The Best Comic Books and Graphic Novels of 2013
In compiling the best comic books and graphic novels of 2013, we were delighted by the sheer scope of stories represented from all pockets of the comics world. When it comes to superheroes, we--like everyone else--fell for Matt Fraction and David Aja's Everyman take on Hawkeye, cheered on "Captain Marvel's" daring reboot and were both thrilled and chilled by the family politics in "Wonder Woman" and "Batman." Memoirs from Allie Brosh and Lucy Knisley tackled depression and food, respectively. Finally, in the category of "stories we didn't know we wanted," Gene Luen Yang gave us a much-needed history lesson, "Adventure Time" got a graphic novel and Paul Pope imagined a superhero world without the traditional caped crusaders in "Battling Boy."
Brian Azzarello and Cliff Chiang have reinvented several aspects of Wonder Woman since the New 52 reboot in 2011, but all that demigod drama is nothing compared to what the duo has done for Diana. Instead of being just another super-friend, this Amazon princess has been out there on her own, traveling the world and trying to get her mythological relatives to play nice. It's a fast, fun joyride with a deranged cast of characters, all held together by the strength and compassion of everyone's favorite warrior with a heart (and lasso) of gold. (See also the follow-ups "Guts" and "Iron.")
In only two trades, Matt Fraction and David Aja have managed to turn an unlucky guy with a weapon from the Paleolithic era into the most interesting Avenger with DVR problems. This year alone, we've gotten to see how Clint and protégé Kate Bishop handled Hurricane Sandy, a holiday season full of tracksuit-clad Russian mobsters and the return of a certain unwelcome redhead. Throw in a day in the life of Pizza Dog, and you've got the best superhero series of 2013, bro.
From the early days of Allie Brosh's singular webcomic, her wacky childhood reminiscences (including being high on painkillers after having her wisdom teeth removed) and cheeky observations resonated with readers. But, the posts that got shared most consistently were Brosh's struggles with depression, as she deftly illustrated the kind of suffering that people had previously been unable to put into words (or images). "Hyperbole and a Half" collects both the highs and the lows, giving readers a deep look into Brosh's hyperactive, ridiculous, reflective headspace.
"American Born Chinese" writer/artist Gene Luen Yang deftly illustrates the old adage of there being two sides to every story--especially when it comes to war--by releasing two linked volumes about China's Boxer Rebellion. Just as you've started cheering for poor villager Little Bao and his grassroots movement, you meet another child from the other side of the conflict: Vibiana, who questions whether to join up with the Christian missionaries who took her in. (Nightly visits from Joan of Arc make things even more complicated.) It's history, young adult lit and magical realism all rolled into two engaging volumes. No wonder Yang was nominated for a National Book Award!
From Ryan North's ongoing series to Natasha Allegri's gender-swapped spinoff, it's downright impossible to have a bad time in the Land of Ooo. Thanks to Danielle Corsetto and Zack Sterling, that proud tradition of mathematical adventuring and being awesome continued in "Adventure Time's" first original graphic novel. "Playing with Fire" features the return of Flame Princess, as she teams up with Jake to save Finn's soul from a fortune-telling, puzzle-loving dragon. Hand to Glob, it's a fantastic read.
"French Milk" author Lucy Knisley's work has long featured food as a running theme, but with her new memoir "Relish," she amps up her emotional connections to the culinary arts. As the daughter of a chef, it's no surprise that Knisley links key moments in her life to what she was eating at the time. This candor encourages a conversation about eating without treating food as a commodity or a vice.
Between his "Court of the Owls" arc and the "Year Zero" crossover event, "American Vampire" creator Scott Snyder has more than proven his worthiness to take over the Bat mantle. What's more, a year after we were confronted with the gruesome image of the Joker cutting off his own face, we see Batman reunited with his greatest adversary. But, there's a twist: Joker believes that he and the other members of the rogues gallery are Batman's true family, while his sidekicks only weaken him. Gory, gross and yet, kind of heartwarming? Only Snyder--with Capullo's skin-crawling art--could pull that off.
Though many modern readers are quick to reblog their favorite comic book moments, it's still rare to see an outpouring of adoration after the relaunch of a classic superhero--especially one that hasn't been in any movies yet. Lucky for us, Carol Danvers deserves every bit of that positive feedback. The new Captain Marvel has been kicking butt all over the planet, with her exciting exploits inspiring Kamala Khan, the new teenage Ms. Marvel, and her real-world fan group, the Carol Corps. Danvers isn't just another Avenger fighting dinosaurs on the streets of Manhattan--she's a super role model.
Although it was due for release back in 2007, Paul Pope took the time to tweak and refine "Battling Boy" into more than just a one-off adolescent power fantasy. This coming-of-age series kicks off strong, as Pope tosses an impulsive god-boy into a post-apocalyptic world filled with monsters, sadistic kidnappers and politicians. What results is a story that bounces around like a punk art masterpiece, grabbing inspiration from the likes of Dave Stevens, Jack Kirby and Osamu Tezuka, as it pumps out page after colorful page of face-bashing, city-smashing mayhem.