CBR's Top 100 Comics of 2012, #74 - 50

Each year, CBR wraps its coverage of the comics industry with a virtual nerd cage match to determine the very best comics of the year. Every single CBR staffer -- from our crack news team to our well-researched columnists and from CBR's many daily bloggers to our legion of comic reviewers -- had the chance to chip in their favorite books of the year with only the highest vote-getters ranking up on our massive Top 100 Comics list, and as always, neither the staff nor the comics disappointed.

2012 was an upbeat year for comics sales, but even as blockbuster superhero revivals and events stormed the Direct Market charts, dozens upon dozens of independent, alternative and literary titles worked their way into the hearts of readers and reviewers. From the creative resurgence of creator-owned comics to the die-hard horror titles that continue to shock fans and from the all-ages kids books cropping up everywhere to the darkest crime thrillers, we've got it all.

And while it's nearly impossible for even the combined staff of CBR to have read every single ongoing series, miniseries, one-shot, graphic novel and webcomic published in and throughout 2012, we are confident that you'll find no better indicator of the breadth and quality of the industry as it stands today than right here. Check out part one of the countdown focusing on the comics #100 - 75 here, and then read on for part two of our list including major genre comics, celebrating literary graphic novels, surprising indie hits and mind-bending manga.

74. FF

Written by Jonathan Hickman

Drawn by Nick Dragotta, Gabriel Hernandez Walta, e al.

Published by Marvel Comics

"After its parent title, 'Fantastic Four,' returned from Limbo with issue #300, 'FF' focused on quieter, quirkier stories -- Johnny and Spider-Man as roommates, Crystal and Ronan's romance -- but was at its very best when it focused on the Future Foundation, the gang of kids who lived, learned and inevitably saved the world from their home in the Baxter Building. Jonathan Hickman, joined by artists like Nick Dragotta and Gabriel Hernandez Walta (who should be drawing a Black Panther series set in Wakanda), broke our hearts and made us laugh time and again through the adventures of Franklin, Valerie, noble Onome, tragic Bentley, the best Dragon Man we've ever been treated to and, occasionally, even Dr. Doom."

-- Robot 6 Blogger JK Parkin

73. Buffy The Vampire Slayer: Season 9

Written by Andrew Chambliss, Joss Whedon, et all

Drawn by Georges Jeanty & Karl Moline

Published by Dark Horse

"The new "season" of "Buffy The Vampire Slayer" comics has had its highs and lows, but the "abortion issue" alone (issue #6) merits Buffy's inclusion on this list. While some readers were disappointed with the execution of the story and others thought the resolution was weak, for me, just the creative team's confidence and commitment to letting this issue even exist is a testament to getting the comic, and the character, exactly right. With "women in comics" and the somehow much misunderstood word "feminism" still a hot button issue (it's 2012, right?) this was an honest and risky book that discussed serious real world choices, and allowed the character to make a possibly unpopular choice. Though the storyline ultimately made her controversial resolution moot, it doesn't take away from the decision to make this book in the first place, and to make is as bold and honest as possible."

-- CBR Reviewer & Comics Should Be Good Columnist Kelly Thompson

72. Nurse Nurse

Written& Drawn by Kate Skellybr>Published by Sparkplug Comic Books

"Sparkplug published Katie Skelly's minicomics of the same name this past year as a collection, bringing Nurse Gemma, Pandaface and the rest of the crazy cast to hopefully a wider audience. This science fiction comic is about a nurse sent into space to support colonists from Earth who gets entangled with space pirates, "office" politics and butterflies. The inventive set-up and setting never get in the way of the characters and their story, both of which are very endearing. Also: Pandaface! Did I mention Pandaface?"

-- Robot 6 Blogger JK Parkin

71. Friends With Boys

Written & Drawn by Faith Erin Hicks

Published by First Second

"Faith Erin Hicks has quickly established herself as one of my favorite new comics creators, and I love that she's doing YA friendly work that's also layered enough to be completely enjoyable for adults too. With stunning storytelling, strong emotional beats, voice, and delightful character design Hicks just gets better and better as 'Friends With Boys' is easily her best work to date (which is saying a lot). One of my favorite elements of 'FWB' is that the ending does not feel like a forced happy ending situation, with everything tied up nicely in a bow. Instead it's a much more complicated and realistic ending, and one that I'd not be surprised if she had to fight for. It's non-traditional and ballsy and it makes me love the book all the more."

-- CBR Reviewer & Comics Should Be Good Columnist Kelly Thompson

70. New Crusaders

Written by Ian Flynn

Drawn by Ben Bates & Alitha Martinez

Published by Archie/Red Circle Comics

"I've been a fan of the Archie superheroes since I was a kid, and over the years I've heard repeated calls from similar supporters of the Shield and company for a relaunch concept I knew was doomed from the start. 'Archie should publish an all-ages Crusaders title,' they'd say. 'And it should follow the continuity of the '80s comics and be drawn like a Bruce Timm cartoon!' Never in a million years would such an approach work, I was sure. But I was wrong. With 'New Crusaders,' Ian Flynn and the members of the Red Circle braintrust have delivered one of the most enjoyable and surprising superhero comics on the stands. Part world-building high concept and part character-developing action yarn, the focus on legacy heroes and teen drama served as a strength far more than a distraction. Here's hoping it continues for years."

-- CBR News Editor Kiel Phegley

69. Shooters

Written by Brandon Jerwa & Eric Trautmann

Drawn by Steve Lieber

Published by DC Comics/Vertigo

"'Shooters' tells the story of a soldier named Terry who lost most of his unit due to a friendly fire incident. In an attempt to cover up the incident, none of his fellow soldiers will receive any medals. Terry is only receiving one because his father was a high-ranking member of the military. The rest of the volume shows Terry dealing with life after the war, as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder basically ruins any chance he has for a return to his "normal" life, especially as the only goal he can wrap himself around (petitioning to get his fallen comrades honored) is a seemingly lost cause. The PTSD aspect of the book is fascinating, because like depression, how can you possibly understand it unless you actually lived through it? Here, Trautmann and Jerwa shine as they do their damndest to get us to understand something that we can never really understand. Lieber shines in this book as so much of the book turns on the way that characters react to situations and Lieber is one of the best in the business at facial reactions. He conveys so much with such seemingly simple lines (a lot like Terry Moore). Terry eventually becomes a mercenary and goes back to the Middle East to find a much different situation than when he was a soldier. Through interesting circumstances, he finds himself in a position that challenges Terry to his core of who he wants to be. Is he really just a guy with a gun shooting other guys with guns? Is he only a shooter? Or can he get past that?"

-- Comics Should Be Good Editor Brian Cronin

68. Hellboy In Hell

Written & Drawn by Mike Mignola

Published by Dark Horse

"Only one issue of this new era for Mike Mignola's signature creation came out this year, but the wait was well worth it. In the wake of the epic battles of the recent 'The Storm & The Fury' arc, the artist reclaimed the big red guy and brought back his signature style of cartooning in force. From the dry humor that only Hellboy can dish out to a bizarre gothic turn into Dickens' 'A Christmas Carol,' the new series served as a perfect mission statement for years of stories to come. For longtime readers of Mignola and Hellboy, it was manna from...well, Hell."

-- CBR News Editor Kiel Phegley

67. The Walking Dead

Written by Robert Kirkman

Drawn by Charlie Adlard

Published by Image Comics/Skybound

"With issue #100 and the following installments, Kirkman's writing has been reinvigorated by the presence of Negan and yet another challenge to a stolen and bent tranquility that Rick and company had carved out for themselves. "The Walking Dead" has my attention again, here's hoping they can hold it."

-- CBR Contributor Jason Tabrys

66. Casanova: Avarita

Written by Matt Fraction

Drawn by Gabriel Bá

Published by Marvel Comics/Icon

"Matt Fraction's ideas are bizarre and beautiful. There are...complexities within 'Casanova' that shouldn't enchant, that shouldn't work, but they do. High-level super-plots that charm you with their forethought and clever execution. And the fact that Gabriel Bá is on art duties makes the entire experience a phenomenal ride. I love the lead, I love the supporting cast, and I love that the book stands out like a puffed-up peacock when standing next to the others on my shelf."

-- CBR Reviewer Ryan Burton

65. Wasteland

Written by Antony Johnston

Drawn by Justin Greenwood, Christopher Mitten & Russel Roehling

Published by Oni Press

"This has been something of a banner year for 'Wasteland.' After a long period full of delays, changes to the artists and more, the series has finally returned to something resembling a regular schedule. It also cranked out some very important chapters to the series overarching plot. It's easily one of my favorite on going series at the moment, and I still find myself looking forward the each issue."

-- Comics Should Be Good Columnist Ken Haley

64. Aesop's Ark

Written by J. Torres

Drawn by Jennifer L. Meyer

Published by Monkeybrain Comics

"One of the initial offerings from Monkeybrain, 'Aesop's Ark' offers up entertaining morality tales with tails. The creatures housed in Noah's Ark seek to pass the time with the grandest tradition of all: telling stories. The end result is a gorgeous all-ages offering that will soften even the hardest hearts while providing that warm fuzzy feeling we all try to find by reading comics."

-- CBR Reviewer Doug Zawisza

63. Venom: Circle of Four

Written by Rick Remender, Rob Williams & Jeff Parker

Drawn by Lan Medina, Tony Moore, Lee Garbett & Sana Takeda

Published by Marvel Comics

"I never thought I'd see the day a book starring Venom was in my top three comics, but 'Venom' was one of my must-read books every month in 2012 and this was epitomized in the 'fifth week' event 'Circle of Four' where Remender worked with Rob Williams and Jeff Parker to craft an amazing, thrill-ride of a story. Remender turned Venom from a vigilante that never really made sense as a vigilante or a villain into a military-funded, occult-busting freedom-fighter and it was awesome."

-- CBR Contributor Karl Keily

62. 20th Century Boys

Written & Drawn by Naoki Urasawa

Published by Viz

"The best thing about '20th Century Boys' is that, throughout the entire series, it takes the rudimentary world takeover fantasies of children and makes them deadly real. I love that this was the theme all the way to the end. When the mask comes off, and the lives of everyone on the planet are at stake, there are two things that happen. One is that we find out the real grudge the Friend has against Kenji. The second is the way that the characters save the population of Tokyo. It's just as much a childhood fantasy as anything else, and it is spectacular. There's nothing else to compare it to."

-- Comics Should Be Good Columnist Connie Cibula

61. Dorohedoro

Written & Drawn by Q Hayashida

Published by Viz

"'Dorohedoro' is a very special series, a strange mix of fantasy and messy horror that tells a very basic story in a very indirect way, with plenty of time to look at the unusual and detailed world. This year's handful of volumes didn't put me any closer to figuring out what the series is actually about, but I almost don't care, as the route it seems to be taking circles through the myriad of supporting characters to tell their completely bizarre but straight-faced life stories. While I do wonder about the gang that the amnesiac main character may or may not have been a part of, the better story for now is probably the silly, completely unexpected, and over-dramatized theatrical re-telling of the main villain's life story. You just never know what you're going to get when you pick up a volume of this series."

-- Comics Should Be Good Columnist Connie Cibula

60. Jerusalem: Chronicles from the Holy City

Written & Drawn by Guy Delisle

Published by Drawn & Quarterly

"Delisle's best book to date, this tells the story of a year in the famous city with its many complications and divisions. What it means to be an outsider dropped into a situation that gets more complicated by the day, it's also a great look at quotidian life in the city. It may not encourage to visit, but it's an unforgettable look at an unforgettable place."

-- CBR Staff Writer Alex Dueben

59. Silence of Our Friends

Written by Mark Long and Jim Demonakos

Drawn by Nate Powell

Published by Top Shelf

"Set in Houston, Texas, in 1968, the height of the civil rights struggles, this book tells the story of the friendship between a white reporter and a black professor and activist, a friendship that is tested when a violent incident erupts and the reporter must make the painful choice of truth versus loyalty. Nate Powell's illustrations convincingly evoke the feeling of the times, and the story reveals the many ways in which racial norms were enforced by the larger society as well as how difficult it was to violate those norms."

-- Robot 6 Blogger & CBR Columnist Brigid Alverson

58. The Sixth Gun

Written by Cullen Bunn

Drawn by Brian Hurtt & Tyler Crook

Published by Oni Press

"'The Sixth Gun' is essentially a weird western with the epic stakes of 'Lord of the Rings,' and this year it continued to live up to that premise. Writer Cullen Bunn and artists Brian Hurtt and Tyler Crook began the year with a character driven story featuring amazing action set pieces with the six part arc titled, 'A Town Called Penance.' They then closed out the year with the creepy and claustrophobic horror tale 'Winter Wolves.'"

-- CBR Staff Writer Dave Richards

57. Alabaster: Wolves

Written by Caitlin R. Kiernan

Drawn by Steve Lieber

Published by Dark Horse

"Caitlin R. Kiernan's supernatural Southern gothic is a showcase for her twisted take on religion, with demon-hunter Dancy Flammarion representing the more unforgiving side of God's plan."

-- CBR Contributor Josh Bell

56. A Wrinkle In Time: The Graphic Novel

Written by Madeleine L'Engle

Adapted & Drawn by Hope Larson

Published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux

"With her lengthy take on Madeleine L'Engle's classic children's novel, Hope Larson accomplished something great: an adaptation that was both true to the original and uniquely engaging in its own right. In a time when so much of the focus on comics zeroes in on writing, a book whose story is so well known opens up your eyes to the storytelling potential of single images. Larson's lush illustrations and smart, sharp storytelling choices carry the weight of L'Engle's ideas and words beautifully while never failing to impress in and of themselves."

-- CBR News Editor Kiel Phegley

55. Glory

Written by Joe Keatinge

Drawn by Ross Campbell

Published by Image Comics

"Reinventing Rob Liefeld's cheesecake hero as one of the biggest, baddest, scariest, scar-iest, most physically intimidating warrior women in comics, Keatinge and Campbell's 'Glory' proves when it comes to kicking butt, heroines can do it in all shapes and sizes."

-- CBR Staff Writer Josie Campbell

54. The Hypo

Written & Drawn by Noah Van Sciver

Published by Fantagraphics

"If there's any justice in the world, Noah Van Sciver's new graphic novel examination of Abraham Lincoln's early days will make him a big name in the independent comic circles. Van Sciver spotlights a fascinating time in Lincoln's life where he barely resembles the man who would one day become one of the most famous presidents in U.S. history. Here, he is a lawyer who has an uneasy engagement with the sister of his law partner. When both fall apart, he falls into a deep depression (which he calls 'the hypo') and Van Sciver stunningly (and pain-stakingly, I might add) depicts this time in Lincoln's life. The artwork is strong, as is the research. If you have any interest in Abraham Lincoln at all, you should pick up this remarkable volume."

-- Comics Should Be Good Editor Brian Cronin

53. Scalped

Written by Jason Aaron

Drawn by R.M. Guerra

Published by DC Comics/Vertigo

"'Scalped' is a modern American classic. You could happily and easily stack this story up against any great tale told in any medium. "Scalped" will be remembered as an amazing book that stuck true to the artistic vision of Jason Aaron and R.M. Guerra. The ballad of Dashiell Bad Horse has been sad and honest and something no great reader should ever miss. 'Scalped' went out with its boots on in 2012."

-- CBR Contributor & Reviewer Ryan K. Lindsay

52. The Nao of Brown

Written & Drawn by Glyn Dillon

Published by SelfMadeHero

"Here's my open letter to Glyn Dillon: write and draw more comics, please!

This gorgeous, confrontational, sensitive, complex, passionate graphic novel is the work of a master, and no look at Dillon's resume would have prepared you for what you find inside its covers. This is a confident work of grace and style and if it's all we get from Glyn Dillon, it's more than enough, but it would be crushingly sad not to see more from this supremely talented creator.."

-- CBR Columnist Timothy Callahan

51. Are You My Mother?

Written & Drawn by Allison Bechdel

Published by Houghton Mifflin

"Bechdel's followup to her landmark 'Fun Home,' this book tackles her relationship with her mother, who's still alive. The result is a portrait of a complex relationship about art, parenting, psychoanalysis that make lack the drama of her earlier book but is a complex, subtle portrait of two women united by blood but divided by a generation."

-- CBR Staff Writer Alex Dueben

50. Fables

Written by Bill Willingham

Drawn by Mark Buckingham

Published by DC Comics/Vertigo

"Since its debut a decade ago, 'Fables' has been the most consistently strong ongoing series in the marketplace. Period. Year in and year out, Bill Willingham and Mark Buckingham have weaved incredible yarns that read like century-old fairy tales and yet are as hip and cool as the latest Arcade Fire album. After 100-plus issues, you'd think the execution would take a slight dip but no, the just completed, eight-part 'Cubs in Toyland' arc was one for the ages. Bravo, gentlemen. Bravo."

-- CBR Staff Writer Jeffrey Renaud

Click here for the next installment in CBR's Top 100 Comics of 2012!

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