Friday, January 15, 2010

Top Ten Favorite Comics of the Aughts

So, anyway, it may come as a shock to some of you out there (or none of you) that I read comics (and by read, I mean: Read. I am neither collector nor speculator, thank you very much...).

True story, though. I read comics.

Yes, sir, I do. Every Wednesday (give or take), my dear and gentle Readers, I trip on down to my LCS (that’s Local Comic Shop to you, the uninitiated.) and I have done so for a good long piece of my life. In fact, a comic may be one of the first things I ever actually read for pleasure, way, way back when I was just knee-high to a grasshopper.

Back then, if there was a comic available, I would devour it. Devour it! I can remember them littering the floor in my Uncle’s room when he was still in high school and the rising Angel’s chorus as I carefully knelt down among them.

My grandparents would always give me a random stack from his old stash whenever they’d visit us and, for years after that, every trip to Dad’s I would pull out that massive box of comics and go through the contents, alphabetizing, organizing numerically within the specific titles, and then settling in and reading them all, one by one, all summer long.

Never got old.

Batman, Superman and his pal: Jimmy Olson, the old Justice League of America arc where they teamed up with the Justice Society from Earth 2 and then split into teams in order to travel through time and rescue the original Seven Soldiers. There were early X-men and old Defenders and a ton of Avengers and some Marvel Triple Actions, not to mention Captain America and the Falcon, including the first appearance of the crazy, commie-paranoid and racist, fake Captain America of the 1950s (you know how you can always spot him, right? No red and white stripes on the back of his costume… just FYI.). There were old Sergeant Rocks and some Nick Fury and the Howling Commandoes. There was the issue of Spider-man that took place right after the death of Gwen Stacy, the one where he almost killed the Green Goblin in a vengeful rage. There was a Silver Surfer #1 (read to tatters… ), which was like holding a biblical relic.

I remember visiting my Grandmother in Boone, and saving, begging, and borrowing all the money I could before each trip, just so that I could slip away and walk those quiet small town streets to downtown Boone (so cosmopolitan) and go to the Hallmark store where, in the far back, they had a giant self of comics books. The most I ever concentrated on math was when I was picking out the titles I wanted and figuring out exactly how many I could get with the jingling coins and crumpled bills jammed down in my pocket.

I remember thinking, KNOWING, that Image Comics was the future (Good God…)

You know what the first comic ever bought specifically for me was? My Aunt (CVM) got it for me out of the blue. Shocked the Hell out of me, the perfect gift. It was Uncanny X-men #173, the one where the X-men are in Japan for Wolverine’s wedding, but someone has poisoned the X-men, so he and Rouge are tearing up the Tokyo underworld, looking for an antidote and Wolverine has that great fight with the Silver Samurai. It was the one where Storm first unveiled her Punk Rock/white Mohawk look. Classic.

I wish I still had that book.

So, why do I read them now? Why keep up with this odd little thing so often (and erroneously) classified as nothing but a kid’s hobby? Just ‘cause. I mean, I could do the whole “they’re an unlimited budget imagination fest” type of thing for a rationalization (yawn). Or I could talk about escapism and the perfect blending of art and prose and blah, blah, quack-quack expressionism like some kind of MCAD reject. I could go on and on, pontificating about how sequential art storytelling is actually the earliest form of storytelling, all the way back to cave paintings… but all of that is just bullshit.

I just like them. That’s all.

Besides, people only get into that crap as excuses, they’re nothing but overt social symptoms of geek self loathing and I don’t have time for that crap. Plus, honestly, who would I think I’d be fooling? I mean—have you read my blog? Geeky…

Anyway… being that it is still January and that end of the year/end of the decade lists are the hip and cool thing to do and being that I am nothing, if not hip and cool… Here is my list about comics.

Top Ten Favorite Comics of the Aughts

1. Planetary
This is the Comic lovers’ comic book. Planetary is the story of a group of super-powered adventures tracking and cataloging the secret super-powered history of the world. Warren Ellis blends classic literature, pulp fiction, and modern day comics into an amazing story, all drawn by John Cassidy. Brilliant, imaginative, just plain ol’ cool. This one was my number one pick, hands down.

2. All-Star Superman
Normally, nothing Superman would ever make a favorite comics list of mine. I’m just not into the character. He has no flaws, except Kryptonite (and magic…), and you can’t just trot that shit out over and over again… Plus, all his truly great stories, like when he was a crippled beggar, or had the head of a giant Ant, etc., they were all ret-conned (never happened) out of existence because they were too batshit crazy to fit into regular continuity. HOWEVER, Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely got together a few years ago and they created a phenomenal 12 issue run that is nothing but wow. All-Star Superman is THE Superman story. Everything that is good about Superman and everything that is crazy, too. Plus, Quitely’s art is amazing. Simply amazing.

3. Walking Dead
Duh, right? This is the never-ending zombie movie. It is the story of a disparate group of survivors on the road and looking for a safe haven in a world ravaged by a Zombie Apocalypse. The art isn’t that flashy, but it's serviceable and sure, Robert Kirkman has a tendency to make his characters speechify a bit too much (WALKING Dead? More like TALKING Dead…), but he understands the genre, doesn’t shy away from beating on his characters, and generally has a lot of fun with it. Also, I totally support his “no intelligent zombies” stance. It’s a good book. Plus, AMC just picked it up to try to turn it into a series.

4. Alias
Ah, Brian Michael Bendis… This is the Man in modern day comics, my friends. He is the architect of Marvel’s current run (one which I believe will come to be called the Bendis Era), he is indirectly (or directly) responsible for the characterizations that are inspiring Marvel’s current crop of movies, and is an excellent writer to boot (both indie and mainstream). And to me, this is his best mainstream book. Alias is the story of Jessica Jones, a Super-hero failure turned Private Eye in the Marvel Universe and she narrates her hard boiled tales with the caustic wit of a world weary and washed up veteran superhero insider. She is ridiculously funny at times and at others, heart-breaking. Great work. And Michael Gaydos’ moody art is a perfect fit.

5. Scott Pilgrim
I came late to this book, right when Volume 5 was coming out. The Sixth and final one isn’t out yet. A Manga style story of a guy from Canada with kick-ass kung fu skills, but no job. He’s also a bit of a jackass, plays in a band called Sex Bob-omb, and generally lives an aimless life until he meets and falls in love with an awesome chick from America who is a Rollerblading Messenger Ninja named Ramona Flowers. However, he soon finds out that in order to date Ramona, he must first defeat her Seven Evil Ex-Boyfriends in combat, not too mention his own jealous ex-girlfriends and the trails and tribulations of life in general. Funny and stylish and packed with lots of extra little treats, you regular readers out there already know that I’m dead excited to see the film.

6. We3
Another Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely joint. The only reason this book isn’t listed higher is that it is only three issues long. A 100% pure awesome of a story, We3 is about a dog, a cat, and a rabbit that have placed into a secret government program to turn them into armored and cybernetically enhanced covert super-soldiers. They can also talk a little bit (R U GUD? I AM GUD. GUD BOY!) and under their handlers directions, they are little tanks that just wreck shop. And then, one day… they escape and the government chases after them. Pure action, hilarious and touching, it’s like Incredible Journey meets Universal Soldier. And once again… Quitely = Genius

7. Ultimate Spider-man
Here’s another from Bendis. This is the re-booted (started over from the beginning) series about Spider-man. Now, like Superman, I’ve never really been that into the character, but this book made me a fan. It is the most consistently entertaining book being put out there right now, not too mention always on-time AND Bendis and Bagley were the longest running creative pair in comics history, like 120 some issues. This book is just good ol’ fashioned classic superhero fun, but updated with 3-D characterization, real wit and imagination, and a very obvious love for the medium.

8. Thunderbolts
Another from Warren Ellis. This book originally started way back when, during Heroes Reborn, when a bunch a super villains were pretending to be heroes for a nefarious plan. Eventually some of them wanted to actually go good, others didn’t and then things went on from there. Cut forward years to just after the Superhero Civil War when Warren Ellis takes over the books and packs it with Super villians who are collared by the Government using nanotechnology and set loose on any unregistered Superhero they find. That alone is cool enough, but what puts this over the top, and on the top ten, is Ellis’s ability to take a nothing D list character like Jack Flagg (who used to have a Boom Box Rocket Launcher) or America Eagle (He’s a Native American Super hero! Guess how he dressed?) and made them cool. Not just cool, but awesome. The 24 issue slow build up to the eventual crumbling of the Thunderbolt program is one of the best. Fantastic work and Mike Deodato’s art is classic 90’s, but in a good way.

9. Authority
This is the book that gave rise to the term: Wide Screen Action. Often imitated, never duplicated, it is by Warren Ellis and Bryan Hitch (the first year) and Mark Millar and Frank Quitely (the second year). It is the book that led to the Ultimates, which then led to the Iron Man movie (overly simplified, sure, but still true.). And it is a ball buster. A team of Super heroes archetypes attempt to police the world, they fight huge fights. It is what every Michael Bay movie tries to be and fails. It is insane. Also notable because it features the first openly gay couple, a Superman and Batman pastiche called Apollo and the Midnighter.

10. Secret Warriors
This last book is a fairly recently one, but I look forward to it each month. Both Jonathan Hickman and Stefano Caselli are new names to me, relatively, and yet both have totally wowed me. Some might say that it’s still too new yet to include this book, but I disagree and let me tell you why. Hickman’s Pax Romano and Nightly News are his brilliant indie books (although the art is cluttered) and his Fantastic Four is very quickly becoming the real deal, like this book, and it’s all due to some great storytelling. As for Caselli… I am not that familiar with his history, but I just love his style. Anime and 90s influenced, somewhere in between? Great stuff. Plus, it’s the story of Nick Fury, former Director of S.H.I.E.L.D, underground all these years ever since the disastrous Secret War he waged against Dr. Doom and Latveria, now back with a team of new, young Superheroes and a lot of his old Howling Commando allies and bent on battle after finding out that S.H.I.E.L.D, Hydra (kind of like G.I.Joe’s Cobra) and A.I.M (a mad scientist terrorist group) have been secretly controlled by a mysterious group called Leviathan from the start and the way Hickman is moving his players around and building up to the big fight… A great read. Plus, and this shouldn’t be ignored, the book is heavily populated with brand new characters, ones that could go on after this and become recognizable and honestly, that hasn’t happened since Wolverine, so… good on him.

So there you go… Check them and these other books listed below out, if you are so inclined, they’re good reads and worth the time.

Almost, but not quite:
Blue Monday
Mouse Guard
The Ultimates
Old Man Logan
Immortal Iron Fist
Invincible Iron Man
Captain America (Ed Brubaker's run)

Have you got a list? Let me know.


djsmitty said...

No 100 Bullets?

Jon said...

It didn't hold together for me in the end.

Marshall Banana said...

Scott Pilgrim makes me want to live in Canada, that takes alot.

Jon said...

I know what you mean...