2012 was my worst year for comic book enjoyment in the last fifteen years. I’ve collected them for thirty-four years, ever since the well-stocked spinner racks at Marsh Supermarket caught my eye at age six and opened new worlds of imagination and heroism. For the majority of my life they’ve been my primary hobby among all my hobbies. Once upon a time, friends could count on me to spout the occasional essay about a particular series, event, historical recollection, or rage-filled response to an aesthetic offense. When I launched Midlife Crisis Crossover last April, I thought the topic of comic books would inspire a lot more posts than they have so far.
I have no plans to wave farewell to the medium altogether, but my personal backlash started during the last half of 2011, when DC Comics purged their continuity yet again and rebooted their entire universe with the “New 52” initiative. The first time they rebooted after Crisis on Infinite Earths, I was fourteen and the combined talents of John Byrne, George Perez, Marv Wolfman, Mike Baron, and others were more than enough to convince me that this new direction was right up my alley. Twenty-six years and countless post-Crisis emendations later, DC and I are no longer the same entities under the same conditions. I can handle reboots to a certain extent, but when the new versions are poorly thought out — or worse, prone to twice as many crossovers as they used to be — I exercise my right as a consumer to opt out.
Marvel’s response was to concentrate on crossovers for a while longer, then roll out their own restarts without rebooting. I’ve found their results a little less alienating, but they’re still leaving some of my money on the table. Image stepped up mightily for a while and snatched some of my leftover Big Two bucks, but their titles have varied in quality and performance. I was glad to see other publishers continue earning attention from me as well — Dark Horse, BOOM!, IDW, Red 5, Valiant, and even Aspen. Again, results varied, but I appreciated the alternatives they offered.
Even though I’m increasingly disappointed with the current majority readership’s predilection for overspending on prequels, crossovers, and do-overs, my year had several bright spots in the world of monthly titles. (For purposes of personal categorization, I treat original graphic novels and trade paperback collections as “Books”, which are grouped and ranked separately from “Comic Books” in my head. Those might be fodder for a separate MCC list.)
The following were my favorite comic book series throughout 2012:
* Journey into Mystery — Kieron Gillen, Rich Elson, and other artists delivered one of the very few series that inspired any MCC thoughts at all, and ended their two-year storyline on a note of epic tragedy. After seeing the reincarnated Kid Loki and his best frenemy Leah through so many misadventures (not to mention the only A-plus crossover tie-ins of any crossover by any company in the last two years), I felt helpless and bereaved to see it all coming crashing down ’round his ears. Marvel’s formerly unrepentant trickster god was so close to redeeming himself for his previous lifetime of treachery and lies, albeit by finding clever ways to wield treachery and lies as forces for Good, only to see everything fall apart because of the lies he told himself and us. I wish every series aspired to thematic examinations this complex and riveting. More fire-breathing angry puppies like lethal li’l Thori would also be welcome.