Spencer Ellsworth writes:
Did 2013 leave you dizzy? Did you buy it all, but you're trying to choose the perfect comic for your list? Here are some of the best collections and graphic novels of 2013. Don't worry, we checked it twice.
The Fifth Beatle – Dark Horse, November
A fantastic oversized graphic novel that is not just Beatlephilia, but a beautiful story of loss and heartbreak. Vivek Tiwary, Andrew Robinson and Kyle Baker chronicle the bittersweet story of Brian Epstein's life as a closeted gay man in the 60's. They interweave absurd, Hard Day's Night-style quips from the Beatles, juxtaposing the tragedy against the rush of fame. Especially for your local baby boomer Beatlemaniac.
Jonathan Hickman's Fantastic Four Omnibus – Marvel, October
Big, mind-expanding, heavy stuff! This massive tome chronicles Hickman's wondrous adventures through alternate realities, apocalypses, and the wonderful quirk science that drives the FF. He also takes us through life, death and beyond. Good for your diehard Stan-and-Jack fan.
Saga vol. 1 & 2 – Image, March & July
Did you miss Saga? HOW? If so, run out and buy it this second. If not, buy it for a friend. This is, like Watchmen, a work of transcendent art that can only exist in comics. Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples' epic is Star Wars with a seedier side than Jabba imagined. Galactic war, bounty hunters, and galactic whorehouses. For everyone, but essential to the Star Wars nut in your life.
Invincible vol. 13: The Death of Everyone – Image, July
Marking one hundred issues of the series, this wraps up numerous Invincible plotlines: the Viltrumites' hunt for Omni-Man, the schemes of Dinosaurus, Mark's fluctuating powers, and Mark and Eve's plans for the future. Invincible trades are not to be missed, even if you collect individual issues, as they always include fantastic bonus sketches and commentary. For the superhero nut who has grown disenchanted with Marvel & DC, or the Walking Dead fan hungry for more of Robert Kirkman's work.
Boxers/Saints – Macmillan, October
Gene Yang follows up American Born Chinese with the epic tale of the bloody Boxer Rebellion. Yang's typical cleverness, humor and heartbreak are here, but they're merged with a fine sweep of history and a critique of colonialism. Slip this under the tree for your local history buff.
My Little Pony: Pony Tales – IDW, November
The IDW MLP micro-series is collected here, in single stories that focus on one pony at a time. The result is a great highlight of each character's appeal, from Rainbow Dash's cockiness to Fluttershy's deep-buried strength. A great example of why this series has become an all-ages hit. For the Brony, PegaSister, or even the six-year old girl.
Thor: Godbomb – Marvel, October
Jason Aaron outdoes the Thor movies and gives Walter Simonson a run for his money. This tale follows three Thors from three different timelines, fighting a multidimensional time-hopping villain who wants to kill every single god ever. All the hammer-swinging, planet-smashing fun you expect, for the Marvel nuts on your list, or even better, for the Marvel newbie sucked in by the movies.
Don't write off the Transformers because of Michael Bay; this series is up there with Prophet and Saga as the most imaginative sci-fi on the stands. Volume 5 collects "Remain In Light," resolving-long running tales of robot apartheid and galactic war crimes. For everyone who loves robots. Which is everyone.
Young Avengers Vol. 1 – Marvel, September
Teen angst! Metaphysics! Young Loki recruits the best of teenage Marvel. Everything goes horribly wrong. Brawl, run away, fall in love, brawl again, rinse and repeat. This is a great comic to introduce the youth in your life into the Marvel Universe, and the trade is so very pretty. Even if you bought the individual issues, this is one to trade up.
Marvel NOW Omnibus? – Marvel, July
All of Marvel's new #1 issues, introducing fans to new incarnations of their characters. Uncanny Avengers to Deadpool to Superior Spider-Man to Captain America. Marvel writers are leaping imaginative bounds these days. Whether it's the young Cyclops confronting his older self, Doc Ock taking over Peter's body, or the usual Deadpool hijinks, this is the sampler for the Marvel fan who wants to try it all.
Hyperbole and a Half – Touchstone, October
Allie Brosh collects her musings on depression, childhood and the Internet into a beautiful book of terrible drawings. Just about everyone's seen these online, but there's something to be said about curling up on the couch with some tragicomedy. This one is a gift for the local therapist, because the waiting room needs a little humor.
RASL: Color Edition – Cartoon Books, September
Fat colored hardcover of Jeff Smith's trippy series for adults. All the quirks of Bone with a decidedly different sensibility. The trivia about Nikolai Tesla fits right into the tastes of Teslamaniacs. That Edison fellow was a total dick, guys. Follow the power of Jeff Smith right along the alternating current to alternating universe.
Bonus: Batman: The Court of Owls Mask & Book Set – DC, September
Yes, you read The Court of Owls, because you're not a godless Philistine. But if you didn't trade up, now's the time to get it for your shelf and get a MASK in the process. Vary it for new possibilities: creepy elf, Krampus from the bowels of Gotham City, or just scary scary dude.