In Your Face Jam: Best of 2013 -- Top 10 Series

Thu, January 2nd, 2014 at 8:58am PST

Comic Books
Brett White, Contributing Writer
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I love lists. When I was in middle school, I was definitely the type of kid that recorded the results of VH1's top 10 videos of the week countdown in a notebook in an attempt to predict what their top 50 videos of the year would be. No, I didn't have a social life in middle school, why do you ask? The point is, the end of every year brings with it an arbitrary reason to write lists on top of lists. For an Excel-spreadsheet-fiend like me, this is basically double Christmas.

2013 was a weird year for comics, wasn't it? Most of the Big Deal comics from this year made their debut in 2012 and not that many new series really caused a big, "Saga"-sized splash. For me, 2013 might have been the year that I pretty much gave up on DC's superhero offerings -- for reasons I've previously detailed -- but I did start reading a lot more comics from Image, Dark Horse and other non-Big Two companies. This was a year of diversification -- in addition to my usual heavy helpings of Marvel.

RELATED: CBR's Top 100 Comics of 2013

I think these changes are noticeable in this, my Top 10 Series of 2013. DC heroes are noticeably and possibly infuriatingly for some of you, absent from the list. There are also only five series from Marvel Comics, which actually surprises me. I'll say this about DC Comics: it's very likely they'll impress me in 2014. Greg Pak and Aaron Kuder's "Action Comics" has been outstanding and I'm anxiously awaiting Jeff Parker's arrival on "Aquaman."

Because I think year-end lists are serious business, I devised a number of rules to make this list. All series must have released at least three issues in 2013 and I must have read at least 75% of the series' entire output. With those two rules in mind, 44 series were eligible for the extremely prestigious In Your Face Jam list of the Top 10 Series of 2013. Let's count them down.

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10. FF #3-15 (Marvel Comics)
Written by Matt Fraction and Lee Allred; art by Mike Allred and Joe Quinones; colored by Laura Allred; lettered by Clayton Cowles; edited by Jake Thomas, Tom Brevoort and Lauren Sankovitch

Matt Fraction's been getting a lot of praise for pretty much every other comic he's writing, leaving his work on "FF" criminally underrated. This book is insane and too big and too obscure and too weird too work -- yet it does. Someway, somehow, a book starring no less than twenty main characters that traverses the entire Marvel Universe feels intimate. Maybe that's because Fraction put character development before plot on this book, with issues dedicated to She-Hulk and Darla Deering being absolute standouts? Maybe it's because the book made representation and acceptance a prominent theme, with Tong becoming the first transgender moloid -- and maybe the only transgender character that I can think of -- in the Marvel Universe this year? Maybe it's because artists with retro-pop styles like Mike Allred and Joe Quinones made each issue feel comfortable and like home, even as the plots got progressively more out there? Maybe it's because this is a book about family created by a family? Lee Allred took over for Fraction when he stepped back and Laura Allred's strong color palette has kept the entire book's tone from wavering, even as the stories branched out into new territory. Or maybe it's because the book had a sense of humor unlike every other Marvel Comic this year? It's been a long time since a Marvel comic tapped into the trademark self-awareness that made Stan and Jack's early "Fantastic Four" days so much fun. "FF" hasn't been given enough attention this year and it deserves it.

9. Lazarus #1-5 (Image Comics)
Written by Greg Rucka; art and letters by Michael Lark; inked by Brian Level and Stefano Gaudiano; colored by Santi Arcas; design by Eric Trautmann; edited by David Brothers

You don't always get the chance to jump onboard the next big thing right with issue #1. I'm glad I did. Rucka and Lark have one of the most natural partnerships in all of comics and their work on "Lazarus" plays to each of their strengths. Rucka's created Forever Carlyle, another one of his trademark protagonists that's immediately captivating, relatable and thrillingly dangerous. I mean, we meet her right after she's ben shot to pieces -- and then she pulls herself back together and trudges back into her role as the protector of one of the wealthy family's ruling over a dystopian Earth. The mood created by Lark and colorist Santi Arcas is completely cinematic and a perfect fit for this gripping family drama. Trust me when I say that "Lazarus" will be spoken of in the same breath as "Preacher" and "Y: The Last Man" when the next generation of readers rolls around.

8. The Wake #1-5 (DC Comics/Vertigo)
Written by Scott Snyder; art by Sean Murphy; colored by Matt Hollingsworth; lettered by Jared K. Fletcher; edited by Sara Miller and Mark Doyle; color covers by Jordie Bellaire

Scott Snyder, why are you so scary? And Sean Murphy, why are you making Snyder's creepy ideas scarier? I mean, I guess I should blame myself for reading "The Wake" every month, but the terror is worth it. I have rarely experienced "Alien"-level tension in a comic book before, but "The Wake" has me anxiously dreading turning each page. "The Wake" was about a group of scientists trying to survive the return of an ancient, killer breed of sea creature -- essentially Freddy Krueger mermaids -- as their entire facility slowly crumbled into the ocean. The art on this book is truly something to lovingly analyze. Sean Murphy's pencils are as emotive and kinetic as ever and Hollingsworth's colors and an ominous tone as well as a subtle texture. Now, halfway through, "The Wake" has shifted its attention elsewhere -- to the future and a flooded Earth. I don't know where "The Wake" is going, but I'm following it wherever it winds up.

7. Star Wars #1-12 (Dark Horse Comics)
Written by Brian Wood; art by Carlos D'Anda and Ryan Kelly; inked by Dan Parsons; colored by Gabriel Eltaeb; lettered by Michael Heisler; edited by Randy Stradley and Freddye Lins; covers by Alex Ross, Rodolfo Migliari, Hugh Fleming, David Michael Beck and Sean Cooke

My love of Star Wars predates my love of comic books. In fact, the first comics I read were hand-me-down copies of Marvel's '70s "Star Wars" series. I love those three movies and I love those characters -- but I have not regularly bought a Star Wars comic in years. It's now December 2013 and I buy three Star Wars comics a month. That change is because Dark Horse has decided to take a just do it mentality to their Star Wars line, resulting in some of the best comics I've read this year. Instead of focusing on tangential characters or stories set an even longer time ago, they pulled out the big gun -- a series starring Leia, Han, Luke and the rest set immediately following "A New Hope." The stunning art by Carlos D'Anda, who somehow made drawing fleets of TIE fighters look effortless and standout colors by Gabriel Eltaeb easily matched the quality of Brian Wood's emotionally complex tale filled espionage and action. Chewbacca shooting a crossbow for outside the Millennium Falcon's hatch? Princess Leia piloting an X-Wing through a dogfight? Wedge Antilles getting to be Wedge Antilles? This is the Star Wars comic I've waited for since I first started reading comics.

6. X-Men #1-8 (Marvel Comics)
Written by Brian Wood; art by Olvier Coipel, David Lopez, Terry Dodson and Barry Kitson; inked by Mark Morales, Scott Hanna, Norman Lee, Cam Smith, Terry Pallot, Rachel Dodson and Karl Kesel; colored by Laura Martin, Matt Milla, Christina Strain, Cris Peter, Jason Keith; lettered by Joe Caramagna; edited by Jeanine Schaefer, Jennifer Smith, Nick Lowe and Tom Brennan; cover art by Art Adams and Ed McGuinnes; cover colors by Marte Gracia

While I enjoy the grand soap opera over in "All-New" and "Uncanny," and the sprawling cast of "Wolverine and the" definitely has its charm, I wanted an X-Men comic book with a small cast and villains that aren't other X-Men. Brian Wood's "X-Men" has given me just that. This book's been packed with moments that now come to define these characters for me, especially Wood and Coipel's fantastic depiction of Rogue in the initial "Primer" storyline. Even though the series spent three months tied up in the (incredibly fun) "Battle of the Atom" storyline, Wood still kept his plotlines rolling. While servicing the larger time-travel action, Wood smartly gave "X-Men" readers enough development with Jubilee and Shogo and enough time with Kitty and Rachel to keep the book's momentum strong. Even if Jason Aaron and Ed McGuinness' "Amazing X-Men" is off to a fantastic start, "X-Men" is the mutant book to beat in 2014.

5. Saga #9-17 (Image Comics)
Written by Brian K. Vaughan; art and colors by Fiona Staples; lettered by Fonografiks; edited by Eric Stephenson

So it turns out that Vaughan picked the right name for "Saga." The series' newness may have worn off and it may be a bit harder to surprise readers following the book's first, giant genitilia-filled year, but "Saga's" changed it's tactics. It's now one of the best character dramas on the stands and great new characters keep coming. It's a testament to Vaughan's talents that newcomers like Oswald Heist and the journalists Upsher and Doff feel as vital as old friends Alana and Marko. It's also refreshing that in a year marked with creative turnover, canceled series and relaunched series (like every other year in comics), "Saga" feels like a staple now. It's not new; as it hits it's 18th issue, it'll actually be one of the longer running books around. It really is a saga and it's a great one.

4. Young Avengers #1-14 (Marvel Comics)
Written by Kieron Gillen; art by Jamie McKelvie, Mike Norton, Kate Brown, Emma Vieceli, Christian Ward and Annie Wu; colored by Matt Wilson, Jordie Bellaire and Lee Loughridge; lettered by Clayton Cowles; edited by Lauren Sankovitch, Jake Thomas and Jon Moisan

"Young Avengers" reinvented the superhero comic this year. No other series at the Big Two was as daring or fearless in its execution as this incredibly now comic. With it's pop sensibility, forward thinking gender roles and Tumblr-bait plot twists, "Young Avengers" really could not have existed before 2013 and, fittingly, it's not going to last very long in 2014. This comic, just like youth, was about living in the present. Yeah, the innovative Instagram-inspired layout in "Young Avengers" #7 will seem dated in a few iOS updates, but the whole point of "Young Avengers" wasn't to last forever. Just like your friends from school, this series was designed to be a best friend right up until it couldn't. We're going our separate ways in a few weeks, but the memories will last forever.

3. Private Eye #1-4 (Panel Syndicate)
Written by Brian K. Vaughan; art by Marcos Martin; colored by Muntsa Vicente

You can sum up "The Private Eye's" impact on the comic book world to a non-reader with just one word: Beyoncé. Just like Queen Bey, comic superstars Brian K. Vaughan and Marcos Martin dropped a complicated and ground-breaking chunk of entertainment on the public with absolutely zero fanfare. No warning, no precedent, "The Private Eye" just happened. That alone makes it worth talking about, but the story inside boosts it up to the top tier. It's a classic Vaughan world, where one idea -- a digital cloud burst -- spawns an entire society filled with privacy-hording and mask-wearing henchman, investigators and femme fatales. But the real story here is Marcos Martin, who's ambitiously exploring new artistic territory with the book's horizontal page layout -- not to mention all of the detailed and absolutely bonkers designs he's cooked up for this future society. There are no rules with "Private Eye."

2. Hawkeye #7-14, Annual #1 (Marvel Comics)
Written by Matt Fraction; art by David Aja, Annie Wu, Francesco Francavilla, Javier Pulido, Steve Lieber and Jesse Hamm; colored by Matt Hollingsworth; lettered by Chris Eliopoulos and Clayton Cowles; edited by Stephen Wacker, Sana Amanat, Tom Brennan and Devin Lewis

This was a rough year for Clint Barton and everyone that chooses to associate with him. We got to see just how rough thanks to a series of issues highlighting the books ever-growing cast. Seriously, I would not have believed you if you'd told me I would enjoy an issue focused on Clint's troubled brother Barney. And I would have never thought Kate Bishop would be this thrilling and entertaining as a protagonist. And I never, ever thought I would read an issue from the point of view of a dog that would tell a genuinely gripping story. There's only one comic that made me more emotional in 2013 and it's in the top spot.

1. Daredevil #22-34 (Marvel Comics)
Written by Mark Waid; art and cover art by Chris Samnee; art by Javier Rodriguez and Jason Copland; inked by Alvaro Lopez colored by Javier Rodriguez; lettered by Joe Caramagna; edited by Stephen Wacker and Ellie Pyle; cover art by Paolo Rivera

A lot of flashier comics have snuck onto the scene, but you cannot forget about "Daredevil." You can't deny its power. You can't overlook the fact that Mark Waid, Chris Samnee and Javier Rodriguez are creating a book that is timeless. This is the perfect Marvel Comics comic, and it only shipped thirteen issues in a year, with Samnee handling art duties on ten of them. This stability made "Daredevil" feel unlike any other book at the Big Two and it's why this book had its best year, ever. No other fictional friendship had me more invested than Foggy and Matt's as Daredevil's best bud was diagnosed with cancer. This book doesn't cause controversy and it doesn't grab headlines, because it doesn't need to. It's simply the best superhero comic being made right now, and I don't see that changing any time soon.

Brett White is a comedian living in New York City. He co-hosts the podcast Matt & Brett Love Comics and is a writer for the comedy podcast Left Handed Radio. His opinions can be consumed in bite-sized morsels on Twitter (@brettwhite).

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