CBR's Top 100 Comics of 2009, #25 - 1

Each year, CBR wraps its coverage of the comics industry with a virtual nerd cage match to determine the very best comics of the year. Every single CBR staffer - from our news team to our all-star columnists, from CBR's many bloggers to our legion of reviewers - had the chance to chip in their favorite books of the year with only the highest vote-getters ranking up on our massive top 100 comics list, and this year neither the staff nor the comics disappointed.

2009 was a year bursting at the seams with big names, big releases and big news. Though the economy's been down and the business of comics has been changing, there was still an abundance of great titles last year to choose from, from the top flight superhero and genre periodicals of the direct market to the astonishingly varied manga and graphic novels ruling book store sales to the oh so independent comics of the festival circuit and the web.

And while it's nearly impossible for even the combined staff of CBR to have read every single ongoing series, miniseries, one-shot, graphic novel and web comic published in and throughout 2009, we are confident that you'll find no better indicator of the breadth and quality of the industry as it stands today than right here. So check back to see what books ranked at #100 through 76, #75 through 51 or #50 through 26, and then read on below to see the final 25 of our Best 100 Comics of 2009!

#25. Fables

Written By: Bill Willingham

Illustrated By: Mark Buckingham & Various

Published By: DC Comics/Vertigo

This book is so well done each month, I can't imagine a world where it doesn't exist. Mr. Willingham is in his early fifties, so by my estimation, he should have no problem continuing on with "Fables" until at least #500. No pressure, sir.

- Staff Writer Jeff Renaud

#24. Seaguy: Slaves of Mickey Eye

Written By: Grant Morrison

Illustrated By: Cameron Stewart

Published By: DC Comics/Vertigo

Seaguy's journey from boy to man continues as he rebels against Mickey Eye and the status quo in this wonderfully metafictional tour de force by Grant Morrison and Cameron Stewart. Absurdly funny and biting in its critique of superhero comics, it also delivers an engrossing story, and stunning storytelling.

- CBR Reviewer Chad Nevett

#23. Stitches: A Memoir

Written & Illustrated By: David Small

Published By: WW Norton

David Small's "Stitches" is an astonishingly haunting comic memoir that, as great as it is, I wonder if some of you might wish to skip this one. It is not for the faint of heart to see a young boy be given radiation by his doctor father for years to help cure some sinus problems only to have the radiation cause a tumor to grow in his throat, leading to a horrific operation, a gross scar and a lack of the ability to speak for years!

And that might not even be the most messed up aspect of Small's life story!

No, that would be the undercurrent of oppression that goes on in his childhood household, which we see as vignettes from over the years. Small is a great artist, and he does a superb job of depicting the stark horror of his life when he needs to. This is a wonderfully horrible book.

- Comics Should Be Good Blog Manager Brian Cronin

#22. The Book of Genesis

Written & Illustrated By: R. Crumb

Published By: WW Norton

To describe what R. Crumb has done as mere illustration does a disservice. Crumb makes judgments, alters meaning and elucidates, but he also does something else, giving internal life to the characters whose action seem fated and out of their hands. The book is both a critique of the faith being established in these pages and a consideration of how life was lived at the time the stories took place. Crumb has always been a artist of the physical and the sensual and he gives unique form to the Bible with this work.

- Staff Writer Alex Dueben

#21. Blackest Night

Written By: Geoff Johns

Illustrated By: Ivan Reis

Published By: DC Comics

Geoff Johns' big event finally arrived in the summer of 2009, and I never thought I'd be so happy to see a ton of zombies swarm Smallville. Along with artist Ivan Reis, Johns is tying together a whole mess of continuity from way back in the DCU's history. Even if you're slightly confused by the historical aspects of the plot, there's still something for everyone in "Blackest Night:" zombies, heroics and a Flash/Green Lantern team-up.

- Staff Writer Steve Sunu

#20. Ganges

Written & Illustrated By: Kevin Huizenga

Published By: Fantagraphics

In the latest issue of his Ignatz Line series, Kevin Huizenga takes an everyday situation - the agony of not being able to sleep - and turns it into a brilliant, insightful comic with inventive layouts and dead-on emotion. I'll never look at insomnia the same way again.

- Robot 6 Editor John Parkin

#19. 20th Century Boys

Written & Illustrated By: Naoki Urasawa

Published By: Viz

It's hard for me to think of another manga I enjoyed more this year. Urasawa's tale of a young man facing off against a dangerous cult is one of the more pleasurable thrill-ride reads I've experienced in recent memory.

- Robot 6 Contributor Chris Mautner

#18. Air

Written By: G. Willow Wilson

Illustrated By: M.K. Perker

Published By: DC Comics/Vertigo

Vertigo's best series in years, hands down. Jittery heroine Blythe navigates a plane powered by the collective unconscious (more or less), but the trickier journey is discerning friend from foe - including Zayn, for whom she feels a strong attraction but who might just be a terrorist. Also: Amelia Earhardt. Amazing.

- Staff Writer Shaun Manning

#17. Ex Machina

Written By: Brian K. Vaughan

Illustrated By: Tony Harris

Published By: Wildstorm

I hear BKV's voice so clearly through Mitchell Hundred it's as though I'm one of the mechanical devices the Great Machine communicates with. And the art of Tony Harris is pitch perfect. I can't believe it's all coming to end in just three issues.

- Staff Writer Jeff Renaud

#16. League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Century

Written By: Alan Moore

Illustrated By: Kevin O'Neill

Published By: Top Shelf Productions

DC's loss is Top Shelf's gain, as everyone's favorite Victorian adventures move into the 20th century and absolutely return to form.

- Columnist Brian Hibbs

#15. Pluto

Written By: Naoki Urasawa with Takashi Nagasaki

Illustrated By: Naoki Urasawa

Published By: Viz

I never thought the original "Astro Boy" storyline by Osamu Tezuka was that interesting, but Naoki Urasawa's brand-new adaptation is engrossing. Urasawa transforms Tezuka's ideas into a combination of hard-boiled mystery, oppression of second-class-citizens, and science-fiction extravaganza. Urasawa is great with his own concepts, but "Pluto" is the merging of two masters of comics.

- CBR Reviewer Greg McElhatton

#14. Irredeemable

Written By: Mark Waid

Illustrated By: Peter Krause

Published By: BOOM! Studios

When Mark Waid said he was creating the third chapter that he began with "Empire" and "Kingdom Come," we had no idea the lengths the BOOM! EIC would go to prove his point. So far, the Plutonian has ravaged every part of his former heroic life depicted in exquisite detail by Peter Krause and we couldn't be happier to be along for the ride.

- Staff Writer Steve Sunu

#13. Amazing Spider-Man

Written & Illustrated By: Various

Published By: Marvel Comics

Between issue #600, the return of Mary Jane and the death of the Daily Bugle, this has been a very interesting year for Spidey. The rotation of creative teams has kept the stories from getting stale, and "The Gauntlet" promises to be a fun ride in 2010. Even with the sheer number of creators working on ASM, the book has felt very consistent, and Editor Stephen Wacker deserves a ton of credit for that.

- Contributing Writer Brian LeTendre

#12. Wednesday Comics

Written & Illustrated By: Various

Published By: DC Comics

"Wednesday Comics" may have been a lot to ask of readers with a weekly $3.99 price of admission, but the stage that the book's editor Mark Chiarello put together was a veritable Woodstock of DC Comics' living talent. The epic scope of Dave Gibbons and Ryan Sook's Kamandi story together with the explosive moments in John Arcudi and Lee Bermejo's Superman pages and Paul Pope's mesmerizing Adam Strage illustrations packed the series' newsprint pages with a formidable tour of the DCU in an inspired homage now non-existent full-page newspaper comics.

- Contributing Writer Brian Warmoth

#11. Phonogram

Written By: Kieron Gillen

Illustrated By: Jamie McKelvie

Published By: Image Comics

Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie display unparalleled mastery of the comic form in this music-is-magic series composed of interconnected done-in-ones. Fantastic artwork, brilliant writing, every issue crammed with extras and all for only $3.50. Can't more comics be this good?

- CBR Reviewer James Hunt

#10. Batman & Robin

Written By: Grant Morrison

Illustrated By: Frank Quitely & Philip Tan

Published By: DC Comics

Morrison tends to amp things to a degree that only works for him - his ultra-disturbing Joker hasn't been seen much since that first appearance, and of course most of his real outre ideas in "New X-Men" have since been tamped down or muted. But man, going beyond that edge really does work for him, and his "B&R" baddies are amazing and made all the more sick by Quitely's detailed art.

- Staff Writer Shaun Manning

#9. The Photographer

Written By: Didier Lefèvre and Emmanuel Guibert

Illustrated By: Emmanuel Guibert and Frederic Lemercier

Published By: First Second

A look at Afghanistan, the photographer Didier Lefevre and the work of Medecins sans Frontières (Doctors without Borders). Cartoonist Emmanuel Guibert and Lefevre have crafted a work that is heartbreaking and inspiring and unforgettable. It is a tribute to Lefevre, the doctors of MSF who selflessly give so much to the world, and to the people of Afghanistan. "The Photographer" is essential reading and at a time when Afghanistan looms so large in the American psyche, it should be required.

- Staff Writer Alex Dueben

#8. Unwritten

Written By: Mike Carey

Illustrated By: Peter Gross

Published By: DC Comics/Vertigo

"The Unwritten" is essentially a story about the power of stories, and, as both a writer and a reader, I find that fascinating. Carey has populated his story with a very human and likeable protagonist and memorable and mysterious villains. Plus, this is a series that explores history with guest appearances by famous authors. When you add that all together with Peter Gross's great art, you get one of the best books being published today.

- Staff Writer Dave Richards

#7. Scott Pilgrim Vs. The Universe

Written & Illustrated By: Bryan Lee O'Malley

Published By: Oni Press

"Scott Pilgrim vs. the Universe" is the penultimate book in the "Scott Pilgrim" saga, and Bryan Lee O'Malley is making it worth the wait. There's still all the kick-butt action you've come to expect, but watching Scott have to start growing up, both professionally and emotionally, is engrossing. A huge turning-point for the series, I'm finding myself desperate for the conclusion.

- CBR Reviewer Greg McElhatton

#6. Driven By Lemons

Written & Illustrated By: Josh Cotter

Published By: Ad House Books

Joshua W. Cotter became an indie and minicomics fixture with his series-turned-graphic-novel "Skyscrapers of the Midwest," and in his follow-up from AdHouse Books this year marked an operatically ambitious attempt at visual stream of consciousness that wanders his frenetic vignettes of culture and urban landscape.

- Contributing Writer Brian Warmoth

#5. Scalped

Written By: Jason Aaron

Illustrated By: R.M. Guera, David Furno, Francesco Francavilla

Published By: DC Comics/Vertigo

"Scalped", Jason Aaron's Native American crime saga had another year of fantastic character-driven stories that were powerful, exciting, funny and often heartbreaking. The art by R.M. Guera, David Furno, and Francesco Francavilla only served to further enhance the already gritty feel of this series. I said it last year and I'll say it again this year because I think it really does sum up this series: "Scalped" is the four color equivalent of HBO's late great television series "The Wire". If you were a fan of that show and you're not reading this book, stop reading this list, run down to the comic shop and grab the collected editions of "Scalped." You''ll be glad that you did.

- Staff Writer Dave Richards

#4. Chew

Written By: John Layman

Illustrated By: Rob Rob Guillory

Published By: Image Comics

Whodathunk that the ongoing adventures of a police detective who gets psychic feedback from whatever he eats would be the most entertaining new book of 2009? John Layman and Rob Guillory have created a place that is so much fun to visit, it makes heading back to reality far less appetizing.

- Staff Writer Jeff Renaud

#3. Parker: The Hunter

Written & Illustrated By: Darwyn Cooke

Published By: IDW

The adaptation of Richard Stark's debut of the infamous Parker is a visually strong work, particularly the opening sequence where Parker returns to the city and sets up the means to get his money back. Cooke's pacing is perfect and his art is top notch as always.

- CBR Reviewer Chad Nevett

#2. Detective Comics

Written By: Greg Rucka

Illustrated By: J.H.Williams III and Cully Hamner

Published By: DC Comics

There were plenty of skeptics when it was announced that "Detective Comics" would be featuring Batwoman and The Question, but it's turned out to be the best Bat-book going in the wake of "Final Crisis." J.H. Williams III is putting on a monthly clinic about sequential storytelling and panel work, and Rucka has made Kate Kane and Renee Montoya two of the more interesting characters in the DC Universe.

- Contributing Writer Brian LeTendre

#1. Asterios Polyp

Written & Illustrated By: David Mazzucchelli

Published By: Pantheon

I know it's a conventional choice, but I think there's a very good reason why - it's because it is really, really good!

David Mazzucchelli has been working on this book for - literally - years, and all that time and effort shows in what can only be called one of the most brilliantly designed comic books ever. The design work on this book is on par with the best of Chris Ware, and since Chris Ware is one of the best comic book designers there is, that's heady praise indeed. Characters, settings and times are all depicted by specific colors, making it a unique and rewarding reading experience.

The main character of the book, Asterios Polyp, sees his apartment destroyed by lightning, and is driven to the point where he takes a bus and travels to a whole new world in another part of the US. As he goes on this journey, we learn all about his past, including his broken marriage (we're guided on this journey at times by Polyp's never-born twin brother, which is just one of many dualities within the work).

The plot of the book, strictly speaking, is not the key to this work. It's about how the characters interact with each other and how Mazzucchelli depicts these interactions with his art, and even his lettering with each person being given his or her own hand-lettered font. We're talking about a serious labor of love here - a labor of love that is the top book of 2009.

- Comics Should Be Good Blog Manager Brian Cronin

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