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Kevin Forest Moreau's  and The Gentleman's Top 10 Comics of 2003

Best of: 2005 | 2004 | 2003 | 2002

     
1. The Fixer (Drawn and Quarterly)
Cartoonist-slash-journalist Joe Sacco (Palestine, Safe Area Gorazde) examines the Bosnian conflict from the perspective of Neven, a "fixer" who guides news crews and reporters through the war-torn streets of Sarajevo to their stories. Neven's complex story, and his insight into the criminal warlords who used the war for their own ends, make for one of the year's most compelling reads in any medium.
 
2. The Sandman: Endless Nights (Vertigo/DC)
Neil Gaiman revisits the universe of his groundbreaking DC/Vertigo work The Sandman, crafting engaging, magical tales around each member of The Endless. The Sandman's own story is as mythic and charming as any issue of the original series. A pantheon of gifted artists (Dave McKean, Milo Manara, P. Craig Russell, Glenn Fabry, Minguelanxo Prado, Bill Sienkewicz) make this a visual feast, equal parts challenging and gorgeous.
3. Promethea, Vol. IV (America's Best Comics)
Alan Moore continues his poetic exploration of The Immateria, the endlessly fascinating topography of dreams, magic and emotion mapped over the ten spheres of the Kaballah. This volume is a little thin on plot until the dramatic trial (and its aftermath) that bring it to a close. But Moore's inventive richness keeps us from complaining.
 
4. Swamp Thing: Reunion (Vertigo/DC)
The conclusion of Moore's genre-defying (and genre-creating) work on Swamp Thing. A work this imaginative and insightful would have been a perfect career capper for many writers, but it shows us that Moore was just getting started. The elemental's journey through space features some of Moore's best work, including "Loving the Alien" and "All Flesh is Grass." The artwork, as usual, is breathtaking throughout.
5. Animal Man: Deus Ex Machina (Vertigo/DC)
Likewise, Grant Morrison's wrap-up of his run on this proto-Vertigo title only hinted at the lysergic creativity of his later works. Morrison's warping of the "fourth wall" explores and illuminates the inherent possibilities in comic storytelling. And the ending, although a letdown in purely dramatic terms, is a touching inversion of his seeming ambivalence with the form.
 
6. Hellblazer: Rake at the Gates of Hell (Vertigo/DC)
This was a year for collections of endings. The final chapter of Garth Ennis' and Steve Dillon's visceral run on Hellblazer contains some of the best characterizations of the multi-faceted magician/con artist John Constantine. Jarring, thought-provoking and even tender in its examination of human violence, it sets the tone for the duo's triumphant series Preacher.
7. Daredevil: Out (Marvel)
Brian Michael Bendis and Alex Maleev continue spinning the fascinating tale of Daredevil's "outing" as blind lawyer Matt Murdock. Bendis balances the personal drama and thriller-level suspense with ease, and Maleev's art follows suit.
 
8. Thor Legends: Walter Simonson Book II (Marvel)
For many readers, Simonson's take on the god of thunder remains the definitive. Epic in scope and drenched in mythological research, this collection only makes us realize how under-utilized so many superhero concepts remain.
9. HERO: Powers and Abilities (DC)
Will Pfeifer proves the exception to that comment about the untapped potential of many superhero concepts. This post-modern take on the hokey Dial 'H' for Hero series is nothing short of inspired, sketching the consequences of unexpected (and unearned) power in vivid detail.
 
10. Orbiter (Vertigo/DC)
Ellis, one of comics' most opinionated storytellers, plays to his sci-fi strengths with this occasionally awkward and jargon-heavy look at a manned space flight gone wrong. An impassioned and fiercely imaginative plea for the continuation of the space program.
 
Notable near misses:
 
  • 100 Bullets: The Counterfifth Detective (Vertigo/DC): Brian Azzarello riffs on the archetype of the classic noir P.I. while further filling in the details of his Byzantine world of secret cabals, broken lives and revenge-minded covert agents.
  • Alias: The Underneath (Max/Marvel): Brian Michael Bendis finally makes his former superhero turned private detective sympathetic, as Jessica Jones' past catches up with her present in unforeseen ways. Contains a brilliant cameo by the fourth-rate hero Speedball, a questionable character idea that here receives its humiliating desserts.
  • Fantastic Four: Imaginauts (Marvel): Mike Wieringo's cartoon-y style doesn't quite jibe with this nuclear family of adventurers. But Mark Waid's slant on this warhorse of a Marvel property is intriguing enough to make up for the mismatched art.
  • Hawkman: Endless Flight (DC): Geoff Johns and James Robinson attempt to revive the iconic hero. The archaeological adventure of the first half works better than the standard super-costume clash of the second, which suffers from a raft of Big Easy clichés bestowed upon the fictional Louisiana city of St. Roch.
  • Powers: Anarchy (Image): Bendis kicks his police procedural/superhero comic into high gear with an explosive tale (no pun intended) packed with dynamic, action-filled moments.
  • Wildcats 3.0: Brand Building (Image): Joe Casey continues to breathe new life into Jim Lee's one-note WildC.A.T.S team. The Halo Corporation is a savvy update on the concept of super-beings attempting to make the world a better place. Amusing sequences involving a deep-cover family of secret agents add a welcome note of goofy fun.

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 Ratings Key:
 5.0: Breaks new ground
 4.0-4.9: First-rate
 3.0-3.9: Solid
 2.0-2.9: Mediocre
 1.1-1.9: Bad
 0.0-1.0: The worst

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