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My Top Ten Comics of 2011

by  in Comic News Comment
My Top Ten Comics of 2011

Just for Greg Burgas, I waited until all the 2011 comics were finished being released. As always, it was another difficult year to narrow my favorite comics down to just ten. I think I’ll put up a quick selection of honorable mentions before I get into the top ten (and no ties for number ten – that’s cheating!), so enjoy!

I enjoyed a crapload of comics in 2011. It’s not like me not mentioning a comic here doesn’t mean I didn’t like it a lot. Hell, I very well might have forgotten a really cool comic that I wanted to mention here but forgot.

HONORABLE MENTIONS

Uncanny X-Force has been excellent. The death sequence in #18? Goddamn, Remender, that was amazing.

Casanova and Wolverine and the X-Men would likely make my top 10 if I felt that they released enough issues of each book. That’s the same thing that hurt Rachel Rising and Echo, when it came to me coming up with a Top 10. But really, that’s a nebulous distinction. They’re all worthy of being on the top 10.

Little Nothings was good, as always. Rick Geary’s look at The Lives of Sacco and Vanzetti was powerful.

Hellboy/BPRD are always great. Roger Langridge’s Snarked is a fun comic book.

Optic Nerve #12 was outstanding. Scott Snyder’s Detective Comics was really good (and American Vampire continued its strong run). Animal Man is off to a great start (and Lemire’s Sweet Tooth is a good book, too). I enjoyed Anya’s Ghost a good deal. Kieron Gillen is doing outstanding work on Journey into Mystery. Joe Casey is doing great stuff on pretty much every comic he writes, but Butcher Baker was likely my favorite Casey title of 2011 (and wow, what a great logo!). Dan Slott is doing strong work on Amazing Spider-Man. Lapham and Baker are having a blast on Deadpool MAX. Criminal: Last of the Innocents was probably the last book cut for me. Actually, scratch that – Ganges #4 was the last book cut for me. Ganges #4 was brilliant, but I found it a bit too similar to #3. Gladstone’s School for World Conquerors was very fun. Atomic Robo is always fun.

Okay, on to the list!

10. Batman, Inc.

The DC “New 52” relaunch makes it difficult to recall just how many issues of Batman, Inc. came out in 2011, but when you take a look, a lot more excellent Batman Inc. comics came out than you would think, enough to earn it a place on this list, despite the series’ last issue before the “New 52” being the worst issue of the series yet. Chris Burnham was a breakout star with his artwork and Grant Morrison had a number of stellar issues, including an amazing reinvention of the original Batwoman and a striking look at the everyday life of Man-of-Bats, the Sioux Batman. Plus it ended the year with one of its best issues yet!

9. American Vampire: Survival of the Fittest

Sean Murphy had a great 2011, between finishing up Joe the Barbarian and drawing this great mini-series with writer Scott Snyder. The first six pages or so of the series were like a masterclass in how to both set up a plot and introduce a main character while not letting up on entertainment in the slightest bit. The story follows two characters from the American Vampire series into a mission in Nazi Germany looking for a cure for vampirism (something that holds a very special value to one of the characters). Snyder’s script allows Murphy the opportunity to draw some spectacular action sequences – it is like the Vampire comic book equivalent of Raiders of the Lost Ark and Murphy is more than up to the challenge.

8. Blammo #7

Noah Van Sciver released probably the best issue of Blammo yet, with an artful collection of stories that hit on every possible genre imaginable, including horror, comedy, drama, and yes, a biographical comic about John Smith and the Mormon religion. What stands out about Van Sciver’s work is that you truly never know how a story will end with him, whether he is going to go down a dark route or actually sprinkle some happiness into his stories – the uncertainty makes the latter all the more powerful when it does happen.

7. Infinite Kung Fu

In Infinite Kung Fu, Kagan McLeod takes what could be seen as a simple story about Kung Fu and turns it into this epic tale filled with both a celebration of the martial arts genre as well as an expansion of the genre, with everything but the kitchen sink thrown in along the way. McLeod’s fluid and expressive artwork eschews double page spreads for a much more dense reading experience, as each page is packed to the brim with action and characterization. A stunning piece of work.

6. Daredevil

If you take away Mark Waid’s clever new take on Daredevil, where he takes Daredevil 180% from the grim and gritty mire that Matt Murdock has been in since “Born Again” (or at least since “Guardian Devil”) while making it clear that this is all a desperate act of a man trying to stay sane – if you take away that well-though-out attempt to reconcile Daredevil’s past with Waid’s charming approach to the character, you still have a great comic book due to the brilliant artwork of Paolo Rivera and Marcos Martin. It seems almost unfair that one comic book should have two separate pencilers this good.

5. Punisher MAX

Jason Aaron continues what is perhaps the most audacious comic book series produced by Marvel with his continued adaptations of old school Marvel characters into the MAX universe. Seeing, say, Elektra and the Hand, adapted into the MAX universe allows for Aaron to take the story in unusual and exciting directions. Meanwhile, his examinations into Frank Castle’s soul (working off ideas introduced by Garth Ennis in his masterful epic run on Punisher MAX) are stunning as you see how it shifts your perceptions of the character dramatically. Plus, Steve Dillon is a great artist.

4. Troop 142

One of Mike Dawson’s greatest strengths as a storyteller is expressing the humanity of his characters, and he does that with particular aplomb in Troop 142, an examination of the relationship between the members of a Scout troop and their adult overseers on a week-long camping retreat. Through his uniquely well-versed take on the dialogue of the campers, Dawson gives us a deft examination of all the characters he covers (and he does so without demonizing anyone).

3. Hark! A Vagrant

The collection of Kate Beaton’s examinations of pop culture and history with her own particular bent is as amazing as it was when they first appeared on her website. The only slight caveat (so slight that it dropped it from, like, #2 to #3, which is basically nothing) is that I don’t know if I fully appreciated the added little lines at the bottom of each page. I don’t know if it really added anything to my reading experience. The strips themselves, though, were as brilliant and hilarious as always. This is a must-read collection.

2. Scalped

Jason Aaron continues his epic tale of Dashiel Bad-Horse and the Prairie Rose Reservation with a unique attempt this past year to turn things on their ear by having a number of characters make dramatic changes in their lives, asking the question, “CAN a bad man change course midstream?” And Aaron shows the somewhat devastating results of these attempts. The tragic but heartfelt character examinations are well worth the price of admission – that you get all the wonderful artwork (especially RM Guera) is a major major bonus.

1. Habibi

Craig Thompson’s masterpiece takes all the obvious talents that Thompson showed in his work on Blankets and upped the ante even further with a more elaborate and more striking plot. In Habibi, we follow the lives of two slaves on the run and their lives both together and apart. This comic is a dark work, so if you want an upbeat comic book, this is not the book for you – but if you want a lush, evocative work with amazing artwork, well-developed characters, clever storytelling and heartfelt examinations of the power of love even in the worst of environments (and the dangers of love, as well, in driving you to do things you’d never think you’d do – either in its name or in your response to heartbreak), then this is the comic for you.

Looking forward to what 2012 will bring us in cool comics!

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