There are only a few weeks left until 2010 is behind us, so it's time to look back on the year and recall our favorite comics, comic book movies, toys, games, and other items that made the year so memorable.
Over the next three days, we'll roll out our BEST OF 2010 selections, starting with today's list of the best comic books, webcomics, graphic novels, and story arcs of 2010. Keep it locked to Splash Page throughout the rest of the year for more of our BEST OF 2010 lists, as well as everything else that carved out a place for itself on our bookshelves, display cases, office desks, and news cycle throughout the year.
BEST NEW SERIES
"Morning Glories" by Nick Spencer and Joe Eisma (Image Comics)
School is hard enough without brutally murdered parents, ruthless faculty members and stunning betrayals, but we can't thank Nick Spencer and Joe Eisma enough for putting the students at the heart of "Morning Glories" through so much hell. The series far exceeds the hype of its "Lost" meets "Runaways" premise, offering readers with compelling characters and mind-boggling mysteries at every single turn. In a year filled with excellent new comic book series, "Morning Glories" stands out as the must-read of the bunch.
- Josh Wigler
"Forgetless" by Nick Spencer, W. Scott Forbes, Jorge Coelho and Marley Zarcone (Image Comics)
When high concept superhero and science fiction stories make up the bulk of the mainstream comics scene, sometimes it's nice to have something a bit more grounded in reality. Enter "Forgetless," a five-issue miniseries about four troubled individuals converging upon each other at the last night of a popular underground dance party in New York City. The story builds to an unbearable tense place, resolving itself in ways that readers couldn't have possibly anticipated at the outset of the tale. Combine that with beautiful-but-deadly assassins, a filthy-mouthed Internet entrepreneur and a koala-suit-wearing gunshot victim, and "Forgetless" truly becomes an unforgettable ride.
BEST ONE-SHOT ISSUE
"Beasts of Burden/Hellboy" by Mike Mignola, Evan Dorkin, and Jill Thompson (Dark Horse Comics)
At first glance, you might not expect the dark, paranormal world of Hellboy and the cute, but often grim supernatural adventures of Burden Hill's animals to mesh. However, this one-issue story showcased the real magic that can occur when some of comics' best and brightest pool their considerable talents. The short story accomplished what the best crossovers always hope to, illustrating the unique appeal of each property's characters while telling a fascinating story that's perfectly accessible to anyone unfamiliar with one or both of the properties.
Honorable Mention: "Locke & Key: Keys to the Kingdom" #1 (IDW Publishing) — Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez paid tribute to "Calvin & Hobbes" creator Bill Watterson in an amazing story that kicked off the latest volume of the hit series. While the story relies heavily on some knowledge of the series thus far, anyone who longs for Watterson's classic comic strips will be thrilled with this wonderful homage.
- Rick Marshall
BEST EVENT SERIES
"Artifacts" by Ron Marz and Michael Broussard (Top Cow Productions)
For years, Ron Marz has been on fire with his work on Witchblade, Angelus, Magdalena and other corners of the Top Cow Universe, but it's his latest project, "Artifacts," that takes the top prize. A universe-spanning epic that's bringing the most important characters Top Cow has to offer together in one 13-issue story-line, "Artifacts" is a masterful event that presents world-changing stakes while keeping the story grounded with a human center. Forget Superman, Spider-Man and all the other heroes the Big Two have to offer — it's Sara Pezzini, Jackie Estacado and the search for their missing child that ranks as the crossover event of the year.
BEST LICENSED SERIES
"Doctor Who" by Tony Lee, Matthew Dow Smith, Al Davison, Blair Shedd, and others (IDW Publishing)
Sure, I'm a big fan of "Doctor Who," but you can count me among the skeptics when IDW first announced its "Doctor Who" comic book series. However, writer Tony Lee proved himself time and time again over the course of 2010, and gave anyone who longed for more time with David Tennant's iteration of The Doctor a wealth of wonderful stories. Along with regular artist Matthew Dow Smith and several other talented illustrators, Lee managed to craft a series of adventures that not only played in the same world as the "Doctor Who" television series but made notable additions to it, too. The "Doctor Who 2010 Annual" and Lee's heartbreaking farewell to The Tenth Doctor in issue #16 is not to be missed, and I know I'm not alone in eagerly anticipating his take on Matt Smith's version of The Doctor.
BEST UNDER-THE-RADAR SERIES
"Orc Stain" by James Stokoe (Image Comics)
If you're not reading writer and illustrator James Stokoe's impossibly detailed fantasy epic "Orc Stain," you're missing out on one of the best monthly titles currently on stands. Set in a world populated by vicious orcs and other snarling beasts, "Orc Stain" tells the tale of One-Eye, a jaded orc who can crack any safe with one tap of his trusty hammer. One-Eye's continued attempts to carve out a slice of normalcy for himself in an otherwise blood-strewn world isn't just a relatable tale, it's an eye-melting one thanks to Stokoe's remarkable attention to detail on the visual and world-building levels.
"Ectopiary" by Hans Rickheit (http://www.ectopiary.com/)
Since Hans Rickheit decided to serialize the follow-up to his 2009 graphic novel "The Squirrel Machine" online last year, the story has been as haunting as anything the Xeric winner has produced before. Up until recently, the tale of a young girl named Dale grappling with the truth behind her isolation from her mother and father has been uncharacteristically realistic, but Rickheit has slowly been building a world of terrifying implications and mysteries outside of his panels while drawing one of the most gorgeous webcomics out there.
- Brian Warmoth
BEST NEW WEBCOMIC
"Axe Cop" by Malachai Nicolle and Ethan Nicolle (http://axecop.com)
A true testament to the unconstrained creativity made possible by the minimal publishing barriers in webcomics, "Axe Cop" became a transcendent success in 2010, crossing over with "The Adventures of Dr. McNinja" and eventually snagging a publishing deal with Dark Horse. The concept dreamed up by a 5-year-old and drawn into life by a 29-year-old is so simple but so gobsmackingly hilarious and outrageous with its sudden twists and turns that it deserves to be mentioned in the same sentence as "The Tick" and "Flaming Carrot Comics."
BEST PRINT EDITION OF A WEBCOMIC
"Octopus Pie: There Are No Stars In Brooklyn" by Meredith Gran (Villard Books)
Collecting the first two years of Gran's popular webcomic about Brooklyn-dwelling roommates Eve and Hanna, "There Are No Stars In Brooklyn" not only looks great in print form, but the format offers a fresh take on the series' continuity — specifically, how all of the serialized stories gel together into a single, fascinating story of life in New York City. With its distinctive green-hued pages and themed chapters that provide context for each story arc, the book is a great example of what the best webcomic collections strive to present: it offers a unique way of looking at the series that will appeal to new readers and longtime fans alike.
"Ex Machina" #50 by Brian K. Vaughan and Tony Harris (Wildstorm Publishing)
Even in the earliest days of "Ex Machina," author Brian K. Vaughan warned readers that the story of superhero-turned-politician Mitchell Hundred would not end on a happy note. He was right; it wasn't a happy ending, but it was a powerful, poignant one nonetheless. Vaughan and Tony Harris more than delivered the goods for the final installment of their celebrated superhero political thriller, creating an issue that gets richer with every subsequent reading.
BEST COMIC ADAPTED FROM ANOTHER MEDIUM
"Parker: The Outfit" by Darwyn Cooke (IDW Publishing)
Last year, we basically invented this category to call out one of our favorite books of the year, Darwyn Cooke's award-winning adaptation of "Parker: The Hunter," the first "Parker" novel by Richard Stark (the pen name of author Donald Westlake). This year, however, we found ourselves faced with a number of books that not only fit the category, but were great titles in themselves. However, in the end we had to give it to Cooke's "Parker" once again, as the second installment of his series, "Parker: The Outfit" continued to stand head and shoulders above all challengers. Featuring more of the same beautiful art, gritty tone, and wonderful attention to detail that makes Cooke one of the most sought-after creators in the industry, "The Outfit" is unlike anything else published this year... in the best possible way.
Honorable Mention: "The Stand" (Marvel Comics) — Writer Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and artist Mike Perkins offer a great translation of the gruesome, terrifying stories that made Stephen King's epic, post-apocalyptic saga the classic that it is. The series offers a great way for anyone who's ever been intimidated by the original 1200-page tome to find out what all the praise is about — and a way for longtime fans to see the story unfold anew.
BEST NONFICTION COMIC
"120 Days of Simon" by Simon Gardenfors (Top Shelf Productions)
Reprinted and re-released by Top Shelf as part of their "Swedish Invasion" line, "120 Days Of Simon" is Swedish hip-hop musician Gardenfors' autobiographical comic about a journey he undertook throughout Sweden, indulging in all manner of sex, drugs, and questionable decisions as he travels the country. Gardenfors agreed to visit any fan willing to provide him with a meal and a place to sleep over a 120-day span, and illustrated all of the resulting stories in comic form. The product of his grand experiment is a brutally honest travelogue that is as fascinating for its voyeuristic aspects as it is for the lessons — or lack thereof — that its author learns along the way. Gardenfors clearly doesn't soften his stories or try to paint himself in a positive light, but instead offers a compelling story filled with ample amounts of fear and loathing for the modern age.
BEST GRAPHIC NOVEL
"Return Of The Dapper Men" by Jim McCann and Janet Lee (Archaia)
McCann is still a relative newcomer to the writing side of the comics world, but it doesn't show in "Dapper Men." His fantastic story is beautifully illustrated by Lee, and it becomes clear early on that "Dapper Men" is what happens when a talented writer finds the perfect artist for the tale he wants to tell. In true storybook fashion, the pair create a world that seems to spring straight from a child's imagination, and every page begs to be gazed at and examined long after it tells its piece of the over-arching narrative. If Santa Claus has any comics savvy, "Dapper Men" is the book that will end up under more than a few Christmas trees.
Honorable Mention: "Tumor" (Archaia) — Anyone who can appreciate a good noir-fueled crime story will find a lot to like in Joshua Hale Fialkov and Noel Tuazon's impressive graphic novel, but it's the unique twist that really sets "Tumor" apart from its peers. Much like the movie "Memento," the book follows a man whose mind is the biggest obstacle to the mystery he's attempting to solve. In this case, it's an inoperable brain tumor that gets in the way of Frank Armstrong saving the girl — and readers can't help but be pulled along for the ride.
Keep it locked to Splash Page for the rest of our BEST OF 2010 picks!
Agree with our picks? Disagree? Have some of your own you'd like to share? Let us know what you think in the comment section or on Twitter!
-BEST OF 2010: Comic Book Movies & TV