Top Mini-Series of 2011

Hello all, I’m back again with my favorite mini-series of 2011.  I must stress that list is not indicative of the best of all mini-series of 2011, because frankly I didn’t read many outside of DC. This is just a short list of miniseries that I read and loved during 2011, so enjoy!

4. Xombi by John Rozum and Frazier Irving

While this book originally began as an ongoing series, it only lasted 6 issues so I’m calling it a miniseries. Xombi is the story of David Kim, a man who has been rendered immortal and indestructible by nanites in his blood. David is surrounded by a cast of characters including two super-powered, gun wielding nuns and a heroine named Catholic Girl, all of whom fight against the creature that go bump in the night. The story featured art by the incredible Frazier Irving, whose otherworldly style was pitch perfect for this book. Xombi was another casualty of the New 52 relaunch. I find it strange that they didn’t carry the book over to the New 52, much like they did with David Finch’s young and oft delayed Batman: The Dark Knight series. I’ve read that these six issues are to be collected in paperback form under the Vertigo banner. Perhaps, like the title character, the book will be revived. Whether as Vertigo book or as part of the new DCU, I hope to see some more Xombi with Frazier Irving in the future.

3. Flashpoint by Geoff Johns and Andy Kubert

Flashpoint was perhaps one of the most polarizing events DC has released in the past decade, due to it being the catalyst for the end of the post-Crisis DCU and the beginning of the New 52. Compared to other stories of its ilk, Flashpoint is pretty strange. Flashpoint isn’t isn’t as long as most DC event series, nor is it a broad and sweeping as stories such as Infinite Crisis or Final Crisis. It also features some truly bizarre pacing, with nearly the first half of the book taking place primarily in the Batcave/Wayne Manor. As far as building an alternate universe, Flashpoint introduces some really interesting characters and concepts but never really manages to expand them in a satisfying way, even with the help of 16 tie-in miniseries. As it stands, this was less an event comic as it is a big Flash comic, and if it had been billed as such I expect it would’ve been much better received. So you may ask, why is it among my favorite mini-series of 2011? The answer is, once I set aside the jaded cynicism that comes with time and desensitization to a medium, Flashpoint is truly a beautiful story. It’s definitely a dark story, a look at the world’s greatest heroes devoid of any silver age trappings. But in the end it’s a story about what happens when you go to far to protect the things you love, and about letting go of the past. Too many superhero comics today are rooted in the past, some are even completely defined by it. It’s appropriate that this would be the them of an event that ushers in a new universe. Much like Marvel loves to go back and revisit the Age of Apocalypse, I would love for DC to one day revisit the Flashpoint universe and expand on characters like the S!H!A!Z!A!M! kids, white lantern Abin Sur, Dick Grayson as Dr. Fate, the Outsider, and all the others who didn’t get the time they needed for their characters and stories to be fleshed out.

2. Joe the Barbarian by Grant Morrison and Sean Murphy

Just barely sneaking into 2011, Grant Morrison’s grossly delayed Vertigo limited series concluded earlier this year. The story deals with a young boy who, after going into hypoglycemic shock, is transported into another world populated by toy soldiers and ghastly dark knights. Unable to discern reality from hallucination, Joe attempts to make his way through this new world while also trying to make his way downstairs from his attic bedroom. Along the way Joe discovers he has a great role to play in this hallucinogenic world, and he must rise to the occasion if he his going to survive. The story features art from Sean Murphy, who was new to me when this series started but has since provided art for Scott Snyder’s American Vampire spin-off limited series that was also released this year. Murphy handles the psychedelic vistas like a master. It was especially fun to see him depict some of DC’s properties and other childhood heroes in living toy form. This story seemed a little slow when it was coming out in single issues but was a real delight when it is read as a whole. In early interviews Morrison claimed that Joe the Barbarian was Lord of the Rings meets Home Alone and I think that is the perfect description for this charming modern-day fairy tale.

1. Batman: Knight of Vengeance by Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Risso

If I’m going to be perfectly honest and forthcoming, I have to admit that most of Flashpoint’s 16 tie-in mini-series (17 if you count Booster Gold) sucked royally. The majority had nothing to do with the overarching storyline and even those that did added little in the way of necessary information. I can count on one hand the number of books that can stand on their own as decent stories. I can also count on one finger the number of books that transcended the event and became one of the best stories of the year. If you don’t know the major twist involving Batman in the Flashpoint universe then go read Flashpoint and come back, because we’re about to get into major spoiler territory.

Still Here? Ok, so as I was saying the Batman of Flashpoint is not Bruce Wayne, but rather his father Thomas. In the Flashpoint universe it is Bruce that is killed in crime alley rather than Thomas and Martha Wayne. Because of this, it is Thomas who takes on the Batman persona (which harkens to Grant Morrison’s theme that there must always be a Batman) and goes on his own crusade against crime. This Batman is much darker than our own, and is not afraid to cross lines when it comes to dealing with Gotham’s criminal element. The story is almost completely removed from the main Flashpoint story and deals with Batman attempting to save Harvey Dent’s children from the Joker. While the twist in Flashpoint proper was the identity of Batman, the twist of Knight of Vengeance is the identity of the Joker. In Flashpoint, the death of Bruce caused Martha Wayne to go made with grief and guilt, becoming the Joker. It’s such an obvious and wonderfully simple concept for an elseworlds Batman tale, and the ending is made even more tragic by tying into the ongoing events of Flashpoint. Eduardo Risso’s art is a perfect fit for a Batman story, especially one as dark as this. This is, in my opinion, the best Batman story of the year, distilled in three short issues. This is how comics are done.

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