Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Best Superhero Comics of 2008

I've noticed that when it comes time for my "best of" list for comic books at the end of the year, that superheroes hardly ranked. In 2006, only two comics made my top twenty (Athena Voltaire was #17, Astonishing X-Men was #6). And again last year saw only two entries (Buffy, the Vampire Slayer was #15, Astonishing X-Men hit #5). But you know what? I love superhero comics! I figure part of the reason is that it's kind of hard to rank Manhunter against the latest Love and Rockets or Acme Novelty Library collections, no matter how good Marc Andreyko and Michael Gaydos do on the former. It's just kind of an innate prejudice in me, I guess. That and literary comics tend to have a little more meat to them, often attempting to reach for something beyond what superhero books usually go for. But this year, I realized that many of the comics I got really excited about were superheroes. That may have been the case in years past as well, but I thought that I wanted to sing the praises of the men in tights this year with a "best of" list unto themselves, some of which will also appear on my end of the year list that incorporates the entirety of comics. How far will any of these titles rank on that list this time around? You'll just have to wait and see. 2005 did see The Luna Brothers at the top of my list for Ultra: Seven Days, so you never know. I apologize in advance for the lack of Final Crisis - I just couldn't get into it. I know a lot of people love it, but it wasn't for me. Anyways, here are my favorite superhero books from 2008...
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20. (TIE) New Avengers/Mighty Avengers - These books were kind of interchangeable this year, filling in the backstory of several characters involved in Marvel's big (but ultimately dull) crossover event, Secret Invasion, and relating some interesting stories.
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19. Secret Invasion: Inhumans - This was the best of the team spin-off series that took place during Secret Invasion. It's very much an action story following Medusa and her family as they attempt to retrieve their kidnapped king Blackbolt from the skrulls.
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18. Manhunter - Cancelled for a third time, I think this book is officially dead this time around. But I'm sure Kate Spencer will pop up around the DC universe yet. Michael Gaydos did some great artwork for the series in its final stretch, but it obviously wasn't enough to save the struggling series.
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17. The Sisterhood - From Archaia Studios Press, this book from Christopher Golden, Tom Sniegoski and Wellington Alves follows a group of ninja nuns who take demons into themselves (like human cages) until they reach full capacity.
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16. Young Avengers Presents - This mini-series saw six different creative teams each tackle a different character from the Young Avengers, to some pretty consistently great results.
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15. Ultimate Spider-Man - Lots of Silver Sable and Kitty Pryde is what I like to see in Spider-Man and Bendis provided just that in a year that saw art switch hands to the very capable Stuart Immonen.
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14. Nova - This is just a fun cosmic superhero book featuring a character who takes himself too seriously and has the entire legacy of the Nova Corps on his shoulders.
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13. Patsy Walker: Hellcat - A five issue mini-series featuring the sassy, funny Patsy Walker taking on the role of Alaska's guardian in the 50-state initiative. It's kind of weird, but fun as hell.
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12. Secret Invasion: Dark Reign - This one-shot features Norman Osborn's first meeting with a dark version of Tony Stark's Illuminati. Told through the eyes of Emma Frost, readers witness a strained alliance born between them and Doctor Doom, The Hood, Loki, and Namor.
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11. Thunderbolts - Warren Ellis and Mike Deodato's Thunderbolts is a lot of fun. The team of villains kept under Norman Osborn's thumb are constantly bickering and backstabbing, and it's great seeing these guys go all-out taking down superheroes. Very entertaining.
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10. All-Star Superman - Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely's ultimate Superman book came to a conclusion this year in a spectacular show.
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9. Captain Britain and MI-13 - London's superheroes assemble to face the skrull invasion under the guidance of Pete Wisdom. During the battle, Wisdom sort of releases a huge group of magical villains that they now have to recapture. Originally pitched as a relaunch of Excalibur, this book is full of great characters and is pretty unpredictable.
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8. The Sword - The Luna Brothers have another winner with their third book, which sees a young girl obtain super abilities when she holds an ancient sword. Three supervillains are after the sword and murder her family to get it, so she's now on a quest to avenge them and rid the world of their dark powers once and for all. This book is blood-soaked and cinematic, and quite suspenseful.
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7. Astonishing X-Men - I'm not a fan of Warren Ellis's run on the title, so this ranking is strictly for Joss Whedon and John Cassaday's final few excellent issues on the series, including Giant-Size Astonishing X-Men #1.
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6. Wolverine: First Class - I wasn't expecting much out of this series, but it's damn good. Wolverine and Kitty Pryde go on adventures shortly after she arrives at Xavier's school, and of course get into plenty of mischief together. These are completely fun straight-forward superhero stories that call to mind a more innocent, whimsical time in superheroes.
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5. Ms. Marvel - Brian Reed's Ms. Marvel is fantastic when it's not sidetracked by the goings-on of crossover events. Carol Danvers has become a very complicated, but wholly interesting character, often introspective and fully-realized. Whether she's fighting alongside a team of S.H.I.E.L.D. operatives like Sleepwalker and Machine Man, or taking a good, hard look at her strained relationship with her family, each issue is engrossing from beginning to end.
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4. Batman - Grant Morrison's R.I.P. is the best Batman story I've read in recent memory, a culmination of what he's set up from the beginning of his run, all leading to a grand finale against The Black Glove and the Joker.
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3. Echo - Terry Moore's latest series finds a young woman covered by some sort of experimental nuclear fallout that turns her into a weapon that she has little control over. Now she's on the run from the government and another crazed man infected similarly by the substance. Very dramatic and intense, and illustrated beautifully.
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2. Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season Eight - Joss Whedon's season eight of his beloved Buffy the Vampire Slayer saw Ms. Summers battle future slayer Fray this year, as well as team up with Dracula against vampires from Japan with magical powers. Consistent and engaging with sharp dialogue and plenty of emotional baggage, just how I like it.
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1. The Order - California's 50-state initiative team consists of pop idols, star athletes and actors with careers on a downward spiral, and it's awesome as all hell! Aside from Pepper Potts, the cast of characters is completely new, but they all have their issues and make for a great dynamic on this team constantly in the spotlight. I love the format of the book (each issue beginning and ending with a confession from a character) and the art is crisp and sharp. Often enough, it's the character's drama that's really fun to watch unfold, but the action isn't anything to sneeze at either! A homerun by Matt Fraction and Barry Kitson.

1 comment:

Asvic said...

Yet to read RIP. Though All Star Superman was awesome.