Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Best of 2011 (Matthew’s Picks)

It’s funny. Lee told all of us that it was time for our annual Best of Lists, but searching the blog archives, I didn’t see that we’ve ever each done one before, other than Jim of course. And although Thomm has already queued up his list (to be posted Saturday), I’m not going to peak at it ahead of time to see how he set up his categories. So, it’s likely going to be a free-for-all this week, with Top 10 lists, Oscar nominees, etc. Anyway, here’s my picks for 2011 (format subject to change in ensuing years).

Speaking of the Oscars, I’ve found myself succumbing to a similar syndrome where I can hardly think of what was happening at the beginning of last year with only the most recent comics fresh in my mind. (This is why most top movies are released during the last two weeks of the year and why Woody Allen would deliberately release his movies in January.) It did help that I recently bagged and boarded the last seven months or so a few weeks back, so everything I’ve purchased is still on the downstairs table ready to be boxed up. (And I really hoped to get that cleaned off this past week – Oh well.) It was a great year of comics for me (and a record year of spending thanks to the DCnU) with only a handful of disappointments (not to be mentioned here – I hope).

Best Publisher

This might be a strange way to start, but I think it’ll help me sort out my thoughts for the rest of the categories. I’ve always been a solid Marvel and DC comics reader with a few scattered independents, but this year the independent companies made up a solid third (if not more) of my reading. That’s unprecedented for me and an indication that early in the year the Big Two weren’t doing too well with me. So, I looked elsewhere for entertainment and the material was so good that I stayed with it even after Marvel and DC started catching my interest again.

Oh Man, it’s so hard to pick, but I’m going to go with IDW. They have the best quality trades in the business, they do an awesome job with their HCs too (I sure would like to get one of those Artist Editions), and their monthly titles, both licensed and non-licensed have been consistently top notch. While I don’t read it, I know GI Joe: Cobra has been getting rave reviews, but what I’ve enjoyed the most from them are the Godzilla titles, and John Byrne’s books: Next Men and Cold War. I’d add Love and Capes to the list too, but I was waiting for that to come out in trade, but now that it has I can’t seem to find a copy anywhere other than from IDW directly.

I have to give a nod to Dynamite too. Other than being disappointed with them for turning Warlord of Mars into a mature title and taking the great Kirby Genesis concept and overdoing it with multiple tie-in books, I’m actually getting several Dynamite comics now.

Best Cover Artist

Speaking of Dynamite, I think they have the best covers of any publisher from Joe Jusko’s Warlord of Mars to Francesco Francavilla’s Dark Shadows. But, I’m going with Alex Ross as the best cover artist for his work on Bionic Man.

Best Limited Series

By limited series, I mean anything intentionally designed to be 12 issues or less. This means Thor: Mighty Avenger is excluded, since its magnificent run was cut short early last year. While I loved the first issue of Cloak and Dagger, and the Red Skull: Incarnate series was certainly worthy, I’m going to go with Godzilla: Gangsters and Goliaths. This was my first exposure to John Layman’s concise, humorous, and straightforward storytelling. The small-scale conflict between an honest policeman and a gangster with far-reaching connections had gargantuan side effects for all of Tokyo. A satisfying read from beginning to end.

Best Artist

There are so many artists I like for a variety of reasons; it’s almost unfair to just pick one. However, also just like the Oscars, if a deserving film (or in this case a comic) can’t make one category, it usually ends up getting recognized in another. So, I’m going with Chris Samnee for his work in both Thor: The Mighty Avenger (including the Free Comic Book Day chapter) and Captain America & Bucky. Slightly reminiscent of a melding between Bruce Timm and Darwyn Cooke, Chirs’s art is highly moody and emotional and always perfect for whatever genre he’s drawing. Most of all he really makes the readers connect with the characters. Who didn’t fall in love with his version of Jane Foster just from the soft, real-girl look? And I don’t think Bucky’s personal backstory could have been as effective in anyone else’s hands. My only question is, “What is he going to do next?”

Best Colorist

Ah, this is an easy one, since I just raved about the coloring in my recent O.M.A.C. # 4 review. I’m going with Hi-Fi.

Best Series featuring a Super Hero or Super Hero Team

If you think I’m stretching things a bit to expand the number of categories, you’d be right, but I had to find some way to recognize the “magnificent” work of Mark Waid, Paolo Riveria, and Marcos Martin on the relaunch of Daredevil. If I had chosen such a category, DD would’ve won for best Marvel book too (Sorry, guys I don’t read Uncanny X-Force). The totally compatible rotating art team (“You’ll be missed Marcos!”) has shown us Matt’s life and powers in new and innovative ways. And Waid has brought Murdock out of the dark, grim and gritty Miller influence and back into the light, swashbuckling Gene Colon style WITHOUT ignoring anything from the past continuity. There’s still trouble brewing for Matt underneath, but it sure is fun. It helps that DD has been largely a stand-alone title unaffected by big events like Spider-Island too. I just hope his membership with some splinter team of the Avengers doesn’t adversely influence the direction of the book in 2012.

Best Series Suitable for All-Ages

I could also entitle this category as “best series consistently entertaining throughout the year”, which limits it to titles that began on or before January and are still alive today. I’m going to go with a TIE (I can do that, right?): All-New Batman Brave and the Bold and Life with Archie: The Married Life. The Batman title has been great fun with some clever page layouts, despite it’s animated style restrictions and one-and-done stories. Life with Archie on the other hand contains TWO long continuous soap operas (Veronica and Betty) with tons of twists and turns that make you eager for the next issue. Not just for me, but for some of my girls too!

Best Collected Edition (Recent Material)

Y’know I’m really starting to be glad that we didn’t have strict categories to follow – it’s so much more freeing this way…in this case “recent” is within the last five years.

I’m going to go with the massive trade – Echo: The Complete Edition. It’s almost like a black and white Essential containing 30 whole issues, but the paper is much, much better. It also wasn’t colored in the first place. The retail price was $40 and I got it for 60% off at my store’s year-end sale, so it was a real bargain. I read the entire thing in just over a week and it was just as good as everyone said it was for the past three years. I think it would’ve been fun to be on the monthly bandwagon, but it was sure nice to just move on to the next chapter with no waiting (just like a DVD box set). The only downside is that I couldn’t resist the urge to peak ahead. Certainly the best dialogue I’ve read all year (with the exception of a few choice objectionable words that I plan to wipe out with correcting tape in the near future – Terry even managed to avoid using the F-word at least [unlike Chew]).

Best Collected Edition (Older Material)

Tough, tough choice here. Do I go with the one that is most aesthetically pleasing, which I haven’t read yet or the one that I enjoyed the most this past year? Or I could simplify it and just say Marvel Omnibuses or Omniboos as they’re often called. I’m going to go with The Mighty Thor Omnibus by Walt Simonson. I haven’t read it all yet (I’m currently a fourth of the way through the John Byrne Fantastic Four Omnibus and I did read my Silver Age Captain America Omnibus), but it sure is a beautiful collection. Steve Olliff has wonderfully recolored each issue. (He’s the same individual responsible for the outstanding coloring job on Tales of Asgard too). Although, seeing the new coloring (and the covers without the trade dress) is a bit weird for me, because I’m so familiar with (and still have) the original run – it’s sort of like watching a George Lucas Special Edition. Still, I can’t deny the care taken to put this tome together, which contains some new text pieces by Simonson. I’ve read one issue so far to one of my daughters, but we’re trying to finish the Jack Kirby Captain America Omnibus together first.

Best Event

I’m not going to tell you what I thought the worst event was (regular readers will know), but I can say that I totally skipped DC’s Flashpoint. However, DC still is the winner with The New 52. I was only getting one “regular” DC book before Flashpoint, but now I’m getting at least SEVEN! The last four months hasn’t been perfect, but the relaunch really got me hooked in and I hope my enthusiasm continues throughout the year. My favorite titles of the new line are Supergirl, O.M.A.C, Swamp Thing, and Batman. I would’ve included Superman, but I didn’t like last week’s issue 4 as much. Still, and this is important, the best event for 2012 would be NO EVENT!!!

Best Letterer

I’m going with Rob Leigh for his work on DCnU’s Supergirl. Maybe it stands out more, because I’m reading this title out loud to one of my children. She reads the girl parts and I read everything else. Anyway, there are a lot of sound effects and its an integral part of the book.

Best Comic Book Movie

I’m going with the awesome, heartfelt Captain America! If you’ve seen it, you know that it’s true. Compared with Thor and Green Lantern, there’s no comparison.

Best Movie based on a Comic Book

There’s a very subtle distinction between the previous category and this one, but it really boils down to a movie that people could really enjoy who don’t read comics – a more “meatier” film like The Dark Knight. And I’m going with X-Men: First Class. If this year has taught us anything is that period comic films WORK! Of course, the best movie of the year would be Rise of the Planet of the Apes!

Best TV Show based on a Comic Book

Since I don’t watch Walking Dead, I’m going with Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes (thanks again for the tip Greg). I watched the entire, incredible cartoon (season one) on Netflix and I’m eager to see the new season sometime – a worthy successor to DC’s animated line.

Best Toy based on a Comic Book

Lego DC Superheroes!!! I'll probably have more to say about these sometime in the future.

Also, the great Justice League Unlimited line came to an end as well as the Retro-Action figures. R.I.P.

Best Series to Blog About

I’m not positive, but I think Amazing Spider-Man would be the winner here. Kind of a mixed blessing to be sure…

Best Writer

I know I should probably say Scott Synder, but I’ve only been reading him in the DCnU (and I haven’t read American Vampire yet) and it’s really too soon for me to pick him. So, I’m going to go with a dark horse candidate (or maybe I should say a BOOM! Studios candidate), a relative newbie to the biz (and YES he does get points for allowing me to interview him), the one and only, exceptional prose writer too – Daryl Gregory! He’s the writer of the…Drum Roll Please…

Best Series

I’m going with Planet of the Apes! As if there was any question coming from me. Each issue has been great. Both the writing and the art are exceptional. While it certainly is grounded in the original films (fifth one specifically), Daryl and Carlos Magno have created a completely new world for man and ape-kind. The characters are strong, the plot is intriguing, and the action is explosive. I may be the only one on the blog to read this title – I don’t care – it’s still the BEST!!!

I could probably think of more categories, but this post has gotten a little too long already. Besides, it’s time to get on with the new year’s books. Looking forward to another year (Lord willing) of reading and blogging. Here’s hoping I can develop some buffer posts in the queue, since having a cushion makes it all even more enjoyable.

1 comment:

  1. Man, I hope you're kidding about the correcting tape on Echo.