Rated | Alphabetical
| 2003 | 2002
As usual, this list differs from other
Shaking Through Top 10 lists in that it's compiled by committee
(albeit a committee of two), and sticks to a pretty narrow focus:
graphic novels or compilations/trade paperback collections released
during the calendar year. (Mini-series or individual issues of ongoing
comic series are not eligible.) This list may seem even more arbitrary
than usual, given the omission of DC Comics' Identity Crisis
hardcover (we enjoyed the series, but we're waiting for the paperback,
and hopefully writer Brad Meltzer's name won't feature so prominent on
the cover -- c'mon, he's not that big a star; not even Kevin
Smith gets his name printed that large) and Charles Burns' Black Hole
(we just haven't read it yet). So caveat emptor: Herewith follows
a subjective list of the best comics books we happened to read last
year. -- Kevin Forest Moreau, Subjectively
The culmination of Alan Moore's fantastic tale of magic and imagination
marks Promethea as a disappointingly unheralded masterwork, equal
to (if not better than) Neil Gaiman's Sandman series and even
Moore's own Watchmen. Yeah, that's right, we said it.
Like Joe Sacco's other comic-book dispatches from
the former Yugoslavia, the two stories in this slim, never-more-timely
volume come to vivid life, thanks to his reporter's eye for detail and
for the heartbreaking human cost of war.
Alex Robinson's follow-up to the rightly lauded Box Office Poison
is a richly drawn examination of issues of truth and trust that traces
six very different but interconnected people. Their coming together
ultimately feels contrived, but Robinson's deft characterizations keep
flawed but powerful memoir of Harvey Pekar's formative years affords a
warts-and-all look at the events and personality traits that have made
the author who he is. Kudos to Pekar for bravely baring many of his
less-than-flattering aspects, even if he never seems to draw any lessons
from the telling.
Between Y: The Last Man and this engrossing tale of a New York
mayor who happens to have formerly been the world's only superhero,
Brian K. Vaughan more than earns his reputation as one of the most
creative and compelling writers in comics today.
One colleague of ours once playfully dubbed Astro City writer
Kurt Busiek "the Raymond Carver of superhero comics." Certainly these
short stories, filled with believable characters undergoing moving
epiphanies, are as thoughtful and literary as superhero comics get --
and that's a lot.
need to be a huge fan of the late, great Carl Barks to enjoy his
successor Don Rosa's loving tribute to Barks' classic Scrooge McDuck
stories. Nor do you have to be a kid to appreciate this thoroughly
charming "origin story" worthy, we dare say, of Barks himself.
In anyone else's hands, 1602's high-concept premise -- the heroes
of Marvel Comics' early years transposed to the early 1600s -- could
have been a disaster. Neil Gaiman, however, crafts a winning tale that
draws on the same knack for historical-based fantasy that made his
Sandman an instant classic.
As he did with Hawkman, Geoff Johns salvages a beloved character
tarnished by questionable decisions on the part of past writers and
editorial staffs. The ease with which he plausibly (and lovingly)
restores this classic hero to glory shows why he's DC's brightest star
mini-series from Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely is a charming novelty
about domestic pets transformed by the U.S. government into cybernetic
killing machines. The unique premise wears thin pretty early, but if you
don't look too hard for plausibility or deep meaning, the fertile
imagination on display warrants repeat visits.
|Notable near misses:
The New Avengers: Breakout (Marvel): Brian Michael Bendis begins his
overhaul of Marvel's premier (if under-appreciated) superteam, adding a
welcome underdog edge and shadings of sinister conspiracy.
Marvel Knights 4 Vol. 2: The Stuff of Nightmares (Marvel):
Playwright Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa continues his own Marvel overhaul,
this one of the Fantastic Four, concentrating on the team's human side
instead of cosmic action. The best FF book published today.
Marvel Team-Up Vol. 1: The Golden Child (Marvel): Robert Kirkman
lets his silly side loose on this team-up book, but it's not just
silliness for its own sake. Moments of quiet, comic humanity prove that
Marvel should give him his own Spider-Man title, pronto.
Ultimate Galactus Book 1: Nightmare (Marvel): While a bit
slow-moving, this first volume of Warren Ellis' Ultimate-world take on
Marvel's cosmic, planet-eating antagonist has all the twists and
technological jargon we expect from him. Much better than the
disappointing second installment.
Ultimates 2 Vol. 1: Gods and Monsters (Marvel): More wide-screen
action and intrigue from Mark Millar and Bryan Hitch, whose Ultimate
take on the Avengers proves they're a team as formidable as Morrison and
Quitely. We'll try to keep an open mind, but we'll be sad when this
title passes into the much more conventional, mainstream hands of Jeph
Loeb and Joe Maduera.
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