Saturday, 31 December 2011

Review of 2011

As with every year, it feels like it has come around twice as quickly as before, but nonetheless, we are on the cusp of 2012, and hence a whole new year in the world of comic books. 2011 was an up and down year for comics, but will personally always be a year that I remember as the one that I started to regularly buy D.C comic books. I had often previously picked up titles as collected editions, but had always stuck to Marvel for single issues, a peculiar quirk of them being the company that got me into comic books. D.C's 'New 52' initiative seemed a great place to jump on, and I have not been disappointed in the five titles that I am picking up. For the first time ever D.C are challenging Marvel on my pull list and it actually feels great, despite some misplaced brand loyalty initially making me uneasy about it.

 Either way, despite more mixed fortunes than their rivals there has been much to cheer for Marvel too. Fear Itself flopped but Daredevil's relaunch under Mark Waid has earned widespread critical acclaim and was recently voted CBR's best ongoing of 2011. Ultimate Spider-Man has shot back to the top of many people's reading lists through the unexpected death of Peter Parker, and introduction of Miles Morales as his replacement. And of course lets not forget the Avengers titles, which after an underwhelming 18 months have rapidly improved in the second half of 2011. With D.C's relaunch still firing on all cylinders and Marvel's Avengers vs X-Men event Amazing Spider-Man's 'Ends of the Earth' storyline on the horizon too, there is much to expect from both companies in 2012. But who was I most impressed with in 2011? Read on to find out...

Best Single Issue: I, Vampire #1 by Joshua Hale Fialkov and Andrea Sorrentino 
I picked up the first issue of I, Vampire completely on a whim, amid the hype and bluster created by the D.C relaunch. In truth it is not the sort of series that I usually go for - I was burned out on vampires before Twilight, and horror has never really been my thing. In the space of a single issue however, Joshua Hale Fialkov and Andrea Sorrentino hooked me on Andrew and Mary Bennet's story. Because that's what the series is - the story of two starcrossed lovers who just happen to be vampires. One of them relentlessly bloodthirsty. Sorrentino's beautiful art completed what for me, was the best single issue of 2011.

Best Character: Miles Morales
Given the monumental pressure on his shoulders, it is a huge surprise that Miles Morales has even begun to live up to it. Peter Parker's replacement as Ultimate Spider-Man, his story has barely begun to get going yet, but Bendis has already managed to invest me in his character. Somewhat more unassuming than the bespectacled Peter Parker, Morales is shy, humble, but above all possesses obvious heroic quality. The decision to make him a thirteen year old boy was a brave move but has so far paid off, giving his character a unique slant. Miles Morales could yet be the biggest hit in what has been a career full of them for Brian Michael Bendis.

Best Villain: Norman Osborn
There are many who disagree with Norman Osborn's ascent into being an adversary shared by the whole Marvel Universe, as opposed to just Spider-Man. Formerly the alias of the Green Goblin, Osborn has been Spider-Man's greatest foe for decades, and I would agree that it is a shame that he rarely appears within the pages of Amazing Spider-Man anymore. Those feelings, however, are tempered by the fact that he appears such a natural fit to be a universe wide threat. Osborn is ruthless, cunning, and clinically insane, and his appearances in both Avengers and New Avengers towards the end of the year have turned both into must-read titles.

Best Story-Arc: Who is Jake Ellis? (#1-5) by Nathan Edmonson and Zoran Taljic
I have no doubt that quite a few people will not have heard of Nathan Edmonson's breakout success, and in fact the series was brought to my attention almost by accident. This does not change the fact that Edmonson, along with artist Tonci Zonjic are responsible for what has been the most gripping, exciting and most importantly original arc of 2011. Edmonson's plot oozes cinematic quality, helped ably by Taljic's moody yet cartoony artwork. I have no doubt that both will be names to watch in 2012.

Best Comic Book Series: Animal Man
One of the most pleasing things about the D.C reboot so far has been its capacity for getting me involved in series' and characters that I previously had only the most cursory of knowledge. Animal Man is one such title, initially made popular by Grant Morrison in the late 1980's and experiencing something of a resurgance of late. Despite my ignorance I heard good things about Jeff Lemire's reboot, and was far from disappointed. Lemire's take on the character is creepy ahead of all else, a style matched by Trevor Foreman's sketchy, macabre style of artwork. Foreman is something of an acquired taste, but his pencils give the plot an edge that they may not be there under a more conventional artist. Lemire is sowing the seeds for an epic story but the core plot is still moving along nicely and the series manages to be a well rounded read each and every month.

Best Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Brian Michael Bendis is a writer who, perhaps more than most, has to contend with a number of detractors. It's true that since being elevated to the upper echelons of comic book writers, his work has not always been  as good as it could have been. His event books have often flattered to deceive, and despite several high points his run on Avengers has been uneven. Despite this, 2011 will have been a year to remember for Bendis. His relaunch of Ultimate Spider-Man has been outstanding so far, and the Avengers titles have been firing on all cylinders since their disappointing Fear Itself tie ins earlier in the year. Bendis plans to leave the franchise late next year, and all signs point to the superstar writer going out with a bang.

Best Artist: Daniel Acuna
Despite loving his style, Daniel Acuna's work has often flown under my radar. With his Avengers issues however, I have finally got a chance to sample the Spanish artist's work, and what a treat it has been! Acuna's style is distinctive, and though I would not instantly put it down as a suitable one for a conventional superhero book, he copes admirably well with action sequences despite his dreamlike style often coming across as more static than particularly dynamic. While Bendis' scripts on Avengers have been suitable solid, Acuna's artwork has made the book in recent issues. I hope to see more of him in 2012.

That's all for now from me, thanks a lot to everyone for reading! Be here in 2012 for more on my series on 'Why The Spider-Man Reboot Failed'. Most importantly perhaps, I hope each and every one of you have a happy and fulfilling new year. Live long and prosper.

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