CBR's Top 100 Comics of 2011, #10 - 1

It's finally here! The Top Ten!

Each year, CBR wraps its coverage of the comics industry with a virtual nerd cage match to determine the very best comics of the year. Every single CBR staffer -- from our crack news team to our well-researched columnists and from CBR's many daily bloggers to our legion of comic reviewers -- had the chance to chip in their favorite books of the year with only the highest vote-getters ranking up on our massive Top 100 Comics list, and as always, neither the staff nor the comics disappointed.

The watchword for the comics market in 2011 was "soft" as sales continued to shift in a weak economy and publishers faced challenges from retail upheaval to digital distribution. But no matter what came along to impact the business of comics this year, the creative work proved to stand as tall as ever. From groundbreaking graphic novels to the reinvention of a number of flagging franchises to the quieter entries from the manga field to the all-ages excitement in print and on the web, comics had an impressive year by any critical standard.

And while it's nearly impossible for even the combined staff of CBR to have read every single ongoing series, miniseries, one-shot, graphic novel and webcomic published in and throughout 2011, we are confident that you'll find no better indicator of the breadth and quality of the industry as it stands today than right here. Be sure to check out the earlier installments of the countdown covering comics #100 through 76 and #75 through 51, #50 through 26 and #25 through 11 and then continue on to today's final installment as we count down the ten best comics of 2011!

10. Batwoman

Written by J.H. Williams III & W. Haden Blackman

Illustrated by J.H. Williams III

Published by DC Comics

"'Batwoman' not only belongs on your shelf, each page of Williams' gorgeous artwork belongs in a museum. Williams and co. are pushing the boundaries of mainstream comic books and doing it so brilliantly I can't help but believe they're inspiring a whole generation of comic book readers and artists as they go. Magnificent."

-- CBR Staff Writer Josie Campbell

"One of the most long-awaited books from DC Comics finally arrives, and happily, it turns out that J.H. Williams III and W. Haden Blackman are able to pick up the writing reins from Greg Rucka quite successfully. 'Batwoman' is gorgeous as the character's run in 'Detective Comics' was, and as Williams and Blackman lead Kate Kane down a new path, it's just as enthralling to boot. Art nouveau meets superheroes is a phrase that will only sound wrong if you haven't seen Williams' artwork; he's a modern master unfolding before our eyes."

-- CBR Reviewer Greg McElhatton

9. Detective Comics Vol. 1

Written by Scott Snyder

Illustrated by Jock & Francesco Francavilla

Published by DC Comics

"This was quite simply an historic 'Detective Comics' run by Scott Snyder, Jock, and Francesco Francavilla. Scott Snyder took everything that was excellent about the greatest detective, with Dick Grayson in the suit, and paired it with everything that makes for a good horror story, turning 'Detective Comics' into the best superhero comic hands down in 2011, and one of the best 'Batman' runs of all time. Snyder couldn't have done it however with the absolutely pitch perfect art team he had in the form of Francesco Francavilla, Jock, and [colorist] David Baron. When reviewers talk about creative teams working in perfect synch, this is what they're talking about. Though there was much controversy over the idea of 'Detective Comics' being re-launched and re-numbered after such a long, storied run, surely everyone can agree that it was a treat to watch it go out with such a brilliant bang. Scott Snyder's 'Detective Comics' run will surely be one of the most respected 'Batman' runs for a very long time, and the fact that Bruce Wayne wasn't even in the suit makes it all the more impressive."

-- CBR Reviewer & Comics Should Be Good Columnist Kelly Thompson

"Scott Snyder, Jock and Francesco Francavilla crafted what might well be one of the best Batman stories of all time in 'The Black Mirror,' giving the DC Comics post-Crisis/pre-New 52 Batman continuity the perfect high note to go out on."

-- CBR Senior Editor Stephen Gerding

"2011 was a busy year for Bruce Wayne's friends. With pre-'Flashpoint,' post-'Flashpoint' and everything in between, there was a lot to keep track of, but Scott Snyder stepped up and nailed his tenure on 'Detective Comics' to the wall with the help of Jock and Francesco Francavilla over the course of the 'Black Mirror' arc. Easy to approach for lapsed readers and full of historical nuggets for the Bat-faithful, this was also a particularly great Dick Grayson story. Jock really brought his A-game to his work on the book, both inside and on his surely-to-earn-'Best-of'-nods covers."

-- CBR Contributor Brian Warmoth

8. Ultimate Comics Spider-Man

Written by Brian Michael Bendis

Drawn by Sara Pichelli

Published by Marvel Comics

"Marvel's not known for having legacy heroes, but Bendis and Pichelli have made a strong case for them. Miles Morales is the first Spider-Man other than Peter Parker to prove worthy of the web-shooters."

-- CBR Contributor Brett White

"Bendis killed my favorite version of Peter Parker this year, but he's more than made up for it with Miles Morales. It's a different world, where traditional Marvel rules no longer apply, and I love it! Sara Pichelli's art is just icing on the cake!"

-- CBR Staff Writer George Tramountanas

"I've never read 'Spider-Man' until now, but Brian Michael Bendis and Sara Pichelli have created a nearly perfect superhero origin. With 'Ultimate Spider-Man,' Marvel has managed to do something that has oddly eluded superhero comics for far too long in finally creating a powerful and incredibly iconic superhero of color. Four issues in, and 'Ultimate Spider-Man' delivers every beat a great comic book needs, from the pitch-perfect visuals to the energetic and infectious tone. 'Ultimate Spider-Man' made a Spider-Man reader out of me, something I never expected."

-- CBR Reviewer & Comics Should Be Good Columnist Kelly Thompson

7. Scalped

Written by Jason Aaron

Illustrated by R.M. Guera

Covers by Jock

Published by Vertigo/DC Comics

"Jason Aaron and R. M. Guera have begun building toward the end of their series, and as they've entered the final Act of their contemporary crime drama, they've shown why they are masters of this genre. This is a comic that's full of heart and hate, violence and vulnerability. It may have story arcs and interludes, but it's one long, intricate story, built around a single location, where everyone and everything is haunted by the ghosts of their own past."

-- CBR Reviewer & Columnist Timothy Callahan

"The continuing standard by which ongoing, monthly comics are measured. Jason Aaron's controlled pacing and character work is matched by RM Guera's deep, disarmingly grotesque art. Every issue is a surprise of joy and horror and pain."

-- CBR Reviewer Chad Nevett

6. Uncanny X-Force

Written by Rick Remender

Drawn by Jerome Opeña, Robbi Rodriguez, Mark Brooks, Billy Tan, Rafa Sandoval and Scot Eaton

Published by Marvel Comics

"Remender's 'Dark Angel Saga' sliced through Wolverine's black ops team without remorse in 2011, upholding this series' reputation for brutality, while never failing to sprinkle in a little Deadpool humor for good measure. For longtime followers of the X-Men, Warren Worthington, Psylocke and Apocalypse, the year was crammed full of heartbreak, suffering and shocking plot twists. All the while, though, the book's creative team kept revived characters and plot devices feeling fresh -- or at least as fresh as anything can feel in the unforgivingly dark world of 'Uncanny X-Force.'"

-- CBR Contributor Brian Warmoth

"Who would have thought this concept would work? Matching two overstylized words into the title should have been a giveaway and yet the industry was shocked when Rick Remender made a deadly team of most of the ubercool and oversaturated character into the must read of the Marvel U. The art, the dialogue, the nasty stories and the dedication to still being a superhero comic and yet meaning something below the taught tension of spandex makes 'Uncanny X-Force' the best 'mainstream' comic of the year."

-- CBR Reviewer Ryan K. Lindsay

"Has 'Uncanny X-Force' really only been going for a little over a year? Because it feels like Rick Remender and his all star team of artists have given us several years' worth of stories. The stories have all been excellent too. Best of all, Remender expertly weaves together threads from all of them to tell one epic tale."

-- CBR Staff Writer Dave Richards

5. Habibi

Written & Illustrated by Craig Thompson

Published by Pantheon

"Craig Thompson's masterpiece takes all the obvious talent Thompson showed in his work on 'Blankets' and ups the ante even further with a more elaborate and 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."

-- Comics Should Be Good Editor Brian Cronin

"The first word that comes to mind for this book is 'beautiful.' Beautiful story, beautiful art, in a beautiful package -- which is not to deny that some very ugly stuff happens within. As a nerd for this kind of thing, I especially enjoyed the interplay of words -- as both text and concept -- with the artwork. Like 'Blankets,' 'Habibi' is truly an accomplishment, and in an entirely different way. Thompson may be the most versatile master in comics."

-- CBR Staff Writer Shaun Manning

"I'd be lying if I said Thompson's brick of a graphic novel was perfect -- it's got some serious flaws, most notably its handling of various Orientalist myths and prejudices which it brings up but never really addresses in any concrete manner. At the same time, it's difficult not to be impressed by Thompson's lush, ornate designs and drawings and his willingness to reach for grandiose themes and statements. It's a divisive book in some ways, but 'Habibi' nevertheless confirms Thompson as not just a flash in the pan but an artist whose work is worth examining and taking seriously."

-- Robot 6 Writer Chris Mautner

4. Love & Rockets New Stories 4

Written & Ilustrated by Los Bros Hernandez

Published by Fantagraphics Books

"The hype and acclaim surrounding Jaime Hernandez's conclusion to his 'Love Bunglers' saga has been overwhelming, and every ounce of it is deserved. This is simply a phenomenal achievement in comics. A moving, thoughtful story of missed opportunities, loss and eventual reconciliation that provides in many ways a fitting conclusion to all of Xaime's 'Locas' stories. I'd be hard pressed to think of a better comic that came out this year. "

-- Robot 6 Writer Chris Mautner

"Gilbert got his due elsewhere on my list, so let's ignore his contribution to this issue, which advance the saga of his bosomy, frequently abused protagonist Fritz Martinez both on and off the sleazy silver screen. Instead, let's add to the chorus praising Jaime's 'The Love Bunglers' as one of the greatest comics of all time, the point to which one of the greatest comics series of all time has been hurtling toward for thirty years. In a single two-page spread Jaime nearly crushes both his lovable, walking-disaster main characters Maggie and Ray with the accumulated weight of all their decades of life, before emerging from beneath it like Spider-Man pushing up from out of that Ditko machinery. You can count the number of cartoonists able to wed style to substance, form to function, this seamlessly on one hand with fingers to spare. A masterpiece."

-- Robot 6 Writer Sean T. Collins

"Nothing more needs to be said about this. Gilbert is a mad, loving genius and Jaime brought the whole universe to a complete conclusion. I love his characters and I feel like they have their whole lives ahead of them now."

-- Comics Should Be Good Writer Sonia Harris

3. Hark! A Vagrant

Written & Illustrated by Kate Beaton

Published online at http://harkavagrant.com/

Published in print by Drawn & Quarterly

"The book version of Kate Beaton's webcomic is quirky and odd and utter genius whether she's taking on a bitter, chain-smoking Wonder Woman, showing Nancy Drew to be a clueless psychopath or doing a better job of summarizing the Great Gatsbyand contrasting the Bronte Sisters than Cliffnotes ever could. It would be easy to call her a national treasure, except of course, she's Canadian, but we love her anyway."

-- CBR Staff Writer Alex Dueben

"Kate Beaton's unique perspective, sharp sense of humor and loose but deadly accurate drawing skills combine to create her brilliant "Hark! A Vagrant" comic strips and website, collected for the first time this year by Drawn & Quarterly. 'Hark! A Vagrant' casts a biting satire across many categories: history, science, literature and, yes, even beloved superheroes. When it comes to superheroes Beaton's background in anything but superheroes works to her advantage as she puts creative spins on age-old favorites to create wonderfully unexpected results. Beaton's rough kinetic style is imperfect and full of emotion. While the look, on the surface, might appear crude, those that pass it by are missing out, as her expression work alone is worth the price of admission. Quite simply, Beaton gets more mileage out of one three panel strip than most artists can manage in an entire book."

-- CBR Reviewer & Comics Should Be Good Columnist Kelly Thompson

"Kate Beaton's 'Hark, a Vagrant!' jumps from historical figures to Nancy Drew cover remixes to the terror of a fat pony, and yet it all holds together with one common denominator: this book is hysterical. Her punch lines are a riot, and the way her characters look as the strangeness unfolds around them doubly so. If you don't laugh when reading 'Hark, a Vagrant!' you're probably a little dead inside."

-- CBR Reviewer Greg McElhatton

2. Animal Man

Written by Jeff Lemire

Drawn by Travel Foreman

Published by DC Comics

"While not as splashy as some of the other big hits unleashed under the New 52 banner, Jeff Lemire and Travel Foreman have given Buddy Baker an epic landscape to operate within -- and considering the character's meta-history, beyond. Destined to crash headfirst into 'Swamp Thing' in the months ahead, Lemire is taking the superhero/horror mash-up he fleshed out in "Superboy" to another level, and that's saying something when you consider 'Superboy' was nominated for an Eisner."

-- CBR Staff Writer Jeffrey Renaud

"Ever since Grant Morrison raised the character from a third- or fourth-tier hero into something unique, there has been a strong desire to see another strong, compelling 'Animal Man' series. This is it. Lemire's take isn't Morrisonian, but it builds the concept of a family-first superhero into something new, and takes Buddy Baker and his young daughter into some very, very dark territory."

-- CBR Staff Writer Shaun Manning

"The mix of lurching dread in Lemire's plot and gorgeously grotesque art by Foreman has surely given its fair share of readers sleepless nights. This is how you take a previously no-list character and bring him up to the big leagues."

-- CBR Contributor Brett White

1. Daredevil

Written by Mark Waid

Drawn by Paolo Rivera & Marcos Martin

Published by Marvel Comics

"For decades, Daredevil was a character who only 'worked' when he was being built up and torn down. Enter Mark Waid, Marcos Martin and Paolo Rivera, and for the first time in decades -- yes, decades -- Matt Murdock's life is not only not that bad, but interesting and fun to read about, to boot."

-- CBR Senior Editor Stephen Gerding

"After reading the  issue I felt as hopeful and engaged as I did in the early 1980s when absorbing Walt Simonson's 'Thor' #337 (the first issue in his epic run). The most refreshingly joyful approach to the character in decades, and I have enjoyed each subsequent issue as much as the first."

-- Robot 6 Writer Tim O'Shea

"So, so happy to be reading a true superhero comic that truly is friendly to new readers. Waid writes Murdock with a joie de vivre that has long been missing from our current breed of introspective, narcissistic super heroes. Swashbuckling and brave, this is a Daredevil getting on with the job of being super, leaving his worries at the door and enjoying his powers."

-- Comics Should Be Good Writer Sonia Harris

"Mark Waid is setting out to give Daredevil reason to smile and the readers can't help but join in. After years of being one of the darkest titles published by Marvel, 'Daredevil,' with art by Marcos Martin and Paolo Rivera has been a delight, worthy of being shared."

-- CBR Reviewer Doug Zawisza

"What do you do with a character that's been pushed to such a dark place that no one thought he could recover? Go fun, bright, pop art. Team one of comics' best superhero writers with two stunning artists that craft pages unlike what you've seen before."

-- CBR Reviewer Chad Nevett

See you in 2012 with CBR's full Top 100 index!

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