Comic books. I read a bunch of them this year. Here are what I consider my favorite from 2011, ranked in some sort of particular order.
10. Moon Knight – Brian Michael Bendis and Alex Maleev
Technically, this probably shouldn’t be on any top 10 list because I’m not sure every issue has been crafted so well, but whatever, I’ve had a lot of fun reading Moon Knight every month. More fun than I can necessarily describe. I mean, fuck, I took the liberty to write about every issue of this comic, and I plan to do so on into the foreseeable future. Because this is my character, as lame as that sounds. Besides Greg Burgas, I’m probably the internet’s biggest Moon Knight fan, and I can’t tell you the time I’ve spent waiting for a legitimately good series starring the character. And now it’s here, and Bendis and Maleev are building a comfortable, best friend-type comic around the character. It looks great, the core’s there and I feel invested in the actual plot. I am a happy reader.
9. Spaceman – Brian Azzarello, Eduardo Risso, Patricia Mulvihill, Clem Robins, Dave Johnson
I only list each creator because this is one of the few comics in which collaboration actually fucking matters and produces the product you read. Whether Spaceman ends up as a compelling, mark-making science fiction yarn or a disappointing collection of pulp paper, one thing’s for sure – this comic houses the best team in comics. And not just Azz & Risso. No. Mulvihill, Robins, and Johnson too. It’s an entire squad producing this monthly adventure, and, God, it’s synced so well. While there’s only 2 issues out, Spaceman clearly has held more of my attention than all the rest of the mundane mush 2011 had to offer. Pay your dos. This is how mainstream comics should be made.
8. Zegas #1 – Michel Fiffe
Dammit if this isn’t one of the best looking comics this year. Fiffe creates slice of life parables and dresses them in peppery apocalyptic ash fires, elevating the impact of the story he’s after as well as providing his comic a declared visual identity. His cartooning is in league with King City scribe Brandon Graham, pulling influence from all kinds of line work – European and beyond. And, man, the color work. There’s this citrus Earth tone he’s goes for and completely nails to create this wonderful effect of twilight and swelling emotion. Zegas #1 reminds the reader of how impending doom can cause us to live and make the most of what we have. Fiffe captured my attention this year, and Zegas #1 is certainly a reason why. I can’t wait for a second issue, or simply anything he does next.
7. Daredevil – Mark Waid, Marcos Martin, Paolo Rivera
A very well crafted super hero comic which supplies the necessary drum beats and bass notes every thirty days. Why aren’t more mainstream comics like this? I don’t know. For some reason the formula of good creative talent and solid stories is impossible to nail down in the market we now know. But thank the higher up for Daredevil. It’s this sparkle of hope, I think. It’s this bright little bulb in the garage full of dust mites and broken glass. I can only hope it pushes onward to twenty issues. That is more than we deserve.
6. Uncanny X-force – Rick Remender, Jerome Opena, Esad Ribic, Dean White
And the Marvel streak continues. Another book like Daredevil in which I feel the goal of cape comics was really met: monthly satisfaction. But the one thing X-force had over Daredevil was its wonderful sense of threat and culmination. I’m not an X-men reader, but I couldn’t help but be swept away by Remender’s control of the subject matter and its history, combining all elements of X-men lore into this epic celebration of the property as well as reflecting on the idea of progression and our obsession with it. To me, this seemed to be the ultimate X-men comic book where everything came to a head. In terms of a super hero comic, I think it’s an instant classic like that of Morrison’s X-men, and I can’t help but say I’m proud to have experienced it on its monthly tour. Plus, it’s another book in which I actually gave a shit about the plot. I respect comics that can do that to me because 97% of them I read for other sad reasons. Also, it kept to the soap opera integrity X-men stories are known for – right down to the conclusion of the “Dark Angel Saga.”
5. Vengeance – Joe Casey and Nick Dragotta
If only all event comics read like this one. Joe Casey and Nick Dragotta’s hot middle finger to Fear Itself worked so well in the shadows of Marvel’s publishing plan that I’d call it one of the better punk rock comics I’ve read in some time. Each page makes a sham of the drawn out model of story telling we’ve come to cradle in mainstream comics, packing each and every issue with such detail that the singles themselves could be considered events. But what’s hot about Vengeance is its anger. This is Casey’s living example of how he wants super hero comics written. Where Butcher Baker sets the attitude and philosophy, Vengeance comes in to apply the theory, and that’s apparent from the very first page. Vibrant, dense and capable of toying with all of the event conventions, Vengeance gave the reading populace what it wanted this year. Tight, meaningful hero comics, and most likely the people had no idea, missing it entirely.
4. Criminal: Last of the Innocent – Ed Brubaker, Sean Phillips, Val Staples, Dave Stewart
Just such a great story. That’s honestly all it comes down to with this one. A great story made from great construction. Fuck, Last of the Innocent all boiled down to that final page for me. Shit, the final panel. There was not one better image to sum up an idea. After a year and a half or so of bad/mediocre Brubaker comics, it felt good to read this. I missed Val Staples on the two final issues, but I feel Phillips and Brubaker pulled the work through and stuck the landing. This is a cold story. Cold, brutal and honest. It fits so well into Bru’s overall catalog. I’m proud to own this.
3. Butcher Baker, the Righteous Maker – Joe Casey and Mike Huddleston
This hot, synthy, peppermint green comic exuberates so much attitude and testosterone it burns your fingers when you pick it up. But that’s why I love it so. Butcher Baker was the war cry I followed all year. Between Huddleston’s beautiful illustrations and Casey’s madman text essays, BB does philosophy better than any comic book out there at the moment. It’s a fucking beast. Forget this quick quip your reading. Read the comic, or this essay I did on it months back.
2. Blast Furnace Funnies – Frank Santoro
A true poem in comic book form, Santoro sums up what a city or town can potentially mean. But that’s not the kicker. While emotionally packed as well as touching, what makes Blast Furnace Funnies special is its observation and meditation on process. Santoro comes off to me as a comic artist’s comic artist, and Blast Furnace is a testament to that. Originally apart of a museum exhibit in his hometown of Pittsburgh, Blast Furnace digs deep into how comics evolve from thought to a tangible mass of paper. Each panel within this thing tells a story because Santoro pays so much attention that each panel lives as its own independent painting. And the colors. They haunt yet warm you. It’s a comic that as I now think about it I wish I gave more time to throughout the year, but I guess I can at least honor it somehow via this list. If anything, it’s one of the few things I read this year I know I’ll reread multiple times. It delivers a lasting impact.
1. Twisted Savage Dragon Funnies/ Savage Dragon – Erik Larsen, Michel Fiffe, various others
I think this earlier blog post spoiled the surprise, but whatever, this was a good year for Dragon readers. TSDF may make up most of the reason for a number 1 spot, but Larsen’s Dragon all by its lonesome would still easily rank somewhere on my top 10. Why? It’s comics. It’s larger than life, it’s issue-to-issue, it’s entertaining, it experiments, and it’s free, and even though it’s most always been those things, 2011 was the year Dragon juiced up a bit and showed the public what it could really do. I feel this was the year the book was somehow legitimized. It only had to plummet in sales to reach such a standard … But I believe bringing in Michel Fiffe and Co. helped as well because sharing the staples with Larsen’s comics were an assortment of art comic favorites. As my earlier essay states, TSDF embodies that ideal comic book, mashing super heroes with alternative story tellers to celebrate all of what the medium has to offer. I feel the project will only stand as an example for what’s possible in the future. Or if anything, it should because TSDF is the cue mainstream comics needs to take. I just love that the guy and book people enjoy so much to write off made the point and came away fueling the best comics of 2011. How’s that for justice?