We Multiversity Staffers have a lot of opinions and stories about the comics we love. Now that the decade is coming to a close, we thought it’d be nice to take a small cross-section of those comics and present them to you, our dear readers. This is part two, covering the back half of the decade, including the year we’re currently living in. For part one, click here. The staff struggled with picking just one, at times, and that may be indicative of the new age of comics we live in.
Interwoven across years, each of the staff who participated brought a narrative and a bit of themselves to their choices. Some wrote more, some wrote less. One even wrote a framing intro which, honestly, captures many of my own thoughts. Let us know which were your own best of each year and let’s hope the 2020s are even richer than before.
Jake’s Pick: “Secret Wars” by Jonathan Hickman, Esad Ribic, Ive Svorcina, and Chris Eliopoulos
So, color me shocked when… “Secret Wars” was weird, and weirdly personal. Every miniseries was a deep expression of each creative team, and some of them were pretty weird. There were genre pastiches, conclusions to long-running storylines, and more queer relationships then you’d ever seen in a big superhero comic like this. Some people would argue that, because this was just a wild summer of comics, none of it counted. But I think that made it count more.
Part of the frustration in following corporate stories is the way artist expression tends to get sucked out of them. Big publishers are conservative (with a lower case ‘C’), always waiting for the right time for that milestone. But I don’t love comics because of the characters or the publishers. I love comics for the creators, and their ideas. And for a few glorious months, Marvel gave the greenlight to every creator in their employ to just go for it. Some of it was crap. Some of it was transcendent. All of it was weirdly honest. It’s rare that corporate licensed art can feel so personal but against all odds, “Secret Wars” did.
James’ Pick: “The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl” by Ryan North, Erica Henderson, Rico Renzi, VC’s Clayton Cowles, et al.
Ryan North and Erica Henderson made the book that got me back into comics. “Squirrel Girl” is charming, genuinely hilarious, intelligent and it managed to turn Squirrel Girl from the punchline of a joke to the comedian making it. If you really need proof, it got two first issues in 2015 and she both kicks butts and eats nuts in each, now that’s quality.
Elias’ Pick: “Nailbiter” by Joshua Williamson, Mike Henderson, Adam Guzowski and John J. Hill
This is where I start to really struggle with my choices, not because there are too few but because there are too many. While I’m sure I could have picked, I dunno, “Saga” or something, “Nailbiter” was the comic that had my rapped attention every month in 2015. Henderson’s art is crisp and his blocky, solid characters compliment heavy subject matter, making the town of Buckaroo seem all the more menacing. Plus, this is the year when things get WEIRD, where there are bees and Brian Michael Bendis and the start of some answers but actually just more questions. It’s the year the comic comes into its own and damn if it wasn’t a fantastic ride.
Erik’s Pick: “Imperium” by Joshua Dysart, Doug Braithwaite, Scott Eaton, et al.
Dysart is a genius for creating a villains book following the conclusion of “Harbinger” giving the writer more room to explore the motivations and philosophies of the Valiant Universe’s most complicated character: Toyo Harada. Add in diverse characters like the contemplative robot Sunlight on Snow and the mad scientist Angela Peace Baingana (inhabited by an extra-dimensional being) and the comic book stands as one of the greatest this decade.Continued below
Justin’s Pick: “Monstress” by Marjorie Liu, Sana Takeda and Rus Wooton
“Monstress” is simply one of the best comics. Liu writes epic stories that draw from sources we don’t see nearly enough of in our western world, and Takeda’s art immediately draws in everyone who picks it up. “Monstress” is one of the few comics I recommend to everyone, all ages, all levels of comic fandom.
Kevin’s Pick: “The Omega Men” by Tom King, Barnaby Bagenda, Romulo Fajardo Jr, Pat Brosseau
Alright, back to high concept. William James quotes and war. This was the book that put Tom King on the map for me and was the first of him doing what he’s good at: focused 12-issue maxiseries. This was the best of the three in my opinion and had the most to say all wrapped in the beauty that is Barnaby Bagenda’s art.
Jake’s Pick: “Star Wars” by Jason Aaron, John Cassaday, Laura Martin, Chris Eliopoulos et al.
I needed a little bit of light in the slow months of recovery after, and I didn’t realize how much I had missed Star Wars. It had been my first fandom, having gotten really really into it around the time the Special Editions were being re-released in the theater. But it had been a bad 20 years for Star Wars, and I had accepted that it was never going to be as good as it had been when I was a kid.
So along come my guys Kieron Gillen and Jason Aaron to help keep me company during my recovery. This was the year I just needed comics as an escape, something to take me far away, to get me to think about something other than myself. Just being there meant a lot, but the “Star Wars” comics were good. It was more than we deserved.
The “Star Wars” comics also led to my first pull quote. It’s not great (“Quintessential Star Wars… unlike anything you’ve ever seen in the galaxy far, far away.”) but I wrote it and it’s printed on the paperback. My words are right there with the words of some of my favorite writers. Being part of a comics site has definitely changed the way I experience comics and this “Star Wars” series is a big part of how I noticed.
James’ Pick: “The Wicked and the Divine” by Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie, Matthew Wilson, Clayton Cowles et al.
It might be weird to see “WicDiv” popping up in a best of 2016 list, but personally I feel like this was the year when the series truly hits its stride. “WicDiv” got more experimental, releasing its first one shot and a magazine issue in issue #23 and gave us one of the best arcs in ‘Rising Action.’ By this point Gillen had built up so much reader investment and each character had genuinely developed to the point of being near-unrecognisable from their first appearance. 2016 was the year that “The Wicked + The Divine” proved that it was far more than just, Okay.
Elias’ Pick: “Astro City” by Kurt Buisek, Brent Anderson, Peter Pantazis, John Roshell & Jimmy Betancourt of Comicraft (covers by Alex Ross) & “Black Hammer” by Jeff Lemire, Dean Ormston, Dave Stewart and Todd Klein
I know! I’m a big cheater but 2016 was a fantastic year and these two comics operate in similar but wildly different ways. “Astro City” is an indie superhero universe, dating back to 1995, with the same conciet as “Marvels” — what does a world with superheroes look like to the average Jane? “Black Hammer” is an indie superhero universe that debuted this year with the conceit of — six heroes are trapped in a rural town in the “real world,” with all the angst and conflict that comes from that. Both series are deconstructions of the genre. Both series approach that deconstruction by crafting humanistic stories and turning the fantastic into the mundane.Continued below
“Astro City” is a series of issues. It tells longer stories but, in the Vertigo era, at least, the one or two issue arc takes the lead and tells hit after hit, jumping from era to era, character to character, all without missing a beat. 2016 gave us Steeljack’s story and, just like the comic as a whole, it is sad but hopeful and optimistic and achingly human. “Black Hammer” is a series of arcs, telling long stories and commenting on the whole of the genre, celebrating and questioning, never cynical but instead pensive and, at times, sad. It, too, is achingly human but instead of maintaining a distance from the characters, we are close, so close to them, and that closeness means we feel their fears and worries and hopes and dreams and the histories and lives that has been robbed from them.
Both are new, original superhero universes that, like mirrors reflect the Big 2. The images projected diverge not because the sources or angles are different, but because the materials and shape are. Complimentary, are they not?
Erik’s Pick: “Infamous Iron Man” by Brian Michael Bendis, Alex Maleev, Matt Hollingsworth, and Clayton Cowles
Doctor Doom as Iron Man is an inherently silly concept, but what seems easily dismissable on the surface turned out to be a unique character study about Victor Von Doom’s redemption. I loved Bendis’s restrained dialogue and Maleev’s moody depictions of Victor.
Justin’s Pick (tie): “The Vision,” by Tom King, Gabriel Hernández Walta, Jordie Bellaire, VC’s Clayton Cowles and “The Flintstones” by Mark Russell, Steve Pugh, Chris Chuckry, and Dave Sharpe
When people talk about superheroes as modern mythology, they’re normally talking about the big and simple four-color stories. But classical mythology is much more about passions and hubris, and the horrors that result from those, and no one does this better than Tom King in 2016’s “The Vision.”
As for “The Flintstones,” I have a weird love for this strange little comic. It was an adult reimagining of a children’s show that really didn’t need an adult version, but somehow Russell pulls together a comic of fun and sadness, balancing modern and anachronistic stories, in a story that feels both carefully assembled and free flowing.
Kevin’s Pick: “The Black Monday Murders” by Jonathan Hickman, Tomm Coker, Michael Garland, Rus Wooton
Alright, back to Hickman. While this book has yet to conclude, I am more than happy to wait. Every issue of “Black Monday Murders” was a dense diatribe on the horrors of unfettered capitalism in, well, a horror book. This book also makes great use of the charts and design pages and is dense and scary and powerful.
Jake’s Pick: “Mister Miracle” by Tom King, Mitch Gerads, and Clayton Cowles
It’s not all about my downer personal connection. “Mister Miracle” was fairly unique in that it was the first comic I thought was better in digital. I read it on Hoopla (possibly available through your local library, go check!) and I used their guided view. This improved the comic tremendously.
Let me explain. “Mister Miracle” is scripted by Tom King and illustrated by Mitch Gerads. Pretty much the entire thing is told in nine-panel grids, 3×3 on the page, all the same size and shape. In guided view each panel took up a whole screen and to turn the page, you had to hit a button. This creates a level of interaction, turning the comic into a low-key video game. Press the button, advance the story. That also gives the reader greater control over the timing. Every panel click carries the dramatic weight that a page turn would normally have in paper comics.Continued below
I’ll give you an example. There’s a famous sequence where Darkseid, the God of Evil visits Mister Miracle’s apartment and helps himself to a patented veggie tray. He stares. He stares. He dips. He munches on the carrot stick. Normally you’d see all those panels all on the same page, all at once. The punchline comes as a surprise in digital, and the comedic timing is perfected determined by each reader. It’s not the way I’d generally prefer reading comics, but I believe there are some that benefit.
James’ Pick: “Darth Vader: Dark Lord of the Sith” by Charles Soule, Giussepe Camuncoli, Cam Smith, David Curiel, Joe Caramagna et al.
Even I find it insane that I have a Star Wars comic as my best of 2017. But dammit, Charles Soule and Giussepe Camuncoli made a beautiful bisected baby in “Darth Vader” and I can’t help but love it. The series debuted amazingly in 2017, the first arc pushed the newly armored Anakin through a gauntlet that showed just what kind of Man he had become (also Jedi Master Kirak Infil’a might have the best man-bun in comics) and the second arc somehow made the Librarian from Attack of the Clones one of my favorite Star Wars characters! “Darth Vader: Dark Lord of the Sith” is epic in scope, beautifully illustrated, perfectly stylized and is the best Star Wars comic to date.
Elias’ Pick: “Spinning” by Tillie Walden
Any excuse I get, I will use to talk about Tillie Walden’s work, and the reason for that is because of “Spinning.” I got this book at SPX 2017. I was quite stressed at the time and felt a bit lost. I was a year or so into writing for Multiversity and had been reading “On a Sunbeam” as it came out, so I got in line to get a copy of her new book. She was kind and talkative and dolled out wise advice along with Danielle Corsetto, paving the way for the first two interviews of our Interview with a Webcomics column. I got back to my dorm later that day and promptly left the book on my shelf for a month or so as the stress overwhelmed and the school work piled up.
Then, one Saturday night, I pulled it down to give myself a respite. I cracked open the hard covers, greeted by the smell of unopened book, and began to read. The pages flowed like water and the events sprang to life on the page and in my mind. Because Tillie & I are the same age, I tried to remember where I was at each point in the narrative, what the world was like. What was shared and what was unique. It was always simultaneous and unconscious, never interrupting the flow of Tillie’s story until. . .well, until about three quarters of the way through when I had to stop.
Physically close the book.
And pause. For one. Two. Three minutes.
And then continue, blinking my wet, blurred vision back to clarity.
Powerful stories evoke powerful reactions and there is nothing more powerful than connections discovered and realities reflected.
Erik’s Pick: “The Wild Storm” by Warren Ellis, Jon Davis-Hunt, Ivan Plancencia, et al.
It’s interesting how the Wildstorm Universe has shifted in three distinct eras all representative of their artistic contexts: the original Jim Lee launch in the 90’s, the middle era with Mike Millar introducing more cinematic qualities to their stories, and now this modern take with Ellis adapting to a late 2010’s audience. Everything about this book is sharp. Davis-Hunt embodies today’s generation of comics with sleek designs and clean lines with stylized figures.
Justin’s Pick: “My Favorite Thing Is Monsters” by Emil Ferris
Emil Ferris was an outsider to the art form, but became a master of the craft in a single book. There were so many accidents that had to happen for this comic to come to us, and so many accidents that almost prevented it from existing. This is an amazing comic, and it’s a blessing that it is in our hands at all.
Kevin’s Pick: “The Unstoppable Wasp” by Jeremy Whitley, Elsa Charretier, Veronica Fish, Ro Stein and Ted Brandt, Megan Wilson, Joe CaramagnaContinued below
I contain multitudes. While “Ms. Marvel” might’ve been my favorite ongoing of the decade, this short eight issue series and its ten issue follow-up also tugged at my heartstrings as well. The story of Nadia van Dyne was just one of such optimism and inspiration and working through one’s lot in life when one’s lot is less than ideal. It’s a story of growing up and figuring out who you are. It’s a story of smart and powerful young girls and women with stories of female scientists at the back of every issue imbued with inspiration. It’s also one of the most LGBTQ+ friendly books that Marvel has put out and it’s second iteration takes on issues of mental health in necessary ways. I love this book and I will champion us never forgetting it as long as I keep writing about comics.
Jake’s Pick: “Abbott” by Saladin Ahmed, Sami Kivelä, Jason Wordie, and Jim Campbell
But not as a writer writer. I knew Ahmed from his fantasy novel “Throne of the Crescent Moon,” which is awesome. I had even encountered some of his published poetry. But writing comics isn’t the same as writing books and poems. Some writers transition really neatly, and some really struggle. Ahmed’s debut year was full of fascinating, weird comics that only he could have written. My favorite of the year was “Abbott,” a collaboration with Sami Kivela from Boom Studios. It’s a pretty familiar urban fantasy story, but the specifics are where it comes alive. Abbott is a black, female, chain-smoking journalist in 1972 Detroit, looking into a crime that’s proving itself to be spookier than she anticipated. It’s masterfully executed, proving that Ahmed has that comic writing X-factor.
When everything is going (more or less) okay, that gives you a chance to get into the nuances of things. “Abbott” is the kind of book I may have missed in any other year. But I didn’t, and I’m glad I didn’t. I had the access, the knowledge, and the headspace to try something. I don’t knock people who stick with what makes them happy; that’s really smart. But when you feel compelled to take a risk, to try something you aren’t 100% assured to like, follow through on that feeling!
James’ Pick: “Mister Miracle” by Tom King, Mitch Gerads, and Clayton Cowles
“Mister Miracle” might be the first text I’ve ever read that genuinely typifies hopelessness. It both embraces and casts aside graphical conventions and literary tropes to build so many beautiful layers to a comic, every page invites dissection and every issue begs for speculation. “Mister Miracle” is King and Gerads at their highest and I can’t wait for them to fly even higher in the years to come.
Elias’ Pick: “She Could Fly” by Chris Cantwell, Martin Morazzo, Miroslav Mrva, and Clem Robins
Want to know a series that left me a sobbing mess by the end? It’s this one. “She Could Fly” is a powerful book that refuses easy answers or straightforward storytelling, favoring the surreal to present the intangible and the weird to represent the all too real fears we harbor. Human and fucked-up and endlessly rich, “She Could Fly” connects on a deep level and is basically an R-rated “The Rocketeer” if everyone was far less Art Deco and also open about mental health.
Erik’s Pick: “Green Lantern: Earth One” Vol. 1 by Corinna Bechko, Gabriel Hardman, Jordan Boyd, and Simon Bowland
I’ve always loved the Earth One series of graphic novels and this latest addition follows suit. The grounded, “hard sci-fi” interpretation of Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern mythos is memorable and I look forward to seeing the team continue this story.Continued below
Kevin’s Pick: Detective Comics – James Tynion IV, Eddy Barrows, Eber Ferreira, Adriano Lucas, Alvaro Martinez, Raul Fernandez, Brad Anderson, Sai Cipriano, et al
DC’s Rebirth initiative is in sort of a middling period at the moment with many of the books launched during that time having changed creative teams or ended. Of the long-running titles, Tynion’s “Tec” run was my favorite taking full advantage of the extended Bat family and making Gotham City a character in a deep way just like Snyder and Capullo did prior. This book featured Batman, but wasn’t about him and put the spotlight on Spoiler, Batwoman, Orphan, and Clayface (who may have had the best arc of the entire run). Simply put, this is the best Bat-adjacent book of the ‘10s.
Jake’s Pick: “House of X”/“Powers of X” by Jonathan Hickman, Pepe Larraz, R.B. Silva, Marte Gracia, Clayton Cowles, Tom Muller, David Curiel, and Adriano Di Benedetto
It wasn’t just that the comics were great, though they were. It wasn’t just that we had created a special Multiversity chat to discuss the issues every week, which was a blast. HOXPOX felt like it was bringing together the comic community in a way I haven’t seen since… maybe ever? There was rampant speculation on Twitter, competing blogs that dove into every hint, a whole ecosystem popped up around HOXPOX for 12 glorious weeks in the summer of 2019.
It was one of the best experiences I’ve ever had in comics. I discussed religion with strangers. I explained Xorn to friends. I wrote thousands of words a week for Multiversity. HOXPOX wasn’t just something I read, it was a holistic experience shared with a community. It was a reason to rush home and devour every page. Much like “Mister Miracle” was enhanced by the way I encountered it, I can’t imagine first experiencing HOXPOX as anything other than a weekly series. It also proved what makes a comic feel important to me. Quality is important sure, but the best book is the one that inspires people to come together, to go a little crazy. That’s what makes up this world of fandom. And most importantly, that’s how we each get a chance to determine what that world looks like.
Elias’ Pick: “Giant Days” by John Allison, Max Sarin, Whitney Cogar, Jim Campbell, et al.
I could have picked so many books for 2019. So many. Hell, I’m surprised I didn’t pick a single Thor book for any of these years (hint hint, nudge nudge.) But, as it turns out, the one that grabbed me the most in 2019 was “Giant Days,” not just because it was ending but also because it has been consistently one of the best books on the shelves since issue one with Lissa Treiman.
Esther, Susan and Daisy feel like found family to me and that’s both a worrying and a comforting sentiment. I see myself and my friends in them and their lives, though mine may not be as lively or bonkers as theirs was. It is often difficult to stick a landing or say goodbye to characters but the creative team did that with gusto. They stuck the landing, got 10/10 and walked away with gold. “Giant Days” is a masterclass in comedy, the realest heartbreak and the messiness of life. More comics should aspire to be as wonderful and rich as this.
Erik’s Pick: “Goodnight Paradise” by Joshua Dysart, Alberto Ponticelli, Giulia Brusco, and Steve Wands
Dysart teams up with “Unknown Soldier” collaborator Alberto Ponticelli to tell a powerful and heart wrenching story centered on a homeless man in Venice Beach. Dywart’s plot and realistic characters can be hard to read, however the book’s charm and emotionally honest depictions make this comic one of the best.Continued below
Kevin’s Pick: “House of X”/”Powers of X” – Jonathan Hickman, Pepe Larraz, R.B. Silva, Adriano Di Benedetto, Marte Gracia, Clayton Cowles, Tom Muller
And finally, the books that got the most chatter this year: “House of X” and “Powers of X.” I’ve said a lot of things about these books on Make Mine Multiversity, the Internet has said way more things, and you yourself might’ve had many a conversation about this already. What I will say, is that these books turned me into an X-Men fan and I’m now reading old runs and diving into this complicated continuity. For all the books we read then put down and forget about them (and if this decade is any indication, there’s a lot of them) I can think of no higher compliment. Can’t wait to see the future dissertations written about the island nation of Krakoa.