2012 was a weird but mostly good year to be a comics fan. If you didn't buy into the big superhero crossover events, there were still lots of different flavors of illustrated fiction to enjoy. I read a lot of comics last year but these few were the ones that stayed with me. Please share the ones you enjoyed most in the comments below.
Basically, this comic is what should be the after-credits sequence of every modern-day military FPS game. Shooters does a great job showing the thrill of combat and camaraderie but doesn't divorce it from the uglier side effects those things can have on civilian life.
The best thing that this ash-streaked graphic novel did was teleport the folkloric and nationalistic mythologies of Civil War-era America into the present-day. Sure, talk of mermaids and race/gender-based inferiority may seem laughable now, but Mark Siegel's fantastic work is able to make readers realize why they might have seemed so seductive in the first place. Institutional oppression, like superstition, can have an irresistible pull on the people who live inside of it and Sailor Twain does a good job of mixing metaphor and reality to illustrate that tension.
I'm honest with myself, okay?: I know that I'm never going to stop reading superhero comics. But lots of what comes with the genre—the practices by which they get made, tone-deafness on gender, race and other diversity issues, the buzz-hungry stunts and dependence on tentpole events—annoys me to no end. That's why I‘m so glad a book like Hawkeye exists. Matt Fraction, David Aja and the other creators working on this series pull it away from the crossover hype machine and present Clint Barton as (basically) a conflicted, relatable guy with a ridiculously demanding day job. This issue in particular is lean, self-conscious and fun, managing to nod at the baggage of capes-and-tights comics without getting weighed down by it.
This issue hits on how complicated a creative practice it must be to work on a corporately owned superhero and balances that against the need/demand to simultaneously change and maintain elements of decades-old characters. Yes, I loved the Black Superman President stuff in Action Comics #9. But I also liked how Grant Morrison—who has himself taken to task in criticism of DC's worst business practices—made that ugly process of comics-making into part of the story here. It's not a deep investigation, mind you, but that nod at history made this issue feel a little less throwaway.
Brian Vaughn uses genre fiction to illuminate everyday life. Y The Last Man was about the screw-ups and stumbles of figuring out who you were in your late teens and twenties. Ex Machina could be interpreted as what happens when your figure your job and purpose and what happens when the sense of meaning/purpose affects the people in your life. Saga is clearly about parenthood but it also investigates the notion of family. There's family you inherit and family you make. Clashes between the two things can be gut-wrenching, beneficial and spectacular and, thanks to the stellar art of Fiona Staples, Vaughn's newest series is all of those things.
I've talked before about how much I love Brandon Graham's work, as seen in the bold pulpy imaginings of Prophet and the mashed-up funk future of King City. But even those books couldn't prepare me for the beauty of Multiple Warheads. Seeing Graham's orgy of visual puns in full color in this new series was like walking into a giant kaleidoscope, with a million fractured realities being projected onto you. But, best of all, the fun he's having on Multiple Warheads' pages is palpable and inviting. You can't help but be pulled into the madness.
Show off the comics that you enjoyed the most in the comments below, won't you?