I’m a little late on the bandwagon, but now that the extremely busy holidays are over I can get back on the blogging game with my top 10 ongoing books of 2011.
10. Superman by J. M. Straczynski, Chris Roberson, Eddy Barrows, and Others
Many would call foul on the inclusion of the Superman: Grounded storyline on any best of list. While I will be the first to admit that the storyline got off to a rocky start under JMS’s pen, when writership shifted to Chris Roberson the title quickly became a fun throwback to the silver age of comics, underlining everything that makes Superman a great character. Roberson’s use of characters such as Iron Munro and the Superman Squad was extremely awesome, as were cameos by Batman, Wonder Woman, and a race featuring the Flash. I really would’ve liked to see where Roberson would have taken Superman once he was out of the shadow of JMS. It seemed like he was pushing into Batman Inc territory with the expanding Superman Squad, an idea that I find a lot more believable with Superman than Batman. If you could get past the slightly wonky characterization (which was kind of explained in the end) and the lackluster villain, this was a great treatise to Superman and a fitting “last story” to wrap up Superman’s adventures in the pre-Flashpoint universe.
9. Wonder Woman by Brian Azzarello and Cliff Chiang
Perhaps no other preexisting title benefited from the New 52 relaunch more than Wonder Woman. While I’ve heard great things about the Simone run, it never quite got the critical praise that warranted checking it out, and from what I can make of the JMS run seemed pretty much a mess. Under the pen of Brian Azzarello, Wonder Woman underwent a “Vertigo-zation” of sorts. This is less a superhero title as it is a supernatural Greek mythology in comic book form, featuring pop culture’s most recognized female heroine. The result is so painstakingly obvious that it’s a wonder that (to my knowledge) this route hasn’t been used before. Cliff Chiang’s art is a perfect fit for this book, rendering the Greek gods and goddesses in a darkly cartoonish fashion. I never thought I’d see the day that I looked forward to reading a Wonder Woman comic, but in 2011 that day came.
8. Doom Patrol by Keith Giffen, Matthew Clark, and Ron Randall
One of the greatest casualties resulting from Flashpoint and the New 52 was Keith Giffen’s Doom Patrol. Month in and month out this was one of the funniest and quirkiest books on the stand. The misadventures of Robot Man, Elasti-Girl, Negative Man, and Ambush Bug took what was great from past runs of Doom Patrol and then expounding upon it, creating a book that was greater than the sum of its parts. The book featured some of the best team dynamics and characterizations I’ve seen in a team book, and by the end Doom Patrol was more of a family than a team. The book was forced to end early due to the upcoming Flashpoint event, and utilized one of the best uses of breaking down the fourth wall and meta-commentary to wrap up loose ends. Even so, there are still lingering plot lines that I would love to see picked up in the confines of the New 52. When can we get a new Doom Patrol book?
7. Batman Inc. by Grant Morrison and Various
I said Doom Patrol was one of the greatest casualties of the New 52. This book was THE greatest casualty of the New 52. Batman Inc, the continuation of Grant Morrison’s Batman opus, launched in November of 2010. The book features the global franchising of the Batman identity by Bruce Wayne in an effort to combat a future threat known only as “Leviathan”. The book featured art from outstanding artists such as Yannick Paquette, Cameron Stewart, and newcomer Chris Burnham. From its launch to August of 2011, only 8 issues had been released. Issues 9 and 10 were solicited but not released due to the September relaunch. The two issues were finally released in the second to last week of the year in the form of the oversized one-shot “Leviathan Strikes”. My best deduction as to the reason for the book’s lateness was that Morrison was facing constant rewrites to bring the book to a suitable conclusion before the DCU was revamped. Grant Morrison’s overarching story is set to conclude in 2012-2013 in the maxi-series Batman: Leviathan, but it is unknown if this will take place pre-Flashpoint or in the confines of the New 52. While the New 52 has been a rousing success, it is a shame that to some extent it has taken the wind out of Morrison’s sails, right as he was nearing the end of his journey.
6. Journey into Mystery by Kieron Gillen and Various
I got into to this book very late into 2011, after Fear Itself had wrapped up. I was hearing great things about the book so when I found the first 8 issues of the series on sale for a very low price, I thought I’d give it a shot. Boy am I glad I did. I’m a sucker for a good supernatural story, especially one grounded in mythology (see Wonder Woman’s inclusion on the list). The majority of this title’s current incarnation has dealt with Kid Loki’s behind the scenes scheming in Fear Itself. While I have not read Fear Itself proper, JIM gives enough information to understand what is happening, and from what I understand is actually considerably better than the actual event itself. Gillen writes Kid Loki with a youthful rebelliousness, but also a youthful inquisitiveness and innocence that is an interesting change of pace for the villain. The best part of the book was getting to see Thor and Loki as brothers, not at odds with one another, but helping each other. Now that the book is fully out of the shadow I’m eager to see what Gillen does in the book’s upcoming arc, the Terrorism Myth. If you aren’t reading this book then give it a shot, I guarantee you wont find many books that are this witty and charming on the stands today.
5. (Tie) Animal Man by Jeff Lemire and Travel Foreman and Swamp Thing by Scott Snyder and Yannick Paquette
Two of the consistently best books of the New 52 are Animal Man and Swamp Thing. Together, Snyder and Lemire are crafting a new mythology, tying the Green of Swamp Thing and the the Red of Animal Man together to face a new threat in the Black, a new elemental force in the DCU. The two have managed to accomplish this without coming off as derivative of recent stories like Blackest Night. The books weave old and new continuity masterfully, creating something for long time fans and new readers to enjoy. The books are also bolstered by amazing art from Travel Foreman and Yannick Paquette. The two are building to a huge crossover in 2012 and I can’t wait to see what’s up Snyder and Lemire’s sleeves.
4. Green Lantern by Geoff Johns and Doug Mankhe
Green Lantern has always been my go to book at DC comics. It’s the first book that I started picking up in monthly issue and it’s always been at the top of my read pile month in and month out. However, 2010 was a little harsh on GL, with the title spinning its wheels a bit in the midst of Brightest Day. This year saw a sort of renaissance for the title with the major War of the Green Lanterns crossover and the New 52 relaunch of the book. War of the GL’s saw the four earth lanterns stripped of their rings and forced to combat Krona and the entire GLC who were under the influence of Parallax. The story had some extremely huge moments, such as the four using rings from other corps, and the death of Mogo and Krona at the hands of John Stewart and Hal, respectively. The biggest moments of all are the ones that led straight into the New 52 relaunch, the re-induction of Sinestro into the GLC and Hal being stripped of his ring and sent back to earth. Johns is currently dealing with the fallout of these events in the first arc of the relaunched GL, set to wrap this month. GL is the book affected the least by the relaunch, and I’m perfectly alright with that. Don’t fix what’s broken rings true in this case. While this year might not have been kind to GL in other media (R.I.P. GL movie), the comics are as strong as ever.
3. Uncanny X-Force by Rick Remender and Various
This is another title I came in late on. After the events of X-Men: Schism I had a huge interest in giving the X-Men books a shot. After reading and loving Wolverine and the X-Men and the relaunched Uncanny X-Men, I decided to give Uncanny X-Force a shot. For the greater part of the year this title centered on the Dark Angel Saga, an arc detailing the ascension of Archangel as the new Apocalypse and X-Force’s attempt at saving him. The story took the team into the Age of Apocalypse and back again and featured some of the highest stakes, grandest vistas, and stunning twists seen in a comic all year. The climax of the story is one people will be talking about for years and the fallout is being felt across various X-books. I’ve said before how the Sinestro Corps Wars made me a loyal DC fan, well this folks, is Marvel’s SCW.
2. Wolverine and the X-Men by Jason Aaron and Chris Bachalo
I literally cannot say enough good things about this book. Harkening back to the zany creativity of Grant Morrison’s New X-Men, this book deals with the post-Schism status quo in with Wolverine is the new headmaster of Xavier’s school, which has now been renamed the Jean Grey School for Higher Learning. The book features a cast of well known X-Men such as Beast, Ice-Man, and Kitty Pride, and brand new characters such as Broo the mutant Brood and Kid Gladiator. The breakout star of the book is Quentin Quire, a Morrison creation who hopped back in the spotlight during Schism. The kid is a rebel whose only cause is himself, and he’s the perfect foil in a book featuring Wolverine as the headmaster of a school. It’s a concept that in theory shouldn’t work, but on paper is the most fun and creative comic book this year.
1. Detective Comics by Scott Snyder, Jock, and Francesco Francavilla
Scott Snyder was the break out talent of 2011, and his run on Detective Comics is the main reason for that. The run features one of the last stories of Dick Grayson’s time as Batman and is already being hailed as a classic in the vein of The Long Halloween. This 11 issue epic reintroduces Commissioner Gordon’s son, James Gordon Jr., as an apparently reformed psychopath. Various twists and turns bring Dick Grayson through hell and back and the climax thrusts Dick, James and Barbara Gordon into thrilling confrontation with Gordon Jr. The ending has potential for many years worth of stories, and I’d love to see more of Gordon Jr., who in many ways fills the roll of a Joker type arch-nemesis for Dick Grayson. I loved the time that Dick Grayson spent as Batman and was sad to see him return to the Nightwing persona in the New 52, but this story was the perfect swan song for this era. I can’t talk about how much I liked this story without mentioning the art. Jock’s haunting shades of grey and Francavilla’s minimalist noir style were perfect for this storyline, and I would love to see them do some more work with Snyder in the future. It’s not often that a book has the trifecta of perfect art, plot, and characterization, but the last story of Detective Comics Vol. 1 has all three in spades.
Keep checking back for the top miniseries, writers, artists of 2011, as well as my most anticipated books of 2012!