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Gregg’s Picks – Best Comic Books of 2012

If you’re on the fence about getting into comic book reading or not, now is as good a time as any. In all honesty, this is a great time to delve into the pop culture art form. The stories and artwork that grace the pages of many of today’s titles are entertaining if not exceptional reads. Looking for a few good titles to let your imagination escape? This list will provide the best of what we saw in 2012.

If 12/21/12 is indeed the end of the world as we know it, at least the aliens that pick up after us will have some pretty wicked reading material.  There were several landmarks in the industry this year as well.  Two of the most famous super teams duked it out in Avengers vs. X-Men.  We saw Superman and Wonder Woman hook up in Justice League.  The Walking Dead reached its 100th issue.  And one of my favorite noteables, Valiant Comics made its very strong re-entry back into the business.  They don’t have a lot of titles, but it became very obvious, very quickly that Valiant is focused more on quality than quantity.  No argument here.

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Most Unique 

Xoc: The Journey of a Great White - This little-known story by Matt Dembicki carried a big message.  As the introduction points out, Xoc (pronounced ‘shock’) is the Mayan word for demon fish and is quite possibly the origin of the English word ‘shark’.  In the story, we follow the travels of a great white shark and its encounters along the way.  From engaging in a feeding frenzy to fleeing from a pack of orcas, the tale also captures man’s sometimes unfortunate involvement along the way with curious divers, shipwrecks and a blanket of pollution that proves devastating to the aquatic world it infiltrates.

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Best One-Shot

Eternity – This title came to us on DC’s National Comics imprint.  With a story by Jeff Lemire and artwork from the duo of Derec Donovan and Cully Hammer, Eternity revitalizes the decades-old concept of Kid Eternity.  Here we follow the creepy (though very cool) talents of one Christopher Freeman who works at a morgue.  His talents are not with a scalpel though.  This guy has an uncanny knack for being able to enter the afterlife and bring back someone’s spirit just long enough to find out the circumstances of their untimely death.  All is fine and dandy until Chris pisses off a gatekeeper in hell.

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Best Mini-Series

Punk Rock Jesus – If it wasn’t for Why So Blu writer Gerard Iribe, this title would have been out of sight, out of mind.  I remember reading some serious praise for this series, though it slowly drifted from my memory.  It wasn’t until Gerard kept recommending it to me that I pulled the trigger on issue 1.  WOW.  With its story and artwork by Sean Murphy, readers can expect to be taken on a very controversial and gritty journey in this black and white comic.  One wealthy TV exec decides the next best thing for reality television would be to extract Jesus Christ’s DNA from the famed Shroud of Turin and create a clone from those building blocks.  The woman who carries the infant Christ child is even a virgin.  Huh.  Imagine that.  When a Christian rights group attempts to thwart the efforts of the show, the years pass by as we see the alleged Christ clone named Chris fall from a wholesome innocence into a rage of rebellion through punk rock.  As of this writing, the sixth and final issue of the series still has yet to be released, but in all honesty, it could be full of blank pages and this title will still retain the top spot in this category.  Yes.  It’s that good.

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Best Graphic Novel

Batman: Earth One – What’s a comic book list without the Caped Crusader?  Geoff Johns brings us an alternative take on the life of Bruce Wayne and his rise to becoming Batman.  Where I was skeptical going in, I flipped the final page enthralled by a re-imagined story.  Sure, some of the things are still the same.  Wayne inherits a mass of wealth after the murder of his proud parents.  But Alfred is more than just a servant here.  Thomas Wayne the doctor?  Try Thomas Wyane the politician.  Batman’s high-tec toys?  Yeah, those don’t always work.  Detective Gordon?  Not on Bruce Wayne’s Christmas list.  It was a dark, exciting read to say the least, complimented by the art of Gary Frank, that is more than deserving of a sequel.

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Best New Series

X-O Manowar – Okay, so it’s not a completely new series but after a 20-year hiatus from the comic book world, I’d say the re-telling of this title qualifies it for the label of ‘new’.  Take Iron Man’s suit of weaponized armor, but instead of a mechanized creation, it’s a living entity.  That is the devastating secret an expansionist race known as The Vine hopes to unleash.  When a heroic Visigoth in 402 AD suffers defeat at the hands of The Vine, he encounters the armor while serving The Vine as a slave.  Fast-forward 1,600 years and Aric the Visigoth now finds himself amdist a modern world with the firepower of an army at his fingertips.  X-O Manowar is the flagship title in the rebirth of Valiant Comics.  Robert Venditti (writer) and Cary Nord (art) did the title serious justice in its re-entry to the comic book world.

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Best Ongoing Series

The Walking Dead – Without the hugely successful comic book, there is no hugely successful TV show.  Rick Grimes and crew continue to experience and overcome hardship after hardship as the body count continues to grow.  Few stories have a talent for building tension and unleashing hell like The Walking Dead.  Just when you think you get to know an established character, they fall victim to the walkers or some other demise that’s a product of the zombie-infested world they live in.  One has to wonder if the well of ideas will ever run dry.  I’ve been told all good things come to an end, but there’s just no let-up in sight from the creative panel behind Image’s undead beauty.

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It didn’t hit me until I completed this list, but half of these titles are products of DC creativity.  Vertigo is the mature/graphic label of DC.  National Comics also falls under the DC umbrella.  The moral of the story is the second largest comic book publisher is doing something right.  DC has something for everyone, but I don’t want to turn this into a Superman commercial.  The truth is, every publisher offers some engaging reads.  While this list shows my favorites of the year, hopefully it will also draw your attention to the vast array of content that’s out there today.

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3 Responses to “Gregg’s Picks – Best Comic Books of 2012”


  1. Aaron Neuwirth

    Awesome list Gregg!

    Lots of stuff I want to check out.

    Just to add on: I was really into Avengers Vs. X-men, which wasn’t perfect, but had some great individual issues in its 12-issue run. Really enjoyed that story overall though.

    Also, incredibly surprising is how into Before Watchmen I am. I really didn’t think I would dig it at all, but certain characters have had really good runs and I love a lot of the artwork. Dr. Manhattan’s storyline is really intriguing, Silk Spectre is more interesting than I ever thought she would be, and Minutemen is quite solid. Overall, it’s a really interesting look into the Watchmen world, which I did not think I would like as much as I do.

    As far as Walking Dead goes, I only read the collected Hardcovers and just finished the 8th one. Did get to pick up a special 100th issue at Comic Con though, but I wouldn’t dare open it yet.

  2. Gregg

    Thanks, Aaron! Lots of great stuff this year. You hit the nail on the head with Avengers vs. X-Men. There were some great individual issues, but as the series went into the home stretch, it got very tiresome and lost its punch. For its punch-fest style, the AvX one-on-one matchups were actually a lot of fun.

    I’d like to see you do something in-depth on the whole ‘Before Watchmen’ concept. It has received some criticism, but far more praise. Of course the Watchmen graphic novel is pretty much a landmark in comic book history so anything new is worthy of a story.

  3. Aaron Neuwirth

    Maybe once all the issues are finished, I’ll take some time to write a more all-encompassing post ;)