Comics can be a hard field to evaluate. A lot of serialized comics take a little time to warm up and become something truly outstanding. Others grab you right from the start and never gain enough audience share to continue to that next level. Just to make things a little easier, for the first year of Sketchys for Comics, I'm not going to include continuing series. We're limiting it to the calendar year 2013 even if it means excluding great series like Saga and MIND MGMT that really blew up after their first few issues. Webcomics and graphic novels will also be rewarded here.
Best New Webcomics
Oh Joy, Sex Toy by Erika Moen
Erika Moen has a really great style to her comic art. It's been evident since DAR all those years ago. Her experience on Penny Arcade's Strip Search led her to launching a new webcomic all about, well, sex. Oh Joy, Sex Toy (NSFW) is a sex toy and event (lifestyle?) review/experience comic. Moen and her husband, Matthew, takes you through the how and why of various toys, clubs, and experiences using her Masturbateers, snails, and anthropomorphic toys to demonstrate.
It's not really pornographic, though there is sexual content. It is funny, thoughtful, and ridiculously entertaining. She is not afraid of giving a negative review to a sponsor who sent her free merchandise, but always presents criticism in a very respectful way. I highly doubt I'll ever have any use for most of the information covered in the comic, but I come back every Wednesday just to appreciate the art, style, and humor.
Read Oh Joy, Sex Toy
Camp Weedonwantcha by Katie Rice
Katie Rice, the winner of Strip Search, finally released her winning strip in October and it was worth the wait. Camp Weedonwantcha is funny, sweet, sad, and disturbing in equal measure. Somewhere in the world, there is a summer camp where children are never picked up again. There are no adults, no counselors, and no rules. The children fend for themselves, hoping their mothers and fathers will one day return for them.
This is a gorgeous comic with great character design. You feel for these children, but they're safely in that realm of big-eyed cartoons. There's danger in the context but never anything too serious or threatening in the content. Camp Weedonwantcha updates on Mondays and Thursdays.
Read Camp Weedonwantcha
Out of Skin by Emily Carroll
Don't ask me why, but I got pulled into darker fairy tale comics at a pretty young age. We're talking stuff like Gloomcookie and Nightmares & Fairy Tales. Even stranger, I got into them after finding Jhonen Vazsquez. Out of Skin by Emily Carroll is like a darker version of the kind of comic I grew up reading.
Illustrated in beautiful watercolor (I presume digital), Out of Skin is body horror disguised as fairy tale. Carroll's style refuses to play by conventions. Much of the story is told in isolated text outside of the art panels, with elements like hair, blood, and water flowing outside of their frames to connect disparate illustrations. It's gorgeous and terrifying in equal measure. It is, sadly, a one-off comic, though her other work is definitely worth clicking through.
Read Out of Skin
The Last Halloween by Abby Howard
If you're at Sketchy Details often enough, you had to know this was coming. The Last Halloween is the runner-up comic produced by Abby Howard for Strip Search. It's...it's really good. Period. Horror fans should be reading this. But not at work. It's too gory for that even in black and white.
Howard has a strong pen and ink style that makes the divide between humans and the monsters that have risen up on Halloween night blurred in the best way possible. The story is rolling out at a good pace, quickly establishing the apocalyptic premise before jumping into the action of Mona, the only living girl to realize what's really happening on Halloween night. The Last Halloween updates weekly on Wednesday and will return on January 8.
Read The Last Halloween
Best Graphic Novels
Brielle and the Horror by Jared Barrel, Jordan Barrel, and Alex Goz
I found the creative team behind Loaded Barrel studios by chance at NYCC this year and I'm glad I did. I sampled their two graphic novels (Grey, their shorter one-off alien comic is a must-read) and picked up everything they had under their show bundle. It's really stunning work.
Brielle and the Horror is a very dark spin on the superhero narrative within the broad spectrum of religious horror. Brielle has a dark, evil power tucked away inside of her. When she gets too close to someone, it comes rushing out and destroys them. A local cop in her new town makes the connection between the murder of her boyfriend and the murder of her father years before, leading to a whole lot of drama. You see, Brielle doesn't remember when the power comes out. It's like someone else has taken over. The bound collection includes the entirety of Brielle's story so far plus a one-off story called "A Thousand Words."
Hyperbole and a Half: Unfortunate Situations, Flawed Coping Mechanisms, Mayhem, and Other Things that Happened by Allie Brosh
Our first multi-category honoree is Hyperbole and a Half. This episodic memoir in graphic novel form is funny, charming, and thoughtful. Brosh's style is so easy that even subjects as serious as depression and the human psyche are enjoyable experiences.
Continue to Best New Comic SeriesBest New Comic Series
The Movement by Gail Simone and Freddie Williams II
The New 52 has been very hit or miss, as any massive corporate rebranding effort will be. The Movement, one of the new properties created by DC, is one of the highlights. Inspired by the Occupy Wall Street movement, Gail Simone and Freddie Williams II envision a group of young superheroes as vigilantes protecting their neighborhood from the overreach of corporate and police culture.
It took a couple issues to come into focus. The Movement started off with great character development/creation at the expense of a more interesting story arc. Now those elements are balanced and it's worth reading. Standouts include Virtue--the team leader who reads waves of emotions, Mouse--who can control an army of rats, and Burden--a super religious mutant who was taught his powers are the manifestation of possession by the devil. The series is wild and unpredictable with great art and a sharp eye for satire.
Buy The Movement #1
Deadpool Killustrated by Cullen Bunn and Matteo Lolli
Deadpool is chaos. He is the superhero/antihero/supervillain who destroys just to destroy even when doing the right or very very wrong thing. In Deadpool Killustrated, Deadpool is unleashed in literary classics to destroy them from the inside out.
I'm not always a big Deadpool fan, but this series works for me. Probably because Cullen Bunn and Matteo Lolli have clearly done their research and accurately represent Dracula and Little Women among many other titles. The only big flaw is that there are only four issues total. Here's hoping they expand it beyond the initial miniseries run in the future.
X-Men by Brian Wood and Oliver Coipel
You might not think the X-Men can offer anything particularly new after 50 years of comics. What new spin could there be to superheroes in an academy for mutants? The new run of X-Men under the Marvel NOW imprint offers a twist on the format in an unusual way: the combat team is all women. Combined with it being Jean Grey's School rather than Professor Xavier's School and you have a very different setting for an X-Men story.
And what a story it is. The majority of characters are known entities--Jubilee, Storm, Rogue, and the like--so the story kicks right in. Essentially, super powered twins were separated at a very young age by some unknown force. The male twin wound up on Earth, a powerful billionaire. The female twin was sent off to prove herself, becoming obsessed with harnessing alien technology and revenge on her brother. He voluntarily submits to the X-Men to protect not only himself but the world from his sister's dangerous abilities. Once you see Rogue drop Kitty Pryde off through the roof of a moving train to intercept Jubilee, you'll realize the new possibilities offered by focusing on just the female X-Men.
Young Avengers by Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie
The second run of Young Avengers is really strong. It might be my favorite new print comic series to come around in a long time. Everything is set into motion when, as a gift to his boyfriend, Wiccan tears through dimensions to recover Hulkling's parents. They're not really his parents. They're aliens (?) trying to stop the Young Avengers from fighting anymore.
Listen. Any series that gives us more Young Loki is going to be good. A great series is going to force the heroes to trust Young Loki to save the day before issue 4. It only gets better from there. Great action, great story, and great character/world building.
What were your favorite comics of 2013? Share your picks in the comments below. Always looking for new titles to pull for my collection.