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Kevin Forest Moreau's  and The Gentleman's Top 10 Comics of 2005

Best of: 2005 | 2004 | 2003 | 2002

As usual, this list differs from other Shaking Through Top 10 lists in that it's compiled by committee (albeit a committee of two), and sticks to a pretty narrow focus: graphic novels or compilations/trade paperback collections released during the calendar year. (Mini-series or individual issues of ongoing comic series are not eligible.) This list may seem even more arbitrary than usual, given the omission of DC Comics' Identity Crisis hardcover (we enjoyed the series, but we're waiting for the paperback, and hopefully writer Brad Meltzer's name won't feature so prominent on the cover -- c'mon, he's not that big a star; not even Kevin Smith gets his name printed that large) and Charles Burns' Black Hole (we just haven't read it yet). So caveat emptor: Herewith follows a subjective list of the best comics books we happened to read last year. -- Kevin Forest Moreau, Subjectively

     
1. Promethea Book V (America's Best Comics)
The culmination of Alan Moore's fantastic tale of magic and imagination marks Promethea as a disappointingly unheralded masterwork, equal to (if not better than) Neil Gaiman's Sandman series and even Moore's own Watchmen. Yeah, that's right, we said it.
 
2. War's End: Profiles from Bosnia 1995-96 (Drawn and Quarterly)
Like Joe Sacco's other comic-book dispatches from the former Yugoslavia, the two stories in this slim, never-more-timely volume come to vivid life, thanks to his reporter's eye for detail and for the heartbreaking human cost of war.
3. Tricked (Top Shelf)
Alex Robinson's follow-up to the rightly lauded Box Office Poison is a richly drawn examination of issues of truth and trust that traces six very different but interconnected people. Their coming together ultimately feels contrived, but Robinson's deft characterizations keep us engaged.
 
4. The Quitter (Vertigo/DC)
This flawed but powerful memoir of Harvey Pekar's formative years affords a warts-and-all look at the events and personality traits that have made the author who he is. Kudos to Pekar for bravely baring many of his less-than-flattering aspects, even if he never seems to draw any lessons from the telling.
5. Ex Machina: The First Hundred Days (Wildstorm/DC)
Between Y: The Last Man and this engrossing tale of a New York mayor who happens to have formerly been the world's only superhero, Brian K. Vaughan more than earns his reputation as one of the most creative and compelling writers in comics today.
 
6. Astro City: Local Heroes (Wildstorm/DC)
One colleague of ours once playfully dubbed Astro City writer Kurt Busiek "the Raymond Carver of superhero comics." Certainly these short stories, filled with believable characters undergoing moving epiphanies, are as thoughtful and literary as superhero comics get -- and that's a lot.
7. The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck (Gemstone)
You don't need to be a huge fan of the late, great Carl Barks to enjoy his successor Don Rosa's loving tribute to Barks' classic Scrooge McDuck stories. Nor do you have to be a kid to appreciate this thoroughly charming "origin story" worthy, we dare say, of Barks himself.
 
8. Marvel 1602 (Marvel)
In anyone else's hands, 1602's high-concept premise -- the heroes of Marvel Comics' early years transposed to the early 1600s -- could have been a disaster. Neil Gaiman, however, crafts a winning tale that draws on the same knack for historical-based fantasy that made his Sandman an instant classic.
9. Green Lantern: Rebirth (DC)
As he did with Hawkman, Geoff Johns salvages a beloved character tarnished by questionable decisions on the part of past writers and editorial staffs. The ease with which he plausibly (and lovingly) restores this classic hero to glory shows why he's DC's brightest star these days.
 
10. We3 (Vertigo/DC)
This odd mini-series from Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely is a charming novelty about domestic pets transformed by the U.S. government into cybernetic killing machines. The unique premise wears thin pretty early, but if you don't look too hard for plausibility or deep meaning, the fertile imagination on display warrants repeat visits.
 
Notable near misses:
 
  • The New Avengers: Breakout (Marvel): Brian Michael Bendis begins his overhaul of Marvel's premier (if under-appreciated) superteam, adding a welcome underdog edge and shadings of sinister conspiracy.
  • Marvel Knights 4 Vol. 2: The Stuff of Nightmares (Marvel): Playwright Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa continues his own Marvel overhaul, this one of the Fantastic Four, concentrating on the team's human side instead of cosmic action. The best FF book published today.
  • Marvel Team-Up Vol. 1: The Golden Child (Marvel): Robert Kirkman lets his silly side loose on this team-up book, but it's not just silliness for its own sake. Moments of quiet, comic humanity prove that Marvel should give him his own Spider-Man title, pronto.
  • Ultimate Galactus Book 1: Nightmare (Marvel): While a bit slow-moving, this first volume of Warren Ellis' Ultimate-world take on Marvel's cosmic, planet-eating antagonist has all the twists and technological jargon we expect from him. Much better than the disappointing second installment.
  • Ultimates 2 Vol. 1: Gods and Monsters (Marvel): More wide-screen action and intrigue from Mark Millar and Bryan Hitch, whose Ultimate take on the Avengers proves they're a team as formidable as Morrison and Quitely. We'll try to keep an open mind, but we'll be sad when this title passes into the much more conventional, mainstream hands of Jeph Loeb and Joe Maduera.

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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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