Charles de Lint--Waifs and Strays: This collection of short stories (a couple of which are long enough to shade into novellas) is worth a look, gathering some of his urban and mythic fantasy stories from different periods. These stories haven't been collected in a de Lint book before, but at least a couple of them have appeared in The Year's Best Fantasy and Horror collections (Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling, eds.). If you haven't read any of his work, it's a good introduction. My main objection to de Lint's work is that it doesn't cover as wide a range as I might want, so I read him in small doses. The reason I keep coming back to his stuff is the compassion he generally has for his characters, who are generally richly rendered, not one- or two-dimensional stereotypes.
Warren Ellis and Darick Robertson--Transmetropolitan (vols 1 and 2 = issues 1-12): This is a comic book series about a journalist on a social mission. The protagonist has a bit of antihero about him, but is clearly a Good Guy. Unsurprisingly for the medium, he gets away with and survives an improbable number of insane activities and situations along the way, but the overall effect is still pretty human. Overall, a witty, cutting, but not heartless social criticism with echoes of Aldous Huxley's Brave new World.
Dan Simmons--Hyperion (Hyperion, The Fall of Hyperion, Endymion and The Rise of Endymion): This series, a relatively recent sci-fi classic, is an absolutely great two- or three-book series in need of extraction from a very good four-book series. The characterizations are fair, and quite diverse, but not as rich as they might be. The plot and the vision of the future, however, are top-notch. This series is a magnum opus of the imagination, and many of the ideas raised bear a good deal of thinking about. The handling of time-affecting technology and its effect on narrative flow is particularly intriguing. My main beef is that it needs more editing to get to a leaner, better-paced end result. The storyline sometimes gets lost in lush descriptions and discourses, which sometimes drop the tension of the plot more than they should. Overall, though, not a series I'm sorry to have read!
Bill Willingham--Fables</b> (vols 1 and 2): Another comic book series, this time about characters from fables who have escaped the conquest of their world and now reside in ours. The characterizations are, well, interesting. These are not sugar-and-spice sanitized fairy tale characters; they are generally at least as bad as real people, in the style of the old meaning of fairy tales. Not that everyone is evil, but rather that everything is shades of grey instead of black and white. A significant part of the fun is seeing the characters in the new context of the modern world. Entertaining, and the plots aren't bad, but lacking the depth of meaning found in Transmetropolitan.
Wizard Entertainment--Toyfare (a collection, not sure which volume): Well, if amusement without *reverb on* Deep Thoughts *reverb off* is what you want, this is a good place to start. This is a very silly comic book which features action figure montages of satirical superhero storylines. I suspect that someone more familiar with the source material would find it even funnier than I did, but I wasn't diappointed by the experience. Something to consume in limited doses, perhaps, because the flavor of the humor might otherwise get a bit monotonous, but very well-done. Kind of the National Lampoon of the comic book world.