First of all, the single most important thing we learned from comics and media coverage in general in 2013 is that people will read anything if it’s organized into a numbered list of bullet points.
Now, here are ten examples of why I loved sequential art last year.
1. Science is both awesome and terrifying.
The comic book reading public really discovered the joys of science this year, and the results have been fantastic. From Vertigo’s FEDERAL BUREAU OF PHYSICS, a scattered adventure in anti-gravity and bubble universes, to the Discovery Channel-esque explorations of THE WAKE (Vertigo), physics and biology and chemistry have absolutely become “cool”—even the basis, once again, for science fiction stories about actual science. Rick Remender and Matteo Scalera recently floored us with the intense and no-holds-barred BLACK SCIENCE (Image), a kind of cautionary tale of multiple dimensions involving frog aliens and robot Indians and significant others getting offed in the first couple of pages. It’s ballsy and rather horrific and completely magnetizing. But the best foray into scientific rockstardom was Image Comics’ NOWHERE MEN, written by Image publisher Eric Stephenson and illustrated by Nate Bellegarde. It essentially reimagines history in the context of a group of scientists being idolized in a similar way as the Beatles—a Fab Four, if you will—and gives them flashbacks and pop cultural influence and suspicious experiments resulting in new species. It’s just esoteric enough to entertain and just familiar enough to sting. It’s full of real science and obscure rock band references to everything from McLusky to the Manic Street Preachers. It’s cerebral and fun and wins a series of the year medal from me—even if it debuted back in 2012 and left us hanging after Issue #6.
2. Cheesy pulp stories will never get old.
2013 was full of big dumb pulp fun in many forms, all featuring swashbuckling, sex appeal, giant monsters, and gratuitous exclamation points. Alex de Campi’s GRINDHOUSE: DOORS OPEN AT MIDNIGHT (Dark Horse) is a raunchy love letter to every movie you ever stayed up too late to watch on cable, and Stephen Mooney’s HALF PAST DANGER (IDW) introduced an Indiana Jones-style treatment of a Pacific Island in World War II crawling with dinosaurs. Frank Barbiere and Chris Mooneyham’s FIVE GHOSTS (Image) began as a miniseries before taking geeks by storm with its combination of literary know-how and giant killer spiders. But when it came to plain old ridiculousness, nothing made me happier than IDW’s retro-farce DINOSAURS ATTACK. Based on the Topps card series of the same name, Gary Gerani filled this crazy book with enough drive-in-movie cliches to drown a stegosaurus, and despite Earl Norem’s fantastic paintings only comprising parts of the interior narrative, the book manages to rely on him for the most vivid and insane sequences—including one in which an allosaurus actually materializes around an old man relieving himself in the woods. If pure enjoyment is judgement enough, DINOSAURS ATTACK is guilty-pleasure gold.