The past ten years of the comic book industry have been insane, to say the least, as superhero films dominate the landscape, and creator-owned books exploded on Kickstarter. With advances in technology, and our ability to connect with creators all over the globe; it has never been easier to create and publish a comic book than now. For this reason, I’m so proud of our diverse group of books below. These are Monkeys Fighting Robots’ favorite books from the past decade.
Every “Best of the Decade” list you read this year will feature Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staple’s Saga. You may even be sick of hearing people praise Saga over the past seven years. But there’s a reason comics fans won’t shut up about Saga: it deserves the acclaim. The world (or rather universe) Staples and Vaughan built is beautiful, vibrant, and interesting. The characters feel real and relatable despite their horns, wings, and television heads. The story is full of hope and love, but it doesn’t shy away from the darker, uglier side of life that we all must face. Plus, it has so many twists and turns that Saga never feels stale or boring. It’s endlessly readable; every time a new volume comes out, I find myself re-reading the entire series from the start, and it always fills me with the same sense of wonder. Through the intergalactic war and fantastic creatures that fill it, Saga is a quintessential comic on what it means to be human. It may be a more conventional pick, but Saga is, without a doubt, one of the best comics of the last decade, and with half the story still untold, it’ll be one of the best of the next decade to boot.
X-Men: Grand Design (Treasury Edition)
Ten years is A LOT of comics, and choosing one is a difficult task. So I went with the book I was most excited about, and that ended up delivering on all fronts: Ed Piskor’s X-Men Grand Design: Treasury Edition. As impressive as the single issues of Piskor’s love letter to the X-Men are, the collected and oversized Treasury Edition is my favorite physical comic book of the decade. The book harkens back to the classic Treasury Editions of the 70s yet also, due to the art and artist involved, gives off an almost Drawn and Quarterly/Fantagraphics indie comics vibe. It’s a perfect fusion of indie and mainstream comics in a gorgeous package. This edition also includes Piskor’s recoloring of the original X-Men #1. Piskor’s colors on Kirby’s pencils are sublime. Hopefully, this book sparks a whole slew of Grand Design books that keep this format and vibe. These are the kind of projects that keep comics fresh, viable, and exciting! Read more comics!
In case you haven’t noticed, ‘80s nostalgia has been a bit of a thing in recent years. While reliving the past can be nice, Paper Girls is a story that uses nostalgia as a lens through which we can better understand a broader truth about growing up, as well as the nature of nostalgia itself. Throughout this thirty-issue run, creators Brian K. Vaughn and Cliff Chiang deliver an incredibly inventive, fast-paced story, all brought to life with rich, stylish artwork. It’s the characterization, though, that makes the series so compelling. Each personality populating this world feels like a real, rounded person. These characters forge genuine emotional connections with the reader. This is the element that ultimately makes the theme of the inevitability of change—and the fact that change isn’t a bad thing—resonate so powerfully.
As many jokes as there may be about Tom King’s constant focus on PTSD and its ensuing nihilistic depression, there’s no scoffing at the effectiveness of Mister Miracle. King and artist Mitch Gerards’ 12-issue maxi-series about the chaotic emotional state of Scott Free, a.k.a. Mister Miracle is one of the most beautifully constructed comic series in recent memory. The opening plot point with Scott Free supposedly attempting to “escape” death itself is the catalyst for a year-spanning tale about survivor’s guilt, trauma, love, and fatherhood. Free, realistically, is trying to escape his haunting existence after being raised in the pits of Apokolips. Moments of frightening doubt and questionable reality are intercut by strange deadpan humor and uplifting scenes of emotional beauty. Scott and Barda’s relationship is one of the best working romances ever presented in the medium. Watching them go from dealing with Scott’s attempted suicide to waging war on the armies of Apokalips and back to deciding on a home remodel is a constantly reassuring and emotionally uplifting treat. King and Gerards take Jack Kirby’s classic creation to storytelling heights that Kirby himself could scarcely imagine. “Darkseid Is” is the calling card for the surrounding darkness that Free, and potentially anyone who reads the series, can succumb to under just the wrong circumstances. The entire rest of the series, however, is the response to it. It offers up the conclusion that yes, Darkseid is, but we can exist and thrive in spite of it.
The Superannuated Man
Unlike the 1990s, which turned into a quagmire for comic book fans, the last ten years have gone from strength to strength with arguably some of the best comics coming out in the later years of the decade. We’ve seen milestone issues like Action Comics #1000, surprise endings from The Walking Dead, and ground-breaking concepts like Building Stories by Chris Ware. To pick just one comic, or even a single series, from all on offer, is a mammoth task. Therefore I have selected a personal favorite, an underrated miniseries whose first issue was released in June 2014: The Superannuated Man.
Ted McKeever writes, draws, and potentially lives in the bizarre future world of The Supprannuated Man, where a lone human is merely trying to survive in a dystopian landscape of talking animals and existential blame. While post-apocalyptic landscapes are two a penny, McKeever has created a philosophical examination of what makes us human and the natural evolution of the world around us.
Highly detailed black and white artwork drag you through the poetic yet grotesque world, which is haunted by memories of the present day. At some level, we are all being left behind, and The Superannuated Man is about how we cope and adapt.
As the world of comics expands and more people fall in love with the sequential arts, there will be greater demand for something new, something different. Comics like The Superannuated Man, although not appealing to a large crowd, can now find an audience. And the fact that vanity projects such as this exist is proof that the industry is changing for the better.
Jason Jeffords Jr
Picking my favorite comic of the decade might have been the hardest thing I’ve done all year, what’s even harder is having only a few sentences to portray why said comic is deserving of such an award. Let’s not waste any more sentences on why God-Puncher by Lane Lloyd is one of the best comics of the decade. Starting out, you may notice that you’ve never heard of God-Puncher; this is due to it being self-published by Lloyd himself, giving him the freedom to do whatever he pleases. This creative freedom is God-Puncher’s strong suit, yet one hardship the comic faces, as a world filled to the brim of comic publishing overshadows the self-published creators.
So much could be said about the issues of God-Puncher released so far, yet the most important fact is: how fun each issue is and how it embraces the energy of what comics are. Lloyd’s creative art and chaotic story shine beautifully through each panel he has painstakingly made all of them by himself. Each facet of the comic shows his love, admiration, and understanding of the medium. By the time you’re caught up on God-Puncher, you’ll fall in love with the world of self-published comics. You’ll realize there’s a vast world out there of comics waiting to be discovered that are self-published. God-Puncher changed the way I look at comics, which has only happened once before.
The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl
Comedy is hard. Comedy in comics can be even harder. Yet, somehow the Unbeatable Squirrel Girl found a way to make me laugh with every issue I read. Either by taking a character some would have labeled as a “D-Lister” and have her take a selfie after defeating Galactus, have to reject Mole Man trying to court her, or the time she legitimately went on a date with a Sentinel, it was impossible not find joy in this series. Squirrel Girl was just a fun character to watch, go on adventures who would not get swept up in title changing events, and instead would just leave the reader with a smile thanks to puns, meta-commentary, and cliff note jokes which were easy to miss but a joy to read. Also, just one word: Kra-Van. Google it and thank me later.
Omega Men: The End is Here
When I pick out comics to read, I usually go for the ones I think I would be entertained by first. I don’t often seek out the comics that make me sit and think about the world outside those colorful pages. That all changed when I picked up the first issue of Tom King’s Omega Men. From that first issue, we were brought into a darker universe than we have ever seen in DC Comics. A universe where morality was not black and white, but gray. Where heroes were just as despicable as the villains, and their victories just caused more problems to the universe at large. It was only after I finished the last issue of the series did it make me look to the world at large. This comic truly opened my mind to such issues that plague our world today. It’s one that will make you look at our world and make you see shades of gray. The Omega Men series is truly one of the best comics of the decade.
The Mighty Thor
This decade has brought with it dozens of memorable comic issues and series. But few had the impact that the Mighty Thor did, at least as far as I’m concerned. Jason Aaron’s run took some serious risks with a beloved character, handing over the mantle of Thor to a new hero – or rather, heroine. Jane Foster as Thor may have been a surprise for many, but in hindsight, it fit her character perfectly. Think about how driven she’s always been, and it all falls into place. The Mighty Thor brought with it some serious impact and several new readers. Jane Foster’s Thor was emotional and brilliant, one that invited conversation and debate. I was always impressed by the creative team behind the project, taking on so much heat through social media, and yet never once backing down from their story. The Mighty Thor was intense, showing us the costs of being a hero, all while giving us a Jane Foster determined to do what was right. And it’s a plot that’s going to stick, forever in my heart.
Like the manic scribbles of a middle school student making his own Death of Superman comic in the margins of a math test (the results of which is better than any book published by one of the big two), Michel Fiffe has taken the comics that he loves and made them into something worth reading. That sounds bad, like I’m bad-mouthing mainstream comics. I’m not. It’s just; Copra stands above so much in the superhero genre.
Fiffe has internalized all comics, pre-bubble-burst, and filtered it through a heavy dose of Clowes, Burns, and their ilk. Never letting COPRA’s ever-escalating action get in the way of small character moments and giving us deeply interesting characters whose growths and deaths mean something from issue to issue.
When I found COPRA, I was pretty bummed on comics. I couldn’t find anything that made me want to stay in the game. Nothing that made me want to make comics. Now, COPRA is one of the books that I keep close, a source of inspiration, a gold standard of self-publishing, and the constant reminder that it only takes one person to make a comic.
What was your favorite book of the past decade? Comment below with your thoughts.