Written PostTop 15 Comic Books of 2008!

Top 15 Comic Books of 2008!

Well, I hope you enjoyed my lists of the Top 10 TV Shows and the Top 10 Movies 0f 2008.

But, you know, EVERYONE writes those sorts of top 10 lists!  So today, I wanted to send some love in the direction of the best comic books that I read in 2008.  2008 was a PHENOMENAL year for comics, with a lot of great material out there.  Here’s what I felt was the best of the best.

15.  Top 10: Season 2 (issues #1-3 published in 2008) — One of Alan Moore (Watchmen, V For Vendetta)’s greatest works of the past decade was the first “season” of Top 10, published between 1999 and 2001.  It chronicled the efforts of a police force in a bizarre city that seemed to be a meeting point for all sorts of fantasy characters from comics, TV shows, and movies.  Although Mr. Moore has not returned for this second installment, talented writer Zander Cannon along with returning artist Gene Ha have crafted a story every bit as weird, complex, and compelling as Mr. Moore’s original.  Ha’s art remains staggeringly complex and detailed, filled with lots of fun surprises in the background for an attentive reader.

14.  Detective Comics #846-850, “Heart of Hush” — Although Grant Morrison’s “Batman: R.I.P.” storyline over in Batman got all the attention this year, it was writer Paul Dini (one of the guiding forces behind the amazing Batman: The Animated Series) who was behind my favorite Batman story of 2008.  Enigmatic villain Hush returns with a complex scheme to take down the Dark Kight, while in a series of flashbacks we learn how the friendship between young Bruce Wayne and Tommy Elliott went wrong.  Throw in Catwoman and gorgeous art by Dustin Nguyen, and you have a classic.  (Collected edition available here.)

13.  Ultimate Spider-Man (issues 116-128 published in 2008) — I cannot believe how much I continue to enjoy this Spider-Man book.  Guided by the incredible writing of Brian Michael Bendis, who has been writing this reinvention of Spider-Man since issue #1, this is everything a super-hero comic book should be.  It is filled with great action, terrific humor, and incredible continuity and character development.  I don’t know of any comic that is consistently more fun, and the fact that such a high standard of quality has been maintained for 128 issues and counting is amazing.  (The entire run of USM is available in collected editions.  Here is the latest.)

12.  Stephen King’s The Dark Tower (issues 1-5 of “The Long Road Home” and 1-4 of “Treachery” published in 2008) — A complex but coherent story and absolutely gorgeous art by Jae Lae and Richard Isanove characterize this adaptation and expansion of the back-story of Stephen King’s The Dark Tower series of novels.  The richness of the world that has been created rivals that of The Lord of The Rings.  Extra props for the extensive back-up features found in every issue.  (Collected edition of “The Long Road Home” is available here.)

11.  Fantastic Four #554-562 — With their “Worlds Finest” storyline that began in issue #554, writer Mark Millar and artist Bryan Hitch have returned this long-running Marvel series to greatness.  Millar’s tales are modern and yet also retro, recapturing the feel of FF comics from the 60’s in which every issue would feature big new ideas, characters, and adventures, and Hitch’s hyper-detailed artwork is eye-candy of the greatest kind.  (Collected edition of their first story-arc is available here.)

10.  Kick-Ass (issues #1-5 published in 2008) — You’ll be hearing a lot more about this comic series in 2009, as it’s being made into a movie directed by Matthew Vaughn (Layer Cake, Stardust).  Set in a world like ours, in which super-heroes exist only in the pages of comic books, Kick-Ass follows young Dave Lizewski, a boy who decides to become a super-hero.  Much mayhem follows.  Much, much mayhem.

9.  Young Liars (issues #1-11 published in 2008) — David Lapham (Stray Bullets) returns to the world of black-and-white comics!  The sprawling story (that constantly jumps around in time) follows a group of young twenty-somethings of dubious morality on a mind-bending adventure involving stolen art, rock and roll, and, um, spider-men from Mars.  Yeah, it’s weird.  Extra appreciation to Mr. Lapham for managing to see eleven issues published in 2008, quite a feat!  (The first six issues are collected here.)

8.  RASL (issues #1-3 published in 2008) — After completing his magnificent epic, Bone, Jeff Smith began this bizarre tale involving a thief with the ability to travel between parallel universes.  The story is just beginning to unfold, but I am already hooked by Smith’s energetic illustrations and the sci-fi tinged story.  I just wish new issues came out more often!  (And no, readers don’t yet know quite what the title of the series means…)  (Collected edition available here.)

7.  Hellboy/B.P.R.D. — Through a series of mini-series and one-shots, Mike Mignola and a talented group of collaborators have continued to expand and move forward the stories of Hellboy and his former partners at the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense.  Special notice must be made of Guy Davis’ work on the B.P.R.D. series — he has a style that is completely unique, and perfect for the book.  The man can draw anything.  And 2008 also saw Mike Mignola return to the drawing table for the Hellboy one-shot “In The Chapel of Moloch”!  Absolutely outstanding work, all around.  Click here for my full review of the last several years worth of Hellboy and B.P.R.D. adventures.  (Collected edition of the latest B.P.R.D. series, “The Warning,” is available here.)

6.  Ex Machina (issues #32-40 published in 2008) — Mitchell Hundred was once a super-hero known as the Great Machine.  After 9/11, he successfully ran to become the mayor of New York.  Brian K. Vaughan and Tony Harris’ story combines politics, exploration of character, and a little bit of super-hero action and sci-fi weirdness into a ceaselessly entertaining mix.  The stories never go where I expect them to, and I love the series even more because of that.  (The latest collected edition is available here.)

5.  1985 — A magical, engrossing tale of a young boy who starts seeing characters from his beloved Marvel comics pop up in his regular life, this mini-series tapped into a well of nostalgia for the Marvel comics I loved as a kid when I started reading them in the late eighties.  The story is enhanced by Tommy Lee Edwards’ amazing illustrations.  I’ve never read a comic quite like this.  Read my full review of 1985 here.  (Collected edition available here.)

4.  Criminal (issues #1-7 of Criminal Volume 2 were published in 2008) — I first discovered the team of writer Ed Brubaker and artist Sean Phillips when they were working on the much-acclaimed (but I guess little read) series Sleeper for Wildstorm Comics a number of years back.  As good as that work was, Criminal is even more engaging.  There are no super-heroes to be found here — Criminal is hard-boiled noir of a type I don’t think I’ve ever before seen in comics.  Criminal kicked off 2008 with a trio of extra-length stories that were each stand-alone tales, but that linked together to tell a larger story set in 1972. Those three tales (available in a collected edition called The Dead and the Dying) established some powerful and poignant back-story for the characters introduced in Criminal Volume 1.  Then, issues 4-7 told the tale of a former counterfeiter for whom a chance interaction at a diner leads to a whole lot of trouble.  The world of Criminal is filled with vivid characters, most of whom are pretty sorry sons-of-bitches who have made a lot of bad choices in life.  This is a marvelous series, and I hope that Brubaker and Phillips continue telling these stories for a long time to come.

3.  Daredevil (issues #102-114 published in 2008) — Ed Brubaker (just mentioned as the author of Criminal) shows that he is just as skilled at writing super-heroes as he continues to spin yarns about the blind hero of Hell’s Kitchen, Daredevil.  Brubaker has been making Matt Murdock’s life a living hell for quite some time now, and I am loving every minute of it.  His partner in this endeavor is artist Michael Lark, whose gritty work creates the tough, unhappy New York streets in which Brubaker’s stories are set.  (The latest collected edition is available here.)

2.  Joss Whedon’s Astonishing X-Men (issues #23, 24, and Giant-Sized Astonishing X-Men were published in 2008) —  This is sort of a cheat, as only the final 3 issues of Joss Whedon’s story were published in 2008, but they were without question some of the very best comics I have read in years.  I grew up loving the X-Men, but I have felt for a long, long time now (since the mid 90’s), that the various X-Men comics had all lost some of the magic that made Chris Claremont’s lengthy run on the title so special.  Then came Joss Whedon (known as the creator and show-runner for Buffy the Vampire Slayer & Firefly), who crafted an astounding tale that reminded me of every reason why I used to love these characters.   No one can breathe life into special-but-misunderstood youths quite like Mr. Whedon, and the astoundingly evocative illustrations by John Cassaday were only icing on the cake.  Read my full review of Whedon’s run here.  (Collected Edition of Volume I of Whedon’s run is found here, and Volume II is found here.)

1.  All-Star Superman (issues # 10-12 were published in 2008) — Another series that only saw it’s final few issues published in 2008, All Star Superman nevertheless rises above every other comic that I read this year.  Just as Joss Whedon was able to channel everything iconic and beloved about the X-Men into his run on Astonishing X-Men, so too were Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely able to synthesize 50 years worth of different interpretations of Superman into what I consider to be a truly classic version of the character.  They told a complex tale, but were able to stick the landing and wrap everything up into a satisfying conclusion.  In many ways this series was designed to be their version of the LAST Superman story (as in, what might the final issues of a Superman comic ever be like should DC decide to stop publishing it), but what I wouldn’t give for another few issues from these fine gentlemen.  Read my full review here.  (Collected edition of Volume I of the series is found here, and Volume II is found here.)

Whew!  Quite a list of good stuff, there.  If you’re interested, follow the links and pick up some of the collections that are available through Amazon.  They’re well worth your time.

On Friday, we’ll wrap up my look back at 2008 with my list of the Top 10 DVDs of 2008! See you then!