The Best of 2013 in Comics

Top 5 Single Issues

Russell Sellers

5. Star Wars #1


The sheer amount of Star Wars comics that come out every year gets to be downright daunting. A new ongoing normally wouldn’t be anything to be excited about. Then writer Brian Wood gave us Star Wars #1. The story takes place in the time between A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back and features the main cast everyone knows.

That smart move aside, this one is all about character development. I’ve never considered myself much of a Leia fan…until now. Brian Wood writes all the characters well, but his treatment of Leia is above and beyond. She’s a great squad leader and, especially in the opening scenes, a complete badass! But it’s when we see how the loss of her home world is affecting her that this one delves deep. Carlos D’Anda’s pencils are hugely dynamic, especially during the dog-fight scenes and his Darth Vader is equal parts brooding and menacing. Of course, the parts with Han and Chewie bring some great levity. The whole package feels like we never left the version of Star Wars we all love.

4. Thor: God of Thunder #12

Jason Aaron wrote one of the best Thor stories ever with his God Butcher/Bomb epic. But, it’s this interlude issue that shows the character’s real heart.

We see Thor do everything from stay with a death row inmate through his execution to attending a SHIELD Cadets Ball because one of the new girls sent him an invite. But it’s the moments with Jane Foster that really hit home. She’s dying of cancer and even though she knows Thor could find a way to help her, she only wants to combat it herself to avoid the inevitable price magic would cost. Their scene together on the moon is beautifully heartbreaking, made even more so by Nic Klein’s rendering of the sun setting behind the Earth. Possibly the best issue of any Thor book, ever.

3. Action Comics #26


This is what Superman is supposed to be! Great action, fun dialog, a story that moves at break-neck speed and a hero you genuinely root for the whole way. This issue is technically the second in Greg Pak’s and Aaron Kuder’s run, but it might as well be the first.

After a good, but ultimately unnecessary Zero Year tie-in, this one finally gets things rolling with a giant monster and a new villain who has a brilliant way of actually hurting Superman. Then there’s the reappearance of Lana Lang, who’s written as one seriously head-strong, but loveable former flame of Clark’s. It’s also so great to see a writer show more interest in the Clark Kent side of Superman, rather than the Kal-El side. The flashback to the first time Clark discovers his heat vision is intense but also heartwarming, thanks largely to Jonathan Kent. The ending sets up a really cool idea for the rest of the story. Kuder’s ability to render both action scenes and deeply emotional facial expressions help quite a bit, too. With this issue, DC may have finally found an answer to Marvel’s incredibly fun Daredevil from Mark Waid.

2. Green Lantern #20

It all came to this. Nearly a decade of the single best Green Lantern run ever concludes in spectacular fashion. Geoff Johns has earned his spot as one of the greatest comic book writers of all-time, largely thanks to this legendary run.

The Wrath of the First Lantern wasn’t his greatest accomplishment with the characters, but the ending he crafted for it was perfect. The First Lantern is, obviously, defeated, but that moment Sinestro finally gets his hands on the corrupted Guardians is the things we’ve all been waiting for. There’s so much to love beyond that, too. Seeing the possible futures of all the main characters and the final decision of Sinestro was exactly as many GL fans imagined it would be and maybe even better. But, probably the best moment of the whole issue is a simple line of dialog between Hal Jordan and Sinestro. Hal asks Sinestro “Were we ever really friends?” Sinestro replies “That’s the tragedy of all this, Jordan…Hal. We’ll always be friends.” After all this time and the fights between them, it was that moment that brought out the water works. And considering how many artists worked on this one, it’s all the more amazing that it turned out as gorgeous as it did.

1. Batman and Robin #18

Superhero comics don’t always tackle deep subject matter. But this one…dealing with the death of a child has to be the worst pain imaginable for any parent, even Batman. After Damian died in Batman Inc., all of the other Batman titles showed how the family dealt with it. But Batman and Robin #18 captured the disbelief, anger and grief better than any of them and it did it without one line of dialog.

Peter Tomasi wrote the scenes, but as Patrick Gleason rendered them it became clear that any dialog would have just taken away from the story. Bruce’s descent into his pain is gradual, but each step is felt heavier than the last. By the time we reach the final page it’s hard not to want to scream along with him after he reads his son’s final letter to him. The feeling of loss is everywhere in this one. The ghost of Damian looms large, especially when the scenes are big and empty. Like Bruce, Alfred and Damian’s dog, Titus, we just keep waiting for him to pop up and everything to be fine…but it’s only ever an illusion. As much as Bruce suppresses his pain, Alfred lets us know that it’s ok to feel it. All of this makes this issue the single most honest, heartfelt and horribly tragic comic of 2013. It’s also the single best, too.

Nick Duke

5. Green Arrow #22


Jeff Lemire’s run on Green Arrow has been a godsend for fans of Ollie Queen after the character seemed to be floundering through the first year and a half or so of the New 52. Lemire breathed new life into the series almost instantly, but it was the first issue of his second storyline that really kicked things into high gear. After taking Komodo off the table for the time being in issue 21, Lemire has Ollie take off for Vlatava and a showdown with traditional Green Arrow foe Count Vertigo. The new interpretation of the Count shines, but it’s the amazing art from Andrea Sorrentino and the reimagining of classic Green Arrow supporting character Shado that make the issue one of the year’s best. The twist ending really shakes up the characters as we know them, and leaves the reader begging for more of Oliver Queen.

4. Batman #17

Scott Snyder hasn’t written a bad issue of Batman that I’ve ever read, but his Batman #17 is the one from this year that stands out the most. The issue wraps up the “Death of the Family” storyline, and rather than focusing on fisticuffs, Snyder’s dialogue is the show stealer here, giving us Batman and the Joker debating the true nature of their relationship and what makes each character who they are. The final pages are also just ambiguous enough that the reader is left wondering whether the Joker was right all along. Death of the Family may not have brought about earth-shattering changes, but this issue serves as a reminder of the fantastic character-driven stories Snyder can tell when at his best.

3. Thor: God of Thunder #11

The conclusion to the “Godbomb” storyline, this issue packs more badassery than a year’s worth of just about any other comic. The Thors three, with Mjolnirs two in tow, make one final effort to stop Gorr the God Butcher and his effort to wipe all Gods from existence. Throw in Thor’s female descendants and one hell of a way for Gorr to go out and you have one of the best issues of Thor ever written. However, it isn’t the best issue of Thor in 2013. But, more on that in a bit.

2. Green Lantern #20

Green Lantern #20 was one of the most bittersweet experiences I’ve ever had reading a comic book. The issue was nearly perfect, a shining example of what drew me to the character, the concept and the universe in the first place. However, it was also the last issue of GL written by the great Geoff Johns, whose work on Green Lantern during Sinestro Corps War and Blackest Night really taught me how to love not only Green Lantern, but the DC Universe as a whole. The conflict with Volthoom reaches a satisfying conclusion, with a nearly tear-inducing final line from Sinestro to Hal Jordan. “That’s the tragedy of all of this, Jordan. Hal. We’ll always be friends.” But if that wasn’t enough to get this fanboy’s waterworks going, the epilogue featuring a glimpse from the Book of Oa’s future was. Guy Gardner still being Guy Gardner, Kyle and John finding peace and love, respectively, and Hal and Carol finally realizing what they meant to each other just served as a perfect cap to one of the most iconic creative runs in comic history.

1. Thor: God of Thunder #12


Simply put, if someone who had never read a Thor comic asked me for one single issue to start with, this would be it. Jason Aaron in the course of a single issue defines everything I love about the character. He shows Thor’s love for Midgard and the joy and pain it brings him. I don’t want to spoil this months-old book for anyone (it’s seriously that good), but if anyone needs to find a way to relate to Thor, find this book and read his interaction with Jane Foster. Seriously, if you didn’t read this issue, go find it at your local shop or find a COMPLETELY LEGAL way of obtaining it on the Internet. Do it.

Greg Phillips

5. Larfleeze #1


Larfleeze is one of my absolute favorite comic book characters. I know, I know — that makes me an outlier. Still, Agent Orange is easily my favorite of Geoff Johns’ original creations in the Green Lantern mythos, largely because of his sheer goofiness. Well when it comes to writing goofy superhero-related characters, nobody does it like the writing team of Keith Giffen and J.M. DeMatteis. This first issue showed readers right out of the gate what to expect in this title — zaniness, humor and all the rapid-fire alien jokes one could ask for. For those who complain that mainstream superhero comics (especially DC’s output) are too serious, too grim and too critty, give this book a try. It’s a blast.

4. Thor: God of Thunder #5

The finale to Jason Aaron’s terrific first arc, “The God Butcher,” provided all the action and suspense of a good conclusion while leaving enough unanswered to get readers interested in the next arc. Aaron’s first four issues were stellar, but this one felt like the main event of the evening. The numerous threads involving Past Thor, Present Thor and Future Thor finally came together, leaving dedicated readers both excited and worried about the God Butcher’s nefarious plan. The art is stunning throughout.

3. Forever Evil #1

Now this is how you kick off an event. Hot off the heels of one of my favorite story arcs of the year, “Trinity War,” Geoff Johns and David Finch introduced the world to the New 52 version of the Crime Syndicate, featuring “evil” versions of the Justice League that wasted no time eliminating the competition and taking over the world. From the staggering scope of the story to the painful Nightwing reveal, the entire issue did what any great first-issue should do — get me excited to read the rest of the story. It’s a remarkable achievement that, in an age of constant character deaths, Johns provided a book that genuinely shocked me.

2. Batman and Robin #18

If ever I encounter someone who dismisses a comic book’s artwork as unimportant or trivial, this is the book I’ll show that individual. Peter Tomasi gave artist Patrick Gleason free reign to tell a story through only his pencils, and the result is one of the most emotionally powerful Batman books I’ve ever read. The issue follows Bruce Wayne as he deals with the fallout of the death of his son. Along the way, it captures about every raw emotion any of us have felt after losing a loved one. While Tomasi scripted the story, it’s Gleason that allows us to truly see the pain of a grieving father and the concern from those around him. Only a few books this year managed to draw real emotion from me, and this was near the top of that list.

1. Green Lantern #20


This was not only the best issue of any comic I read this year, it’s one of the best I’ve ever read. As a rule, I’m a sucker for well-made finales. “Return of the Jedi” is my favorite Star Wars movie for that very reason. As most know, Geoff Johns’ Green Lantern was my favorite superhero series, so my expectations were high going into this oversized final issue of his run. What it managed to do was not only wrap up “Wrath of the First Lantern,” but draw together the numerous characters, subplots and unanswered mysteries that formed the foundation of his decade-long story about Hal Jordan and Sinestro. We finally see the relationship between those two defined and concluded. We also get the payoff to the years-long power-mad Guardians build-up, as they meet a fitting end. And along the way, we get several fist-pumping moments for longtime fans, including a surprise appearance by everyone’s favorite canine Lantern. But what really made this book an all-timer was the epilogue, where Johns decided to throw fans a bone and give them his version of each character’s ultimate ending. I’ve never been so satisfied or so emotional while reading a comic book as I was when reading those final pages, seeing Guy, John, Kyle and Hal finally get a happy ending.

Todd Weber (all of my picks were also comics I recommended in “Weber Has Issues”- click the links to read my initial take on each)

5. The Wake #1


Modern horror done with style, Scott Snyder and Sean Murphy’s first issue of this miniseries told a gripping tale in two eras and hooked me from the start.

4. Satellite Sam #1


Matt Fraction and Howard Chaykin’s tale of subversion in the golden age of live studio TV is probably not for everybody, but it feels like it was written especially for me.  A terrific way to kick off the series.

3. Superman: Unchained #1

To paraphrase the great one, FINALLY.  A readable Superman comic, done by (of course) Scott Snyder and Jim Lee.  This first issue made it out just in time for the “Man of Steel” movie, and the comic did not disappoint.

2. Forever Evil #1

I initially hated this, but y’know, sometimes a book like “Forever Evil” gets better and better the more you read it.  This one is truly a game changer for DC’s new 52.

1. Thor: God of Thunder #12

I’m not exaggerating when I say that this may be the best single comic I’ve ever read.  This deserves the highest of accolades.

All of us at Place to be Nation Comics wish you and yours the happiest of new years, and we hope you find some time to read some comics.  Seriously. Go to your local comics shop, our link to Amazon or download the “Comicology” app to your phone or tablet and try some of these books we’ve recommended to you. On to 2014!