by Molly Jane Kremer, Arpad Okay, Clyde Hall, and Jarrod Jones. It might be the most obnoxious list to put together of them all: “The Best Comics of the Decade“? Even the headline sounds obnoxiously authoritative. As the years pass us by, the memory of the many comics we’ve read and loved begins to dim. Our passions for certain projects start to pale. It happens to everyone who writes about comics. Before long, we move on to the next thing, and the next. Before long, a decade has gone by.
And now we’re supposed to rifle through our collections, our critical memories, our long-deleted notes to put together an authoritative list on the best comics of the decade? Bah!
And yet, here we are. We’re DoomRocket, and we have something to contribute to the conversation. Selected for your approval (or rampant disapproval; it makes no difference to us) is a list of our personal favorite comics that we haven’t been able to stop thinking about, regardless of the time that’s passed. Authoritative, rage-click-y headlines be damned, this is how we feel and these are…
THE BEST COMICS OF THE DECADE
The Fade Out
Written by Ed Brubaker.
Art by Sean Phillips.
Colors by Elizabeth Breitweiser.
Letters by Sean Phillips.
Published by Image Comics.
A 1948 Hollywood noir murder mystery might be considered ‘not commercially viable’, but Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips made this 12-issue series anyway. They revel in the period, the battles for artistic expression during the Red Scare. In the protagonist who’s a writer, not a fighter, but sallies forth with uncertainty, remorse, and tarnished armor anyway. Hungover.
Just like a passionate tryst you know won’t end well, you allow Brubaker and Phillips to pull you into a relationship with characters surrounding the death of a starlet. You can hardly resist, lured by their glimpses of grime beneath the glamour. Their crime fiction teaming has never been better.
By curtain close, you’re left with friendly characters who’ve turned rat, despicable ones who maybe aren’t the enemy, and all monochrome tints of black and white overshadowed by a Technicolor of ambition. Following Hitchcock’s advice, avoid showers and have yourself dry cleaned when the reel ends. — CH
Written by Peter J. Tomasi, Patrick Gleason, Michael Moreci, James Dale Robinson.
Art by Patrick Gleason, Doug Mahnke, Jorge Jiménez, Ivan Reis, Ryan Sook, Tony Daniel, Clay Mann, Sebastian Fiumara, Barry Kitson, Tyler Kirkham, Scott Godlewski, Travis Moore, Stephen Segovia, Art Thibert, Jack Herbert, Philip Tan, Sergio Fernandez Davila, Ed Benes.
Inks by Mick Gray, Jaime Mendoza, Joe Prado, Keith Champagne, Norm Rapmund, Christian Alamy, Mark Morales, Marcelo Maiolo, Sandu Florea, Seth Mann, Arif Prianto, Trevor Scott, Vicente Cifuentes, Dinei Ribeiro, Ray McCarthy, Matt Santorelli, Scott Hanna, Rob Hunter.
Colors by John Kalisz, Wil Quintana, Alejandro Sánchez, Gabe Eltaeb, Hi-Fi, Sunny Gho, Tomeu Morey, Stephen Downer, Tony Aviña.
Letters by Rob Leigh, Dave Sharpe.
Published by DC.
Bright sapphire skies, a glint of gold emanating power. Zooming through it all, twin streaks of red, yellow, and blue. It was optimistic, it was pure, It was Superman.
Rebirth. That’s what DC promised in 2015. The revitalization of a line grown dark. Legacy was promised, too. Superman proved to be the epitome of the sheer potential of what those words carry. Patrick Gleason and Peter J. Tomasi inherited a broken home and mended it with love, care and a bit of Kansan elbow grease. (They had a lot of help, as you can see from the credits above.)
Superman: A family book? Made perfect sense to me at the time, and it’s something I find myself yearning for these days. Past incarnations of Superman had our Man of Steel offering stodgy lectures and broad heroic gestures—lip service in place of genuine morality. When young Jonathan Samuel Kent came running into the DC Universe—soon floating, then soaring—Clark Kent and Lois Lane suddenly had a level of responsibility that transcended their steel-clad codas of truth and justice. They needed to raise this child, guide him towards whatever tomorrows might come. (And, of course, they needed to teach him how to navigate a proper dinosaur stampede.)
Things have changed from here, which is only expected from a neverending battle. But for a time in the 2010s, Superman was a squishy family title and my heart was so full. — JJ
Prince of Cats
Written by Ronald Wimberly.
Illustrated by Ronald Wimberly.
Lettered by Jared Fletcher.
Published by Image Comics.
Originally published by Vertigo/DC.
The DJ cuts the record and Romeo and Juliet drops as a NYC retro remix, rival graffiti gangs who also carry samurai swords. The emcee dedicates this one to the pencil that rewinds the tape and kiss Mercutio goodbye.
The amount of work that went into Prince of Cats is staggering. The adaptation and its influence on the script, getting the Native Tongues as tight as the Bard’s, writing in metered verse. Wimberly’s art flows, loose and expressive, tightly defined and controlled, electrified vivacity captured on the page. Vintage color finishes bring paper to the page and Jared Fletcher’s pro lettering clarifies and moves in a bend to the beat.
Prince of Cats is Ron Wimberly bringing the tablets down from the mountain. The epitome of cult classic masterpiece, a triumph for the medium, an evergreen read. Postpunk Letraset matured into professional, substantive bookmaking. — AOK
Written by Jason Aaron.
Art by Russell Dauterman, Esad Ribić, Mike del Mundo, Ron Garney, Olivier Coipel, Chris Sprouse, Goran Sudžuka, Mahmud Asrar, Jen Bartel, Steve Epting, Jorge Molina, Jackson Guice, Nic Klein, Emanuela Lupacchino, Julio Martínez Pérez, Tony Moore, Christian Ward, Lee Garbett, Scott Hepburn, Daniel Acuña, Agustin Alessio, Pascal Alixe, Simon Bisley, Chris Burnham, CAFU, Becky Cloonan, Rafael Garrés, R.M. Guéra, James Harren, Frazer Irving, Kim Jacinto, Andrew MacLean, Ramón Pérez, Valerio Schiti, Walter Simonson, Jill Thompson.
Inked by Tom Palmer, Karl Story, Dexter Vines.
Colors by Matt Wilson, Ive Svorcina, Mike del Mundo, Marte Gracia, Israel Silva, Jorge Molina, Julio Das Pastoras, Dean White, Nic Klein, Julio Das Pastoras, Christian Ward, Jesus Aburtov, Agustin Alessio, Simon Bisley, Jordie Bellaire, Marco D’Alfonso, Antonio Fabela, John Rauch, Veronica Gandini, Rafael Garrés, Matt Milla, Jay David Ramos, Frazer Irving, Mat Lopes, Frank Martin, Daniel Acuña, Dave Stewart, Jill Thompson.
Lettered by Joe Sabino.
Published by Marvel.
The final month of 2019—mere weeks from this writing—brings us the final issue of King Thor, a miniseries that serves as culmination and coda to seven years of Thor comics written by Jason Aaron, lettered by Joe Sabino, and drawn and colored by some of the greatest artists working today. I regularly refer to this run as “the best superhero comics of the last fifteen years” and with a nigh innumerable talent lineup that includes the likes of master storytellers Esad Ribic and Ive Svorcina, Russell Dauterman and Matthew Wilson, and Mike Del Mundo, how could it be anything but?
Somehow Thor managed to make all of modern superhero comics’ typical pitfalls work for it. The series title hopped between including subtitles, adjectives and honorifics after numerous relaunches, but Aaron made each “new start” necessary in the metastory with nary a wane in reading quality. A legacy character—and a woman, no less—successfully took the mantle and wielded Mjolnir for almost forty acclaimed issues, making the narrative more powerful and even expanding the reading audience despite ‘fan’ outcry from certain corners of the internet. The run itself even climaxed in a good ol’ universe-wide crossover event, but War of the Realms was that rare crossover that—gasp!—actually felt organic and earned, even inevitable, after a slow-burn six-year build up.
Beyond being flawlessly crafted within and among the limitations of today’s Big Two, Thor muses on heavy matters without losing its sense of fun. While darker arcs obviously occur (hell, the series starts with a villain named Gorr the God Butcher who wields All-Black the Necrosword, if your interests tend towards the heavier of metals) the series keeps its eyes on the stars and its heart on its sleeve. After what will be one hundred cumulative issues, Thor never lost its joy for the medium and the genre, or its hope in humanity’s potential for goodness. Verily. — MJ
Written by Gail Simone and John Ostrander.
Pencils by Nicola Scott, Carlos Rodriguez, Jim Calafiore, Javi Pina, John Kalisz, Peter Nguyen, R.B. Silva, and Marcos Marz.
Inks by Doug Hazelwood, Rodney Ramos, Javi Pina, Javier Bergantiño, Mike Sellers, Mark McKenna, Carlos Rodriguez, Jim Calafiore, Alexandre Palamaro, and Luciana Delne
Colors by Jason Wright, Travis Lanham, and John Kalisz.
Letters by Steve Wands, Sal Cipriano, Rob Clark, Jr., Pat Brosseau, Jim Calafiore, and John Kalisz.
Published by DC.
Good dialogue covers a multitude of sins. While the sins aren’t in multitudes, the 36-issue run of Secret Six suffers editing and production stumbles. Also, company-wide crossovers. But Gail Simone’s writing (with fill-ins by John Ostrander) makes it one of the best team books of the 2010s.
The neo-noir of a supervillain crew following their own code for profit never falters, from the Battle for Skartaris to the bowels of Hell. The members are disturbed and divided, yet fiercely independent. They balk at altruistic supers dictating ‘right’, but also tell Luthor to get skull-polished when he demands they join his Villains United initiative.
We learn about the core group mostly through mingled truths and fabrications they spin relating with each another. Neither ‘good’ nor ‘bad’, they’re complicated. When Worse shows up, it’s Simone’s twisted antagonists we fear. The Six reflect our revulsion and apply sizzling, savory, street justice. — CH
Written by Emma Ríos and Hwei Lim.
Illustrated by Emma Ríos and Hwei Lim.
Lettered by Emma Ríos and Hwei Lim.
Published by Image Comics.
On a living asteroid, a gift in human hands gives animals a voice at the cost of their freedom. Mirror is a velvet blanket of stars on space and the mystery of the sphinx. A soldier’s tale, that the end of everything cannot stop hope.
This comic is the paragon of Image’s rebirth: intellectual science fiction that is both immersive-escapist and a critique of the time it was written in, dense and rich and excellent storytelling, with sophisticated, unique artwork. Mirror is the dream.
Writer and artist collaborators Emma Ríos and Hwei Lim both work in a watercolor style that is more informed by upper echelon mangaka than sterile Epcot utopia, with intense, psychedelic quasi-fashion character design, part Yoshitaka Amano, part Iris van Herpen. Imagine the alabaster hands of the minotaur overgrown with rainbow vines. — AOK
Written by Zander Cannon.
Art by Zander Cannon.
Color assists by Jason Fischer.
Published by Oni Press.
What’s this? Kaiju plushes broke bad? Squishy ‘bot cops gone crooked? A King Kong-sized trifle? Kaijumax is, yes, all of these things, save for that last bit. First impressions still count for something on an over-stuffed comics shelf, but give Kaijumax a second glance. Then look deeper. You’d be surprised how closely this candy-colored monster mash resembles the ruin that is our modern lives.
Kaijumax is an excuse for Zander Cannon to draw big monsters and even bigger robot suits, sure. But Kaijumax is more, far more, than indulgent Gundam vs. Godzilla what-ifs and whats-its. It’s Eisner-caliber sequentials with HBO sensibilities. Cannon’s kaiju roll hard, fuck up, wash out—and redemption is often the one boss battle that can’t be beat.
If Kaijumax gives the impression that it was made by a man who’s worried sick about the future that lies in front of his kids, who wants to make sense out of why the powers meant to protect us are in fact built to ruin us, then you’re reading it right. That’s precisely what it is. — JJ
Wonder Woman: Year One
Written by Greg Rucka.
Penciled by Nicola Scott, Bilquis Evely.
Inked by Bilquis Evely, Nicola Scott.
Colored by Romulo Fajardo Jr.
Lettered by Jodi Wynne.
Published by DC.
In 2015, along with more than a few DC properties, Diana of Themyscira needed a refresh. (A “rebirth”, not to put too fine a point on it.) Enter our saviors: Greg Rucka, lauded veteran of the Amazonian ranks in a triumphant return; Nicola Scott, longtime DC artist finally given a chance to redefine her favorite character; and Romulo Fajardo Jr., a phenomenal colorist whose work ultimately became Wonder Woman’s throughline for over eighty issues.
An origin story could be considered “easy” (and Hera knows we have enough of them for Diana) but this was the intent in a line-wide relaunch, and the Wonder Woman: Year One arc became exactly what the character—and the publisher—needed.
It was intriguing, inspirational—and goodness was it a glory to gaze upon. Six issues built on strength, brilliance, action, and adventure. Giving us a hero’s hopeful eye towards the future and, no matter what tomorrow might bring, Diana’s enduring faith in the ability to meet it head-on. This was the superhero archetype at its aspirational apex. Absolutely captivating. — MJ
Locke and Key
Written by Joe Hill.
Art by Gabriel Rodriguez.
Colors by Jay Fotos.
Letters by Robbie Robbins.
Published by IDW Publishing.
It begins with death. It ends with death. In between, though, are wonderments and heartaches and growing up. The 37-odd issues of Locke & Key were about horror and hope. Joe Hill & Gabriel Rodriguez slapped their mystical edifice with enchanted doorways in Lovecraft, Maine, but the characters lived in a world beautiful and brutal as ours.
Which made the odd goings on at Keyhouse, whether spooky or wondrous, equally real. Gabriel Rodriguez’s art echoed Hill’s dread-ly delights. His Locke family in the everyday was charmingly real. Their travels through neverways fantastic. Their confrontations with evils hovering Beyond or lurking down the street were hair-raising.
The series set standards for modern comics horror excellence, and it’s still superior to many that have followed. The eloquence of Hill’s truths resonated above the vulgar realities and unrealities his characters faced. “Death isn’t the end of your life… Your body is a lock. Death is the key.” — CH
SuperMutant Magic Academy
Written by Jillian Tamaki.
Illustrated by Jillian Tamaki.
Lettered by Jillian Tamaki.
Published by Drawn & Quarterly.
A school where everyone has insane powers is still a school and by definition kind of sucks. SuperMutant Magic Academy should not be so relatable but beyond the cat ears and invulnerability is the restlessness and absurdity of real life. Jokes become vignettes become a world, driven by comic genius.
Jillian Tamaki’s artwork is simple, clean black and white. Never rushed, never stumbling, capable of bringing frustration to a face and then touch the furthest reaches of time while also all fitting on the back of a basement show handbill. Tamaki’s art is strong and there’s a deep, essence-of-cartoonist euphoria to be found in her hand’s voice.
Her work in the YA scene, and the YA scene itself, may truly be the defining comics of the decade. But this book here is for us. The modern burden with all the blood and tears flowing free with the laughter. — AOK
The Wicked + The Divine
Written by Kieron Gillen, Lizz Lunney, Chip Zdarsky, Chrissy Williams, Romesh Ranganathan, Hamish Steele, Kitty Curran, Larissa Zageris, Kate Leth.
Art by Jamie McKelvie, Kate Brown, Leila Del Duca, Brandon Graham, Stephanie Hans, Tula Lotay, Kris Anka, Jen Bartel, Rachael Stott, Chynna Clugston-Flores, Emma Vieceli, Carla Speed McNeil, André Lima Araújo, Aud Koch, Ryan Kelly, Erica Henderson, Lizz Lunney, Chip Zdarsky, Clayton Cowles, Julia Madrigal, Hamish Steele, Kitty Curran, Larissa Zageris, Margaux Saltel, Kevin Wada.
Colors by Matt Wilson, Dee Cunniffe, Nathan Fairbairn, Kate Brown, Brandon Graham, Stephanie Hans, Mat Lopes, Tula Lotay, Tamra Bonvillain, Ludwig Laguna Olimba, Brandon Daniels, Fernando Arguello, Aud Koch, Erica Henderson, Juan Castro, Lizz Lunney, Becka Kinzie, Chip Zdarsky, Hamish Steele, Kitty Curran, Larissa Zageris, Margaux Saltel.
Letters by Clayton Cowles.
Published by Image Comics.
In The Wicked + The Divine, a pantheon of young gods incarnate are bequeathed two years of godhood before an untimely demise. Two years to be loved and hated, two years to set hearts aflame with their gifts. Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie, Matt Wilson and Clayton Cowles depicted those two years (give or take a few centuries) in epic fashion over the course of an acclaimed five-year run that ended mere months ago. With the industry’s average series dwindling closer to five issues in length, five years of a monthly comic is an enormous accomplishment in itself—let alone one that packed in this much heartbreak and beauty and passion, issue after issue.
Most of the series takes place within a fixed two-year period starting in 2014 that somehow still feels like fingers on the thudding zeitgeist heartbeat of the immediate now. But then it also feels like being nineteen years old (whenever that was or is) with the wide world rolled out before you, waiting to receive your everything. That fumbling, fleeting, capricious nature of youth—as much as its end—is the spirit of the series, delusions of grandeur hand-in-hand with the enormity and responsibility of creation.
Life creates story and story creates life even if they both move inevitably towards The End, and The Wicked + The Divine is about being unabashed in the face of that, and unabashedly embracing your love for people, for inspiration, for living. And your love for Baphomet’s abs. (They’re really lovable.) — MJ
Written by John Allison.
Art by Lissa Treiman, Max Sarin, Julia Madrigal, John Allison.
Inks by Liz Fleming, Irene Flores, Jenna Ayoub.
Colors by Whitney Cogar, Jeremy Lawson.
Letters by Jim Campbell.
Published by BOOM! Box, an imprint of BOOM! Studios.
Life is a whirlwind of chaos and obligations, and before long you’re looking back on those hard-as-heck formative years and marveling at how great you looked, how it seemed you had all the time in the world. The present version of you sucks because your jerk job has you feeling nostalgic for a time when you were a social paragon of superheroic proportions. But, really, back then it was all you could do to keep your body upright as you attempted to discover how to be the person you were supposed to be.
That was Giant Days. Juggling everything, living your best life and blithely neglecting your worst qualities. Sometimes directly confronting the latter to the destruction of all. More, Giant Days was an entire encyclopedia of mood, ranging from ennui to euphoria. Every exquisite moment of social agony met with a crooked grin and a smashing quip. (Or, sometimes, the absence of both, because no one is perfect and that includes the characters of Giant Days.)
Did it capture the best days in the lives of Esther de Groot, Susan Ptolemy and Daisy Wooten? I hope not. I hope their lives became even more rich, more full, more exasperatingly wonderful. But we’ll never know because the series ended at its peak and right at the moment when these incredible people hit that dreaded post-university fork in the road. And just a glimpse at what came after. Now back issues of Giant Days come packed with the swelling nostalgia of a well-kept diary. When I visit them now, I miss them always. — JJ
Agree? Disagree? Give us your own list in the comments section below.