10. Scott Pilgrim, Vol. 1: Scott Pilgrim’s Precious Little Life
Writer/Artist: Bryan Lee O’Malley
Publisher: Oni Press
Anyone who rants that comic books only offer macho posturing and 2-dimensional characterization has never experienced this gem by Bryan Lee O’Malley. Gen-Y mascot Scott Pilgrim is the most endearing 8-bit loving loser friend you’ve never had. He riffs on everything from crappy indie rock to vintage clothing stores and fights his shady girlfriend’s ex-boyfriends in over the top Manga homage. Laugh-out-loud clever and subversively emotional, this is the most kinetic coming-of-age yarn you’ll find in print.
9. Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth
Writer/Artist: Chris Ware
Chris Ware’s art is perfectly simple and his storytelling wonderfully complex. This painstaking work forms a great synthesis of craft and art, with multiple storylines providing lucid glimpses into the lives of the Corrigan family. Often unsettling but always captivating, this original tour de force evokes a unique melancholy that lingers long after the final page is read.
8. All Star Superman, Vol. 1
Writer: Grant Morrison
Artist: Frank Quitely
Publisher: DC Comics
Grant Morrison’s brain is a thing of awe. The Scottish scribe and self-appointed “ontological terrorist” has been regaling comicdom with brutally creative, psychedelic tales for decades. (Last year he stated that he treats himself “as a laboratory to become something else,” if that gives you any hints). All of his work has a hyperactive, flood-of-consciousness brilliance to it, but All-Star Superman achieves new heights. Battling zany Silver Age concepts like monsters made of time and breaking the fourth wall in his final act, The Man of Steel hasn’t been more super since, well, ever. Penciller Frank Quitely also gives Richard Donner a run for the most awe-inspiring “S” flashes since the first movie.
7. Absolute Planetary
Writer: Warren Ellis
Artist: John Cassaday
Cynical sci-fi magnate Warren Ellis reimagines super hero history in an entirely original and incredibly entertaining way. Imagine an evil Fantastic Four killing off Superman, a teenage Wonder Woman and Doc Savage, Tarzan, The Shadow and Godzilla all simultaneously living in the same erratic, flawed world. This enigmatic tapestry unfolds as a 27-issue conspiracy theory, holding all of its cards tight till the last issue. The ultimate “What If?” story.
6. Ghost World
Writer/Artist: Daniel Clowes
Publisher: Fantagraphics Books
Dan Clowes provides an engrossing study of that fleeting time between high school and what comes after. Two quirky best friends slowly realize they are headed in entirely different directions and attempt to deal with their separation in their own unique ways. The perfect complement to the movie, and vice versa.
5. Flight Volume 1
Editor: Kazu Kibuishi
Kazu Kibuishi’s concept for this immersive anthology was a simple one: Take a handful of young cartoonists—the average age was 24—and have them write and draw whatever they’d like, as long as it revolved around the theme of flight. Six volumes and a bible of critical acclaim later, the series still stands as a fertile breeding ground for inspired talent and gorgeous storytelling. Charming, subtle and wildly imaginative, this vivid all-ages primer is a triumph for the medium.
4. Y: The Last Man, Vol. 1
Writer: Brian K. Vaughn
Artist: Pia Guerra
Whereas most heterosexual 20-something men would give their right arm to be the last existing male in a world of females, poor Yorick Brown discovered that there can, in fact, be too much of a good thing in this pioneering series. With enough gender issues to fuel a Feminism 101 class, Y: The Last Man is intelligent, post-apocalyptic storytelling at its best—provocative, insightful and a little bit steamy.
3. Daredevil by Brian Michael Bendis and Alex Maleev Omnibus, Vol. 1
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artist: Alex Maleev
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Only one word comes to mind to describe Brian Michael Bendis and Alex Maleev’s 54-issue run: Epic. Forget the heretic movie starring Ben Affleck; Daredevil is one of the most mature, fully-realized characters in Marvel’s expansive lexicon. Neo-noir writer Bendis digs into blind lawyer Matt Murdock’s psyche with surgical precision, making him battle crime lords and his neurotic shortcomings in equal measure. This addictively tense masterwork transcends genre into literary excellence.
2. Bone: The Complete Cartoon Epic in One Volume
Writer/Artist: Jeff Smith
Publisher: Cartoon Books
Bone is a true classic in any storytelling medium. Jeff Smith describes his colossal fantasy as a cross between Bugs Bunny and Lord of the Rings, but it ultimately stands as its own legacy. A whimsical, often-times hilarious journey that straddles action, adventure and comedy with natural finesse, Bone entertains from start to finish, young and old alike.
Writer/Artist: Craig Thompson
Publisher: Top Shelf Productions
Reading Blankets is like reliving your youth as you wander through the artist’s personal trials of fundamentalist religion and teenage heart-break in small-town America. The story has been told many times, but Craig Thompson’s version is one of the most honest, warm and compelling renditions. It’s like going home with a close friend and discovering how similar your journeys truly are.