The first Sunday of 2011 brings what is hopefully the first in a year straight of Multiversity 101’s. This article was started in 2009 here to give us a column of industry analysis and thoughts on the happenings in comics, but we grew rather inconsistent with its release. This year, fellow MC writer Josh Mocle and myself will be bringing it back (hopefully) every Sunday.
I’m starting it with a look back on the best and worst of 2010, a year that brought a lot of good and a lot of bad as well (and that’s without having read a single issue of Cry for Justice or Rise of Arsenal). To find out what I thought, take a look after the jump.
Note: In case it was not completely obvious already, this article reflects only my opinion and none of the other MC writers.
Why It’s the Best: When I was thinking of the year in covers, I knew my favorite cover was going to come from one of two artists: Jock or Yuko Shimizu. To me, those two were the best in cover artists of the year. When I really thought of it though, the cover to the 16th issue of The Unwritten by Shimizu was the stand-out for a lot of reasons.
I love the image of Wilson Taylor, the man who controlled the actions of Tom Taylor and his merry men (or man and woman, as it was), as a puppet master using words to control the actions below him. Conceptually, it’s genius. Through Shimizu’s exquisite execution though, it finds transcendence. There’s something otherworldly about her execution on every cover, but the linework, mixed design choices, and expression on Wilson’s fast up the ethereal ante here.
It was a great year of covers, featuring work by some of the best ever to make covers, but this cover was without a doubt my favorite of the year and of Shimizu’s incredible year on The Unwritten.
- Detective Comics #871
- Northlanders #35
- DV8: Gods and Monsters #2
- Superboy #1
Why It’s the Worst: I can remember the first time I saw this cover. I was in my local comic book shop with 4 Color co-host Brandon and we were both looking at this cover. I said “wow, that’s an awful cover from JR JR.” Brandon said “nah…it’s not so bad. Then he looked again for a bit at the details.
“Okay, maybe it is awful.”
This cover is just ugly from a design, logic, and artistic standpoint. It fails at every aspect of its existence in my mind, and was just another aspect of a down year for John Romita, Jr.
Why It’s the Best: No scene in 2010 shocked me like this one from Invincible #75. We didn’t really know what the master plan was of the team that was squaring off with the Viltrumites near their home planet of Viltrum, we didn’t really know how it could go well. While it didn’t exactly go well (per se) as the trio of Grayson’s that went were nearly killed and resistance leader Thaedus was MDK’d, we were given that aforementioned shocking moment when Thaedus, Mark Grayson and his father Nolan blew through the planet of Viltrum, destroying it in the process.
The ruthlessness of the move was expected out of pure Viltrums, not ones tainted by the idea of humanity like Thaedus and the Grayson’s, but when they did it you knew Robert Kirkman really had everyone playing for keeps. It also gave Ryan Ottley a shot to depict a planet being destroyed. If anyone isn’t familiar with the kind of year Ottley has had, that’s a very, very good thing.
- Ex-Machina #50’s last page Continued below
- Tom Taylor performs actual magic in The Unwritten
- The last page of Chew #15
Why It’s the Worst: JMS’ Superman has been awful throughout, but one scene killed me above all else. When Superman is walking through Detroit (because you know, if you’re walking across the country and you’re starting in Philly, you’d definitely want to go to Detroit next), he notices a few kids playing some good ol’ basketball. He jumps at the chance to “dial in” their game (dial…in…), and in the process provides a feel good story of the put upon outcast of the group winning the game in which a man with super speed destroys a slew of apparently very stupid street toughs in a game of basketball.
This is such an incredible scene, I feel like I need to use a quote from DC’s The Source blog in response:
hquest says: I’m sorry DC.
But I love Superman.
And this isn’t him.
And if you’re going to pull this, it would at least help for it to be decently written, instead of written like some stodgy old dude thinks people talk. I’ve liked JMS’s work in the past, and I even think his Wonder Woman is a cool idea on one level, but this is just awful.
Sounds about right.
Why It’s the Best: Darwyn Cooke proved that he understands the storytelling of yesteryear better than anyone in comics with his DC: The New Frontier limited series. Then he brought out his graphic novel adaptations of Richard Stark’s Parker series, and he pushed himself further ahead of the pack.
This book is incredible, with a lead that is all machismo and control, while also being completely and utterly enthralling. It’s gorgeously illustrated as well, and plays out on the pages like the best crime story you’ve never read (unless you read the original, in which case I guess you have read it).
Darwyn Cooke has long been one of the best in the business, and he continues to prove himself so with this year’s The Outfit.
- Koko Be Good by Jen Wang
- Afrodisiac by Jim Rugg and Brian Maruca
Why It’s the Best: For the same reasons as last year, Karl Kerschl’s weekly webcomic Abominable Charles Christopher wins my best web comic award. Instead of getting into the details, I’m going to tell a story about an interview I did earlier this year. When Mouse Guard creator David Petersen was in town, I sat down with him for an interview. I just so happened to be wearing my Charles Christopher shirt, and Petersen commented on it (he did a guest comic in 2009). Petersen, his wife and myself started talking about how great it was, as 4 Color co-host Brandon just said “I don’t read it.”
Petersen explained to him that the closest analogue to Kerschl’s work was Bill Watterson’s Calvin & Hobbes. Brandon was immediately sold.
Any book that can earn that type of comparison is too good not to win an award in my “Best of” list.
- Max Overacts
- Axe Cop
Why It’s the Best: One of the things that I think some X-books recently have suffered from is a lack of an identity stemming from having no set cast and no real direction. Uncanny X-Force? Doesn’t suffer from that problem. From the first moments of the book, Rick Remender has given us a team (a hilariously awesome one too) on a mission, and it’s damn good. In just three issues, it has become my absolute favorite X-Book thanks to Remender’s superb writing and Jerome Opena’s flat out incredible art. I fully expect this to be a contender for best ongoing this time next year.Continued below
- American Vampire
- Morning Glories
- Avengers Academy
Why It’s the Worst: I had decent expectations for this book because I like Hope, I like Kieron Gillen, and I’m a total sucker for X-Books. But this is a book that is completely without a point. It essentially is bonus footage happening off camera from Uncanny, with the first two issues accomplishing absolutely nothing to date and failing to develop the characters in the process. In fact, it reads like a reverse Avengers Academy, in that Academy has expertly developed each and every cast member, while I still don’t even remember any of the Five Lights names who are featured in this book. Plus, the book still features Wolverine and Cyclops as primary members of the cast, so it’s not like it’s really accomplishing anything fresh.
In short, this book is frustratingly superfluous.
Why It’s the Best: From my 2010 in Review write-up:
Gabriel Bá and Fábio Moon are two creators who have been major names in the industry for a while, but two whom I’ve always hoped for a little more from. While I greatly enjoy their for hire works as well as their more personal ones, their effort for Vertigo Comics this year – “Daytripper” – was the effort that put the industry on notice.
This isn’t so much a comic as it is an ode to life. It’s like any bit of great pop that captures the purity of love and life and all of the good things we cherish through the prism of death. The ideas of family, love, friendship, success and their mirror images are all confronted in this beautiful, poetic series, and it’s all brought together by the brother’s gorgeous art.
In a lot of ways, 2010 was the year of writer/artists, as people like Jeff Lemire, Scott Morse, Darwyn Cooke, and a whole lot more rose to the top of the comic book world thanks to their incredible blend of artistic and written talent. That’s the funny thing. When most think of Bá and Moon, they think just “artists.” “Daytripper” was their coming out party, and they quickly proved that they didn’t just belong with the best, they may have even surpassed them with the beautiful and often heartbreaking storytelling they shared in this book.
- Joe the Barbarian
- King City
- Justice League: Generation Lost
Why It’s the Best: I swear, this book gets revamps as often as Wonder Woman gets new costumes (more on that later). This revamp though brings everything back to the basics, as Luke Cage takes a pack of villains and tries to turn them into heroes (through the sheer force of nanite chains of course). Taking a team led by Cage and filled with oddballs like Ghost, Man-Thing, and Juggernaut was a hell of an idea by Parker, but the execution has been so much better than anyone could have expected. This is legitimately the best superhero book in the main Marvel universe, and it’s thanks to hilarious and badass scripting and plotting by Parker and incredible art by way of Kev Walker and Declan Shalvey. This book rules once again, and this revamp definitely paid off dividends in a big way.
- Action Comics by Paul Cornell and Pete Woods
- Detective Comics by Scott Snyder and Jock
Why It’s the Worst Revamp of 2010: I have a confession to make: I don’t care about the jacket. Jacket, no jacket, three jackets, camo jacket…who cares? If the story is good, the story is good.
This comic is bad news bears. I have never really been a fan of Wonder Woman, and I think I finally figured out the problem. No one can settle on one origin/power set/costume/whatever for the character. Whenever sales are flagging or whenever things don’t seem to be going right, DC reimagines the character. Then, the origin becomes more convoluted and stories become less and less important. JMS’ took Wonder Woman and he made the mythology more important than the character, and it choked the life out of the book. Granted, it didn’t help that the book had Don Kramer and a roulette wheel of artists working on it, but either way, this book was revamped AGAIN and perhaps in the worst way possible. This book has been revamped to death.Continued below
Why It Was the Best: From my 2010 in Review write-up. The idea of a 10 out of 10 in our scoring system is one that has different meanings for the different writers here. While some think that it means “perfection,” I personally think it simply means an Issue of the Year contender, or a book that is so damn good you cannot think of anything wrong with it.
I’ve only given one perfect 10.0 rating ever, and that went to this year’s “Ex-Machina” #50 by Brian K. Vaughan and Tony Harris. In terms of comic book storytelling and overall creative gusto, this comic was the one that brought the most for me, as BKV and Harris managed to tie-up all of the dangling threads from the previous 49 issues of the series without making it a convoluted or rushed story. Quite the contrary in fact. This issue was filled precise storytelling that maximized the impact of the final story beats with all of our favorite characters from the series, and by the time the final twist was revealed, we were given nothing short of the twist of the year in comics.
We were also given what I believe was the best comic of the year.
- Scalped #35
- Hellboy in Mexico
- The Unwritten #17
Why They Are the Worst: This conversation just took place between myself and another Multiversity writer.
Me: Is there anything worse in the world than taking a masterful dump and then realizing your toilet is broken?
MC Writer: Batman: Orphans and Wolverine: The Best There Is?
Me: At the same time?! That might be worse. I can fix my toilet but I can’t unread those comics.
That actually happened. I’m pretty sure that if a comic (or two) inspires that type of conversation, they have to be the worst issues of the year.
Why It’s the Best Story of 2010: Nothing in comics has brought the top to bottom insanity and excitement that The Viltrumite War has given us. Granted, it isn’t completed and the remainder of it somehow could be bad, but half way through we’ve been given one of the most thrilling and superb arcs in superhero comic in years. Robert Kirkman has spent the entire arc setting balls up on the tee for his art team of Ryan Ottley, Cliff Rathburn and FCO Plascencia, and they’ve knocked every single one of them out of the park. Way to go Team Invincible, and I can’t wait to see how this baby wraps up.
- Scalped’s “Unwanted”
- Amazing Spider-Man’s “Shed”
- Unknown Soldier’s “Beautiful World”
Why It’s the Worst Story of 2010: Full disclosure: I dropped this book before it even got half way through its entirety. That might make this unfair of me to name it the worst story arc, but I don’t care. This comic was full of the most oppressively preachy storytelling I’ve ever experienced. JMS turned Superman into a walking (WALKING!) soapbox for his simple and underdeveloped stances on everything from child abuse and the nature of citizenship.
The idea of the arc was that this walk across America would reconnect Superman to humanity. If anything, JMS just distanced him even more, showing that he holds himself to a standard higher than any person can live up to.
Plus, see the worst moment. Ugh.
Why They’re the Best: Image Comics had a banner year, and one that brought a series of successful launches (highlighted by Nick Spencer and Joe Eisma’s “Morning Glories”) and output that included Multiversity’s top three Ongoing Series of the year (for those counting at home, they are “The Walking Dead,” “Invincible” and “Chew”).Continued below
Image Comics was once a publisher that represented the worst in the comic book excess of the 90’s, preferring style over substance, foil covers over genuine quality storytelling. Now? They’re getting the formula right better than anyone, preferring to take chances on atypical story concepts with great storytelling rather than the low hanging fruit of yesteryear. Thanks to names like Layman, Spencer, and most importantly, Kirkman, 2010 was a hell of a year for Image. With exciting new books previewed already, I’m expecting 2011 to be equally great.
- Marvel Comics
Why He’s the Best of 2010: From my write-up for 2010 in Review:
Even though Ryan Ottley is my boy and is doing superheroics better than anyone has in a long, long time right now, my number one pick was an artist that I had never read anything of before 2010. That artist? Sean Murphy (aka Sean Gordon Murphy), a man who has taken a project mostly well known for the writer involved (“Joe the Barbarian” and Grant Morrison) and turned it into something that is the biggest visual tour de force of the year in my eyes.
Every page, from the very first issue on, is filled with so much detail that it’s fun just to run your eyes around every page and pick out the little things. While some artists choose to focus on the foreground and limit the level of work they put on the background, Murphy instead focuses on the image as a whole, escalating the power of every scene with the design he puts into each page.
Some of my favorite pages in this book so far have been the little things like the collections of toys that exist in the background whenever Joe is near them. Peaking around, finding a Batman toy here, and Optimus Prime there, and any number of other favorite childhood toys, that just makes this book that much more fun to read.
But he doesn’t just spend his time on the background, he’s also spent time turning this into one of the most well designed and visually cinematic books in comics ever. There are pages that just floor me, like one page in the fourth or fifth issue that finds Joe at the top of his stairs with water pouring down the staircase with the camera staring down. It’s a simple page, and something that in another artist’s hands wouldn’t have been worth much of anything. But with this page, Murphy adds to the thoughtfulness and troublesome nature of the situation and controls the pacing in a way most artists simply aren’t able to control.
If you’d asked me before the year who I thought my favorite artist of the year would be, I would have never even considered Sean Gordon Murphy. But now? There could be no other name that tops my list.
- Ryan Ottley
- Darwyn Cooke
- R.M. Guera
Why He’s the Worst of the Year: Because he makes every man look like Triple H and every woman like a stripper. Because everything is posed and nothing feels natural. Because everyone smiles, even when they’re talking about horrible things. Because he’s part of the worst comic of the year. Because every time I look at his art, I immediately want to close the book. Sigh…
Why He’s the Best: There are a lot of reasons, but it all starts with the fact that Scalped is the best book out there. Throw in the best Punisher work this side of Garth Ennis, the best Wolverine work since Frank Tieri (according to MC writer Brandon Burpee), fun books like Astonishing Spider-Man and Wolverine, and an appearance in Brian Wood’s DMZ, and you have a guy who is churning out a lot of gold without any negatives. This guy had a 2010 for the ages, and I can’t wait to see what he’ll be up to next as he takes on a bigger role in the architecture of the Marvel Universe.Continued below
- Robert Kirkman
- John Layman
- Brian Wood
Why He’s the Worst of the Year: He’s responsible for the worst series revamp of the year and the worst story arc of the year. Granted, I know he has health problems and that everyone has gotten their licks in, but the point is the once great JMS put in one of the worst performances in recent memory from a top name in comics.
Not only that, but he gets extra demerits for destroying two top comics and then bailing before he finishes the job.
Why It’s the Best: Scalped earned this award last year, and it will keep earning this award until something drastic happens. More than likely, this comic will stop earning this award when it ends, but only then.
The reason why is that Jason Aaron is the best writer in comics, and this is his magnum opus. He creates characters and a world for these characters to exist in that feel real and fresh and completely unlike anything we’ve ever experienced from any type of story. Never in my entire life did I expect to read a crime story that takes place on an Indian Reservation, let alone one that I adore above all others. That’s thanks to Jason Aaron, R.M. Guera, the guest artists (namely Danijel Zezelj for his work on issue #35) and the many others that I haven’t named that helped make this book so great. This is comic book storytelling at its absolute best.
- The Walking Dead
- The Unwritten
Why It’s the Worst of the Year: I love the X-Men. I grew up reading them, and Uncanny has always been the flagship (even though I started reading when “X-Men” had just started). What has happened to this book over the last few years has been alarming though, as in my book, it has plummeted into the lowest depths in comics in the hands of writer Matt Fraction and artists Greg Land and Terry Dodson.
Oddly enough, I like Fraction. I think he’s a great writer who does a lot of work that I really, really like. But this book is awful, and it’s problem lies in the fact that there is no real focus to the storytelling or the cast. While Cyclops and Emma are always present, very little of the rest of the cast has been developed or utilized properly. The only sections that work have a singular focus, like the year’s stand-out #522 in which Magneto proves his value to the X-Men by returning Kitty Pryde to their ranks.
But for the most part, it’s a jumbled mess of shoddy character work and overly stylized scripting. It’s exacerbated by ill-fitting art from the very capable Dodson and the monumentally wretched efforts of one Greg Land. With Kieron Gillen joining the writing staff, here’s hoping that 2011 brings better tidings for the Uncanny X-Men team, but I can say, 2010 puts me on the cusp of dropping the book. That’s a point I’ve never been near.