2010 is coming to a close and what a year it has been. So much has gone down in the world of comics that I was hard pressed to keep this list to 20. I didn’t even get into all the things happening with comic book movies, I tried to keep the list true to comic books. Wednesdays in 2010 brought a weekly reverence to top notch storytelling, dialogue and art and these are, to me, the 20 Biggest Comic Book Moments Of 2010.
20. NEW FLASH BOOK (DC Comics)
After 25 years a new Flash book featuring Barry Allen? Yep, sign me right up. After the end of Wally West’s run in 2006 and the following so-so run of Bart Allen, the return of the Silver Age Flash to his own mantle kicked a whole lot of ass. What made it even better was the book itself didn’t falter under its own weight. This wasn’t a book that just praised or treated Flash with too much grace. Instead Flash gave readers a new slant to see Barry Allen through. Writer Geoff Johns and artist Francis Manapul created not just new and exciting challenges for The Flash, but kept the movement and flow necessary for such a title. I’ve been critical of the series recently, but only because I know how good it can be
19. X-MEN REBOOT (Marvel Comics)
I am not, by any means, an X-Men fan. I crawled out of that sinking ship right after Dark Phoenix and never looked back. Too man characters, too much melodrama, too many convoluted plot points, I’d had enough. After recent events stretching all the way back to House Of M, the mutant army has become more streamlined, the action crisper and the breadth of work better. Nowhere was that more evident than the X-Men reboot featuring writing from Victor Gischler and art from Paco Medina. While some scoffed at the vampire theme, I was, instead, taken back to another era, when the X-Men kicked ass and didn’t cry in their soup all the time. Cyclops is a badass and Wolverine is Wolverine again. Granted I don’t read Astonishing or Uncanny, but for those burned by the X-Men in the past, this is an awesome starting point.
18. RED HULK REVEAL/HULK FAMILY (Marvel Comics)
When the Red Hulk first started I was on board, then I hated it, then I just didn’t care. After the big reveal that the crimson rage monger was none other than General Thunderbolt Ross, I became interested again. With Jeph Loeb mercifully moving on from his disastrous Hulk run, writer Greg Pak (Incredible Hulk) and Jeff Parker (Hulk) stepped in and mopped up the place with awesome. I never thought a “Hulk Family” with Hulk, Skaar, Red Hulk, and Betty Ross as Red She Hulk, She Hulk, and Rick Jones as the blue skinned A-Bomb would work, but both titles are filled with intrigue, action, great story arcs and character development. The Dark Son storyline in Incredible Hulk and the Hulk feature with him semi-joining the Avengers has allowed Pak and Parker to begin some really amazing things for the Hulk and his new brood.
17. HENRY & GLENN FOREVER (The Igloo Tornado)
Anybody who loves punk or hardcore must read this small press gem from The Igloo Tornado. This is a satirical, hysterical and really brutal piss-take on two of punks’ greatest and most overly serious icons. In the comic Henry Rollins (Black Flag, Rollins Band) and Glenn Danzig (Misfits, Samhain, and Danzig) are two gay lovers who live together next door to Satanists Daryl Hall and John Oates. The comic ranges from mini-stories to one page digs but it’s always a joy to read and does a great job of slapping out at a genre that can be strife with pretensions, affectations and general feelings of self-importance. I quote Rollins’ line about the comic “Has Glenn seen this? Trust me, he would not be impressed.”
16. DC UNIVERSE LEGACIES (DC Comics)
I know some people will bitch about my putting one stand-alone series amongst my best moments in comics but DC Universe Legacies is really something special. Writer Len Wein gives us a ten part look at the history of the DC Universe starting with the Mystery Men and taking us right up to modern day heroes. What makes this series so wonderful is how Wein manages to tell the story from the point of view of a normal mortal. It allows the reader to be more invested in the tale from issue to issue, as well as giving us a hero to root for. Wein reduces the entire DC saga into these issues without a feeling of things being left out. It’s an old school type story, written in a Golden Age comics style with breath taking art from a who’s-who of artists such as Joe Kubert, Andy Kubert, Jesus Saiz, Bill Sienkiewicz and others who make this series one of the best moments in comics for 2010.
15. FALL OF THE GREEN ARROW (DC Comics)
After years of languishing in DC Universe purgatory, the Green Arrow was brought back into the mainstream with quite a lot of shock and awe. Starting with the series Cry For Justice, Green Arrow watches Star City get destroyed, kills Prometheus, loses Black Canary, gives up his identity and gets exiled into a weird forest that appeared during the end of Blackest Night. This turn of events has put Green Arrow in that same no-nonsense bad ass place he occupied during the Green Lantern & Green Arrow years. Writer J.T. Krul is dragging Oliver Queen (aka Green Arrow) through some dark waters and I hope the series finds its voice before it gets canceled.
14. DARK REIGN FINALLY ENDS WITH SIEGE (Marvel Comics)
Holy Hell in a hand basket was this not the best news ever? I hated Dark Reign, hated it with the fiery passion of a thousand suns. It was boring, pretentious, convoluted and nothing happened. The whole thing turned out to be the Seinfeld of comics. Mercifully the folks at Marvel decided to bring the reign of Norman Osborn to a close with spectacular style. The mini-series Siege was what Dark Reign should have been, exciting, action packed and something readers would be invested in. Watching Asgard fall, the return of Steve Rogers to active duty and then the eventual reformation of the Avengers was what comic books are all about. It was also nice to see Thor step up and even the return of Tony Stark as Iron Man was a welcome turn. Siege was a shining jewel in the very tarnished crown of Dark Reign.
13. ARTIFACTS BEGINS (Top Cow/Image Comics)
When you’re Top Cow/Image Comics and you’re putting out some of the most popular books on the stands with Witchblade, Angelus, Darkness and so forth, what do you do? I suppose you combine all these characters into a massive struggle against the forces of evil out to destroy the world. Writer Ron Marz shakes up this entire universe by placing everyone into this min-series battle titles Artifacts. The prize is 13 Artifacts that if brought together will hand over ultimate power to whoever wields them. Some of the artifacts are items; some are actual people who channel certain powers. Marz manages to not only make Artifacts an action, sci-fi, fantasy piece but also maintains the humanity of what’s going on. The slippery slope of trying to keep such fantastic elements bound to a human story is a tough one but Marz pulls it off. It doesn’t hurt that the initial art from Michael Broussard is incredible. I don’t know what will end up happening in 2011 with Artifacts but if these first issues are any idea, it’ll be something worth checking out.
12. ARCHIE MARRIES BETTY AND VERONICA (Archie Comics)
While Archie purists, like me, were not thrilled with these “What If” issues, the idea of seeing Archie grown up was a great one. Creating two separate lives detailing the results of Archie marrying Betty and Veronica was not only an interesting movie, It also provided the Archie Comics publishers with a springboard to try and mature the characters some. In 2010 we met Kevin Keller, the first openly gay kid in Riverdale and in 2011 the gang will deal with a romance between Reggie and Betty (in the Archie & Veronica married storyline) as well as the passing of Mrs. Grundy. While not the best written story in Archie history, these two marriages with Betty and Veronica were bold and important because it shook the foundation of a legacy that’s been pretty much the same for half a century.
11. THE END OF THE SWORD (Image Comics)
After twenty-four issues the Luna Brothers fantasy epic The Sword came to a close with a forty page finale. Over these 24 issues heroine Dara Brighton has faced the three elemental siblings as she fights to avenge her family’s death. Through it all The Luna Brothers gave us twists, turns and even a betrayal I never saw coming. I wasn’t a huge fan of Girls from The Luna Brothers but The Sword caught my attention right away. I was glad the writing and art stayed crisp and that the ending was decisive and clear. Though I’ll miss what was often a must read on my comic stack, I was glad The Luna Brothers had the forethought to end the story when it needed to be ended.
10. OUR VALUED CUSTOMERS (Independent Blog)
With so many blogs, online comics and websites dedicated to new and interesting material, it’s hard to say when true genius will strike. Enter Our Valued Customer (http://www.ourvaluedcustomers.blogspot.com), which is one of the funniest and best web comics ever. This isn’t a story though there are stories and while it has tons of characters there is no one character that it centers on. Our Valued Customer comes from the mind of the enigma Mr. Tim, some dude that works in a comic book shop, though nobody knows which one or where it is. Mr. Tim sits all day listening to the rants and ravings of comic book lovers, hipsters, dorks, geeks and every other social genre, then uses his own dynamic art style to translate what he hears word for word ending up with honest, brutal and fall down funny results. Want to know how awesome Our Valued Customer is? Gail Simone is one of the many fans who call it “Brilliant”.
09. SHADOWLAND (Marvel Comics)
This was, to me, one of the biggest disappointments in all of 2010. The story of Daredevil’s fall from superhero to murderous vigilante could have been one of the greatest story arcs of all time. The build up of great writing in Daredevil through the years laid the floor plan for what could have been a dark psychological drama. Matt Murdock aka Daredevil has been through the wringer at the hands of Brian Michael Bendis, Ed Brubaker and Andy Diggle, so a psychological break down would have been in order. Once Daredevil took over The Hand and started trying to turn them into a force for good, everything seemed to click into place. Then, for no reason, the psychological aspects were ripped from the story and readers were given the pat and lame excuse that Matt Murdock was possessed by a demon.
I don’t blame writer Andy Diggle, this feels like a stupid editorial decision from the “House Of Ideas”. Outside of the demon twist, Diggle’s writing was solid and the art from Billy Tan was pretty right on. From the ashes of Shadowland fans got the return of Black Panther as Daredevil’s replacement and a new series in 2011 called Daredevil Reborn. So, while not a great series, it was an important moment in the saga of the man without fear.
08. BRIGHTEST DAY (DC Comics)
Emerging from the fallout of Blackest Night (more on that later) comes Brightest Day, a huge, if inconsistent, bi-weekly story arc. Detailing what happens to the 12 heroes brought back to life by the White Lantern at the end of Blackest Night, Brightest Day is sometimes wonderful and sometimes incredibly boring. Writer Geoff Johns and Peter Tomasi have their work cut out for them as the two detail the assignments given to the 12 heroes and villains by the White Lantern in order for their lives to be fully returned. The interesting story angle is pretty much split down the middle as far as what’s interesting and what’s not. For example, the plot involving Aquaman is exciting and brisk, managing to make a long laughed at DC character viable again. On the flipside pretty much anything having to do with Firestorm is so dull you start not to care.
Brightest Day is like a game of tennis where one player is a master and the other a high school team captain. Both can be very good but one is clearly stronger and dominates the entire game. The Martian Manhunter story is compelling, while the Hawkman and Hawk Girl story pretty much sucks. If the Boston Brand story serves up something I wanted to follow, the Captain Boomerang story misses the ball and trips over the net. Brightest Day isn’t a complete travesty by any means but it’s certainly a hollow follow up to Blackest night.
07. BRAVE AND THE BOLD #33 (DC Comics)
This is why I love comics, the fact that things can turn on a dime. Later in this list I have some very unpleasant words for J. Michael Straczynski’s Superman run but with this one issue of Brave And The Bold he proves just how good he can be. This isn’t a big action issue, in fact there’s little fighting in it at all. What gets you here is the humanity, the way JMS takes a pivotal moment in DC history and expands to make it even more devastating. B&B #33 centers on Zatanna and Wonder Woman deciding to force a reluctant Barbara Gordon out for a girl’s night of dinner and dancing. It seems like an odd idea for an entire issue but as the story expands and the truth revealed, B&B #33 becomes that rare moment when comics rise above their own genre and become something else, something unexplainable and moving. Any comic book writer looking to figure out how to really create true emotions and human connections within their writing should study Brave & The Bold #33 cover to cover.
06. AMERICAN VAMPIRE (Vertigo)
I’ve long been bored with Vampires. Seriously, I got a gut full of them back in the Anne Rice days, so you can imagine how the onslaught of Twilight has poisoned me. For those reasons I turned my nose up at the debut of Scott Snyder’s American Vampire, even with the inclusion of Stephen King. I just wasn’t interested in another boring, overly romantic, vampire epic. I was forced to eat some crow after a good friend urged me to read the series. I jumped in with issue #3 and have been hooked ever since. Skinner Sweet is one of the most exciting and appealing vampire characters in recent memory and his story, which combines the Wild West with vampirism, is an absolute must read. I’m not even a huge Stephen King fan and I was completely in love with the style used to bring Skinner Sweet to life.
Same can be said for Scott Snyder’s Pearl Jones. Snyder, who is currently lending his dynamic talents to Detective Comics, gives the 20s showgirl Vampire an edge without regulating her to one dimensional melodramatic prose. The reason I love American Vampire, and feel it’s an important moment in comic books this year, is that it understands and treats comics as literature. It has the same focus on how comics can evolve that Watchman or The Dark Knight Returns had. No, I’m not comparing the books; I’m just showing how American Vampire belongs among any titles that treat comics as real art.
05. BLACKEST NIGHT ENDS (DC Comics)
This was a gigantic moment in the history of DC because Blackest Night was a story arc that had seeds planted as far back as 2004. I think it’s safe to say that Blackest Night was one of the most incredible event series in the last ten years, with everybody involved performing at the top of their abilities. Head Blackest Knight Geoff Johns turned out script after script of layered and in depth stories but managed to keep them streamlined and the action easy to follow. All comic publishers who are thinking of an event series should study Blackest Night, not only for the actual series but the way the entire thing was shaped and molded throughout all the DC titles. A real event series should be something that ties in with the characters history and shows us elements of their personality that we don’t know but aren’t outside the realm of possibility. Blackest Night does that with the main heroes in a way other event series failed to do.
In Civil War, the actions of Captain America are completely out of his parameters of behavior. It wasn’t that he was forced into a situation that called upon different action, it was more written as a way to get the events moving. Blackest Night doesn’t do that, it relied on all the DCU characters, their ticks and flaws, their emotional states and all the things that make them heroes and villains. This was an absolute flawless series that left me and so many others breathless.
04. ONE MOMENT IN TIME/BIG TIME (Amazing Spider-Man. Marvel Comics)
I think it’s safe to say that almost every Spider-Man fan across the board was disgusted with Joe Quesada (Marvel editor and chief) and J. Michael Strazynski’s Brand New Day. The very idea of solving the problems Marvel created by wiping out years of Spider-Man history sank the comic icon to new lows in storytelling. The one bright spot was that those who stepped into this new world decided to make it something, pardon the pun, amazing. Slowly, over time, Spider-Man comics began to kick ass again and once more the red headed stepchild of Marvel overcame his publisher’s idiocy to swing high again. In 2010 Joe Quesada decided to tie up the final loose end of Brand New Day, the story of Peter and Mary Jane. From the outset of Quesada’s series, we only knew that Peter and MJ weren’t married and were not too fond of each other. Outside of that their break up remained a mystery. In 2010’s One Moment In Time, the entire history of what happened on their wedding day was laid before us.
Granted it was a little gimmicky, what with the use of old pages from the Spider-Man annual where Peter Parker and MJ got married within the newer pages to tell the new story. I was also a little off put by the art from Paolo Rivera (as well as others) but all in all One Moment In Time was a decent way to end the two year long arc. The best part about it was that Spider-Man launched into Big Time, which has so far been a great entry into the saga. Writer Dan Slott uses his gifts of dialogue and pacing to plan out this new era in Spider-Man’s life perfectly. A new job, new girlfriend, new foes, it’s all coming together in a huge way. To add to it the art from Humberto Ramos is gorgeous. He knows how comics should look and balances the idea of comic book art and reality in his own unique way. In 2010 Spider-Man ended one chapter of his life and began another one.
03. END OF EX-MACHINA (Wildstorm)
After fifty issues of greatness, the story of ex-superhero and current New York City Mayor Mitchell Hundred came to a shattering end. Acclaimed writer Brian K. Vaughn once again proved why he’s among the best writers out there by mixing a superhero story with the most unlikely bed mate ever, politics. Only Vaughn could mix the current political climate and underbelly of Government with the story of a hero who can talk to machines. I loved that the present day story was set during Mitchell Hundred’s term as Mayor and all the superhero work was flashbacks. This forced Vaughn to make a story that was so rich with characters and subtext anyone could discover it and jump right in.
More so was the fact that even as a superhero Vaughn kept his character human. There were malfunctions, screw ups; he even gave up being a superhero to be a politician. Who does that? Who would even think of that? With each new arc within the grand plot Ex-Machina became more mature and more entertaining. Much like American Vampire, this is a series that treats comics as art and literature by believing the readers are intelligent people looking for good stories. The final arc was sad and bittersweet but nothing can change how wonderful and lucky we were to have Ex-Machina for fifty issues.
02. THE GREAT SUPERMAN DEBACLE (DC Comics)
I’m not really sure what’s going on over at DC Comics when it comes to Superman but it’s time for it to stop. How many ways can they screw up the Big Blue Boy Scout before somebody steps in to save the day? For the last several years fans have been forced to deal with writer James Robinson’s tortuous, long-winded and boring story arc involving Superman, Mon-El, Lois Lane’s father, and so on and so forth. Each issue under Robinson’s hand was harder to read than the last and by the end of his stretch I cared little for Superman at all. The final cherry on the parfait was 2010’s Superman: World Of New Krypton. This 12 issue series couldn’t be done with just Robinson’s hack-hands, he had to bring on Greg Rucka to make sure it sucked.
Superman: World Of New Krypton started out average and quickly devolved into a boring political story with no bite. The only good side to this was J. Michael Strazynski was poised to take over for Robinson on Superman once World Of New Krypton was over. This was great news for readers who had clung on through Robinson’s run because now we would see some action. Now we would be reminded why Superman was the first superhero and why JMS was such a heralded author. So what happened? Nothing, nada, zip. JMS reintroduced Superman by sending him on a chipper walkabout through America. The stories were pretentious, heavy handed and between that and how he screwed up Wonder Woman I began to wonder if JMS might now have the Frank Miller disease. Superman, who had spent a year on New Krypton (or Kandor) doing NOTHING, returned to walk around. It was and continues to be, the most disappointing thing in Superman comics that I can recall.
While Action Comics has found a new voice by focusing on Lex Luthor, Superman continues to languish in the great red and blue stroll. After ten years or more I have completely quit reading Superman because I’m so let down by the last few years of stories. In an even bigger fuck you to fans, good ol’ JMS has abdicated the Superman throne to go write some bigger paycheck series but is allowing….yes allowing…the new writers to continue the walk around story. Superman of recent years is a clear example of how egos and publishing errors can really hurt a long running series.
01. Duh nuh nuh nuh nuh nuh nuh nuh nuh…..BATMAAAAAAN!!! (DC Comics)
Be you indie lover, big two disciple or underground maven, nobody in comics can claim that 2010 didn’t belong to the Dark Knight. So much went down within the Batman Universe that it was hard to keep up with it all. I wasn’t a fan of all of it, but I have to admit when everything came together, a new era of Batman was born. An era that has given the caped crusader a much needed shot in the arm as he faces the future. 2010 was a time of huge change for Batman and everybody within his inner circle. From the day Bruce Wayne “died” we have all been debating how he’d come back and what the effect would be, but I doubt any of us predicted what actually came about. Is the world ready for multiple Batmen? I certainly am.
First, we have to look at The Return Of Bruce Wayne from Grant Morrison. I hated this series, hated it, hated it, hated it. That being said, it is the definitive record of how Bruce Wayne fought his way out of the time stream and back into the world he knew. Morrison called upon his love of science fiction, and garbled storytelling, to put Bruce Wayne through several different identities as he made his way back. From pirate to cowboy to private dick and so on, Bruce fought a valiant fight that ended with him back in the game but with an entirely new plan. During Bruce’s absence all of the Batman titles began to find their new voices and set the stage for the future of the Dark Knight.
Morrison’s Batman And Robin, which I was mixed on, did a nice job setting the story between Dick Grayson as the new Batman and Bruce’s son Damien as the new Robin. Although much of it seemed inane to me, I did like watching how Dick settled into becoming Batman and how he began steering Damien into a new way of approaching crime fighting. Batman and Robin did a great job of really establishing Dick as his own Batman and Damien as a true three dimensional character. I also enjoyed how Batman comics stuck with Dick Grayson, even after Bruce’s return, and how writer/artist Tony Daniel has kept the comic a story-by-story adventure series.
On the flipside, American Vampire writer Scott Snyder has decided to delve deep into the pathos of becoming the new Batman within the pages of Detective Comics. Here we begin to see what being Batman is doing to Dick Grayson’s psychology and how Gotham City itself will test the new Batman. Batman: Gotham Knights is Paul Dini’s homage to the gothic noir of Batman stories and also managed to work in Hush as well. This is a more theatrical entry, though it does concern Dick as Batman as well as Bruce.
The final part of this puzzle is Batman Incorporated, the first Grant Morrison written Batman property that I’ve actually enjoyed. In a startling announcement, that even made some national news headlines, Bruce Wayne admitted he had always been funding Batman’s activities. While Bruce didn’t admit to being Batman, he did say he would be helping launch a new initiative to bring Batman all over the world. From there the story heads to Tokyo, where Batman looks to recruit a new soldier in his war. The addition of this Batman Incorporated series may seem silly to some, but to me it’s a perfect evolutionary step in the saga of Batman and his allies.
Other books in the Batman world took flight as well. Batgirl really found her legs and Red Robin gave us a new way to see the usually wholesome Tim Drake. The next book to hit newsstands is Batman: The Dark Knight by Dave Finch, a book that will be dedicated to Bruce Wayne as Batman alone. This is an incredibly exciting time for Batman and Batman fans, a time of great change and a time of exciting new stories. As 2010 comes to a close it is clear to all that it belonged to the world’s greatest detective.
So that’s it, that’s my list. Love it or hate it, hopefully you’ll be talking about it. I urge everybody who has a love of comics to create their own list, or at least involve themselves in the debate with fellow readers. 2010 was an incredible year for comic books; I can’t wait to see what 2011 bring us.