10 To Watch in 2012: Comic Book Series

<i>By <a href=mailto:chris@chrisarrant.com>Chris Arrant, Newsarama Contributor</a></i> <p>So far we've taken a look at the <a href=http://www.newsarama.com/comics/10-to-watch-in-2012-creators-111226.html>creators</a> and <a href=http://www.newsarama.com/comics/10-to-watch-in-2012-characters-111228.html>characters</a> to watch in 2010 and where does all that lead? To actual comic book series, and here we have 10 to watch in 2012. <p>To get started with that list, click "start here" in the upper-left corner. And just to get you excited, right here are a few that didn't quite make the list, but are just as worthy of your attention: <p><B><I>Album</I> series by Robert Kirkman & Charlie Adlard:</B> A new European-style graphic novel series by the writer and artist of <I>The Walking Dead</I>? It sounds like a no-brainer, but the announcement was buried under the glut of buzz for other books at Comic-Con International: San Diego earlier this year. <I>Album</I> is planned as a series of annual hardcover volumes with standalone stories, the first of which (dubbed <I>The Passenger</I>) tells of a cargo ship trapped a year away from Earth. <p><B><I>Punk Rock Jesus</I> by Sean Murphy:</B> A cloned Jesus Christ and an ex-IRA bodyguard? Sounds like a comic book to me. After breaking through to mainstream success on <I>Joe the Barbarian</I> and <I>American Vampire: Survival of the Fittest</I>, artist Sean Murphy is returning to his roots writing and drawing this new series for DC's Vertigo imprint. Talked about in passing for years in interviews by Murphy, <I>Punk Rock Jesus</I> could change the way people see him as a comics creator, not unlike Frank Miller's turn on <I>Ronin</I>. <p><B>Lord of the Rings</B> Webcomic: It's one of the biggest franchises in both film and novels, and it's making its way to comics. In 2012, DC will be publishing online a <I>Lord of the Rings</I> comic by Brian Wood and artist Simon Coleby that spins out of the upcoming <I>LotR</I> video game titled <I>War of the North</I>. Although Tolkien's stories have come to comics before such as with the except adaption of <I>The Hobbit</I> by Chuck Dixon & David Wenzel, this new take could be the start of something big as the film franchise returns with next winter's <I>The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey</I>. <p><i>Got a comment? There's lots of conversation on Newsarama's <a href=http://www.facebook.com/Newsarama><b>FACEBOOK</b></a> and <a href=http://twitter.com/newsarama><b>TWITTER</b></a>!</i> <p>

SECRET SERVICE

Sometimes, childhood dreams do come true. In 1987, a teenaged Mark Millar wrote a fan letter to <I>Watchmen</I> artist Dave Gibbons, asking him to draw one of his comic scripts. And now 24 years later, it's finally happening. Millar and Gibbons' <I>Secret Service</I> might sound like a straight-up spy book from the title, but it's more than that. <p>"Something to do with the government and something to do with the military intelligence wing of the government. It's not a spy story as such,. That would be WAY too straight for a couple of guys who made their names in superhero comics, Millar told <a href=http://www.comicbookresources.com/?page=article&id=35623>CBR</a> in an interview earlier this year. It's a hero book, and there's a sidekick and there's vast headquarters and a secret origin and all the stuff you'd expect to see in a superhero book. But we really, really play around with a lot of conventions here. <p>Millar co-created the book with his <i>Kick-Ass</i> movie director Matthew Vaughn, who is already working on a movie script based on the project. But first things first Millar promises the miniseries will start this February.

BATMAN: EARTH ONE

Although DC captured the nation's attention New 52 revamp, there's more up their sleeves than that. Announced this time two years ago with considerable intensity, DC's Earth One line was promised as a one-two punch of top creators reinterpreting DC's finest in new-reader-friendly original graphic novels. <I>Superman: Earth One</I> came out to tremendous sales in October 2010, and now the second half of that promised line-up, <I>Batman: Earth One</I>, is promised for this coming June. <p><I>Batman: Year One</I> features veteran collaborators Geoff Johns and Gary Frank re-teaming to retell the Dark Knight's origin in a modern context. This standalone graphic novel is set to come out in the run-up to this summer's <I>The Dark Knight Rises</I> film, at a time when interest in the Caped Crusader is at its apex. It'll be interesting to see what the final book will be, especially in the context of the movie as well as the recent revisions to DC's "The New 52" Batman.

THE AGE OF ULTRON

While the April-debuting <I>Avengers Vs. X-Men</I> has staked its claim as the event book to beat, there's another book gliding under the radar that could rival or perhaps even eclipse its competitors. Currently going by the temporary name of "Age of Ultron" (or alternately, "The Ultron War"), the story brings together writer Brian Michael Bendis and artist Bryan Hitch to tie together seeds that have been planted in flashbacks from <I>Captain America: Man Out of Time</I> and <I>Iron Man</I> as well as the infamous road map to the future in <I>Avengers #5</I>. <p>The official start of this story was seen in <I>Avengers #12.1</I> and the ensuing <I>Point One</I> one-shot earlier this year, with more planned in the coming months. Marvel have played their cards close to their vest as for how and when this story might come out, but when it does it will be big news.

CONAN THE BARBARIAN

One of the big announcements coming out of this year's New York Comic Con was that the noted creator-owned duo of Brian Wood and Becky Cloonan were reuniting in the Hyborian Age for an all-new <I>Conan the Barbarian</I> series. Based on one of the most requested Robert E. Howard shorts never adapted until now, the series is set in the early years of the Cimmerian's life where he explored the world by boat with a pirate queen. <p>For Wood and Cloonan, it's their fourth collaboration and biggest since <I>Demo</I> ended its second volume, exploring relatively uncharted territory for the dup: work-for-hire licensed characters. But with Wood's work on <I>Northlanders</I> and Cloonan's visceral cartooning, teaming them up on <I>Conan The Barbarian</I> seems like a match made in Crom-Heaven.

SAGA

After the conclusion of <I>Y: The Last Man</I> and <I>Ex Machina</I>, comic readers didn't know when (or if) they'd ever seen Brian K. Vaughan in comics again. But in a lesson teaching you never to count someone out, Vaughan has returned to comics in what is his first full-on creator-owned series, <I>Saga</I>. Created in partnership with rising star artist Fiona Staples, this 2012 Image series promises a futuristic tale of one family living in the midst of a never-ending war in a world filled with people of all shapes, sizes and colors.

SECRET HISTORY OF THE MARVEL UNIVERSE

It seems one of the integral parts of the super-hero mythos is the origin of the heroes and villains. One origin shrouded in even more mystery than Wolverine's is that of Marvel's own history, before it was a superhero publisher. At 2012's Comic-Con International in San Diego, writers Blake Bell and Michael J. Vassallo are revealing that in an eye-opening non-fiction book from Fantagraphics titled <I>The Secret History Of Marvel Comics: Jack Kirby and the Moonlighting Artists at Martin Goodman's Empire</I>. <p>Long before Stan Lee became a part of his uncle Martin's publishing company, Marvel (then known as Timely) was a thriving publishing company in the 30s and 40s in which comics were just a small part. Instead, Goodman published a number of crime fiction, romance and celebrity gossip magazines that would make the Marvel Marching Society blush. Just as he would be years later, Jack Kirby was a workhorse of the company, jumping all over the genres Timley published. With the rise of super-heroes, Timely/Marvel switched over to being primarily a super-hero publisher and its darker side was largely ignored. This 2012 Fantagraphics book promises rare art by Kirby, along with his colleagues Joe Simon, Alex Schomburg, Bill Everett, Al Jaffee, Dan DeCarlo and others.

AVENGERS VS. X-MEN

Marvel has a long history of pitting its biggest heroes against each other, and it doesn't get any bigger than the Avengers vs. the X-Men. Although these two groups of heroes have met on the battlefield multiple times before, this upcoming showdown is in the public eye more than ever due to the success of their comic titles as well as their movie franchise counterparts. It's also proving to be a supergroup of sorts on the creative side, with all five Architect writers taking part and three of Marvel's biggest artists, John Romita Jr., Andy Kubert and Olivier Coipel, drawing it up. <p>Set to debut this April, <I>Avengers Vs. X-Men</I> is centered around two women: Scarlet Witch and Hope Summers. Scarlet Witch came back into the public spotlight after causing the events of <I>Avengers: Disassembled</I>, <I>House of M</I> and the near extinction of the mutant race. On the flipside, Hope Summers is the rumored Mutant Messiah, the first mutant birth after Scarlet Witch's act; furthermore, the redheaded mutant has a glimmer in her eye not unlike that of the maligned Phoenix Force. The lead-up in <I>Avengers: The Children's Crusade</I> has shown the Avengers and X-Men split down the middle how to handle the Scarlet Witch, and Cable's one-man attack on the Avengers in <I>X-Sanction</I> isn't doing Hope any favors when it comes to making friends with Cap and crew. <p>The story is set to unfold in twelve bi-weekly issues from April to September, <I>Avengers Vs. X-Men</I> is poised to be Marvel's biggest event yet if all happens as they plan.

RICHARD PARKER: THE SCORE

If you were a comic creator, what would you do to follow-up after a critically acclaimed super-hero period piece like <I>DC: The New Frontier</I>? For Darwyn Cooke, the answer was to revisit one of his favorite crime author's novels in a series of deluxe graphic novels, and that's just what he did with IDW and the <I>Richard Parker's Stark</I> series. And after two full-length adaptations and several short stories, Cooke is ramping up for this third feature-length affair in the adaptation of the 1963 novel <I>The Score</I>. <p>In this volume, Parker gets wind of a plot to rob an entire town of its riches. Reluctantly roped in for the job despite his uneasiness about some of his colleagues, the job is pulled off without a string until a double cross ruins the fun. That's when things get interesting. <p>Written by author Donald Westlake under the 'Parker' pseudonym, the Stark novels became a celebrated of crime fiction with their publication in the 60s and 70s. Cooke's decision to revisit those novels brought these pulp novels back into the public's eye in a big way, and showed Cooke fans how diverse he could be.

WATCHMEN 2?

Who watches the Watchmen? Everyone, that's who. <p>It's been the talk of the internet for the past few weeks after rumor site <a href=http://www.bleedingcool.com/2011/12/26/dc-entertainment-demands-removal-of-watchmen-2-artwork-bleeding-cool-complies/>Bleeding Cool</a> posted (and then retracted) several illustrations purported to be part of a <I>Watchmen</I> sequel project. DC has attempted for years to mount a suitable sequel to their best selling graphic novel ever, and if the rumors are right then 2012 could be the year it happens. Some people suggest that the project would be a series of limited series spotlighting individual characters, but until DC puts out the official story, we won't know for sure. <p>But that doesn't mean we won't be looking.

MULTIVERSITY

This isn't the first time <I>Multiversity</I> has made our list, but hopefully it'll be the last. Talked about for several years in interviews by Grant Morrison, 2012 could finally be the year all the pieces fall into place. Described as a world tour of the 52 universes of DC's Multiverse, this eight-issue series promises six standalone issues spotlighting a different universe in each outing, with two issues acting to tie the whole series and the whole Multiverse together. <p>Rumored artists for this epic project including Morrison stalwarts like Frank Quitely and Cameron Stewart, drawing worlds including the Charlton heroes (on which <I>Watchmen was based) and Captain Marvel's Thunder World. There's been no official art released as of yet, but this intriguing pin-up from <I>Wizard</I> by Art Adams that's been kicking around for a few years will give you a taste as to what you could potentially expect.

10 To Watch in 2012: Comic Book Series

Date: 29 December 2011 Time: 08:02 PM ET