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Wednesday, July 8, 2015

The 50 Best Comics of the Decade (So Far): 30-11

Welcome back to the GeekRex '50 Best Comics of the 2010s' list! Today, we've got #30-11 for you. If you want #50-31, click here, and don't forget to check in tomorrow to see what we've got for you for the 10 Best Comics of the Decade So Far.


Pretty Deadly     (2013 - 2014)
Kelly Sue DeConnick, Emma Rios, Jordie BellaireImage Comics

DeConnick, Rios, and Bellaire's 'weird Western' came kind of out of nowhere. At the time, DeConnick's groundbreaking run on Captain Marvel was only just beginning, and while her smaller work had earned her a following, she wasn't yet the star she is today. Pretty Deadly was weirder than her Marvel work, but it was also inventive and unpredictable in a way even Image only manages once or twice a year. In it, DeConnick, Rios, and Bellaire craft a subtle, lovely mythology that gives real weight to the setting and conflicts, crafting a world of intriguing depth.


COPRA     (2012 - )
Michel Fiffe - Copra Comics/Bergen Street Press

This self publishing wonder of the past few years is finally getting the mainstream attention it deserves, but regardless, COPRA is a marvelous comic and arguably as one of our writers calls it "the only superhero comic that matters". Picture this, a Suicide Squad riff but with the aspirations of Cerebus, and that basically only scratches the surface of what Michel Fiffe presents to his ever-growing audience. It can be hard to get a hold of at times, but it's a mission well worth undertaking, if you like great comics, that is.


Southern Bastards     (2014 - )
Jason Aaron, Jason Latour - Image Comics

Most of us here at Geek Rex are huge fans of Jason Aaron. The man is easily Marvel's best writer right now, but that excitement bled over to his creator owned work at Image last year with Southern Bastards. Best described as Southern noir, Bastards explores the story of a small Alabama town where high school football is king and the head coach doubles as restaurateur and mob boss. These various worlds collide for a story that is utterly captivating and perfectly Southern. How many other comics can you say had recipes for apple pie in their letters section? It helps that Aaron and artist Jason Latour are both Southerners, allowing for a perspective on that part of the country that other writers simply can never understand. Latour's art is just as effective as Aaron's writing. Just look to his variant cover for issue 10, which features a dog tearing up a Confederate flag, to get an idea of what this comic has to offer.


The Private Eye     (2013 - 2015)
Brian K. Vaughan, Marcos Martin, Muntsa Vicente - Panel Syndicate

Although not quite as well known and Vaughan's Saga, I'd argue it's much more important and maybe even better. Introduced in 2013 as a pay-what-you-want, drm-free, created-for-digital sci-fi comic, The Private Eye turned a few heads. It is a huge step in the right direction for digital comics, both in format and pricing, but it certainly helps that the creators involved put together an incredible 10-issue story. In the near future, the cloud "burst," raining down everyone's secrets. In response, the world has largely moved back to analog, and the internet is no more. Privacy is everything, which means that everyone wears hi-tech holographic masks to hide their identities. Our hero, PI, is trying to solve a murder and the much more dangerous conspiracy behind it, all smartly written and absolutely gorgeously rendered in a widescreen format perfect for laptop or tablet.


March     (2013, 2015)
John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, Nate Powell - Top Shelf Productions
The graphic memoir has taken off in recent years. The 2000s saw a number of influential, popular examples of the form, like Marjane Satrapi's Persepolis and Alison Bechdel's Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic. Few examples come from someone who has lived quite so full a life as Georgia's House of Representatives member John Lewis, who was active in the Civil Right fight of the 1960's with Martin Luther King, Jr. March: Book One followed him from childhood to early protests, while March: Book Two digs deeper into the Freedom Rides and the struggle to live up to the principles of non-violent protest. With Andrew Aydin and Nate Powell helping Lewis tell his story in graphic novel format, March is a vivid record into an all-too-important time in modern American history. And with a planned third book coming out from Top Shelf soon, expect March to remain among this decade's finest graphic memoirs.

(Edit: We initially attributed this book to First Second. With our apologies, the correct publisher is Top Shelf.)


Detective Comics     (2011)
Scott Snyder, Jock, David Baron, Francesco Francavilla - DC Comics

Following the death of Bruce Wayne, we could have gotten a gimmicky period of bat-usurpers (and we did for a little while), but what Snyder and co. brought us instead was a richly dark, phenomenally character driven story of Dick Grayson as Batman. Working as a nice counterpoint to the bright and bold Batman & Robin, the Black Mirror arc allowed Dick to face both his and Gotham's past while coming into his own as Batman. Jock does an excellent job portraying this dark but modern Gotham with intense action and is perfectly paired with Francavilla, who's wonderfully retro and horror-themed art was really brought to the forefront here. Whether dealing with villain obsessed auction houses or Commissioner Gordon's potentially psychopathic son, this final run on Detective Comics, vol. 1 is definitively the last great DC story pre-New 52.


Bitch Planet     (2014 - )
Kelly Sue DeConnick, Valentine de Landro, Cris Peter - Image Comics

Bitch Planet is angry, sure, but it's also funny, weird, and has some of the most fabulous background worldbuilding we've seen in a comic lately. A lot of that is thanks to Valentine de Landro, who has an incredible attention to detail in his panels, slipping in little things that help round out the world. But Bitch Planet feels like Kelly Sue DeConnick's baby, smart and mean and shockingly funny. If Pretty Deadly is DeConnick's unpredictable, fantastical ode to a genre she loves, Bitch Planet is it's more realistic cousin, science fiction in a classical sense, criticizing the issues of today through the lens of the future. It's a new series, but it hits hard and shows no sign of letting up. (Full review here)


Afterlife with Archie     (2013 - )
Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, Francesco Francavilla - Archie Comics

This is an absolute wet dream for Francavilla fans; after his phenomenal run on Detective Comics (see above) and dozens of great covers including the Eisner winning ones for Archie Meets KISS, he got a chance to do the unthinkable: turn Riverdale into the zombie apocalypse. Archie has a history of silly crossovers (see Archie Meets the Punisher and the current Archie vs. Predator) but rather than make this an extension of a simple contrast gag, Aguirre-Sacasa and Francavilla have made this into a modern horror masterpiece. In addition to being legitimately frightening, they have created a story with heartbreaking pathos. Although the publishing schedule is pretty slow, it's one of the most beautifully crafted books on the market and is always worth the wait.


Moon Knight     (2014-2015)
Warren Ellis, Declan Shalvey, Jordie Bellaire - Marvel Comics

Moon Knight has never been a character Marvel really understood. He wasn't effective as the Batman analog they so badly wanted him to be, but stories that focused on his most unique element, his mental illness, tended to be dour and samey. Enter Warren Ellis, Declan Shalvey, and Jordie Bellaire, who reinvented the character in six issues. A dash of cosmic horror and a healthy heaping of some of the best action in comics made this iteration of Moon Knight feel surprising and essential in a way the character never had before, while Jordie Bellaire's blunt colors, particularly on Moon Knight's costume, gave the character an otherworldly era that sold the new direction.


Chew     (2010 - )
John Layman, Rob Guillory, Lisa Gonzales, Steve Struble, Taylor Wells - Image Comics

Chew is a crime comedy about a cibopathic detective - that is, a detective who receives psychic visions of anything he eats. It's important that I state upfront that this is a comedy, because otherwise, the premise sounds almost unbearably bleak, and because Rob Guillory's design work on the book is, while quite spectacular and lovingly crafted, also at times almost viscerally gross. Layman and Guillory have a talent for surreal worldbuilding and gross or inexplicable plot twists that never feel out of place, but Chew's greatest (... or weirdest) accomplishment is that it is almost certainly the most viscerally gross book about the act of eating ever conceived. That's only sort of a compliment. 


The Love Bunglers     (2014)
Jaime Hernandez - Fantagraphics

Everything Jaime Hernandez has been working towards for the past 30+ years led to this very moment, particularly as it centers on his on-again, off-again romantic pair of Maggie and Ray. Hernandez does something wonderfully impressive here and he not only adds to the future of these characters, but also works between the margins to tell an untold story that in a lesser writer's hands might feel like a cheat. Yet for Hernandez, it's that of a master turning his audience into pure putty. Much like his brother Gilbert, Jaime has a number of masterworks under his belt within this "slice of life" epic, and it's debatable whether The Love Bunglers is better than say "Wigwam Bam" or "The Ghosts of Hoppers", but it's another wonderful notch on the belt and what he does next has us all waiting with bated breath.


Building Stories     (2012)
Chris Ware - Pantheon

The ultimate comics experiment, Chris Ware is no stranger to unique narrative tools (the entire "Pizza Dog" issue of Matt Fraction's Hawkeye that so many went ga-ga over was basically a Ware riff), but it's here that many consider to be comics finest storyteller went whole-hog into trusting his readers to be able to keep up with his brand of mad genius. Building Stories centers on a failed artist living in a Chicago brownstone. Said brownstone figures prominently in the work as the various pieces that make up the Building Stories box (four broadsheets, three magazines, two strips, two pamphlets, etc...) are comprised of stories that visit the various individuals that live within. If you want to find comics at their most rewarding, this is as fine a place to start as any.


Thor: God of Thunder     (2012 - 2014)
Jason Aaron, Esad Ribic, Ive Svorcina, Ron Garney - Marvel Comics

Most comic readers knew Thor from Avengers series or from the movies, but hadn’t really read a Thor series before–until this one. Jason Aaron and Esad Ribic hit a very particular nerve with Thor: God of Thunder, a niche that comic readers didn’t know they were missing. Here we got a story that was cosmic, heavy metal, time-traveling, and above all epic as hell. Ribic’s artwork is stunning in its scale, and Thor’s missions to stop the God Butcher, Malekith, and Roxxon are as thrilling as they are fun. Aaron manages to balance a sense of dark, cosmic drama with a hint of over-the-top silliness that can only be summed up with two words: space sharks.


Batgirl     (2009 - 2011)
Bryan Q. Miller, Lee Garbett Jr. - DC Comics

Ah, Steph. Your reign was short, but  judging by our voters, memorable. Bryan Q. Miller came onto Batgirl in late 2009; in 2011, the series was canceled to make way for Gail Simone's New 52 run, with Barbara out of the chair and back on the street. In those two years, Miller made a strong case for how to write a different kind of Batgirl, one who lacked the physical or intellectual brilliance that defined Cassandra and Barbara respectively. His Batgirl was a scrapper, a canny underdog whose optimism and low-key warmth differentiated her from the rest of the Gotham crowd. It was a trait Miller honed in on, too, particularly in the book's powerful final issue. One of DC's best superhero comics, sadly out of print... for now.


Lumberjanes     (2014 - )
Noelle Stevenson, Shannon Watters, Grace Ellis, Brooke Allen, Faith Erin Hicks, Emily Carroll, Naomi Nowak, Brittney Williams, Aimee Fleck, Becca Tobin, Carolyn Nowak, Felicia Choo, T. Zysk, Maarta Laiho - Boom!

Ahhh, Lumberjanes. Consistently one of the most enjoyable reads on the shelf, Lumberjanes is breath of fresh air every month. Following a group of five best friends out to have a great summer at camp together, Lumberjanes' adventures often take unpredictable, supernatural turns that never faze its heroines. They collect badges, share campfire stories, and investigate the mysterious Bear Woman, all with the wit and oddball sense of humor of books like Adventure Time and The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl. This is almost certainly Boom!'s greatest success to date.


Fables     (2002 - 2015)
Bill Willingham, Mark Buckingham, Steve Leialoha, Craig Hamilton - Vertigo

After Hellblazer, Vertigo's longest running series is most definitely Fables.  Bill Willingham's fantasy series takes an idea that is pretty commonplace today: fairy tale characters have been forced from their world and must now find new lives in ours.  The series took this intriguing premise and completely ran with it over its 13 years and 150 issues, an encylopedia, two graphic novels, a prose novel, three spin-off graphic novels, as well as two spin-off series, each a lot of fun for different reasons.  In an age of comics where female protagonists are what readers are demanding more of, Fables was almost at the forefront with characters like Snow White and the witch Frau Totenkinder playing some of the largest and most memorable roles.  Fables allowed us to fall in love with some of our favorite childhood characters all over again, while also introducing us to new ones and telling an epic story with characters that feel utterly human...even if they sometimes turn into wolves.


Daredevil     (2011 - 2015)
Mark Waid, Paolo Rivera, Javier Rodriguez - Marvel Comics

After decades of dark, brooding tragedy, Mark Waid famously brought back the swashbuckling action to the man without fear. This run has been funny and fast moving, and while it was always working towards a larger story, each issue told a full story. On top of Waid having such a perfect handle on the character and all his flaws, the series has been lucky enough to have some of the best artists in the business, but nearly always sticking with a bold, colorful style. About halfway through the first run (pre-San Francisco), Chris Samnee came on board and there we found something truly special. Samnee and Waid will certainly go down as one of the great creative partners in modern comics, as will their consistently impressive storytelling skills on a monthly basis on Daredevil.


The Wicked + The Divine     (2014 - )
Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie, Matt Wilson, Kate Brown - Image Comics

Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie continue to impress as one of comics' strongest creative teams in The Wicked + The Divine. The pair's collaborations frequently work at the intersection of pop culture and mysticism, a beautiful dissection of why we love what we love, and The Wicked + The Divine is no exception. But it may be their most ambitious collaboration yet, and that's supported by some of McKevlie's most beautiful design-work. With its third arc, "Commercial Suicide," the pair will be opening up the art to a variety of immensely talented young artists. The Wicked + The Divine has been a superb three-man show thus far and the best collaboration of an excellent team; I can't wait to see how the book grows with the contribution of artists like Tula Lotay and Leila del Duca. 


Here     (2014)
Richard McGuire - Pantheon

Have you ever wondered what the very spot you are standing in was like 30 years ago? or 100 years ago? Or 500 years ago? Or what it might be like 50 years in the future? That's the central premise of Richard McGuire's Here, a staggering look at a corner of one room of a house and how that one minute area has seen a history that would dwarf not only all of us, but all of our ancestors as well. Here is a fascinating peak at time and the ever shifting of the "permanent" and blurs the line between what is comics and what is art.


Locke and Key     (2008 - 2013)
Joe Hill, Gabriel Rodriguez, Jay Fotos - IDW

While this decade only caught the last 2/3 of the series, it must be mentioned as one of the best. Locke and Key follows the Locke family as they adjust to their new lives in their father's childhood home, an old house with secrets accessed by magical keys. What Hill and Rodriguez manage to do here is to uniquely blend childlike awe at the world with sheer horror. The characters' flaws and growth into adulthood are explored expertly using fantastical devices–few other stories can claim to have their teenaged girl literally bottle up her fear and sadness (Inside Out anyone?)–and over the course of six arcs we become so attached to the family that the Lovecraftian stakes are borderline unbearable. This is a masterpiece of a series that is eminently re-readable, and cannot be missed by fans of horror that has a beating heart.
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