The Best Comics of 2011: An Alternative View
This should really be a list of the best comics that you weren’t reading in 2011, but should have been. If you want a more mainstream selection of books, you can find them out there easy enough. But for me, I lean towards the alternative side of comics, and also like my comics to have a definitive ending to them. This means you won’t catch me reading anything like Superman or the X-Men, because these are the soap operas of comic books; they never really end, and nothing really ever happens (that can’t be undone by a retcon later). Instead, 2011 had a bunch of great independent and smaller run books that kept me entertained. Out of all that I read this past year, I prefer the following books, which are each like an HBO-produced miniseries: high quality with a definitive end in sight.
Locke & Key – This is one of those books that will have you rereading previous issues to find things you missed. Gabriel Rodriguez’ art is phenomenal, and the small touches that are peppered into the story by Joe Hill are so subtle as to be easily missed, yet also integral to the overall mystery of Key House. There have been three TPB’s so far, and the overall series is set to end in the coming year. It is also possibly being optioned as a live-action television show. This series is my favorite comic book ever, and will go down as one of the greatest horror/fantasy stories of all time. The world and characters in this book are not to be missed by any fan of comics, or fans of good literature for that matter.
Sweet Tooth – I love me some dystopian future stories, and if you add in a mysterious disease that kills off people like in Contagion or Stephen King’s The Stand, yet also brings beings that are part human and part animal, you’ve got a recipe for success in my book. The stories are usually very brooding or even depressing, but there are also themes of redemption and resolution. This book also has a set end date, but the world is growing faster than author (and sometimes artist) Jeff Lemire can contain it. I, for one, don’t want him to.
Witch Doctor – One of my favorite things to do when I pick up my comics at my LCS is to take a chance on a book that was recommended by someone I know and trust. Witch Doctor was one of those books for me this year, suggested by none other than GFBR. The first arc is only four issues long, and there was a one-shot that was also recently released, with a trade in the works to combine them all. Brandon Seifert and Lukas Ketner have created a character who is a doctor not unlike House, mixed with another prominent sci-fi doctor, Dr. Who, set in a Lovecraftian world where magic and witchcraft are real, and sometimes you can come down with a voodoo flu. When you do, you need Vincent Morrow. As a bonus, at the back of each book you get inside information on the labor of love these two creators have gone through to get this book published, and their commitment to keep churning out weird and wonderful tales for as long as they can afford to do so.
Hellboy – I’m a sucker for Hellboy stories, especially ones that mix in Norse mythology (which, frankly, a lot of them do). So this year there were several stories from Mike Mignola and his stellar team of artists and writers that took Hellboy to new heights, and, ironically enough, to new lows. Specifically: Hell. In case you haven’t been paying attention, Hellboy is dead (see Big Tim‘s take on this event), and has been sent to Hell. This effectively frees Mignola to tell all kinds of different stories, as well as the inevitable “Return of Hellboy” storyline. But each of the miniseries that were released this year that matter are collected in Hellboy: The Bride of Hell and Others. It’s a great read, and while it adds to the character’s overall story, one need not know it to appreciate the art and heart-rending story told within.
Atomic Robo – I’ve already given this title some praise, but it’s worth repeating that Atomic Robo is the freshest, funniest, most creative and wonderful comic book on stands these days. Anyone, and I mean anyone, can read this book and derive something from it. It has science and action and humor and drama. About the only things missing from this comic book are all the things I can’t stand about mainstream books. Namely: objectification of women, unrealistic portrayals of humans, retcons, and fluff. This book has none of these, and even goes so far as to promise that there won’t be any delays in shipment due to anything relating to their artistic input. This, in my opinion, is what comics should be all about.