The problem with Vertigo is that they have so many damn great titles, how can you whittle them down to just a top five? Well, that’s my problem, but before you ask: I’m sorry, I have not read Sandman. I know I am a criminal, but I just have to keep living with it. There are a lot of Vertigo titles I’ve yet to read, but until then, these are my five favorites. Feel free to disagree, and lament the loss of Berger and what it could mean for the future (or lack thereof) of Vertigo, in the comments.
Also, I wanted to note: I currently read zero New 52 books, but I read 6 Vertigo books. I thought that was fun.
From Warren Ellis and Darick Robertson
I know what you’re going to say: it was a Helix book first. Either way, by the time I got into Ellis and Robertson’s book, it was firmly entrenched in the world of Vertigo. And it’s a perfect fit really – it was about as forward thinking as anything I’ve ever read, just like Vertigo is as a publisher. This book, though, is eery in some of the things Ellis created, as it’s becoming more and more like the world we live in with each passing day.
It helps, too, that the lead character of this series – Spider Jerusalem – is an all-time great, and Darick Robertson was a pitch perfect fit for the whole run. Just marvelous, inventive work from one of the great minds in the history of comics in my book.
From Bill Willingham, Mark Buckingham and friends
The only book on this list that’s still actively running, Fables has been going for ten years now and has a deluge of issues, graphic novels, spin offs, and even near knock off TV shows to its credit. At its core though, it was the house that Willingham and Buckingham built (even if Lan Medina did do the art for the first arc), as Willingham’s exceptional character work and long arching Adversary concept carried it a long ways, and Buckingham’s ornate side designs and masterful storytelling did the rest.
While it’s maybe not at the same level now as it was before The Adversary was taken out, it’s still one of my all-time favorites, especially when you factor in the truly spectacular run of covers James Jean created and what Joao Ruas has been creating as he followed him. As long as Willingham and Buckingham are on this book, I’ll be buying it and eagerly anticipating the next edition.
From Jason Aaron, R.M. Guera and friends
Oh, how sad did it make me when Scalped ended this year? Very sad. This book had been my favorite comic over the past few years, as Aaron and Guera had created a soulful, heartbreaking world that I never knew I wanted to read about but couldn’t put down once I started.
This story about life on an Indian reservation (or, “the Rez”), was really all about finding your home and who you really are inside. It had some of the most fierce and real feeling character work I’ve ever experienced in comics, as Aaron weaved a tapestry complete with three-dimensional leads like Dashiell Bad Horse and Lincoln Red Crow, while also saving time for magnificent issues that highlighted the periphery like #35, an issue with Danijel Zezelj about an aging husband and wife and how their lives had changed. When I say Aaron created a world, I mean it, as the nooks and crannies of Prairie Rose Reservation were as alive as the main streets.Continued below
But without artist R.M. Guera, we’d have nothing, and his moody, atmospheric art led the way to realizing the potential of this book. Other artists contributed, but it was Guera’s work with characters – showing the life that weighed on their faces and their whole bodies – that added that grinding reality to the equation. There’s beauty in darkness, and Guera found that each and every issue.
Aaron and Guera are, supposedly, going to work together again. I for one can’t wait to see what they come up with next. Until then, I have my 60 issues of Scalped somewhere in a longbox just waiting for a reread.
Just make sure to bring Jock along for the ride on covers, guys.
2. Y the Last Man
From Brian K. Vaughan, Pia Guerra and friends
There was a stretch where, towards the end of high school leading up to early parts of college, where I stopped reading comics. I don’t just mean cutting my reading back a little – I mean I was completely done with comics.
One day, I went into the shop to just see what’s up, and I asked someone who worked there what’s new and good.
“Y the Last Man has been getting a lot of love.”
I grabbed the first two trades, and sure enough, I was back in business with comics. Look at me now? It’s all thanks to BKV and Pia Guerra’s work, as they took us on a truly imaginative and grounded story of a tremendous and normal man named Yorick. Beautifully depicted by Guerra and the other artists involved (namely Goran Sudzuka, who illustrated by favorite issue – #42’s “1,000 Typewriters”), it was one of the most gorgeous books I’ve ever seen.
But what we all loved really were the characters. Yorick. 355. Dr. Mann. Any numbers of Beths. Vaughan created a world that was like ours but not, and so much more interesting in so many ways. As my pal Walt could tell you, he even played with gender roles in truly fascinating ways. It was an exercise in understanding humanity, and what we’re given over 60 issues is truly one of the best comics I’ve ever read.
From Garth Ennis, Steve Dillon and friends
As much as I love the heart of Y the Last Man, my favorite comic of all-time – and it has been since I first read it – is Preacher. Ennis and Dillon made a comic that wasn’t like anything I’d ever read. It was dirty, grimy and full of Arsefaces and arsesouls (yeah, I did that), but it also had a ton of heart and humor. Where the lead characters are left off is stunning and poetic, and exactly what Ennis and Dillon were building to for the whole run.
It’s everything I wanted from a comic, but I didn’t even know it. Before Preacher, I’d never read a Vertigo book. I’d never read anything like it. After that, I was always chasing the excitement truly novel, original comics like this gave me. That’s what Vertigo is good at and always has been good at – giving readers and creators who want something more from their comics a home. I’m proud to call myself a Vertigo fan, and hope to call myself one for a long time going forward.