vertigo. The sci-fi book turns the conventions of a romance on its head – literally. From the premiere issue, Lemire has provided an unconventional reading experience that never comes off as a gimmick.
CHASE: Trillium – The quality of Jeff Lemire’s Trillium cannot be understated. Not only is it the best Vertigo title of 2013, it is the best DC title of 2013. Using a wide variety of formatting devices, Lemire has pushed the boundaries of his chosen medium to tell a love story that is powered by scripting, art, and design. It’s a triumph of comics storytelling, the definition of a must-read.
MATT: The Wake – The Wake is so refreshing compared to most of what is pumped out onto stands these days. The art by Sean Murphy (of Punk Rock Jesus fame) really stands out, and Scott Snyder’s writing is what you’d expect: great. Lastly, for new readers, it’s one of the few Vertigo titles that are easy to pick up and get into.
JAY: The Wake – Scott Snyder had a bombastic 2013, due in no small part to his creator-owned series, The Wake, a thrilling, terrifying story about deep-sea explorers and their discovery of a single mermaid. Though it’s only at the halfway point, The Wake reads more like a movie than a limited comic book series. The story beats lift this title above many of the other “indie” titles out there by making the characters relatable, the story completely engaging, and the fear absolutely palpable.
Best Digital Title
ASH: Injustice: Gods Among Us – I had a hard time getting past the initial premise of this series. I mean, I don’t care what slightly-alternate universe you’re in, Superman just shouldn’t become a remorseless dictator. That said, this has been a damn entertaining series. The relationship between Green Arrow and Harley Quinn has been worth the price of admission every time.
MAX: Justice League Beyond 2.0 – This comic is a ton of fun. Like Batman Beyond 2.0, Justice League Beyond 2.0 takes place in the future of the DC Animated Universe after a one year time jump from its previous, non-2.0 comic book incarnation, where we got to see things like the fate of Darkseid after the end of JLU, a new female Flash, and the origin story of the child Green Lantern, Kai-Ro. Justice League Beyond 2.0 is a fun book with lots of humorous exchanges between the main characters, cool action scenes, and if you’re a fan of the DCAU like I am, it’s a real treat to find out what happened to all of your favorite characters and meet new ones. Give it a try. It’s sure to make you smile.
DAN: Adventures of Superman – DC’s Superman anthology title launched with critical fanfare and never looked back. While the New 52 has not been kind to the Man of Steel, Adventures of Superman has provided readers with a weekly dose of classic Supes. Popular and virtually unknown writers and artists have been given the chance to work play with the biggest toy in the DC lineup to great success. Whether it was the opening installment by Jeff Parker and Chris Samnee, or #28 by Josh Elder and Victor Ibanez,Adventures of Superman has been a weekly dose of joy.
CHASE: Li’l Gotham – Li’l Gotham accomplishes something with Batman that has been exceedingly rare since 1986: Having fun. It’s the title that embraced more than forty years of history wherein Batman was a character that enjoyed being Batman, had crazy adventures, and was not surrounded by darkness. It’s a feat also accomplished by Batman ’66, butLi’l Gotham did it first. Its stories are filled with both wacky antics and heartfelt, honest moments that combined with Dustin Nguyen’s watercolors, make for a must buy comic.
MATT: Batman Beyond 2.0 – Higgins work on Nightwing is great, and now that he also taken on the Batman Beyond universe he continues to show his love for these characters and that we as readers can have a lot of fun with them.
JAY: Injustice: Gods Among Us – Though this is one of the only digital-first series I read, I found it to be the most entertaining in 2013. Tom Taylor went beyond the original purview to create a comic book tie-in series for the Injustice video game, and created a new parallel comic book universe that became so popular that fans demanded more even after it was supposed to be finished. Taylor combined hard-hitting ethical dilemmas with meaningful plot twists and even some humor now and again to craft one of the most enjoyable series of the year, digital or physical. Seriously, if you haven’t read Injustice, do it.
About the Staff
ASH MAHTANI is the writer of the conversation starting “Showcase Presents” opinion pieces. Though his views are not universal, he is the heart of the DCN staff.
MAX DWECK heads the review department and reviews nearly all of DC’s Dark line of titles (Justice League Dark, Trinity of Sin: The Phantom Stranger, etc). He also loves all things Deadman.
DAN GEHEN primarily reviews The Flash and Nightwing, as well as whatever else needs a look. Even Katana, which was a huge mistake.
CHASE MAGNETT is the “Vertigo guy,” reviewing 100 Bullets: Brother Lono, Trillium, and Fables. Lucky guy.
JAY MATTSON is the Head Editor of Reviews and News for DCN, as well as the reviewer of a plethora of titles. It’s likely he changed a few things from this article’s original draft.
MATT GALVIN is the founder and driving force behind DCComicsNews.com. Without him, this article would never have happened.