Friday, December 30, 2011

Comic Book Wednesday - Best of 2011

With one day left in the year, I'm a week behind in my weekly comic book reviews. It's the holidays, though, so what can I say? Instead of this week's round of Comic Book Wednesday, I've decided to do a bit of an awards show.

Eh, who am I kidding? One ginger's opinionated ramblings do not an awards show make. Here's a run down of my favorite comics this year, as well as some stuff from years past that I think you should give a look at.

The Comic Book Wednesday 2011 Not-Really-Awards Awards

Best Ongoing Series - Mainstream

Written by Scott Snyder
Art by Greg Capullo
DC Comics

This is absolutely no contest. While DC's New 52 changes have forced my formerly favorite title (Supergirl) to the bottom of my pull list, Batman was left unscathed by this shiny new universe. In fact, with Scott Snyder at the wheel, this revamp of Batman is the best on-going title I've had the pleasure to read all year. Snyder's Bruce Wayne is intelligent, calculating, flawed, human, obsessed, and entertaining as all hell. While more than six titles feature Batman as a lead character, do not let this one get lost in the shuffle. Scott Snyder is the Batman writer to follow.

Best Ongoing Series – Indie

Morning Glories
Written by Nick Spencer
Art by Joe Eisma
Image Comics

Again, not much of a contest here. Image, Vertigo, Avatar, IDW, Zenescope, and (especially) Archaia are putting out great creator-owned series, but the sheer quality of Nick Spencer's magnum opus is what, as a creator, I personally aspire to. The dialogue is perfect; the characters are alternately intriguing, amazing, and despicable; and the plot, as mind-fuckey as it is, creates the most interesting fictional setting since Lost. Nothing but praise for this series.

Best Ongoing Series - Media

Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season Nine
Written by Joss Whedon & Andrew Chambliss
Art by Georges Jeanty
Dark Horse Comics

It's an understatement to say that Buffy: Season Eight got a bit wacky, but Joss Whedon managed to reel his imagination in and start this new season of comics with a story that was as true to the characters as any episode of the original show. It's still early in the series (we're currently four issues in), but this has already moved back to the very top of my pull list.

Best Miniseries – Indie

Written by G. Willow Wilson
Art by David Lopez

I'm not sure if this can really count as indie, because Marvel puts out CrossGen books, but this is about as far as you can get away from your normal superhero fare. G. Willow Wilson's tale of magic, privilege, friendship, and class was two parts Harry Potter, one part Victorian, and fully awesome. With the best art and some of the wittiest writing of the year, I hope that this will return with the same creative team for a long, long run.

Best Miniseries – Mainstream

Written by Geoff Johns
Art by Andy Kubert
DC Comics

I was going back and forth between this and Nick Spencer's Spider-Island: Cloak and Dagger. I'm still not 100% sure that I've made the right choice, but here's why I settled on Geoff Johns' Flashpoint... despite all the shit that it's gotten. This series has a lot of build-up and not much action to pay it off, but what it does have is more emotional payoff than I've seen in this medium. By the time I finished this series, I was a shivering mess - and I applaud Geoff Johns for that. It heralded the end of a universe, but for Barry Allen, it was the end of the hope that he'd be able to save his mother's life. It's that core of the series that makes this mini so much stronger than people give it credit for.

Best Miniseries - Media

Illyria: Haunted
Written by Scott Tipton & Mariah Huehner
Art by Elena Casagrande
IDW Publishing

It might be cheating a bit because I ended up working on IDW's Angel and Scott is a friend, but I'll be damned if this wasn't one of the best books of the year. This series, which is mostly a team-up between Spike and Illyria, has a perfect balance of action, emotion, and humor - basically, it's everything that Angel the TV show was at its best. Also, it's pretty ballsy, considering the character-altering changes made to a licensed character. I'm not sure if we'll ever get another Illyria series, but it's good to know that the comics finally lived up to the standard that Whedon set with "Not Fade Away" and Brian Lynch set with the stunning climax to his "Angel: After the Fall" arc.

Best One Shot – Mainstream

Jimmy Olsen
Written by Nick Spencer
Art by RB Silva and DYM
DC Comics

This was my first introduction to Nick Spencer, and I've since powered through his entire impressive catalogue. Hilarious and heartfelt, this one-shot collects and finishes the stories that Spencer began in Action Comics. It focuses on (obviously) Jimmy Olsen, Superman's pal. I hope this gets collected in some sort of trade, because if I read this oversized issue once more, it's going to fall apart.

Best One Shot – Indie

Gotta be honest here. I haven't read any indie one-shots this year except for a few that it would be totally douchey to list. I read Scott Tipton's ANGEL: THE COVERS, which is great... but it's an art book. Tim Seeley gave me a one-shot of his at NYCC, but that's not from this year. It would be totally pretentious to even mention my Grimm Fairy Tales one shot, and it would be pandering to Zenescope to list their one shots that I read (and really enjoyed, particularly Dan Wickline's SINBAD stuff). I really enjoyed THE BEAUTY from Top Cow's PILOT SEASON event, but that is effectively the first issue in (hopefully) a series. So I fail. Instead, I'm going to leave this blank and ask you guys what indie one-shots you'd recommend to me.

Best One Shot – Media

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Michelangleo
Written by Brian Lynch
Art by Andy Kuhn
IDW Publishing

To get an idea of why this comic is listed here, check out this preview of the issue. This book just came out last two days ago, and I've already read it through twice... because it's really just that good. Brian Lynch, who wrote Angel: After the Fall and the creator-owned Everybody's Dead through IDW, has been scripting one-shots focusing on the Turtles since November. He began with Raphael, and then finished out 2011 with this issue that features Mikey attending a New Years Eve party and... and, well, getting into some deep shit. It's hilarious, a bit cute, and pretty damn fun. Can't think of a better book for both new and longtime Turtles fans.

Best New Series – Mainstream

Justice League Dark
Written by Peter Milligan
Art by Mikel Janin
DC Comics

You won't find such an assortment of wonderfully tortured, criminally interested characters in one book anywhere else in comics. While I think these characters should also have their own books, their team-up is one of the other good aspects of DC's New 52. The book is clever, creative, and - most importantly - different from everything else out there. If you're looking for a comic that satisfies both your superhero cravings and that small part of you that loves being creeped the hell out, this is your book.

Best New Series – Indie

Infinite Vacation
Written by Nick Spencer
Art by Christian Ward
Image Comics

Though it only came out a few times in 2011, this book is one of the best new creator owned properties since American Vampire and iZombie. It's got all of the humor and what-the-fuckness that Nick Spencer always offers, but what makes this series go above-and-beyond is Ward's beautiful art. Just open one these issues in a comic shop and I dare you to leave the store empty-handed. Utterly gorgeous, even (especially) when it's so terrifying it makes you squirm.

Best New Series - Media

Written by Erik Burnham
Art by Dapper Dan Schoening
IDW Publishing

I had a couple of ways I may have gone for this. I'm loving Buffy: Season Nine, Angel & Faith, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and Brian Wood's Supernatural... but this comic does something very rare. I'm still scared that Ghostbusters fans might seek me out and stab me to death, but at just five issues, I already like this comic better than the movies. It's brilliant. Brilliant. The dialogue is the best Ghostbusters comics have ever seen, incredibly interesting things are being done with the characters, and Burnham is embracing all of the Ghostbusters tropes while also paving his own way. And that, my friends, is everything a tie-in comic should aspire to be.

Best Webcomic

The Adventures of Superhero Girl
Written and drawn by Faith Erin Hicks

I joined the party late, but I think I'm sticking around until everyone else is long gone. Yeah, gonna be that guy. This is one of those excellent comics that you visit for a few laughs... and before you know it, you've gobbled up the entire thing and you're late to do that super important thing that you now realize wasn't nearly as important as spending your day reading this excellent strip.

Best Artist

Michael Allred

Chris Roberson's amazing entertaining creator-owned book iZombie is one of my favorite series, so I had to give this to Mike Allred. His retro-inspired art is perfect for this book, adding to the off-kilter tone that Roberson plays both up and against. More than any other artist this year, Allred's style kept me lingering on each panel a bit longer than necessary. I hope he and Roberson stay on this underrated book for a long, long time.

Best Cover Artist

Jenny Frison
(Angel, House of Night, I Vampire, Hack/Slash)

For me, there's no better cover artist working in comics. She's distinctive, consistent, so wonderfully strange in her concepts, and... well, the work speaks for itself. When it's not utterly terrifying, it's painfully beautiful. Jenny has been getting more work lately than I've been capable of tracking, and no one deserves it more. I can't think of a single other cover artist whose books I will buy just for the cover - but her work is just that good.

Best Writer

Scott Snyder
(American Vampire, Batman, Swamp Thing)

Scott Snyder and Nick Spencer's work really defined my reading schedule this year. However, it's Snyder's inspiration posts about the craft of writing, his pitch perfect scripts, consistency and intriguing ideas that pushed him (slightly, because I love me some Nick Spencer) to the top for me. This is a man who, after this year, has gotten me hooked. He's joined the ranks of Alan Moore, Brian K. Vaughan, Joss Whedon, and Nick Spencer in the I'm Going to Buy Everything They Write No Matter What club. It's because the books are great, yes, but also because Snyder's phenomenal work makes me want to be a better writer. And what else can a guy ask for?


Just for kicks, here are a few other recommendations.

An Elegy for Amelia Johnson. Written by Andrew Rostan. Art by Dave Valeza and Kate Kasenow.

Fly. Written by Raven Gregory. Art by Eric J.

Hack/Slash. Written by Tim Seeley.

Growing-Up Comic. Written and drawn by Matt Roscetti.

The God Machine. Written and drawn by Chandra Free.

27: First Set AND 27: Second Set. Written by Charles Soule. Art by Renzo Podesta.

All right, friends. See you next week for another set of reviews for Comic Book Wednesday.

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