When it comes to good years for comic book fans, 2012 ranks right up at the top. The New 52, Marvel NOW! and an array of fantastic independent titles showed us how much room there is left for new, exciting things in theses universes, and along with them came a flood of new readers and returning "retired" readers. DC and Marvel obviously lead the pack in sales, but smaller companies such as Image, IDW and Fantagraphics are also seeing readership rise. 2012 also saw the digital comic begin to find its footing, as great apps like Comixology give an entire new generation a way to discover their favorite stories in the world of capes and costumes. It was definitely a banner year.
The big question, though, is which comics really stood above the rest in 2012? Lets take a look at a few of the standouts from the year the world was supposed to end.
After taking a bit of a break from comics, Brian K. Vaughan (or BKV as he is affectionately known), came back to bring his version of every awesome space epic ever to the masses, and it was definitely worth the wait. The creator of the modern classics "Ex Machina" and "Y: The Last Man", Vaughan tells a story of forbidden love, epic battles, robot sex (which actually has nothing to do with the forbidden love going on), bounty hunters, tree rockets and orgy-filled sex planets. That is just scratching the surface of this rich, detailed world, and it is all brought to life by the incomparable Fiona Staples. Staples uses digital means to produce her art, but it is easily some of the best digital art out there. Her panels are vividly colored and full of beauty, but she can draw action with the best of them, consistently producing some of the most stunning work in the industry. Oh, and this is all from the first eight issues.
The second book on this list by Snyder, "American Vampire" is probably the best horror comic on shelves today. Infusing classic horror tropes with modern storytelling, "AV" makes anything with "sparkling" vampires look as ridiculous as it is. Following a new species known as the American vampire, Snyder adds a new section to vampire lore, and continuously puts out spectacular issues filled to the brim with new ideas and fresh takes on the myth of the vampire. Albuquerque is spot-on with every issue, bringing Snyder's gritty and scary world to life. His simple lines and knack for drawing emotion bring this book to life like few others. "American Vampire" is going on hiatus for a year, so now is a great time to catch up!
"Animal Man" is exactly what the New 52 was supposed to be all about. Buddy Baker's new adventures are fraught with emotional and personal dilemmas, ripe with visuals that are grotesque and somehow pretty at the same time, and, still doesn't forget that we are reading about a man that can harness the attributes of animals through "The Red" -- a connection to all living things on the planet. Lemire has crafted one of the best stories of the New 52 and promises big things at the end of the "Rotworld" crossover that is currently happening. Go check it out!
After Rick Remender made the alternate reality world of "Age of Apocalypse" interesting again in the pages of his hit "Uncanny X-Force" series, Marvel decided to hand the reigns over to David Lapham. Good idea. The gritty, dark world Lapham has created (with plenty of help from the awesome De La Torre on pencils) is exactly what the doctor ordered. Conspiracy? Check. Oppression? Check. Freedom fighters taking on Wolverine, the evil ruler of a barren, apocalyptic wasteland? Check. This series was a gamble on Marvel's part, but it seems to be paying off. Great character work and moody art make this a great go-to series. Just be weary, to really get the full story, you may want to check out some Remender's "Uncanny X-Force" to get the gist of the situation.
What can be said about Snyder and Capullo that hasn't been said already? Since the first issue of the New 52 Batman reboot, Snyder has shown that he can tell an intricate, layered story that touches on all emotions. He is bringing the best villains in and telling stories that can resonate with anyone. Capullo is a master of the craft. His smooth pencils tell Snyder's story with beautifully crafted panels and transitions that jump off of the page. Read it. Love it.
Nobody could have guessed when Marvel announced a new "Hawkeye" series that it would be as popular as Fraction's ode to normalcy turned out to be. Taking an old, used character and making a comic that looks at him in a an entirely new way is hard to do, but this book is one of the most consistently refreshing stories to come out of comics in a long time. Seeing Clint Barton's day-to-day routine as an entirely human superhero is funny and exciting in equal measure, but also keeps the stories grounded in a reality that only Barton would know. Aja is constantly proving that he is one of the best visual storytellers in the business, throwing everything in and making a visually arresting book that anyone can pick up. Quite possibly Marvel's best ongoing series right now.
Grant Morrison's seven-year stint on Batman is about to come to a close, and it has been an exciting run. There's a large amount of story here that involves years of storytelling, so lets just say that it has been one of the strangest, exhilarating, darkest, funniest, best Batman runs in history.
(This is definitely not a list of all of the good comics from the past year, but these select few are the ones that I have really been enjoying. Agree? Disagree? Completely disagree? Leave comments and let me know what you think I should have included!)