I am so close to declaring this a three way tie for the top honors. This was not a great year for comics over all, but the highlights made for some truly great reading.
1) The Umbrella Academy
I’m going to give the win to Gerard Way and Gabriel Ba’s stunningly original Umbrella Academy. The book, which won a ton of awards this year, is just a great example of everything I love in comics. The book starts with an insane Eiffel Tower and ends with a battle against some who (as Paul O’Brien described them) has the power to play the violin very well. The story has some great characters, gorgeous art, and a playfullness that shines through on every page. In short it’s the perfect comic.
2) All-Star Superman
A very close runner-up is Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely’s take on Superman, which deserves to be the defining take on the icon from here on out.
Criminal is without a doubt the most well crafted comic on the stands. Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips are both at their creative peaks here, telling a series of interconnected crime tales that they are clearly passionate about. This is also the one series that absolutely must be read in its single issue form due to the extensive backmater included each month on the history of noir.
Jason Aaron has proven me right when I named him the top writer to watch. In the last year he’s made Ghost Rider worth reading for the first time in history, is looking to do the same with Wolverine, and has turned Scalped into Vertigo’s latest must read series. Scalped is not a plesant book to read, it’s dark, brutal, and depressing as anything, but it’s all the better for that.
5) Scott Pilgrim Gets It Together
Bryan Lee O’Malley may only get one of these books out a year, but the time and effort clearly pays off. This book is the turning point of the series, where Scott Pilgrim finally decides to put his life in order. But there’s still plenty of the usual fun to be had. A book guaranteed to make you smile.
Fables pulled off the gutsiest move in literature all year, simply by continuing. Since it began the series has been building up to a climactic battle between good and evil, which came to a head in issue 75. An evil empire has been destroyed, and now the book is actually going to show what comes next. I’m going to call this the comic to watch for next year.
7) The Incredible Hercules
Who knew Hercules could actually carry his own book? He’s been brilliantly cast here as a drunken braggart suddenly thrust into being a role model, thanks to the great Amadeus Cho (the 4th smartest person on Earth). This has rapidly become the most enjoyable book being published by the big two.
8) The Immortal Iron Fist
My favorite comic from the previous year lost it’s entire creative team this year. Still Matt Fraction and David Aja managed to go out on a high note with the conclusion to the Seven Capital Cities of Heaven. But without them I had pretty much given the book up for dead. So I was very surprised to see Duane Swiercynski and Travel Foreman come aboard without a misstep. Their first arc was promising, their next one looks to potentially be great.
9) Captain America
It’s been a year and a half and Captain America is still dead in what has become one of the few prolonged story arcs in modern superhero comics. Ed Brubaker has managed to kill and replace a legend and put some life into one of the weaker rogues galleries out there. For the first time in nearly 30 years, Cap has become meaningful again.
10) Omega the Unknown
Jonathan Lethem writes Steve Gerber’s most experimental creation. ‘Nuff said.