List season in full force! I’m battling the kind of sick that generally keeps me in bed to bring you guys this, so I hope you like it! And don’t forget to check out my thoughts on Marvel in 2011.
10. Wonder Woman
Believe it or not, Wonder Woman is making one of my best of lists. It didn’t happen under Rucka, Simone, Heinberg, JMS, anybody really. I’ve just never been a Wonder Woman fan in all of my years of reading comics. So what changed this time? It wasn’t any overall affinity for Brian Azzarello whom I only really know for his ability to tell awesome crime stories (100 Bullets, Knight of Vengeance), and that I acknowledge told a bad Superman story (the one with Jim Lee). Nor was it Cliff Chiang who, while awesome, isn’t the kind of artist to draw me to a book. Really, it’s all because I get on board for every Wonder Woman relaunch in hopes that this time things will be different and I’ll want to stick around. Four issues isn’t a lot, I know, but I’m eagerly awaiting each issue and I label that as a success. I’m anticipating new issues of Wonder Woman, that has never happened.
9. Resurrection Man
Maybe I’m still living on the value of how much I loved the first go around of Res Man all of those years ago, and that it has been one of my favorite underrated/ignored books ever. At the same time, maybe it’s because its triumphant return to the DC Universe in the new 52 has matched my expectations. I don’t feel like I’ve missed a large gap of time with Mitch Shelley despite the twelve year hiatus since he was more than a cameo character. Dan and Andy are telling a unique and original story, weaving heaven and hell into the DcnU as competitors for the soul of a man who won’t stay dead. The return of the original supporting cast (well, the Body Doubles), and the never ending series of questions about his origins keeps up a similar tone from the first volume. Who is Mitch Shelley? Well, that’s the question this book is here to answer.
Last year I was busy hating on Geoff Johns run of Flash, which featured Francis Manapul and Scott Kolins on art duties. It was slow paced, badly characterized, and worse, it was just boring. Really, the book was a stinker and Johns just kept throwing in more and more nostalgic bits for fans of Barry Allen without doing anything to make new readers into fans of the character. And then something happened, the relaunch. Suddenly Manapul was the writer as well as the artist, along with Brian Buccellato, and Barry Allen became something I never expected possible. He became a fun and relevant character. Beyond that, the limitations that Johns structure sets on his artists became evident as Manapul has been turning in some of the most incredible work I’ve ever seen out of him. This became one of those cases of an artist writing being a pure gold mine, and while the series is still young it has easily pulled out ahead of the pack in terms of the best of the new 52 books. For the first time since Geoff Johns wrote Wally West I am highly anticipating the Flash on a monthly basis, and it’s pretty awesome.
7. Anything Batman related by Scott Snyder
Alright, this one is a cheat, but I can’t in my right mind decide between his Detective Comics and his Batman. He did an amazing job with Dick Grayson, and then followed it up with some great work on Bruce, and somewhere in the middle he redefined the origins of Gotham City. The scale of his stories is not unlike what James Robinson did with Starman a decade ago, and it has had the same effect. Gotham is developing a personality to go along with its history, and the stories of the founders of Gotham and their sins coming back to haunt the Bat family in the present. The return of Jim Gordon’s son was far and away one of the creepiest story arcs I’ve read in Batman in years. Dick Grayson, Bruce Wayne, it doesn’t matter who is in the lead, Snyder just gets what it means to write a Batman book.
6. Batman Incorporated
This book slipped a bit as I wrote up the list, from two to six. Now, this isn’t a knock on Grant Morrison or his awesomely epic Batman, but rather the lack of it. We saw six issues and the Leviathan Strikes one shot this year. Really, it was a fantastic book plagued by delays that seemed to sputter off into a non-ending with the DC relaunch because they couldn’t get it back on time. This, unfortunately, has been an issue since Grant’s first arc on Batman when Andy Kubert was causing the delays. It’s like his curse, he’s going to write some of the best Batman ever without fail, but the schedule, quite frankly, won’t exist. This is murder on being a monthly reader of a book, because really, I constantly find myself digging back for the previous issues because I can’t remember what was happening when we last left off. Very well written, amazingly high concept for Batman, and I love the entire Leviathan thing, I just hope when it returns in 2012 that it will be monthly.
5. Secret Six
Alas, poor Secret Six, how I miss you so. Gail Simone’s team of crude yet lovable mercenaries was one of my favorite books out of DC every month, and while Suicide Squad hasn’t been a horrible replacement…it’s not Secret Six. I miss Bane’s struggles with being better and Catman being a hero who would occasionally maim someone without regret. This book was fun, the right mix of insanity and action and humor. I’d actually argue it to be some of the best work Gail has ever done. None of the characters that have appeared since have quite the same flavor, and fan favorites like Catman and Scandal are nowhere to be found, but it doesn’t negate the strength of the book itself. It went out with one hell of a bang, and still stands as one of DC’s best books this past year.
4. Animal Man
Pardon my French, but holy fuck, this book is all kinds of seriously screwed up! Hippos giving birth to unholy beasts? Scenes straight out of Pet Cemetery? The entirety of issue number five (totally cheating as it was the first issue of 2012)? This book is all kinds of messed up awesome, one of the best horror comics I’ve read in….well, a while. Jeff Lemire found his niche after flailing about on Superboy, and Travel Foreman is turning in some of the most disturbing art I’ve seen in a mainstream book. This book is crazy and probably the biggest sleeper hit of the New 52. Maybe it’s premature to put it up this high, but I can’t stress how awesome it is enough.
3. Justice League: Generation Lost
What do you mean it wasn’t an ongoing? It shipped out more issues than a lot of other books on this list! Generation Lost was the highlight of Brightest Day, and a shining example of why the DC Universe needed a Justice League International. Judd Winick gave us a top notch bad guy in Maxwell Lord, really truly making him one of the most awesome bad guys I’d seen in years, and then matched him against a team of seemingly B and C listers. He elevated every single character in that book and did so with a thrilling story told bi-weekly. The pacing was perfect, the characters were great, and while the JLI we wound up getting may contradict the happenings of Generation Lost…that doesn’t make the book any less incredible. Also, honorable mention because of it, but Judd Winick also wrote Power Girl during the same time period and it was a somewhat loose tie in to JL:GL. Also worth the check out.
2. Green Lantern
Geoff Johns bring nothing if not consistency to the table with this book. This year brought us the return of Krona and the War of the Green Lanterns, as Johns brought a volume to a close in July only to restart it in September. It’s far and away one of DC’s best books, rarely having a bad issue, and always providing exactly the experience you would expect after the years Geoff has put in. The relaunch brought us a new status quo, and a new Green Lantern in Sinestro. It’s the kind of title that you know you can pick up every month without fear of a truly bad issue (it’s been years since I could call one bad), and it also featured the least amount of changes from the DC Relaunch. Really, you can buy the last issue of the previous volume, the first of the new one, and not feel like you’re even reading a different book.
1. Batgirl by Bryan Q. Miller
I miss this book more and more every month, especially since Leviathan Strikes brought us one more delayed story of Steph as Batgirl. Bryan Q. Miller injected more charm and substance into every issue of this book than some writers can manage in full story arcs. It was a real gem of a book, and something I happily anticipated every month. Really, it wasn’t just my favorite DC book, it was far and away my favorite comic book. It ended back in August to make way for the DC relaunch, and the return of Barbra Gordon as Batgirl but…that book just lacks the charm that Steph brought to the table. Batgirl was light hearted, it was fun. It had Steph teaming up with the Grey Ghost, and forcing Damian to spend time in a bouncy castle. It was perfect, and it’s horribly missed, and it was the best thing DC put out in 2011. Buy the trades, you won’t regret it.
Tags: andy lanning, Animal Man, Batgirl, Batman, Batman Incorporated, Brian Azzarello, Brian Buccellato, bryan q. miller, Cliff Chiang, dan abnett, DC Comics, DC Comics Relaunch, DnA, Doug Mahnke, Dustin Nguyen, Flash (Barry Allen), Francis Manapul, Gail simone, Geoff Johns, Grant Morrison, Green Lantern (Hal Jordan), Jeff Lemire, Judd Winick, Justice League: Generation Lost, Pere Perez, Resurrection Man, Secret Six, The Gold Standard, Wonder Woman