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The 10 Best Comics of 2013

December 6, 2013  |  11:00am
The 10 Best Comics of 2013

There aren’t many ways to articulate the exceptional state of comics in 2013: this year kicked ass. The sheer degree of passion, innovation, and experimentation set a new watermark for the industry. Superheroes were forced to share their writers and artists with the growing creator-owned pastures over at Image and beyond, and when superheroes did step into the limelight, they entertained in ways they rarely have before (hello Hawkeye) from the Big Two. All the while, the indies continued to churn out provocative gold between reprints and new material.

Honing this list down to 10 choices was a painful process, but the following was ultimately founded on a democracy of opinions and previously-written reviews. There are writers who contributed to this list who will be just as devastated by certain omissions as anyone else, but the comics below are guaranteed reads that may range in tone, approach, and genre, but are united in excellence. Let us know your favorite comics of 2013 in the comments.
 

10. Heck
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Writer & Artist: Zander Cannon
Publisher: Top Shelf
Comics aren’t short on stories about male friendship (there’s this entire genre about superheroes?) but Heck circles around that topic with a degree of uncommon subtlety. Heck might be a little bloated and scattered, with its true theme too long in the background, but that turns out to be a canny creative decision on Zander Cannon’s part. The realization that the relationship between Heck and Elliott is the focal point of the book sneaks up on the reader, providing both the bond and the story with a surprising power. Although originally serialized in the digital anthology Double Barrel, this collection is Cannon’s first long-form solo work in almost twenty years — hopefully he won’t take as long with the next one. Garrett Martin


9. MIND MGMT
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Writer/Artist: Matt Kindt
Publisher: Dark Horse
MIND MGMT reads like a comic that has had an inordinate amount of thought put into it. Matt Kindt has created an expansive alternative history where a cabal of telepathic savants manipulates humanity for its betterment. Framed through the investigative travels of freelance writer Meru, the narrative reveals a tightly-connected framework of actions and consequences made by a rotating cast of fascinating characters. Most of these characters also happen to wield awe-inspiring powers, like the ability to reverse-empathize an entire city into murdering itself or force an airplane’s human cargo to undergo mass amnesia. Kindt plants each of these human WMDs into a massive canvas that he zooms in and out of with startling grace, using a cache of literary tricks like foreshadowing and narrative confusion to let you know that he’s molded something grand and wonderful. Sean Edgar


8. Hawkeye
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Writer: Matt Fraction
Artist: David Aja, Others
Publisher: Marvel
Hawkeye isn’t a story about grandiose universe-threatening men in outward-facing underpants fighting a pantheon of heroic men in outward-facing underpants and the lone weirdo with a bow and arrows: it’s about life. It’s about mistakes, relationships, third-life crises (we just made that up — it’s a thing now), impromptu Hurricane Katrina benefits, unreliable siblings, and not knowing what the hell’s going on. Ever. It is by far the best indie comic published by one of the biggest comic publishers in the world and you should be reading it yesterday. Sean Edgar


7. Locke & Key
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Writer: Joe Hill
Artist: Gabriel Rodriguez
Publisher: IDW
As hard as it can be to create and sustain a great comic series, it’s equally hard to come up with a way to end it. For close to 40 issues, writer Joe Hill and artist Gabriel Rodriguez have systematically crafted the epic and frightening world of Locke & Key. Equal parts gruesome, gothic horror and family melodrama, the series always managed to deliver great scares without ever once sacrificing emotional depth. With the upcoming release of Alpha #2, the story will reach its dramatic crescendo. Knowing Hill’s tendencies, not every beloved character will be left standing after the dust clears, but you can be sure that what the tale lacks in cheeriness, it will more than make up for it with the kind of gripping, high-class storytelling that has become its trademark. Goodbyes are never easy, but rarely are they this bloody. Mark Rozeman


6. Boxers & Saints
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Writer/Artist: Gene Luen Yang
Publisher: First Second
Boxers & Saints addresses the story of China’s Boxer Rebellion from opposing sides with overlapping narratives. The tale consists of two chapters that can be read independently, but they’re stronger together. Writer/Artist Gene Luen Yang is alive to the possibilities of cartooning. The goofy facial expressions and physical comedy that abound help lighten the bloodshed, and a quick flip through the pages shows plenty of smiles. Saints is especially impressive for creating a comedic story around circumstances that rarely lend themselves to that context. You would be remiss, however, to stop with only one volume, and you would also miss important plot details shared in the overarching narrative. Even if you read both, you will hunger for more. Let’s hope Yang works double-time on his next project. Hillary Brown

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