For the sake of this I’ll define new material that is appearing in print, digitally, or in English for the first time. So these will be books or series that only just became available in English in 2013. They’re not ranked, and the order they’re in is pretty arbitrary, so don’t try to make sense of it. I love them all equally — pretty much.

Let’s get to it!:

SABERTOOTH SWORDSMAN

A raucous, hilarious actioner by Damon Gentry and Aaron Conley, Sabertooth Swordsman coverSABERTOOTH SWORDSMAN feels like a mash-up of Akira Toriyama’s DR. SLUMP, Roy Thomas/Barry Windsor-Smith CONAN, and Bryan Lee O’Malley’s SCOTT PILGRIM. Aaron Conley’s art is gorgeous, and Gentry/Conley’s ability to set-up and deliver a joke in a medium in which the audience controls time is superb. I was excited to read the book when it was first announced, but it still managed to surprise me with its humor, its heart, and its craft. Dark Horse’s production quality is top-notch, and the book comes with some really nice pin-ups by Mike Allred, Dilraj Mann, Brandon Graham, and others.

THE PASSION OF GENGOROH TAGAME

The first book-length collection of Tagame’s comics to be translated into English, THE PASSION OF GENGOROH TAGAME is very explicit, very violent BDSM gay pornography. The collection is remarkably well drawn, and the reason that Tagame has so many straight male fans is because the work is The Passion of Gengoroh Tagameshockingly funny. If you’re straight obviously you won’t find the work erotic, but it has artistic value far beyond simply being something to get off to. Tagame is referred to as a master of his craft for a reason, and the impeccably designed collection not only shows off some of his best work but a brand-new short commissioned specifically for the collection. And if you don’t believe a straight man thinks that BDSM gay porn manga is some of the best comics of the year just ask others, because cartoonist Brandon Graham and writer Joe Keatinge both recommend it, and the book was featured on Comics Alliance’s best-of-the-year list, too.

MUSE

Much closer to softcore than THE PASSION OF GENGOROH TAGAME, D-P MuseFilippi and Terry Dodson’s  also happens to be porn. Unlike Tagame’s book, MUSE is aimed a heterosexual audience, but they both transcends the genre of simple fap material. In fact, it carries on the grand tradition of erotic European comics, like the works of Guido Crepax and Vittorio Giardino. It’s a fun book which—featuring some of Terry Dodson’s best art—combines, in much same way the FAST & FURIOUS franchise does, stunningly beautiful women and brisk, light, and engaging stories.

 

SUNNY

Sunny

Created by TEKKONKINKREET’s Taiyo Matsumoto, SUNNY is my number one favorite comic of the year. It tells the story of a number of children in an orphanage, and Matsumoto manages to shift focus every chapter and make every character in this very extensive cast a three-dimensional person. His ability to humanize even the most insignificant of characters is on par with anyone else in the medium’s history, and his art is exquisite. I reviewed the first volume of SUNNY when it was first released, and the series has remained of the most and most mouth-watering comics.

LOGJAM: THE BEST FUCKING X-MAN EVER

Logjam Back CoverColin Panetta’s bootleg X-MEN comic was the single funniest comic I read in 2013. With its stark art and its punk rock ethos, LOGJAM: THE BEST FUCKING X-MAN EVER won me over within seconds.  Panetta manages to create an aesthetic similar to that of Peter Bagge’s, and the book is structured like a filthy three-panel/three-beat gag comic, which makes it deceptively deep and complex. It’s this kick ass lo-fi mini-comic that completely blew me away, with the Moebius quote at the end, which one-two punches you with the book’s message, serving as a delicious cherry on top.

BATTLING BOY

Battling Boy

The first new work from Paul Pope since 2007’s BATMAN: YEAR 100, the first book the BATTLING BOY series managed to exceed the lofty expectations that I had for it. Pope manages to combine the wonder of myth, ‘60s superhero comics, and ‘70s HEAVY METAL into a gorgeously illustrated coming-of-age story that comics could stand to see more of. It has the feel of the very best Jack Kirby comics and the imaginative brilliance of Moebius pages. Sadisto is my favorite villain of the year, and the announcement that secondary-character Aurora West will be getting her own two-book series was more than I could’ve asked for. The Battling Boy and Aurora West books will most definitely be some of my most-looked-forward to books for the next three years.

THE PRIVATE EYE

The Private Eye cover

Brian K. Vaughan and Marcos Martin’s creator-owned THE PRIVATE EYE combines everything I love: ‘80s sci-fi, classic superheroes, and detective stories. The first issue was the best first issue I had read in a very long time, and every issue managed to be better than the last. Its success turned a lot of creators on to the pay-what-you-want method of self-distribution, and I hope more follow. I love the idea of paying the creators directly. And as much as I want a physical copy of these stunning Marcos Martin pages, the method of distribution, of paying the artists directly for their art, is something I can totally get on board with.

THE BUNKER

The formerly-digital-only comic from writer Joshua Hale Fialkov and artist JoeThe Bunker interior 2 Infurnari was another digital experiment that paid off in spades — for me. The book, which features a truly original premise that I was so happy to never have seen before, brought Infurnari to my attention and made me a fan for life. Oni will be releasing a print version in just a couple months, and if you’re not already on the bandwagon it’s not too late, because this series has managed to jump to the top of my to-read pile every time a new issue dropped.

 ZERO

The brainchild of writer Ales Kot, ZERO tells the story of Zero, a super-spy who has been raised since birth to be the perfect weapon.  It’s an idea that we’ve seen a hundred times before, but Kot’s deep psychological exploration of Zero and his decision to feature a different artist on each issue makes ZERO stand out in a crowd. The series may only be four issues in, but it’s off to an auspicious start and is quickly becoming one of the best things coming out of the consistently brilliant Image.

ZERO #1 interior

GOLDEN POLLEN & OTHER STORIES

Golden Pollen and Other Stories coverThe first English-language book-length collection of work by avant-garde mangaka Seiichi Hayashi, GOLDEN POLLEN & OTHER STORIES collects some of the strangest, most obtuse stories I’ve ever read. But each one is crafted with skill, and not a single one is easily forgettable. And the emotional range that the stories in this collection encompass is simply remarkable.  Packaged beautifully by the folks at PictureBox, Ryan Holmberg’s inaugural entry in his Masters of Alternative manga series may be subtle in its brilliance but that doesn’t change the fact that it is brilliant.