Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Top 10 Tuesday - 10 Best Single Issues of 2011

You're not seeing double, it's a two for Top 10 Tuesday! It's that time of year when best of and worst of lists appear, politely reminding you of all the books you might have missed over the year. To compliment Ryan's list of the best books of 2011, I thought it would be worthwhile to put pen to paper on the ten best single issues of 2011. These are issues that might be a part of an arc, might be stand alone, but they've got something about them that stands out among the others on the shelf. So hit the jump and see what made the list. Just a heads up: there will be spoilers.

Honorable Mentions: Uncanny X-Force #11, Green Lantern #1, Animal Man #1

10. Superman #712
writer: Kurt Busiek
 artist: Rick Leonardi

The long awaited Krypto issue that DC had in the drawer since Infinite Crisis, this issue made its appearance by replacing one of Chris Roberson's Grounded issues that dealt with a Muslim superhero. And in some ways I think all that talk overlooked just how good this issue was. It's Busiek, so it's at the very least entertaining, but this issue works by showing and not telling.  A mostly silent issue that involved Krypto searching around the world for Conner and ultimately ending up alone in space, Leonardi's art shines at conveying just how sad the super-puppy is. Not only is Conner dead, but Superman is missing and powerless after stopping Superboy Prime on Mogo, and the way we see Krypto slowly realize his friends are gone is just heartbreaking. In the grander scheme of things it's pointless because Conner came back two years ago and there was a reboot, but it's hard for comics to hit sadness out of any emotion simply by how many variables you have in terms of writing and art and characters, but this issue really does hit just the right amount of sadness without going over the top and making it laughable.

9. Thor: The Mighty Avenger #8
writer: Roger Langridge
artist: Chris Samnee

The last issue of the much loved all-ages series shipped in January, and despite the series ending mid-storyline, the actual issue was a good one. Iron Man, and Tony Stark firmly in his playboy persona, show up this issue to help find Thor, who's being tortured by evil scientists. Samnee's design for the original Mach I Iron Man was a real nice treat and modernized it beyond the old walking cylinder look, and we quickly get over the inevitable hero vs hero scene in a rather comical way. Langridge could have made the issue push a ham-handed ending in the last few pages but what we get is Thor and Jane essentially walking off into the sunset that only makes us wonder why the series couldn't have been given the four issues needed to create an actual ending to the series. So you publish four fewer issues of that fourth Wolverine title where he fights ninjas or some unknown character from his past, it's a fair trade off.

 8. Uncanny X-Men #1
writer: Kieron Gillen
artist: Carlos Pacheco

I'll be honest, Schism wasn't that good of an event, and had a very shaky basis for having a split among the X-Men. Plenty of good artists, mediocre at best story. And those Hellfire Kids, they are the worst. Yet here we are, two different X-Men teams, two different coasts. Uncanny #1 was less a whimsical fare like Wolverine and the X-Men #1 was, but for the first time since the Dark Avengers/X-Men crossover it felt like an honest direction for Cyclops' team. In fact, I bet you could read that Utopia story and then just pick this issue up and have no reason to read all the issues in between. The general idea of a "still saving the world, just don't mess with us" squad of the heaviest hitters be your main squad is something that works, making the Extinction Team arguably the strongest in the Marvel Universe outside of the Annihilators. But beyond the team in action we had nice moments like what happens on Utopia when there isn't a world ending threat, and how for all of Wolverine's moaning about being raised as soldiers, the young mutants under Scott's care seem to be getting a well rounded education along with learning how to defend themselves. Pacheco's art was nice and clean, making this one of the better first issues to come out of Marvel in years, as it establishes the premise, everyone gets screen time, and the villain makes their move.  A modern day interpretation of Chris Claremont and Jim Lee's X-Men #1.

 7. Batman Inc. #6
writer: Grant Morrison
artist: Chris Burnham

I've got a soft spot for these kinds of issues, which usually appear after the first story or two and serve as "cool down" issues, moving things around and establishing plot points for the future while allowing everyone to get in a nice moment or two. And not really enjoying Batman Inc outside of the first two issues, this was the one that got me back into picking up the series. With this issue we really get a sense of how big Batman Inc. is, and just what Bruce's big plan is. Leviathan makes itself known, but at the same time it doesn't feel as just out of the blue as say, Romulus did in Wolverine: Origins. And most importantly it has Bruce welcoming the bat-family to his side, if only to watch him troll the internet about Batman and Bruce Wayne being the same person. The issue also has the little things like Ellie, the prostitute seen earlier in Morrison's Batman run, being the receptionist at Wayne Enterprises, or Alfred beating Bruce at chess, showing the master still has some things to learn. Burnham's art is detailed yet expressive, and in many ways he feels like the perfect pairing for Morrison if Frank Quitley isn't around. I'm really looking forward to seeing how much of Inc. can be salvaged with the reboot and the upcoming Leviathan series next year, starting with Leviathan Strikes this week.

6. Fables #108
writer: Bill Willingham
 artist: Mark Buckingham

If you're a trade waiter on Fables, just skip down to number five. With Moments of the Week I try not to post moments about books that are primarily of the the trade waiting variety like Fables and the Walking Dead simply for spoilers sake, but this was one of the issues that really showed a shift and more progress in the Fables world. While other have felt the book has slowly been running out of steam since issue #75, I've enjoyed the changes and how it has basically transitioned from act to act in the grander scheme of things almost like the original Star Wars films. The North Wind sacrificed himself last issue to seal off Mister Dark in a casket in a rather out of the the blue ending, and that creates a metaphorical power vacuum that one of Bigby's and Snow White's kids must replace. It's fictional politicking at its best, highlighting why in this instance having a kid become one of the strongest powers in creation might not be such a bad thing. And the children's reactions are quite good, especially poor Ambrose. This issue also has Bufkin being a complete bad-ass along the lines of taking out Baba Yaga earlier in the series, trying to sneak by in the land of Oz and just going by the seat of his pants to outsmart guards. Even when it comes to independent series, there is sometimes a feeling of complacency, yet issues like this shows why Fables is the exception.

5. Batman #1
writer: Scott Snyder
artist: Greg Capullo

My personal favorite from the new 52 DC relaunch, simply because it did its best to carry over stories from before Flashpoint. There is a reason the best selling DC books before the relaunch were the ones being the most innovative. But anyway, this issue worked not only as a brand new introduction to Bruce Wayne returning to Gotham as the one and only Batman, but this issue was jam packed with story. Whenever a splash page was used like the opening scene with Batman in Arkham, it was made up for in later pages with a more condensed panel structure such as the socialite speech which Greg Capullo didn't even break a sweat with. And the clever exposition tool of a Bat-computer contact lens lets everyone picking up the issue for the first time know who Bruce's allies are in a clean, simple manner. And what would a Batman issue be without Damian throwing out an insult at someone in the family? We were also given four extra pages for our three bucks, which was just a nice thing to see when you'd be lucky these days to get two extra pages of story for another dollar. It feels like a broken record at some point, but Snyder is easily the best writer in comics today.

4. Uncanny X-Men Annual #3
writer: James Asmus
artist: Nick Bradshaw

Somewhere along the line it looks like Marvel restarted the Uncanny X-Men annual numbers before renumbering the actual series. No matter, as this opening chapter to the summer time story Escape From the Negative Zone story really came out of nowhere to provide one of the best reading experiences all year. Cyclops, Hope, Dr. Nemesis and Namor are in the Negative Zone because they hit a machine too much, and try to get back without disturbing Blastaar. This issue excels in making everything feel like it's just another day in the life of superheroes. At no point does it feel like the world is going to end if they don't get back in time, so you have Cyclops getting on Hope's nerves being the best at everything and simply trying to keep everyone alive, and Nemesis tranquilizing creatures while making fun of Namor's wings. The writing is in character, the dialogue is incredibly sharp, and this being the first time I saw Nick Bradshaw's art it was a treat for the eyes. Bradshaw easily shows that he can handle the quiet and the frantic moments well, but hopefully he isn't as slow as Art Adams is. I look forward to seeing more work from these two creators for years to come.

3. Detective Comics #881
writer: Scott Snyder
artists: Jock and Francesco Francavilla

Two Snyder books? If you've read them you'll know why this doesn't seem out of place. Not only did this issue cap off a year long story that was universally loved, the final issue of the first run of Detective Comics has a lot of characters stepping up in big ways to overcome their fears, and no fear gas at all! From Babs taking matters into her own hands with James Gordon, to Dick feeling like he's finally earned the right to wear the cowl yet still maintain a positive outlook, and Jim's final confrontation with his son. This issue just had so many things going for it, and that page between Dick and Jim at the end of the issue where you get as close to the Commissioner saying he knows, what a fantastic way to show the complete admiration the two characters have for one another. The scene is right up there with Bane breaking the Bat or Dick taking the oath to serve, and just brings a smile to my face when I see that page. All the issue really did is make me wish for more issues with Dick as Batman because he showed that he absolutely earned the right.

2. Daredevil #4
writer: Mark Waid
artist: Marcos Martin

When the first arc of the new Daredevil series ended, I expected the next issue to involve something dark happening simply because it's Daredevil. What would it be, Deuce the Devil Dog getting run over by a crazed Milla in Kingpin's Cadillac? Matt's mother being gunned down during Christmas service? But surprisingly, not only did these two things not happen, we got an issue that was essentially world building the new status quo for Matt Murdock, and I couldn't have been happier. From the way the new consultancy angle helps with the secret identity genie that (happily) won't go back into the bottle, to the exercise room where Matt and Foggy try to Hanz and Franz their way to a healthier life, it was all fun stuff. But what really sold me on the issue was the idea of Matt having a courier deliver a full set of new clothes to his next appointment across town while he swung over in his Daredevil attire. It's a nice moment, brilliantly illustrated by Marcos Martin, that has that great effect of sticking in your head whenever you think of original story points in comics. Those kinds of little moments are what make comics great.

 1. Batgirl #22
writer: Bryan Q. Miller
artist: Pere Perez

This might seem like an odd choice, as it was at the end of a series that might still be in question as to whether or not it carried over into the DCnU, but it's got everything going in its favor for best single issue of the year; a self contained story, a meaningful guest appearance by fellow caped crusader Squire, great humor, and an incredibly interesting story. Steph's called over to London by Batman, but before she can get ready for that job, it's up to Batgirl and Squire to stop Dickens-themed villain The Orphan from stealing The Greenwich Mean, which is literally the sword in the stone. To say this issue has fun with British history and literature would be an understatement. But on top of it all there is excellent banter between the two heroines, Perez has quite possibly never drawn a better looking issue and should be the regular artist on a book immediately, and it has the most important thing a comic can deliver: fun. You certainly get a full story for your money. The only downside to this issue is the sad realization that Stephanie isn't Batgirl anymore, in that sad moment of realization that comics need to stop looking behind and start look forward. This might actually be one of the best single issues I've read ever, definitely give it a shot.


So there you have it, my list for the best single issues of 2011. Let me know if any were on your list, or other single issues that deserve some praise. And many of these issues are online for purchase now, so if you get a chance check them out before January arrives.

Related Posts


CombatSpoon86 said...

All fun issues.

Anonymous said...

I appreciate and respect you guys and all of the talented creators whose work I've admired and enjoyed for decades, but Uncanny was such an unfortunate, lifeless launch. It left me angry (in a toothless comic book fan sort of way). It didn't have a new idea to offer beyond its villains angle, which is smart but not honored creatively (save for the one good line from Storm), and treated as more of a tweak then a bold new direction.
I think of Aaron on the East coast. Marvel also gave him the keys to the kingdom and the results in Wolverine and the X-Men are so brand new. There are wild ideas in almost every pane,l and story and character development that isn't retread but will instead inspire the retreads that will inevitably follow.
After reading Uncanny, I actually bagged and boarded it as a remarkable example of lost opportunity. And frankly, even the Cyclops characterization was inconsistent.

(And X-Force only a mention? Perhaps we just enjoy different aspects of different books.)

Post a Comment

Thanks for checking out the Weekly Crisis - Comic Book Review Blog. Comments are always appreciated. You can sign in and comment with any Google, Wordpress, Live Journal, AIM, OpenID or TypePad account.