iFanboy’s Best of 2012: The Best New Comic Series

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2012 brought in many new comics, we present, the best new comic series of 2012:

The Massive

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.

 

Godzilla

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.

 

Hawkeye

8. Hawkeye

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.

 

Thor God of Thunder

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.

manhattanvol1tp_cover

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.

 

John Carter Gods of Mars

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.

 

Punk Rock Jesus

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.

 

ConanTheBarbarian

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.

 

Prophet

2. Prophet

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.

Saga

1. Saga

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.

Comments

  1. spaceghost15 spaceghost15 says:

    I tried out a number of these and was super happy with most. Hawkeye was a dissappointment and I can’t stand the art in that book. I’ll have to check out Prophet and Conan.
    Personally Manhatten Projects would have been number 2 on my list.

  2. I’ve read and enjoyed half of this list. Saga, Prophet, Punk Rock Jesus, Manhattan Projects and Hawkeye.

  3. TomE TomE says:

    A great list of comics I’ve enjoyed most this year. Have read/am reading all of them.

  4. microwave25 microwave25 says:

    People need to get into Prophet!

  5. Jesse1125 Jesse1125 says:

    Wait is Hawkeye an ongoing? I was trade waiting thinking it was a limited series,but might have to just jump on board!
    Lastly who is the protagonist in Manhattan Project and what is their motivation? Very curious about that one.

  6. MattDoobie MattDoobie says:

    The manhattan project, Conan and Hawkeye would complete my top 4 behind Saga. I can’t believe John Carter beat two of those, it doesn’t belong on this list at all in my humble opinion.

  7. Fludi says:

    good list… I do not care about Conan or Godzilla, so those will escape me forever, but those on this list I haven’t tried I will… since I wasn’t struck down by DMZ but really like dystopian stories, The Massive might be for me…

    Is it just me, or is there just too much good stuff out there to catch it all when it comes out? Sheesh… when was a better time in comics as a reader?

    Punk Rock Jesus was my No 2 and Saga of course No. 1… I mean… PJ and Saga feature my 2 favourite artists and Saga has perfect writing as well… PJ I liked a lot… but I am waiting for No. 6 since it is a mini series and the end is pretty important to me for the overall judgement :-)

  8. ctrosejr ctrosejr says:

    I realize I may be the only one who thinks this, but…

    Secret > Manhattan Projects

    Here’s to seeing more of Secret in 2013!

  9. TomiH TomiH says:

    Nice list, I still need to read most of those.
    As of now, my top three new books are FuryMAX, Thor and …the Shazam backup in Justice League.

  10. great list. I’m really enjoying Saga, Manhattan, Hawkeye and Thor. Also i’d like to nominate Planetoid…great Sci Fi book.

    The Massive is really good, but i kinda feel like i don’t have the concentration power right now to follow it. I think i’ll read it all in chunks or trades.

  11. The only title I’m currently reading on the list is Saga. I gave The Manhattan Projects and The Massive a good long try, and neither really grabbed me. The Massive I like, but don’t care about nearly as much as it seems I should. I know I’ll love Thor, but haven’t picked it up yet.

  12. Manhattan Projects is definitely my favorite new book of the year, followed closely by Saga.

    I love that John Carter is getting some attention. Between that, Punk Rock Jesus, Minutemen, Silk Spectre, and The Rocketeer, I’m having the hardest time choosing my favorite mini of the year, but I think John Carter is the one I’ve enjoyed the most. I kind of wish I’d gotten it in trade rather than issues so I can just grab it and check out the Ramon Perez awesomeness more regularly.

  13. cosmo cosmo says:

    Hmmm, I have not read any of these series yet, but a few are on my to read list . . .

    When did Mind MGMT start? I have been slowly catching up on it over the past few months, and find it hard to believe that it couldn’t make the list, if eligible . . .

    Also, can we give an honorable mention shout out to Saucer Country? It started slow, but has been really picking up the last couple issues in my opinion . . .

  14. cosmo cosmo says:

    Also, no Valiant? They might not be the most weighty of comic books, but they’re a lot of fun — at least the three titles I’ve been reading (X-O Manowar, Archer & Armstrong, Shadowman)

  15. Some great series there especially with Saga, The Manhattan Projects, Prophet & hawkeye. For me personally I would’ve included Batman Inc. & Nowhere Men!

  16. Saga is my favorite comic being published today, so I am in agreement with it being in the top spot. But my second favorite comic was also new this year and didn’t even make the list: Mind the Gap!

  17. Shingen Shingen says:

    I keep seeing the Godzilla series in these top 10 lists, but I did not enjoy it, personally. The art is cool, but the storytelling was just not up to par, for me. Certainly not enough to be mentioned with these other projects. Maybe I’m missing something?

  18. Grandturk says:

    I was pretty well onboard with The Massive until the Antarctica issue when Mag and the other broad dive 450′ deep in the water and then rise back up. Suspension of disbelief broken and comepletly took me right out of the story.

    Saga’s good, MP is zany and good, Conan is OK but certainly not exemplary. First trade of Prophet was like mindblowingly awesome. Waiting on trade for Hawkeye.

  19. The coolest thing for me is that Terry Moore writes, draws and publishes Rachel Rising ONLY for me. I says to him, “Terry Moore, why don’t mass produce this killer story for the people. They would enjoy it!” And he says, “No Tree, this is only for you.” Well, can’t argue with that, but if the day comes when he puts Rachel out for all of you, you’ll love as much as I do.

    • Did Rachel Rising start in 2012? I think it started in 2011, thus its non-inclusion.

      I don’t read Marvel floppies anymore due to their terrible paper quality (the worst in the industry, worse than DC’s, which is saying something), but was glad to see that John Carter made it – just a great mini.

  20. Manhattan Projects is my #1 choice. I re-read all of the issues last week and they are some of the most fun comic books I’ve ever read. Shame that the delays are really killing the momentum though.

    I have gone around to love SAGA though. It took till the eighth issue but now I can see where the love is coming from. Not to say the previous seven were bad. Just that I didn’t love them as much as each issue of Manhattan Projects.

  21. Whatever my take on individual titles on this list I think we can all agree it’s been a BLOODY GOOD YEAR FOR COMICS!

  22. optic00085 optic00085 says:

    Wow, another damn fine list. Read allmost all of these, and they really were great series. My fav series this year has been Peter Panzerfaust. There is something magical about that book. I would also like to mention Planetoid, it’s only 4 issues in, but it’s really something special.

  23. Buck Masters says:

    I have reallyenjoyed saucer country. Fatale and mind the gap as well but mi d the gap is definitely My favorite new book

  24. Milky Milky says:

    No love for Bedlam, thought it might of squeezed into the top ten. No love for Nick Spencer!

  25. wraith1701 wraith1701 says:

    Saga. Best new series I’ve read in a long, long time. I kind of wish All New X-Men had made the list as well.

  26. Great list, although I am a bit disappointed not to see Fury MAX not on the list after all the praise the three guys lavished on it. I read the trade over Christmas and was really impressed.