Granted, I don’t (couldn’t possibly) read every comic book published on a weekly basis. I don’t even read every Marvel comic published each week, and they’re far and away my favorite publisher. But I do read an awful lot. So I feel competent to tell you that if you’ve got the money (about 80 bucks) and time (about 2 hours, depending on how long you savor the experience—and not counting re-reads) to read 20 books a month, these are the ones I’d go with. I’m not counting minis and one-shots here—just regular series.
As I created this list, I was shocked to find out that I don’t think that much of Brian Michael Bendis’ Avengers work anymore. If I’d created this snapshot a year ago, New Avengers and Dark Avengers would have been at the top. Also, S.H.I.E.L.D. and Secret Warriors would probably have been on here—but now, they’re cancelled.
So hit the break for the books that should be on your pull list. Or else, Batman will kick you in the head.
20. X-FORCE (Marvel). This series is still pretty new, but so far it’s been a great addition to the X-books. It’s another one you can read with (relatively little) knowledge (or curiosity) about the rest of the XU, it’s full of action, and, hey, it’s got both Deadpool and Wolverine. Throw in Spider-Man and you’d have Marvel’s Holy Trinity of overused characters!
19. INVINCIBLE IRON MAN (Marvel). Matt Fraction has done a great job at bringing back the corporate espionage vibe that made this book so great in the 1980s under the talented helm of Bob Layton.
18. ACTION COMICS (DC). I’m really enjoying Paul Cornell’s subversion of this title to make it all about Lex Luthor. Plus, it’s got Mister Mind and Death (pictured)! It’s kind of like a meta realization of Luthor’s greatest dream: To unseat the Man of Steel.
17. STUMPTOWN (Oni). Greg Rucka’s detective comic book about a private eye with gambling issues shares a universe with Rucka’s detective novels about Atticus Kodiak. This is really different, unusual stuff. And the first volume just got released in trade, so you can catch up and then stay current.
16. PUNISHERMAX (Marvel MAX). I know it’s hard for people to let go of the fact that Garth Ennis isn’t writing this, but give it a chance. It’s almost just as good.
15. MORNING GLORIES (Image) and THE SIXTH GUN (Oni). These books are still very new, but so far they’ve got great attitude and momentum. I think 6th Gun is due for a trade volume soon–pick it up and check it out. It’s not like any of the standard (boring) Westerns you’ve read before. And Morning Glories has hot chicks! Pick one of these books, and take a risk–expand your reading mind, and explore what comic books can really do, as a genre.
14. CRIMINAL (Icon). Technically these are miniseries’, but Last of the Innocent will be coming out soon, and you can usually find some kind of Criminal book on the shelf. This is another book that some will find more palatable in trade form, though, and there’s lots of paperbacks available. There’s a reason why everyone loves Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips, and this is it.
13. X-FACTOR (Marvel). Peter David’s long-running mutant soap opera is complex and deep—it’s hard for new readers to jump in. But fortunately, it’s all available in trade—and well worth your time. And it’s got Layla Miller (pictured), who knows stuff….
12. THE BOYS (Dynamite). Garth Ennis’ work on this book has been consistently entertaining for over 50 issues now. And I’d argue that this is a book better read month-to-month because when you read blocks of it in trade form the goreporn and profanity can get a bit exhausting.
10 and 11 (and maybe 12?). DAREDEVIL, PUNISHER and MOON KNIGHT (all Marvel).
None of these are out yet. But with the creative teams involved (Mark Waid, Paolo Rivera, and the afore-mentioned Marcos Martin; Greg Rucka and Marco Chechetto; Brian Michael Bendis and Alex Maleev), it’s pretty much lock that at least 2 out of 3 will be tremendously fabulous.
9. IRREDEEMABLE (Boom!). Mark Waid and Peter Krause’s tale of an evil Superman continues to hook me in, issue after issue. Great stuff.
8. BATMAN INCORPORATED (DC). Grant Morrison re-tools classic Batman stories
and, along the way, is developing a Bat-army. I can’t wait to see where this is all headed, because knowing Morrison, it’ll be big, weird, and ridiculous. I just hope it’s also understandable. And so far, so good—this is the most comprehensible Morrison Bat-book so far. It almost makes me not miss his work on Batman and Robin. Almost.
7. WALKING DEAD (Image). Like Sweet Tooth, I get it if you think there’s not enough here to justify reading WD in serialized form. But if you’re looking for a consistently well-written, developing story, it’s hard to beat Walking Dead. Plus, you can get back issues now in the form of “Walking Dead Weekly!”
6. SWEET TOOTH (Vertigo). Pictured above. As a serialized book, there’s not a lot of action each month, so I fully understand all the folks who wait for the trades on this one. Nevertheless, it’s creepy, emotional, and unlike anything else out there, so it’s on my “must” list.
5. AVENGERS ACADEMY (Marvel). A school for gifted youngsters who wannabe Avengers . . . But who have a tendency towards the dark side. This book is everything Thunderbolts isn’t (but should be). And it’s so much better than any other Avengers title out there.
4. DETECTIVE COMICS (DC). Featuring Dick Grayson and Damian Wayne as Batman and Robin, Scott Snyder and Jock (with fill-ins by Francesco Francavilla) have been killing it on this book. They brought back James Gordon, Jr., and play him at the forefront without any explanation. Overall, the book has a “Gotham Central” feel—with capes! It’s gritty, tough, and extremely well written. If you only buy one Batbook, this is the one to get.
3. SECRET SIX (DC). Hilarious, irreverent, and borderline adults-only, Secret Six is the best DC book around. On this, there can be no argument.
2. DEADPOOLMAX (Marvel MAX). I just discovered this and think it’s one of the most innovative things Marvel has put out in years. It’s extraordinary. And it’s not just for adult readers because of cursing and sex—there’s some of that, but it’s not over the top. It’s for adults because under the black, black humor there’s actually insight. The white supremacist/Baron Zemo story, for example, made me laugh and feel uncomfortable all at the same time. Plus, the issues are essentially done-in-one, so you can jump into the series at any time.
1. AMAZING SPIDER-MAN (Marvel). This comes out three times a month, so it’s a little more of a budget-breaker, but I have to say that Dan Slott and his regular artists produce, issue for issue, some of the most fun superheroics you’ll have the good fortune to read. They don’t bother with trying to be pseudorealistic, dark, or edgy—they’re here to entertain you, the way that all the great Amazing Spider-Man books have done throughout the years. And I want to make a special mention of artist Marcos Martin, who combines ultra-modern panel and page design with a decidedly retro look (think 1967 animated Spidey—“in color!”). Truly, Martin deserves some kind of award. He’s one the most creative designers working today. There’s no book I look forward to more each month.