Emma Peel Session 24 – Comics of the Decade 00-09

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30 Days of Night – “Juarez or Lex Nova and the Case of 400 Dead Mexican Girls” (Matt Fraction/ Ben Templesmith)
I don’t think a lot of people have read this, I know I haven’t really read it that much because the binding on my trade fell apart ten minutes after I opened it, but this was the book was something special. 30 Days of Night and Dark Days are fun stuff, Templesmith was always great at horror. This book showed that he had a lot more tricks in him than digital textures and nasty teeth – there’s Kyle Baker in there as well as Sienkiewicz. This is where Fraction proved he had a lot going on too, especially where the story starts and ends up. Lex Nova, cowboy self-narrating detective, wandering into Mexico to find out who’s killing all the girls and running into vampires – that sounds like one story but the place where it ends is something different. Lex dies before the end of it, and then we get his secret origin – where Lex’s real name is Gorodetski and he likes to quote from Alphaville, and we find out the gonzo asshole Lex Nova is atoning for a massive load of guilt.

Also god is Magnum PI. But you already knew that.

100% (Paul Pope)
Paul Pope’s greatest work of science fiction turns out to not be a genre piece at all – while the science fiction settting is what grabs you. None of these stories are reliant on the science fiction concepts. It’s a great trick, Paul Pope’s futuristic Chinatown is a gorgeous and exciting place. But the characters – a dancer, a club owner, an busboy, an artist, a boxer – their stories intertwining and playing out with any genre dramatics, that’s the best trick of all. Paul Pope has talked about 100% being a reaction to the pulpiness of Heavy Liquid and the urge to do romance comics, no matter what the motivation – this is like a Wong Kar Wai, gorgeous and entrancing but built on a foundation of character and the inherent drama of human relationships.

100 Bullets (Brian Azzarello/Eduardo Risso)

David Brothers and Tucker Stone have already said it about this. I came late, loved the fuck out of it, and think that Lono is fucking terrifying.

Achewood (Chris Onstad)
Been said before, Achewood is the Simpsons of the 00s, the thing that rewrote the rules of how smart you could be with a comedy – expanding casts, language, whats funny. Roast Beef, man. That guy hits home. Rays funny as hell,  actually everyones funny as hell (Vermont Pete? God damn right.). But you know why I read this? Roast. Beef. Kazenzakis.

Alec: How To Be An Artist (Eddie Campbell)
Tucker Stone handed me this when I met him the first time last year, saying I should read it. Even if I didn’t like it, I should read it. He was right, Eddie Campbell is someone who’s found a way to make comics about his life incredibly engaging, something almost no one else has managed. This book isn’t interesting as a tell-all about his life in comics, though I guess some people could take it that way, but as a lesson to anyone who’d make the stupid decision to try and be an artist. Sure, you could go astray all kinds of ways, but Campbell demands a lot of himself and his art form, and makes a real life doing it. The message of the book is the same things that make you a good person make you a good artist, which is the exact opposite of every other book about great artists ever written.

All-Star Superman (Grant Morrison/Frank Quitely)
I’d submit to you that this is the only Superman story that’s ever going to stick, going to matter. Sure the basic story is always going to be with us, but when it comes to Spider-Man or Batman, I can sit here and point out a dozen stories that can tell you “this is what this character is about, here’s a great story with them in it”. Superman never really had that – there’s the villains, Lex Luthor and Parasite and Brianiac, the supporting cast – Lois and Jimmy and Perry and the Kents and all those other people. But Superman is maybe the one character that’s always been a month-to-month thing, more than anything else. It’s a premise, and an amazing character. But what is there really? A bunch of 90s forced endings, the John Byrne reboot, and For the Man Who Has Everything, and that one issue of Hitman. But being honest it’s just this one.

It’s the only one, and it is so artfully crafted to be the only Superman story you need – it’s all in here, all the moments you need for a great Superman story – love, friendship, tragedy. And smartly it has a legitimate ending, making it a real story, not a starting point that craps out halfway through. Quitely, of course, is amazing here – playing it as straight as possible but still throwing in page-design storytelling tricks like the double-page spread of Lex and Clark walking around the prison, or the slightly more hand-drawn and jagged way he draws Superman’s vision of Kypton. And Morrison slows down the mileaminute information processing he’s always gunning for and gives us a story thats as classic as possible, and emotionally arresting – All-Star Superman is purely emotional – he LOVES Lois, Luthor HATES Superman, when his Dad dies, Superman is the saddest any has ever been. In 100 years, this is the only one of these books that anyone will have read.

Apocalipstix (Ray Fawkes and Cameron Stewart)
Cameron Stewart! What the fuck? How the hell does he keep getting better with each book?

Ask for Janice (Jim Mahfood)
Kick Drum Comix (Jim Mahfood)

12 pages of historical comics, 20 pages of analysis and fun facts – Jim Mahfood’s unauthorized adaptation of the Dan Leroy’s 33 & 1/3 book on Paul’s Boutique isn’t actually amazing. He just draws the story of the Beastie Boys in the time between getting fucked over by Russel Simmons and releasing Pauls Boutique – and them terrorizing LA, getting high, meeting the Dust Brothers and Matt Dike (and Mario Caldato), and recording the greatest record of all time. And the rest of it is just illustrated observations about the album itself. It’s simple, it’s straightforward. What makes this special is every single line you can tell that Mahfood loves this stuff more than anyone, it’s a mash note to an album that never stops being relevant, important, and funky as all get out. Mahfood didn’t have any motive other than making you pull out the album and enjoy it even more, and have fun drawing Mike D tel kids to smoke PCP.

And also deserving of mention is Mahfood’s hagiography of the fictional godfather of hororcore in “Death of the Popmaster” in Kick Drum Comix #1, which shows off Mahfood’s new post-Ashley Wood, post-graffiti style that’s just goddamn awesome.

Asterios Polyp (David Mazzuchelli)
Format is awesome, huh? And Mazzuchelli having such a mastery of his art form that something like this – which in anyone else’s hands is a rote redux of Woody Allen’s Interiors or Doc Hollywood – a story of an asshole who finds a small bit of serenity, it’s nothing new. Mazzuchelli finds a way to make it new, in the way he uses color and layout and page design – this is a comic that says the most exciting thing in the world is two people talking and finally finding a point where they’re saying the same thing without comprimising themselves. Once you figure that out, it works.

But it’s still a rich dude finding out life can be meaningful after he spends his time with poor people, so who cares?

The Authority (Warren Ellis/ Bryan Hitch)
What did Ellis say about this? “We’re gonna have to make this like Akira but in 22 page chunks”, something like that? Which is the kind of thing you wish everyone would say about their comics, until you realize what’s great about Akira (and all the other huge euro/manga epics that make you feel like a total asshole for growing up on superheroes) is how Otomo uses his pagecount not to decompress but to layer, emotion, action, scale – it’s the work of an absolute master. But here’s widescreen comics, for all it’s worth, and here’s the only time “widescreen” actually lived up to it’s name – Bryan Hitch is the first person to bring SCALE to mainstream superhero comics, of having massive splash pages where the main characters are tiny figures fighting hundreds of other tiny figures against a massive city. Yeah, in the world of comics there’s Moebius and Otomo and Geoff Darrow and even guys like Art Adams – the secret progenitor of the Image style -but here’s the first time it’s this caliber of art had been used to show superheroes punching each other. The stories are smart and have no fat on them at all, , and can all be summed up with basic phrases like “Authority vs. Ming the Merciless, Authority vs Fu Manchu, and Authority vs. God”. The best thing about it is that Ellis writes scenes where the Authority says lets fuck shit up, and then shit gets fucked up. There’s a nihilistic joy to it, but there’s also a massive reconfiguring of what you should expect emotionally from a superhero team book. Instead of the rules laid out by Claremont’s X-Men, Byrne’s FF, and LAW & ORDER, here’s a group of people who enjoy their jobs, treat each with respect, and have real lives off-camera that we’re not privvy to as readers. There’s a gay relationship depicted for the first time with zero fanfare, which of course, Mark Millar took a big shit on the second he got his hands on it (because thats what he does). The real reason The Authority works is because every aspect of it is a deliberate choice in reaction to what was happening around it but never felt as cynical as it should have been. It is maybe the biggest example of a book that should have died with it’s first creative team.

Automatic Kafka (Joe Casey/ Ashley Wood)
The Filth (Grant Morrison/ Chris Weston)

My friend (and my favorite writer on the internet) David Allison has written quite a lot about The Filth over the past few years. He’s interrogated the work as few people have, he’s the kind of guy who could write twice as much on the subject and still find new facets to work over. He’s an example of the right writer talking about the right work, making criticism matter for those few paragraphs because this has spoken to him and he’s going to make you feel it too. I wish I was that kind of writer, I wish I could write about Automatic Kafka the way he has the Filth, because it hit me hard. It was the kind of book that said you could do anything with comics, But I’m not.

Anything, even talk about how comics are damaging to the people reading them, that sex can ruin anything and everything, that adulthood is going to kick you in the face over and over again you’ll need to read about Jimmy Olsen to smile again. Or drugs or bad sex or being famous. You’re going to need something and comics aren’t going to do it.

So here’s my take – Automatic Kafka and The Filth are different takes on the same story – maybe an american take and a british take, maybe a depressed take and an angry take, maybe one about death and the other about life. They’re both about denial. The Filth is in the language of Thunderbirds, UFO, Roger Dean, Chris Morris, porno, and superhero comics. Automatic Kafka is in the language of Howard Chaykin, David Michelenie, Charlie Brown, Who Wants to Be A Millionaire, porno, Popbot (of course) and superhero comics. Both books make the argument that time perverts everything, Casey and Wood believes that art dies with it’s creators; Morrison and Weston believe that growing up does. Either way, the result is lonliness and hate – one has galactic supervillains, the other has cossack monkeys. In the end, both heroes get happy endings as well, but they’re bittersweet. In The Filth, Feely can’t walk away, he has to make something of his life. His shitty, worthless life. In A.K., Kafka’s told by his creators that the only way his life has meaning is if they kill him. The neurotic boy outsider, the Peter Parkers of the world, he’s poison. Everything he touches turns to decay and emptiness. And Peter Parker, he was built to reflect the kids reading, and those kids are still reading now at 40-something, and it’s not going to be enough anymore to see Peter Parker be like you.

Batman Year 100 (Paul Pope)
Paul Pope takes the Batman comparisons to V for Vendetta, sees them for the thin “guys with capes are similar” argument they always were, and sees what happens when you put Batman in the same situation. Ironically released within a month of the insultingly wrong V for Vendetta movie, which grafted 2004 US election bullshit onto Moore’s love letter to anarchy – Pope made a legitimate response about privacy and identity in the days of the Patriot Act. He also understood that Batman isn’t the kind of guy who blows up towers and makes Neitzschian speeches and tortures people into thinking the way he does. Batman kicks the shit out of cops and wears fake teeth to scare people. This is Batman the showman, all wire work and stunt doubles. Pope has learned all the right stuff from Frank Miller – positioning Batman as a physical character again after years of post-JLA hypercompetence. Still, for all the humanizing work Pope does, we never see his face. The rack-focus of Detective #27’s cover is the one shot you need to get from Pope’s approach to the character – the world has changed. Batman doesn’t. I wrote a lot more about this here.

Beast (Marian Churchland)
This is better than Asterios Polyp, at least by “comics about artists” standards. This is thornier, less formal, and a hundred times more subtle.Sure, you could lose the part with the ex-boyfriend and no one would blink, but who cares? You know how Heavy Liquid is as much about Paul Pope drawing the book as it is the characters? Same deal here.

Brendan McCarthy Solo
Comics not as a story delivery system but as capital-A art. How the fuck can you talk about this? This is perfect.

Cage (Brian Azzarello/ Richard Corben)
Yojimbo set on a couple blocks of a bad neighborhood, a blaxploitation hero a few decades removed from when he could get away with his bullshit, plus the ending of The Good The Bad and The Ugly. Fun, amazing looking, but you really wish that Azzarello had gone more flat and made Cage a ghost wandering through a minefield or brought some more depth to the piece. This is Corben’s piece – all broken faces and distorted figures, all gesture.

Casanova vol. 1 Luxuria (Matt Fraction/ Gabriel Ba)
Casanova vol. 2 Gula (Matt Fraction/ Fabio Moon)

I just wrote something huge about Luxuria for the Mindless Ones upcoming zine (short version – Gabriel Ba you are amazing, I love spies), so lets’ talk about Gula – I actually like it a lot more than Luxuira, except for the ending, which felt like it wasn’t in line with the rest of the stories – not the sex change thing, which was clearly set up from the beginning, but emotionally it felt off, the chapter titles felt forced, it didn’t really do anything for me until after the climactic end scene, where Newman Xeno and Kubark Benday talk Pynchon, Casanova and Sasa Lisi talk about stolen robots and how it’s all going to turn out. The previous 6 issues, though, are the kind of comics you wish flooded the stands – gorgeous, fast, full of tits and explosions, and heavily informed by all things cool in psychedelic neon cerulean. The plots – reenacting Paul Bartel’s The Secret Cinema as a first date between two assassins, a love letter to Modesty Blaise that ends up killing her, an assault on a space station that doubles as a kill-all-your-friends psychic workout, the funeral for a robot that breaks another character in half – Fraction and Moon find a way to serve three masters in being innovative, hitting all the genre buttons, and then using those buttons to explore the characters inner lives.

Criminal (Ed Brubaker/ Sean Philips)
Depending on the arc, this is the greatest thing on the stands these days – at it’s worst it is just amazing potboiler crime fiction drawn by a monster storyteller with no flash at all. When it’s firing on all cylinders, like it did in back to back arcs – the first one set in the 1970s, three interlocking stories that all end badly. The Teeg Lawless issue especially, where the blackouts are written into the story, is jaw-dropping. Even better is Bad Night, which is about a cartoonist who doesn’t sleep getting into some shit and losing his mind as he does so (or before), is the best thing either Brubaker or Phillips have ever done. Frank Kafka PI as the conscience of a madman, thats something you never saw coming when you saw the strip in that first issue, huh? But goddamn I would pay over and over to be surprised like that every time I bought one of these.

Daredevil (Brian Bendis/ Alex Maleev/ other guys)
Daredevil (Ed Brubaker/ Michael Lark/ other guys)

Well I read these and enjoyed them, but the Bendis run has almost completely escaped from my memory other than Matt Murdock being outed and the Brubaker run I remember most for the scene where the Punisher gets arrested so he can go see Daredevil in prison (that was so great). I prefer Michael Lark’s no-frills clockwork precision storytelling to Alex Maleev’s chunky, clearly photoreferenced pages, but that’s me. This shit felt worth it each month while it was going, but by the time it was over I was having trouble remembering any of it. I started buying Bendis and Maleev at the same time I was rereading Miller and Janson and Mazzuchelli reprints. The images that stick in my head are from 30 years ago, shots of Elektra rising to her feet against a block of red or fear locking Ben Urich’s face in place as he talks on the phone, there are hundreds. Honestly, I don’t think I could tell you one from either of these.

Daredevil “3 Jacks” (Ann Nocenti/ David Aja)
This I really didn’t appreciate as more than an art piece until David Brothers pointed out to me that Nocenti’s Daredevil is always about learning vs. violence. Aja channels Mazzuchelli, chopping up time on the page like Miller did while he’s at it. This is a short story where Daredevil gets beat up by Bullseye then talks to some bystanders about God and Boxing. This is just a moment, divinity and violence being so pervasive in Matt Murdock’s life that even a small moment like this is consumed by them. I’m betting this one’ll stick with me.

Dark Reign: Zodiac (Joe Casey / Nathan Fox)
I’ve already written about this here, but Casey and Fox’s takedown of supervillains in the New Avengers-driven  Marvel Universe turned out to be a heist job disguised as an anarchist rebellion, which makes the V for Vendetta parody cover of issue #3 all the sweeter. The point here is that without a proper villain, theres no point in being a hero, and the reverse-escalation logic is that the Marvel U – and by extension superhero comics – needs someone like Zodiac right now.

Desolation Jones 1-6 (Warren Ellis/ JH Williams)
It’s kind of flawed. Not anything wrong with the book, but the two issues that came out after the arc kind of dulled the impact of one of Ellis’ best endings, and Daniel Zezelj was a terrible fit for the material. But these six issues, taken by themselves, are unimpeachable.

Ellis rewrites the Long Goodbye in the same way that Robert Altman and the Coen Bros did – completely adapting it into its own voice and using the skeleton to make his own points. I think Ellis likes the Altman version, because there is some of the same argument being made here – that the “permissive” culture of Los Angeles breeds its own problems and that even the most amoral fuck in the world has his breaking point. That might be the same in the book, I still haven’t read it, though it does fit in with my books-must-have-guys-getting-shot rule of thumb (also, it must mention the Beatles at least once or have a drug dealing space alien declare himself God, one of the two). The LA Ellis and Williams paint is somewhat psychedelic and badly lit, and peopled entirely with ex-community (spies) or currently involved in the sex industry. The Maguffin is pornography that may or may not star Hitler and Eva Braun – but not really, it’s actually just files kept in a film can labeled “Hitler porn”. The plot is one that you can easily plug stuff into – and Ellis has Mi6 and CIA experiments, fucked up families, a man dying of hundreds of sexually transmitted diseases, a primer gonzo porn, cannibalism, and a protagonist who is damaged beyond the point of still being human, and is all the more dangerous because of it. The Nigh family stuff is what hits hardest, not the drugs or the sex or anything like that (come to think of it, Nueromancer is in here too)- but the father and his three equally-terrible daughters and the ways in which they screw Jones over and how they push him to actually do something. Williams makes the decision to show the story, issue by issue, page by page, as more and more Jones’ perspective without ever calling attention to it – so that final issue isn’t horrifying because it’s the brutal murder of an old man and two women, but because we’re seeing it how he sees it.

FRANK MILLER 4 LIFE. Reads like it was drawn by a fifteen year old Frank Miller who thought Dark Knight Returns was bullshit, and Batman should fix everything, and shows the Batmobile flying into a skyscraper. When I read this, I knew that I loved comics more than film, more than television, more than music, comics was it.

Dr. 13: Architecture and Morality (Brian Azzarello/ Cliff Chiang)
“We never loved you.” is the most revealing sentence in a DC comic ever.

Empowered (Adam Warren)
When it works it’s amazing.

Fell (Warren Ellis/ Ben Templesmith)
Fell is kind of comic that shouldn’t exist these days (and I guess it doesn’t anymore? The last issue came out 2 years ago and Casanova is going normal length, “slimline” is dead), intentionally done-in-one, 16 pages, non-genre, rigidly formal in it’s 9-grid variation. Doesn’t read the same in trade, it loses something. So Fell – Warren Ellis and Ben Templesmith trying something new by trying something “mainstream” – this is a comic about a cop who moves to a new city. That’s it. No monsters, demons, cyborgs. It’s a cop in a collapsing American city, he has a girlfriend and a boss and a new case every issue. No overplot, no hook. So the interest comes from the telling – Templesmith’s murky pages and atmospheric lighting creates the city-as-character in Snowtown you always hear about in crime stories but rarely see; and he hides that he’s working with master storyteller chops most of the time until he gets a situation like like issue #9 where Fell imagines a man behind a door as stick figure and gets the stick figure to act expressively. And Ellis has a protagonist in Richard Fell that doesn’t fit into his wheelhouse. Over 9 issues, the story is simple – this town is dying and there’s no infrastructure and one cop tries to make a difference. And we watch as Det. Fell just gets angrier and angrier and we see why he got turfed to Snowtown in the first place. Like McNulty, he’s the kind of man who’s both good police but willing to completely fuck up himself, his cases, and everyone he knows to be right. But unlike McNulty, there’s no way for this to end well.

The Five Fists of Science (Matt Fraction/ Steven Sanders)
Mark Twain and Nikola Tesla build a giant robot and fight a satanic Edison and JP Morgan for the fate of the planet. Also there’s a yeti. Theres no way this high concept shit ever works the way you wish it would, it always falls flat when you finally crack the book or see the movie and find out that, yeah, there’s snake on the plane. Woo. It’s actually a really bad movie with one funny scene and Juliana Margules. The things that actually wow you are always kind of benign sounding that become stunning in the right hands – thats why lone man pits two crime bosses against each other keeps working. This is a miracle of modern storytelling because it sounds cool and in execution it is. Mostly because Fraction has a light touch and Sanders is a superhuman monster on the page. Part of me wants ten more of these, but another knows that by itself it’s perfect.

Fun Home (Alison Bechedel)
Oh thats funny you think I actually read Fun Home.

Ganges (Kevin Huizeniga)
I’m not following that.

The third one fucking rules, though.

Godland (Joe Casey/ Tom Scioli)
Basil Cronus is so great, greatest motivation of a supervillain ever – he kidnaps aliens because he wants to get high on their blood. Best character design ever too.

Global Frequency (Warren Ellis/ EVERYONE)
The murderers row of artists here – from the top Gary Leach, Glen Fabry, Steve Dillon, Roy Martinez, Jon J Muth, David Lloyd, David Barron, Simon Bisley, Chris Sprouse, Lee Bermejo, Tomm Coker, Jason Pearson, and Gene Ha – is probably the selling point. 12 done-in-one, no fat action comics, tailored to the artists strengths. So Bisley’s is extremist brutality, Dillon’s is built on characters acting, Fabry and Bermejo’s are all grotesqueries, Muth’s is haunting and damaged, Pearson’s is a hot chick running around a sewer shooting terrorists, Gene Ha’s is massive and full of dozens of characters, Coker’s has a guy beating someone with his own severed arm, Chris Sprouse’s is just straightforward storytelling. Ellis’ stories are all based on science fact, just slightly shifted around to give us 24 but smart, and a single woman (who is only slightly similar to Motoko Kusanagi) out to stop unexploded James  Bond Villain deathtraps of the past 30 years. It’s action tv with a brain, unlimited budget, and the best directors in the world. Like Red Riding if Jack Bauer was running around with an axe, chopping the heads off pederasts.

Gotham Central (Ed Brubaker/ Greg Rucka/ Michael Lark/ Stefano Guadino/ etc)
Rucka and Brubaker make each other shine, Rucka turns Renee Montoya not just into a real character, but a realistic lesbian character. Brubaker gave us the best Joker story since Killing Joke. Michael Lark continued to be a secret powerhouse. Stefano Guadino kicked a metric ton of ass on that Keystone Cops arc. This was good stuff, a legitimate crime book snuck into the DCU, superior to Powers and Top Ten in that it was really just cops trying to deal with the insanity of a corrupt city where Batman fucks up your cases early and often and the frustration that entails.

Hellboy – The Island (Mike Mignola)
The previous story The Third Wish didn’t work as well for me, but this was a revelation. The best Mignola art, the best Dave Stewart coloring. The tone – that weird, ever-sinking atmosphere is as pure as its ever been. Half infodump history lesson, half epic monster battle – neither of which matter when you read it because the execution is so specific, the art reduced down to the exact perfect amount of lines, the characters speaking in quotes. This is the perfect Hellboy story and it doesn’t have nazis or monkeys or robots.

Immortal Iron Fist (Ed Brubaker/ Matt Fraction/ David Aja/ Everyone Else)
If we’re speaking objectively, these 16 issues, an annual and a special are the best thing the big two have released in the past ten years. The book uses the problems and limitations of modern comics – the low stakes, multiple artists on a single issue, labyrinthine continuity, ill-defined mythology – to its advantage. Brubaker and Fraction turn Danny Rand into the latest in a long line of Iron Fists, creating a legacy leading back centuries and tying the product of the Kung Fu boom with his Lester Dent pulp roots, with the flashbacks often drawn by comics legends (John Severin, Russ Heath, Howard Chaykin, Dan Brereton, Nick Dragotta + Mike Allred), and tell us a mystic, epic variation on Enter The Dragon. David Aja is the definitive artist of the series, showing up everyone else who worked on the book. Brubaker and Fraction’s style mesh perfectly, so the series is at turns nakedly emotional and bonkers. And while the book was built to be a plot machine, it actually has a proper ending.

I Killed Adolf Hitler (Jason)
I read this sitting in the train station in Philadelphia that they shot part of 12 Monkeys in, laughing very loudly. Especially on the page where it’s just the girlfriend going “Is that him? Is that him? Is THAT him?”.

Jack Staff : Everything Used to Be Black and White (Paul Grist)
Chris Sims’ favorite comic.  That’s gotta count for something.

Jan’s Atomic Heart (Simon Roy)
God, this is so damn smart.

King City (Brandon Graham)
The tokyopop edition of King City is how I experienced this the first time, and was kind of my first exposure to Brandon Graham (although Jared may have shown me Escalator first – which I love most for that scene where he’s climbing the building and talking about Moebius on the beach, dreaming about crystals and quoting from DKR). King City would seem to have more of a conventional plot compared to Multiple Warheadz, but thats only by comparison. Graham pushes the conventional elements of his story out to the margins – the main character Joe is unaware or uncaring about the “important” things happening, and you should be too. Graham likes to show his characters thinking, eating, talking shit – the best cartooning in the whole book is just the cat dicking around while Joe has conversations. There are insane ideas here – like a man’s body slowly transforming into the drug he’s addicted to – the kind of things in the hands of Moore, Morrison, Ellis, etc would be plot points, that are thrown away early and often, just for texture. There’s a shellshock element to the whole thing as well, of living through awful shit, best indicated by the scene where Joe walks through the bar and every patron has facts like “married his arch nemesis.” and “murdered a man with a garden hose”. In another scene Joe says he’s missed all the King City Shit, implying that it’s the kind of place where city blocks get destroyed by experimental nanites every now and again. Brandon Graham is like Jim Jarmusch and Moebius had a kid who loved puns. Good thing there’s more coming.

The Last Musketeer (Jason)

Pompous blowhard saves the universe from Ming the Merciless by stabbing and chivalry. Stabbing and chivalry solve everything.

The Losers (Andy Diggle/ Jock/ Others)
“Fuck you, company man.”

Mike Allred Solo
Batman-a-go-go is the absolute best Batman story in the past… 24 years? It should have been called BATMAN RIP.

Marvel Boy (Grant Morrison/ JG Jones)

One of the first reactions to the Authority (which was in turn a reaction to Morrison’s JLA), and one that is way, way more nihilistic. Here’s comics for fascism and hot girls, saving the world and listening to speed metal and writing fuck you Disney on your math notebook . Here’s Kill Your Boyfriend with superpowers and fetish wear, Jim Steranko and Bill Sienkiewicz references. It’s a book blatantly written for teenagers, the bad guys consisting of cops, an evil corporation, his girlfriend’s Dad who makes his money by stealing other people’s technologies, and humanity itself. You kind of wish that teenagers would have seen it, but they were listening to music, having sex, and mayyyyybe reading manga.

Multiple Warheadz (Brandon Graham)
While King City is the book everyone fell in love with, this was the book that shocked me – the same attention to ancillary details is here, but this book has a lot less plot and a lot more breathing space. What’s amazing about Graham’s work is he creates whole worlds for his characters to inhabit, but unlike a lot of the artists who do the same thing it isn’t hurrying to prove itself as complete by overloading the page with information. The matter-of-fact-ness of Sexica’s world, and the ease with which Graham shows us it – the details become the story. This whole comic, there’s a feeling of time slowing down as you watch snow fall on a city.

Never Learn Anything From History/ Hark a Vagrant (Kate Beaton)
I read something where Kate Beaton’s comics are the antithesis to Achewood, and that kinda works. It’s very in-the-moment, brilliantly and loosely drawn, occassionally confessional but always flippant. Then again, it’s just like Achewood where the whole reason you laugh is language the language the language.

New Frontier (Darwyn Cooke)
Anti-nostalgia, effectively saying that superheroes are a product of their time just like everything else. While the ending is forward looking, this is the opposite of “weren’t comics better when we were kids”, it’s “there was a time when these things made a kind of sense”. Things weren’t simple in the Silver Age, and looking back and calling it a time of innocence and joy is idiotic – this is DC comics’ Mad Men and it comes from the same impulses as Don Draper and Joan Holloway. Not just to show the difference between Then and Now, but to show how the ideas of Then created Now. And in a decade of great comics storytelling, here is a very good contender for some of the best.

New X-Men (Grant Morrison/ Frank Quitely/ hundred other guys)
For a few years the only comics I read were Preacher trades. One day I see New X-Men #135 with it’s Quitely cover staring up at me from the magazine rack in the supermarket, and I almost snap my neck pulling a double take. Completely sucked me back in, Morrison on X-Men sounded like an alien concept back then, because I knew him exclusively as a Batman/JLA writer and the X-Men was the book(s) I read for most of the 90s and then finally threw my hands up in disgust with. It was arcane and boring, and occassionally drawn by someone cool like Chris Bachelo, but more often it was garbage that I bought because “I liked X-Men”, even though Scott Lobdell just kept writing the same Claremont stories with newer toys. Every once and while there was something fun like that one issue where Cannonball fought Gladiator, but if I was being honest, I knew that it was arcane nonsense written for 35 year olds who didn’t read.

This was a kick in the face – Riot At Xaiviers was, after avoiding this stuff for about 4 years, a hundred times smarter than a superhero comic should be. It was Quitely too – the emphasis was clearly on storytelling, and everything was in wide shot, fully rendered depth on the page. Xaiviers was actually a school, the X-Men were reduced to Emma Frost, Xaivier, Cyclops, Phoenix, Wolverine and Beast and Morrison was trading on stuff I at the time didn’t know about (Lindsay Anderson’s If…., Village of the Damned, the Stepford Wives and Midwitch Cuckoos) but being a bitter angry teen who had just been kicked out of catholic school this shit spoke to me so much more than any X-Men comic ever had before. It was fiercely intelligent, current, demanding of the reader, and actually relevant to my life unlike every previous issue of this book that I had been collecting (and bought back issues of back up to around 180) for a large chunk of my life. I ventured back to the comic shop for the first time in forever to buy the next issue, and kept going back just to buy NXM and just NXM for months and months, then the I branched out a litte. NXM was the one time, before I knew about the internet, that I had the jones for a monthly book that was actually hitting me on a person level. Eventually I picked up the trades and followed the series to it’s finished, jumped ship with Morrison like every sane person did. But here was a superhero comic – and a very long run on one – that had a point and still managed to hit all the Chris Claremont beats. The war on kids is real, the outdated concepts of megolomaniacal supervillainny and punching your way into tolerance need to be put to rest, and superhero comic need to evolve. The X-Men, at its core, was always making the same argument as Night of the Living Dead in superhero drag – that a revolutionary society would consume the current one from within. New X-Men, then is about what happens after 15+ years of stagnation in the wake of this concept – and what an actual change would look like, and how it would make Wolverine and Magneto seem antiquated and dulll. The end of Morrison’s run is literally Jean Grey choosing to avoid the redundancy of X-Men’s 12 stories over and over again and see something different, with Scott Summers and Emma Frost going off to teach the next generation not to be X-Men, but how to live their lives.

Morrison’s comics would end up defining my decade, from finally reading the Invisibles and the Doom Patrol to his high points of excitement I had when reading WE3 and The Filth to the frustration and disgust of reading Final Crisis. Morrison was the writer who I spent the most time with in the past ten years, who’s responsible for not only my reading comics outside of the occassional trade, but of me googling  “Assault on Weapon Plus” and finding out what comics blogs were. This was my starting line.

Nextwave (Warren Ellis/ Stuart Immonen)

Warren Ellis autodestructing the Authority for Marvel comics, goes to town on Marvel for being ridiculous. Stuart Immonen channels Jim Steranko, Gainax, Gennedy Tartakovsky, Jamie Hewlett and then he does a one-man-jam issue in a bunch of other people’s styles to change it up. But yes, superhero comics are fundamentally insane and nonsensical, and not in the fun 60s way, and the only reason people like me read them is because shit blows up and robots get kicked in half.

The Nightly News (Jonothan Hickman)
While the go-to comparison for Hickman’s full-volume debut is usually Channel Zero (which while theres a media angle on a debut book, Hickman is a lot funnier and a lot nastier than Brian Wood’s debut ever was), the comparison I bring up is American Flagg. Not only for the informed, sardonic, pitch-black tone of the book, but simply for being one of those rare comics that reinvents what you can do on the page and still make it “comics”.

No. 5 (Taiyo Matsumoto)
I’ve only read the first volume, and from what I understand only the first two have been translated into english. But this is comics – psychedelic, violent, intricate, bizarre, deeply heartfelt, buzzing with life, worldly, not tied down to any school of anglophone, manga, or euro-comics, and dangerously intelligent. The first time I tried to explain it to someone, I said it looked like Lennon drawings of gunfights.I’ve read it compared to The Prisoner, and that fits, but not due to any superficial similarities, but from it’s across-the-board demand of the reader to put as much into reading it as the creator has himself.

Omega the Unknown (Jonothan Lethem, Farel Darymple, Karl Rusnack, Gary Panter)

“I would say that if ever a book had a target audience, you were painted red and white” – Mark Masterson last talking about me and Omega the Unknown. –

Which is weird that he’s right and I don’t know why. I haven’t read any of Lethem’s stuff, I’m not at all interested in the original series, I still haven’t tracked down the reportedly-amazing (and how could it not be?) Pop Gun War by Farel Darymple, I wasn’t that interested when I read the first issue either. But I got the trade for christmas last year, and it very slowly and quietly kicked my ass. The comparison that comes to mind for me is Mullholland Dr., which is a movie that I discarded as uninteresting on first watch and every time I returned to it seemed stronger and more complex. Like Woody Allen said about Dr. Strangelove, it’s not the film that changes its you. So thinking that the first issue didn’t work, that was me. Of course, if I would have stuck around for the second issue I would have loved it simply for the shoutout to Style Wars train yards (and there was a connection between Bronze Age marvel and nyc graphitti bombers ) and then the slow burn of Marvel-style teen and local color into ever more bizarre turns – Lynchian midget wandering the labyrinth, massive severed hand with legs, extradimensional pompous narrator, army of Miyazaki robots, Gary Panter’s 5 page history of the universe as blue guys versus robots forever – the final issue where there’s only aftermath and moving on and lingering memories and the promise that it’ll start again with a different cast of characters in a different place.

This is secretly part of this decades obsession with the expansion of concept, in the way that Iron Fist and Green Lantern were. Largely this story is about propogation – of ideas, of disease, of franchising, of robots, of sketches, of comics, of tv shows, of intergalactic world gaurdians, of salt.

The Other Side (Jason Aaron/ Cameron Stewart)
Full Metal Jacket retold as horror story, the book that cued me in that Cameron Stewart wasn’t someone who’s work I liked, but one of the greats. Just the acting he pulls off with his character without ever losing the lushness of detail in his environments, and the slow creep of hell into every page.

Parker: The Hunter (Darwyn Cooke)
This didn’t hammer me the way Point Blank did when I watched it for the first time a few years ago. That movie was a revelation about how deep you could go with a basic crime story. That was a very loose adaptation of this story, and this isn’t, this is true as it gets. Darwyn Cooke’s pages are as detatched and brutal as Parker is, and the whole thing blows by the way it should.

Pax Romana (Jonothan Hickman)
While the infographics in Nightly News aren’t as prevalent here, Hickman treats the conventional comics story the same way he treats the comics page – here it’s a a time travel story about the Vatican rewriting history in order to regain their foothold of influence on the world, and the soldiers who hijack the plan. That graph you saw a hundred times in the past ten years, where we see the growth of technology over time and how the church caused the dark ages and fucked us all over? This is Hickman’s articulate and informed response, culminating in the final stab where we find out the future is actually 1421.

Peng! (Corey Lewis)
Sharknife, for all it’s “aw geez isn’t this awesome, dude ninja turtles and dragonball z, yo, air guitarzzz”, isn’t as fun as it wants to be. Peng! on the other hand has some space to breathe, Corey Lewis’ drawing skills have leveled up and the pages are chaotic but legible. Everything is in motion, the pages are gorgeous, and the tone is more sports manga meets capcom game, Megaman Soccer style.

Phonogram (Keiron Gillen/ Jamie McKelvie)
While the music-is-magic concept can occassionally get either grating or too clever, but in execution this is of a piece with books like Pax Romana and Fell, well drawn, smart pop comics. the first arc, Rue Brittania is more Vertigo-y and plotted, felt far more personal. But the current Singles Club is where Jamie McKelvie shines, even if the Rashamon-by-way-of-post-club-night-blog-post is hit or miss.

Popbot (Ashley Wood)
The failure of pop art by way of a clone of Andy Warhol, a talking cat, a Canadian rapper no one cares about, giant robots, the Maxx, hot ass spy bitches with their tits out, rock and roll, detectives, war, sex, art, noise, noise, noise, noise, noise, noise, noise, noise, noise, noise, noise, noise, noise, noise, noise.

Popbot 1-6 (7, 8 too but they aren’t in the huge collection I’m looking at this moment) are maybe not the best comics of the past decade, and are indefensible in all sorts of ways. But if I’m forced, these were the best comics of the past ten years. There has been nothing that topped it.

Powers (Brian Bendis/ Mike Oeming)
Bendis might be superhero writer of the decade, which is kind of fucked up when you think that the guy writes comics around conversations rather than fight scenes. Powers, when it works, is superhero book masquerading as a crime procedural. Yeah, they say cunt, they kill characters all the time, and theres big chronological jumps whenever they feel like it, big fun. Oeming brings the best out of Bendis, though, forcing him to up his game even in the talky scenes – actually visually giving us noir lighting. The stories are about celebrity culture and guilt, which is the same thing that Bendis loves in his Marvel work, but there’s a directness in the best Powers stories that he just can’t do working with Spidey and Wolverine. The big problem is that in the past few years the book has been on autopilot, getting more and more samey with each New Avengers that dropped in the months in between. When it worked – like “Sellouts” and “Psychotic” did – it topped everything else you bought that month.

Planetary (Warren Ellis/ John Cassaday)
Whats the line in that song “the sign said stop but we went on wholehearted, it ended bad, but I loved where we started”. She was singing about how PTA was awful to be around, not this book, but it sums it up pretty well. When I got back into comics, I devoured this stuff so fast. It was so smart, and so well drawn, it was about comics but it functioned as comics, it had ideas and fights in equal measure. Planet Fiction, Danny Lee’s ghost stalking Hong Kong, John Stone’s favorite bar where scientists erase their electromagnetic signature from the earth, the rotting corpse of Mothra, scientific explanation of hammerspace, Batman strobe effects, Jules Verne, the Lone Ranger’s silver bullets coming from his family mine, all so damn smart. For a while there, the inherent point – that the rich history of comics has been pushed aside in favor of superhero books, meant something. By then end though, it was just a book where shit happened because it had to. The last issue, maybe even the last 3, are bloodless. It was difficult to care.

It ended bad, but I loved where it started.

Pluto (Urasawa)
Better than Watchmen, that’s for sure. Better than most things. If comics are an art form that are meant to speak about the world at the moment through metaphor, it does that. If comics are an art form that are meant to depict action sequences in the most arresting manner possible, it does that. If comics are an art form meant to show robots and shit blowing up, it does that. If comics are an art form that touches your heart and makes you feel something, it does that. If comics are meant for philosophical interrogation of what it means to human, it does that. If comics are meant to provide addictive serialized storytelling, it does that. If comics are about emotional catharsis between two enemies, that’s here in spades. Like Watchmen, Pluto is a recontextualization o (and tribute to) a classic comics story, used to say something not only about that work but about the world today and the world it was originally created in. Everything you could wish for a comic book to do, it does better than your favorite comic. Pluto isn’t just great, its unparalleled.

Prison Pit (Johnny Ryan)
Book of ’09, body dysmorphia fight comic obsessed with blood and puss and jizz and it ends with the lead character getting high while his own arm sucks him off. If the point of comics is fucked up shit happening, this is the best fucking comic ever made.

Promethea (Alan Moore/ JH WIlliams)
It kind of falls apart once the they reach the godhead, but oh damn until that point there was so much purpose and love in every page of this comic. JH Williams is the truth.

RASL (Jeff Smith)
Like almost everybody, I read Bone in that huge armbreaker of a one-volume-edition this decade too. And it’s the closest thing America has come to producing a Miyazaki or a Moebius – truly the work of someone who understands long-form comics storytelling on a cellular level. On RASL he took his time letting us know what was going on, and when he finally starts throwing out details of Bermuda Triangle events and Tesla that this well is deep. I’m in for the long haul, however long that is.

Scott Pilgrim (Bryan Lee O’Malley)
The best one is volume 2.

Seaguy vol 1+2 (Grant Morrison/ Cameron Stewart)
Cameron Stewart is a revelation, twice because his style got even better when the second series came out. I’ve written far too much about this book already – but the incomplete trilogy of Morrison and Stewart’s superhero sage is about the long now of the world right now – of disneyfication, American Idol everybody-is-special philosophy, of adulthood and childhood being flattened, of commercialization, of frankenfood, ignoring the state of global collapse, of being replaced by your shiny, more perfect duplicate – it’s a book PKD would be proud as hell of, and that the Mighty Boosh and Pixar should adapt for the screen.

Selina’s Big Score (Darwyn Cooke)
The whole scene on the train.

All of it.

Seven Soldiers (Grant Morrison)
JLA Classified #1-3(Ed McGuinnes), Seven Soldiers #0 (JH WIlliams), The Guardian #1-4 (Cameron Stewart), Shining Knight #1-4 (Simone Bianchi), Zatanna #1-4 (Ryan Sook), Klarion the Witch Boy #1-4 (Frazer Irving), Mr. Miracle #1-4 (Pasqual Ferry/ Freddy E. Williams), Frankenstein #1-4 (Doug Mankhe), Bulleteer #1-4 (Yanick Paquette), Seven Soldiers #1 (JH Williams)

Here, in these 33 issues, we got Grant Morrison at the apex of his abilities. You want to talk about superheroes in the past ten years, this was really the only new idea in all of it. Morrison took the idea of a line-wide crossover, inherently a flawed prospect – even the best ones are unreadable messes tagged with a dozen ancillary tie-ins, angry or uninterested creators, plugs for shoehorned-in new characters, etc., etc. Morrison (and god bless them, DC comics) have created the first auteur-driven megacrosscover, with one voice and creative throughline uniting 7 miniseries, 2 one shots and an established book lead-in. Essentially Morrison’s exposition of what can be done with superheroes and a shared universe, as well as what is being done – so basic concepts like fantasy and mythology, street-level asskicking, mysticism, horror, spies are here. But there’s also the lingering influence of Alan Moore and Jack Kirby (for good and ill), perversion, cannibalism of the past, endless violence, and the corruption of childhood. Actually, it’s pretty much all about childhood.

(Some of the best writing on the comics internet has been dedicated to these books, particularly by Marc Singer and Jog
and I’m not even going to attempt to top it)

Shaolin Cowboy (Geoff Darrow)

Sleeper (Ed Brubaker/ Sean Philips)
Sleeper came out of a vicious little mobius strip of a Grifter miniseries that was fun but wasn’t going to set the world on fire. Which is weird that Sleeper is what followed – a masterwork, equally grounded in nuts-and-bolts storytelling as formal construct (the way the panels cascade ever downward, the grids locking into place whenever there’s an origin story). Holden Carver’s story wasn’t ever going to end well but goddamn, I never thought it was going to go down the way it did, or that it was ever going to be THAT bad. Towards the end where Tao sits in the car and laughs as both the women Carver loves die, and everything that happens after that – its one of the bleakest moments I’ve ever seen in a piece of fiction. And then in the elevator Holden just snaps completely, and no matter how happy you view the ending, it’s little respite.

Street Angel (Jim Rugg/ Brian Maruca)
I like this. A lot.

Superman Red Son (Mark Millar/ Dave Johnson/ Killian Plunkett)
Cossack Batman! Propoganda! Culture war! Imperialism! Really really obvious signposting! The best Superman ending ever!


Top Ten (Alan Moore, Gene Ha, Zander Cannon)
Moore’s best work of the decade, the absolute best work of Gene Ha’s career. Moore returns to superheroes by writing a police procedural with superpowers, just like everyone who’s been writing superhero comics this decade. The difference is Moore actually understands whats interesting about the procedural and where it works best (the Ewan McGregor episode of E.R., the first year of Homicide, the second year of NYPD Blue, Hill Street Blues) and whats great about superhero comics (cool powers, robots, great character designs, shit getting fucked up). The fact that every panel is drenched in the history of superhero comics (usually some of the most arcane references you can imagine – like a hospital scene featuring Doctor Who, Strange, Fate, Doom, Manhattan, Fu Manchu, Raven, the one from the Authority and the nurse from Born Again). It works as a critique of the incestual nature of comics or a love letter to their interlocking history. One of Moore’s best endings too, his most human and loving.

Treehouse of Horror #15 (Everyone)
The ominous Tim Hensley anti-opening credits, kicking off the book by telling us “don’t go home”. The other two great stories here are anti-merchandizing – Matthew Thurber and Kevin Huizenga’s screwy cthulu/reality show/enviro/apocalypse where Mr. Burns, Bart and Krusty prepare the earth for the rise of the vegetable gods; and Ben Jones’ “Boo-tleg” Apu and Sanjay kill everyone and replace them with knockoff teeshirt variations on themselves. Like thoseMarvel and DC’s “lets hire fringe guys to gently mock us” books that always end up toothless, this takes the Simpsons history as both anarchist cultural critics and figureheads of a massive evil multinational corporation, and goes after both. And lets face, this is the closest I’ll ever get to buying Kramers Ergot.

The Ultimates (Mark Millar / Bryan Hitch)
“Do you think this letter on my head stands for FRANCE?” is going to go down as the best post-9/11 moment in superhero comics. There’s a goddamn guitar solo playing when he says that shit and chops a nazi space alien in half.

The secret of why the Ultimates works is that Millar and Hitch were built to work together – Hitch brings not only a depth and realism to the scripts that in other hands would be ridiculous (cities, designs), but his fight scenes visually make sense – his pages are never cluttered. Without Hitch, Millar’s storytelling is a lot closer to jokes being told than pacing, and read more mechanical and prickly.

Captain America who actually thinks like a WW2 soldier, a Bruce Banner as an unlikeable sexually frustrated nerd (and a Hulk that kills hundreds and eats corpses), a Tony Stark as a brain-damaged fatalistic drunk with the power of the entire military industrial complex, Thor as a David Icke-style religious nutjob who claims to be the messiah, Hank Pym as a wife-beating failure, The Wasp a flighty mess, Nick Fury as a megolomaniacal badass on the side of the angels, and the rest of the team as a smug black ops crew. The only way any of this works is in execution, in reaction to 9/11 and the callousness of the Authority – combining the epic scale of Morrison and Ellis with a more earthbound approach, slowly building towards the end of a yearlong arc where the Ultimates stop a planetwide nazi space alien invasion just by letting all these dogs off the leash. The inherent point, that a superhero team book about saving the world is about as fascist as a Jerry Bruckheimer production, is definitely felt in the book – and the way the Ultimates are built up without even the possibility of the threat until a) they create their own and b) they stumble onto something that actually requires their attention and aren’t prepared for. So yeah, the Ultimates are the U.S., but in true Bruckheimer style all that matters is that they win and kill the shit out of the space nazis who look like Robert Carlyle.

The argument is reiterated and expanded in the second volume that this shit is the same as imperialism and the rest of the world does not like that shit. The Ultimates win when Captain America flashkicks an Iraqi superhero in the face.

Umbrella Academy vol.1+2 (Gerard Way and Gabriel Ba)
Gabriel Ba! Oh this book is so nice. If Way and Ba are committed to making the kind of jumps they did between volumes every time, this is going to be something even more special than it is. The first series is smart by starting at the termination point of most superhero books, giving us only enough backstory for you to fill in the blanks – here’s the band getting back together in series 1, all the beats hit are emotional ones – family, forced or not, is people who can’t let each other go. Series 2 is a genius riff on the Kennedy Assassination, turning it into Escape to the House of Mummies part 2 where the final joke of the series is that the heroes are just cleaning up their own mess, and the only way to do so is to go back and kill JFK. You know, like on Red Dwarf. But along the way, the Banana Splits are serial killers, Vietnam is chock full of mummies and vampires, and God is a surly Bob Dylan. But who would care if there weren’t real characters here – No. 5 is an unlikeable asshole, old or young – a petulant child with the perversions of an impotent old man; Klaus is such a mess that when he gets clean he just gets worse (and even if the meeting God thing was just him hallucinating he’s a mess of guilt about all the death surrounding him); the Rumor is killing her brother just by being there. This is something I can get invested in, and if the Morrison/Case Doom Patrol comparisons hold weight, it ain’t because both books are “weird” and “stylized”. No it’s because it has characters worth caring about.

“Klaus is that you’re baby?”

Vimanarama (Grant Morrison/ Phillip Bond)
Philip Bond rules, huh?

Wanted (Mark Millar/ JG Jones)
Hey, it’s calculated crap that makes Marvel Boy look like a work of unparalelled joy and optimism. This is bullshit but it’s realtively smart bullshit that says more about the people who read it than the people who made it. Who want their characters to all be nice people and not murderers and rapists and racist assholes who fight retarded superman clones and kill a monster made out of shit with bleach and then Charles Bronson fucks some dudes but he’s not gay, don’t call him gay, why are you such a faggot Charles Bronson’s NOT GAY, see he says that in the dialog. Eminem, he’s famous, right? He’s not gay.

Here’s the Heroes Journey, you fucking nerds, you eat it all up and ask for more, you easily manipulated shitheads. This character is a racist and a he wants to rape his girlfriend from high school and Mark Millar says that HE’S JUST LIKE YOU, COMIC READER. The last page is one of the great punk rock moments in all of comics history, if you ignore the fact that the whole comic thinks you’re a couple weeks training away from killing innocent people for fun, and you’re going to spend the rest of your days wishing you could. You fucking pussy.

WE3 (Grant Morrison/ Frank Quitely)

Miyazaki by way of Geoff Darrow – nasty, fragmented moments of gore frozen in time used to tell a heartwarming story about talking animals trying the find their way home. Frank Quitely is better at comics storytelling than the entire western world.

WildCATS vol. 2 / 3.0 (Joe Casey/ Sean Phillips/ Dustin Nguyen) – note – I’m just going off of the 5 released trades, so this is only regarding the first 12 issues of 3.0
Casey and Phillips and Nguyen take the Alan Moore deconstruction this Image series and run with it – and give us a superhero book unlike anything else. Starting off as a scifi-tinged noir and then something interesting happens – the Kherubim leader of the WildCATS kills himself and leaves the group in tatters, with no purpose. For all of Phillips’ run the characters all drift through life – and the run takes the position of genre take on veterans lives in peacetime- employment, relationships, business, serenity, trust, friendship, crime, religion, vendetta, healing. The final issue before the WildCATS 3.0 changeover seals it – where a member of the enemy army heals Voodoo physically and spiritually, showing that theres never going to be a point in history where everyone is either a bad guy or a good guy. Wildcats 3.0 was the next step, where unlike the Millar/Quitely Authority, superheros change the world for the better without ever raising a fist in anger – but through science, economics. It’s insane the way the art on these books worked – there isn’t another book from the image revolution that has been based not on fight scenes and splashes, but on storytelling (and the only person who is better at storytelling than Phillips is Quitely) – even the fill in is by Steve Dillon for christ sakes.

Winter Men (Brett Lewis/ John Paul Leon)

You know how in Bullit, you sit there riveted for the whole runtime until the final scene, where the Lalo Schriffin music stab as he pulls out his gun jars you for a moment. Because he hasn’t pulled his gun the whole film, and you never noticed. It recontextualizes the whole film in that moment, about who Bullit is, what a cop does, what an action hero does, how well you knew this character even though you’ve been watching a very close portrait of him. It just brings up questions. The final page of Winter Men has a moment like that. And it will fuck you up.

– – – – –
Preacher, Transmetropolitian, the Invisibles, Scud, Kabuki and Madman should make the list but none of them feel of this decade, so thems the breaks. Also I’ve only read half of Monster.

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19 Responses to Emma Peel Session 24 – Comics of the Decade 00-09

  1. Pingback: Embedded Hate « Facebuster Deluxe

  2. All good stuff, and I LOVE that you mentioned The Other Side. I didn’t think that series got enough exposure when it was released, aside from Newsarama or CBR or some such site wondering what the big deal was about a comic stating that “war is bad.”

    Cameron Stewart’s artwork was on par with the greatest stories from Harvey Kurtzman’s old EC war comics …

  3. To quote the late, great, Lux Interior, “You got goooooood taste!”

  4. seth hurley says:

    New Frontier as DC’s Mad Men is a bang on take with such clarity I will not be able to think of it any other way now.

    I also really enjoy how the sidebar images provide a random parallel commentary on the graphs they are next to, especially Banksy’s “You Lie” next to Planetary & Connery next to New Frontier.

  5. Pingback: Linkblogging For 16/01/10 « Sci-Ence! Justice Leak!

  6. DV says:

    Nice to see Im not the only person not in love with Fables.

  7. Brian Nicholson says:

    Not a bad list but the weird casual dismissals of things like Fun Home and Kramers Ergot are jarring. You would probably like the comic Powr Mastrs, cartooned by a dude heavily associated with the latter.

  8. sean witzke says:

    No insult meant to Kramers Ergot, I just have never seen a copy, probably couldn’t afford it anyway, and it’s a longrunning thing that Kramers Ergot is something I don’t get to read. I’ve been looking for Powe Mastrs for a while, I hear good things.

    Fun Home – nah, if I want a story about “a woman’s complex relationship to her father”, I have that one part in Monster where the assassin is raising his enemy’s daughter so she can grow up and kill him. Thats as close as I get to Fun Home EVER.

  9. sean witzke says:

    Fables is comics for people who either a) love James Jean covers and tolerate the garbage in between them b) go to ren-faires and LARPS, c) hate comics or d) hate comics.

    It’s for people who really think Neil Gaiman is great but he gets a little too out there some times. Oh that Neil Gaiman, he’s hard to pin down with those crazy new ideas.

  10. Jared says:


  11. David says:

    The Fun Home joke is my favourite part of this (really rather excellent!) list.

    The entries that end up sounding casually dismissive of the works they describe (i.e. your comments on Asterios Polyp, Bendis/Brubaker/Lark/Maleev Daredevil runs, etc) are my other favourite parts of this list.

    The bit where you say preposterously nice things about my writing is my other other other favourite bit of this post, though I would never admit that in public!

  12. David says:

    Man, that was a terrible comment — somehow, I seem to be writing like an asshole Neil Gaiman character in 2010. Let’s see if I can come up with something even worse: I am my own other mother; my other mother is the pie that bakes and eats itself; my other mother is the pie which says that there’s no I in team, but there is a meat in team and an I in pie: meat pie. Not good.

    Anyway! See that bit where you talk about Alec – how to be an artist? That bit’s dead good, so it is.

    When you say… “The message of the book is the same things that make you a good person make you a good artist, which is the exact opposite of every other book about great artists ever written…” it makes me wish you’d included The Fate of the Artist in this list, because the two works come together so well to show where this proposition goes wrong for Campbell, except that it doesn’t in the end. It’s all about changing yer methods, isn’t it?

    If you didn’t like The Fate of the Artist enough to include it here then fair enough, but you’re wrong and no amount of high quality pish-talk will convince me otherwise!

    If you haven’t read it then I WILL FIGHT YOU!!!!

    Internet hardman in 2010? Hopefully not. I think I preferred being a Neil Gaiman asshole!

  13. Brian Nicholson says:

    I haven’t read Fun Home either, it doesn’t seem like my kind of thing, but I always think that sort of bias is clear just by talking about the things I like- Bringing up something specifically to dismiss it, especially in terms of “I haven’t read it” seems weird, because it’s not like you’re emphasizing your taste so much as bragging about your blind spots, which I think most critics would want to not do. Especially since doing that seems like it limits the scope of your list more, which then gets reinforced when there’s things as mediocre as Global Frequency praised.

    On the other hand, volume 2 of No. 5 is better than the first one, and the French edition of volume 3 I saw but couldn’t read looked great too. I think the decision to collect four chapters at a time rather than go to a natural end-point was probably a harmful one.

  14. sean witzke says:

    It’s a “this is ubiquitous on lists” joke. I love explaining jokes. Especially when there’s things as mediocre as Global Frequency praised.

  15. sean witzke says:

    Or maybe I put a premium on no-fat action that you don’t, and could give a shit about what most critics would do. Maybe.

  16. Jared says:

    really, aside from the joking fashion in which it was written, i saw it more as a ‘hey all you pussy, no-dick losers out there. before you start whining about not acknowledging ___, here’s why.’ you know, in order to keep the list going. funny that now there’s whining about acknowledging why it didn’t get acknowledged.

    mediocre whining too.

  17. Nathan says:

    Just skimmed the list right now, definitely a good one with some choices that surprised me and some stuff i definitely need to get into. Will definitely sit down and read entirely when I get the chance

    also that’s the best description of Shaolin Cowboy I’ve ever read.

  18. Pingback: The metal thing holding the leaves of my mind together › Bookmarks for January 11th through February 2nd

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