The Best Comics of 2009

22 Dec

1. Asterios Polyp by David Mazzucchelli

It seems like the obvious choice because almost every Top 10 list has this in at least the Top 3 with most of them having it as the number one.  The reason: this piece of work is just that good.

Mazuchelli furthers the graphic medium in strange and ingenious ways to depict time, characters, moments, emotions all in separate visual ways.  The art and the writing combine to make the piece extraordinary.

The story follows Asterios Polyp, a tenured professor of architecture, who, due to circumstances, removes himself of all of his possessions and travels to the Midwest to rediscover himself.  Through the novel, we’re treated to glimpses back to what has made Asterios who he is and what he feels is wrong with his life.  Memorable characters are abundant throughout, and I only wish I could have as many philosophical conversations in one lifetime as Asterios does.

Frankly, this is the perfect exercise of what comics are, what comics can become, and what makes comics – and frankly storytelling – so goddamn enjoyable.

2. The Life and Times of Savior 28 by J.M. DeMatteis and Mike Cavallaro

What is the use of a superhero once they start advocating for peace through nonviolent means?  No beat ‘em up, no entertainment, no thrills, no deaths, no nothing… just a message.

DeMatteis explores this question among many others in his pinnacle achievement of Savior 28.  This comic came out so strong because it explored national identity, personal identity, and the human condition of morals, beliefs, and love.  What started out as a rejected Captain America pitch from 20 years ago turned into one of the best superhero comics of, honestly, the decade.

The art isn’t anything special, but I’m a fan of that for this story because readers need something simple to latch onto while they face some very complex thoughts.

It challenges the status quo, and shows that superheroes can be people who fuck up, too.

3. Donatello: The Brain Thief by Jim Lawson

There was no better comic to come out of Mirage this year than Jim Lawson’s miniseries on Donatello.  First and foremost, I have to admit that Donatello is far from my favorite turtle.  Nevertheless, Lawson captured something special in the character that made him fresh and exciting.

Jim Lawson’s illustrations are often stark and barren, but somehow still filled with incredible amounts of minute detail.

And frankly, the last issue where he inks his own work (Eric Talbot inked the first three) you can see a master at his best.

The story resonates as a mystery comic with mixes of science fiction and fantasy, but it is still incredibly accessible to new readers.  Sure, it’s a ninja turtle comic, but whoever said that was a bad thing?

4. Batwoman in Detective Comics by Greg Rucka and J.H. Williams III

Powerful female lead(s), the strongest portrayal of a homosexual character in any comic I have ever read, and by far the most beautiful artwork in mainstream comics.  I have been a fan of this from the get-go, and have probably shoved it down everyone’s throats with all of my reviews.  Nevertheless, people even interested in comics need to read this one!

Williams III switches between styles to display different parts of Kate Kane’s character, but it is still distinctly his work.  Plus, all of the styles he uses are on the level and often exceed the work of contemporary, modern artists in any field.

Not only does it achieve great things for women and homosexuals with incredible artwork, but this comic contains a hell of a story!

5. Blackest Night by Geoff Johns and Ivan Reis

Probably the greatest crossover book of the decade, and it’s not even finished yet.

Sure, the premise is kind of stupid: let’s bring back all of the dead characters in the entire universe whether they were good or bad before, and turn them into the equivalent of flesh (and emotion) eating zombies.  There are dozens of zombie books on the market, why would anyone want to read one from a mainstream publisher?

Well, somehow the simple concept becomes something much more complex, and Geoff Johns writing far exceeds most of his peers.  He can take this mildly goofy premise and turn it into something that actually feels like it matters.

Plus, he throws in hell of some surprises along the way.

Zombie Aquaman sharks, attack!

6. Nine Ways to Disappear by Lilli Carré

I love Lilli Carré.  She is probably one of my favorites of all time.  I follow her work with a devotion unlike any other, and her latest work is no exception to the high quality of work she has already produced.

The little book feels like a treasure when you hold it, and you read along and absorb these nine wonderful stories.  Most of them may not be as quirky as Woodsman Pete, but I love them nevertheless.

Her illustrations are sometimes zany, other times brilliantly simple, other times filled with pattern-like complexity.  After reading this book, I felt like I had learned something about myself and the world… So, I read it again.

7. Chew by Jon Layman and Rob Guillory

If you went back and reread all of my reviews that I did of Chew, you probably would not expect it to be found anywhere near this list.  In fact, you may have imagined it on the worst of list.

Really, I wouldn’t have been too surprised either about a month ago.  Then, I reread all of them, and I realized that I was wrong.  There is a brilliance in this series that far surpasses most comic books on the market with its crazy and original content.

Hell, the created dictionary-like terms for most of their characters that will forever easily be said in lore as if they didn’t come from a comic.  “Hey, wouldn’t it be cool if you could be a cybopath!”

Tony Chu works for the FDA.  He eats things.  He solves crimes.

8. The Walking Dead: Fear the Hunters by Robert Kirman and Charlie Adlard

Robert Kirkman sure is consistent with his output.  This was a great story really digging in to tell how far humanity can get away from being human when under forced circumstances.

Plus, the standoff is probably one of the most badass moments in the entire series.  I gasped aloud and reread that issue.

If you’ve never read this series and are either a) interested in comics b) interested in zombies c) interested in human morality systems amongst many other things, then you should read this.  No doubt.

9. Invincible Iron Man by Matt Fraction and Salvador Larroca and Frank D’Armata

The best series out of Marvel, by far.  Watching Tony Stark erode and work backwards through his past to become a cripple was strangely one of the most entertaining things I looked forward to every month.  I came onto this series midway through, and it didn’t scare me at all.  It made sense with its small cast of characters.

I can’t really say much else about this one because it seems so inherently obvious that it deserved a place on this list, and that others should check it out.

10. Tales of the TMNT #56, 59, and 61 by Tristan Jones and Paul Harmon, Tristan Jones and Paul Harmon, and Tristan Jones and Andres Ponce, respectively.

Tristan Jones, you brought the grit back to the Mirage Universe for the handful of issues that you got to work on before the end of the series.  You made the turtles kick ass again.  You made new characters in the Turtles-verse which, in a single issue, suddenly reminded me that the Turtles can lose.

I loved each and every one of these comics, and I know it seems unfair to pick and choose from the run, but these were some of the best of the entire volume two of Tales of the TMNT.

Paul Harmon and Andres Ponce, you guys made B x W comics look way better than most colored comics in my entire collection.

Notables: Batman and Robin (issues #1-3, at least… 4-6 were really bad), Batgirl, Secret Six, Incredible Hercules, and Barack the Barbarian (I love this mini more than I probably should).

Things ranked high on other lists that I still haven’t read and may have placed on the above list: Stitches by David Small, Scalped by Jason Aaron and R.M. Guéra, Driven by Lemons by Josh Cotter, Parker: The Hunter by Darwyn Cooke, and The Photographer by Emmanuel Guibert and Didier Lefevre.

The Worst of 09:

I thought about doing a separate blog post about these, but really… it would just be a lot of me bitching, and I’m tired of working on best list for the last three hours.

  1. Deadpool: Merc with a Mouth
  2. Dark Wolverine #78 to current
  3. Batman: Battle for the Cowl
  4. Buck Rogers (everything except #0)
  5. and everything else I tried to avoid.

2 Responses to “The Best Comics of 2009”

  1. iamlarva April 30, 2010 at 8:35 PM #

    #7. Chew, I def. Chew :]

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