It’s the first day of a new year and so that means we’re doing our “best of” listing of the top comic books for 2011. Generally these are comic books that came out in 2010, though some are from earlier times and we got around to reading them. Keep in mind, this is what I have read. If it’s not on here, I just might not have read it.
Best Super Hero Comic – Daredevil
Daredevil has had an interesting 2011, we started with Shadowland and then got Matt Murdock finding himself and then a relaunched back to basic series written by Mark Waid with art by Paolo Rivera. Shadowland wasn’t too bad, a bit uneven, but as a whole Marvel had issues with this year’s events. Seeing Murdock corrupt and the emotion from his friends was an interesting read. After you had Murdock wandering the country in short mini-series followed up by the relaunch.
It’s that relaunch that makes Daredevil stick out in my mind. It’s a comic I look forward to reading each month. Waid has given it a pulp action feel like classic Green Hornet or the Shadow and Rivera’s art is fantastic. The comic is just fun to read. On top of Waid’s take, Daredevil is now an Avenger and each of his brief appearances so far has enhanced that series. When you show up in an ensemble comic and steal the show, that says something.
Waid has set up a lot going into 2012, can’t wait to see how it turns out.
Runner Ups – Moon Knight, Uncanny X-Force, Aquaman
Best Non-Super Hero Comic -DMZ
Is there a more politically relevant comic book series out there? Every month we’re given something to think about as we follow Matty Roth through Manhattan which is now a DMZ in the middle of the second American Civil War.
Writer Brian Wood is able to pivot and comment on what’s currently happening in politics and the world challenging our perceptions and not seem preachy at the same time.
With some single issues that stand as some of the best of the year and numerous holy shit moments, this isn’t just one of the most relevant comics out there, but some of the best political commentary of any entertainment medium. Fittingly, this final week also brought us the final issue of the series, a perfect way to end the year.
Runner Ups – American Vampire, Chew, The Walking Dead
Best Limited Series or One Shot – Criminal: The Last Of The Innocent
Really, just sign me up for whatever Ed Brubaker and Sean Philips have in store. This latest volume of their crime/noir series from Marvel/Icon gave us a shit-head of a main character and kept us on our toes as to what to expect. Sean Philips also showed us something new by changing up the art style every so often.
These two are one of the best teams in comic books today. Early 2012 brings us Fatale from them to be published by Image which is more horror/noir. Hopefully we’ll be seeing another volume of this series as well.
I’m a huge fan up pulp/noir comics, and this is the gold standard by which all others are judged. Just fantastic.
Runner Ups – Critical Millennium, Severed, 27: Second Set
Best Single Issue – Transformers #22 and #23
Technically it’s two issues, but the story is spread out between the two issues and either stands out as the best. On top of that Transformers: The Death of Optimus Prime reflects on what’s discussed in these issues as well. Megatron is captured and the two issues reflect on his and Optimus’ past and how they became who they are. Flash forward to the present and the two leaders debate politics and motives. It’s an adult discussion coming from two giant robots.
DMZ might have been “the” political discussion of the year, but these two issues I just didn’t expect it from. Absolutely fantastic and enough to give me pause and make me think.
What’s the difference between a terrorist and freedom fighter? Find out in these issues.
Worst Single Issue of the Year – Holy Terror
Just a holy piece of crap. This is up there as one of the worst things I’ve ever read. The graphic novel by legend Frank miller is racist, xenophobic, sexist and horribly written. Can’t believe we’ve waited so long to read it.
Runner Ups - The Infinite (any issue)
Best Graphic Novel/Trade Paperback – Green River Killer
Dark Horse’s Green River Killer is a true-crime story focused on the Green River serial killings. The writer was close to the subject, as his father was one of the lead detectives. The story has multiple layers, looking at how families were affected, the struggles the police went through and at the end, why the killer did what he did.
The graphic novel is haunting. I couldn’t stop thinking about it for many days it was that disturbing and unsettling. The art is good, but it’s the story that gets you. The whole time you’re wondering how they’re going to solve this, but also why is this happening.
Add in the fact this is a true story. It’s a disturbing true story. Being able to get some of the behind the scenes to a story I only know from newspapers and the nightly news, just adds more to it all.
Runner Ups - Any Empire, Jim Henson’s Tale of Sand
Best Event of the Year – Uncanny X-Force: The Dark Angel Saga
I’m counting this as an event, though it’s really a long story arc. Rick Remender has put together the best “X” book put out by Marvel. This event which saw the rise of a new Apocalypse in the form of Archangel and X-Force is all that stands in the way between him and world destruction.
Diving into “X” lore with trips to the Age of Apocalypse universe, this was a story for the hard core “X” fans. But, more than that, everything was thrown into it. You had no idea what was going to come next and what to expect.
It wasn’t until I finally read the last issue that I know the ending, that’s how much of a big question mark Remender gave us. The follow as well was fantastic as why characters did what they did and a new status-quo and direction were set.
Runner Ups - Artifacts, Flashpoint
Best Genre of the Year – Horror
Horror was where it was at this year with DC folding in some Vertigo books and some great limited series like Severed. Animal Man, Swamp Thing, I, Vampire, B.P.R.D. and more lead the way to dethroning last year’s winner, a bunch of shuffling zombies (though that’s also horror in a way). I’ve never been creeped out more and enjoyed it as much.
Runner Up – Steampunk, Zombie
Best Comic Tie-In of the Year – Batman: Arkham City
I enjoy a video game or two (dozen). One of the best video games of the year, not just comic book tie-ins was Batman: Arkham City which just brought more of the brawler game. There’s a reason many are naming this as one of the best video games of the year and it’s sold so well. It’s that damn good.
The downloadable material which seems to be coming as a steady flow, the fact you can play as so many characters, that all adds up to a comic book experience you can control. Add in amazing graphics, game play and there you have it, it’s a must buy video game.
Runner Up – Marvel Universe toys, DC Universe Super Heroes Legos
Best Comic Book Related Movie – Thor
This year’s crop of comic book related movies wasn’t as amazing as I’d hope, but it’s a solid bunch. Marvel’s batch as what stood out and all three really deserve to share the honors. Each was excellent and flawed in their own ways, but out of the three Thor holds up best.
The story is pretty standard, didn’t really challenge me at all, but the visuals and Chris Hemsworth’s acting is what really makes it all stand out. The flaws also are the least of the bunch with only the final fight between Thor and the Destroyer really bothering me.
Out of the bunch, this was also the highest grossing, showing it wasn’t just me that liked it.
Runner Ups – Captain America: The First Avenger, X-Men: First Class
Best Surprise of the Year – DC New 52
This is a mixed one as DC’s relaunch is also a disappointment, but I’ll address it all here. DC made a bold move this year to shake up their sagging line of comic books by starting from the beginning and relaunching the entire line. It was gutsy. On top of that, their digital initiative was bold.
The story that lead up to it all, Flashpoint, was pretty damn good and what came out of it as well. I took a chance on all fifty-two issues and came away with giving half of them a chance for the second issue. From there, I made further cuts, but today, I’m reading more comics from DC than I ever have and their higher volumes they’re selling that the initiative has worked for the short term.
The disappointing part is that they didn’t go far enough. The comics were pretty standard and we didn’t get anything out of the box. There also was a clear audience, adolescent males (or men stuck in their adolescence). While we saw more advertising to the general public, we haven’t seen a sustained campaign. For all their gains in 2011, I think we’ll see a good chunk of it erode in 2012.
Biggest Disappointment of the Year – Marvel Events
Fear Itself and it’s follow up were and are bad. X-Men: Schism was ok, but much better than what was before. Shadowland was uneven. Marvel has been having some issues when it comes to their events. I won’t call it overall event fatigue in the industry as others have put out quality and showed what works.
Too many tie-ins, stories not thought out and gimmicky tricks paved the way to a substandard experience.
Marvel relied on the tired gimmick of death, killing the Ultimate Spider-Man, Bucky, the Human Torch and more, that all made headlines but some of it is already undone. There’s only so many times you can call death before the masses catch on and shrugs their shoulders.
Already we’re heading into more events at Marvel in 2012, here’s hoping there’s some improvement.
Runner Up – Green Lantern (movie), DCnU
Best Character – Moon Knight
Moon Knight has always been a character that’s intrigued me. Brian Michael Bendis, along with amazing art by Alex Maleev, have given us a new series that really looks at the many personalities of Marc Spector. The new series really has fun with the idea having Moon Knight drawing upon his personalities at different points.
Moon Knight is the psychotic Batman, a super hero struggling with mental illness. But is he really suffering from it? And should it be this much enjoyable to read?
Publisher of the Year – Archaia
Archaia received the honor last year as well, so let me really explain my logic here. Lets start with the big two, Marvel and DC. Marvel’s line has suffered in 2011, they’re out. DC made a bold choice, but four months letter, it all feels empty. There’s quality, but there’s also a lot that just doesn’t excite.
BOOM! made it’s case towards the end of the year with some great original series, along with some on-goings that continue to show off their quality. Add in a lot of licensed comics and they’ve got a line that has something for everyone. There were also some busts, but they’ve got a great line of comics. Image Comics, for all the quality also has some major duds. Inconsistency is the issue, but their quality is some of the best out there.
Dark Horse has some amazing comics. A lot of big name licenses and some good original, but there’s a lot of series I read and just didn’t interest me. Their quality though is up there. If your a Star Wars or Buffy fan too, they put out excellent product. Then we come to IDW Publishing. A lot of license there too, and also a lot of original material. Each week I see their new releases, I get excited, as a whole, I’m probably interested in more of their monthly comics percentage wise than any other publisher, and it’s all excellent.
And the big winner is Archaia. I should start with the presentation of the books. Beautiful covers and packaging is the first thing that sticks out. Their entire line of graphic novels are beautiful to look at on a shelf. Then there’s what’s in between those fancy covers. The variety of the books and quality is unmatched. I can find something for everyone and hand out one of their series or a graphic novel and know I’m good with my choice. All of what I read was good to great and much challenges story telling and comic book visuals.
Licensed books, original books, it’s all here. And it’s amazing. There’s comics for kids and adults and books kids and adults will love together. Books from the US and Europe, we have different styles and perspectives, it’s like the publisher goes out of it’s way to present choice and variety. And it’s all good.
I said it last year and it still holds true this year, when I think Archaia, I think high quality and expect the best. They continue to not let me down.
Runner Up – IDW Publishing