The Man of Steel and God of Thunder didn’t just clash at the box office; no, Earth’s Mightiest Heroes and the Brave & The Bold had their battles at local comic shops and Comixology, too. Especially, epic battles. Each of the “Big 2” had their own events, some more successful than others, but many of which altered the status quo. It was also the year Marvel went hip, Clark and Diana traded a kiss, Spider-Man remained superiorly evil, and The Batman faced far more tragedy than just a bad buzzcut. So, join our resident Marvel “Apostle” Lance Paul and the DCU “Minister” Gabe Carrasco, as they reflect on their respective Universe highlights and trade their choices for the Top 10 DC/Marvel Comics of 2013.
Lance Paul “The Apostle”: 10. Indestructible Hulk – The Green Goliath had a blockbuster year in comics. “Marvel Now” took our green baby and allied him with S.H.I.E.L.D. For more years than I can count, the Hulk comics have seemingly always had something missing. How can you have a brilliant scientist that could possible cure cancer or create new inventions continue to languish in homeless squander, while his greener self was let loose on destructive rampages? It blows my mind that it took Mark Waid (Daredevil) to come on board to create a telling Hulk storyline that takes the best of both men: Hulk Smash, Banner Build. Indestructible Hulk Special #1 — much like the purple bullseye’s “dog comic” — was arguably the run’s standout issue. Even more in relation, the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. provided Banner with a “Puppy Bomb”! How else can you calm a hulk than to subdue him with his love of puppies?
“Minister” Gabe Carrasco: 10. Trinity War (Justice League/Justice League of America/Justice League Dark) – The Trinity War started off with an awesome concept: three differing Justice Leagues duke it out, with Amanda Waller (who can now be seen on the hit TV show “Arrow) building her own JLA from scratch. Her intentions? To take down the original Justice League (Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, etc.). And after a little over a year, we finally get to see who this Pandora chick is, and what she was doing in every single issue #1 of the New 52 relaunch. Although the intended premise isn’t exactly what we get, TW still makes the Top 10 simply because you’d be hard-pressed to see another event where J-Leaguers are allowed to punch each other in the face — nevertheless witness a crossover from DC stalwarts Geoff Johns and Jeff Lemire. (See more).
Lance: 9. Thor – God of Thunder: Godbomb – Although Jason Aaron’s current storyline of Thor: God of Thunder, “The Accursed” carries over similar events to the successful and enjoyable Thor film sequel, “Godbomb” was more the standout in 2013, with finer art and higher intrigue. I have always been a fan of Bruce Guice‘s art style, which focuses on colored pencils than mere liquid. And the creation of a baddie who labels himself the“Butcher of Gods” is hard to argue. This run also offered a chance to see the future “More grizzled than Odin” Thor! If you like Marvel Comics, this series is a must read…with plenty of mead.
Gabe: 9. Justice League: Shazam! – For a while, the Justice League books were worth the buy just for the last couple of pages where we saw little Billy Batson utter that little magic word that brought Shaquille O’Neal out of that magical boombox— oh wait, that was Kazaam. Let’s try this again… the Shazam mini-series took place in the few pages at the end of JL at the beginning of the year, with the epic finale taking place in Justice League #21. It’s almost as if DC didn’t trust Captain Marvel’s fanbase enough to buy his own ongoing title, so they just stuck him in their flagship book and kinda made us read him. I have to admit, it’s a good strategy, since I definitely wouldn’t have added Shazam to my pull-list had he came out on his own. But he is a fun character, and his dialogue and Gary Frank’s facial expressions really do read like a pre-teen in the body of a massive adult body-builder. Johns’ story is also pretty classic. Captain Marvel beats the crap outta Black Adam with a little help from his friends. (Yup, a Kazaam reference, and a Beatles reference!). Plus with the Justice League 0-issue tie in, 2013 was a good year to be a fan of SHAZAM!
Lance: 8. Captain America – Despite being one of the most recognized members of Marvel and the Avengers, Captain America has gone through more identity crises than a teenage girl trying to fit in. Mister Rogers has tried everything from embracing his wild side as a werewolf, ditching the star-spangled pajamas for a trench coat and shaggy hair, to rocking out a MECH suit. Which shows one of Cap’s biggest problems, seeing how he has never been fully developed beyond a figurehead for democracy. Even when the “god” that was Kirby had exclusive use as Editor/Writer/Illustrator, Cap was left needing more. In recent years, no one has done more for Cap’s character development then the legendary run of the previous writer, Ed Brubaker, which left everyone else brave enough with giant, red boots to fill. To no surprise, new Cap writer Rick Remender (Uncanny X-Force) far surpassed all expectations, seeing Steve proposed to, kidnapped and then stranded in Dimension Z, and even added deeper layers to Cap’s backstory with flashbacks of an abusive father. With original Kirby baddie Armin Zola, then followed up with “American Psycho” Nuke, 2013 saw Steve go to all sorts of hell — and readers were blessed all the more for it.
Gabe: 8. Batman ’66 – Holy Adam West, Batman! The kooky old man from Walla Walla, Washington was The Batman for an entire generation. (Of course it was the generation from a few generations ago, but still!) Now DC has noticed the rise in interest for the wacky BOOM, POW, and THWACK! adventures of the World’s Greatest Detective, and gave us a bunch of brand new stories to follow! You can practically hear Mr. West’s voice coming through the pages of the strange Technicolor bendy dot covered panels. Jeff Parker‘s dialogue is true to the old tv series’ roots, overusing Robin’s “Holy (random object), Batman!”, and getting Batman out of ridiculous situations with even more ridiculous solutions. Plus, adding characters that weren’t around back then, like Dr. Harleen Quinzel, and the Red Hood is just an added bonus that lands this series at number 8!
Lance: 7. Battle of the Atom – Even with all of its blunders, Battle of the Atom is an event worth reading, if not collecting. The beginning stands out for its cool portrayal of the Original 6. The All-New X-Men actually meant something, and for that daring notion — and the strange evolution of Bobby Drake, as he molded from Ice Hulk to Gandolf the Iceman — Bendis deserved much credit. But, of course, once the crossover became a royal rumble of mutant clones, the story couldn’t help but feel bloated within its own grandeur. Still, even if BotA doesn’t stand a mutant chance of testing time like its predecessors (i.e. Mutant Massacre, Age of Apocalypse, Days of Future Past) — and its meandering mid-event sequence of no more than talking heads — the start and the end were certainly strong enough for a solid position on this list. (See more).
Gabe: 7. Aquaman: Throne of Atlantis – As Black Manta put it, “You want to know what makes Aquaman so tough? His skin is nearly bullet-proof. His muscle density is ten times that of yours or mine, and he can breathe underwater.” When Arthur Curry has a problem with the ocean, it takes the entire Justice League, and a few others on top to handle it. People seem to forget that the Earth is over 70% water, and Aquaman is king of it all! But Geoff Johns has made that point loud and clear in this story arc that spans not only Aquaman, but Justice League as well. Arthur’s brother Orm is back, and he isn’t liking the way Arthur is handling things. The surface-dwellers have disrespected the ocean for far too long, and Orm, or should we say Ocean Master isn’t letting that happen any longer! So Aqua is torn between a rock and a wet place, and, while trying to handle things as diplomatically as possible, both sides of this war are coming out of the gate swinging! It’s a definite recommended read, even if it’s just for the halibut…!
Lance: 6. X-Men – When this title was initially announced, Ultimate Comics X-Men scribe Brian Wood’s all X-Lady team was seen as a bit of a gimmick, or even a distraction. It’s a proven fact in the comic world, sex-starved comic-nerds buy comics full of hot chicks (don’t believe me? Just look at Moody’s “Top 10 Indie” list). But, after witnessing the new reiteration of this proven name, any triviality was out the window. This was X-Men comics done right, exploding with exciting lady-friendly/estrogen heavy, eye-popping illustrations from Olivier Coipel. X-Men #1 was also, hands down, one of the best single comics of 2013. Thankfully, the rest of the run — even during The Battle of Atom — kept up in quality. Way back in May, this Apostle bowed down to Wood and Coipel’s work and bestowed on them the worthy and extremely difficult GodHatesGeeks 5-Bibles score! Well done. (See more).
Gabe: 6. Villains Month – The Villains took over DC! We all know that Marvel may have cool heroes, and there’s no doubt that they are owning the blockbuster movie industry, but here at DC, nobody beats our villains (uh..except Batman, of course)! Bats beats the crap out of our villains pretty much nightly. For the most part, DC knows what readers want, and whether it was a Forever Evil tie-in, a back story, or just a little mini-story arc about our favorite baddies, we got a little taste of evil that month. Not to mention the awesome 3D covers! I stared at mine so long I got a headache! Some personal favorites of mine were The Riddler, Harley Quinn, and Ocean Master, but out of all the options available, everyone had their favorites (and some we definitely could have done without…) Either way, that was one month DC literally ripped open Blackgate and Arkham, and let evil rule the world!
Lance: 5. X-Factor: OK, I’ll admit it; this spot is more an ode to the wonderful decade of the title more than anything. And, how can you not love the fact that the house that Peter David built is unending!? As far as 2013 was concerned, it was a hell of a way to go out — with the Hell on Earth War, of course — and the last few issues gave each of our favorite mutant detectives their own due. Not very often does a writer actually finish all his storylines, and with that, Mr. David, well done! Your All-New X-Factor #1 couldn’t arrive here sooner.
Gabe: 5. Lights Out (Green Lantern) – Okay, so I’m still crying over Demi-God Geoff Johns leaving the lightsmiths to Robert Venditti (X-O Manowar), but I gotta admit, Venditti did NOT pull any punches! Oa is destroyed? Using the power rings slowly destroys the universe!? The entities are dead!!? CAROL FERRIS IS IN LOVE WITH KYLE RAYNER!!?? These were not small little tweaks to the already well-established, complex Lantern universe! These decisions and events have really affected the entire corps, and continue to do so in the recent issues! Lights Out did some irreparable damage to the ring-wielding police force of the universe, and Hal isn’t happy about any of it. Losing Oa to Relic, Carol to Kyle, Kyle to the source wall (sorta), Guy to the Reds, and getting shit from every angle, Hal’s life is anything but easy right now. Whatcha got against Hal Jordan, Venditti? Whatever it is, keep it coming! It’s making for a hell of a plot! (See more).
Lance: 4. Avengers Arena – This title quietly went on to be one of the best written and drawn comics on shelves each and every month. I was a fan of “Battle Royale” for years, and was a little apprehensive when it was first announced that Marvel was going to do something similar with their young avengers. After the first issues, Dennis Hopeless and Kev Walker (Thunderbolts) took this comic and surpassed any expectations. Avengers Arena finished one of Marvel’s most epic and out-of-the-box stories for years, while also bringing back both obscure-to-current characters (complete with equal story time). With meaningful deaths and new characters that I grew to love, your Apostle looks forward to where Hopeless takes the surviving characters into next years follow-up comic, Avengers Undercover. With Arena, Hopeless showed us what would happen if Marvel was a Game of Hunger, a story of what happens when people — in this case teenagers, of course — are pushed to the brink beyond the emotional and deathly choices they must make to stay alive. Here’s to you Hopeless, for giving us a story that ranks on this Marvel fan’s all-time list. (See more).
Gabe: 4. INJUSTICE: Gods Among Us – “Minister, this isn’t a video game Top 10! What’s your problem?” No, man. I’m talking the comic adaptation — and why did no one tell me about this series!? I remember seeing it in stores and said “Meh, it’s based on the video game, so it’s just another DC cash-grab.” Holy crap was I wrong! Seriously. Just pick up the first issue– no, the first two issues, and I promise you’ll be hooked! It’s essentially a royally pissed-off Superman vs. an arrogant and self-righteous Batman (which is basically just regular Batman) and their rag-tag group of superheroes (Think Marvel’s Civil War, except… you know… actually good.) And just like some kind of indie publisher, they disregard what’s going on in the normal DCU, and do not mind killing off anyone they please. The writing is fantastic! Trust me when I say, THIS is the Harley Quinn, Green Arrow, and Nightwing dialogue we’ve all been waiting for!
Lance: 3. Infinity – Looking back, Jonathan Hickman’s solo event (there were tie-in’s, but all you ever really needed was the main story, The Avengers, and New Avengers) had plenty of dynamic moments, making it an epic tale. Who doesn’t remember the Mjolnir-sledging Thor splatter/slaughter a Builder? Or Inhuman King Black Bolt’s vocal cords destroying the floating city with a simple “NO!”? Moments like these made up for the stop-gap feel of a usual Marvel crossover. Hickman’s tenor on Avengers had already seized my attention with his “world building” abilities, and his first crossover, Infinity, continued that sweeping notion. Even if the event wasn’t perfect, you can bet the Marvel Universe is in a much better place than it had been in prior crossovers (cough, cough.. Age of Ultron). All next year, the repercussions of Black Bolt and Maximus’ Titanic tussle will be felt with in Inhumanity: a blank slate of new possibilities with Thane (Thanos’s son), as the MU is back to its full galactic potential with Skrull and Kree Empire return to dominance (See more).
Gabe: 3. Batman: Zero Year – Scott Snyder has more than proven he can handle our favorite broody dark knight, and Greg Capullo’s pencils are simple, yet engaging enough to tell the story perfectly. With Zero Year, the dyamic duo did a fantastic job of re-telling Batman’s first few shaky years under the cowl, and just how dangerous a job this could be. We saw a younger, brighter Gotham, an inexperienced brash Bruce, and a— well, an equally as insanely homicidal, Joker (except back in these days, he’s going by Red Hood-1). The genius of it was not selling it to us as a Joker story, but the Clown Prince of Crime’s infamous grin showed up anyway, and fans ate it up! The tie-ins for Zero Year, like GL Corps, Green Arrow, and Red Hood were exceptional as well, which just helps solidify Zero Year at our number 3 spot for 2013!
Lance: 2. Hawkeye – The first Marvel series ever to be presented in Smell-O-Vision! Where else, but in the Eisner worthy Hawkeye comics, are you going to find a book from the perspective of someone who can only see three colors? Pizza Dog made Hawkeye #11 one of the best comics of 2013, courtesy of Matt Fraction, David Aja, and Matt Hollingsworth. “Pizza is my Business” is told through the eyes and nose of the most unlikely of protagonists, Pizza Dog. The whole issue revolves around one solo dog’s adventure. That’s right: an entire issue from the point-of-view of Hawkeye’s dog — a challenging endeavor for any artist, yet what David Aja does in this issue is pure genius. The team also went on to spotlight Kate Bishop, who is also Hawkeye — as opposed to “Hawkguy” — and her slippery adventures in the City of Angeles. With FF, Young Avengers, and Superior Foes of Spider-Man (which I personally didn’t like, but Moody and supposedly many others did), Hawkeye also led the charge of Marvel’s newfound corner: hipster comics. (See more).
Gabe: 2. Forever Evil – Easily the best — if not only — thing to come out of Trinity War, this crossover event is as big as the Blackest Night series back in 2009. Every inch of the DCU is feeling the heat from the villains ruling the world, and this is definitely not a quick start-to-finish story! So far, the repercussions have been pretty huge. The entire world knows Dick Grayson is Nightwing, Cyborg is hanging on to life by a thread (or, a wire?), and it’s every villain for himself in Gotham! The crossover has even spawned the mini-series Arkham War, which is essentially a more violent, Bane-centered reprise of the old series Batman: No Man’s Land. The great part about this series is how deeply DC is exploring the hidden motives and personalities of the Crime Syndicate, and it really proves that no matter how organized villains may seem, they always become their own undoing! (See more).
Lance: 1. Superior Spider-Man – The joint team of Dan Slott and Ryan Stegman have created something that the non-believers said couldn’t happen, an entertaining and intriguing Spiderman without the Parker. Through Superior storytelling and exceptional art, The Superior Spider-Man has done something that Amazing hadn’t done for years: delivering fresh stories and the most dastardly webheaded adventures. 2013 was an epic year for favorite Spider-Ock too: he dealt with the mental ghost of his former arch-enemy, alienated everyone close to Peter, created (and then lost the Superior 6) and almost got himself kicked out of the Avengers! Not too bad, Octavious. Even if it’s only a matter of time before the obvious refresh — seeing how ASM 2 hits theaters this coming summer — I look forward to the next chapter of Slott’s Octspider with Goblin Nation!
Honorable Marvel Mention:
–All New X-Men (For bringing back Jean Grey as *cough* underage hottie, and Bendis’ series impressed more than it disappointed.)
–Daredevil (Quality assured. Mark Waid continues his outstanding run with Matt Murdock after next month’s #36, with an All-New #1.)
–Kick-Ass 3 (Only technically Marvel, sure, but on here for being its usual Ass-Kicking self.)
–Venom & Scarlet Spider (For showing us that you ALSO don’t have to have Parker to tell quality stories, although, sadly, some of these titles have been canceled.)
Dishonorable Marvel Mention:
–Age of Ultron (Bendis makes my list again, this time for wasting a couple of years of many True Believers’ lives with a story that was worse than toilet paper!)
Gabe: 1. Batman: Death of the Family – If you haven’t read this, stop reading this list, go to the comic book store, buy, and read this series. Seriously, go ahead, I’ll wait. Done? That is why it made the number one spot. JOKER’S BACK IN TOWN, BABY! And this time, his vendetta isn’t just against Batman, it’s against every member of the bat-family. No one’s safe from this madman, not even the Arkhamites he used to share the asylum with. Oh, and Harley… Poor, poor Harley… Everything about this series makes you shudder, feel terrible for everyone involved, have this unnerving fear of DC’s most iconic villain, and still have some strange twisted respect for just how much he can fuck up everyone in Gotham! And all without super powers!! Scott Snyder had the entire internet taking bets on who wouldn’t make it throughout the story arc. Who is DC willing to kill off? The answer? SPOILER ALERT: Absolutely no one. Joker tore the bat-family apart, and nothing has been the same since, and he did it without killing anyone in a mask. Even the subtle details, like his skin-face-mask he wore slowly becoming more and more decayed throughout the book, and we were never really able to see his face beneath it. All of it added up to hands down, the best DC story of 2013. hahHahaheheheheHAhaAHAaAHAA!!
Honorable DC Mention:
–Superman: Unchained (Snyder made it to the list twice, so why not here, too?)
–Batman: Requiem (Robin’s dead. …*yawn* again…)
–Harley Quinn (It’s too early to say how good or bad this series is gonna turn out, but after an excellent #0 issue and a nice debut #1, I have high hopes!)