web stats

CSBG Archive

My best ten of ‘ten!

Gee, I suppose I should do my “Best of 2010″ list, right? It’s what bloggers do, man!

I always have to point out a few qualifiers before I launch into these posts. First and most obvious, these are my “best” comics, which may be completely different from yours. I shouldn’t have to point that out, but I get annoyed when I read “best-of” lists and the writers act like they’ve read absolutely everything that came out in a year and are therefore some kind of authority. In the past few weeks, I’ve read some very good writers write less about a “best-of” list than ten books they loved from 2010, which I like a lot more. These are the comics I thought were best. If the one you think is best isn’t on here, I either didn’t read it or don’t agree with you. That’s the beauty of the Internet – any schmuck with a blog can post his opinions! I AM THAT SCHMUCK!!!!!

Second, I don’t believe in listing only ten comics, not only because I’m desperate for attention and don’t know when to shut up. Ongoing series are so different from standalone graphic novels (and even mini-series) that I don’t know how people can look at them and judge them the same way. Some can, but I can’t. I think a writer has to approach them completely differently, and that makes them quantitatively different animals, and I don’t want to stack them up against each other. Therefore … more categories! Yay!

Third, there’s no manga on this list. I don’t even consider it. I don’t read enough of it, so I don’t think I have a good basis for comparison. I have no idea if the stuff I read is so much better or worse than the rest of what’s out there, so I wouldn’t feel comfortable ranking what I read. I don’t even read ten series, so they’d all make my list anyway. This ties in with the problem with translated works, which are usually not published the same year in English as the original. I’ve been amused by some people putting Jacques Tardi’s It Was the War in the Trenches on their top ten of 2010 lists, as the book is over 30 years old (although you’ll notice I have some works that weren’t originally published in 2010, because I’m a hypocrite). So I’ll be thinking long and hard about translations. We’ll see.

Anyway, many people might not like my taste in comics, but that’s why you can skip over this post. Anyone who stays – let’s check it out! And, I must point out, SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS!!!!!!!!!! ALL OVER THE PLACE!!!!! Well, probably. I haven’t written the post yet, but I imagine I’ll accidentally slip one in. I’ll try not to, though! (Actually, I had far fewer than I thought I would. But be careful, anyway. I never know what’s a spoiler and what’s not.)

BEST ONGOING SERIES.

1. Chew (Image) by John Layman, Rob Guillory, Steven Struble, Lisa Gonzalez, and Chris Fenoglio (issues #8-16). Last year’s ranking: #7.


Really, this year, nothing comes close. Sure, I love the second book on this list, but when I sat down to compile a list of best ongoing, I immediately put this at the top and then sorted out where the others would go. I’ve been a fan of Chew since its debut, and this year it kept getting better as Layman and Guillory kept doing more and more interesting things. Layman’s original premise – Tony Chu is a cop who can take a bite of anything and “read” its history – is such a great hook, but he keeps adding new layers to the world, not only with the ban on chickens in the wake of the bird flu epidemic, but with all the other food-based paranormal abilities people have (the latest: someone who gets smarter the more he eats). He also keeps upping the ante in terms of the plot, with a hilarious sexual subplot (I still won’t give it away!), more and more odd characters, Tony’s relationship with Amelia, the introduction of Tony’s family, and plot threads that would make Chris Claremont proud. He even does little things with the narrative – in one issue he piled epilogue upon epilogue to hilarious effect, in another he actually re-arranged the pages to allow Guillory to fit in two double-page spreads. Guillory, meanwhile, remains crucial to the book’s success, as his askew pencil work is brilliant for this odd title, as it works both with the humorous and horrific parts, amplifying the craziness yet, at the same time, placing everything in a world we can believe in. Guillory’s design sense has improved over the course of the series, too, and he’s doing new things all the time, from the way he shows Tony having a conversation with his sister to the many, many Easter eggs he drops into the panels. Chew is a marvelous comic – each character has a distinct voice and look, each character has a purpose and a unique background and personality, and we get the sense that they have lives outside the comic, which is a neat trick. It’s a very funny, exciting, disgusting (in the funniest way possible), and ambitious book. Layman and Guillory have struck gold with this, and I cannot wait for each issue to come out so that I can see what in the world is going to happen next.

Tagged posts, in case you want to read individual reviews.

2. The Sixth Gun (Oni Press) by Cullen Bunn, Brian Hurtt, and Bill Crabtree (issues #1-7). Last year: N/A.

I have no idea why everyone isn’t reading The Sixth Gun, as the first issue was absolutely free – all you had to do was go to the store on Free Comic Book Day and you could have picked it up. It was a wonderful first issue and has kept up the quality throughout the year. Bunn and Hurtt, who have collaborated on The Damned, a story of gangsters and demons in the 1920s, this time mash up Westerns and horror to give us the story of cursed six-shooters and the undead Confederate general who wants them back. His protagonists, Becky Moncrief and Drake Sinclair, are a classic mismatched couple, as Becky’s adopted father ran with the general during the Civil War and tried to atone, eventually leaving the most powerful gun to her, while Drake was one of the general’s original crew who grew tired of the killing and lit out on his own. The first arc was about the general coming back from the dead and trying to gather the guns, and the latest arc moves on after they have seemingly defeated him. Bunn sets the creepy mood very well, giving the book a feel of impending doom, but he’s also done a good job giving both Becky and Drake hidden facets to their personalities that show up in situations but feel perfectly natural. Hurtt, who’s been doing good work for years, might be doing his best work on this book – it helps that his and now Bill Crabtree’s colors are specatacular – as he’s letting loose with a beautiful sense of the Old West and all the squalor that goes along with it, as well as some truly terrifying images. Hurtt’s fluid pencils help make the book feel epic, which is what Bunn is going for in many spots, and Hurtt’s details are amazing. I don’t know how many issues the two men have planned, but I know I’ll be sticking with it for as long as they want to do it.

Tagged posts.

3. Hellblazer (DC/Vertigo) by Peter Milligan, Giuseppe Camuncoli, Stefano Landini, Simon Bisley, Trish Mulvihill, Brian Buccellato, Sal Cipriano (issues #263-274). Last year: DNP.

Last year, Peter Milligan was just getting his ducks in a row on this run, and while it was pretty good, he hadn’t hit his stride yet. This year, he unleashed the full force of awesome on us, and turned Hellblazer back into the stellar comic it has occasionally been in the past. He spent much of the early part of his run making John an almost irredeemable bastard, and then he turned the tables on us this year by pulling a 180 and making John a hopeless romantic (well, as romantic as he’s going to get) and giving him his best girlfriend since Kit Ryan in Epiphany Greaves, to whom he just got married. These two sides to John have always been there, but writers usually emphasize one and ignore the other or don’t push either too far – Milligan spent so much time showing what a tool John is that the shift this year almost didn’t work … but it did, and it made the book far more interesting (plus, there was that whole thumb thing … ewwwww!). This year Milligan also took John back to 1979 to show him as a young punk, and he brought back his most impressive creation, Lenny Shapiro … oh, I’m kidding – Shade, the Changing Man was back this year, and Milligan showed that he hasn’t lost his touch with regard to that character either. Milligan kept up the horror and intricate machinations that John often goes through, but he focused on the characters a lot, too, and that made the weird love triangle(s) from this year all the more fascinating, because we were so heavily invested in them. Camuncoli has really done a nice job on this title, especially the issues with Shade in them – he’s very good at the weirdness that comes with the Changing Man. Bisley’s art is always a treat as well, and I do hope that they stick with the title as long as Milligan is writing it, because they seem to work well with him. Milligan seems set up for a good 2011, too, as he shows no signs of slowing down on this book.

Tagged posts.

4. Unknown Soldier (DC/Vertigo) by Joshua Dysart, Alberto Ponticelli, Rick Veitch, Oscar Celestini, and Clem Robins (issues #16-25). Last year: DNP.

Unfortunately, Unknown Soldier is no longer with us, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t deserve a spot in the Top Ten! This year Joshua Dysart really came into his own, making this comic a true portrait of a war-torn country instead of the action comic he wanted it to be, and he did it by not straying too far from the action comic formula. If that sounds strange, we need to consider that whenever Dysart began to preach a bit in this book, it drifted, but when he focused on Moses Lwanga, his wife Sera, and the people affected by the horrible war in Uganda, he was able to personalize the war and make it much more devastating. As Moses started to learn a bit about who he was and how he was tied into DC’s other “Unknown Soldiers,” he slipped deeper into madness, leading to his final mission to kill an actual real-life person who remains very much alive today, giving you an indication of how successful he was. Dysart was obviously cut short with this title, and that’s too bad, but in 25 issues, he managed to give us a wonderfully complex glimpse of a part of the world that rarely gets American press coverage, and he did it with plenty of action and adventure, too. Ponticelli and Celestini were a bit part of the book’s success, as they showed two people pushed to the breaking point by a war they didn’t have to be involved with, plus the bleakness and beauty of Central Africa. The book suffered a tiny bit by its cancellation, as the ending feels a bit rushed, but other than that, this is a marvelous comic that, I hope, does well in trades. We shall see.

Tagged posts.

5. Scalped (DC/Vertigo) by Jason Aaron, R. M. Guéra, Davide Furnò, Danijel Zezelj, Jason Latour, Giulia Brusco, Trish Mulvihill, and Steve Wands (issues #34-44). Last year: #2.

If Scalped slipped a bit from last year’s ranking, it’s mainly because other series were better, not because its quality slid. Aaron just keeps writing a fantastic comic, and it’s a tremendous ride every time an issue comes out. We began the year with the conclusion of “The Gnawing,” in which Dash almost loses his cover and Lincoln Red Crow takes some bloody revenge, and then we had the excellent and revelatory tale of Shunka, the issue about the old married couple, the return of Dash’s father, the brutal story of Carol and Dash’s pregnancy, the darkly humorous story of the Nebraskan sheriff, and Agent Nitz’s renewed sense of mission. Aaron is driving all his protagonists toward an unknown but surely horrifying fate, and what’s impressive about the book is how well everything fits together. Guéra and the fill-in artists continue to amaze – helped, no doubt, by Brusco’s steadying coloring hand – and they make Aaron’s bleak vision a gut-wrenching reality. Scalped is a great comic, and I’m glad it’s doing well enough that Aaron will be able to finish it on his schedule.

Tagged posts.

6. Secret Six (DC) by Gail Simone, John Ostrander, Jim Calafiore, RB Silva, Alexander Palamaro, Jason Wright, Steve Wands, and Travis Lanham (issues #17-28 plus Suicide Squad #67, which comes before issue #17, and Action Comics #896, which comes after issue #28). Last year: #8.

Here’s another comic that I always like, so the fact that it shows up on my Top Ten lists shouldn’t be too surprising. But it’s the best mainstream DC book out there right now (yes, including Morrison’s Batman books), so why wouldn’t I love it? Simone keeps pushing every violent envelope she can find (and apparently DC lets her push the violence so she doesn’t worry about their weird attitude toward nudity, which is, I suppose, fine with me), and while I don’t love violence in all my superhero comics, the fact that the characters are almost completely amoral and Simone has done a wonderful job developing them mitigates it quite a bit. While I didn’t love the final arc of the year, where the team fought against Bane’s “new Secret Six” in Skartaris (mainly because Skartaris is silly), the other arcs of the year – the reborn Suicide Squad and the kidnapping of Catman’s baby – were terrific, showing Simone at perhaps her darkest but also most fearless. Simone writes a great Amanda Waller, too, which is a nice bonus. I know of some people who refuse to buy this because Jim Calafiore draws it, and while I do wish Nicola Scott was still on the comic, I don’t have any problems with Calafiore. But that’s just me. Either way, Simone is the star of this book, twisting these villainous characters wonderfully, making us care about psychopaths (who doesn’t love Rag Doll?), and putting them through such a wringer that we have to wince. It’s good reading!

Tagged posts: Secret Six and Suicide Squad.

7. Elephantmen (Image) by Richard Starkings, Axel Medellin, Marian Churchland, Andre Szymanowicz, Vince Lee, Moritat, Boo Cook, Chris Burnham, Ian Churchill, Steve Buccellato, and Gregory Wright (issues #24-29). Last year: #1.

My #1 book last year did actually slip a bit in quality, but not too far – part of the problem was that its schedule fell apart a bit, and now it looks like it’s back on with a regular artist, which is nice. Starkings, however, continues to write a gripping science fiction tale – this year Mappo Corporation, the group that created the elephantmen, returned, and we learned that they could re-activate the bloodlust in the hybrids rather easily, which does not bode well for the future. As the action ratcheted up this year, Starkings also showed some cracks in the human-hybrid relationships – Sahara has to leave her ivory tower a lot to reconnect with common humanity, while Miki’s crush on Hip is tested when he puts a co-worker of hers in danger (or at least she believed he did). That Starkings can still keep up the very good character work while ramping up the action (and introducing a major new character, Janis Blackthorne) is a testament to how well he’s been creating this world over the past few years (and, presumably, for years before that, but I’m talking about the actual print run of the comic). I say this every time I review an issue – Starkings sends me every issue for free, but I would gladly pay for it. It’s just a damned good comic book.

Tagged posts.

8. S.H.I.E.L.D. (Marvel) by Jonathan Hickman, Dustin Weaver, Christina Strain, Justin Ponsor, and Todd Klein (issues #1-5). Last year: N/A.

Whenever I review this book, I write that I’m not sure what to make of it. That doesn’t sound like it ought to be the eighth-best series of the year, but I think that the fact that it’s kind of a hot mess makes it great, the kind of book where you’re never quite sure if it’s going to go clusterfuck on you, and that makes it more exciting, daring, and thrilling than most comics. Hickman is walking a very odd tightrope, trying to expand the history of the Marvel Universe in wild and wacky ways, bringing Galactus to Renaissance Italy and showing a Brood attack in ancient Egypt, not to mention the rivalry between Leonardo da Vinci and Isaac Newton or the role Tony Stark and Reed Richards’ dads play in all this. It’s a crazy ride, the kind of fiction that comics is perfect for, and Hickman has found a fantastic partner in Weaver, who’s still working out some kinks in his art but generally nails every crazy thing Hickman asks him to draw. This is full-throttle comics, and while I’m with some people who want it desperately to get to a point, I’m not as bothered by that as I am with some books, because the ride has been so freakin’ fun thus far.

Tagged posts.

9. Gødland (Image) by Joe Casey, Tom Scioli, Bill Crabtree, and Rus Wooton (issues #31-33). Last year: DNP.

Even with only three issues this year, Joe Casey and Tom Scioli’s marvelous masterpiece continues to be one of the best series out there, and as the two begin to wind everything up, Gødland seems to have new life. We continue with the craziness on Earth, with Friedrich Nickelhead and the super-villain Congress battling it out with the All-Mighty Decimator, while in space, more and more strange things are happening, from Adam’s visit to a dog-filled world to the new unnamed threat. Plus, of course, there’s the bizarre secret origin of Nickelhead, a highlight of issue #32. And, of course, the butterfly. If you haven’t been plugged into Gødland yet, well, that’s too bad. Luckily there are giant-sized and regular-sized trades so you can catch up. Do it now!

Tagged posts.

10. Orc Stain (Image) by James Stokoe (issues #1-5). Last year: N/A.

I just recently got on the Orc Stain bandwagon, because I ignored it when it first came out and only got the trade a month ago, but boy howdy, is it an excellent series. My review of the first five issues is here, and I’ll just repeat a bit of what I wrote there: James Stokoe’s weird adventure is beautiful to look at, exciting to read, immersive in its details, and grand in its scope. It features two very interesting protagonists and a host of nasty secondary characters, and it’s wildly addictive. Plus, you know, the penises. I look forward to more of this series, but I’m not sure if I can stand getting the single issues (which I really want to do) and having to wait for more of the story!

(The covers above are courtesy of the Grand Comics Database, because I do not own them to scan them!)

BEST MINI-SERIES.

As I did last year, I need to explain my choices a bit. I do not list mini-series that have no finished yet (with one exception, but that was last year – this year I held the line!), because as good as a mini-series might be, I judge books partly on how they wrap up, and I’ve read books that have great beginnings and terrible endings, and it does mess up my enjoyment of them a bit. So there’s that. Down at the bottom of this section I’ll list books that probably would have made it (or at least been strong contenders) had they managed to finish, but they didn’t. That also explains why one item on this list has only one issue from this year – that’s just the way it happened, release-wise, and when last year’s list rolled around, it had not finished and was therefore ineligible. So that’s my rules. Just so you know.

1. Daytripper (DC/Vertigo) by Fábio Moon, Gabriel Bá, Dave Stewart, and Sean Konot.

This is another choice that wasn’t an issue, as Daytripper was so much better than almost everything else that came out this year that it was easy to place this at #1. The first issue (from December 2009) established the pattern that Moon and Bá followed through the first eight issues, telling stories of their main character’s life at different ages … with the same crazy quirk to each story that allowed them to examine life from every angle, even death, and not be too depressing. By the time they went metaphysical in issue #9 and then brought it all together in the final issue, they had earned every pretension they had and delivered a beautiful story about what it means to be alive. The twins’ writing ability has never been in doubt (De:Tales, an older collection of short stories they wrote, was reprinted this year by Dark Horse and showed their chops nicely), but Daytripper is a huge leap forward in their writing, and of course the art is stunning. Unlike many writers (even artists who write), Bá and Moon know when to let their drawings speak for them, so the series has nice spots where words don’t clutter up the pages, punctuating the drawings with just the right emphasis. I imagine this will read just as well in trade, because although each issue is a fairly strong “short story,” there’s enough that overlaps to create a wonderful tapestry. It’s a brilliant comic. You can trust me!

Tagged posts.

2. Demo (DC/Vertigo) by Brian Wood, Becky Cloonan, and Jared K. Fletcher.

I had some issues with Demo, but when it’s all said and done, Brian Wood and Becky Cloonan’s follow-up to their older series is a group of powerful short stories, and while I’m a bit hesistant to call it a “mini-series” because they’re really six isolated issues that DC (and Wood) decided to put together under one banner, it still counts, right? First of all, Cloonan’s work on Demo is phenomenal, from the delicate linework and gorgeous detail of issue #1 (“The Waking Life of Angels”) to the rougher lines and greater use of blacks in issue #2 (“Pangs”) and everything in between. Wood wants her to illustrate normal life and normal people with just a hint of the supernatural, and her naturalistic drawings are so strong that the stranger elements stand out a bit, making them seem more invasive in this environment. Wood has been writing these kinds of stories for a while, so he knows when he has an artist he can trust, and he’s perfectly willing to let Cloonan handle the quiet scenes and let the characters speak without words, something she does quite well. Wood’s stories are more problematic for me, mainly because I don’t share his sensibility about why a character is sympathetic (or at least I don’t think I do; I’ve only met Wood once so I don’t know him, but I’m going by his comic work), so I often think the characters he writes about are less than admirable. That’s not necessarily a problem, because as long as it’s well written, I don’t care if I like the characters, but the tone of the books often clashes with my reaction to the stories. That’s neither here nor there, however, because what Wood does is create real characters, whether admirable or not, and puts them into interesting situations. They’re struggling with things many people struggle with, and are inhibited by things people find blocking them. I described one of the issues as a “prose poem,” and that’s what Wood does with these – they’re full of symbolism and imagery that speaks to us on a basic, primal level, and that’s a good reason why they work. I might not love everything Wood writes, but what makes him a great writer and what makes Demo so good is that he forces you to think about what he writes, long after you’ve put the book down. That’s rare in comics, and that’s why Demo is on this list.

Tagged posts.

3. Ghost Projekt (Oni Press) by Joe Harris, Steve Rolston, Dean Trippe, and Douglas E. Sherwood.

Ghost Projekt is a cool adventure thriller with neat supernatural elements, taking us to a Russia that is still haunted by both its recent and deeper past and taking a fairly standard idea – scientist messes with things beyond mortal man’s ken and pays for it – and puts a neat spin on it. Harris gives us two solid protagonists – Will Haley, an American, and Anya Romanova, a Russian – and throws them into a plot involving missing children, ghosts, and Genghis Khan. Yes, Genghis motherfucking Khan. It’s an exciting story that zips along, as Harris throws all sorts of creepy stuff at us but keeps Will and Anya’s relationship at the center – they don’t exactly become friends, but there’s a grudging respect for each other. Meanwhile, Steve Rolston’s cartoony art is well suited for the book – this could be a gloomy book, but Rolston’s excellent work doesn’t allow that, even though he’s very good with the action and bits of horror sprinkled throughout. Dean Trippe’s gorgeous colors add a nice dimension to the book – good coloring should never be underestimated in a comic! I don’t know if the trade is out yet, but it ought to be soon. Do yourself a favor and pick this up!

Tagged posts.

4. Atomic Robo volume 4 (Red 5 Comics) by Brian Clevinger, Scott Wegener, Ronda Pattison, and Jeff Powell.

Like Demo, I’m not sure if this counts, as each issue of this mini-series tells a different story, but what the hell. I’m such a big fan of Atomic Robo that whenever Clevinger and Wegener complete a series, I’m fairly sure it will show up on my Top Ten list, and this one is no exception. This one lacks only an overarcing plot, but everything else is there – the fantastic monsters and bad guys, the wonderfully comedic artwork, and Clevinger’s brilliant dialogue, as Robo says the perfect thing at the perfect time all the time. As you might recall, I wasn’t in love with issue #3, mainly because I thought it dragged a bit in the beginning, something which Mr. Clevinger took some umbrage with. But I did love Wegener’s art in that issue, because he really nailed Dr. Dinosaur’s facial expressions as he rants to Robo. So even a not-as-great issue of Atomic Robo has a lot to recommend! I’m sure this is out in a trade (if not, what’s the hold-up?), and like every Atomic Robo mini-series, it’s a great read. I’m just happy that Clevinger and Wegener keep bringing out new series!

Tagged posts.

5. Starstruck (IDW) by Elaine Lee, Michael Kaluta, Charles Vess, Lee Moyer, and Todd Klein.

I’m not honestly sure if I can count this one either, but for different reasons I’m not sure about Demo and Atomic Robo. Starstruck, of course, was originally published thirty years ago, so how can I call it one of the best of 2010? Well, it was recolored by Lee Moyer using vibrant paints, and Todd Klein relettered some of it, so that’s new enough for me! Unfortunately, I still can’t say much about the plot of Starstruck – there’s all sorts of intergalactic politics and intrigue, plus sex dolls … I honestly don’t know how much I understood and look forward to re-reading the danged thing in one sitting. However, each issue is packed to the gills with weird and wonderful scenes from Lee’s fevered imagination and Kaluta’s hyperactive pencil, and it’s a deliciously sensory experience every time. This is a true alien world, unlike many alien worlds we see in comics that don’t look that much different from our world. Lee gives us crazy and strange characters banging around into each other, while Kaluta never misses a beat, filling each panel with amazing details and gorgeous renderings. Moyer’s beautiful colors just make everything more hyper-real. IDW is bringing out a monster trade for 50 dollars (I think), which might sound like a lot but includes 13 issues, many of which are longer than 22 pages and are, honestly, stuffed with things to read and look at. It’s actually not a bad deal at all!

Tagged posts.

6. Underground (Image) by Jeff Parker, Steve Lieber, and Ron Chan.

Parker, Lieber, and Chan deliver a solid adventure story, one that wants simply to entertain and does so. The first four issues came out in 2009, but it didn’t finish until this past year, hence its inclusion here. Parker’s story of a park ranger in Kentucky who has to go into a cave to uncover a plot to destroy the park and open the land up to development might sound like a Howie Long movie waiting to happen, but Parker is too good a writer to let it devolve into action movie cliché – he gives all the characters good personalities and makes sure that the bad guys aren’t really evil, a nice plot point. Lieber does a marvelous job with the cave scenes, as a great deal of the book takes place in the dark, so Lieber has limits to what he can show, but when he gets the chance, it’s amazing how claustrophobic he makes everything. And, of course, Chan needs to help a great deal as well, illuminating just enough to give us the sense of menace that has to be ever-present when one is deep in a cave. I’m sure there’s a trade out there somewhere, and if you’ve only read Parker’s Marvel work, you should check this out to see how versatile he can be.

Tagged posts.

7. Criminal: The Sinners (Marvel/Icon) by Ed Brubaker, Sean Phillips, and Val Staples.

There’s not much left to say about Criminal – it’s pulpy noir done almost to perfection, so if that’s your thing, you really can’t go wrong. In this latest installment, Brubaker has Tracy Lawless working for a gangster, schtupping that gangster’s wife, tracking down a vigilante gang who’s killing the gangster’s men, and running from the military policeman on his tail. Tracy isn’t the brightest guy, but what makes him a fascinating character is he’s smarter than most people think and he also keeps his cool when others are freaking out, which allows him to see all the angles and play them well. Brubaker is just totally on his game in this series of mini-series, and “The Sinners” might be the best one so far. Phillips and Staples are an integral part of the book, as well – Phillips for his tremendous pulp work and Staples for his lurid coloring. You really can’t go wrong with any series of Criminal, so why not start with this one?

Tagged posts.

8. Spider-Man: Fever (Marvel) by Brendan McCarthy and Steve Cook.

Brendan McCarthy’s hallucinogenic trip into the spider netherworlds is notable not really for its story, which is solid enough, but for McCarthy’s beautiful art and his twisted sense of humor, which is on full display here. His Stephen Strange is hilariously aloof, his Peter Parker is hilariously normal, and the strange worlds where their adventures play out are weird and wild, forcing the reader to linger over panels and pages and try to figure out every little thing in them. I first saw McCarthy’s work when he did Shade covers back in the early 1990s, and I always wondered if his twisted sense of humor on the covers would translate to interior work. Over the years, I’ve read some of his stuff, and it has, which makes me happy that even on a Marvel book (granted, a mini-series that’s not “in continuity,” even though McCarthy retcons Peter’s origin a bit) he goes a bit nuts. Spider-Man: Fever is a visual feast, and it’s a blast to read.

Tagged posts.

9. The Last Days of American Crime (Radical Comics) by Rick Remender, Greg Tocchini, and Rus Wooton.

Radical had been nice enough to send me pretty much everything they publish, but it’s rare that they publish a book I would want to buy on my own. Before this year, it was limited to Steve Pugh’s Hotwire series, but Remender and Tocchini’s heist comic is another one. Remender sets the book slightly in the future so he can come up with a scheme in which the U.S. government is planning to do two things: Broadcast a signal that will make it impossible for anyone to commit a crime; and transfer all money to debit/credit cards. Graham, a small-time crook, has inside information that they can steal a card that will give them access to unlimited funds, and he needs two people to help him run the job. Through unforeseen circumstances, he’s forced to call in people he doesn’t know, and of course, like all good heist fictions, things start to spiral out of control. There’s a femme fatale, a psychopath, lots of gory violence, and all sorts of twists and turns. Remender keeps everything zipping along (it’s impressive, as these are the “over-sized” Radical issues, so this is almost like a standard five- or six-issue mini-series), and Tocchini’s art is amazing. Remender does a pretty good job with the ending, too, which is often hard to stick. I can’t recommend most Radical books (even though some of them are pretty decent), but I encourage you to pick this bad bear up!

Tagged posts.

10. Prodigal: Egg of First Light by (Ape Entertainment) by Geoffrey Thorne and Todd Harris.

I’m sure this mini-series slipped under many readers’ radar – Ape Entertainment isn’t exactly a big player – but that would be a shame, because it’s a hoot. Pae Mei Jacinto and Byron Lennox are “retrieval specialists,” and they’re hired by some monks to get the “egg of first light” back after some ninja-looking dudes steal it. Of course, all is not what it seems, and things get complicated – the egg can apparently be used to destroy the universe, but which group wants to use it and why? It’s a fairly standard action/adventure plot, but it’s a ton of fun – Thorne is a funny writer, as Lennox whines his way through the entire series even as he’s kicking ass (every chapter is titled “Why Bryon hates _____”) and Jacinto keeps telling him to shut up. The book is exciting, with the aforementioned ninjas, weird alternate realities, and dragons. Harris’s art is quite good – dynamic, fluid, action-oriented, but also able to catch all the facial expressions that help heighten the humor. I wrote back when this series concluded (the two issues are extra-sized, so it’s as long as a standard four-issue series) that I would love to see a series of mini-series or an ongoing with these two characters, because in just a few short pages, Thorne makes them extremely fun and interesting. I suppose that’s not going to happen, but I would recommend you try to find this series, at least, and wonder what could have been!

Tagged posts.

As I wrote above, I don’t consider mini-series that haven’t finished yet. With that in mind, here are some mini-series that are very good … so far: Hotwire: Deep Cut (two of three issues have come out); Joe the Barbarian (issue #8 was originally solicited for August, but it’s Morrison, so of course it’s late); Kill Shakespeare (this has been on time, but it’s twelve issues long and started too late in the year to finish in 2010); Meta 4 (another slow book; only one issue to go!).

BEST ORIGINAL GRAPHIC NOVEL.

There are a few things here that I’m not sure count as “original graphic novels,” including my #1 choice, but I’m putting them here anyway. I know one of them is a four-issue mini-series from a few years back, but this is the first time it’s appeared in English and it was done as a graphic novel, so that’s how I’m counting it. We can all be flexible, right? The links in the title take you to my original review, by the way.

1. Fluorescent Black (Heavy Metal) by MF Wilson, Nathan Fox, Jeromy Cox, and Sean Konot.

This is a marvelous science-fiction story, as Wilson gives us a frighteningly plausible future where worth is determined by genetics and those without are simply moved out of the way. It’s a terrific action comic, too, but Wilson never allows us to forget the tough questions. Fox’s art is staggering, full of lush details and eye-popping action sequences. He’s been used sparingly by Marvel and DC, so if you’re a fan, you need to track this down. It’s an excellent comic.

2. Moving Pictures (Top Shelf) by Kathryn and Stuart Immonen.

I read some criticisms of this book because it uses Nazis and almost makes one of them sympathetic, but what’s great about this book is that Immonen makes the Nazi compelling without making him a cookie-cutter villain – he’s still a monster, but he does a very good job of hiding it. This twisted love story (or sex story, perhaps) between a Nazi cataloging artwork in Paris and a Canadian woman helping to hide the art while still making it appear as if everything is normal is a wonderful psychological thriller, as the two leads, Ila and Rolf, dance around each other in an interrogation room and we see how difficult it really is living under a dictatorship, even if you aren’t an obvious target. Stuart Immonen’s sparse and shadow-drenched pencil work is amazing, too, setting a gripping tone for Kathryn Immonen’s precise dialogue. I’d rather read something like this, where Nazis are portrayed as real people (however horrible), than a comic where they’re cartoonish villains. That’s what makes this book so very fascinating.

3. Tumor (Archaia) by Joshua Hale Fialkov, Noel Tuazon, Richard Starkings, and Jimmy Betancourt.

I’m not sure if this comic should count, as it was released in 2009 for that fancy-pants Kindle and a print edition only appeared in 2010. Oh well – what the hell. Tumor is another collaboration between Fialkov and Tuazon, who produce some fine comics together, indeed. In this book, a private investigator named Frank Armstrong discovers he has a brain tumor, but he needs to solve one last case before he dies. Yes, it’s the hoariest of clichés, but Fialkov does a wonderful job showing us how a man with a tumor might view the world, as Frank keeps flashing back to the past and having blackouts, severely hampering his investigation. This book is also almost a guide book to Los Angeles, as Frank wanders the city, lost between the present and the past, making the book far more poignant. Tuazon’s rough, sketchy pencil work is well suited for the book, and he’s excellent when he visually represents how Frank is experiencing the world. I’m not sure how this looks on a Kindle, but I do know it looks excellent in print, so go old-school and pick it up!

4. Elmer (SLG) by Gerry Alanguilan.

Here’s another book that came out before 2010, but it was in the Philippines, so I’m going to bet a lot of people never saw it. I recently reviewed this, so I’ll just point out that Alanguilan’s allegory about prejudice is a brilliant piece of work, substituting sentient and intelligent chickens for any minority group you want to compare them to, and examining what happens when those chickens want equal rights. This is by turns violent, funny, heart-breaking, and uplifting. Don’t fear the chickens, people!

5. Crogan’s March (Oni Press) by Chris Schweizer.

The second of Schweizer’s Crogan Family History books stands on its own (as they all will, presumably), as we get the story of a French Legionnaire in North Africa who gets into plenty of messes with the locals and his commanding officers. Schweizer adds just enough gray areas to this book to make it fascinating, as characters actually comment on whether the French are really helping the locals or not. It’s definitely a book that both adults and kids can enjoy, but the fact that Schweizer is willing to bring up some darker themes makes it even more interesting than if it had just been a swashbuckling adventure. I enjoyed the first book in this series, but with this one, Schweizer matures as a storyteller and makes me even more excited about the continuing adventures in this series.

6. The Outfit (IDW) by Darwyn Cooke.

Cooke’s second Parker novel is much better than the first, mainly because Cooke trusts his own skills as a storyteller far more than he did in the first one, so we get much more interesting visuals to go along with a nice, revenge-fueled plot. Cooke switches drawing styles, formats, and storytelling devices to show how Parker takes his revenge on the men who want him dead, and it’s extremely impressive. That Cooke also backs off the heavy-handed prose that characterized the first volume is another reason why this book works so well – with someone like Cooke, excessive prose is often unnecessary. You don’t need to read the first volume to understand what’s going on in this one (it helps a bit, but not too much), so if you’re trying to decide, get this one.

7. The Executor (DC/Vertigo) by Jon Evans, Andrea Mutti, and Clem Robins.

I don’t know how these Vertigo crime novels are selling, but the content this year was quite strong, and The Executor was the best of the lot. Evans tells the tale of an ex-hockey player who goes home to upstate New York to be the executor of an old girlfriend’s will, and when he starts digging into her death and the past, bad things come up. No, that’s not the most original plot, but Evans does a tremendous job with the characters, giving them real personalities, plus he sets the book in a town next to an Indian reservation, and the culture clash between the whites and the natives is subtle and well done. This is more than a murder mystery, it’s an examination of how prejudice – on both sides – can poison a community, and it’s a gripping read. DC doesn’t release these in paperback too quickly, and I haven’t seen this one offered, but I’m sure the hardcover is still available!

8. The Playwright (Top Shelf/Knockabout Comics) by Daren White and Eddie Campbell.

As I wrote when I first reviewed this, about halfway through the book I was prepared to hate it, because the main character seemed like such a stereotype of a slightly perverted middle-aged man who never got laid. However, I stuck with it, and the book turns into something profound, as the playwright changes slightly and becomes more interesting and his life turns into something else entirely – something that might not be a good thing. White and Campbell challenge us to consider if love is all it’s cracked up to be, and while it’s a beautiful and haunting book, it’s also somewhat disturbing and tragic. Campbell’s art is amazing, of course, and the reason why the first part of the book works so well – we get to see a bit of how the playwright sees the world, and while we revile him, we also pity him. It’s a curious mix of emotions that pays off later in the book very nicely. The Playwright is a strange and marvelous comic. Who doesn’t love those kinds of books?

9. The Bronx Kill (DC/Vertigo) by Peter Milligan and James Romberger.

The second Vertigo crime novel on my list is this gem, which deals with identity, naturally (it’s Milligan’s favorite motif), but also a strange mystery where the protagonist, a young writer, is both the victim of a crime and a suspect in it, and he tries desperately to figure out what’s going on. The book features a crime, but because it’s Milligan, it’s a bizarre crime with bizarre antecedents, and as the hero twists and turns his way through the plot, Milligan does a wonderful job building a sense of creeping horror about what the answers will do to everyone involved. Romberger’s gritty art isn’t perfect, but there are several wonderful scenes where it works very well. Milligan is almost always an interesting writer, and with The Bronx Kill, he really plays well to all his strengths.

10. Temperance (Fantagraphics) by Cathy Malkasian.

Malkasian’s odd fable is a haunting book about hiding your true self, coming to grips with deceit, and the necessity of striking out from the safety of home to discover new and possibly dangerous things. Malkasian gives us a community that refuses to accept the obvious truths of existence, living in a walled town that they believe sails upon a vast ocean, and then she upsets this community when its leader, who hides secrets of her own, begins to question their beliefs. Temperance is an amazing comic, always a bit oblique but never impenetrable, as Malkasian slowly unspools the way secrets are hidden and then revealed, and what freedom can come from exposing everything to the light – whether that freedom is good or not depends on the person, she implies. It’s a weird book that feels like a dream, which allows Malkasian to use metaphor to reveal fundamental truths. Malkasian is a superb creator, and this is a good example of what she’s capable of.

Honorable Mention: Changing Ways; Fingerprints; Forget Sorrow; Market Day; Revolver; Two Generals; Warlord of Io.

BEST SINGLE ISSUE/SHORT STORY.

This is another tough category, because I could simply list the issues of the best ongoings and leave it at that, but my point here is to find single issues that can be read without any deep knowledge of what’s going on in the series as a whole. That could mean series made up entirely of single-issue stories, or series where a single issue stands relatively alone, or a one-shot. And as I read several anthologies this year and both DC and Marvel put back-up stories into many of their comics, I expanded it to include short stories that weren’t even an issue long. Let’s check them out!

1. Batman: The Brave and the Bold #21 (“The Menace Known as Robert”) (DC) by Landry Q. Walker, Eric Jones, David Rodriguez, and Travis Lanham.

Back when I first reviewed this, I wrote that it might be the best issue of the year, and here it is! This is the final issue of the series before its reboot, and it’s pretty much the apotheosis of the Johnny DC line – nice, cartoony art; a solid plot (or two); and lots and lots of funny lines. The first three pages, on which Batman fights intelligent dinosaurs (led by King Rex in his Hefner smoking jacket) with the aid of the Lady Blackhawks, is better than most comics DC put out this year, and that’s just the lead-in to the main plot, when Batman teams up with Hal Jordan to fight an evil meteorite named Robert. It’s a hilarious issue, but it also highlights something we see far too little in the main DCU – Batman trusts Hal implicitly to do his part, so he thinks nothing of hurling himself into dangerous situations. The two heroes are comrades and friends, and they do their job without angst. Walker stopped by to point out that he inadvertently stole a joke from Peter David, but it works perfectly well here, and you can recycle a joke every 15 or 20 years, right? This is a wonderful example of why we all fell in love with comics in the first place, and I encourage you to track it down (or read it in trade, as I’m sure it’s going to be collected and most of the Batman: The Brave and the Bold issues are worth a look anyway).

2. Officer Downe (“Tough Shit”) (Image) by Joe Casey, Chris Burnham, Marc Letzmann, and Rus Wooton.

Joe Casey and Chris Burnham give us this one-shot, about a cop who is endlessly resurrected and therefore the perfect law enforcement machine. There’s nothing more to say about this story, as Casey tells Burnham to draw as much gore as he likes, and Burnham gleefully obliges. If you don’t like horrific violence, this issue probably isn’t for you. I’m not lying – there’s really nothing else to the issue, but it’s gorgeous to look at (Burnham has done probably the best work of his career so far on this book), ridiculously funny, and, well, bloody. Why is this the second-best single issue of the year, then? Because Casey has nothing else on his mind for this story, and he just goes balls-to-the-wall, not worrying about anything except sheer entertainment. And he accomplishes that perfectly. Check out an Airwolf panel here!

3. Chew #15 (“Just Desserts Part 5 of 5″) (Image) by John Layman, Rob Guillory, and Steven Struble.

Even though this is the final issue of an arc and references things that came many issues earlier, it’s still a marvelous single issue because it showcases the series’ strengths and gives people a overall view of what Layman and Guillory are doing. We begin with Savoy eating Thanksgiving dinner, finishing with Tony’s ear, which Guillory illustrates with an amazing layout of Savoy eating and tiny panels showing what he’s experiencing as he eats, finally zeroing in on something that’s very important to Tony (something I don’t plan on giving away). Then we move on to Tony’s Thanksgiving, where we finally meet his family, and it’s as insane as you might expect. The humor in the issue is less gross than usual in the book stemming from the Chu family dynamics (something everyone with a family can relate to), and there are nice callbacks to previous issues, such as Colby’s plans for Thanksgiving that he ignores. And, of course, there are the two bombshells at the end – the writing in the sky that we first saw back in issue #4, and the thing that’s important to Tony. It’s a fairly typical issue of Chew, but it also stands out because it can stand a bit on its own. It’s not a perfect representation of the series (as I pointed out, it’s far less gross than usual), but it shows how good both Layman and Guillory are on the book. Here is where I first reviewed it.

4. Phonogram: The Singles Club #7 (“Wolf Like Me” + back-up stories) (Image) by Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie, Julia Scheele, Matthew Wilson, Nikki Cook, Becky Cloonan, Andy Bloor, and Sean Azzopardi.

I’m not entirely sure what else I can write about this issue that I haven’t already written here and here. It’s a joyful musical romp through Bristol [thanks, Stefan!], culminating in a reason to love music and what it does to people and how it can make moments stand out in our memories forever. I’m sure I’ll have more to say when I re-read both series in a little bit (it won’t be too long), so just go buy the trade and revel in it. Plus, the back-up stories are fun, if you must have the single issues.

5. Demo #3 (“Volume One Love Story”) (DC/Vertigo) by Brian Wood, Becky Cloonan, and Jared K. Fletcher.

Back when I first reviewed this, I wrote that it makes no sense, and that’s why it’s so good. I stand by that: in a literal sense, this comic makes no sense. Marlo, the OCD-sufferer who’s the star of the issue, writes Post-It notes to herself to remember to keep her entire life in a certain kind of order. But what happens when that order gets upset? Wood is writing a metaphorical representation of falling in love, and it’s quite breathtaking, as long as you don’t think certain things are actually happening. In some of the issues of Demo (the final one most notably), Wood pushes metaphor into literal reality, and it doesn’t quite work as well as this issue, where he pushes the opposite way. This is a magnificent short story, highlighted by Cloonan’s wonderful art. Obviously, you should get all the issues of Demo, but if you had to get just one, this would be it.

6. Thor: The Mighty Avenger #4 (“Boys’ Night Out”) (Marvel) by Roger Langridge, Chris Samnee, Matthew Wilson, and Rus Wooton.

I must say, I’ve always been a sucker for issues like this, where the hero (or heroes) take a break and relax. Claremont’s mutants playing baseball? Sign me up! In the best issue of this very fine series (probably #11 on my “best ongoing” list), Thor and the Warriors Three head out to a pub, get lost along the way, and wind up in a different pub, where Brian Braddock is drinking with friends. Of course, he has to have words with the Norsemen, but it all gets sorted rather quickly. Langridge has a great sense of humor about it all, Samnee’s work looks great, and even Jane Foster gets to take a night off and gets blotto. All is well in the world! And then nobody read the series and Marvel cancelled it. So sad! (Click here for a very funny Airwolf panel.)

7. The Tick: New Series #4 (“The Gilliad”) (New England Comics Press) by Benito Cereno, Les McClaine, Clay Griffith, and Michael Oeming.

As I pointed out, I got this mainly because Cereno stopped by to pimp it one day, and my shop actually had a copy, and look at that – it ends up on my “best-of” list. Basically, this issue is split into two stories: The Tick is made to stay inside and play board games because it’s raining so hard outside, while outside, an entire underwater war is being waged. The sheer wonder of the characters that Cereno comes up with (some – all? – parodies of other comic book characters, but still) is what makes the book so gloriously awesome, although the scenes with the Tick and his friends playing various games are damned funny, too. It’s crazy shit, man, and you know how I love the crazy shit!

8. “Do You Ever?” in Girl Comics #2 (Marvel) by Faith Erin Hicks.

I didn’t say a ton about this story back when the issue came out, but while it’s only six pages long, Hicks’ story of Elsa Bloodstone and Tabitha Smith is fantastic, as she humorously gets to the core of why heroes act good and if there are times they really don’t want to. She totally nails both ladies’ personalities very well, and her quirky art isn’t traditionally “superheroic” but is perfect for showing how they feel, while Hicks shows she can do a bit of action too. I wrote this before, but I would totally buy an ongoing with Hicks doing these two characters having misadventures. Of course, Marvel would never touch it with a ten-foot pole, but I can dream, can’t I? (And yes, I like this story more than her Wolverine one, even though that one rocks, too.)

9. Atomic Robo vol. 4 #4 (Red 5 Comics) by Brian Clevinger, Scott Wegener, Ronda Pattison, and Jeff Powell.

When this was released, I compared it to issue #3, the Dr. Dinosaur issue which I didn’t love as much as other issues, and I need to point out the differences again and why this is such a brilliant issue. Like the best Atomic Robo stories, the humor in this book comes from the situation in the book, so it feels much more organic and funnier. There’s also a “ghost,” which allows Clevinger to have fun with possibly the best part of the series – Robo and his group debunking various phenomena. It’s also a wonderful story because Clevinger adds just enough poignancy to make the “ghost” a much more interesting character than, say, Dr. Dinosaur. If you got this issue as a standalone issue, you would find everything in it that makes Atomic Robo such a wonderful comic. Of course, it’s more fun if you read every issue, but I’m just pointing that out.

10. “The Battle of the Hawk’s Mouse and the Fox’s Mouse” in Mouse Guard: Legends of the Guard #1 (Archaia) by Jeremy Bastian.

This year, David Petersen enlisted various comics creators for an anthology series of his wonderful creation, Mouse Guard, and while all the stories are good, Bastian’s tale that begins the anthology is tremendous. He tells a stirring epic (in just a few pages) of how the mice threw off the yokes of their oppressors and became the free animals of the series. It’s a story that hearkens back to myths and legends, with a wonderful “animal” sense to it – we can find similarities to human myth, but the fact that the characters in the story are mice and hawks and foxes makes it just alien enough. Plus, Bastian’s gorgeous, refined art makes this look like an ancient tale, carefully passed down through generations. Check out one of his panels here. Petersen did a very good job assembling the talent for Legends of the Guard, and Bastian gets it started with a brilliant story.

Honorable Mention: “The She-Hulk Story That’s a Riff on Christmas Carol” in She-Hulk Sensational one-shot; Rafael Grampá’s Wolverine story in Strange Tales II #1; “A Gun in Africa” in Unknown Soldier #21; “A Come-to-Jesus” in Scalped #43; “A Batman’s Work is Never Done” in Batman: The Brave and the Bold #17; “The Sea Road” in Northlanders #29; “The Many Lives of Lizzie Hexam” in The Unwritten #17; “Team Player” in Vengeance of the Moon Knight #10.

BEST COVER.

Picking covers is hard, man! First of all, there are so many good covers out there that it’s really hard to narrow it down to ten. I mean, I don’t have any J. H. Williams III or Frank Quitely or John Cassaday covers on this list, which is surprising. Plus, I limit myself to one per artists. I could easily have listed all nine of the Daytripper covers, but I forced myself to choose one. So this is a tiny bit more random than other categories, but I still think it’s a good one!

1. Daytripper #2 by Gabriel Bá. This was a tough choice, but the total image sold it, as we get the hikers standing on the edge of the canyon looking up and seeing Brás swimming in the sea. It links to two separate images inside the book and is beautifully surreal while not being too abstract, in all honesty. Throw a dart at a collection of Daytripper covers and you’ll hit a great one, but this is my favorite.

2. S.W.O.R.D. #4 by Mike del Mundo. It’s odd that the covers of this short-lived series got better once John Cassaday stopped doing them, but Del Mundo’s two covers are fantastic. I vacillated between this and the one for issue #5, but I love the image of Henry Gyrich sucking everything into his maw while Abigal and Hank try to escape. The work with the checkerboard pathway is excellent, as well.

3. Detective Comics #872 by Jock. Jock is, of course, known for his Scalped covers, but this creepy one from Detective is better than all of those. Gas masks are inherently eerie, and the Bat-ears add that touch of what-the-fuckness to it. Plus, the crowbar in the center, framed in the horribly white eye, not only evokes tragic memories in long-time Bat-readers but also has resonance to the book’s interior, which is nice.

4. Secret Six #21 by Daniel Luvisi. The covers of Secret Six are often decent but also a bit too computer-rendered to be really brilliant. Luvisi’s haunting cover for issue #21, however, has no people in it, which gives it an advantage. The tragic Catman doll is both funny and terrible, and I don’t know what the frog is doing there, but it adds just enough more weirdness to the cover to make it even more disturbing.

5. Strange Tales II #1 by Rafael Grampá. I’m tempted to just write “Thor wears sneakers” and leave it at that, but … you know what, I am going to leave it at that.

6. Sweets #1 by Kody Chamberlain. New Orleans at night is beautifully rendered on this cover, with the tombs on the left leading our eye up and away to the solitary figure in the center, holding a gun under the smear of streetlight. The figure’s shadow stretches toward us and out of the picture bottom left, and the entire tableau reeks of mystery and tragedy. We might not know what’s going on, but the cover invites us to find out!

7. Unknown Soldier #22 by Dave Johnson. Johnson’s another cover artist who rarely missteps, but I chose this one because it’s so unlike his usual cover art, and it’s a bold departure. For such a brutal series, this shows why Moses still fights, even though he knows it remains elusive.

8. Joe the Barbarian #5 by Sean Murphy. I love the sense of dread on this cover, as Joe looks up at the statue fearfully – despite the Iron Knight’s heroic past, what he guards is darker than Joe has experienced before this. The ripples in the water are wonderful, too.

9. Demo #1 by Becky Cloonan. The vacant eyes sell this one so well, and Cloonan’s interior art on this issue match the glorious art on the outside.

10. Astonishing X-Men: Xenogenesis #4 by Kaare Andrews. I didn’t even buy this issue, but I loved the cover. The bright blue between the two sides helps it pop, and it’s not often we see the “two sides about to attack each other” motif from such an odd angle. The fact that one side is babies helps, too.

THE “NUKE LALOOSH” AWARD.

I usually give this award to a creator I would love to see working on a Big Two title. Over the years, however, I’ve noticed that little-known creators who start working for the Big Two get neutered in some way or another, so I don’t want my favorite creators to start working for Marvel or DC and lose that beautiful spark of creativity that made them so great in the first place. Even artists, who you’d think would be immune to this, seem to smooth out their edges and conform more to a house style when they get employed by the Large Duo. So I’m going to retire this award. I was thinking about listing some creators I learned of this year who deserve more attention, even if they don’t get high-profile gigs from the companies who pay well. But I didn’t make a conscious effort to that in 2010, so I’m sure I’d miss some people if I started listing them. I will just mention my two new favorite creators, Dylan Meconis and Erika Moen, just because I couldn’t figure out a different place for them in this post. I’ve raved about Moen and Meconis already on this blog, so I won’t again – I’ll just point you to places where I reviewed their work, because it’s awesome: Moen’s DAR! and Meconis’s Bite Me! and Family Man. Pick any of them up, and you won’t be disappointed (you can also read them all on-line for no money out of your pocket, as well). Next year I’ll have a better list of creators who deserve the love!

THE “FELL” AWARD.

I always have to explain the “Fell” Award, so here goes. Fell, of course, is the wonderful Warren Ellis/Ben Templesmith series from Image that was one of the two “slim-line” comics from a few years ago that contained 16 pages of story and cost $1.99 (the other was Casanova). Neither sold terribly well but both were excellent, and Ellis, at least, had a lot more planned of this series. Then it disappeared. Issue #9, the latest issue, came out in January 2008, and it’s become a bit of a poster boy for late comics, as Ellis claims he hasn’t abandoned the book. So I named this award after that comic. This award highlights those wonderful tardy books we all want to ship but might not. In the past years, I said a comic had to ship in the calendar year and then not show up again that year, but I had to rethink that this year. What if a comic came out late in 2009 but then didn’t show up at all in 2010? It would not, technically, be eligible for this award. So I decided to expand it to the past 18 months. Other conditions apply: The series must not be complete, and there has to be evidence that the creators have not completely given up on it – either they’re still working on other things or their web sites promise that they’ll get around to the issue. Plus, the next issue must have been solicited at some point. I know some creators leave comics because they get more lucrative offers outside of the industry, and that’s fine. This award goes to a comic that, conceivably, could be completed at some point. Let’s check out the contenders! Some of the more recent books don’t quite count yet, but their tardiness is vexing.

Frenemy of the State (last issue: October) – This was an ongoing, now it’s a five-issue mini-series, and now, who knows if it will even finish?
Hotwire: Deep Cut (last issue: October) – I only put this on the list because Steve Pugh seems to be working pretty quickly, so why this hasn’t shown up recently is puzzling.
The Lone Ranger (last issue: October) – One issue to go in the series, and apparently it’s taking a long, looooooong time to pull it together!
Turf (last issue: October) – I’m not surprised this is slow, but it is.
Joe the Barbarian (last issue: September) – What’s the fucking deal, God of All Comics?
Wasteland (last issue: July) – I love this comic, and I have no idea what happened to it. It’s very frustrating.
Captain Swing and the Electrical Pirates of Cindery Island (last issue: June) – Hey, it’s another Ellis comic! Is he vying for a “Fell” Award for a different title?
The Pilgrim (last issue: June) – This is weird, as I thought it was on-line before it got printed, so what’s the delay? Did the print version just not sell enough, so they pulled the plug?
The Great Unknown (last issue: April) – A perennial contender, as Duncan Rouleau appears to be adhering to the “one issue per year” model!

The two winners, however, are both series from 2009 that didn’t show up in 2010 but both have one (ONE!!!!) measly issue left before they are finished. Andrew Dabb and Sam Abbinanti’s Atomika, a wonderful twelve-issue series, finally returned in 2009 after a few years’ hiatus, and I thought it would be done. Its eleventh issue showed up in November ’09, and since then … nothing. Holy crap, that’s frustrating. And a contender from last year is this year’s Big Winner, as Gemini, Jay Faerber and Jon Sommariva’s mini-series about a hero who doesn’t know he’s a hero, continues to sit around and stubbornly not come out, even though four of the five issues have shipped. Faerber has promised that it will finish, but where is it? I don’t know. Sigh. So there you go: Atomika and Gemini, two series whose most recent issues shipped in 2009 and haven’t shown up since. Damn it, where are they?!?!?!?

THE “SHARK-MAN” AWARD FOR AWESOMEST COMIC OF THE YEAR AND PROBABLY EVER.

Usually I give this to Steve Pugh’s comics because his comics since Shark-Man have been so awesome, but I bought one issue of Jason Aaron and Adam Kubert’s Astonishing Spider-Man & Wolverine this year and now I can’t wait for the trade, because it’s so COMICS!!!!! that I almost can’t stand it. It features Doom, the Motherfucking Living Planet, for fuck’s sake! My desire to wait for the trade on Marvel mini-series is sorely tested with this one, I’ll tell you that much, especially as the book only comes out every other month. But damn. What a cool book.

I used to do a “Disappointment of the Year,” but I’m not keen on putting down comics these days – I’m all about the positives, man! So I suppose I’ll just wrap things up now. I know – only 11,000 words? What’s wrong with me? I hope you enjoyed this look at my favorite comics of the year. I love doing these posts, because it reminds me how freaking awesome comics are. You know it’s true! So sound off and tell me how wrong I am. I can take your scorn!!!!

46 Comments

Many of your choices and reasons just made me happy. Keeping with the positives, you know.

“But it’s the best mainstream DC book out there right now (yes, including Morrison’s Batman books)”

May the God of Comics have mercy on your soul

IF you’d been a comics fan in the early 1980s, then the “Fell” award probably would have been called the “Camelot 3000″ award…

Did you check out Bulletproof Coffin?

Dear Greg.

You’re wrong. That Dr. Dinosaur issue is the best single issue of Atomic Robo.

That’s all

-sgt pepper

Excellent work as usual Greg.

Just so you know…you can write a bad column every now and then.It’s allowed.

I love Secret Six, but no way in Hell is it better than Morrison’s Batman.

Basara: That is certainly true!

Julian: I’m going to get the trade. I know some people have said the single issues work very well, but I read some of the first issue and wasn’t impressed, so by the time I read some people gushing about it, I decided to wait on it.

sgt. pepper: Well, to each his own!

KCviking: Many people think I write nothing but bad columns! Thanks for the nice words.

Michael: I like Morrison’s Batman and think it will be a great read when it’s all said and done, but it’s often a mess. I refuse to say it’s “Morrison’s Batman” and ignore the fact that it spread over four titles – if I had to choose one to put on this list, it would be Batman, Inc., but after two issues, I don’t think it’s quite there yet. The others are good comics but more interesting as comics-as-history than as pure stories. But that’s just my opinion!

Thanks for doing these Greg. I bought Beast and Some New King of Slaughter from your list last year and enjoyed them both. I can’t wait to try some of the stuff you’ve mentioned in this year’s list.

Woo hoo, nice list.

I bought that Batman Brave and the Bold solely on your recommendation, and I’m glad I did. Very cool.

I also bought Officer Downe (haven’t read it yet though), but I think that was cuz the artist was on B&R 16 and even more cuz Chad wouldn’t shut up about Joe Casey :)

That Detective cover just snuck in, didn’t it, since it’s still on the shelf at my local grocery store.

If you never picked it up, find the Brendan McCarthy issue of Solo. Very cool stuff.

Seth: I’m always glad I don’t steer someone wrong. I hope I don’t do it this year!

Travis: Detective #872 came out on 29 December. Just in time! And yeah, I missed the McCarthy Solo issue. Dang it. To the back issue boxes!

Thanks, Jason. Always cool to hear from you. Is your web comic going to get printed at any point? My old eyes don’t like reading the screen, man!

[…] Comic Book Resources: CSBG Archive – My Best Ten Of ‘Ten! […]

Yeah, Greg. Thanks for the lists of reading material! And HUZZAH, my library finally got Chew!

S.H.I.E.L.D. is an on-going? I thought it was a mini.

I think the Strange Tales cover was my favourite one last year. Thor wearing sneakers is awesome, but I also love the way Grampa draws Spider-man, something about it just feels right. I’d love to see him draw Spider-man some more.

Epic post, Greg, epic. But a good read. I look forward to the Sixth Gun trade that will arrive shortly, and the Daytripper trade which I’ll have in a month or so. Huzzah!

(Travis’ grocery store sells comics? I want to go to there.)

Yeah, Michael May and I will be doing a print version of the comic for sure. We have a smaller publisher interested but we’ll see how that plays out. :)

(For those interested in seeing what Greg is referencing, Kill All Monsters! is a webcomic that is updated every Friday. http://review2akill.com/2010/11/19/kill-all-monsters/ )

Great list Greg, love the shout out to Steve Pugh with the Shark-Man award. I was pleasently surprised that Last Days of American Crime made it in your best miniseries list. I surely figured that Earp would have been your pick. LOL, I kid of course and love that this book made the cut. I spent a lot of time promoting when I worked for Radical.

“Cats in the Cradle” was fucking HARDCORE. There’s no way the next arc would live up to it, so the Skartaris thing was a bit of a comedown, but I’d like to see how Gail follows up Blake’s tragedy.

Well, Bill, if you’ve got a Wegmans near you (and you’re somewhere in PA, right, so you might), they might have a spinner rack of comics like my local grocery store. I was just there yesterday (well, early this morning after work), and they’ve got most of the Bat titles, Superman, Buffy, a lot of Marvel stuff (Cap, X stuff, Hulk stuff, Avengers), Bongo, Archie, Sonic, Boom Muppets, and so on. It’s actually a decent selection, and if I can’t find something at one of the 3 LCS’s, I can sometimes get it there. I’m still not certain if the Marvel newsstand stuff is still a buck more than the DM (I think once most Marvel titles went to 3.99, the newsstand price stayed there), but I can also go there in the middle of the night and read the stuff instead of buy it (I read most of the last few Buffy issues there, actually).

I had actually picked up the first Ellis T-Bolts issue there, as well as Morrison’s first Batman issue. I also, when I was getting New Avengers pre-Secret Invasion, got 30 there (for, as I said, a buck extra cuz none of the local stores had it). So it’s actually pretty nice.

Ok, done bragging.

Outstanding list. Many that I loved, some I didn’t know of that I will certainly pick up. Minimal Superheroes [thank you] but the real love for those you liked means I will probably check out Spidey/Wolvie too.

Have to say I love Hellboy’s Wild Hunt this year, and Set To Sea but the list was impressive and balanced enough that it made me happy. Great taste and comprehensive coverage, the love for comics shines through.

Probably the best round up I’ve read yet. Colour me a fan.

Greg, this was a great list and I don’t want to quibble.

But I should point out that Phonomancer: Singles Club is very definitely a BRISTOL comic, even if the original series did detour to London briefly if memory serves.

I don’t think the whole Massive Attack/Portishead/dubstep musical output is particularly relevant to the comic (ironically enough), but as someone who lived there for a few years, #7 especially brought back many many memories of nights out in the centre of town, around Park Street. I’ve eaten in that kebab shop and stunted off that bench. That bridge he drops down from? There used to be a comic book store right next to it – I basically got into comics spending hours there reading thanks to the relaxed staff. So that’s the personal resonance for me of a comic that captures a lot of resonance for everyone who loves music and dancing.

It would have been a very, very different comic if it felt and looked like London.

cheers for the list.

Re: Pilgrim
Yeah, I think this one may have been cancelled, which is a shame, as I thought Grell’s artwork was some of the best he had ever done. Issues #3-6 showed up on one of Diamond’s cancellation lists a couple months ago, all coded #4- CANCELLED BY PUBLISHER. A trade was also solicited for this month but Amazon shows it as “shipping in 2-4 months” which means “we’ll never get this” in Amazon-speak. I asked the guys at Comic Mix about its status, but never got a reply, so I think we can write off the print version of Pilgrim…

Oh, and speaking of your Fell Awards, the newest Previews has a newly rescheduled soliciitation for that last issue of Atomika.

Overall, a great ‘best of’ list!

Tom Fitzpatrick

January 27, 2011 at 4:34 am

Just reading ORC STAIN. There’s only one word that fits this book to a “T”: indescribable.

No Morning Glories?

Stuart: I get Hellboy stuff in trade, so it never makes my Top Ten as I’m usually far behind on it. But it’s always good.

Stefan: Whoops, my bad. I didn’t go back and check, and I forgot it wasn’t in London. Gillen might punch me the next time I see him! I’ll go back and change it. Thanks!

Tom: While I like Morning Glories, it hasn’t blown me away so far like SHIELD and Orc Stain have done. Maybe it will this year – issue #6 was certainly a good start!

Mudassir Chapra

January 27, 2011 at 7:28 am

I think you should read Knight & Squire. The Richard III issue might be the greatest thing ever. I have read it 7 times now. I have not laughed more in tje past year.

I absolutely love your end of the year lists. They always feel so complete. You truly love your comics and it shows! What really makes it great though is that you don’t preach. You’re not telling me the comics you’ve chosen are objectively the ten best comics of 2010, it’s very much a personnaly choice and you’re aware of that. Furthermore, the fact that you have categories is just delightful!

Oh, did Area 10 come out in 2010? That’s probably my favourite Vertigo Crime book yet. I haven’t had a chance to read The Rat Catcher yet. (I guess that answers your question whether or not other people buy these!)

Mudassir: I’m trying to get DC and Marvel mini-series in trade these days, so I’m waiting for Knight and Squire. I heard good things about that particular issue, so I’m looking forward to it.

Mario: Area 10 did come outin 2010, but I thought it stumbled a bit at the end – I did consider it, but it just didn’t quite make the final cut. I’m glad someone is reading them beside me, though!

Andrew (why didn’t your comment show up right away?): That stinks about The Pilgrim. Too bad. And I didn’t see Previews yet, but I used to have that power with Fell – I would mention how late it was, and an issue would show up! Has my power transferred to Atomika????? That’s pretty keen that it’s in the catalog – I hope it does come out soon!

Greg,
Not sure why my comments don’t show up right away either. I had an issue a few months back where my comments wouldn’t show up at all, and when I contacted Brian he said my comments were somehow getting shoved over into the spam folder and that he wasn’t sure why. I don’t know if the issue was ever fixed or not…

I am *so* getting Fluorescent Black! Thanks for bringing that to my attention, man! The only Vertigo crime book I’ve bought was Area 10. Samnee’s work is well worth the price of admission for that.

Hey, it’s awfully nice to see THE EXECUTOR up there. I’m told the paperback should emerge sometime in May.

Greg, this is the best ‘Best of’ list I’ve read: great choices, great explanations, and I totally agree with stating that it’s ‘your’ best. And I like the splitting up into categories, and I totally agree with you on Chew (even if I do get it in trade). Your diverse list also shows that you read a hell of a lot of comic books, which makes your opinion more valid than those other lists. Now I’ll have to pick up some of the books you recommend …

This just made my day. Thanks!

Greg:

Thanks for the generous inclusion on this list.

You should have kept reading, though. Tick New Series #7 is way funnier than #4.

Benito: Yeah, I do have to catch up on the series. I’ll get to it!

Wow, I’m … er… honored?

Sigh…

Jay: Well, if I didn’t want to read it, I wouldn’t care enough to mention it, right? Isn’t that something?

Greg, I’m always impressed with how much quality content you squeeze into every piece you write. In a world that revolves around headlines and sound bytes, your stuff is consistent, thorough, and well thought out. A very impressive list, and I’m honored to be included.

Greg: Hell yeah, the sigh wasn’t directed at you, it was directed at ME and Jon.

I’ve added some of these to my Amazon wish list, Greg, though I’m not sure I trust you. I give the first volume of THOR: THE MIGHTY AVENGER, including issue #4, a rating of 6.5 or 7 of 10. In other words, I’d say it’s overrated.

Rob: Well, that’s too bad. Obviously, I disagree with you, but that happens. I just hope I don’t steer you wrong too much!

I wonder what you would’ve given the original Warriors Three comic (MARVEL SPOTLIGHT #30). That was a minor piece of fluff, but it was richer and denser than THOR: MIGHTY AVENGER #4. If THOR #4 was a best issue of the year, MARVEL SPOTLIGHT #30 must’ve been a best issue of the decade.

Your ratings are more generous than mine, obviously. But that’s okay. I can subtract one or two stars to get more accurate ratings.

why am i always lat to EVERY party?

Thanks for this.

Geoffrey: No problem, sir. It’s a very fun comic!

Leave a Comment

 

Categories

Review Copies

Comics Should Be Good accepts review copies. Anything sent to us will (for better or for worse) end up reviewed on the blog. See where to send the review copies.

Browse the Archives