2012 brought in many new comics, we present, the best new comic series of 2012:
10. The Massive
Brian Wood didn’t invent the idea of grueling, futuristic stories of ruin on Earth…. but he sure is redefining it. After his 72-issue run with DMZ at DC’s Vertigo, which saw him survey the war-torn streets of Manhattan, Wood returns with a second vision of fractured time — this time on a world-wide scale. Part-political, part-environmental, and part-espionage, the adventures of a group of activists on a derelict shipping vessel called the Kapital has become one of the most gripping and unique books on comic shelves today. Searching for his missing twin vessel the Massive in an eerily memorable way similar to Battlestar: Galactica‘s search for Earth, Wood and his artistic collaborators Kristian Donaldson, Garry Brown and J.P. Leon have really made this a tactile, living breathing place. And while we wouldn’t want to live there, we sure do enjoy visiting each month from the safe distance of being a comic reader.
9. Godzilla: The Half Century War
Everyone at iFanboy HQ has been fans of James Stokoe’s work, so when we heard he was taking a hiatus from Orc Stain to do a Godzilla book we were a bit forlorn… until we read it. Stokoe has really seized upon the overlooked aspect in the Godzilla movies of the military trying to oppose the lumbering nuclear monster. By putting a human face on this fantastical setting (the same way he did in Orc Stain), it perfectly framed the story for when the namesake Kaiju roars and tears through the comic. Stokoe’s ability to show immense scale and destruction with Godzilla’s rampage contrasted with the pee-in-your-pants moments by the troops sent to fight, defend and just plain survive his rampage is astounding.
While I’m a fan of Matt Fraction’s Marvel work such as The Invincible Iron Man and The Mighty Thor, the high point for me was his co-writing stint on the critically acclaimed (but sadly under-selling) The Immortal Iron Fist. So when Marvel put most of the Iron Fist band back together (minus Ed Brubaker) to do a book on Clint Barton fresh out of the purple bow-wielder’s movie debut in Marvel’s The Avengers, I was hoping for something special again. And boy, did they deliver. In 2012, Fraction and David Aja’s Hawkeye series received two Pick of The Weeks, and for good reason: Fraction’s story of Hawkeye’s after-hours adventures as a working man’s hero and a struggling bachelor were magic once set to comics music by David Aja and his rough yet exact cartooning style. Like playing a concerto on a violin but wired through a Big Muff distortion pedal, Aja puts Hawkeye’s story in different context than his working hours adventures on various Avengers books.
7. Thor: God of Thunder
Of all the Marvel NOW books, this seems like the most logical, straight-forward and just plain awesome book on the stands. Both Jason Aaron and Esad Ribic seem born for this kind of story, portraying the majesty and iconic-ness of a god walking amongst men while not placing him too distant for readers to find themselves in. While only three issues into the story, Aaron and Ribic have crafted a story that seems like a lost Asgardian epic with Thor facing down a threat over three time periods — as a teen, as an adult, and as an old man. Fueled seemingly by Richard Wagner soundtracks and epic bandes dessinées tomes, Thor: God of Thunder brings all of the rugged grandeur you’d expect from an ideal Thor comic without getting lost in thee’s, verily’s and thou’s.
6. The Manhattan Projects
Alternate histories are a major staple of superhero storytelling, from the epic Age of Apocalypse storyline at Marvel to the various Earth-2, Earth-3, Earth-whatevers we’ve seen at DC. But in his return to creator-owned comics, writer Jonathan Hickman brought that idea of an alternate version of events home by making it based on our own history. Set in the heyday of what we now call the Greatest Generation, this post-World War II story is akin to The Right Stuff mashed up with John Carpenter’s Big Trouble In Little China using historical characters such as Albert Einstein, J. Robert Oppenheimer and Richard Feynman to posit an alternate series of events in the invention of the atomic bomb. Heavy on ideas and populated with the intricate but tight story mechanics Hickman is known for, The Manhattan Projects jumps off the page once artist Nick Pitarra gets his hands on those scripts. Pitarra is an artist not shy of detail, but does it in a way that’s not veering into uber-realism but instead into raw cartooning to best accentuate the vastly different personalities and persons present in The Manhattan Projects. Also, Nazis getting what’s coming to them.
5. John Carter: The Gods of Mars
Generally, licensed titles aren’t known to be a bastion of high quality in comic books. But there are comics that are known to buck that stereotype, and Marvel’s John Carter: Gods of Mars miniseries did just that. Writer Sam Humphries and Ramón Pérez were two virtually unknowns when Marvel cast them for this, but their successes elsewhere primed the stage for industry insiders to pay attention when they adapted this Edgar Rice Burroughs novel. No matter your opinion on the John Carter movie, this five-issue series is a great standalone story that is more than the sum of its parts as Pérez delivers an action-filled story that confidently takes advantage of all the tools and tricks cartooning provides. Humphries’ script delicate translates Burrough’s early 1900s story into a piece seemingly tailor-made for comics while not being disingenuous to the source material.
4. Punk Rock Jesus
Coming off a pair of critically-acclaimed runs on Joe the Barbarian and the American Vampire spin-off Survival of the Fittest, Writer/artist Sean Murphy has so-far delivered a story that hits readers like a soda bottle being opened after riding in the front seat of the roller coaster, hitting you hot and heavy with ideas about Christianity, faith, parenting, the IRA, cloning, and various other hot button issues. When reading this series the comparison that frequently comes to mind here is Frank Miller’s Ronin, where Miller was coming into his own as a writer after being originally pigeon-holed as “just” an artist. Punk Rock Jesus is rough around the edges, but given the subject matter and the drive Murphy has to tell this story once and for all, it’s a ride well worth taking.
3. Conan The Barbarian
A story about a teenage Conan the Barbarian sounds like an enticing, albeit doomed, concept given what we’ve seen with the most recent Conan movie. But in the hands of Brian Wood and artists like Becky Cloonan, Declan Shalvey, Vasilis Lolos and James Harren it’s exactly the Conan we never knew we needed so bad. Premiering in the opening days of 2012, this relaunched Conan The Barbarian comic series at Dark Horse takes the brief Robert E. Howard tale “Queen of the Black Coast” and expands it as a drawn-out 30+ issue epic with Wood and his collaborators filling in the gaps and elaborating on the story elements only hinted at in the original text. Seeing an even brasher Conan than usual full of teenage rebellion and bravado, lusting openly for the sultry Bêlit and finding an unconventional romance by her side is something special. Call me a sucker for a romance with swords involved, but Conan The Barbarian is one of the most surprisingly good reads this year.
While Prophet isn’t technically a new series given it merely picked up on the numbering of Rob Liefeld’s previous series from the 90s, I’d argue this is the anti-nonsensical new #1 that we see too often at the Big Two, and Brandon Graham and co.’s dramatic revamp makes this a new series despite the numbering. With that behind us, we can delve into the heady (and heavy) science fiction story that Graham has crafted here. Wandering around like some kind of Heinlein take on Jack Kerouac, Graham and artists such as Simon Roy have taken Liefeld’s Rip Van Winkle-esque warrior and put him on a wild and crazy ride that allows readers to become tourists in various alien worlds, concepts and sexual situations that’ll leave your eyes, mouth and mind agape. Graham adds more depth to this as he works with a rotating array of artists and freely gives co-writing and sometimes lead writing over to his collaborators such as Roy, Farel Dalrymple and others. This artist-first brand of storytelling really opens up the possibilities in far-ranging series, giving a vibrancy unheard of in modern American mainstream comics.
Four times. That’s how often Brian K. Vaughn and Fiona Staples’ Saga has earned iFanboy’s Pick of The Week designation, and it’s only had eight issues. That staggering success rate is only matched by the monstrously effective and natural storytelling these two creators are doing with such a far-out science fiction concept. Dubbed as “Star Wars meets Game of Thrones” by its publisher Image in the initial solicitations, it’s essentially Romeo and Juliet played out with alien races, television faces, and through-line of honest emotional resonance. Beneath the space ships, ray guns and alien cats, it’s the companionship between Alana and Marko as they deal with, and dote on, their newborn child that’s pulled them from their races and into a criss-crossing space epic. Vaughn’s expert storytelling is on full display here, mixing the compassion and heart of Y: The Last Man with the pacing and the heart-warming oddities of Ex Machina. For her part, Staples is making her long-awaited star turn, taking advantage of the scripts being served up to show just how good she can be, making herself more than an equal for Vaughn’s powerful scripts. Issues #6, #4, #2 and #1 all got Pick of The Week.