Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The Best of the 00's - Danny's Best Comics of the Decade!

And so my BEST OF THE DECADE series continues. If you haven't already, check out my previous post which listed the best TV series of the 00's. Now though, I'm going to turn my attention to the world of comics (or graphic novels, or sequential storytelling, or whatever you want to call it). So if you're a fanboy, fangirl, or just curious about the medium that's produced some of the biggest entertainment franchises of this decade, keep reading.

Safety goggles on? Geek credentials locked and loaded? Good, then let's get to it ...


- It's been a great decade, creatively, for comics. If anything, I'd characterize the 00's as a return to great storytelling from a medium that, in the 90's, nearly crashed and burned due to an overreliance on flashy art and gimmicks that tried to exploit the then-booming collector's market. In the 00's, comics once again became less about collectors and more about readers, and that was great to see. I think that, in a way, Hollywood reminded the comic book industry how great it could be. Throughout the 90's, DC and Marvel tried to lure in readers with headline-making stories that were more sizzle than substance. And that tactic resulted in short-term sales boosts, but ultimately led to a near-implosion of the industry. At the same time, Hollywood adaptations of Spiderman, X-Men, Batman, and others reminded fans and industry insiders alike that comics shouldn't be about sales gimmicks, but about great characters, classic stories, and exciting adventures filled with imagination and wonder. The resulting synergy between Hollywood and comics has had some measure of negative after-effects, but by and large it's resulted in a lot of great things. We've seen Hollywood-bred talent like Joss Whedon and Kevin Smith cross over into comics. We've seen established comic book talent like Neil Gaiman and Warren Ellis move into film and TV. And we've seen a new breed of talented writers - from Geoff Johns to Brian K. Vaughan to J. Michael Stracynski - who work in comics, movies, television, and even games. I love that comics are now a writer-driven medium. That's not to say that there hasn't been some stunning, spectacular art produced in the 00's though. It's been awesome to see old pros like George Perez and Jim Lee produce career-defining work, even as new and unique talents like Ivan Reiss, J.H. Williams, and Frank Quietly rose to prominence. In short, I think the story of comics in the 00's was twofold. Firstly, there were some amazing comics produced this decade, in a wide variety of genres, and from a diverse array of talent. There were fresh spins on old favorites, and all-new stories and characters that will go down as all-time favorites. We had great takes on Superman and Batman and The Flash, but you can add new characters like Yorick Brown, Mitchell Hundred, Elijah Snow, and Bigby Wolf to the mix as well. Secondly, comics infiltrated pop culture in the 00's in a way that they haven't since the Golden Age in the 1930's and 40's. New generations of kids and teens discovered comics and comic characters - in movies and TV, sure - but also from the books themselves. When I go to a Barnes & Noble now, I see giant sections of graphic novels and manga collections. Kids and teens are sitting in the aisles reading and talking. Websites like IGN and The AV Club and Ain't It Cool News, and even Entertainment Weekly, are covering comics now. People are reading the new stuff, and they're rediscovering the classics (I was floored by the number of people who seemed to be reading Watchmen earlier this year). Events like the San Diego Comic-Con erupted into pop-cultural tentpoles, and in recent years has been flooded by kids and teens, old fans and new, guys and girls alike. But amidist all that great exposure, I think it's important to acknowledge the books themselves. Because at the end of the day, there's nothing like curling up with a tangible object that you are holding in your hands, navigating the unique combination of words and pictures, and letting your imagination take you to new and uncharted corners of the world.

So here are the comics that most captivated me this decade. Rather than distinguish between ongoing series, miniseries, one-shots, graphic novels, etc., I'm just going to call out specific "runs" - basically a catch-all term that encompasses all of the above. Hopefully that lets me keep things pretty simple. And of course, the great thing about comics is that there is so much top-notch stuff out there that it's impossible for anyone to read all of it. There's always new material to discover, and there's clearly many great books from the last ten years that I haven't yet tried. Anyways, here are my picks ...


1. Y: The Last Man

- Y is a landmark comic book series for a number of reasons. First and foremost, it was an epic, memorable, genre-defining story. Writer Brian K Vaughan blended action, adventure, humor, and social satire to tell the tale of Yorick Browne, the last man on earth in the wake of a genetically-selective plague that leaves the earth solely populated (with one notable exception) by women. Building on the cinematic storytelling style of comics like Preacher, Y took full advantage of the medium's serialized nature, often ending issues with stunning cliffhangers. At the same time, Y is one of the most accessible comics ever, I think. If someone - be it a guy or a girl, a comics vet or newcomer - asked me for one modern comic to read and use as a potential gateway into the medium, I'd whole-heartedly recommend Y. It's a great story that's smart, funny, and filled with memorable characters. And in the last ten years, there was no comic I enjoyed reading on a regular basis moreso than Y: The Last Man.

2. The Walking Dead

- I was late to the party with The Walking Dead. I had heard about it, sure, but I didn't read it until one fateful day when I discovered a stash of the graphic novels at work, where they were being read by development execs considering turning this epic undead saga into a TV series. And imagining TWD as a TV series is no big stretch (and it's currently back on the development slate for AMC). It's an absolutely riveting story of post-zombie-apocalypse survival, that is so intense, so brutal, and so shocking that I tend to read each new graphic novel in a single sitting. Once I start, I simply can't put the book down. Writer Robert Kirkman has been one of the best new voices to emerge in comics in the 00's. His writing is deceptively simple - his character speak very plainly, and his plotlines often play off of well-established genre conventions. But Kirkman has a way of escalating tension to the breaking point. His characters don't feel conventionally comic-bookish, so when crazy things happen to them, the effect is that much more shocking. Kirkman is a master of writing about real-feeling people in absolutely insane situations, and nowhere is that more apparent than in the nightmarish, zombie-infested world of The Walking Dead.

3. Fables

- Fables is one of those great story ideas that would probably only have come out of the comic book medium. The premise? All the storybook and fairytale characters ever written about are real - they've been exiled from their homelands thanks to an evil Adversary, and now live secretly among us in our world. As written by Bill Willingham, Fables began with a bang, practically overflowing with imaginative concepts and intriguing plot twists. Part of the brilliance was how Willingham turned familiar characters upside down - Bigby Wolf was a gruff private eye, Snow White a take-no-prisoners businesswoman, and Prince Charming a sleazy-yet-charismatic womanizer. Featuring brilliant art by Mark Buckingham, and iconic covers by James Jean, Fables eventually escalated into a full-on war-story, as the exiled characters went to war to reclaim their homelands. Through it all, it remained (and remains) one of the most compelling concepts ever in comicdom. And by the way - titles like Fables and Y: The Last Man stand as a testament to the continued quality of DC Comics' Vertigo imprint, which remained a consistent source of top-quality, out-of-the-box comics in the 00's.

4. All-Star Superman

- It's hard to create vital new stories around a seventy-year-old character, but somehow, Grant Morrison and Frank Quietly created one of the all-time great Superman stories with All-Star Superman. Morrison's penchant for surreal weirdness can often prove to be a detriment when he tries to tackle conventional superhero storytelling, but somehow, he brought just the right amount of quirky retro-futurism to All-Star to make it work. It helped that the stylized-yet-iconic art from Frank Quietly was absolutely stunning. But All-Star, a self-contained story which tells of Superman's last days on earth, was both a celebration of Silver Age, high-concept craziness and a modernist look at the existential crises involved in being a super man in a not-so-super world. DC's All-Star line (meant to be iconic, self-contained reimaginings of its most famous heroes) never quite fell into place as planned, but All-Star Superman was never really about fitting into any kind of line or marketing push - it ended up simply being Morrison and Quietly's uniquely trippy, yet oddly definitive, version of the legendary Superman.

5. Green Lantern (by Geoff Johns)

- My first couple of picks on this list are all over the place in terms of tone and genre, and I think as a whole my top picks reflect some of the diversity that made comics in the 00's about a lot more than just superheroes-as-usual. That said, if you like straight-up, action-packed, operatic, superhero storytelling, than Geoff Johns is the writer for you, and his crown jewel thus far has been his epic work on Green Lantern over the last several years. GL in the 90's was one of the most controversial books in comics, as Silver Age standby Hal Jordan went insane, turned evil, died, and was replaced by a young upstart named Kyle Rayner. Kyle's solo adventures continued into the 00's, but the interest in the franchise generated by 90's-era controversy was beginning to wane. Enter Johns, and his unparalleled knack for polishing off dusty concepts and making them feel exciting again, all the while paying a meticulous amount of respect to prior continuity and storylines. With the GL mythos, Johns faced the supreme challenge of making Hal Jordan a hero again, making that work organically with what had gone before, and also keeping the interest of newer fans who came onboard during the Kyle years. Somehow, Johns not only accomplished this, but in doing so he (along with amazing artists like Ethan Van Sciver and Ivan Reiss) revitalized GL into a cosmic epic of Star Wars proportions. From Rebirth to the Sinestro Corps War and now with Blackest Night, Johns has crafted a gigantic superhero trilogy bigger and crazier than anything Hollywood could have dreamed up.

6. Planetary

- Before there was Heroes or Fringe, there was Planetary, a sprawling science fiction adventure from the mind of Warren Ellis, featuring the dynamic and realistic art of superstar penciller John Cassidy. There were a lot of factors that made Planetary - billed as a guide to the hidden secrets of the universe - one of the most fascinating and compelling comics of the decade. One was the mind-expanding mythology, which built on some of pop-culture's biggest characters and legends (Sherlock Holmes, Dracula, Doc Savage, Batman), claiming that all the great stories were true, and all the legendary characters existed in some form somewhere in the vast expanse of the multiverse. Planetary proposed that all of it was true - an outrageous concept - but also one that Ellis somehow made believable, thanks to his use of physics and hard science in his stories (a tactic later employed by Fringe). Planetary also beat Heroes to the punch in terms of a mythology that saw a defining millenial event create a new era of human evolution, in which all sorts of people began to manifest powers and abilities. One such person was Elijah Snow, the badass hero of Planetary. Paired with the amazonian Jaquita Wagner and the silent genius known as The Drummer, Elijah was our guide on a fascinating journey to the farthest reaches of the universe and back. Rarely have ruminations on quantum theory been this awesome.

7. Gotham Central

- When you talk about the best comics writers of the decade, two names are clearly on the shortlist: Greg Rucka and Ed Brubaker. Both have done seminal works both for DC and Marvel and on the inependent scene, but perhaps my favorite work of either writer was their collaboration on Gotham Central - an outstanding series that followed the day to day lives of the police department of one of the roughest and toughest cities in all of fiction. Gotham Central was dark, moody, and had its share of action, mystery, and noirish crime drama. But at the end of the day, it was a landmark series due to its memorable cast of characters. Rucka and Brubaker gave life to a whole slew of cops and detectives - Renee Montoya, Crispus Allen, Josie Mac, and many more. They wrote great stories around established Bat-characters like Jim Gordon and Harvey Bullock. And they made the GCPD into a living, breathing corner of the DC Universe. If the idea of The Shield or NYPD Blue set in the Batman universe sounds intriguing, then check out Gotham Central.

8. Supreme Power

- Deconstruction of classic superhero archtypes has been a staple of comics since the 80's, when Alan Moore and Frank Miller ushered in the era of grim n' gritty comics with books like Watchmen and The Dark Knight Returns. By the 00's, those types of stories were already something of a cliche, and the overall trend was more towards classical, straight-forward heroes following the foil-embossed hype machine of the 90's. That said, Supreme Power, expertly written by the acclaimed J. Michael Stracynski, was a cinematic, totally badass update on another 80's deconstruction project - Squadron Supreme - Marvel's more-realistic version of DC's Justice League. With Supreme Power, JMS reimagines Superman, Batman, and other classic characters in a grittier, more real-world setting. How would our government react to an alien, superpowered being? How would a street vigilante operating outside the law actually be dealt with by the authorities? Supreme Power tackles these questions with style and gravitas (and awesome artwork from Gary Frank to boot).

9. Manhunter

- Manhunter is a character that dates back to the 1940's, and is perhaps best known from the classic Archie Goodwin-written stories from the 70's. But in the 00's, Manhunter was updated for the new millenium, thanks to breakout writer Mark Andreyko. In this new version, Manhunter was Kate Spencer, an LA-based lawyer and single mom who grew increasingly frustrated with the criminal justice system. Upon discovering a secret cache of discarded, superheroic weapons and armor, Kate took up the storied mantle of Manhunter, and took to the streets as a hardcore, take-no-prisoners vigilante. Andreyko wrote the series with the wit and sophistication of the best TV dramas, and Kate was easily one of the best new hero characters to emerge this decade - flawed, aging, coarse - yet still tough as nails. The series also had a great supporting cast of characters, featuring unexpected ties to past DC Comics continuity, and fan favorites like Cameron Chase and the Department of Extranormal Operations. In addition, the sleek art of Jesus Saiz was moody and realistic.

10. The League of Extraordinary Gentleman

- For whatever reason, the 00's saw a number of comics that reinterpreted classic literary characters, many of these comics surprisingly great. I've already talked about Fables and Planetary, but how could I leave out one of the great Alan Moore works of this decade? Please, forget all about the crappy movie adaptation, and go back and read the graphic novels on which they are based. Because what Alan Moore does with The League, as only he can, is to create a living, breathing, literary world that is also a rip-roaring adventure. Mind-bending, vulgar, funny, and complex, The League is everything you'd expect from one of the most legendary minds in comics history. Yes kids, this one is proof that comics can be fun AND educational.


11. Superman: "What's So Funny About Truth, Justice, and the American Way?"

- This one is unique on my list in that this spot goes to a single issue of Action Comics, #775, written in March, 2001 by Joe Kelly. While Joe Kelly's run as a contributing writer to the Superman comics was a distinguished and noteworthy one, it is this single issue that stands out as a superlative story in the history of Superman. In the oversized story, Superman has a climactic confrontation with the group of antiheroes known as The Elite, led by the charismatic Manchester Black. On live TV, Superman and Black duke it out as Black berates the decidely old-school hero for being old-fashioned and obsolete. In one of the most powerful moments in Superman history, Superman proves that there's nothing old-fashioned, outdated, or funny about truth, justice, or the American Way.

12. DC: The New Frontier

- Darwyn Cooke's monumental superhero saga was a powerful, nostalgia-fueled look at a bygone era - namely, the Silver Age - that period that ran from the late 50's through the 60's, that produced a new breed of space-age heroes and cold warriors. Just as James Robinson did in the 90's with his landmark work The Golden Age, Cooke uses New Frontier to put a modern spin on the Silver Age of comics. He takes the prominent heroes of the era - iconic names like Superman and Green Lantern, and more obscure characters like The Blackhawks - and places them within a grittier, more true-to-life political context that reflects America's forward-looking yet paranoid state of mind at the time. The New Frontier is simply one of those classic works of comic book deconstruction, and Cooke mixes big ideas with bold storytelling, bringing his concepts to life with his distinct, iconic art style. In the end, The New Frontier is one of the real, timeless superhero classics to come out of the 00's.

13. 100 Bullets

- A mysterious man approaches you, hands you an atache of one-hundred untraceable bullets, and begs of you to do with them what you will, consequences-free. When the people he makes this offer to are people with thoughts of revenge, survival, or greed - how will they react to such a strange but enticing offer? This dark and provocative premise was the driving force behind 100 Bullets, Brian Azzarello's now-classic crime-noir series, which was one of the Vertigo imprint's defining titles of the 00's. What made the premise work was the vibrant cast of characters that Azzarello created - and it was his knack for moody dialogue, gripping plot twists, and thrilling mystery that made 100 Bullets a landmark title of the decade.

14. Empire

- What if the villain won? That was the tantalizing premise of Mark Waid's early 00's miniseries about a megalomaniac who actually did what he set out to do - take over the world. After so many noted works in the 90's (The Flash, Kingdom Come), Mark Waid got a bit experimental in the 00's and, along with his frequent collaborator, artist Barry Kitson, crafted this smart, dark, and page-turning tale. Empire was an ultra-solid read, and there was much demand for a sequel after its release. We never got any more tales in the Empire universe (at least we haven't yet), but it remains one of the great "what-if?" style stories of modern comics.

15. Ex Machina

- Brian K. Vaughn's other major work of the 00's, Ex Machina is a smart, exciting, and brilliantly drawn (by the great Tony Harris) look at politics, through the eyes of Mitchell Hundred, the enigmatic Mayor of New York City, in an alternate version of history in which one superpowered man was able to prevent 9/11, and use his newfound clout to become one of America's most influential politicians. Ex Machina is a great example of how comics can tackle big social issues head-on, but in a unique manner that you won't find in any other medium.

16. JSA (by Geoff Johns)

- Before taking the reigns of huge franchises like Green Lantern and The Flash, Geoff Johns proved himself a capable steward of DC Comics lore when he took over as writer of JSA. The venerable Justice Society of America, the classic team of heroes first founded pre-WWII, had had a rough time of it in the 90's. The team's adventures had come to a halt, and its founding members had been aged and retired to make way for a new generation of flashier, more extreme heroes. But there was something comforting about the idea of an older generation of heroes from America's Greatest Generation, still out there fighting the good fight and training new recruits in the ways of heroism. Johns latched onto that romantic notion, and restored the dignity to the JSA, while creating dozens of great new legacy characters to fill the roster as well. Without much flash or hype, JSA came out of nowhere to become the best super-team book of the 00's.

17. The Flash (by Geoff Johns)

- Hey, I told you that Geoff Johns has been *the* superhero scribe of the 00's - and it was his work on The Flash that first thrust him into the spotlight. It's amazing too, because while other projects saw Johns pick up the scraps of previous failed stories to create something special, his run on The Flash followed the great 90's run of Mark Waid, so in this case, Johns had big red boots to fill. But fill them he did. Johns teamed with great artists like Ethan Van Sciver and Scott Kolins to pen a number of memorable adventures for Wally West, as well as a tidal wave of supporting cast members and villains new and old. Some of the most memorable issues were the spotlights on The Rogues, The Flash's gallery of blue-collar villains. Even after the series ended, Johns continued telling Flash stories, with Rogues' Revenge, Blackest Night, and Rebirth.

18. Identity Crisis

- One of the most influential "event" storylines of the 00's, Brad Meltzer and Rags Morales' work on Identity Crisis created shockwaves through the DC Universe that reverberated throughout the rest of the decade. The premise was brilliant - novelist Meltzer penned a murder mystery in which someone had killed beloved hero Ralph Dibney, and the questions of who and why left fans rabidly anticipating each new installment. As the tale unfolded, we learned that many iconic heroes were not quite the boyscouts that we thought them to be, and the overall emotion and intensity of the story was then-unparallelled. Identity crisis not only set the stage for years worth of storylines, it also redefined the limits of what a mainstream superhero story could be.

19. Pride of Baghdad

- Brian K. Vaughan's graphic novel examination of the Iraq War was a stirring and resonant look at the high price of modern warfare. At a time when many were still gung-ho about the war, while turning a blind eye to the sacrifices it required, Pride of Baghdad employed a unique device in which we saw the carnage from the perspective of a group of lions, who were suddenly freed from the confines of a Baghdad zoo due to US bombing raids. The story is beautifully illustrated by Niko Henrichon, and is a must-read for even non-comics fans.

20. Seaguy

- Grant Morrison's tendency towards trippy, non-linear storytelling can be problematic when it exists in tandem with a story that also has more traditional narrative elements. In the last couple of years, it's at times grown frustrating to see Morrison interrupt the flow of ongoing storylines by taking characters like Batman into his own version of The Twilight Zone. But when Morrison is free of the contraints of continuity and shared universes, the same qualities that were once annoying instead serve as a reminder of why, in fact, he's one of the premiere writers in comics. Case in point: Seaguy. It's one of the craziest, most off-the-wall stories you'll ever read - a mind-trip journey into a world of pop-culture parody and metatextual comic book commentary. When reading Seaguy (and marveling at the art of Cameron Stewart), you may have no idea what the hell is going on, but you'll likely develop a keen appreciation for the sheer fun of getting caught up in Morrison's work of mad genius.

21. Batman (by Greg Rucka and Ed Brubaker)

- In 1999, Greg Rucka and Ed Brubaker made their first marks on the Batman legacy via the epic No Man's Land storyline, which ran throughout the Bat-titles that year. But luckily for Batfans, NML was just the beginning. What followed was a great era for Batman and his supporting cast. And I know, it's cheating a bit to lump many different stories into one entry, but it's hard to choose a specific tale from this acclaimed, early 00's era of Batman comics. There was Batman/Huntress: Cry For Blood by Rucka, which gave the Huntress character a memorable, Godfather-esque origin. There was Rucka's devastating Ra's Al Ghul story - Death and the Maidens. There was Brubaker's run on Batman and Detective Comics, and his acclaimed, noirish run on Catwoman. My favorite story of the Rucka / Brubaker era? Bruce Wayne: Murderer - a story that saw Bruce Wayne jailed and accused of heinous crimes. Under the guidance of Rucka and Brubaker, the Batman mythos became an ongoing dark crime thriller, and also high drama.

22. Checkmate (by Greg Rucka)

- Greg Rucka carved out his own little corner of the DC Universe in the 00's, and following his work on Batman, 52, and a plethora of quality miniseries and other assorted projects, Checkmate served as Rucka's own little playground. Rucka mixed characters of his own creation, like Sasha Bordeaux, with established favorites like Amanda Waller and Alan Scott, to create a dark, deep, and riveting tale of espionage and high adventure in Checkmate. Checkmate was a great example of Rucka at his best, and the great characterization mixed with explosive action made this an incredibly solid read week in and week out.

23. Seven Soldiers

- Few would accuse Grant Morrison of lacking ambition, and Seven Soldiers proved that Morrison has absolutely no fear when it comes to tackling a giant-sized, multi-layered project of unprecedented size and scale. Seven Soldiers was a massive series, consisting of seven seperate but interraleted miniseries bookended by two oversized specials. Each mini offered a new take on an established DC property, and the bookends linked the character together in an epic, universe-spanning adventure. The sheer number of great characters and concepts introduced in Seven Soldiers is staggering (my favorite is Morrison's Shakesperian take on Frankenstein), and it's hard to believe how consistently entertaining each miniseries turned out. Plus, there was some stunning art along the way, including memorable work by JH Williams on the bookends.

24. 52

- The prospect of a weekly, year-long comic book series seemed so ambitious that it was easy to imagine it being doomed to fail. And yet, if anyone could pull it off, it was the all-star team of writers Geoff Johns, Greg Rucka, Grant Morrison, and Mark Waid (plus Keith Giffen doing plotting and layouts). This comic book supergroup not only made 52 work, but they made it *the* must-read comic each and every week for fifty-two straight weeks. Unbelievable, especially in retrospect, when you look at the number of subsequent attempts at weekly series that tried and failed to emulate 52's success. 52 took B and C-list DC Universe characters like Booster Gold, The Question, Steel, and Ralph Dibney, and gave them some of the most compelling storylines they'd ever been a part of. 52 also slowly created a tapestry out of these various plotlines, culminating in an epic finale that saw the onset of World War III, the discovery of a new multiverse, and countless new characters and concepts introduced. The icing on the cake was the series of stunning covers by artist JG Jones, each one pinup worthy.

25. JLA / Hitman

- One of my favorite comic writers is Garth Ennis (Preacher), and I wanted to be sure to mention him on this list. Ennis had a number of notable projects in the 00's, following up on the breakout success of Preacher in the 90's - Adventures in the Rifle Brigade, Enemy Ace, War Stories, The Punisher, and The Boys - but perhaps my favorite work of his in recent years was his return to Hitman, one of the characters that put him on the map in the 90's. Teaming the hard-drinking, foul-mouthed Hitman with the straight-laced Justice League made for one hell of an entertaining story. It was funny, action-packed, vulgar, and surprisingly emotional - in short, all the things that make Garth Ennis comics great.

26. Birds of Prey (by Gail Simone)

- Birds of Prey was already a hit series going into the 00's, thanks to the work of writer Chuck Dixon. Dixon had created a unique, all-female team of adventurers who embarked on a number of globetrotting missions. There was even a short-lived, and not-very-good Birds of Prey TV show in the early 00's. But as good as Dixon's run was, the book got a much-needed shot in the arm thanks to a then-inexperienced writer named Gail Simone, who took the book to new heights. Simone deepened the chemistry between the lead characters - Oracle, Huntress, and Black Canary - and created some truly epic storylines as well. There's something to be said for a very successful comic book featuring kickass female leads, written by a highly-regarded female writer, that was, week in and week out, one of the most solid reads out there.

27. Hourman

- Written by Tom Peyer, and featuring kickass art from then-breakthrough talent Rags Morales, the Hourman series that began in 1999 and which ran through 2001 is a personal favorite - a time-travelling epic that was nonetheless one of the most personal and heartfelt tales you'll find in mainstream comics. Hourman was the story of an android from the future, sent back in time to prevent a coming crisis. But Hourman was also a story about what it means to be human - it was funny, hip, and darkly satirical. Part of the genius of the series was that Hourman was paired with Snapper Carr, a former joke of a character who was reimagined as a hipster slacker with a dark and tragic past. The two made an awesome team, and helped make Hourman into one of the great underrated books of the 00's.

28. Fallen Angel

- Fallen Angel was one of the most stylishly atmospheric comics I've ever read. It was the perfect book to read just before drifting off into sleep, after getting immersed in the book's noirish world of shady characters and hidden agendas. Fallen Angel told the story of Bette Noir, a mysterious city that seemed to exist on the very edges of reality. Its residents were all outcasts, sinners, exiles, villains. But hope existed in the form of Lee, the city's protector. Writer Peter David had a lot of fun with the fact that this once-celestial being was now tied to this city that was essentially hell-on-earth, and made Lee an angelic being who was, nonetheless, hard-drinking, foul-mouthed, and not someone you wanted to mess with. David made Fallen Angel a great read by mixing ongoing drama with a great sense of mystery and dread. You read it not so much to see plotlines resolved, but simply to once again enter the dark and foreboding world of Bette Noir.

29. Jonah Hex

- Jonah Hex, one of comics' iconic Western heroes, got one hell of a revival in the 00's thanks to the writing team of Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti. The two have done a kickass job of boiling down all the essential elements that make Jonah Hex such an enduring character, and have done so without watering him down whatsoever. The series is dark, violent, at times bleak and uncompromising. But most importantly, the monthly adventures of the famed, feared, scarred bounty hunter of the Old West are a consistent source for gripping, memorable, and badass stories. Suffice it to say, it's going to be tough for the upcoming feature film to measure up.

30. Superman: Red Son

- Mark Millar (Wanted, Kick Ass) has been one of the most popular writers in comics this decade, and one of the works that first put him on the map is Superman: Red Son. The story tells an alternate-universe tale in which Superman's rocket didn't land in Smallville, Kansas, but instead touched down right in the heart of Communist Russia. Red Son goes on to tell the fascinating story of a Russian Superman who helps Russia win the Cold War and triumph over all those who would oppose it. In turn, the story recasts familiar characters like Batman as freedom fighters looking to topple to oppressive regime, and the result is some truly epic throwdowns. Mark Millar is known for his cinematic, bombastic storytelling style, and Red Son has that, but it mixes the big action and "holy-$#&%" moments with a really interesting, thought-provoking story.


Jack of Fables
Batman: Hush
Batman: Lovers and Madmen
Booster Gold
Secret Six
Swamp Thing (by Brian K. Vaughan)
Kick Ass
Action Comics (by Geoff Johns)
Infinite Crisis
Final Crisis: Requiem
Detective Comics (by Greg Rucka and JH Williams)
Detective Comics (by Paul Dini)
Captain America (by Ed Brubaker)
Astonishing X-Men (by Joss Whedon)
Arkham Asylum: Living Hell
Green Arrow (by Kevin Smith)
Green Arrow (by Brad Meltzer)
Green Lantern Corps (by Peter Tomasi)
Black Adam: The Dark Age (by Peter Tomasi)
Sweet Tooth
War Stories
Adventures In the Rifle Brigade
Enemy Ace: War In Heaven
Formerly Known as the Justice League
The Last Days of Animal Man
Teen Titans (by Geoff Johns)
Wolverine: Origin
Stars & S.T.R.I.P.E.
Superman: Emperor Joker
Superman: Secret Identity

- Alright, True Believers - stay tuned for further updates in the BEST OF THE 00's series!

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