2011 turned out to be a pretty good year for comics. This list takes a look at the best ongoing titles of the year (that means no mini-series or series released only as a graphic novel). To make the list each title had have at least four issues before the close of 2011. DC Comics leads my list with five titles (however, only one is still in print), Marvel comes in second with two of the best titles of the year, and then we throw in a rabbit ronin, a crime-fighting mallard, and a foursome of fearsome turtle power.
Before we get to list a few honorable mentions including the hugely entertaining Super Dinosaur and the supsenful Morning Glories (both from Image Comics), IDW’s Snake Eyes, and Marvel’s New Avengers (which got a little lost for me in Fear Itself tie-ins and hasn’t been consistently good as the previous volume of the series). Now that is out of the way, on with the list:
Turtle power is back in IDW’s reimaging of the original comic series from Tom Waltz, Dan Duncan and co-creator Kevin Eastman. The first arc retold the turtles origin as Donatello, Leonardo, and Michelangelo, searched for thier missing brother. The fourth issue, ending the series first arc, saw the turtles finally reunited. I’m hoping for big things from the TMNT in 2012.
Power Girl has always been a character that never seems to fit well in the DCU. She’s had more confusing reboots and origins than almost any DC character other than Hawkman, but, thanks in large part to writer Judd Winnick (and later Matthew Sturges), over the character’s final issues she was one of the best heroines in comics. Her 2011 adventures included fighting magical dinosaurs beside Superman, attending Comic-Con, and working with Batman to stop an Arab super-villain who turned out to be anything but evil. Despite her much maligned ever-prevalent boob-window, Power Girl proved to be a solid role model for young female readers month after month. Sadly the character has been demoted as a bit player in the New 52, but for 2011 she owned the phrase girl power.
This year writer and artist Stan Sakai penned his 200th issue of a self-titled Usagi Yojimbo title. And you know what? The rabbit ronin’s travels continue to be as entertaining today as they were 27 years ago when Usagi made his first appearance in comics. In a period when comics seem to be shifting further away from all-ages titles Usagi Yojimbo remains the gold standard.
Dick Grayson‘s run as Batman was pretty darn good in 2011, but not nearly as good as that of Red Robin. Poor Tim Drake. He went from starring in one of the best Bat-books of 2011 into being re-imagined as The Falcon of the New 52. Before it ended, writer Fabian Nicieza and artist Marcus To put out one of best titles of DC Comics every single month. He even fought Catman! Whether it was searching for Bruce Wayne, working on his hit list, trying not to throttle Damian, or preparing to take down the super-villain who murdered his father, Tim Drake took a dark path this year coming as close as we’ve seen a character get to a becoming a young Batman.
Daredevil had a rough 2010. Matt Murdock’s Rambo-esque cross country trek from the beginning of the year did little to wash away the bad taste left by Shadowland (which is best forgotten). For a character that had been possessed by a demon, turned into a murderer, stripped of his costume, and thrown out of New York, there was quite a bit to do to get Matt Murdock back on his feet. Enter Mark Waid, who not only has made Daredevil relevant again to the Marvel Universe (both battling criminals and in the courtroom), but also has made the character fun month after month. And those terrific covers by Marcos Martin don’t hurt either.
The only comic from DC’s New 52 to make the cut is one of their oldest heroes given a new lease on life. Barry Allen sacrificed himself to save the Multiverse back in 1985 during Crisis on Infinite Earths. And he stayed away for good long while until his eventual return in Final Crisis in 2008. Despite an unfortunate decision to reboot a large part of the character’s history (including his relationship with Iris), Francis Manapul has done a terrific job in double duty as both writer and artist for the most fun, and best looking, title of the New 52.
I can’t describe how much I miss this comic. The adventures of a gang of misfits born out of Villains United came to an end this year (and I’m still angry). Although Deadshot made it into the New 52 (in the excrutiatingly horrible new Suicide Squad) Catman and the rest have been left to languish in limbo. Writer Gail Simone deserves all the praise I can give her for turning a comic full of C-list characters into one of the best comics I’ve ever read. At least they went out with a bang. Here’s hoping we won’t have to wait until DC’s next reboot before the Six return to the comic shelves.
Who would have thought the best comic from Marvel would be centered around Moon Knight? Brian Michael Bendis and Alex Maleev have delivered an insanely fun comic featuring an insane super-hero (and he’s not even named Deadpool). Everything choice works including the love interest of Echo and the character’s multiple personalities taking the form of Moon Knight’s Avenger teammates. Moon Knight may only rank #3 on the list, but it’s the best monthly comic still in print and I can’t recommend it highly enough.
Honestly, I had never heard of Boom Studios before I learned that Darkwing Duck was set to appear in a new comic. I’ve always had a fondness for the cartoon which centered around a hero whose ability and good intentions were constantly overshadowed by his ego. Month after month writer Ian Brill and artist James Silvani provided the most fun comic around. Whether it was their battle against Suff-Rage, the Phantom Blot, The League of Barely Remembered Supervillains, a giant robotic Walrus, or the sheer awesome of Cat-Tankerous, Darkwing and his trusty sidekick Launchpad always found an entertaing way to save the day.
No, not the current one. No, not the one with Cassandra Cain. For me, the discussion of Batgirl from here on out begins with only one character. Much like Gail Simone did with Catman, writer Bryan Q. Miller picked up a character from the Batman scrapheap and breathed new life into her. Stephanie Brown was given the mantle of Batgirl in 2009. And, man, did she shine. Batgirl was everything you wanted a comic to be, and more. In much the same way Veronica Mars was pitch-perfect updating of Nancy Drew, Stephanie Brown was the 21st Century embodiment of a young Barbara Gordon (which makes Babs return to a character she outgrew decades ago so perplexing). Steph was smart, tough, vibrant, silly, and true. And the DCU is a little darker place without her around. All of Miller’s run on the title is collected in trade paperbacks and I’d recommend to anyone, especially those with youngsters looking for a way into comics, to grab every single one. I still miss you Steph, but damn did you give us some great memories.