Best Comics of the Decade
Since the 00’s are over and done with (thank God), the internets are currently being flooded with every fool’s opinion of the best of everything from these last, horrible, utterly disgusting ten years. While clearly I am no different, comics are the fuel to my fire, and the greatest sequential achievements in the last decade cannot go unrecognized.
Brian Bendis & Alex Maleev’s Daredevil
Bendis and Maleev’s Daredevil, in the opinions of many, is the pinnacle of Marvel’s superhero storytelling in the last decade. Existing within Marvel continuity but with little-to-no relevance of the ongoing happenings of the main Marvel Universe, Daredevil in the hands of these creators was dramatic, intense, and one hell of a ride.
Bendis began his work on Daredevil with the arc "Wake Up" in 2001 in issues #16-19 (with artist David Mack) but really kicked off when Maleev came aboard with issue #26 for "Underboss", and the ride didn’t end until five years later, amazing every step of the way.
Undoubtedly one of Vertigo’s greatest achievements in the last ten years is Brian K. Vaughan and Pia Guerra’s Y: The Last Man. One of the few comics to ever cause me to shed tears, that feat alone earns it a place amongst the decade’s illustrious few, though Vaughan’s knack for exciting storytelling and characterization.
Aside from constructing a beautifully tragic tale about the last man on Earth, Vaughan used the 60 issues of Y to explore things like woman’s rights, sexuality, environmentalism and technology. In essence, Y is the definition of an "important" comic.
On the cover of 2004’s Identity Crisis #1, there is a line of text that reads "The comics event of the year begins here!" Instead, it should have read "The future of the DCU begins here!" For real, I think I might be able to draw you a flow chart cataloging the events of the modern DC Universe, and they all stem back to Brad Meltzer and Rags Morales’ Identity Crisis. Sure, most nerds can trace current events back decades, but as far as I’m concerned, it’s Identity Crisis that lead us where we are today.
Essentially, this is the inciting incident for the dissolution of trust within the Justice League, as Sue Dibny is murdered and her rape by, and the subsequent mind-wiping of, Dr. Light is revealed. It raised a lot of questions about superhero ethics – not exactly a new idea, but again, lead us directly into things like "Crisis of Conscience", Infinite Crisis, 52, and so on.
Coming off of major crossover events like Our Worlds at War and Emperor Joker, Identity Crisis was a subdued, character driven change of pace that has paved the way for the company ever since.
I’ve pushed it over and over again, including Crave’s Top 10 Best Indie Comics and our Top 10 Most Depressing Comic Book Characters (among many other places), but it’s for a reason. Chris Ware’s Jimmy Corrigan might be the greatest work of literature this decade, let alone the comic book medium. Sure, it’s actually collected from it’s serialization from throughout the 1990’s in Acme Novelty Library, but the 2000 graphic novel is the fruits of Ware’s labor.
Not only is Jimmy himself an unfortunately relatable character, but Ware’s cartooning style is unique and insanely intricate. It’s a dense read that, in my opinion, can never receive enough praise, and you’ll surely be seeing it pop up on "best of" lists everywhere.
Trying to explain the plot of Grant Morrison and Chris Weston’s The Filth is like trying to explain physics to a bird and expecting them not to shit on your head afterwards. The Filth tackles a wealth of ideas from Morrison’s brilliant, seedy little mind, including, but not limited to, pornological terrorism, different realities, art’s effect on life, negative forces, and giant, enormous sperm.
I honestly wish that I could further explain what makes the book so great, but it’s simply impossible in this space. It would turn into a five page essay, and I’m not sure the tweet-tastic audience of this day and age has the patience to read such a tome from me. Just know, that reading The Filth will forever effect the way you watch pornography.
I debated including Planetary on this list, since the series actually started in 1999, but I figured, as the only entry to be released (in increments) over the span of the entire decade in question, it had earned its spot. That’s right folks, Planetary #1 debuted in April of 1999 and just finished this past October with issue #27. That’s approximately 2.4 issues a year.
Regardless of the shipping schedule, Planetary put John Cassaday on the map and cemented Warren Ellis as one of comics’ best writers. Planetary‘s clever mix of self-referential pop culture and an overarching story of a group of "archeologists" devoted to unraveling the untold history of our world.
Though one of WildStorm’s most critically acclaimed series is also its more severely erratic, the impact of Planetary amongst fans is undeniable.
Back in 2006, in the wake of Infinite Crisis, the entire DC Universe did a "One Year Later" jump into the future, and some drastic changes were made. To fill in that gap, DC commissioned four of comics’ preeminent writers – Grant Morrison, Greg Rucka, Mark Waid, and Geoff Johns – to fill that gap with an unprecedented 52 issue, year long, weekly comic book series. And my, what a success it was.
With Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman out of the picture, the B-listers of the DCU got a chance to shine and along the way gave us one of the most unique comic book experiences in the last ten years. It shipped on time, week after week, delivered consistently without ever feeling drawn out, and gave us a shitload of gorgeous covers from JG Jones.
Though it inspired a bevy of projects that would follow, including the recently announced Brightest Day, none of them could surpass the epic nature and pure quality of 52.
Which is why, the changes and developments that these characters go through – ones we’ve known for years – are so significant. Whedon makes them mean something, and more importantly, he writes the characters as real people instead of superheroes. Astonishing is not unlike Daredevil in that it is everything a superhero comic has the potential of being, except on the other end of the spectrum. Instead of the grit of Hell’s Kitchen, we get the vastness of outer space. In place of beating the hell out of people with sticks, people are punished with laser blasts and adamantium claws.
If you happen to be reading this list in the hopes of finding an entry point for comic books and have always liked the X-Men, be it from the cartoons or the movies, I warn you: do not start here. Why? Because everything you read afterwards will simply pale in comparison. Of course, most would start with Chris Claremont’s Uncanny X-Men, but I want you to actually continue reading comics, not be turned off from the whole idea.
When Robert Kirkman started The Walking Dead with Image Comics back in 2003, America was on the cusp of a zombie-genre resurgence, hot off of Danny Boyle’s 28 Days Later and looking forward to the Dawn of the Dead remake (zombies are fast now!!), not to mention genre send-ups like Shawn of the Dead. Of course, zombies in comics are nothing new either, but when a fad comes along (like current times and vampires) and all different mediums follow suit, there’s only a few properties that remain in the filter once the sand drains through.
The Walking Dead is one of those properties. While the series certainly has its fair share of blood and guts, the real triumph of this series is Kirkman’s focus on the human condition. Most zombie stories are content showing the reader or viewer the gore and stopping there, but The Walking Dead instead chooses to follow through with the damaging effects that come along with blasting zombies for an existence.
One of my favorite parts about the book is that it’s rendered in black and white; it takes attention not away from the art, but from the expectation of superfluous blood and gore that comes along with the title, leaving you instead to enjoy the drama.
I love Blankets because it’s unlike a lot of other things I’ve included on this list. It’s not about "the big picture". There’s no metaphysical discussion or exploration of archetypes or ethical dilemmas. It’s simply an artist doing his best to express the most immediate and arguably the most important occurrence of all: growing up.