It’s been an eventful year in comics, what with Marvel Now, Before Watchmen, Image’s 20th anniversary and the ongoing clusterfuck that is the New52.
But let’s take a look at the characters who’ve done the best in 2012.
(Ed’s note: The 10 Best COMIC BOOK Characters Of 2012 is an Abby, Dan, Bad Man collaboration)
Hawkeye (both of ‘em)
At a time when DC are convinced that more than one Batgirl will made readers’ heads explode, Marvel are putting out a book featuring two Hawkeyes, with no explanation beyond: ‘Clint Barton is Hawkeye. Kate Bishop is also Hawkeye’. No convoluted origins, no trying to give Kate a new superhero alias. In the year that Barton got major big screen exposure, you’d think it would make logical sense to put out a book just about him. So full credit to Marvel, Matt Fraction and David Aja for focusing on both characters – and making them better than they’ve ever been. Clint and Kate are sitting pretty this year.
Dan (The Unharmable)
David Lapham seems to be putting out some of his nastiest, and by that mean ‘best’ work over at Avatar Press, and his current kill friendly road trip featuring an un-killable amnesiac P.I. has to be one of the most off-beat, fun and well, violent comics of 2012. Dan acts as the storys centrifugal, taciturn, non-chalant pseudo stoner who only does anything for the most hedonistic of reasons. He can also punch a mans heart out the other side of his chest when he has to, or if you break his CD player.
Dan The Unharmable is equal parts True Romance, Preacher and The Big Lebowski with a Joe Satriani Soundtrack (well, in my head anyways). And while Dan doesn’t say much, his dude-esque Chi, mysterious origin and actions that speak louder than words make him one of the most interesting characters out there in Laphams bizarre but compulsive bit of super-violent psychedelia.
The Joker (Batman Titles)
After a year of ‘resting’, the most famous villain in comics returned in 2012 more twisted than ever. He may have a sick new look (being used to disturbingly brilliant effect in Batman and Robin) but this is still the sick, unsettlingly funny Joker we know and love. Whether he’s slaughtering the GCPD (again), torturing Alfred or rejoicing in the company of the one person he loves (and it ain’t Harley…), Joker has been better than ever. Under Scott Snyder’s careful guidance, the Joker’s menace has actually increased with his absence, and it’s great to have the sick sonofabitch back.
Psylocke (Uncanny X-Force)
Betsy Braddock has been put through the grinder of late as both the focal point in Rick Remender’s Uncanny X-Forces Dark Angel Saga, Otherworld and Final Execution. Each arc took the character, who’s been languishing in the shadows of the X-Books since her heyday back in X-Calibre and Clairemont era X-Men and fleshed her out with some dark, character defining and vital storytelling for the first time in over a decade.
Psylocke went from the X-Men’s winsome psychic ninja who occasionally popped up for the odd speech bubble cameo, to one of X-Forces most interesting, conflicted and essential members. It’s fair to say that Psylocke was the defining character of ‘Uncanny’ and overall it’s been a good year for Betsy with Remender reminding us she’s not just a hot ninja in a swimsuit, but a fully realised bad ass-assin!
Carol Danvers (Captain Marvel)
Not only did she get her own ongoing series this year (being, for a brief time, the only female-led comic at Marvel), but she also got a snazzy new costume and the title Captain Marvel. No longer a female version of a long-gone character, Carol is now very deservedly a Captain. The first arc of her ongoing might have been a little too plot-heavy for me (time travel stories never let you kick back and enjoy the characters), but Carol has been beautifully realised throughout by Kelly Sue DeConnick and a rotating stream of artists. By the end of the first issue, you couldn’t work out how it took Marvel so damn long to promote her.
Negan (The Walking Dead)
Negan is in charge of a group of survivors called the ‘Saviors’, who go around keeping the local communities safe from biters and walkers. Seems like a good deal except for these facts; The saviors are run like a cult, with Negan squarely placed at the top. The communities must give the Negan half their supplies in return for his help… whether they want it or not. Any infraction against Negan’s rule will be meet with swift retribution. Either by a baseball Bat that he affectionately refers to as ‘Lucille’ (GLEN. NOOOO!) or by introducing their face to a hot iron.
Lets get this out of the way, “Is Negan the new Governor?“. No. The Governor did evil things and would kill anyone in order to keep his people safe. Negan not only wants to keep his people safe but has developed a Messiah complex that means he sees himself as an actual ‘Savior’ to the people he ‘helps’ and so he also wants Rick and the other survivor’s respect… or at least fear. This could ultimately make him all the more deadly than The Governor in the long run. Especially now that he’s starting to bond with the most terrifying child left in this dangerous new world, Carl.
The Entire Cast Of Saga
I tried to pick one character from what – to my mind – is the best new series of the year, but it was too damn hard. I settled on pragmatic, gun-happy Alana for a little while, but then I felt bad about leaving Marco out. Then I remembered The Will and how badass he is, and that inevitably brought me to spider-lady assassin The Stalk… In the end I gave up and conceded that Brian K Vaughan + Fiona Staples = character gold. Even the characters they killed off had a good year.
Kaine Parker (Scarlet Spider)
Kaine Parker had all the wrong potential to be just another Spidey knock off, but under the pen of freshly made man Chris Yost the ex-bastard Peter Parker Clone with a new reason to live became more than just hard core Spidey. Kaine is as interesting and complex as his #1 clone, a Peter Parker with a new set of moral obligations contrasting against his killer instinct and an (albeit convoluted) nasty past that keeps trying to catch up with him.
Add in a new setting with Huston, Texas and a fresh, diverse supporting cast to prop him up and Kaine has gone from C-List obscurity to one of the most interesting next gen spider-franchise characters in recent years (along with Venom) with a legitimate chance of becoming a staple as opposed to being a quick burn out.
And while I’ve emphasized that Kaine’s interesting beyond his penchant to not always do the right thing, sleep with strangers, rip doors off moving cabs and get super violent at the drop of a hat, there really isn’t anything quite like a Spider-Man with no qualms about breaking both a villains arms or if he’s having a really bad day; just killing them stone dead. The gloves are off with Kaine Parker, while he at least tries to do the right thing.
(Before Watchmen: Minutmen)
Before Watchmen was a surprise triumph this year, mainly thanks to the sheer quality of the talent involved. Certain characters in the series, though, had nowhere to go. Moore and Gibbons had already given them their best material. Some, though, had wiggle room.
Amanda Conner and Darwyn Cooke did amazing work with Silk Spectre, for instance. But the Minutemen had the most room for improvement, especially the ones who were given short shrift in Watchmen. Which is how the Silhouette, characterised in Watchmen as ‘the lesbian one’, came to emerge as the real star of Cooke’s Minutemen, a fierce immigrant fighting her own small war against child abuse. It makes the way Moore killed her off leave an even worse taste in the mouth. I could have read a whole ongoing about her adventures.
Gloriana Demeter (Glory)
Glory began life as the half demon/half amazon Wonder Woman knock off courtesy of Rob Liefeld and his Awesome Imprint and it wasn’t until Alan Moore got involved for an incredibly short lived 2 issues in ’99′ that Glory seemed like she could be interesting. Fast forward to 2011 and Indie boy writer and Eisner & Harvey-award winner Joe Keatinge and artist Ross Campbell began work on a radical re-imagining of the character which is right now really beginning to pay off.
Here we’ve got to see a more layered, physically terrifying Gloriana whose half demon heritage is incredibly evident in her uninhibited ability to seriously fuck demons up in a variety of horrifying fashions, all the while maintaining the interesting outer perspective of Riley Barnes, a young girl recruited to Glory’s cause by terrifying visions of a demon apocalypse, who now sees Glory as equally as dangerous to humanity’s future.
Ross Campbell’s art also does wonders in making a very brutal character very accessible in some of the nicest panels coming out of Image this year.
Tags: batman, dan the unharmable, glory, hawkeye, psylocke, the joker, the walking dead