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 Tyler
Honorable Mentions: Watchmen, Giffen/DeMatteis’ JLI, Gillen’s JiM and Mckelvie’s Young Avengers, Alan Moore’s Swamp Thing, Lee/Kirby’s Fantastic Four, Snyder’s Detective Comics, Waid/Samnee/Rivera/Martin’s Daredevil, Habibi, Y: The Last Man, and Loeb/Sale’s Batman trilogy
10) From Hell, by Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell
This book was on my “To Read” list for far too long, and I’m so glad I finally took it with me on a long vacation, because I absolutely loved it. Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell crafted such an engrossing tale, containing some of the most affecting and horrific storytelling I’ve ever read—and as you read this list, you’ll see I’ve read quite a bit. It’s no secret Moore is one of the all-time greats, but I don’t think this book gets as much attention as his other work. Filled with classic elements of socio-economic friction, masonic rituals and political puppetry, love, hate, death, regret, shame, sorrow, insanity, and ennui; along with a healthy dose of historical fiction and London architectural history. From Hell is an opus of the epic and maddening human experience of the late 19th century in England.
As much a commentary/expose as it is a conspiracy theory, I was completely taken by every dark and grimy page. Eddie Campbell scrawls images of a very unclean, rainy, overcrowded, and unkind London. Filled with prostitutes, johns, victims, an perpetrators, in stark black and white. The art is—I assume intentionally—reminiscent of penny dreadful-style illustrations, and other illustrated novels of the period, and it fits the story being told perfectly. I highly recommend that every fan of the comic art form check this out, it should be mandatory reading for anyone looking for a truly unique comic experience.
I knew from the moment I read about the character, that John Constantine: Hellblazer was a book I needed to read. Dark magic, demons, Heaven, and Hell are all things that fascinate me, and I have a predilection for anti-heroes like John as well, so it should be no surprise that this book is on my list. Sadly, I haven’t read all of his adventures, or misadventures I should say, but I can state firmly that Mr. Delano’s run is one of the finest comics I have read. Taking a character established by someone as respected as Alan Moore is no small task; especially back before he turned into a grumpy warlock, but Jamie Delano did exactly that, and he did an absolutely wonderful job. The palpable mood and attitude wafting off every page is part punk rock, part Carpenter/Barker/Cronenberg horror, and part British anti-Thatcher/establishment. I happen to love all three of those things, especially infused into the fiction I read.
One of the things I love the most is how Constatine’s problems are never solved, bad decisions return to haunt him and his past is always waiting around the corner to sucker punch any hint of happiness that comes his way. You don’t feel sorry for him though, because he’s kind of a shit; instead you just strap in for the ride, vicariously smoke silk cuts, and prepare to be disturbed. I wouldn’t have it any other way, and that’s why I chose this particular run for one of my favorites.
8) F4/FF by Jonathan Hickman with artists Dale Eaglesham, Neil Edwards, Steve Epting, Nick Dragotta, Mark Brooks, Carmine Di Giandomenico, Ron Garney, Barry KItson, Greg Tocchini, Juan Bobillo, Leinil Francis Yu, and Farel Dalrymple
In all honesty, I never took the Fantastic Four all that seriously. I used to think they were just a silly sci-fi family that went on space adventures a la the Robinsons from Lost in Space. Until I kept hearing and reading about how amazing Jonathan Hickman’s run was, I had no plans of reading any F4 beyond the Lee/Kirby Masterworks hardcovers. I’m such an ass sometimes. I could have missed out on one of my favorite stories in comics ever, because I thought it wasn’t my bag. Thankfully I pulled my head out of my ass and picked up the first trade. I love how Hickman chose to handle Marvel’s first family, he touches on all the relationships and humor of the respective characters, but he really just took them seriously. That’s not to say that previous creators did not, but Hickman’s run just felt different.
Right off the bat, the theory of everything. Hickman really understands the dynamics of this family. From Reed’s constant need to continue discovering, even when it gets in the way of being a responsible Father and husband; to Ben Grim’s human struggle trapped inside a rock body, under Hickman’s care it all felt real, and identifiable. He made Sue stand out by having her empathy lead her decisions, and she was a powerhouse negotiator, who utilized her powers only after she was left with no recourse. Hickman also did a fine job portraying Johnny as something other than cocky comic relief, showcasing more of the man he has grown up to be.
Another huge standout for me was his use of the kids. Both in the main title, and the spinoff Future Foundation the kids were an absolute joy to watch interact and develop. Valeria and Bentley 23 will forever be on my list of favorites after reading this run, and Dr. Doom, whom I already thought was awesome, just might be my favorite Marvel villain due to the wonderful mind of Mr. Jonathan Hickman.
7) Black Hole, by Charles Burns
This book is a trip. A coming of age story and a horror story. Set in a time of life we all wish we could sometimes relive, but not without some heavy editing. It takes place in the seventies, and it’s about teens in suburban Seattle discovering sex, drugs, and the tumultuous world between adolescence and adulthood; facing some, or all, of the inherent consequences, and some unforeseen. Burns’ gorgeous black and white artwork shows a world both familiar and strange; full of tragedy, fear, naiveté, and ostracism. The detailed linework is exquisite, and every character feels completely real, despite some of the surreal aspects of the artwork.
I think the main reason I like this story so much is that it was such a different way to tackle the well-trodden territory of teens coming of age. Burns uses metaphor to great affect, and even when things go off the wall, it’s still very much grounded in reality; it’s just exaggerated for emphasis. His characters do the best they can with the situations they’re presented with, and it’s easy to to relate to some of their struggles, because we’ve all been there in some way.
6) Preacher, by Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon
I’m sure many of you are familiar at least with this story, even if you’ve yet to read it. A very popular comic for all the right reasons, this is Ennis at his best. I won’t drone on about the whys and wherefores, because you’ve probably all heard/read it. I love this book, because it forced every possible emotional reaction out of me over the course of nine trades. That’s something special, and that’s why it’s on this list. Oh, and all the other things you’ve heard people rave about are true as well.
I’ve written about my admiration for this series before, so I think that speaks enough for my reasoning. Terry Moore is simply one of the greatest ever, I’ll read any comic he puts out. This was the book that put him on the map, and rightfully so. It contains one of the greatest stories of friendship, love, and life ever, and you won’t regret taking the journey with Francine, Katchoo, and friends.
This book is what one might call a masterclass in graphic storytelling. In fact, I’m sure someone did, and if they haven’t, then I’ll take credit 🙂 I could flip through this book everyday, its design is impeccable. The colors, the style, the inventive layouts and sequencing; it’s just so impressive. David Mazzucchelli is all kinds of hyperbole, that about sums it up. Follow a man—the titular Asterios—who’s lost nearly everything, and watch him figure out why, so he can realize what is truly important when he let’s his ego stop controlling his choices.
3) Sandman, by Neil Gaiman with artists—deep breath now—Sam Keith, Mike Dringenberg, Malcom Jones III, Chris Bachalo, Michael Zulli, Steve Parkhouse, Kelley Jones, Charles Vess, Colleen Doran, Matt Wagner, Dick Giordano, George Pratt, P. Craig Russell, Shawn McManus, Bryan Talbot, Stan Woch, John Walkiss, Jill Thompson, Duncan Eaglesen, Kent Williams, Mark Buckingham, Vince Locke, Mike Allred, Gary Amaro, Tony Harris, Steve Leialoha, Shea Anton Pensa, Alec Stevens, Marc Hempel, Richard Case, D’Israeli, Teddy Kristiansen, Glyn Dillon, Dean Ormston, and Kevin Nowlan—Phew!!!
This is another one I’m sure you’ve heard of—and I just listed 50 artist names so my fingers are tired!—so I’ll be short and sweet. Mythology, horror, story, truth, lies, life, death, love, family, time, laughter, greed, loss, and endlessly—pun intended—fascinating work from everyone involved. This book has it all, and I discover something new to ponder every time I read it again. Just for fun, my personal favorites are Seasons of Mist and Brief Lives. Please, those of you that have read this, share your faves in the comments below.
Ed Brubaker is one of my favorite writers, and Sean Phillips is one of my favorite artists, ergo Criminal is one of my favorite comics. I’ve always enjoyed crime fiction, and for my money, nobody does it better than these two. Brubaker’s strongest asset is his dialogue and characters. He does such an amazing job of creating real people, and then tossing them into this world of mayhem to suffer at his every whim. His ability to craft believable characters, and reimagine genre tropes to fantastic effect is astounding.
Sean Phillips is the perfect partner for these stories. He draws shadowed streets and smoke filled bars or back rooms like no one else. The aesthetic mood of the Criminal books is very important, and Phillips is a master of setting the mood. Sometimes he only needs one panel of a face, or an establishing shot of a rainy street, but he always makes sure you feel exactly where these characters are. I’ve read each of the current stories at least three times. This book and the final one on my list are comics I have to be careful with when I pick them up, because it usually leads to me sitting down and finishing the entire trade.
1)The Mignolaverse, by Mike Mignola, John Arcudi, and Scott Allie. With artists Guy Davis, Richard Corben, Peter Snejbjerg, Paul Azaceta, Tyler Crook, Duncan Fegredo, Ben Stenbeck, Cameron Stewart, Gabriel Ba, Fabio Moon, James Harren, Jason Latour, Tonci Zonjic, Max and Sebastian Fiumara, Ryan Sook, Michael Avon Oeming, Jason Shawn Alexander, P. Craig Russell, John Severin, Karl Moline, Kevin Nowlan, Jason Armstrong, and Laurence Campbell.
OK, so this one is a bit of a cheat, but in all honesty I couldn’t choose just one. What Mike Mignola and Co. have created is one of the single greatest achievements in modern comics history. A cohesive universe, that doesn’t restart or retcon, ongoing for over 20 years!?! It’s an amazing thing to even exist, but to also be
some of the most consistently great comics on the stands every month is astounding. Now we can all argue subjectively over that until we’re blue in the face, but this is my list, so I win 🙂
I’m sure this choice doesn’t come as much of a surprise to most of you, as I’ve made my love for these books pretty damn clear, so I’m sorry if you didn’t feel suspense while reading this. In the name of Top Ten fairness if you forced me to choose one, then of course I’d go with the one that started it all, Hellboy.