The rules for this category are a little arbitrary but it’s probably the simplest way to do this one. Basically a mini-series is eligible if it’s between 2-10 issues long, and ENDED in 2010. Which means great minis like Kody Chamberlain’s Sweets won’t be eligible until next year. As the comic biz changes, I’m finding that this is quickly becoming the category to watch in terms of where real innovation is found.
15) Hellboy: The Storm by Mike Mignola & Duncan Alfredo (Dark Horse)
Any comic that has Hellboy stab his own eye out has to be worth your time, although I can’t say this was quite as engaging as previous Hellboy minis. That being said, I’m still look forward to its follow-up, “The Fury”, which is coming out in 2011.
14) BPRD: King Fear by Mike Mignola, John Arcudi, and Guy Davis (Dark Horse)
My love of the Mignolaverse knows no bounds, and a strong case could be made that the B.P.R.D. mini-series are the equal (if not occasionally better) than the flagship Hellboy books these days. Come for the epic plots by Mignola and John Arcudi, stay for the incredible art by Guy Davis
13) Baltimore: The Plague Ships by Christopher Golden, Mike Mignola, and Ben Stenbeck (Dark Horse)
Yep, three Mike Mignola books in a row. What can I say, he’s had a prolific year. This is a sequel of sorts to a vampire novel that Mignola and Chris Golden wrote last year, though it stands alone very well as a creepy vampire adventure story. I’m definitely looking forward to seeing what artist Ben Stenbeck has in store in the future.
12) Blackest Night (DC Comics) by Geoff Johns and Ivan Reis
The only thing even remotely like a big “event” comic on any of these lists. This started out extremely well, but as most of these big events seem to go these days, it crashed and burned pretty hard near the end. DC got greedy, and what should have stayed as an 8 issue mini eventually crossed over into dozens of other titles, thereby diluting what could have an amazing superhero epic. That being said, I don’t want to live in a world where dead Aquaman commanding a group of zombie sharks to devour an Atlantean army is a bad thing.
11) Last Days Of American Crime by Rick Remender and Greg Tocchini (Radical Comics)
Probably the best high concept pitch you’re ever going to hear all year: 15 days before the American government will start broadcasting a signal that will prevent any citizens from doing anything they know is wrong, a group of small time criminals decide to pull off one last big heist. Great concept? Yes. Great execution? Yeah, sure. I liked this quite a bit, but based on just how strong the original concept was I felt a little underwhelmed by the end. Still very much worth a read.
10) Four Eyes: Forged By Flames by Joe Kelly & Max Fiumara (Image)
An extremely underrated series that I would have ranked higher if not for the fact that most of this series came out in 2009. It’s the story of a boy, the crime family his father worked for, and his dragon. Probably the title on this list most in need of a follow-up.
9) Stumptown by Greg Rucka & Matthew Southworth (Oni Press)
Take one down on her luck female lead, add a hint of lesbian flirting, and throw in a dollop of criminal intrigue, and you’ve got yourself a Greg Rucka classic. You’re not going to find much in Stumptown that you haven’t seen in other Rucka stories, but it’s still a very engaging little crime story that I hope to see a sequel for soon.
8) Marvelous Land Of Oz by Eric Shanhower & Scottie Young (Marvel)
Although Shanhower & Young’s follow-up to last year’s wonderful Wonderful World Of Oz may not garnered quite as much praise as their first collaboration did, that’s probably more of a fault of the source material than of Shanhower & Young themselves. Dorothy isn’t in this one, but this is still a fantastic work for kids, and I really hope that Marvel lets these guys play in this sandbox for as long as they want.
7) Atomic Robo and Other Strangeness by Bryan Clevinger & Scott Wegener (RED5)
This has everything you could possibly want in a comic book: Vampires, gigantic Japanese robots, and evil talking dinosaurs. Comedy is the order of the day here, but there’s also plenty of heart in this book. A new Robo mini has already started so expect to see that on next year’s list.
6) Superman: Secret Origin by Geoff Johns & Gary Frank (DC Comics)
Although J. Michael Straczynski’s Superman: Earth 1 got all the mainstream attention this year, this is the Superman origin story that you should have been paying attention to. And while a case could be made that a new reimagining of Superman’s origin wasn’t really necessary, this was still a great mini series, and one of my favourite superhero books of the year. Gary Frank may be my favourite superhero artist in comics right now.
5) Joe The Barbarian by Grant Morrison & Sean Murphy (Vertigo)
Caveat two: I really resent the fact that Grant Morrison wrote something so brilliant that it makes me feel bad for how much I hate most of his work. I’m not trying to be funny here. Most of the time, the fact that Morrison is arguably the most popular writer in mainstream comics boggles my mind. I’ll never understand it, and most of the time, I’m happy to be in the minority. But once in a long while, Morrison writes something so fun, so different, and so unlike the rest of his work, that I feel the need to raise my Morrison flag high. Joe The Barbarian is a fantasy story in the truest sense of the word (Gaiman fantasy, not Tolkien fantasy, though there’s some of that too), and Sean Murphy is a superstar artist in the making.
4) Criminal – The Sinners by Ed Brubaker & Sean Philips (Icon)
At this point, praising Criminal is about as redundant as making fun of Glenn Beck. I could spout out clichés about how this was the best Criminal mini so far (I think it was), but I’ll probably say that next year, so I’ll just say that Ed Brubaker is at the top of his game. He spins noir tension like a web, and probably the only negative thing I could say about him right now is that he’s spending too much time on the superhero stuff, and not enough time on brilliance like this.
3) Demo Volume 2 by Brian Wood & Becky Cloonan (Vertigo)
Brian Wood is probably my favourite writer in mainstream comics right now. The main reason is how different all of his work is. His latest Demo series isn’t like anything he’s doing right now, and trust me when I tell you that’s no mean feat when you’re putting out the some pretty incredible stuff that Wood is (Northlanders, DMZ) right now. I could tell you that Demo is 6 separate stories of teenagers that are dealing with the discovery that they have superpowers, but I’d be lying. What it’s really about is the study of six different, and incredibly interesting characters that HAPPEN to all have superpowers, and it’s about as engaging a read as you’re going to find in comics right now.
2) Bulletproof Coffin by David Hines and Shaky Kain (Image)
Depending on which day of the week it is, this could easily fill the number one slot for me. It’s the story of a man who attempts to escape his mundane existence by dressing up as his favourite superhero character and traveling to other dimensions. So essentially it’s about my friend Leo. This is a love letter to comics of the ’50′s and ’60′s. From EC horror stories, to romance books, to Steve Ditko’s Randian objectivism, it’s all here, and it’s all glorious. Hines and Kain are a perfect fit together, and I really hope they do more soon. This book is a tribute to metatextual writing, and it’s amazing.
1) Daytripper by Gabriel Moon & Fabio Moon (Vertigo) – A masterpiece. Pure and simple. There were a lot of great comics this year, but this is as close to perfection as it gets. Daytripper is the story of Bras de Oliva Domingos, a Brazillian writer. Actually, it’s not the story of Bras, it’s 10 different stories, about 10 different Bras’. I really can’t tell you more about the plot without giving a lot away, but I what I can do is tell you is what you WON’T find here: Superheroes. Or pirates, cowboys, gangsters, aliens, or any of the usual cast of gaudily dressed characters that we usually find in our comic book world. What you will find, is stories about people. About you. About me. About life. If that’s not enough for you, then this book is not for you. But for me, this is one of the most well-crafted comic books I’ve read this year.
Honourable Mentions: Locke & Key: Crown Of Shadows by Joe Hill & Gabriel Rodriguez (IDW), Spider-Man: Fever by Brendan McCarthy (Marvel), The Light by Nathan Edmondson & Brett Weldele (Image), Thanos Imperative, and Tom Strong and The Robots Of Doom by Peter Hogan & Peter Krause (Wildstorm)