This list honors the category of capes and cowls and quivers: The top 10 superhero comics of 2013.
• “Hawkeye” (Hardcover, Vol. 1; Marvel; $35.): If you took a roll call of the current Avengers roster and tried to determine who would have the best solo comic book, you’d probably lean toward the team members who have individual movies to go with their comics (Captain America, Thor, Hulk, Iron Man). So imagine the surprise when the top Avenger solo book of 2013 turned out to be Hawkeye, the Avenger’s non-superpowered, non-armored archer.
To make Hawkeye’s choice as Avenger numero uno even more surprising is the title’s approach – basically, a look at Hawkeye when he’s not an Avenger. Who knew so few unquivered arrows, so many pots of coffee – plus being mistaken for Iron Fist – would take Clint Barton to the top this year?
The combination of Fraction’s crackling writing and Aja’s wonderful art will have you wondering whether Jeremy Renner will go blond and get his own Hawkeye movie from Marvel Studios.
Hey, we can dream.
• “Age of Ultron” (Marvel; $75.): Bendis and big events often go together well. It was plenty intriguing just to know that Bendis was bringing back one of Marvel’s most feared villains (Ultron). But when it was announced at last summer’s Comic-Con that the much-anticipated sequel to Marvel Studios’ “The Avengers” would be titled, “The Avengers: Age of Ultron” — well, that just kicked things up a few notches. Not only does this book give you Ultron’s wreaking havoc on all the Marvel universe (with Bendis guiding the destruction), but you could also be reading something that could help inspire the next Marvel movie blockbuster.
• “All-New X-Men” (Vol. 1: Yesterday’s X-Men; Marvel; $25.): Brian Michael Bendis — perhaps Marvel’s busiest writer — has been handed the reins of the X-Men universe. So what does he do? Nothing too major. He simply brings back the original founding X-Men team from the ’60s (Cyclops, Jean Grey, Iceman, Beast and Angel) to the present day by time travel.
The Beast (the blue furry version) goes back in time to persuade his teenage/not-blue/not-furry self and his original teenage teammates to come to the future, to try to inspire the Cyclops of the present (who’s gone rather a bit rogue) to change his ways. All sorts of “consequences of time travel” chaos begins.
• “Superior Spider-Man” (Vol. 1; Marvel; $35.): When it comes to major events that have been controversially received, Spider-Man has had more than his share. Clone sagas, alien black costumes, the death of Gwen Stacy — Spidey fans had seemingly seen it all. That is, until Slott took Peter Parker to places no one ever thought he’d go. Slott’s decision to have one of Spider-Man’s greatest villains (Otto Octavius/Doctor Octopus) take over the mind of Peter Parker and declare himself the “Superior Spider-Man” may go down as one of the most polarizing Spider-Man tales ever.
But eventually, Peter Parker has to come back, right? Right?
• “Batman: Death of the Family” (DC Comics; $25.): With the Court of Owls and the Talons, Snyder was so good at introducing new villains in the Batman universe (not easy to do when you consider Batman’s legendary rogues’ gallery) that fans couldn’t wait to see his version of Bat-foe No.1: the Joker.
Snyder delivered with “Death of the Family,” a tale that dives into just how disturbing the relationship between Batman and the Joker is. The “Family” part of the title involves the Joker’s unleashing an all-out assault on Batman and his many allies (Nightwing, Robin, Red Robin, Batgirl, Alfred).
Does the Joker know who Batman is under the cowl? Does he care?
And will the relationships between Batman and his “family” ever be the same once the Joker gets his hands on them?
Combined with the art of Capullo (who is to 21st-century Batman art what the late Jim Aparo was to Batman in the ’80s and ’90s), “Death of the Family” will go down as one of the greatest Joker tales.
• “Green Lantern (Vol. 3: The End; DC Comics; $25.): Few have left their mark on a character the way Johns has upon Hal Jordan, the Green Lantern of Sector 2814. “The End” is the collection that draws to a close Johns’s nearly decade-long run on Green Lantern.
• “Django Unchained” (DC/Vertigo; $25.): Reading this gives you a new perspective on the film and allows you to see some supporting characters in the film (such as Broomhilda, who is given a deeper origin story in the comic) in a new light.
• “American Vampire” (Vol. 5; DC/Vertigo; $30.): The seemingly un-killable, candy-loving Skinner Sweet and Pearl Jones, the fellow American vampire he helped create, reluctantly team up to search for a possible hidden evil lurking within the bright lights of 1950s Hollywood.
• “The Sixth Gun: Gunslinger Edition” (Oni Press; $120.): “The Sixth Gun,” one of the industry’s most distinctive comic stories, is an incredibly fun mix of fantasy and the Wild West.
• “Shadowman” (Vol. 1, Birth Rites; Valiant; $10.): A supernatural and refreshingly diverse title, “Shadowman” has the perfect setting (New Orleans) for the debut of a character who has to walk on both sides of life and death, learning the ropes of being a hero in the process.