• Columns 

    2013 in Review: Best Ongoing Series

    By | December 20th, 2013
    Posted in Columns | 8 Comments

    The end is here. 2013 in Review is wrapping today, and we’re ending with the biggest category of all: best ongoing series. What a year it was in ongoings, one in which incredible books like Thor: God of Thunder, Revival, Wolverine and the X-Men didn’t even make the list in banner years for each of them. Them’s the breaks when it comes to 2013’s crop of ongoings, and we share what our 10 favorite ongoings of the year were below.

    Thanks to everyone for reading our 2013 in Review bonanzas, and we’ll have just a bit more content when it comes to year in review next week and beyond. Also, we have a poll at the bottom for Reader’s Choice for Best Ongoing Series. Please vote, and on Monday we’ll be announcing our Reader’s Choice pick!

    10. Sex Criminals

    Why It Ranks (Matthew Meylikhov): Because:

    Obviously.

    (But really, here’s the thing: Sex Criminals earned one of our Best Ongoing spots, sneaking on at #10, and it’s had only three issues released by the time this has been written. Three whole issues that are better than the majority of comics that were released in 2013. If that doesn’t tell you how damn good this book is, literally no other write-up on why this book is so good possibly could.)

    8 (tie). Daredevil

    Why It Ranks (Vince Ostrowski): Debuting in 2011, Mark Waid’s award-winning “Daredevil” title was originally notable for its awe-inspiring visual inventiveness and the new jovial nature of its central character. In 2013, Waid and Samnee brought Matt Murdock back into the darkness a little bit, pitting him against some of his greatest foes and giving him new, gut-wrenching obstacles to overcome in his personal life. That’s not to suggest that the fun was all gone though – just that “Daredevil” was back to being that right mix of swashbuckling derring-do and dark street-crime series. Samnee drew almost every issue in 2013 (with a couple of terrific turns from Javier Rodriguez), lending his signature clean lines and sense of heroics to Daredevil’s adventures. Issue #26 was a real sneak attack this year. In particular, Foggy’s personal trials in 2013 signified the exact sort of gripping and emotional stories that make Mark Waid’s stint with the title so special.

    8 (tie). Hellboy in Hell

    Why It Ranks (Mike Romeo): After spending 20 years with the character, Mike Mignola entered 2013 showing that he is not done growing with Hellboy. At its core, Hellboy in Hell is an adventure comic that blends Mignola’s many varied influences into one body of work. Same as any Hellboy comic before it. But, as familiar as this book is, there’s something very different at play here. The mood is darker, more morose than before. Of course, there have always been dark undertones in Hellboy comics, but they’ve been held at bay by the bright red hero cracking wise and throwing fists. Readers were able to join Hellboy as he ran from his destiny and sought distraction in every corner of the globe. But he’s not bright red any more, is he? Dave Stewart always colored Hellboy in a way that showed he was out of place on earth, he was always the loudest thing on the page, this giant red swatch jumping from panel to panel. Now compare that to the first arc of ‘In Hell’.

    Hellboy’s bright primary presence is gone, exchanged for a skin tone that shifts from panel to panel to fit the muted palette of the world he now inhabits. Even once he becomes red again, it’s muted and not nearly as saturated as the stories of old. These color changes play well with Mignola’s refinements in art. His line is the same, but he seems to be eliminating as many of them as possible. These pages are prime examples of an artist striving for the simplest, clearest storytelling possible, while never losing the voice he’s worked an entire career to hone. It’s astounding what Mignola is able to convey with just a few lines and tics in a panel. I think that 2013 has set a new high water mark for not only Hellboy as a series, but Mignola as an artist as well.

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    7. Batman

    Why It Ranks (Brandon Burpee): This title under the direction of Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo has been nothing less than top notch since the start. This year especially felt like the team hit their stride as they have given us an updated origin for Batman that pays incredible respect to the past. Whether it be the Red Hood’s build toward becoming the Joker or the introduction of Doctor Death as an original opponent for Batman much like he was in Detective Comics #29 in 1939. If it is the little things that let you know someone cares than these details the team has laced throughout show you they have an incredible love for Batman and his rich history.

    I’ve written a lot about the this title and it’s creators during this year end and I genuinely feel as if I could continue heaping praise on them and the title for days. Shit, I think there is a really solid chance i’ll be talking this book and these creators again next year. That is how consistent this book has been. I know I don’t make it to cons much because I live in Alaska but I promise you that next time I go these guys will be the first stop I make so I can shake their hands and thank them for the tremendous work they’ve put into the book. I’ll probably also try and get a sketch and a couple signatures if i’m being honest as well.

    6. MIND MGMT

    Why It Ranks (Drew Bradley): For the second year in a row, “MIND MGMT” earns a spot on the Top 10 list. How? By having intricate subplots crisscrossing in increasingly complex ways. By packing extra content into the book’s gutters and inside covers. By rewarding multiple re-readings with subtle foreshadowing and planted clues. By having eye-grabbing covers which demand a second look. By being inventive with what the comic medium can accomplish and engaging its readers on a monthly basis. Matt Kindt does everything for this book – from the writing to the painting to the lettering – and it’s easy to tell after just one issue he’s putting everything he has into it. This isn’t just a book you should be reading. It’s one you should be sharing.

    5. B.P.R.D.

    Why It Ranks (Brian Salvatore): On paper, “B.P.R.D.” shouldn’t work this well. A series coming from a three-headed writing/editing team with rotating artists sounds like it would be inconsistent and struggle to gain a consistent tone. The exact opposite has happened – the more new artists brought into the fold, the more the series blossoms into something unique. The world is ending, and the various artists have been showing different parts of the scorched Earth, each more terrifying than the last. And just look at the artists that touched the main book in 2013: Tyler Crook, James Harren, Peter Snejbjerg and Laurence Campbell. That is pretty much a murderer’s row of artists, and each arc has built on the prior in such an interesting and clever way, that nothing feels disjointed.

    But of course, this would mean nothing if John Arcudi, Mike Mignola and Scott Allie weren’t bringing their A-game to every single issue. These issues are heartbreaking yet hopeful, darkly funny but really sad, and all leading towards what has been promised from the beginning: the end of the world.

    What a ride.

    4. Manhattan Projects

    Why It Ranks (David Harper): You could say that Manhattan Projects had an off-year. I mean come on, it went from #3 on our list last year to #4 this year. What a precipitous drop! All is well though with this book, regardless of its drop, as Jonathan Hickman, Nick Pitarra and Ryan Browne continue to tell one of the most bizarre, entertaining and consistently inventive stories in comics, with some of the great minds in humanity’s history existing in another, very fictional timeline where genius and madness run free and at equal levels. In Pitarra and Browne, Hickman has two artists whose visuals can make his stories feel real while also elevating the crazy to staggering heights. I mean come on, we had the Manhattan Projects team take down a secret cabal that included a luchador AND Einstein show the only thing relative in this book is your distance to his chainsaw, and it all worked.

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    That’s some good comic book storytelling, my friends, and proves that even some of the best books can get better as they go along.

    3. Hawkeye

    Why It Ranks (Zach Wilkerson): “Hawkeye” had, at minimum, three of my ten favorite single issues of the entire year. Considering only eight issues of the series (plus an Annual) released this year by the time this goes out, that’s no mean feet. Though it experienced a few nigh unbearable delays, each and every issue was a joy and a wonder, unique in it’s own way. “Hawkeye” started the year off strong with the feels-inducing Hurricane Sandy issue. From there, the series launched into a multi-issue arc that pushed its characters to surprising new places. In issues 8-13, Fraction and company have mastered the art of crafting great single issue stories that weave into an even greater tapestry. Each issue overlapped slightly with the next, thanks to different points of view, dropping clues of things to come for savvy and attentive readers. Each issue unlocked another piece of the puzzle, giving new meaning to seemingly innocuous events. It’s a level of attention to detail that is very rarely witnessed in super hero comics.

    It demands recognizing that, while David Aja is certainly remains the book’s shining star, 2013 saw the rise of Annie Wu. The artist quickly graduated from her stunning one-off romance covers in issue #8, to chronicling the western adventures of Lady Hawkeye. Add in contributions by the fantastic Francesco Francavilla and it’s safe to say “Hawkeye” was one of the best looking books on the stand in 2013.

    But of course, all of this is really just icing on the cake that is ‘Pizza Is My Business,’ am I right?

    2. East of West

    Why It Ranks (Vince Ostrowski): Jonathan Hickman’s “East of West” manages to contain the best elements of a Hickman series, while being, in my opinion, about as accessible as a Jonathan Hickman comic could get. That’s why it’s had the success that it’s had and I believe that’s why it’s already near the very top of this list, despite only being 7 issues deep at this point. And as the guy who writes the “East of West” column here at Multiversity, I can’t believe that it’s only been 7 issues – there has been so much packed into this story. Think about all of the things that Hickman likes to write about: the apocalypse, prophecies, shadow organizations, death personified, alternate history, back room deals or truces, etc.. The list goes on and on, but it’s all here.

    It’s the surface-level stuff that Hickman and artist Nick Dragotta have developed that allow him to play with all of the these same things, but in a really slick and easily digestible way. “East of West” examines the idea of America and its many regions and identities, but placing it in the realm of an apocalypse means that everything mostly has a Western lawlessness to it. It’s not a straight Western, but it has the visual elements that make Western stories so appealing. It also crosses the gap to grab science fiction and steam punk fans. Characters ride on techno-organic creatures – horses with plasma cannons where their heads should be. Towering skyscrapers and modern metros are surrounded by barren, burnt desert landscapes. Dragotta mixes the pulp Western sense of romanticized Americana with a possible future that is both highly advanced, yet horrifyingly segmented. Dragotta blends stylish penciling with cool design work without letting the heart of the story get away. When the cards are all out on the table, this ends up being a story about how people form relationships across potential divides, and Dragotta drives that home beautifully.

    1. Saga

    Why It Ranks (Michelle White): “Saga” is pizza (so long as you haven’t got a gluten allergy). “Saga” is sex (so long as you’re not asexual). “Saga” is the feeling of bubble wrap popping under your fingertips (and I can’t think of a category of person who doesn’t enjoy doing that). “Saga” is the passe-partout of the comic world, placing on seven out of our twelve Multiversity best-of lists this year and uniting comic fans with all kinds of disparate tastes. The best part is that Saga is near-universally adored despite being about as far from bland as you can get. This is the book that got banned by Apple for explicit content (which wasn’t offensive or all that explicit, but you catch my point). This is the book that featured a crusty scrotum smack in the middle of a splash page (and yes, that was last year, but I don’t think any of us have forgotten). This is the book that melds sci-fi and romance and satire and observations on family life, and seems to pull it off effortlessly. This is the book that has never played it safe, and still everybody loves it – because it’s honest and fun and touching and full of surprises, with Vaughan’s scripts matching the vigor and expressiveness of Staples’ art. I don’t think a comic book can strive to be anything better than that, and I don’t think you have to look further than “Saga” for the most inspiring ongoing comic of 2013.

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    Thanks to everyone for reading, and please, vote in our poll below to select our Reader’s Choice for Best Ongoing Series, to be announced Monday!

    Reader’s Poll: Best Ongoing Series

    Saga0%
    East of West0%
    Hawkeye0%
    Manhattan Projects0%
    B.P.R.D.0%
    MIND MGMT0%
    Batman0%
    Hellboy in Hell0%
    Daredevil0%
    Sex Criminals0%
    Other: (Please specify)0%


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