Detective Comics #853
Now that 2009 is officially over, its time to look back at the best that the comics industry had to offer during the year. This article is dedicated the five best single issues of a comic book that your local examiner read in 2009 (remember, your local examiner has a tight budget, so he, unfortunately, cannot read everything that he would like). Keep an eye out for a "best ongoing series" post later in the week.
1. Detective Comics #853 ("Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader?" Part 2) by Neil Gaiman and Andy Kubert
Following the "death" of Bruce Wayne, Neil Gaiman and Andy Kubert were brought in to give the Dark Knight a proper send off. Billed as a spiritual successor to Alan Moore and Curt Swan's "final" Superman story, "Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?", the two-part story celebrated everything that makes Batman the incredible character that he is. The first issue payed homage to the many different variations on the character that have come and gone over the years, telling three different tales of Batman's death. But the real beauty of the story came in the second issue, where Gaiman works his surreal magic and gets to the core of who the character is and what his death means. If you have any love for the cape and cowl, this comic is a must read.
The Unwritten #5
2. The Unwritten #5 ("How the Whale Became"), by Mike Carey and Peter Gross
The Unwritten is easily one of the best new series of the year, and the fifth issue of the series is easily the best so far. Following the opening story arc, the series switches gears away from the main cast and tell's a story, decades removed, about Rudyard Kipling, author of The Jungle Books. Despite its separation from the the series' "current events," the issue manages to give readers their deepest look yet at those manipulating the world from behind a curtain, as well as an inspiring tale of an artist struggling against the powers that be. If you're not reading this series, you should be, and this standalone issue is a great way to give it a try.
Green Lantern #43
3. Green Lantern #43 ("Tale of the Black Lantern), by Geoff Johns and Doug Mahnke
Green Lantern is DC's flagship title right now, with the storylines unfolding within each issue's pages helping to dictate the future of the DC Universe as a whole. This issue, telling the origin story of the Black Hand - first of the Black Lanterns and all around creepy guy - shows why. Some of Geoff Johns' best writing is paired with new series artist Doug Mahnke, who's sinewy style fits the subject matter perfectly.
4. Northlanders #17 ("The Viking Art of Single Combat"), by Brian Wood and Vasilis Lolos
If you appreciate comics that try to do something different, then you'll appreciate this issue of Northlanders. Brian Wood manages to practically teach a class on Viking hand-to-hand combat while simultaneously telling the story of the duel at hand. It's a comic unlike any other that came out this year, and it's good one at that.
Uncanny X-Men #512
5. Uncanny X-Men #512 ("The Origins of the Species"), by Matt Fraction and Yanick Paquette
Matt Fraction has done a solid, if uneven, job of writing Uncanny X-Men over the past two years or so, but this issue is his best work with the franchise so far by leaps and bounds. Fraction is in his element here, telling a tale of science, time travel, and giant steampunk robots while adding a unexpected depth to the relatively unfamiliar character of Doctor Nemesis. Even if you never read another issue of Fraction's X-Men, you should read this one.