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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Paul Tobin, Colleen Coover (Monkeybrain Comics)
Bandette is about an adventuring teen art thief in Paris. It’s silly and cute and charming and gorgeous. It’s also extremely uncomplicated: this is an easy book to love because Coover’s art is lovely, and Tobin’s plots are clear and clever. I try my hardest to find some deeper meaning or hidden skill that the creators have that makes a book stand out, but Bandette is just a really straightforward, fun, nice book.
Matt Fraction, David Aja, Matt Hollingsworth & others (Marvel Comics)
Hawkeye launched David Aja into the stratosphere, and gave Fraction the juice to do whatever he wanted (like, for example, write a sci-fi gender flipped Odyssey adaptation comic in dactylic hexameter). It radically changed Clint Barton for a decade. And in a lot of ways, its influence still rings out now, because it’s just really good.
Aja is a madman. His art flows differently from anyone who came before, but it’s been mimicked so many times since, and even when imitators try and fail to live up to his standards, they still usually do something interesting. Fraction succeeded at a time when Marvel was going in a million different directions by pulling the camera way in on the Marvel Universe – focusing on an apartment building, making a street crime book with a regular guy and turning Kate Bishop from a supporting Young Avenger into one of the best characters in the Marvel library.
40. Batman: The Black Mirror, Detective Comics
Scott Snyder, Jock, Francesco Francavilla, David Baron (DC Comics)
Scott Snyder is one of those creators I’ll follow just about anywhere, and it all stems from how ridiculously good his Black Mirror story was in Detective Comics. Back when Bruce was still traipsing about the world, turning the International Club of Heroes into Batman, Incorporated, Dick Grayson was back in Gotham being the best Batman and solving this dense, moody, disorienting crime. It was a deep Grayson character study, a deep Gotham character study, and a showcase for the incredible art of Jock and Francavilla.
Snyder did some incredible things with Bruce Wayne when he and Greg Capullo got control of the main Batmanbook post-New 52 (especially the last story arc – stunning stuff). But The Black Mirror is even better. Whenever someone asks me for a Batman comic gift recommendation, this is what I tell them to buy.
39. Giant Days
John Allison, Lissa Tremain, Max Sarin, Julia Madrigal, Whitney Cogar (BOOM! Studios)
Pick any issue of Giant Days at random and read five pages of it, and I promise you will recognize every character who speaks immediately. Allison and the art team have that tight a grasp on conversational dialogue that this entire book was relatable all the way through. It’s a smart, funny comic about growing up that focuses on the growing you do in your early 20s, which is a breath of fresh air considering most coming of age stories stop at 16. Seeing the characters flourish into adults is part of what made Giant Days special, but it’s mostly the ridiculous skill of the creators.
Jason Lutes (Drawn & Quarterly)
Lutes has been working on this for 20 years and finished it in 2018, and you can see the unbelievable care and craft in every page. Berlin follows a couple of working class people through the fall of Weimar Germany in the late 20s until the Nazis take over, and even though it’s fictional, it’s incredibly interesting to see Germany’s collapse as it related to regular people, and not as big, momentous historical events. The history comes across as a much more jagged line. Lutes is wonderful at using the pace of layouts to tell the story, and his art is immaculately clean and clear.
37. The Underwater Welder
Jeff Lemire (Vertigo Comics)
When Jeff Lemire draws his own stuff, watch out: you’re about to get something profoundly uncomfortable. And The Underwater Welder is precisely that. It’s so good at making you feel like something’s wrong.
It works because it’s never completely honest about what the story is about. Jack is an underwater welder, like his father was, and he’s got a wife and a kid on the way. But he becomes obsessed with his father’s old watch, and that obsession is a focus for his panic about becoming a father. Lemire’s art is all rough-looking freehand and watery inks, perfect for a guy who spends most of his time in a diving suit. The atmosphere of The Underwater Welder is almost asphyxiating. I love it.
36. Ms. Marvel
G. Willow Wilson, Adrian Alphona, Takeshi Miyazawa, Nico Leon, Ian Herring (Marvel Comics)
As I sit down to write this, I literally just came back from picking up the first collection of Ms. Marvel for a Christmas present for my niece. Wilson, Alphona, Sana Amanat, and Jamie McKelvie (who did designs for the character) created maybe the best fictional teenager in the last decade in Kamala Khan. It’s been a long time since I’ve been a teenager, but I think the response from actual #teens will back me up here: her struggles with time management, emotions, and awkward social interactions felt incredibly real. The art, from Alphona, Miyazawa and Leon was spectacular, doing an especially great job of showing who Kamala is through her powers. This is a great book to have around.
Christopher Priest, Carlo Pagaluyan, Jason Paz, Jeromy Cox & more (DC Comics)
It just ended, and at every point during its 50 issue run, Christopher Priest’s Deathstroke felt like it was made specifically for me. It was a sneaky family soap opera on par with the greatest X-Men stories, but with Priest’s signature banter and pacing to bring it to the next level. The art was always superb from Pagaluyan, and the editing team brought in some absolutely killer supplemental teams (Cowan and Sienkiewicz are always a yes), but it was the story and how it was presented that made this run really special.
Marjorie Liu, Sana Takeda (Image Comics)
Takeda’s art looks like an illuminated manuscript. Seriously, it’s so detailed and intricate that it makes me slow down when I’m reading, which is a feat, because I’m predisposed to blaze through comics. But that detail work is what makes her art special, and what pushes Monstress from very good to great. The world that Liu and Takeda built in Monstress is lush and rich and incredibly easy to disappear into, and it’s a consistent joy to read.
33. The Vision
Tom King, Gabriel Hernandez Walta, Michael Walsh, Jordie Bellaire (Marvel Comics)
I’m pretty sure I spent more time shaking my head at the events of The Vision than any other book on this list. What Tom King did to this family is deeply, profoundly messed up. Walta, Walsh, and Bellaire were essential to building the eerie, uncomfortable atmosphere that pervaded this whole story, and the facial expressions especially helped land the twist in the middle, the plot point that shifted the story from “oh no that’s super messed up” to “aww that’s really sad and also super messed up.”
What might be the most shocking part about it is how much of this run endured in continuity through the years: Viv Vision is showing up left and right, and Victor Mancha’s fate here is a big plot point in Rowell and Anka’s wonderful Runaways relaunch.
32. 4 Kids Walk Into A Bank
Matthew Rosenberg, Tyler Boss (Black Mask Studios)
This one is all about the patter. Rosenberg makes the kids sound so entertaining and makes their interpersonal dynamic so engrossing that you get wrapped up in the world of 4 Kids Walk Into A Bank easily. Tyler Boss’ art is terrific, selling the exaggerated expressions that kids make, where a smile often starts in their legs, and landing all the humor just as comfortably. It’s a comic that could have ended up as nostalgic tripe, but instead, 4 Kids Walk Into A Bank turned out great.
31. Kid Gloves
Lucy Knisley (First Second)
Kid Gloves is amazing for a lot of reasons. It’s informative and moving and personal, with a lot of history and politics that I think are really important components to a larger conversation that the book can be part of. Here’s the thing about it for me, though: I started reading it at the library. About halfway through, I put it back on the shelf, walked up the street to a book store and bought a copy. I knew from how much I was talking to the book while reading it that it was something I wanted to keep on my shelf and refer back to in the future. And I feel really good about that decision.
Randall Munroe (Webcomic)
It didn’t inspire any stirring condemnations from legendary filmmakers, but I wonder if Randall Munroe’s half webcomic/half infographic didn’t have the biggest low key impact of any comic in the last decade. I feel like you’re vastly more likely to see an XKCD strip on someone’s desk, or tacked to the door of an office, or passed around on social media, than you are anything from Marvel or DC that isn’t designed to trigger the internet outrage cycle.
This is because Munroe is really good at cartooning. I mean, okay, he’s not going to paint you a Rembrandt, but his stick figures have a way of sneaking emotion up on you, through their shoulders and their heads. And he’s whip smart, too, but his comics help present his knowledge in an accessible, open way. XKCD has been in every iteration of blog reader I’ve had since 2010, and I’ll be checking in on it until it ends, because it’s terrific.
29. Two Brothers
Gabriel Ba & Fabio Moon (Dark Horse Comics)
Ba & Moon do some amazing work in this adaptation of a novel from their native Brazil about two brothers, their doting mom, and the woman who comes between them. The artwork in Two Brothers is stunningly good and improves on the source material by taking some of the novels most impactful scenes and making them visually striking. Two Brothers isn’t a splashy comic, but it’s a damn good one, one that will stick with you for a long time.
Noelle Stevenson, Shannon Watters, Grace Ellis, Brooke Allen, Carolyn Nowak, Carey Pietch, Maarta Laiho & more (BOOM! Studios)
Lumberjanes takes a lot of what worked about The Goonies and makes it smarter in a different way to give us one of the most fun and purest adventure comics in recent memory. It’s no surprise that Stevenson is kicking so much ass on She-Ra.
The book has been going for some time now, so the creative teams have shifted, but the art is remarkably consistent through the volumes, and it’s clear, sharp cartooning that’s exaggerated in all the right ways for a woodsy, camping adventure tale like this. Lumberjanes is another book with a huge cast that’s well managed, and it’s a lot of fun to read through.
27. Showa: A History of Japan
Shigeru Mizuki (Drawn & Quarterly)
Technically, Showa is like, 30 years old. But it took 25 of those years for it to be released in the States, and there are no rules to this list, so I’m counting it.
Mizuki is one of the fathers of manga as a form, and as someone who came to his work after reading folks like Otomo and Urasawa, and decades after becoming familiar with anime, his work feels quaint and unsophisticated. Which is a really interesting pairing with the subject matter – Showa is a history of Japan in the Showa era, spanning the ‘20s through the late ‘80s, a period of massive transition for Japan that I mostly knew from broad strokes. He switches back and forth between a hyper-detailed realistic style that looks like (and sometimes is) tracing, and the cartoony manga style he uses to illustrate personal moments that tie into that history. It’s an incredibly effective storytelling technique and a useful way to bring the reader’s attention past the big picture and down to the regular peoples’ perspective of that big change. Showa is an incredible history book, and a masterpiece of the form.
Michel Fiffe (Bergen Street Comics/Image Comics)
It’s still amazing to me that Copra can even get made. It started out as a…spiritual sequel to Ostrander/Yale/McDonnell Suicide Squad in that it was almost an actual direct lift of Ostrander/Yale/McDonnell Suicide Squad only with Doctor Strange and Clea added in. But it was done with weird indie linework and colored pencil coloring, with a big zine aesthetic that made it immediately compelling. And once I got into it, I realized that Fiffe had captured everything great about that Suicide Squad run but turned it into something dstinctly his own, and I’ve loved it ever since.
25. Afterlife with Archie
Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, Francesco Francavilla (Archie Comics)
This comic should not exist. It should not be good. It certainly shouldn’t be one of the best comics I’ve read in the last decade. And yet, Afterlife with Archie remains incredible. In fact, it might be the purest, finest zombie story I’ve experienced in a while. The slowly building tension is a masterclass in mood. Aguirre-Sacasa does a great job of taking Riverdale’s existing dynamic and plopping it into a zombie horror story so you get something that is recognizably both things at the same time. Francavilla’s art is probably the least surprising part of the equation, in that it is incredible. And the fact that you can probably draw a straight line between some of the themes here and what ended up on your screens in Riverdale is…pretty insane. And amazing.
Jason Aaron, R.M. Guera (Vertigo)
The best thing about Jason Aaron and R.M. Guera’s Scalped is the cast. It’s a HUGE book, about an FBI investigation into corruption on a reservation that sends Dash Bad Horse back home undercover to investigate. Everyone Dash encounters, and everyone who’s conspiring to make life in Pairie Rose garbage, is a full character within two sentences. They all sound different, move different, look different. They carry the weight of a rough life in their posture and their cadence.
Superhero comics developed the distinctive costumes so artists could distinguish between characters easily. It’s hard to draw distinctive, consistent, recognizable people in street clothes, but Guera is amazing at it, and Aaron puts so much care and character into everyone who sets foot on the page that Scalped is impossible to put down.
Olivia Jaimes (GoComics)
“Sluggo is lit” isn’t quite the cultural phenomenon it was when Olivia Jaimes, the pseudonymous cartoonist, first introduced it to the strip she took over in 2018. But it’s still damn funny. I’ll admit, I completely blew it on Nancy in 2018 – it hadn’t registered with me because I don’t get print newspapers and only have a passing knowledge of their comic strips anymore. But when I first saw it, I died laughing.
And then I took a closer look at some of the comics – the one where Nancy steals the cookies from the top of the fridge by tossing them between panels to herself, or the joke about filler where the last panel is mostly an empty word balloon – and I realized that Jaimes, in addition to being funny as hell, really gets how to screw with the flow of information from comic to reader. She’s exceptionally talented, and Nancy is amazing work.
22. The Hard Tomorrow
Eleanor Davis (Drawn & Quarterly)
The Hard Tomorrow stressed me out, and then lifted me up at the end. It’s very much a comic about our current moment (and by “current moment,” I mean the singularity that the last four years have compressed into). It doesn’t capture the terror that some groups might feel, but it does a great job of conveying that background hum, like a cultural migrane, that makes everything more difficult in the world. And then, intentionally or not, it swings the story back around and pumps you full of hope and meaning with the last ten pages. It’s incredible comics work from Eleanor Davis, an amazing talent.
21. My Heroes Have Always Been Junkies
Ed Brubaker, Sean Phillips, Jake Phillips (Image Comics)
You can read any Criminal comic and come away happy. Okay, maybe not “happy” per se – My Heroes Have Always Been Junkies is an extremely unhappy comic, about a girl who meets a boy in rehab, gets him back on drugs with her and then goes on a trip with him, framed around her pretentious love of drug addicted musicians. It would be obnoxious if it wasn’t so incredibly well done and packed in with a twist at the end that makes it go from messed up to REALLY messed up. Everything Brubaker and Phillips have done together, back to Sleeper, has been superlative, but from the last ten years, I really feel like this is their best work.
20. Through the Woods
Emily Carroll (Margaret K. McElderry Books)
I don’t think there’s anybody doing slow, creepy, gothic horror like Emily Carroll right now. Through the Woods is a collection of short stories that’s full of dark blacks and loose line work, the letters worked into the art organically to amplify the creepiness and the stories built to scare. She comes at normal relationships and injects them with something horrific, but paces it so incredibly well that you barely notice it until the end, when something happens to finally make your skin crawl. Carroll is a gifted storyteller, and Through the Woods is some of the best horror stuff out there.
19. The Flintstones
Mark Russell, Steve Pugh, Chris Chuckry (DC Comics)
Anytime a comic can get a physical reaction out of me, it’s usually a sign that it’s a very successful storytelling endeavor. I think The Flinstones’ hold music on the suicide hotline joke is the loudest I’ve shouted “holy shit” at a comic in a decade. Mark Russell is the best satirist working in comics right now, and certainly in the past decade. Steve Pugh was equal to the task of packing every joke and sly look and absurdity implied by the dialogue. The Flintstones is one of the funniest books you’ll ever read.
18. Atomic Robo & Other Strangeness
Brian Clevenger, Scott Wegener, Ronda Pattison (Webcomic)
I love Dr. Dinosaur. I will buy anything Dr. Dinosaur is in, contribute to any crowdfunding campaign that gets me Dr. Dinosaur goods, and I will take every opportunity I can to share that “the light is for ambiance” page.
Clevinger and Wegener have created a near-perfect, accessible, entertaining adventure story with Atomic Robo. The writing is smart and sharp and Wegener does some outstanding action sequences. I don’t think there’s any comic I’ve been dedicated to for longer – I think I’ve been regularly reading Robo longer than I’ve had Batman on my pull list – and there’s no comic I recommend more frequently. Other Strangeness has two amazing Dr. Dinosaur stories and Jenkins, but you can pick up any volume and get the same high quality action adventure comics.
17. The Private Eye
Brian K. Vaughan, Marcos Martin, Muntsa Vincente (Panel Syndicate)
Vaughan, Martin, and Vincente made a beautiful, compelling comic book that was uncomfortably prescient.
Sixty years from now, the cloud bursts – all of the private data stored on the cloud gets released to the public. It destroys lives and relationships, and triggers an anti-internet backlash. And an anti-journalist one. It then follows an unlicensed journalist as he travels around solving a mystery in a world where everyone wears masks to throw off facial recognition tech.
The Private Eye was cyberpunk that inverted some cyberpunk formulae – it was bright and warm and shiny, distrustful of tech and very human, but it was still a grimy near-future full of people navigating a world that sucked. It was an incredible read and one of the comics I think about most, even five years down the road.
16. Secret Wars
Jonathan Hickman, Esad Ribic, Ive Svorcina (Marvel Comics)
I’m using Secret Wars as a stand in here for all of Hickman’s prior Marvel work from the decade, and really the entire story that started in Fantastic Four and paid off with the final Doom/Reed battle at the end of this story. “Epic” doesn’t even begin to describe a story that starts with the council of Reeds, breaks the Avengers, destroys the multiverse, then reforms it again out of a love of adventure. I reread these comics more than any in my collection because they’re beautiful and immersive and impossibly grand.
15. Transformers: More Than Meets the Eye
James Roberts, Alex Milne, Josh Burcham (IDW Publishing)
I still can’t believe how much I love this run of comics. I am even more flabbergasted at why: it was one of the most surprisingly thoughtful comics about sexuality and romantic relationships that I’ve ever read, and it came as part of a broader Transformers story (when paired with the story in Robots in Disguise) that had some of the best takes on gender identity and politics that I can remember.
Every word of that paragraph still makes no sense to me. I am continually delighted by this fact.
More Than Meets the Eye follows Rodimus and a group of breakaway Transformers as they search the universe for the lost Knights of Cybertron. It features a fascinating and touching relationship between Rewind and Chromedome (with Cyclonus as a third-wheel/homewrecker WHAT IS HAPPENING), and it has a deep dive into Ultra Magnus’s history as Cybertron’s premiere stick in the mud. Honestly, just take my word for it: this comic was incredible.
14. The Multiversity
Grant Morrison, Frank Quitely, Nathan Fairbairn & Others (DC Comics)
The Multiversity still contains my single favorite page of comic art from the decade: Frank Quitely breaking down Peacemaker kicking the hell out of a great lawn full of soldiers outside the White House. I can’t even begin to describe how technically fascinating that issue was or how breathtaking it still is to see. The rest of the series brought me great joy, but that issue might be the best single issue of comics I’ve read in the last 10 years.
13. My Favorite Thing is Monsters
Emil Ferris (Fantagraphics)
Everything about Emil Ferris’ debut work is absurd. The production value of the book is stellar. Her deft storytelling made me feel literally dropped into the comic several times, overwhelming me by the world she brought me into. And that this was her first published work is still, what feels like an eon later, ridiculous to me. My Favorite Thing is Monsters will make you feel like a ten year old girl, whether you’ve ever been one before or not, and that is some magical work.
Richard McGuire (Pantheon Books)
Here started out as a comic strip in 1989, and got blown out into a full graphic novel in 2014, and both are incredibly interesting experiments with the form of comics storytelling. It sets the “camera” pointed at the corner of a room, and then spins time out in both directions, showing us what that corner looked like 2000 years in the past, hundreds of years in the future, in the 1950s, today, and a bunch of other times. And the way that McGuire manages to tell a coherent story under those restrictions is masterful work.
11. Hellboy in Hell
Mike Mignola, Dave Stewart (Dark Horse Comics)
There’s something beautiful about Mignola spending 25 years weaving just about every mythological cosmology from human history together, and then ending that whole story by having Hellboy walk across Hell, into his childhood home, and just disappear. It’s a very quiet, peaceful ending for what had at times been a loud comic in the past, but it’s a beautiful end that refers back to other work of Mignola’s, which lends the ending a kind of peacefulness that cuts through the sadness of the loss of this story. Hellboy in Hell is a really great ending.
10. Thor: God of Thunder
Jason Aaron, Esad Ribic, Dean White & others (Marvel Comics)
There is actually some debate in my mind as to whether or not Jason Aaron’s Thor run, stretching from the stunning God of Thunder through The Mighty Thor and War of the Realms and into King Thor, is better than Walt Simonson’s Thor. It’s probably still Simonson’s run, but the fact that there’s an open question should tell you how good Aaron’s story has been. The best Thor stories have a bigger point than “Can Thor beat up the Hulk?” Aaron’s has been “What responsibilities does being a god bring with it; how do they carry them out; and how does that impact us?” It’s masterful work drawn by a collection of incredible artists.
Brian K. Vaughan, Fiona Staples (Image Comics)
The best thing about Saga to me is that the characters have grown with me. That’s not necessarily why it’s one of the ten best comics of the decade – Fiona Staples is an utterly incredible artist who without fail puts something singularly amazing into each issue – but it’s why I care about it so much. Hazel, Marko and Alana have all grown beautifully as characters since issue 1, and the world is so inventive and different from what you always get in science fiction that it’s a joy to read every time a new issue drops.
8. Richard Stark’s Parker: The Outfit
Donald Westlake, Darwyn Cooke (IDW Publishing)
Darwyn Cooke is one of the most talented people to ever work in the comics industry. He’s still, years after his passing, an enormous influence on how people conceive of the DC universe because of The New Frontier. But it’s his adaptations of Westlake’s ‘60s crime novels starring Parker that might be his best work. The Outfit is the second and my favorite, but all of them are amazing pieces of comics storytelling. Cooke’s storytelling techniques bounce all over the place, but all work amazingly well. He especially excels at showing complicated heists – the way Cooke plays with time and sequencing makes these books an amazing read.
7. Prince of Cats
Ron Wimberly (Image Comics)
Wimberly’s Prince of Cats is pretty close to a perfect comic. Repurposing and adapting Shakespearean dialogue and patter to a hip hop aesthetic is, strangely, exactly what I want out of a story. Wimberly’s art is stylish as hell, with fantastic layouts and odd angles, and it is colored beautifully. It’s the story of Tybalt from Romeo and Juliet, but set in a city that’s a mishmosh of all five boroughs, in a time that’s anywhere from the mid ‘80s to present day. It’s a little bit Shakespearean tragedy, a little bit samurai anime, a little bit Planet Rock, and ultimately an amazing piece of comic book art.
6. The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl
Ryan North, Erica Henderson, Derek Charm, Rico Renzi & others (Marvel Comics)
I love how Unbeatable Squirrel Girl never talked down to readers, and in a wonderful example of what superhero comics could be (and occasionally were), how Doreen was always trying to find a way to solve problems that didn’t involve violence and would endure. Her supporting cast was terrific, guest characters were phenomenal, and Henderson has impeccable comic timing. And the book was surprisingly experimental and innovative – the zine issue and the choose your own adventure issue are two of the best single issues of comics I’ve read this decade, but even without them, The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl will go down as one of my favorite comics of all time.
5. Hark! A Vagrant
Kate Beaton (Webcomic/Drawn & Quarterly)
Beaton is one of the smartest, funniest cartoonists out there. Hark! A Vagrant catches the best of the early decade webcomic ethos – it’s loose and fast, about anything and everything and just funny as hell. She’s got bits about Tesla, a ton of jokes about Austen and classic literature, idiot Victorian chimney sweeps. All of it lands because Beaton’s got a sharp eye and a strong voice for absurdity. I think my personal favorite remains Straw Feminists.
4. Hip Hop Family Tree
Ed Piskor (Fantagraphics)
I’ve watched several documentaries since reading this and interrupted them, going “oh shit, I already knew this from Hip Hop Family Tree.” Piskor’s brief history of the birth and first couple of phase transitions of one of my favorite art forms is informative, smart, funny, and informed deeply by his love of comic book culture, which only enhances some of the stories he tells about early hip hop, which was also deeply informed by comics. And in retrospect, the fact that HHFT ended up circling back on superhero comics, giving us X-Men: Grand Design is too perfect for words.
3. Mister Miracle
Tom King, Mitch Gerads (DC Comics)
I’m pretty sure Mister Miracle is the best comic I’ve ever read as it came out. This is King and Gerads operating in peak form. Everything about it, from the content to the pacing to the characterization, was absolutely perfect. And the ambiguity of the ending, how it showed a way forward in dealing with trauma and how it inadvertently turned into a poignant love letter to the (at that time recently) departed old guard just made it all stick even harder. I loan this out to friends having kids, because I love Mister Miracle and I want everyone else to find their way to loving it, too.
Raina Telgemeier (Graphix)
I came to Raina’s world late. I have a niece who’s brilliant, and I was looking for a way to get her into comics so I’d have someone at family gatherings to talk to about this stuff. I knew that these books were popular, so I grabbed one at a bookstore and started on it. Twenty minutes later, I was walking out of the store with Smile and Sisters, and my niece finished both of them in about six hours and started asking for more. Raina tells a hell of a story, and Smile deserves to be on this list just based on craft, but it’s this high because she’s single-handedly hooking a new generation into our favorite medium. I will always appreciate that.
Rep. John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, Nate Powell (Top Shelf Productions)
I don’t think I could have landed on a different comic here if I tried. March is a unique combination of craft, relevance, and timelessness. Powell’s art is staggeringly good, full of gorgeous storytelling. And when I think about moments from comics that have stuck with me the most, I keep coming back to the bombing of the Freedom Riders’ bus at the end of volume 1. I knew it was historical and that still scared the hell out of me. Kudos and thanks to Rep. Lewis, Aydin and Powell for making an incredible book.
Read and download the Den of Geek Lost in Space Special Edition Magazine right here!