You have seen “Best of” comic lists before.  I know I have.  Until this year, I have not done one.  And though this blog is about my opinion, I felt that such a thing was too limiting for a “Best of” list.  People all across the Internet post personal lists, so doing that here seems no different–just one other person’s perspective.  Some sites, though, provide a list combined from the lists of various staff members.  This seems like a better idea, since more opinions are involved.  However, there is no guarantee that all those people read the same things.

So, I bring you this: a list compiled from the individual lists my dad, my brother, and I made.  We compiled our lists based on the issues of 174 different titles we read this year.  That means, basically, that all series were graded solely on what we read of them, whether that be one or all of the issues of it that came out this year. My brother has not read some of the “independent” titles, but aside from that, I can assure you we read all 174 titles.

The list was compiled as follows.  We each made a “Best of” list, consisting of the fifteen titles we liked best this past year, strictly limited to the comics that were published last year.  We each also made a “Worst of” list, consisting of five titles.  Then, the lists were combined based on a point structure.  A title placed first received 15 points, second received 14 points, etc.  In the case of “Worst of” lists, the worst received 5 points, the next-to-worst received 4, and so on.

So, with that out of the way, here is the Least Five and Top Ten that our lists made.  My mom always told me to end on a positive note, so I provide the Least Five first.

5) Final Crisis: Superman Beyond #2 (DC)/New Mutants #5 (Marvel) (tie)–3 points.

Superman Beyond makes this list for a few reasons.  It is partially from the confusion caused by not getting  the first issue.  We just could not follow the story or discern its connection to Final Crisis (though we were partially able to once we read Final Crisis #7).  Explanations provided regarding the multiverse and the nature of Monitors (the guardians of the multiverse) went over our heads.  It did not help matters that the parts in 3-D were muddled.

The cover and the solicitation for New Mutants implied that Warlock, a beloved character in my family, would be at least part of the focus of the issue.  Yes, he returns (as promised), but that is all.  Nothing is done with him.  Instead, the issue largely discusses a problem leftover from the New Mutants taking down Legion, a powerful psychic with a multiple personality disorder.  Having not read the previous issues, the events that had happened and the discussion in this issue of them were not completely clear to us.  On top of that, Warlock was only introduced to be part of the Necrosha crossover, which would pick up next issue.  All in all, it was just a very disappointing issue.

4) Wonder Woman #28-33 (DC)–6 points.

These issues were part of the “Rise of the Olympian” story that began the previous year.  In it, Wonder Woman fights a new menace named Genocide while Zeus revives the Argonauts and Achilles to take the place of the Amazons.  There are multiple problems with this story.  First, there is Genocide, who is, in behavior, look, and destructive nature, a clone of Doomsday.  Wonder Woman is the only person that can stop Genocide, as becomes apparent after she calls in allies (including a few Justice Leaguers) and things go sour.  Also, Genocide is provided contradictory origins.  Second, this arc has entirely too much going on.  The fight between Wonder Woman, Genocide, and Genocide’s makers seems to be the focus.  Yet, this is supposed to be the “Rise of the Olympian” story, so the Argonauts are there.  But their story is distracting and largely unconnected, until after Genocide is taken care of and they are the only real thing to focus on.  Wonder Woman deals with the Argonauts and Cheetah (one of Genocide’s makers, supposedly) while Genocide roams free, and one has to wonder why Genocide is not causing, well, genocide in the meantime.  All in all, the story just does not work.

3) Dellec #0 (Aspen)–8 points.

This is a bad comic for one very clear reason: it does not tell us who Dellec is.  There is someone who seems to be a blacksmith at the start of the comic, doing a little bit of internal monologuing, but his relevance to the rest of the comic or the title in general is never made clear.  It seems to me that an issue #0 should do a better job introducing readers to the characters than that.  Presumably, the series focuses on Dellec and his quest for revenge, as the solicitations implied.  However, for issue #0, the focus is on a group of criminals and a mission they undertake (which does not go according to plan) and a priest revealing a secret artifact.  Within the series, all of these elements might tie together.  As presented in this issue, however, none of it seems relevant to anything else, making the entire comic disjointed and partially confusing.

1) Mr. Universe (Image)/Solomon Grundy #7 (DC) (tie)–10 points.

Mr. Universe is a comic my dad and I both thought was interested based on the solicitation:

Everybody needs Mr. Universe — the superhero whose adventures ring
throughout the cosmos! Day and night, he watches over the city,
offering help to the helpless! Without the luxury of a secret
identity, unable to remain invisible among the crowds, he continues to
fulfill his duty! Mr. Universe! The restless superhero! At least,
that’s what Tommy thought…

It sounds like a cool streetview look at a Superman-type character and his influence on a child, right?  It really is not like that.  Instead, it is a series of pages of a muddled storyline wherein Tommy is perhaps insane, muddling through life until such a time he can read a Mr. Universe comic book.  I say Tommy is insane because there are shifts in the story wherein  he sees things happening that do not occur in actuality, almost as if he is trying to will his imagination into existence.  There is little text to the comic, so the art works to convey the story.  It does not succeed, leaving far too many questions.  Overall, it is just a confusing story with art that, though not terrible, definitely cannot carry the comic.

Though there is more dialogue and narration in Solomon Grundy #7, the art is worse and the story is about as clear as the one in Mr. Universe. Perhaps it would have helped if we read any of the previous issues of the mini series.  Perhaps.  Basely solely on this issue, though, it was not clear what was going on or what had gotten Grundy to where he is.  Worse still, as the final part of the mini it did not conclude.  The story continued into a slightly better follow-up in a Superman/Batman two-parter.

Now that those are out of the way, let us get onto the good stuff:

Honorable Mention: Scourge of Gods #1-3/Scourge of the Gods: The Fall #1-3 (Soleil/Marvel)

Scourge of the Gods is set in the future, wherein future parallels of what we know as the Roman Empire–here, the Roman Galactic Empire, comprised of multiple planets–and the Huns–supposed barbarians invading from outside the Empire.  In the first mini, Flavia Aetia, the daughter of a Roman senator, is declared to be the reincarnation of Kerka, the Huns’ goddess of chaos.  From this come a series of interesting developments, wherein we are left uncertain whether or not she is a goddess, what side of the conflict she wishes to be (due to her loyalties with the Romans and her relationship with the Hun King Attilas), and where the Huns are from.  The reveal at the end of the third part certainly leaves the reader hanging and, indeed, left us confused since no other issues of the series had been solicited yet.  Fortunately, though, The Fall came out and eased our confusion.  Everything is explained, relating the Huns, the Romans, gods, and the significance of the Roman Empire we know.

This is an epic, multifaceted story, incorporating life, love, war, godhood, bureaucracy, science fiction and more.  The art is stunning in its detail and meshes quite well with the story.  Overall, Scourge of the Gods is well worth your time and only barely missed our Top Ten.

9) Nova #21-32 (Marvel)/Superman: World of New Krypton #1-10 (DC) (tie)–16 points.

Nova is stellar, and not just because it takes place in space.  This past year in Nova, the main character, Richard Rider, had to deal with a rapidly-enlarged Nova Corps, losing his title as Nova Prime, facing his own mortality, dealing with spillover from War of Kings, fixing the corrupted Worldmind (the head of the Nova Corps), and much more.  Suffice to say, a lot happened in Nova in 2009.  All the while, Richard grew as a character, as a Nova, as a leader, and as a brother.  It certainly helps that this title has has consistently good artists on it, such as Wellington Alves and Andrea DiVito, depicting the stories in a sort of classic style.  Things were sometimes a bit slow, such as toward the start of the year, some of the Nova Corpsmen lack much character, and some of the things the Corps deals with are not fully explained.  But, the comic is consistently dramatic and entertaining.  All too often, Richard or his few Nova Corpsmen were left in predicaments leaving the reader wanting the next month to arrive in order to see how the story ends.

World of New Krypton is exceptional.  I do not mean that to imply that I think it is better than anything else on this list (I don’t).  It is exceptional because it is a Superman story all three of us enjoy.  That is definitely saying something to the quality of this comic, considering that my dad and I are not Superman fans and typically do not have a fond appreciation for Superman material.  Like Nova, World of New Krypton takes an Earth-based hero offworld and puts him in a position where he has to lead people who are struggling their new powers, powers similar to his own.  There have been a few missteps during the series, such as the crossover with the other Superman titles around issue #6 or so.  That said, this is just a strong character piece.  Why is Superman special when there is a whole planet of powered Kryptonians?  This series shows us why.  And it is not just Superman’s character that is being touched on here.  General Zod, his aunt Alura, and a variety of recurring cast members all get their moments to shine and show us that Kryptonians are no less diverse than we are.  World of New Krypton is solid storytelling.

8) War of Kings #1-6 (Marvel)–18 points.

As one of the big events of last year, you might expect big things to happen.  From around the end of the first issue all the way through the climax in the middle of the sixth, the story is filled with big action, multiple forms of conflict, and a few surprise twists.  The third-person narration, while offering unique perspectives, seemed superfluous at times, and the mini was a bit hurt by War of Kings: Darkhawk being used as a means to explain a key point of the story.

War of Kings adequately connects multiple plot threads related to Annihilation, Annihilation: Conquest, Secret War, Secret Invasion, and Uncanny X-Men and is beautifully drawn by Paul Pelletier.  It is a quality story with ramifications to be felt in Marvel space comics for the foreseeable future.

6) The Dark Tower (Marvel)/Mighty Avengers #21-32 (Marvel) (tie)–19 points.

The Dark Tower is a series of mini series.  This year, four Dark Tower titles came out: Treachery, Sorcerer (a one-shot), The Fall of Gilead, and The Battle of Jericho Hill, in that order.  The last of those only just started before the year ended.  Since these issues are all inter-related and part of one large story, we decided that they should count as one entry.  And, oh, what an entry.  The Dark Tower is told in what some might call “widescreen” format.  The story is told with few panels, forcing the narration and dialogue to provide most of the plot.  This is not to say the art is unnecessary.  On the contrary, it provides expansive backgrounds and focuses on key moments, all the while providing the tone the entire story is based around.  The art plays a role in how even a slow issue (usually the first issue or two of each mini) is enjoyable.

The Dark Tower is a story of good versus evil and a boy-turned-man fighting against all odds, no matter how much harm and disaster he experiences in his journey.  I would argue Treachery #6 is one of the best issues of 2009.  No wonder the series is this high on our list.

The fallout of Secret Invasion, Hank Pym dons the identity of the Wasp and forms his own team of Avengers to counteract the formation of the team seen in Dark Avengers.  From there comes Mighty Avengers, which has a lot of what makes a team superhero title great.  Pym’s Avengers face big, world-threatening problems, from the rise of the Elder God Chthon to a villain with the power of a Cosmic Cube, with multiple threats in between.  Great character interactions abound–such as the exchange between Pym and Norman Osborn at a press conference–as do great individual character moments–such as Quicksilver claiming a Skrull had done his misdeeds or Hercules comparing piloting to making love.  The issues have just the right amount of action, drama, and hilarity, making every issue entertaining.

5) Hercules: The Knives of Kush #1-4 (Radical)–21 points.

This comic is great largely because it has so much in it.  Remember those comics that took half an hour to read?  The first four issues that came out in 2009 are each like that.  (The fifth issue, which came out this month, is just faster-paced.)  Hercules and his allies are trying to travel home when their ship is wrecked and they are forced to stay in Egypt for a while.  At first facing a lack of direction and a fair bit of distrust (due to being outsiders), they soon get wrapped up in a civil war between the Pharaoh and his brother.  They are treated as guests and hired as bodyguards by the Pharaoh himself.  He wants them to guard one of his lovers and sniff out a mole in his palace.  All that, plus a few more things, is in the first issue.  As the series progresses, Hercules and company also get involved in the frontlines of the war itself, leading to some cool moments.  Also, the series frequently showcases the culture clash between Ancient Greeks and Egyptians.  There are multiple characters and situations to keep track of, all the while being rendered beautifully by Cris Bolson–though, the coloring is slightly muddy.  The amount of character focus, action, plotlines, and nuances just make this a tremendous series.

4) Avengers: The Initiative #21-31 (Marvel)–23 points.

This title takes a sort of scattershot approach to storytelling.  With an ensemble cast almost too large to juggle, multiple plotlines (sometimes more than one per character), and adjustments related to Marvel’s event titles… well, this comic has no set focus.  That said, the overall focus is on what some might consider the B- through Z-list characters of Marvel.  The various issues touch on people including the Initiative’s instructors, the members of the Shadow Initiative and their mission in Madripoor, members of Initiative’s state teams, new recruits, senior students, former students that are outside the Initiative, and members of the New Warriors.  See what I mean about a large ensemble?  The characters rotate, but each receives some focus.  The quality of the stories does not suffer amidst the shifts and the various plotlines are still allowed to move forward.  The art, though not wonderful, works well enough, adequately showcasing the action and emotion involved in each issue.

Avengers: The Initiative may involve a lot of characters, and it may be forced into changes due to the repercussions of Marvel’s events, but it remains a strong comic, consistently interesting and entertaining.

3) Thor #600-605/Thor: Giant-Size Finale (Marvel)–24 points.

Not many issues of Thor came out this year.  However, it started and ended the year with giant-size issues.  For purposes of voting, we decided the Finale issue should be included Thor proper, as it was essentially just an over-sized issue of the regular series.  Through the regular issues and the Finale, Straczynski weaves a powerful character piece focusing on gods Thor, Loki, Balder, and Kelda and the human Bill.  This year, Loki’s plans to force Thor out of Asgard (and, almost altogether) and to weave his influence over the Asgardians reaches fruition.  Due to the events of Thor #600, Balder is in charge of Asgard and in well over his head.  Thor has his own problems, so it is up to Bill to help Balder and attempt to save the day.  That leads the Finale, which sets up a conflict between the Asgardians, Loki, and Doctor Doom–since the Asgardians are staying in Latveria at the time.  Kieron Gillen picks up from there, taking what came before and converging the individual stories into a battle that was inevitable.  Whether it is the slow-burning fuse of the earlier issues or the explosive conflict emerging from the later issues, Thor is a thrilling, emotional roller coaster ride, rendered beautifully by its multiple artists.

2) Incredible Hercules #125-139/Assault on New Olympus #1 (Marvel)–28 points.

Incredible Hercules is fun–clever, hilarious, dramatic, balls-to-the-wall fun.  Take for example the journey Hercules and his companion Amadeus Cho take to the Underworld.  In Incredible Hercules, the Underworld is a casino wherein the dead heroes and villains of the world literally gamble for their lives, with the payout being resurrection.  See?  That is clever.  How about the lettering that includes such great sound effects as “Rzzldzzl”, “Nuhkraak”, and “Sisy-poof” (upon the rock Sisyphus carries up a hill reappearing after being destroyed), you can see just a taste of the hilarity.  For a better example, you just need to read pretty much any part of the “Hercules: God of Thunder” arc.  Items such Cho’s quest to find his missing sister and the current prophesy of Hercules dying soon showcase the dramatic elements of the story.  Well, those and the threats the duo face in the forms of villains, elves, gods, and one genius.

Month after month, Incredible Hercules is one of the most entertaining comics we buy.

And finally…

1) G-Man: Cape Crisis #1-4 (Image)–31 points.

Like Hercules: Knives of Kush, this comic is dense.  It may look cartoony and (perhaps via that train of thought) childish, but a lot of material can be found in each issue of Cape Crisis.  The main story showcases the protagonist G-Man and his friends as they try to fix a problem G-Man himself causes in the first issue–a problem related to his cape, of course.  As the story is told, nearly every page has a joke and some jokes are just recurring, entertaining gags as an issue progresses.  This is not to say Cape Crisis is great solely because it is funny.  It is just good, classic, lighthearted fun.  Writer/artist Chris Giarrusso is not trying to reinvent the way we look at comics, but merely tell a fun-filled tale of a struggling hero’s… well, struggles.  Yes, the jokes and gags are part of the charm and certainly a good reason to read it.  But it really is the charm of the comic that sells it.  A lot of detail can be found in the simplistic art and the story structure allows for a fair bit of dialogue.  So, the charm comes amidst the density.

I said the exploits of G-Man made up the main story, didn’t I?  Well, in this comic, not only is there a standard size comic story, but there are also multiple back-up comic strips and stories from other writers and artists.  Each of these, though not spectacular in their own right, serve as good bonus material and shape this mini almost into a lighthearted, comedic anthology series.

Honestly, I could go on for quite a while talking about all the things we love about this title.  Suffice to say, we don’t even need the final part to love it as much as we do.

…So there you have it.  One tribunal’s five worst and ten best comic titles of 2009.