Best Comic Books of 2011
Ducktales/Darkwing Duck Series’ Finale Crossover — Imagine being a kid and watching the Disney Afternoon cartoon block when you get home from school. For thirty seconds, you’d see Uncle Scrooge having a snowball fight with his nephews when suddenly Goselyn walks up. You think “Hey, isn’t Goselyn on Darkwing Duck? What’s she doing in Duckberg?” Then, Darkwing walks up and shoots a snowball out of his gas gun. Sure, it’s just a “Happy Holidays from Disney” commercial, but you wish there was a full episode featuring a teamup of your favorite ducks. Wish no more, because Kaboom made that happen with the final issues of Ducktales and Darkwing Duck (respectively). With a captivating story by Epic Mickey‘s Warren Spector and illustration by cartoon veteran James Silvani, this story is sure to entertain and leave you with a smile on your face.
Wonder Woman — There’s been no lack of Wonder Woman exposure this year — or her lack of exposure for that matter — but none of it has been fairly positive. That is, none of it’s been positive until DC’s New 52 relaunch. The unlikely stand out book of DC’s “soft reboot” shows extreme promise thanks to a fresh take by Brian Azzarello & Cliff Chiang. The book’s Greek mythology ties bring it closer to something more akin to God of War, and no gory detail is off limits. We may finally see Wonder Woman reclaim her deserving spot in DC’s trinity.
Spider Island/Amazing Spider-Man — This story was so fun, it’s amazing it all came together. After One More Day and Brand New Day, Spidey’s new status-quo is finally set, and superstar writer Dan Slott takes the opportunity to really show off. A plague has been released in Manhattan, giving all of its citizens powers just like Spider-Man. Every issue is packed with energy, brought out by Humberto Ramos’ pencils and the vibrant colors by Marte Garcia . It’s so good, you’ll think it’s fanfic, then kick yourself for not thinking of it first. It’s a fun story that makes for a great jumping-on point for old and new readers alike.
Wolverine & The X-Men — Ever since Marvel’s Generation X ended years ago, the Marvel Universe hasn’t had a proper school setting for their mutant population. It hasn’t really needed one, since Scarlet Witch’s proclamation spell “No more mutants.” at the end of the House of M storyline. That’s won’t deter Wolverine as he aims to do something about that with his newly dedicated Jean Grey School for Gifted Youngsters. Speaking of Generation X, that series’ standout artist and co-creator is on board for the first arc along with writer Jason Aaron who brings a welcome touch of whimsy to the otherwise action packed world of the X-Men.
Paying for It — Chester Brown writes and illustrates a painfully honest and personal recounting of his experiences with call girls. The premise may immediately seem reprehensible, but the straightforward nature of the tale makes for a rare glimpse at the psyche of a man who admittedly enjoys prostitutes on a regular basis. Brown even takes time to give his friends (also depicted in the story) equal opportunity to state their cases for or against prostitution. Besides the subject matter, it’s rare to find something so raw and straightforward in this medium that will entertain as well as give readers something to think about.
The Astounding Wolf-Man Vol. 4 — The wonder of comics writer Robert Kirkman is that no matter what genre he steps into, he makes it his own — not through some sort of gimmick or by betraying conventions of the genre, but simply by doing it better than most other writers. The Astounding Wolf-Man may not be his flagship series. Hell, it’s not even the runner-up. But with equally strong writing and dynamic artwork by Jason Howard, the werewolf horror story is no less entertaining. Trade No. 4 marks the conclusion of the series. It’s sad to see it go, but it’s nice to see the arc completed and strong through the end. Fans of good comics shouldn’t ignore this offering from Image.
The Walking Dead Vol. 14 — Even while writer Robert Kirkman heads up AMC’s popular televised incarnation of this series, the books continue to unfurl the story in new and interesting ways. The 14th trade sees another major arc of the story coming to a head, and it may mark the most I’ve cared about this series since the incredible conclusion of the prison arc. Rick Grimes is helping his camp cope with new and dangerous threats, and the conclusion, without giving anything away, may be another major game changer for the series, with Grimes coming to a new realization, but possibly too late.
Invincible Vol. 14 — Invincible has been Kirkman’s stellar take on the superhero genre, and Vol. 14, “The Viltrumite War,” seems like the end of a story the series has been building to from the start. In many ways, it’s not as big or dynamic as one might expect, but it definitely gets the job done. The fights are solid, driven by the artwork of Ryan Ottley, and the ending offers an unexpected twist that keeps the series interesting and threat looming at the series moves forward.
Isle of 100,000 Graves — Anyone who reads my critiques of comics probably already knows that Jason is one of my favorite creators around. His books are, at times, practically the silent, short films of the comics realm. They succeed because he has done such a great job of mastering the art of visual storytelling. But he ventures into new territory here, collaborating for the first time. Jason teams up with Fabien Vehlmann to craft a dark comedy about someone following a mysterious map in a bottle to and island where something strange is happening. The premise itself is a spoiler, as it’s a laugh-out-loud moment when the reader finds out what is going on. Jason’s work is as stellar as ever, just with a lot more dialogue this time around.
Safe Area Goražde: The Special Edition — Safe Area Goražde wasn’t a new book in 2011, but the special edition it got last year was enough to earn it a spot on this list. Joe Sacco reigns as the preeminent comics journalist, and Safe Area Goražde is another great reason why. The special edition features an illustrated essay by Sacco on how the project came together, as side-by-side comparison of reference photos and the final panels, a “Where Are They Now?” on the book’s characters and an interview with Sacco from The Comics Journal. What’s more, the binding is designed to match the special edition of Sacco’s Palestine, so it’s a nice match on any bookshelf.