Friday, December 16, 2011

2011 Comics of the Year


In a year where I was still finding my feet in the comics medium, discovering what I like, and don't like, the battle for the Top 5 Comic Series of the Year had some stiff competition.  Last year I only featured two titles in what was a tie for my top comic, but this year I read way more titles, and it wouldn't be fair to only cover one title, so this year I'm giving you seven!  Damn, I'm nice.  With last year's co-winners Sweet Tooth and Chew still cranking out issues on a monthly basis, will any fresh contenders be able to unseat the champs? (I'll give you a hint, one of them slipped completely out of the rankings all together...) What am I waiting for?  Let's find out!

#5.  Rocketeer Adventures:  This title was an absolute blast.  Basically, a bunch of the industry's best writers and artists got together and cranked out a bunch of short comics and gorgeous pin-up tributes to Dave Steven's Rocketeer.

Each issue of this four issue mini featured some of the best comics creators in the business. The first issue was pretty astounding, but with each issue, there seemed to be a theme of each creator trying to out-do the others.  The result is some absolutely wonderful comics that offer a wide variety of Rocketeer action.  High caliber writing and art is pretty much standard across the board in this Top 5 list, but Rocketeer Adventures offers more variety and plenty of bang for your buck.

Probably my favorite comics moment of the year came when I discovered Geoff Darrow's lovely double-page spread pin-up.  Jaw Droppingly awesome.

#4. Batwoman: In case you've been living under a giant rock all year long, you know by now that DC relaunched all it's titles and started all their shit over at #1.  This provided me with the opportunity to jump onto a bunch of their titles that looked worthy my attention.  Out of the 52 titles they released, I deemed 7 of them worthy of my time and money.  Of those 7, only one gets the glory of being a Battle Hymns Top 5 comic of 2011. That title is, of course, Batwoman.

Batwoman doesn't spend her time battling classic villains like her compatriot Batman, but she seems to have carved out her niche in Gotham's caped and cowled crime fighting community: the supernatural.  In her most recent adventures she finds herself up against a ghostly child stealing wraith; with lots of personal and professional distractions going on amid all the action.  The writing is solid, Kate Kane's sexuality is maturely handled, and issue after issue, this seems to get better and better.  Oh, and the art?  J.H. Williams III is at the top of his game.  Absolutely beautiful work.

#3. The Sixth Gun: I love westerns, and I love fantasy so it should come as no surprise that I love The Sixth Gun, because those two elements have never been so wonderfully intertwined.

Sometimes I feel like the creators, Cullen Bunn and Brian Hurtt had me in mind when they came up with this concept, because it is very much geared to my tastes. I've been loving this title since issue #1 and have gladly been hooked for the whole journey so far.

The most recent story arc, Crossroads has been extremely entertaining and full of tense, shocking moments.  This comic is pretty much guaranteed to deliver engaging characters, fun western-style action like train hijackings, and crazy supernatural moments like re-animated evil spirits each and every month.  The art seems to just be getting better each go-around too, so there you go.  All around awesomeness.

#2. The Intrepids: The Top 5 list would be sadly incomplete if I failed to mention the awesomeness that is The Intrepids.

Mad science, a tech-ed up teen team battling crazy creations like cyber bears, battle baboons, and robo-squids are all involved in this crazy fun, crazy awesome 5 issue mini series.

Series creators Kurtis Wiebe and Scott Kowalchuk definitely delivered the goods here.  The writing by Wiebe is fantastic, and he delivers action, drama, tension and jokes with equal aplomb.  Kowalchuk's art is some of my favorite from the year.  He draws mad-science creations extremely well, and makes them look incredible...oh, and the rest of his art is great too, but those mad science creations...*sigh*

What astounded me the most about The Intrepids is that the story delivered on multiple fronts, and even packed in some emotional moments, and still managed to be the most fun comic to read on the shelves.

If you still haven't checked this title out, do so immediately.

#1. Sweet Tooth:  You're still the one Sweet Tooth.

Impressively, despite some stiff competition, Sweet Tooth manages to find itself at the top of the heap once again, and really, it was an easy decision to put it at number one once again.  The reason is simple: Sweet Tooth gets better with each issue.  Not only that, but writer/artist, Jeff Lemire continues to explore new ways of telling the story, and by doing so, stretches the boundaries of the comics medium.

Not only is this my favorite on going comic, but it is steadily creeping up the list and becoming one of my favorite all time stories, period.

For as much as I think, discuss, and gush on and on about this series, I still have almost no idea how this will all turn out.  So much of the bigger picture is still shrouded in mystery, but Lemire has done an excellent job off hiding his cards and slowly revealing them one at a time.  I can't wait to see what the next year of Sweet Tooth will bring.

Runners Up:

Who is Jake Ellis?: Wonderful action packed espionage thriller.  Great writing, satisfying ending to the series, and really cool art.

Blue Estate: A seedy Hollywood crime story with plenty of ins and outs.  Crafty, twisty crime writing at it's finest.


Who is Jake Ellis? #1: In a year where I read more comics than I ever have in my entire life, one issue stands out from the crowd, and that is Who is Jake Ellis? #1. When I read it, I felt like I was reading something completely new and unique, which is very rare these days.  Both the writing and the art had a very fresh feel to them.

This issue pretty much did everything perfect.  The writing by Nathan Edmondson was captivating, it introduced the primary characters, set up the plot, and delivered some great action and chase scenes.  The art by Tonci Zonjic has an incredible vibe and personality that gave the series a signature style that is one of a kind.

This issue pretty much stormed the gates... and the whole damn castle fell with the following issues.  In a year bulging with "#1" issues, this one easily takes the cake.

Runner Up: The Intrepids #1: I've got two words for you: Cyber Bear.

Welp, there you go, my favorite comics from the year.  Are there titles I completely overlooked?  What were your favorite comics from the year?


Niall Alexander said...

Have just bought up all of Who Is Jake Ellis? to read over the holidays on your recommendation, mate - and I'll keep an eye out for The Sixth Gun and The Intrepids, too.

Surprised about the absence of Chew from your list, though. And no love at all for The Unwritten! What gives?

Ryan said...

Niall, I hope you enjoy Who is Jake Ellis? I definitely think you'll enjoy The Sixth Gun.

I haven't really done Chew justice these past 6 months or so. I need to go back and re read the last 6-8 issues, and get a better appreciation for them.

As for The Unwritten...I read the first trade, and wasn't much of a fan, but that was very early in my comic reading days, and I think some day I'll give it another go.