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The Top 10 Comics of 2013: A Look Back

Superior Spider-Man Doctor Octopus Marvel NOW!

It’s the end of the year and you can’t go anywhere online without hitting a Year in Review-type article. The end of December is all about looking back, and to acknowledge that, here’s a list of the 10 most intriguing comics reviewed here at The Pop Cultist.

It’s neither exhaustive nor a “10 Best,” but these were some of the more memorable and impactful single issues of 2013.

Enjoy.

10. Wonder Woman #19

Wonder Woman #19 Diana kisses Orion New 52 DC Comics

Brian Azzarello has been knocking it out of the park on this series on a regular basis, but Wonder Woman #19 captures the essence of his mastery all in one issue.

Issue #19 is one of those pause and reflect entries in a comic book series that comes in between major storylines, and Azzarello uses it to explore the strange, silly and compelling family he’s built up around Diana. Dickish Orion, haughty Hera, mortal Zola and tough-as-rocks Lennox all have their moments in this hilarious and heartfelt issue.

Wonder Woman reads like Xena: Warrior Princess meets Friends, in all the good ways you can think of.

This issue encapsulates all of that better than any other.

9. Ventriloquist #1

Ventriloquist Gail Simone DC Comics Villains Month

When DC Comics’ Villains Month hit, we saw a slew of lacklustre origin and day-in-the-life stories centered on DC’s various baddies, but Gail Simone’s Ventriloquist #1 showed it could take these expected tropes and rise above. Simple, self-contained and as creepy as you can imagine, this issue showed the heights to which other Villains Month titles could only aspire to.

Simone gives us a slice of her Saw-inspired villainess both in blacked-out modern Gotham and in her messed up formative days, knocking off two Villain Month tropes at once and doing it with more style and substance than anyone else in September.

This was the Villains Month issue other comics should have aspired to.

8. Superior Spider-Man #1

Superior Spider-Man #1 cover by Ryan Stegman Marvel NOW!

New year, new Spider-Man. For all the outrage that came with the death of Peter Parker in Amazing Spider-Man #700, you had to give writer Dan Slott credit: he took Marvel NOW!’s new direction approach to heart in Superior Spider-Man #1. Killing Peter Parker was gutsy, but making Doctor Octopus the new Spidey took Galactus-sized balls.

And while the series has been weird and mostly unnerving (remember when Doc Ock decided to “satisfy” himself with memories of Mary Jane?), Dan Slott has pretty much thrown the oft-criticized comics concept of status quo out the window.

Superior Spider-Man #1 was the start of that, and while it’s tough to argue this title’s superiority, the brashness of it is certainly amazing.

7. Saga #11

Saga #11 comic cover Image Brian K Vaughn and Fiona Staples

The Image comic Saga has consistently been one of the most fantastical, imaginitive and emotional comics around, but Saga #11 feels like the emotional climax for the series so far. Brian K. Vaughn and Fiona Staples bring starcrossed lovers Alana and Marko, along with their crossbred child Hazel and Marko’s parents, to the site of a dying planet as they’re pursued by an altogether likeable villain with a loveable pet.

That kinda-sorta villain, The Will, kinda-sorta loses his edge after this issue, while that loveable pet, Lying Cat, escapes death in the first few pages.

But this issue wasn’t without tragedy, as Vaughn gives fans back Lying Cat only to take Marko’s father away in the same issue.

Beautifully drawn and wonderfully well-written and paced, Saga #11 set a high bar that subsequent issues have been hard-pressed to meet.

6. Captain Marvel #17

Captain Marvel #17 Marvel NOW

With a prominent role in Marvel’s Infinity event and a brain lesion that grounded her for part of 2013, Carol Danvers went through a lot in Kelly Sue DeConnick’s Captain Marvel. But it’s this series’ last issue, Captain Marvel #17, that really stands out above the rest as a celebration of just how far DeConnick and her rotating cast of artists has taken the character.

Captain Marvel is relaunching in the new year, but DeConnick gives this volume of the comic a hearfelt sendoff in an issue that’s all about celebrating the hero and – more importantly – her Carol Corps of real life fans.

DeConnick and Filipe Andrade put on a public appreciation day for Carol in Captain Marvel #17. The issue serves as a nice finale for the series by touching on all the everyday people Carol has gathered around her, while also delving into the nature of heroism by playing up Carol’s relationship with a young admirer.

Captain Marvel #17 will make you smile, plain and simple.

5. Batwoman #16

Batwoman #16 by J..H. Williams III Wonder Woman World's Finest Medusa

With the departure of J.H. Williams III and W. Hayden Blackman from the title late in 2013, Batwoman #16 will now stand as the high water mark for their run and the character in general. Willams splits writing duties with Blackman and returns to the art side for this climactic chapter in the Batwoman/Wonder Woman storyline to create one of the most visually and narratively exciting stories of the year.

It’s got everything: gods, monsters, superheroes, gorgeous artwork, nuanced storytelling and organic character development. Wonder Woman gets in over her head and comes out on top, while her underrated sidekick Flamebird starts to come into her own.

DC Comics agreed to shove all its advertising to the end of the book so Williams could create the intricate, double-page spreads and unique panel structures that have come to define this title. Batwoman has been a beautiful comic from the start, but no issue is prettier than Batwoman #17.

4. Hawkeye #7

Hawkeye #7 Hurricane Sandy David Aja cover Marvel NOW! Matt Fraction

There’s a lot to love about Matt Fraction’s Hawkeye, and it’s all on display in Hawkeye #7, the Hurricane Sandy tribute issue that puts Marvel’s most human superhero in the middle of one of 2013’s most human disasters.

Hawkeye #7 splits the narrative between Clint Barton and protegee/love interest/purple enthusiast Kate Bishop as the two marks(wo)men face down flooding in their neighbourhood. Clint helps a friend through the storm and loses his car to the flooding while Kate ducks out of an awkward wedding to play hero in one of the most enjoyable stories of Matt Fraction’s stellar run.

The art is also a ton of fun, as Steve Lieber draws Clint in the familiar David Aja style while Jesse Hamm gives Kate a more cartoony, Archie-esque feel.

As an added bonus, profits from this story – which cut into the planned story arc for Hawkguy – went to relief efforts in New York City.

3. Batman and Robin #18

Batman and Robin #18 New 52 Damian Wayne by Pat Gleason

The death of Damian Wayne hit the comic world pretty suddenly. Scott Snyder’s Death of the Family storyline seemed to be building up to something big, but it was Grant Morrison’s Batman Incorporated title that reserved the right to kill off Damian. And while his death was brutal and poignant – a well-deserved end for a well-written, well-developed Robin – it was Peter J. Tomasi’s Batman and Robin #18 that truly captured the impact of Damian’s death on Batman.

Other titles tried to touch on that death to varying degrees of success, but Tomasi’s totally wordless comic – drawn by Pat Gleason – captured the loss of a son in a way that no other comic could match.

When a parent loses a child, there simply are no words.

Peter J. Tomasi and Pat Gleason said all there was to say in Batman and Robin #18.

2. Daredevil: End of Days #7

Daredevil: End of Days #7 cover by Klaus Janson Marvel

Mapone, Mapone, Mapone.

Like “Rosebud” in Citizen Kane, it’s the word that promises to solve everything in this future-set story from Brian Michael Bendis, David Mack and Klaus Janson. But while the word doesn’t get revealed in Daredevil: End of Days #7, the important stuff does: namely, Daredevil’s heir, Ben Urich’s adopted son who becomes the second Man Without Fear after the death of Matt Murdock.

Daredevil: End of Days #7 brings this gritty post-superhero Marvel world to its climax and vaults itself into the conversation for best Daredevil comic ever.

The art from Janson and, occasionally, Mack is dirty and gorgeous, filled with little details and easter eggs that refer to Marvel’s past. The writing is sharp and doesn’t give too much away as it follows Ben Urich on a Dark Knight Returns-esque journey through the twilight of the Marvel universe.

Daredevil is dead.

Long live the new Daredevil.

1. Batman # 17

Batman #17 Death of the Family Joker New 52

Surprise!

If you’ve been reading this site for any length of time, you know Batman gets plenty of attention here, but it’s not undeserved. Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo are some of the best comic book creators in the business right now, and their finale to the Death of the Family storyline was unforgettable. If you bought comics for your loved ones this Christmas, this was the trade edition you shelled out for.

If you’ve been reading this title consistently, Batman #17 is the one that sticks in your head: the climax of the Death of the Family storyline, where Joker meets Batman in the Batcave and serves up the Bat family with (apparently) their own cut off faces.

Joker’s been done to death, but Snyder and Capullo found a way to take him in a new, compelling direction fresh on the heels of the Heath Ledger Dark Knight reinvention.

Creepy, clever and cruel, Batman #17 was the best comic of the year.

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