15 REASONS TO LOVE COMICS IN 2010 (Not the Best Comic Books of 2010)

I wouldn’t be presumptuous enough to list “the best comics of 2010” because I haven’t read nearly enough–and because I read trades and not single issues for the most part, so I’m 6-9 months behind real comicheads.  That said, if I’m not poring over complex legal documents for my job, chances are what I’m reading has pictures and word bubbles.  My strong preference is capes and Marvel characters, but I dabble in other areas . . . This is what I think was great this year . . . And wasn’t.  After the break.

Runners Up: Some great classic reprints! Like NEXTWAVE: Agents of Hate: Ultimate Collection (say what you want about Transmetro or The Authority, NEXTWAVE is Ellis’ greatest work); the complete Alan Moore Swamp Thing volumes; and  Batman: Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader? by Neil Gaiman–I know lots of Batfans hated it for not fitting in with Bat-chronology, but I found this story tremendously interesting.

15.  X-Factor. Simply the best novel with pictures that nobody’s reading.  Damn shame–if you’ve ever complained about the lack of sophisticated writing in cape books, you need to check out what Peter David is doing–and has been doing for about ten years now–with these b-lister mutants.

14.  Invincible Iron Man. Room on the superhero shelf for thoughtful but accessible sci fi?  Yes, please.

13.  Amazing Spider-Man: Fever. Brendan McCarthy’s psychedelic take on the webslinger wasn’t extremely well written, but what the story lacked in linear sense, it more than made up for with incredible art and originality. Simply put: You have never read a Spider-Man story like it before, and you probably never will again.

12.  Power Girl. So she’s basically invulnerable, can fly, is super strong, etc.  Why can’t Superman be anywhere this fun?  Two reasons.  Say it with me now: Boobs!

11.  PunisherMax. The question has always been, will anyone ever be able to write a grittier, tougher, better Punisher than Garth Ennis?  The answer is still no, but as if he knew that, Aaron didn’t even try.  Rather than have his Punisher occupy the same space as Ennis’, Jason Aaron blended his Frank Castle into the Marvel Universe (sort of) by presenting an alternative history for Kingpin and Bullseye.  If you didn’t know where (or whether) PunisherMax fit into the Marvel continuity before, you won’t now, either, but you also won’t care because this is so fucking amazing.  Words so good, I can even tolerate the Steve Dillon art.

10.  Kiema’s Castle (Amazing Spider-Man 615-616). The story of Sandman, Spider-Man, and Sandy’s little girl.  Excellent.

9.  Wolverine: Old Man Logan. Millar and Niven prove that there’s still room for one dystopian X-future.  In a sea of dozens of such tales, this stands out as the second best only.  And when the first is the Claremont/Byrne masterpiece “Days of Future Passed,” you can understand.

8.  Sweet Tooth. Rich, haunting, beautiful and desolate.  A fantasy about a poor little deer-faced boy in a world full of hostile, punishing hunters.

7.  Cartoons and movies. Between Scott Pilgrim, Avengers, Superman/Batman, Planet Hulk, Young Justice, The Losers, RED, Kick Ass, Iron Man 2, and G.I. Joe Renegades, my inner child’s head exploded.

6.  Thor and the Warriors Four. Who says kids comics can’t be fun for adults as well?

5.  Criminal. Brubaker and Phillips continue to astound.

4.  The Walking Dead. Yes.  That’s it, just yes.

3.  The Unknown Soldier. This harrowing, meticulously researched book is essentially the story of what would happen if a man with the bloodlust of Wolverine and the impassionate strategic skills of Nick Fury were dropped into an African civil war.  Extraordinarily well written and illustrated, this is a most unusual, moving comic book.  It’s as brutal as Ennis’ Punisher, but it has a conscience.  It doesn’t revel in violence, or pander, or condescend.

2.  Shed (Amazing Spider-Man 630-33). Reinventing the one-note villain The Lizard for a new audience, with artwork that was simply astounding.  A masterpiece.

1.  Batman and Robin. When Marvel tried to force Bucky Cap down people’s throats, it took about a year before the whining stopped.  Morrison threw a cowl on Nightwing and everyone shut up right away.  Right there, that should let you know how great this book is.  Follow it up with a very solid–and understandable(!)–start to Batman, Inc., and Batman is the man of the year.

AND SOME MISCELLANEOUS AWARDS . . .  After the next break.

Most Overrated Comic Series: American Vampire.  Seriously, what’s the deal?  Is all the hubbub just about Stephen King writing an original comic book?  Yes, I think it is.

Runner up: Chew.  Yes, the first story arc was brilliant, but since then it’s kind of . . . Sucked.

Most consistently great superbook: Irredeemable. The gift that just keeps on giving–amazing series.  And Mark Waid is a hell of a guy.

Best Series That Can’t Seem to End a Story Arc Well: The Amazing Spider-Man.  2010 brought us The Gauntlet–a series of short arcs in which all of Spidey’s classic villains come at him, one by one, all slightly reinvented for the Brand New Day.  But the climax, “Grim Hunt,” made very little sense and didn’t wrap the whole package together.  Then came OMIT, which was supposed to be the one that answered all the questions about Brand New Day but really ended up feeling like a copout.  But then, at last, we got Origin of the Species, which really wrapped everything up well: Every single BND villain coming after Spidey, under the direction of Doc Ock, and Spidey finally getting fed up.  But the last issue of the arc felt rushed and weird–he didn’t really seem to grow or change from all the punishment, which made the story seem less important than it ought to have been.  This series had great individual issues, tremendous talent, but couldn’t hang together as an extended story.  Still, some of the individual stories were some of the best tales of the year.

Runner up: Thor by J. Michael Straczinski.  What is it with this JMS guy?  He starts “Supreme Power” but dumps out at the end.  He sets in motion the greatest Thor epic since Simonson created Beta Ray Bill, but then leaves and lets someone else do a hasty wrap up.  JMS may be a good writer, but as far as sticking with his projects, he’s even worse than Warren Ellis.

Best reboot: Fantastic Four by Hickman and Eaglesham. The F4 have been dull and drab for decades, and suddenly I give a shit about them.

Stupidest reboot: Grounded Superman.

Runner up: Also by JMS, the new Wonder Woman costume.  Ugh.

Silliest Money Grab That Was A Lot Better Than It Should Have Been: Deadpool Corps.

Runner up: Prelude to Deadpool Corps.

Worst Event: Shadowland. Way to kill off 10-years of character progression and development, guys.

Best Result of the Worst Event: The new Power Man miniseries.  Way, way better than it should have been.

Best Result of another underwhelming event: Secret Warriors by Jonathan Hickman, telling the tale of post-Shield Nick Fury and his ragtag band of unusuals.

The “enough is enough” awards: Deadpool [Prelude to DP Corps; Corps; Wade Wilson’s War; Secret Origin]; Blackest Night (ho-hum); all the Hulks; and way too many Avengers books and spinoffs.  I know Joe Quesada doesn’t like to leave money on the table, but at some point it just gets ridiculous.

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