Hey kids! I’m back with another top of the tops list! I’m still not ready to embrace this whole 2020 thing–that really is the future! So instead, I’m going to take one last look into the recent past. This time, I want to look at my top comic book runs of the past decade. And because I’m bad at making lists, I’m going to give each entry a sidecar—a book I associate with that other one that’s usually really good, too. Consider the numbers arbitrary depending on my mood any given day. These are the books that I keep in my quiver when people ask me what comics they should read so I can have more variety than just saying Batman stuff is cool.
5. Squirrel Girl by Ryan North, Erica Henderson, and Derek Charm —This book doesn’t get enough respect. I love it, and I don’t respect this book enough. SG is like that friend from back in the day that I don’t see for a year or two at a time, but when I do, we pick right up from where we left off and it’s awesome.
I pick it up in trades, often a year or two after their release, but I always know I can count on The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl. With the series reaching the end of the line recently, it really made me think about how much of an impact this positive, appropriate for all ages book really is. Even at that level, every page is packed full of jokes, visual gags, and bad puns. There’s not much else like it on the stands, and it deserves not to be forgotten any time soon. The best thing about Squirrel Girl is how unlike other superhero comics it is—Squirrel Girl doesn’t just punch bad guys. She uses empathy and her unique worldview to help find solutions. Although we all know she could wreck shop if she had to.
The sidecar here would have to go to Ms. Marvel, another book guided primarily by one writer that offered a fresh twist that mixed positive representation and old tropes.
G. Willow Wilson and a host of artistic talents like Adrian Alphona and Takeshita Miyazawa amongst others brought one of the few bright spots to Marvel’s failed ‘push the Inhumans to be bigger than X-Men’ experience. To paraphrase my podcast pal Andy, Ms. Marvel is this generation’s Peter Parker, suffering all the drama of secretly being a superhero with all the drama of actually being a teenager. Even moreso than her Champions co-star Miles Morales, Ms. Marvel burdens the power and responsibility for the youth of today.
4. Roger Langridge and Chris Samnee’s Thor: The Mighty Avenger series.
Thor: The Mighty Avenger came out shortly before the first Thor movie, and it provided accessibility to a character who hadn’t necessarily been there for modern audiences. Ironically, the series criminally only ran for 8 issues and a Free Comic Book Day bonus with Captain America–as it never really found its audience. Still, the series was fun and had heart and helped open up Thor for me. Previously, Thor ended with Walt Simonson’s run for me. Langridge and Samnee helped me to see there’s still fun and drama and excitement left to be told in Thor tales. Now if only they had more time to tell them!
The sidecar here is Daredevil by Mark Waid and Chris Samnee, Paulo Rivera, and Marcus Martin.
This book is the polar opposite in that Waid and his artistic partners got to have a lengthy go at Matt Murdock and it showed. They did a great job bringing back the joy and excitement to a book that had been previously mired in the Shadowlands. Rivera and Martin started the series off strong, and their creative usage of Matt Murdock’s powers, particularly his radar sense, really set a strong tone for the book. Then Samnee picked up the art chores and ran with them. This series earns extra points for not overly relying on the same over-used Daredevil tropes like Kingpin and Elektra (Don’t worry Chip! Your new run with Kingpin and Electra’s pretty good!)–this series managed to take DD to new places. Whether it was Matt Murdock wearing his I’m not Daredevil shirt, rescuing the bus full of kids, or the touching story about Matt’s mom–this run really got into what makes Matt Murdock who he is. And don’t get me started on the Foggy stuff. Month in and month out, Daredevil was the only constant in comics in my mind for a bit.
3. Hawkeye by Matt Fraction and David Aja—Longtime fans of the character may not be a fan of this run. I get that, as the traditional characterization of everybody’s favorite Avenger who tries hard and is good at aiming things doesn’t necessarily come into play here.
Fraction goes off and Fraction-izes Hawkeye, just as he had with Iron Fist years earlier, into a slacker screw-up. It helps that I’m not a long-time Hawkeye fan. This version of the slacker thrust into accepting responsibilities as he faces down the track suit mafia made for great fun issue in and issue out. Featuring other favorite creators like Steven Lieberman and Franchesco Francavilla doesn’t hurt this series, either. Every issue is a gem. This art on this book, including the issues that deal with Hawkeye’s deafness and pizza dog offered fresh insights into things comics can do, all while maintaining a visual stylistic consistency that was hard to beat. Snappy characters, snazzy storytelling, and a pizza dog, too? I’m in. That doesn’t even factor in the fun that comes with Kate Bishop, one of the few heroes to assume the mantle of a superhero who is more adept than her namesake.
Sidecar: Fraction and Zdarsky on Sex Criminals.
Fraction and Zdarsky’s original super powers plus realistic rom-com plus all the awkwardness that goes along with sex mixes into a blender and comes out great. This is definitely not all ages, but if you’ve survived puberty and somehow made sense of the birds and the bees-es, it’s worth the read.
2. Mr. Miracle by Tom King and Mitch Gerards. I’m going to attach Tom King’s The Vision with Gabriel Hernandez Walta as a side-car here, as that story was great, too. It possibly packed more of an emotional punch in lieu of MM’s layered complexity. Both are great works.
I’ve written enough about Mr. Miracle on the site recently, but I genuinely believe it belongs up there in the pantheon of great comic books. Vision isn’t far behind, either. Talk about taking a character that I had little interest in (Sorry Andy, but my first Vision was the white one with feet and no personality) and really making me care. King made Vision the ultimate outsider trying to fit in and do what’s right, not just for the world but for himself and his new family. For this point in my life–married, two kids, multiple jobs/responsibilities, etc, King’s writing really speaks to me. In both stories, King masters the ‘ennui’ that comes with being a family man and then pulls the story around to remind you what’s so great about being part of a family in the first place. The art for each story fits perfectly, as Vision’s Walta has a smoother, slightly more detached style, whereas Gerard’s messy chaotic realism fits Mr. Miracle perfectly. Both books are gems, though, and worthy of your time and money.
1. Superior Foes of Spider-Man. This book. It’s 17 issues of pure madcap comedy in the form of loser super villains just being loser super villains.
Boomerang, Speed Demon, Beetle, Overdrive, and Shocker join forces as the new Sinister Six. Yeah, you did the math right. Maybe you can count the head of Silvermane if you really want. What you don’t want is to miss out on these losers losering their way through double and triple crosses and fighting with real superheroes and villains along the way. Nothing I write about this book will do it justice. Imagine Giffen and Dematties’s J.L.I. run, only if you were actively allowed to root against them. You wouldn’t, but you should. That’s the Superior Foes of Spider-man. No sidecar here, unless you want to count Nick Spencer’s awesome Ant Man series (both of ’em).
Beetle pops up in there, so that makes sense. That book also embraced the movie-fied Scott Lang as the loveable loser..waitaminute. I’ve got too many loveable losers on my list that I relate to and enjoy. Hawkeye, Superior Foes, Ant Man, Daredevil–I need more successful role models!
Here’s to the next decade, where maybe I can steer into the ennui of family life! Or start relating to billionaire industrialists like Tony Stark or Peter Parker (that was a real thing by the way! A real stupid thing, but it happened this decade!) Whatever the future holds, I hope it’s just as good or better than this past decade! As it stands, there’s some awesome comic bookery here. Maybe there’s some you disagree with or an omission you want to talk about? Let me know!
Until next time, I’ll be trying to find the next great story!