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Kevin Forest Moreau's  and The Gentleman's Top 10 Comics of 2004

Best of: 2005 | 2004 | 2003 | 2002

You've probably noticed that we treat our Top 10 lists differently here at Shaking Through. Senior writer Laurence Station handles our movies list -- mainly because I might not even see 10 current movies in a year. We both contribute music lists, though, because we each listen to a lot of music, and our tastes are broad enough that reaching any kind of consensus would be impossible. As for comics: The Gentleman and I bring a handful of things we liked to the table (graphic novels or trade paperbacks released in the calendar year only, which can be frustrating), and then we hammer out a compromise. This year, for added kicks, we solicited the input of our new contributing comics reviewer, David Brennan. Who knows -- if we ever read enough books to do an annual books list, that will no doubt also be completely different. But that's what keeps things fun, right? -- Kevin Forest Moreau, Listless

     
1. American Splendor: Our Movie Year (Ballantine Books)
This hit-and-miss compilation has its problems, to be sure, but it bears traces of the innovative work that brought acclaim to Harvey Pekar long before the American Splendor movie made him a household name.
 
2. Swamp Thing: Regenesis (Vertigo/DC)
This trade collects the beginning of Rick Veitch's enjoyable run on what was once DC's premier prestige title. Veitch impressively built on the work of his predecessor, Alan Moore, while putting his own stamp on the property.
3. Marvel Knights 4: Wolf at the Door (Marvel)
Playwright Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa strips Marvel's first family of its cosmic dimension, allowing us to relate to these characters as more than just adventurer archetypes in jumpsuits. Steve McNiven's detailed artwork nicely enhances the effect.
 
4. Daredevil: The Widow (Marvel)
This title still moves too slow, but nova-hot writer Brian Michael Bendis proves he can still inject an endorphin-rush tweak or two into superhero conventions. The espionage angle here introduces a sorely needed new element to a plodding storyline.
5. The Walking Dead: Days Gone Bye (Image)
Robert Kirkman transplants the zombie genre to the comic page with intelligent results. And unlike many zombie movies, he doesn't skimp on relatable human characters, which makes this a compelling adventure read.
 
6. Doom Patrol: The Painting That Ate Paris (Vertigo/DC)
In the titular arc, Grant Morrison shows off the freewheeling absurdist wit that made this book required reading -- for a while -- during its initial run. Ignore the rest, except for Richard Case's chillingly complementary pencil work.
7. Astonishing X-Men: Gifted (Marvel)
Buffy the Vampire Slayer's Joss Whedon proves that his knack for zinging dialogue and action-adventure tales with compelling human dimensions translates well to the four-color page. And John Cassaday's artwork rocks.
 
8. Truth: Red, White & Black (Marvel)
Intriguing attempt to inject social relevance into the Marvel Universe on a larger, more different scale than anything tried before. Too bad Kyle Baker's artwork does so much to undermine the effect.
9. Global Frequency: Planet Ablaze (Wildstorm/DC)
Warren Ellis introduces a super-secret team of sleeper-agent scientists, adventurers and other problem-solvers in a collection of engaging scenarios.
 
10. It's A Bird... (Vertigo/DC)
While somewhat contrived, Steven T. Seagle's semi-autobiographical account of a comics writer struggling to come to grips with the Superman myth while dealing with a thorny family medical issue is thoughtful and well-executed -- thanks in large part to Teddy Kristiansen's painting.
 
Notable near misses:
 
  • Alias: The Secret Origin of Jessica Jones (MAX/Marvel): Brian Michael Bendis pours on the hardships as he relates the backstory of his messed-up private eye. Jessica Jones' travails could be more tiresome than thrilling, which makes folding this title into the more mainstream Pulse a smart move.
  • The Goon Vol. 1: Nothin' But Misery (Dark Horse): Eric Powell's outlandish title combines the best elements of vintage Warner Brothers cartoons, Hellboy, Michael T. Gilbert's Mr. Monster and hard-boiled Noir thuggery. A refreshingly madcap change of pace.
  • The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen Vol. 2 (America's Best Comics): A plot that reduces its characters to little more than reactionary pawns lessens the impact of Alan Moore and Kevin O'Neill's sequel, which finds the League dealing with the Martian invasion from H.G. Wells' War of the Worlds.
  • New X-Men Vol. 7: Here Comes Tomorrow (Marvel): Grant Morrison ties up his run on Marvel's most profitable franchise with a tip of the hat to Chris Claremont's Days of Future Past.
  • Noble Causes Vol. II: Family Secrets (Image): This likable soap opera about a family of super-powered crime-fighters is good escapist fun, like a Saturday morning cartoon version of Dynasty.
  • The Pulse: Thin Air (Marvel): Bendis folds Jessica Jones into an ensemble cast as she takes a job at the Daily Bugle, covering the super-powered beat. The storyline, involving the Green Goblin, nicely explores seldom-seem burdens for both reporter Ben Urich and -- Spider-Man.
  • The Amazing Spider-Man: The Book of Ezekiel (Marvel): J. Michael Straczynski throws a curveball in his ongoing tale exploring the mystical component of the web-slinger's origin.
  • Supreme Power: Contact (MAX/Marvel): Straczynski again, this time echoing his work on Rising Stars as he unfolds the lengthy origin of a modern-day Squadron Supreme. Gary Frank's artwork is beautiful.
  • The Ultimates Vol. 2: Homeland Security (Marvel): Continuing Mark Millar's wide-screen Ultimate Universe version of the Avengers. The alien invasion plot falls a little flat, but few writers have ever nailed the concept of Captain America as well as Millar does here.
  • Y The Last Man Book 4: Safeword (Vertigo/DC): The latest collection of Brian K. Vaughan's ongoing series about the only male left alive on a world full of women shows why Y is Vertigo's best contained series since Preacher.

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