What a century this last decade has been.
Seriously, the pace of change over the last 10 years has been steadily rising, and has been somewhere between “dangerous” and “murderous” for the last 3, and that isn’t just about geopolitics: the comics world of today is certainly recognizable to a time traveller from 2010, but it would look extremely weird.
- Webcomics and medium press publishers are EVERYWHERE now.
- Marvel has embraced multiple restarts of its line.
- DC has rebooted its universe at least twice.
- Comics are for kids again.
- Nerds rule culture, for all that’s good and bad.
These changes have been catalysts for some very, very good comic books, and we wanted to give you a list of some of our favorites. Here are a few guiding principles to our list:
I am one person who can’t possibly read everything. There’s some stuff that won’t be on this list because I didn’t have time to get to it. Please share what was missed in the comments!
It’s also an exercise in opinion! I didn’t want to be redundant and talk about the same creators or characters over and over again, though there are some repeats. I ranked these according to what I enjoyed, and not some externally objective measure of what is the finest art. If anything, I’m biased towards what was interesting - books that have stuck with me for years, stuff I still think about or reread or recommend. That said, for longer runs like Scott Snyder’s Batman or Criminal, I tried to pick arcs that were symbolic of the entire run, or the best stories within a bigger picture.
And finally, it’s imperfect. I’ve been fiddling with a good chunk of this list for a month and a half, and every time I look, I realize something I forgot, or something I could move, or something that shouldn’t be ranked lower than something else. But ultimately, I’m pretty happy with everything here, and I’m willing to bet you’ll find something interesting you’ve never considered before in it, even if I’ve missed a few glaring stories.
With that in mind, Den of Geek is proud to unveil our empirically sound, objective, and absolute BEST COMICS OF THE 2010S
100. Batman & Robin
Pete Tomasi, Patrick Gleason, Mick Gray, John Kalisz (DC Comics)
Tomasi and Gleason’s run never got the attention it deserved because it ran alongside huge ones - Grant Morrison’s Batman and Batman Inc. to start, and Scot Snyder and Greg Capullo’s monster New 52 series later. But I might like this one more: Tomasi writes hands down the best Damian Wayne I’ve ever read, and Gleason and Gray do bulky, shadowy Bat people perfectly. The high point is an issue around the middle of this run, post-Damian’s death but before he came back, when Batman is teaming up with Two-Face, and it might be my favorite single issue of Batman of all time. It’s such a perfect take on Two-Face that I come back to it every couple of years. Give this era of Batman a shot, I bet you love it.
99. Black Science
Rick Remender, Matteo Scalera, Moreno Dionisio (Image Comics)
Black Science is a comic full of Rick Remender’s fears and worries. Scalera and Dionisio turn them into bright, colorful, wildly creative visuals as Grant McKay bounced around the Eververse trying to find a way at first to express his anarcho-scientistism, and then to save his family. It wrapped up earlier this year, and Remender and the team did an elegant job landing the plane on one of the best books from a wave of big name creator owned books that launched back in 2014.
Kwanza Osajyefo, Tim Smith 3, Jamal Igle, Khary Randolph (Black Mask Studios)
Osajyefo, Smith, Igle and cover artist Khary Randolph’s comic about what would happen in a world where only black people got superpowers stripped the “mutant” part from “the mutant metaphor” and also the “metaphor” part, and gave us a story about black people being treated like exploitable resources by the US government. Igle’s black and white art was terrific, and the story is rough when you explain the plot, but rougher when it plays out on the page in front of you.
97. Assassin Nation
Kyle Starks, Erica Henderson (Image Comics)
Starks and Henderson are both gifted comics creators on their own. Pairing them together gave us something beautiful - a book that’s about the world’s greatest assassins banding together to fight for their lives. It’s got unique characters with distinct voices and ridiculous, over the top action.
Jillian Tamaki (Drawn & Quarterly)
Time has sped up immensely in the last three years. Things that feel momentus happen and are forgotten four hours later. Trends are microtrends, fads are localized without geography, and entire 24-hour news cycles are compressed to the space between weathers on the 1s. So it’s really weird how a collection of in-the-moment short comics drawn (presumably) in 2016 feels extremely relevant and timely now. Tamaki takes a bunch of quick stories - about a mirror Facebook that shows you what might be in a parallel world; a Twilight Zone-esque cultural phenomenon mp3; a porn sitcom from the ‘90s gaining more than a cult following 25 years later - and uses the characters to say something interesting about them or us or our world. It’s a great book.
Joshua Dysart, Doug Brathwaite, Scot Eaton, Cafu, Khari Evans, Ulisses Ariola (Valiant Entertainment)
Toyo Harada is a underratedly great villain, and Imperium is the story of him trying to impose his will on the world. Valiant books have, since their return early this decade, been pretty tightly intertwined, but most of their central narrative has revolved around Harada. He’s a great choice for that. He’s as big an egomaniac as Lex Luthor or Dr. Doom, but he’s got the benefit of operating in a world where the political rules are more like those of ours, which enhances everything good and bad about his character. Dysart and the art team give us an outstanding story about megalomania here.
94. X-Men: Second Coming
Matt Fraction, Zeb Wells, Mike Carey, Craig Kyle, Christopher Yost, David Finch, Terry Dodson, Greg Land, Mike Choi, Ibraim Roberson, Rachel Dodson, Sonia Oback (Marvel Comics)
Second Coming is the payoff to my favorite era of X-Men books so far, the Messiah Era. It starts out blazingly fast, and then plays out over the course of 14 issues and somehow speeds up as it goes along. It’s a straight up summer blockbuster action movie in comic form that does an excellent job blending voices, art styles and ongoing plots with the overall narrative of the crossover without losing any momentum.
93. Ultimates 2
Al Ewing, Travel Foreman, Christian Ward, Dan Brown (Marvel Comics)
Al Ewing is well on his way to stardom because of how good The Immortal Hulk is, but the cool kids all knew where he was going after he teamed up with Foreman and Ward to tell a story about the self-aware multiverse and cosmic entities of the Marvel universe in The Ultimates/Ultimates 2. This book is weird and gorgeous, and even if it leaned towards implying some big changes for the greater Marvel cosmology without ever seeing those changes bear fruit, it was still a terrific story on its own right.
92. Adventure Time
Ryan North, Shelli Paroline, Braden Lamb (BOOM! Studios)
A licensed property like Adventure Time is tough to get right. The cartoon is so inventive that even if you match what shows up on the screen, it’s still just a pale shadow because the creativeness of the ideas is the point. So it was a huge surprise when the comic nailed it - it was every bit as wild as the show, only it also captured the voices of the characters perfectly and delighted in being a comic in a way that made it a celebration of the medium. This was the first time North managed to get rollover text into a printed comic, and it works, man.
91. The Divine
Boaz Lavie, Asaf Hanuka, Tomer Hanuka (First Second)
The Hanukas do two things really, really well in The Divine. They do great scale shifts. The camera zooms from pulling in really close on an eye about to bleed to pulling waaaay back to show giant beasts roving what looks like a fantasy countryside, and each decision about where to put the camera serves the story well. And the coloring adds to the surrealness of the story. It’s bright and full of greens and pinks almost to the point of being disorienting, which is I think the goal of that palette choice. The story is excellent too, about Burmese (or I guess Myanmarese now) child soldiers defending the land of their gods from resource extractors.
90. Ivar, Timewalker
Fred Van Lente, Clayton Henry, Brian Reber (Valiant Entertainment)
Ivar is surprisingly emotional and a ton of fun. Tonally, it’s one of the most distinct Valiant comics - it threads the needle of Quantum & Woody comedy, X-O Manowar high adventure and Eternal Warrior mythmaking. Van Lente takes pieces from all of those genres and knits them together with a ton of humor to make a super entertaining comic. What’s not to like about a book that starts with the main character throwing up his arms and shouting “LET’S KILL HITLER!”?
Steve Orlando, JD Faith, Chris Beckett, Tom Mauer (Image Comics)
What I liked most about Virgil is how little it felt like Orlando and Faith were shading the story. It’s simultaneously about how reprehensible Jamaica is towards gay people; crooked cops; and a love story; and a revenge story, and no one aspect overrules the others. Virgil is a dirty cop in Jamaica and also a gay man who loses his love and goes on a rampage. Every part of the story is given equal attention, and the final result is really, really good comics.
James Tynion IV, Eryk Donovan (BOOM! Studios)
It’s shocking how prescient Memetic feels. It’s genuinely creepy horror work from Tynion and Donovan, but it’s also about a meme and the homogenization of culture, and it landed like, 3 years before those ideas really penetrated the cultural zeitgeist. Donovan’s art manages the tricky feat of nailing the genuine horror of the situation, from the shock on the characters’ faces to the gross-out body horror later in the book, but it’s also genuinely funny at times. That damn sloth meme has been stuck in my head for five years.
87. The Manhattan Projects
Jonathan Hickman, Nick Pitarra, Jordie Bellaire (Image Comics)
Some books need long explanations to justify inclusion on a best books of the decade list. Some just need you to say “Richard Feynman and Albert Einstein gun down a space station full of FDRobots.” Guess which one Manhattan Projects is.
Dan DiDio, Keith Giffen, Scott Koblish, Hi-Fi (DC Comics)
O.M.A.C. is secretly the best New 52 launch title. Honestly, though, this book is and will always be an underrated gem: it’s DiDio, Giffen, and Koblish trying to do Jack Kirby with modern sensibilities. And it’s extremely, beautifully Kirby in so many different ways. I can’t believe it worked.
85. All-New Wolverine
Tom Taylor, David Lopez, David Navarrot, Nathan Fairbairn (Marvel Comics)
One of the best X-Men comics from the last ten years is also one of the most unexpected: it’s a Marvel book that steals DC’s traditional schtick about how to be a great legacy hero. Laura Kinney takes over Logan’s mask after her clonefather dies, and decides to make it a more outwardly and publicly superheroic mantle. Spoilers: she’s GREAT at it. Taylor gives her real growth as a character, and uses the best new character of the last 10 years (Jonathan the Wolverine and also Scout nee Honey Badger) to great effect. I was stunned at how much I loved this comic.
read All-New Wolverine on Amazon
84. Assassination Classroom
Yusei Matsui (Viz Media)
I’m not sure how I would briefly describe this book, and that’s part of why I love it. A monster destroys ¾ of the moon and says more is coming. But he gives mankind an out: Kill him inside of a year, and he’ll leave them alive. Then, and this is where it gets nuts, he takes over as homeroom teacher for a group of misfit teenagers and starts teaching them how to kill him. It’s basically Bad News Bears with a little more murder and some great manga art from Matsui.
83. Chilling Adventures of Sabrina
Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, Robert Hack (Archie Comics)
The best thing about Chilling Adventures of Sabrina isn’t that it spawned a great TV adaptation on Netflix. The best thing about it is how faithful to the comic the TV adaptation is. Part of Archie’s horror renaissance, Chilling Adventures of Sabrina is a genre anachronism that revels in its horror story trappings and delights in placing wholesome Archie characters in it. It’s drawn well and smart and a lot of fun from start to finish.
read Chilling Adventures of Sabrina on Amazon
Kieron Gillen, Canaan White, Digikore Studios (Avatar Press)
Early on in Uber’s run, Gillen recommended Antony Beevor’s comprehensive history of World War II as something he leaned on heavily when constructing this book. It shows: Uber reads like a military history, rather than your typical comic about “What if they had super powers in World War II?” The supersoldiers are treated like any other military technology - resources to be deployed, depleted, exploited and overcome. This is probably the most interesting treatment of super powers I’ve seen in a comic in the decade.
81. The Spire
Si Spurrier, Jeff Stokely, Andre May (BOOM! Studios)
Simon Spurrier does two things better than almost anyone in comics: he chooses incredible artists to work with, and he (and the artists) put together some stunning worlds for their characters to live in. The Spire is a murder mystery set in a fantasy city with a rigid class structure, and he and Stokely make a city that I felt immersed in immediately upon starting the book. One other thing Spurrier and crew do really well: wreck their main characters and break your heart, and The Spire is some of his best work.
80. Aliens: Dead Orbit
James Stokoe (Dark Horse Comics)
James Stokoe could have drawn 100 pages of character models and it would be on this list. He’s an incredible artist who draws incredibly detailed everything. Everything! Rubble. Ribcages. Control panels. Inner mandibles. Giving him an Aliens book is the no-brainer of no-brainers - this is what HR Geiger would have drawn if he was raised on anime.
79. Shade the Changing Girl
Cecil Catellucci, Marley Zarcone, Kelly Fitzpatrick (DC Comics)
It takes a really gifted eye to see the absurdity in everyday life and expose that to your readers with only a modest tweak to reality. Zarcone and Castellucci use dropping Rac Shade’s madness vest and Loma the alien bird into the body of a comatose mean girl as their way to show just how silly teenage life can be, and it’s beautiful. Shade the Changing Girl and its follow up, Shade the Changing Woman, both do magnificent work of using insanity to take you through a rollercoaster of emotions.
78. Wuvable Oaf
Ed Luce (Fantagraphics)
I think the best part about Wuvable Oaf, the indie book about black metal San Francisco bears is just how nice it is. It’s a really sweet, funny courtship story about an ex-underground wrestler starting a relationship with a small, blood-drenched metal singer. I find myself recommending this book to a surprising amount of people.
77. Upgrade Soul
Ezra Claytan Daniels (Lion Forge Comics)
Ezra Claytan Daniels went for messed up, twisty sci fi right out of the gate, and it was a home run. Upgrade Soul is an ugly body modification story about trying to prolong one’s life unnaturally, and what happens if that’s not all really well thought out beforehand. It’s drawn really well: even now, the scene with the gauze coming off layer by layer, the pacing of it and the skill of setting that sequence up, is amazing.
76. Strong Female Protagonist
Brennan Lee Mulligan, Molly Ostertag
“What if superheroes were real” is usually an exceptionally stupid premise for a comic, but there are plenty of ridiculous components to the superhero conceit that are worth examining. One of them is the value of superheroing - does flying around punching shit really actually fix anything? In Strong Female Protagonist, Alison Green asks that question, decides it doesn’t, and quits capes for college and activism in New York. This is a great story well told, but what I enjoy about it now is how New York it feels. It’s a really thoughtful take on superheroing, but it’s also a really good story that transports you to an age and a place.
75. Journey Into Mystery
Kieron Gillen, Doug Brathwaite, Ulises Ariola & others (Marvel Comics)
Journey Into Mystery shouldn’t have been successful. Loki wasn’t quite at the height of his powers yet, and while he was getting there, even now he can’t really carry his own book. It was also a legacy numbered relaunch coming out of a big summer crossover event. And yet, Kieron managed to take new kid Loki and use him to tell a story about stories and fate and myth that stands up there with some of the greatest Asgard stories ever told. What he does with the trickster god is actually sad and moving (and also generally hilarious - he writes a really fun Loki). it It’s one of my favorite things he’s ever written.
Gabriel Hardman (Monkeybrain Comics)
Sometimes, a comic is just plain good. Sometimes, a comic prominently features the GOODEST BOY on a cover. Sometimes, as is the case with Kinski, a comic does both. Hardman is a master of the form, and Kinski is one of his most underrated works. It’s the story of a guy bored with his life and trying to save a black lab puppy - not especially complicated or deep, but enough to hook me in, especially with the VERY GOOD BOY on the cover. But his art is magnificent. It’s black and white, and Hardman uses just about every inking style and manner to help tell the story. It’s virtuoso stuff. I loved it.
73. The Sheriff of Babylon
Tom King, Mitch Gerads (Vertigo Comics)
With a list like this, sometimes it’s not the full sweep of a story that gets it on, but the remembered moments. I’ve seen King and Gerads work together a hundred times since then (or at least it feels like that - time has no meaning anymore). It’s all been spectacular, but the scene with Chris and Fatima in the Saddam’s old pool sharing a bottle of vodka talking about pointlessness still stands out hard for me. The Sheriff of Babylon has gotten better with age, and it started out really, really good.
Marc Bernardin, Adam Freeman, Afua Richardson (Image Comics)
If you call a book Genius, it damn well better be brilliant. Fortunately for us, it was. Bernardin, Freeman and Richardson told us the story of Destiny, a precocious and brilliant military mind born into South Central and using her strategic genius to bring down the corrupt cops who have been terrorizing her neighborhood. It feels like it was timely when it came out, but it doesn’t read like a political statement. It reads like a really good revenge story. Richardson’s art was sharp and well laid out, and is a huge part of why Genius was so good.
read Genius on Amazon
Jeff Loveness, Jakub Rebelka (BOOM! Studios)
This book came out of nowhere for me. Loveness and Rebelka expanded on the story of Christ and Judas in a fascinating way. Judas is a whip smart comic that thinks around a lot of the unspoken corners of Jesus’s story. And it’s gorgeous: Rebelka draws the hell out of Hell. His backgrounds and settings are every bit as impressive as the storytelling accomplishment. Judas turned out to be an outstanding story.
Steve Orlando, ACO, Hugo Petrus, Romulo Fajardo, Jr & others (DC Comics)
Sometimes I just want to see a man punch his own ears off to stop from hearing a killing word.
Orlando and ACO gave us one of my favorite fight comics of all time in Midnighter (and continued in Midnighter and Apollo). It’s clever and sexy, and it delights in being a comic the way all the greatest fight comics do. The flow of the fights is spectacular - these are some of the best punching scenes I’ve ever read. It’s basically an ultraviolent, morally indignant James Bond. It’s terrific.
69. Black Hammer
Jeff Lemire, Dean Ormston, Dave Stewart & others (Dark Horse Comics)
Something always feels off in Lemire’s best work. In a good way. And something feels really off throughout Black Hammer, which is the entire point of the story. The universe Lemire and Ormston create is a love letter to silver age DC books, but at the same time it misses those comic sensibilities a lot, and Lemire makes his characters mourn that loss on the page. It’s a really interesting structure for a story, paired with some terrific art from Ormston and some inventive fill-ins and spinoffs from David Rubin and Matt Kindt and others. Black Hammer is top to bottom a great book.
68. My Friend Dahmer
Derf Backderf (Abrams Publishing)
I’m not usually one for true crime stories, especially not ones that try and humanize monstrous serial killers, but Backderf’s story of his old high school acquaintance, human eater Jeffrey Dahmer, is really good. Backderf’s art is very much of the underground comix style, which elevates the story, I think. Dahmer is disturbing and troubling throughout the book, but he’s also very much a weird gawky teenager, and in this art style, everyone is. The story humanizes him without excusing him, but I think the real reason it works is because it’s tinged with regret on Backderf’s part about the ways his relationship with Dahmer could have been different.
67. No Mercy
Alex de Campi, Carla Speed McNeil (Image Comics)
De Campi and McNeil took a book that could have been a lazy Lord of the Flies-but-with-social-media premise and turned it into a great character book. No Mercy takes a bunch of shitty teens on a field trip, and slowly turns several of them away from their shitty teen-ness and fleshes them out into an interesting dynamic and a great story. McNeil’s art is excellent: when they’re stuck in the desert, you feel hot and dry reading it, and every emotion these kids feel is beautifully shown in their face and their body language. This wasn’t a book I expected to come back to when I finished it, but it’s been a strong read even down the road.
Rainbow Rowell, Kris Anka, Matthew Wilson & others (Marvel Comics)
Rowell is a revelation as a comic writer. The way she juggles this huge cast is incredibly skillful writing. She’s got a good grasp on everyone’s voice and knows all the continuity of the old team cold. The book is vastly more enjoyable than the TV series as a teen hero soap opera, and Anka and Wilson make it way cooler to look at, too.
65. Peter Parker: The Spectacular Spider-Man
Chip Zdarsky, Adam Kubert, Jordie Bellaire & others (Marvel Comics)
Chip Zdarsky’s growth into one of Marvel’s most earnest writers was a surprising and outstanding development. I don’t think he’s done better work on any character than Spider-Man. It makes sense - Peter lends himself to stories that walk a tightrope between funny and tragic, and Chip is able to fine tune his characters and plots to nail both aspects.
Zdarsky got to work with some amazing artists on this run: Kubert does some of his best work, and Chris Bachalo should draw all Sandman stories forever and ever. But the real standouts are Peter’s dinner with Jonah in #6 (drawn by Michael Walsh), and the last issue of Chip’s run (#310). Both of them are really granular Spidey character studies that show why Peter is such a terrific hero, show just how much Zdarsky gets him, and show just how good Chip’s writing can be.
Walter Simonson (IDW Publishing)
It’s Walt Simonson drawing a Thor comic. He already did the best Thor story of all time. This is more of the same. I don’t think I really need to go into greater detail here, right? I will, for the sake of argument: there’s a full page splash at the beginning of the first issue that has Thor facing down the Serpent of Midgard and it is gorgeous. You can almost count the scales on the serpent.
63. Mox Nox
Joan Cornella (Fantagraphics)
Cornella’s absurdist comic strips still, years later, make me die laughing. Mox Nox is a collection of his work that shows just how many situations you can put his ridiculous, Weeble-looking figures into that will shock you with their gore or make you shout laughing.
62. The Valiant
Matt Kindt, Jeff Lemire, Paolo Rivera, Joe Rivera (Valiant Entertainment)
Valiant has published some consistently excellent comics over the last decade, but they hit a high point with The Valiant, an Avengers-esque team up of all the heroes of the Valiant universe that focused on Bloodshot, the Geomancer and the Eternal Warrior. It worked so well for two reasons: the relationship between Bloodshot and the Geomancer was incredibly well written and heartbreaking in the end, and the art from the Riveras was incredible. Paolo Rivera doesn’t draw anywhere near as many comics as I would like (that number is generally “nearly all of the comics”), so when he is on a book, you know you’re going to get some beautiful stories.
61. One Punch Man
ONE, Yusuke Murata (Viz Media)
I didn’t even realize I needed a fight manga parody in my life, but then One Punch Man rolled through and I love it and want more.
Saitama trains himself to become a hero, and gets so powerful he can defeat horrifying giant monsters with one punch. Then he gets super bored because nothing is a challenge, and the rest of the first volume is light mocking of fight comics that I found immensely entertaining and really funny. It’s not going to tell us anything about ourselves as a society or have a bigger message than “heh this is pretty silly, isn’t it?” But sometimes that’s perfect.
60. Darth Vader
Kieron Gillen, Salvador Larocca, Edgar Delgado (Marvel Comics)
The way the Star Wars prequels neutered Darth Vader is a crime against a character. Miraculously, the move to Disney shifted him back from the hurt puppy dog teenager that the prequels turned him into (and the mystical waste of time that the Special Editions and the books made him) and into a merciless badass force of nature. That shift started in earnest in this book - Gillen and Larocca made him mad again, and a pissed off Sith Lord is a force of nature I loved reading about.
59. The Highest House
Mike Carey, Peter Gross, Fabien Alquiler (IDW Publishing)
Carey and Gross are a great team. Their work together on Lucifer is some of the best comics of all time, and the world they built in The Highest House is as good or better. It’s my favorite type of fantasy comic - one that builds a rich, full, beautiful world, and then tears it down through deft character work. It’s a fantasy comic that’s so easy to disappear into, both the world that’s created and the possibilities it opens up.
58. The Nib
Matt Bors & others
“Mister Gotcha” is up there with “This is Fine” as probably my favorite quick comic gags of the decade. Bors is an extremely sharp cartoonist and a gifted satirist, and The Nib is a regular stop in my daily routine.
57. The Wild Storm
Warren Ellis, Jon Davis Hunt, Steve Buccellato (DC Comics)
The Wild Storm stands on its own as an amazing comic series. It took everything great about the old Wildstorm world and updated it for a modern, more paranoid, more technologically advanced society. Davis Hunt drew some stunning action sequences and used panel layouts and pacing to incredible effect to propel the story. But the most interesting part of it to me is how it functions as a self reassessment by Ellis, a weird and fun sort of remix and update of his own prior work. It’s excellent.
56. House of X/Powers of X
Jonathan Hickman, Pepe Larraz, RB Silva, Marte Gracia (Marvel Comics)
HoXPoX made it fun to be an X-Men fan again. It’s beating a dead horse at this point, but these books were tremendous accomplishments. Larraz and Silva vaulted to superstardom, Hickman rewrote the entire history of the X-Men, and Gracia made every panel sing.
read House of X/Powers of X on Amazon
55. Sex Criminals
Matt Fraction, Chip Zdarsky (Image Comics)
Qualifying a raunchy sex comedy as weirdly sweet almost seems cliche at this point, but Sex Criminals is the rare story that can match graphic depictions of Urban Dictionary sex positions, a story about people who can stop time when they orgasm, and brutally honest depictions of intimate relationships and make it all entirely relatable. It’s a wonderful story. But also I’m still mostly here for the comedy - Zdarsky puts so much detail into it that every splash page is like a Where’s Waldo of insane sex jokes.
54. The Nameless City
Faith Erin Hicks, Jordie Bellaire (First Second)
The Nameless City feels like if Avatar The Last Airbender was about class and not martial arts and the pressure of leadership. It’s one of the few graphic novel series that I remembered to put on a pull list, every volume improving on the last. Hicks’ art is gorgeously cartoony, detailed and loose at the same time, and it builds an engrossing world with fascinating characters that tells the story of a city and a people in major transition. It’s a series I can’t wait to share with family.
53. Exit, Stage Left! The Snagglepuss Chronicles
Mark Russell, Mike Feehan, Paul Mounts (DC Comics)
I’ve said this a thousand times before, but it’s worth repeating: I don’t understand how the hell this comic got made, and my gast is further flabbered by the fact that it’s amazing. Exit Stage Left recast Snagglepuss as a ‘50s gothic playwright living in New York City; Huckleberry Hound as his novelist best friend; and Quick Draw McGraw as Huck’s down low cop boyfriend, and told a compelling story about fame and society that was equal parts clever, funny, sweet and sad. Brilliant and wry, Mark Russell is one of the best new additions to comics this decade. If you haven’t read this book (which doubles as a stealth period piece about the dawn of the gay rights movement in America I STILL CAN’T BELIEVE I’M TYPING THIS), you should go get it right now.
52. These Savage Shores
Ram V, Sumit Kumar, Vittorio Astone (Vault Comics)
Ram V, Kumar and Astone do a wonderful job of building a story with a rich world that’s unlike most stories I’ve ever read before, and they do it with incredible skill. The period aspects of the story are lush and gorgeous, but Kumar and Astone’s art is magnificent, paced perfectly with a flow of movement that belies a storytelling skill that you don’t often find in small press superhero comics. The panel flow is really exceptional, and Astone’s colors make this vampire/demon battle sing.
51. The Dark Angel Saga, Uncanny X-Force
Rick Remender, Jerome Opena, Mark Brooks, Esad Ribic, Dean White & others (Marvel Comics)
X-Men comics have picked back up recently, but prior to HoXPoX, their pinnacle for me was the Dark Angel Saga. Specifically, Psylocke and Angel’s moment of eternal bliss as their world was destroyed around them. Jerome Opena and Dean White made the visuals so vivid that I could hear the wind roaring around Betsy and Warren, and Remender had done such a good job of building the duo’s relationship that I was almost in tears reading it for the first time. The rest of the run is essential reading: it has my favorite non-movie Deadpool and some of the best Apocalypse stuff since the Age of Apocalypse, but that moment is just so amazing.
Scott Snyder, Jock, Matt Hollingsworth (Image Comics)
Snyder is a terrific horror writer, and Wytches is by far the scariest thing I’ve ever read from him. That is probably due in large part to Jock and Hollingsworth. The story is dark Americana horror, pure and uncut Snyder right on the page, about monstrous ancient covens and their secret network around the world. Jock makes the normal humans look terrified and the Wytches stretched, shrouded beasts escaping from knots in trees to steal kids and ruin families, and Hollingsworth changes palettes deftly to match the tone of the panel (or even half panel, sometimes). Wytches is incredibly well made comics.
49. Fantasy Sports
Sam Bosma (Nobrow Press)
Fantasy Sports isn’t complicated. It’s about a treasure hunter who has to beat a mummy at basketball to loot a pyramid. See? Super straightforward.
Bosma’s art is the star here. It’s somewhere between sports manga and Adventure Time. It’s vibrant and fun, full of great movement in a story that hums along. And it’s really accessible - it’s shelved closest to the ground in my house, so kids can pull it out and get hooked the same way I did.
Kyle Starks (Image Comics)
I don’t know if any comic in the last ten years has more quotable lines in it than Sexcastle. I have found a way to work “You brought a YOU to a ME fight,” and “Are you okay? Just kidding, fuck you” into more professional conversations than I’m comfortable with, frankly. Sexcastle is a hard riff on ‘80s action movies that has Shane Sexcastle, the badass killer and star of the comic, spouting bad pun catchphrases almost exclusively throughout the book. Sexcastle both loves and viciously parodies those movies, and the resulting comic is almost flawless. Starks is an absolutely hilarious writer, talented enough to get a shot on anything he writes, but nothing will be quite as surprising or as funny as Sexcastle.
47. G.I. Joe: Cobra
Mike Costa, Christos Gage, Antonio Fuso, Lovern Kindzierski (IDW Publishing)
It took IDW a minute to get going with G.I. Joe after they got the license, but once they did, these series turned into one of a couple of shockingly good, well-thought-out licensed comics they put out over the decade. Almost immediately, Costa and Gage put Chuckles in deep cover at Cobra Command and went hard dark on the tone. From there, they assassinated Cobra Commander, set off a nuke, and launched a power struggle to control the terrorist organization that included a Joe killing competition. Costa, Fuso, and Gage did an amazing job of juggling enormous casts and controlling for different voices. Everything from G.I. Joe: Cobra through the Cobra Civil War is amazing stuff.
46. Battling Boy
Paul Pope (First Second)
Battling Boy is unlike any other comic I’ve read in the last decade. I spent a good three hours trying to come up with a clever analogy for this book, like “Witch’s Night Out meets Thor in a Flash Gordon strip,” but they’re all grossly inadequate. Pope is one of the most unique minds working in comics. He puts more character in one grease smear on a face than a lot of creators can fit in long runs. Battling Boy is fine pulpy adventure comics that work for any comic reader.
45. The Omega Men
Tom King, Barnaby Bagenda, Jose Marzan, Jr., Romulo Fajardo (DC Comics)
Omega Men is still, several years on, some heavy, heavy shit. The shock of the twist, hell the shock of the series still makes me smile. That it was a comic book that was advertised with Kyle Rayner seemingly beheaded on camera and beamed around the galaxy was stunning; that the seeming beheading wasn’t the most shocking part of the book is amazing. It’s a miracle this book happened (literally - it was cancelled and uncancelled midway through), but I’m so glad it did. It was ambitious and smart, and unlike anything we’d seen in comics in years at the time.
44. Lady Killer
Joelle Jones, Jamie S. Rich, Laura Allred (Dark Horse Comics)
Joelle Jones is a superstar now. I’m fairly sure that it started because of this comic, and I’m absolutely certain it’s deserved. Lady Killer is the story of a ‘50s housewife who’s an assassin on the side, and it’s everything the premise suggests. It’s grindhousey and funny and gory, but through it all, Jones’ art is amazing and Allred’s colors are perfect. It’s a lot of fun to read.
43. Infinite Kung Fu
Kagan McLeod (Top Shelf Productions)
Kagan McLeod’s story in Infinite Kung Fu is a little bit rote for the genre - it’s a kung fu movie put to page, nonsense and all. But my god the art. The pages are practically crackling with life. The big swoopy inks and the way McLeod makes the characters move and the way the fights flow from panel to panel and the scale of some of these fights and it’s all just incredible, incredible artwork. Even if the story is a little pedestrian, the art is some of the best I’ve ever seen.