Well folks, we’re at the Zero-Hour for 2011 (also, humanity?) and that means it’s time for a recap of the BEST OF THE YEAR IN COMICS! Yes! That magical time of year when a young man sits down and ponders the stack of recyclables that he has purchased throughout the year and thinks “Man, what was I thinking when I bought THIS?!” I’m just kidding you guys!
Here’s a bunch of stuff I thought was pretty swell in 2011!
Best Writer – Scott Snyder (American Vampire, Batman, Severed, Swamp Thing)
It would be impossible for this category to go to anyone other than Scott Snyder. Over the course of the year he kept his American Vampire series fresh and engaging, dragged Swamp Thing from the depths and made him awesome again, wrote hands-down the best Batman book of the relaunch (and, in my opinion, the best Batman book ever written) and still found time to pen a seven-issue horror series called Severed. 2011 was Scott Snyder’s year and I can’t wait to read more of his great stuff in 2012.
Best Interior Artist – Stuart Immonen (Fear Itself)
Both Marvel and DC published some great looking books this year, but as far as WOW! factor goes, you just can’t beat Stuart Immonen’s seven-issue run on Matt Fraction’s Fear Itself event. Everyone who knows me knows I don’t generally go in for the big events, but this one really grabbed me and I’m sure most of the reason it did was thanks to Immonen’s knack for drawing jaw-dropping fight scenes. I literally had to slow myself down as I read these books because I was so stoked to turn the page and see what was coming next. Immonen is the man, and I’ll read anything he draws.
Best Colourist – Francesco Francavilla (Black Panther, Detective Comics)
Whenever you see a “Best Colourist” category, you almost always see Dave Stewart as the winner. Sorry Dave, not this time! Anyone who’s picked up a copy of Black Panther or Detective Comics in the last twelve months will instantly recognize Francesco Francavilla’s flashy use of colour. ESPECIALLY those deep reds and oranges. Don’t get me wrong, Dave Stewart is a perfect colourist, but Francavilla is a flamboyant colourist. On anyone else’s brush his colours simply wouldn’t work, but somehow he makes them look incredible on every page. Francavilla! Winner!
Best Inker – Jonathan Glapion (Batman)
Greg Capullo is doing an incredible job of pencilling DC’s flagship Batman title. Everyone knows that! But I don’t think enough credit is being given to his inker Jonathan Glapion. There’s a reason that book looks so great, and it’s almost entirely the way Glapion sets the mood with those deep, heavy blacks. I can’t remember another inker having such a careful hand with darkness and shadow since Mike Mignola and to be perfectly honest, Glapion might be better than Mignola. Yeah that’s right! I said it!
Best New Kid on the Block – Mahmud A. Asrar (Supergirl)
The biggest surprise coming out of the DC relaunch, for me, was Mahmud Asrar’s Supergirl art. I originally added this book to the pull-list for that kid Venus Toshiba, but after reading the first couple of pages, oh man, I just wasn’t ready for the jealousy. Asrar isn’t technically a new kid, having set foot in Image’s door back in 2007, but he’s made a real name for himself at DC in 2012 by producing one of the best looking books of the relaunch. Think Tim Sale-meets-Francis Manapul and you’re in the right ballpark. Amazing stuff that may prove detrimental to my marriage.
Best Cover – Adam Hughes (Batgirl No. 4)
This was a close call and could just as easily been Joao Ruas‘ beautiful piece for Fables #107. But instead I chose this cover because more than any other piece of art this year, Adam Hughes‘ Batgirl #4 cover embodied the bold spirit of everything DC Comics got right this year. Rebooting their entire line of comics back to #1, reinventing each and every hero (at the expense of alienating crusty old fanboys) and making their comics accessible to all new readers for the first time in decades took some balls. This cover doesn’t just depict Barbara Gordon(!) kicking the Mirror’s face right in. No, this cover visually represents DC Comics kicking their naysayer’s faces right in.
Best Single Issue – Hellboy: The Fury #3 (Dark Horse)
Hellboy died! For real! Wow! And what a beautifully written and illustrated end it was. Fulfilling his own destiny, Hellboy fights and destroys Nimue the dragon Queen of Blood at Ragna Rok, but has his heart removed and taken down to Hell by her spirit. There has never been a more brilliant or pitch-perfect end to a character in the history of comic books as Mike Mignola once again brings the medium to an all-new level. Duncan Fegredo, who for years now has been his brilliant apprentice, turns in the best pages since his astonishing debut on the title in 2007. This comic was hands-down the best single book released in 2011.
Best Continuing Series – The Mighty Thor (Marvel)
I love this book! It started off great under the team of Matt Fraction and Olivier Coipel, and it continues being great under Fraction and the (newly returned) Pasqual Ferry. Like it was for a lot of people, 2012 was the year I became a Thor fan and with great writing like this it’s no wonder. Who knew my buddy Jason Copland could be so right about one thing and be so wrong about another?
Best Limited Series – American Vampire: Survival of the Fittest (Vertigo / DC)
I’m the kind of sucker that will always buy a spin-off of a comic I like, despite the fact that they’re almost always shoddily-written with B-list art. Well I guess nobody told Scott Snyder the way these things are supposed to work, because that kid sat down and wrote the best five-issue mini-series I’ve ever read. Right from the Felicia Book opening dream sequence (Yowza!) to the giant vampire / sunlight raygun nazi kill-a-thon, this book is one hell of a good time. Oh, and it doesn’t hurt that Sean Murphy absolutely DESTROYS THE DC UNIVERSE when it comes to drawing the kinds of things that make eyes worth having. This series, start-to-finish was an absolute win.
Best Collection – Batman: The Black Mirror (DC)
Being the type who tries to collect everything in single issues, I only placed one new graphic novel on my bookshelf this year. But that one book was a real hum-dinger! For Christmas my folks bought me the collected Batman: The Black Mirror Ultimate Boner Edition (UBE) hardcover. I’m not gonna lie to you folks, I totally blew it when it came to picking this up when it ran for almost an entire year. Every month Detective Comics would come out and every month I’d look at it and think “I should be reading this book.” Well it turns out I was right the whole time. Snyder, Jock and Francavilla (aka the DC Holy Trinity) are the only ingredients you need for the tastiest collection of the year.
Biggest Character Comeback – Aquaman (DC)
In my life.
Did I ever.
Ever think I’d ever buy (let alone enjoy) an Aquaman comic book. Everyone knows Aquaman is a goof. Even kids don’t like Aquaman. And I never understood the appeal of Geoff Johns either. I always thought Johns was the kind of guy who wrote comics for the old-school fanboys. For the guys who’d been reading the book for thirty years and knew all the subtle references I was sure I wasn’t getting. So what does Johns do? He celebrates DC’s New 52 relaunch by relaunching the most inaccessible character of all time and making him AWESOME?! By writing an awful character so well that the first issue is currently flipping on eBay for FIFTY-FIVE DOLLARS?! Well played Johns. Well played.
Best Kung Fu – Shang-Chi (Marvel)
Well, the suits at Marvel seem determined to ruin Iron Fist completely (White and gold? Really? Like the original costume wasn’t wack enough?), but at least writers and artists are still flying Shang-Chi under the radar and keeping him cool. This summer’s Spider Island (non-) event was kind of ho-hum, but the three issue Deadly Hands of Kung Fu spin-off featuring Shang Chi and the Bride of Nine Spiders was awesome sauce! Sebastian Fiumara’s art was moody and creepy and at the same time kicky and punchy. What more could anyone ask for? I guess Secret Avengers #18. Speaking of which…
Best Series I Shouldn’t Have Cancelled – Secret Avengers (Marvel)
I started collecting Secret Avengers during the big Avengers re-launch of 2010 but it was one of the books that got culled due to it’s inherent meh-ness and my newfound spirit of financial prudency (I was broke). But lo and behold! The last five issues have been an absolute gold mine of awesome storytelling thanks to Warren Ellis and incredible art courtesy of Jamie McKelvie, Kev Walker, David Aja, Michael Lark and Alex Maleev respectively. I don’t know why Marvel would put such a great roster of talent on this book and leave the main Avengers title to that no-talent hack, but it doesn’t really matter. I should have kept buying this book in 2011.
Biggest Surprise of the Year – Avenging Spider-Man (Marvel)
Everyone hits that point with a superhero where they say “I’ve read every possible story I’d ever need to read with this character, so I quit forever.” For me, that was Spider-Man. I could only read so many stories about Peter, Mary Jane, Gwen Stacy, poor dead Uncle Ben and dear old Aunt May before I finally said “Enough is enough. No more Spider-Man comics.” And then comes Zeb Wells and Joe Madureira in 2011 with a new title called Avenging Spider-Man and there I go, reaching for my wallet to buy my first Spider-Man comic book in over a decade. What can I say? It’s probably the best book Marvel released all year, in terms of pure F-U-N. Exciting, dynamic art backed up with snappy and often hilarous writing. Avenging Spider-Man is the essence of what the character should be, with none of the sappy navel-gazing.
And that’s it! My Best-Of article for 2011! Maybe one day you’ll get Nuv’s list if they ever find where I buried his body and implant the sum of his knowledge and consciousness into a Commodore 64. But he’d probably just say he liked some bull-crap comics like Daken: Dark Wolverine or X-Force. WHATEVER!
Put one in the air!