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The Top 15 Comic Book Series of 2013 — Part Two!

We are nearing the end of my Best of 2013 lists!  I hope you enjoyed my list of the Top 15 Movies of 2013 (click here for part one, here for part two, and here for part three) and my list of the Top 10 Episodes of TV of 2013 (click here for part one and here for part two).

Yesterday I began my third Best of 2013 list — The Top 15 Comic Book Series of 2013!  Click here for part one, numbers 15-6.  Here now are the top five:

5. Velvet What if Moneypenny had actually once been a double-oh agent?  That’s an overly simplistic summation of Ed Brubaker and Steve Epting’s magnificent new spy series, but I think it conveys the series’ extremely clever hook.  Set in 1973, Velvet Templeton is the secretary for the Director of Arc-7, an organization of British spies.  When several of the very best Arc-7 agents wind up dead, Velvet finds herself framed as the prime suspect.  Of course, she resists arrest, and the story takes off from there.  Every frame of this comic book is absolute perfection.  I adore the world of James Bond, and Velvet taps right into that golden age of classic Bond stories.  But don’t mistake this book as something derivative.  With only two issues having been published so far, I am already hugely hooked into this world and these characters.  The combination of Mr. Brubaker and Mr. Epting is a match made in heaven.  (Oh man can Mr. Epting draw.  Each panel is a work of gorgeous art.)  These two men did extraordinary work together several years ago with their “Winter Soldier” arc on Captain America (a story-line that is, apparently, being heavily mined for this year’s Captain America sequel film), and seeing them reunited on an original, creator-owned project is heaven.

4. Powers: Bureau I can’t believe how long I’ve been following Brian Michael Bendis’ Powers.  I bought that very first issue, right off the stands, back in 2000.  It was my first introduction to Mr. Bendis’ work, and I have followed him through countless issues of many, many different comic book series (both creator-owned stuff as well as a LOT of work for Marvel Comics).  But Powers will always remain my favorite.  The series has had quite a sporadic publishing schedule these past few years, but this fourth volume of the series, titled Powers: Bureau, has not only come out on a decently regular schedule this year, but it’s also represented a nice return to form for the series, with Deena and Christian once again paired up to investigate the deaths of superhumans.  Except now they are Federal Agents.  Mike Oeming’s artwork is as gorgeous and innovative as it’s ever been — this is a beautiful looking book.  It’s also gloriously profane and irreverent.  I love this book.

3. Saga Brian K. Vaughan has written two of my very favorite comic book series of all time (Y: The Last Man and Ex Machina), but it’s possible that I love Saga best.  This loony sci-fi epic is extraordinary, brought to staggeringly gorgeous life by Fiona Staples’ jaw-droppingly great artwork.  (Everything about Ms. Staples’ work is impressive — her character-design, her use of color, the way she incorporates the captions into her art-work, I could go on and on.)  I’m always looking for something new and original in my entertainment (be that comic books, novels, TV shows, or movies), and Saga is the most stunningly original piece of work I can recall seeing in a long, long time.  There is nothing I can even come close to comparing this series to.  It is own gloriously unique thing.  A sci-fi/fantasy epic, a beautiful love story, a work of great drama and extraordinary silliness, Saga is unique.  This is what comic books are all about.  Find it.  Read it.  Give it to all your friends.

2. Fatale The collaboration between Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips has reached the level of one of the greatest partnerships that the world of comic books has ever seen.  Am I exaggerating?  These two extraordinarily talented individuals have, together, produced one amazing piece of work after another for many years now — first Sleeper, then the many different volumes of Criminal, then Incognito, and now, Fatale, their longest-running story.  I don’t even know how to describe this gloriously unique concoction.  Mixing hard-boiled noir with Lovecraftian horror, Fatale tells several different stories taking place at several different time-periods, but all seem to somehow concern a mysterious woman on the run from dark forces, a woman who seems to make all men who come in contact with her become profoundly obsessed with her.  I, meanwhile, have become profoundly obsessed with this is a tough, mean story that seems to get bigger and better with every issue.  This is comic book artistry of the highest level.

1.  Mike Mignola’s Hellboy universe: Hellboy in Hell, B.P.R.D., Abe Sapien, Lobster Johnson, Baltimore, etc. — Once again topping my list is the ever-growing universe of Mike Mignola’s Hellboy.  Working with several co-writers (John Arcudi, Christopher Golden, and Scott Allie) and an extraordinary wealth of phenomenal artists (including but not limited to Tyler Crook, Ben Stenbeck, Sebastian Fiumara, Max Fiumara, Laurence Campbell, James Harren, Gabriel Ba, Peter Snejbjerg, Jason Latour, Duncan Fegredo, Kevin Nowlan, and Michael Avon Oeming), Mr. Mignola has built one of the great comic book universes of all time.  What started as the occasional mini-series chronicling the big, red, paranormal investigator has grown into a sprawling saga of, just maybe, the end of the world.  Things are looking pretty grim for our heroes as the “Hell on Earth” story-line continues, with Hellboy apparently lost while all sorts of hideous, horrible creatures of old emerge and wreak havoc across the planet.  Many of our B.P.R.D. heroes are dead or separated, but in a wonderful sequence at the very end of the year, Liz Sherman finally returned to the fold.  (The scene in B.P.R.D. # 114 in which Liz looked at herself in the mirror after putting back on her cross and field jacket was one of my very favorite moments that I read in a comic book all year!)  I love the structure of this comic book universe, in which the stories are told in individual mini-series by rotating creative teams.  Each individual story can stand on it’s own, but together the different stories in the different books come together to form a phenomenally complex, compelling tapestry.  The highlights of the year: Mike Mignola’s return to illustration with the (sporadically published, but well-worth the wait) Hellboy in Hell, and the graphic novel The Midnight Circus (gorgeously illustrated by Duncan Fegredo, this story from Hellboy’s youth has many connections to the present-day happenings in B.P.R.D.).  All together, Mr. Mignola and his team have produced the most consistently entertaining comic book continuing saga that I read all year.  I loved every minute, and I can’t wait for more.

We only have one more Best of 2013 list yet to go!  C’mon back tomorrow for my list of the Top 10 DVDs/Blu-Rays of 2013!

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