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Thursday, July 9, 2015

The 50 Best Comics of the Decade (So Far): 10-1

This is it: The Top 10. The final installment of GeekRex's Top 50 Comics of the 2010s. The 10 best comic books, by popular vote, of the 2010's to date. 

Remember to check out our previous installments before diving in here, and enjoy!


Boxers & Saints     (2013)
Gene Luen Yang - First Second Books

Gene Luen Yang's studied portrayal is not only the most engrossing YA graphic novel we've read, it's also perhaps the best graphic novel of its respective year. Tackling both angles of the Boxer Rebellion in China in books called respectively "Boxers" and "Saints", Yang crafts a heart-wrenching tale of, at least for western eyes, an unfortunately little studied conflict. The central thesis of the tale is based in how can religion divide us as a people but can also hold the potential to be the "great uniter". What's most fascinating about Yang's presentation here is that the Boxer's chapter is designed that a grand epic, while the Saints story is more muted in terms of color palette and a bit more representative of an independent film. Both books come together for one of the most emotional investing reads of the past few years. 


Sex Criminals     (2013 - )
Matt Fraction, Chip Zdarsky, Becka Kinzie - Image Comics

Oh, to look back at the beginnings of Fraction moving away from Marvel and towards more and more of his excellent creator owned work. Some were skeptical about Sex Criminals when hearing the original pitch about a girl who is able to stop time with her orgasms; can this really go anywhere besides immature sex gags? While there is plenty of that–enough to make me laugh out loud reading pretty much every issue–this turned out to be something so, so much more. Fraction and Zdarsky, now a huge star in his own right after this series, have crafted something that is dramatic and real despite the fantastical concept. Sex Criminals has dealt with relationship issues, depression, and sex in a more adult way than any other comic on the shelf. Suzie and Jon are well rounded and fascinating characters, and while the world continues to grow, Fraction and Zdarsky continue to sort of mask this real exploration of sexuality with hysterical humor and the weirdest, most strangely therapeutic letters column in all of comics.


Hip Hop Family Tree      (2012 - )
Ed Piskor - BoingBoing/Fantagraphics

Graphic nonfiction is a genre that went sadly underrepresnted on our list, but there was one work that couldn't be ignored: Ed Piskor's Hip Hop Family Tree. A labor of love for classical hip hop nerd Piskor, the ongoing series - published online at BoingBoing and in gorgeous collected editions by Fantagraphics - tracks the origins of hip hop, from its earliest days on the streets and in the clubs to its organization and eventual mainstreaming. Piskor mostly keeps his distance, telling the story in one-page chunks revolving around an enormous cast of characters, but his passion for the material, and the passion of his subjects, shines through on every single page. A must-read for any music nerd, Hip Hop Family Tree captures the colorful history of a quintessential American art in loving detail.


Criminal: The Last of the Innocent     (2011)
Ed Brubaker, Sean Philips, Val Staples - Icon Comics

For much of its run, Ed Brubaker and Sean Philips used Criminal to tell hard-boiled stories of career criminals. This wasn't where you went for wrong-man thrillers, but for men and women who were born into crime, grew up surrounded by it, and were inevitably pulled into it. But for their 2011 return to the book, the four-issue mini-series Criminal: The Last of the Innocent, Brubaker and Philips changed things up. Riley Richards came from a small city called Brookview, and he's been a success by any definition since leaving. He's got a gorgeous wife, plenty of money - everything he dreamed about growing up. But as his memories of happier times overtake him even as the stresses from his gambling and whoring weigh him down, and he finds himself coming closer and closer to doing something truly horrifying to try and recreate a past that was never really there. A true masterpiece of crime comics.


Multiversity     (2014 - 2015)
Grant Morrison, Ivan Reis, Joe Prado, Nei Ruffino, Chris Sprouse, Karl Story, Ben Oliver, Frank Quitely, Nathan Fairbairn, Cameron Stewart, Jim Lee, Scott Williams, Doug Mahnke, Christian Alamy - DC Comics

Brilliant. Ambitious. Absorbing. It's hard to discuss Multiversity, Grant Morrison's swan-song after a decade with DC Comics, without resorting to excessive superlatives, but if there's a series that's earned every single one of them and more, it's this one. A series of books taking place in a different alternate reality of the DC Universe, Morrison's series could leap comfortably from warm-hearted homage (Thunderworld) to spot-on criticism (Pax Americana) while still feeling like a coherent whole. The series brought together some of the finest artistic talent at DC, but moreso than most on this list, this was a writer-driven series: Multiversity serves as a powerful conclusion to a decade's worth of Morrison stories about the power of comics storytelling, the importance of superheroes, and the constant struggle between optimism and cynicism in our lives and our stories.


  Wonder Woman     (2011 - 2014)
Brian Azzarello, Cliff Chiang, Sonia Oback, Tony Akins, Goran Sudzuka, Matt Wilson, Kano - DC Comics

Much like Jason Aaron's work on Thor: God of Thunder, many of us here at Geek Rex never thought we would be reading a solo Wonder Woman book before the New 52.  While many were quick to join the hype train for titles like Justice League and Batman, Brian Azzarello's run on Wonder Woman went largely ignored by the masses.  Nevertheless, that did not stop the title from being perhaps the best of the entire New 52.  With amazing art from Cliff Chiang and others, Wonder Woman re-imagined the origins of the Amazon princess as well as many gods and goddesses from Greek mythology.  Some fantastic character work with even more stunning art, this run will likely go down as one of the forerunners for the recent trend to include more female protagonists/perspectives in superhero comics.


Hawkeye     (2012 - 2015)
Matt Fraction, David Aja, Matt Hollingsworth, Javier Pulido, Annie Wu, Jordie Bellaire, Chris Eliopoulos, Francesco Francavilla - Marvel

Perhaps the mainstream comics phenomenon of the 2010s, Matt Fraction and David Aja's reinvention of Hawkeye took the comics world by storm almost immediately. Rave reviews met with formal daring in a career-making turn from Fraction, Aja, and Hollingsworth. The concept was simple - what Hawkeye does when he's not being an Avenger - but it, alongside Waid's Daredevil, helped completely change the face of Marvel comics in the years to follow. While ardor for the series cooled considerably as the book was plagued by delays, Hawkeye is a series that is going to leave an outsize hole in Marvel as it ends, and its reputation will live on untarnished once the delays are no longer a consideration.


She-Hulk     (2014 - 2015)
Charles Soule, Javier Pulido, Muntsa Vicente, Ronald Wimberly, Rico Renzi - Marvel

Charles Soule started making splashes with his episodic Swamp Thing run and Oni Press series Letter 44, but it was here that he entered the realm of the top ten. Soule is actually a lawyer himself, and so was able to bring to the long secondary character of Jennifer Walters into a sort of legal comedy series. The series borrows in tone a bit from things like Hawkeye and Superior Foes of Spider-Man, but balances its humor perfectly with an extremely strong sense of character and a smart look at a different side of the Marvel Universe. Perhaps the feature that puts it over the edge and so high up on our list is the insanely talented list of artists involved, with the stellar cartooning of Javier Pulido at the forefront. Throw in some of the best covers in recent years by the relative newcomer Kevin Wada, and you’ve got a damn good series, one that won several awards in our 2014 Rexies for Comics, including best series of the year.


Ms. Marvel     (2014 - )
G. Willow Wilson, Adrian Alphona, Ian Herring, Takeshi Miyazawa, Jake Wyatt, Elmo Bondoc - Marvel

It sometimes seems like Ms. Marvel was ready to take the world by storm before the first issue even hit. Mainstream comics have been dying slowly from a lack of diversity, and under the pen of G. Willow Wilson, Kamala Khan, the Pakistani-American Muslim teen girl created in this book, became an instant icon. It helps that Wilson and a team of excellent artists have been seemingly channeling the lost spirit of classic 1960's Spider-Man, leading off with a stellar first arc and building Kamala's world out from there. Ms. Marvel has a warm, lived-in feeling so utterly different from many mainstream comics, thanks in part to Ian Herring's beautiful color palette and a series of artists who tend to soften the harsh, dynamic edges of typical superhero comics. It's not a book you want to read; it's a book you want to live in.


Saga     (2012 - )
Brian K. Vaughan, Fiona Staples - Image Comics

Image comics is in the midst of a huge comeback over the past few years.  A recent surge of not only creator-owned titles, but titles tons of comic readers have embraced have ushered in a new era of creativity, inclusion, and excitement in comics that we simply were not getting for some time.  When the time comes to look back on this era at Image, Saga is going to be seen as the title that started it all.   Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples' sci-fi series could best be described as a space soap opera.  From the very beginning, many of us here at Geek Rex and in the comics community abroad have found ourselves engrossed in the story of lovers Alana and Marko along with their daughter, Hazel.  We've laughed with this series, cried with this series, and often found ourselves utterly in awe of the places this story has gone, but none of it would work at all without Fiona Staples' art.  Staples' work on this series will not only go down as some of the best of her career, but is easily some of the best art in comics today (possibly ever).  Volume 1 of Saga is a perpetual best-seller, and, with a price tag of only $10, you have no excuse to avoid checking out why we find this series to be the best of the decade so far.


And with that, the list concludes! We here at Geek Rex want to thank all of you, our readers, for checking out our stuff every day, and we want to thank a few others. Not everyone who contributed to this list wanted to be thanked, but a few did.

Kyle (@kylepinion), Shane (@shandrick), Harper (@harperwharris), and Cal (@comicalibrarian), the GeekRex regulars,  want to thank Jessi (@jessidee), Jake, and all the other unnamed contributors who helped us put together the best possible list.
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