1. 19. Thief of Thieves
Why it made the list: Everyone loves a good heist film. However, heist comics are few and far between. Thief of Thieves captures the fun of the “planning scenes” from your favorite movies while interspersing it with the real, human problems that come with being a full time criminal.
Read if you like: Ocean’s 11, obsessed Federal agents, money in briefcases.
3. 18. Mind the Gap
Why it made the list: Ghosts, amnesiacs and controlling parents. These are just a few of the ingredients that made Mind the Gap a great comic even though it flew under the radars of most fans this year. The pacing and the mystery reveals will keep you anxiously anticipating the next issue.
Read if you like: Out of body experiences, wearing hoodies, London.
5. 17. Batman Incorporated
Why it made the list: And so it ends. Grant Morrison’s run on Batman was either the greatest thing EVER for fans or an overly convoluted mess. With its series of callbacks to ancient Batman history, its labyrinthine plot structure and its dramatic end, one certainly couldn’t call it anything except memorable.
Read if you like: Batpeople, events happening to Robin, Batman being called out on how silly the “Batman” concept is for grown adults.
7. 16. Avengers Arena
Why it made the list: A guilty pleasure book, Avengers Arena closely resembles Battle Royale, set in the Marvel Universe with C list heroes. But it rises above the premise to demonstrate just how thin the line between “hero” and “villain” can be when pushed to the limit.
Read if you like: people turning into dinosaurs, guilty pleasures, the Hunger Games without the Dystopia.
9. 15. Lazarus
Why it made the list: Greg Rucka is no slouch when it comes to writing about covert missions and weary assassins. Lazarus is an action packed book which builds upon the conceit of a world controlled by Mafia families that have a unkillable family member to protect them. Full of betrayal, gunplay and swordfights, Rucka manages to keep the pacing and dialogue realistic while creating a fun escapist romp.
Read if you like: corporate hitmen, samurai swords, suppressed populaces.
11. 14. The Unwritten
Why it made the list: What if Harry Potter was based on you and you had to live out your life as a well-known if not supernatural being? Now what if the things written about you have a kernel of truth? The Unwritten takes this premise and builds upon it to create a complex “world within worlds” comic which will keep the reader trying to puzzle through the answers.
Read if you like: children’s books that come to life, Harry Potter in his dotage, finding mysterious objects in old mansions.
13. 13. BlackAcre
Why it made the list: Half of the populace lives in the world of Tron. The other half lives in a distorted Little House on the Prairie meets Deliverance. If you like automatic weapons and old time preachers then this book is for you.
Read if you like: pitchforks, baling hay under the watchful eye of semi-automatic weapons, finding religion.
15. 12. Revival
Why it made the list: Revival is much like the French TV series the Returned in which the dead don’t come back as zombies, but instead try to reintegrate themselves into our normal lives and throw a small rural town in Wisconsin into chaos. It is a pulse pounding read as you watch overmatched individuals deal with the concepts of life and death being turned inside out.
Read if you like: less obvious zombies, living in the Midwest, seeing meth labs go kaboom.
17. 11. Sex
Why it made the list: BANNED FROM THE INTERNET. OK, maybe just banned from your portable readers due to Apple’s byzantine “safe content” rules. Joe Casey warned people that the title was not just a come on.
Read if you like: Superheroes after they are done superheroing, banned books, full frontal nudity.
19. 10. Shadowman
Why it made the list: Valiant Comics resurrected an old hero and managed to not only make him interesting, but create a new mythos which helps the character resonate with contemporary readers. Unlike past failures to bring back old time heroes like The Phantom, Shadowman evolves past the strictures of its previous incarnation into something new and different.
Read if you like: Voodoo rituals, the antebellum South, living in purgatory.
21. 9. The Wake
Why it made the list: Horror and deep sea adventure. Science and dolphins. Also, again, dolphins.
Read if you like: Jacques Cousteau in trouble, terror from the deep, imaging the animals in Sea World getting revenge on their captors.
23. 8. Sex Criminals
Why it made the list: BANNED FROM…ok you get the picture. So if every time you had sex you could stop time, what would you do? Rob a bank? Be endlessly confounded? Make sure that your partner never ever has sex with anyone else?
Read if you like: Using sex as a weapon, everyday people in extraordinary circumstances, the government being a bunch of prudes.
25. 7. God is Dead
Why it made the list: All the old gods have come back. They have divvied up the world. Now they are taking out each other. Thor vs. Ares. Quetzacoatl against Zeus. All rendered in extremely graphic detail. My money is on Anubis.
Read if you like: pantheons, ultra violence without guilt, fighting religion with…religion.
27. 6. The Superior Spider-Man
Why it made the list: Not many people thought it would work. When Dr. Octopus took over the role of Spider-Man, many long time fans of the book despaired and threatened to boycott. Instead, writer Dan Slott has taken an experimental concept and turned it into one of the most popular books. Peter Parker was ineffective. Otto Octavius gets things done. All hail the Superior Spider-Man!
Read if you like: body switching, less Mary Jane, Spider-Man getting a bit Punisher with his adversaries.
29. 5. The All-New X-Men (and all the X-Books)
Why it made the list: This ranking encompasses all the X-Books across the series as it was one of best plotted and most consistent micro-universes in all of comics. Most stunningly, Brian Michael Bendis, whose work has been oft-criticized for making pet projects of his favorite characters, restrains his impulses and delivers the interpersonal drama and action missing since the halycon days of Claremont and Byrne.
Read if you like: reading 10 titles at a time, Wolverine with a job, arguing about whether Cyclops is a jerk or not.
31. 4. East of West
Why it made the list: It’s a mashup of spaghetti westerns, samurai flicks and apocalyptic futures. Death stars as a cowboy who rides a mechanical horse and has a beef with the other three horsemen of the apocalypse.
Read if you like: Clint Eastwood on space horses, southern gentlemen, saloon fights.
33. 3. Superior Foes of Spider-Man
Why it made the list: The funniest comic book of the year. Z List Spider-Man villains are given their own platform and become almost sympathetic as you watch them get repeatedly foiled not only by heroes, but villains who constantly use them for cannon fodder. It’s hard to make a buck in the villain game.
Read if you like: Dognapping, corporate politics, running away from a fight.
35. 2. Fury: My Wars Gone By
Why it made the list: Garth Ennis puts a punctuation mark on his time with Marvel’s grittier characters by covering Colonel Nick Fury as he bears witness to the most dubious acts of American foreign policy. Ennis pulls no punches as you read about a man who serves his country because he can’t not fight, yet knows in his heart that what he is doing is inherently wrong.
Read if you like: Cold War politics, binge drinking, dirty jokes about JFK.
37. 1b. Hawkeye
Why it made the list: The best superhero book of the year. Hawkeye is a fantastic book that examines the normal life of a superhero who lacks cosmic powers or the ability to leap tall buildings in a single bound. Instead he lives in Brooklyn, can’t operate machinery more complex than his coffee maker and tries to avoid his ex-wife.
Read if you like: Brooklyn, dogs, saying “Bro” before every sentence.
39. 1a. Saga
Why it made the list: Saga never stops being good. Just when you think Brian K. Vaughn is going to go down the prescribed path of storytelling, he throws another curveball at the story. It’s forbidden interstellar love, galactic war and family drama all bundled into the book of the year.
Read if you like: Pan-Galactic conflicts, romance novels with a tinge of smut, gripping storytelling.