Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Top 10 Tuesdays - Best Comics of 2011

Now that we've had a look back at predictions for 2011, some of the best single issues of the year, and one other take on the best comics of the year, I figured I'd throw my hat into the Top 10 Tuesdays ring and offer my thoughts on what I saw as the year's best.  I know that Ryan and I have some similarities in our comic reading habits, but I think you might be surprised at the differences between our lists.  I certainly was.  Hit the jump to see what made it where and what similarities, if any, exist between our lists.

Disclaimer: Despite the number of books that I pull on a weekly basis, I also don't read everything on the shelves.  If your favourite book isn't on the list, it's not a slight, just how things shook out in my mind.  As always, if you're wanting to share your thoughts on the matter, I'm always game for looking at new books.

10. Baltimore: The Curse Bells

Written by Mike Mignola & Christopher Golden
Art by Ben Stenbeck
Published by Dark Horse

I've talked up Mike Mignola at various points since my coming over to the Weekly Crisis, and the simple reason for that is that he's kind of amazing at comics.  He's just as well known for his art as he is for his writing.  Unfortunately (depending on how you look at it), he's been so busy writing things like Hellboy, B.P.R.D., and so on that he hasn't had much time for that art thing, which is a shame because his style is out of this world. On the plus side, that extra writing time enabled him to put out volume two of the entirely enjoyable and entirely dark Baltimore comic book miniseries.  Set in the aftermath of an alternate universe World War One, where the conflict was ended early due to a horrible outbreak of vampire, this book featured the terse, atmospheric, and engaging writing that Mike Mignola is so well known for.  It also didn't hurt that Ben Stenbeck's art fit the mood of the book like a glove.  In a popular culture that's currently drowning in vampires, I'm tempted to say this is my favourite anything featuring the creatures.

9. Amazing Spider-Man

Written by Dan Slott
Art by Humberto Ramos, Stefano Caselli, Marcos Martin, et al.
Published by Marvel

This comic is good.  Week in and week out, I'm always happy to be reading Dan Slott's fantabulous take on Spider-Man.  Slott clearly understands the character and what he should be, creating a near perfect superhero comic book.  One of the most impressive things is the way that Slott manages to strike a balance between the secret identity and the superhero persona.  Peter Parker is all over this book, and more than that, what he does is often just as important as what Spidey is getting up to.  Secret identities are increasingly becoming a lost art among comic books, so it's nice to see at least one series that hasn't forgotten that these heroes have real lives, too.  While the writer has been more or less slotted in (excuse the pun, I couldn't resist), the artists have been a bit of a rotating cast, but no matter who is drawing this book, it is always fun, which isn't common enough in comics nowadays either.

8. Atomic Robo

Written by Brian Clevinger
Art by Scott Wegner
Published by Red 5 Comics

We actually got quite a few issues of Atomic Robo this year, considering that it releases in volumed miniseries and is not an ongoing.  With volumes 5, 6, and the Free Comic Book Day issue, that totals up to eight issues, which is kind of nuts when you think about it.  Considering that Atomic Robo is pretty much my favourite comic book and comic book character, I would be terribly remiss to leave Brian Clevinger and Scott Wegner's wonderful creation off my year end list.    And there's also the fact that every issue of Atomic Robo has been pretty rock solid.  I love Atomic Robo because it is a book that can be read and enjoyed by readers of all ages, but it never talks down to its readership.  Instead, Clevinger and Wegner give one of the smartest, funniest, and most action packed books out there each and every time they release a new issue.  Atomic Robo is a great role model for kids, but he's also an awesome action hero.  I'm always eager to see what comes next for this mechanical man, so it warms my heart to know that our intrepid creators still have plenty of stories to tell.  Even though we're into volume 6, it feels like the adventure is just beginning, which is a wonderful feeling.

7. Flashpoint - Batman: Knight of Vengeance

Written by Brian Azzarello
Art by Eduardo Risso
Published by DC

This three issue mini-series was probably the best thing to come out of Flashpoint.  While the main series was wildly uneven and most of the other tie-ins were less than stellar, Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Risso combined to tell one of the best stories of the summer and to be the only ones to push the Flashpoint conceit to its highest potential.  Flashpoint was a chance to tell some Elseworlds-esque stories, creating a world that is both familiar and radically different from what the reader knows.  Most of the other series settled for just switching something and then forgetting to tell a good story, but Knight of Vengeance did not make such a mistake.  Azzarello and Risso got their idea and then hit the ground running, leaving it up to the reader to figure out what was going on and to appreciate it.  There was no hand holding on their part, and it made for some brilliant comics.  Great stuff.

6. Wonder Woman

Written by Brian Azzarello
Art by Cliff Chiang
Published by DC

Thankfully for the comic book world, Azzarello didn't just stop at telling an amazing Batman story.  He came back in a big way in 2011, also creating Spaceman with Risso and recreating Wonder Woman with Cliff Chiang.  I would say the jury is still out on Spaceman, but Wonder Woman is, without a doubt, a phenomenal book.  These two have managed to do what so many others have failed: write a Wonder Woman that is actually worth reading.  Their interpretation is far more steeped in mythology than past iterations of Diana have been, and it's working.  This comic is a pleasure to read and honestly feels like some modern day myth-making.  It's admittedly still early in its run, but I don't see Wonder Woman losing any momentum at this point.  Full steam ahead!

5. Daredevil

Written by Mark Waid
Art by Paolo Rivera & Marcos Martin
Published by Marvel

Wow.  I came into this book back in July without any expectations, and Mark Waid, Paolo Rivera, and Marcos Martin knocked my socks right off.  Daredevil is an absolute gem, with Waid hitting all the right notes in the writing departments and Rivera and Martin providing for one of the prettiest books on the stands.  Their take on Matt Murdock is a breath of fresh air, giving us a hero who doesn't necessarily take himself too seriously but still gets the job done in a big way.  Every issue has been a treat, and I can't wait to see what's to come in the year ahead.

4. Mystic

Written by G. Willow Wilson
Art by David Lopez
Published by Marvel/CrossGen

I feel like I might have been the only person reading this miniseries, which I hope wasn't the case, because it was too good to not have found some kind of audience.  I raved about this book each and every time a new issue came out, and I feel like it was all well-warranted.  Mystic was the perfect all-ages book, providing a story that could be appreciated by all that was engaging as all get out.  I loved the Victorian sensibilities, steampunk style, and magical imagination that permeated every single panel of these four issues, and the story the G. Willow Wilson and David Lopez told had a real sense of timelessness to it.  I think the narrative they told here will be just as relevant and fun ten or twenty years down the line as it is now.  I believe that every title on this list is a winner, but if you're looking for something new, you could do a lot worse than Mystic.

3. Detective Comics

Written by Scott Snyder
Art by Jock & Francesco Francavilla
Published by DC

Scott Snyder proved to the world that he is among the upper-crust of Batman writers with this amazing run that slowly built into a truly dark and disturbing look at Gotham City and how it changes those who live within it. There were virtually no missteps (I think mainly of the Road Runner villain who overquoted the eponymous Looney Tunes character), and everything else was picture perfect. The collaboration between Francesco Francavilla and Jock was also amazing, as the two played off of each other's style in a manner that fit in perfectly with the dark tone that Snyder was striking.  This is an instant classic Batman story.

2. Batwoman

Written by J.H. Williams III & W. Haden Blackman
Art by J.H. Williams III
Published by DC

How can this book not find its way onto my list?  The art is gorgeous, the writing is eons better than I ever would have expected, and the whole package ends up being an amazing convergence of the written word and the drawn image.  This is a prime example of what comics should be, featuring some amazing character work, innovative page layout, and general fun that is absent from so many books on stands today.  I could rave about this book all day and all night, but let me just use one example.  The budding relationship between Kate Kane and Maggie Sawyer is one of the best, most honestly written things in comics right now, and the fact that they're lesbians has nothing to do with it.  These two women simply feel real and their interactions are genuine as the setting sun.

1. Secret Six

Written by Gail Simone
Art by J. Calafiore
Published by DC

Like many, I could have read this book forever. Gail Simone somehow keyed onto the perfect combination of sickness and depravity, while still somehow maintaining her characters as sympathetic.  It is an impressive balancing act to have struck, and I don't know if anyone else out there at the moment would have been able to do it with the same degree of flare and panache that Simone pulled off.  Props must also go out to J. Calafiore, who managed to somehow replace Nicola Scott and keep the book just as purty, which is no small feat.  We'll miss you, Secret Six.  Come back soon?


So these are my picks for the top books of 2011.  It wasn't exactly the easiest list to come up with.  There were plenty of comics that I dig that ended up as near misses, and I know that there are plenty more that I simply am not aware of / do not presently have on my pull list.  We've already asked the question of what your favourite series were from 2011, but if anyone has been wanting to get in on the process, I'm asking the question again.  What did you like last year?

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CombatSpoon86 said...

Great choices. All solid picks. I miss S6 especially. Wish Dc would bring them back. I would add Uncanny X-force on here but other than that great picks.

Eric van Schaik said...

Also agree with most of the list.
Ryan (of power ranking's fame) was the one that got me into S6. Whatever happened to him?

Ryan K Lindsay said...

@Eric - he's gone off to fame and fortune writing comics. You'll see his name plenty in 2012.

brandon said...

As much as I love Atomic Robo, this current storyline (volume 6?) is the weakest by far. thankfully the 2012 FCBD edition is a team up with Dr Dinosaur.

Jon said...

While I cannot disagree with any of these choices (I either love them or am ignorant of them), I would like to give a shout out to Scott Snyder`s Severed (even if it`s not quite done yet),for a great slow build that makes it different than anything else on the shelf as well as Jeff Lemire`s Animal Man, which has turned my complete Meh-ness towards the character into the highlight of each month.

And like many mentionned, X-Force of course!

Matthew Rudge said...

Great choices Greg. I would also suggest that you check out Rachel Rising by Terry Moore. Although it didn't start or is exclusive to this past year, Sixth Gun by Cullen Bunn and Brian Hurtt is also very good.

Grant McLaughlin said...

It's abundantly clear that I'm going to have to check out X-Force. Biggest miss (on my part) of 2011?

@brandon - I'm really digging the current storyline. I feel like Clevinger and Wegner are just telling a good, solid tale about Robo and the conspiracies that are out to get him.

@Jon - Agreed on both Severed and Animal Man.

@Matthew - I've heard positive word of mouth on both titles, but haven't had a chance to give them a gander. I'll see what I can do to correct that.

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Moon knight!

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Hey friends,
I could have read this book forever. Gail Simone somehow keyed onto the perfect combination of sickness and depravity, while still somehow maintaining her characters as sympathetic.Thanks

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