Best 100 Comics of 2008, Part V

Fri, January 2nd, 2009 at 8:58am PST | Updated: January 4th, 2009 at 8:21pm

Comic Books
CBR News Team, Editor

This year was another in a decade brimming with awesome talent and fiercely entertaining work from all areas of the comic book industry. A small number of staffers attempting to identify one or two titles as the best of a stellar year like 2008 would be a disservice to CBR readers, so this year we polled every single CBR contributor to create our list of the 100 Best Comics of 2008, which we will unveil twenty items at-a-time over the next five days.

CBR’s list was compiled after the entire staff submitted their individual picks for the best books of the year – ongoing series, miniseries, one-shots and graphic novels published in and throughout 2008. No limitations on genres or publishers were imposed, and the ranking was determined by democratic vote. All editorial remarks represent only the views of those to whom they are attributed.

NOTE: Some items -- such as “Y: The Last Man,” which was recognized in this feature last year -- released only one or two installments in the very early days of 2008, and thus do not appear on this list. Such items were not deemed ineligible; their absence here reflects reader consciousness of these comics as being, for all intents and purposes, highlights of 2007.

If you missed items #100-21, check them out: Part 1, Part II, Part III, Part IV.

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#20. LOVE AND ROCKETS: NEW STORIES
Written and illustrated by Los Bros Hernandez
Publisher: Fantagraphics Books

On the cusp of hard economic times and industry uncertainty, comics' greatest family release a book that boldly declares they're absolutely unstoppable. Embracing a new annual graphic novel format without blinking an eye would be astonishing enough for longtime pamphlet serializers Los Bros. Hernandez, but not to be outdone, Jaime, Gilbert and Mario back up their commercial smarts with fresh, engrossing art. After spending the past two years dishing out new comics like a priest hands out Eucharist on Sunday morning, Gilbert fires off more exciting and varied stories than most cartoonists could dream up in five years. And what's left to say about Jaime's gorgeous Penny Century superhero tale aside from the fact that it puts Marvel and DC's output to shame and has fun doing it? - Staff Writer Kiel Phegley


#19. THE AMAZING REMARKABLE MONSIEUR LEOTARD
Written by Eddie Campbell & Dan Best
Illustrated by Eddie Campbell
Publisher: First Second

For people who only know Campbell as the artist of "From Hell," you're missing on Eddie the Campbell the writer (who is brilliant). And if you only know Campbell as a black-and-white artist because you haven't read his recent books from First Second, then you're missing out on the Eddie Campbell who masterfully paints his books. This is strange, dream-like and beautiful and gleeful and a little hard to describe, but hard to forget. - Contributing Writer Alex Deuben

Since landing at First Second, Eddie Campbell's output includes an intensely experimental and somewhat obtuse memoir in "The Fate of the Artist" and perhaps the best ever attempt at crassly turning a movie pitch into a graphic novel to whet Hollywood's appetite in "The Black Diamond Detective Agency." With "Monsieur Leotard," Campbell and Australian writer Best straddle the line between passion project and commercial concern to perfection while delivering the funniest book of the year. The tale of the mustachioed heir to a famed trapeze legacy and his misfit circus troop's misadventures through history somehow coalesces into an affecting tale of what happens when high ambition meets low talent. Plus: farting elephant jokes. - Staff Writer Kiel Phegley


#18. GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY
Written by Dan Abnett & Andy Lanning
Illustrated by Paul Pelletier & Rick Magyar
Publisher: Marvel Comics

Let's add to that heading colorist GURUeFX, letterer Joe Caramagna and editor Bill Rosemann. Every person involved with this book deserves credit for putting together one of the most entertaining rides in comics. A team filled with truly unique characters swashbuckling through the reinvigorated Marvel cosmos. It’s like "Starship Troopers" meets "Ice Pirates." - Contributing Writer Brian LeTendre

These creators took a ragtag bunch of Marvel Universe cosmic also-rans and made me actually care. This title was consistently high-caliber with explosive action, big screen flavor and unpredictable storytelling. The fact that it maintained a monthly pace with such amazing creative output is to be commended and put on display for comic creators everywhere as a high water mark. - Reviewer Doug Zawisza


#17. BOOSTER GOLD
Written by Geoff Johns & Keff Katz, Chuck Dixon, Rick Remender, Dan Jurgens
Illustrated by Dan Jurgens & Norm Rapmund, Pat Oliffe
Publisher: DC Comics

Beginning the year with the sensational “Blue & Gold” arc that saw the temporary return of Ted Kord’s Blue Beetle, Johns and Katz left the book by summer’s end, turning over writing duties to the secure hands of artist and original creator Dan Jurgens. The book's humor and loving nod to the “good old days” of the Justice League International made this comic more fun to read than most of its competition this year. - Staff Writer Jami Philbreck

One of the most enjoyable books published by DC, and even though the creative team shifted over the course of the year, the book remained on-target every single month. - Contributing Writer Justin Eger


#16. NORTHLANDERS
Written by Brian Wood
Illustrated by Davide Gianfelice, Dean Ormston, Ryan Kelly, Massimo Carnevale
Publisher: Vertigo

"Northlanders" is a grim and gritty comic book where the grime and grit fits the time perfectly, as each story arc examines a different era in Viking history - Brian Wood masterfully sets up his characters and puts them into engaging stories that, due to the anthology-esque format, allows him to produce comic books with “true” endings. The freedom that comes with that is marvelous. The artists have been quite strong, as well - this year we’ve seen Davide Gianfelice, Dean Ormston and Ryan Kelly with great covers by Massimo Carnevale. - Brian Cronin, Blog Manager - Comics Should Be Good


#15. OMEGA: THE UNKNOWN
Written by Jonathan Letham & Karl Rusnak
Illustrated by Farel Dalrymple, Gary Panter
Publisher: Marvel Comics

If Steve Gerber's 'Omega' was an abandoned proto-masterpiece, then this version is a fugue on the strangeness of superheroes, playing with the Superman/Batman tropes through the lens of a Bronze Age New York City. In other words, it's a brilliantly odd comic, and it looks like nothing else Marvel has released in recent memory. - Columnist/Reviewer Timothy Callahan

I'm still amazed Marvel put out such an odd and idiosyncratic book--and still thankful they did. "Omega: The Unknown" was a breath of fresh air as it explored issues of identity, conformity, isolation and friendship while maintaining superficial elements of the superhero genre. Farel Dalrymple's art is beautiful and did such a wonderful job, especially in the final issue. - Reviewer Chad Nevett

I’ve already read the series three times and I still don’t know what it was all about but there was no other book that I wanted to get my hands on each month more than this one. - Staff Writer Jeffrey Renaud


#14. GREEN LANTERN
Written by Geoff Johns
Illustrated by Ivan Reis & Oclair Albert, Mike McKone, Various
Publisher: DC Comics

Geoff John's has finally made Green Lantern what he always should have been for DC: a flagship title. This is superhero comics storytelling of the highest order. My prediction? The GL Corps will dominate comics in 2009 and plant DC toe-to-toe with Marvel in a fight-to-the-death cage match! - Columnist Jud Meyers


#13. CASANOVA
Written by Matt Fraction
Illustrated by Fabio Moon, Gabriel Bá
Publisher: Image Comics

Six pages less than most monthly comics and "Casanova" still had twice the content in each issue. Matt Fraction and Fabio Moon made the second year of "Casanova" a true joy to read each month with rich characters and inventive stories (in content and technique), culminating in a perfect climax. Not just one of the best books of 2008, but one of the best books of the century so far. - Reviewer Chad Nevett

Issue #14 is the single best comic book of the year, shocking and wonderful in all the best ways. This is a series that will be looked at as a milestone of the decade. - Columnist/Reviewer Timothy Callahan


#12. ACME NOVELTY LIBRARY
Written and illustrated by Chris Ware
Publisher: Drawn & Quarterly

Chris Ware, with every installment of his bookshelf series, proves that not only is he a remarkable visual craftsman, but he has evolved into the best writer of contemporary fiction making comics today. Parts John Updike, parts Rick Moody, parts David Foster Wallace; Ware has created an elaborate and truly literary showcase in "ACME Novelty Library." - Reviewer Benjamin Birdie

Chris Ware's tragic take on sci-fi splendor, in the midst of his 'Rusty Brown' mock-epic, is harrowing and grim. Like Ware's best work, it is beautiful in its sadness. - Columnist/Reviewer Timothy Callahan

Through issue #19's half science fiction adventure/half character study, Chris Ware gives us a great comic that appeals not only to Ware fans but also to those curious to see him go outside his comfort zone. He does so here, and he excels at it. - Brian Cronin, Blog Manager - Comics Should Be Good


#11. BATMAN
Written by Grant Morrison
Illustrated by Tony Daniel, Various
Publisher: DC Comics

Even if the climax of "Batman R.I.P." failed to live up to the impossible hype surrounding it -- much of it fostered by Morrison's own statements -- this comic was a must-read, must-analyze, must-discuss superhero serial. Any comic that can fit Bat-Mite, Zur-En-Arrh, the Club of Villains, and an assault on the Batcave into a handful of issues is more wonderful than you might realize. - Columnist/Reviewer Timothy Callahan

With the much-anticipated "Batman R.I.P." story line, Morrison's "Batman" broke his run with the Dark Knight out into a level of storytelling comparable with his best superhero efforts from "Seven Soldiers of Victory" to "All-Star Superman." In spinning the story of Batman's struggle to retain his own sanity and control in the face of the jaw-dropping double crosses perpetrated by mystery foes Dr. Hurt and The Black Glove, Morrison and rising star Tony Daniel delivered a pitch-perfect balance of pot-boiler mystery, horrific suspense thriller and over-the-top superhero tale all viewed through the prism of Bruce Wayne's greatest psychological strengths and weaknesses. Easily the best Batman story in a decade. - Staff Writer Kiel Phegley


#10. CAPTAIN BRITAIN AND MI-13
Written by Paul Cornell
Illustrated by Leonard Kirk, Bryan Hitch
Publisher: Marvel Comics

When you take the writer of some of the best episodes of the new “Doctor Who” television series, partner him with the acclaimed artist of Marvel's “Agents of Atlas," and give them an eclectic cast of intriguing characters, the result is “Captain Britain and MI-13” -- one of the best team books currently being published. - Staff Writer Dave Richards

The best thing to come out of "Secret Invasion" is this book about British superheroes and their fights against magical beings. With each issue, Paul Cornell and Leonard Kirk grow in skill and confidence, making seemingly C-list characters matter. - Reviewer Chad Nevett

By far the best new superhero title of 2008. - Staff Writer Shaun Manning


#9. BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER: SEASON EIGHT
Written by Joss Whedon, Drew Goddard, Jeph Loeb
Illustrated by Georges Jeanty, Karl Moline, Cliff Richards, Jo Chen
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics

The television series "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" always felt like a great comic book come to life, so it's only appropriate that it continued as a comic book after its TV life concluded. And with talent like Whedon and Goddard (and more!) writing the book, the characters' voices ring true. Or, as a Buffy fan might say, "Once More With Feeling..." - Staff Writer George A. Tramountanas

Buffy fans had big expectations for this series, and it has consistently delivered. The book captures the tone of the show perfectly, and Joss Whedon & Co. are taking advantage of the comics medium to tell epic stories. - Contributing Writer Brian LeTendre

It wasn’t enough that Whedon invited Drew Goddard and Jeph Loeb to play in the Buffyverse in 2008, but he also brought Fray into the fray with Karl Moline too. - Staff Writer Jeffrey Renaud


#8. RASL
Written and illustrated by Jeff Smith
Publisher: Cartoon Books

How does one of the cartooning geniuses of a generation follow up his life's work? If said cartoonist is Jeff Smith, he does it by flipping the proverbial bird to the young adult trappings and funny animal homages that made "Bone" an international comics phenomenon. The opening pages of his new sci-fi serial "RASL" introduce readers to the hard living, hard drinking world of its titular interdimensional art thief. And from the murder of a prostitute who may be the only person to understand him, RASL's story only grows deeper both in terms of its emotional character development and engaging plot dynamics. After only three issues of Smith's signature cartooning mastery, "RASL" is instantly addictive and possibly the last great indie serial we'll ever see in comics shops. - Staff Writer Kiel Phegley

Smith's first self-published work since "Bone" is exciting and crazy all in one, as our lead character leaps through dimensions to steal art, but rapidly finds himself being chased by someone or something determined to wipe him out. Those who only associate Smith with all-ages comics will be surprised (in a good way) with "RASL's" toughness. - Reviewer Greg McElhatton


#7. THE INCREDIBLE HERCULES
Written by Fred Van Lente & Greg Pak
Illustrated by Khoi Pham, Rafa Sandoval, Clayton Henry
Publisher: Marvel Comics

I never would have thought Hercules was one of the most interesting characters in the Marvel Universe, but Pak, Van Lente and their team of artists prove that every month in "The Incredible Hercules". The buddy book featuring Herc and his teen sidekick Amadeus Cho is exciting, thought provoking, poignant and best of all, very funny. - Staff Writer Dave Richards

Greg Pak and Fred Van Lente took a flagship Marvel book and character and summarily replaced him with a small time Avenger and his teenage sidekick. Surprising everyone, in doing so they created one of the most charming and oddly moving superhero books of the year. - Reviewer Benjamin Birdie

Greg Pak and Fred Van Lente gave the Lion of Olympus new life in a fun series that sprang forth from their collective foreheads. The art chores have been provided by a few different fellows, from Khoi Pham to Rafa Sandoval to Clayton Henry, but the storytelling has been consistent throughout. Hercules had a good year in 2008, becoming one f Marvel's surprise hits. With that under their belt, I expect 2009 to be even bigger for Herc and his buddy Amadeus Cho. - Reviewer Doug Zawisza


#6. THE UMBRELLA ACADEMY
Written by Gerard Way
Illustrated by Gabriel Bá
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics

It's been said so many times because it truly is that surprising: How on Earth did the singer of a wildly popular rock band end up being such a remarkably talented comic book writer? Alongside artist Gabriel Bá, My Chemical Romance's Gerard Way has created a bizarre and inventive universe of maudlin weirdos. Gorgeous and affecting, "The Umbrella Academy" is a million times better than anyone might have expected. - Reviewer Benjamin Birdie

Fans of Grant Morrison's "Doom Patrol" can rejoice, there is finally a spiritual heir to superhero weirdness that manages to be both fun and over the top at the same time. Way and Bá's "Umbrella Academy" manages to remind readers of Morrison's works while still keeping its own unique voice. And to think, Way originally gave up on comics because he couldn't get noticed. - Reviewer Greg McElhatton

Quite possibly the most original take on the superhero genre since the release of “Starman” #0 in 1994. - Staff Writer Jeffrey Renaud


#5. ACTION COMICS
Written by Geoff Johns
Illustrated by Gary Frank & Jon Sibal, Joe Prado, Jesus Merino
Publisher: DC Comics

Writer Geoff Johns synthesizes and updates in this almost dizzyingly kinetic series everything great and classic about Superman, while illustrator Gary Frank outdoes himself with his incredibly touching to tribute to the late Christopher Reeve, who we can now see flying far into the future and battling high-tech, super-powered tyrants in a way that we never could on film. - Staff Writer Andy Khouri

Geoff Johns and Gary Frank turned the Superman corner of the DC Universe on its ear in 2008 with a reintroduction of the Legion of Super-Heroes from the years of Clark Kent's youth. Add in an inspired reimagination of Brainiac and the tendrils still spinning out of that story and it is almost possible to overlook the fact that there was not a massive event to celebrate Superman's seventieth birthday this year. - Reviewer Doug Zawisza


#4. FABLES / JACK OF FABLES
Written by Bill Willingham, Matthew Sturges
Illustrated by Mark Buckingham, James Jean, Tony Akins, Russ Braun, Brian Bolland, Various
Publisher: Vertigo

What amazes me about this series is the way after so many years Willingham manages to make the book feel fresh. "Fables" is incredibly different from what it was a few years ago due to the characters' evolution, the passage of time, and now that the war against the Adversary has concluded, the book will likely change radically. I for one can't wait. - Contributing Writer Alex Deuben

Modern day storytelling at its finest using characters created in the 18th Century. For people who think “Battlestar Galactica” has come a long way in 30 years, you haven’t seen something re-imagined until you’ve read “Fables.” - Staff Writer Jeffrey Renaud

If you're not reading "Fables" and "Jack of Fables," you're missing out on the complete Fables mythology. These stories will suck you in and not let go. They're both the rare kind of comics that make you want to spend more time reading. - Staff Writer George A. Tramountanas


#3. SCALPED
Written by Jason Aaron
Illustrated by R.M. Guera, Jock
Publisher: Vertigo

Jason Aaron pulls no punches and is unafraid to really delve into his characters as they struggle with the reality of living on an Indian Reservation. - Reviewer Chad Nevett

So much more than just a Vertigo crime comic, Jason Aaron & R.M. Guerra's "Scalped" tells a complex story of family, corruption, and destiny. This is the best monthly series on the stands, and if you're not reading it, you are missing out on something special. - Columnist/Reviewer Timothy Callahan

I worried that Aaron's workload would cause this title to suffer. I worried he didn't have the skill to pull together this complex web of characters and to make them real. I worried he didn't have the balls to make this as dark and tragic a story as it demanded. Now I just read the book. - Contributing Writer Alex Deuben

Aaron and Guera's Native American crime saga, “Scalped” is the pulpy four-color equivalent of HBO's highly acclaimed series "The Wire." The intriguing cast of characters and powerful and often heart breaking stories make “Scalped” the best comic series I've read all year. - Staff Writer Dave Richards


#2. CRIMINAL
Written by Ed Brubaker
Illustrated by Sean Phillips
Publisher: Icon

Reaching new heights this year, Brubaker and Phillips's "Criminal" has become a nearly pitch-perfect crime comic. The crime genre essays in the back of each issue are the gravy on a delicious meal of lust, betrayal, murder, and irony. - Columnist/Reviewer Timothy Callahan

"Criminal" is bigger, better and harsher than ever with an opening trio of stories revolving around one heist, but told from three very unique perspectives. Those issues along would guarantee this book a spot on the list, but the follow-up, "Bad Night" proves that Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips can do noir stories with the best of them--and better than most. - Reviewer Chad Nevett

Comparing the other comics that Brubaker and Phillips make for Marvel to this one is like comparing lightning bugs to a lightning strike. This has become a must for crime fans not because it's an homage to film noir or great novels, but because it's vying for a place next to them on the shelves, because it understands people and every great crime story is a story about people. - Contributing Writer Alex Deuben

This creative team continues to prove that when it comes to crime comics, Brubaker and Phillips are second to none. A true ensemble book, in which a side character in one issue can be the lead in the next. “Criminal” shows us the dark side of humanity in its many and varied forms, and keeps us coming back for more. - Staff Writer Emmett Furey


#1. ALL STAR SUPERMAN
Written by Grant Morrison
Illustrated by Frank Quitely & Jamie Grant
Publisher: DC Comics

Morrison and Quitely's 12-issue run on "All Star Superman" had everything you'd ever want in a Superman comic; imaginative stories, beautiful art, and a continual sense of wonder that never faded for an instant. Were only all superhero comics this good, I doubt the genre would have many detractors. - Reviewer Greg McElhatton

Morrison and Quitely present the essential Superman, combining all the best bits of the old stories into something that is more than the sum of its parts. This is what Superman can be, should be, and so rarely is. - Columnist/Reviewer Timothy Callahan

Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely, in their now completed storyline "The Twelve Labors of Superman," have created arguably the best Superman story ever published. Towering ideas alongside pitch perfect character work all rendered by pretty much the best artist working in comics today makes "All Star Superman" a phenomenal achievement in the medium. - Reviewer Benjamin Birdie

TAGS:  best 100 comics of 2008, year in review

 
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