Sunday, 18 December 2011

The Best Comics of 2011 - Part 1 (of 5)

50. Secret Six
Secret Six #29-36 (DC Comics) & Doom Patrol #19 (DC Comics)
Written by Gail Simone and Keith Giffen; Art by J. Calafiore, Matthew Clark and Ron Randall
In a year when DC Comics rebooted it's entire universe, no series left a bigger hole in my heart than Gail Simone's Secret Six. Throughout their final year, the Six found themselves invaded Hell itself to reclaim a lost friend, engaged in a crossover with the Doom Patrol (which gave Keith Giffen the opportunity to write the group) and prepare for a final showdown as Bane's dark obsession with Batman took hold once more. While the series faltered in it's conclusion, the preceding issues are a lot of fun and give the characters far more depth than the series' they would otherwise frequent.

49. I, Vampire
I, Vampire #1-5 (DC Comics)
Written by Joshua Hale Fialkov; Art by Andrea Sorrentino
In a reboot filled with superhero action and continuity rewriting, I, Vampire appeared as a beacon of hope among the gloom. Here was a regular-universe horror comic done right; and it played to it's strengths by incorporating elements that would engage Twilight readers. It's a dark, twisted romance that has slowly become a gem within the DCnU. Joshua Hale Fialkov has managed to craft a world where superheroes can exist, but the darker creatures are the more integral and perplexing of the bunch.

48. X-Factor
X-Factor #213-229 inc. 224.1 (Marvel Comics)
Written by Peter David; Art by Valentine De Landro, Emanuela Lupacchino, Paul Davidson, Dennis Calero and Leonard Kirk
Jamie Madrox has always been one of the more interesting X-Men, and through this series by Peter David, he has become important, as well. Throughout the year, X-Factor has dealt with members leaving the team to strike out on their own, a crossover involving J. Jonah Jameson which led to some truly hilarious moments, an intriguing pregnancy and a murder-mystery that literally made my skin crawl. It's quite an achievement for a series that, you'd imagine, had every right to die out years ago.

47. Brightest Day/Justice League: Generation Lost
Brightest Day #17-24 (DC Comics)
Justice League: Generation Lost #17-24 (DC Comics)
Written by Geoff Johns and Peter J. Tomasi; Art by Ivan Reis, Patrick Gleason, Ardian Syaf, Scott Clark and Joe Prado
Written by Judd Winick; Art by Aaron Lopresti, Fernando Dagnino and Joe Bennett
After two years of bad year-long events, DC Comics finally broke the curse with the dual bi-weekly series', Brightest Day and Justice League: Generation Lost. Both tied in together, and both featured some great moments as they moved towards their respective finales. Brightest Day dealt with the heroes resurrected at the end of Blackest Night and the growing threat to the world caused by dark forces, culminating in the return of the Vertigo Universe to the world of DC, along with Swamp Thing and John Constantine. Justice League: Generation Lost, meanwhile, served as a new era for the team of Justice League International, bringing them back from obscurity and offering them the challenge of defeating their old boss, Max Lord, one of those who was resurrected in Blackest Night, and who has erased himself from the minds of everyone, save the JLI...and one very pissed off Batman. It's a great stand-alone series, and Judd Winick demonstrates just why he should be writing the JLI book that launched with the DCnU.

46. The Walking Dead
The Walking Dead #80-92 (Image Comics)
Written by Robert Kirkman; Art by Charlie Adlard
Given the success of The Walking Dead as a TV show, it's surprising that the series hasn't quite maintained the brilliance of it's initial run. The power has drained somewhat since the 50th issue, and though there is still a lot of greatness to be found in these pages, compared to the early days it's just not that great. Pushing that aside, though, this is still some of the best comics a person could read; the characters are all vibrant and exciting, with emotions that feel genuine, and over the year there have been some truly shocking and harrowing moments. Robert Kirkman knows how to write horror, and he knows how to make you care; it's just a good thing that Charlie Adlard knows how to convey both through his black-and-white illustrations.

45. Black Panther: The Man Without Fear/The Most Dangerous Man Alive
Black Panther: The Man Without Fear #513-523 & Black Panther: The Most Dangerous Man Alive #523.1, 524-527 (Marvel Comics)
Written by David Liss; Art by Francesco Francavilla, Jefte Palo, Shawn Martinborough and Michael Avon Oeming
When it was announced that Black Panther would be taking up residence in Hell's Kitchen and dominating Daredevil's book in the aftermath of the disastrous Shadowland there were quite a few people who scratched their heads in bemusement. Despite this, Black Panther has become one of the most enjoyable comic books Marvel puts out; the character of T'Challa has proved engaged on a much more human level than in the past, the villains he's faced have been truly menacing, and the tie-ins to Fear Itself and other such events have been fleeting and not terrible. David Liss has shown a great ability to draw readers in, but it is the artwork that really sells this thing; Francesco Francavilla is one of the best artists working right now, while the fill-ins from great creators like Shawn Martinborough and Jefte Palo have maintained the style and still kept things original and engaging.

44. Aquaman
Aquaman #1-5 (DC Comics)
Written by Geoff Johns; Art by Ivan Reis
Aquaman has always been a senseless joke on the part of the media, and for years DC have played up to it, portraying Arthur Currie as a moronic buffoon, or at the very least as a hero nobody cares about. Fortunately, Geoff Johns cares about him, and via this new ongoing sprouted from the DCnU, we are finally getting a taste of the brilliance of the character. Gone are the lame one-liners and the ridiculous powers, in comes the brutality and sophistication and some of the best scares in a mainstream comic book. The only flaw is the constant references to Aquaman's previous loser status, something which would have been fine in the first issue but continues to crop up and feels like we're being coached into finding the character funny when the rest of the book tries so hard to portray him as serious. Regardless, this is a book you should definitely be reading.

43. Invincible
Invincible #77-86 (Image Comics)
Written by Robert Kirkman; Art by Ryan Ottley and Corey Walker
Where The Walking Dead falters, Invincible only continues to get better. Robert Kirkman's superhero epic began the year by wrapping up it's biggest storyline, and while it seemed as though the series was falling into the same funk as it's zombie-infested brother, numerous twists in the tale have guaranteed that this will not be a series to be trifled with. Sudden betrayals, a devastating attack on a major city and a change for the central characters that won't be so easily wrapped up. This is the kind of superhero book Marvel should be publishing, meshing comedy, drama and action perfectly in every single issue.

42. X-Men: Schism
X-Men: Schism #1-5 (Marvel Comics)
Generation Hope #10-11 (Marvel Comics) & X-Men: Regenesis #1 (Marvel Comics)
Written by Jason Aaron; Art by Carlos Pacheco, Frank Cho, Daniel Acuna, Alan Davis and Adam Kubert
Written by Kieron Gillen; Art by Tim Seeley & Billy Tan
The X-Men were about due for their bi-annual shake-up, and Marvel saw this as the perfect opportunity to relaunch their flagship X-Book (Uncanny) and at the same time announced a new series focusing on another team led by Wolverine. X-Men: Schism was the event that would give reason to the split, and while the finale has had numerous critics, it was a fantastic ride, particularly in the art department. As the rift between Cyclops and Wolverine grows, we see a darker side to Scott Summers and get to watch Wolverine develop into a mature individual. The tie-ins to Generation Hope and the needless epilogue with Regenesis are decent enough additions, particularly Generation Hope, which delves into the details behind the major catalysts in the event. Oh, and Alan Davis draws the fight between Wolverine and Cyclops. And it's perfection on paper.

41. Batman Incorporated
Batman Incorporated #3-8 & Batman Incorporated: Leviathan Strikes #1 (DC Comics)
Written by Grant Morrison; Art by Yanick Paquette, Pere Perez, Chris Burnam, Scott Clark and Cameron Stewart
Grant Morrison's Batman run found itself in trouble as Bruce Wayne returned and we moved into 2011. Everything fell rather flat, and delays didn't help the flow of his latest Batman venture, despite the first two issues being stellar. Batman Incorporated suffered the most out of any other book this year, because it was judged poorly based on annoyance at lateness. In actuality, every issue had something great about it, even if it wasn't perfect. Mexican death traps, strange retcons and fourth-wall breakings, betrayal on an Indian reservation, a perplexing issue set within a computer and the best single issue Grant Morrison has penned with the Dark Knight (Number 6). That, and the series allowed us to discover Chris Burnam, an artist who meshes Cameron Stewart and Frank Quitely and turns in something even better.

Next: 40-31

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