Best of 2012: Best Titles

best titlesWe generally avoid quantifying our enthusiasm around here — we’ll gladly praise or condemn comics as our tastes dictate, but turning that into a grade or a score makes us uncomfortable. As there are in our pull-list, there are holes in this ‘Best of’ list. Mea culpa. We’ve had some great experiences with comics this year, and these are the series that were consistently fun, thoughtful and beautiful. Too subjective for a year-end list? Ignore the rankings. Any way you slice it, these are fantastic series that deserve the scrutiny we heap on everything. Each is a rewarding read and well worth your attention. Our picks for the top 12 series of 2012:

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Best of 2012: Best Covers

best coversYou know you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but that doesn’t mean you can’t judge the cover on its own merit. Some covers are so excellent that they back all the drama, excitement and emotion of the whole issue into one succinct image. Sometimes they end up being their own surreal experience. And other times, we’re just exciting to see our favorite heroes kicking ass one more time. These are our top 12 most awesome, creative and graphic covers of 2012.

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Animal Man 15

Alternating Currents: Animal Man 15, Shelby and Scott ROT

Today, Shelby and Scott are discussing Animal Man 15, originally released December 5th, 2012. This issue is part of the RotWorld crossover event. Click here for complete RotWorld coverage. 

Shelby: Last month, Drew talked about Jeff Lemire thwarting our expectations to surprise us in the best way. This month is no different, as he sprinkles some obvious and not-so-obvious surprises throughout the issue. And really, he’s made it easy for us to be surprised; with Rotworld, Lemire has turned the DCU into a place where literally anything can happen. Kill all the heroes and leave the world a rotting shell? Sure! Turn characters we all know into horrifying monsters who want little more than to tear our protagonist limb from limb? Why not! In a universe where all the rules have been broken, even our wildest guesses fall short of the mark.
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Swamp Thing 14

Today, Michael and Shelby are discussing Swamp Thing 14, originally released November 7th, 2012. This issue is part of the RotWorld crossover event. Click here for complete RotWorld coverage. 

Michael: Poor Alec. First he and Buddy lose an entire year of fighting — and hence, the fight itself — but Alec must forge ahead, beset by mistrust from allies, misinformation, and an intuition that fails him more often than not. He doesn’t quite grasp his powers, he can’t be sure what the Parliament of Trees really knows, and a justifiably cocky Arcane has fortified himself. The only consistent truth for Alec is Abigail’s essential good and his powerful sense that she’s still alive — and even that is in jeopardy. Continue reading

Animal Man 14

Alternating Currents: Animal Man 14, Drew and Scott ROTToday, Drew and Scott are discussing Animal Man 14, originally released November 7th, 2012. This issue is part of the RotWorld crossover event. Click here for complete RotWorld coverage. 

Drew: Last month, I couldn’t get over how openly writer Jeff Lemire was playing to our expectations in Animal Man. More specifically, he was setting up expectations with the express purpose of implying he was going to meet them at face value — all with an unblinking swagger that was kind of thrilling. Animal Man 14 finds him switching gears to the kinds of thwarted expectations we expect from (good) superhero comics, but that change actually makes the surprises even more surprising. Continue reading

Swamp Thing 13

Today, Shelby and Patrick are discussing Swamp Thing 13, originally released October 3rd, 2012. This issue is part of the RotWorld crossover event. Click here for complete RotWorld coverage. 

Shelby:  Zero month gave us a little reprise from the events of Rotworld. Sure, we learned more about Anton Arcane’s horrifying history, making him that much more of a serious threat. But it was easy to forget that the last time we saw Alec, he was in a completely dead world, one which he assumed was an alternate version of the reality he knew. I’ll be honest, I assumed it was an alternate reality as well; the single panel reveal at the end of 12 didn’t really sink in. But now, we are fully immersed in Rotworld, and let me tell you: things are way worse than we thought. 

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Animal Man 13

Alternating Currents: Animal Man 13, Drew and Patrick ROTToday, Drew and Patrick are discussing Animal Man 13, originally released October 3rd, 2012. This issue is part of the RotWorld crossover event. Click here for complete RotWorld coverage. 

Drew: Jeff Lemire and Scott Snyder are confident that they can surprise readers. They have every right to be — Swamp Thing 12 (which they co-wrote) saw the shocking reveal that Rotworld is not a place but a time — and that confidence lends their writing an assured sense of purpose. Their ability to surprise has made both Animal Man and Swamp Thing thrilling reads in their first year, and has leant the crossover a sense that anything could happen. Sure enough, Animal Man 13 is rich in surprises, but it also paints Lemire into a difficult narrative corner — to such a degree that I can’t help but see it as a cocksure statement that he can write his way out of anything. It would be annoying if I didn’t have every bit of confidence that he can. Continue reading

Animal Man 0

Alternating Currents: Animal Man 0, Shelby and Freakin' Animal Man

Today, Shelby and (guest writer) The Freakin’ Animal Man are discussing Animal Man 0, originally released September 5, 2012. Animal Man 0 is part of the line-wide Zero Month.

Shelby: In the comments for the Swamp Thing 0 write-up, we talk briefly about respect. One of the successes of Swamp Thing is that Scott Snyder manages to create his own story while still being respectful towards the stories previous writers have told. Swamp Thing 0 takes the flaming-lab-in-the-swamp origin and folds it neatly into the Rotworld story Snyder wants to tell. Jeff Lemire has done the same thing with Animal Man 0; he maintains the classic Animal Man origin story (powers from aliens), and merely shows us the other side of the story, that it was the Red this whole time! That is smart story-telling.

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Animal Man 12

Today, Drew and Peter are discussing Animal Man 12, originally released August 1st, 2012. This issue is part of the RotWorld crossover event. Click here for complete RotWorld coverage. Not caught up on Animal Man? No problem! Get up to speed with our video Cram SessionAlso, we’re covering Swamp Thing #12, head over to get analysis on the second half of this story. 

Drew: One of my biggest pet peeves in comics is the assumption that “bigger is better” when it comes to threats the hero is facing. I understand the sentiment — if saving one person is good, saving one million must be a million times as cool — but in practice, it often turns the risks into abstract hypotheticals. Such abstractions lose the human connection that is so easily established by a single person in danger. In comics, a single loved-one in danger is just as cliched as when it’s the whole city, but when handled well — as in Animal Man 12 — the payoff is much greater. Continue reading

Animal Man 8

Today, Shelby and Patrick are discussing Animal Man 8, originally released April 4th, 2012.

Shelby:  There is a certain aesthetic that I find really appealing, I like to call it “scary pretty.” I love Mexican sugar skulls, Tim Burton movies, and photographing abandoned factories. There’s can be such beauty in twisted, frightening, ugly things. Obviously, Animal Man falls completely into the scary pretty category, both story-wise and art-wise. Lemire, Foreman, and Pugh have crafted something twisted and scary and beautiful and I cannot get enough of it. Continue reading