RICKLY Reviews - Top 10 Comic Artists of 2013

...Who has the best pencils this year? Well, if you read comics, then this is your ground to play on!

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By Anil Rickly - 12/30/2013
Well folks. It's about that time of the year. 2013 saw an exponential increase in the number of people who want to talk about comic-book movies, yet they don't read comics. That aside, here's to the 'SUPERMAN DOESN'T KILL' posse and to everyone else wishing y'all a best 2014...and as a token of my love to you and your female associates...let's recap 2013 in comics, shall we?

Yes. I'm a comic connoisseur. I make Ron Burgundy look like Will Ferrell.
And stop reading the big two as much and dive into some indie. You'll thank me later. Now, I narrowed it to top ten lists but hey, some honorable mentions are there. There's just so much awesome on tap.

TOP 10 Artists of the Year
Honorable Mentions
There are so many. Cliff Chiang's 'Wonder Woman' stuff was gripping as it helped redefine another iteration of the titular character. Nick Bradshaw showed Marvel fans why he's the next Art Adams. Francis Manapul again chomped away gloriously on 'The Flash' from time to time and Riley Rossmo kept tearing walls down on the indie scene. Phil Noto also kept knocking on doors with his elegance. But in narrowing things down, I can safely say...it wasn't easy. There are too many amazing artists to name.
Thanks to all for sketching 2013 for us fans. Oh, Mark Brooks' 'Defenders' covers...holy crap...GODMODE!

10. Sara Pichelli - if you've seen her work on the Ultimate Spider-Man universe, then you know that she's definitely one to keep an eye on. When she's with Bendis, there's that Bagley effect where they complement each other so well. She's surely on her way to greatness. Her growth has shown with Bendis' Guardians of the Galaxy, and whether covers or interiors, her pages make for a phenomenal read!

9. Fiona Staples - Saga. That's all that needs to be said. Brian Vaughn's writing has never been this good. And what highlights this? Yes, the majestic pencils of this lady right here. Her textures, layouts and unconventional artistic prose represent why originality and creativity are unlike any other publisher as Image Comics. She helps make a cult label...oh, so mainstream and oh, so gorgeous, even more than in times past.

8. Greg Capullo - So him and Snyder. Yeah. Anyone read their Batman? It's not the definitive Batman that will define the character for ages but boy, it's one of most succinct and angst-draped books out. This comes down to the dark aesthetic that Capullo paints and if you've seen his Spawn and darker material, you know just how psychologically tormenting his art can be, yet still so beautiful. 'Death of the Family' and his take on Joker's face...said it all.

7. Nicola Scott - Well, Earth-2 from DC may well be their version of the Ultimates universe but in addition to being a fresh book, Scott's pencils add superb layers of grit into jarring story-lines. She packs a lot of punch into her work and where the story/writing falters, her art makes up in spades. It's vibrant, energetic and then some. Really goes for the jugular.

6. David Aja - His Hawkeye is simple yet hard-hitting. Non-complexities done by Aja, and if you've read his Marvel stuff before this, you'll see - they are jagged and visceral, even in his most straightforward panels. I think he and Matt Fraction bring the best out of each other and this book shows why. Aja's line of sight, no pun intended, is a notch above the lot.

5. Becky Cloonan / James Harren - Joint venture here. Their work on Conan's been as rock solid as can be. Since Brian Wood decided to subvert an age-old hero, he's always had their fantastic pencils tapering so much of the hostile atmosphere we know and love with the character. Do a little research and see what other projects they dabbled in in 2013. Guarantee you'll have eyes wide open even more.

4. Joe Eisma - WHEN Morning Glories hits TV or the big-screen, just know that the big push for this came equally from the standout art by this guy. He's been a mainstay in a cult-classic from Image and as someone who loved Rod Esquejo's art when this title now came out, Eisma is one who's never faltered in the game. He tests the boundaries on controversial and seductive, yet indie-poppy art!

3. Ken Rocafort - You can'd dispute that when he was at Top Cow, he was gonna be a star. His DC covers and his 'Red Hood' work are immaculate and have you seen what he did whenever he touched on Krypton's family? It's hard to sum this guy up but feast your eyes on his pencils. He's one of those artists now whose evolution is light years ahead of what we thought it would be.

2. Jaime McKelvie - No intro needed. Remember Phonogram? Well, once he's with Mr. Gillen, there's winning to be done. His panels and his simplistic style are what makes guys like Paolo Rivera, Chris Samnee and Marcos Martin realize, there's one more big gun to add to their pool. His imagination is one of a kind and his art could be silent, yet deafening. That's how profound his vision is. Whoever takes on art duties on 'Young Avengers' next will have their work cut out for them. This guy gave 'we3' panels a run for their money. 'Nuff said!

1. Marco Rudy - 'Swamp Thing' was where he caught my eye. Spooky and downright riveting. BUT, 'Marvel Knights: Spider-Man' not only offered Matt Kindt a realm to show his big-label chops...it also offered Rudy a trippy, psychedelic canvas to jam-pack a hundred villains and so many tentpole characters in one of the most smooth and brilliant layout-tapestry ever. It's one book that resonates for a long time just because it's so different and it's...well...radical. It plays on your mind and shows the genius of Rudy's eyes. Packing so much story and so many characters into such an unconventional cage has never looked as good. Kudos to this chap!
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Nomis - 12/30/2013, 12:40 PM
Interesting list.

however, being the old schooler that I am, I'm not much into these anime influence type artists or those who have a "simplistic approach", as much as I am in artists that are closer "photo-realistic heightened reality" approach in their design, like my all time favorite and master of that technique, Neal Adams

10. Rags Morales (Action Comics)

9. Colton Worley (The Shadow NOW)

8. Esad Ribic (Thor: God Of thunder)

7. Leinil You (Indestructible HULK)

6. David Finch (Batman: The Dark Knight,Justice League)

5. Steve Epting (New Avengers)

4. Tony S. Daniel (Detective Comics, Superman/WW)

3. Ed Bense (Batgirl, Red Lantern)

2. Jim Lee (JLA, Superman Unchained)

1. Ivan Reis (AquaMan, JLA)

Alphadog - 12/30/2013, 1:04 PM
Lee Bermejo is criminally underrated.

Nomis - 12/30/2013, 1:07 PM
@ earzmundo - Not really.

But I do think at the moment they have the best artist.
Firgosaurus - 12/30/2013, 1:12 PM
Lee is kller doing some noir shit.

I personally like Jesus Saiz from Swamp Thing. Marco Checcheto on his Punisher run ain't too shabby either.

I actually prefer Checchetto drawing DD.
Firgosaurus - 12/30/2013, 1:13 PM
Firgosaurus - 12/30/2013, 1:14 PM
Also big fan of Jim Lee 2.0 aka as Leinil Yu. He draws terrifically.
DTor91 - 12/30/2013, 1:36 PM
I agree with a lot of this. But Capullo's and Snyder's run on Batman is easily the defining the modern era. It will go down in Batman history for sure. Saga is a series I just cannot get into, and this is coming from someone who loves Y: The Last Man.
staypuffed - 12/30/2013, 2:42 PM
Interesting list.

I've got some favourites, in no particular order.
Jim Lee (Superman Unchained), Greg Capullo (Batman), Ivan Reis (Justice League), Francis Manapul & Brian Buccalleto (The Flash), Paco Medina (Nova, Avenging Spider-Man), Stuart Immonen (All-New X-Men) and Ed McGuinness (Amazing X-Men, Nova).
CoolioVids101 - 12/30/2013, 3:26 PM
May I say that I completely agree with Nomis' list
Jollem - 12/30/2013, 4:21 PM
i haven't seen any artist's work i dislike. i'll leave it at that. i don't wanna rank 'em
Franshu - 12/31/2013, 10:53 AM
Indeed, man. Bermejo's a beast.

I'm also wondering why isn't Batwoman's J. H. Williams III on the list.
breakneckbeck - 12/31/2013, 2:39 PM
Pretty Much Agree with @nomis' list entirely except I'd put Lee Bermejo at #9 then take out Ivan Reis, and bump Jim Lee and the rest up.

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