Hugh Likes Comics: The Top 5 of 2013

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#5: Batman ’66: I like stories that go all-in. No pussy-footing around, not Super-Heroes-but-no-tights, which seems to be de-reguer, particularly at “The Big Two.” That’s why I was pleasantly surprised by this outing from writer Jeff Parker and artist Jonathan Case. They’ve returned to the source material of the ’60’s Batman TV show, complete with dancing and giant sound effect bubbles. The digital versions have a few more tricks up their sleeves to evoke the classic series. Batman ’66 embraces everything the New 52 disdains, and soars because of it.


#4: Saga: Vaughan and Staples continued to knock it out of the park this year with Saga. The story of an ancient interstellar war cut with family drama, mercenaries, and the ways art can change a person make for a heady mix. The art remains evocative and controversial. Saga doesn’t pull its punches, but it isn’t crass, either.


#3: Atomic Robo: The Savage Sword of Dr. Dinosaur: There was little chance for Clevenger and Wegener to escape this list as well, with this nail-biting installment that puts Atomic Robo at the site of an impossible underground city, with shadow military agents storming his headquarters, and completely unstable velociraptor mad scientist Dr. Dinosaur sitting on a stockpile of stolen nuclear warheads. Atomic Robo remains funnier and smarter than it has a right to be.


#2: Sandman Overture: We only got one issue of Neil Gaiman’s return to his seminal Byronic Dream King, but oh boy, was it ever a doozy. Filled with all of the gothic-horror elements that made Sandman great, and with exceptional art by G H Williams III, This comic is a rare treat for Morpheus fans. Hopefully, we’ll get to see it a bit more frequently in 2014.


#1: Young Avengers: Sadly ending in early 2014, Young Avengers is a comic that knows exactly what it wants and goes right for it. Under the direction of comics super-team Keiran Gillen and Jamie McKelvie, the Young Avengers bring a little bit of their indie hit “Phonogram” into the Marvel Universe. “Young Avengers” pits focuses less on what it means or takes to be a superhero than it does the trials and tribulations of modern teenagers. After a poorly planned bit of magic use, a group of teens find themselves fighting against an magical parasite that draws power from how parents don’t understand teenagers. It is a fantastic high-concept very well executed. Unfortunately, for a teen book, there is a lot of backstory for these characters that just isn’t given. I’ve felt in over my head a few times, but I’ve loved the ride. Another plus in this comic’s favor is that it has possibly the highest collection of LGBTQ characters anywhere in ‘the big two,’ and handles them with then same excellent touch as earlier Young Avengers installments.

2013 No-Prize: Dan Didio continues to be comics’ greatest super-villain. He spent the year making sure no DC Comics characters have any fun on his watch. After denying the upcoming marriage of Batwoman Kate Kane, he went on to say that none of DC’s heroes should have a stable home life, and seems to be making certain of it. His crowning achievement this year: Creating an art contest for Harley Quinn #0 which included drawing the beloved children’s TV character naked, despairing, and about to commit suicide. After much outcry, the panel did not appear in the final version.

Honorable mentions:

X-Men: Teenage Mom Jubilee, enough time-travelers to stage a production of “Les Mis” and other crazy nonsense. Marvel seemed to focus on their movie-friendly characters like the Avengers in 2013, but there was still a ton of mutants out there, including an all-female team!

Edison Rex: Artist Dennis Culver gets the nod for designing not just a new set of comics characters, but an entire major publisher’s line-up of heroes and villains. My personal favorite: ROFL, an omnipotent extra-dimensional being using the form of a muppet Grant Morrison.

Subatomic Party Girls: Simms and Bowers had the stones to use the line ‘Do you realize we’re floating in space’ unironically. Props.


Hugh Likes Comics: Saga # 1

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Hugh Likes Comics: Saga #1

Written by Brian K. Vaughan

Art by Fiona Staples

Lettering and Design by Fonographics


Saga is a great comic.

It is the story of a young couple who struggle to build a life for themselves in spite of being caught on opposite sides of a terrible war. Hardly a new idea, but Vaughan throws some big twists into the mix. This isn’t their love story. It starts with the birth of their daughter. And the parents are from two alien species that have been fighting an intergalactic war for as long as recorded history.

Marko is an escaped prisoner of war. Alana is the guard who helped him escape, and everyone on both sides wants them dead. Alana just gave birth to their daughter, and the only things they have to protect them is his magic, her gun, and a dubious treasure map. That’s an epic challenge that only a pair of extraordinary individuals could accomplish.

But Marko and Alana aren’t heroes by any stretch of the imagination. Much like his previous work, the epic “Y the Last Man,” Vaughan is telling a story of ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances. The fact that this particular set of circumstances is on a fantastical world on the far side of a distant galaxy only goes to show his talent as a writer.

Saga,” much like that other big-time SF series, (You know the one, also begins with an ‘S’ it’s on the tip of my tongue) is the kind of space fantasy that only comes around once in a generation, and rewrites all the rules. Space fiction is primarily divided by scope. Either it is sprawling Space Opera, with grand scale battles and political maneuverings, or it is more personal and sociological fiction focusing on single characters and personal events. Saga does both, and does it in a brilliant way that satisfies the need for personal drama in the new family’s bid for freedom, and the large canvas as we see the robots, wizards, spies and bounty hunters all line up their sights on the helpless couple and their newborn.

Staple’s gorgeous and provocative art seals the deal. The opening birth scene, while not quite as in-your-face as “Miracle-Man,” doesn’t shy away. Especially when two teams of police interrupt to apprehend the fugitives. Another fine point to the art is the hand-lettered narration, which is incorporated directly in the images.

I won’t spoil any more of the plot, but Vaughan and Staples have me firmly on board for more. Right now, Saga #1 is free on Comixology. I recommend you go take advantage of that.