Listing my favorite comics is tricky. There’s so much variety not just of content, but format. There are ongoing series, collections, graphic novel series, etc. For the sake of coherency, here are my rules:
- The individual picks are story arcs, runs, graphic novels, or completed series.
- The majority of their original publishing history needed to be in the 2000s (which knocked out Transmetropolitan and Box Office Poison).
So here’s my list.
1. Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi
Autobiographical graphic novels are all the rage now and this is the best one you’ll find. Satrapi was raised during the Islamic Revolution in Iran and this takes you from that childhood, to her flight to Europe, her spiral downward there, the return to home, and escape out again. Marjane is a deeply interesting person with a life that gives insight to the inside of a world we hear about every day.
2. Y: The Last Man by Brian K Vaughn and Guerra
In other hands, this could’ve been the dumbest book of the decade. Yorick and his monkey Ampersand are the two males left on Earth after a mysterious event leaves only female animals alive. Teamed up with a Secret Service agent and a scientist, they make their way across the world on the dual mission of solving the mystery of what happened and to reunite him with his fiance, Beth. This series features, without a doubt, one of the all time great finales.
3. DC: The New Frontier by Darwyn Cooke
This is Darwyn Cooke’s love letter to the Silver Age DC characters he loves. Set in the early sixties, it puts characters like The Flash and Green Lantern back into the era they were created in and expands the human sides of their stories. I had always liked Cooke as an artist and this book showed me what an all-around great creator he is.
4. 100 Bullets by Brian Azarello and Edward Risso
Imagine that you have a tragedy in your life. The type that’s derailed you or sapped you of any real happiness from that time forward. Then one day a man offers you a briefcase with an untraceable gun, untraceable bullets, information on who caused that tragedy, and a guarantee that you would be never be held responsible for what you do with them. This concept could be a simple gimmick, but it’s only step one in a conspiracy that made this a standout crime series in an era of great crime comics.
5. The Ultimates (1&2) by Mark Millar and Bryan Hitch
This series represents a strong step forward in moving superheroes into the grey morals of the modern world. Captain America and his crew are true heroes, but the villains they fight are as much of a result of their own mistakes and bad choices as they are of an outside evil.
6. Ice Haven by Daniel Clowes
While people generally like this book, I usually see David Boring and Ghost Word referred to as Clowes masterpieces. I can’t argue with that, but this is the one I keep picking up over and over again. I can’t answer why this “comic strip novel” has such an emotional pull on me. I just know that it does and that’s enough to put it here.
7. Top 10 by Alan Moore and Gene Ha
When Moore’s ABC imprint began, I would’ve listed this as my least favorite book. As almost ten years have passed, it’s now my favorite (with the exception of the League). The book follows police officers in a city where everyone is a superhero. Kind of like a super powered Hill Street Blues. Moore still has the ability to surprise the hell out of me with stories that are funny, tragic, and even poignant in the craziest world he’s ever created.
8. Planetary by Warren Ellis and John Cassady
True, this series lost some of its dramatic drive in its second half, but the ideas remained strong and Cassady’s artwork never fails.
9. Captain America by Ed Brubaker and various artists
Killing a superhero and bringing him back to life is the oldest trick in comics. The fact that Brubaker did it and it didn’t feel tired is remarkable. If you had told me years ago that they were bringing Bucky back to take over for a murdered Steve Rogers, I would’ve told you that I’d never read it. Given that, I’m more surprised than anyone that it’s my favorite Cap storyline ever.
10. The Sinestro Corps War by Geoff Johns and various artists
Green Lantern will always be my sentimental favorite superhero. What Johns has done with him is a borderline miracle, especially in this storyline. In it, Sinestro puts his own Corps against the Green Lanterns. The Lanterns may win the war in the end, but they lose their soul in the process.
It’s been a great decade of comics, so I feel inclined to list my runners up. If you asked me on another day, you could swap out several of these with what I have on the list today: Superman: Birthright, Fables, DMZ, Criminal, Civil War, Daredevil (Bendis and Brubaker runs), Black Hole, Fell, Global Frequency, and others I’m sure will dawn on me in about twenty minutes.