2012 is coming to a close. At the time of this writing, the Mayan calendar hasn't destroyed us yet, so let's celebrate by talking about some great comics that came out this year. As senior funny book writer, I read a lot of comics. Between writing a (mostly) weekly column looking at each week's horror comics, catching up on trade paperbacks and original graphic novels, and reading any other non-horror comics that pop up along the way, I get into all kinds of funny books. This year had a lot of great books to choose from, but I've managed to make a list of ten that were the cream of the crop.
As with last year, despite the fact that I read so many comics, I haven't read them all. There will be those of you that disagree with the books I've chosen and that's totally okay. I might not have read your favorite comic and I can work to fix that. Let me know in the comments! Now, without further ado, let's get into the Top Ten Horror Comics of 2012!
If you want to talk about comics that came out of nowhere for me, Night of 1,000 Wolves is right up there. Written by Bobby Curnow, the book centers on a small family out in the middle of the wilderness. They're attacked by the great wolf mother Nagbre and her many children to collect on a debt created years ago. The result is a gruesome battle with some truly shocking scenes. The entire family is in danger but they will not go down without a fight. Wolves tear through people but are also butchered as these villagers defend themselves by any means necessary.
The whole comic is beautifully illustrated by Dave Wachter. You will not look at wolves the same way after reading this. There's a mixture of two- and four-legged creatures and they're all deadly. Wachter can make even a lone wolf standing in the woods look terrifying. You just know that it's ready to pounce and rip someone's throat out.
Night of 1,000 Wolves brings the fear because it hits home. It's a book that makes you think about what you would do if you and your family was attacked by a bunch of oversized werewolves.
Legendary Comics has some big plans coming up for 2013, so I'm sure we'll see more of them on next year's list. For now, we have The Tower Chronicles, an epic tale centering on supernatural bounty hunter John Tower. He's like Buffy or the Winchester brothers when it comes to killing things that go bump in the night, but unlike those guys, he gets paid to do what he does. Written by Matt Wagner and illustrated by the legendary Simon Bisley, the book is just getting started. The Tower Chronicles is going to be a trilogy of comics, each with four volumes. The first two have already hit stands giving a nice introduction to the title character. There's a reason that he does this for a living and we're only just getting a taste of it so far.
Picture Samurai Jack teaming up with a few cowboys to kill a horde of zombies and you get the idea behind Champions of the Wild Weird West. The original graphic novel could easily be turned into one of the coolest Saturday morning cartoons ever. It blends the western with the supernatural in a seamless way. This isn't a comic where authors Michael David Nelson and Erik Hendrix just thought, "Wouldn't it be cool if cowboys fought the undead?" There's a lot more to the book as we're introduced to each of the characters. They're not zombie food. Each one has a backstory that you just scratch the surface of. The book wraps up with a satisfying ending but it's clear that there's more to each member of the group and I want to see way more.
Champions of the Wild Weird West is a tale of revenge that includes a samurai and a load of zombies. I'm not seeing a downside here.
Dark Horse has been pushing their horror comics in a big bad way lately. With titles like The Strain, Orchid, and Criminal Macabre, it's easy to see that they're doing something right. B.P.R.D. is the shining beacon of hope...or in this case dread, in the Dark Horse Horror line up. After the death of Hellboy, the world has been going down the tubes so much so that the B.P.R.D. comic was renamed to include the phrase "Hell on Earth." Disasters are breaking out on all corners of the globe and the Bureau is stretched thin trying to stop them all and keep everyone safe.
Abe Sapien is in a coma. Johann Kraus longs for a new body. Liz Sherman is missing. Hellboy is still dead. With most of the heavy hitters out of commission, the regular field agents have been given time to shine. This year saw a number of rising stars within the B.P.R.D. tackle huge threats without the help of a supernatural buddy. Throughout the various different mini-series and artists, writers Mike Mignola and John Arcudi have held an impressive level of quality. The B.P.R.D. title has been consistently well-written and terrifying throughout the entire year.
Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips teamed up again and showed the comic industry why they should be fused together like some sort of writing and drawing centaur. I'm not saying that one of them is a horse's ass. Damn, my whole analogy fell apart. Anyway, Fatale has been steadily kicking ass since it debuted. The second arc just wrapped up and I really hope there's no sign of slowing down as there are still a lot of questions I don't have answered.
The comic features a beautiful woman named Josephine who seems to be the downfall of several good men. They become infatuated with her and will do anything for her, even if that means killing someone or dying themselves. She's lived for ages and hasn't changed and the true nature of her eternal youth has yet to be revealed. What is certain is that she's connected to something dark and it's evil enough that men would kill for it.
Fatale is a noir comic with a twist of the supernatural. It's the kind of comic that pulls you in. You don't realize that you've read through an entire issue in five minutes until you flip to the last page and go "Wait. It's over?"
The end of the world and the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse are topics that seem like they've been done to death (no pun intended). Fortunately, creator Michael Mendheim has put a unique spin on it in this comic from Heavy Metal. You've got your Horsemen of course, but the end times are being brought about by a secret organization. The only thing that's standing in its way is Adam Cahill, a descendent of the bloodline of Solomon and one badass soldier. He must sacrifice his life to journey to Hell and gather a force to stop the apocalypse. No biggie, right? Well, the only people he can get to help him out are a drug-addled prostitute, a lunatic preacher, and the guy that put this whole thing into motion.
If all this isn't enough, Simon Bisley (making his second appearance on the Top 10 list) handles the art on the book. At times The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse is non-stop action. Bullets are flying and people are dying. Bisley keeps the action clear and easy to follow while giving you artwork to marvel at.
A super hero book? Yes, Extermination is a comic about super heroes. There's no great power or great responsibility here. There's not even truth, justice, and the American way. Instead the book looks at a world where aliens have come in and completely enslaved the human race. The planet is in ruins and all that's left is a small pocket of resistance fighters led by Nox (Batman with guns) and the Red Reaper (mad genius). As the pair work together to try to destroy the invaders, we're given flashes to the past and what caused this whole thing to go down. Author Simon Spurrier created the most inventive and continuously entertaining take on the super hero genre all year with Extermination.
While the story is great, the artwork by Jeffrey Edwards and V Ken Marrion gets insane. It's bloody. It's gory. It's like that creepy real world in The Matrix where people are in little pods and being used as batteries. Epic is a good word to describe it.
The three main titles in the Top Cow Universe (Witchblade, The Darkness, and Artifacts) were rebooted after Jackie Estacado remade the world as he saw fit. Unlike other stories that did this alternate reality, such as House of M or Flashpoint, Top Cow is sticking to its guns. While all three titles have been kicking ass since the reboot started, The Darkness has been the comic that really stands out.
Jackie had everything. After all, if you could rebuild the world, you'd probably stack the deck in your favor. His lost love is alive again. His daughter is happy. He's the head of a huge mob organization. Unfortunately, after he purges himself of the Darkness, he inadvertently creates his own worst enemy in the form of a doppelganger. This thing looks like Jackie and sounds like Jackie, but it's far more brutal than he ever was. It's the Darkness unchained by a human host and the conscience that would bring. Artist Jeremy Haun creates these brutal depictions of violence that get pretty shocking.
Reading The Darkness is like seeing a man go slowly insane. Each month another crack forms in Jackie's world. Author David Hine is pushing this man to the limits and it's only a matter of time before he breaks and everything comes crashing down.
Love it or hate it, Buffy Season 8 changed a lot of stuff. (SPOILERS for Season 8 ahead but you really should have read it by now) Magic was destroyed and Giles was killed. The characters were left to pick up the pieces and no one had more to gather than Angel and Faith. The former was the guy that actually killed the old Watcher and the latter became close to the guy before he passed. Now Angel is on a quest to bring Giles back to life in an effort to atone for his crimes. The kicker is that Giles died a natural death. His neck was snapped. He didn't get hit with some mystical mojo, so it's not an easy thing to return him to the land of the living. This is made doubly hard with the fact that there's no magic in the world.
Author Christos Gage has explored and expanded upon each character that he's brought into the series. This includes the title characters of course but also others like Drucilla, Connor, Willow, and even Giles through flashbacks. Each of them is handled with care and they all sound natural.
While there have been a few fill-in artists, Rebekah Isaacs has been the main penciler on Angel & Faith. She captures the look of each character perfectly. It's less the appearance of the actor that portrayed them (which they certainly look like) but how she manages to update the feel of the character. It also doesn't hurt that Isaacs can draw some pretty awesome monsters. We're way past regular vampires in Angel & Faith. These guys are fighting hell dimensions and they look terrifying.
Out of all the new comics that debuted this year, none of them captured my imagination like Hoax Hunters. The book follows a TV show similar to Mythbusters that is focused on proving things like Big Foot and the Loch Ness Monster are hoaxes. The thing is, those are real and Hoax Hunters is a government funded program created to avoid widespread panic. The team is comprised a badass soldier, a zombie named Ken Cadaver, a girl with telekinetic powers, and my personal favorite, Murder, the spirit of an astronaut now housed in a bunch of crows and living in a spacesuit. If that's not the coolest idea for a character you've heard all year, you're a damn liar. Do you know how awesome it is to see the helmet of a space suit open up and crows fly out of it to attack something? You would if you read Hoax Hunters.
There are so many options that creators Michael Moreci and Steve Seeley can take this comic. The first arc deals with a crazed man that's been killing a ton of animals in the swamplands to try and break through to another dimension. It could easily turn into a "freak of the week" type book but they've already expanded on the lore and given us some peeks into the overall story. Issue #5 was one of the best single-issue stories I read in a long time and if you get to the end of that book and don't feel at least a little emotional, you're not human.
Honorable mentions for the top horror comics of 2012 include:
So that's my list! As I said above, there were a lot of great horror comics this year. It's a great time to like bloody funny books. What did you think of my round up? Am I on the money or am I totally wrong? Let me know in the comments!
James has a 2nd grade reading level and, as a result, only reads books with pictures. Horror is his 5th favorite genre right after romantic comedy and just before silent films. No one knows why he's here, but he won't leave.