Each year, CBR wraps its coverage of the comics industry with a virtual nerd cage match to determine the very best comics of the year. Every single CBR staffer -- from our crack news team to our well-researched columnists and from CBR's many daily bloggers to our legion of comic reviewers -- had the chance to chip in their favorite books of the year with only the highest vote-getters ranking up on our massive Top 100 Comics list, and as always, neither the staff nor the comics disappointed.
2012 was an upbeat year for comics sales, but even as blockbuster superhero revivals and events stormed the Direct Market charts, dozens upon dozens of independent, alternative and literary titles worked their way into the hearts of readers and reviewers. From the creative resurgence of creator-owned comics to the die-hard horror titles that continue to shock fans and from the all-ages kids books cropping up everywhere to the darkest crime thrillers, we've got it all.
And while it's nearly impossible for even the combined staff of CBR to have read every single ongoing series, miniseries, one-shot, graphic novel and webcomic published in and throughout 2012, we are confident that you'll find no better indicator of the breadth and quality of the industry as it stands today than right here. Check out part one of the countdown focusing on the comics #100 - 75 here, part two with #74 - 50 here, part three running down #49 - 25 here and part four covering #24 - 11 here. Then read on for the grand finale of our list... the Top Ten!
"'Hellblazer' may be ending but that’s no reflection on the quality of this phenomenal comic, the backbone of Vertigo’s line for years and still the best place to get your fill of foul-mouthed, demon-summoning, drug-abusing, happily-married British necromancers."
-- CBR Staff Writer Josie Campbell
"'Hellblazer' was the only book in 2012 I always read the same day I got it. I know people will tell me I’m wrong but, for my money, this was the best run on 'Hellblazer' ever. Nobody captured the punk, rebel, self-destructive nature of John Constantine better than Peter Milligan. Milligan’s run turned in to the longest ever on “Hellblazer” in 2012 and it was great seeing plot points bloom from seeds planted by Milligan years ago. Covers by the legendary Simon Bisley didn’t hurt, either. Shame to see it come to an end early next year."
-- CBR Contributor Karl Keily
"This year writer Rick Remender and his artistic collaborators had a herculean task; tell stories that were as entertaining and compelling as last year's 'Dark Angel Saga' and wrap up this initial volume of the series in a satisfying way. I'm happy to report that they did both. With stories like 'Final Execution' and the series finale issue, #35, the second and last year of Remender's 'Uncanny X-Force' run was a great way to close out what I feel was one of the top ten runs on any X-Men book ever."
-- CBR Staff Writer Dave Richards
"When this series started, it is one of the books that got me back into reading comics after being away for many years. Remender's crafted a truly epic, character driven story in which actions have repercussions and ripple effects that no one can foresee."
-- CBR Contributor Daniel Glendening
"Jeff Lemire has crafted a book that will endure the test of time. This emotional tale is all about what it means to be a son and a father. It is written by someone who has been a father and a son, and it is a great lesson for anyone looking to understand what it means to be a father or a son. 'The Underwater Welder' is a book that means something, and will mean a lot to many people."
-- CBR Reviewer Ryan K. Lindsay
"Jeff Lemire spins a legitimately poignant and eerie tale about fathers and sons, chasing ghosts, and paternal anxieties. The strength of the narrative washes away any distractions. In the introduction, 'Lost' writer Damon Lindelof compares 'The Underwater Welder' to an un-produced 'Twilight Zone' episode and I can't think of a more accurate comparison. I will, however, say that like a classic 'Twilight Zone' episode, this one really sticks with you."
-- CBR Contributor Jason Tabrys
"It's a mad, mad, mad, mad science world in Hickman and Pitarra's alternate history epic which features one of the highest high concepts and ideas-per-page ratios in comics also looks darn pretty with Pitarra's Darrow-inspired artwork."
-- CBR Reviewer Bill Reed
"Weird Science! So many good things are going on with this book. Pitarra's art, Hickman's dialogue, the characters... it's a total package where the stakes are high and heavy, but we don't trust the leads. And that's the best type of story, isn't it? Where you don't feel entirely comfortable rooting for a genius that eats alien brains to gather intel, or a version of Einstein that'll club you over the head when you're not expecting it. This book is so damn strange and fantastic. I'm so happy we've just scratched the surface."
-- CBR Reviewer Ryan Burton
"This is the book that just won't quit, even with losing Paolo Rivera (the book's trendsetter and visionary) at the beginning of the year. The transition to Chris Samnee, who came into his own on two Mark Waid books this year, was smooth and added a classic edge to the book, to match Waid's slowly darkening tone. Cave full of living, severed heads, everyone. Mark Waid has a dark side."
-- CBR Contributor Brett White
"Amazingly entertaining and refreshingly light-hearted despite the situations he finds himself in, 'Daredevil' has enjoyed a critical and popular resurgence under the writing of Mark Waid. With Chris Samnee now on art, the book is settling into a new normal and delivering surprising stories and exciting adventures. Sure, Daredevil's name is on the cover, but Waid provides stories that leave the readers wondering if everything truly will be OK."
-- CBR Reviewer Doug Zawizsa
"'Prophet' is experimental science fiction, and it's a difficult read, but Brandon Graham's unusual narrative style rewards patience, and the compression of world-building and detail in the art by Graham, Simon Roy and Giannis Milonogiannis is unbelievable. Joseph Bergin III may be my favorite colorist of 2012 for his skillful, painterly approach towards using color to define shape and shadow."
-- CBR Reviewer Jennifer Cheng
"Brandon Graham took a character that most comic readers had forgotten about and not only turned him into a force of nature but also a part of a much larger, intergalactic epic that continues to surprise and absorb. The rotating cast of artists each have their own unique style, but all fit together surprisingly well."
-- CBR Staff Writer TJ Dietsch
"Although Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo's take on the Dark Knight began in 2011, it didn't really pick up until 2012. This year, the creative team completed their groundbreaking 'Court of Owls' storyline, introduced new character Harper Row and began the 'Death of the Family.' Snyder and Capullo improve as a creative force with every issue and have successfully brought 'Batman' back as one of DC's flagship books, reinventing the Dark Knight for a modern audience while building an incredible new mythos worthy of a reboot."
-- CBR Reviews Editor Steve Sunu
"A year-long story focusing on a secret organization stretching back into Gotham City's past might not have sounded like a great way to re-launch 'Batman,' but Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo have gleefully proven us wrong on that front. "Batman" is a book that feels suspenseful and dangerous month after month, and that's exactly the tone that "Batman" should take. Always a character that could turn out strong sales, it's no small wonder that the book has rocketed past regular sales figures; it's simply addicting."
-- CBR Reviewer Greg McElhatton
"Hawkeye is a book about normal guy trying to do good in a super human sized world, and it's amazing. Matt Fraction's stories are full of deep characterization, humor, thrilling action, surprising twists, and best of all plenty of heart. David Aja and Javier Pulido do a phenomenal job bringing those stories to life with their gritty and gorgeous pencils.."
-- CBR Staff Writer Dave Richards
"It doesn't happen often, but every few years you get to read one of your all-time favorite comic books as it becomes just that, in real time. That is happening right now with Matt Fraction, David Aja and Matt Hollingsworth's 'Hawkeye.' Just as Hawkeye achieved Maximum Cool with his jumping-off-a-building-shooting-an-arrow stunt in the Avengers film, along comes a comic that out maximums Maximum Cool, but in a more subdued, irreverent, snarky, grounded way. 'Hawkeye' is just the coolest comic book being published today, with each issue bursting forth with ridiculous ideas at a breakneck pace while still remaining accessible and grounded."
-- CBR Contributor Brett White
"Disturbing and weirdly intrusive as a story, like rifling through a stranger's underwear drawer and finding out all their secret, lonely thoughts. The very act of reading it and the formats in which he has compiled it force a new perspective on the act of communication. It has an uncomfortable intimacy which creates a kind of affection for these loveless people, warmth and depth which might have been missing or less prominent in previous books in imparted by dint of the method of delivery. It further develops the medium, which is a truly great and rare thing."
-- Comics Should Be Good Columnist Sonia Harris
"In many ways, Chris Ware's works are like everyone else in comics is tossing a ball in the air and catching and throwing a ball in the air and catching it while Ware suddenly throws a second ball in the air and suddenly you're doing something entirely different while still familiar to the original act. That's what Building Stories is like. It is, at its heart, a comic book story, but it is a whole other experience. Chris Ware's Building Stories is a collection of Ware's overlapping stories featuring people who all live in the same building (the building itself is a major character in the story). The volume is so large that it literally comes in a storage box containing the 14 different 'elements' of the story (read them in whatever order you'd like). With each new work, Ware challenges the very notion of how to make and read comic books, and 'Building Stories' is a great example of both this challenge and his talents as a storyteller. This is both a powerful work as well as one that has a good deal more sentiment than most other Ware stories, so for those of you who worry about reading a new Ware comic after his past work has been too depressing, this is the Ware comic for you (not that there isn't some depressing stuff in this comic, as well, of course - but it is more the very state of the human condition, sometimes that can get depressing)."
-- Comics Should Be Good Editor Brian Cronin
"The anticipation leading up to Brian K. Vaughan’s return to monthly comics this year should have been an unfair burden for any title to carry. Nevertheless, Vaughan came back in true form with believable characters caught up in a sprawling space opera, foul language that manages not to sound stale and some of the most consistently impressive and inventive illustration on the racks, thanks to Fiona Staples. Saga is a book about family and the realities of love, but the story always manages to mystify with its imagery and distract with humor for stretches just long enough to make you forget how real each emotional undercurrent is leading up to each plot twist."
-- CBR Contributor Brian Warmoth
"Oh, how I missed Brian K. Vaughan. He's just incredibly, incredibly funny and is able to deliver it through drama -- no one would describe 'Y: The Last Man' or 'Ex Machina' as comedies, but there were genuine laughs in every issue. That's important, I think. It is possible to tell a serious story that doesn't take itself too seriously. 'Saga' is brilliant in the same way -- Lying Cat may be my new favourite character -- and Fiona Staples' art brings humanity to even the most un-human characters. Also: with the first issue free in digital and a $10 trade, this could be the book you use to get friends into comics."
-- CBR Contributor Shaun Manning
"Two enemy soldiers fall in love, have a baby and then the entire universe tries to kill them in Vaughan and Staples’ absolutely incredible sci-fi/fantasy series. Live birth and robot PTSD never looked so good!"
-- CBR Staff Writer Josie Campbell
The fun ain't over yet! Stay tuned later today for CBR's Top Ten News Stories of the Year!!!