Top Ten Comics Covers of 2013
Best of 2013: Comics
Let’s kick off Review To Be Named Best Comics of 2013 coverage with a look back at our favorite covers of this past year. With so many new and existing titles vying for your attention and money, often times a comic book’s cover is the creative team’s first, best, and final argument for why you should give their book a chance. The covers chosen for this list showcase the artistic talents and storytelling prowess of some of the best artists working in comics today. But since there is no better way to ruin a comics cover than to clutter it up with unnecessary text, I’m going to end this intro and let you start looking at these eye popping, jaw droppingly gorgeous covers.
10. Green Lantern #20
I will freely admit that I have a minimalist style bias towards covers, especially when it comes to making this list. However Doug Mahnke's cover to Green Lantern #20 earns its spot in the top ten for sheer amount of characters and details he packs into the image. This cover is a celebration of the work that Geoff Johns, Doug Mahnke, Ethan Van Scriver, and Ivan Reis put into this franchise over the last decade. The number of characters created in the last ten years deservedly taking their place alongside classics like Guy Garnder, John Stewart, and Hal Jordan on this milestone cover, is a testament to the mark that these creators made on this title.
9. Batwoman #17
This list would not be complete without a JH Williams III Batwoman cover, but this year's entry is unfortunately bittersweet. Sweet for how gorgeous the image is, but bitter for the unfortunate and premature end to Williams' work on the title. And while Williams does deserve praise for the strikingly beautiful and powerful pose of the titular heroine, it is Dave Stewart's vibrant colors that push this image off the shelves, into your hands, and onto this top ten list.
8. Wonder Woman #17
There were multiple Cliff Chiang Wonder Woman covers in contention for this list, but ultimately #17 won out for the powerful visual of a young Diana covered in blood, as well as the amount of information the image conveys. Wonder Woman's relationship with her former mentor war became a major focus of the book's second year, his lessons weighing heavily on her as she was faced with increasingly dire odds. From the regret pained face of the older Diana, to the passion and grit of her younger counterpart, Chiang showcases his strength for imbuing characters with real and recognizable emotion. Chiang's cover to Wonder Woman #17 earns its spot on this list for beautifully capturing Diana's mindset, and an internal conflict that would inform the title's huge status quo change towards the end of the year.
7. Collider (aka FBP) #1
Attracting readers in an already crowded market place, especially when your book does not feature super heroes who conveniently come with their own built in fan bases is no simple task. Bottom line, if you want people to try your new book, you're going to need an eye popping cover. Collider (renamed FBP for legal reasons after this first issue had shipped), is a book about a world where the rules of physics have run amok. The upside down figure with bug eyed goggles instantly suggests that this is a book about science gone wrong (a very popular emerging sub-genre of comics) but it is the neon day-glow pink color wash, accented by bold yellows and blacks that really make this cover stand out. Looking more like album artwork or a punk rock concert poster, the cover to Collider #1 commands attention and sets the book apart on the racks.
6. Superior Spider-Man #9
Superior Spider-Man tells the story of Dr. Octopus successfully switching bodies with and taking over the life of Peter Parker. In this issue, Doc Ock discovers and sets out to destroy a small fragment of Peter's mind that survived the initial attack. At a time when superhero covers favor iconic poses over any sort of depiction of the issue's plot, Marcos Martin's cover to Superior Spider-Man #9 concisely and artfully teases the story at hand. Equally impressive, is the organic and creepy way Martin works the book's lengthy title into the image. The eye is so drawn to the unsettling visual of the exposed Spider brain, that it may take you a minute to notice the small and vulnerable Peter Parker, hiding in the recesses of what used to be his mind.
5. Sex Criminals #3
The simple line work, bold three color design, and skilled use of negative space combine to make Sex Criminals #3 an attention grabbing cover. More sweet than it is titillating, Chip Zdarsky's image of Suzie and Jon's embrace perfectly captures the complex tone of this series that was originally billed as a raunchy sex comedy. The bright colors and simplicity of the image are pleasing to the eye, arresting the reader's attention even before the deeper suggestions of the connective and transformative power of sex sets in. Zdarsky has produced several eye popping covers for this series to date, but none that sing quite like his cover to #3.
4. Iron Man #9
It isn't often that an artist for a major, modern superhero comic will eschew a heroic action pose for something a little more absurd, funny, or even downright adorable. It's even more rare for an image like that to actually work. However one of the most unforgettable images of the past year in comics has to be a diaper clad baby Tony wearing the Mark 1 Iron Man helmet and his little red and gold socks. Signaling the beginning of an arc that will tell a very different kind of origin story than what Iron Man fans might expect, Greg Land's can't help but evoke your curiosity and a chuckle. It's a cover that reminds the reader that superhero comics are supposed to be fun. It's a visual that forces you to flip through the pages looking for answers. It's an image that will stick in your mind regardless of whether or not you buy the book.
3. Fatale #18
Dark, sexy, and foreboding, Sean Phillips' cover to Fatale #18 is indicative not only of the plot of this arc, but of the general tone and themes of this series as a whole. Her seductive pose, hand outstretched over the guitarist like a puppeteer holding the strings, evokes the captivating hold she has over men. Jo is the focal point of the image, distracting attention from the title she is superimposed over, and the blood red wash of the background which she stands out from, bathed in pearly white. The drummer's contorted face in the background foreshadows the pain and horror that follows in her wake. Are those flowers on her dress, or is it stained in the blood of the countless victims who have fallen to the femme fatale curse over the decades? Instantly iconic and brimming with symbolism, Fatale #18 is an achievement for Phillips not only when stacked against the other winning covers this year, but also against the array of impressive covers he has created for this series to date.
2. Batman Incorporated #13
Iconic, unsettling, and rife with symbolism, Chris Burnham's cover to Batman Incorporated #13 delivers a succinct visual underscore to the major themes of Morrison's Batman books. The cyclical nature of working with iconic characters whose legends have almost taken on a life of their own is one of Morrison's favorite themes, and this is reflected in the infinite Batmen emerging from the ever shrinking bat logo. The logo doubling as the cape is a neat visual trick, but it also enforces the idea that Bruce will never be free of the darkness inherent to the creation and continued existence of the Batman, a darkness that Bruce further recedes into with the loss of his son Damian at the conclusion of Morrison's run.
1. Hawkeye #9
Ahh, the cover that launched a line of t-shirts. Seriously, you can buy them over at We Love Fine. That's how popular this image became. But beyond that commercial success, this cover works on a whole number of levels. The red accents against the gritty, heavy black line work really makes the image pop. Aja captures the casual swagger and confidence of other Hawkeye Kate Bishop. There is a captivating sense of fun and danger intrinsic in the coupling of her casual attire, relaxed pose, and quiver visible just over her shoulder. Aja's cover perfectly encapsulate the tone of this series, and for a book that defies simple classifications and labels, that is saying something.