Welcome to Comic Book Herald’s countdown of the best comic books of the decade! Throughout the remainder of 2019, Dave and John will be picking the best 70 books of the 2010’s, and writing a few thoughts on their picks.
As you’d expect, many of these will come from Comic Book Herald’s 500 best comics of all time, of course editing for those that have been released in the past 10 years. The list will inevitably leave out plenty of very exciting comics, so let us know what would make it onto your list in the comments!
60) Injustice by Tom Taylor
It’s worth reiterating that Injustice shouldn’t be this damn good. A digital-first weekly spinoff from a Mortal Kombat inspired video game about Superman tearing the Joker’s heart out doesn’t scream “heart of the DC Universe.”
Still, the up and coming pen of Tom Taylor and various artistic collaborators turned Injustice into the perfect DC Comics book, spanning all corners of the verse over the course of several “years” and even an Injustice 2. Seriously, it’s mind-boggling that the best Green Arrow, Harley Quinn, Constantine, Detective Chimp, and Doctor Fate moments of the decade come from this glorious celebration of all that makes DC special.
59) Young Avengers by Kieron Gillen & Jamie McKelvie
You know, you read enough superhero comics you realize what a rare thing it is for a team book to somehow claim the best character moments for the entire operating team. Teddy and Billy are at their romantic best, Kid Loki’s divining spells with bacon (sure Gillen’s own Journey Into Mystery is *the* defining Kid Loki book, but still), and Marvel Boy likes the Ronettes! Likewise, Young Avengers pulls America Chavez from a one-off oddity into an eventual meaningful modern member of The Ultimates
Probably the only character who has been better since is Kate Bishop, and that’s only because Kelly Thompson and Leonardo Romero’s Hawkeye
Mckelvie’s style is perfectly suited for the youthful vibrancy in these pages, ensuring the Young Avengers are your favorite superhero team at least for a spell.
58) Fatale by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips
John Galati: Yes, Fatale is a hardboiled noir story (among other things) and yes, this pair is known for that genre, but the book still feels like a big departure at times. Its a mixture of Lovecraftian “Weird fiction” and classic supernatural horror films that follows the immortal life of Josephine (the titular femme fatale.) We watch as she moves through decades filled with cults, lost memories, and hypnotizing men as she struggles towards meaning… and survival.
For more than 16 years, Brubaker and Phillips have been one of the most celebrated creative pairs in the industry and Fatale is another example why.
by Jonathan Hickman and Nick Pitarra
John Galati: The Manhattan Projects is about an alternate reality in which the WWII super science program never ended which somehow means J. Robert Oppenheimer has multiple astral selves, FDR is an an artificial intelligence, Albert Einstein is history’s greatest monster.
In other words, it may just be Jonathan Hickman’s most difficult to (visually) interpret script. And yet Nick Pitarra manages beautifully with his ultra-clean, Geoff Darrow-style illustrations and his meticulously planned color systems. Pitarra’s art is almost more graphic design here, which further makes it perfect for Hickman.
56) Grayson (The New 52) by Tom King, Tim Seely, and Mikel Janin
With DC’s “New 52” on its last legs, Tim Seely, Tom King and various collaborators pulled Dick Grayson out of Forever Evil and into a superspy school for gifted youngsters. It’s a remarkably successful fit for the longtime combination Robin / Nightwing / Batman, and integrates everything from Huntress to Spyral to Wildstorm’s Midnighter into the DC Universe.
Grayson is the charming, stylish comic that can only exist for a member of the Bat-family well outside of Gotham’s grime and gore. Anyone wishing Morrison’s Batman & Robin never ended finally gets the post-batman inc. rendition of life for the boy who flies through the air with the greatest of ease.
55) Bitch Planet by Kelly Sue Deconnick and Valentine De Landro
John Galati: Bitch Planet is set in a dystopian near-future where “noncompliant” women are held in an off-planet penal system that seeks to change their bodies and minds, unironically patterned off the “Women in Prison” genre films of the 60s and 70s. But where those films are pure exploitation, Bitch Planet takes a loftier route, focusing on heroines of color and nontraditional body types in order to address the shortcomings of comics, feminism, and society.
If there’s one criticism to be had, it’s that the title is just 15 issues long (and only 10 by Deconnick and De Landro!) You can really feel those hard edits at times. However, the end result is still a “big ideas” book that knows how, when, and why to be entertaining.
54) Black Science by Rick Remender Matteo Scalera and Dean White
John Galati: Starting at the high-level, Black Science is a classic Sliders-style story about a family that’s being moved violently, uncontrollably between parallel realities. A family trying desperately to stay together even as they tear the multiverse falling apart.
Rick Remender’s scripts are powerful and human (while belying an impressive amount of research.) However, those scripts would be nothing without the kinetic, classically European look of Matteo Scalera’s art and Dean White’s coloring, which moves between painterly and graphic. These three elements line up to create a book that feels immediately iconic yet filled with such incredible details to invite deeper dissection.
The book works as a high-level story about high adventure and family, but I think it’s vastly improved by diving into those details. They build into strange metanarratives about scientific paradox, heady philosophy, and/or commentary on the history of the pop sci-fi genre, just to name a few.
53) Gotham Academy by Becky Cloonan, Brandon Fletcher, and Karl Kerschl
John Galati: Gotham City city can feel old and a little played out at times, as though its every alleyway has been explored and made indistinguishable, its crime numbing, even its heroes are everywhere. By contrast, Gotham Academy feels youthful and vibrant as it focuses on Gotham’s underrepresented children and the educational system.
The most readily apparent change is made by Fletcher and Kerschl, who turn out page after page of world-building through rich, graphic details and bright, energetic kids. This frees up some of Cloonan’s word count, allowing her to weave a story about prestigious private schools (the titular academy), growing up in a violent, uncontrollable world. Best of all, the mystery at the core of this book feels proper to both childish play and Gotham’s dangerous stakes, which makes this a great YA starting point (something that comics don’t do enough of.)
52) The Flintstones by Mark Russell and Steve Pugh
And the award for most improbable great comic of the decade goes to The Flintstones! DC’s attempt to mine Hannah-Barbara cartoon staples felt like a really strange exercise in intellectual property maintenance, until Russell and Pugh made it clear the franchise was merely a launching pad for whatever story they wanted to tell.
In the case of The Flintstones, it’s the story of civilization, with the comedy of prehistoric man magnified through a modern lens. The TV show most famous for tackling such monuments of our time such as, uh, bowling night transforms here into a commentary on everything from consumerism to marriage equality.
This comic will impress, delight, and make you cry. The Flintstones! Not coincidentally this comic is also the point in time I decided anything written by Mark Russell goes on my pull list.
51) Ultimate Comics Spider-Man: Miles Morales by Brian Michael Bendis and Sara Pichelli
The Marvel Ultimate Universe didn’t reboot with the creation of Miles Morales by Brian Michael Bendis and Sara Pichelli (although I’ve argued it should have!), but it certainly revitalized Marvel’s Spider-Man universe in ways that have only truly become apparent a near decade later. With Spider-Man PS4 and Spider-Man Into the Spider-Verse in the rearview, Miles Morales has never been more popular or more relevant.
Of course, none of that happens if these comics don’t come out of the gates strong, and Miles Morales is good to great very early in the run. It’s easy to overlook, but recasting Spider-Man as anyone other than Peter Parker is a decision met with scrutiny at best and indecent outrage at worst. In Miles Morales, Bendis and Pichelli reflect on that shadow while moving forward into a new era for wall-crawlers everywhere. The series would lose steam eventually as the Ultimate Universe breathed its last, but for nearly 30 issues and a Spider-Men, make mine Miles!
Next: #50 to #41