I'd decided not to do a list like this for CWN, but Steve Niles asked about it on his message board and it was easier to come up with ten than I thought it would be.
I'm gonna count 'em down Letterman-style:
10. Easy Way by Christopher E. Long and Andy Kuhn (IDW): The series I almost didn't read. Early promotion for it focused almost exclusively on the fact that writer Long came up with the idea while in rehab. Which is mildly interesting, I guess, since the story is about a bunch of guys in rehab, but it doesn't really tell you anything about the story. Fortunately, some people I trust recommended it and I gave it a look. It's a crime story -- a good genre, but not one of my favorites -- but Long does a great job of making you care about his main character before throwing the poor guy into a situation with a threat level that'll make the muscles in your neck and back squeeze together.
9. Elk's Run by Joshua Hale Fialkov and Noel Tuazon (Hoarse and Buggy/Speakeasy): I don't know why writer/publisher Josh Fialkov is having such a hard time selling this one. Everyone who reads it loves it. It's got to be Josh's marketing, but I'm no publisher and damned if I know what he's doing wrong. In a recent newsletter, Warren Ellis mentioned helping Josh with that though, so hopefully the book will get bigger sales in 2006. For the record, it's a terrifying story about a community that locks itself away from the horrors of the outside world only to unintentionally create horrors of their own. Sort of a more believable -- and much more intense -- The Village.
8. Strange Girl by Rick Remender and Eric Nguyen (Image): It was hard to pick one Rick Remender book, but I knew he had to make the list. He came out of nowhere (for me) this year with Sea of Red and has hit with every book he's written since. Strange Girl is my favorite though. It has a charming, courageous, young lady for a heroine, a wise-cracking demon for a sidekick, explores some important spiritual themes, and features multiple types of horror from the big, supernatural kind to the more mundane, chilling kind associated with truly evil human beings.
7. Fell by Warren Ellis and Ben Templesmith (Image): The first three issues of this series have all been very strong horror/mystery pieces, but the real reason it makes this list is that Ellis saw a need for affordable Direct Market comics and figured out how to make them. Sixteen, panel-packed pages that tell a complete story for two bucks.
6. Villains United by Gail Simone and Dale Eaglesham (DC): I don't talk a lot about superhero comics on this blog because they're not an inspiration for my work, but they were a big part of my childhood and young adulthood and I do enjoy them. Especially team comics with cool heroes (or, in this case, villains), great character interaction, exciting art, and thrilling action and drama. Of all the pre-Infinite Crisis mini-series, this is the only one that I really really wanted to see an ongoing out of. Fortunately, I got my wish and am looking forward to Secret Six next year.
5. Seven Soldiers of Victory by Grant Morrison and various artists (DC): I have a lot of respect for Grant Morrison and appreciate his approach to writing, but I'm not a big fan. More often than not, I just don't connect with what he's doing. Not so here. The modular nature of this... what? Series of mini-series? Event? Mega-crossover? Whatever it is, it's working for me. Every mini-series is interesting on its own, but the real fun comes in finding pieces of one storyline in another and trying to figure out the significance of the connections. It's a lot like watching Lost, but without all the rewinding and pausing.
4. Ferro City by Jason Armstrong (Image): "Robot pulp noir science fiction." "The Maltese Falcon with robots." I don't generally like high concept descriptions, but these are ones that immediately told me I'd want to check this series out. He wasn't kidding about the "noir" part, either. It's not just a mystery with a hardboiled detective, it's a story in which the lines between hero and villain are blurred beyond use. Everyone in this story (human and robot alike) has motivations so complicated that they're impossible to categorize.
3. Rocketo by Frank Espinosa (Speakeasy): The world's best Saturday matinee science fiction serial. In comic book form. You're missing out. (It's moved to Image, but I'm listing it as a Speakeasy book since every issue up to the time that I'm writing this has been released by Speakeasy.)
2. Solo #7 by Mike Allred (DC): The power of childhood memories, huh? Even though I don't write superhero stories, my two favorite comics this year are superhero books. More significantly, they're superhero books that praise the kind of stories that I grew up with. Or wish I did. Mike Allred's love letter to DC comics has stories that I never could have gotten as a kid, like the Teen Titans having a loud party in the penthouse right above where the Doom Patrol are trying to relax, or the Adam West Batman having a horrifying vision of life after Frank Miller. It's a celebration that's actually better than the stories it celebrates.
1. Marvel Monsters: Monsters on the Prowl by Steve Niles and Duncan Fegrado (Marvel): This, on the other hand, is a celebration that completely drew me into it so that I forgot that I was reading an homage. At some point I ceased to be a nearly-forty guy reading a comic that his buddy had been lucky (and talented) enough to get to write, and I became a pre-teen again reading a great Hulk-Thing team-up. Maybe it's the "buddy" part that makes me put this at Number One, but I like to think that it's more awe that a modern writer can so completely capture in a middle-aged man the wonder that comes from reading comics at the age of ten.