CBR's Top 100 Comics of 2011, #75 - 51

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. If you missed yesterday's countdown of #100 through 76, check it out now, and then continue on to today's countdown of a mind-bending digital offering from a print comics master, some of the most acclaimed and innovative superhero comics of the year, a revived project from a film legend, kids comics, vampire tales and more!

75. A Tale of Sand

Written by Jim Henson & Jerry Juhl

Illustrated by Ramon Perez

Published by Archaia

"People may pick this up because it's based on a script by the late great Jim Henson and Jerry Juhl, but the book's true star is Ramon Perez, who adapted the film script, illustrated the book and oversaw the coloring. 'A Tale of Sand' shows Perez to be a top tier comics talent and though I'm still working out what I think the story means, I know I'll read whatever Perez does next."

-- CBR Staff Writer Alex Dueben

74. The Boys

Written by Garth Ennis

Drawn by Russ Braun & Darick Robertson

Published by Dynamite Entertainment

"In a year when a lot of other serial superhero comics saw creative upheaval or at least the usually erratic impact of eventing, Garth Ennis' 'The Boys' has remained consistently mean, strange and great. The end of the year saw the main series turn the heat back up on the long simmering mega-story of the titular crew facing down the ill-suited superhero team the Seven with Russ Braun growing strong in his brutal action after becoming the book's regular artist. Meanwhile, Darick Robertson's return to the franchise and the origin of Butcher in 'Butcher, Baker, Candlestick Maker' kept the human drama that's always guided Ennis' story front and center. If 2012 ends up being the final year for this book, it'll go out on top."

-- CBR News Editor Kiel Phegley

73. Amelia Rules: The Meaning of Life...and Other Stuff

Written & Illustrated by Jimmy Gownley

Published by Simon & Shuster

"The first 'Amelia Rules' book was all about adjusting to big life changes; this one is about learning to deal with the subtler changes that come with growing up. The characters remain charmingly down to earth, and Gownley's storytelling is stronger than ever."

-- CBR Columnist & Robot 6 Writer Brigid Alverson

72. Buffy The Vampire Slayer: Season 9

Written by Joss Whedon & Andrew Chambliss

Drawn by Georges Jeanty

Covers by Steve Morris

Published by Dark Horse Comics

"I was among the many 'Buffy The Vampire Slayer' fans that followed Buffy from television over into comics without missing a beat (of course, I was already here reading comics, so arguably it was an easier transition for me).  Like many fans I loved the Season 8 series...until the end, where it went wildly off the rails.  After that, I had some hesitation about the new series, but Andrew Chambliss and Georges Jeanty, with Joss Whedon working brilliantly behind the scenes, came in and just blew the doors off the new series. There's a pervasive problem in big two superhero comics in that there's very little consistency in books as creators are shuffled around ad nauseam.  That's a problem that Buffy never has - the creators that make the real decisions are always the same - and as a result the final vision is cohesive and is one that shows a deep affection for and intimate knowledge of the characters.  It's the kind of thing that makes all the difference in creating great comics. 'Buffy The Vampire Slayer: Season 9' is smart and fun, beautiful and consistent - in truth, it's what all great monthly comics should be."   

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

71. Feynman

Written Jim Ottaviani

Illustrated by Leland Myrick

Published by First Second

"Jim Ottaviani has tackled stories of science and scientists before, but here he takes on one of the great figures of the Twentieth century, the Nobel Prize winning physicist Richard Feynman. More than just the biography of an important scientist who worked on the Manhattan Project and investigated the Challenger disaster, Ottaviani manages to relate Feynman's theories and lay out his thought processes. A teacher and artist, safe cracker and percussionist, the book demonstrates why there's no one quite like Richard Feynman."

-- CBR Staff Writer Alex Dueben

70. Love From The Shadows

Written & Illustrated by Gilbert Hernandez

Publihsed by Fantagraphics Books

"I picture Gilbert Hernandez approaching his drawing board these days like Lawrence of Arabia approaching a Turkish convoy: "NO PRISONERS! NO PRISONERS!" In a year suffused with comics funneling pitch-black darkness through a combination of sex and horror, none were blacker, sexier, or more horrific than this gender-bending exploitation flick from Beto's 'Fritz-verse.' None also functioned as a rejection of the work that made its creator famous like this one did, either. Not a crowd-pleaser like his brother, but every bit as brilliant, every bit as fearless."

-- Robot 6 Writer Sean T. Collins

69. Locke & Key

Written by Joe Hill

Illustrated by Gabriel Rodriguez

Published by IDW Publishing

Series after series, issue after issue, Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez prove themselves to be one of the best creative team in comics with 'Locke and Key' mixing family drama, teen angst and supernatural horror to create a genuinely original and chilling story. While I'm among those who was disappointed by Fox not picking up the reportedly amazing pilot episode for an ongoing television series, part of me is relieved as I can't see how the perfection of the comic could survive translation to the small screen."

-- CBR Senior Editor Stephen Gerding

68. Atomic Robo

Written by Brian Clevinger

Drawn by Scott Wegener

Published by Red 5 Comics

"Smart, funny, exciting, packed with content, and wonderfully drawn. What's not to love?"

-- Comics Should Be Good Writer Greg Burgas

67. Wolves

Written and Illustrated by Becky CloonanSelf Published

"In 'Wolves,' Becky Cloonan gives readers a haunting, beautiful and tragic tale of horror, sword and sorcery, and doomed romance. It's a short done in one story but the visceral action and characters' emotions jump right off the page and pull you into the mysterious tale. In 20 pages of story and art, Cloonan tells one of the best and most powerful stories of 2011."

-- CBR Staff Writer Dave Richards

66. Who Is Jake Ellis?

Written by Nathan Edmondson

Drawn by Tonci Zonic

Published by Image Comics

"Edmondson and Zonic tell a tightly-plotted spy story that entertains and keeps you guessing until the final chapter. A done-in-one (miniseries) story that could easily be mined for more material without feeling at all forced."

-- CBR Senior Editor Stephen Gerding

65. Vengeance

Written by Joe Casey

Drawn by Nick Dragotta

Published by Marvel Comics

"The Joe Casey Marvel book to end all Joe Casey Marvel books. Partly a shot into the future, an attempt to build something new from the existing elements of the Marvel Universe, and, partly, a culmination of all his work for the publisher. More than any comic, it feels like it was written just for me."

-- CBR Reviewer Chad Nevett

64. Saturn Apartments

Written by Hisae Iwaoka

Drawn by Hisae Iwaoka

Published by Viz

"This manga is a series of short stories about a window washer for a strange, ring-shaped apartment complex that orbits the earth. You don't have to be a sci-fi fan to appreciate creator Hisae Iwaoka's oddly structured world, his quirky characters, and his lushly drawn spaces."

-- CBR Columnist & Robot 6 Writer Brigid Alverson

63. Pope Hats #2

Written & Illustrated by Ethan Rilly

Published by AdHouse Books

"The alt-pamphlet can't be truly dead and buried when artists like Ethan Rilly are making such wonderful comics with the format. Rilly's central tale about a woman facing a crossroads both in her career and life sounds like it would make for dull reading, but the complete opposite is true. He sharply observed, nuanced characters that are filled with detail and excellent cartooning. I can't wait to see what Rilly does next."

-- Robot 6 Writer Chris Mautner

62. Archie Meets KISS

From "Archie" #627 - 628

Written by Alex Segura

Drawn by Dan Parent

Published by Archie Comics

"What sounds like a goofy comic book crossover comes off as a clever little story thanks to Alex Segura's crisp writing and Dan Parent's classic, purely Archie pencils. The first issue saw a spell go wrong, a group of familiar looking monsters show up in Riverdale and then the make-up loving rockers joining the fray. Filled with quality jokes and surprising twists, 'Archie Meets KISS' surprised and impressed by producing a comic tailor made for kids and adults alike. Plus, the variant covers by Francesco Francavilla came off perfectly frame-able."

-- CBR Staff Writer TJ Dietsch

61. Eye of the Majestic Creature

Written & Illustrated by Leslie Stein

Published by Fantagraphics Books

"Leslie Stein burst onto the comics scene this year when Fantagraphics published the collection of four of her self-published comics and she followed it up this fall with the fifth issue, her best one yet. The comic is both surreal and mundane, the story of a young woman who moves to a New York complete with humanoid animals and talking musical instruments. In her new issue she contrasts her contemporary tale with that of Theodore Dreiser's turn of the century story of New York City, Sister Carrie, in a story even more beautifully drawn than the early issues, establishing Stein as one of the best independent creators to emerge in recent years."

-- CBR Staff Writer Alex Dueben

60. Drops of God

Written by Tadashi Agi

Drawn by Shu Okimoto

Published by Vertical

"Plot-wise, 'Drops of God' follows a route very familiar in manga--a young man's distant father passes away, leaving the son with an unwanted quest. But that quest, to discover thirteen specific, divine wines based solely on a description of their flavor, leads the reader on a fun and exciting adventure into real-life wine tasting. Agi and Okimoto introduce the finer points of connoisseurship with humor and over-the-top situations, and it's a brilliant read."

-- CBR Staff Writer Shaun Manning

59. All Star Western/Jonah Hex

Written by Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti

Drawn by Moritat

Published by DC Comics

"Forcing a Western icon like Jonah Hex into an urban setting like nineteenth century Gotham City sounded like an idea with limited potential, but now that I've seen the excellent chemistry between Hex and the crime-fighting founder of Arkham Asylum in the first few issues, I'm in no hurry for the disfigured desperado to mosey anywhere else."

-- Robot 6 Writer Michel May

58. Touch Sensitive

Written & Illustrated By: Chris Ware

Published By: McSweeney's

"Chris Ware's didactic and occasionally ironic storytelling mechanics emerged on the iPad this year in the form of a gut-punchingly insightful 14-page release for McSweeney's. In it, he grinds through body image issues, the nature of human existence and comments on pornography in the future with alarming efficiency. "Touch Sensitive" makes the reader keenly aware of the tactile interaction taking place at every poke and swipe, but most importantly, Ware elevates his novelty telling of an aging, melancholy woman to a singularly effective digital experience."

-- CBR Contributor Brian Warmoth

57. Any Empire

Written & Illustrated by Nate Powell

Published by Top Shelf

"Powell's meditation on violence and how it affects children and adults is at times almost a fever dream of imagination bleeding into reality. When those two collide, we get a terrific and disturbing portrait of Americana and how people grow while growing up remains elusive."

-- Comics Should Be Good Writer Greg Burgas

56. Witch Doctor

Written by Brandon Seifert

Drawn by Lukas Ketner

Published by Image Comics/Skybound

"The elevator pitch of Brandon Seifert's 'Witch Doctor' sounds fairly simple, 'Dr. House meets Dr. Strange,' and it comes off so naturally that it seems just as simple, but there's a lot going on in this book. Seifert and artist Lukas Ketner do an excellent job combining the fast-paced medical drama of shows like vintage "ER" with some pretty fantastical elements. Ketner keeps a great balance of the mundane real world and giant monsters or possessing demons while Seifert puts new spins on tried and true concepts. The first mini from Robert Kirkman's Skybound wrapped up, but look for the trade and a one-shot called 'Witch Doctor: Resuscitation' which are both out now and more in 2012."

-- CBR Staff Writer TJ Dietsch

55. Centifolia II

Written & Illustrated by Stuart Immonen

Published by AdHouse Books

"When is a sketchbook more than a sketchbook? When it involves the work of Immonen, an artist of many styles and approaches. Only Immonen would include two short stories, the majestically colored Say You're Dead and the black and white Jeopardy Jones, in a sketchbook."

-- Robot 6 Writer Tim O'Shea

54. American Vampire

Written by Scott Snyder

Drawn by Rafael Albuquerque and Jordi Bernet on the main book and Sean Murph

Published by DC Comics/Vertigo

"The main title and the recently completed 'Survival of the Fittest' offshoot continue to set the bar high for vampire stories. With stunning art by Rafael Albuquerque and Jordi Bernet on the main book and Sean Murphy on the mini, Scott Snyder's tale of vampires just keeps delivering over at Vertigo."

-- CBR Reviewer Doug Zawisza

53. Flashpoint: Batman: Knight of Vengeance

Written by Brian Azzarello

Illustrated by Eduardo Risso

Published by DC Comics

"Sure, the 'Flashpoint' event was completely skippable, but if you avoided DC's summer shortlist, then you might have missed this alternate reality take on Batman, in which Thomas Wayne's caped crusader finds himself confronted by his family's greatest tragedy. This is a haunting comic that's all sharp edges and psychological horror. It's the best superhero comic of the year, period."

-- CBR Columnist Timothy Callahan

52. O.M.A.C.

Plotted and Written by Dan Didio

Plotted and Drawn by Keith Giffen

Published by DC Comics

"As much as I wish I had reason to nominate the entire New 52, I just can't. There are good, bad and mundane titles in the mix. 'O.M.A.C.,' which I had low expectations for, is an example of the good: completely unexpected, highly entertaining, filled with nods to DC's lush history and unhampered by trying to live up to anything that came before. This is a fun book from DC and creators Dan DiDio, Keith Giffen and Scott Koblish."

-- CBR Reviewer Doug Zawisza

51. Onwards Towards Our Noble Deaths

Written & Illustrated by Shigeru Mizuki

Published by Drawn & Quarterly

"Shigeru Mizuki draws on his own experiences in the Japanese army in this unsparing look at a doomed unit sent on a suicide mission in the last days of World War II."

-- CBR Columnist & Robot 6 Writer Brigid Alverson

Stay tuned tomorrow as CBR's Top 100 Comics of 2011 continues with #50 - 26!

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