Saturday, December 26, 2009

Best Comic Books and Comic Series of the Decade

I like this hip blog full of hip songs, but someone really needed to nerd it up. In that vein, I offer the list of comics I enjoyed most this decade. This is admittedly partial (I don't read Marvel, but apparently they have an interesting character who is both a man and a spider!), but I've wasted enough of this decade on comics that I should have some expertise.

Superman – Red Son: One of the best uses of the Elseworlds concept, which reinvents the stories of famous heroes. This one imagines Superman’s rocket crashing in Soviet Russia during the Cold War and ending up a tool of the Communist government. Lex Luthor is the American hero who tries to take him down.

Batman - No Man’s Land: A huge, sprawling, ambitious story. Gotham City is devastated by an earthquake, and the US government washes its hands of the problem (a twist that seemed impossible on its original release that became infinitely more plausible, and insightful, after Katrina). Batman and his buddies are left to deal with the scared and out of control populace. Unlike most of the Batman events this decade, this one delivered on its potential.

The Walking Dead: This zombie series doesn’t pull its punches. It’s graphic and bloody, featuring zombies who arms and faces are rotting away. But like all good zombie stories, the real rot takes places among the humans who are picking up the broken pieces of civilization. The dialogue can be a bit cheesy, but the plots are brutal, and the black and white art is perfect.

Blankets: A sweet little love story to remedy the bad influence of those zombie comics.

Ex Machina: While everyone was salivating over the clever series Y: The Last Man, Bryan K Vaughan was also writing this even better series about a man with superpowers who foils half of 9/11 and ends up mayor of New York City.

Justice: Everybody loves Alex Ross’s Kingdom Come, and I admit that series was more innovative. But Justice reaffirms why people should read classic superhero comics. It offers sharp characterization with insightful little moments, gorgeous art, interesting villains, and great action sequences.

Torso: This true life account of a murder investigation late in Elliot Ness' career redefines what the genre can do by blending actual documents from archival research with gritty art.

Gotham Central: A brilliant premise, made even more brilliant in its execution. Essentially, this is NYPD Blue if it happened in Batman’s Gotham City. It offers fully realized cop characters who must deal with the problems that come with a city overrun with costumed super-villains. By letting Bats and the Joker recede into the background, the series humanized the comic world. Without hyperbole, you could make a case that this 40 issue series is the best that DC comics ever produced.

Stay nerdy, folks!
Ryan Weber


Paul said...

Good stuff, Ryan. I never really got past the Archie Double Digests, but these write-ups are intriguing. Do you ever read Matthew Perpetua, its author, is a comic back fan, as well, and hipped me to Scott Pilgrim which I browsed and enjoyed in some book store (putting fingerprints on the glossy pages like a jerk).

Go boilermakers.

Thomas McMahon IV said...

Ryan, I don't know whether you can really call comic books "nerdy" anymore, what with Robert Downey Jr. portraying Iron Man and Christopher Nolan directing Batman movies. I seem to remember reading an article a little while ago about Comic-Con being overrun with Hollywood types.

rpweber said...

Tom, this is true that comic books have becom totally legitimate (The Walking Dead, for instance, is getting MAD MEN style treatment over at AMC). I do an icebreaker with my students every year where everyone says the nerdiest thing about themselves. I used to say that mine was that I liked Batman, but after the success of the Dark Knight, that didn't seem nerdy enough, so I now say that I actually read comic books.

While comic book characters are now cool, I think that actually going to the comic book shop every Wednesday and knowing the particulars of character's story arcs is ultra nerdy still. The Hollywood types are now at comic con, but they don't have an opinion about whether Stephanie Brown or Cassandra Cain makes a better Batgirl, for instance. For an example of nerdy comic book conversation, go no further than this ridiculous article:

Interesting point, though. The 00s showed that being nerdy is much cooler than it used to be.

Thomas McMahon IV said...

Ah, I see. Very interesting. Maybe a good parallel in music would be that going to a Neko Case show is very cool, but debating on a blog which Neko Case album is the best would probably be considered nerdy.

"The thought that a Justice Leaguer couldn’t be immediately outfitted with a rockin’ cybernetic arm is kinda laughable." Great article. Tasmanian Devil isn't the crazy creature from the cartoons, is it?

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