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Tuesday, July 7, 2015

The 50 Best Comics of the Decade (So Far): 50-31

Welcome to the GeekRex list of the very best comics of the 2010s. Yes, we're aware that the 2010's aren't actually over yet. But they've offered us a lot of excellent comics, and we wanted to talk about them. To that end, we asked a host of people - critics, creators, fans - to send us their lists of the Top 20 Comics of the 2010s. The #1 pick got 20 points; the #20 pick got 1 point. Then, we added them all together to come up with this list of 50 excellent comics you should absolutely all check out.

Today, we bring you #50-31 on the list. Check back tomorrow for the next set of entries. And enjoy...


Silver Surfer     (2014 - 2015)
Dan Slott, Mike Allred, Laura Allred - Marvel

The Silver Surfer is one of those Marvel characters that every comic fan knows, but most don't really care that much about. Though he definitely has the requisite tragic backstory, there has never really been much there to make the Surfer a fascinating character. Enter longtime Spider-man writer Dan Slott with a crazy premise: make Silver Surfer more like Doctor Who. Turning Noran Radd into the next Doctor, Slott takes the former herald of Galactus on a wide variety of adventures across the galaxy with, naturally, a female human companion. But that isn't the best part of this series. Silver Surfer features quite possibly the best artwork Mike and Laura Allred have ever done. If for nothing else, you must get this comic just to see some of the finest comics art you'll likely ever see.


Battling Boy     (2013)
Paul Pope, Hilary Sycamore, John Martz - First Second Books

Originally Paul Pope's pitch for a Kamandi relaunch at DC, which was summarily turned down, instead (the first of two volumes) found a home at First Second. While Pope generally fluctuates more towards the manga side of the spectrum in his work and general influence, Battling Boy saw him embracing his Kirby roots, with a story that was equal parts Kirby's "Last Boy on Earth" and Thor. In many ways, it might be his most accomplished work given its thematic heft while also appealing to a wider reaching audience than say...Heavy Liquid (and we love Heavy Liquid over here). Most importantly, it's an enjoyable, well thought-out adventure and oftentimes in comics, that's in far too short a supply.


The Fade Out     (2014 - )
Ed Brubaker, Sean Philips, Elizabeth Breitweiser - Image Comics

Brubaker and Phillips have long been comics royalty in the crime genre, but as exciting as it always is to see a new series by the pair, it’s also easy to see it as just another crime comic. It’s the setting here that really sets this one apart: set in old Hollywood, The Fade Out has a fascinating group of cast and crew characters from a fictional movie, including a blacklisted alcoholic writer, the hack that he ghost writes for, some big bad producers, handsome movie stars, and gorgeous starlets. The book is, of course, utterly gorgeous, and the murder mystery of the film’s original star that sets the story off is uber intriguing. Tie that in with great character work, cameos by real life Hollywood legends, and sharply incisive historical essays in the back matter and you’ve got one of the best series on the shelf and perhaps this team’s finest work.


Hark! A Vagrant     (2007 - )
Kate Beaton

There are plenty of successful webcomics from the 2000s and the 2010s, but few have consistently displayed the wit of Kate Beaton's long-running Hark! A Vagrant. Beaton's series has been collected by Drawn & Quarterly into a pair of books featuring some new material - 2011's Hark! A Vagrant and 2015's Step Aside, Pops - and earned her nods as the 14th best female comics artist and 5th best female comics writer in Comic Book Resources' Top Female Writers and Artists lists. Don't take our word for it, though; visit her website for years worth of fantastic, funny free comics.


The Nao of Brown     (2012)
Glyn Dillon - SelfMadeHero/Abrams

Nao Brown is a half-Japanese girl living in London and struggling with obsessive compulsive disorder. Not the cute kind you often see in stories like this, though; Glyn Dillon's story digs into the dark side of OCD and powerfully illustrates the way it can control and derail ones' life. But the story isn't just a straight-forward tragedy. Dillon pulls from influences like Moebius and Miyazaki for some fantastical sequences, and his lush, warm illustration of Nao's life is powerfully empathetic. While it stumbled a bit at the finish line, The Nao of Brown is nevertheless a powerful graphic novel and a welcome return to graphic storytelling from Glyn Dillon.


Sweet Tooth     (2009-2013)
Jeff Lemire, Jose Villarubia - Vertigo

A post-apocalyptic setting. Humanity mostly wiped out by a strange plague. The survivors forming a society of their own. No, this isn't The Walking Dead or any other zombie comic...this is something much, much better. This is Sweet Tooth, a comic written and (mostly) drawn by Jeff Lemire. Zombies aren't what wiped out humanity. Instead, we have a virus which caused a number of children to be born as human/animal hybrids. An admittedly strange concept, which Lemire makes even stranger by pairing Gus, a deer hybrid who goes by the nickname Sweet Tooth, with the mysterious Jeppard as the two venture on a cross-country journey. What follows is a harrowing tale that will make you more emotional than you would think a comic could. Lemire is in top form here.


Secret Six     (2008-2011)
Gail Simone, Nicola Scott, J. Calafiore - DC Comics

In hindsight, Geoff Johns' staid, fatherly event, Infinite Crisis, may have spawned more breakaway cult hits than anything else, from Rucka's solid Checkmate to John Rogers' phenomenal Blue Beetle. But none were more successful than Gail Simone's Secret Six, a book that Simone (and DC) can't stay away from for long. While it's recently returned, her strongest run on the title was from 2008 to 2011, with art primarily from Nicola Scott and J. Calafiore. Under them, Secret Six was bleak, funny, and incredibly clever, a dark comedy poking fun at the beating heroic heart of the DCU. There was nothing else like it on the shelves.


Lose     (2009 - )
Michael DeForge - Koyama Press

Stories about body horror, S&M, Canada; it's easy to call Michael DeForge the David Cronenberg of comics. But more specifically, I'd call him the "noise rock" of the industry, and it helps that he's in a noise rock band. While DeForge has made his name with the critically acclaimed Ant Colony, which plays a bit like his attempt to reach a more mainstream audience (and is wonderfully amazing), it's Lose where he really gets to cut loose and you get the creator at his most unfiltered. I could read, and re-read the issues of Lose over and over again and feel like I've pulled something new out of each attempt, culminating in easily my favorite work of DeForge's thus far, the long-form story of Lose #6. If you want to find out what's happening on the edge of the alt-comix space, check out A Body Beneath, which collects Lose #2-5.


Uncanny X-Force
Rick Remender, Jerome Opena, - Marvel

X-Force has long been a dull title, one of the more “x-treme” X-Men books that seems to be a holdover from the 90s. However, Remender was able to take this tired concept of an elite mutant assassin squad and turn it into one of the finest superhuman melodramas in recent times. The whole series rests on the question of nature vs. nurture as the team is tasked with killing a new Apocalypse, now just a child. The series weaves in and out of killer classic Marvel concepts like the hyper-evolution dome called The World, and tells an epic story that spans years and has drastic consequences for every member of the team. It’s one of the best superhero books of the last few years, but barring everything else you’ve got to give props for someone being able to successfully put Deadpool and Fantomex together in a way that actually made sense!


Batgirl     (2014 - )
Cameron Stewart, Brenden Fletcher, Babs Tarr, Maris Wicks, Bengal, Serge Lapointe - DC Comics

One of the newest entries on this list, Batgirl is just over one arc in, but hooo, that first one was a doozy. Pulling off the success of books like Ms. Marvel, DC let Cameron Stewart, Brenden Fletcher, and Babs Tarr team up to take Babs to Burnside, Gotham's hip college district. The result was a gorgeously-designed look at a completely different kind of Gotham City, one that fleshes out Batman's notorious home town into something a little more realistic. Stewart, Fletcher, and Tarr purposely sought to court the youth market with the change in scenery, in the kind of enemies she fought, and with a fantastic new costume. It worked very, very well, and it keeps improving with every issue.


Julio's Day     (2013)
Gilbert Hernandez - Fantagraphics

100 pages with each page representing a year in a man's life, this is the premise of Julio's Day, the 2000's masterpiece from Gilbert Hernandez that was finally collected by Fantagraphics in 2013. It's a stunning work that speaks to the fragility of life and the changing sexual mores of the 20th century. While most generally prefer the work of his younger brother Jaime in their Love & Rockets series, this is a work that stands toe to toe with the best of his younger half's oeuvre. Sparse, dreamy, and evocatively rich, Julio's Day may be the best thing Beto has ever done.


The Manhattan Projects     (2012 - )
Jonathan Hickman, Nick Pitarra, Cris Peter, Rachelle Rosenberg, Jordie Bellaire - Image Comics

A common sci-fi storytelling refrain goes something like, "They were so busy wondering if they could do it, they never thought to ask if they should." That's not a problem for the characters of The Manhattan Projects, a group of the greatest scientists of the 20th century all united to create anything and everything that crosses their mind, consequences be damned. Led by Joseph Oppenheimer, the sadistic twin brother of Robert Oppenheimer, and with a cast that includes Albert Einstein, Richard Feynman, and an artificial intelligence of FDR, The Manhattan Projects is loopy and unpredictable in the best way possible, a sharp, sometimes-surreal ode to science gone wrong stories.


Daredevil: End of Days     (2012-2013)
Brian Michael Bendis, David Mack, Klaus Janson, Bill Sienkewicz - Marvel

Ever since Frank Miller told the story of the end of Batman's career, many have tried to follow his example. Few of those stories get quite as close to capturing that magic as Daredevil: End of Days. The story takes place after the death of the Man Without Fear and follows journalist Ben Urich as he tracks the story of the final years of Daredevil's career, chasing a mysterious "Rosebud" moment in the superhero's final words. The Punisher also plays a vital role, making for possibly one of the best renditions of the character in recent years. David Mack and Klaus Janson provide some fantastic artwork that perfectly sets the tone for this superhero noir tale. End of Days may take some inspiration from Frank Miller (and Citizen Kane), but it is not only an excellent cap to Brian Michael Bendis' run on Daredevil, it just may be the best Daredevil story ever written. A definite must read if you enjoyed the Netflix series.


Catwoman     (2014 - )
Genevieve Valentine, Garry Brown, Lee Loughridge, Pat Olliffe, Tom Nguyen, David Messina, John McCrea  - DC Comics

Catwoman has struggled since her controversial New 52 relaunch. Thankfully, Genevieve Valentine came in as the New 52 began to wind down and gave us the character's best iteration since Ed Brubaker's definitive early 2000's run. Spinning out of Batman Eternal, Selina Kyle finds herself in charge of one of Gotham's most powerful mob families. She's gone from a thorn in the side of the powerful to one of Gotham's elite in a heartbeat, and Valentine has pulled heavily from history to turn the book into DC's take on The Godfather. Add in gorgeous, grounded art from Garry Brown slipping into the noir sensibilities of David Messina as the series continues, and you have one of DC's most pleasant surprises.


Red Sonja     (2013 - )
Gail Simone, Walter Geovani, Noah Salonga, Adriano Lucas, Elmer Santos - Dynamite!

Red Sonja has been decried as a cheesecake Conan and heralded as a feminist comics icon, but few writers have been able to write her as a human being with the care and nuance of Gail Simone. Simone's Sonja is a quick-tempered brawler, a woman whose needs are simple - she wants a drink, a fuck, and the paycheck from her last battle - but whose emotions are complex. In an era with plenty of great fantasy comics - Rat Queens, Skull Kickers, Conan - Simone's Red Sonja stands head-and-shoulders above the pack. (Full review)


The Death-Defying Doctor Mirage     (2014 - 2015)
Jen Van Meter, Roberto de la Torre, David Baron - Valiant

On its surface, The Death-Defying Doctor Mirage is a satisfying blend of superheroics and fantasy, a genre that has often struggled in modern comics. Jen Van Meter created a compelling character in Shan Fong, the titular 'Doctor Mirage', a natural-born necromancer whose adventuring days are mostly behind her. And Van Meter had support from Roberto de la Torre and David Baron, whose pencils and colors do a masterful job of controlling the atmosphere and setting the tone for the book. But The Death-Defying Doctor Mirage houses a surprisingly warm-hearted story about grieving and growing past it that gives the book its real edge. Gorgeously drawn, smartly written - a genuine triumph for Valiant. (Full review)


Deadly Class     (2014 - )
Rick Remender, Wes Craig, Lee Loughridge - Image Comics

In Uncanny X-Force, we saw Remender wrestle with moral philosophy on a superhuman scale; here we get to see him put his full powers as an emotional writer to use. Although the idea of a school of deadly teenage assassins might sound silly and played out, Remender and the insanely talented Wesley Craig manage to lend it an incredible amount of pathos and character. The ragtag group is ripe with love triangles and teen angst, written with a rawness that cuts deep. The story is fantastic, but the real star here is Craig, whose style of lots of panels and exaggerated emotion shifts and changes like a punk rock album. Coupled with excellently bold color by Loughridge, each issue leaves you breathless and dying for more like a hard drug.


Demo     (2010)
Brian Wood, Becky Cloonan - Vertigo

Demo got its start in 2003-2004 with AiT/Planet Lar and helped make the name of Brian Wood and Becky Cloonan, whose careers would take off, particularly after a pair of Eisner nominations. In 2010, after the rights returned to Cloonan and Wood, they brought the series to Vertigo, publishing a second volume that managed to recapture most of the magic of the first in a new series of anthology short stories that focuses yet again on the oft-troubled inner lives and emotional struggles of people with powers. Sensitive and smart, Demo is one of late-era Vertigo's most pleasant surprises.


Before Watchmen: Minutemen     (2012-2013)
Darwyn Cooke, Phil Noto - DC Comics

The announcement of a series of Watchmen prequels elicited a unanimous groan from the comics community, but many were softened by the list of creators involved. While a few of the series turned out to be quite good–especially Silk Spectre, also written by Darwyn Cooke with Amanda Conner–Minutemen was truly something special. Cooke showcases an absolute mastery of the form here, visually referencing the original in ways that don’t come across as derivative, but rather brilliantly clever. Rather than resting on what we already knew about the golden age heroes of the world of Watchmen, Cooke creates a new story that expands what we know and tells a story all its own. Perhaps the greatest complement to pay the book is that it doesn’t just serve as a prequel to one of the greatest comics ever made, but lives up to the original as a gorgeous and heartbreaking story by perhaps our finest living cartoonist.


How To Be Happy     (2014)
Eleanor Davis - Fantagraphics

How To Be Happy is many things. It's weird, it's sad, it's anger-inducing, it's funny. It's beautifully drawn, with Eleanor Davis switching up styles for every story. It's diverse, with stories that range from character-driven sci-fi to morality tales to some gripping dark comedy. If it fails to live up to its title and actually offer a manual on happiness... well, it's a success in showing why happiness is often so hard to maintain, at least. I haven't read many books as unpredictable - or as memorable - as How To Be Happy, one of the most powerful short story collections to come out in a good little while.
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