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Top of the Pile: December 2013

It's the end of the year! What books did the Comic Vine staff love for December?

Happy New Year everyone! We hope you all had an awesome holiday filled with adventure and excitement! However, it's a new month, and it's time to decide what books the staff of Comic Vine loved for December. Each month, Top of the Pile examines the top 5 books from each of us for the month prior. December had a lot of fantastic comics, so let's take a look at what each of us loved.

Tony's Picks

FF #15

I can't get enough of the series but sadly the end is almost upon us. Each month I'm blown away at how much I care about these characters. Scott Lang and Medusa have always been cool but never at the top of my list of favorite characters. It was She-Hulk's tenure on the Fantastic Four during John Byrne's classic run that really brought her to my attention. Darla Deering was a new character that seemingly didn't even have a right to be included here. Yet this series has made them all beloved characters, along with the rest of the Future Foundation.

Matt Fraction created something fun and unique in this series. Lee Allred has brilliantly taken over the scripts and the book just oozes with fun and excitement. Mike and Laura Allred's art and colors are a joy to see each month.

The story has a deep dark aspect while also containing a pure element filled with fun. The fight between the Foundation and Doom's defenses is something worth seeing. There's no doubt that this has been one of my favorite series of 2013.

BATMAN #26

I've probably mentioned once or twice how much I'm digging this story arc. Scott Snyder is telling the story of Batman's early days in his career. With the changes in the New 52, this is the building blocks of the character we all know. Snyder is showing us it's possible to tell new stories even though we thought we already knew everything there was to know.

The Riddler's scheme to terrorize Gotham City is still underway, even if he doesn't appear in the issue himself. Snyder surprises us by taking an obscure character like Doctor Death and turns him into a creepy foe for Batman.

Of course the art by Greg Capullo along with Danny Miki's inks and FCO Plascencia's colors continue to make this a visual treat.

DEAD BOY DETECTIVES #1

I was excited for this series but didn't realize how much I would enjoy the first issue. Part of the excitement is seeing these characters that first appeared in the early 90s in SANDMAN #25. THE CHILDREN'S CRUSADE crossover in the Vertigo annuals is also high on my list of favorite stories and I still keep those issues in a special separate place rather than mixed with the rest of my comics.

Despite that, readers don't need to know or worry about any past stories or adventures. This is a great introductory issue that works perfectly for new and long time readers. There's a nice mystery angle involved as we're about to find out more about the school where the Boys died in their time.

Mark Buckingham's art and Lee Loughridge's colors reminds me of when I first discovered FABLES. Their work is always a welcomed site and I just can't wait to see more. It's another great series from Vertigo and worth checking out.

BATMAN: LI'L GOTHAM #24

All good things must come to an end, right? While the digital first issues are still being reprinted, this marks the end of the series. Dustin Nguyen and Derek Fridolfs have done a remarkable job twice a month for the past year. Each chapter is filled with emotion, humor and great art. It's rare to see a Batman story that is truly an all-age book. Here, all-age doesn't mean only for kids. This has been a great reading experience.

In this final story, it continues the theme of the series with the holiday angle. It's a touching story and the fact that it's the end makes it even more emotional. Thanks to everyone involved in this series. The loss of this series creates a huge hole in my reading schedule.

VELVET #2

Ed Brubaker, Steve Epting and Elizabeth Breitweiser. They're what makes this a book I look forward to each month. Who doesn't like a good spy thriller? Brubaker is weaving a cool story with a classic spy-period feel to it. The big difference, and what sets this apart from other stories in this genre, is the fact that our main character is female. Rather than have a dude as the main character, we're finding out a woman this agency thought was just a secretary has a lot more going on. Accused of killing a fellow agent, she now finds herself on the run and we get to see what she's capable of.

Epting's art and Breitweiser's colors really elevates the story and immerses us into the time period. Everything just looks so good. It's great when you can have a a really good story with art on the same level.

Mat's Picks

MANIFEST DESTINY #2

Two months in a row now, this Image (Skybound) book has wowed me.Lewis & Clark's expedition into the Louisiana Purchase revealed something that was half-man, half-buffalo. It's a very cool twist on a story most Americans are extremely familiar with.

Writer Chris Dingess has something very special with this story. It's imaginative and exciting. The buffalomen are really cool and pretty dang brutal. This last issue leaves the reader off at a very weird place. Dingess is really building this world up nicely so far. On top of that, I'm loving the art from Matthew Roberts and colors from Owen Gieni. Roberts art is crisp and has a classic look to it, and Gieni makes some great color choices during some more violent scenes.

SAGA #17

This was the best issue of SAGA I've read in quite some time. Finally, the book is caught back up to where we left off with issue #12. This book opens up with a blast. It's the end of the Upsher and Doff storyline, but it introduces us to a new freelancer: The Brand. She's extremely cool, and once again, writer Brian K Vaughan and artist Fiona Staples gives us new and extremely interesting characters that the reader wants to see more of.

This issue ends in a blaze of glory, just moments after a fantastic scene where we really got to get into the head of Prince Robot IV. Month after month, this continues to be one amazing series. While this isn't the best jumping on point for new readers, picking it up from the beginning will be worth it.

SUPERIOR FOES OF SPIDER-MAN #7

Much like SAGA, issue #7 of SUPERIOR FOES was my favorite issue of the series. This issue, written by Nick Spencer and drawn by Rich Ellis, with Lee Loughridge on colors, takes a step back from the main story line to find out how Janice Lincoln, the daughter of Tombstone, ended up becoming the new Beetle. We get moment after moment of Janice wanting to become a super-villain and pulling heists, like stealing all the presents from a little girl's birthday.

The book is a laugh riot and works so well. For those of you who aren't reading this, it comes off a lot like HAWKEYE, if that book was filled with C-List villains. I loved the fact this book took the time to examine Janice's origin, and Ellis greatly complimented Spencer's writing.

ORIGIN II #1

You either loved this book or you hated it. The number one question on everyone's mind is this: "Is this series necessary?" It's really hard to tell from this first issue, but what I can tell you is that I loved this first issue. I loved this story of a man who became part of a wolf pack and does whatever he can to protect and feed them. The narration, written by Kieron Gillen, really moves this story along nicely, and Adam Kubert's art, along with Frank Martin on colors, grabbed me from page one.

This is very different, so far, from the rest of the Wolverine stories we know and love. It doesn't feel like a Wolverine book and it doesn't feel like a Marvel book, and that's probably what I liked about it so much. It's so different. Sure, a sequel to ORIGIN may not make sense right now, but all-in-all, this is the start to something very interesting.

STAR WARS DARTH VADER AND THE CRY OF SHADOWS #1

This really was the surprise of the month for me. It was put in my pull box by accident, but I gave it a shot anyway. I'm not as well-versed in the Star Wars comic universe as most, but I did love this first issue. The issue takes a look at how others in the galaxy viewed Darth Vader, during his uprising. He's like a myth or legend. He's like a Star Wars Pacos Bill, with less tornadoes being ridden.

The issue takes place through the eyes of an ex-Stormtrooper who lost his way and is now on his own. The reader gets to see how he, as a clone, came into being, and what happened to him. I'm really hoping that the series continues to follow him. It's a really fresh take on the Star Wars universe.

Honorable Mention: CATACLYSM: ULTIMATE COMICS THE ULTIMATES #2, CLONE #13

Gregg's Picks

DEAD BODY ROAD #1

There's been a million heist stories and even more about a character seeking to avenge the death of a loved one, yet this new Image book feels like a fresh and totally attention-grabbing story. This limited series has made a very absorbing debut and it's all thanks to Justin Jordan and Matteo Scalera. When it comes to R-Rated adventures, Jordan's a mighty fine choice and he's done an excellent job introducing us to this world. He's hit us with just enough intrigue and action to keep our focus and make us want to see who else is involved in this plot which went completely wrong. Then there's Scalera, a guy who fills the pages with an absolutely absurd amount of energy and intensity. These aren't just still images on pages. When you read it, you'll absolutely feel everything playing out in an incredibly cinematic fashion. It's a hugely impressive way to compliment Jordan's story and overall, it's a thoroughly badass opening chapter.

DEADPOOL #21

Gerry Duggan and Brian Posehn shattered Wade in the last story, but now it's time to pick up the pieces and move forward. Deadpool's struggle against S.H.I.E.L.D. kicked off with this issue and it's an awesome blend of everything that's worked so well in the volume so far. It's full of good laughs, sporting some pleasing action and, best of all, it's establishing a legitimately solid plot. The Good, The Bad & the Ugly was full of darkness, but Mike Hawthorne's return to the title helps ease us back into the book's more balanced tone and it's plenty engrossing. It may not be as gripping of an intro as the last story's opening, but it still packs one hell of a punch and is damn good. A perfect jumping on spot for any Deadpool fan -- but really, you should read The Good, The Bad & The Ugly when you have a minute, too.

TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES VILLAINS MICRO-SERIES #8

IDW sure is giving Shredder a lot of love and continues to show us why he's so much more than a pissed off dude with wrist blades and an unhealthy amount of hatred towards turtles and rats. He had plenty of time to shine in City Fall, but this Micro series does something totally different: it quite literally goes inside his head. This look into Shredder's psyche is not only creative and engaging, but also insightful and certainly entertaining. This is yet another example of how there's so much more to this new version of Shredder and the fact there's some really, really cool action is just a nice bonus. A must read for any TMNT fan, that's for sure.

GREEN ARROW #26

Forgive the terrible pun, but this book never fails to miss its mark. Seriously, the effort by the creative team is just topnotch all around. Jeff Lemire's doing wonders with Oliver's life, successfully fleshing out the characters while also taking major (and more importantly, interesting) steps with the overall narrative. This issue kicks off The Outsiders War and it's something Lemire's been building since he jumped on the title with issue #17. There's a ton of hype behind this new plot and this first chapter does a great job grabbing our attention. I obviously recommend reading everything since #17, but if you've been meaning to check this book out, this is absolutely the issue to dive into and it'll leave you wanting the next issue.Then there's Andrea Sorrentino's art. I've praised this dude's work so many times that I think I've pretty much run out of different ways to praise it. It's amazingly unique and detailed and this issue's sporting some truly breathtaking establishing shots and environments. Despite a lack of action, Sorrentino's art and Marcelo Maiolo's coloring still makes this issue as cinematic as it can get. Do the right thing and give this jumping on point a shot. Even if you don't like Green Arrow, this creative team makes it a book that you simply have to check out.

UNITY #2

Matt Kindt and Doug Braithwaite's UNITY is the latest example of Valiant's ability to produce one quality hit after the other. The debut issue did a commendable job introducing new readers to what's going on in this evergrowing universe without alienating its pre-existing fans. Now that we all know who's who and what's going on, Kindt throws the entertainment value into overdrive and the end result is pure popcorn entertainment.From the opening page to the epic final moments, this issue seizes your focus and just refuses to let go. It's action heavy but Kindt still gives each character an opportunity for their personalities to shine through and makes a huge development with the storyline. It legitimately feels like a big budget action movie.

Honorable Mentions: Scarlet Spider #25 (RIP), TMNT #29

Corey's Picks

Mars Attacks Judge Dredd #4

I'd feel remiss if I didn't include this title in SOMEthing as I didn't get a chance to review it nor list it in my Essentials. This issue brings to a close one of those crossovers that sounds completely ridiculous on paper but 100% works in execution. I don't know if the inherent absurdity of both titles is what made it work or if, much more likely, the combination of Al Ewing and John McCrea's talents created a title that is, essentially, '50s dystopian sci-fi VS '70s dystopian sci-fi. This is the Kingdom Come of satirical, schlocky sci-fi, people! It's a title that takes itself completely seriously (not one character comments on the absurdity of Mega Cities being attacked my ACTUAL martians...from MARS), but also highlights the hilarity inherent in that concept. The fact that we get "new" trading cards that are perfect attuned to the style of the original Mars Attacks cards is absolutely a bonus. If you haven't checked out the singles (or even if you have) and you're a fan of pulpy sci-fi, you should absolutely pick up the trade when it comes out.

Superior Spider-Man #24

We. Are. Venom. I always loved that Eddie Brock referred to himself as a plural, reminding the reader that not only does the symbiote have a personality of its own, but that Brock realizes and relishes in that. We get another massive piece of evidence that Doc Ock is underestimating the trials and tribulations of being Peter Parker and assuming he can handle something that is by no means simple. Dan Slott once again reveals he is thinking about the long-term by having MJ horrifically recognize Venom from when he terrorized her all the way back when. And Humberto Ramos' characterization of the symbiote, and how it changes Octopeter's emotional expression is fantastic as well, but his illustration of the thing itself is the real highlight. When you need something to be larger-than-life, towering over and appearing to be in constant motion, I'm not sure you could find someone better for the task.

Green Lantern Corps #26

SPEAKING of issues where people stand up to well established authority figures: have I mentioned how much irrational, fanboyish glee I get from seeing Hal Jordan get punched in his arrogant face? I don't even hate the character, but he can be somewhat insufferable and I'm glad I'm not the only person who seems to think so. Much more importantly, this issue is about establishing the new Corps members and reminding us, as readers, that John Stewart is so much more than a warrior or a blunt object. Who better to task the rebuilding of Oa than an architect, after all? Van Jensen, with Robert Venditti, does a phenomenal job cementing the rookie Corps as they go off on their first mission without their mentor, but never forgets to show what that mentor, and his rocky relationship with Fatality. We also get the return of Bernard Chang and his sublime, smooth visuals that are perfect for the absolutely bizarre cast that this book feature.

Uncanny X-Men #15.INH

It's not the most novel approach to a girls' night issue (they still go shopping), and I'm not a huge fan of the shoehorned Inhumanity tie-in, but damnit this book won me over by sheer force of charm. Particularly in seeing the ultra-dignified Emma Frost in a rare, honest moment of simply being herself. We also get a look at the Uncanny X-Men's newest member in Kitty Pryde AND some of the newest mutants interacting in a way that doesn't involve punching giant robots. Brian Bendis is the man you want if you're going to have a dialog-heavy issue, and he does not disappoint with his usual ping-pong witticisms and economical characterizations. The real standout here, though, is Kris Anka. It would've been easier, ironically, to make this a strange, surreal issue with his gorgeous, portrait-like style, but it's a very down-to-earth read, which makes the style appear even more versatile. Anka renders every character with a gorgeous uniqueness and brings a tone of unbridled joy to the entire issue.

Manifest Destiny #2

Comicvine's very own Inferiorego recommended me this title on our podcast, and I couldn't be happier that he did. From neither the title nor the cover could I have guessed what the book would be about and that the subject matter would be so very directly up my alley. An alternate history where the American wilderness is inhabited by horrific, mythical beasts that have an American twist. Instead of centaurs that are half man half horse, we have creatures that are part man, part bison. As well as a siren that seems made of wood or dirt who can vanish. And what appear to be some kind of moss or fungus zombie plague. Any way you slice it, I can't wait to see more of what this series has to offer. It was awfully kind of Chris Dingess to craft a story that was basically tailor-made for me, and I can't tell him how much I appreciate that. With Matthew Roberts and Owen Gieni's stunning, absolutely gut-churningly gory visuals, the needles of action, dark comedy and horror are skillfully threaded with gruesomely detailed and emotionally resonant visuals.

There you have it! Another thrilling episode of Top of the Pile! We'll see you guys at the end of next month with a whole bunch of new selections! Make sure to leave us a comment to let us know what series you loved this past year, and as always follow all of us on Twitter (Comic Vine, Tony, Mat, Gregg, and Corey). See you guys next year!

22 Comments
Edited by RulerOfThisUniverse

Cool lists.

Online
Posted by Jonny_Anonymous

Image Comics FTW

Online
Posted by Sammo21

I am seriously loving Superior Foes of Spider-Man. Steve Lieber is one of my favorite artists and he nails every issue of the series so far. Really hope he comes back to HeroesCon this year so I get to talk to him again.

Posted by Fallschirmjager

So awesome getting Brubaker/Epting back on a book. I miss their Captain America oh so dearly.

Edited by longbowhunter

It makes me so happy to see Manifest Destiny on two people's Top of the Pile lists.

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Posted by RedhoodFlashLantern
Posted by MadeinBangladesh

LCOKE AND KEY ALPHA #2!!!!!!!!!!

A VOICE IN THE DARK!!!!!!!

TRILLIUM!!!!!!

Posted by longbowhunter

@madeinbangladesh: I'm not reading it but A Voice in the Dark really sounds like something that I would like.

Online
Posted by MadeinBangladesh

@madeinbangladesh: I'm not reading it but A Voice in the Dark really sounds like something that I would like.

That series just became one of my favorites just in 2 issues. #2 was sooo frickin good.

Posted by arkay74

Rachel Rising #22
Twilight Zone #1
Locke & Key Alpha #2
Deadpool #21
Wraith #2

Posted by spinningbirdcake

ROOOOOOOOOOOOOOCCCKKKKEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEETT GIIIIIIIIIIIRRRRRRRRRRRRLLLLLLLLLLLLLLL.

I mean there's other stuff too.

Edited by TheMantisShrimp

I really enjoyed the Dec issue of Action Comics. Greg Pak writes a great Superman, he is being physically and mentally challenged while still being a sympathetic character. Plus Kuder's art is great, I hope the two have a long run together.

Edited by timelord
  • Green Lantern Corps 26 - I am loving what they are doing with John Stewart lately and all it took was for them to remove his lady friend I forget her name. Him being in charge of the Corps makes a lot more sense then Hal team John Stewart all the way.
  • Red Lantern 26 -For a character I did not care about at all his death still touched me but I suppose that's Charles Soule for you. Every month this book just keeps on getting better and better and with the Solicitations being released that dose not look like to be changing any time soon.
  • Green Lantern New Guardians 26 - A clean sweep for all of the lantern books I like this book for the tone more so than the actual story. I hope they keep Kyle of in space doing his own thing for a good while yet. How ever I have the feeling this and Red Lanterns are going to tie into Forever: Evil which I am perfectly okay as that would make sense story wise.
Posted by fables87
Edited by longbowhunter

@madeinbangladesh: Its something I'll definitely get in trade. I can always get my girlfriend to read this kind of stuff too.

Online
Posted by mak13131313

Batman #26

Manifest Destiny #2

Green Arrow #26

Afterlife With Archie #2

Posted by RazzaTazz

MissJ's picks? Hers are the best.

Moderator
Posted by RazzaTazz

By the way, I would have said Mind The Gap #16.

Moderator
Posted by inferiorego

MissJ's picks? Hers are the best.

I don't think she's ever participated in this. Maybe once.

Staff
Posted by RazzaTazz
Moderator