Top Ten Best Comics of 2010

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I’m actually getting this thing out on time? It’s a Kwanzaa miracle! This is my list for the top ten stories of 2010! 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 2010. They could begin at any time, but as long as they concluded in 2010, 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 Ennis 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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The Unread Canon #11: Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World

It is my very learned opinion that Bryan Lee O’Malley made an excellent choice in the structure of his first two “Scott Pilgrim” books.  In the first book, we didn’t have much ground to stand on in regards to the character-based drama/comedy, and so those bits fall at least a little bit flat.  In return, however, O’Malley gave us one of the coolest comic book fight scenes I’ve ever seen.  In Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World, however, the fight is almost an afterthought to the growing supporting cast, but because of what he started building in Scott Pilgrim’s Precious Little Life, the focus on Scott’s weird friends and weirder world just flat-out works.

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Mini-Reviews

Immortal Weapons #4

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Four issues in and Immortal Weapons continues to be woefully inconsistent.  Given the nature of the book’s shifting creative teams, that comes as no surprise, but I am beginning to see the flaws in the strategy as I begin to imagine a collected edition.  Is it worth buying the ill-conceived stories for the heartbreaking ones?  This issue is by no means as bad as “Bride of Nine Spiders” was – it is at the very least a coherent martial arts story featuring the titular character, Tiger’s Beautiful Daughter.  It is exciting and fun, and has a few big action sequences that are well-illustrated.

It is also remarkably slight and about as cheesecake-y as a book can be.  Artist Khari Evans does a fine job illustrating a culture of bikini’d warrior women with all the requisite bounce and heft – and also a strikingly consistent sense of tone and design, surprisingly – but the story is beyond slight, almost to the point of nonsense.  Fun nonsense, granted, but where Evans brings consistency, the best Swierczynski offers is chaos.

The back-up feature continues to move quickly forward as a quick bit of ‘intuitive deduction’ – read: plot crunch – reveals the true fate of Jada’s younger brother.  With Foreman off art, the back-up continues to suffer as Hatuey Diaz’s shaggy, cartoonish style doesn’t fit any of the tones Swierczynski seems to be going for.

Grade: B

Secret Six #15

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John Ostrander comes onto Secret Six, the first writer other than Simone to deal with the book since its revival in Villains United.  Some readers may balk at the fact that he has largely shied away from Simone’s familiar offbeat humor without abandoning any of the book’s signature darkness, but Ostrander knows his strengths – and knows his character – and instead turns the book into an introspective character study of Deadshot, in many ways the team’s most heartless member.

With Calafiore doing a stellar job on art, Ostrander takes us deep into Deadshot’s damaged mind.  The pair work well together, especially in the one-panel shots of Deadshot-Vision we occasionally get, a cold reality in which we see the deaths of everyone in the room at his hands.  The issue has its flaws, including some seemingly trite pop psychology and a so-so origin story retelling, but its core is rock solid… and, to be quite frank, more than a little chilling.

Grade: B+

Stumptown #1

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The recent, excellent resurgence of the crime comic comes largely at the hands of three writers: Brian Azzarello, Ed Brubaker, and, finally, Greg Rucka.  With Stumptown, Rucka returns to ONI Press, who published his stellar Whiteout and Queen and Country, for another crime comic with an earthy female protagonist in over her head.  While Rucka is in some ways becoming predictable, Stumptown #1 displays the benefits of such predictability: it’s polished and experienced, a rock solid introduction to a new title.

Matthew Southworth and Lee Loughridge, Rucka’s partners here, do a great job on art.  The panel layouts are simple but extremely effective, while the art is expressive without losing the darkness we expect of a crime comic.  Dex, the P.I. in charge of Stumptown Investigations, is a well-realized heroine with an already-growing supporting cast, all excellently illustrated.  An excellent, traditional entry into the ever-growing pile of great modern crime comics.

Grade: A-

Doctor Voodoo: Avenger of the Supernatural #2

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After a remarkably solid opening issue, Remender and Palo drop the ball quickly with this second issue.  Picking up after his confrontation with Dr. Doom last issue, Voodoo is stranded in another dimension, one in which his powers are severely hampered… and in which resides a powerful foe for the new Sorcerer Supreme.  It’s a remarkable coincidence that leaves Voodoo stranded here, unless Doom was working for/with the issue’s surprise villain, but its one that’s never visited.  The action is brief but effective, but the book’s twist is ineffective at best, and the backround we get on Jericho this issue feels fairly out of place here.

Palo (joined by Gabriel Hardman on art) seems to have lost some of last month’s visceral energy, but he remains the book’s star player.  His illustrations of a nightmare New Orleans are memorable,  as are the monstrous designs of Nightmare’s horde, but the art feels more rushed here, despite a momentum-killing origin-story in the middle of the issue.  Hopefully, the team can regain some of the momentum of their opening issue soon.

Grade: C+

– Cal Cleary

Secret Six #13

Immortal Weapons #3

Doctor Voodoo: Avenger of the Supernatural #1

Review: The Big Book of Barry Ween, Boy Genius

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Judd Winick is now a fairly controversial creator in comics, joining Loeb, Liefeld, Land and a few others that have camps of admirers nearly as fervent as their camps of detractors.  But while Loeb, Liefeld and Land all enjoyed a great deal of mainstream popularity that built them up a lot of goodwill over the years, the two books that got Winick recognized were small indie comics written and drawn by him.  The first and most famous, Pedro & Me is a heartfelt look back on one of Winick’s dead friends, Pedro Zamora.  The other is far more of a cult success… and a far stronger book altogether.  That was his run on the four-volume The Adventures of Barry Ween, Boy Genius, now collected by Oni Press into a single massive volume.

Barry Ween is a young genius in the vein of Dexter from Cartoon Network’s Dexter’s Laboratory, except inched slightly closer to our world and rated a hard R.  The Adventures of Barry Ween followed the titular character, a pre-teen super-genius that could make Reed Richards look like an idiot and Dr. Doom seem downright benevolent at times, through a series of random, hilarious story arcs that flesh out Ween’s mad world.

Though the humor is indescribably juvenile, the emotion behind it is anything but.  As the series goes on, you begin to notice the little things about Barry – his loyalty to his friends, his conviction in ultimately doing what’s right, and his willingness to put himself in harm’s way to help others, to name a few.  These small moments build up into a heart-breaking climax that raises the book above being a slight, fun book into a great comedy with surprising honesty.

Grade: A

– Cal Cleary

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