What tales were ensconced between the pages of 2010's best comics? Stories about psychic drugs, lunatic orcs, a lost Norse god, and a certain Toronto boy with relationship troubles.
Unlike films, approximately 47,000 comics came out in 2010. Ergo, narrowing this down to 10 titles was a grueling task. We may have left off some of your favorites. Hell, I was forced to relinquish some of my own monthly picks — hello, Sweet Tooth, PunisherMAX, and Unwritten! Therefore, we encourage you to post your own cherished 2010 titles in the comments. So without further ado...
Spider-Man: Fever by Brendan McCarthy (Marvel)
I love it when Marvel allows creators to run wild with their stalwart superheroes, so I got a kick out of this psychedelic miniseries from 2000 AD maven Brendan McCarthy. In this book, McCarthy shucks Peter Parker and Doctor Strange into an insect dimension full of Steve Ditko-esque flourishes and total eldritch weirdness. This was an exemplary Silver Age tribute that left you thinking it was printed on brown acid.
The Hellboy Books by Mike Mignola (Dark Horse)
2010 was a banner year for Hellboy titles. First off, there was the miniseries Hellboy: The Storm, which brought our hero to a major crossroads (and saw him brawl with a demonic hedgehog). There were also three immensely enjoyable one-shot comics:
1.) Hellboy in Mexico (Or a Drunken Blur), a Cinco de Mayo tale about vampire-hunting luchadores.
2.) Beasts of Burden/Hellboy, which teamed-up the hero with Evan Dorkin and Jill Thompson's supernatural pet detective team.
3.) And finally, the Richard Corben-illustrated Hellboy: Double Feature of Evil.
The Beasts of Burden crossover (above) also holds the coveted title of "The Cutest Comic Book of 2010."
Revolver by Matt Kindt (DC/Vertigo)
Matt Kindt's crafted a horrifying hypothetical in this scifi graphic novel — what if every time you hit the hay, you woke up in a post-apocalyptic facsimile of the real world?
In Revolver, Sam is a blasé twentysomething caught between two existences. When he falls asleep at night, he's transported to a parallel world in which society has collapsed and the United States is under martial law. When he falls asleep in this hellish reality, he wakes up to his boring life as a photo editor.
Naturally, living half his life in the post-apocalypse does a number on Sam's sanity, but he discovers a new purpose amongst the ruin. Kindt serves up this high-concept tale with deftness.
Grant Morrison's Batman Titles
Last April, Grant Morrison told us, "Obviously, I want to tell my definitive Batman or X-Men story [but] when it's time [to] leave, I'll try to leave the toys exactly as I found them." In 2010, Morrison didn't just take out the toys. He Semtexed the whole damn toybox.
2010 was a year we saw two Batmans wear the cowl, Bruce Wayne reveal his ties to the Bat-family, and the bizarre circumstance of Joker (that laughing svengali) lending Batman a hand. You knew Morrison was weaving some magic when he A.) made Damien Wayne (Bruce's aggravating son) downright likable; and B.) finagled a time travel story smack dab in the middle of Batman's mythos. Sweeping in scope, maddening in detail, highly polarizing, and without a doubt one of the hubbubed and (most satisfying) monthly reads of 2010.
X'ed Out by Charles Burns (Pantheon)
This book was shorter than everyone hoped it would be (it's ~50 pages), but the latest work from Black Hole author Charles Burns nonetheless packed a potent mutant uppercut. This graphic novel tells the story of Doug, an invalid lad who spends half his time popping pills in his parents' basement and the rest of his existence wandering through an arabesque cribbed from a Tintin comic.
Burns' love for Hergé resonates throughout the book, and he populates scenes that look lifted right out of The Crab with the Golden Claws with cyclopses, lepers, and reptiloids. X'ed Out is the first of several yet-to-be-scheduled volumes from Burns, who excels here at depicting a lad who's going bonkers for the lack of anything better to do.
SEE ALSO: Joe the Barbarian (Vertigo), Grant Morrison's fantasy epic about a boy whose diabetes cause him to hallucinate a fantasy world inhabited by action figures and his sword-wielding pet rat.
Thor: The Mighty Avenger by Roger Langridge and Chris Samnee (Marvel)
A straight-up superhero romp (without being dunderheaded), a Silver Age throwback (without being cloying), and a honest-to-goodness Thor story (that's not dragged down by fusty formality), Langridge spins a yarn that's not tied to Marvel continuity (but honors it all the same).
In this series, Thor has crash-landed in Bergen, Oklahoma. His new friend Jane Foster must help the confused Thunder God navigate the society of man and return to Asgard. Samnee's pencils — which gave 2010's Serenity: The Shepherd's Tale a nostalgic twinge — imbue the book with a four-panel playfulness.
Earnest, fast-paced, and frequently quite funny, Thor: The Mighty Avenger is proof that we're not destined to have nice things. The book was cancelled last fall, and its eighth and last issue comes out January 12.
Supergod by Warren Ellis and Garrie Gastonny (Avatar)
Supergod is about the secret history of Earth's superhuman arms race and how the inevitable war between these super-deities drives mankind to extinction. Ellis is in full mad-science mode as he whips up such so-far-beyond-our-ken creations as the Iraqi metahuman project Dajjal (who sees the world through an infinite amount of potential realities) and the British mushroom god Morrigan Lugus (whose mind-controlling spores cause humans to masturbate with vigor).
Garrie Gastonny's sleek art turns this book into a superhuman beat-em-up with panache. What's so jarring about Supergod is that the superpowered beings don't lack empathy for humanity. Instead, they're so far evolved that we're not even on their radar. Imagine if Dr. Manhattan had the disposition of Ozymandias — that's how most of Supergod's characters behave.
The first two issues of Supergod came out in 2009, but the comic was heavily delayed. We didn't see the full purview of Ellis' tale until latter 2010. A worthwhile complement to Supergod to come out in 2010 was John Arcudi's and Peter Snejbjerg A God Somewhere (DC/Vertigo). This book tells the story of superhero psychosis on a human scale. A man mysteriously acquires superpowers, finds God, then believes he's God, and then becomes a nihilist. Sadly, the book reflects what would happen to most of us if we acquired metahuman abilities. You'd be enthralled at first...and then your overstimulated mind would guarantee madness.
Scott Pilgrim's Finest Hour by Bryan Lee O'Malley (Oni)
To be honest, the Scott Pilgrim series didn't really click with me until Book 3. The whole "battling ex-boyfriends à la video game bosses or the gunslingers in Alejandro Jodorowsky's El Topo" vibe was enjoyable, but I didn't give a fig about Scott as a character. He was the much ballyhooed protagonist, but he was also a self-centered toolbox.
Only as the series progressed was it clear that we were waiting for Scott on overcome his unwitting assholishness. Just as El Topo's battles with the magical gunslingers didn't offer him peace, Scott's surreal battles with Ramona's exes weren't the key to his redemption.
In Finest Hour, O'Malley skillfully forces Scott to confront his own glossed-over failures, and in turn compels readers to meditate on their own botched relationships. In a nutshell, we all have the capacity to become an evil ex. The book also maintains the pop verve of the series' prior volumes and gives Scott's charming supporting cast the denouement they deserve.
BodyWorld by Dash Shaw (Pantheon)
Yes, Dash Shaw wrote BodyWorld as a webcomic between 2007-2009. Yes, you can read it for free online. But when BodyWorld debuted in hardcover this April, it secured itself as one of the most visually arresting graphic novels the comic aficionado can purchase. The book's most impressive feature is that it opens vertically to accommodate fold-out maps that delineate exactly where each character is throughout the course of the book.
This innovative form of comic GPS greatly enhances Shaw's tale, which is about a telepathic plant discovered in a secluded American town in 2060 AD. The local bumpkins' lives are forever changed when a strung-out botanist accidentally unleashes the plant on the town, and the residents' thoughts mix uncontrollably into a psychic slurry. A sexy, grotesque, and totally idiosyncratic book.
Orc Stain by James Stokoe (Image)
What do you get when you combine frenetic swords-and-sorcery action with misbehaving Orcs and an economy based solely on extremely NSFW Orcish castration? You get James Stokoe's Orc Stain, a grimy fantasy picaresque about the misadventures of One-Eye, an Orcish thief who offs much larger opponents with a tiny hammer and a penchant for geometry.
Many comics tout themselves as unabashed escapism, but Orc Stain's bawdy, candy-colored realm (which is devoid of humans and civility) puts the tortuous (and often incestuous) subplots of most superhero comics to shame.
Stokoe, who both writes and illustrates the series, is a superlative talent — his artwork will simultaneously remind you of Jamie Hewlett's work on Gorillaz, graffiti, and the most fucked-up hentai you've ever seen. Orc Stain is slapstick and astounding. The first trade paperback is out now, and the series is ongoing.
SEE ALSO: Johnny Ryan's Prison Pit 2, which is an entire graphic novel of deformed mutants beating the hell out of each other. It's just as poetic as it sounds.