Top 5 New Comics of 2013

Afterlife With Archie 01

Shadowhawk and Bane of Kings give a rundown of their top 5 picks for the best new comics to debut in 2013.

2013 was a pretty damn good year for comics. Digital continued to make fantastic inroads and the demographic of the comic book-buying population experienced some major shifts, particularly with women, which is really good news. The more comics expand their reader base on a macro level, the diversity we will see. Its a feedback loop that benefits both sides.

Of course, there were also some great comics to come out this year. Far too many to count on a dozen hands even. Now that Bane and I have spent about a year and a half getting back into comics and talking about them on the site here and on social media and our own blogs, we feel that we are perfectly positioned to do a list like this. We’ve built up a great library of things, and have experimented quite a bit.

So, we both present to you our picks for the best five comics series to come out in 2013, and five more that almost made that top spot. Keep in mind that this list isn’t exhaustive by any means and that there really were several great comics in the past year. If we could, this would be a list of top 25 comics, not just top 5!

*****

Shadowhawk:

THE TOP 5

Red Sonja v2 01

Red Sonja

Story: Gail Simone | Art: Walter Geovani | Cover: Nicola Scott | Publisher: Dynamite Entertainment | Issues Available: #1-6 in trade paperback

Gail Simone (Batgirl, Birds of Prey) gives the iconic fantasy heroine a fresh new attitude!

Red Sonja, the She-Devil with a Sword, intends to pay back a blood debt owed to the one man who has gained her respect… even if it means leading a doomed army to their certain deaths! Who is Dark Annisia, and how has this fearsome warrior accomplished what no god nor demon has been able to do: force Sonja to her knees in surrender?

An epic tale of blood, lust, and vengeance, Queen of the Plagues takes Red Sonja from the depths of her own grave to the heights of battlefield glory.

WHY? Gail Simone pretty much turned around how I saw the character and personally, Red Sonja has been one of the most incredible and consistent comics in all of 2013, by far. Her marketing strategy with assembling an all-women team of cover artists has also paid great dividends as the output has been beyond fantastic, with some truly great covers from some of the best female artists in the industry. Gail and Walter concluded their first arc just last month and its been one hell of a ride.

Afterlife With Archie 01

Afterlife With Archie

Story: Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa | Art: Francesco Francavilla | Cover: Francesco Francavilla | Publisher: Archie Comics | Issues Available: #1-2

This is how the end of the world begins… Archie and the gang go where they’ve never been before — to the grave and back! A horrific accident sets off a series of grim events and Sabrina the Teenage Witch must try to repair the unspeakable evil her spell has unleashed. Gasp in horror as Riverdale faces an impending zombie Arch-pocalypse in this spine-tingling ongoing series — but be warned, kiddies, this one’s not for the faint of heart!

WHY? I used to read Archie comics as a kid and I used to love them. But that was ages ago and I didn’t read anything for more than a decade. Getting back into the swing of things with a title like this might be weird, but what the hell, this has been a ton of fun right from the start and I’m loving where this is going.

Harley Quinn 00

Harley Quinn

Story: Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti | Art: Chad Hardin (series regular from #1) | Cover: Amanda Conner | Publisher: DC Comics | Issues Available: #0-1

Harley Quinn–the Joker’s on-again, off-again psychotic girlfriend–smashes her way into her own limited series. From Gotham City to Coney Island and beyond, follow the adventures of the Clown Princess of Crime!

WHY? Harley Quinn was one of the best things about Batman: The Animated Series and since those years of her debut, she’s come a long way. Now with Jimmy and Amanda leading the way with her own title, she’s going places. The New 52 hasn’t treated her that well, but the husband and wife team here look set to switch all that around. Harley Quinn #0 with its multiple artists as Harley auditioned them for her regular series is easily one of the best single issues of the year.

Samurai Jack 01

Samurai Jack

Story: Jim Zub | Art: Andy Suriano | Cover: Andy Suriano | Publisher: IDW Publishing | Issues Available: #1-3

Cartoon Network’s hit animated series is back at IDW! The legendary samurai known only as ‘Jack’ is stranded in a strange future ruled by the demonic wizard, Aku. His quest to return back to the past has tested him many times, but now the stakes are higher than ever!

WHY? The Samurai Jack cartoons on CN were easily some of the best programming that the channel was putting out in the early 2000s. I used to tune in every day for the reruns and I loved the hell out of those cartoons. Samurai? Techno-sorcery? Black Magic? Timey-wimey? I’m definitely on for that stuff.

Black Science 01

Black Science

Story: Rick Remender | Art: Matteo Scalero | Colours: Dean White | Cover: Matteo Scalera, Dean White | Publisher: Image Comics | Issues Available: #1-2

Grant McKay, former member of The Anarchistic Order of Scientists, has finally done the impossible: He has deciphered Black Science and punched through the barriers of reality. But what lies beyond the veil is not epiphany, but chaos. Now Grant and his team are lost, living ghosts shipwrecked on an infinite ocean of alien worlds, barrelling through the long-forgotten, ancient, and unimaginable dark realms. The only way is forward. The only question is how far are they willing to go, and how much can they endure, to get home again? Join writer RICK REMENDER and the superstar art team of MATTEO SCALERA & DEAN WHITE for this face-melting science fiction epic spanning the lifetimes of a cast of dimensional castaways lead by the man who caused it all.

WHY? Good old science fiction pulp with some really great characters and some of the most amazing art I’ve seen makes Black Science another top pick for a list like this.

HONOURABLE MENTIONS

Aphrodite IX 01

Aphrodite IX

Story: Matt Hawkins | Art: Stjepan Sejic | Cover: Stjepan Sejic | Publisher: Top Cow | Issues Available: #1-6 in trade paperback

Aphrodite IX returns for Free Comic Book Day! This first free issue launches a new ongoing series of Top Cow’s fan favorite, memory challenged, green haired, questionably human heroine. Hundreds of years after a cataclysmic event scorched the surface, Earth and its inhabitants have been forever altered and a new landscape and political struggle has taken hold with three distinct factions fighting for control. Aphrodite IX is both anachronism and advanced technology in a world that she no longer recognizes. No aliens, just humans and their genetically and technologically altered descendants in a mixture of the best Sci-Fi and Fantasy has to offer!

WHY? Other than the odd The Darkness and Witchblade comic, I wasn’t really reading anything from Top Cow until Aphrodite IX came along with its second run under Matt and Stjepan. The book has been a very intriguing and engaging read, with some really great concepts being talked about. The art has been the highlight of course, as is almost anything when Stjepan is involved, and in Matt I’ve discovered a new writer I can get behind 100%.

Trillium #1

Trillium

Story: Jeff Lemire | Art: Jeff Lemire | Cover: Jeff Lemire | Publisher: Vertigo Comics | Issues Available: #1-4

It’s the year 3797, and botanist Nika Temsmith is researching a strange species on a remote science station near the outermost rim of colonized space. It’s the year 1921, and renowned English explorer William Pike leads an expedition into the dense jungles of Peru in search of the fabled “Lost Temple of the Incas,” an elusive sanctuary said to have strange healing properties. Two disparate souls separated by thousands of years and hundreds of millions of miles. Yet they will fall in love and, as a result, bring about the end of the universe. Even though reality is unravelling all around them, nothing can pull them apart. This isn’t just a love story; It’s the LAST love story ever told.

WHY? I never thought I’d take to Jeff Lemire’s particular art style like I would with Trillium. This book is different, way different from the usual comics I read, but it is still highly entertaining, that’s for sure. What’s also amazing is that Jeff both writers and draws this comic, on top of all the other series that he’s working on right now, and I’m double impressed with how good this series has been, in retrospect. He’s been one of the best finds for me this year and 2014 promises to be just as great.

Superman Unchained #1

Superman Unchained

Story: Scott Snyder | Art: Jim Lee | Cover: Jim Lee, Scott Williams and Alex Sinclair | Publisher: DC Comics | Issues Available: #1-5

There’s a mystery hidden where even Superman can’t see it. Can The Man of Steel drag a decades-old secret into the light? Two of comics’ brightest superstars–Scott Snyder and Jim Lee–begin a new era for Superman!

WHY? The first couple of issues didn’t really sell me on the series but things turned around pretty quickly with the next three issues and right now this series is one of my most anticipated reads every month given how damn good it is. Fantastic story, fantastic artwork, a damn fantastic twist, and I’m a fan.

Lazarus #1

Lazarus

Story: Greg Rucka | Art: Michael Lark | Cover: Michael Lark | Publisher: Image Comics | Issues Available: #1-5 (first four issues in trade paperback)

“FAMILY,” Part One. In a dystopian near-future, government is a quaint concept, resources are coveted, and possession is 100% of the law. A handful of Families rule, jealously guarding what they have and exploiting the Waste who struggle to survive in their domains. Forever Carlyle defends her family’s holdings through deception and force as their protector, their Lazarus. Shot dead defending the family home, Forever’s day goes downhill from there…

WHY? A near-future post-apocalyptic story with a cyborg female character? How can that not be good? Well, it is extremely good, I’ll say. In a future where a bunch of families control swathes of North and Central America, mob-boss style, Forever Carlyle has proven to be one of the best characters I’ve read in a while in comics. Rucka’s writing and Lark’s art have both been outstanding.

FootClan01

The Secret History of the Foot Clan

Story: Mateus Santolouco | Art: Mateus Santolouco | Cover: Mateus Santolouco | Publisher: IDW Publishing | Issues Available: #1-4 (mini-series, available as a trade paperback)

Demons, ninjas, and hostile takeovers–what more can you want from a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comic? Secret History of the Foot Clan collects the thrilling four-issue mini-series and reveals a story never told before about the original founder of the Foot. 

The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and the Foot Clan race to intercept the one man who may be able to uncover long-lost secrets of Shredder’s power! In Feudal Japan, Oroku Saki’s friendship with Hamato Yoshi crumbles as Saki begins to fully comprehend his true destiny in the Foot Clan. Can his ambition be contained?

Join the Turtles as they get a history lesson that they will never forget!

WHY? Seeing the origins of the Foot Clan, as well as the origins of Shredder himself, proved to be one of the biggest highlights of 2013. Mateus wrote a really involved tale that expanded very well on the villain and developed the Foot Clan in its entirety. Returning to the franchise with this mini-series proved to be an excellent choice..

*****

Bane of Kings:

For this list, I have used the solicit for the first issue of the particular series as well as the first cover art, but have chosen to talk about the entire series in general where there is more than one issue available. The order is ranked top to bottom, with the best comic at the start of my Top 5.

THE TOP 5

Sandman Overture #1

The Sandman: Overture

Story: Neil Gaiman | Art: JH Williams III | Cover: JH Williams III | Publisher: Vertigo Comics | Issues Available: #1

Twenty-five years since THE SANDMAN changed the landscape of modern comics, Neil Gaiman’s legendary series is back!

THE SANDMAN: OVERTURE heralds New York Times best-selling writer Neil Gaiman’s return to the art form that made him famous, ably abetted by artistic luminary JH Williams III (BATWOMAN, PROMETHEA), whose lush, widescreen images provide an epic scope to The Sandman’s origin story. From the birth of a galaxy to the moment that Morpheus is captured, THE SANDMAN: OVERTURE will feature cameo appearances by fan-favourite characters such as The Corinthian, Merv Pumpkinhead and, of course, the Dream King’s siblings: Death, Desire, Despair, Delirium, Destruction and Destiny.

WHY? When I made a Best Comics of 2013 post focusing more on writers and different series than actual Top 5s towards the end of December there was one thing that I missed out completely and that was mainly due to me being incredibly forgetful. The comic in question is Sandman: Overture #1 written by my favourite author, Neil Gaiman, and accompanied by one of my favourite artists, JH Williams III. It’s a winning combination and although I’ve only read Volume One of Sandman (and loved it), it’s gone right on my ‘must-read’ list because of this book. And whilst yes, there has been a delay in the second issue, Sandman: Overture remains one of my favourite books of the year. Certainly a worthy book and I can’t wait for the rest of the mini-series.

Young Avengers #1

Young Avengers

Story: Kieron Gillen | Art: Jamie McKelvie | Cover: Jamie McKelvie | Publisher: Marvel Comics | Issues Available: #1-14

Legacy isn’t a dirty word… but it’s an irrelevant one. It’s not important what our parents did. It matters what WE do. Someone has to save the world. You’re someone. Do the math. The critically acclaimed team of Gillen/McKelvie/Wilson (with added Norton Sauce) decide to reinvent the teen superhero comic for the 21st century, uniting Wiccan, Hulkling and Hawkeye with Loki, Marvel Boy and Ms. America. No pressure. Young Avengers is as NOW! as the air in your lungs, and twice as vital. It’s the book that knows Hyperbole is the BEST! THING! EVER!

WHY? My favourite new Big-Two book of 2013, there was no way Young Avengers wasn’t going to miss out on this list. It’s an incredibly good book that comes to an end sadly next Wednesday, but up until this point it’s just been excellent. Wiccan, Hulking, Kate Bishop, Loki, Marvel Boy and Ms. America have all been incredible characters and it’s been an excellent journey. This comes highly recommended – with Volume 1 already out and Volume 2 on the horizon.

Lazarus #1

Lazarus

Story: Greg Rucka | Art: Michael Lark | Cover: Michael Lark | Publisher: Image Comics | Issues Available: #1-5

“FAMILY,” Part One. In a dystopian near-future, government is a quaint concept, resources are coveted, and possession is 100% of the law. A handful of Families rule, jealously guarding what they have and exploiting the Waste who struggle to survive in their domains. Forever Carlyle defends her family’s holdings through deception and force as their protector, their Lazarus. Shot dead defending the family home, Forever’s day goes downhill from there…

WHY? It’s been an excellent year for Image Comics, and that explains why they’ve got two comic series on this list, Black Science and Lazarus, and it was a very close call between which would go fourth and fifth for the respective series but in the end Lazarus claimed fourth place. Michael Lark’s artwork is among the best that I’ve seen on an indie book, and this is why it earns a must-read status. I can say right now that Lazarus is my favourite Indie series of 2013 – and so as a result it comes highly recommended. Its first Volume is already out – so I strongly advise picking that up when you can.

Black Science 01

Black Science

Story: Rick Remender | Art: Matteo Scalero | Colours: Dean White | Cover: Matteo Scalero, Dean White | Publisher: Image Comics | Issues Available: #1-2

Grant McKay, former member of The Anarchistic Order of Scientists, has finally done the impossible: He has deciphered Black Science and punched through the barriers of reality. But what lies beyond the veil is not epiphany, but chaos. Now Grant and his team are lost, living ghosts shipwrecked on an infinite ocean of alien worlds, barrelling through the long-forgotten, ancient, and unimaginable dark realms. The only way is forward. The only question is how far are they willing to go, and how much can they endure, to get home again? Join writer RICK REMENDER and the superstar art team of MATTEO SCALERA & DEAN WHITE for this face-melting science fiction epic spanning the lifetimes of a cast of dimensional castaways lead by the man who caused it all.

WHY? One of the best new series, Black Science gets Number four on this list as the best works written by Rick Remender that I’ve ever read – it’s just incredible, a great introduction to what looks set to be an awesome new series, and only two issues in it’s already got loads of premise to be a lot of fun. Sure, Remender may be behind the awesome Captain America & Uncanny Avengers, but for me, Black Science is where he is at his strongest. Matteo Scalero and Dean White bring some equally excellent work to the artwork and the colours respectively – and with a strong narrative hook this issue goes down as one of my favourites of 2013.

The Wake #1

The Wake

Story: Scott Snyder | Art: Sean G. Murphy | Cover: Sean G. Murphy | Publisher: Vertigo Comics | Issues Available: #1-5

“THERE’S SOMETHING DOWN THERE…”

When Marine Biologist Lee Archer is approached by the Department of Homeland Security for help with a new threat, she declines, but quickly realizes they won’t take no for an answer. Soon she is plunging to the depths of the Arctic Circle to a secret, underwater oilrig where they’ve discovered something miraculous and terrifying…

Writer Scott Snyder (BATMAN, AMERICAN VAMPIRE) and artist Sean Murphy (PUNK ROCK JESUS) bring their acclaimed talents to this sci-fi/horror epic that explores the horrors of the deep, probes the origins of human history, and leaps far beyond to a frightening future.

WHY? We’re now halfway into The Wake and for me it’s a mini-series that’s so awesome it just needs to be on this list. Everything about Snyder and Murphy’s book has been amazing – it’s the first creator-owned horror comic that I’ve truly loved (American Vampire oddly enough, didn’t grab me as much as it should have) and it shines. Murphy’s artwork is atmospheric and very awesome, and Scott Snyder is brilliant as per usual. This is a must-read series!

HONOURABLE MENTIONS

Velvet #1

Velvet

Story: Ed Brubaker | Art: Steve Epting | Colours: Elizabeth Brietweiser | Cover: Steve Epting | Publisher: Image Comics | Issues Available: #1-3

ED BRUBAKER and STEVE EPTING redefined Captain America with the “Winter Soldier” saga… and everything they’ve done so far has been leading to VELVET! When the world’s best secret agent is killed, Velvet Templeton, the Personal Assistant to the Director of the Agency, is drawn off her desk and back into the field for the first time in nearly 20 years… and is immediately caught in a web of mystery, murder and high-octane action. Sexy and provocative, with a dark twist on the spy genre, this EXTRA-LENGTH first issue by two of the industry’s best-selling creators will knock you out!

WHY? Velvet is an awesome series from Brubaker and Epting. We’ve had a few issues of this series (two) already and it’s another stellar book from Image Comics. Steve Epting is doing an incredible job on the artwork and Velvet Templeton, like Forever Carlyle – is an incredibly kickass female protagonist. I can therefore highly recommend this series to anyone looking to jump on board – Brubaker and Epting are on top form here and I can highly recommend it.

Rocket Girl #1

 Rocket Girl

Story: Brandon Montclare | Art: Amy Reeder | Cover: Amy Reeder | Publisher: Image Comics | Issues Available: #1-3

A teenage cop from a high-tech future is sent back in time to 1986 New York City.  Dayoung Johansson is investigating the Quintum Mechanics megacorporation for crimes against time.  As she pieces together the clues, she discovers the “future” she calls home – an alternate reality version of 2013 – shouldn’t exist at all!

Blast off with the new ongoing series by BRANDON MONTCLARE (Halloween Eve) and Eisner Award nominee AMY REEDER (Batwoman, Madame Xanadu).

WHY? Initially started as a kick-starter series, I tried out Rocket Girl mainly due to its cool premise and awesome artwork and it didn’t disappoint. Both Montclare and Reeder excel in this book with some excellent artwork in particular from Reeder, who delivers some stunning covers and is certainly an artist to watch out for in 2014. Dayoung Johansson is an incredibly awesome lead female character, and I can highly recommend this book to anyone looking for one of the most fun science fiction series of the year.

Coffin Hill #1

Coffin Hill

Story: Caitlin Kittredge | Art: Inaki Miranda | Cover: Dave Johnson | Publisher: Vertigo Comics | Issues Available: #1-3

COFFIN HILL stars Eve Coffin, a rebellious, teenage lowlife from a high-society family with a curse that goes back to the Salem Witch trials.

Following a night of sex, drugs and witchcraft in the woods, Eve wakes up naked, covered in blood and unable to remember how she got there. One friend is missing, one is in a mental ward—and one knows that Eve is responsible.

After a stint as a Boston cop that ends in a bullet wound and unintended celebrity, Eve returns to Coffin Hill, only to discover the darkness that she unleashed ten years ago in the woods was never contained. It continues to seep through the town, cursing the soul of this sleepy Massachusetts hollow, spilling secrets and enacting its revenge.

Set against the haunted backdrop of New England, COFFIN HILL explores what people will do for power and retribution. Noted novelist Caitlin Kittredge, author of the Black London series, brings a smart, mesmerizing style to comics. Artist Inaki Miranda (FABLES) brings his dynamic storytelling to COFFIN HILL, following an acclaimed run on FAIREST.

WHY? Only a few issues in, Coffin Hill is knocking it out of the park. It’s a dark, atmospheric and awesome horror series with some great artwork and a strong narrative story to boot that explains why it’s the second Image book on my list. Eve Coffin is a strong female lead and this book proves to be stable and entertaining from the three issues that we’ve seen so far, so I can highly recommend it.

Trillium #1

Trillium

Story: Jeff Lemire | Art: Jeff Lemire | Cover: Jeff Lemire | Publisher: Vertigo Comics | Issues Available: #1-4

It’s the year 3797, and botanist Nika Temsmith is researching a strange species on a remote science station near the outermost rim of colonized space. It’s the year 1921, and renowned English explorer William Pike leads an expedition into the dense jungles of Peru in search of the fabled “Lost Temple of the Incas,” an elusive sanctuary said to have strange healing properties. Two disparate souls separated by thousands of years and hundreds of millions of miles. Yet they will fall in love and, as a result, bring about the end of the universe. Even though reality is unravelling all around them, nothing can pull them apart. This isn’t just a love story; It’s the LAST love story ever told.

WHY? Trillium is superb. Jeff Lemire is doing great work on Green Arrow and Animal Man and this series is just as good as his two DC series that he’s working on. The plot is fun and original and to make it more interesting, Lemire is doing artistic duties as well – and whilst his style threw me off at first I quickly warmed to it and this is why it comes highly recommended. Great series, and with four of the eight issues already released, now’s a good time as any to jump on board.

Superman-Wonder Woman 01

Superman/Wonder Woman

Story: Charles Soule | Art: Tony S. Daniel | Cover: Tony S. Daniel | Publisher: DC Comics | Issues Available: #1-3

Beginning a bold new series that details the relationship between The Man of Steel and the Warrior Princess as rising star writer Charles Soule is joined by fan favorite artist Tony S. Daniel to tell the tale of a romance that will shake the stars themselves. These two super-beings love each other, but not everyone shares their joy. Some fear it, some test it—and some will try to kill for it. Some say love is a battlefield, but where Superman and Wonder Woman are concerned it spells Doomsday!

WHY? Let’s get this clear straight off the bat. I’m not a fan of the Superman/Wonder Woman pairing. I’d much rather Superman be with Lois over Diana, but for now it’s something that we’re going to have to deal with and I’m almost glad it’s actually happened because without the romance we wouldn’t have this comic. Charles Soule is an incredibly gifted writer with some excellent work on Swamp Thing and Red Lanterns, and he’s really been making this book as good as it can be. Tony S. Daniel also brings some incredibly awesome artwork to the table, so whether or not you’re a fan of the pairing, this book is worth checking out – with some incredible action scenes featuring a wide variety of both Superman and Wonder Woman’s rogues’ gallery. In the first three issues alone we’ve had multiple A-Listers from both, and this book is a non-stop thrill-ride of awesomeness that comes highly recommended.

Shadowhawk is a regular contributor to TFF. A resident of Dubai, Shadowhawk reads, reads and reads. His opinions are always clear and concise. His articles always worth reading.

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