Every year, CBR wraps our coverage of the comics industry with the Top 100 Comics of the Year – a massive, extensive and intensive cataloging of the best comics released over the past twelve months. To make our rankings, every CBR staffer -- from the homepage news hounds to the pontificating columnists and from the up-to-the-minute bloggers to our intelligent reviewers -- chips in their list of favorite comic books, webcomics and graphic novels for an all-out cage match to determine the Top 100.
2013 saw a record number of participants in this experiment with just over 40 staffers nominating over 200 comics for consideration. While the comics industry continued its strong swing of sales and critical love this year, the prevailing sentiment amongst the staff was that there were few undeniable breakout comics published of late. That's not to say there weren't many amazing and entertaining books written, drawn and released in 2013. But while past years have had obvious hot ticket favorites amongst readers, this year was more of a wide open field. Who'll take #1? You'll have to wait to find out.
Yesterday, we covered #100-76, and today, we continue with part two, counting down from #75 to 51! The first half of our list is rounded out with probably the biggest comics crossover hit of the past decade, the penultimate chapters of one of the longest running manga serials in American comics publishing, breakout creator-owned and digital first superhero series, new work from acclaimed alt comix mainstays and more.
Read on for the full list, talk about our choices on Twitter with #cbrtop100 and check back on Monday at noon Pacific for our third installment! And while you're at it, revisit our Top 100 lists from previous years!
- CBR's Top 100 Comics of 2012
- CBR's Top 100 Comics of 2011
- CBR's Top 100 Comics of 2010
- CBR's Top 100 Comics of 2009
- CBR's Top 100 Comics of 2008
Written by Robert Kirkman
Drawn by Charlie Adlard
Published by Image Comics
"'The Walking Dead' continues to be one of the most engaging and exciting comics published today, which is no small accomplishment considering it just celebrated its 10th birthday. Robert Kirkman has kept the story moving by raising the stakes and challenging Rick and the other survivors constantly, without ever becoming predictable or cliche. With the first few chapters of 'All Out War' underway, it’s clear the biggest threat in this world is from their fellow man, which makes the story that much more perilous and frightening. Charlie Adlard continues to grow as an artist, bringing the action and emotion home with beautiful line work in every issue; a lesser artist would have a hard time clearly differentiating so many cast members, but Adlard does so with seeming ease. And in terms of attracting new readers, no other book is as important to growing the audience as 'The Walking Dead' has proven to be."
-- CBR Executive Producer Jonah Weiland
"'Batman and Robin' lingered on the pain, guilt, and desperation that plagued Bruce Wayne after the death of Damian like no other Bat-book.
The fluid nature of comic book death undermines the value of fixating on the emotional aftermath, but Peter Tomasi and Patrick Gleason cowered Batman in an affecting way with the wordless #18 and a trip through the stages of grief."
-- CBR Contributor Jason Tabrys
"'Dream Thief' is the comic book that fans are constantly asking for: An original take on the superhero paradigm told in a quick, vicious style. Greg Smallwood earns a status as a 'next big thing' waiting to happen with his assured cartooning and inventive page design, but for all the boundary pushing the book does, Jai Nitz's script still delivers the meat and potatoes of character, action and ideas."
-- CBR News Editor Kiel Phegley
"Brian Bendis' corner of the mutant universe is exciting because he's writing more than just good X-Men stories, more even than Really Good X-Men Stories; he's writing stories that are both entirely true to the X-Men concept and wholly new. In 'Uncanny,' Scott Summers is balancing two legacies, reviving Xavier's school as a safe haven and training ground for young mutants, but also Magneto's Brotherhood, taking a more aggressive stand against those who would harm his people. Meanwhile, in 'All-New,' the five heroes who launched Xavier's dream are thrown into a world where it's failed or failing—and get to see what they become when they grow up. Taken together and individually, the books are fun, action-packed, and thought-provoking."
-- CBR Contributor Shaun Manning
"What a surprise this book was for me this year. I mean, I always enjoy the X-Men, so I was sure to check it out, and I've always been a fan of Chris Bachalo's work, but I just didn't know what to expect, and when I look back I'm not entirely sure what I got, just that I enjoyed the hell out of these comics that felt bold and funny, and somehow modern and fresh while also like a throwback to some of the things I used to love about the X-Men when I was a teenager. There's a soapy aspect -- complex character relationships, high drama even though not a lot is actually happening -- that feels right for an X-Men title, and 'Uncanny X-Men' nailed it. Add to that some of the most beautifully drawn superhero books on stands this year thanks to Chris Bachalo and Frazer Irving, and it just seemed like magic."
-- CBR Reviewer Kelly Thompson
"Marvel's 'All-New X-Men' started promisingly in 2012, and delivered on that promise in 2013. Throughout the 16 issues released this year -- Brian Michael Bendis remains as prolific as ever -- the book fully committed to the 'original X-Men in the present day' premise that many figured would only be a short-term gimmick. With the Original Five driving stories like 'Battle of the Atom,' the time-displaced mutants have instead begun to define an X-Men era, providing the tricky balance of shifting the status quo while retaining a familiar appeal. With art from the likes of Stuart Immonen, David Marquez and Brandon Peterson, 'Bendis writes the X-Men!' has been just as enjoyable as fans of his Avengers run hoped it would be, while proving X-skeptics wrong."
-- CBR Senior Editor Albert Ching
"This comic plain just makes me happy. It could have been done as a too-cool-for-school exercise in smugness and snark, and I was worried that was what DC had in mind when it was initially announced... but instead Jeff Parker has found that wonderful sweet spot between absurdity and sheer exhilarating adventure that the original TV show itself lost after its first season. And it showed up like a summer miracle, just when I was convinced that DC was determined to make Batman comics the most joyless things ever published."
-- Comics Should Be Good Writer Greg Hatcher
"'Five Ghosts' is 'Indiana Jones' meets 'League of Extraordinary Gentlemen' but twice as fun. Featuring the spirits of five nameless but clearly recognizable literary figures, Frank J. Barbiere and Chris Mooneyham's book is a delight for the average reader and literature aficionados alike. Using plot points like the dream stone, Barbiere has a lot to say about the power of imagination and he has a damn good time doing it. However, Barbiere's story wouldn't be nearly as effective without Mooneyham's gorgeously whimsical style. Their collaborative effort taps into literary history in a fantastic new way which leaves readers hankering for more."
-- CBR Reviewer Meagan Damore
"Steven T. Seagle and Teddy Kristiansen manage to bring out the best in each other, and in this compact book they tell the story of a scientist, examine the myth of Einstein, look at different forms of intelligence and take the reader and characters through trauma and uncertainty into a more hopeful space with new possibilities."
-- CBR Staff Writer Alex Dueben
"Kristiansen uses a subtle color palette and roughly-hewn line work to express the struggle faced by a physicist when he discovers a world-altering secret. As the protagonist examines his life, weighing his options in an attempt to make a decision, we begin to feel the immediacy and intimacy of his internal struggle. Seagle and Kristiansen work together like a well-oiled machine, taking turns to let the words and imagery tell the story in equal measure to far greater effect than if one or the other dominated."
-- Comics Should Be Good Columnist Sonia Harris
"Writer Jordan Mechner and artists LeUyen Pham and Alex Puvilland were obviously influenced by great literature like 'The Three Musketeers' and 'The Hunchback of Notre Dame.' What's so remarkable about 'Templar' - the fictionalized, but extremely well researched account of the fall of the Templar Order - is that it can also stand proudly next to those influences in terms of quality. If Dumas and Hugo had been writing comics, those would have looked like 'Templar.'"
-- Robot 6 Blogger Michael May
"Hiroaki Samura's samurai epic continues to be an absolutely amazing read, as it speeds to its climax. Samura's long been a master of fight scenes, and in 2013's two volumes, he gets to show off his chops while delivering a blood-soaked showdown years in the making. The aftermath is surprisingly touching and emotional, and it serves to highlight what a vicious cycle revenge can be, while also displaying Samura's other skill that's helped make 'Blade of the Immortal' so amazing: His ability to handle the quieter, more emotional scenes as adeptly as the action scenes. With only a handful of volumes left in the series, I can't help but anticipate the climax and dread it, as well. To paraphrase John Travolta from 'Face/Off,' I'm gonna hate to see it go, but I'm gonna love watching it leave."
-- Comics Should Be Good Columnist Ken Haley
"The ridiculously creative minds of Ben Acker and Ben Blacker have provided years of entertainment for listeners of the 'Thrilling Adventure Hour' podcast with characters like Sparks Nevada, Captain Laserbeam, Frank and Sadie Doyle and Colonel TickTock, among others. Another wonderful result of Kickstarter support, 2013 brought readers the hardcover graphic novel from Archaia. A gorgeous finished product, and hopefully the first of many, features artwork from Tom Fowler, Joel Priddy, Joanna Estep, Lar deSouza, Chris Moreno, Doc Shaner, Randy Bishop, Jeff Stokely, Natalie Nourigat, and Evan Larson. This anthology presents the first opportunity for fans of the characters to have comic adventures of the same to enjoy. Thankfully this book is a hardcover, which is more resistant to the perpetual wear and tear multiple reads would deliver to such a glorious collection."
-- CBR Reviewer Doug Zawisza
"Oh man, this book. Elliptical, elusive, haunting stories about painful mother/son relationships, occasionally drawing upon Japanese folklore when not thinking about how to apply the tactics of the French New Wave to comics. Hayashi's minimalist style, especially on stories like 'Red Dragonfly,' carry a near-indescribable power that is unlike any other comic I read this year, Japanese or otherwise. For me at least, this was the best book of 2013, no question."
-- Robot 6 Blogger Chris Mautner
"Science fiction and fantasy woven together with intrigue and sexy storytelling. For mature readers, certainly, as they can appreciate the complexity."
-- CBR Columnist Hannibal Tabu
"'Heck's' title has a double meaning, as it stars Hector Hammarskjöl, a former high school football star who finds a portal to Hell in the house he's inherited. He uses that portal to start a business where he and his sidekick/former high school fan Elliot contact the recently departed to settle inheritance issues. His old girlfriend shows up, wanting him to deliver a letter to her dead husband, and as Heck and Elliot head into the underworld, things don't go as planned. It's a cool twist on 'Dante's Inferno' -- Zander Cannon's storytelling is smart, at times funny, often quietly disturbing and ultimately heart-wrenching."
-- Robot 6 Blogger JK Parkin
"This was one of the best books I've seen this year. It blew me out of my chair with its exquisite craft; I gather that Porcelain is the first outing for Improper Books, and if the books that follow are as amazing as this one it's going to be an imprint to watch. Both Benjamin Read's script and Chris Wildgoose's extraordinary artwork were just a delight. In terms of story, 'Porcelain' is drawing pretty heavily on a classic tradition. There are echoes of 'Beauty and the Beast,' 'Bluebeard,' 'The Secret Garden'… it's not a daringly innovative plot or anything, but what sells it is the emotional reality that grounds everything. You absolutely believe in both the Porcelain Maker and Child, and a lot of that isn't the script -- it's Wildgoose's terrifically subtle art. The way he leads your eye with the panel layouts, and the way he renders faces and facial expressions, just left me awed. In a just world this would be a best-seller, and I want more people to know about it. so it gets the top spot."
-- Comics Should Be Good Writer Greg Hatcher
"Only released very recently, 'Dungeon Fun' was the single most brilliant work of comics I've read in a very long time. Taking an irresistible premise and filling it with silliness and manic goodness, Colin Bell and Neil Slorance's first issue is hugely clever, stonkingly funny, gorgeously made and charming beyond belief. If you want to show somebody the best that comics has to offer -- hand them 'Dungeon Fun.'"
-- CBR Contributor Steve Morris
"Expectations were high after years of promise of the big Finale, and they were not just met -- they were surpassed. Joe Casey and Tom Scioli delivered the transcendent cosmic superhero epic comicbook to end transcendent cosmic superhero epic comicbooks. Sprawling, hopeful, mesmerizing and, above all, damn entertaining. My mind was blown as the onion was peeled one last time by this particular team."
-- Comics Should Be Good Writer Chad Nevett
"Especially [in] 'The Sky in Stereo' #2 from Mardou, the Manchester-born cartoonist, has created a wonderful revaluation / meditation of the youth/adult transition. Aside from gut attachment, what makes Mardou's comic so rich is her dedication to concise, clear narrative. In a sea of abstract, poetic alternative work and overblown corporate mega-series, it's easy to forget how sweet conscious storytelling is, and remembering so takes us back to the cornerstones of why we gander at this shit at all."
-- Comics Should Be Good Columnist Alec Berry
"Though the 20th installment of Seth's long-running series reinvented 'Palookaville' for a life after the death of the alternative comics floppy, this year's hardcover edition saw the cartoonist perfect his new format. That 'Palookaville' #21 is a shimmering, beautiful object comes as no surprise given Seth's strengths, but this time the interiors prove as ambitious as the total design. The latest chapter of his years in the making 'Clyde Fans' serial is as emotionally satisfying as the story has ever been and wraps with as close to a cliffhanger as Seth can provide. Meanwhile, the first part of a new diary comic 'Nothing Lasts' (How's that for a Seth title?!) is a personal, engaging portrait of the artist as a young man. Two years is too long to wait for more."
-- CBR News Editor Kiel Phegley
"'Hannibal' Smith always loved it when a plan came together. Well, DC Comics has found a new A-Team on 'Green Arrow' with writer Jeff Lemire and artist Andrea Sorrentino. Reworking a superhero is nothing new as the publisher just relaunched its whole line two years ago, but what Lemire and Sorrentino have done in only nine issues is reminiscent of Frank Miller and Klaus Janson's game-changing run on Marvel's "Daredevil" in the late seventies and early eighties. 'Green Arrow' is a film noir, crime book with superheroes. Oliver Queen just doesn't know it yet. "
-- CBR Staff Writer Jeffrey Renaud
"Vampires have been done to death lately, yet writers Matt Gagnon & Michael Alan Nelson and artist Brian Stelfreeze have breathed new life into them with 'Day Men.' The series focuses on David Reid, the human enforcer for a vampire clan who kicks way more ass with a cane than should be humanly possible. "
-- CBR Staff Writer TJ Dietsch
"A comprehensive lesson in the world of hip hop in comic book form. Piskor's stories have a warmth and familiarity to them that makes you feel like you are part of the story."
-- CBR Contributor Dave Scheidt
"Dismissed by many as a shameless 'Hunger Games'/'Battle Royale'/'Lord of the Flies' rip-off before the first issue even hit the stands in December of 2012 -- playfully tweaked by a series of covers imitating the aforementioned projects' movie posters and book covers -- Dennis Hopeless and Kev Walker's story pitting teenaged superhero against teenaged superhero in a manipulative game of death instead breathed new life into a variety of Marvel's young characters, even as some of them were seemingly removed from comics forever. Throughout 2013, fans have been treated to deaths, resurrections and more twists and turns in a single series than you typically find in half a dozen different comics. Here's hoping Hopeless and Walker's inventiveness transfers to their 'Arena' spinoff series, 'Avengers Undercover.'"
-- CBR Senior Editor Stephen Gerding
"One of the best Hellboy stories, ever. Told with a sense of wonder and sincerity and masterfully illustrated by Duncan Fegredo. Though it's a part of the longer running series, it would be a fantastic introduction for non-Hellboy readers."
-- CBR Contributor Dave Scheidt
"Every year I nominate the latest arc of 'Wonder Woman,' because every year the comic reestablishes itself of one of the best DC has to offer. With their First Born/God Down story, Azzarello and Chiang upended the Diana V. War dynamic, paying homage to William Marston's classic 1940s themes in a gritty and bittersweet modern setting. From casual readers to Wonder Woman purists, Azzarello and Chiang's breakout hit has something for everyone."
-- CBR Staff Writer Josie Campbell
"Vasilis Lolos is terribly insane, and comics is lucky to have him. Who else could come up with the concept of a ghost train where a murderer is -- get this -- murdering ghosts? Part J-horror, part manga, 'Last Call' Volume 2 is a quick read, but only because it's full of this electric air that shocks you and keeps you in your seat, your eyes peeled open, hungry for that next page. His character designs are hip, his pacing is incredible and his ideas (see: voodoo gum becoming a voodoo mask) are just super rad."
-- CBR Contributor Ryan Burton