I hope you all enjoyed my Top 10 Movies of 2010 list (click here for part one, and here for part two) and my Top 10 DVDs of 2010 list (click here for part one, and here for part two)! Now on to my list of my Top 15 Comic Book Series of 2010!
Honorable Mentions: Hoo boy, did I read a lot of really fantastic comic books this past year. In addition to the titles listed in my Top 15 list (I couldn’t even keep this list contained to a Top 10), I also really enjoyed: The Marvels Project, X-Factor, X-Factor Forever, New Avengers, Avengers Prime, Batman: Streets of Gotham, Batman and Robin, The Stand, Astro City, RASL, Ultimate Thor, Ultimate Mystery, Ultimate Doom, and the final issues of Ex Machina. I’m also pleased beyond words that John Byrne’s Next Men has finally returned to life (even though I don’t think the first two issues of the relaunch have come anywhere close to the greatness of the original Next Men series).
15. Superman/Batman Annual #4 — OK, this isn’t a series, but an incredible single issue. The Batman Beyond mini-series that DC published this year was great, but this one-shot annual was absolutely phenomenal. Set some-time after the conclusion of the Bruce Timm-masterminded TV series Batman Beyond, this issue picks up story-threads left dangling by the show’s Justice League two-parter “The Call.” An older Superman comes out of the fog of years of mind-control to attempt to pick up the ruins of his shattered life, and Batman (Terry McGinnis) must confront the man who took over Metropolis in Superman’s absence: Lex Luthor. A great story by Paul Levitz with gorgeous art by Renato Guedes and Jose Wilson, this was a real winner.
14. Nemesis – This profane and extraordinarily violent four-issue series from Mark Millar and Steve McNiven was gloriously outrageous fun. The premise is simple: what if Batman, instead of being a hero, had used his incredible mind and enormous fortune to become the world’s most dangerous super-villain? Fourteen-year-old me would have thought this was the greatest comic book ever created, and the older, balder version of me also thought it was a heck of a lot of fun. (It would have been higher on this list if not for the last few pages of the final issue which, to me, didn’t make any sense.) They’re not on this list, but I also enjoyed Mark Millar’s series Superior and Kick-Ass 2 (of which one issue has been published so far).
13. Star Trek: Leonard McCoy: Frontier Doctor – John Byrne was the first comic book artist/writer who I ever took notice of (reading issues of Classic X-Men, I quickly realized that I thought the issues that he drew were way better than any others), and I’ve really been loving his recent Star Trek work for IDW. (His trilogy of Romulan stories made my Top 10 Comic Books list last year!) This four-issue mini-series was just as much fun. Set in the days between the end of the Enterprise’s original five-year mission and Star Trek: The Motion Picture, the series tells tales of Dr. McCoy’s out-of-starfleet adventures, traveling the galaxy in an old, small starship in an effort to give aid where needed. I like that each issue was a stand-alone adventure, although the stories did connect to one another, and also to some of Mr. Byrne’s other recent Trek mini-series (such as his Assignment: Earth series). Great, classic Star Trek stories of sci-fi adventures.
12. Scarlet — A young woman in Portland has her life destroyed by corrupt cops, and so she takes it upon herself to begin a revolution against a society that would allow such terrible corruption in our leaders. Brian Michael Bendis and Alex Maleev are one of those special comic book creative teams that I will follow anywhere. (Their long run on Daredevil was magnificent.) Mr. Bendis has introduced some interesting new stylistic devices (such as the tendency of characters to step out of the story and directly address the viewers, using square-shaped dialogue balloons; and the way he’ll use a series of simply-captioned panels to fill us in on a character’s whole life), and Mr. Maleev continues to push his illustration work into gorgeous new directions. I have no idea where the hell this story is going, but I’m definitely along for the ride.
11. Ultimate Spider-Man – Speaking of Brian Michael Bendis, we come to his signature book, the title that has been one of my favorite super-hero comics for around 10 years now. Mr. Bendis’ take on Spider-Man is unparalleled, and I adore the way he has surrounded young Peter Parker with one of the best supporting casts in comic book history. The scenes in Aunt May’s house with Johnny Storm, Bobby Drake, Gwen Stacy, Peter, and whoever else happens to be around are a delight, and a huge part of what makes this title so great. The series falls a bit on my list this year because of a stolen identity storyline that didn’t really do it for me (I HATE stolen identity story-lines — it always seems like a phony way for writers to stir up drama in their comic book or TV show) and also because the series’ artists this year, David Lafuente and Sara Pichelli, are pretty great but still a far cry from Mark Bagley and Stuart Immonen. I miss those guys. But even if it wasn’t as note-perfect as in years past, this is still a series I eagerly anticipate every month, and it’s always one of the first off the pile that I read.
10. Supergod – Warren Ellis’ twisted tale of how mankind’s attempts to create real-life super-heroes wound up destroying the world contained all of the big ideas, scientific verisimilitude, and dark wit that I always expect from Mr. Ellis. Garrie Gastonny’s intricate, detailed art brought the story to life in a very grounded, real-world way, which only emphasized the horror. The story is a bit cold and cerebral — there aren’t really any characters to speak of that a reader might invest in — but I nevertheless found it to be a chillingly gripping, inventive tale.
9. Dr. Horrible and Other Horrible Stories — This collection from Dark Horse Comics is a fiendishly clever expansion of the Dr. Horrible universe. Written by Zack Whedon and illustrated by a variety of great artists, the short stories contained in this volume spotlight different members of the Horrible world — the good Doctor himself, of course, but also Captain Hammer, Moist, and even Johnny Snow. Really funny, with much of the wit of the web-series preserved, this collection is dynamite.
8. Terminator: 2029 and 1984 – These two three-issue mini-series, published by Dark Horse Comics, are the best Terminator stories I’ve seen or read in YEARS. Zack Whedon, who I just mentioned, also wrote these series, definitely proving that the man has some serious comic-book-writing chops. The series begins in the year 2029 — the apocalypse has happened and the Terminators have destroyed much of humanity, but pockets of resistance still remain. We’re introduced to the members of one such resistance cell: Ben, Paige, and Kyle Reese (who has not yet traveled back in time). Things take a turn for the dark and the weird, though, when a Terminator attack tears apart our group, and Ben meets a very old man who claims to be Kyle Reese, who went back and time and fathered John Connor. I really, really hope that Mr. Whedon will be writing more Terminator comics for Dark Horse in the near future!!
7. Superman: Secret Origins — I’m cheating a bit by including this on this year’s list, since only the last issue or two came out in 2010, and that was only because of the delays that afflicted this series. But because the delays caused me to wait until the whole mini-series had been released before reading the entire series through, I only first read this story earlier this year, so I feel comfortable including it on my 2010 list. Geoff Johns’ re-telling of Superman’s origin brilliantly weaves elements of classic Superman comics (both pre-and-post-Crisis), Richard Donner’s Superman films, Smallville, and more together into a beautifully synthesized tapestry. Gary Frank’s dazzlingly detailed art (and his wonderful rendition of a Christopher Reeve Superman) elevates the story to the level of true greatness. I wish DC would publish more Superman comics set in this continuity, by this creative team, immediately.
6. B.P.R.D. – The continuing adventures of the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense continue to have me hooked. Last year this series truly took it’s place as the flagship of the Hellboy universe. While this year’s stories haven’t quite been able to equal the earth-shattering events of last year, it’s been great to see the return of Daimio, and the stories remain compellingly weird and dark. I am really eager to see where this “New World” story-line is going.