2011 was an interesting year for comic books. DC Comics decided to reboot their entire line. Marvel seemed to be bogged down under the underwhelming "Fear Itself" mini-series and its effects. Image stood out with several strong mini-series and creator-owned works. I was opened up to two overseas publishers, Nobrow Press and Blank Slate Books.
The year in comics has been a satisfying one. I found myself constantly adding new series to my pull & hold, consistently reading positive reviews for recent graphic novels and various collections, or discovering older comics and trades through various means (usually too much web-surfing at work). However briefly, here are some of my favorite books from 2011:
Favorite Limited Series
The Rocketeer from IDW
This four issue, anthology style series captured the essence of Dave Steven's original Rocketeer work and featured contributions by John Cassaday, Mike Allred, Geof Darrow, and Mike Mignola, among others, with covers by Alex Ross. Each issue showcased several self-contained stories, pinups, and recreations of Steven's original work.
Favorite Original Graphic Novel
Paying for It from Drawn & Quarterly
Chester Brown's Paying for It is an honest look at Brown's awkward sex life, eventually leading to his use of companion services, his discovery of prostitutes as people, and his friends negative reactions to his new lifestyle. The book is challenging and thought provoking, leaving me wondering about my own position on the sex-for-money industry still.
Favorite "Old" Book
Far Arden from Top Shelf Productions
There are so many comics coming out each week, that it's easy to over look books which have been on the shelf for a while. As an avid comic reader, I'm always seeking out stories, creators, and comics, whether it's based on critical response, creator favorites, or a friend's recommendation. Another option is simply taking a chance. When Top Shelf Comix held a clearance sale last summer, I purchased several books I was interested in as well as a few books that just looked neat. Far Arden (2009) is one of the latter. Kevin Cannon's swashbuckling adventure book has a great cartoon style, intriguing characters, and a gut-wrenching conclusion. It was a fun, swift read and my only regret is that it took me so long to read it.
Favorite Single Issue (Indie Press)
The New Ghost from Nobrow Press
This short story follows a ghost come to terms with his newfound surroundings...as a ghost. The comic features great color and nice texture (I like it when a book feels different). The tale is austere and that makes it beautiful.
Favorite Single Issue (Mainstream)
Secret Avengers #16-21 from Marvel Comics
Technically not one single stand alone issue, but ever since Warren Ellis took over the Secret Avengers, it's been one of the best Marvel titles published in 2011. Elllis crafted sci-tech stories with a revolving stable of artists which perfectly encapsulated one-off missions for Steve Rogers' shadow operation.
Favorite Ongoing Series
Uncanny X-Force from Marvel Comics
Rick Remender made his mark on the Marvel Universe with his seven-part "The Dark Angel Saga" and the revelations the story arc brought forth. Wolverine and his clandestine group of mercenary mutants travel to the Age of Apocalypse in an attempt to stop the second coming of Apocalypse. This after Fantomex assassinated the would be boy clone of En Sabah Nur. Only then to discover that Fantomex generated a clone of Apocalypse in an attempt to break the murderous predisposition of the first mutant. This sounds confusing, but Remender has a knack for adding dense layers that all make sense. Add to this the beautiful art of Jerome Opena (who took over for the equally talented Esad Ribic), and Uncanny X-Force was the must read book of 2011.
Favorite Comic of the Year
Everything We Miss from Nobrow Press
Luke Pearson's three-color comic is only 38 pages, but it's a powerful, saddening look at the final days of a relationship, the mistakes couples make, and regret felt when romance ends. Pearson's story is one part Clowes, one part Hornschemeier - surreal yet heart wrenching just the same. His art is crisp and detailed; its realism is what really defines the comic as painstakingly lifelike.