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Comics | Steve Higgins

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echo_header.jpg1. Echo

 

 

Keep in mind as you read that all of these choices below are totally subjective, much more so than my reviews are normally. So if you notice a clear DC/Vertigo bias in the following list... well, so what? I dig their stuff; so sue me.

Honorable mentions go to the new series Air from Vertigo, which is shaping up to have an intriguing mythology behind it; Jonah Hex from DC, which delivers a great self-contained Western story every month (and this year featured an issue drawn by the incredibly talented Darwyn Cooke); and Justice Society of America from DC, which is total continuity porn at its finest but I don't care because it's fun. 

And now for the real lis:

 

 

1. Echo (Abstract Studios)

(W / A: Terry Moore)

Just like Jeff Smith did with RASL (see #5 on this list), Terry Moore abandoned the genre he made his name with upon completion of his original, long-running indie book Strangers In Paradise and published something in the realm of science-fiction. And like Jeff Smith did with RASL, Terry Moore has surpassed his previous work with his new series Echo, an absolutely stunning effort in which the plot engages and excites the audience at the same time as every gorgeous image of the artwork is taking their breath away.

 

 

2. Scalped (DC/Vertigo)

(W: Jason Aaron; A: R.M. Guera)

The best crime book out right now, bar none, is Scalped. Its ongoing intrigue of a crooked casino owner, an undercover FBI agent, and an unsolved murder would be perfectly at home alongside the greatest crime dramas from cable TV in recent years, and the twist of taking these elements and setting them on a Native American reservation adds a great deal of culture and depth to the story as well.

 

 

3. The Walking Dead (Image)

(W: Robert Kirkman; A: Charlie Adlard)

I've always loved Walking Dead since its inception but this year saw the book go in a very intriguing direction. The status quo was completely overturned when Kirkman killed off 90% of the book's cast and flung the remaining characters out of the comfort of the makeshift home they had built and into the world of zombies again, completely revitalizing the book.

 

 

4. Simon Dark (DC)

(W: Steve Niles; A: Scott Hampton)

Simon Dark is a repeat from last year's list (and it actually is in the exact same position, oddly enough). Firmly set in the DCU but in a much darker and scarier area of Gotham than we normally see, this book mixes that dark mood with occasional bits of humor and a very interesting supporting cast led by Simon himself, the mysterious Frankenstein pastiche with a heart of gold.

 

 

5. RASL (Cartoon Books)

(W / A: Jeff Smith)

RASL, Jeff Smith's first indie series since completing his master opus Bone, is completely different from that seminal comic. While Bone was a kid-friendly fantasy, RASL deals with adult themes set in the sci-fi trappings of parallel dimensions. Yet RASL is every bit as interesting as Bone (if not maybe even MORE so), and it's really a shame that RASL only had three issues out in 2008 since its debut back in March, because if it had been published more often it would surely have scored higher on this list.

 

 

6. Criminal (Marvel/Icon)

(W: Ed Brubaker; A: Sean Phillips)

It topped my list last year, and it definitely deserves its place on my list this year. The only reason Criminal scores lower this year than last is that the most recent storyline "Bad Night" just didn't pack the same wallop as some of the stories from last year. Still, Brubaker and Phillips are doing everything right with this book, and it continues to be amazing.

 

 

7.  House of Mystery (DC/Vertigo)

(W: Matthew Sturges; A: Luca Rossi)

Vertigo has put out a lot of new series recently, including the excellent books Unknown Soldier and Air, but House of Mystery is the best of the new blood. It ties well into existing Vertigo mythos but builds on what has already been established to tell a story that is completely new and fascinating.

 

 

8. Secret Six (DC)

(W: Gail Simone; A: Nicola Scott)

The only real superhero book on my list, Secret Six earns its spot for being so different from other spandex fare. It focuses on villains and really fleshes out their characters and motivations. The most recent storyline, dealing with the hunt for a "Get Out of Hell Free" card, is both action-packed and thought-provoking.

 

9. Dr. Who: The Forgotten (IDW Publishing)

(W: Tony Lee; A: Pia Guerra)

I am a huge and unabashed Doctor Who fan, so color me very disappointed when the first series from IDW, Agent Provocateur by Gary Russell and Nick Roche, was, frankly, awful. I was very pleasantly surprised then when the second miniseries, The Forgotten, was a complete reversal. Lee and Guerra perfectly mix flashbacks to previous incarnations of the Doctor with the present-day adventures of his amnesiac current self in this well-scripted, well-drawn series.

 

 

10. (tie) Northlanders/DMZ (DC/Vertigo)

(W: Brian Wood; A: Davide Gianfelice, Dean Ormston, & Ryan Kelly and Riccardo Burchielli respectively)

Writer Brian Wood's two ongoing series for Vertigo could not be any more different. The first, Northlanders, is set in the ancient time of Vikings while the other, DMZ, is set in the near future and deals with a second American civil war being waged in New York City. But they have one thing in common, apart from their author; they're both incredibly interesting reads.

 

And the dubious honor of the worst comic I read this year would probably have to go to Haunted Tank. I only read the first issue, which just came out a few weeks ago, and I was instantly angry at myself for having preordered the first three issues sight unseen. The art is gorgeous, but the characters are walking clichés and the dialogue completely uninspired. Plus, it's not like readers were really itching to read a modern-day version of this story, nor is the twist of a Confederate general having an African-American descendent really interesting enough to warrant a new series. | Steve Higgins

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