Ambush Bug’s Top Ten Comics of the 2000’s
Hey folks, Ambush Bug here. Looking back on the previous decade gets me quite nostalgic since basically it covers the entire history of the @$$Holes. In 2000, us @$$holes got together in the Talkbacks and began what would become the Talkback League of @$$Holes. Long before we organized and started this weekly column, we were gabbing about comics here at AICN. So basically, looking back to make out this list took looking back on just about every review I’ve ever written at AICN. A damn difficult task, if you ask me, but I was able to whittle my picks down to the next ten to thirty comics which not only include my top ten picks of the 2000’s, but some honorable mentions, my Indie Jones Top Ten Independent comics of the 2000’s, and just for fun, the 10 Worst Comics of the Decade. Let’s get started with the TOP TEN COMICS OF THE 2000’S in no particular order. There aren’t too many comics out there that hit me as hard as this comic did. I try to revisit MIDNIGHT NATION every now and then, and this truly original story hits me in the gut every time. Gary Frank’s art is amazing and those eyes he draws bore into your very soul. This is a chilling, well paced, and thoroughly satisfying read.
JMS & Gary Frank’s MIDNIGHT NATION (Top Cow)
Grant Morrison & Frank Quitely’s WE3 (DC Vertigo)I prefer my Morrison in small doses, thank-yew-very-much. In WE3, Morrison had me at “Hola!” From the distinctive speak the three animals spoke to the surprisingly heartwrenching twists and turns, this is probably to most perfect miniseries I’ve ever read. And Frank Quiteley’s art with his confetti-like panels are still a wonder to behold. Simply amazing from start to finish and if you’re able to hold back a tear at the end of this one, you’re a better man than me.
Ed Brubaker, Greg Rucka, & Michael Lark’s GOTHAM CENTRAL (DC Comics)Some of the best comic book crime drama you’ll ever read. Brubaker and Rucka worked together and tag teamed this book and made the police department that tried to bring law and order to Gotham City oftentimes cooler than the Batman himself. This was just some pitch-perfect hard nosed crime and noir drama under Michael Lark’s fantastically gritty and realism based art. This is definitely a series that was before its time and those of you loving Brubaker’s CRIMINAL deserve to check this out.
Brian K. Vaughan & Kyle Hotz’s THE HOOD (Marvel Knights)Sometimes you read a comic and you just see the star potential in every panel. Kyle Hotz did an amazing job with this tale of a common street thug who happens upon a mysterious cape that grants him amazing powers. But it was Brian K. Vaughan who stood out here bringing substantial depth to a common comic book cliché. Parker’s delicate tightrope walk between what he wants and what he needs is masterfully played out here. Vaughan moved on to create Y THE LAST MAN, PRIDE, and EX MACHINA and even wrote for the TV series LOST, all seriously amazing works, but it all started here.
Eric Powell’s THE GOON (Dark Horse)If there was an iconic character birthed in the 00’s it was THE GOON. Often abrasive and offensive, this book never failed to bring a smile to my face. Eric Powell’s hard-nosed tuff showed the range to be a one and done style serial like a 22 page strip like HAGAR THE HORRIBLE, then turn around and be the center of an-all-too serious masterpiece by the name of CHINATOWN. The entire THE GOON series can be a timeline of Powell’s development as an artist as well. Looking back at all of those issues from start to finish is like watching a true artist develop his craft from bona fide talent to a modern master at his trade.
Garth Ennis’ PUNISHER MAX (Marvel MAX)Hands down, the best comic book run of the decade. Ennis admitted when he first started writing the Marvel Knights’ PUNISHER run that he really didn’t like the character and it showed as he put the vigilante through one ludicrous scenario after another (climaxing limply with one of the worst battles with Wolverine ever put to page). Ennis went full circle with PUNISHER MAX and gave us the Punisher stories fans of Ennis’ WWII work knew were in him. And thus the schizophrenic Ennis began with treacle like THE PRO and THE BOYS littering the stands alongside honest to gosh edge of your seat brilliance in one PUNISHER MAX arc after another. “Mother Russia” continues to be my all time favorite arc, but the entire run is about as perfect as an action comic will ever be.
Steve Niles & Ben Templesmith’s 30 DAYS OF NIGHT (IDW Publishing)The comic that single-handedly rebooted horror comics came out in this decade. I got into this one late and read it all in trade. Niles’ story had a great hook and he ran with it, churning out a very good story. But it’s Ben Templesmith’s art that makes this miniseries stand out as a true achievement here. Some hate Templesmith’s gritty and layered look, but his labyrinthine panels are what real comic book horror is all about.
Robert Kirkman’s THE WALKING DEAD (Image Comics)There isn’t a comic out there that is as addictive as this one is. I bow down to those with the patience and intestinal fortitude to wait to read this series in trade. You’re better men than I. I devour each and every issue of this series as soon as I get home from the store and have done so from the very beginning. Sure the series lost its way a bit when they settled in at the prison, but, this has been the best ongoing series consistently for the last decade.
Dan Abnett & Andy Lanning’s ANNIHILATION Crossover and all of Marvel’s cosmic books after (Marvel Comics)This is the miniseries or series of miniseries that started it all. Abnett and Lanning did the impossible and made a cast of characters sucked dry by Jim Starlin’s once-cool but now-stale treatment of Marvel’s cosmos cool again by amping up the cosmic threat, relying on rock solid storytelling, and bringing back damn cool characters like Starlord, Groot, Nova, and the motherfuckin’ Rocket Raccoon! More so than any other Marvel writers out there today, Lanning and Abnett are the ones writing the purest of Mighty Marvel Manner greatness.
Geoff Darrow’s SHAOLIN COWBOY (Burlyman Entertainment)Where oh where did this comic go? One of the most visually stunning comics of the decade popped out of nowhere as the more substantial of the two comic book offerings from the Wachowski Brothers’ comic book line, Burlyman Comics (the other being DOC FRANKENSTEIN, a damn cool read in itself). But Darrow pushed the limits on how much detail and action one can cram into a single comic. Out of nowhere, this comic single-handedly blew my socks off, then like a thief in the night, disappeared without a trace. Here’s hoping we get another issue of SHAOLIN COWBOY in the next decade.
Ed Brubaker & Sean Phillips’ SLEEPER (DC Wildstorm)
Geoff Johns & Scott Kolins’ FLASH (DC Comics)
Warren Ellis & Ben Templesmith’s FELL (Image Comics)
Kurt Busiek & Cary Nord’s CONAN (Dark Horse)
Jimmy Palmiotti & Justin Gray’s JONAH HEX (DC Comics)
Kurt Busiek & George Perez’s AVENGERS run (Marvel Comics) – The last time the Avengers felt like the Avengers.
Minetaro Mochizuki’s DRAGON HEAD (TokyoPop manga)
JMS & Gary Frank’s SUPREME POWER (Marvel MAX) – Simply amazing and influential to so much in making comics cinematic in a good way. De-MAXed and it devolved so quickly though…
Gail Simone’s SECRET SIX (DC Comics)
Andy Diggle & Jock’s THE LOSERS (DC Vertigo)
The Almost Made Its…
Joshua Hale Fialkov’s ELK’S RUN (Random House/Villard/Speakeasy)
Nick Abadzis’ LAIKA (First Second Books)
Rick Geary’s A TREATURY OF VICTORIAN MURDER: THE LINDBURGH CHILD (NBM Comics Lit)
Benjamin Dickson’s FALLING SKY (Scar Comics)
Larry Young’s ASTRONAUTS IN TROUBLE (AIT Planet/Lar)
Craig Thompson’s BLANKETS (Top Shelf Productions)
Jesse Bausch & James Callahan’s STRANGE DETECTIVE TALES #1-3 (OddGod Press/Velocity Comics)
Jason’s I KILLED ADOLF HITLER (Fantagraphics Books)
Kagan McLeod’s INFINITE KUNG FU ( Great Lakes Ninja Brotherhood)
Steve Moore, Admira Wijaya, Jim Steranko’s HERCULES: THE THRACIAN WARS (Radical Comics) – The first of Radical’s wide-screen epically beautiful comics.
Bug’s Indie Jones Top Ten
Independent Comics of the 2000’s
Because you asked for it…
The Worst of the 2000’s Decade List
I’ve tossed together a list of the worst of the decade here. I tried to stick to comics that disappointed me the most or comics that encapsulated the worst trends of the decade. Sure there were comics that failed on all levels, but sometimes the ones you expect the most from end up disappointing you the most… Hey, let’s pretentiously name a story “Decalogue” after a series of ten movies of the same name about the Ten Commandments…and then do it in five issues! And even then the story seemed drawn out by the overabundance of dialogue that would have a barbershop quartet of Mamet, Tarantino, and Smith screaming “Get on with it, you wordy mofo!” Oh wait, did I miscount the number of people in a quartet? That’s ok, Bendis miscounted the number of parts in a Decalogue. Plus we got another arc with Maleev’s traced mannequin-people art of folks sitting in chairs and talking and some weird Kuato baby thing popping up at the end that made absolutely no sense ‘tat ‘tall…so it’s got that goin’ for it, I guess.
Brian Michael Bendis & Alex Maleev’s DAREDEVIL “Decalogue“ arc (issues #70-75)( Marvel Knights)
Garth Ennis’ Marvel Knights PUNISHER #33-37 “Confederacy of Dunces” (Marvel Knights)A more aptly named title for those who actually thought this story arc was a good idea if I’ve ever heard one. The aforementioned arc where Wolverine and the Punisher fight each other like Tom & Jerry on crack was one of the most painful comics I have ever read. Years of characterization and all form of respect for the characters are thrown out the window just for in continuity shits and giggles. Punisher runs over Wolvie with a steam roller then blows his nuts off with a shotgun. It was sophomoric. It was unimaginative. It was stupid and you could just see Ennis giggling to himself as he wrote it and thumbed his nose at fans. Too bad he was the only one giggling in this too painful to read arc. Though Ennis redeemed himself with PUNISHER MAX, this comic is still one of his worst ever. This was the point in Marvel history where Wolverine turned into a cartoon of himself as Ennis redefined Logan’s once cool healing factor into something utterly stupid. Now, Wolverine can regenerate from being burned down to a tuft of @$$-hairs. We can thank Ennis for that. Sure, Wolvie was overexposed in the eighties and nineties, but in the 00’s the last ounce of coolness was milked from him. This story had a lot to do with that.
Grant Morrison’s SEVEN SOLDIERS OF VICTORY #1 (DC Comics)This issue read as if a monkey grabbed a bunch of panels and slapped them together with simian snot. One of the most convoluted reads of the decade that still has apologists poo-pooing critics for “just not getting Morrisonian awesomeness.” I get it. I do. And it still reeks of ass and turnips. After a few readable miniseries (KLARION and FRANKENSTEIN were cool), Morrison shat in our faces by having them not even appear in the final issue save for a panel or three, and then collected a big paycheck for it. But hell, at least it got him a follow up series that goes by the name of…
Grant Morrison’s FINAL CRISIS (DC Comics)OK, let’s take a story, put CRISIS in the title even though it has nothing to do with the previous Crises at DC, take forever and a day in a peyote hut without any contact with civilization let alone any of the other writers at DC, and fuck with the entire universe while the rest of the comics line goes to shit in a dung-basket whilst waiting in a holding pattern for the scripts to come in for close to an entire year. This series’ suckitude rests mostly on the shoulders of DC editorial who gave Morrison the keys to the city. Who were they to know he’d take the car out for an all night bender and wrap it around a pole? This was just a fiasco of a miniseries by a writer who doesn’t play well with others that left DC in a mess that they are still trying to clean up.
Frank Miller & Jim Lee’s ALL STAR BATMAN & ROBIN THE BOY WONDER (DC Comics)While Morrison was tossing out one of the most digestible and fun Superman series I’ve ever read, ever the rebel, Frank Miller flips fans the bird with this ever-late and ever-idiotic treatment of a character he helped make world famous. Though it’s quite common for writers to toss a bit of themselves into the role of the main character, Miller made Batman a little too much of a crotchedy asshole for my tastes. Plus the swears and violence for an originally promoted all-ages comic were definitely out of line. I dropped this title about four issues in and fear the badly written depths Miller took Batman thereafter, but four issues were enough for me to understand if it smells like a GODDAMN turd and reads like a GODDAMN turd, then a GODDAMN turd it is.
Bruce Jones’ THE INCREDIBLE HULK (entire run)(Marvel Comics)Again, I mostly blame editorial for stinking this one up so bad. Let’s call the book THE INCREIBLE HULK and only have the Hulk show up about once every four issues! Great idea! There was a trend in Marvel to hold back and cinematize the comics to read as movies; where you think of an entire arc as four acts in a movie, so you don’t want to spoil the money shot of the story in the first few issues (though in comics money shots cost just about as much as every other panel…). Problem is, with movies, if you don’t like the first act, you’re stuck in your chair and while you can leave, chances are you’ll stick with it for the duration. With comics that come out once a month, folks can decide whether or not they want to stick around for the entire thing and if you’ve given them absolutely nothing by way of story development or even an appearance of the title character, there’s less of a likelihood of that person returning for a second look. Let’s chalk the total blunder of Jones’ misunderstanding of the Absorbing Man’s powers in the first arc (he absorbed souls for those of you who were lucky enough to miss it) to first story jitters. I did and gave him second chance to dazzle me, but Jones went on to make Betty a she-spy, popped out Doc Samson’s eye, and about once every three to four issues, you got to see a green shoulder or Hulk silhouette. Thrilling stuff. Plus Jones’ storyline was literally drawn out over the course of years. There were many trade paced stories since then and at the time, but this one was the absolute worst. Some of the best HULK covers ever came from that run though, ironically.
Two way tie: Bill Jemas’ MARVILLE, Ron Zimmerman’s GET KRAVEN (Marvel Comics)Sure Joey the Q made some pretty ballsy decisions that seemed to pay off big time in the last decade, but that doesn’t mean that he didn’t make some terrible, terrible mistakes along the way. This double decker shit sandwich I just laid out for you takes the cake, though (a mixed metaphor, sure, but these guys deserve it). In their heyday these two books tried to out-suck each other to a stand still. The loser of that suck-off was most assuredly US as the readers. I don’t know what’s worse. A loud mouthed EIC who thought it was a good idea to badmouth fans on a regular basis and in his comics or a friend of a friend of a friend who thought it was a good idea to name-drop celebrities in every third panel and must have incriminating photos of Marvel higher-ups to get this story to print. From cover one, MARVILLE was a fist-fuck to anyone with good taste that dared tout itself as taking an original and intelligent view on an industry the writer clearly didn’t respect or understand. GET KRAVEN served only to intellectually gang rape anyone who enjoyed the classic KRAVEN’S LAST HUNT by introducing us to Kraven’s douchebag son and casting him in a GET SHORTY ripoff. Hey, I’ve got friends too. Great friends at that. But I don’t let them near the AICN COMICS column if they can’t write. Someone should have told Marvel that. If you want people to never read comics again, give them these books. I wouldn’t wish these books on pedophile terrorist hippies. And speaking of pedophiles…
Mark Millar’s TROUBLEI’ve got a golden idea. You know that old lady that everyone loves? The one who says “Oh my goodness!” and wears her hair in a bun and wears skirts with a beltline that starts at mid-chest? Yeah, her name is Aunt May and she’s about as sweet as she is wholesome. I know, let’s tell a flashback story of her teenage years and focus on her first sexual experiences…because everyone wants to read about grandma’s wild days as a whore. Thanks for the mindfuck, Millar. Top it off with jailbait photo covers of children seductively staring at the reader in bathing suits and you have yourself the most unintentionally creep-o-rific comic book experiences ever!
Frank Miller’s THE DARK KNIGHT STRIKES AGAIN (DC Comics)Those of you who think ASBAR is bad should read up on a little ditty called THE DARK KNIGHT STRIKES AGAIN. This comic is the evil opposite of THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS in every way. This was the first indicator that Miller was off the reservation. No other comic shits in the faces of fans as hard as this one does. This is a perfect example of ego gone wild as Millar tosses all rhyme, reason, tact, and craft out of the window for the sake of shock value. Do you know the guy who stands in front of you and reads the comic at the comic shop as you’re trying to browse this week’s selections? Doesn’t that guy piss you off? Well, my theory is that Frank Miller was in a comic book store and that guy was standing in front of him reading THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS and just to get back at him, he wrote THE DARK KNIGHT STRIKES AGAIN. It’s just a theory, but it would all make sense if it were true.
Kevin Smith’s SPIDER-MAN & BLACK CAT (Marvel Comics)Not necessarily terrible in quality, per se. The art by the Dodsons is nice and it made Black Cat’s boobs highly popular, but this comic signified a trend in comics that left it forevermore changed for the worse, and that trend is star-fucking. Marvel realized that they could make big bucks if they got a big name writing their comics. They didn’t have the foresight to predict that they were not hiring a hard working comic writer for the job, but a person who, when a movie deal or real life or laundry gets in the way, puts the book on the back burner for so long that all that’s left are those little black flaky chunks you clean out from under your stove grill. When SPIDER-MAN & BLACK CAT first came out, we @$$Holes gave it the Roundtable treatment. When the final issues of the miniseries came out YEARS later, we didn’t even review it on the site and no one even chatted about it in the TBs.
Finally, I’m not sure what the first $3.99 priced 22 page comic was, but that comic deserves mention in this category. I promise you, in 2019, when we look back at the past decade of comics; this price hike will be the decision that rang the death knell for single issue comics in paper format. Sure there are die-hards who are still chucking out their hard earned shekels for these pricey periodicals, but with people tightening their belts on just about everything these days, I’m hearing more and more folks turning their backs on comics that have just become way too expensive for them to buy on a regular basis. In an industry with an already shrinking fanbase of folks turning to movies, video games, and online comics for their super hero escapism, making the monthlies less affordable may be the true FINAL CRISIS of monthly comic book-dom.Ambush Bug is Mark L. Miller, reviewer and co-editor of AICN Comics for over eight years and one of the original @$$holes. Check out his comic book shorts from Cream City Comics’ MUSCLES & FIGHTS VOL.3 and MUSCLES & FRIGHTS VOL.1 on his ComicSpace page. Bug was interviewed here and here at Cream City Comics and here and here about his latest comic from Bluewater Comics, VINCENT PRICE PRESENTS: THE TINGLER #1-2. Look for more comics from Bug in 2010 from Bluewater, including VINCENT PRICE PRESENTS WITCHFINDER GENERAL, ROGER CORMAN PRESENTS DEATHSPORT, and the just announced vampire miniseries NANNY & HANK (and check out Jazma Online’s new interview with Bug about NANNY & HANK here).
Don’t forget to check back tomorrow when Humphrey Lee and Optimous Douche choose their picks for the Best Comics of the last ten years.
And check out these lists of the Top Ten Comics of the 2000’s from the rest of the @$$Holes from earlier this week!
Matt Adler’s List