The Ninjabot

Tyler’s Best of Comics 2012

Posted on December 30, 2012 at 8:54 pm by Tyler Waterman

It’s that time of year where the holidays are wrapping up and the year is rapidly coming to a close. What better way to ignore the debt we’ve added to our credit cards and the inches we’ve added to our waists than to take a retrospective look back at the best and the worst this year had to offer in the world of comics, preferably in Top 5 format! Here are this year’s highest peaks, what I consider…

Tyler’s Best of Comics 2012

bestof55. AvX

I don’t think I’ve seen a “worst of 2012” list yet this year that hasn’t included AvX, and to all the haters I SAY THEE NAY.

I can’t STAND when something is hated just for being what it is. Every post I’ve seen touting AvX as the “worst” has included essentially the same idea: “I hate AvX because it was totally just a big summer crossover that was nothing but action and a big death.”

WHAT?!

That’s like saying “I hate comic books because they have too many pictures.” AvX was advertised as a “summer blockbuster not everyone would survive.” It was a classic major crossover event in every way, and if you hate those, you shouldn’t have read it. They certainly weren’t hiding what it was.

For those of us who weren’t expecting Citizen Kane when the sign above the theater said Transformers, AvX was a fantastic ride! It did everything expected from a major crossover, and did them all well. The action was so over the top that it needed a separate title dedicated just to fights, the scale of the storyline was massive enough that no one was unaffected, and it certainly kept the ubiquitous crossover event promise that “nothing would ever be the same.” Most importantly, it did what the best crossover events always do: it elevated characters that weren’t in the spotlight. Crossover events are where characters not named Spider-Man or Wolverine get to be prominent, and the likes of Cyclops and Iron Fist will benefit from AvX for years to come.

AvX did what all crossover events do: it reminds us that not all comics need to reinvent the wheel or redefine the genre. We all started reading comics because we liked seeing heroes punch things and make big explosions with their powers, and AvX delivered that in spades. Don’t be a hater; read AvX for fun, and it won’t let you down.

 

bestof44. Batman Incorporated

There are so many ongoing series that I look forward to reading every month, but none so much as Batman Incorporated. That’s not a knock on the current running Bat titles, mind you; almost all of them are some of the very best books to come out of DC, and Capullo and Snyder’s Batman is already one of the biggest contributors to the Bat legacy there has ever been. However, Batman Incorporated is simply on another level, and I say that in comparison to all superhero titles, not just the Bat books.

When the New 52 reboot was announced, my very first thought was “what happens to Incorporated?” I couldn’t imagine a way that the series could fit in the new DCU, especially considering the backbone of the reboot was the idea that superheroes were a relatively new concept to the world. However, the magic captured in the 2011 series (a trade that I always tend to pick back up once or twice a month) was expertly fit into the post-52 universe, with the newest iteration maintaining all of the mystery and all of the strength of its predecessor.

Does this book have a steep learning curve? Yes. Everything Grant Morrison writes needs to be read multiple times to really appreciate it, but that isn’t a bad thing in the slightest. Do you need to have read the original series first? Dear lord yes, but you won’t regret it. Make no mistake: the story that Morrison is spinning and the conflict he’s created is going to change everything. In fact, I could make a compelling argument that the events happening here are even more significant than Death of the Family, and I feel so strongly about DotF I wrote an article about HALF of it! Batman Incorporated is the definitive expression of the evolution of Bruce Wayne’s dream, written and drawn so uniquely that you’ll find something new every time you read it. It’s the most compelling book of 2012, and the only negative I’ve ever found in the series is that someday it will end.

 

bestof33. Childhood Reboots

Reboots are everywhere right now. Of course, none is more massive than the universe-reinventing New 52, and the new hotness is Marvel NOW. But while these reboots are massive and polarizing, two smaller reboots are currently flying under the radar, and they shouldn’t be.

DC’s Masters of the Universe and IDW’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are the definition of reboot magic, and if little kid you enjoyed those franchises, adult you isn’t going to believe what they’re doing with them now.

I can talk about them both at once because they’re both doing the same things right. Both deliver fantastic art and excellently written stories. Both have gone out of their way to make their respective mythoi seem infinitely more plausible, not an easy thing to do when discussing “turtles that are ninjas” or “guy whose sword makes him jacked.”

They’ve both done this by making their stories more adult and serious, while avoiding the pitfall of that usually comes from that process. Neither of these stories are bogged down by unnecessary “grittiness” or overdone brutality and sex. Having the Turtles “totally kill dudes” or having He-Man “totally have sex with Teela” wouldn’t make these stories in any way more adult. Instead, both series deliver a mature new vision of their respective worlds, one that longtime fans like myself never thought we’d see.

If you were once a kid yelling “I have the power!” with a stick over your head, or a kid arguing on the playground that Raphael was obviously the coolest turtle, these are books that you truly need to be reading.

 

bestof22. The Return of Valiant

Once upon a time, indie publishers weren’t as prevalent as they are today. That’s not to say they didn’t exist, but indie publishers live and die by the magic power of word of mouth. In our social-networked world now, companies like BOOM! and IDW and Dynamite gain exposure from folks like the fine writers of Geek Legacy and other outlets yelling from our soapboxes about how good their books are, as well as twitter timelines and Facebook notes from fans touting what they’ve read.

Before these days, the only two indie publishers not named Image that ever made it to near-household-name-status were Dark Horse and Valiant, and they both did it in different ways. Dark Horse landed powerful licenses, like Star Wars, Predator, Aliens and Robocop, and proceeded to produce compelling titles for all of them (yes, even Robocop). Valiant built itself a cohesive universe all of its own, with a backbone of great characters like XO Manowar and Bloodshot.

However, Valiant found itself acquired by then-giant video game publisher Acclaim, and suddenly that creative world took a back seat to uninspired video game tie-in books designed to make a few extra bucks off whatever big game Acclaim was releasing, and those of us who were fans of that world never expected for it to return.

2012 was a good year for us.

I intend to write a larger article espousing the joy of every single new Valiant title and the impact it has already had on the industry, so I’ll keep it blunt here: go read them. All of them. Read XO. Read Bloodshot. Read Harbinger. Read Archer and Armstrong. Read Shadowman. Valiant is back, and if you aren’t reading it, you’re missing one of the very best things to happen to the industry in a long time.

 

bestof11. The Re-imagining of Spider-Man

I love Spider-Man. I love him like I love close members of my family. He may not be #1 on my top five heroes list, but there was no more influential character in all of fiction for me growing up than Spider-Man. Whenever I have to answer the question “who was your childhood hero,” Spider-Man is the answer every time, without hesitation. I should probably wear a “what would Peter Parker do?” bracelet, because that’s what I ask anytime I’m faced with a moral quandary.

So if even I admit that Spider-Man was getting pretty stale, it clearly had gotten pretty bad.

That’s not to say that recent Spidey stories have been bad. In fact, they’ve been better than ever, and that was why the problem was so obvious. Even the best Spidey stories constantly fell into the same pattern. Something good happens to Peter, things are finally looking up, something horrible happens that somehow Peter can blame himself for, Peter nearly kills himself trying to make it right and probably doesn’t exactly succeed, and the end result is a Peter with another reason to feel guilty and now the good thing that happened is kind of a bad thing we wish never happened at all.

The question “man, can Spidey ever catch a break?” stopped being a question about the character and started being a question about the ability to write stories about the character, much like how all of us wonder if anyone can write a Wolverine story that doesn’t have to do with World War II, Japan, or Sabretooth.

As 2012 came to a close, everything changed. Dan Slott is the first Spider-writer in years bold enough to break the mold, and while the dissenters have gotten all the press, the widespread consensus seems to be excitement over what happens next. Superior Spider-Man is bold new ground, and the role Spidey plays next year won’t be “lovable wisecracking hero that always has bad luck” for the first time in fifty years.

Love it or hate it, none of us have any idea what’s going to happen to Spider-Man next, and being able to say that about a beloved hero even I had to admit was getting stale is definitely the highlight of the year for me.

You can follow Tyler on Twitter @BatmanIncVP.

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