Best Comics of the Decade

We tackle the impossible and offer you the best of the last ten years.

Joey Espositoby Joey Esposito

Best Comics of the Decade

Since the 00’s are over and done with (thank God), the internets are currently being flooded with every fool’s opinion of the best of everything from these last, horrible, utterly disgusting ten years. While clearly I am no different, comics are the fuel to my fire, and the greatest sequential achievements in the last decade cannot go unrecognized. 

While Erik went with the most influential games for his collection of Best Games of the Decade, I will be going a different route. Surely, these are the books that will influence the next generation  of comic book scribes, but they are not necessarily a revolution in and of themselves. Plain and simple, whether they be a mini-series, graphic novel or a certain creator’s run on a monthly book, these are the comics that made one of the worst decades in human history worth shoveling through. 
Obviously, there are some things missing on this list. It’s impossible to include everything. Get over it. But as always, feel free to yell at us and let us know if we missed something that you hold near and dear to your heart so we can laugh and look down upon you. Kidding.
Without further ado, I present the Best Comics of the Decade… in no particular order. Come on, that’d just be asking too much. 

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Brian Bendis & Alex Maleev’s Daredevil

Daredevil #62

Bendis and Maleev’s Daredevil, in the opinions of many, is the pinnacle of Marvel’s superhero storytelling in the last decade. Existing within Marvel continuity but with little-to-no relevance of the ongoing happenings of the main Marvel Universe, Daredevil in the hands of these creators was dramatic, intense, and one hell of a ride. 

Bendis began his work on Daredevil with the arc "Wake Up" in 2001 in issues #16-19 (with artist David Mack) but really kicked off when Maleev came aboard with issue #26 for "Underboss", and the ride didn’t end until five years later, amazing every step of the way. 


Y: The Last Man
Y: The Last Man #15

Undoubtedly one of Vertigo’s greatest achievements in the last ten years is Brian K. Vaughan and Pia Guerra’s Y: The Last Man. One of the few comics to ever cause me to shed tears, that feat alone earns it a place amongst the decade’s illustrious few, though Vaughan’s knack for exciting storytelling and characterization.

Aside from constructing a beautifully tragic tale about the last man on Earth, Vaughan used the 60 issues of Y to explore things like woman’s rights, sexuality, environmentalism and technology. In essence, Y is the definition of an "important" comic. 


Identity Crisis
Identity Crisis #7

On the cover of 2004’s Identity Crisis #1, there is a line of text that reads "The comics event of the year begins here!" Instead, it should have read "The future of the DCU begins here!" For real, I think I might be able to draw you a flow chart cataloging the events of the modern DC Universe, and they all stem back to Brad Meltzer and Rags Morales’ Identity Crisis. Sure, most nerds can trace current events back decades, but as far as I’m concerned, it’s Identity Crisis that lead us where we are today.

Essentially, this is the inciting incident for the dissolution of trust within the Justice League, as Sue Dibny is murdered and her rape by, and the subsequent mind-wiping of, Dr. Light is revealed. It raised a lot of questions about superhero ethics – not exactly a new idea, but again, lead us directly into things like "Crisis of Conscience", Infinite Crisis52, and so on. 

Coming off of major crossover events like Our Worlds at War and Emperor JokerIdentity Crisis was a subdued, character driven change of pace that has paved the way for the company ever since.

Jimmy Corrigan, the Smartest Kid on Earth
Jimmy Corrigan

I’ve pushed it over and over again, including Crave’s Top 10 Best Indie Comics and our Top 10 Most Depressing Comic Book Characters (among many other places), but it’s for a reason. Chris Ware’s Jimmy Corrigan might be the greatest work of literature this decade, let alone the comic book medium. Sure, it’s actually collected from it’s serialization from throughout the 1990’s in Acme Novelty Library, but the 2000 graphic novel is the fruits of Ware’s labor.

Not only is Jimmy himself an unfortunately relatable character, but Ware’s cartooning style is unique and insanely intricate. It’s a dense read that, in my opinion, can never receive enough praise, and you’ll surely be seeing it pop up on "best of" lists everywhere.

The Filth

The Filth

Trying to explain the plot of Grant Morrison and Chris Weston’s The Filth is like trying to explain physics to a bird and expecting them not to shit on your head afterwards. The Filth tackles a wealth of ideas from Morrison’s brilliant, seedy little mind, including, but not limited to, pornological terrorism, different realities, art’s effect on life, negative forces, and giant, enormous sperm. 

I honestly wish that I could further explain what makes the book so great, but it’s simply impossible in this space. It would turn into a five page essay, and I’m not sure the tweet-tastic audience of this day and age has the patience to read such a tome from me. Just know, that reading The Filth will forever effect the way you watch pornography.




I debated including Planetary on this list, since the series actually started in 1999, but I figured, as the only entry to be released (in increments) over the span of the entire decade in question, it had earned its spot. That’s right folks, Planetary #1 debuted in April of 1999 and just finished this past October with issue #27. That’s approximately 2.4 issues a year.

Regardless of the shipping schedule, Planetary put John Cassaday on the map and cemented Warren Ellis as one of comics’ best writers. Planetary‘s clever mix of self-referential pop culture  and an overarching story of a group of "archeologists" devoted to unraveling the untold history of our world. 

Though one of WildStorm’s most critically acclaimed series is also its more severely erratic, the impact of Planetary amongst fans is undeniable. 




Back in 2006, in the wake of Infinite Crisis, the entire DC Universe did a "One Year Later" jump into the future, and some drastic changes were made. To fill in that gap, DC commissioned four of comics’ preeminent writers – Grant Morrison, Greg Rucka, Mark Waid, and Geoff Johns – to fill that gap with an unprecedented 52 issue, year long, weekly comic book series. And my, what a success it was.

With Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman out of the picture, the B-listers of the DCU got a chance to shine and along the way gave us one of the most unique comic book experiences in the last ten years. It shipped on time, week after week, delivered consistently without ever feeling drawn out, and gave us a shitload of gorgeous covers from JG Jones. 

Though it inspired a bevy of projects that would follow, including the recently announced Brightest Day, none of them could surpass the epic nature and pure quality of 52.

Joss Whedon and John Cassaday’s Astonishing X-Men

Astonishing X-Men

Sweet, holy hell. I’ve said it before, and surely, I’ll say it again. Whedon and Cassaday’s run of Astonishing is the end of the line. There is no X-Men story that could ever come close to it. None. It’s epic, it’s emotional, it has substance. For all of the race/gender/civil rights issues that should go along with being a mutant, it’s surprising how many X-tales wind up being no more than pseudo-science garbage. 

Which is why, the changes and developments that these characters go through – ones we’ve known for years – are so significant. Whedon makes them mean something, and more importantly, he writes the characters as real people instead of superheroes. Astonishing is not unlike Daredevil in that it is everything a superhero comic has the potential of being, except on the other end of the spectrum. Instead of the grit of Hell’s Kitchen, we get the vastness of outer space. In place of beating the hell out of people with sticks, people are punished with laser blasts and adamantium claws. 

If you happen to be reading this list in the hopes of finding an entry point for comic books and have always liked the X-Men, be it from the cartoons or the movies, I warn you: do not start here. Why? Because everything you read afterwards will simply pale in comparison. Of course, most would start with Chris Claremont’s Uncanny X-Men, but I want you to actually continue reading comics, not be turned off from the whole idea. 


The Walking Dead

The Walking Dead #50

When Robert Kirkman started The Walking Dead with Image Comics back in 2003, America was on the cusp of a zombie-genre resurgence, hot off of Danny Boyle’s 28 Days Later and looking forward to the Dawn of the Dead remake (zombies are fast now!!), not to mention genre send-ups like Shawn of the Dead. Of course, zombies in comics are nothing new either, but when a fad comes along (like current times and vampires) and all different mediums follow suit, there’s only a few properties that remain in the filter once the sand drains through. 

The Walking Dead is one of those properties. While the series certainly has its fair share of blood and guts, the real triumph of this series is Kirkman’s focus on the human condition. Most zombie stories are content showing the reader or viewer the gore and stopping there, but The Walking Dead instead chooses to follow through with the damaging effects that come along with blasting zombies for an existence. 

One of my favorite parts about the book is that it’s rendered in black and white; it takes attention not away from the art, but from the expectation of superfluous blood and gore that comes along with the title, leaving you instead to enjoy the drama.

Another great graphic novel work that was included on our Top 10 Best Indie Comics list, Craig Thompson’s Blankets, published by Top Shelf, is a deeply personal look at the author’s own "coming-of-age". It’s well written and more importantly, beautifully drawn. The themes here are certainly nothing new – spirituality, sexuality, family, love – but it is in Thompson’s ability to articulate his experiences that draw upon excellence. 

I love Blankets because it’s unlike a lot of other things I’ve included on this list. It’s not about "the big picture". There’s no metaphysical discussion or exploration of archetypes or ethical dilemmas. It’s simply an artist doing his best to express the most immediate and arguably the most important occurrence of all: growing up.


X-Men: Magneto Testament

X-Men: Magneto Testament

The recent recipient of our illustrious Best Mini-Series of 2009 award, Magneto Testament is a heart wrenching look at the origin of one of Marvel’s most popular villains. Set mostly in the concentration camps of World War II, Testament is historically accurate and for the most part, hardly recognizable as an X-Men tale at all. 
There are only a few subtle allusions to Magneto’s mutant abilities, and that was a wise choice from writer Greg Pak. His choice to focus on the humanity, and horror, of Magneto’s time in the Nazi camps is what gives Testament its impact, while being respectful to the non-fictional accounts of the Holocaust. 

Grant Morrison’s Batman

Batman RIP

When Grant Morrison started writing duties on Batman back in 2006, I knew that he’d have some crazy stories to tell, but I never imagined that four years later he’d still be telling them. Since his run began, Morrison has concocted the most elaborate intertwining of events ever seen in a Batman book, referencing things in the very beginning of his run that wouldn’t be seen by readers until years down the road.
Beginning with "Batman & Son", leading through "RIP", Final CrisisBatman & Robin and the upcoming The Return of Bruce Wayne, the "death" of Batman may not have been what some expected, but it’s the most original and engrossing look at The Dark Knight since Morrison’s own Arkham Asylum
Those of you that have bashed Morrison’s Batman work; I urge you to re-read the entire run. This is what comic book storytelling is all about. Morrison has realized the potential of using the monthly periodical format to pace his story, slowly building up the ultimate villain with the ultimate conspiracy, all the while showcasing the essence of Bruce Wayne and his never ending battle against injustice. 
DC: The New Frontier

DC: The New Frontier

Darwyn Cooke is one of the best cartoonists working in comics, and we should all be thankful that he’s chosen to work with superheroes. The New Frontier is not only one of the most beautifully drawn books in the last decade, it’s one of the best analyzations of both the superhero archetype and American culture that comics gave us these past ten years.
Set against the backdrop of the Cold War, Senator McCarthy’s red-hunting Un-American Activities Committee, and the space race, New Frontier tackles the DC Universe in a transitional phase from the Golden Age to the Silver Age, as the heroes of old are frowned upon, but a new generation of capes and cowls await their time to shine.

Ex Machina

Ex Machina #46

Brian K. Vaughan strikes again (along with artist Tony Harris) this decade with Ex Machina, bringing his character building skills and witty dialog to a post-9/11 New York City. When Mitchell Hundred, former superhero vigilante and savior of the second tower during the terrorist attacks, is elected as mayor, political intrigue and civil rights discussions ensue.
In much the same way as Vaughan’s own Y: The Last ManEx Machina truly has everything. It’s funny but with a political punch, it’s got super heroics and complicated relationships. And just as the cause of the gendercide is the overarching anchor of Y, the source of Mitchell’s abilities to speak to machines is Ex Machina‘s. 
This isn’t a book meant only for the politically savvy, and it’s also not preachy nor a soapbox for Vaughan’s own agenda. It’s a story with characters that are confronting the same issues that the rest of the world was, and still is, dealing with after this decade took a turn for the worst. 

Umbrella Academy

Umbrella Academy: Dallas

I’m ashamed to say that my bigotry towards the music of My Chemical Romance and their brethren kept Umbrella Academy off my radar for quite some time, as I stupidly believed that Gerard Way (lead singer of My Chemical Romance) could not possibly present me anything of value. Sure, Gabriel Ba was the artist, but still. Then I found myself flipping through the trade paperback when it came out only to find a foreword from my lord and savior, Grant Morrison. I bought the book on the spot.
I’d like to offer my official apologies to Gerard Way, Gabriel Ba, and Dark Horse Comics for ever doubting them. 
Umbrella Academy is a series with unlimited potential and quirky, original characters that are unlike anything you’ve ever read before. With a story being told in six issue runs, we’ve only gotten two of them thus far, Apocalypse Suite and Dallas, both of which seem to be only the tip of the iceberg on where this series could be headed. 
Way’s writing and Ba’s handiwork are quite literally a match made in heaven, and I hope their partnership continues through this upcoming decade as well.