This list is a little different, for one main reason: I don’t really keep up with comics on an issue-to-issue basis. Most of these I’ve read in trades. So what I’m doing here isn’t necessarily the best comics to come out in 2011, but the best ones I read in 2011.
5. Bakuman. It might be weird to start off a best comics list with a manga. But Bakuman is something addictively different. There’s no superpowered fights, no magical worlds, nothing you’d expect out of a Shonen manga. From the creators of Death Note, you’d expect anything but the ordinary. Hell, if you know Death Note, but not Bakuman, your jaw might drop like I did when you find out it’s about…two teenagers creating manga. And it is fascinating. They make the exposition of the inner workings of Shonen Jump interesting, and it pays off when you’re on the edge of your seat just to find out if their manga gets cancelled. Combine interesting characters and art that’s been perfected, able to show drama and comedy easily, and…dare I say it?...this might just be one of the best manga I’ve ever read.
4. Green Lantern. I couldn’t have cared less about Green Lantern until I read Rebirth. Suddenly this guy was the coolest character in the DC Universe, and Geoff Johns has just made a huge saga of Hal Jordan’s time as Green Lantern. The new colors, the Blackest Night, everything just goes to the next level. As I understand it, this year’s big event was War of the Green Lanterns, which I’ve read, and it was pretty damn big. With the series taking another sudden turn just in time for the New 52, it’s clear that there’s very little slowing down for the corps.
3. Unknown Soldier. Unknown Soldier is a bleak comic. Well, really, it’s about the Lord’s Resistance Army in Uganda, and that alone does not make for happy times. And then you add in brutal violence, dark moral choices, a world of black and grey morality…it’s not exactly a pleasant read. An incredible comic, though? That it is. Unfortunately, the series got an early cancellation, so it doesn’t exactly feel like all its plot points are wrapped up in the end, but it’s still one of the must-read comics from recent years.
2. Scalped. I swear I didn’t plan to put two incredibly dark comics filled with moral conflicts right next to each other. And the honest fact is that I was lukewarm to Scalped when I first read it. By the third volume, though, it didn’t just grow on me; it hooked itself in and hasn’t let go since. I never thought that I’d constantly want to go back to the violent, drug-fueled world of The Rez. But every time I’m greeted by the characters that are always on that line of doing the right thing and destroying their world that much more. And every time they choose the wrong choice, it breaks my heart.
1. Invincible. It’s funny that Invincible is almost uplifting after having to write those previous two descriptions. I pretty much gushed over Invincible in my Super Dinosaur review, and it’s for good reason. Each time I read it, I don’t know what to expect. There could be sudden, gory violence or warm family moments. The villain of the issue could be weak and ineffectual, or he could be powerful and dangerous. The character who died 10 issues ago could turn out to be alive all this time. It sounds schizophrenic, and yet in Robert Kirkman’s hands, it’s a fascinating story of the full career of a superhero. I’ve seen Mark Grayson from his inception as Invincible to him fighting the Viltrumite War. And I’m always curious what he’s going to do next.