Thursday, August 11, 2011

The 10 Best Comic Books of the Last 3 Years

I'll be up front -- the older I get the more drawn I seem to be to all-ages comic books. The salaciousness of "mature" comic books -- the direction Marvel and DC Comics is going with most of their titles -- just hold little interest for me anymore.

#10. Starborn. From Boom Comics and conceptualized by Stan "The Man" Lee, Starborn is one of those rarities -- an all-new superhero. Starborn the superhero seems a similar concept to Alan Moore's Promethea, only male instead of female and science fiction-based instead of fantasy-based, but that matters little to me compared to Starborn's real identity, Ben Warner, a frustrated author. Now that's someone I can relate to! Ben's naivety is a refreshing pair of eyes to view to see a new comic book universe through and my biggest disappointment is that Starborn doesn't seem to be gaining much of a following.

#9. Mystic Comics. Just one of several one-shots from Marvel Comics to celebrate its 70th anniversary by showcasing a "forgotten" superhero from its early days, David Lapham does a great job of showing us why the Golden Age Vision should not have been forgotten. It doesn't hurt that I'd just worked on a Golden Age Vision story not long ago -- ( Plus we get Golden Age reprints! I think Marvel would get me to buy more comic books again if they used DC's old 100-page spectacular format, with a new story followed by reprints. Marvel's best days are behind them -- so use them!

#8. Muppet (fill in the blank). A series of mini-series from Boom Comics have done more to keep the Muppets alive and relevant than Disney has managed in recent years. The writing is funny and the art has been top-notch.

#7. Lockjaw and the Pet Avengers. The best new concepts from Marvel in quite some time have been in their all-ages titles, especially this gem that resurrects almost every animal character Marvel has ever used (short of the dog Rambo from Sleepwalker). But is Lockjaw a dog or an Inhuman that looks like a dog? I was relieved that this mini-series stayed on the fence and doesn't side one way or the other.

#6. Atomic Robo. Smart, funny, and imaginative -- all the hallmarks I look for in a comic book -- wrapped up in a robot visually reminiscent (and intentionally too!) of the Rocketeer. This is another sad case, though, of a series that actually deserves hype getting none of it. I wasn't even aware until this morning that this title from Red 5 Comics is up to its 5th trade paperback already.

#5. Johnny Boo. It's just so gosh darn cute! Casper the Friendly Ghost, as if written and drawn by a 12-year old, is an awfully endearing book from Top Shelf that I've been happy to see a lot of local libraries picking up for their children's departments.

#4. Incredibles. Another hit from Boom Comics, they've done some great mini-series featuring the Incredibles characters. The best of the bunch so far, the "Family Matters" mini-series, was courtesy of comic book genius Mark Waid.

#3. Owly. How did Top Shelf reinvent itself as the best publisher of comics for kids? Owly's gimmick is that the characters never speak, except in rebus-like balloons, and yet they magically convey a depth of emotion rarely seen in comics. Owly is both the saddest and most uplifting comic book out there and, thankfully, also turning up in a lot of children's departments.

#2. Justice Society of America. The JSA was already great as both the original superhero team book AND the first multi-generational superhero team book, but in his last days on this title back in 2009, Geoff Johns wrapped up his long stint on this book by transforming it from a good guys vs. bad guys serial to a book about an extended family, doing family stuff, and loving each other.

#1. Tiny Titans. Conceptually bold, whereas most other attempts by DC and Marvel to do all-ages books have been timid, Tiny Titans reimagines almost EVERY character in DC comics as a kindergartner, except for those few who remain the adults in their lives. Art Baltazar's unique art style is fun to look at, but the stories are genuinely funny as well. If you can read a story where the Teen Titans are kindergartners and their arch-foe Trigon is their school's principal and not laugh, there's something wrong with you.