Top Ten Books of 2010

2010 is, I believe, the first year of my entire life where I read more than ten books that came out that same year. Hence, I’m honoring the occasion by making my first-ever Top Ten Books of the Year list. It’s mostly comics, and about half of it’s stuff by Mike Mignola, but really, this is me, so that’s to be expected.

I read a lot of very good books this year, and because Mike Mignola released so many a few deserving ones didn’t quite make this list. That said, I still didn’t read nearly as many new books as I probably should, so there are likely ten times as many great books that I didn’t get around to as ones I did. Still, here’s a list, for what it’s worth.

(For the purposes of this list, I only counted books that came out in 2010. I read a number of great books for the first time that came out in previous years, some of which would’ve undoubtedly found a place here had I opened it up to them. A few that deserve mention are The Monstrumologist, Worse Than Myself, and The Darkly Splendid Realm.)

Anyway, without further ado:

10. The Ammonite Violin & Others
A weird, rough, sometimes repetetive collection of stories that are also often breathtaking, intriguing, and inspiring. Like most everything else I’ve ever read by Kiernan, although taken to its own extreme. Maybe flawed, but a gem nonetheless.

9. B.P.R.D. 1947
While the B.P.R.D. titles are not usually my favorites of the Mignola gestalt, the 194- series are my favorites of the B.P.R.D. titles. While 1946 tackled mutant Nazi vampires, this one focuses on “the spooky, old-school variety,” and the result is a quieter, more haunting story than usual for the series, aided by charming art and the combination of humanity and military/historical verisimilitude that Dysart brings to the mix.

8. The White Cat
Like The Brothers Bloom with curse magic! I’m a huge Holly Black fan, and a fan of grifters and con artists and stories about criminals, and The White Cat hit all those notes beautifully. Probably my favorite of Holly Black’s novels to date.

7. Hellboy: The Wild Hunt
Maybe the biggest turning point in the history of Hellboy so far, this is one that could also have gone off the rails all too easily under any hand less sure than Mignola’s. This is as sprawling and epic as Hellboy comics get, and Fegredo’s art is up to the task.

6. Under the Poppy
While no one is probably surprised to see this list dominated by Mignola, I myself am surprised at finding Under the Poppy here. I read it because I’d heard good things and something (the puppets, probably) about the premise intrigued me, but I didn’t expect to find myself loving it as much as I did. There’s nothing speculative here, just great characters and great writing, but in this case that’s more than enough.

5. Hellboy: The Crooked Man & Others
For a Hellboy collection with only one story illustrated by Mignola, this one’s a classic. The title story marks Hellboy’s first foray into Mignola’s version of the Appalachian folklore of Manly Wade Wellman, and also is a high point in the collaboration of Mignola and Corben. “In the Chapel of Moloch,” the one story illustrated by Mignola, is a great Hellboy short and a reminder of why Mignola’s the best. And the John Pelan essay on Wellman at the back of the book would be worth the cover price all by itself.

4. Witchfinder: In the Service of Angels
My favorite of the various Hellboy spin-offs to date. Perfect Victorian-era occult detective storytelling, with great art by Ben Stenbeck and tie-ins to the rest of Mignola’s expanding mythology that are both subtle and great.

3. The Poison Eaters & Other Stories
As I mentioned above, I’m a big Holly Black fan, and I like her short stories even more than her novels. The Poison Eaters was a big event for me, and it didn’t disappoint.

2. Beasts of Burden: Animal Rites
Who would’ve expected Evan Dorkin and Jill Thompson to turn out the best supernatural comic series this side of Hellboy, and about talking animals no less? But that’s exactly what Beasts of Burden is. The art is great, the humor is great, the pathos is great, the monsters are great. And this collection, which features not only the four-issue miniseries but also all the short stories from the Dark Horse Book Of books, is both beautiful and great. If you haven’t already read Beasts of Burden, this is one of the best comic collections ever published.

1. The Amazing Screw-On Head & Other Curious Objects
Who’s surprised? Yeah, probably nobody. What we have here is a book that’s all Mignola. All the art, all the writing (with some help from his daughter Katie). And not in the Hellboy universe, either, but completely unfettered to do basically whatever he wants. And it’s brilliant. In addition to the by-now familiar (from the animated pilot, if nowhere else) title story, there’s a bunch of all-new content, and it’s all great weird mythologizing of the first order.

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