Top 5: Best Comics of 2006

By Andrew Goletz

Ultimate Spider-Man

This series has been on my “best of” lists since its inception, and this past year proved the book showed no signs of aging. The creative team of Brian Bendis and Mark Bagley broke Marvel Comics’ record for longest duration of a creative team on a superhero book with their 103rd issue last month. Consider that creative teams jump ship every six issues or so. Or how about the fact that this series would be more likely to come out twice a month instead of the all-too-familiar late issues plaguing books today? The same creative team, almost never late, working together for more than 5 years.

Ultimate Spider-Man is a retelling of the story of Spider-Man, updated with current sensibilities. The series doesn’t invalidate Marvel’s other books featuring Spider-Man, but offers a separate take in its own “Ultimate” universe free from decades of historical and continuity constraints and is an ideal book for those who are new to comics.

The series tells the story of 15-year-old Peter Parker learning what it takes to be a hero. One of the things that made Spider-Man one of the more popular comic book characters was that most readers could identify with Peter Parker. If you ignore the whole super powers business, Peter was just a nice kid who had some friends (but had just as many bullies), had problems with the ladies and had to deal with making a living and paying rent. If done correctly, you could have a Spider-Man comic without Peter being in costume and it would work. Bendis does this time and again. Hell, Peter didn’t even start wearing the traditional webs and spandex until the 6th issue of this series. There are still periods now where several issues can go by without us seeing Spider-Man in action, and it doesn’t matter. The character of Peter Parker out of costume in this series is as interesting as any other character in a superhero title in action. When Peter has to come up with a cover story to explain why he skipped school, we empathize with him for having to lie to his aunt. When he breaks up with the girl he loves – solely to protect her from his “other” life – we feel his young heart breaking.

Just because Bendis can write great dialogue and get inside the mind of a teenager like few others doesn’t mean this book is devoid of action. During the past few arcs this year, Peter’s life has been put through the wringer. He’s been lied to, used and had his world turned upside down. The current Clone Saga storyline has more shockers in a couple issues than the book has had for its entirety. I don’t know how permanent or on the mark some of these big reveals will be, but in this teams’ hands, I’m sure it’s not going to matter. The end result is going to be a book that probably still delivers constant fun storytelling.


This is probably the only book on the list that may be included more for the execution of the series than the actual quality. I’d put it in my top 15 of the year for sure, in any measure, but the fact that DC was able to stick to an uninterrupted weekly schedule for going on 32 issues is amazing.

52 looks at DC universe in the wake of their mega-event, Infinite Crisis, where the Big 3 of Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman have taken to the shadows to find themselves, leaving the world in the hands of the lesser known/popular players. After the Infinite Crisis mini, all of DCs titles jump-started 1 year later. For instance, a year later in Batman, James Gordon is back as the commissioner, Batman and Robin are getting along and Nightwing has Jason Todd in the suit instead of Dick Grayson. While most of the storyline gaps will eventually be filled in through the main titles, 52 shows us the major events of that missing year and how the world continued on. The series is composed of several major arcs: The Question and former Gotham City cop, Renee Montoya, The Black Marvel Family and their quest for both power and acceptance, Steel vs. Lex Luthor and his plans to give every normal human an opportunity to gain superpowers (with a cost), a group of heroes stranded in space and caught up in more than they bargained for, the mystery of kidnappings of the world’s most brilliant scientists and the quest of Ralph Dinby, the Elongated Man, to resurrect his murdered wife. There are more subplots other details that are too numerous to mention, but the creative team has been able to weave in and out of of these stories in a seamless way.

I had thought the book would start out strong and weaken as time went on, but it was the opposite: The first few issues introduced us to several key players in the series, and additional storylines started growing and spreading from there. While I was a fan of the 80’s Question series by Denny O’Neil back, I didn’t care for Steel, Black Adam and his family, Booster Gold or any of the dozens of characters to take center stage.

I picked up the first few issues out of curiosity and quickly found myself caring about all of these characters. In fact, when the focus is taken away from a C-lister like Steel to do a special issue on what Batman has been up to, I found myself missing the Steel story.

I’m partial to the Question/Montoya arc, mainly due to my affinity for the character ever since his old series. In 52, The Question (Vic Sage) finds Montoya a broken woman since the death of her partner in the police department. Together they discover a warehouse of unique weapons and believe Gotham is in danger of being taken over by a ruthless gang. They travel the globe to piece together the mystery of this gang, as Sage continues to teach Montoya to look inward and become more aware. Soon Montoya discovers that the Sage is dying, but is she to be his replacement?

The Black Marvel Family arc is also very compelling. Black Adam was basically the evil version of Shazam/Captain Marvel. Adam had taken over a small country in the Middle East before 52 began, and was trying to set up a worldwide coalition of superhumans to combat those heroes living in the United States who condemn Adams’ more ruthless means of authority. As 52 progresses, Adam finds love, marries and grants some of his power to his wife’s younger brother. Together, they make up the Black Marvel Family and through the power of this unity, Adam begins to try and make the world a better place through his family’s power, rather than just rule his country (and world) with an iron fist.

The most surprising arc for me thus far is Ralph Dinby’s. When Ralph’s wife, Sue, was murdered in the big Identity Crisis mini-series, I found myself thinking that DC copped out by killing a character no one really had much interest in in the first place. We are reintroduced to Ralph in this series as he contemplates suicide. He soon learns there is a group that believes they can resurrect the dead, and a skeptical Ralph goes on to investigate. What Ralph finds is one of the most disturbing things to occur in the series and it thrusts him and the reader into a new journey, the ramifications of which may prove costly to Ralph and those closest to him.


Local follows the story of young Megan, who is finding her way in the world. With each issue the reader gets a peek into the life of Megan as each issue represents a chronological year of her life.

A lot of enjoyment comes from the Letters page of the book. Wood and Kelly provide us with their own “soundtrack” for the issue, and those of you who read your books with a particular choice of music playing in the background may want to try some of the recommendations.

Wood suggested to readers in the early issues of Local that they send photos of their local haunts with their letters, and reading these little stories from readers in each issue is quite interesting.


Warren Ellis decided to try an experiment: He wanted to produce a more affordable comic book for people to try out. He accomplished this by reducing page count, but used nine-panel pages in order to fit more story into the smaller number of pages. While more panels means smaller panels and less room for dialogue or narration, Ellis and Templesmith have made every inch of space count.

Each panel is filled with detailed art, and the expanded Letters page gives Ellis room to share with the reader the development process, from concept to execution.

Detective Richard Fell is the protagonist of Fell. Recently transferred to the hellish city of Snowtown, Fell does his best as one of three-and-a-half lawmen in the entire city to try and do his job.

Templesmith is perhaps best known for his work on the vampire tale 30 Days of Night and his twisted, gothic style sets the perfect mood for this twisted, gothic city and its corrupt and perverse citizens. The only person in the entire town who doesn’t appear to be screwed up in the head is the young woman Fell has taken an interest in, and even she doesn’t appear to be totally of sound mind.

The Walking Dead

Up until about a year ago, I didn’t care for the zombie genre. I wasn’t afraid of them (how could you be frightened of something that lumbers around slower than Jason Vorhees?), but I never watched any of the Romero films or read any other stories about the “living dead,” but I kept hearing about this indie book called The Walking Dead, which was praised for its strong characterization and ability to juggle multiple characters, so I gave it a look.

Surprisingly, even though my first few issues were like 19, 20 and 21, I found it very easy to catch up. The back pages containing character bios helped a lot, as did the generous Letters section.

The Walking Dead follows a group of survivors after something horrible happens that results in the dead coming back to life and wreaking havoc on the living. We’re never told what caused the Zombie outbreak to occur (and writer Kirkman tells us we never will).