The 10 Best Comics of 2013

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5. Bad Houses



Writer: Sara Ryan
Artist: Carla Speed McNeil
Publisher: Dark Horse
If the scariest thing you can imagine is turning into your parents, then maybe you should go pick up Bad Houses. That’s not entirely a joke; Bad Houses is the product of two finely-aware young minds, and in its love story/Bildungsroman, this compilation also investigates intense issues that emerge as one steps into adulthood. Anne is an unemployed photographer who lives in the aptly-named Failin, Oregon; Lewis works for his mom, who organizes estate sales for a living. Both characters are young adult children of single mothers. Somehow they come together, spark, and try to both understand their parents and leave the older generation’s legacy behind. Hillary Brown


4. New School



Writer/Artist: Dash Shaw
Publisher: Fantagraphics
Dash Shaw is a relentless experimenter, never content to rely on the processes and approaches that garnered him acclaim the last go-round. Bodyworld began as a webcomic, making full use of its scrolling online medium while employing mysterious section markers with colors and coordinates. Bottomless Belly Button, Shaw’s major debut and most praised work, dealt with family relationships in neurotic, off-beat fashion. Shorter work and animation followed. Now we have another brick in Shaw’s evolving portfolio with New School, a speedy 340 pages the size and proportion of a yearbook. The story follows a pair of brothers as they visit a foreign amusement park and embrace all manner of impulse. Shaw’s ability to confidently follow his muse without justifying any artistic approach is part of what makes him such an exciting voice, and one that continues to refine itself with this excellent volume. Hillary Brown


3. Battling Boy



Writer/Artist: Paul Pope
Publisher: First Second
Battling Boy was nothing short of a labor of love and, like most such labors, took an inordinate amount of time to actually reach the public. Originally slated for a 2006/2007 release, Pope continued to tweak the book well past its scheduled due date. Seven years later, the ultimate result finds Pope tossing all his beloved influences, from Jack Kirby to manga, into a blender and spewing out a proverbial smoothie that’s nothing short of glorious. Rather than being a messy glob of different pieces, Battling Boy stands as a meticulously-crafted adventure story that never once loses its sense of child-like spontaneity. Mark Rozeman


2. The Property



Writer/Artist: Rutu Modan
Publisher: Drawn & Quarterly
To say The Property is an excellent book short-changes it a bit. Rutu Modan’s second big story for adults builds on the intelligence of her debut graphic novel, Exit Wounds, which won an Eisner for Best New Graphic Novel in 2008 as well as multiple best-of placements. If Exit Wounds was Modan’s Rushmore, then The Property is her Royal Tenenbaums: her earlier work an announcement of presence, her latest a wide-ranging and ambitious (and more comfortable) creation.

The Property presents the story of an elderly Polish emigré in Israel (Regina) who returns to Poland with her granddaughter (Mica), ostensibly to reclaim property confiscated during World War II. The narrative is straightforward and novelistic in many ways, but the way Modan unfolds her tale is rich and subtle, full of individualized detail. Hillary Brown


1. Saga



Writer: Brian K. Vaughan
Artist: Fiona Staples
Publisher: Image
What most people don’t say about Brian K. Vaughan, one of the most lauded writers in comics, is that he’s a romantic. Sure, he has a Joss Whedon-esque tendency to kill off characters you’ve grown to love at exactly the worst/best possible time, ripping your heart right out of your chest, but his real gift is making you care about them in the first place.

Saga is sci-fi in that it features alternative worlds, star-crossed lovers with horns and wings, a royal robot who suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder, and, of course, spaceships, but this comic is just as accessible to those who don’t give a flip about George Lucas as those who adore him. Vaughan’s capacity for capturing subtle, complex emotion is more than matched by Fiona Staples’ fantastic artwork, which rarely falters; most panels feel both realistic and organic without overly-relying on photo reference. Together, these two creators send you spinning, balancing furious action and a host of stakeholders with well-relished moments of domesticity. Hillary Brown