Multiversity 101: Best of 2009

By | December 20th, 2009
Posted in Longform | % Comments

With our look at the past decade in comics wrapping up, I can get back to my Multiversity 101 column. Thank god! Of course, with the year wrapping up I’m going to take this time to put together an entirely different retrospective list – my Best Comics of 2009. 2009 was an excellent year in comics, featuring great work from luminaries like Bendis and Johns while also seeing a number of creators take the leap from relative unknown to industry star.

Check out after the jump to see my choices for the Best Comics of 2009.

Best Cover: Scalped #31

I love pretty much all of the covers to Jason Aaron and R.M. Guera’s Scalped, but this one took the cake. It’s an incredible creation that reflects the troubled and destructive nature of protagonist Dashiell Bad Horse’s existence. Brilliant work by Jock.

Runners Up
Planetary #27 (Cassaday)
Lockjaw and the Pet Avengers #1 (Henrichon)
Amazing Spider-Man #611 (Young)
Detective Comics #855 (Williams III)

Best Moment: The Return of Ambrose Chase (Planetary #27)

This was the ending we waited two years for. It took two years after the 26th issue came out, but when this issue came out it encapsulated everything we wanted and expected from this series. The moment depicted above was a beautiful one, finally bringing the fearsome foursome of Planetary back together again, for the first time.

Runners Up
– The Reeds take on Galactus (Fantastic Four #571)
– Layla and Jaime finally kiss (X-Factor #43)
– The “death” of Kyle Rayner (Green Lantern #42)
– Asterios Polyp’s ultimate fate (Asterios Polyp)

Best Original Graphic Novel: Asterios Polyp

I’ve written quite a bit about this brilliant original graphic novel from David Mazzucchelli (see my review here), so I won’t go into too much detail again. Here’s the Cliffs Notes version: Mazzucchelli’s long awaited masterpiece finds a man who had basically given up and through rare tragedy is given the opportunity to find himself again. It’s told in present-flashback-present narrative that is informative and oddly emotional, while the true highlight is the artwork. Mazzucchelli uses a free flowing layout form and a unique color palette to control the readers response, conveying feelings with the slightest of hue change or faded ink. Revolutionary in its awesomeness.

Runner Up
Stitches: A Memoir
Scott Pilgrim vs. The Universe (I don’t know where else to put this)

Best Web Comic: The Abominable Charles Christopher

The Abominable Charles Christopher is the story of a yeti traversing a forest trying to figure out his greater purpose. For a creature that really has no clue about anything besides the fact that he loves friends and food, this unsurprisingly is a comical and eventful journey. Along the way he meets animal spirits, hilarious forest denizens, and all kinds of other things. Karl Kerschl’s weekly webcomic is fiercely original, often hysterical, and as well drawn as anything I’ve seen this year. An absolute triumph.

Runners Up
Penny Arcade

Best New Series: The Unwritten

When the first issue of this came out, I passed. I almost never pass on new Vertigo titles, but I wasn’t hooked by the previews for this. Then I heard good reviews after a bit and decided to go back and grab it, and boy, am I glad I did. Mike Carey and Peter Gross’ storybook-begets-life comic about Tom Taylor and the Case of “Am I really a Wizard from a book?” is a thrill ride from the beginning, creating a cerebral and inviting universe in which anything is possible, both in good and bad ways.

Carey’s work is career defining, as every issue released so far has packed heart, intelligence, fun, and wonderfully handled pacing into a beautiful package created by Gross. Peter Gross has the ability to be an artistic chameleon, melding his pencils to match whatever Carey looks for at the greatest of ease. The juxtaposition between the storybook segments and the real life segments are enough in their own right, but when he creates the blog reel looks at how real life media is interpreting these fantastical situations Taylor is going through, it makes their world all the more immersive. This title is at the top of my buy pile every month.

Continued below

Runners Up
Secret Warriors
Ultimate Comics Spider-Man

Best Mini-Series: Atomic Robo and the Shadow from Beyond Time

While it may lack the mystery aspects of the first runner up, the delicious horror aspects of the middle three, and the brilliant noir feel of the last, the winning title has something the rest has a severe lack of: Atomic Robo. Brian Clevinger and Scott Wegener’s creation is a Multiversity favorite, as he is the super snarky and intensely charming version of Hellboy we’ve always wanted. This adventure takes us through five eras of Robo as he fights the same monster across those times with the aid of luminaries like H.P. Lovecraft and Carl Sagan. How does that not make you want to read this?

Runners Up
Days Missing
Beasts of Burden
BPRD: The Black Goddess
North 40

Best Series Revamp: Fantastic Four

Jonathan Hickman in three issues managed to make Fantastic Four into something it hadn’t been in a long time: a must read title. His understanding of the dynamic of the group – family first, but explorers of the unknown through and through – was flipped on its head in the first arc, as Reed Richards was trapped trying to figure out if it was possible to balance those two sides of himself. This is my favorite FF run since Lee and Kirby – how’s that for praise?

Runners Up
The Brave and the Bold
Detective Comics
Ultimate Comics Spider-Man

Best Single Issue: Secret Six #9

I bet no one saw this coming. This long shot in my mind was my favorite from the very first second I read it. It was part of the ridiculous “Battle for the Cowl” event, but really, it had nothing to do with it. This issue found Catman, Bane, and Ragdoll traveling around Gotham City after the death of Batman, trying to fill the void for him while paying tribute. Of course, they were doing so with extreme prejudice and conflicted feelings given that they all were often on the other side of Bats, but this juxtaposition really gave us a feel for the power that Batman had across the DC Universe. Gail Simone and Nicola Scott did all of this in touching, badass, and hilarious fashion, and out of all of the exceptional Secret Six issues this year and all other comics this year, this single issue was my favorite.

Runners Up

Giant Size Old Man Logan
Planetary #27
The Brave and the Bold #29

Best Story Arc: Nick Fury: Agent of Nothing from Secret Warriors

I was very excited for Secret Warriors because I thought they were the single best thing from Secret Invasion, I love Nick Fury, and Bendis was involved. That excitement was dwarfed by my actual appreciation of this arc, as Bendis and Hickman crafted a spy thriller for the ages, filled with more cinematic moments, more great one liners, and more intense scenes than most would get in entire runs of other comics. That the whole thing was rendered in a new toned down and exceptionally colored style Stefano Caselli was employing brought it even higher up in my esteem. I don’t think there was more fun to be had in comics this year than in this arc.

Runners Up
– Witches (Fables)
– Emerald Eclipse (Green Lantern Corps)
– Solve Everything (Fantastic Four)
– The Gnawing (Scalped)

Best Publisher: DC Comics

I’m going to be up front with this one: I’m a total Vertigo fanboy. Between the end of 100 Bullets, the launch of The Unwritten, and the ongoing worlds of DMZ, Scalped, and Fables, this category was pretty much locked up. Of course, we were also given Blackest Night and all of its surrounding excellence, Secret Six, the launch of JMS’ The Brave and the Bold, and Detective Comics. All of those comics could be matched up against anything else being made in comics today in my mind, and they all belong to one publisher: DC Comics.

Continued below

Runners Up
– Marvel
– Image

Best Artist: JH Williams III

This isn’t even a category. Apologies to Caselli, Gross, Scott, Gleason, and all other artists, but here is a fact: as long as JH Williams III is making art, this is his category. His work in Detective Comics is nothing short of revolutionary. I had no intent to pick up this comic – at all. Then I looked inside of it and was blown away by the dynamic visuals, filled with free flowing layouts and wildly imaginative page setups. The coloring from Dave Stewart kicks up even higher, but the fact of the matter is no one is making art today like JH Williams III. In fact, this is some of the best art I’ve ever seen. Incredible.

Runners Up
– Stefano Caselli
– Peter Gross
– Nicola Scott
– Patrick Gleason

Best Writer: Jason Aaron

My boy Jason Aaron! His year brought us another run of excellence from Scalped and the launch of two other titles Weapon X and PunisherMAX, and I can only think of one word to describe all three of those titles: badass. He gave us the Wolverine we always wanted, he’s giving us the Punisher universe we never knew we wanted, and he’s taking us into a world that we never knew was so enthralling in Scalped. Other writers may have written more this year, but no other writer was so automatic in producing engrossing fiction.

Runners Up
– Jonathan Hickman
– Robert Kirkman
– J. Michael Straczynski

Best Series of the Year: Scalped

What can I say, it was a damn good year in comics. There are all kinds of excellent titles that didn’t even make my runners up list, and most any other year I’d love to name them the winner. However, when I look back at 2009, I think I will remember it as the year where Scalped went from a title I liked and respected to something that I couldn’t wait for every month. Jason Aaron and R.M. Guera’s look at the life of a undercover FBI agent in his home – the “Rez” (Indian Reservation) – is a masterwork, and this year allowed them to move the intensity up to a fever pitch.

Aaron has managed to establish an entire world within this book filled with history, dynamic relationships, and dirty, seedy crime, as the “Rez” itself really is one of the main characters. The protagonist he gives us though is a remarkably troubled one, but deep down I believe Dashiell Bad Horse is someone we can root for. As we turn into 2010, the latest arc titled “The Gnawing” finds us at the culmination of years of storytelling, with all of the plot lines dovetailing for a huge finish with Bad Horse’s fate hanging in the balance.

What I’m saying with that is, it sounds like 2010 is going to be a pretty damn good year for Scalped too. I really can’t wait.

Runners Up
The Unwritten
The Walking Dead
Secret Warriors
Secret Six

//TAGS | Multiversity 101

David Harper

David Harper mainly focuses on original content, interviews, co-hosting our 4 Color News and Brews video podcast, and being half of the Mignolaversity and Valiant (Re)visions team. He runs Multiversity's Twitter and Facebook pages, and personally tweets (rarely) @slicedfriedgold. By day, he works in an ad agency in Anchorage, Alaska, and he loves his wife, traveling and biscuits & gravy (ordered most to least, which is still a lot).


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