Glenn Walker’s Top Five Comics for 2013

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Everybody at Biff Bam Pop! is talking about Top Fives this week, and I’ve already hit you with my thoughts on 2013’s film offerings. There were a lot of cool things going on in the comics world this year, so it’ll be difficult to narrow them down to five, but I’ll try, or maybe I’ll just talk five movements in comics, we’ll see. Next, after the jump, we’ll look at my top fives (give or take) in comics for 2013.

1. Biff! Bam! Pow!

I’m not sure what this is about, whether it’s the reemergence of the 1966 “Batman” TV series on The Hub Network, the release of show-specific action figures, or if finally enough time has passed – but the Adam West Batman is hot again, and the Batman ’66 is its creative legacy. This digital first comic takes the characters and situation s from the TV show and adapts them to a comic book continuity.

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Besides the go-go checks sixties vibe of the book, the creators also manage to integrate classic TV villains like King Tut, the Bookworm, and The Sandman (Michael Rennie not Neil Gaiman) into the comics universe. Written by Jeff Parker, and illustrated by a variety of artists including Mike Allred, Jonathan Case, Sandy Jarrell, Christopher Jones, and Ruben Procopio, among others, Batman ’66 is my pick for the best comic of the year.

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It’s just fun, and a delight to read, and in a comics market where the mainstream Batman comics feature a Joker without a face and multiple dead Robins, I’ll take Batman ’66 any day of the week. Also in line with Batman and fun, you should check out L’il Gotham, another digital first that might seem like it’s for kids at first, but is actually pretty cool.

2. The Return of Pulp

I am a long time hardcore pulp guy. Give me some Doc Savage, Green Hornet, and especially The Shadow, and I’m down. The problem is, that most of the time, the comics don’t know how to handle these characters. Just look at DC’s disastrous First Wave from a few years back. It had some nice moments, but overall, not good.

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This year, and last, Dynamite Entertainment has been doing it right, for the most part. Let’s just forget about their attempt at a massive pulp crossover, Masks, and Dynamite has a nearly perfect record. The Shadow regular series has been wonderful, as has their Year One mini by Matt Wagner, and the Dark Knights mini where The Shadow teams with the Green Hornet, apparently ignorant of the events of Masks are superior. More on the Hornet later.

This has been the year of The Shadow, and hopefully 2014 will be even bigger. And if you’re as big a fan of The Shadow as I am, I have to recommend The Shadow Fan’s Podcast, a terrific resource on all the versions of the original avenger of the night, by super-fan, and an accomplished pulp writer himself, Barry Reese.

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Spinning out of The Shadow, the character find of the year may well be the Black Sparrow. This villainess stole every issue she previously appeared in and made writer Victor Gischler bring her back in the mini-series Noir that also guest-stars Miss Fury and The Shadow. Speaking of Miss Fury, also very good on the pulp vibe and on the shelves this year were that very dangerous time-displaced lady, as well as Dark Horse’s Black Beetle, The Spider, and Howard Chaykin’s revamp of Buck Rogers.

3. Wave of the Future

Now I talked about a couple of these comics in last year’s best of 2012, bbut the simple fact is – they are still damned good, and still head and shoulders above most of the stuff out there on the shelves today. The Flash by Francis Manapul, Hawkeye by Matt Fraction and David Aja, and Wonder Woman by Brian Azzarello and Cliff Chiang rock this year just as they did last. These are comics and creators who are taking chances, finding new ways to tell stories, and making new legends. And I love ’em.

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Speaking of new worlds of storytelling, I spent a good deal of my time on Biff Bam Pop! this year reviewing the Marvel Comics crossover event called Infinity by Jonathan Hickman. Now I’m not big on crossovers, it’s a fact I made clear in my very first piece for the site, about Fear Itself, but Hickman made me like this one. Here, with Infinity and Avengers, as with his Fantastic Four, Hickman plays the long game, not writing for the trade, but writing for the long story, the character evolution, the over-arcing pay-off. He’s made me a believer.

4. Give Us What We Want

As comics readers, and yes, as fanboys and fangirls, we are often told that we don’t know what we really want. Sometimes, and I don’t believe this for a second, the comics publishers know what’s better for the characters and their universe(s). Riiiight. All I know is that I understood the DC Comics Multiverse at the age of five, a feat that most of the DC staff couldn’t accomplish before they did the Crisis on Infinite Earths. So they simplified it, and we mourned.

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We have been wanting our Earth-Two back ever since, and while we haven’t gotten what we were asking for, DC has given us a wonderful present – Earth 2. Created by James Robinson, we are given a whole new parallel Earth, and new origins of our favorite Earth-Two heroes and villains. In a world ravaged by Darkseid and the forces of Apokalips, where Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman have all perished at that enemy’s hands – we meet a new generation of heroes… a new Flash, Green Lantern, Hawkgirl, Solomon Grundy and more… and of course new secrets. Has any other comic this year had more shocks?

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As far as getting what we want, the Godzilla comics by IDW has featured not only all of the Toho daikaiju, but also more battles, and match-ups we have never seen in the films. And then there’s Mark Waid. I think ‘anything by Mark Waid’ should be a category in any best of comics list for 2013. He has given us amazing new spins on Daredevil and made the Hulk into an agent of SHIELD. And low on the radar, from Archie Comics, is a Waid book you should all check out – The Fox, also featuring the work of Dean Haspiel.

5. Bad Ideas Done Well

There have been a number of comics this year, that quite honestly, when I heard the premise, I groaned. But I have to rescind those groans, because more than a few of these comics are pretty darn awesome. Kill Spider-Man and put the mind of Doctor Octopus in his body? Thank you, Dan Slott for making me read the web-crawler again, your Superior Spider-Man is an incredible ride, and the best Spidey story in years. Bring Jonah Hex to the present? Time travel has never been good to Hex, but All-Star Western this year once again proves me wrong.

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How about Dial H for Hero? This is an old Silver Age concept that even an old school guy like me disliked. Novelist China Mieville took this Dial H idea, twisted it, and ran with it, creating one of my favorite series of the year.  The man managed to out-Vertigo Vertigo.  Riverdale overrun with zombies? Oh yeah, that’ll work – but it did, check out Afterlife with Archie.

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You want more bad idea theater? Brian Michael Bendis took the original X-Men and time traveled them to the present, making his All-New X-Men one of the most fascinating books on the shelves. This worked so well that rumor has it Jonathan Hickman will be throwing the original Avengers at the current day team soon. And then there’s Superman/Wonder Woman, a series concentrating on the ill-advised romance between the two title characters. Relationship aside, Charles Soule has made this one of the best Super-titles out there. You just never know what will work.

2013 was a great year for comics, and I can’t wait for 2014. Now if we can only get the Legion of Super-Heroes back…

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