So many great comics in 2011, it was hard to narrow them down to ten series. I’ve got to give honorable mentions to Hellboy (that includes BPRD), Witchfinder, Warren Ellis’ Secret Avengers, Wolverine and the X-Men, The New 52 versions of Batman, Justice League, The Dark Knight, All-Star Western and Demon Knights, and New Mutants.
10. X-Men: Legacy (Marvel): Fresh supporting characters (Sovel Redhand and crew), much needed airing out of stale mainstays (Rogue), new life for old players (Legion, Frenzy), an alternate universe that isn’t a Days of Future Past or Age of Apocalypse knockoff, and the best swerve on a Phoenix return I have ever seen (in #259). Mike Carey is going to missed form this book in 2012.
9. Darkwing Duck/Chip & Dale’s Rescue Rangers (Boom): I lump these two together because my sentiments for both Darkwing Duck and Chip & Dale’s Rangers echo each other. You’re bound to find Where’s Waldo-esque placement of notable Disney characters hiding within the background of any given issue of these all ages books. The art has been handled by a number of able-handed pencilers, most notably James SIlvani, who nailed the Disney look in both titles, and writer Ian Brill captured the voices of his stars with ease, doling out ample doses of intrigue, suspense, action, and one-liners… all in an all-ages platofrm. Sadly, both books were cancelled due to Disney ending its partnership with Boom Studios. Hopefully, Marvel catches lightning in a bottle with these titles.
8. Invincible (Image): It’s been 86 issues since Invincible hit the market, and it’s hard to look at any one year of the series on its own without referring to previous installments. That’s because Robert Kirkman, Corey Walker and Ryan Ottley consistently put out one of the best comics you will ever read. I mean, they turned Las Vegas INTO GLASS!
7. X-Factor (Marvel): Nobody at Marvel writes a more manic, crazy, unpredictable series than Peter David, who, for the last 6 years or so, has brought nearly a dozen B-listers into the cusp of superstardom, particularly Madrox and Wolfsbane.
6. Ghostbusters (IDW): There’s something to be said for the solid foundation the team of Erik Burnham and Dan Schoening have established in only four issues, featuring the right blend of humor, spot-on characterization, and a fun, cartoony style that suits the zany tone of the films. And unlike some other books – coughoughActionComicscough – the back-ups actually add a valuable layer to the main story, share interesting creative developments and showcase fan art, usually from youngsters who will no doubt shit themselves when they see they’re in a comic book. (I would.)
5. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (IDW): The tone is darker (both in story by Kevin Eastman/Tom Waltz and art by Dan Duncan) and more mature than anything you’ve seen on TV or at the movies in the last 25 years. The origins have been revamped and updated for a new generation, but still keeps the spirit of the original alive and well. And for such an awesome re-debut, we still have yet to see the Shredder we all know and love to hate. (I, for one, cannot wait for Panda Khan!)
4. Detective Comics (DC): Dick Grayson as Batman was one of my favorite moves in comics during the last year and change. It was never better than in the Scott Snyder helmed Detective Comics, which brought new villains, a great tone (Grayson’s Batman is like a less obnoxious Spider-Man) and some of the creepiest stories in recent memory. Four words: Commissioner Gordon’s homicidal son.
3. Amazing Spider-Man (Marvel): As someone who has hardly ever been a Spidey fan, the placement of ASM near the top of this list is a testament to what Dan Slott has done. From the moment I read solicitations for the storyline “BIG TIME” back in January, I had this feeling that maybe it was time to give the ole webhead another swing. A new dynamic in Peter Parker’s life – new job to justify his genius intellect, no Mary Jane, a myriad of costume that justify the ridiculous outfits he sports on half his toys – and a healthy amount of witty, snappy dialogue put ASM on my radar. By the time the unbelievable “Spider-Island” story came to fruition, this comic was dead center. It didn’t hurt that Humberto Ramos drew the hell out of that book, and nearly all the action took place in the parts of New York City that I live, work and play in every day. Now, in addition to jazzing up old villains, let’s move past the status quo and get some new maniacs in the mix for Peter Parker.
2. Butcher Baker The Righteous Maker (Image): Smokey and the Bandit meets Captain America, the language from Deadwood and every weird dream you ever had. Joe Casey and Mike Huddleston deliver the foulest, craziest comic book I have ever read about a retired hero who is equal parts Cap and the Punisher taking on one last job. The insane art, which looks like a collage of different art styles cut and pasted together, matches the frenetic pacing of the story.
EDIT: I can’t believe I forgot Mark Millar’s Superior!!! Well, assuming I didn’t, it would go here, in the number two slot. Kinda like a Shazam (no, not the one with Shaq) and Ghost Rider mash-up, with eye-popping art by Leinil Francis Yu.
1. Criminal: Last of the Innocents (Marvel/ICON): Ed Brubaker’s series of noir miniseries has been good since “Coward” launched for five issues back in 2006. The latest installment, a four issue tale about an unhappy suburbanite who kills his wife to pay off a debt, reminds me why the team of Brubaker and artist Sean Phillips is the best in the business. Oh, did I mention they pay homage to Archie and turn the innocuous Riverdale world on its side, shake it up, and spit it out? Because they do.