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Hi ho, happy readers it’s Jonny here!

Who even writes for this blog anymore? Certainly not us! Anyway, I just read a magnificent issue of Swamp Thing from the year 1996!

Clinton was in office and Dole wanted to oust him. Newt Gingrich had signed some weird “Contract with America” and the world of American politics was as nutty as ever. Apparently disgusted with himself, the comics industry, and left-wing socialist nut-jobs Mark Millar enlisted the incredible talents of Curt Swan to create this fascinating bit of satire.

If you’re familiar with Alan Moore or Rick Veitch’s work on Saga of the Swamp Thing then you know Chester Williams as an eco-friendly former hippie that loves tubers and teams up with the Swamp Thing to battle evil.

But that was before he saw the Contract!

Professor Chester Williams is at his apartment throwing a party with another professor and some of their students. The kids are dancing, drinking, getting high, and engaging in other immoral activities. After a living the hippie dream this party serves as a wake up call to Mr. Williams and he’s had enough! Chastising a young lady for strip-dancing at the party Chester proceeds to kill the music and call the cops on his students.

Disgusted with the loose living of these young liberals, Chester decides to join the NYPD and clean up America. After killing a few bank robbers (illegal immigrants no less!), saving a woman from being robbed [Ed. note: a “dyke,” who he then kisses so hard she goes straight and marries him], and plenty of good old fashioned liberal bashing, Chester receives word that the Swamp Thing is giving the world’s leaders an ultimatum: stop polluting or else! As an old friend of this Elemental, Officer Williams decides to pay a visit to Houma, LA to try and talk some sense into the old Swamp Hippie.

After a stern lesson on economics, the importance of international trade, and a plea for Swamp Thing to “grow up”, Chester convinces Swamp Thing that the earth doesn’t need a paradise and things are best left as they are. Chester then returns to New York where he defeats incumbent Bill Clinton and becomes President of the United States of America!

Conservative ideals win again!

Happy readings!

– Jonny

[Ed. note: Despite Mark Millar’s bizarre introduction to the issue claiming it is the first “clean issue in a sick run of an evil book put together by diseased individuals,” editor Stuart Moore later promises it was “an Elseworlds story” and “a bad trip or something.” Thank God.]

Over the past couple months, some people have been going batshit crazy over the fact that Kevin Keller (who is – wait for it – GAY) transferred to Riverdale High to spend eternity in high school with Archie and the gang. Granted, this is a big step for a property that allowed Spire Christian Comics to make a bunch of super-conservative comics starring the Riverdale gang back in the seventies, but there are plenty of other important (and often borderline offensive) gay moments in comics that the refreshingly normal Kevin Keller doesn’t even hold a candle to.

(10) Mikaal “Starman” Tomas joins the Justice League – Since its debut, the Justice League has been one of the least gay-friendly teams around. Considering how many members have come and gone from the team’s rosters in its 50 years of existence, it’s amazing that there hasn’t been a single gay member on the League until now. Following his Cry for Justice series, James Robinson took the opportunity to insert Starman into the team in May 2010’s Justice League of America #46. Considering how familiar the Justice League brand is, even to casual readers, I’d say this is a big leap forward in acceptance of LGBT characters in mainstream comics.

(9) Superman and the pink kryptonite – Well, this happened. You know how different colors of kryptonite have different effects on Superman? Well, in April 2003’s Supergirl Vol 4 #79, a Superman from an alternate timeline is exposed to pink kryptonite that causes him to, um, really, really like Jimmy Olson’s bowtie. I don’t know what’s better; an oblivious Lois in the back wondering what’s gotten in to the Man of Steel or Jimmy Olson in the foreground looking both slightly weirded out and very, very confused. Either way, it’s kind of awesome that DC (and not some parody/middle-aged woman’s slash fiction) had the guts to make a character as quintessential to comics as Superman gay, even if it was for all of one panel.

(8) BOOM! Studios’ 3rd Anniversary Party – In 2008, Californians were up in arms over Proposition 8, which would prevent same-sex couples from getting married.  Meanwhile, BOOM! Studios was getting ready to celebrate its third year of operation by throwing a big party at the Manchester Grand Hyatt. After booking the bar, BOOM! discovered that Doug Manchester, owner of the Manchester Grand Hyatt, had recently donated $125,000 to ProtectMarriage.com, masterminds behind Prop 8. So what does BOOM! do? Probably one of the greatest “fuck you” moves of all time, turning their own 3rd Anniversary party into a gay pride party.

(7) Rawhide Kid miniseries – This is one of those things that falls into the “one step forward, two steps back” category. In 2003, Marvel comics revived its 1950’s cowboy hero Jonathan Clay, the Rawhide Kid, gave him his own title,  and decided to retcon him as a homosexual. This marked the first time that a mainstream comic company had actually given a gay character their own book (albeit a limited series), which is rad. Only problem is, Marvel decided to put The Rawhide Kid: Slap Leather on its MAX imprint (which is pretty much just full of comics meant to offend everybody) and make him the most stereotypical gay character ever. And, um, guess what? As of last Wednesday, they began releasing volume two. Yay?

(6) Buffy and Satsu – The Buffyverse has always been kind to gay characters ever since Willow came out in season four of the television show. Still, it was  a bit of a surprise when during Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season Eight #11-12, fellow-slayer Satsu admits to being in love with Buffy and, following a fight with Twilight, the two of them comfort each other. Granted, it was just a two-time thing, but it was executed respectfully and cemented a bond between the two characters.

(5) Apollo and Midnighter from The Authority – When Warren Ellis created the Authority, Wildstorm’s Justice League parallel, he decided to make Apollo and Midnighter (their Superman and Batman, respectively) a non-overtly gay couple. Following his run, Mark Millar took over and decided that the perfect way to close the first volume of The Authority would be with a wedding between the two heroes, celebrated by the masses rather than frowned upon. Now, if only Midnighter would have worn something a little less ridiculous to it.

(4) Renee Montoya and Kate Kane headlining Detective Comics – In August 2009, Greg Rucka  (who we’ve applauded time and time again for his work with female characters) got his hands on Detective Comics. With Bruce Wayne lost in time and Dick barely getting the cowl, somebody had to get top billing. Enter Kate Kane as Batwoman and Renee Montoya as the Question in issue #854 as stars of the main and co-features respectively. Now that the “Elegy” storyline is complete and Rucka has left DC, JH Williams III will be co-authoring an ongoing Batwoman book with W. Haden Blackman (X-Wing: Rogue Leader), the first time a gay character has had their own ongoing book.

(3) Valerie Page in V for Vendetta – In Alan Moore’s V for Vendetta, Britain is taken over by Norsefire, a fascist group, who criminalizes homosexuality (along with being Jewish, Pakistani, black, or Muslim). Popular lesbian actress Valerie Page is incarcerated and writes out an autobiographical letter to whomever finds it detailing her persecution. Just before she is scheduled to die, she slips her letter into the cell next to hers with the hope that they will escape. This letter ends up in Cell V, acting as the impetus which causes its occupant to destroy the internment camp and become the vigilante V. Later, this same letter is given to V’s protégée, Evey, which causes her to become his successor.

(2) Hulkling and Wiccan’s GLAAD award – For a company that fucked it up so bad with The Rawhide Kid, Marvel attempted to make up for it with the teenage romance between Hulkling and Wiccan (first hinted at in Young Avengers #7). Allan Heinberg, the writer for Young Avengers, is openly gay himself and decided that making the pair of heroes a couple would give gay comic readers something they could identify with. In 2006, both Heinberg and Marvel received a GLAAD award in recognition of this decision.

(1) Northstar coming out – In March 1992’s Alpha Flight #106, while the team fights Mr. Hyde, Northstar happens upon and and takes in Joanne, a baby dying of AIDS. Turns out that fellow Canadian superhero Major Mapleleaf’s own son was a homosexual and died of AIDS, causing him to freak out and attempt to kill Joanne. To stop Mapleleaf, Northstar confesses that he too is gay. Northstar’s coming out issue received all sorts of media attention, what with comic books still being considered children’s fare (the Comics Code Authority banning gay characters outright) and it being a whole five years before that episode of Ellen. Truly, this was the most groundbreaking moment for gays in comics.

Kick-Ass, the comic, despises its protagonist. Kick-Ass, the comic, thinks Dave Lizewski is a creepy (possibly sick in the head) loser, and while he’s certainly relate-able, Dave Lizewski is kind of a creepy loser. Kick-Ass, the movie, on the other hand, takes pity on this poor sad sack of teenage angst and allows his wish fulfillment fantasies to go ahead and work out, a notion the comic has utterly rejected, at least so far.

While the movie and the comic are essentially about the same idea – what happens when some asshole decides to play superhero?  – the comic remains realistic to the end. Hardcore fans of the comic’s unforgiving treatment of Dave’s addiction to vigilantism might find the movie’s much happier ending a bit hard to swallow, but they’ll be lying if they tell you Hit-Girl’s merciless slaughter of 50-some-odd gangsters isn’t something to cheer out loud for.

Yeah, that’s right. I said cheer. Plenty of mainstream critics have criticized Kick-Ass‘ violence in general, and most of them have focused on Hit-Girl, a prepubescent vigilante who could match or maybe even take down Beatrix Kiddo in a sword fight. They’re a little freaked out that an eleven year old actress uttered the word “cunt” and then racked up a ridiculously high body count. Putting aside the fact that Kick-Ass is (by the way) a work of fiction, based on a work of comic book fiction,  actress Chloe Grace Moretz didn’t actually slice and dice anyone.  (It’s not real ketchup, Bobby!) She did some stunts with a green screen and a blue sword and the gore was, for the most part, added in later.  Anyone who thinks a girl with four big brothers has never heard the word cunt before is kidding herself, and let’s not forget that Moretz’s parents must have approved her working on the movie in the first place. Parents concerned about Hit-Girl’s negative influence on their own children probably shouldn’t be taking their young girls to rated R movies in the first place. Ultimately, one wonders if a silver screen version of Damien Wayne would invite the same sort of criticism, but I doubt it.  He’s a boy. Much of the criticism seems to say “Look what they made that little girl do!” without actually considering the movie based on its merits, one of which is the fact that Moretz’s pint-sized ass-kicker saves the day, big time.

Hit-Girl and Big Daddy are the real stars of this movie, even though they’re not the main characters, which isn’t surprising. Mark Millar actually conceived Hit-Girl and Big Daddy before he came up with Dave Lizewski, who was added later as a sympathetic character through whom we’d meet the disturbing Father/Daughter team.  While Kick-Ass (the loser) pisses his pants, Hit-Girl and Big Daddy are an arsenal closer to the real deal. Comic Hit-Girl is the only masked hero who’s not a complete wanker, and the only character with any semblance of a happy ending, the years she should be spending in therapy notwithstanding. Kick-Ass, the movie, lets Dave have a happy ending too. This makes for far more enjoyable cinema, but takes quite a bit away from the comic’s message that “Doing this will get your ass kicked in the real world, asshole!”

In the end, the comic’s version of the story is more accurate and realistic, remaining faithful to the idea that vigilantism in the real world will just get your ass kicked, but the movie’s version of events is way more fun to watch.  Fans of the comic will be a bit taken aback by some of the changes in the plot, but the tweaks don’t make the movie any less enjoyable, though regular audiences who migrate to the comic after seeing the movie may be a little disappointed.

Kick-Ass gets 3.9 out of 5 stars from me, because any movie that can make me yell “You get ’em girl!” at the screen with sheer delight is a movie worth catching in theaters. (Sorry to anyone who was in the theater with me. I was just really excited.) Bonus points for Nic Cage’s Adam West impression and all the John Romita Jr. artwork featured in the film.

“Mark Millar” is a name recognizable to anybody who reads modern comics. One cannot deny his enormous impact due to works like Marvel’s Ultimate Universe or the acclaim he has received for works like Kick-Ass. Enter a little-read title from my favorite indie publisher Avatar Press called The Unfunnies. I’m not sure whether to laud The Unfunnies as a self conscious satire of modern comics, or denounce it as supremely immoral and grotesque. While certainly not sinking to the depraved depths of a title like Crossed (shudder), Millar makes one hell of a stab at flagrant exploitation by depicting acts no decent human being would find acceptable to commit or even read about. At this point I’m sure I have whetted the appetites for any of the sick-o fan-boy types who seem to get off on the Gross without an appreciation for what it might mean, but to the rest of us I’d like to talk about the relevant commentary The Unfunnies offers.

I will be breaking one of my personal rules by revealing specific plot points under the assumption that most of you have either read this book already (it debuted in 2004) or will never read it anyway. The Unfunnies can be ordered from Avatar Press, and if you’re in to this sort of thing I recommend buying your own copy and coming back to my review later. For the rest of you, here we go.

The Unfunnies is set in a Hannah-Barbera-esque cartoon world of anthropomorphic animals with cutesy names like “Sally Gator” and  “Birdseed Betty”.  From the first panel Mark Millar is forcing us to acknowledge that comics are simplified, surreal, and most importantly: a world already familiar to readers. This idealism is extremely short-lived, but is perhaps the most integral part of the analysis. When we read comics, we already know basically what we’re getting in to. Whether found in newspapers, monthly subscriptions, or even the “indie” trades that make us feel cool, we expect to see thick, black lines and bold colors depicting a world of good and evil, and we know the good (or better) side is going to win in the end. This is, of course, only natural. Humans love novelty, but we love predictability even more. Nobody wants to take a sip of coffee to find out it was replaced with urine. That would be terrible. Human beings build rigid patterns for perceiving the world and dislike when those sensibilities are challenged. This may not be profound, but it is important to this piece.

Yes. They are doing what it looks like they're doing.

As I said, the world of The Unfunnies is familiar, but this only lasts a few panels. A cute family of crows is unsettled when the police enter to arrest husband/father Moe the Crow on charges of child pornography. Expectations: shattered. This act of immorality (chosen as one universally despised for maximum effect) sets the tone that will embody the rest of The Unfunnies . Acts of increasing depravity continue. Birdseed Betty (former loving wife of Moe the Crow) is forced to prostitute herself to the landlord to avoid eviction for herself and her young flock. A chicken youth named Chick-Chick Chickie is wandering about the town offending adults with the most unsavory language the horrified listeners have ever heard, and Dr. Despicable is convincing patients to undergo life-changing procedures they do not need to satisfy his growing sadism. All the while local policeman Sheriff Dribble is attempting to understand how his once pleasant world of capers and comedic misunderstandings has become so hellish. Millar is contrasting the world comics once were with the world they are quickly becoming.

Somewhere in the first issue of The Unfunnies the reader is shown a rather confusing image. Local mailman Frosty Pete (a penguin) is trading pornographic images via email when we are shown a real-life picture of a human. This is not a drawn image. Rather it is a real picture of a real person. The contrast between the comic and the reality is so abrasive it offends the reader’s eyes. Though confusing, this image is key. I will not ruin any more of the misery by recalling every character’s horrid tale except to say: there are more characters, and their lives are completely ruined in horrid ways.

As the tragedy unfolds the heroic Sheriff Dribble gets closer and closer to uncovering what powers are at work, and the name “Troy Hicks” becomes more frequent. Readers are lulled into expecting a happy ending when our pitiful protagonists begin to see their lives turn around. A silver lining emerges! This is, of course, smashed as it is finally discovered that the world of the Unfunnies is the creative project of one Troy Hicks. After being handed a death sentence in the real world (our world) for raping and murdering 8 children, Hicks hatched a plan to swap places with one his own comic characters, thereby living forever in a comic. Frosty Pete was the unfortunate soul who took the bait of pornographic images sent in an email, and now finds himself on Death Row in our world for Hicks’ crimes. Troy Hicks, now transplanted into his own comic world, is free to wreak any havoc or obscenity he sees fit. The comic ends as Hicks, possessing the body of Frosty Pete, walks down the road with Sally Gator’s newborn baby – presumably to have his way with it.

Here is revealed the ultimate point of Millar’s story. By inserting their own depraved concepts into their work, modern authors have contaminated the once innocent world of comics. Take that Garth Ennis.

I do not know if Millar was trying to make this commentary, or if it was just an interesting by-product of the most disturbing comic I’ve personally read. Given the intentional nature of every aspect depicted I’m inclined to think it was on purpose. If not, I wonder how Millar can sleep with such grotesqueries floating in his head. Now I would like to take a moment to point out that I do not actually recommend this book. Though well written, expertly drawn, and highly provocative The Unfunnies was just too disturbing and gross for my tastes. In High Five! Comics tradition I will end this post with the drink I pair with The Unfunnies. Bourbon. Or whiskey. Just get smashed with something strong.


20. Kick-Ass – Mark Millar & John Romita Jr.

Any list of the last decade’s top writers would have to include Mark Millar. Famous for his work getting Marvel’s Ultimate Universe off the ground and for horror-satire-mind-f***s like The Unfunnies, Millar had already made his mark by 2008, but it took the creator-owned gem Kick-Ass to cement his name as a true creative juggernaut. Kick-Ass capitalized on that bit in every fan-boy (or fan-girl) that wants to know what it would REALLY feel like to be a hero. Featuring smart dialog, plausible scenarios (mostly) centered around teenage angst, and some of John Romita Jr’s best art to date, readers have been held on the edge of their seats since February 2008 and loved every minute of it. Readers loved it so much in fact, that Millar garnered a Hollywood movie deal for his story before the damned thing was even finished. We at High Five! Comics may sit a little uneasy at the thought of Nick Cage fronting another comic inspired film, but we can’t help but applaud Millar and Romita Jr for the near universal love for this story.

– Maggie

19. Planetary – Warren Ellis

Apparently, to us High Fivers, this was the decade of Warren Ellis. And if there was any book to sum up this decade for Mr. Ellis, it would be Planetary (if not for the fact that it took the whole damn decade for all 27 issues to come out). Basically, it’s about an organization funded by some secret guy called the Fourth Man, doing whatever they can to save the world and record its bizarre history. What I love about Planetary is that most of their adventures involve some sort of literary character (or, if not public domain, and homage to a literary character) in an attempt to, in Warren Ellis’ words, “take everything old and make it new again.” Sherlock Holmes, Godzilla, Doc Savage, and even a character similar to his own Spider Jerusalem pop up to either help or hinder the progress of our heroes.

John Cassaday’s art is compelling; much as his work in Astonishing X-Men, every page is so detailed and beautiful that it’s hard not to get engrossed in every panel. Planetary’s cover art is interesting as well, with each issue done in a different style (with no consistant logo) as a means of fitting in with the subject of the interior story.

Now, I haven’t read (and am slightly wary of) the Planetary/JLA and Planetary/Batman crossover books, so I can’t really attest to whether or not those are awesome (I mean, they’re also penned by Ellis so they gotta be okay at the very least) but, as for the main story, I highly recommend picking it up (and, hey, the last few issues are out in trade form come March).


18. Captain America – Ed Brubaker

I don’t want anybody else to ever write for Captain America ever, ever again. I know that seems kinda extreme, but I’m totally fucking serious. Between the constant references to the Golden Age books (so many amazing flashbacks to the days of the Invaders) and the unexpected twists on every other page, Captain America Vol. 5 is one of the most riveting books I’ve ever read. It also ended up being one of the most controversial. In 50 issues, Brubaker managed to bring Bucky Barnes back to life (he’d been confirmed dead since March 1964’s Avengers #4, over 40 years before), kill Steve Rogers (something so extreme that it was front page news here on Earth-Prime), allow Bucky to continue the legacy, and prove that the Red Skull is a fucking dick.

How fitting is it that Brubaker is also the man now resurrecting Steve Rogers in Captain America: Reborn? Granted, yeah, Steve’s only been dead for a few years so it might seem like a bit of a cop out, but even this is gearing up to be a bit of a tearjerker. I only wish that they would have kept Steve Epting as the cover artist for Reborn. Most of his covers during Volume 5 look a little like movie posters for 1960s exploitation films, a few of which even re-use art from Golden Age covers, and I love those damn things.


17. WE3 – Grant Morrison

Take Homeward Bound crossed with Philip K Dick, and you have some idea of what WE3 looks like. WE3 is the name of a futuristic killing machine team that consists of a dog, a cat, and a rabbit in robot-enhanced bodies. They were created by the government to be assassins, and are the cutest killing machines you will ever see.  About to be replaced by a newer, larger and more efficient creation, they make their escape from government tyranny. Grant Morrison is often accused of overwriting- making his stories wordier and more detailed than they need to be. In contrast, WE3 is remarkably sparse relying heavily on frequent counterpart Frank Quitely to move the story. Even the dialogue between the animals, which could come off as hokey and “Mr. Ed”-ish in the hands of a lesser writer, make perfect sense here.  Despite the cuddly looking cyborg-animals, this not meant for kids. WE3 is dark, gritty, bloody and despite the look of its premise, very pro-animal rights. Quitely’s artwork is so expressive, especially with the interactions between the animals, it will jerk a tear or two from even the coldest heart. Morrison and artist Frank Quitely succeed at making dystopia warm and humane.


16. House of M – Brian Michael Bendis

Cross-over Events are a giant fan-wank. Sometimes you get one that’s fun to read, and sometimes you get one scrawled in KY gel anticipating the collective fanboy  ejaculation. Good or bad, crossovers exist in the world of continuity and rarely tell us anything interesting about the characters involved. What is remarkable about House of M is that for all the continuity mind-f***ing, at the heart of it is a compelling story by Brian Michael Bendis about a father, his two children, and their love for and disappointment in each other. This gut wrenching story was backed by solid character scripts from a notably limited cast. By limiting his cast Bendis opened up House of M to a humanity that most other Events are sorely missing.


Counting down the weeks before Millar’s debut on the big screen, fans of Kick-Ass can sigh in relief knowing the first story arc has been concluded for them before the uncouth masses have their way with it. As such an explosive and original story, it was difficult to conceive how Millar would wrap up the mis-adventures of Dave Lizewski and his band of misfits. Insert all necessary kudos and accolades here. That said: go out and buy this book.

If you read this blog and somehow missed the existence of Kick-Ass do yourself a favor, go buy issues 1-8, and pat yourself on the back for knowing what happens before it hits screens. If the movie is great you’ll proudly announce what a wonderful and faithful adaptation it was. If Nick Cage and crew manage to botch the effort you’ll shake your head in disappointment while solemnly informing your friends what a sin it was to ruin such a great story while taking secret pleasure in recalling how it really happened. “You should have read the comic!” you’ll say in disgust. With only a few short months before Kick-Ass hits the silver screen Millar and Romita Jr haven’t given fans much time to relish the thought of knowing how it ends, but the important thing is that it’s here, it’s smart, and as per usual: Kick-Ass #8 is totally f***ing FUN.

A new decade has begun, and with it, High Five! Comics will soon be unveiling our special “20 (Or So) Best Comics of the Decade” event (take that, Siege). But before we reveal the big list, we’ll start with a series of supplementary entries from HF!C’s contributing writers about those comics we each individually loved, but that didn’t quite have the mojo to make the final ranks.

Today, Brendan talks about some of his personal favorite books from the last decade.

Daredevil – Brian Michael Bendis; Ed Brubaker (Brendan’s #4)

Don’t let our list fool you- this decade belonged to Brian Michael Bendis. Before DC handed the keys to their mainstream continuity to a handful of writers in the mid 2000s, Bendis was setting the trend with his monolithic presence at the publisher across the street. But before he was running every annual blockbuster (New Avengers, House of M, Secret Invasion) he built his cred by raising street-level characters like Jessica Jones, Luke Cage and Iron Fist to new prominence in the Marvel U. Bendis’ four-year run with primary Alex Maleev on Daredevil was his most critically-acclaimed, and best, superhero writing in the 2000s. That Ed Brubaker took the reigns to continue a pitch-perfect showcase for the Man without Fear cemented its place in my top five for the decade.

The Goon – Eric Powell (Brendan’s #12)

Eric Powell’s “The Goon” initially appeared to be merely another attempted successor to Hellboy’s brand of smash-em-up paranormal adventure, but quickly managed to separate itself as an entirely different animal. Sure, The Goon would be plenty of zombie-thrashing fun even if Powell only played up the title for action and yuks, but after 40-some issues and assorted specials, the most memorable impression that it makes is for a deep-seated pathos underneath its surface elements. To experience the darker-than-noir world of The Goon is to immerse yourself in a place for gown-ups that’s scary in the way things were scary to you when you were a kid, when everything was big and spooky and unknown.

Daredevil: YellowJeph Loeb (Brendan’s #13)

Jeph Loeb didn’t exactly have a quiet decade, per se. He certainly wrote a lot of stuff. But the things he wrote didn’t seem to resonate with audiences the way his best work has in the past (Soulfire, anyone? Anyone?) If you need evidence, look to his flash-then-fizzle 5 issue arc following Mark Millar on The Ultimates, a borderline disaster that might have single-handedly derailed any plans for a fourth installment any time soon. But Loeb did capture the old magic once or twice by doing what he arguably does best: roots-revisionism of classic character continuity. Cherry-picking the biggest moments from a hero with such a singularly piquant history, Loeb and artist/soul mate Tim Sale connect a modern storytelling sensibility with retro crime comic style that manages to never feel gimmicky or cheap. Instead it does the character a faithful service, adding to the richness of that lush backstory and to the depth of the man behind the horns.

The Ultimates – Mark Millar (Brendan’s #14)

Ultimate Spider-Man kicked off the Marvel’s “Ultimate” universe, and Ultimate X-Men broadened its horizons, but The Ultimates is the series that kicked its popularity into the stratosphere. Three years before Earth’s Mightiest Heroes were Disassembled and eventually made “New”, Mark Millar’s two-series run on The Ultimates was a reimagining of those classic characters in a form so dramatic and astounding that we couldn’t help but sit up and take notice- and be in awe- of them again. Those epic 26 issues gave us more than one indelible moment, but is perhaps most notable for giving Cap his most famous line of dialogue since he called the Avengers to assemble: “Surrender? You think this letter on my head stands for FRANCE!?!” Feel it.

The Authority – Warren Ellis; Mark Millar; Robbie Morrison; Grant Morrison; Garth Ennis (Brendan’s #15)

Yes, the action is as insanely over the top as it is awesome. Yes, the characters evoke comics’ archetypal icons only to openly subvert them. And yes, a lot of the critical ground it stakes was covered by, like, everybody since Watchmen. But people too often confuse and conflate abstractions like deconstruction and irony. Just as Robert Kirkman’s Invincible did for the true believers and classicists (main list spoiler!), DC/Wildstorm’s The Authority spent the better part of the decade being the modernist’s favorite study of the superhero. And the fact that it’s also just totally fun to see them fuck some shit up is just a bonus.

Hellblazer – Brian Azzarello; Mike Carey (Brendan’s #16)

Anyone who reads comics can tell you that John Constantine is one of the mediums absolute best characters. But despite his more than 20 years of continuous continuity in his own title, not many people can agree on what has been our favorite run with the occult detective/part-time sorcerer in Hellblazer. During his ridiculous hot streak early this decade, Brian Azzarello took a stab at John that brought him stateside and into new depths of deviousness, before Brit writer Mike Carey brough him back to England and shifted Hellblazer more definitively back to its horror roots. All told, the 2000s gave us 6 years of John Constantine at his best, setting a bar that every writer since has gloriously strived to surpass. Fans of Hellblazer couldn’t be happier.

Powers – Brian Michael Bendis (Brendan’s #19)

Independently, both superhero sagas and police dramas often deal in similar themes: justice, social order, honor, and the nature of public service, to name a few. In this creator-owned series Bendis marries the two genres to create an atmospheric, engrossing slow-burner of a book, something much closer in tone to his earlier crime thrillers than his Marvel megahits. Compared to all the flash and spectacle of a title like New Avengers, Powers is downright austere, but it’s also frequently tense, exciting, and (despite its general dourness) wryly funny. Most of the credit for its success is due to the series’ main characters- the laconic Christian Walker and live wire Deena Pilgrim are the heart of the book, and watching mysteries from their personal backgrounds unfold as they struggle to relate to one another through the Job is just as compelling as the cases they work to solve. Walker and Pilgrim made Powers a book to keep coming back to, even almost 70 issues in, just to see more of the decade’s most dynamic duo in comics.

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