Looking back, 2012 was a big year for superhero novels. It produced some interesting debuts (A Once Crowded Sky by Tom King, Prepare to Die! by Paul Tobin, and Only Superhuman by Christopher L. Bennett), a couple of long-awaited sequels (The Coldest War by Ian Tregillis, and Super by Matthew Cody), a top-notch short-story collection (Corrupts Absolutely? edited by Lincoln Crisler), and a satisfying series-ending finale (Stronger by Michael Carroll). In addition, 2012 saw the launch of a new Marvel prose imprint, and a proliferation of superhero novels aimed at middle-school kids. It was a very good year, indeed.
So, without further delay, here are our picks for the five best superhero novels of 2012. Congratulations to everyone involved. Excelsior!
1) Seven Wonders by Adam Christopher. Christopher has written a book that explodes off the page like gamma ray grapeshot. And that’s a good thing. The author’s enthusiasm and commitment to his muse has made superheroes fun again. Mission accomplished. Seven Wonders wins our prize for best novel of 2012.
2) Joshua Dread by Lee Bacon. Recently we’ve read a lot of superhero fiction told from the villains’ point of view. And we’re happy to say most of it has been pretty good. Of the bunch, however, we like Bacon’s book the best. It’s funny, inventive, and relentlessly zany throughout. Highly recommend for all 12-year-old kids (like us).
3) The Coldest War by Ian Tregillis. The war between British warlocks and Nazi supermen continues. And we couldn’t be happier. Of all the lunatics in this novel, we especially love Gretel. She’s a clairvoyant madwoman who is tirelessly plotting a course toward the end of the world. What a marvelous little monster she is.
4) Prepare to Die! by Paul Tobin. There’s a big life lesson to be learned in Tobin’s debut novel. Superheroes are famous for battling giant robots and vanquishing invading space aliens. But afterward, when the dust settles, they’re just like the rest of us. They all need hugs and kisses too.
5) Costume Not Included by Matthew Hughes. Of all the writers on this list, Hughes is the most puckish of the lot. And we love him for it. In our opinion he’s done the impossible; he’s returned Jesus and Satan to the Garden of Eden and he’s given them both a sense of humor. Also: the superhero is kind of funny too.
We honestly feel that the past year represents a tipping point in superhero fiction. Years from now we’ll all look back and see how the genre finally gained momentum and relevance during 2012. And you know what? We’re anticipating even more great things in the months ahead. Here’s a (partial) list of upcoming novels that we’re looking forward to in 2013.
The Age Atomic by Adam Christopher. The Avenger: Roaring Heart of the Crucible edited by Nancy Holder and Joe Gentile. Brilliance by Marcus Sakey. The Cloak Society: Villains Rising by Jeramey Kraatz. Dangerous Gifts by Gaie Sebold. Doc Savage: Skull Island by Will Murray. Earthbound by Aprilynne Pike. Ex-Communication by Peter Clines. The Feros by Wesley King. Gun Machine by Warren Ellis. Hell to Pay by Matthew Hughes. I, Crimsonstreak 2 by Matt Adams. Iron Man: Extremis by Marie Javins. Joshua Dread: The Nameless Hero by Lee Bacon. The Mad Scientist’s Guide to World Domination edited by John Joseph Adams. Man of Steel by Greg Cox. Necessary Evil by Ian Tregillis. New Avengers: Breakout by Alisa Kwitney. The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman. Pilgrimage by Matthew Wayne Selznick. Power Under Pressure by Andrew P. Mayer. Rogue Touch by Christine Woodward. Seduction of the Innocent by Max Allan Collins. The She-Hulk Diaries by Marta Acosta. Sidekicked by John David Anderson. Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson. Superheroes edited by Rich Horton. Super Stories of Heroes & Villains edited by Claude Lalumiere. Tempest by Kelly Meding. The Trials of Renegade X by Chelsea M. Campbell. Turbulence by Samit Basu. The Ultra Violets and The Ultra Violets #2: Power to the Purple! by Sophie Bell. Warbound by Larry Correia. Who is Killing the Great Capes of Heropa? by Andrez Bergen. Yesterday Again by Barry Lyga.