It’s that time of year again. Sleigh bells ring in the air, festive cheer is all around, the staff of ComicBuzz compile a “best of” celebration of the truly exceptional comics being published out there. We’ve asked our panel of pundits to not only name the best on-going series and the miniseries from the past year, but also to recommend some personal choices, on-goings and series that you may not had a chance to check out, but are well worth your time. We see a lot of comics passing across our collective desks, week in and week out, so we thought we’d help separate the wheat from the chaff.
Live from the top secret ComicBuzz HQ, it’s…. the ComicBuzz Best of 2011 Spectacular!
Best On-Going Series: Ultimate Spider-Man/Ultimate Comics: Spider-Man
Picking the best on-going title was a tough decision, but we ultimately settled on Brian Michael Bendis’ long-running thrice-relaunched alternate-universe Spider-Man epic. Here are just some of the reasons to check it out:
Killing Peter Parker, even his Ultimate Universe version, was a pretty big deal, as was the introduction of an all new Spider-Man in Miles Morales. So far, Bendis and Pichelli have done a great job with this new young hero. It’s only four issues in but it is certainly one of my favourite titles at the moment. Miles and his supporting cast have so much heart, the dialogue is superb and the artwork is full of energy and character. It’s a testament to all involved that I can already see myself enjoying the adventures of Miles as much as I did Peter. - Niall
Now a few issues in to the story of the controversial all-new Ultimate Spider-Man Miles Morales, the dust has settled on the death of Peter Parker and what are we left with? A completely original and compelling new slant on Spidey and his place in the greater Ultimate Marvel Universe. Already boasting a strong supporting cast and with strong – yet not constricting – ties to his predecessor, Miles is turning out to be a fascinating and worthy successor. Sara Pichelli’s beautiful artwork does it no harm either. - Kev
Best Miniseries/Event: Schism
This was a less controversial decision, with a clear majority favouring Jason Aaron’s repurposing of Marvel’s Merry Mutants. Serving as a launch pad for a new wave of X-Men titles with strong creative teams, it’s easy to overlook how enjoyable the miniseries was on its own terms. Here is just a snapshot of the opinions of the ComicBuzz editorial team:
The X-Men hold a soft spot in my heart. Jason Aaron holds a soft spot in a different part of my heart. This past summer those two soft spots overlapped and gave me tingles through my entire body. Jason Aaron weaved a story that divided mutantkind. It completely changed the landscape of the X-Men by driving apart Cyclops and Wolverine. Marvel have used various writers to push Cyclops into a very dark place. While Wolverine has questioned his actions, he has always stood behind him. Schism was the line in the sand that showed what was too far even for a killing machine like Wolverine. It was an excellent story that raised a lot of moral questions. The series also introduced some of the coolest villains we’ve seen in quite some time.
Marvel has put out quite a few mini-series this year but what truly separated this from all the rest was the rotating art team. Carlos Pacheco, Frank Cho, Daniel Acuna, Alan Davis, Adam Kuburt. These gentlemen delivered on every level. They are all very different artist tasked with telling different chapters of a cohesive story. In most cases this doesn’t work. This was the 1-in-100 time when it does work. It enhanced the story as the story moved on. The color tones stayed relatively the same and the environmental design stayed consistent. This series was hands down one of Marvel’s shining gems from the past year. Thanks to this mini-series, the X-Men franchise has a shot of adrenaline to the status quo to carry it forward. - Adam
I almost passed over this series! A mistake that could’ve been dire! This was possibly Marvel’s greatest event this year (a year which also included Fear Itself and Spider Island), the end result was known from the offset but it was the getting there that was the best part. Jason Aaron writing with 5 of the top artists in Marvel’s roster to tell the story that would divide the X-Men and start set-up for what looks set to be the next year of big stories in Marvel (with the recently announced Avengers vs X-Men series).
Jason Aaron used what was set-up before cleverly in this series, the focus being primarily on Wolverine, and Cyclops- the 2 most admired and well known characters that everybody knows. Keeping in mind the long history these 2 characters have he played the eventual ‘schism’ out cleverly- showing them at the beginning as closer than ever and gradually dividing them as their ideologies play off each other. This series is big action, fast paced and the eventual fight everyone wanted to see is brutal but at the same time it allows you into the minds of the characters and to understand their points. A great mini-series that will no doubt be important in the coming year and maybe even year to come. - Colm
ComicBuzz 2011 Recommendations
Of course, there are more great comics out there. We asked our editorial staff to come back with some recommendations of books that are well worth your time and might possibly have slipped under your collective radar.
I knew nothing about 27 when I first started reading it. Well I knew it had something to do with the faction of rock stars who died at that age and that’s what peaked my interest. 27 tells the story of front man and guitarist Will Garland. Due to a crippling illness in his hand he can no longer play guitar. Angry and bitter his journey for recovery eventually leads him to the door of “mad scientist” Hargrave Swinthe who promises to restore him to what we once was. The result of this is a button grafted to Garland chest. When the button is pressed Garland is overcome by a burst of super creativity, manifesting in different ways. The catch is that the button can be only pressed twenty-seven times and then he’ll die. 27 was a series that left me with enough questions to keep me hooked right up until the end and while I may not have found all of the answers to my liking I had a great time getting there. - Phil R.
David Hahn’s long in the works mini series that was supposed to see print under DC imprint Minx has just wrapped up its five issue run from Image Comics who picked up the publishing for Hahn. Hahn produced a gripping story exploring the difficulties experienced while being a teen in today’s world. But the book is so much more than a soap opera, it mixes in an enthralling mystery surrounding one of its characters and explores with respect some of today’s most prevalent social ills. Coupled with some excellent black and white art this book is one of the most underrated books of 2011 from any company. - Dave
Angel & Faith
Completely redefining a character with such a rich backstory as soulful vampire champion Angel can never be easy yet Christos Gage has made it look so with Angel & Faith. Shorn of his TV supporting cast, paired up with reformed former rogue slayer Faith and transplanted to London, Angel has a new outlook and a new mission in the wake of the events of Buffy Season Eight. Yet the series positively thrums with the energy of the Buffyverse, never losing that unique Whedonesque feel. A perfect compliment to the also-excellent Buffy Season Nine, stronger writing and a greater focus places it just ahead of it’s sister title in terms of quality. - Kev
One of the most solidly entertaining reads on the stands today, Blue Estate is complex, constantly surprising and indisputably worthy of your attention. Vividly evoking all the dirt and glamour of the scummier side of Hollywood in both art and writing, this twisting and twisted saga of betrayal, murder and lies is exactly the comic Elmore Leonard would write if Elmore Leonard wrote comics. Recommended in the strongest possible terms. - Kev
Five years ago Garth Ennis promised us that he would out-preacher Preacher with his new series The Boys. While I wouldn’t go as far as saying that, The Boys hit the incredibly high bar that Preacher did it is still one of the most engaging, funny, touching and violent comics on the shelf. It is no secret that Garth Ennis isn’t a fan of superheroes. He spent most of his run on Hitman (another amazing series) making fun of the DC Universes heaviest hitters. The Boys is his most defined opinion on superheroes. Over the last five years we’ve seen parodies of Batman, The JLA, Superman, Captain America, The X-Men and many more. The series takes place in a world where major corporations have developed superhumans into franchises, making billions of dollars on the image of their heroic deeds.Though the truth is that the majority of them are degenerate selfish scum who care for little more then have a good time and doing what they want.
Keeping them in check is the government sanctioned “The Boys” run by tough cockney Billy Butcher. The story is mostly shown through the eyes of new comer Wee Hughie as we discover the secret conspiracies along with him. The Boys is a comic that takes things to the extreme in terms of gore and sexuality and mightn’t be for everyone, but under all that you’ll find a book that knows how emotions work and can really surprise you. This is the superhero book for people who don’t like superheroes. - Phil R.
One of the great surprises of the year, Joe Hill and Jason Ciaramella’s adaptation/continuation of Hill’s short story is shocking, darkly hilarious and utterly unpredictable, very often all at exactly the same time. With suitably grimy and expressive art by Zach Howard and Nelson Daniel, this tale of superpowers and petty revenge is an absolute must-read. With only one issue left to go I’m delighted to say I have absolutely no idea what’s going to happen and i can’t wait to find out. - Kev
In Fly, Raven Gregory takes the very serious topic of drug addiction and explores it expertly in a superhero setting. Without doubt this is the best mini-series I read all year, the amount of emotion is incredible and the final issue brought me as close to tears as I have ever been when reading a comic. - Niall
Certainly the most consistently entertaining, enthralling and creepy series I have read all year. In Green Wake writer Kurtis Wiebe and artist Riley Rossmo have created a strange world full of mystery and symbolism. Image has had a great year, with Severed, Butcher Baker and Blue Estate all standing out, but I think Green Wake is the best of the bunch. - Niall
With only one issue of the mini-series shipped so far and the second issue due on 28th December, it might seem a little strange that it made our best of 2011 list. However Menton3 and Kasra have delivered a very scary story with no zombies or vampires, it’s a scfi/horror set in a very bleak future. Menton3’s beautiful art is a perfect fit for the suitably scary story, the best horror comic I have read all year. It’s a must read for all horror fans. - Shabbir
Six teenagers are invited to a prestigious prep school, but soon discover that the staff of Morning Glories Academy have sinister motives and big plans for it’s students. From interesting characters, genuine shocks, an engrossing story and superb art, Morning Glories has rightfully earned it’s reputation as one of the best comics of recent memory. From the opening issues that have you on the edge of your seat, to the origins of the main cast that make them more mysterious and complex, to the dangers that they face in current issues, Morning Glories is a must read. - Phil O.
Although still in its infancy at Image Comics, Pigs has absolutely blown the socks off me since it dropped. Telling the tale of a sleeper cell of Soviet operatives living in Cuba since they were children and trained by their hardline parents to be prepared for an inevitable attack on the political interests of the United States and the consequences of their actions when they are activated, this book is one of Image Comics premiere books right now. Nate Cosby and Ben McCool’s excellent story is complimented by Breno Tamura’s superb pencils and the book boasts some of comics A-list artists on cover duties. - Dave
Terry Moore is a master storyteller. His long tenure with Strangers in Paradise, and his recently wrapped up series Echo proves this. The fact that he has brought his high pedigree of storytelling to a new series is no surprise. Rachel Rising is the best independent series this year for the very fact that each issue keeps you guessing. For each thing established, Moore raises more questions about his main characters. The horror elements, to questions of how everything is interconnected, it all keeps me coming back for more. A lot of what I pick up on my pull list comes out of habit. I like the characters and hope the story will be good, although mostly predictable.
With each issue of Rachel Rising, I’m excited. This is the only series out anything I currently get that genuinely does the job of a monthly comic. It’s worth every penny simply for the story. Moore’s artwork is astounding. It’s rarer and rarer that artists can crank out monthly books, and Moore’s timeliness should be rewarded. Every month I gawk at the detail in his scenery or the curves in his women. This book is the total package. While some say this might be the best independent series of the year, I simply say it’s the best ongoing series of the year. - Adam
The Rocketeer Adventures
I gushed about the Hardcover original collection of this character by Dave Stephens in the Comicbuzz gift guide but these are different and absolutely fantastic! Anthology and short story issues are always hard to do, especially with a character that isn’t really well known. Before I picked up this series I’d never heard of The Rocketeer but now I have and I’m in love!
Dave Stephens idea was to take a fun concept and keep it exactly that -Fun! And the 20 creators who provide story for this series keep in that spirit and tell stories that are throwbacks to the pulp stories of old like Dave Stephens original character was! You’ll read these stories again and again with creators like Mike Allred, Mark Waid, Kurt Busiek, Ryan Sook, Darwyn Cooke and Jonathan Ross to name but a few. Each story is a throwback and homage to pulp style adventures from the 30′s and even the use of old style vernacular keeps it fun for the reader on top of having sone top quality artists deliver some of their best work (including an amazing return to interiors by Tony Harris). Buy the trade if you didn’t get the 4 comics and just bask in the fun and adventure of these short tales. - Colm
Skullkickers has been part of my reading schedule for almost 2 years and for me the “Honeymoon period” is still going strong. Whenever the editor of Comicbuzz sends over the latest issue, I always feel a little happier. The comic is essentially a fantasy tale mixed with an exceptionally violent sense of fun. Drawing on the tales of Fritz Leiber’s “Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser” and with a comedic sensibility like Eric Powell’s “The Goon”. The team behind this series (Jim Zubkavich, Edwin Huang, Misty Coats et al) believe in what they do and are having fun while doing it. Skullkickers started off strong, is still going strong and I’ll be there reading it as long as they’ll have me. - James
I did a full review on the first 4 issues of this series where I gushed like a fanboy…and this isn’t going to be that much different.
I was never much of a modern horror fan, thinking that it relies too much on gore – Snyder and Tuft seem to come from a same mind-set and set out to tell this story as a slow paced psychological and scary thriller before getting to the gore rather than filling page upon page with blood baths and disembodied organs. This is fantastic, because of that and they struck gold with Attila Futaki on art as he knows how to build atmosphere and mood, ranging from the stark lighting used in a scene to the minute detail in the facial expressions of the characters as they interact. This series is how a good horror series SHOULD BE and as it finishes it up, I would recommend buying the trade for anyone who wants to be reminded how to be scared properly and enjoy a great adventure at the same time. To repeat what I said in a past review: It. Is. Magnificent! - Colm
It’s rare that a book can give me goosebumps from how creepy it is. Scott Snyder, Scott Tuft, and Attila Futaki have managed to do this with each issue of Severed. Severed centers around a cannibal who goes around stealing identities of the people he eats, and then eating other people as those people. This is all set in the early 1900′s and our main character is young traveling musician trying to find who he is. The book as a whole strings the plot to where we know the two will eventually meet up. The tension as to how we get there, as well as the horrific things the cannibal does along the way keep this readers attention span peaked.
Attilla Futaki has a painted style of art that looks like each page takes forever to produce, but so far the book has been on time with every single issue. Futaki doesn’t skimp around either. We see lush scenery, detailed figures, and colors that burst off the page. This book is easily the best horror movie never made. The structure and art come together for a very cerebral, old school cinematic feel. It’s a unique package that no other mini-series on the market has. I’m sure that Severed will be highly lauded this year and quickly go on to be a classic tale in the horror comics medium. - Adam