Schachat's Year-End Breakdown
Schachat was bitten by a radioactive Baby New Year.
Now he has big ears.
Top Ten Comics (and MORE!) of 2004
week, Jason Schachat takes you along for his ride on the
four-colored pulp pony. Feed the addiction, and the addiction
Another year come and gone… let’s
make a top ten list!
Now, before I start, let’s say the
criteria for this was based on an old Howard Hawks method
for rating good movies. We were looking for books that had
three great issues and no bad ones. Naturally, any comic
that did better than that scored higher.
I fully acknowledge that there may be some great books out
there I never got around to reading, but this is the best
I can do without breaking off all human contact (believe
me, I tried).
disagree with any choices, just say so on our
10 Ongoing Comic Series of 2004
Spring thaw is going to suck.
Of course, it just had to be this one, didn’t it?
I’ve made it well known that The Walking Dead
has had me hooked from the start, so this probably shouldn’t
come as any surprise. Fact of the matter is I never expected
a zombie comic to work for me, much less have me wrapped
around its finger.
Robert Kirkman, Tony Moore, Charlie Adlard, and their team
have done is nothing short of a miracle. At a time when
horror comics are expected to have bloodspray and monsters
on every page, The Walking Dead has taken us back
to the roots of the genre and shown us exactly what we were
Walking Dead Volume 1: Days Gone Bye
Walking Dead Volume 2: Miles Behind Us
There’s a popular wisdom that up and coming comic
creators make their mark by reviving B-list characters with
complete re-imaginings. Alan Moore’s Swamp Thing,
Frank Miller’s Daredevil, Neil Gaiman’s
Sandman have changed the idea of revival into major
expansion of the character and their universe.
year, we got that from Dan Slott, Juan Bobillo, and Paul
Pelletier’s She-Hulk—but it was funny,
too! I can only guess that its initial purpose was to compete
with DC’s Plastic Man, but the title managed
to rise well above that, coloring smart storytelling with
humor and enough references to keep Marvel encyclopedists
drooling for years. It looks to be wrapping up soon, but
keep your eyes peeled for the next volume already in the
Single Green Female
Volume 2: Superhuman Law
Brian K. Vaughan has put out more quality product this year
than any writer should be allowed to. Ex Machina
tops this list for its perfect blend of smart story, political
lessons, sly humor, and superheroics. Add Tony Harris’
eye-popping art into the mix, and you’ve got the book
that’ll do for comics what The West Wing
did for television.
title didn’t even run through the full year and buzz
about it has been practically non-stop. Like Vaughan’s
other original books, it seems to be built so it could end
at any moment, thus allowing for a complete story even if
low sales take it out. But every issue has been a winner,
and the future’s looking very bright for Mr. Vaughan,
Machina: The First Hundred Days - Volume 1
admit it -- I still miss Supergirl.
Peter David broke a lot of hearts with his recent run on
Captain Marvel, but I think we can all agree he
redeemed himself with his work on Fallen Angel.
David’s been fond of bringing noir back to
comics, and this title has been dripping with it. However,
unlike so many other writers’ attempts to ape Frank
Miller, he’s played it with a soft touch, more Casablanca
than Kiss Me Deadly.
David Lopez on art duties, the book has fleshed out the
most fascinating DCU city since The Golden Age.
The mystery is enthralling, the characters deliciously complex,
and the plot keeps wrapping us around David’s little
This is the one people were talking about all year long.
The book that made the Conan franchise cool again by being
more Conan than ever (Savage Sword enthusiasts, please direct
the hate mail to Derek -- no, no, that's all right --
Jason accepts hate mail - Derek). We all knew good
things could be on the way with Kurt Busiek at the helm,
but who would’ve thought they’d find the perfect
artist in Carey Nord?
may have killed off all hopes of a final Conan film, but,
frankly, who needs him when we’re getting it this
good? This is the Cimmerian barbarian the way he was intended
to be: roughly hewn, relying on his wits as much as the
sword, and wholly undiluted by market trends. These are
the things that are best in life…
Volume 1: The Frost Giant's Daughter And Other Stories
Yes, the best “Bat-book” doesn’t feature
Batman. It’s not about his young charges, superhero
allies, or nemeses, either. But, damn, does it work. Somehow,
Gotham always seems like a richer tapestry to work on than
Metropolis or most other comic cities. The rotating teams
on Gotham Central have used that to make what could
simply be Law and Order: Gotham into an identifiable
cop drama with a twist.
year saw both small and large stories gracing the series,
but probably the greatest achievement was managing to avoid
the entire “War Games” crossover, yet still
incorporating the fallout into Gotham Central’s
history. It’s got just the right amount of grit to
sell without being a Daredevil clone or another attempt
at a grim eighties Bat-book.
Central: In the Line of Duty
I never thought the DC Focus line had a chance. I was right,
but, wow, was I wrong about Hard Time. This series
keeps you coming back every month. I’ve tried describing
it as a nice OZ or a dark The Shawshank Redemption,
but it almost defies description. The insertion of a super-powered
boy into a maximum security prison almost sounds like a
recipe for disaster. It isn’t.
Steve Gerber took a setting and situation
that could be old hat and made it fresh and invigorating.
Brian Hurtt’s pencil gives every line just the amount
of softness to keep the prison from overpowering readers,
and the overall production is spot-on. If there were more
room, I definitely would have put this higher up the list.
Time : 50 to Life
Fables suffered from a lack of momentum in the earlier part
of this year, but culminated a massive arc with some huge
payoffs. Fabletown has been turned completely upside down,
now that readers have had time to fully absorb this world
and its rules, and we can expect some more big happenings
Willingham put a lot on his plate doing this along with
so much of the “War Games” crossover, but he
managed to keep Fables aloft even as efforts on
the Bat-books met with mixed results. All I ask for are
more supplementary oneshots like Fables: The Last Castle.
Ah, the title that both got on this list for being multi-volume
AND was knocked down the list for the same reason. Season
One ended with such a phenomenal bang, I couldn’t
deny it a mention, but Season Two started too late and with
too little excitement for me to put it higher up the list.
No doubt, things will improve.
Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips deserve a big wet one for
sweeping the loose elements of the Wildstorm Universe into
a neat pile and playfully stomping on them. Tao may have
been a fun bastard towards the end of his WildC.A.T.s stint,
but this interpretation is even more predatory than Alan
Moore’s evil test tube baby was. Oh, and the hero’s
- Volume 1 : Out in the Cold
- Volume 2 : All False Moves
Y: The Last Man
Expected me to put this one higher up the list, after all
the praise I’ve showered it with? So did I, but, fair
is fair, and Y started the year with a whimper
before kicking it into high gear during the midseason. We
had some growth and soul-searching, but it almost seemed
like the series forgot what it was doing for a moment.
the strong writing of Brian K. Vaughan got him yet another
spot on the list. Even when Y was idling, there
was a lingering feeling that it could jolt to life at any
moment. And it did. The return of artist Pia Guerra brought
the series back to the familiar standard we all know and
love, and Y is looking sweet as ever.
(in alphabetical order)
-- Loki is really Peter's father!
People may have hated a lot of the developments this past
year, but I have to admit that JMS did shake things up.
Will it end up being for the better? Who knows; it was enough
to make me consider it for the best list.
Here’s the book that re-invented the X-Men yet again
by taking a good stinky look at the Claremont/Byrne years.
I would’ve put it on the list, but the progression
was just a bit too slow, despite John Cassaday’s phenomenal
If ever a comic deserved groupies, it was Mark Waid and
Mark Weiringo’s run on Fantastic Four. Unfortunately,
this year wasn’t entirely run by that team.
‘Cause Robert Kirkman made us love superheroes again,
but he could’ve done it better.
It’s ending soon, but let’s give it one last
hurrah for kidnapping Aunt May, retiring Venom and making
The Scorpion rock our world again.
My, what a wonderful series… So funny, so witty, and
so appropriate to the character. If not for a few missteps
and a lack of overall plot (brought on by the initial plan
to do a miniseries), this would’ve ruled my world.
We started the year with a bad arc, but, otherwise, this
would’ve been on the top ten. It got cancelled, and
it STILL went out with a bang. Volume 2 looks very promising…
We love Bendis. We really do. The consistency and cleverness
of this series is one of the reasons why.
Rucka gave him back his humanity, then Millar took away
his heroism. Oh, that’s fun!
Like a DCU version of Ex Machina, the new adventures
of Diana put the political and public life of the hero before
the private and heroic. It works really well, but the pacing
just wasn’t up to the competition.
3 Comic Mini-Series of 2004
The New Frontier
Jordan thanks Geoff Johns for fixing his reputation.
This mini-series cost an arm and a leg, but it was well
worth it. For perhaps the first time, we got to see the
Silver Age through modern eyes without having to worry about
gross interpretations or candy-coated nostalgia. This one
hit the mark and currently marks the pinnacle of Darwyn
I haven’t even read the last issue of WE3,
and I have to put it on the list. This was simply brilliant
execution of a pure, simple story, The Incredible Journey
gone cybernetic. Even sans ending, it was probably the most
affecting read I had all year.
I’ve moaned, I’ve wailed, and now I’m
giving some credit where credit’s due. Brad Meltzer
and Rags Morales pulled off the best crossover of the year,
and they changed the status quo. “X-Men Reload”
was anything but, “Avengers Disassembled” was
too much so, and “War Games” just wasn’t
much fun. This one shook things up and gave us a thrill;
you have to respect that.
Top 3 Comic Maxi-Series of 2004
Damn, did Judd Winick have some fun this year. On top of
making over Batman, Green Arrow, and Outsiders in his own
style, he put out one of the sweetest maxi-series we’ve
seen in a long time. Told in three parts, it delivered even
on the thoroughly unpromising “modern” chapter
with a sense of wicked glee. If you missed out on this…
man, I feel sorry for you.
I had to take this one down a few notches since it ended
during the middle of the year, but I REALLY wanted to put
it with the ongoing series. Sadly, the fickle market and
Andi Watson’s keen mind didn’t allow Love
Fights to last beyond twelve issues. I doubt there’s
ever been such a well done love story with superheroes as
a backdrop before, but, then again, I don’t think
there’s much reason to even try finding another.
It took me a while to catch up on the rest of Demo
but it was worth the hours spent rifling through bins and
hounding clerks. In retrospect, I should’ve waited
for the Trade Paperback, but then I couldn’t put it
one this list! Granted, it may be hard for some to find
this indie, but it’s well worth it. The single issue
stories deal with superpowers in such creative ways, you’ll
wonder why we’re still reading the same old books
about strong guys who can fly.