• Longform 

    Multiversity 101: The Best and Worst of 2013 in Comics

    By | January 6th, 2014
    Posted in Longform | 11 Comments

    Every year since Multiversity has started, I’ve put together my singular perspective on what the best and worst in comics was, and this year things won’t be any different…except I’m going to take it to the next level. More categories, more analysis, more everything! All for you! It’s befitting that 2013 gets this, as this in many ways was a giant-sized year in its own regard, filled with controversy, carnage and, most importantly, good comics.

    So let’s get to it. What were the best and worst of everything comics this year? Find out below, and remember, these are my opinion and not necessarily reflective of Multiversity as a whole.

    Best Moment: Sophie Lies in “Saga”

    Why It’s the Best: There were a lot of great moments in comics in 2013, but this is the one that has continued to resonate throughout the year. Sophie, the former denizen of Sextillion, is a tragic, heartwarming character, and when she’s going through who she is outside of that depraved planet while laying on Lying Cat, she begins to tear herself down for what she used to be, much to the chagrin of the Cat who can’t deal with lies. It was a simple, small moment, but those moments are the ones that Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples excel at and the ones that makes this such an incredible book.

    Runners Up: “You’ll be safe here” from “Something Terrible”
    Shocker makes his getaway with Silvermane in “Superior Foes of Spider-Man
    The reveal of the Godbomb in “Thor: God of Thunder”

    Worst Moment: Eight Days Later from Age of Ultron #4

    Why It’s the Worst: No moment in the year of comics is so emblazoned into my mind as this one. This triggered an extended series of conversations about whether or not Age of Ultron was terrible, and it was the firebrand moment that did it. Not that this page in itself was that bad, it just was representative of the wholesale stupidity that surrounded it. In particular, one of the main points in this issue was:

    – Luke Cage gets blown up in what is effectively a nuclear blast
    – He then escapes
    – Apparently learns how to fly a plane
    – Flies said plane from New York to Antarctica, which I can only assume needed to refuel at times over the EIGHT DAYS OF FLYING
    – Gets there before the massive crew of heroes who were like…taking the jetstream down in invisible bubbles provided by Sue Storm
    – He then dies after talking to the heroes, because he was willing himself to survive until they arrived

    I’m not one for sassing comics for being unrealistic, but that is just insanely stupid. Hilariously so, but insanely stupid.

    Best Cover: Revival #12

    Why It’s the Best: I’m a big cover guy, and to me, for a cover to succeed it should work on three levels: it should be a top notch piece of art, it should represent the story inside the comic to a degree and it should stand out when you’re looking at the stands where new comics are placed. This cover from Skottie Young on Revival – which typically has brilliant covers from Jenny Frison – was an absolute beauty, using the snow of the issue as white space to make the rest of the illustration standout. It fits perfectly for the childlike sections within the issue, and it stands out so well on the stands. This is a triple threat cover, and man oh man, do I love it.

    Runners Up: X-Men Legacy #6

    Most Deserved Controversy: W. Haden Blackman and J.H. Williams III Don’t Get to Finish Their “Batwoman” Story

    Why It Earned Your Anger: This is the worst type of situation. Comics in general are a medium that has succeeded because fantastic storytellers have been given the ability to tell their stories without being completely controlled, and when things get to the point where superb and notable creators like Blackman and Williams are effectively forced to walk off their own book in the midst of their run (even though the book was a critical and commercial success), then that’s a time where people should stand up and take notice. When the quality of comics is being negatively impacted because of harsh and rash decisions by editorial, then that’s a controversy that is well deserved.

    Continued below

    Most Undeserved Controversy (tie): Most of the controversies that exist in comics

    Why We Should Just Forget: In no way am I saying there aren’t people and situations that are absolutely wrong in comics, but in 2013, I think maybe the most notable thing was the intensity that each and every situation that came out was received with. Marvelman getting recolored? THE APOCALYPSE IS HERE! Wolverine has a gun? MY LIFE IS RUINED! Some dude tears up a copy of Pretty Deadly? HE HATES WOMEN! The vitriol these and many other situations were received with was just absolutely astonishing, and speaks heavily to the way people react to things today with the advent of social media and the freedom of voice it gives people.

    The Pretty Deadly situation was the most bewildering one, as many people targeted the retailer as a misogynist from day one, doing everything they could to stand up for the rights of Kelly Sue DeConnick and Emma Rios and Jordie Bellaire when they themselves didn’t believe the guy tore the comic up because he hated women. By the time the guy spoke out to defend himself, he was already judged in the public court. Such is life, but it was another situation where things were blown way out of proportion and narrative leaps were made when they were effectively fabricated.

    More than anything, all of the controversy just made me sad. Not to be too idealistic, but 2013 stands out as the first year to me where the conversation turned into how comics failed everyone – retailers, readers, creators – more than they enriched their lives, and I just think that’s wrong. Some would say I’m just sticking my head in the sand, but I’d prefer to focus on the things that comics do well than constantly talking about how DC (or anyone else) screwed up today.

    Best Graphic Novel: Boxers & Saints

    Why It’s the Best: Gene Luen Yang’s story in two parts about China’s Boxer Rebellion (which was an anti-Christianity, pro-traditionalism rebellion) finds Yang exploring this time and situation with incredible care and understanding, imbuing each volume with a unique and empathic understanding of both sides of the time period. His art, simple, with clean lines and an economy of style to emphasize the storytelling, invites readers into the micro nature of much of the story, but when things get big (like when the Saints side of the story embraces its gods), the art fits the awe inspiring nature of what we’re seeing. For such an epic, enormous event in China’s history, Yang does an incredible job of bringing this down to a personal level, and that makes this pair of stories all the more powerful.

    Runners Up: Nothing Can Possibly Go Wrong
    Hellboy: The Midnight Circus

    Best Digital Comic: Something Terrible

    Why It’s the Best: 2013 was an amazing year for digital comics, with The Private Eye dominating the conversation, Monkeybrain steadily releasing gold and people like Karl Kerschl endlessly impressing with his long running “The Abominable Charles Christopher”.

    But more than anything, Dean Trippe’s heartbreaking and beautiful webcomic “Something Terrible” (now a successful Kickstarter!) stood out, handling a very difficult subject with incredible care and hope. The story, even with the traumatic story, finds Trippe sharing the power of comic book and sci-fi heroes had in his life, and the strength he needed to move on past what happened to him as a child. On top of that, it’s brilliant cartooning, with the black, white and blue coloring adding exceptional value to the color flourishes at the end of the story. This comic should be read by everyone, and is undoubtedly one of the best comics of any variety I read all year.

    Runners Up: The Private Eye
    Amazing Forest
    The Abominable Charles Christopher
    High Crimes

    Best Goodbye: Locke & Key: Alpha #2

    Why It’s the Best: Matt and I discussed this issue at great length before, but this – this! – is how you end a series. I really enjoyed that Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez took Alpha #1 to wrap the plot bits, and then in the finale, they wrapped up the story for the family Locke and hit a lot of major emotional story beats in the process. I was most impressed in how they left more or less nothing hanging – Erin Voss was cured from her state, Dodge was released from his fate and, most importantly, Bode was brought back! – and we also had a natural culmination of Tyler’s story arc. This was my type of finale, and should eternally be in the playbook for how creators should end their creator-owned stories.
    Continued below

    Most Underrated Comic: Superior Foes of Spider-Man

    Why It Deserves Your Love: At one point this year, a creator told me that a major hindrance for how well a book might sell is the title. I never really had thought about that, but for a book like this, I think a major issue for it at first was its strange and unfriendly to social media title. But when you look past the name on the cover, Nick Spencer and Steve Lieber’s SUPFOES is without a doubt the funniest book in comics, and certainly one of the most original. A lot of people initially compared it to Hawkeye, but I don’t think that’s fair to either book as they are certainly their own creatures. SUPFOES is a joyous, perpetually unpredictable journey into the world of F-List supervillains, and Lieber’s art is the tie that binds, taking moments like this and making them absolutely unforgettable. This comic is more than its title, fellow comic fans, and you should definitely be reading it.

    Runners Up: Deadpool
    Fury MAX

    Best New Series: Sex Criminals

    Why It’s the Best: From my write-up for Best New Series in 2013 in Review:

    This is a book that has had three issues so far, and each one has been our top book of the month. Given that each month features a different person putting together the Month in Review lists, that’s pretty damn incredible and speaks to the power and appeal of this book. I mean, Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky certainly have their fair share of bawdy humor in here, but there’s also a ton of heart, two of the best new characters in comics, and some of the most pitch perfect art in comics. I wouldn’t want anyone else in the world drawing ET boners, and bless him, Zdarsky just crushes moments like that.

    This is a book that is unlike anything else on the stands, and unlike anything else in any form of storytelling. It’s about sex, it’s about criminals, but it’s also about humanity, the human condition, our relationship with sex, our relationships with each other, porn in the woods, the power of Freddie Mercury, gleeful text sprees, sex ed in bathroom stalls, exploration, and perhaps most importantly, cumworld.

    More than anything, it’s about life and all of the things that make it such a wonderful, bizarre and incomprehensible journey.

    Fraction and Zdarsky may be banned from Apple, but here at Multiversity, we’re shouting about it from the rooftops and handing this book out on the streets.

    But never to children. What are you, nuts? Seriously.

    Runners Up: Zero
    East of West

    Best Mini-Series: The Private Eye

    Why It’s the Best: Because it’s two of the best creators in comics telling the story they want to tell. Because its revolutionary nature. Because Muntsa Vicente absolutely rocks. Because of the letters column. Because I want one of the glamours. Because of what the overarching plot is all about. Because of that killer opening sequence. Because of the covers. Because of the guerrilla release schedule.

    You name it. There are a lot of reasons why this is the best mini-series in 2013, but good god people, it is amazing and you should definitely be reading it. If only to support Marcos Martin in his transition to becoming a letterer.

    Runners Up: Fury MAX
    B.P.R.D. Vampire

    Happiest Resurgence: Fables

    Why It’s the Best: Fables, once upon a time, was one of my five favorite series ever. Bill Willingham, Mark Buckingham and friends were in the midst of a legendary run on the title that effectively became the backbone of Vertigo’s line. Then, things ran off the rails a bit, but I’m pleased to say 2013 found the title firing on all cylinders again. The book found its identity again, with the Snow White and Camelot arcs giving the book direction it had been lacking for a while. Some of the biggest moments in comics this year came in the title, and Willingham got to those moments through organic character growth and Buckingham realized those with all of the skill and personality he has brought to the book since he first joined.

    Continued below

    In short, this book is back to being one of the best of the best, and we’re all the better for it.

    Saddest Demise: Invincible

    Why It’s the Best: Speaking of directionless books, since the Viltrumite War, Invincible has been a book that has struggled to do anything of interest for myself as a reader. There have been fleeting moments – I really liked Robot and Monster Girl’s adventure in an alternate world – but for the most part this book has been an aimless soap opera buoyed by consistently spectacular art from Ryan Ottley. However, that’s not enough for me, as this was the year I dropped the book. Both this and The Walking Dead from Kirkman have been a bit directionless, but unlike TWD (which had Negan being endlessly and disgustingly entertaining), Invincible doesn’t have anything to keep it afloat.

    If someone told me next year that this book was back to its former glory, I’d catch up in trades. For now? There’s just not enough to keep me going, even with Ottley’s individual brilliance.

    Best Return: Quantum & Woody

    Why It’s the Best: Christopher Priest and M.D. Bright’s Quantum & Woody was one of my absolute favorite series in my formative years of reading comics, an underrated gem that handled themes like race and friendship and family with the humor and care that so few books do. When Valiant said that they’d be rolling out a new Q&W, I was all in, even if it wasn’t Priest and Bright again. The team of James Asmus, Jordie Bellaire, Tom Fowler and then Ming Doyle brought this book to life with all of the spark and vitality we got from Priest and Bright, but with significantly improved art from the team and fearless writing from Asmus, this has been every bit as good as the original.

    And that is saying something.

    Runners Up: Brother Lono

    Best Series Revamp: Action Comics

    Why It’s the Best: Many people stopped reading DC titles because of the way they handled their business, but for me, I stopped reading DC for the most part because – even though many were well made – they just didn’t grab me the way I want a great comic to do so. So for an extended period, I was completely out on DC, until they brought me back in with the irresistible team of Greg Pak and Aaron Kuder on Action Comics. I picked up the first issue, and unsurprisingly, Pak and Kuder crafted a Superman story that – at least for me – felt like Superman for the first time in a long time. The power was there, but so was the precision. The alien nature was there, but so was the omnipresent humanity. By the time the issue closed, I was completely hooked, and with Kuder blowing the doors off the building with the art, this deserves to be the biggest book at DC. I can’t wait to read a DC comic each month, and it’s been a while since I could say that.

    Best Issue: Sex Criminals #1

    Why It’s the Best: I’m a character first reader. When a creator can make a character feel completely and fully real and relatable, things like “plot” or “continuity” don’t really matter to me. In this issue, Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky took Suzie and made her someone that anyone and everyone could fall in love with. They turned the potentially titillating idea of The Quiet into something that was simultaneously deeply personal and completely magical. They made me realize that I have a lot to learn about the sexy time business, because good god, I’d never even heard of the Dutch Microwave before and my life has been forever changed since.

    This book is my favorite type of book. A surprise, a delight and something that makes me wholeheartedly invested from day one. It’s not just the best new book of 2013, but my favorite single issue of the year as well.

    Runners Up: Sex Criminals #2
    Continued below

    Hawkeye #11
    Fury MAX #13
    Zero #3

    Most Disappointing Issue: X-Factor #262

    Why It’s the Worst: This pains me, as I was a long, long, long time fan of Peter David on X-Factor. It was once upon a time one of my absolute favorite books, but its final ten issues or so found the book cratering into the Earth like it was a prop in a Michael Bay film. This issue, which was the final issue of the entire series, was solved by a pretty wretched deus ex machina, had pretty awful art (fitting into the general flow of the series at the end, though) and gave us an awkward happy ending for Madrox and Layla. I’m not trying to sound like sour grapes or something, but you guys, this was one of the most truly disappointing comics I’ve ever read. It wasn’t wretched – I’ve culled my list of books so I don’t buy bad comics anymore (mostly), thankfully – but it was very, very disappointing.

    Best Story Arc: Thor: God of Thunder’s “Godkiller” and “Godbomb”

    Why It’s the Best: I’ve written about this at length for us a couple times now, but Jason Aaron and Esad Ribic’s “Godkiller” and “Godbomb” arcs in Thor: God of Thunder turned this non-Thor fan into a flag waving superfan. This was the Thor story I’ve always wanted to read, taking everything to a scope and scale that can only be described with very on the nose words like “mythic” and “godlike.” This wasn’t a Thor in the Avengers story, but a Thor the GOD story, finding three Thors meeting their match in Gorr the God Butcher, a villain who – like in the best hero vs. villain comics – genuinely felt like he was going to “win” the whole time. Ribic’s art captured the story perfectly, giving the comic a powerful, almost storybook feel, and Aaron’s Thor was engaging and endlessly entertaining, making the Thor of the three ages feel like genuinely different people without sacrificing the core characteristics that make him stand out.

    This was the perfect marriage of two creators in peak form, and I truly can’t wait for them to pair back up in the next major Thor arc.

    Runners Up: B.P.R.D.’s “Wasteland”
    Fables’ “Snow White”

    Most Disappointing Story Arc: Thor: God of Thunder’s “The Accursed”

    Why It’s the Worst: Meanwhile, the arc that followed that revolutionary pair of arcs was the Malekith centric “The Accursed,” and sadly, the whole thing is everything I always didn’t want from a Thor series. Most notably, the art in this arc just absolutely erased my interest in the book, as Ron Garney’s (whom I normally love) art felt rushed and unfinished while Ive Svorcina’s colors are far too bright and in your face. The potential for an interesting arc is here, but ultimately, we’re left with an unattractive series of issues that truly feel like they’re designed to pair with the recent Thor movie. Thus, why I’m out until Ribic comes back.

    Best Artist: Esad Ribic

    Why He’s the Best: I already talked about Ribic above, but I just want to emphasize this: Ribic’s art is the best Thor art I’ve ever experienced. Many will call this blasphemy, but for me, this was the Thor story I wanted to read and much of it was because of Ribic’s ability to give each and every moment import and power. 2013 was a superb year for art, with Duncan Fegredo reaching the apex of his work in the Mignolaverse, Marcos Martin investing himself into every aspect of a book and that paying off big time in his work, Fiona Staples continuing her superstar run on Saga, Jordie Bellaire making her mark as the best and most prolific colorist, but Ribic? He owned 2013 for me.

    Runners Up: Duncan Fegredo
    Marcos Martin
    Fiona Staples
    Jordie Bellaire

    Best Writer: Matt Fraction

    Why He’s the Best: As I’ve mentioned, Sex Criminals is my jam. As everyone else has mentioned, Hawkeye is completely brilliant (especially the Pizza Dog issue). Fraction, on top of those books, had a wonderfully prolific and diverse year, creating a book completely unlike anything else in “Satellite Sam”, writing some of the most fun adventures around in “FF”, guiding the first family in “Fantastic Four”, and generally having a Midas Touch on everything he touched. When we did our overall voting for writer, Fraction didn’t just win, he dominated. It’s well deserved, and I’m looking forward to what he might have for us in 2014 with “ODY-C” and anything else he might announce this week at Image Expo.

    Continued below

    Runners Up: Jason Aaron
    Brian K. Vaughan

    Best Series: B.P.R.D.

    Why It’s the Best: The idea of a metronome comic is a funny one to me. Those books are the ones who are so utterly consistent that they almost mesmerize you into forgetting them. So uniformly quality that when you think about your favorite comics, you actually forget them. B.P.R.D. sadly falls into that level sometimes, but 2013 was a year I stood up and took notice because, you guys, B.P.R.D. is fucking amazing. This was a banner year for the book, as things are getting really, really dark in Hell on Earth, while they’re also getting beautiful thanks to the art of people like James Harren, Laurence Campbell and Tyler Crook. It was filled with big moments, like the return of Liz Sherman, the ascent of Agent Howards, and the foiling of Varvara’s heroic plan. Universally, however, this book was absolutely incredible, and when you pair in other books from the B.P.R.D. realm, like Gabriel Ba and Fabio Moon’s Vampire, you’d be crazy to say anything BUT this book for the best series of 2013.

    It’s a metronome no more. This book made everyone stand up and take notice, and I have a sneaking suspicion 2014 will be even bigger for it.

    Runners Up: Thor: God of Thunder
    Sex Criminals

    //TAGS | Multiversity 101

    David Harper

    David Harper mainly focuses on original content, interviews, co-hosting our 4 Color News and Brews video podcast, and being half of the Mignolaversity and Valiant (Re)visions team. He runs Multiversity's Twitter and Facebook pages, and personally tweets (rarely) @slicedfriedgold. By day, he works in an ad agency in Anchorage, Alaska, and he loves his wife, traveling and biscuits & gravy (ordered most to least, which is still a lot).


    • Alex Evans

      I’m worried that Superior Foes will just get canceled, but with Marvel’s penchant for relaunching, I would really, really be in favour of a relaunch with a much better title. Just call it the Sinister “Six” or something.

      • I’m not sure we’ll see that. I think the book pretty much permanently is existing on borrowed time, so I’m just hoping we get a couple good years out of it. It’s sales aren’t bad!

        • Alex Evans

          Well, Captain Marvel and X-Factor got same-writer relaunches despite dismal sales, so I’m still hoping. They should also really try to entice Hawkeye readers – maybe put a superior foes preview in the back of a Hawkeye issue. It really is a case where I can’t imagine someone loving Hawkeye disliking Superior Foes.

    • quinn

      I think I enjoyed EAST OF WEST the most out of all the new series. Nowhere Men is awesome but I suspect the most awesome stuff is yet to come.

      Age of Ultron…. I can’t believe that hasn’t ruined Bendis’ career. It was that bad. Age of Ultron should have broken the spell Bendis has on, apparently, nearly everyone.

      I think the only reason anyone likes All-New X-Men is solely because STUART IMMONEN is drawing it.

      • Patrick

        I wonder the same thing about Bendis myself. It has been a lot of things thats caused me to lose my interest in Bendis as a righter. His constant promise of Powers being back on track then within 2 issues have it be delayed into nothingness, the way he seems to recycle and reuse storylines and dialogue in different books, the way Uncanny and All New seem to have no direction or indentity, but I think it was Age of Ultron that finally did it for me.

        It was a God awful mess. And then seeing Wolverine & the X-Men being pushed into a crossover with both Uncanny and All New that nothing significant happened. I’m done with Mr. Bendis.

        • Bendis writes Ultimate Comics Spider-Man, one of the most uniformly excellent superhero books. The guy ain’t all bad, regardless of how flawed some of his work may be lately.

          • quinn

            Totally disagree. Ultimate Comics Spider-man is quite mediocre. Again, I think the great artists he works with are primarily responsible for the general interest in this series. If he was assigned a less talented artist like Salvador Larroca I doubt anyone would be as interested in the title.

            • That will have to be an agree to disagree point. Miles Morales is one of the most continuously engaging characters in comics for me, but hey, everyone’s got their own opinion!

            • Patrick

              That was my mistake. Of all the books I dislike with Bendis right now. One thing has remained constant and that is for my love of Ultimate Spider-Man. It’s been the one book I’ve continuously and consistently enjoyed since I started reading comics 12 years ago.

    • Patrick

      Really sad to hear about Invincible. I read it in the oversized Hardcovers that come out once or twice a year. I dropped Walking Dead for the reason you said you dropped Invincible. Directionless. But man this is disappointing.

      • I know some disagree with me strongly, but for me, Invincible has just gotten completely aimless. It’s disappointing because once upon a time, it really was the best superhero comic in the universe!