Wednesday, January 4, 2012
Top 5 Comics: Best of 2011 Part 1 - The Comics
BEST MOMENT OF THE YEAR:
When talking about a Best Moment, it's a very hard thing to quantify as to what makes a moment great. Surprise has a lot to do with it. The building of tension and the snap of release is something else that comes in to play. The relationship, however broken and one-sided it occasionally was, between Psylocke and Fantomex ultimately led to some great moments, ones that smacked with great emotion. Mike Mignola literally tore a favorite character's heart out of his chest and put it on display, a moment that no doubt shocked and surprised. Mark Waid had our Man Without Fear truly show how fearless he was by kissing the bride to be at a Mob wedding that he crashed. Grant Morrison gave us the Bruce Springsteen Superman, the type of guy that isn't afraid to lay the smack down or issue an ultimatum or two while at the same time being the hero you can root for.
Talk about tension. This scene from Scott Snyder's run on Detective Comics, featured in the story Black Mirror, is one of the creepiest, downright frightening moments. The dialogue between estranged Father and Son is muted and you can feel Gordon's mind scraping the bottom of the barrel as he tries to decided whether or not his Son really is the psychotic that he seems to be. Francesco Francavilla's sublime artistic talents are put to great effect and the use of color and light and shadow gives it almost a Hitchcockian type vibe. It's a scene that will always send goosebumps down my spine.
BEST COLLECTED EDITION
There can be no doubt, this has been a great year for Graphic Novel collectors. Not only did we see collections of fabulous stories such as Scott Snyder's Black Mirror (one of the best Batman stories to come about in some time) and IDW's Dungeons & Dragons title (printed in the same format as the actual D&D game books), but we also got reprints and Deluxe editions as well. Suicide Squad, a book that needs to be in print, saw its first (and probably only, sadly) collection and Grant Morrison's WE3 was beautifully bound in a gleaming package with new material and process work that allowed you to go deeper down the rabbit hole with its creators.
Hands down one of the most gorgeous books on my bookshelf, The Martini Edition of the Parker Novels is a testament to beauty and the Noir genre. Darwyn Cooke's art is sensational, especially at a size that dwarfs even the DC Absolute Series, and the number of additional materials, the process and the extra artwork that was done, makes the package that much sweeter. IDW continues to prove to be one of the best companies in the business of putting together snazzy collections. I can't wait to see what comes next.
BEST SINGLE ISSUE:
Best Single Issue is a category that has a few sets of criteria. One, it could simply be a done in one comic that jabs at the audience with a fast paced, yet memorable, caper. Two, it can just be an issue of an ongoing story that does its job perfectly in every regard. With Fantastic Four #600, Jonathan Hickman brought back the Human Torch in a way that didn't feel cheap while at the same time giving us a continuation of the web of affairs that he had been brewing the entire time he's been on the book. With Daredevil #1 and Ruse #1, Mark Waid reintroduced us to old friends and easily relayed just how fun and awesome and clever that these characters and titles can be. And then there was Batgirl #22, a fun story that saw Stephanie Brown and Squire team up to battle and have fun in the streets of London. It's great sense of Comic Book FUN was palpable on the page and it left you smiling like few other comics.
Grant Morrison's "Finale" to his phenomenal Batman Inc. storyline, however, takes the cake here. Imbued with ingenuity, humor, guile, subtlety, suspicion, intrigue, action, and story cue after story cue that reminds you what it's like to be a fan of comics, this issue battled with the best of them and came out on top. From Morrison's rendition of Stephanie Brown (which felt exactly like the persona Bryan Q. Miller gave her) to the wonders of a School for Gifted Evil Doers in England to the bowels of Leviathan's Base of Craziness to that final page that sends a tingle down your spine and your brain mouthing, "Holy Shit, Batman...Why didn't I see that coming?"
BEST NEW SERIES
This was an exceptionally difficult category. With all of the DC new number ones, the sheer number of books to choose from were insane. But still, there were a few from the other companies that couldn't be ignored either. From Skybound, Witch Doctor came out of nowhere to fill a void that I didn't even knew existed. Part Dr. House and part The Exorcist, Witch Doctor finds that niche spot of humor and cleverness that packs a wallop of a punch. The same can be said for Image's The Strange Talent of Luther Strode. It's Kick Ass with a brain, a book that's smart and unique and pops. DC did outdo themselves though with the eerie and creepy and skin crawling book with a heart, Animal Man, and Grant Morrison's ever moving, always entertaining recreation of the Man of Steel in Action Comics.
Few books start strong and continue to keep up the pace, if not exceed that pace and rush headlong into the lands of awesome, like Mark Waid's Daredevil. It's fast, furious, funny, and puts the A back in Adventure. People can say that this isn't a new number one, but that little number one on the cover and the new, more swashbuckly and exciting, direction that Waid has taken the character says otherwise. That and the fact that Waid has teamed up with some of the best artists in the business, Paolo Rivera and Marcos Martin, who's clean lined playgrounds of imagination make this a book that you can not miss.
BEST CONTINUING SERIES:
This is a category that always takes awhile to compile. There are many books that I regularly look forward to and find that each issue fills that specific criteria of being both excellently written and highly entertaining. Rick Remender's Uncanny X-Force is perhaps the best X-Book on the market, a mixture of insanity and classic X-Men-isms that continually finds a way to surprise you. Cullen Bunn and Brian Hurtt's The Sixth Gun is another contender in that regard. A Supernatural Western who's story continues to evolve and become something greater and greater with every issue that hits the stands, it is a book to be reckoned with. J.H. Williams' Batwoman and Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez's Locke & Key are a few others. These are books that entice with horror and beauty. Batwoman smashes the boundaries of elegant art while Locke & Key wrenches your heart out and sends goosebumps down your spine.
Vampires, Vampires...They're everywhere nowadays, but none of them but the ones found in American Vampire are written by Scott Snyder. To say that he's talented is a huge understatement. Time and time again, whether it's having to do with World War II or Hollywood in the 1920's to a romance between a regular joe and a killer beast, he makes it work. He hooks you in with great characters like Skinner Sweet and Pearl Jones and then let's the chips fall where they may as a new world is created. With a collaborator in the forms of Rafael Albuquerque and Sean Murphy, American Vampire continues to blaze a trail of death and destruction and delight every single month.