It’s been an awesome decade in many respects, so I wanted to look back and see some of the stuff I’ve really enjoyed the most. As such, here’s a post of my thoughts and lists of some top times I had imbibing some content that gave me inspiration and joy.
May it find you the same, or remind me of that which you already got.
The following is very much in absolutely no order, I just couldn’t :]
It’s been a high quality decade for reading comics, and quite the comic reading journey for myself, so here are the highlights – may they provide you with something new to add to your wish list.
In 2010, I was reading a lot of comics for two reasons. I was writing for The Weekly Crisis, and later for CBR, and about to write a book about Daredevil for Sequart, so I was reading with an eye for extrapolating analysis. Around this time, I was also writing a whole mess of scripts that were going nowhere, and I was reading comics with an eye to imbibe, digest, and internalise in a way that would make me a better writer.
It’s a decade later, and I’m still reading comics to better understand them and as such myself and the place I occupy in making them, but just last month I wrote two critical/analytical essays about comics, so I guess not a lot has changed.
I’m thankful to have had a decade where I’ve published my own comics [no, none appear on this list, that’s gauche] and I’m thankful to have been around to see so many amazing comics spring to life. My reading appears to have steered away from cape comics and into the indie, and I’ve no idea where I’ll venture as time rolls on, but I heavily vouch for every comic on this list.
So, in no particular order, and with a write up of whatever thoughts I blasted out when I thought it was pertinent, here…we…go…
I didn’t even plan to buy this comic when it launched. I have no specific reason for that decision at the time, I think I was just a little burnt out on Marvel books in general, and I just really don’t dig Clint Barton. At all. I still don’t, but that didn’t stop me loving this run for every single issue as it came out.
The level of craft and sheer awesome in this book still blows me away. If this was about Matt Murdock I’d probably hail it as one of the greatest comics of all time, as it is, about Barton, I rate it as one of the finest entries into the craft from this decade.
I loved this comic from the very first issue. I dig Rick Remender’s work, and I wanted this comic long before it launched. How exciting to then note how good it was, and continues to be. Though fair play, much of this is on Wes Craig’s shoulders as he brought the thunder with his art layout skills on each page.
A wild and violent ride, this comic is always an emotional truth bomb and that’s what I love the most about it.
KILL OR BE KILLED
I mean, maybe my #1 of this decade. Maybe the comic most personally designed just for my brain. Maybe the comic I’ll remember the most after another decade has gone.
This comic is also everything I want to make myself, so maybe there’s that. It’s 20 issues, a killer size, it’s experimental in some page layouts, but it’s also just crystal clear storytelling. It’s a weird violent crime comic with strange devil shenanigans. It’s beautiful and dark and so so damn good.
CRIMINAL: THE LAST OF THE INNOCENT
CRIMINAL might be the best overall collection of stories and pages from this decade, and I’ll choose THE LAST OF THE INNOCENT as the one present here because it’s just so dark and fantastic. This twist on Archie as if he’s living out a noir story is so much more than the high concept it might present as. This is an emotional journey, a haunting tale, and one that just makes you feel a whole mess of thoughts after the final page kicks you.
Okay, I’ll also add in BAD NIGHT just because I love this storyline, too. It’s the one that’s probably my favourite, even though TLOTI is most likely the one I’d identify as “The Best.”
THE BLACK MONDAY MURDERS
Hoo boy, bleak. This comic is such a dark affair, and it’s so intricately put together. Stunning is another word, but jaw dropping is all I can really offer. The concept of this comic is that money is power, and power can be manifest. The people in this comic are horrible, all of them, and watching them stumble and stab in the dark is quite the tragedy.
I love the reach of this comic. The sheer audacity to take THE ODYSSEY and toss it into space, with a gender-flipped cast, and Christian Ward’s insane artwork. Everything about this comic hits me in the inspirational space where I want comics to do new things and be amazing.
You might think this is another X-book, but it’s not, no, not at its heart. This is a heartbreaking tale of toxic relationships, and second chances, and mental health. This is a cape book that steps above every combat trope and delivers true character exploration and growth. It’s a comic that got me to care about Deadpool, and Wolverine, and that’s not often a thing that occurs.
Raina Telgemeier – SISTERS
Raina Telgemeier basically took over comics this decade, but I had to pick just one of her masterpieces for my list and I went with my instant reaction – SISTERS. This cross-country road trip about family and a changing future is beautiful, and it uses the comic form well, and it’s the one that’s stuck with me the longest.
But, honestly, go buy every single one of her books, and just enjoy yourself and the future of comics.
Darwyn Cooke did something special with these books. Adapting Richard Stark’s pulp paperbacks into small graphic novels that were gorgeous and still packed their punch. These 4 hardcovers will always be something I want to return to.
4 KIDS WALK INTO A BANK
I often think about this comic. An insanely talented level up from nascent Matthew Rosenberg and a wild intro to Tyler Boss, this comic looks like it oozes style, but really it’s craft. This crime comic about some kids and a bank is such a love letter to the things you can do in comics and I wish more books were this smart, I wish more books aimed this high, and I wish more books played with the form like this one.
Rosenberg and Boss have become instant Must Buy creators and I eagerly await their next collaboration at Image Comics.
This indie sensation from mates Alex Cormack and John Lees makes me smile with every issue I read. I mean, don’t get me wrong, the content is horrific, but the fact a comic this good is being made by two mates who are blowing up, at ComixTribe, a publisher I love, fills me with hope for the medium and all our places in it.
SINK is a horror comic, and it doesn’t skimp on the horrific, and it’s also a great structural lesson as they make it a series of one-shots, with a two-parter played to maximum effect, and I’m constantly in awe. If you haven’t sampled this comic, you really need to get onto it.
Enjoyed this from first issue to the last. I trade waited this, and mostly wish I hadn’t. The characters were all so well written I’d have preferred to spend time with them monthly instead of having huge gaps away from them.
I really dug this weird downbeat horror comic from Riley Rossmo and Kurtis J. Wiebe. It was grim and ugly in the most beautiful ways, and I got excited before it was released and got even more excited when it was as good as I wanted it to be. Exactly the kind of comic that felt like it was created specifically for me and my tastes.
Also doesn’t hurt that it formed and built a lifelong friendship between me and Kurtis.
This particular Volume, from Mike del Mundo and W. Haden Blackman is a perfect encapsulation of what I want from an Elektra comic, and what I dig about 12 issue maxiseries. Here, Elektra is unpacked and used in a really character driven way, through some insane plot, and by the end of it all she’s been more fully fleshed out.
This book had the very best covers, and is an instant modern Big Two classic from me.
I can’t remember how I got onto these, but I’m so glad I did. I devoured the first 3, and then the Netflix show got announced, and I got excited for that, too. This comic is pure kids’ comic energy! It’s fun and short and well illustrated. This should be a perennial gift to any child in your life whenever you get invited to a friend’s kid’s party.
THE UNDERWATER WELDER
This comic is wild and emotional and like a real piece of literature, if you can believe it, COMICS: BIFF, POW, CHIN STROKE, HRMMMM.
This is like The Twilight Zone in all the right ways and it cemented Jeff Lemire as a writer in my mind I wanted to study and think deeply about and learn how to appreciate.
Jason Aaron’s epic multi-year run, with many artists, has been a truly monumental achievement. I’ve kept up in trades, and haven’t finished it all yet, but just from what I know he’s managed so far, this is an evergreen example of a superhero comic/story done right.
This Da Vinci centred comic featuring a killer female partner in Isabel, and a really cool robot, is just the right balance of history, and action, and character work I love. Chris Evenhuis’ art is perfect, and Paul Allor knows exactly how to plot and pace things to bring out the best on the page.
LOCKE & KEY
Not only a genuinely scary horror comic, also a masterclass of form. Between Gabriel Rodriguez’ steam cleaned art to Joe Hill’s beautiful characterisation, this comic is the kind of thing you can recommend to anyone new to comics and who digs a bit of genre malarkey.
Crime comic on the Indian Reservation. So well done, so much heart, so much breaking of that heart, near about perfection, and a fine example of what Vertigo Comics always did right.
This superb take on the old property from Nelson Daniel and Paul Allor was exactly what I wanted and never realised. It’s so well structured, deliciously carving out space for every character, and the whole conclusion has stuck with me ever since.
I just love this comic. It’s 100% my jam. Uberweird spy-fu stuff, constantly trying to utilise the comic form and page, and make readers think.
Holy hell this miniseries hit me like if someone dropped a bear on me. Read the comic and you’ll understand the concept. Based on a short story by Joe Hill, Jason Ciaramella took it further, and made better, and I’ll forever want to push this into the hands of others.
I still think about Ryan Ferrier’s anthropomorphic crime comic he made with Matt McCray, Vic Malhotra, and Adam Metcalfe. It’s all I ever wanted, and pushed me to making my own Deer Editor. In a perfect world, both comics went for very long runs, crossed over, and spawned more anthropomorphic working class heroes.
THE SECRET HISTORY OF D.B. COOPER
An alternative history comic from Brian Churilla that’s still pinging around in my head years later. It’s fun, and gorgeous, and completely and totally insane. Everything certain good comics should be.
Come for the American Football backdrop, stay for the crime and nasties, and fill your guts with the Southern BBQ recipes.
This one billed itself as The Rockford Files, but now, and a woman, and a comic. It is, indeed, all of those things, and it is those things perfectly.
Taking a C-List character from the bench and putting them into a funky genre choice – suburban horror, of a kind – and dialing it up to 11. The result was an astounding success.
An 8 issue chase/action comic. It really shouldn’t work, but every issue pulled me in further.
Really stunning self-described Lesbian Viking comic, and it’s so well illustrated, and paced, and it has me thoroughly intrigued and engaged.
Some see this as the #1 thing, some see it as the cliche choice that’s okay but not amazing, and some hate it. YMMV, but personally, overall, I think this comic is an absolute bruiser. It hits, and it hits you harder than nearly anything else out there. When BKV comes gunning for my tear ducts, he comes with buckets. After all of the highest highs, I will follow this comic anywhere until it wraps its run.
Scott Snyder has done some great work with Batman, but my heart always comes back to his debut. This story in Detective Comics, with Jock and Francesco Francavilla, was very much a detective story, with some huge fantastical elements, and it hit that right tone of street level and nasty which I usually dig a little more. Dick Grayson as Batman was superb, and the storyline with Jim Gordon was so well executed. This was a promising debut from someone who just kept smashing it out at DC for the next decade.