Ain't It Cool News (

AICN COMICS: Professor Challenger & Jinxo's Top 10 Comics of the 2000's

Hey folks, Ambush Bug here with another pair of top ten lists wrapping up Day Five of our look back on the last decade of comics. Today, we’ve got two of our best and brightest @$$Holes lists of the Top Ten Comics of the 2000’s. First up is Professor Challenger. Listen up folks, class is about to be in session…

Professor Challenger’s Top Ten Comics of the 2000’s

Professor Challenger here. I don’t know what standards my fellow reviewers are using for their Top 10 lists, but I struggled a little in trying to nail down how to approach this project. Ultimately, with my somewhat eccentric and limited comic-buying for the last 10 years or so I decided to leave it to my emotional side more than my analytical side. Off the top of my head I just created a list of those comics that have stuck with me and then went through that list to try to narrow it down to just what I considered the 10 “best” from that list. It’s kind of like making my list of “Best” movies in any given year. As a general standard for the last 10 years, I have usually only seen one of the movies nominated in any given year for “Best Picture.” So, obviously my personal interests in film lay outside the critical mainstream.
Well, the same goes for comics. If I don’t think I’m going to like something, I don’t buy it. It’s a simple policy and it serves my pocket book well. Only in rare occasions (like say, CIVIL WAR and INFINITE CRISIS) do I buy something I expect to dislike. That’s also why most of my reviews are generally positive…I buy what I expect to like. And occasionally I eviscerate something because it either surprised me because I expected it to be good (can we say JIMMY CORRIGAN?) or it’s something so beyond the pale (can we say once again CIVIL WAR and INFINITE CRISIS?). There’s a whole lot of crap published every month. There’s also a whole lot more just plain mediocre stuff…and there’s nothing wrong with that. But, there’s also almost always a handful of true gems published each and every month, but you may have to strain to find them. And below are what I found to be my personal favorite 10 gems over the last 10 years or so.
No “Honorable Mentions” from me ‘cause I think that’s just a cheater’s way of adding to the list. Hee! But for those who wonder about my “No Marvel” Top 10 list, I will say that Steve Gerber’s 2002 HOWARD THE DUCK mini-series for the Marvel MAX line would’ve been my #11.
#10. GØDLAND Creators: Joe Casey and Tom Scioli Publisher: Image Comics Years running: 2005 – Present

When I originally saw the solicitations for GØDLAND, I rolled my eyes. “Cheap-ass Kirby knock-off”, I thought. Begrudgingly I picked up the first issue and found myself sucked right in. Casey and Scioli were not ripping off the “King,” they were using Kirby as a genre unto himself and set out to tell an ongoing cosmic saga that evoked not only Kirby but Starlin, Englehart, hell the entire ‘70s Cosmic Marvel era. But the twist that made it all work was that it was original in its own mind-blowing way and peppered the scenarios, the characters, and the dialogue with truly modern tone. In other words, Casey and Scioli did something even “King” Kirby was not able to fully do and that is take the Kirby Genre and successfully integrate into the modern era without any need for retro-wink-wink-nod games. The saga of Adam Archer and his sisters has never lost steam. The Infinity Tower stands strong even in the face of growing distrust amongst the people Archer has risked his life many times to keep safe. GØDLAND is beautiful to look at. GØDLAND is intellectually stimulating. GØDLAND is fun. GØDLAND is cool. GØDLAND kicks off my top-ten best comics published in the last 10 years. Repeat after me: I-BO-GA!

#9. BANANA SUNDAY Creators: Root Nibot and Colleen Coover Publisher: Oni Press Year: 2005

This all-ages book from Oni Press is a complete delight from beginning to end and holds up to repeated reading. The collected trade (originally a 4-issue limited series) tells the story of a teenaged girl, Kirby Steinberg, who begins attending a new high school but bringing along her 3 talking apes with her. Chuck, Knobby, and Go-Go are the 3 apes. Chuck (the orangutan) is highly intelligent, Knobby (the chimpanzee) is a wannabe Don Juan, and Go-Go (the gorilla) is always chasing after food. Their antics and interactions with each other and with the humans are truly delightful and laugh-out-loud funny. This series is smart and worth checking out and sharing with any youngster you know who has a refined sense of humor…and an appreciation for the occasional fart joke.

#8. AVENGERS/JLA Creators: Kurt Busiek and George Pérez Publisher: DC Comics and Marvel Comics Years running: 2003-2004

Somehow, someway, Busiek was able to concoct a simple gaming plot surrounded by layers upon layers of complexity that would enable fans of the Avengers and the JLA from any era to find something to enjoy. I love this series. It hits all the right notes for me. The story is fun and the art is incredible – a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see the great George Pérez tackle practically every character from both Marvel and DC within one great cosmic story. The sheer imagery of Superman wielding both Captain America’s shield and Thor’s Uru Hammer is visually one of the most awe-inspiring images every to appear in continuity. Unlike, say, the original CRISIS, WATCHMEN, MARVELS, etc., I have yet to invest in an expensive collected version of this story. I have been, and continue to be, content to just always keep my 4 square-bound issues close by the bed and find that I have a need to re-read this story at least once a year and I always find something new in the experience.

#7. GREEN LANTERN (Vol. 4) Creators: Geoff Johns, Ethan Van Sciver, Carlos Pacheco, Ivan Reis, Doug Mahnke Publisher: DC Comics Years running: 2005 – Present

Beginning with GREEN LANTERN: REBIRTH and continuing through the peak of the SINESTRO WARS and currently the middle of BLACKEST NIGHT, Geoff Johns has crafted possibly the finest ongoing super-hero series I’ve ever read. Even within the strictures of DC continuity, Johns has worked conceptual magic upon GL akin to what Alan Moore did when he took over SWAMP THING in the ‘80s. Originally, GL was a simple concept of a galaxy-wide police force, powered by power rings, and made up of individuals who had no fear, Hal Jordan being the designated GL for our sector. But it took Johns to tweak that simple concept and refocus it on the willpower of the individuals chosen so that they are not individuals without fear but instead a great will empowering them to overcome fear. From there he extrapolated connections with color and emotion (Green=Will, Yellow=Fear) and began crafting a cosmic mythology that has led to what is now jokingly referred to as the “Rainbow Corps.” Johns has elevated GL to a top-tier status. I now see GL t-shirts in public more often than I see Superman t-shirts. I see multiple Orange Lantern shirts on teens walking the halls of my son’s high school. A Star Sapphire t-shirt showed up on CBS’s THE BIG BANG THEORY tv-show. And a big-budget GL movie is about to start filming starring Ryan Reynolds.
Johns has turned Green Lantern into a modern day zeitgeist touchpoint. And I say disregard all the other tie-ins and spin-offs and just focus on the GREEN LANTERN comic proper and you have the single most consistently well-written and illustrated ongoing super-hero comic going right now.

#6. BREACH Creators: Bob Harras and Marcos Martin Publisher: DC Comics Year: 2005

BREACH was originally intended to be a reboot of the Capt. Atom character. But somewhere along the line, rather late in the development, a rather brilliant idea took root and that was to drop the Capt. Atom angle and just go with an entirely new character. The result of that freedom was an excellent, but neglected, attempt at a sci-fi series that did not follow your standard super-hero formula and tracked the tragic life of a man knocked forward 20 years in time. The time-jump is the result of a scientific experiment gone wrong and leaves him not only dangerously powerful, but also on the verge of madness. Harras created a series in which the violent end of the character was already seen in the future and then flashed back to show how those events come to be. A truly creepy and smart series that should have been much more successful than it was.

#5. ALL-STAR SUPERMAN Creators: Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely Publisher: DC Comics Years running: 2005 – 2008

This is Superman as he should always be. This limited series gave me the feeling I had when I was a kid and all these super-hero things were still new. A timeless form of story-telling, Morrison and Quitely produced the definitive presentation of Superman that stands apart from the continuity albatross. Beautiful to look at and inspirational to read.

#4. PLANETARY Creators: Warren Ellis and John Cassaday Publisher: DC Wildstorm Years running: 1999-2009

Sue me. This series technically started in 1999, but the bulk of its publishing history is from 2000 to 2009. This is comics filtered through a literary world-view similar to Philip José Farmer’s Wold Newton mythology. This is Ellis’ magnum opus, his commentary on just about every aspect of adventure fiction, and it always hits just the right mix of snark, respectful homage, and indulgent “what if” scenarios. Without the brilliant artwork of Cassaday to ground the fantastic with the mundane, the work would not achieve this degree of perfection. Thankfully, The Bleed was kind to us mere mortals and allowed Ellis and Cassaday the time and opportunity needed to tell the story they wanted to tell and end it the way they wanted to end it. I expect this series to be read, studied, and propounded upon for many years to come.

#3. LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN Creators: Alan Moore and Kevin O’Neill Publisher: ABC Comics / Top Shelf Productions Years running: 1999 – Present

Sue me again. Technically, LoEG started in 1999, but I only think of it in terms of the new millennium so it makes my list. I mentioned that PLANETARY takes a literary world-view “similar” to Philip José Farmer’s Wold Newton mythology, but Moore does not do that with LoEG. Instead, Moore fully embraces the intertwined fictional worlds that Farmer first connected and expands upon the concept to intentionally absurdist lengths. Alan Moore is a bloody genius and I just lap up everything he posits within his various LoEG series and one-shots. His work here is like literary hallucinogenic mushrooms in that they expand my mind and make me look at all realities in a way I never have before and never would have without his prodding. LoEG may have expanded itself beyond the walls of what the average comic book reader is able to accept and enjoy. Time will tell. What I do know is that this is, once again, a series that I go back to repeatedly and re-read and look forward to anything new that Moore and O’Neill are prepared to give.

#2. NEW FRONTIER Creator: Darwyn Coke Publisher: DC Comics Years running: 2003-2004

Quite simply, the single best super-hero comic I’ve ever read. And yes, Virginia, it is also the only comic I have so far felt worth it to shell out the dough to own the ABSOLUTE edition. A feast for the eyes, but also the heart and mind. Cooke hits every note about everything I love about super-heroes and the result sings and harmonizes within me.

#1. FABLES Creators: Bill Willingham, Mark Buckingham, Lan Medina Publisher: DC/Vertigo Years running: 2002 – Present

Wow. I had no idea so many of my fellow reviewers here were going to agree with me on this pick for #1. I honestly thought I would be the only one. I am embarassingly late to the game on this series, having just read all the trades (so far) in 2009. It is, however, hands-down my personal favorite comic series of the last 10 years if not more. Reading it in trade form meant I read through years’ worth of stories in a relatively compressed time period and watched as each successive volume improved upon the previous volume for 12 consecutive volumes. It was amazing to end each book thinking it can't get any better and then writer Bill Willingham and primary artist Mark Buckingham would prove me wrong by somehow making the next volume better. The character development, the willingness to allow characters to change and die, the clever twists on familiar concepts, the beautiful artistic blend of exaggerated Kirby-esque action with lyrical and emotive Craig Russell-esque characterization, just makes FABLES without a doubt my personal best for the past decade and I hope to see more excellence from Willingham and Buckingham into the next decade.
Prof. Challenger is illustrator and "Renaissance Man" Keith Howell who is married with two kids, a dog and a cat. Headquartered in the Republic of Texas, he has a glorious ability to annoy people, the strength of ten men, and sometimes updates his website at

Thanks Prof. I feel all educated and shit now. Next up we’ve got Jinxo with his picks for the best of the best in the 00’s. Go…GO…GO JINXO!

Jinxo’s Top Ten Comics of the 2000’s

10. THE COURTYARD Alan Moore Avatar Press

Starting small with a quickie from Alan Moore but one that, again, sticks in my head. An FBI agent investigating a number of murders and ends up stumbling into Cthulhu/Lovecraft madness. Short and to the point, this damn thing nonetheless still crawled under my skin and won't let me forget it.

9. RUNAWAYS Created by Brian K. Vaughan, Adrian Alphona Marvel Comics

My favorite group book. A group of teens discover their parents are actually super villains called The Pride, who literally made a pact with ancient forces to destroy, rebuild and then rule the world. And you thought it was disturbing to walk in on your parents having sex! The original run is amazing. The later runs with different writers have varied in success with Joss Whedon's being the best. He brought back the first comic book character ever, The Yellow Kid! That is going for the geek gold. Still enjoying the book but, really, I want somebody to take over the book who has the balls to resurrect The Pride and their Gibborim overlords. Yeahhh, they're dead and gone but death never really takes the first few times in comics. Plus how can they really be runaways without parents to run away from?
This is a book I would hand to my friends and make them read.

8. MIDNIGHT NATION J. Michael Straczynski and Gary Frank Top Cow

One of the big books people think of in terms of JMS showing up on the comic scene is RISING STARS. A solid book but for me release delays and other issues with RISING STARS sort of lessened my full love of that book. For me MIDNIGHT NATION was the book that really knocked me out. I love that the book wore it's symbolism and metaphors right on it's sleeve. One of those books where ideas and images from it have stuck with me. Part of the premise was that the people the general population ignore eventually actually disappear into a parallel reality coexisting beside our own. Likewise the only items in this realm are the things nobody in the real world wants. As a result our hero has to eat teriyaki flavored beef jerky. Silly but that vicious display of teriyaki jerky prejudice is now stuck in my head. On the more serious side, there is the image of man so obsessed with his past failures that he sits in a hole in the desert, retelling and reliving it over and over, unable to get out of that hole and just move the hell on. Just a great image but one that is immediately topped by the image of what our hero sees when he climbs out of that guy's hole and looks across the rest of the desert. Just a solid comic novel.

7. BONE Jeff Smith Boneville

A great saga in comic book form. A mix of Pogo, Popeye, Walt Disney, Lord Of The Rings, Bone finds poor hapless Fone Bone and his cousins stumbling out of their own land into a new land of dragons, evil forces, beautiful heroines, tough as nails old ladies, cow races and rat creatures. Bone and his cousins form a classic comic trio with Fone Bone as the nice guy Mickey Mouse lead, Phoney Bone as the greedy scheming Daffy Duck type and Smiley Bone as the tall ever-happy Goofy third. A great mix of old school comics and fantasy adventure. You could do worse than to pick up the collected Bone.


There was a long period of time where I really fell out of reading comics for a long time. It was around the same time a lot of people jumped ship, when the publisher's seemed to be trying to milk readers for every cent in annoying ways (a billion variant covers, rebooting books every ten seconds so they could sell another "1st ISSUE!!!"...) But I liked comics and didn't want to drop reading them entirely. Sick to death of the mainstream hero books, I decided to try some other kinds of books. STRANGERS IN PARADISE was one of the first books I went to and I loved the hell out of it. A comic book about regular people (relatively speaking) featuring two female leads who looked like real women? A book where giant heroic poses were pushed aside in favor of amazingly rendered facial emotions? Who'da thunk it? Okay, towards the end the book might have circled the same plot field a few too any times before coming in for a final landing but I didn't mind. As a fan who loved the book and the characters I could understand Terry Moore maybe not wanting to let go. SIP kept me reading comics and broadened the scope of the comics I considered buying. Katchoo, Francine, David... I'll miss ya.

5. CAPTAIN AMERICA Ed Brubaker , Steve Epting, Mike Perkins, Luke Ross... Marvel Comics

My thoughts on Captain America somewhat echo what Matt Adler has already said in his Top 10 list. Part of the reason this book is so impressive is the number of moves it made that could have and really should have gone horribly wrong. Resurrecting Bucky, one of the only characters really, truly, forever dead characters? Sacrilege! It should have resulted in an angry torch wielding mob of comic fans. Brubaker pulled it off and made it kick ass. Then he KILLS Steve Rogers!?!? You bastard! I'd kill you except for the fact it was so good and made the book better. And then Bucky becomes the new Captain America. Another point where it should have fallen apart and where I should have been getting impatient for the return of Steve Rogers, the REAL Captain America. Instead, when it became clear Steve Rogers was getting over his case of terminal death I actually got kind of bummed out. I haven't had my fill yet of Bucky as Cap.
If I have one tongue-in-cheek complaint it would be that why Cap is able to come back has undermined my respect for The Red Skull's villainy. Skull, why? Why did you have to go Doctor Evil on me? You seemed to be following the wise advice of Scott Evil: ditch the elaborate easily escapable traps, just get a gun and shoot the guy! JUST SHOOT HIM! And it seemed like you did just that. But... noooo! You shoot him with a time travelly gun as part of a bigger hair brained scheme! Dahhh!!! It was so easy! Ya HAD him! Bullet, boom, over. But you had to go and blow it. Hang your skull in shame, sir!

4. ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN Brian Michael Bendis, Mark Bagley, Syuart Immonen Ultimate Marvel

My favorite straight forward hero book of the past decade. Another title that I was directed to to reignite my love of hero books. While mainstream Spidey books main many bad moves over the past 10 years (I might make a deal with Mephisto to make me forget that Spidey's past) as far as I'm concerned Ultimate Spider-Men has never made a misstep. Whether reinventing classic Spider-Man stories, inventing new ones or, for God's sake, riffing on Spider-Man and his amazing friends, the book is always solidly entertaining and filled with fully fleshed out characters. And now that the Amazing Friends are assembled and living at Aunt May's place, I anxiously await Tony Stark installing all those crazy hidden computers from the cartoon. Bendis, I DARE you!

3. FABLES Bill Willingham, Mark Buckingham DC Vertigo

This book shouldn't work. And working it definitely shouldn't be lasting as long as it has. The premise sounds like the pitch for a bad high concept movie: Classic fairy tale characters living in modern day New York while planning to take back their homelands from the evil despot... Geppetto. Come on! That can't be good. But it is. And having made it work, Willingham could easily have stuck with the initial central characters he established and who the fans loved. Instead on a semi-regular basis the lead characters are pushed to the side or killed outright to be replaced by new ones. Again, an easy way for things to go wrong. But, no, the book keeps on kicking ass. Finally, he resolved the central premise driving the book by bringing an end to the Fable War. He establishes a single HUGE big bad and defeats him. That has to be a shark jump. Some might argue it was. But still Willingham has found stray plot threads from the war to spin into gold with the reveal that while Geppetto may have been Grand High Douche Poobah, he did manage to lock away some other bigger evils that now have been loosed upon the world again. Add in awesome art and covers worthy of framing, you've easily got one of the best comics of the decade.

2. HELLBOY Mike Mignola Dark Horse

Another great new character who debuted in the 90s but who I discovered in the past decade. Of course HELLBOY hasn't had a regular monthly book for the full decade, instead having shorter book runs popping up regularly. That only served to show me how much I love that damn damned hero. Any time I'd hit the comic shop and find a new HELLBOY story on the stands I'd find myself a little more excited to get home and start reading my comics. Just such a classic character. A hero who not only feels he's an unworthy sinful loser but who actually has the horns and damnation to prove it. Yet he still fights the good fight because he believes in it and won't let someone else determine his destiny. And yet, really, he'd rather just knock back a few beers. On top of all that he has comically bad luck. Some of my favorite moments are when he's in the middle of saving the day and some new annoyance gets dropped into the mix prompting some sort of, "Oh come on!!!" from HELLBOY.

1. ALIAS Brian Michael Bendis and Michael Gaydos Marvel MAX

One of the books that really got me back into the Marvel Universe. Again, I was only reading a few comics, almost none of them hero books when a friend at work insisted I HAD to check out ALIAS. Boy am I glad I did. Jessica Jones, PI. Not a superhero but a flinty, bitchy, emotional mess who was just trying to figure things out. And while she was trying to figure it out she gave the readers a really different point of view on the Marvel Universe. The human stuff the other hero books never quite showed. Another book I damn well miss. Yeah, Jessica is kicking around now in THE NEW AVENGERS but, really, that aint the Jessica I grew to love in Alias. The new Jessica doesn't have the same edge. If I recall, Bendis created her partly because he wanted to write Spider-Woman, couldn't, and so created his own new Jessica instead. Now he's got Spider-Woman to play with and poor Jessica Jones has fallen off to being a supporting player. Seriously, as amusing as it was to see Jessica put on her old Jewel outfit in NEW AVENGERS, the Jessica Jones from ALIAS would kill someone before putting that outfit back on.
Jinxo is Thom Holbrook, lifelong comic book reader, and the evil genius behind He may appear cute and cuddly but if encountered avoid eye contact and DO NOT attempt to feed.

Thanks, Jinxy! Be sure to check out more of the @$$Holes picks for the Top Ten Comics of the 2000’s from earlier in the week below.
Vroom Socko’s List
Matt Adler’s List
Ambush Bug’s List
Humphrey Lee and Optimous Douche’s List

And look for our final entry in this Top Ten of the 2000’s List-athon as superhero and BottleImp chime in with their picks on Monday! Thanks to all of you in the TBs who have made this a great week for comic book debate. Look for our regular previews/interviews column aka AICN COMICS: SHOOT THE MESSENGER this Monday! And all of the @$$Holes will be back next Wednesday with the return of AICN COMICS REVIEWS!

Editing, compiling, imaging, coding, logos & cat-wrangling by Ambush Bug Proofs, co-edits & common sense provided by Sleazy G

Readers Talkback
comments powered by Disqus