CBR's Top 100 Comics of 2011, #25 - 11

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 and #50 through 26 and then continue on to today's installment as we shine the spotlight on some of the years most ambitious and affecting graphic novels, share insights into the most accomplished mainstream relaunches of the year and raise a glass to the finest projects you may have missed in 2011.

25. Petrograd

Written by Philip Gelatt

Drawn by Tyler Crook

Published by Oni Press

"Mainly a story of Rasputin, this book extends to involve the Communist revolution of 1917. It's a grand story of betrayal and rage, as Russia sits on a powder keg and one British spy turns out to be a key player in whether it will explode or not. It's a smart thriller, which is always nice to see."

-- Comics Should Be Good Writer Greg Burgas

24. Big Questions

Written & Illustrated by Anders Nilsen

Published by Drawn & Quarterly

"How many years did Nilsen work on his little bird saga? A million? No matter, the end result is well worth the time spent. 'Big Questions' is not necessary Nilsen's finest work to date (that would be 'The End') but it's an amazing achievement nevertheless. An animal fable that slowly builds and unwinds as it dares to ask uncomfortable questions about our own place in the universe. It's a haunting, poetic work that calls to mind authors like Samuel Beckett and Kurt Vonnegut and a thrilling achievement in its own right."

-- Robot 6 Writer Chris Mautner

23. Wolverine & The X-Men

Written by Jason Aaron

Drawn by Chris Bachalo

Published by Marvel Comics

"Jason Aaron mixes irreverent humor with fanboy-level reverence to create the thrill-a-minute X-Men comic fans have been waiting for."

-- CBR Contributor Brett White

"This is a genuinely funny brand new series with tons of action -- plus the premise makes me believe that Jason Aaron has actually been spying on the brains of every Kitty Pryde fan ever. I wish this book was coming out daily!"

-- CBR Staff Writer Josie Campbell

22. Super Dinosaur

Written by Robert Kirkman

Drawn by Jason Howard

Published by Skybound/Image Comics

"In an industry where all ages books are viewed by many as a label that curses a series, Kirkman openly embraces the concept with 'Super Dinosaur.' But what makes this series a must-read for people of all ages is the vibrant energy running throughout Howard's art."

-- Robot 6 Writer Tim O'Shea

21. Butcher Baker The Righteous Maker

Written by Joe Casey

Illustrated by Mike Huddleston

Published by Image Comics

"Both a parody of extreme action comics and a celebration of the form, this series is pure energy, with a bite. Buy it for the over-the-top action and humor, stick around for Joe Casey's takedown of comic book mediocrity in his back-matter essays."

-- CBR Reviewer & Columnist Timothy Callahan

20. Garden

Written & Illustrated by Yuichi Yokoyama

Published by PictureBox Inc.

"Like a roller coaster in comics form -- with the strange events it chronicles themselves resembling a theme park ride -- Yokoyama's book is a breathtaking, breathless experience. Alongside his anonymous but extravagantly costumed non-characters, we simply go along for the ride, exploring Yokoyama's prodigious, mysterious imagination as he concocts a seemingly endless stream of increasingly strange interfaces between man and machine, nature and artifice. As a metaphor for our increasingly out-of-control modern life, it's tough to top. As pure thrilling kinetic cartooning, it's equally difficult to beat."

-- Robot 6 Writer Sean T. Collins

19. One Soul

Written & Illustrated by Ray Fawkes

Published by Oni Press

"Ray Fawkes has created a complex masterpiece -- 18 stories told in a grid format that emphasizes the parallels and patterns that unite the different characters. It sounds terribly artsy and high-concept, but each of these 18 characters has a compelling story as well, and Fawkes brings them together in a very readable and thought-provoking book."

-- CBR Columnist & Robot 6 Writer Brigid Alverson

18. Batman Vol. 2

Written by Scott Snyder

Drawn by Greg Capullo

Published by DC Comics

"Proof that, given the right attitude, pre-New 52 creative talent could do something new at DC Comics. After a barn burning run on 'Detective Comics,' Scott Snyder came at the relaunched marquee book of the Batman franchise with renewed excitement and big ideas to match. Throw in some kinetic cartooning by Capullo, and the final product is one of the most engaging solo Batman tales in a good long while."

-- CBR News Editor Kiel Phegley

17. Casanova: Avaritia

Written by Matt Fraction

Drawn by Gabriel Ba

Published by Icon/Marvel Comics

"Fraction's oddball epic about Casanova Quinn, dimension-hopping secret agent, almost defies description. What doesn't defy description is Ba's superb artwork and Peter's technicolor palette, turning Fraction's feverish scripts into a comic masterpiece."

-- Comics Should Be Good Writer Greg Burgas

"Casanova Quinn is back. What more needs to be said? This is Matt Fraction without limits and it is all kinds of awesome."

-- CBR Staff Writer Alex Dueben

16. Green River Killer A True Detective Story

Written by Jeff Jensen

Illustrated by Jonathan Case

Published by Dark Horse Comics

"Creepy without being gratuitous, this nonfiction graphic novel is really a police procedural, focusing on the dynamic between the murderer and the detectives who worked the case."

-- Robot 6 Writer Brigid Alverson

"Well-researched and well-told, this comic is the equivalent of an Oscar-worthy documentary film. Who says comics are just for kids?"

-- CBR Staff Writer George Tramountanas

15. Aquaman Vol. 7

Written by Geoff Johns

Drawn by Ivan Reis

Published by DC Comics

"I love that this book even exists, and more, that it's being done by people with genuine affection for the character. If only Geoff Johns could restrain himself from constructing continuity-heavy mega-events; he really is at his best when he writes straight-ahead, single-character superhero stuff like this. Best Aquaman in years."

-- Comics Should Be Good Writer Greg Hatcher

14. Action Comics Vol. 2

Written by Grant Morrison

Drawn by Rags Morales & Brent Anderson

"Unshackling Superman from his safe, apple-pie persona is, in itself, more than enough to justify DC's ambitious and risky New 52 initiative. God, this is the Superman I've always wanted to read. He's brash, he fights the guys that need fighting -- and this cavalier approach makes Luthor's concerns about him entirely reasonable, instantly making Baldy a better villain."

-- CBR Staff Writer Shaun Manning

13. Anya's Ghost

Written & Illustrated by Vera Brosgol

Published by First Second Books

"Brosgol's young adult story, about a girl who encounters a friendly spectre that slowly turns sinister, manages to pack a lot of wisdom about adolescence, peer pressure and desire without ever once coming off as a cloying, afterschool TV special. Plus, she's got great chops, I could stare at one of her page compositions for hours."

-- Robot 6 Writer Chris Mautner

12. Swamp Thing Vol. 5

Written by Scott Snyder

Drawn by Yanick Paquette & Marco Rudy

Published by DC Comics

"Equal to 'Animal Man' by Jeff Lemire and Travel Foreman, Scott Snyder and Yanick Paquette have cultivated 'Swamp Thing' into a successful commercial and critical hit. Brilliantly unfolding on a horrific canvas, Alec Holland's journey back to his roots as the Green's Warrior-King is hugely enjoyable to witness, as is the disturbing development of the really rotten William Arcane."

-- CBR Staff Writer Jeffrey Renaud

11. Wonder Woman Vol. 4

Written by Brian Azzarello

Drawn by Cliff Chiang

Published by DC Comics

"Azzarello and Chiang are the creative team I as a Wonder Woman fan have been waiting years for! They've made 'Wonder Woman' exciting and fresh, and between Chiang's rock-inspired aesthetic and Azzarello's mythology-rich story, every issue has been amazing. This new series is the blueprint for what all good comics should be."

-- CBR Staff Writer Josie Campbell

Tomorrow, we wrap our week-long tribute to the best comics of the year by revealing CBR's Top Ten! Don't miss it!

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