Continuing my list of my favorite ten comics of the year...
10. Girls by the Luna Brothers (Image Comics). I really didn't know much about this comics before I picked up the trade, but I'm glad I bought it. It takes place in a small town, very down-to-earth, a little hickish. But then strange things begin to happen involving a girl that was picked up naked on the roadside. It feels really strange when things happen that shouldn't just because it seems so grounded in this all-American community. You kind of feel the shock that these people must be feeling. It's really interesting, even if the metaphors are pretty blatant. It's kind of a screwed-up horror book. Very fun.
9. The Acme Novelty Library Final Report to Shareholders and Saturday Rainy Day Fun Book by Chris Ware (Pantheon) Collecting Ware's comic strips from Rusty Brown to Jimmy Corrigan, from Quimby the Mouse to Big Tex, this book has it all: an ongoing strip that threads through the entire book, a comic strip you have to read in the dark, a comic strip on the edge of the book jacket...Chris Ware has to be the most creative book designer working in comics. I loved the Rusty Brown strips about an aging comic collector and the smart alec Quimby the Mouse. Ware has a way of digging deep into the human condition and laying bare the sadness within us all in his controlled art.
8. Superf*ckers by James Kochalka (Top Shelf) The crazy superhero book with a lot of swearing. I fell in love with James Kochalka while reading his American Elf collection of his sketchbook diaries. I just love his sensibilities. Superf*ckers is hilarious, with great strips about different superheroes living together and getting on each other's nerves.
7. Scott Pilgrim vs. the World by Bryan Lee O'Malley (Oni Press) This book just keeps getting better, as Scott Pilgrim battles Ramona's ex-boyfriends one after another while fending off Knives, his ex, who just kicks ass in this volume.
6. Spellbinders: Signs and Wonders by Mike Carey and Steve Perkins (Marvel Comics) This is the witch story I've been waiting for. A new girl, Kate, comes to live in Salem with her parents, where she meets a group of real witches in a community where tension is high between the non-witches, the wannabes and the true witches. After a series of accidents, Kate soon discovers that she is being stalked by someone or something, and tries to understand the new powers that are manifesting within her. There are some genuinely scary moments in this great story, written by the man behind the acclaimed Lucifer series. And Mike Perkins' drawing is great. There are some scenes where I just had to stop and admire the art. Read more about this great series.
5. Black Hole by Charles Burns (Pantheon) Burns' decade-long book is told through beautiful, very-controlled art that is consistent throughout this monstrous volume, an incredible feat considering how long it took to create this book. This horror story is about a sexually-transmitted disease passed between teenagers that cause mutations in their bodies upon infection. There's a lot more going on, however, beneath the surface. This is a masterpiece that will be enjoyed for generations to come. Read more.
4. Top Ten: The Forty-Niners by Alan Moore and Gene Ha (DC/America's Best Comics) I'd never read Top Ten before picking up this graphic novel, so I was really surprised that I loved it as much as I did (The only ABC book I'd even read was Promethea). Taking place after World War II, this story takes place in a city completely populated by superheroes, monsters and robots, and examines the prejudices between these groups, and against the rest of the human world. It's really a very clever book with beautiful realistic art by Gene Ha. It follows two characters closely - Sky Witch and Jetlad - as they grow accustomed to their new environment, going in different directions.
3. Dampyr by Mauro Boselli, Maurizio Colombo and Majo (IDW Publishing) IDW is awesome for publishing this long-running European horror comic in America. These volumes follow a half-vampire, half-human hybrid who, after years of swindeling innocent people by curing them of bogus vampire problems, is placed in a situation where he confronts the real creatures and learns where his true destiny lies. Incorporating all manners of monsters, this book is big on action and horror and lots of fun.
2. Nana by Ai Yazawa (Viz) Chronicled in the pages of Shojo Beat (with the first volume of the trade just out), Nana follows two girls with the same name (Nana) as they find themselves and try to put past heartache behind them. As fate would have it, the two girls come to live together in Tokyo. Full of tender moments and beautiful art, this book just stole my heart. After I read the first story in Shojo Beat, I put it down and thought to myself "Is this the best comic that I've ever read?" Seriously, if you're going to check out any manga this year, let it be this one.
1. Ultra: Seven Days by the Luna Brothers (Image Comics) Ah, yes. The moment you've all been waiting for. This was probably unexpected. It was for me too. This book was sitting in my to-read pile for months before I finally got around to reading it. And I was utterly blown away. This is seriously the best superhero comic I've ever read. Although, there's more to it than that. It's more of a drama than a superhero story, following a woman named Pearl who works on a police squad of superheroes as Ultra. The superheros of this universe are celebrities and Ultra is one of the biggest, having dated the perfect man. This book examines her relationships with other superheroes, with the spotlight, and how she tries to feel normal despite the fear and inadaquacy she feels. Full of twists and shocks, as well as touching scenes and realistic dialogue, this book is a perfect ten, well-deserving of its title of best of the year.