These are the comic books that I enjoyed reading the most that were published in the last decade. You’ll definitely see some recurring authors and characters, signifying my personal bias. I know there are a ton of great books I haven’t read from this period and as time goes on I plan on reading some (look for a huge Image Comics read-through in early 2020). Please let me know of any titles not on my list as I may have not read them and always appreciate recommendations.
Fantastic Four by Jonathan Hickman (2010)
Jonathan Hickman came onboard Fantastic Four at the start of the decade with big plans for not just this series but Marvel as well. He adhered to that original Stan Lee/Jack Kirby of exploring the unknown and created an optimistic, diverse possible future. The best thing Hickman gave us, and what has been criminally underused since, is the Future Foundation. The Future Foundation was Reed Richards’ effort to cultivate the next generation of scientists, and it played with reader expectations. Of course, Franklin and Valeria Richards are part of the team, but Hickman also includes some adolescent Moloids, the android Dragon Man, and a clone of Reed’s foil The Wizard. Not only is this a great read, one of the best Fantastic Four runs we’ve ever gotten, but it’s also almost essential reading to understand this last decade of Marvel comics.
Batman & Robin by Grant Morrison (2010-11)
Grant Morrison is a profoundly divisive comics figure, and I come down on the side of liking his work. It’s very dense and esoteric; it requires a lot of brainpower and multiple reads. I find Morrison’s work to be incredibly playful, and it’s at peak silliness in the pages of his Batman and Robin run (v1 #1-16). He has introduced new villains that have started to pop in animated properties and video games, Professor Pyg specifically. He also established a sadly missed dynamic of Dick Grayson as Batman and Damien Wayne as Robin. The back and forth between these two is better than any Bruce Wayne/Robin combo we’ve ever seen, full of personality and energy. This storyline would be continued into Batman Incorporated, an equally rewarding read.
Batman: The Black Mirror by Scott Snyder (2011)
Scott Snyder has become a name closely associated with Batman thanks to his part in the New52 reboot. However, I argue his first Batman tale, “The Black Mirror” is still the most affecting. This story took place during the brief period where Dick Grayson (formerly Nightwing) has assumed the mantle of Batman. The most interesting part of this storyline concerns Commissioner Jim Gordon and his daughter Barbara Gordon (Batgirl). They have been estranged to Jim Gordon, Jr., the black sheep of the family who has slid into complete psychopathy. It’s a very dark psychological story that gives a lot of depth to the Gordon family and revisits some ideas from way back in Frank Miller’s Batman: Year One.
Flashpoint by Geoff Johns(2011)
While this storyline led to the highly controversial New52 reboot of DC Comics, as a standalone alternate universe/history story, it’s fantastic. Barry Allen, aka The Flash, uses time travel to prevent his mother’s death at the hands of Professor Zoom. When Barry returns to the present, he finds the universe is radically altered with the heroes he knows being changed the most. Batman is Thomas Wayne, fighting crime to avenge his dead wife and son. Superman was captured by the government and has grown up in a bunker, becoming an emaciated mute. Wonder Woman and Aquaman lead a war between the Amazons and Atlantis that threatens the entire planet. Several side mini-series are also worth a word, including the Batman, Superman, and Flash collections.
Saga by Brian K. Vaughn & Fiona Staples (2012)
From the first panel of Saga, you know you are in a strange new territory. It should have been no surprise to anyone that had followed writer Brian K. Vaughn. He’s had a prolific career with titles like Runaways and Y The Last Man. Saga was something different, a science fantasy world unlike anything readers had ever seen. Every page introduced a bizarre new character or aspect to this world. The core of the story is classic Romeo & Juliet, two soldiers from opposite sides of a war fall in love and have a child in secret. From there, the romance becomes a threat to the status quo, and the lovers must escape across the galaxy, trying to live a peaceful life. Saga is still ongoing with issue 54 being labeled the halfway point by Vaughn, meaning there will be a total of 108 issues when it’s all said and done. I suppose in another five or six years, or so when the series is complete, I’ll do a full re-read-through.
Uncanny X-Force by Rick Remender (2012)
This is my favorite X-Men run in the first half of the decade. Remender embraces the convoluted and confusing history of the world of the X-Men and creates some compelling emotional stories. The relationship between Psylocke and Archangel is at the center of what happens in this book and has a beautiful conclusion that I think brought complete closure to these two. Additionally, Remender has the team revisiting the Age of Apocalypse Universe, where their Wolverine has taken the role of a tyrant. The issues that feature the artwork of Jerome Opena are the highlight, with such gorgeous textures and detail. This was from a period in Marvel where titles like Uncanny X-Force could do their own thing without the pressure of being included in line-wide events. It’s a time that has passed, but this book is an excellent example of what happens when you give a creator room to tell their story.
The Manhattan Projects by Jonathan Hickman (2012)
This will be one of many Jonathan Hickman titles on this list. The series opens with a deep dive inside the mind of Robert Oppenheimer, the man who is credited as “the father of the atomic bomb.” However, we quickly learn this isn’t Robert but Joseph, the murderous twin brother of the former. He’s posing as his brother as his mind has fractured into an infinite number of realities and personalities. Joseph is working on secret projects for the U.S. government alongside Enrico Fermi, Harry Daghlian, and even Albert Einstein, and each of them has bizarre and twisted secrets. The protagonist, if this series could have one, is young physicist Richard Feynman. The Manhattan Projects is a wild, deeply researched ride through a looking glass version of our own world from World War to the future.
The Superior Spider-Man (2013)
For many of Spider-Man’s foes, the shtick had worn thin. Doctor Octopus, in particular, had been reinvented and reconfigured so many times in an attempt to freshen up the villain that he felt like something of a relic. With this year-long storyline, Dan Slott and the crew on the Spidey books injected Ock with a fresh new lease on life by taking away Peter Parker’s. As Doc Ock lay dying, his final devious masterplan was activated, with he and Parker switching consciousnesses. Parker died, and Ock lived on in the body of Spider-Man. He eventually succumbed to the pull of what fragments of Parker remained in his mind and became a hero, but only in the way Ock could be. The Superior Spider-Man is an arrogant jerk who sees no qualms in secretly monitoring people and using harsh violence to stop evil. This was one of the most refreshing Spider-Man stories to have come out in years and proved to be very popular, as Ock is still using a cloned body this time and acting as a West Coast variant of your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man.
Moon Knight by Warren Ellis (2014)
Warren Ellis never met a deadline he couldn’t miss. That’s why reading this book while it was being published was so frustrating, but now that it is all wrapped up, it makes for a fantastic experience. Moon Knight has always been a criminally underused Marvel character, a variation on Batman that leans into the mental illness and presents a hero with multiple personalities. Ellis’ specialty seems to be reinventing heroes in the same way Grant Morrison does but with a totally different perspective. In just six issues, Ellis reworked Moon Knight into a version that every writer in the ensuing five years has worked to mimic. He didn’t need sprawling multi-issue arcs, Ellis approached each issue as done-in-one, telling complete stories from cover to cover. The art by Declan Shalvey is sharp and precise, focusing on momentum. There’s little dialogue in these comics, but they tell big, engaging stories.
Afterlife with Archie (2014)
This was one of those beautiful surprises of the decade, the reinvention of Archie Comics. The line of books had languished in supermarket checkout obscurity, relegated to digests reprinting old stories with one or two new tales that were the opposite of funny. When Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa came to the company, he sent this zombie apocalypse title out to the public like a sonic boom. This was an Archie only sold in comic book shops, aimed at a mature audience, that features blood and gore, profanity, and sex. This is a survival story that brings in all the Archie cast plus Sabrina to tell a harrowing tale of humans pushed to their limits. Subsequently, the Archie title would relaunch with a new team attempting to make the character more relevant to modern audiences. We also got several additional horror books, Vampironica, and Jughead the Hunger. The best of the bunch has been The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, which brings the character more in line with classic occult roots.
This was the story Grant Morrison was born to tell. Ever since DC Comics brought back their multiverse concept, Morrison had this story ready to go. This is an adventure that takes place across multiple universes, with endless variations of your favorite heroes all focused on stopping an evil called The Gentry. Morrison introduces the idea of the Megaverse, a reality that exists beyond the boundaries of DC’s local multiverse, implying a connection with other fictional realities. The Gentry comes to represent the dark tone comics have taken since the 1980s, personifying the hopelessness and chaotic violence attributed to books like The Dark Knight Returns and Watchmen. It’s up to heroes like President Superman of Earth-8, Super-Demon, Aquawoman, Johnny Quick, Captain Carrot, and more to unite and push back this tide of destruction. If you don’t like Grant Morrison, then you will hate this, but if you’re a fan of his outlandish, no holds barred wild storytelling, then you’ll find so much to love.