Since it is the very end of the year, I thought I would build a list of my favourite things in comics from the past year. It’s a rather novel idea really… no one else on the internets does year end lists. Coming up with this sweet idea will probably make me super famous!!
Matt Fraction: Amusingly, I am naming Fraction the best writer largely because of something he wrote years ago that I am now buying again for the second time. Though really, if making someone buy a book twice doesn’t qualify you for best writer, what does? The Icon Casanova re-releases are absolutely gorgeous with their newly coloured art, but the writing is just off the chain fantastic… it’s got spy antics and universe swapping and just all around insanity, and it’s the BEST time. Plus, his Thor is damn good too.
Pretty Great Too: Between the epicness of Blackest Night, the consistent enjoyability of Green Lantern, and the bizarrely underappreciated goodness of Superman: Secret Origin, Geoff Johns had a fine year as well.
Skottie Young: Not a lot of people read the Oz books he and Eric Shanower put out, but EVERYBODY should because the art will knock your socks off!! Skottie Young is a generally awesome artist, but there’s something about the fantastical nature of the Oz books that is an absolutely perfect match for his style. It allows him to draw characters that are cartoony and emotive, while setting them in crazy landscapes that are spectacularly drawn. Jean-Francois Beaulieu also deserves a shout-out for his amazing colouring of Young’s art, which helps make it look even better!!
Also Excellent: The artist whose work currently defines the DC universe for me is Ivan Reis… he’s drawn pretty much every DC character in the past year, and they’ve all looked exactly right, and that’s extremely hard to pull off!!
BEST NEW SERIES
SHIELD: Jonathan Hickman comes up with the coolest stuff. Here he takes the already fun idea of S.H.I.E.L.D., the global spy agency, and turns into a historical organization started by Imhotep thousands of years ago that posts members like Galileo and Leonardo da Vinci. The main part of the story concerns a new Shield agent in the 1950s, but there’s all sorts of flashbacks to various crazy events in the past. The refrain of “This is not how the world ends” every time humanity faces a terrible threat is both bad ass and fascinating in its implications. Only Hickman could write a book like this, and Dustin Weaver’s art fits it well.
I Enjoyed This As Well: The comic that gives you the most bang for your buck right now is Jonathan Ross and Tommy Lee Edwards’ Turf. It’s got gangsters, vampires, AND aliens, and is just a jam-packed book.
The Marvelous Land of Oz and Ozma of Oz: Technically, these are two mini-series, but they keeping coming out at such a regular rate that they may as well be a proper series. I have already praised Skottie Young’s art skills, so now I’ll talk about Eric Shanower and his excellent writing. Adapting books into comic form is a tricky task, and it’s rarely done well, but Shanower breaks each of L. Frank Baum’s novels into eight perfectly logical issues and then makes each issue a snappy, enjoyable read. I’m not terribly familiar with Baum’s books, but the comic reads so well and captures a ridiculously fun spirit of fantasy and adventure. It is, by far, my favourite series this year.
But These Were Good Too: There are a lot of other great series, but Thor, Casanova, and Green Lantern are probably my top three picks after the Oz books.
BEST LIMITED SERIES/GRAPHIC NOVEL
Scott Pilgrims’ Finest Hour: There are few things I love more in the world than Scott Pilgrim and the world Bryan Lee O’Malley has built around him, and the final book in the series was a perfect close to the story. O’Malley gets better and better with each book, both in terms of writing and art, and the final battle with Gideon is HUGE and full of crazy twists and turns. I am sad that the series is over, but I loved the way it ended.
I Would Also Recommend: Gabriel Ba and Fabio Moon’s Daytripper was not only gorgeous, as everyone thought it would be, but it was also a very well-written and moving depiction of the life (lives, really) of a Brazilian writer. It was a real pleasure to read each month.
BEST SINGLE ISSUE
Ex Machina #50: Good lord, it was depressing. But it was SO good… and really, when you think about it, how else could Mitchell Hundred’s story have ended other than in flat out, spectacular terribleness? We knew it was coming from the first page of the first issue!! Tony Harris’ art was great, as always, and Brian K. Vaughan really hit it out of the park… it was not as satisfying an ending as Y: The Last Man, but it was never meant to be. It was meant to be a big punch in the gut, and this close to the tale of a superhero turned politician most definitely was.
These Were Almost As Good: Nope. Nothing was almost as good. This was the best single issue of the year by leaps and bounds, and if Vaughan doesn’t start writing more comics soon, I am going to be very sad.
MOST ANTICIPATED BOOK OF 2011
Batwoman: I LOVE J.H. Williams III and I LOVE Amy Reeder, so even though I have NO idea who the guy co-writing the book is or whether Williams can actually write, I know it’s going to be unbelievably fun to look at. The preview issue was killer, and I am really curious to see where they take Batwoman and how they carve out a place for her in the Bat-universe.
I Am Also Jazzed About This: Matt Fraction is teaming up with Stuart Immonen for the new, big Marvel event Fear Itself, which sounds like it’s going to be all sorts of fun. A bad guy who only gets stronger the more scared you are of him has serious potential.
And a few other mediums for you…
Scott Pilgrim vs. The World: To be honest, I am very poor and haven’t seen many new movies at all this year. But I did see Scott Pilgrim AND it was absolutely fantastic!! It perfectly captured the tone of the books, and flew through the high points of well over a thousand pages of comics with relative ease. Plus it was hilarious, the fights were damn impressive, and the cast was perfect for the characters. I grinned through the entire movie.
Best Movie I Saw That Wasn’t Released This Year: It’s an old one, but I loved The Shop Around the Corner with Jimmy Stewart and Margaret Sullavan. It was cute and funny and just delightful.
BEST TELEVISION SHOW
Terriers: None of you watched this, and I am still pretty upset about that. Two private investigators in Ocean Beach, California, does not sound like a particularly unique concept for a television show, but it was astoundingly well-written, the characters were lovable albeit impressively damaged people, and the cases they got wrapped up in ranged from amusing to dangerous to heart-breaking. It was the best show of the year, and NOBODY watched it, and that is super uncool.
At Least These Shows Weren’t Cancelled: I love that Mad Men decided to be hilarious this year, and it had its best season yet (which is saying a lot), while Community just decided to continue being hilarious and fantastic.
Heaven: Our Enduring Fascination with the Afterlife by Lisa Miller: I’m not picking this book just because the author has the same name as a Newsradio character, though that is super fun. Miller presents a fascinating look at how heaven has been imagined over the course of human history, in terms of Christianity and other religions as well. What emerges is the fact that heaven is a constantly changing idea, shifting all the time based on the values and desires of each particular society and era. It was a crazy interesting book.
It Came Out A Few Years Ago, But I Loved It: This summer I read Anathem by Neal Stephenson, and it was SO much fun!! It took me ages to wrap my head around a society where scientists are cloistered like monks, but once it all came together it was mind-boggling good times.