Top Ten Best Comics of 2009

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Better late than never, eh? This is my list for the top ten stories of 2009! Woo hoo! Now, before we get to all the fun of me voicing my opinions and you disagreeing with them, I have to get a few rules out of the way.

1. These are the top ten stories/arcs/whatever. Not comic in general, not trade, but best stories (What can I say, I’m trying to be somewhat unique).

2. These are stories that ended in 2009. They could begin at any time, but as long as they concluded in 2009, they’re eligible.

3. I tried to keep the list as diverse and reader-friendly as possible. I love certain writers, but it would be boring if it was three Morrison books, two Kirkman books, etc. So, a writer/artist will only appear once on the list. I tried to spread the love evenly. You will see Marvel, DC, and even indies on this list.

Wow, with all those rules, how did I come up with a great top ten? Well, I hope I did. Anyway, let’s begin the fun!

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Top 5 Best Comics of January 2010

I read 17 comics in January, and these were the best.

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Review: Captain America #600

You’ve got to hand it to Marvel. Even though most of their comics cost 3.99 now, they always make sure you get your money’s worth on the big, anniversary issues. Captain America #600 is a billion pages long, and features an army of artists, most of them great. However, even with all the weight and pretty art, is the giant page-count necessary? I actually don’t think so.

We start off with a two-page reprint from Paul Dini and Alex Ross. It’s great, but it’s a reprint, so who cares? Up next is an “In Memoriam” story (I’m saving Brubaker’s tale for the end). It ends well, but it goes on way too long, and is ultimately just filler. After that comes a story from Mark Waid and the newly Marvel, Dale Eaglesham. This tale promotes memorabilia, and, especially after seeing Pixar’s “Up,” that message seems worthless. The real treat here is to get an early peek at Eaglesham’s Marvel work. It looks great, as always. What follows is a brief letter from Captain America creator, Joe Simon. It too is meaningless filler. And, of course, the issue ends with an old Captain America reprint written by Stan Lee. The problem? It’s not drawn by Jack Kirby! The Kirby estate must have a problem with Marvel. Otherwise, why in the hell wouldn’t Kirby’s art be part of a Captain America anniversary issue?!

Final Word on Bonus Stuff: Skip it, unless you really, really want to see a brief, but bad, Mark Waid and Dale Eaglesham story.

Now, onto the main event. Well, seeing as how this issue came with the Captain America: Reborn news, and the fact that issue #50 didn’t contain anything big, and the expectation that a big, anniversary issue would contain some startling events, you’d think the world would explode, right? Nope. This is one of the two major problems I have with Brubaker’s Cap. It’s too much setup and not enough payoff.

Having said that, I really don’t have many complaints about the story itself. Just, for the love of God, don’t expect anything big, only hints of big things to come. Actually, without all of the hype, this would probably be one of the better Captain America issues. Multiple artists are on board, and if the guests aren’t better than the regular team, at least they don’t suffer from the horrible Frank D’Armata coloring. My favorite guest, of course, is David Aja (Get him a good, regular gig, Marvel). He illustrates a wonderful Crossbones and Sin segment. My other major problem with Brubaker’s Cap is Bucky. Since this issue contains multiple perspectives, we only see a little of him, and we’ll hopefully see even less in the coming months!

Final Word: Stellar main attraction, but due to the bloated page number and price, this issue’s overall quality suffers.

Grade: B-

For more comic goodness, go here.

The best Captain America bonus:

Bruce Castle Presents: Millar vs. Johns!

Wolverine #70

Wolverine #70 (*****)

Okay, this story isn’t going to change the medium. This issue features a “twist” that I saw coming and you probably will too. But that doesn’t stop this from being one hell of a good time. This book rarely comes out (We get the next one in March I believe), but every time it does it’s on the top of my stack. This thing isn’t even in continuity! I should be waiting for the trade! But I don’t care. I experience so much joy whenever I see that “Old Man Logan” tag. Who knew the elderly could be so pleasing? As I said, the Shyamalan twist isn’t that great, but Millar executes it brilliantly. Better yet, he doesn’t dwell on it. The story progresses and we even get a cool last-page-reveal. Of course, as I’m sure even Millar knows, this book wouldn’t be anywhere near what it is without the art team. Steve McNiven, Dexter Vines, Morry Hollowell, I salute you. I’m sure you fine people are responsible for this book’s delays but take your time. I’d rather have Wolverine out twice a year than a rush job. If you aren’t reading this book now, you’re missing out on some wonderful euphoria. Oh well, you guys can still enjoy the trade that comes out next year. Oh, and I love the chosen puppet master behind this issue’s scheme.

Kick Ass #5

Kick-Ass #5 (****)

So, do we all agree that the name, Mark Millar, is synonymous with lateness now? Good God, it’s been like five months since the last issue, right? I had to reread the previous four to get up to speed. Oh well, I can’t really hate this book too much. Although I will say that the bit Millar wrote about the comic coming before the movie is bullshite. This issue’s delay is supposedly due to JRJR’s involvement with drawing the animated movie sequence, but I suspect that isn’t the only thing this new movie has influenced. So, last issue we were introduced to Big Daddy, the character Nicholas Cage is playing. Now we’re introduced to the Red Mist, the character McLovin is playing. It seems like the Red Mist gets a lot more screen time than he was supposed to. Anyway, let’s just say I’m really annoyed that the movie and the comic are being produced at the same time. As for the actual issue, there’s not much to say. If you have loved this book like me, then you’ll probably enjoy this. Millar provides some interesting and funny stuff and JRJR makes things pretty. Can we have the next issue a little quicker this time?

Green Lantern #36

Green Lantern #36 (****)

Must I talk about the lateness in every damn review?! Is this the price I pay for quality? I guess, but what happened here DC? Wasn’t Shane Davis supposed to draw this? Then Doug Mahnke was shown as the artist on the DC website. And now that we actually get it, Ivan Reis is the on the book. WTF!? Shouldn’t Reis be working on Blackest Night? Oh well, Reis, as always, brings the goods. Seriously, I don’t care what you think of Johns, the pictures alone should do it for you. And boy does Reis get to show off this issue. We get to see the Red Lantern world, the Blue Lantern world and the birth of a Pink Lantern. And Reis isn’t the only one who deserves praise. Nei Ruffino, the colorist, also shines as you can imagine. Green, red, blue, he’ll have you wondering if you’ve picked up a Hulk comic by mistake. Hell, even the letterer, Rob Leigh, gets to have fun. That’s right, even the word balloons are outlined in green, blue, and red. This book looks fantastic and Johns continues to build his wonderful cosmic epic.

Justice Society Of America #21 (Variant Cover Edition)

Justice Society of America #22 (***1/2)

And so Johns and Ross’ incredibly long epic concludes. Seriously, this has been about a year and a half in the making. Is it as good as it should be? No, but it’s an entertaining conclusion to a story with limitless potential. I think the main reason for my disappointment is the fact that I failed to realize who was writing my comic. This is Alex Ross and Geoff Johns, these guys live in the past. They, Ross especially, try to tell the same stories they loved as a child. This method is fantastic for kids, but will inevitably leave the rest of us wanting. This is our traditional battle finale. We’ve gotten all that sappy emotion out of the way which makes room for some big combat between the Gods and the men. The fighting ends after some humorous banter and demise of the JSA’s foe. Now we have to get rid of all that Kingdom Come nonsense. Again, KC Superman’s potential seems a bit wasted. Sure he punched a lightning bolt and all that jazz, but for so long he just seemed to blend into the background. Although I will say that Ross, who actually did draw some pages, did give the hero a fitting farewell. I think this review makes it seem like I disliked this issue, but I really did enjoy it. I liked the arc itself even more. Still, as I explained, I can’t help but feel a little sad.

Bruce Castle Presents: The Astounding New JSA!

Astounding Wolf-man #10

Astounding Wolf-Man #10 (****)

This book works. If it was written a different way or the art was worse, it probably wouldn’t. But this book is assembled well. It’s actually monthly now, sweet. There are a lot less words than a normal Kirkman comic, but that’s ok. The art team, Jason Howard and the Plascenia’s, really make things beautiful. Beautiful in that violent monster world kind of way. We’re also treated to some Zachariah backstory. Oh and that last page is kind of sad. I’m finally starting to care about these characters. Please keep the book on time, Kirkman!

New Avengers #47

New Avengers #47 (***1/2)

This has nothing to do with Secret Invasion. There are only two pages that reference the invasion and it’s basically a reprint of those Secret Invasion #8 pages. Why did Billy Tan even draw those new pages? Why didn’t they just insert the images from the main event? It would have looked better at least. Ok, my negativity is out of the way. This was a good issue. It’s about Luke Cage and Jessica Jones. We get the story of how they fell in love. Their interactions are written well and their affection is genuine. Having said that, I’m sure I won’t remember this issue in six months and I doubt I’ll ever read it again. If you’re looking for a Secret Invasion tie-in, look elsewhere. If you want a heartfelt tale about a married couple with a baby, pick this up.

Justice Society Of America #21

Justice Society of America #21 (****)

The penultimate chapter at long last. This is our big action payoff. If you felt JSA has been too talky lately, you should enjoy this. I wish there was a little more to Gog’s confrontation than the standard hero-villain-smackdown, but oh well. We know who all the characters are now, right? We care about them now, right? They were all challenged emotionally, right? This is classic storytelling at its finest. The only problem is that we’ve all kind of seen it before. Alex Ross is a co-writer. But hey, that doesn’t mean it’s bad. That could even mean it’s great, I have to wait until the end of course. This is really only the second JSA story of this series. I guess we need to give Johns some time to set everything up. The Black Adam story is next and how can that not be fantastic? Last thing, did everyone enjoy getting JSA books five weeks in a row? That was kind of nice after some of the lateness this year.

Bruce Castle Presents: Kingdom Come Magog vs. Invincible Conan

JSA Kingdom Come Special Magog #1 (Variant Cover Edition)

JSA Kingdom Come Special: Magog (****1/2)

Ah villain comics, how I love you. This is the cool part too, before they become a villain. In fact, I’m pretty sure we witness Magog’s transformation here. “Once the course of a river’s changed, it’ll never be the same”, sounds like it, right? I think Tomasi is a pretty good writer. His heroes are mediocre but his villains are fantastic. He’s in his element here and he really delivers. Both of these Kingdom Come specials have punched me in the gut and I hope Johns can continue that next week.

Invincible #55

Invincible #55 (*****)

This issue opens with Mark and Eve having sex and so of course that means we check up on Allen the Alien. Am I the only one who wants Invincible to get laid more? First off, that expression on the bottom of the first page was hilarious when Eve warped off their clothes. Second, Allen the Alien is awesome! This issue’s events have been in the motion for a looong time, but I couldn’t be happier with the turnout. Actually, I’m glad that this took so long because now we have FCO (Yes I’m bringing it up again!) on board to really make things pretty. This is a prison breakout baby! A lot of fighting and awesomeness hooray! Oh and Battle Beast returned! Do people still remember him?

Conan the Cimmerian #5

Conan the Cimmerian #5 (****)

The enjoyment continues! “The Wolf’s Promise” is an apt title. This issue is all about promises. Truman not only provides entertainment, he also has me intrigued. Will Caollan join Conan’s adventures? That’d be awesome. I do love a badass chick, but what about the baby? Will Conan meet up with Connacht soon? See, it’s interesting. Oh and of course the art has to be good with all that action right? Well, Giorello and Corben definitely deliver. Man, this has been a great year for Corben. He did a fantastic Hellboy mini and some Conan interiors, how cool? Oh and I usually forget to mention it but these Frank Cho covers rock. How can you not read this book?

Bruce Castle Presents: DC Comics Rule!

Final Crisis Resist #1 (Cover B)

Final Crisis: Resist (*****)

I’m starting to sound like a broken record aren’t I? I just can’t help it! This is another Final Crisis related comic that I love. I never read Rucka’s run on Checkmate (Hell, I haven’t even read all of Queen & Country!), but this issue definitely makes me want to. This comic has it all! Do you think Sasha Bordeaux, Mr. Terrific, Cheetah and Snapper Carr are cool? Probably not, but thanks to Rucka’s fantastic writing you will after this! I just love the situation these heroes are in. Few against many? Check. Heroes fighting heroes? Check. Love and sacrifice? Check. In the beginning of the book I had no hope and by the end I felt like these guys could actually resist (Oh yeah I used the titular word). Rucka even managed to make me laugh a few times along the way. And of course, Ryan Sook rocks the art. Sorry Johns, but Rucka is definitely writing the better tie-ins (Especially since they actually TIE-IN to Final Crisis in a meaningful way).

Justice Society Of America #20 (Eaglesham Variant Edition)

Justice Society of America #20 (***1/2)

This issue is definitely a weak link. It’s not bad, but when every other issue (except maybe those Lightning Saga ones) is so great, this one looks a little bad. Johns has proved himself to be an excellent juggler on this series. There are so many cast members and yet they all have their great moments, but Johns finally slips on the plot. Ever since the Annual, that Earth 2 story has been running alongside the Gog arc. That’s worked well until now, but the complete absence of Gog bothered me a bit. I’d be more forgiving if the Earth 2 business had concluded. However, you did read that star count correctly. This is a good issue. There are still those magical character moments (The best involves Mr. Terrific. Hey! Isn’t he fighting for his life right now?) and Dale Eaglesham does make the book look pretty. Maybe what’s bothering me is the fact that it doesn’t really feel like an arc has concluded in JSA since the first one 16 issues ago!

Secret Six #3 (*****)

I don’t like to have two five star ratings in the same post, but they are both so awesome! I’ve already tossed out enough compliments in my FC Resist review and I’d prefer not to repeat adjectives. I love this book. I would even say that this is the book Gail Simone was born to write and Nicola Scott provides some phenomenal art. Do people realize how awesome Scott is yet? These women know their psychotic killers! Hey! Cheetah is in here!? Shouldn’t she be fighting for her life too? Not only is this book a lot of fun, it also has a really creepy villain! For those who have already read this, how awesome was Junior with that pink umbrella!?