2010 has been a big year for comics. The Walt Disney Company officially owns Marvel Entertainment. DC Comics announced it is moving their digital comics business to Burbank, CA (also, sadly, closing one of its most successful and groundbreaking imprints, Wildstorm) and Archie got married.
So, in light of this momentous year, Team Unwinnable takes a look at the comics that made us forget all the behind the scenes stories and reminds us of just why we read comics.
Behold! Unwinnable’s Best Comics of 2010!
Best Book We Should’ve Paid Attention To: Thor: The Mighty Avenger
In an age of decompressed storytelling, writing and drawing an all ages comic is, at best, difficult. Many creative teams seem to look at the form as a hindrance rather than an opportunity. Roger Landridge and Chris Samnee are not most creators. Thor: The Mighty Avenger is a modern fairy tale with classic super hero trimmings. The creators re-imagined Thor and his supporting cast and managed to convey a sense of wonder with every page. The book exudes classic. I love this book and there aren’t words to express how much I wish it had a chance to stick around.
Best Use of a Crowbar: Damien “Robin” Wayne in Batman and Robin # 13
In one of the most brutal comics of 1988, the Joker beat the second Robin, Jason Todd, nearly to death with a crowbar. In a scene meant to mirror this horrific event, the current Robin, Damien Wayne, returned the favor with gusto. Grant Morrison’s run on Batman has been an attempt to reconcile the history of Batman since 1939 and this scene is one of the best homages to Batman’s long and sometimes baffling history. (with Stu Horvath)
Best Set Up: Hellboy: The Storm # 3
Hellboy has been battling his destiny to wear the crown of Hell since 1993. Last year, we saw the revelation that Hellboy is also the heir to the crown of England as he is the heir to King Arthur. As Hellboy reaches its endgame in The Storm, we see Hellboy making choices consistent with the character we’ve seen make so many strides since that first issue. After everything he’s gone through, his stubborn moral compass is exactly where it should be. By forsaking Excalibur and giving the Baba Yaga one of his eyes, Hellboy is finally ready for the end.
Best Twist Ending: Ex Machina # 50
This past year Brian K. Vaughan brought one of the best comics of the past decade to a close – and found a way to top his Y the Last Man finale in the process. Mayor Mitchell Hundred, the superhero turned mayor of New York City, has had loyal readers’ votes right up until that final issue, where it turns out he was more machine than The Great Machine after all. In the issue’s most shocking scene (consider this your very last spoiler alert warning), Hundred “tells” the pistol aimed at his mentor Kremlin’s head to fire, killing the closest person he’s ever had to a father in his life—all to keep a horrible secret, his election win was due to his use of his powers to tamper with the electoral machines.
Determined that there is no moral cost too great to push his vision of bettering society, Hundred though has bigger sights than Gracie Mansion – at the end we discover he is President John McCain’s vice president. What sort of Bizarro world is this? The one that BKV had in mind from the very beginning, it turns out. He recently told me for a Wizard Magazine story that he had mapped it all out in his head before he typed up the first script: Kremlin’s tragic end, Hundred’s Michael Corleone-esque arc, and all. Well, one thing changed: he originally planned to have Mitchell be Obama’s vice president in an “all comic-book reading ticket,” back when it seemed the Democratic candidate had no shot of winning. Either ticket, this issue has my vote as the best of the year. (Ethan Sacks)
Best Use of Rip Hunter’s Time Chalkboard from 52: Avengers # 5
Best Use of a Turtleneck Fisherman’s Sweater: Cobra Commander in GI Joe: Cobra
The Cobra Commander of the 1980s was known for 2 things – convoluted plans involving the kidnapping of white lab coat wearing scientists and complete failure. The Commander of IDW’s GI Joe: Cobra, on the other hand, is a 180 degree turn for the terrorist leader. This Commander speaks at length about cognitive dissonance and the domination if corporate boardrooms through new technology. (with Stu Horvath)
Best Wholesale Resurrection: Blackest Night # 8
There’s been a lot of death, doom and gloom in the DC Universe these last few years. There’s also been some cause for celebration with some resurrections (most notably Hal Jordan, Barry Allen and even Jason Todd). However, in 2010, DC decided to close the door on revolving deaths and resurrections for a little while with the end of their event, Blackest Night. Aside from wrapping up the last few years’ worth of Green Lantern stories, the Blackest Night also served to resurrect twelve fan favorite characters from the grave. Martian Manhunter, Aquaman, Maxwell Lord, Osiris, Hawk, Jade, Hawkman, Hawkgirl, Deadman, Captain Boomerang, The Reverse Flash and Firestorm all came back from the dead in one fell swoop!
Their adventures are currently being chronicles in the DC Comics event, Brightest Day.
You’ve Got Red On You Award – Ares vs. Sentry in The Siege # 2
Ares, the Greek god of war, has been worshipped for thousands of years, since the days when the Spartans would sacrifice animals in his name before battle. Those Spartans’ descendents may want to find a new God to look up to, however, since this one didn’t last TWO minutes in his heavyweight battle with the hero-turned-basketcase Sentry before getting ripped in half. It’s the splash page in Siege #2 that splashed Ares’ entrails all over the panel for Marvel readers who had grown to worship the Greek God themselves during his badass run with the Dark Avengers. Credit writer Brian Michael Bendis for spending the last few years setting up the Sentry storyline for this sleight of hand, turning a seemingly milquetoast Superman knockoff into a God-slaying, universe-threatening sociopath. Well, played, Bendis. It isn’t often we’re shocked or awed in comics anymore. (Ethan Sacks)
Best Alternative to Frankencastle: Punisher: Max
Jason Aaron and Steve Dillon build upon Garth Ennis’ initial run with a series that deserves the name Punisher. Containing extreme violence, torture, cussin’, black humor, nudity and all of Frank Castle’s other middle names, this is one of the year’s few adult must reads. (Peter Lang)
Best Use of Necro Cannibalism: Chew
John Layman and Rob Guillory’s comic Chew, published by Image Comics, offers a flavor sure to please even the most finicky of geek palates. The protagonist, Tony Chu, is a Philly cop turned FDA agent, who has the ability to psychically gain information from anything he eats. He is a cibopath. If Tony eats a steak he can taste the slaughterhouse, the grass the cow ate, the dirt it slept on etc. The same goes for anything he eats (except beets). This ability is useful to a federal agent, as he can glean pertinent information about difficult crime cases, merely by ingesting the evidence (including corpses, blood, cremation ashes and many other vile substances).
The third story arc, Just Desserts, fleshes out Tony’s relationship with his main antagonist, Mason Savoy. It brings cannibalism, aliens, conspiracy and more to “the table”. I am intentionally being vague. You have to read it to fully appreciate the story.
This gastronomic, synesthetic, Eisner and Harvey Award winning comic is an absolute must have. Get what you don’t have in trades (there are 3 volumes available) and start getting the new issues pulled.
Best Pop Culture Satire: Dungeon Quest Book One
Cartoonist Joe Daly tried his hand at satirizing Role Playing Game culture with his graphic novel, Dungeon Quest Book One. The result? An award winning comic that made me laugh out loud a little too much while reading at the local cafe. Armed with a hobo stick and accompanied by his best pals, Millenium Boy (the story’s protagonist) sets off on an absurd adventure akin to drunken Dungeon Master’s flight of fancy. Full of shamans, reanimated pirate skeletons and hysterical pop culture nods, Dungeon Quest Book One is one of my favorite pieces of comic satire to come out in a long time.
Best Ensemble Animal Cast: Beasts of Burden
Back in July when the hardcover collection came out, I wrote, “Beasts of Burden is beautiful, poignant, upsetting, exciting and a dozen other adjectives and more.” Since then, I have re-read it twice and have thoroughly enjoyed the Beasts of Burden/Hellboy: The Sacrifice one shot. It is still a comic book about a group of dogs – and one cat – tasked with protecting their town from all manner of supernatural menaces. And my opinion of it hasn’t changed a bit: Evan Dorkin (Dork) and Jill Thompson (Scary Godmother) have something truly special in Beasts. Now get thee to Burden Hill and meet the strangest group of animals (living and dead) that you could ever hope to save the world with. (Stu Horvath)
Best Robot Carnage: Transformers: Last Stand of the Wreckers
Nick Roche and James Roberts tear through third tier Transformers characters like nobody’s business. Led by Springer, The Autobots’ black-ops team, the Wreckers, must break into the most notorious Decepticon prison in the history of the Great War – Garrus-9. The series reads like a Transformers Spaghetti Western and it is awesome! It’s full of random, un-heroic and senseless robot death and dismemberment. That said, Roche and Roberts flesh out every character in the book, so the deaths sting. If you’re only going to read one Transformers comic ever, it has to be Transformers: Last Stand of the Wreckers!
Biggest Event That Team Unwinnable Did Not Read: Archie Got Married
While no one in the posh Unwinnable offices read the Archie Marries Veronica/Archie Marries Betty story arcs in Archie, your humble Deputy Editor did re-download The Best of the Archies off iTunes a few months ago. Archie also met President Barack Obama and Fox News Contributor Sarah Palin. I think they shared a malt. Sounds like a big year for the Riverdale gang. Bang-shang-a-lang. Bang bang.