Home > Comics, Reviews, Storytelling, Weekend Feature > 2012 comics year in review: a great time to be a new comics fan

2012 comics year in review: a great time to be a new comics fan

Batman #14 Greg Capullo Scott Snyder New 52 Joker and Batman on the bridge - Hello, darling

It’s been a damn good year to be a comic book fan, and an even better one if, like me, this was your first year in comics.

Marvel and DC have opened their doors wide to new readership, and their emphasis on accessible stories unburdened by half a century of continuity has meant a bevvy of comic books that can catch and hold a new reader’s eye. Add the continued rise of indie projects published through Image Comics and you’ve got a recipe for an industry that’s only getting better. DC’s New 52 and Marvel NOW! are offering readers a chance to get in on the ground floor of something fresh and new. Did you climb on board?

I did.

The massive character histories of most superheroes intimidated me for years; with the New 52, I finally felt welcome to join the club. There are so many fantastic stories being written that, once I got my feet wet in the genre, it was impossible for me not to swim farther into the deep end.

X-Men, Spider-Man and Batman: the Animated Series from the ’90s provided my childhood superhero education; the film versions of those franchises coloured my teenage years; in university, I fell in love with self-contained canonical Batman masterpieces like The Dark Knight Returns and The Killing Joke, while also learning the non-hero side of comics through Chris Ware’s Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth and George Herriman’s Krazy Kat cartoons.

But it wasn’t until my birthday this past June that I truly stepped into comics.

A friend gave me the first nine issues of Batman. The storyline wasn’t done, so I had to get more. Batman #10 got me into the comic book shop, and got me reading about comics online. I went back for Batman #11 ready to try a few other comics I’d heard good things about: the retooled Captain Marvel, the latest Batwoman, and the first issue of Batman and Robin.

It all snowballed from there. Now I’ve got a longbox nearly full of comics, and a whole bookshelf dedicated to graphic novels and trade paperbacks. I’ve got a subscription at my local comics shop and a mental appointment there every Wednesday after work.

I’m a new fan because there is so much to like about comics right now.

Batman, my gateway drug, is absolutely one of the best comics around. The Night of the Owls storyline was thrilling, and the current Death of the Family Joker arc is frightening and brilliant.

Batman #3 New 52 Greg Capullo Scott Snyder Night of the Owls Talon cover

Batman and a Talon assassin from Batman #3.

On top of Batman, DC Comics has a stable of serious, hard-hitting comics that are worth following. Brian Azarello’s Wonder Woman is an inventive mesh of Greek and superhero mythologies, and Cliff Chiang’s art on the book is gorgeous. I can’t say enough about J.H. Williams III’s Batwoman: it’s an absolute work of art every month. And if you love the DC Universe, grab anything by Geoff Johns, who must have an encyclopedia of it all in the back of his head: he’s writing Justice League, Green Lantern and Aquaman, and he’s got plenty of crossover in them with all the other DC superheroes.

Green Lantern Geoff Johns Simon Baz New 52 DC Comics

Simon Baz, the newest Green Lantern, introduced in issue #0 by Geoff Johns.

On the other side of the fence, Marvel NOW! has pulled even with the New 52 by juggling its roster of strong writers onto new books, bringing fresh stories to previously entrenched characters. Kelly Sue DeConnick’s Captain Marvel started in the spirit of Marvel NOW! by recasting Carol Danvers, the former Ms. Marvel, in a new role and with a new costume. DeConnick’s first story arc was dripping with poignant emotion and character analysis as DeConnick took Carol back in time to revisit her origins, both as a superhero and as a woman.

Carol Danvers Captain Marvel Comics Costume

Carol Danvers rocking it in her new Captain Marvel costume.

The full Marvel NOW! initiative hit later in the year, bringing with it a ton of reset points. Mark Waid’s Indestructible Hulk is an imaginative take on a once-tired character; Jonathan Hickman’s Avengers promises to be one of the grandest stories to be told in 2013; Matt Fraction’s Hawkeye is winning legions of followers for its clever writing and David Aja’s killer art. Conceptually, Brian Michael Bendis’ All-New X-Men makes it worth the read: what would you do if your 16 year-old self showed up and told you to stop acting like a dick? Bendis has made the X-world worth reading, whether you’re a mutant lover or not.

Over at Image, Robert Kirkman’s Walking Dead lurches on inexorably, as does its television iteration. Grant Morrison’s dark and hilarious Happy! is a one-of-a-kind pairing of a hitman and an invisible purple horse that’s a can’t-miss.

And then there’s Brian K. Vaughn’s Saga, the best story being told in comics right now. It’s Star Wars meets Romeo and Juliet for the 21st century as star-crossed aliens Alana and Marko try to escape their respective armies and preserve the life of their newborn hybrid baby, Hazel. Vaughn and stellar artist Fiona Staples blend fantasy and science fiction to create a world of rocketship forests, babysitter ghosts and people with TV heads. It’s a singularly imaginative world that crackles with real, human dialogue. It’s honest, moving, and vulgar at turns, but completely believable the whole way.

Saga Comic Brian K. Vaughn Fiona Staples Image Comics Alana Marko and Hazel

Winged Alana with her horned husband Marko and their baby.

For all that was good this year, there were also some disappointments. The biggest had to be when Marvel gave coal to Spider-Man fans by killing Peter Parker the day after Christmas.

Not much can top that, but there were other letdowns, too. DC’s Zero Month in October promised origin tales for all the revamped New 52 comic books, but most of the stories were prequels or preludes to present-day stories.

Marvel and DC put out a lot of titles, and they weren’t spinning narrative gold with all of them.

Superman has been a dog’s breakfast despite creative team change-ups. Jeph Loeb’s current run is no exception. The New 52 Superman has also been a mess to draw with his new armoured costume. Grant Morrison’s Action Comics has been kinder to the character, but the most remarkable part of his young Superman is his steel-toed boots and Super T-shirt – not his adventures.

Marvel NOW!’s releases haven’t all been as fresh as Avengers, Fantastic Four or Indestructible Hulk. Iron Man is the most notable letdown, which is unfortunate for a character about to get his third movie next year.

With all the big strides and stumbles made in 2012, the comic book world of 2013 holds a lot of potential – and two burning questions.

First, Scott Snyder’s new Man of Steel title may yet rescue Superman’s comic reputation before his latest film reboot. Watch for it in June, drawn by Jim Lee. Snyder has been masterful with gritty Batman and creepy Swamp Thing; can he keep it up with the squeaky-clean Man of Tomorrow?

Marvel’s biggest challenge will be next month, when The Superior Spider-Man debuts. Writer Dan Slott faces a massive uphill climb with Otto Octavius as the webslinger. Will this new direction refresh the formerly Amazing Spider-Man, or will it hamstring him for years to come? Will Peter Parker ever return?

Otto Octavius Doctor Octopus as Superior Spider-Man Marvel NOW!

Otto Octavius, the Superior Spider-Man, has very strong fingers.

2013 ought to hold plenty of answers and more great questions as Marvel NOW! kicks it into high gear and the New 52 grows into its second full year.

Marvel NOW! is a great jumping-on point, and if you’re a DC fan, the New 52 has trade paperbacks available to quickly catch you up and get you in the game.

It’s a great time to be a comic book fan, and an even better time to become one.

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