I was raised on Marvel comics and I soon began to absorb DC as well, but as the years went on I started to experiment more and sample different genres and storytelling methods. While I still love and will always love superhero comics, I recently realized that when it got to the nitty-gritty of it the books below are the ones that I would pick first above all else as my favorite comics of all time.
1) Blacksad by Juan Diaz Canales & Juanjo Guarnido (Dark Horse)
A fantastic crime noir story with utterly amazing artwork. This series is a great example of anthropomorphic art used as a literary tool to enhance the story, and Guarnido’s cinematic approach to layouts and storytelling is underscored by his strong emotive facial expressions. One of if not the best examples of the strengths of narrative storytelling and a must read for anyone who wants to understand what goes into making great comics.
2) Finder by Carla Speed McNeil (Dark Horse)
Described by Warren Ellis as anthropological science fiction, the strength of Finder is in Carla Speed McNeil’s characters and her extensive world building. A unique mesh of drama and cultural sci-fi, McNeil’s clean line work and amazing facial expressions depict a large cast of characters with rich interactions and histories. As emotionally strong as it is conceptually, McNeil is an astonishing creator with an engaging vision.
3) Battle Angel Alita (Viz) and Battle Angel Alita: The Last Order(Viz/Kodansha Comics) by Yukito Kishiro
Yukito Kishiro proves to be the spiritual successor to Jack Kirby as he creates an innovative and expansive cyberpunk dystopian future based on a wealth of world mythologies and strange science fiction. Battle Angel is a blend of futurism and martial arts mayhem with an odd sense of humor that creates a unique and unmatched world. The art boast some of the most vibrant and well executed action sequences among eastern and western styles, along with some amazing character designs and architecture. The series never slows down and rushes brilliantly into whatever bizarre new ideas Kishiro can create.
4) Preacher by Garth Ennis & Steve Dillon(Vertigo)
An odd balance of modern western, supernatural horror, and dark obscene humor. Preacher was the first ‘adult’ title I ever read and the strength of Garth Ennis’ characterizations left a lasting impression. Steve Dillon’s emotive facial expressions help define the characters and created a truly unique atmosphere. I try to re-read the series at least once a year because I always manage to take something new from it.
5) Locke & Key by Joe Hill & Gabriel Rodriguez(IDW)
A unique mix of horror and fantasy, Locke & Key is reminiscent of Stephen King’s best horror novels and Clive Barker’s fantasy work. Supernatural mystery and strong characterization unite with a unique art style rich in architectural design and other influences to create one of the strongest horror comics of the past few decades.
6) Metabarons by Alejandro Jodorowsky & Juan Gimenz (Humanoids)
The definition of a space opera that puts other sci-fi epics to shame. Jodorowsky’s bizarre tale of the most dangerous bloodline of assassins and mercenaries in the known universe changes tone and sometimes even genre with each chapter. Lushly painted by Gimenez, the series is a dense tome of innovative and crazy ideas fueled by Jodorowsky’s unlimited (and no doubt drug influenced) imagination, yet it maintains a more cohesive narrative than the majority of Grant Morrison’s more experimental work.
7) Mother Come Home by Paul Hornschemeir (Fantagraphics)
A deeply emotional and beautifully well executed story about a child dealing with the death of his mother and the mental absence of his father. Hornschemeir is a master at capturing the intricacies of human interaction and fills the book with little victories and depressing reminders of our frailty. Only read this if you want to read a truly sad comic.
8) Atomic Robo by Brian Clevinger & Scott Wegener (Red 5 Comics)
The definition of a fun comic. Well conceived and executed with obvious joy, Atomic Robo’s creators understand the worst aspects about modern comics and they do everything in their power to avoid them. Every volume is a self contained story or collection of shorts, always full of humor, science, and good all-around action. It also boasts one of the greatest villains ever created, the immensely stupid yet cunning Dr. Dinosaur.
9) Sixth Gun by Cullen Bunn & Brian Hurtt (Oni)
A supernatural western done right with a strong hook and an engaging cast of characters. There aren’t many comic series where I could claim that every issue was consistently good, but Sixth Gun is high up on that list. Hurtt’s artwork is an example of solid draftsmanship that communicates a lot of tone and character through its simplicity. The best aspect of the series is its expansive nature as it adds on layers of new mythology to the wild west.
10) Transformers More Than Meets The Eye & Transformers Robots In Disguise by Roberts, Barber, Milne, Griffith, & more (IDW)
I’m biased by my nostalgic love of Transformers, but very few properties or titles have brought me such consistent joy over the past few years than these two sister titles from IDW. The James Roberts run of MTMTE has been an impressive balance between humor and action, even fitting in an amazing sociopolitical murder mystery (seriously) and exploring the equivalent of marriage among a nongendered species. John Barber’s RID is a truly engaging thriller immersed in political backstabbing and all out civil war. Both titles have featured amazing artists that have improved issue by issue, and the decision to split the enormous cast of characters into these two sister titles has allowed for some of the strongest characterization in comics to develop slowly and organically.