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The 10 Best Comics of 2013

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by on December 31, 2013

By now, you’ve likely seen what Jessica Chobot and the Nerdist News team had to say about the top 5 Comics of 2013, but we figured that since you guys have stuck with us through thick and thin that you deserved a full-fledged top 10. So, after much deliberation, the Nerdist editorial team has assembled our top 10 comics of 2013, and believe us when we say that this was a harder decision than whether or not Robin should live or die. This was a phenomenal year to be a comic book fan, so here’s hoping that 2014 continues to reward us with a cavalcade of awesome comics.

10. Afterlife with Archie

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Writer: Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa
Artist: Francesco Francavilla
Publisher: Archie Comics

If you told me at this time last year that one of the best books of the year would be a zombie apocalypse set in Riverdale from a guy who wrote on Glee, then I would have probably laughed and gently ushered you out of our office. Turns out, there’s enough egg on my face to make an all-you-can-eat omelette bar, because Afterlife with Archie isn’t just one of the best zombie books out there, it’s one of the best books of the year. Aguirre-Sacasa crafts a wickedly funny, tense thriller of a story that recontextualizes the grocery store checkout line staples that make up the Archie-verse into a fantastical, terrifying new context. And, of course, the book wouldn’t have half as much of an impact were it not for the jaw-droppingly beautiful artwork of Francesco Francavilla (creative force behind the similarly excellent The Black Beetle: No Way Out), whose throwback art style evokes pulp comics of the 1940s and makes moments like an undead Jughead sinking his teeth into the supple flesh of one of his classmates at prom equal parts horrific and awe-inspiring. Shamble, don’t walk to your nearest comic book store and take the trip.

9. Batman

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Writer: Scott Snyder
Artist: Greg Capullo
Publisher: DC Comics

From its thrilling debut with the unforgettable “Court of the Owls” storyline to the flawless “Zero Year,” Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo have made Batman a must-read not just for fans of DC’s Dark Knight, but for fans of superhero comics period. Rare is the moment when you can look at an issue and think, “I’m reading a modern masterpiece in the making,” but then an issue like Batman #18 comes along and just destroys you. What elevates Snyder and Capullo’s Batman run from good to great is the fact that, month after month, it just keeps getting better. During a time in which many superhero books seem to be struggling to find their footing, Batman continues to hurtle through Gotham City’s streets at a breakneck pace, and we couldn’t be happier with the results.

8. Locke & Key

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Writer: Joe Hill
Artist:
Gabriel Rodriguez
Publisher: IDW

Doing horror comics is, in and of itself, a rarity in the today’s marketplace, but doing them well is like seeing a unicorn goring a leprechaun on a rainbow – it’s a beautiful and terrifying sight to behold. Over 40-something issues, Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez have crafted a profoundly twisted, deeply unnerving, and completely addictive world full of high stakes horror, macabre murder, and family melodrama with a fully realized mythology all its own. The series is beginning its mad dash to the finish line and aims to do so in spectacular fashion. Given Hill’s narrative tendencies, you may want to wear a poncho because there’ll be bloodshed aplenty and you’re right in the splash zone. All good things must come to an end, but it looks like Hill and Rodriguez are going to make sure that our stay in Keyhouse is nothing short of memorable.

7. Mind MGMT

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Writer/Artist: Matt Kindt
Publisher: Dark Horse

One of the best comics this year may have flown under your radar, but don’t let Matt Kindt’s espionage-laden swirling eddy of a mystery escape your grasp. What began as the story of true crime writer Meru investigating a mysterious plane crash has blossomed into a labyrinthine adventure with psychic secret agents, governmental mind control, and mysterious pasts, including Meru’s own. Adding to the sense of amnesia are the hand-painted watercolor backgrounds which lend a washed-out, woozy quality to the story’s disorienting twists and turns. From the ever-deepening saga of Henry Lyme and Meru to exploring the history behind the titular government agency and its agents’ remarkable abilities, Mind MGMT is sometimes unconventional and always a thrilling read. It’s remarkable that Kindt is able to accomplish so much on a monthly schedule, but some mysteries are best left unsolved, so we’ll simply tip our hats to him in the meantime.

6. Fatale

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Writer: Ed Brubaker
Artist: Sean Phillips
Publisher: Image Comics

Having worked together for over a decade, amassing more than 1,500 pages of comic books together, Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips are like the peanut butter and blood red jelly of crime fiction — they just make sense together. Their latest work for Image Comics, Fatale, manages to build on the gritty, edgy noir of titles like Criminal and Sleeper while blending in the kind of Lovecraftian horror that makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand on end. The mysterious Josephine is the titular femme fatale, and slowly but surely Brubaker has crafted a haunting tour through history, weaving in everything from murderous cults to ’70s Hollywood sleaze to long-buried family secrets that threaten to destroy the present. The pair has long been in creative lockstep, but Fatale feels like the dynamic duo has finally hit their stride.

5. Daredevil

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Writer: Mark Waid
Artist: Chris Samnee, Javier Rodriguez
Publisher: Marvel Comics

To be perfectly honest with you, Daredevil is one best comics in Marvel’s lineup and one of the best superhero books on store shelves. Books like Hawkeye and The Superior Foes of Spider-Man may be buzzier – and rightfully so – but there’s a reason Daredevil is consistently topping year-end lists: the creative team behind it. Waid and Samnee are credited as storytellers, which is fitting because, together, the pair feels like two halves of a whole, creating some of the most heart-wrenching storylines and groundbreaking action sequences we’ve seen all year. From Foggy’s battle with cancer to one of Bullseye’s craftiest murder plots yet, Daredevil proved that for a book about a blind lawyer fighting crime, this book has an incredible vision. Bad puns aside, Waid and Samnee took a great Daredevil book, made it better, and have us waiting with bated breath for his upcoming move to the Bay Area in 2014.

4. Hellboy in Hell

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Writer/artist: Mike Mignola
Colorist: Dave Stewart
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics

Who knew that all it would take to get Mike Mignola to come back to Hellboy was to kill Hellboy? Either way, it’s good to have Mignola back at the reins, as he explores his sprawling, multifaceted vision of Hell and takes us on a voyage across a grisly, dangerous land brought to life by Dave Stewart’s simultaneously muted and dynamic color palette. Sure there’s a larger, more insidious plot unfolding in the background, but where the book truly shines is in its smaller-scale explorations of world folklore, fables, and old wives’ tales told as only Mignola and Hellboy can. If there’s a better way to celebrate Hellboy’s twentieth anniversary, then I’ll be damned. Do yourself a favor and find out why Mignola is calling this his “most important book” yet

3. Hawkeye

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Writer: Matt Fraction
Artist: David Aja, others
Publisher: Marvel

In an era where spandex-clad superheroes reign supreme on the printed page and at the box office, the most compelling superhero book on the market is about an average Joe from Brooklyn without any superpowers of which to speak who just happens to pal around with Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. Honestly, if the words “Pizza Dog” mean anything to you, then you already know why we’re in love with Hawkeye. With innovative, poppy artwork from David Aja and Fraction’s deft hand with dialogue, Hawkeye wisely hones in on the toll a large-than-life job like being an Avenger can take on a man, and tackles unconventional issues like the emergency response in the wake of Hurricane Sandy to telling a heartfelt, compelling story through the eyes and ears of a dog. Thanks for all the laughs, Hawkguy. We can’t wait to see what you get up to in 2014.

2. East of West

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Writer: Jonathan Hickman
Artist: Nick Dragotta
Publisher: Image Comics

Jonathan Hickman is one of the most prolific voices in comics today and the fact that he can balance mainstream fare for Marvel with oddball, creator-owned curios like Manhattan Projects is testament to his incredible ability  and creativity. Case in point: In 2013, the best thing that sprang from Jonathan Hickman’s mind was an apocalyptic vision of America wrapped in a sci-fi western. In East of West, Hickman transports us to a dystopian, futuristic version of America, divided into seven city-states, and an Earth stalked by the Four Horseman of the Apocalypse – with Death clad all in white and on the hunt for his missing child – all of which is brought to vivid, brutal life by Fantastic Four collaborator Nick Dragotta’s stellar artwork. Gritty, mysterious, and punctuated by showstopping bursts of violence, East of West is exactly the direction you’ll want to take.

1. Saga

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Writer: Brian K. Vaughan
Artist: Fiona Staples
Publisher: Image

Vicious bounty hunters, robot princes with PTSD, star-crossed lovers caught up in an intergalactic race war – Saga has everything you could possibly imagine and a ghostly babysitter, to boot. Brian K. Vaughan is one of the most lauded writers in the industry for good reason – he manages to create wholly realized, emotionally grounded, and completely compelling worlds to explore without sacrificing character development (even when he sacrifices one of your favorite characters). Of course, Saga wouldn’t be half the comic it is without the impossibly imaginative artwork of Fiona Staples. Together, they’re one of the most formidable duos in the game right now, and we get to reap the benefits. Expertly balancing moments of intense sci-fi action with quieter, introspective vignettes of two people learning to start a family against the backdrop of an interstellar conflict, Saga is quite simply the best book of the year. If we tried to say anything else, much like our favorite blue sphynx, we’d be lying.

With so many great titles this year, we obviously missed some, so let us know what your favorite comics of 2013 are in the comments below!

Additional reporting by Shawn DePasquale, Gerry Duggan, and Brian Walton