BEST OF 2009: Comic Books, Webcomics And Graphic Novels

As 2009 draws to a close, it’s time to look back on best and brightest comics, comic book movies, comic book swag and, well — everything else that found its way into our bookshelves and longboxes this year. Over the next few days, we’ll be rolling out a trio of “Best Of 2009” features, starting with today’s list of the best comics in print and digital form released in ’09.


“Chew” (Image)
As is the case with cooking, comic books require the right blend of ingredients in order to fully flourish. Thankfully, that’s exactly what John Layman and Rob Guillory’s “Chew” specializes in. The series focuses on Tony Chu, an FDA agent who solves crimes by gleaning psychic impressions from anything he eats. Readers embraced the book’s food-centric premise by sending “Chew” back into the kitchen for multiple sell-outs and reprints. If the new year brings a similar level of quality, fans can expect several more delicious courses from the “Chew” creative team.
– Josh Wigler

Rapture (Dark Horse)
It’s been said that true love can survive anything, but whoever said that never suffered through armageddon. Michael Avon Oeming and Taki Soma test the limits of romance against an apocalyptic backdrop in Dark Horse’s “Rapture,” a truly stand-out epic due to its expertly crafted plot and world design. With cannibals aplenty, starvation mounting and superheroes at a premium, love very well could fall in the face of the hellish world of “Rapture” — but that’s not stopping me from loving the hell out of this book.
– Josh Wigler

“GI Joe: Cobra: Special” #1 (IDW)
Licensed properties tend to fly under the radar for most readers who aren’t a fan of the relevant property, but those who missed out on this issue overlooked a real gem. Writer Mike Costa scripts a story about the villainous twin brothers Tomax and Xamot Paoli that explores the dichotomy of the characters with a unique twist: the tale is is divided into two parts, with one offering Tomax’s take on a shared experience, and the other offering Xamot’s considerably different perspective on the same. The story is structured so that the book begins and ends with a similar set of scenes, tweaked slightly to indicate the characters’ diverging points of view, and their two stories meet (and diverge) in a common scene halfway through the issue. The issue is one of the year’s best not just because of the story itself, but because of the brilliant style in which the story’s presented.
– Rick Marshall

“Blackest Night” (DC)
DC’s cosmic crossover managed to find the balance between introducing a host of new characters and developing existing and modern heroes (and villains). What’s more, many of the tie-in issues on the periphery of the event offered compelling narratives of their own that grounded the events unfolding around the DCU in more focused tales that not only had very real implications for their characters, but also made sense of the events transpiring around the greater DC universe.
– Rick Marshall

“Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season Eight” (Dark Horse)
Not only did Buffy’s 2009 adventures feature the writing talents of some of the best cross-media authors in the industry, but it only becomes apparent now how much of the series’ current events were being seeded way back in the first few issues. Much like with the “Buffy” television series, Joss Whedon and the entire “Buffy” creative team continue to show an impressive knack for building momentum from issue to issue over the long-term while also telling compelling stories in smaller arcs sprinkled throughout the run. Oh, and did we mention that the “big bad” of the current run appears to be a villain named “Twilight”? That’s worth a nod on its own, as far as we’re concerned.
– Rick Marshall

“Robot 13″ (Blacklist)
Thomas Hall and Daniel Bradford’s comic first caught my eye back in June during this year’s MoCCA Festival, and the second issue was just as impressive as the first. Bradford’s art is influenced by Mike Mignola’s early “Hellboy” style in all the right ways, and the series has found a tone all its own while developing a compelling (and thus far, mysterious) mythology amid fun, single-issue adventures. It’s hard not to be intrigued by a robot with a floating skull battling all manner of mythical creatures, and we can’t wait to see where Hall and BRadford are planning to take their hero.
– Rick Marshall

“The New Brighton Archeological Society” (Image)
“New Brighton” readers get the best of two worlds in a story that’s fun to read on its own and a comic that can be shared with readers of any age — whether they can read it themselves or have it read to them. In fact, it feels like Mark Andrew Smith and Matthew Weldon have all the ingredients for success in “New Brighton”: a spunky group of kids with lots of free time, a wild world ripe for exploration, fantastic creatures culled from various faerie tales, and dangers that manage to be scary without being truly terrifying. It’s the sort of book we’re quite certain we’d love when we were little, but get a kick out of reading now, too.
– Rick Marshall

The transcendent popularity of “xkcd” cannot be overstated, and in 2009, Randall Munroe’s ultra-nerdy series of stick-figure snippets about life remained as fresh as ever with its commentary on subjects like Pirate Bay, Facebook suggestions and Windows 7. In the meantime, Munroe released his first print collection, “xkcd: Volume Zero,” and used part of the proceeds to fund a new school in Laos.
– Brian Warmoth

“Bad Machinery”
Writer and artist John Allison is by no means a newcomer to the webcomics world, having sustained his marathon run on “Scary Go Round” from 2002 until September of this year when he launched this spin-off. His witty take on mysteries and the macabre, along with a deep, established world of characters, refocused his attention on a group of girls in grammar school and made for one of the most anticipated events in webcomics for 2009.
– Brian Warmoth

“Goats: Infinite Typewriters” (Del Rey)
In a year that saw “xkcd: Volume Zero,” Aaron Diaz’s super-limited hand-bound “Dresden Codak” release, and fine collections of “Achewood,” “The Perry Bible Fellowship” and “Sinfest” from Dark Horse, holding one webcomics book above the others isn’t easy. Del Rey’s “Goats: Infinite Typewriters,” however, managed to pack a continuity-intensive series into an accessibly organized, well-designed volume with one of the most vivid print jobs you’ll see from a web-to-print project. It also set the standard for this month’s follow-up, “Goats: The Corndog Imperative (The Infinite Pendergast Cycle).”
– Brian Warmoth

“Planetary” #27 (Wildstorm)
The final issue of Warren Ellis and John Cassaday’s “Planetary” finally hit the stands just over ten years after the first issue came out. Despite the delays, “Planetary” was consistently one of the best comics on the market — and the last issue was no exception. The series concluded as our favorite “Archaeologists of the Impossible” were finally reunited with their missing teammate before they rededicated themselves to exploring our strange world — and keeping it that way.
– Blair Marnell

“Parker: The Hunter” (IDW)
Based on the series of “Parker” novels by Richard Stark (the pen name of author Donald Westlake), IDW’s “The Hunter” is adapted and illustrated by award-winning “New Frontier” creator Darwyn Cooke, and looks, well… just as beautiful and stylishly noir as its source material demands. Readers will likely recognize “The Hunter” as the inspiration for the 1967 Lee Marvin film “Point Blank” and Mel Gibson’s 1999 film “Payback,” and this could be the best adaptation yet of Stark’s wildly popular novels.
– Rick Marshall

“A.D.: New Orleans After The Deluge” (Pantheon)
By chronicling the stories of seven very different survivors of Hurricane Katrina and the New Orleans floods, Josh Neufeld provides one of the best examples of comics as journalism to hit the shelves this year. With stories that are equal parts inspirational, thought-provoking and, in some cases, terribly frustrating, “A.D.” is collective memory that goes a long way toward helping us learn from our mistakes instead of repeating them.
– Rick Marshall

And be sure to check out the rest of our BEST OF 2009 features:
Best Movies, TV And Games
Best Toys, Trends, News, Etc.

Agree with our picks? Have some of your own you’d like to share? Let us know what you think in the comment section or on Twitter!