Lasting Impressions: The Best Characters of 2013

Two days left in the year, and I have one last look back at 2013 for you. This week, I’m going to examine the most memorable characters of the past twelve months. After all, even if we try a book for the creator, it’s the characters which make us stick around. They are what engage us, pulling us deeper into their fictional worlds. So, in alphabetical order by character name, here are some of the best of 2013:

SEX3-Annabelle
Piotr Kowalski

1. Annabelle Lagravenese (Sex): Former costumed cat-thief Shadow Lynx turned madame of an upscale bordello, Annabelle is an intriguing counterpoint to retired hero Bruc-I mean, Simon. As much as she might try to move on, the past keeps sneaking up on her. Watching this proud woman begrudgingly admit to needing glasses (her eyesight permanently skewered by too many adventures with night-vision goggles) was a great observation on the long-term consequences of her former profession. Then, there was the scene where she lays in bed, recalling the old thrill of a chase across the rooftops . . .

XO_015_VARIANT_LADRONN
Ladronn

2. Aric of Dacia (X-O Manowar, Unity): Valiant has definitely put Aric through his paces this year. Starting with a journey to the home world of his former captors, the freeing of his tribe from servitude, returning to Earth, proclaiming a new kingdom, and then dealing with the fall-out from those actions. Under the guidance of writer Robert Venditti, assisted by Matt Kindt, Aric continues to grow. At times unabashedly brutal, while at others displaying mercy and consideration, I suspect that Aric will continue to surprise readers in 2014.  

3. Clementine & Emma (Blue Is the Warmest Color): Julie Maroh’s original graphic novel traces the path of Clementine as she discovers her self and sexuality through her relationship with Emma. Their story, with all the blissful joys and bitter mistakes that typically accompany young love, forms the basis of one of the most beautiful tales in the medium this year.

blue is the warmest meeting
Julie Maroh
Overture Dream Cornithian(crop)
J.H. Williams III

4. The Corinthian (Sandman Overture): There will be plenty of opportunity to discuss Morpheus next year as his path in Gaiman’s prequel develops. For now, though, I would like to single out The Corinthian. Gaiman returns to this fan favorite at a key moment in the character’s history, filling in a bit of background for his appearance in The Doll’s House. Gaiman & Williams render him equally chilling and charming; in other words, a true nightmare.  

saga-heist
Fiona Staples

5. D. Oswald Heist (Saga): Even before this month’s issue, I was planning to include Oswald on my list; after reading it, I knew that I must. As the author of the book which helped bring Marko and Alana together, his name has been a part of Saga since the first arc. This year we got to meet him in person, discovering a mix of vulgar and profound, principled and resigned. Most endearing of all was his blossoming friendship (?) with the recently widowed Klara.    

Kid Loki talks with Leah
Jamie McKelvie

6. Kid Loki/Young Man Loki (Young Avengers): Kid Loki jumped from Journey into Mystery to Young Avengers without losing any of the lovable, infuriating qualities that had won him over to his fans. Riffing on that old chestnut of the God of Lies bringing a team of Avengers together, Loki, being Loki, played a long game that resulted in an older body, a power level boost, and (possibly) a little bit of heartbreak. Confronting a guilty conscience is never easy, particularly when embodied by a League of Ex’s, but these are lessons we all need to learn eventually, even reincarnated Norse Trickster Gods. OK, maybe especially reincarnated Norse Trickster Gods. Regardless, Kid Loki, you will be missed.   

mind mgmt meru
Matt Kindt

7. Meru (Mind MGMT): Meru has always been the focus of Matt Kindt’s exceptional series, but this was the year her character came more clearly into focus. At first glance, she was simply a non-fiction author desperate for her next book subject, someone who happened to stumble upon a scoop so outrageous no one would possibly believe it. Now we know better, however; now we know her past history with Mind MGMT. Meru has gone from being a passive pawn caught up in unfolding events to the key player directing the game. 

Unwritten_47_3
Peter Gross

8. Pauly “Mr. Bun” Bruckner (The Unwritten): When this character first appeared, I honestly did not care much for him. Then, Mike Carey revisited him for #24 (one of the greatest single issues I have ever read), and he grew on me. This year he popped up once again in the stellar Orpheus in the Underworld three partner. Having finagled his way onto the Throne of Hades, this former foul-mouthed killer trapped in the body of a bunny finds Lordship over the Dead less glamorous than he might have imagined. His increasing frustration with the limits/constraints of his title bring a sympathetic element previously lacking in this character.

young-avengers-6-prodigy-tech-support-4
Kate Brown

9. Prodigy (Young Avengers): The last time I read an X-book regularly was the 90s, so I was entirely unfamiliar with Prodigy when he first appeared in Young Avengers. However by the year’s end, he had grown into a favorite from a book filled with compelling characters. His explanation of how he discovered and accepted his bisexuality was one of the highlights of the year.

Riddler Zero Year
Greg Capullo

10. The Riddler (Batman): In the pages of Zero Year, Scott Snyder gave Edward Nigma some of his best dialogue in years, as he plays mind games with a young Bruce Wayne and associates. In addition, Ray Fawkes scripted an outstanding Riddler Villains’ Month issue, where Nigma infiltrates Wayne Tower simply to prove that he can (a brief bout of revenge sweetens the prize as well). In both these stories, The Riddler is a sly combination of brains and menace, always one step ahead of anyone else.  

Journey into Mystery 650
Daniel Acuna

11. Sif (Journey into Mystery): Sif has always been a character I was interested in, but never really read anything where she received a proper spotlight. Marvel changed that by letting her headline Journey into Mystery after Kid Loki graduated to the Young Avengers. Writer Kathryn Immonen gave us a Sif who was tough, independent, humorous, fallible and charming. You know, the kind of fully rounded female superhero we’re always complaining that the Big Two don’t produce enough of. So, of course, Marvel canceled it in just under a year. Sigh.

SexCriminalsPanelsaloneinthequiet
Chip Zdarsky

12. Suzanne (Sex Criminals): I have remarked before on how caught by surprise I was by the quality of this series. I believe the main reason for this is Suzie. Matt Fraction takes his time in the first issue to lay out her backstory. Readers see her family background, as well as her discovery of her powers. Through this coming of age issue, Fraction creates an utterly charming character, who only becomes more intriguing as the series progresses.     

swamp-thing-now-with-sun-locating-ability
Jesus Saiz

13. Swamp Thing: The common consensus when DC gave Swamp Thing a new series two years ago was that it would never last beyond writer Scott Snyder; he would do his usual brilliant thing, and leave it impossible for anyone to follow after him. In the end, his run received mixed reviews, and it was up and comer Charles Soule who had the fans speaking of a revitalization of the character. Soule has been portraying a very human Swamp Thing, while at the same time exploring the very nature of the Parliament of Trees and their Avatars. Hopefully, he’ll be sticking around on the title for a while.  

QW_005_005(Vincent crop)
Ming Doyle

14. Vincent van Goat (Quantum & Woody): In March Valiant first announced the return of heroes Quantum & Woody, while teasing us about a goat as well. Several months passed before that goat finally appeared, but once he did, he immediately lived up to expectations. Ever since, Vincent has become the highlight of every issue. The panel in issue #4 of Vincent with the self-destruct button is easily one of the funniest images of the year. Just don’t get him upset, ‘cause, you know, he’s one vicious animal . . .       

HAR_011_001_evanszephyr
Khari Evans

15. Zephyr (Harbinger): Like Young Avengers, this is a team book filed with strong, diverse characters. Yet, the standout this year has been Zephyr. Watching her development from wide-eyed joy to shouldering responsibility to confronting the realities of combat has been a pleasure. Despite all that she’s faced, though, she has not grown cynical or lost her belief in doing the right thing. Her good will has stayed firm, even as her experience has matured.  

Honorable Mention, Nova: I came onto Nova late in the year with #10, but was instantly won over by the young Sam Alexander. I look forward to catching up on what I missed in 2013, as well as discovering what happens next in 2014.  

Nova&Watcher

Best Ensembles: Saga, Young Avengers, Harbinger & Superior Foes of Spider-Man.

Overall, 2013 has been a pretty strong year for comics. Fingers crossed for an equally enjoyable 2014. 

Cheers and best wishes for your new year.

28 thoughts on “Lasting Impressions: The Best Characters of 2013”

  1. Great article, Cosmo.

    Sorry to say that I’ve only read a very small percentage of these titles. My budget gets blown on my first love, big two spandex. Of the couple of those that you mention I enjoy Snyder’s Batman but it’s not near the top of my favourite books this year and try as I might I just don’t see in Young Avengers what you and Patrick and others do. I had this problem with Wonder Woman as well, but re-read the first 2 years in one sitting and it finally clicked for me. I’m thinking that maybe when I have the time a re-read of the whole of this Young Avengers run might have the same effect on me.

    Of the couple of “indie” books that I have been reading I have to say that Quantum and Woody is right up there. I had reservations about this because I loved the original series and wasn’t sure this would work without Priest and Bright on-board but this is such a great read month after month and both Quantum and especially Woody jump off the page and have quickly become two of my favourite re-launched characters.

    I’m also enjoying King’s Watch from Dynamite. Again, I was concerned. Some of Dynamite’s “pulp” output looks good but what’s behind the shiny, pretty covers fails to impress. But Jeff Parker has brought us an excellent take on both The Phantom and especially Flash Gordon. I like my old time heroes set back in the past usually, but Parker has made these modern day versions of Flash, Zarkov, Dale Arden and The Phantom a real hit with me. He’s really managed to capture the “real” Flash Gordon and now that Ming’s shown up things can only get better. Coupled with Marc Laming channeling Al Williamson and this is a real treat. Fingers crossed for a second series.

    But my favourite has to be Dynamite’s Green Hornet written by Mark Waid. A fresh new take on the original Green Hornet that has never failed to impress from the very start. Waid has taken Britt Reid and breathed new life in the Hornet character and concept. Reid’s ego took control which forced a split between him and Kato forcing Reid to take a long hard look at his methods. Stripping The Green Hornet down only to re-build him Waid has made this one of my favourite books of the year. I just wish we were getting more than 12 issues.

    As for the big two. Well, Aquaman is the obvious stand out from DC. I’ve always loved Aquaman but so few people seem able to do him justice. Much has been said about Johns on both Green Lantern and The Flash but for me he hit gold with Aquaman. Returning Arthur to his roots and shoving him to the top of the DC pile.

    Over at Marvel, I too, love the new Nova. That book is my favourite read every month and it’s the character of Sam Alexander and co. that really make this a stand out book from Marvel. It’s full of great character moments and dialogue from Sam, his mother, and that meeting with Spider-Ock. And now with Speedball and Justice showing up wanting to re-form The New Warriors…Great stuff.

    My other favourite has to be Spider-Ock himself. What a great character. Watching Otto playing at Peter Parker while trying, and generally failing, to keep his ego in check is a lot of fun. Watching his frustrations play out when his plans go awry or because of the inability of anyone to match his “superior” status is a joy to see every month. It’s been a really fun ride.

    Now a mention for worst characterisation this year.

    Most badly buggered up by Bendis award has to go to Rocket Racoon. Bendis took a great character as written by Abnett and Lanning and stripped away all the fun.

    Worst characterisation/complete lack of characterisation on any book this year goes to Jonathan Hickman and his run on Avengers. Worst. Avengers. Ever! Please, please get this man off this book NOW!!

    1. Like you, I consider myself a spandex junkie first, but I’ve gotten to where I enjoy a lot of indie books. I’m probably up to about 15-20 indies if we count Mignolaverse from Dark Horse.
      Johns’s Aquaman has been a masterpiece. I was tempted to put the Dead King on my list, but he doesn’t have very much panache. He played his part well and was perfect for the story, but nobody’s gonna be doing a character study on him anytime soon. What he lacks in personality, he more than makes up for in malice psychosis.

    2. Thanks streethawk. Giving Young Avengers another shot in trade may be a good idea. It is a book with a very specific voice, so it might not be for everyone . . .

      I read the first few issues of Waid’s Green Hornet, liked it, but wasn’t blown away by it. I wanted to keep with it, but something needed to be culled from my pull list and Hornet was it. I plan on catching up/finishing it eventually . . .

      Johns’ Aquaman is probably the best thing I’ve read by him. Hopefully, Parker can keep up the quality — based on what I’ve read by him in the past, I do think that he was a good choice for the title.

      Yeah, Bendis on Guardians was one of the let downs of the year for me. The first issue started with promise, but pretty much lost my interest by the the 4th. Sigh.

  2. Characters (off the top of my head) who left an impression on me from 2013 (who aren’t listed above) in no particular order:

    Velvet- I know it’s only been 2 issues, but I’m hooked on Velvet. Mystery, cool gadgets, espionage and fast paced action. It’s like a serious Archer.

    Ultraman- I’m a huge fan of parallel universes and doppelgängers. Johns has hit a home run with this paranoid, kryptonite snorting conqueror. To be honest, the Crime Syndicate as a whole have fascinated me. The character pieces in JL have been gold. Just great character work throughout Forever Evil.

    Gorr the God Butcher- Coolest new Villain in a long time. Serial killer who murders gods. What else needs to be said?

    Boomerang- Superior Foes is the funniest book at Marvel and possibly my favorite after Thor.

    Zoey from “A Voice in the Dark”- Pump Up the Volume meets Heathers. The fact that she’s drawn and shaded by Larime’s mouth is awe inspiring. This book hits a lot of political notes. I’m a sucker for social commentary.

    Walter Sampson from “Jupiter’s Legacy”- not content in following his brother’s lead in letting the world solve it’s own problems, Walter orchestrates a coup to remove the Utopian from blocking his ambitions.

    1. Oh, and Death from East of West- It’s like Clint Eastwood meets Beatrix Kiddo, they fuck and 9 months later they spit this apocalyptic horseman.

    2. Great additions! I would definitely have Velvet, Gorr, Boomerang and Zoey on my list. I don’t read the other books, probably the only reason they wouldn’t be on mine as well.

    3. I considered including Velvet on my list; she’s made a strong impression on me after only two issues. In the end, though, I cut her in favor of characters we’ve seen more of. I also considered selecting someone from Superior Foes, but, honestly, there wasn’t a single one who stood out above the rest, which is why I cited the book for best ensemble. Yeah, I could’ve chosen Boomerang, but, also needed to keep the list from getting too long. I easily could’ve let it run to 20 . . .

      I haven’t read any Voice in the Dark yet, but it is steadily moving up my priority list.

  3. A few stand out characters from last year would be:

    Lucas from Sheltered has me wondering every issue what he’s going to do next and you can’t ask much more from a book than that. After the cliffhanger and two months I can’t wait to read the next issue!

    Aric of Dacia is someone who comes off as someone who always runs in head first without thinking ,and while he does do a lot of that, the last issue shows that he’s also very smart .

    Batman, cause he’s the goddamn Batman! And I’m digging the hell out of Zero Year.

    Edward Zero is another stand out for me this year. Can’t wait to read this book every month and I’ll buy anything “indie” that Ales Kot writes!

    Honorable mentions would be Velvet, Oliver Queen, The Will,Gwendolyn and Death from East of West, Sitara already said why ^^^

    1. And BTW nice list Cosmo! I like comic book lists cause they usually change a lot and I like seeing what everyone’s into. I haven’t read much of them either but they do look good and I like reading about books I can’t get to.

  4. Love this list cosmo. Of course there are some books I don’t read here but of the ones I do I am in total agreement.
    For me the standouts from your list:
    Kid Loki, The Riddler, Suzanne, Annabelle, The Corinthian

    Ones I also really enjoyed that haven’t been mentioned:
    Pizza Dog, Einstein (Manhattan Projects), Forever Carlyle, Young Jean Grey, oh and Nara from Avengers Arena.

  5. Great list Cosmo, a fine mix of characters from across the board of comics. I’m just gonna list some of my favorites, because it’s fun.

    Bently-23 and the Moloids from FF: Their Wiley Coyote-esque attempt to sabotage the date of Jen and Wyatt Wingfoot alone was enough to propel them to my favorites list.

    Oppenheimer(s) from Manhattan Projects: Likeable he/they? are not, but fascinating and unpredictable are attributes that will get you on my list, no matter how big of a dick you are.

    Miss America Chavez from Young Avengers: I’m a sucker for a sassy Latina who’s always ready to kick some ass, or just hang out and drop Spanglish one liners to keep Loki in check; either way I was under her spell from the get-go 🙂

    Matt Murdock: I’ve said it before, but Matt is one of my favorite characters in all of comics, and Mark Waid has made me like him even more. He’s a ladies man, a lawyer with a soul, and the best friend anyone could ask for, and he does all this with a level of charm even George Clooney would aspire to. Daredevil is a badass, but Matt is the MAN!

    1. Thanks otherbluth. I’m a fan of Miss America as well. And Kate Bishop. And Billy & Teddy. And . . . Honestly I could’ve made a list solely from Young Avengers characters . . .

      I enjoyed Bentley, the Moloids & the rest of the kids in the first FF series. I think that they are Hickman’s greatest contribution to the Fantastic Four legacy. I haven’t read any of the current series though . . .

      Matt Murdock is indeed awesome.

      1. Hah! Yeah Young Avengers doesn’t have a bad character. You should definitely check out the Fraction/Allreds run on FF, it was a blast every issue, though I do wish Franklin and Valeria had stuck around, cause they were sorely underused in the F4 proper.

        I completely agree regarding Hickman’s creation of the FF being a great contribution, I would love it if after he’s done with Avengers we could get a teen or Young-adult Franklin/Valeria book out of him, but I know the likelihood of that is pretty small.

        1. I loved how Hickman wrote Valerie & Franklin, my favorite part of his whole Fantastic Four run. So yeah, if he revisited those characters, it would be pretty cool.

          I plan on reading the Fraction/Allreds FF eventually. It looks like fun.

  6. Great list Cosmo, really like the idea of a year review in characters rather than creators or books!

    Couldn’t agree more about including Swamp Thing, The Riddler and Suzanne.
    I am still not totally clicking with Aric of Dacia. I think it’s because I’ve only read he first 2 issues of Unity and not much from the X-O series itself. That said, the artwork in Unity is amazing so I’ll be sticking around.

    Nice choice including The Corinthian. For me Morpheus had to be my VIP character of 2013 as I finally read Sandman Preludes & Nocturnes, and The Dolls House after reading Overture.

    I’m not that familiar with the other characters or books you have mentioned, but if I was to add a few that have left an impression on me:

    Dr Lee Archer – The Wake
    Anthony Starks – 12 Reasons To Die
    Nika & William – Trillium

    Happy New Year!

    1. Thanks, glad that you liked the list. Happy New Year to you as well.

      Aric’s character is filled out more in X-O Manowar, so I understand how he might appear less compelling if you’ve only read Unity.

  7. D. Oswald Heist is my favorite character on your list. The Corinthian coming in at second.
    Oswald’s interactions with Klara and the crew have been a delight.

  8. A friend introduced me to Harbinger and it is a pleasant surprise. Strong story arcs and interesting characters.
    I too was introduced to NOVA late in it’s run because I thought the character would be as annoying as the animated version on Ultimate Spider-Man and avoided it. But I picked it up during a recent sale at my LCS and the stories are really solid and the character is likeable as the original NOVA.
    Lady Sif in JTM was good but unfortunately the lack of cleavage and gratuitous nudity assured it did not survive. This is what happens when writers treat women like real people and not a sex object.

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