Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips' Criminal JUST BARELY edged out Garth Ennis' Punisher MAX series on the following (fairly specious) reasoning - I think, on the whole, Ennis' Punisher is better, but in just 2008, Ennis' Punisher was mostly just finishing up his run, and while it was quite good, it reads a lot better in relation to the previous umptity issues, while Criminal, on the other hand, really shined in 2008, with the first story arc of Volume 2 easily being the best work of the series so far. Brubaker impresses with a brilliant piece of character study, by having three issues tell the same story from three different points of view, and having each issue stand alone as an engaging tale - when read together, though, absolutely striking. Phillips' artwork, of course, is outstanding as well. The back-ups are great reading, too - Criminal is a wonderful package every month.
9. Superior Showcase
#3 of this anthology from AdHouse came out this year - I reviewed it here.
The short story by Laura Park was one of the best short stories I've read in a long while, so I have to give this book a nod here. And Street Angel is in it, too!!
I reviewed the first trade of Northlanders here (only $10 for 8 issues worth of story!).
Northlanders is a grim and gritty comic book where the grime and grit fits the time perfectly, as each story arc examines a different era in Viking history - Brian Wood masterfully sets up his characters and puts them into engaging stories that, due to the anthology-esque format, allows him to do stories with "true" ending. The freedom that comes with that is marvelous. The artists have been quite strong, as well - this year we've seen Davide Gianfelice, Dean Ormston and Ryan Kelly (with great covers by Massimo Carnevale).
Wood and Kelly also finished Local this year, which also was awesome.
This was a big year for Chris Onstad, with the release of The Great Outdoor Fight, but the comic strips also continued its strong showing once more.
Like most comic strips, you are going to have your ebbs and your flows, and perhaps 2008 was not as awesome as previous Achewood years, but it consistently provides strong entertainment, with at least one laugh out loud strip each week (sometimes more than that, but usually at least one a week).
6. Little Nothings
Rarely does a comic advertise is so falsely and truthfully at the same time.
Yes, Lewis Trondheim's Little Nothings is, in fact, basically a collection of little nothings. Tiny short (mostly) auto-biographical slices of life that seem to have no meat to them at all. However, once you read a few of them in a row, you start to see how Trondheim is actually showing us an in-depth look at his life, all through these short, often silly (sometimes absurdest), vignettes. Trondheim manages to get all this across while still keeping the main story very light and fun, which is helped a great deal by his artwork.
It's really a remarkable undertaking.
5. Tales Designed to Thrizzle
Perhaps we should adapt "In this world nothing is certain but death and taxes" to "In this world nothing is certain but death and taxes...and Tales Designed to Thrizzle being hilarious."
Michael Kupperman's awesome humor book saw its fourth issue released this year, and it is as insanely funny (and sometimes just plain insane) as usual.
I reviewed Ganges #2 here.
Kevin Huizenga has a few other notable works out this year, but Ganges #2 was my favorite, especially if you take into consideration that the lead story in Ganges #2 is the precursor to Fight Or Run #1, as it tells the story of video game characters from their perspective. It's an audacious and challenging work, but I honestly enjoyed the second story more, which is a more typical Huizenga work - a slice of life Glenn Ganges tale. Huizenga's storytelling is excellent in the second story, a tale of co-workers dealing with the dot.com bubble bursting through a shared video game experience.
3. All Star Superman
A beautiful ending to a beautiful comic book.
I'm already looking forward to the next project Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely do for us.
Jason Aaron delivers the goods in this series month after month, with brilliantly in-depth looks at complex characters caught up in an inter-related plot that brings to mind the work of Matthew Weiner on Mad Men.
This year began with the beginning of Dead Mothers, a brutal tale of, well, dead mothers. That was drawn by series regular art RM Guera. Falls Down, a look at the one honest cop in the whole reservation, follows - drawn by Davide FurnÃ², who also does the two-part The Boudoir Stomp. Guera returns for The Gravel in Your Guts.
Scalped is unflinching and heart-rending, and it is one of the most dependably good comics you're going to read this year.
The ending of The Boudoir Stomp alone is worth the price of admission.
1. Acme Novelty Library
I already was enjoying the Rusty Brown storyline (is it perhaps a bit too easy of a target? Sure, but it is still very well-written), but in volume 19, in his return to the story (last volume was Ware's "Building Stories" - 16 and 17 were Rusty Brown) Chris Ware turns the whole story on its ears, with a look at Rusty Brown's father, through the method of a science fiction story he wrote in the 1950s.
So the first half of the book is an illustration of that novel ("The Seeing Eye Dogs of Mars" - awesome) and the second half tells the story of Rusty's father's life as a young man (writing obituaries), leading ultimately to the 1970s, which is where most of the Rusty Brown "action" has been taking place.
Through this, we get a better understanding of Rusty. Although, yes, you could sarcastically guess what Woody Brown is going to be like, personality-wise, just based on the fact that this IS a Chris Ware comic book.
In any event, this is a Chris Ware comic not only for Chris Ware fans, but for those who want to see him do something different - "The Seeing Eye Dogs of Mars" is certainly different!
In total, I think this volume is the most accomplished comic book work of the year (that I've read).
Clearly, there are tons of great books I did not mention, and I could do a long "honorable mentions" list, but I think I'll stay away from that for now.