Sunday, December 15, 2013

Best of 2013 Comics - Ongoing Series

I could only put together a top 8 of ongoing series for 2013. Part of this is that a lot of my reading has switched to collected editions, so I'm not really keeping up with, say, Sixth Gun or Hellboy. Part of it is that a lot of the single issue series I read this issue were new, and are covered on my Best New Series list. And part of it is that a lot of what DC and Marvel publish just doesn't interest me these days. There are certainly other books I read, and even like, but not enough to consider them "Best Of" material.

1. Saga (#9-17)
Saga's second year is just as successful as its first. The second story arc fleshed out more of the early days of Alana and Marko while developing Marko's parents into very interesting supporting cast members, not to mention further expanding on their nemeses The Will and Prince Robot IV and introducing new supporting character Oswald Heist. The third story arc, which won't wrap until 2014, is a quieter story, letting the main characters catch their breath and talk about their pasts a bit  more while their enemies face their own difficulties and continue to close in on them. Saga continues to be a rich, expansive world with some of the best characters in comics.

2. Daredevil (#22-33)
Kicking off the year with a great use of Superior Spider-Man, and then leads into the culmination of everything Waid has been building to with new foe Ikari and the revelation of who's behind both him and indeed much of what's been going on for the first 25 issues of the run. After that, the story adds in a new Sons of the Serpent tale, a really fun one-shot with Silver Surfer, and continues to deal with Foggy's cancer. Chris Samnee's art is as terrific as always, and as the book goes into what we now know will be a close and relaunch, it's easy to rank this with the great runs of Bendis, Brubaker and Miller.

3. Hawkeye (#7-14)
Matt Fraction was on fire with this book, and the fantastic artwork by David Aja was supplemented by issues from Javier Pulido and Francesco Francavilla. There's the continuing story of Hawkeye vs. the Russian mobsters, and there are also a ton of great standalones, from the New York hurricane issue to the story of the harlequin-styled assassin to the experimental and awesome Pizza Dog issue. There was an unfortunate delay in the middle of the year, but it came back strong with a two-parter focusing on Kate Bishop's adventures in L.A.

4. Chew (#31-38)
After the death of a major character, Chew's "Bad Apples" story finds Tony Chu in a vendetta kind of mood, and it's a different side of the character that I liked a lot. The second part of the year finds us halfway through "Family Recipe," which continues to shed light on the expansive Chu clan. As always, the book is weird, beautiful to look at and always a lot of fun, but there's a really interesting underlying plot and serious character work going on as well.

5. Fatale (#13-18)
Fatale, Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips' noir/horror book, opened 2013 with one of my favorite issues of the run, a flashback to the lead character in the old west, followed by a World War II flashback, before returning to a modern-day story that deals heavily with bank-robbing musicians at the height of '90s grunge. It's got some labyrthine plotting and characters who could probably stand to pop a little more in each issue, such that I really prefer it in chunks of trade paperback storytelling, but it's always a great read.

6. Revival (#6-16)
I really enjoyed Revival from the outset, but this year the book got its hooks deeper into me, as Seeley and Norton further develop their cast and start shedding a little more light on the "ghosts" haunting the town, all while moving forward the various stories of the Revived characters we know and mixing in some real suspense with a group of criminal lowlives, a paranoid survivalist and lots more. Like Fatale and Manhattan Projects on this list, it's best enjoyed in trade paperbacks, but it's good stuff that I keep up with monthly as well.

7. Indestructible Hulk (#3-15)
Waid's take on Hulk is not as amazing as his run on Daredevil, but it's a solid premise (Banner joins SHIELD as a science advisor/WMD) and this year's run has taken the book to some interesting places. Most notably a time travel trip to Asgard with art by Walt Simonson, which was the best arc of the book so far. It suffers a bit from not having the same caliber of artists as Daredevil, with Leinil Francis Yu being a little hard-to-read and Matteo Scalera being solid but not much more, but it's full of great ideas, from the aforementioned Asgard arc to the extended time travel story that took up most of the year.

8. Manhattan Projects (#7-16)
To be honest, I have almost moved to reading this one in trade, because it's gotten so dense in its second year that I'm having trouble remembering all the characters and plotlines on an issue-per-issue basis. But Hickman's sheer level of wacky insanity using famous scientists and Nick Pitara's detailed, beautiful artwork make it a favorite of mine. It's got Hickman's usual scope with a more playful and less serious tone.

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