Sunday, 18 November 2012

The 10 Best Superhero Comics Of 2012?

Of course, 2012 isn't over yet. Hopefully, there's tens of wonderful superhero comics yet to come. But as with last Wednesday provisional list of the best original graphic novels of the past 12 months - here - I'd appreciate your nominations for the most outstanding superhero tales as published this year.

And so, in no order of preference and as an encouragement to your own suggestions, here's my own top 10 of 2012 where the cape'n'chest-insignia book is concerned ....

Uncanny X-Men #14, by Kieron Gillen, Dusty Weaver et al, Marvel
The Bulletproof Coffin, by Shaky Kane & David Hine, Image,
"Hawkeye" # 3, by Matt Fraction, David Aja et al Marvel
"Batgirl" # 12, by Gail Simone, Ardian Syaf et al, DC
"Daredevil" #16, by Mark Waid, Chris Samnee et al, Marvel
"Thor God Of Thor", By Jason Aaron, Esad Ribic, et al, Marvel
"Gods And Science", by Jamie Hernandez, Fantagraphics
"Journey Into Mystery" #645, by Kieron Gillen, Stephanie Hans, et al, Marvel
"Batman Incorporated" #3, by Grant Morrison, Chris Burnham, et al, DC Comics
"Wolverine And The X-Men" #17, by Jason Aaron & Michael Allred, et al, Marvel

That was my year where the superhero book's concerned, or at least, the year so far. Tell me yours.


  1. I've read Thor, Batman and Hawkeye from your list, and I definitely agree with those. I read Wolvie and Daredevil, but I've fallen very far behind.

    But for me, jeez. I have no sense of time. I want to say Ostrander's Suicide Squad #1. I read that for the first time this year, and it was so exciting because it showed me a different way comics could do fast paced storytelling than manga or widescreen comics.

    I read Hawkworld this year. That was good comics. God I might have read Flex Mentallo for the first time this year...

    AS FOR ACTUAL 2012 COMICS, uhh...nothing else was an unqualified success for me the way those comics were (both your choices and the old stuff i read). I do enjoy Flash, Justice League Dark, X-men Season One on a fairly shallow level. They're all solidly written comics with art that I'm totally in love with.

    1. Hello Matt I:- I can only recommend the other titles in the above. If you agree about Thor, Batman,and Hawkeye, then I strongly suspect you'll agree about most if not all the other books on the list :) It's certainly a better list than I'd have ever imagined around the half-way point of the year. Things seem to be on an up-swing. Huzzah.

      It's only since the blog and the chance to contribute elsewhere that I've had a sense of the time - the week, the month, the year. By which I mean, deadlines create a sense of time. Without them, time blurs into one great chunk of what I've read. And even if I focus elsewhere for a day or two, then the process you've mentioned comes back and swallows me up again. It's the norm, isn't it? That's exactly how I think about movie and TV; I've only just watched Kiss Kiss Bang Bang - it's terrific! - and I'm just catching the first season of ER - isn't it a superior soap? If you asked me about what's happening on the box in 2012, I'd have no idea beyond Jon Stewart, Game Of Thrones and Misfts.

      And any year with Hawkworld and Flex Mentallo in it HAS to be a good year. When my blogging/reviewing days are behind me, I reckon it'll take about 10 days to re-attain "personal time".

    2. I know exactly what you two mean by the distorted sense of time.

      I'm gonna be doing a "Best of 2012" list at the end of the year and I'm having to go back and check the release dates for much of what I've read. "Can't have The Incal or the Mickey Mouse newspaper strips on the list as those were released in 2011," and "When did Daytripper come out? Was that really 2 years ago?"

      The nice things about these lists is I can make up my own rules.

      And yes, Jon Stewart is one of the few people I keep up with on television. That, Adventure Time, and Community.

    3. Hello Joe:- Well, of course, the reason for these throwaway lists is to help fix a sense of time where it doesn't seem to naturally operate. And I'll be having a best-of-2012 for reprint volumes too, although I was torn about having God And Science there instead of here. (With all the extra pages, I thought it ought to be here in the end.)

      By which I mean, I'm making up my own rules as I go too.

      Adventure Time and Community? They're on the list. But if I'm openly just watching the first series of ER, well, that puts the date for my experiencing most of the best of today's TV somewhere around 2030.

      Chance would be a fine thing :)

  2. ...and Daredevil is the only one of those that I have read. And I fear I have too little interest in the X-Men to ever check out one of their current titles. I have been told before that I might enjoy Uncanny X-Force, now you recommend Uncanny X-Men...but still, I have this neverending X-Men fatigue where they have successfully managed to shut me out without enough incentive for me to bother to read up on everything I've missed. Still a cool list and I'm glad you're enjoying these comics as much as you do.

    One ovious objection for me is Batgirl. I've read three issues of the series and it's abolutely solid enough that I'd read it if I were on a really big budget - but you have even included the crossover with Batwoman. Which is a title that I'd undoubtedly rank higher than Batgirl. Even counting the issues where J.H. Williams III did not do the art, Batwoman was a strong, strong title. And those issues where Williams is on He's in a league of his own among mainstream comic artists.

    Also on my list would be the stunning reinvention of Wonder Woman as well as the magnificently imaginative Red Hood And The Outlaws by Lobdell & Rocafort...but I guess I won't even try to bring those up here. I had kinda hoped for a review of Superman #13 on this blog, however - I figure you will propably tear it apart, but then there is always something to learn from disagreeing with Colin Smith. ;)

    By the way, don't you feel these best of lists set really great expectations. I am reading more than 10 superhero comics a month (and I feel that even before the "up-swing" you perceived there quite a few excellent titles, even and especially in the New 52) but I really don't know how many of those I'd put up as "standing the test of time" or anything. I mean, I was sad to see Resurrection Man go, I've followed that title through to the end...but I don't know that it was best of anything. It was a really enjoyable series with an obscure character that appealed to my sensibilities. I'm glad that I've got it and I'm sure I'll read it again. Which is quite enough for me. Other than that...Best of 2012. Better than anything else in 2012. Geez. Rather intimidating, isn't it?

    1. Hello there:- Please don't get me wrong, I too suffer from what you call "neverending X-Men fatigue". I really do. Which makes my thumbs up for Uncanny #14 and WATXM #17 in some ways an even more enthusiastic business than it might at first appear. Because I don't follow the continuity and I haven't cared about the property - the Whedon issues aside - since around, oh, Paul Smith leaving the X-Men around 1984.

      I included the Batgirl/Batwoman crossover issue not just because I enjoyed it, but because I thought it was a technically fine script in many ways. The way in which Ms Simone used the fight scenes to discuss the differences in character and M.O. between the two of them was an object lesson in how to pull such a trick off. There's alot more that I enjoyed, but for that alone - and in a sub-genre neck-deep in mindless punch-ups - I was glad I read it. Batwoman is, of course, a comic well-worth the reading. It seems stronger on the art than the story, to my mind, and I guess I'm always drawn more to story as a first principle. None of which is to suggest that JHW III isn't a splendid, splendid artist. Of course, he is :)

      I've no objection at all to you mentioning the comics you've enjoyed here! I did ask for such :) I've made my opinion on WW plain, and I didn't get along with Red Hood at all at the beginning. But I've been meaning to give the book another go. I'm certainly curious about the representations in it.

      Superman #13? I must admit, I came THIS close to reviewing it. Time is shorter for the blog at the moment because of various deadlines for elsewhere, and they're good things to have. But I wish I'd had the chance to write about that comic. You're right to think that I didn't ... exactly enjoy it. I certainly found it fascinating though.

      I tend not to think of "best of" lists as anything other than markers of a moment in time. They're just a postcard to a future me about what I really thought in a particular year. You're right that a list presented in the wrong way can carry with it a sense of "really great expectations". I really didn't mean to suggest any objective view of things. These are just the things that I enjoyed, no more and no less. I hope to be around for a few more years. I look forward to looking back and seeing all the things I missed, all the mistakes I made. There's always a pleasure in noticing how tastes change, and how what once looked likes objectivity now looks ... far less considered :)

  3. A top list, sir, and as you point out there's still so many great comics to come out in 2012 - I am particularly looking forward to Avengers Arena, a written-by-committee combination of comic book and high school shooting spree that is, in the words of Harvey Dent, the comic we deserve - but I don't blame you for wanting to get in a lists post before the Mayan apocalypse kills us all - if it wins the armageddon race against the Hadron Collider singularity that is currently eating the Earth from within, that is.

    I've read six of these, and would agree that Superman 13 has a place among them, and would likely add Sword of Sorcery for myself as I enjoyed its old school charms, but also because it's probably the only title launched last year to dare to have a female lead and aim at someone other than spandex addicts - naturally, it was under-ordered by stores and thus is probably already cancelled. I'd tentatively suggest Marceline and the Scream Queens, too, for its clever use of Jungian archetypes in a haunting tale of a thousand year old teenager's unending and hollow pursuit of validation, but I suspect it will read a lot better as a single volume when collected in the new year than it does as monthlies.

    1. Hello Brigonos:- You're right of course. I am convinced that the Mayan Apocalypse - the one that no Mayan ever imagined - is on its way, and just as anyone would faced with the end of everything, I want to get my provisional best-ofs sorted and up for a few days at least.

      Avengers Arena is a new one on me. Your description makes it sound like Pat Mills has landed a gig at Marvel while pretending to be a gaggle of creative wanna-bes. But then, I thought Kid Loki was the stupidest idea I'd ever heard. It wasn't, and Avengers Arena might be super-lovely-fantastic too.

      Superman #13 does have a place on a list I'm putting together, but not this one.

      As for Sword of Sorcery and Marceline And The Scream Queens, I can only pray that I get to read them before the Earth's magnetic poles - or it 'pole'? - flip and we all end up fighting to get on five massive ships being launched from a secret base in China.

  4. I'd included McCarthy and Ewing's Zaucer of Zilk in my top ten comics of the year, a love letter and recreation of Ditko and Lee's Dr Strange versus Dormammu magnum opus from Strange Tales, and a meditation on growing up for the reader, creator and characters in comics. Mudman by Paul Grist would also make my personal list, and like Zaucer of Zilk, draws upon comics of the past for inspiration while finding something new to say; and Morrison and Ha's Action Comic #9, featuring President Superman and similarly commenting on finding inspiration from the past. Is there a pattern emerging here?

    Other than that, I'd add Daredevil, Hawkeye, Batman Inc from your list, and Wonder Woman, which I know you've had problems with.

    Which brings my list to seven: That said, if it weren't for the project being so morally compromised, I'd certainly be tempted to add Cook and Conner's Before Watchmen: Silk Spectre as well. Ah, what the hell, I will anyway. I'm sorry, and hope I haven't offended anyone there.

    2012 was a strange year for superhero comics: while I can point to various comics having attained a certain level of quality and enjoying several other superhero comics, I'd say only those I've mentioned deserve singling out for exceptional praise (for me, anyway).

    Still. there's still another six weeks or so left of the year to surprise me.

    1. Hello Carey:- I did have Zaucer Of Zilk in this list, before realising that I could mention it in another list - 2000AD strips, non-Big Two comics, fantasy books - which left space for a book here which couldn't go elsewhere. But I retain the same fondness for Zaucer Of Zilk as when it was published and I wrote about over at Sequart.

      But the top ten comics of the year? It's certainly on the probables-list, but it's been such a good year that I'm not sure whether anything bar a few of the books in the original graphic novels is a dead cert. And considering we're talking about the fine Zaucer Of Zilk here .... well, it has been a good year.

      I did enjoy Mudman, but I was picking individual stories here, and Mudman struck me as a pleasantly enjoyable read overall - and I don't mean that to read as an insult, I like the book - without a single outstanding issue. Action Comic #9 was an enjoyable comic, with some interesting comment on DC Comics itself, but I wasn't touched by it. Thoroughly interested, but not moved. It's been my problem with GM's work for a while, although I readily admit that he's a highly accomplished and imaginative creator. (Well, of course he is ...)

      Thanks for suggesting a few books that I might not agree with! I'll certainly express a considerable fondness for the art in both books. I hope we can meet in the middle of any debate there :)

      I totally agree that it's been a strange year for the superhero. To my mind - by which I don't mean to imply that it's to anyone else - there's been a huge mass of underwhelming pap, and yet there's these moments of real quality. To Zaucer Of Zilk, I'd also add Spandex, which I also hived off to another list. This kind of quality .... well, the sub-genre's in remarkably good health, despite everything that it's struggling with.

  5. Top list Colin, there's one or two things on there I've not read, so there's some fun homework.

    I give you - Batman: The Brave and the Bold #16 from February, a Valentine's Day delight guest starring Batgirl and Bat-Mite, by Sholly Fisch, Rick Burchett and Dan Davis. Sadly, it's the final issue, but a wonderfully sprightly tale to go out on.

    1. Hello Martin:- And I'm getting my homework too. Your suggestion sounds so beguiling that I'm off to find an affordable copy - if I can - this very night. Thank you.

  6. Might be unrelated, might be not, but next February we have a new Omnibus Edition coming out....New Warriors, the comic from the 90s. The book that featured Namorita, Night Thrasher, etc... Im curious that Marvel thinks theres a market for this. I know the New Warriors were popular but a $99 Omnibus?

    1. Hello Karl:- I'm assumming that Marvel does some kind of market research for titles this expensive. If not, there has to be a fantastic profit margin which kicks in even with relatively few sales. Having said that, the New Warriors does has a loyal fan-base. When I suggested that I'd never got a taste for the title a few months ago, I got comments and e--mails explaining how I'd missed out. We may well have swapped words at that point. All I know is that I've been convinced that the team is a viable proposition. I'll be saving up any XMas book tokens ... I find it hard to say no to an Omnibus, though the bank balance often insists that I do ...

  7. Until recently, Daredevil was the only comic I've been buying in singles. This past weekend, my local comic book shop had a sale. I picked up Dial H 1-6 & 0 and ended up liking them. Issues 0 and 6 in particular were very good. I had some problem just following the story at times, but the dialogue, art, and wacky concepts kept me involved. Issue 0 is an engaging one-shot set in the distant past. Issue 6 featured Dave Lapham art, some nice conversation between the two main characters, and a couple hilarious moments. It is definitely one of the best of the few recent comics I've read.

    - Mike Loughlin

    1. Hello Mike:- I've not read Dial H #0 and 6, and I'll certainly check it out. I included the comic in my lists of books well-worth the reading in the summer, and I'd still do so. But not having read the two issues which you most enjoyed, my impression has been of a book which is full to bursting of interesting ideas and yet little of its grounded in clear storytelling. For my taste, there's too much backstory getting in the way of plot, and the balance between the two hasn't been reconciled in the way that - say - the similarly-complex Journey Into Mystery managed. But if more recent issues see the book stepping out from 'undoubtedly promising' into the 'enjoyable' category, then I'll be delighted.

      And I'll go and search for the issues you mention this very morning :)

  8. damn, i loved that Wolverine & the X-Men #17- I laughed out loud. I love Allred's art- gotta find that new F.F. #1 with him. Was crazy for those X-Force books he drew...

    1. Hello Super-Duper Toybox:- You can't quibble with a book that makes you laugh out loud. And I also agree about Mr Allred's X'Force/X-Statik run. I was lucky enough to get the long-deleted Omnibus of the run a few years back at a steal of a price. Very pleased to do so too ... :)

  9. And even though I'm very late to this party, I'd like to add both Earth 2 and...Mind MGMT.

    Earth 2 I would've never thought I'd enjoy, as I guess I'm one of those dreaded grim 'n gritty fans who is more likely to buy a Batman or even a Deathstroke story and who always thought of Superman as a boring boyscout. But Earth 2 - just a really well-done superhero book that should appeal to absolutely everyone who even remotely likes anything about the genre. The almost exclusevily stellar reviews reflect it, too.

    As for Mind MGMT, I'm just bringing it up here although it certainly is not a superhero comic. Neither is it an original graphic novel. In fact, it is meant to be read in single issues, which is why those contain stuff that won't be in the collected editions. And you should absolutely be reading it if you aren't already. My favorite Non-Big 2 comic this year, alongside Prophet and Glory...and I'd dare say it's better than those two. Pretty amazing reading experience that comes with highest recommendation, it's of such high quality.

    - Björn

    1. Hello Bjorn:- The great thing about a blog, or at least one of them, is that there's no such thing as too late to join the party. I had a lovely chat about a post I put up on a different blog in 2010 yesterday. Never too late :)

      I have nothing against the "dreaded grim'n'gritty" books. I can think of some quite wonderful examples of the tradition. I mind the fact that such stories are usually so poorly done. It's actually really tough to tell a grim'n'gritty tale, because the ingedients a creator can use are so constrained AND because they've been so well and often mixed before. But as with just about any form of storytelling, if it's well-done, I'm up for it. Given a choice between Superman and Batman, I'll always gon for whichever one has the most gifted and ambitious creators.

      Thanks for recommending Earth-2. I read the first issue and found it to be very, very familiar stiff. I'm so ancient I can remember the great wave of alt-Earth tales which swallowed up so much of the superhero comic in the 90s. Earth-2 seemed to add nothing to that at all. But I do have a findness for JR's writing, and so, I'll pop back and see how the comics coming along.

      I wrote about my impressions of the frst issue of Mind MGMT here;

      I say that just so know I did read the first issue, and not becaise I think anybody should read the piece. To cut what I said there short, I admired much about it, but struggled to warm to the storytelling. Not the purposefully naive style, but the panel-to-panel continuity. Yet I did always say I'd go back, and I certainly agree with you that Prophet and Glory are worthwhile reads.

      I'll check out the next editions of both comics when I'm next in m'local comic shop :)

    2. I was also entertained by the New 52 Earth-2... I'm unsure if it was great or not, but fun nonetheless. I was shocked/disappointed/delighted when they killed off Superman, Batman, & Wonder Woman in the first issue, and can't seem to let it go :D

    3. Hello SDTB: That's two recommendations from two good folks for Earth-2, so I very much WILL be picking up the next issue. I hope to be thoroughly entertained :)

    4. Be sure to pick up issue #0 (why couldn't it just be an annual or issue #4.5?) -it's important there inbetween #4 & #5!

  10. Hi, Colin--

    Thanks for recommending both Uncanny X-Men 14 and Wolverine & The X-Men 17. They were both fantastically enjoyable!


    1. Hello Carol:- Well, thank you for being curious :) And in a world in which so much corporate product is being churned out that's of a low quality, it is good to note such fine work coming from the X-Franchise. If that office can do it ....