Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Best of 2011

These are my favourite comics of 2011.  You can click on the comic's title for a link to buy them (though some are unavailable at the moment; check your local comic shop!)



Criminal: Last of the Innocent by Ed Brubaker & Sean Phillips

I didn't think Criminal could get any better. The last series - The Innocents - was probably the title's weakest (though still very good!) but from the very first issue, Last of the Innocents was clearly something special. Melding old-style Archie nostalgia inserts representing the characters' cherished (idealized?) childhood memories with the swampy dark noir of the modern day, this series marked the absolute height of two creators' at their respective peaks. A story about regret, jealousy, vanity and murder, featuring a protagonist who is probably the least likeable character in a host of unlikeable characters, Criminal is real comics. The duo's new series - Fatale - has just started from Image Comics and the first issue sold out before they even went on sale.

Hellboy: The Storm & The Fury by Mike Mignola & Duncan Fegredo (w/ Dave Stewart)

The culmination of over a decades worth of story groundwork and continuity, Mike Mignola's Hellboy reached a (sort of) conclusion that few were expecting or saw coming. I won't talk much of the plot as I don't want to spoil anything but the final issue was a sight to behold and one of the most dense and beautiful comics my eyes have seen. This also marked Duncan Fegredo's last issue as artist and he went out on an absolute high with the best work of his career (assisted by Dave Stewart's frankly amazing colouring). Mignola returns to his character in the next few months, taking up artistic chores after a very long absense.

I don't know if these would be classified as Ongoings - maybe ongoing mini-series' - but it's my list and I'll do it how I like.


Uncanny X-Force by Rick Remender & Jeremy Opena (w/ others)

Recommended to me on this very forum, Rick Remender's X-Force got me back reading an X-title after a very long absence. Brilliant plots, outrageously brilliant art and a writer who knows that it's the characters that really count, this was a really fun, high-octane adventure comic. The latest issue also featured one of the most touching and well-executed scenes I've seen in a superhero in quite some time.



The Red Wing by Jonathan Hickman and Nick Pitarra

Currently gathering acclaim for his runs on Marvel's Fantastic Four/FF and The Ultimates, Hickman's most daring work is always his creator-owned stuff. The Red Wing is a futuristic science fiction tale about time-travel, family and duty. The real star here is art from Nick Pitarra with some amazing design work and cool visuals. The last issue floundered a little in my opinion but it might work better read as a trade, since there was so much going on it was hard to follow over the four month period!


Nonplayer by Nate Simpson

OK so only one issue was released but what an issue!  Nate Simpson's futurist tale about RPG-style immersive gaming got off to a hugely impressive start.



Daytripper by Gabriel Bá and Fabio Moon

This was originally published as a 10-issue series by Vertigo and I didn't hear about it till towards the end of its run.  The trade collects the whole thing in one go and it's truly one of the most ambitious and best comics I've read this year. Gabriel Ba and Fabio Moon made their names as artists on Gerard Way's excellent The Umbrella Academy and as alternating artists on Matt Fraction's creator-owned Casanova. Here they partner on writing/art duties and it's a wonderful combination.  Daytripper revolves around a writer Bras de Oliva Domingos and each issue centres on an important moment in his life. Any more detail might spoil it but it's a very touching and heartfelt comic about life, death and all the important things in life. Ba and Moon aren't afraid to experiment with the narrative or visuals but it's never overbearing, only adding to the impact of the story.  Each issue is self-contained yet they combine to tell an overall story (it's kind of hard to explain!) that I challenge anyone not be to affected by. We need more comics like this.




Paying for It by Chester Brown was a thought-provoking comic about the author's somewhat unconventional life choice to forswear relationships and emotional attachments in favour of partaking in purely sexual relationships with prostitutes (prostitution being legal where he comes from).  Dark Horse released the first English translation of Blacksad, a fantastic antropomorphic noir detective story owing a visual debt to early Disney films.  I also really enjoyed the latest collections of The Unwritten and the B.P.R.D. hardcovers (vol. 3 out soon!)  Two trades/series I've read this year (but were released earlier) were the excellent Safe Area Gorazde by Joe Sacco, comics journalism covering the Bosnian war and genocide, and the Hernandez Bros. excellent and classic Love & Rockets series.


Note: Anything included in the post above has not been included here. So you can take some of these as second/third place titles, if you'd like. Though they're all exceptional!


Best: Secret Avengers #16 - Current: Warren Ellis and a rotating team of artists create explosive self-contained hi-concept action comics for the 21st century.
Honourable Mention: Wolverine & the X-Men - Jason Aaron and Chris Bachalo inject some much-needed fun into the X-World.



Best:  B.P.R.D. - John Arcudi and Mike Mignola continue the BPRD in a post-Plague world. Great action, great characters and one of the best team books around.
Honourable Mentions: Buffy Season 9 -  I'm as surprised as you are. S8 quickly devolved into over-the-top and unrecognizable farce but S9 has gotten things right back on track and delivered on those earlier promises. Buffy is at its best when it's fun!



Best: The Strange Talent of Luther Strode - A nice surprise, this. Like a more mature, less offensive Kick-Ass, this new series got off to a strong start with some strong expressive art and a story that doesn't let up steam.
Honourable Mention: The Intrepids - A fun tale about a team of gifted but flawed characters whose job it is to stop the worlds' evil scientists. Gigantic brainwahsed bears are always fun villains.



Best: Animal Man by Jeff Lemire and Travel Foreman - DCs best relaunch title owes more than a debt to Vertigo. 
Honourable Mention: Batman: The Black Mirror (Detective Comics #871 - #881) -  Scott Snyder's pre-relaunch Detective Comics with Jock and Francesco Francavilla were some of the best Batman stories of recent years, regardless of Bruce Wayne not being under the cowl. Snyder and Capullo's current run on Batman is fantastic as well.



Kate Beaton's Hark! A Vagrant. Hilarious shorts based on historical and literary figures, Beaton's popular webcomic's growing popularity meant it's been picked up by a publisher and released in physical form to huge acclaim, reaching the top of many best seller and crtitics' lists. She's still making 'em and they're still damn funny.


Watchmen 2  - If it's true, it's a terrible, terrible idea and a real blow to creator rights and respect.


Image in 2012: A company focused on creator-owned comics, the publisher is now at their strongest since its founding days when Jim Lee, Rob Liefeld, Todd McFarlane, Erik Larsen and others took the risky jump from working for the Big Two to make the comics they wanted to make.  2012 marks their 20th Anniversary and they have a slew of amazing books coming out from some of the very best creators working in comics today. Brubaker/Phillips on Fatale, Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples on Saga, Brandon Graham on Prophet, Hickman's new projects (Manhattan Projects being one), Hell Yeah.   Also they have the continuing hits like Chew, Mudman, Pigs, Morning Glories, The Walking Dead, Invincible, Reed Gunther, Gladstone's School of World Conquerors and The Strange Talent of Luther Strode. Hell, maybe they'll even get Gutsville out! 

If you like comics, then Image are the publisher to look at in 2012.If you like comics, then Image are the publisher to look at in 2012.






Special mention goes to 2000AD for being consistently brilliant!

It's the comics 35th anniversary this February and 2012 looks like another amazing year with the end of Nikolai Dante (the best UK comic of the last decade), more explosive Dredd stories in Day of Chaos (and the release of a new film!), Indigo Prime, Zombo, Low Life and much, much more.