100 Best Comics of All Time

My goal with this list is to chart whatever are the current crop of comics that I think are best from the pool of those that I have actually read (from all eras). This page will not remain static and while Sandman might have been at number 15 last time you were here, this time it might be at 12. Or 33. My tastes shift as much as yours and the evolution of this list will pay tribute to that.*

*Caveats
This is my humble attempt at ranking the best hundred comics I've read. I found the task daunting because for all the comics I've read, there are plenty I haven't gotten to yet. In most cases, it's a matter of time or resources, but in some cases, I'm reluctant due to taste. For instance, I'd really like to read Fluorescent Black (of which I hear nothing but good things), but I don't have the money and it's not available at my library (and unless I'm in the mood, inter-library loan can be a small hassle). On the other hand, you could tell me that a particular Green Latern book is amazing and I can almost guarantee you that I won't read it. While I was once an avid pursuer of the most delctable superhero books, in the thirty years since I began reading comics in earnest, my interests have largely left those stories behind. Not to judge—that's just who I've become. A reader who doesn't particularly look forward to tights and capes.

As I've grown older, my tastes have shifted, have become informed by my experiences, have matured. If I had made this list five years ago, it would look substantially different from the way it does today. And this list would look different next year from the way it does now. With that in mind, I hope to update this list periodically as I add to the number of books I've read and find my tastes shift over the years.

As far as methodology goes for this top 100 comics list, I'm weighing based on several things: my personal enjoyment of the book, its use of word and art to present story, its level of technical achievement, its value on a host of wishy-washy criteria, and how well it sets out to meet its goal. Understandably, this is highly subjective and it can be difficult to find some rubric by which to judge between, say Gary Larson's The Far Side and Alan Moore's Watchmen. If you don't see one of your favourite books on this list, please don't feel slighted. It means one of two things: either 1) I haven't read the book in question or 2) my tastes and the things I value in comics literature are different from yours. Or maybe you saw something wonderful in a book that I missed. Or maybe I saw it and you missed it. No big deal in either case.

Top 100: 1–33

Duncan the Wonder Dog
 

Created by: Adam Hines

Published by: AdHouse Books

ISBN: 0977030490 (buy)

Pages: 400

Genre: Drama, Nature, Social Issues

Check out the Study Guide

 

Review Excerpt
Duncan is a dense work. There are a lot of words on a lot of pages, but even more than that, Hines' pages of art demand scrutiny. His art serves his story and his story serves his art. It's possible that this volume represents the most ambitious use of the comics form yet. There may be other contenders, but I don't think I've seen them. This is a book that deserves second and third readings. Which makes it nice that the first reading was such an absolute pleasure....
Read More

Duncan the Wonder Dog by Adam Hines
The Nao of Brown
 

Created by: Glyn Dillon

Published by: Selfmade Hero

ISBN: 1906838429 (buy)

Pages: 208

Genre: Drama, Psychology, Romance

Check out the Study Guide

 

Review Excerpt
I am so very deeply grateful for this book. I am grateful to Self Made Hero for going to the trouble to make this artifact available a world away in nearly-sunny California. I am grateful to Glyn Dillon for putting so evident an effort into making his story come to life with such colour and in such a beautiful production. I am grateful for The Nao of Brown for assuring me that literary fiction holds a life beyond the confines of prose and can even sometimes make visitation to the shores of the comics medium. And I am thankful to Nao Brown for springing into pregnant life from the pages of her book—because I think the questions that fuel Nao’s dreams and fears are the questions that haunt and help whole populations of this earth. And we need a cipher, someone to ask the question that we might scrabble for the answers.
Read More

The Nao of Brown by Glyn Dillon
Building Stories
 

Created by: Chris Ware

Published by: Pantheon

ISBN: 0375424334 (buy)

Pages: 260

Genre: Drama

 

Review Excerpt
While Building Stories may not function so much as a traditional novel—offering a common Western narrative structure of beginning, middle, end—it does what it does very well. There is no overall build of tension, no climax, no denouement—but there was never any pretension to such things. Beyond the impossibility of discovering The Correct Order in which to read Ware's creation, his intension is less about unveiling a plot as it is about discovering a life lived. This is the life of the Woman, and by the end of it you will know her as well as you know many of your friends. She is undressed, not for your approval so much as for your empathy. This is the closest many of us will come to walking in another's shoes....
Read More

Building Stories by Chris Ware
Daytripper
 

Created by: Gabriel Bá, Fábio Moon

Published by:

ISBN: 1401229697 (buy)

Pages: 256

Genre: Drama

Check out the Study Guide

 

Review Excerpt
Perhaps Daytripper's biggest success is that it saves itself from being cliche. Instead, Fábio Moon and Gabriel Bá actively work to suppress cliche and to reign in formula. At least I imagine that they worked hard at it, because they deliver such a completely compelling work that I have to imagine bloodied sweat staining everything in their vicinity save for the gorgeous art. Daytripper is moving without contrivance or manipulation. And that right there is something....
Read More

Daytripper by Gabriel Bá, Fábio Moon
Blankets
 

Created by: Craig Thompson

Published by: Top Shelf

ISBN: 1891830430 (buy)

Pages: 582

Genre: Drama, Memoir/Autobio, Religion/Myth, Romance

 

Review Excerpt
Thompson's sense of the sacred and his ability to convey it in ink is breathtaking. He offers his readers these holy moments, these frozen, fluid, organic treasures. These sacramentals. Whether he intends to lead the reader into a religious experience or not, his work really is very spiritual. As spiritual as an atheistic holy experience can actually be at any rate. There may be moments in Miyazaki that approach the wonder of the sanctuaries that Thompson builds in Blankets. It's for this reason (among others) that Thompson's second book remains one of my favourites, even years after having first encountered it....
Read More

Blankets by Craig Thompson
Berlin
 

Created by: Jason Lutes

Published by: Drawn & Quarterly

ISBN: 1896597297 (buy)

Pages: 212

Genre: Drama, Historical

 

Review Excerpt
Every now and again, a comic comes out that assures me that the medium can tell certain kinds of stories in a way that no other medium can touch. Every now and again, a comic comes out that despite its natural humility asserts itself as a model to which the medium should aspire. Every now and again, a comic comes out that just flat-out knocks me off my feet and makes me think that everything is going to be alright after all. Berlin is one of those....
Read Review of Volume 1
Read Review of Volume 2

Berlin by Jason Lutes
Town of Evening Calm, Country of Cherry Blossoms
 

Created by: Fumiyo Kouno

Published by: Last Gasp

ISBN: 0867196653 (buy)

Pages: 104

Genre: Drama, Historical, Romance

 

Review Excerpt
It's not often that I'll be stunned—actually stunned—by a book or story. Despite its unwieldy title (one that prevents me from being able to recommend it in verbal conversation), Town of Evening Calm, Country of Cherry Blossoms stunned me well and good. f there is one way by which to properly describe this book, it's human....
Read More

Town of Evening Calm, Country of Cherry Blossoms by Fumiyo Kouno
Nausicaä of the Valley of Wind
 

Created by: Hayao Miyazaki

Published by: VIZ Media

ISBN: 1591164087 (buy)

Pages: 1088

Genre: Adventure, Manga, Post-Apocalyptic, Speculative Fiction

 

Review Excerpt
For those familiar with Miyazaki's films, the art will seem a familiar prototype, an early version of what would become the Ghibli house style for the next thirty years. In tone, Nausicaä probably closest resembles the sometimes violent action and environmentalism of Princess Mononoke (though those that weary of that message shouldn't be overly put off by its expression here). The story is long and many panels are more text than imagery as Miyazaki attempts to sensibly exposit his narrative. The tale requires patience and perseverance, but it rewards its pursuers. There are a number of great adventures told through the comics medium, but Nausicaä is so far—and pretty easily—the best of show....
Read More

Nausicaä of the Valley of Wind by Hayao Miyazaki
Habibi
 

Created by: Craig Thompson

Published by: Pantheon

ISBN: 0375424148 (buy)

Pages: 672

Genre: Drama, Religion/Myth, Romance

 

Review Excerpt
Habibi is a major work in comics literature and Thompson's first since the nearly-six-hundred-page Blankets. Comparisons will be obvious. Both works traffic deeply in religious language and colour their texts in displays of sacred ferocity. Both explore the boundaries and need for love and human contact. Both play with non-linearity in storytelling, skipping back and forth and only revealing the past in time to illuminate the future. These two creations are very much the work of the same author and it's a joy to see his voice maturing....
Read More

Habibi by Craig Thompson
Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth
 

Created by: Chris Ware

Published by: Pantheon

ISBN: 0375404538 (buy)

Pages: 380

No Review Yet

Calvin and Hobbes
 

Created by: Bill Watterson

Published by: Andrews McMeel Publishing

ISBN: 0740748475 (buy)

Pages: 1440

No Review Yet

Asterios Polyp
 

Created by: David Mazzucchelli

Published by:

ISBN: 0307377326 (buy)

Pages: 344

Genre: Drama

 

Review Excerpt
Reading Asterios Polyp is a daunting experience. Or maybe not so much the reading, which can be accomplished easily enough, but the being able to speak sensibly about it afterward. I feel kind of like I did after finishing 2666, only not quite so out of my depth. Like Bolaño, Mazzucchelli's work here displays a breadth and depth that overtly requires multiple readings in order to find ground solid enough to speak with any authority about the book....
Read More

Asterios Polyp by David Mazzucchelli
Big Questions
 

Created by: Anders Nilsen

Published by: Drawn & Quarterly

ISBN: 1770460470 (buy)

Pages: 658

Genre: Drama, Philosophy

 

Review Excerpt
Big Questions is a curious animal of a book. Its method of gradual production threatens the sense that Nilsen knew what he was doing all along or that the book can be read as a single cohesive work. Nilsen, as he explains in the book's backmatter, began collecting the occasional one-page scraps of talking-bird cartoons he'd been producing for years. Almost accidentally, it seemed, a narrative began to form around these sometimes thoughtful finches. And then at last, the addition of arbitrary violence from the American military machine set in motion a grand tale spanning a milieu approximately the size of a sprawling backyard....
Read More

Big Questions by Anders Nilsen
Sailor Twain
 

Created by: Mark Siegel

Published by: First Second

ISBN: 1596436360 (buy)

Pages: 400

Genre: Drama, Folklore, Historical

 

Review Excerpt
Toothless and tamed. Declawed and domesticated. Over time, the old legends evolve from being terrible and terrifying to existing as pacified gentilities. As the world is industrialized (and more, technologized), our fear of the fantastic is replaced by something more civilized. We've traded the savage for the banal. And certainly, some of us prefer the latter to the former. Because fearing fantasies is distasteful to a society that is smarter than that, we make our monsters into men and our men into monsters. And as much as we gain for the transformation of our cultural lore, we do lose something in the process....
Read More

Sailor Twain by Mark Siegel
Mother, Come Home
 

Created by: Paul Hornschemeier

Published by: Fantagraphics

ISBN: 1560979739 (buy)

Pages: 128

Genre: Drama, Illness

 

Review Excerpt
Mother, Come Home's opening set is a bit oblique and I feared I had picked up another bout of art comix childishness, that kind of book where you feel like you're spending time with a stereotypical high school theatre student (something infantile like Monologues for the Coming Plague, perhaps*). Hornschemeier continues on like this for six pages and by the fifth I had almost gotten into the flow of what he was doing. I was even able to sort of appreciate it. But I absolutely did not want to read 128 pages in the same vein, so turning that seventh page was like a boon from heaven. As if God in his wisdom had known exactly how much I could take and inspired Hornschemeier to rein it in at exactly the right moment....
Read More

Mother, Come Home by Paul Hornschemeier
Jar of Fools
 

Created by: Jason Lutes

Published by: Faber and Faber

ISBN: 0571236979 (buy)

Pages: 142

No Review Yet

The Arrival
 

Created by: Shaun Tan

Published by: Arthur A. Levine

ISBN: 0734406940 (buy)

Pages: 128

Genre: Drama, Social Issues

 

Review Excerpt
The Arrival, for all its pages filled with complicated, detailed artwork, plays only one note. It has only one theme, only one agenda. The Arrival is simple and will not be distracted from its only purpose. To say that Tan's book plays one note should not be confused for saying that the book is one-note in any pejorative sense. It may not juggle two fistfuls of interweaving themes and character arcs. It may not demand seven consecutive reads in order to discover its meanings. It doesn't need to. The Arrival does what it intends to and does it so very well that it doesn't need anything else....
Read More

The Arrival by Shaun Tan
Bone
 

Created by: Jeff Smith

Published by: Cartoon Books

ISBN: 188896314X (buy)

Pages: 1300

 

Review Excerpt
Bone's story is as full-orbed and ranging as its characters. What begins as light adventure soon turns to dark mystery. And then back to adventure. And then to epic journey and battle against cataclysmic evil. And all woven throughout with a sense of myth and spirit. There are forces at work in Fone Bone’s world that are beyond the seeing eye and tap into energies outside the realm of the sciences. And I don’t mean wizards and dragons. Even though those are there too. These things work to make Bone's world and mythos feel substantial, solid. And it helps that his story is exciting...
Read More

Bone by Jeff Smith
Sandman
 

Created by: Neil Gaiman

Published by: DC/Vertigo

ISBN: 1401210821 (buy)

Pages: 2412

Genre: Drama, Fantasy

 

Review Excerpt
Reading Neil Gaiman's (sprawling) work, Sandman—the work that bought him fame in the beginning—from beginning to end, I was struck by what may be a weakness on my own part. Gaiman, I believe, is at his resolute best with the shorter narrative. The sparring match, the experiment. Sandman is a curious work because it is itself a grand, arcing story forged of numerous arcs that develop Gaiman's narrative direction but  it is also fraught with individual, self-contained, singular episodes whose purpose seems merely to add flavour to the entire literary meal. And it is in the space of these singular episodes—which never last longer than a chapter's breadth—that Gaiman proves his genius....
Read More

Sandman by Neil Gaiman et al
Footnotes in Gaza
 

Created by: Joe Sacco

Published by: Metropolitan

ISBN: 0805073477 (buy)

Pages: 432

Genre: Journalism, Non-Fiction, Political

Check out the Study Guide

 

Review Excerpt
After several excellent journalistic comics featuring the Bosnian war and its aftermath, Sacco returns once more to the Palestinian conflict. And this time he has a far more specific goal in mind. Footnotes in Gaza, at 432 lushly illustrated pages, offers a new avenue for Americans who support Israel unreservedly to experience a paradigm shift and the opportunity to experience the conflict from the eyes of those who hold a perspective unique from anything we could ever muster on our own....
Read More

Footnotes in Gaza by Joe Sacco
Yotsuba&!
 

Created by: Kiyohiko Azuma

Published by: Yen Press

ISBN: 0316073873 (buy)

Pages: 208

Genre: Comedy, Manga

 

Review Excerpt
I am entirely out of my depth to sound out Yotsuba&!'s charms, but perhaps we should just leave it at this: whenever a new volume arrives in the mail, I curl up comfortably with my wife, finding the best lighting possible under such snuggly conditions, and I read each chapter to her aloud, trying to muster in my own voice the clear enthusiasm in Yotsuba's own. And then we both smile a lot....
Read More

Yotsuba&! by Kiyohiko Azuma
Children of the Sea
 

Created by: Daisuke Igarashi

Published by: VIZ Media

ISBN: 1421529149 (buy)

Pages: 320

Genre: Drama, Fantasy, Folklore, Manga, Nature

 

Review Excerpt
The greatest tragedy is that there aren't currently more volumes available. Children of the Sea is one of the most exciting works unfolding in contemporary comics and the fact of its apparent hiatus is heartbreaking. There are a handful of comics whose production is intended to evolve over the course of years and whose production I will follow doggedly. Jason Lutes' Berlin. Adam Hines' Duncan the Wonder Dog. Eric Shanower's Age of Bronze. And now, hopefully, Children of the Sea....
Read More

Children of the Sea by Daisuke Igarashi
Super Spy
 

Created by: Matt Kindt

Published by: Top Shelf

ISBN: 1891830961 (buy)

Pages: 304

Genre: Drama, Espionage, Historical

 

Review Excerpt
With few exceptions, Kindt's stories are told without flaw. Art and word conspire together to craft unique narratives, each with purpose and goal, driving forward his story of secrets. Super Spy‘s greatest strength doesn't lie in its inventive plotting or uncommon characterizations. (Many of his stories seem lifted from other works I've read or seen and most of his characters remain archetypical.) The book's strength instead lies in the very human way in which it approaches a world that is far beyond the coping mechanisms of its contributors. These people, no matter how thinly sketched, are always people—are always worth the time of your consideration. They are just as sad, broken, and hopeful as real people are and when their stories end, those conclusions are just as stupid, pointless, and tragic as they would be in real life. ...
Read More

Super Spy by Matt Kindt
Any Empire
 

Created by: Nate Powell

Published by: Top Shelf

ISBN: 1603090770 (buy)

Pages: 304

Genre: Drama, Social Issues, War

 

Review Excerpt
Powell continues to show himself a creator who is absolutely worth paying attention to and Any Empire may even be better than Swallow Me Whole, which was sublime. The great thing about these books (I mean, beyond the stellar art) is how well they stand up to multiple reads. Powell crafts a rich tapestry of both visual and narratory tricks that serve to inject subsequent investigations with a freshness and interpretive excitement. Any Empire is a good book, a great book....
Read More

Any Empire by Nate Powell
Palomar: The Heartbreak Soup Stories
 

Created by: Gilbert Hernandez

Published by: Fantagraphics

ISBN: 1560975393 (buy)

Pages: 519

No Review Yet

Swallow Me Whole
 

Created by: Nate Powell

Published by: Top Shelf

ISBN: 1603090339 (buy)

Pages: 216

Genre: Drama, Illness

 

Review Excerpt
It's almost cliche at this point to praise Nate Powell's Swallow Me Whole, but it's not like there's any honest alternative. The book is just too good for anything else. Talented illustrator? Check. Talented storyteller? Check. Imaginative? Funny? Insightful? Worthwhile? All systems are go. Powell's art reminds me of some delicate hybrid between Craig Thompson and David Lapham—and amusingly, Swallow Me Whole is like some strange cross-pollination between Blankets and Silverfish. Okay, well not really. But kinda....
Read More

Swallow Me Whole by Nate Powell
Little Nemo
 

Created by: Winsor McCay

Published by: Taschen (and others)

ISBN: 3822863009 (buy)

Pages: 432

No Review Yet

Moving Pictures
 

Created by: Kathryn Immonen, Stuart Immonen

Published by: Top Shelf

ISBN: 1603090495 (buy)

Pages: 144

Genre: Drama, Historical

 

Review Excerpt
Moving Pictures is a fantastic little book. A novella of sorts, exploring the interrogation of Ila Gardner, a young Canadian curator of third-rate art in German-occupied Paris, by Rolf Hauptmann, a member of Germany's Military Art Commission. The Commission is tasked to retrieve famous works from the French who have squirreled the works away to prevent the theft (and possible destruction) of their art. While the single interrogation comprises the backbone of the story, the Immonens add depth and explanation via multiple brief flashbacks....
Read More

Moving Pictures by Kathryn Immonen and Stuart Immonen
The Walking Man
 

Created by: Jirô Taniguchi

Published by: Fanfare/Ponent Mon

ISBN: 8493340995 (buy)

Pages: 160

Genre: Drama, Manga

 

Review Excerpt
The Walking Man follows a nameless protagonist as he takes casual strolls around his city, simply taking in the wonder that is found in every mundane thing. There is no single narrative arc to follow unless one considers the glorification of the contemplative life through a series of vignettes to constitute an arc. The walking man is healthy, intelligent, careful, attentive, and the social member of a loving relationship. One cannot be certain where he finds the time or by what method he carves it from his schedule because Taniguchi doesn't allow the work to even broach the matter....
Read More

The Walking Man by Jirô Taniguchi
20th Century Boys
 

Created by: Naoki Urusawa

Published by: VIZ Media

ISBN: 1591169224 (buy)

Pages: 4000+

Genre: Drama, Manga, Post-Apocalyptic, Science Fiction, Thriller

 

Review Excerpt
Beyond proving himself a masterful plotter, Urasawa does something rare in having his characters age. We see them as ten-year-olds, as teenagers, and at ages thirty-five, forty, fifty-five, and older. While most authors would want to keep their protagonists young, handsome, and beautiful, Urasawa lets them spend significant time in the form of raggled muffins. Their lives are hard and few age well. All of this, of course, plays well with one of Urasawa's themes: the question of growing up vs measuring responsibility vs and wondering if the games children play ever really end. For all its compulsively delivered thrill sequences and hell-yeah moments, 20th Century Boys can sell poignant pretty well when it wants to....
Read More

20th Century Boys by Naoki Urusawa
Cross Game
 

Created by: Mitsuru Adachi

Published by: VIZ Media

ISBN: 1421537583 (buy)

Pages: 951

Genre: Manga, Romance, Sports

 

Review Excerpt
I don't even like baseball. So when I say I adore Cross Game, a series which is rather unapologetically and blatantly about baseball, you should read in your tea leaves that this is a comic worth reading. Tasseomancy being infallible and all....
Read More

Cross Game by Mitsuru Adachi
Y: The Last Man
 

Created by: Brian K. Vaughan, Pia Guerra

Published by: DC/Vertigo

ISBN: 1563899809 (buy)

Pages: 1488

Genre: Adventure, Comedy, Drama, Speculative Fiction

 

Review Excerpt
Vaughan's book is of that very best kind of science fiction—the kind that presents the standards of society and forces you to question them and consider their weight without (and this is the important part) rendering judgment itself. The best science fiction makes you think. It prompts the reevaluation of one's mores and assumptions about one's world....
Read More

Y: The Last Man by Brian K. Vaughan, Pia Guerra
Curses
 

Created by: Kevin Huizenga

Published by: Drawn and Quarterly

ISBN: 1894937864 (buy)

Pages: 144

No Review Yet

 

Good Ok Bad features reviews of comics, graphic novels, manga, et cetera using a rare and auspicious three-star rating system. Point systems are notoriously fiddly, so here it's been pared down to three simple possibilities:

3 Stars = Good
2 Stars = Ok
1 Star = Bad

I am Seth T. Hahne and these are my reviews.

About the Site

Review copy submission may be facilitated via the Contact page.

Browse Reviews By

Other Features

Connect

 

Comics by Seth T. Hahne

A Rainy Day Love Song: a Valentines comic by Seth T. Hahne

Golden Rules: an 18-page comic by Seth T. Hahne

Support the Golden Rules Kickstarter