This year, we asked our Bleeding Cool writers to contribute their picks for the Best Comic Panels of 2013, and the votes are in. From the serious and thought-provoking to the wild and raucous expressions comics are more than capable of, our writers selected the moments that defined the medium this year for them. The composite picture really does suggest that 2013 has been a year like no other in comics, and that's setting the bar high for 2014. Here are the best comic panels of 2013:
David Dissanayake's choices are:
From Hawkeye #11, written by Matt Fraction, with art by David Aja
…And business is booming. Hawkeye, never leave me.
From Sandman Overture #1, written by Neil Gaiman, with art by J.H. Williams III
Wow, Williams III… Just Wow. Best ending page all year.
From Zero #2, written by Ales Kot, with art by Tradd Moore
Nevs Coleman's choice is:
"Damian Nearly Gets Kicked into Orbit by Power Girl", from World's Finest #6, written by Paul Levitz, with art by Kevin Maguire, George Perez, and Scott Koblish
There's a small bit of me that dearly hopes that Paul Levitz sat down one night, flicking through YouTube and found the sublime episode of Father Ted entitled "Kicking Bishop Brennan Up The Arse" and decided to run a "homage" to it in the pages of World's Finest issue 6.
That or he just really didn't like Damian Wayne.
Tim Hanley's choices are:
"I am Captain Marvel!", from Captain Marvel #17, written by Kelly Sue DeConnick, with art by Filipe Andrade,colors by Jordie Bellaire and letters by Joe Caramagna
The Carol Corps are a force to be reckoned with. The new Captain Marvel had scads of fan art before her series even began, and now the Carol Corps have grown into an army of the most enthusiastic, creative, and dedicated fans in all of comics. Captain Marvel #17 showcased the Carol Corps, and DeConnick herself, on its cover, but the Spartacus-esque finale, where legions of New Yorkers declared "I am Captain Marvel!" to confuse a pack of drones, brought the spirit of the Carol Corps inside the book.
"Lying.", from Saga #14, written by Brian K. Vaughan,with art by Fiona Staples and letters by Fonografiks
It seems unlikely that a polygraphic talking cat and a sexually abused child would combine to make the sweetest, most moving scene of the year, but such is the world of Saga. It is a weird, wonderful book where a space bounty hunter's feline pal can affirm the inherent goodness of a young girl from the brothel planet Sextillion with the only word she can speak. While Vaughan and Staples are crafting a grand space opera, it's small moments like this that make Saga such a great series.
"My Secret Boy!", from Smallville Season 11 #16, written by Bryan Q. Miller, with art by Jorge Jimenez, colors by Carrie Strachan and letters by Saida Temofonte
In her regular series, Wonder Woman is the perpetually rash god of war. Everywhere else, she's just Superman's girlfriend. In Miller and Jimenez's re-imagining of Wonder Woman's origin for the Smallville universe, the mood is much brighter, and never more than on the Paradise Island sequences where a young Diana rescues a young Steve Trevor and keeps him as her secret friend. The sheer joy of the warrior princess in this new twist on the Wonder Woman mythology was a much needed counter to the darkness of the New 52.
Richard Johnston's choices are:
"All-Star Spoilers!" from Young Avengers #11, written by Kieron Gillen, with art by Jamie McKelvie
This panel was from Young Avengers #11. Not only was it a great reveal of the new look Loki, but after someone at Disney gave me an advance copy, it seemed churlish not to jump the press barrier at the Thor 2 premiere, dodge a couple of security guards and secure this photo with the main man. As Kieron Gillen later said, talking about spoilers,
Our plan is simply to keep quiet and not add our own volume to the signal, and so the proportion of people who just follow us and not the rest of comics don't get infected. Unless it gets stapled to the chest of a movie star at a premier the day before the issue comes out and broadcast around the Internet at the speed of lust, we should be fine.
"Show Your Working Out" from Jupiter's Legacy #1 written by Mark Millar, with art by Frank Quitely and Pete Doherty
That's the panel that made me love Jupiter's Legacy, using constructed nature of comic books to show a constructed psychic scene. For all the criticism of Millar writing comics to be films, here is one moment that uses the nature of comics for its own, unreproduceable, purpose.
"A Place To Park Your Bike" from Uncanny X-Men #15.INH written by Brian Michael Bendis with art by Kris Anka
You take someone posh, snooty, superior, everyone's better… and then you portray them sleeping. On their knees. Cuts them right down. Also, now everyone knows what Scott Summers saw in Emma Frost.
"Wheeeeeee!" from Manifest Destiny #2 written by Chris Dingess with art by Matthew Roberts and Owen Gien
A stunning fall from a cliff, with comic paneling utilized to the full, even a minor eclipse of the sun. This new comic from Image is one of my favorite of the year, retelling the great American adventure from those who sought to tame it, now facing more than they could have expected, and this was one of my favorite moments from it.
"Mind Your Language" from Walking Dead #116 written by Robert Kirkman with art by Charlie Adlard
Because sometimes that's just what you need.
"Fat Bleeped Out Girls" from Sex Criminals #3, written by Matt Fraction, with art by Chip Zdarsky
This comic has given us so many great things. One of which is a musical number. That was the plan anyway. And which particular tune did they have in mind? Fat Bottomed Girls by Queen.
Of course. But the lyrics are replaced by a narrative of the creators explaining their plans and why things didn't quite come together. For now. But it is, nevertheless, quite brilliant.
In fact it might even be better than that original. And that's the danger. They may fix it for the trade. And you'd be denied the whole scene. So, buy Sex Criminals #3 , enjoy it as much as I did, and when you get to this bit, click here.
"Torture Porn" from Superior Spider-Man Annual, written by Christos Gage, with art by Javier Rodriguez
Superior Spider-Man was one of the stand out series of the year. Which began with questions as to whether a sexual relationship with Mary Jane Watson would mark him out as a rapist. It did not, and marks out a moral line in this immoral character. But circumstances tested Otto Octavious-inside-Peter Parker's-body and this annual saw the character cross a line. In full view of Aunt May.
Because he is trying to be a better man. He's not trying to take over the world, he's not trying to steal, he is trying to be a superhero. He is vicious, he makes different decisions, he has killed, but he saves people – both those close to him, and large numbers of strangers. His motives are positive, if warped by his previous nature.
But this moment sees him move into full blown Nazi-like torture/experimentation on his victims. By ripping out teeth and fingernails…
"Welcome To 2014" from Superman #21, written by Scott Lobdell, with art by Aaron Kuder
Tell me about it Clark, tell me about it.
Hannah Means-Shannon's choices are:
"Your Own Worst Enemy", from Young Avengers Volume 1 (Issue #5) written by Kieron Gillen, with art by Jamie McKelvie and Mike Norton, colors by Matthew Wilson, and letters by VC's Clayton Cowles
Young Avengers hasn't taken long to establish itself in the public imagination as an iconic comic, and it's because of panels like this that it will remain lodged there over time. The relationship between Loki and Loki is one of the greatest bromance/break-ups of superhero (or rather supervillain) recent history, and we begin to realize that without Leah as a foil, Loki really still does need a double-act. But this panel has an extra punch for two reasons: up to this point we don't realize the extent of the ongoing schism within Loki, and also it stands at an epic point in the plot where possibilities seem impossible to gauge. We really don't know what Loki is going to do next, and that's magic. Also we've all wanted to punch the punster at one point or another.
"Jersey Girl", from Harley Quinn # 0, written by Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti, with art here by Becky Cloonan and letters by John J. Hill
Harley Quinn's Issue #0 was ultra-hyped and had a lot to live up to when it finally reached comic shops, but with a massive array of extraordinarily talented artists and promises to break the 4th wall, it was unlikely to disappoint. This single issue made comics history, and this single panel, though hard to choose from in a book full of visual wonders, sums up for me the appeal of Harley Quinn as a character, her versatility and chameleon-like ability to become a point of identification for the reader, and a kind of perfect storm seeing Harley in the hands of Becky Cloonan who renders her a punk, confused and troubled starlet unaware of her own starring role.
"Kaleidoscope Eyes", from The Fox #2, written by Mark Waid and Dean Haspiel, with art by Dean Haspiel, colors by Allen Passalaqua and letters by John Workman
Issue #1 of The Fox still had one foot firmly planted in a reality readers could hold onto, but opening the cover on Issue #2 revealed this image and a promise that all bets were off. For the reader, it's sink or swim from this point onward into the psychedelic and shifting realities of a bizarre psychological adventure in the mind of a hero divided against himself. The use of the Beatles lyrics was a move so ingenious that I'm still trying to process the second shift in the narrative here where the Fox clarifies that these kind of realities are both terrifying and his "life". Passalaqua's colors are saturated and cloying like the overpowering world the Fox is entering and resisting. In combination, Haspiel's linework, the colors, and the monologue strike the reader as being entirely alien, strange, and disorienting. For me, a panel that asserts the strangeness comics are capable of represents the ongoing vitality of the medium.
Madeline Ricchiuto's choices are:
I've been a fan of Jock's art for years, and while I tend to be leery of people who start in one medium and move to another at a late point in their career, I greatly enjoyed Jock's sci-fi Wolverine story. Which was not a combination of words I ever thought I'd type. These panels in particular do a fantastic job of showcasing Jock's art and his ability to tell a story. I regularly weep with envy.
From Krampus! #1, written by Brian Joines, with art by Dean Kotz
There is something profoundly enjoyable about watching a mythological holiday figure get beaten up by fairies. Particularly pink sugar plum fairies. The opening to the first issue of this comic set the bar by which I will measure every single thing I read for the next year, because these panels perfectly illustrate the entire purpose of the comic.
Lets be totally honest for a moment, Mr. Fantastic is hard guy to take seriously. I mean, things like this happen to him sometimes. And I just cannot ever take Reed Richards seriously as a character after panels like this one, from the wonderful and wonky Longshot Saves the Marvel Universe.
From Action Comics #19, written by Andy Diggle, with art by Tony S. Daniel
I don't like Superman, it's a personal choice, but this is one hell of a statement panel and it's the best I've seen all year. The dialogue from the guy falling to his death is an added bonus; gotta love the lettering choice there.
Brandon Rucker's choices are:
From Rat Queens #1 by Kurtis J. Wiebe & Roc Upchurch
If you've read Rat Queens then you already know that little Betty consistently brings the funny with her mix of naïve innocence blended with wisdom beyond her years and diminutive size. And of course Hannah's reaction is the actual tickler.
From Saga #16, written by Brian K. Vaughan, with art by Fiona Staples
I enjoy this panel for a couple reasons. The obvious being the hilarious yet poignant truth of it. The brilliant aspect of fictional violence (prior to our desensitization to it) is that it hits us on a visceral if not cerebral level. Then there's the context of the scene within the story itself – two middle-aged characters having an intellectual debate during what will ultimately turn out to be a fleeting period of domestic bliss. Given the events that take place in the following issue, apparently this is, unfortunately, one of the last few moments either of these characters will share together in the sensational pages of Saga.
From Sex Criminals #2 written by Matt Fraction, with art by Chip Zdarsky
Like the others, it really helps to see the panels leading up to this one, yet still, Jon imploring that Suzie not laugh when the reader is clearly on the verge of doing so (or already in the midst of a hearty chuckle) is simply priceless, especially given Suzie's following lines. If you're of a reasonable age, there's no reason why you shouldn't be reading Sex Criminals.
Alex Wilson's choices are:
From Saga #17, written by Brian K. Vaughan, with art by Fiona Staples