The 10 Best Comic-Book Collections and Reissues of 2012

Books Lists

Yesterday, we published a list of the Best New Comic Books of 2012, but it’s worth taking a look at the best comic-book collections and reissues that also came out this year. From a couple of 1950s classic to more recent compendiums, here are our favorite comic books reissued this year.

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10. Empowered Volume 1 Deluxe Edition
by Adam Warren
Dark Horse

This 712-page superdeluxe hardcover edition contains not only three of Empowered’s previous paperback volumes but also includes early sketches, layouts, notes from creator Adam Warren and a bit more in the way of extras. It’s quite a nice treatment for what could easily be dismissed as just exploitainment, but then, Empowered is mere dumb fun the way that something like Buffy the Vampire Slayer was: dismissable only by those who lack a sense of humor and an ability to see beyond the premise. Its well-rounded (in many ways… ba-dum-bum) female character remains interesting throughout, and its constant commentary on the tropes of the genre is reliably amusing. (HB)

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9. Eerie Presents Hunter
by Paul Neary, Rich Margopoulos, Budd Lewis and Bill DuBay
Dark Horse

Published originally as a recurring story in Eerie in the 1970s, Hunter embodies both the aesthetics and the disillusionment of its era, without being either ugly or depressing. Its narratives are mostly well worked out, Neary’s art intricate and creative in its use of Zip-A-Tone, and the prose a weird delight, full of sentences that call to mind Raymond Chandler if he’d ventured into sci-fi. Dark Horse has done us all a service by republishing Hunter in a stand-alone volume. (HB)

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8. Young Romance: The Best of Simon and Kirby’s Romance Comics
by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby, ed. Michel Gagné

A project stopping and starting since 2003, this compilation of romance comics by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby is a work of love in more than one sense. Michel Gagné selected the 21 stories included here (reprinted for the first time), scanned them, painstakingly restored them (without making them look exactly new, thus giving the book the feel of a vintage compilation that just happens to be in amazing shape), and finally worked with Fantagraphics to produce this beautiful volume. Simon and Kirby tried to bring as much excitement to primarily psychological and interpersonal goings-on as to punching and flying. The variety on display here is impressive as well. Pre-code, the range of narratives was clearly wider (something Gagné deliberately demonstrates), but the book shows achievements both before and after 1954. (HB)

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7. Ed the Happy Clown
by Chester Brown
Drawn + Quarterly

Chester Brown’s Ed the Happy Clown may be the strangest thing he’s ever done, and if you know his work, you know that’s saying something. Born from an experiment with surrealism, it almost reads like a game of exquisite corpse, if you can imagine one in which every panel was created by the same person. Depicting a world of nightmarish chaos in which the social contract seems to have evaporated and even our own bodies betray us in the most mortifying fashion, Ed the Happy Clown is a unique window into fears both utterly individual and strangely universal. (HB)

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6. Bucko
by Jeff Parker and Erika Moen
Dark Horse

Bucko is sort of a hipster Big Lebowski, a detective story that’s more about the journey than the solution and happy to meander, Raymond Chandler-style, picking up interesting characters along the way. Sure, it has cliffhangers, no doubt driven by its original publication as a webcomic, but it’s not a plot-driven enterprise. Rather than be annoyed at the lack of resolution, you’re sad when it draws to a close because it’s been so much fun. (HB)

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5. Crime Does Not Pay Archives Volume 1
by various artists
Dark Horse

If I tell you that, within the very first issue contained in this first volume of the collected precode crime-thriller comic Crime Does Not Pay, both a dog and a baby get offed, without so much as a bit of weeping and wailing, you’ll know what you’re in for. The impressively lurid stories are generally compelling and well written, and the art really gets a chance to shine. Yes, all the criminals come to a bad end, just as most of the romance stories end in happiness and/or a wedding, but what happens in between is often full of vibrant life and creativity. (HB)

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4. American Elf Book 4: The Collected Sketchbook Diaries of James Kochalka: January 1 2008 – December 31 2011
by James Kochalka
Top Shelf

There’s no better way to peel back the curtain and observe the cogs of an artist’s struggles than through James Kochalka’s ambitious American Elf series. For more than 13 years, he’s created a daily comic strip based on his domestic travails as a father, husband and quirky auteur. The diary strip has been described as a hipster Family Circus, but its honesty and real time constrictions yield a richer experience. Watching Kolchaka offspring Eli and Oliver age in real-time invites an intimacy that is rarely found outside of your own family bonds. And who can’t relate to having a significant other unconsciously elbow you out of bed at 4 AM? (SE)

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3. Gloriana: The Adventures of Glenn Ganges
by Kevin Huizenga
Drawn + Quarterly

Newly reissued in a lovely compact 10th-ish anniversary edition, Kevin Huizenga’s Gloriana is the kind of comic that makes full use of the medium and its flexible approach to time. It also rewards whatever amount of time you spend with it in kind. If you want to read it quickly, you can do that, and you’ll enjoy it. If you want to focus on its elaborate centerfold, flipping back and forth in the book, parsing out each tiny, beautiful drawing, you can do that, too. You might not ever be able to shake out every hidden detail, but that’s its own kind of joy, the kind that means you can keep coming back to a work of art. A decade on, this book still feels utterly fresh and original. (HB)

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2. Flex Mentallo: Man of Muscle Mystery
by Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely

If nothing else made you happy in 2012, at least Vertigo finally worked out whatever issues prevented them from collecting Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely’s amazing Flex Mentallo. This 1996 miniseries is a four issue distillation of the metafictional conceits and deep comic-book philosophy that have coursed throughout Morrison’s comics, a direct line between the psychedelic and countercultural buzz of Doom Patrol and The Invisibles and the Perfect Superhero Forever exaltation of All-Star Superman. It’s the best work by the best superhero creative team of the last two decades, and it’s finally back in print. (GM)

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1. Walt Disney’s Donald Duck: A Christmas For Shacktown
by Carl Barks

We might have to disqualify Fantagraphics’ hardcover series of Carl Barks reprints from next year’s list. We’ll just grant it permanent honorary status as the best of the best, like when John Larroquette removed himself from Emmy consideration after winning four straight for Night Court. The second of 2012’s two Barks volumes just barely gets the nod due to the touching title story, a Dickensian Christmas tale that counterpoints the hopefulness of Duckburg’s most impoverished citizens with Uncle Scrooge’s fear of losing his fortune. This collection once again proves Barks to be one of the finest draftsmen and storytellers we’ve ever had. (GM)

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