Here’s my look back at the ten best single comic issues from the past year. Including ongoing series, one-shots, and mini-series, the only limitations I put on this list was that the comic had to have been released in 2013 (no reprints) and I limited myself to only a single issue from any one title. Because I was focusing on standout issues rather than consistently strong comics every month several of my favorite series missed the cut, but, if time permits, I may work up my regular list of best comic series of the past year as well.
With only ten spots (to cover the best of what is closing in on the 400 issues of comics I reviewed this year) permit me a second to mention Guardians of the Galaxy #0.1, Batman and Robin Annual #1, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: New Animated Adventures #1, Nova #2, and Green Hornet #1, all of which were individually good enough to make the list but there simply weren’t enough spots to include them all. Enough of what didn’t make the list, let’s turn out attention to what did starting with the first issue of a brand-new series…
10. Velvet #1
Our list begins with the terrific first issue of highly trained intelligence operative turned secretary Velvet Templeton who finds herself on the run against those who have clearly underestimated her. If the rest of the series is anywhere near as good as the first issue from writer Ed Brubaker and artist Steve Epting then this comic is going to be very good indeed.
Choosing one issue from the final arc of Buffy’s Ninth Season took some time. In the end I gave the slight edge to issue #24 over #23 for building on the great set-up and still leaving room to surprise and thrill me with unexpectedly moving character moments inside The Deeper Well where the fate of all magic, and the life of Buffy’s sister, would eventually be decided.
Writer Mark Waid may have just missed the cut with Green Hornet, but he definitely earns a spot here as the build-up over several issue finally delivers and Daredevil faces off against Ikari (a killer with all of our hero’s strengths but none of his weaknesses and clad in a version of the hero’s original yellow costume) for the first time. Chris Samnee, as always, delivers terrific art of Daredevil’s crushing defeat to his new adversary.
The Bat-books have been bleak as hell this year with the death of Damian and the twisted (but ultimately empty) Death of the Family storyline, but this single issue from writer Sholly Fisch and artist Dario Brizuela was a great reminder of how fun a Batman story can be in the right hands. The combination of Batman and Robin (clad in their classic costumes) helping Scooby and the gang take down robbers and Man-Bat is a breath of much needed fresh air.
I read quite a few G.I. JOE comics over the past year but the final issue of Snake Eyes stands out above all the rest. In honor of Larry Hama‘s own silent issue of G.I. JOE #21, writer Chuck Dixon and artist Robert Atkins end the series with a story that needs no words to tell. I miss this title.
Speaking of titles I’ll miss… As I make this list only a single issue of Scarlet Spider remains. Christopher Yost has found a way to get me to not only care about Kaine, but root for assassin-turned-hero and his comic even when Marvel has decided his journey must come to a premature end. In choosing one issue from the title I had to go with an example of how much fun Scarlet Spider could be exploring a simple premise (in this case, what happens when Kaine goes to the rodeo?). As expected, awesome hilarity ensues.
4. Fables #130
There were certainly bigger and wider sweeping tales in Fables and Fairest this year, but this single issue involving Junebug‘s misadventures during the young girl’s exploration of Fabletown, followed by her parents’ disbelief at her tale, is the kind of wonderful story that has made me stay with both series even when they’ve hit rough patches from time to time.
Although I was tempted to put an issue from the “City Fall” arc on here, I couldn’t ignore a TMNT comic written and drawn by co-creator Kevin Eastman and featuring a new enemy who continually bests the Turtles over the course of a single evening.
The new volume of Astro City has been brilliant throughout, but it’s the title’s second issue I’ve decided to include here, which introduces us to Marella Cowper and the Honor Guard Emergency Contact Line. The issue plays on classic themes from various Astro City comics over the years while presenting an ingenious take on a tale on the periphery of super-hero life. Writer Kurt Busiek and artist Brent Anderson deliver one of the very best comics of the past year focusing not on heroes but on how average people like Marella find themselves drawn into their world.
It’s hard for a comic to live up to expectations. It’s even harder when those expectations are insanely high such as with the reunion between Atomic Robo and his insane arch-nemesis Dr. Dinosaur that takes place in the mini-series’ second issue. Earning the top spot on the list, Atomic Robo and The Savage Sword of Dr. Dinosaur #2 is everything I wanted, and more, as Robo and his team are forced to deal with the crazy dinosaur’s “facts,” the impossibility of his underground city and rock minions with laser faces, the absurdity of a time bomb, and the villain’s genius Plan-B to kill them with lava. Awesome. Simply awesome.