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Best of the Decade – Eric’s Top Ten Graphic Novels for the Oughts

These are not necessarily the best of the best of ’00 to ’09. I’m sure I’ve forgotten a tonne and missed even more. And I know for a fact that I am heavily biased towards any character in a cape. Take the following with a grain of salt. In no particular order:

* Mark Millar became my new writer-to-watch when I discovered Wanted (Top Cow Comics, 2003/2004). Forget the movie adaptation; an Earth run by super-villains is both intriguing and violent. Our “hero” is a failure of a man, until he’s informed he’s the son of the world’s greatest killer. Then the bullets fly. But he’s also on my watch list because of…
* …The Civil War mini-series (Marvel Comics, 2006/2007). All super-people are blamed for the tragic deaths of hundreds of civilians. America demands government control: the Super-Human Registration Act. Any Cape that does not publicly register their secret identity is branded a traitor. Teams are torn apart, bizarre allegiances are made. And it all leads up to some of the darkest moments in Marvel history.

* Neil Gaiman, whose works are often more dreamlike than super-heroic, surprised everyone with his re-envisioning of the Marvel universe. Four hundred years early. Marvel 1602 (Marvel Comics, 2003) takes our post-modern Capes and places them in the court of Queen Elizabeth. Beautifully illustrated and curiously plotted, this tale remains true to the characters and yet true to the period.
* Speaking of history, Alan Moore‘s League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (America’s Best Comics, 2000 / Top Shelf, 2002) is a mash-up of the best Victorian adventure tales . Like most of Moore’s work, the first two volumes are compelling and clever, but quickly turns indulgent and weird. Nonetheless, this series dazzles with its literary references.

* More modern, and for Canadian content, check out Darwyn Cooke’s DC: the New Frontier (DC comics, 2004). Two volumes summarize the entire Silver Age of DC comics…15 years in a solid, 50’s kitch epic!

* And looking to the future, WE3 (new copies to be ordered) (Vertigo, 2004) is Grant Morrison’s terrifying take on the future of war. Imagine: An Incredible Journey (Carl Burger, 1961) where the pets are armed with guns and cyber-implants! Bloody and tragic, and sadly not outside the realm of possibility. But then, who wouldn’t want a robo-bunny with grenades?

* Fables and Jack of Fables, by Bill Willingham (Vertigo, 2002). See my previous post to know how much I love these series.
Fans of fairy tales, legends and lore, myth, magic and mayhem will find exactly all these things and more in the on-going comic book series Fables.

* Fans of writer/director/producer Joss Whedon received two amazing surprises in the Oughts. With his TV show Buffy the Vampire Slayer canceled in its 7th season, the gang re-appeared in Buffy: Season 8 (Dark Horse Comics, 2007). What happens to the world when any girl could be a slayer? What happens when vampires become media darlings? What happens when the military declares war on magic? And also from Joss Whedon

* …Astonishing X-Men Series 3 (Marvel comics, 2004). Spanning four volumes, the world’s mightiest mutants revel in John Cassaday’s wonderful art and Whedons exceptional writing. The team reforms, new and old villains arise, a dead hero returns and another dies. And Wolverine makes dollies.

* Last on my list (and quite possibly my number 1) is an entirely new series, practically its own brand. Running strong since its inception in 2000, Ultimate Marvel is a re-imagining of key characters, distilled and modernized. Top-rated artists and writers bring classic super-human stories to a new generation by darkening the heroes, sympathizing with the villains, and telling tales avoided in the core Marvel series.

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