Nothing But Comics is about to hit our two-year mark and in observance of the site’s anniversary, every Tuesday from now until we finish, one of our staff members will list off their favorite series, runs or issues of all time. This week it’s Dean.
Honorable Mentions: Gotham Central, Orc Stain, Daytripper, Sweet Tooth, Underwater Welder, Waid’s Daredevil, Franction’s Hawkeye, Preacher, Runaways
10. The Killing Joke by Alan Moore, Brian Bolland & John Higgins
The top ten list begins where the obsession began. Three years ago I began borrowing my brother’s old comics. I was slowly working my way through X-Men, Spider-man and Batman from the early 80s. It wasn’t until receiving The Killing Joke for Christmas that I was really hooked and swept away by the mature feeling of the story. The idea that Batman and the Joker are deeply connected is a theme often explored in the DC Universe. However, Alan Moore breaks it down so simply in this book. All it takes is one bad day to turn your life upside-down. Both Batman and Joker had one traumatizing day and their reactions are what set them apart. Joker wants to test if he can make Gordon, Gotham’s most righteous soul, crack under the pressure of The Worst Day. The Killing Joke is where the obsession began and will likely always hold a place in my top ten.
9. Avengers Arena by Dennis Hopeless, Kev Walker, Karl Moline, Riccardo Burchielli, Alessandro Vitti
When I began reading comics I was simply buying trades. I would put in constant hours of research trying to figure out what the best books were. Eventually, this led to listening to comic podcasts which often talked about current issues. I decided to start buying some weekly comics to keep up with the shows. One of my first series purchased in floppies, which I followed from beginning to end was Avengers Arena. You won’t find this comic book on many top ten lists, but boy do I love it. I was initially intimidated by the large cast of unfamiliar characters, but this was an easy entry into the Marvel universe. It had fantastic action scenes mixed with high-emotion drama amidst the teenaged C and D rate heroes. The story is told in a Lost-like format with each issue focusing on different characters. I was just looking for something current to read and what I got was one of my favorite stories of all time. In my opinion, this was the best thing Marvel released in 2013. It has a premise that seems Hopeless, but in the hands of Dennis, hope is found.
8. Astonishing X-Men by Joss Whedon & John Cassaday
I read the entire Astonishing X-Men run two years ago for a segment I called 12 Days of Comics. I read it all in one sitting, which is what I recommend you do as well. I am a big fan of the X-Men, stemming from my love for the 90s television show, and I am also a huge fan of Joss Whedon, which came from the movie Serenity. Joss Whedon creates such a fun, imaginative and adventurous story that I thought fit very well with the cast of X-characters. That cast includes Cyclops, Wolverine, Kitty Pryde, Emma Frost, Beast, Colossus and Armour. You can probably tell by the team that there is just enough love and hate to fuel this wild ride. Whedon explores so many imaginative ideas that my inner sci-fi geek is extremely satisfied, while also including enough team drama that my emotions are jerked once or twice. This run will sit in my mind as one of my favourite X-stories and one of my most memorable reading experiences.
7. Matt Kindt Universe (Revolver, Mind MGMT, Red Handed, Super Spy) by Matt Kindt
I am going to use this format to cheat a little and select the entire Matt Kindt Universe as my #7. I have had a fascination with Matt Kindt ever since I read the first issue of Mind MGMT. He crafted such an interesting and intriguing story. Then, I read an interview with him where he said that all of his books are connected and take place in the same universe. As soon as I heard there were clues in his books, they turned from leisure reads to study material. Matt Kindt is the master at weaving an intricate web, both within his stories and across his stories. Now, I will always read a Matt Kindt book twice. The first is to enjoy the mind-bending story he has created. The second time I get my FBI board out, with pictures and tacks and yarn. That is when the study and investigation begins. I would suggest reading any of these books; none of them will disappoint. But, if you really want to exercise your mind, give the whole universe a try.
6. Thor God of Thunder #1-#12 by Jason Aaron, Esad Ribic, Butch Guice and Nick Klein
I have expressed my love for this series many times in the past. This is the series that gave me the desire to be part of a comic book community. I was a follower of iFanboy at the time of this comic’s release and every single issue in the second half of this run (#7-#12) was my “Pick Of The Week”. In this arc, Aaron messes with time travel to create three different Thors. One Thor, a young and reckless Odinson who is not yet worthy for Mjolnir. A second Thor, an avenger and a man determined to protect Earth. Finally, a third Thor, an old grizzled king who has taken Odin’s place as ruler of Asgard. When the Thors come together at the end of the seventh issue there is nothing left to do but fist-pump and talk to all your friends about the fantastic issues to come. I started a book club, began to comment on comic sites and met all my NBC! family because of this run.
5. Batman Snyder Run by Scott Snyder, Greg Capullo, Becky Cloonan, Jonathan Glapion, Sandra Hope, Andy Kubert, Danny Miki, Matteo Scalera, Rafael Albuquerque, James Tynion IV
The horror, the horror. Snyder starts his Batman run off with a touch of horror and a handful of imagination. The run burst out of the gate with a loud bang. After the first arc it was clear that Snyder and Capullo are not afraid to take the entire Bat history and mold it as they like. They created an extremely creepy group of villains, The Court of Owls, which not only took the comic world by storm, but their iconic masks also made it into my Halloween costume that year, as well as an NHL playoff game. Every arc of this story is fantastic. The comic’s horror reached it’s epic high with Death of the Family and then the tone of the book changed as the series took on a year long arc exploring Batman’s origin, titled Zero Year. After another stint with the Joker, Bruce is suffering amnesia and Gordon has taken on the responsibility of the Bat. Who knows what these guys have in store next. With the always evolving tone of the book and the high quality that each issue can deliver, it is very impressive to see Snyder and Capullo, two stars at the peak of their game, deliver us a marvelous comic every month.
4. Saga by Brian K Vaughan and Fiona Staples
What can I say that has not been said about Saga? This book has been in my top five ever since the first issue. The imagination and wonder of the world that Vaughan and Staples have created is beautiful. I am never disappointed when I step into this galaxy. There is something new to discover with every passing issue. But it is not the cool space gadgets or even the wacky world building that makes this book what it is. The shining star of the book is its heart. This book is about relationships and family. It is about real emotions, the good and the bad. It is about the happiness of having loved ones close to you, but it is also about the heartache that can bring. This book is jammed packed with characters that you know and characters that you love. This is the best book on the stands and will continue to be so until it’s conclusion.
3. Fear Agent by Rick Remender, Tony Moore, Jerome Opena, Francesco Francavilla, Eric Nguyen, Kieron Dwyer
Nobody can write a doomed character quite like Rick Remender and the epitome of these characters is Heath Hudson. Recommended by our own NBC! community, Fear Agent was made for me. I love stories that span space and time. I also love getting thrown into the middle of a story and then finding out a huge secret later down the line when my emotional attachment is deeply rooted. Fear Agent takes you on a wild ride that seems erratic and unconnected; however, just when you think it is impossible for all the threads to reach a logical conclusion, Remender ties everything together in a rather magnificent way. Every single page of this story matters, there are no throwaway issues, no plot lines left open and no chance to predict what is coming. The mix of sci-fi action, mind bending time travel and the occasional jaw-dropping twist brings Fear Agent to my #3 favorite comic book of all time.
2. Locke And Key by Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez
Loss and love, family and friends, magic and mystery, ghosts and demons. This not-so-family-friendly book about family has all the right ingredients to make a comic classic. I fell in love with the Locke family as they fought and clawed their way through a mess father Locke left behind. I felt every high and every low along with these wonderful children as they struggled to not only find their own identity, but their family’s identity as well. Categorized as a supernatural horror, it plays more to the supernatural than to the horror, but will still give you that creepy feeling as you try to sleep. I’m just holding out for those movies. Like his father, I think a Joe Hill story transfers nicely to the big screen. This is the first book I hand to my friends and a great book to discuss with them.
1. Y: The Last Man by Brian K Vaughan, Pia Guerra, Goran Sudzuka and Paul Chadwick
Number 1 on this list is the first comic book that gave me “the feelings”. After loving The Killing Joke, I read every Bat title that is on any type of list like this. It wasn’t until picking up Y: The Last Man that I realized comics could be so much more than just superheros. If I was to write a comic, this is the comic I would (try to) write. I know, easy to say that about a hugely successful comic book series, but what I mean is the style in which Brian K Vaughan writes. He centres his stories around interesting ideas (like every male dying in the world except for one man and his monkey), but it is his characters, not the stories, which drive the book. He even spells this out multiple times in Y: The Last Man. It doesn’t matter why every man on the earth died, what matters most is the character’s journey. Yorick is one of my favorite characters of all time. He is witty and charming in a nerdy and unassuming kind of way. He is not the typical hero, he is the everyday guy who has been thrust into the spotlight and plagued with responsibility. He did not ask for it, he is not ready for it. I have read this whole series two times now and I am looking forward to the third. This book is the real deal.