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Twenty-One Greatest Comics of the Twenty-First Century #1: All-Star Superman

The Onion's AV Club recently put together a list of the best comic books and graphic novels of the last decade, and it got me thinking about my own picks for the same period – many of which, admittedly, overlap with theirs.

Still, the 21st century has, so far, been a real renaissance for the comic art form and - speaking as a fellow who has read volumes upon volumes of books dating from every decade of the last eight which even had comic books - I can honestly say with conviction that we have never had a better ten year spread. The variety, the quality, the expanse and the experimental atmosphere of the last ten years are, when taken together, unparalleled.

So, what follows over the next few posts will be my personal picks for the Twenty-One Greatest Comics of the Twenty-First century (so far). And with that being said, some caveats:

  • First off, I realize that the year – and therefore the “Naughts” aren’t quite yet over, but we’re close enough to the finish line that I think we can call the race (although, admittedly, one of my picks is only a month or so old, and I would’ve missed it if I’d started this list at the beginning of November). Also, a lot of these comics would make great gifts for the holidays, so, you know, I thought I’d get it in early... Please notice my Amazon Associate-powered links ...
  • Along those lines, I also realize that the first decade of the 21st century isn’t actually over until the end of next year. I also don’t care – as far as goes popular culture, decades run from zero to nine. Plus, I’m just following what the AV Club suggested, so go yell at them if you feel you gotta.
  • I’m numbering these just because I want to keep track of the “Twenty One Comics” gimmick. These aren’t ranks. I got no interest in ranks, I got no interest in deciding if Marvel Two-In-One #26 is better than Devil Dinosaur #3, metaphorically speaking.
  • My aim is to cover as many genres and creators as possible, my guiding concept is that the books I end up selecting should compose a great library of which anyone could be proud, whether they’re superhero, general fiction, non-fiction, memoir or whatever collectors. Even the books with the superheroes in it, I’d be proud to show off in my library.
  • More than one of my picks was originally published prior to 2000 and is being included because either a definitive collection or an American edition was first released some time after 1999.
  • If you disagree with these picks, try not to take it personally - a lot of people are, strangely enough (check out the comments in the above-linked AV Club article for an example). Might I suggest, in fact, that if you feel strongly about some book's inclusion or exclusion, you oughtta make your own list?

Okay, so, on to the first!

All-Star Superman
DC Comics (Grant Morrison, Frank Quitely, Jamie Grant) 2005-2008
Wikipedia article

It’s damn near impossible to keep Grant Morrison off of this list, and it’s only because of a self-imposed rule that I limit each author to a single selection which keeps me from listing at least five of his other works (see below), including three with his frequent collaborator, graphic designer and fellow Scot Frank Quitely.

The charm of Morrison’s self-contained Superman epic is that it’s imbued with science fiction and metaphysical wonder, but more than that, truly believable and tender emotion. Arguably, Morrison has written several series which may be construed as love letters; to comic books in Flex Mentallo, to superheroes in Seaguy, and here, to the original superhero Superman. Beyond anything else, Morrison may be the first writer since the lovelorn and longing Jerry Siegel to imbue the Superman and Lois relationship with a resonance so compelling that it’s enviable.

Other great titles Morrison has produced in the last ten years: The icon establishing JLA Earth 2, the apple-cart upsetting New X-Men, the phenomenal WE3, the engrossing Seaguy and its sequel Seaguy: Slaves of Micky Eye, the very sweet and funny Vimanarama, mindbending The Filth, ambitious collaborative effort 52, ambitious and hindered series Final Crisis, and a personal favorite, the exceptionally ambitious and awe-inspiring Seven Soldiers. And that's just a few of them ...

All-Star Superman Vol 1
All-Star Superman Vol 2