DC Comics regained the public’s attention — and the lead in market share — with a publicized revamp of its superhero line, but not all of the year’s best comics involved capes and tights.
The following are 2011′s best 10 periodical comic books.
1. “Detective Comics 871-881,” Scott Snyder, Jock and Franco Francavilla.
The new Batman, Dick Grayson, is put to the test as a series of brutal murders puts him up against one of Gotham City’s oldest evils.
In the second story, “Hungry City,” the corpse of a killer whale is found in an upscale Gotham City bank, sparking a deadly new mystery.
Snyder’s opus, which includes the mystery of Commissioner Gordon’s son, is a candidate for best Batman tale of the current decade. DC was suitably impressed with Snyder, tabbing him as the writer of its relaunched “Batman” title.
2. “Criminal: The Last of the Innocent,” Ed Brubaker, Sean Phillips.
Brubaker (“Captain America”) is one of comics’ finest writers, and this is among his best books, a mixture of noir and nostalgia that’s part twisted take on “Archie”-style characters, part dark secrets and murder. Artist Phillips creates compelling stories in two completely different styles for “Innocent.” Riley Richards seems as if he had it all, marrying the hottest girl in town and moving on to the big city. But now, he can’t forget his simpler life in Brookview. He’s willing to do anything to roll back the clock — including murder.
3. “The Red Wing,” Jonathan Hickman, Nick Pitarra.
Hickman (“Fantastic Four”) writes a story of fighter pilots in the future who fight their battles not only in the air, but also through time. Art by Pitarra.
4. “Action Comics,” Grant Morrison, Rags Morales
In Morrison’s much-hyped revamp of “Action Comics,” a young, brash Superman goes about his business in work boots and blue jeans, rustling up corporate criminals and raising the ire of everyone from the police and military to Lex Luthor, a brash industrialist who doesn’t much cotton to the idea of a superhuman.
Superman’s a bit arrogant, but very much easy to root for, as he attempts to stand up to bullies of all stripes.
5. “Daredevil,” Mark Waid, Pablo Rivera, Marcos Martin.
Writer Waid and artists Rivera and Martin brought Daredevil back to his swashbuckling past in the 2011 relaunch of “Daredevil.” Waid also shows the keen legal mind of Matt Murdock, the blind lawyer who is Daredevil. Murdock tries to keep his legal and vigilante worlds separate, despite his secret identity being somewhat known.
6. “Who Is Jake Ellis?,” Nathan Edmondson, Tonci Zonjic.
The collection of this 5-issue miniseries features former spy Jon Moore, now a mercenary. He’s able to escape capture in part because of the voice in his head — the voice of Jake Ellis. But who is Jake Ellis? He’s a man only Jon can see, providing information on safe escapes and possible threats. The mystery of Ellis, and Jon’s quest to discover the secrets behind it, are what writer Edmondson and artist Zonjic have laid out in this fast-paced espionage thriller from Image Comics.
7. “The Rocketeer Adventures,” various creators.
Dave Stevens created the Rocketeer in the early 1980s, a tribute to the serials of the 1930s and 1940s as pilot Cliff Secord finds a jet pack that allows him to race through the air. He, his mentor Peavy and girlfriend Betty (modeled after Bettie Page) starred in several adventures by Stevens and a 1991 motion picture. Stevens died in 2008, but IDW brought back his character The Rocketeer in 2011, with an anthology series that in part benefits hairy cell leukemia research.
That would be reason enough to buy “The Rocketeer Adventures,” but the all-star lineup of creators has made a book that’s one of the year’s best. Kurt Busiek, Mark Waid, Jonathon Ross, Mike Allred, John Cassaday, Darwyn Cooke, Bruce Timm, Kyle Baker, Gene Ha, Michael Wm. Kaluta and Chris Weston contribute to this lovely taste of 1930s-style adventures.
8. “Animal Man,” Jeff Lemire, Travel Foreman, Dan Green.
Writer Lemire joins artists Foreman and Green for DC’s revamp of “Animal Man,” which became one of the breakout hits of the New 52. Lemire is channeling Morrison’s take on the character, so readers of the 1980s Buddy Baker will find much to enjoy. The art’s a little different from the DC norm, but conveys the story’s mix of domesticity and dread.
9. “The Sixth Gun,” Cullen Bunn, Brian Hurtt.
An Oni Press Western with supernatural horror elements, “The Sixth Gun” follows the path of six cursed guns during the darkest days of the Civil War. Bunn and Hurtt are the creative team.
10. “American Vampire,” Scott Snyder, Rafael Albuquerque
Also written by Snyder, “American Vampire” follows the exploits of a new breed of “American Vampire” that has the ability to feed in the sun. The 1880s outlaw Skinner Sweet and 1920s actress Pearl Jones make their way to Las Vegas circa 1935; later the series follows Pearl and her husband into the World War II era.
- Matt Price
From Friday’s The Oklahoman
Click here for the best graphic novels of 2011.