As we say goodbye to 2013, we at DCN would like to honor what we consider the best things to happen in the world of DC Comics during the past year. In the first of a four-part series, members of the DCN staff take a look at the talented individuals that make comics worth reading:
ASH: Brian Azzarello (Wonder Woman, 100 Bullets: Brother Lono) – This year, something I never thought possible happened: a Wonder Woman book became my favorite title. Azzarello started the series off a bit rough (somehow making Diana’s origin even less comprehensible than it used to be) but this year he really hit his stride. DC needs to take a lesson from this book and just let creators tell the stories they want to tell without editorial interference and story breaks for crossovers.
MAX: Charles Soule (Swamp Thing, Red Lanterns, Superman/Wonder Woman) – Charles Soule has made such a splash in such a short period of time. I was going to drop Swamp Thing after Scott Snyder left, but decided to give this new guy a shot. The very first issue blew me away. The man makes comics fun, giving us mind-blowing stories with a lot of humor and great action. Red Lanterns has also been revitalized by his writing, giving a lot of personality to the characters that Peter Milligan had thus far failed to do, but still building on Milligan’s ideas. Superman/Wonder Woman, his Villains Month one-shots, and even the work he’s doing outside DC are all excellent. This guy is keeping up with a massive workload right now (five titles for several companies with plans to add more) all while keeping an astounding level of quality. I look forward to seeing what he does next.
DAN: Jeff Lemire (Trillium, Green Arrow, Animal Man, Justice League Dark) – No other writer in DC’s stable performed as consistently at a high level than the Canuck scribe. After 2012 saw the conclusion of his long-running series Sweet Tooth, Lemire only got better in 2013. Notorious for trolling his fellow writers on social media, Lemire gave us the trippy sci-fi romance in Trillium, tugged at our heartstrings in Animal Man, and turned Green Arrow into a top-tier title. He’s also the brains behind the captivating group of misfits in the pages of Justice League Dark.
CHASE: Jeff Lemire (Trillium, Green Arrow, Animal Man, Justice League Dark) – Jeff Lemire had his best year yet with DC Comics. Not only did he continue his acclaimed run on Animal Man, he turned around, Green Arrow—one of the most critically panned comics in the New 52—garnering praise from the Onion’s A.V. Club, earning its Big Issue label. His best work exists under the Vertigo imprint, though. 2013 saw the final collection of Sweet Tooth published in the Spring and the first five issues of Trillium, DC’s best new title, released. Everything Lemire wrote in 2013 received well-deserved praise. There’s no doubt that a comic bearing his name is something worth reading.
JAY: Charles Soule (Swamp Thing, Red Lanterns, Superman/Wonder Woman) – Though the New 52 showcased a multitude of talent over 2013, Charles Soule has shown time and time again that he understands DC’s characters in ways many don’t. His run on Swamp Thing has revitalized the series, bringing a fresh new voice to the Avatar of the Green that was hugely welcome after the dragging “Rotworld” arc. Similarly, once he was handed Red Lanterns, Soule turned the rage-filled ringslingers into real characters instead of simple archetypes contrasting the Green Lanterns Corps. Soule has a lot on his plate each month, and his high quality of work is a testament to his ability as a writer.
MATT: TIE! Jeff Lemire (Trillium, Green Arrow, Animal Man, Justice League Dark) and Scott Snyder (Batman, The Wake, American Vampire, Superman Unchained) – Jeff Lemire writes comics for adults. His work is sophisticated, and often shows more than just a hero throwing a punch. Plus, the guy juggles multiple books at the same time and the quality on all of them stays high. Green Arrow was one of the worst New 52 titles until he came on, and now it’s one of the best. His take on Animal Man lived up to Grant Morrison’s run, which was near impossible. And don’t forget Sweet Tooth!
As much as I love anything Lemire does, Scott Snyder has been killing it with Batman. I didn’t think anyone could fill Grant Morrison’s shoes as the head of the Bat Books, but Scott came in and knocked it out of the park. Both “Court of Owls” and “Death of the Family” will go down as arcs people will continue to read for years. Like “Knightfall”, “The Killing Joke”, “Hush”, “The Long Halloween”, and “Arkham Aslyum”, these two books will be ones every Batman fan will read. He has rewritten the Batman mythos without changing anything that would hurt the character. Snyder loves Batman and you can tell. While his books aren’t the most shocking or unique, he truly knows Batman. Plus, he knows how to write great story. He is rock solid and the Bat books are lucky to have him.
ASH: Greg Capullo (Batman) – Normally, I’d give the nod to Francis Manapul, but he missed way too many issues of The Flash for me to overlook. Capullo has been kicking butt throughout his tenure on Batman, but this year I think he really stepped things up. “Zero Year” may not be my favorite storyline, but the art is always amazing enough to keep the title on my pull list.
MAX: Mikel Janín (Justice League Dark) – A Spanish artist with incredible talent that DC hired during Flashpoint for “Deadman and the Flying Graysons”, Mikel Janín has been on Justice League Dark since the very first issue. Janín is an artistic genius, coming from a background in architecture, which really shows in the incredibly impressive and detailed-looking buildings and backgrounds he draws. He also draws each character uniquely, giving all of them a distinct face. He also draws action and magical effects wonderfully. In addition, he’s gotten to design a lot of characters lately, such as the rebooted Giganta and Zauriel, the modern version Vandal Savage (as opposed to the Demon Knights incarnation), and the eponymous villain of the Forever Evil sub-event “Blight”, and all of these designs are just incredible. Janín is a talent like no other in comics, and while it’s a shame that he only does one book, it’s nice to know that at least none of his artwork suffers from being divided between multiple titles.
DAN: Francis Manapul (The Flash) – Unlike my colleague above, I have no problem giving this honor to Mr. Manapul. Though The Flash will remain a divisive title until the return of Wally West, there is no denying its artwork is a cut above the rest of DC’s lineup. From mesmerizing title pages, unconventional paneling, and creative use of space, Manapul’s Flash might be the defining look for the character. There may never be another series whose title pages I look forward to more than those of The Flash under Manapul. A special shout out to colorist and frequent collaborator Brian Buccellato, who has developed into one of the premiere colorists in all of comics.
CHASE: J.H. Williams III (Batwoman, Sandman Overture) – 2013 marks a bitter-sweet year for J.H. Williams III and DC Comics. After more than a decade together, Williams’ work on Batwoman was ended by editorial fiat and he made clear that his next project would be creator-owned. However, there is still a great deal to celebrate. His work on Batwoman and the debut issue Sandman: Overture were both stunning, exploring new page layouts and setting the bar for artwork at the company. His contribution to Sandman: Overture #1 even outshone that of the talented, Neil Gaiman. Williams is an irreplaceable, inimitable talent in comics.
JAY: Francis Manapul (The Flash) – No other artist on DC’s payroll does what Francis Manapul did with The Flash. Often, a comic book’s story is the meat of any given issue, but Manapul’s stunning work proves that the art can have just as much impact as the writing, and sometimes more. I would have given this accolade to Manapul for his credit pages alone—integrating the title into the backgrounds was always amazing to see, and his passion for the Flash shines through on every page he draws.
MATT: Kenneth Rocafort (Red Hood and the Outlaws, Superman) – This is a controversial choice. Some people love Rocafort’s art and some people do not. I really dig his unique style because it looks like no one else’s but his own. New 52 titles have some great artists, but some of them are so similar that they tend to blur together. I can spot Rocafort’s work in a second and I just love what he brings to any book he’s on.
About the Staff
ASH MAHTANI is the writer of the conversation starting “Showcase Presents” opinion pieces. Though his views are not universal, he is the heart of the DCN staff.
MAX DWECK heads the review department and reviews nearly all of DC’s Dark line of titles (Justice League Dark, Trinity of Sin: The Phantom Stranger, etc). He also loves all things Deadman.
DAN GEHEN primarily reviews The Flash and Nightwing, as well as whatever else needs a look. Even Katana, which was a huge mistake.
CHASE MAGNETT is the “Vertigo guy,” reviewing 100 Bullets: Brother Lono, Trillium, and Fables. Lucky guy.
JAY MATTSON is the Head Editor of Reviews and News for DCN, as well as the reviewer of a plethora of titles. It’s likely he changed a few things from this article’s original draft.
MATT GALVIN is the founder and driving force behind DCComicsNews.com. Without him, this article would never have happened.