FORWARD

Welcome to WCBR’s year end comic book industry report card. Sorry it’s a little late, but we figure it’s better late than never. But just like 2010’s list,  WCBR’s report card is a list of titles that we enjoyed and disliked for the entire year 2011. To encourage debate amongst the writers (and eventually you guys, the readers), we decided to let everyone have their say. Let us know if we’re nuts, or if you can see where we’re coming from with the picks. Thanks for and again, Happy New Year! -Ray

BEST ON-GOING SERIES

Batman/ Detective Comics Okay, I’m sort of cheating here, but given that Batman is really just a continuation of Scott Snyder’s exploration of Gotham, it only seems fair. Quite frankly, Scott Snyder’s run on Batman ranks as one of the greatest Batman stories of all time and when all is said and done, Snyder will no doubt be seen as having one of the best runs on the character.  For me at least, his work has actually cast a shadow on Grant Morrison’s work with the character.  Really, Snyder has done the unthinkable: he’s made Morrison look secondary. This run had it all: great artwork, huge dramatic tension, creeping, overarching mystery, and a constant darkness that played over the entire story.  Oh, and since this is a Snyder comic, we also got some good old fashioned horror.  The highest praise I can give Snyder’s Batman and is that, despite being a superhero book, it’s one that can easily be given to non-comics readers and be just as enjoyable as it is for the hardened Bat-fan. -Alex Evans

Warlod of Mars –  Dynamite’s adaptation of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ A Princess of Mars has delivered quality writer, art, color and production values from day one, and has followed this up with a three-part original connector to get us to The Gods of Mars. This is always top of my pull list and unlike other titles and even publishers I tend to sample here and there, I never miss an issue. -DS

Amazing Spider-ManDo you know how many issues of ASM came out this year?  25!!!!  There were a few issues that dipped into the C-range, but there was a LOT of excellence too and it all came in a nice, tight and coherent package.  Dan Slott deserves a LOT of credit for his clever writing and the Spidey books are also boasting the best cadre of artists at Marvel.  Great stuff.  Runner-up: American Vampire -Dean Stell

BEST NEW SERIES

Journey Into Mystery – Far and away, Kieron Gillen’s Journey into Mystery was the best thing to come out of Fear Itself.  In fact, it’s also some of the best work of Gillen’s career.  It’s charming, it’s emotionally compelling, and it’s epic.  Gillen somehow manage to balance comedy, charm, and wit with grand, fantasy storytelling, creating a narrative cocktail that is head and shoulders above the rest. Journey into Mystery is populated by characters that are absolutely lovable and a world that is escapism for anyone’s inner child.  And yet, it remains smart and gripping throughout.  If comics could be hugged, Journey into Mystery would be smothered. -Alex Evans

Warlord of Mars: Dejah Thoris – Whereas Warlord of Mars is covering known territory, Dynamite’s Dejah Thoris series breaks new ground, offering up the very best features of pulp tradition and a true channeling of Burroughs’ style and creativity. -DS

Blue Estate – Crowded category, but I think Blue Estate is a deserving winner for giving us a fast-paced and fun look at a crime comic.  I love all the weird characters who populate this world and think that series creator Viktor Kalvachev has done a wonderful job of managing a rotating cast of artists to give us a wonderful looking book.  Blue Estate also features some of the best covers in the business.  Keep an eye on this Kalvachev dude.  Runners-up: Witch Doctor, Rachel Rising, Spaceman, Wolverine & the X-Men, Vescell -Dean Stell

BEST MINI SERIES

Criminal: The Last of the Innocent – It’s true that the creative union of Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips can do no wrong, however, with the Last of the Innocent, both Brubaker and Phillips went out of the box, really stretching the creative limits of the Criminal template, if such a thing exists.  This isn’t a crime story in the traditional sense of heists and cops and gangsters.  Rather, it’s an emotional tale of missed opportunities, domestic unhappiness, and the pain of nostalgia.  The result is by far the most personal Criminal story we’ve ever gotten, one that is decidedly different from all that has come before.  Brubaker has commented on how taxing it was to write this series, and that’s really no surprise.  The story is so intimate that it hurts. -Alex Evans

Warlord of Mars: Fall of Barsoom and Severed – Stylistically, they are night and day, but each sets down a powerful market in the field. Fall of Barsoom tells the tale of the last days of Barsoom’s golden age, its tipping into savagery. It is a world of soft super-science. Severed is the haunting, terrifying early 20th century nightmare the reader is being inexorably dragged to. Both stick to the insides of the mind long after the covers close. -DS

Loose Ends – Another CROWDED category and I am giving the award to a series that isn’t even finished yet.  Ha!  So, why Loose Ends???  Well, for one thing, I love the modern-day, Southern, redneck crime tale.  What Scalped is for Native American reservation crime, Loose Ends is to the small-town, redneck, meth-lab set.  And, the art in Loose Ends is GLORIOUS.  Chris Brunner’s linework is top shelf stuff and the coloring by Rico Renzi takes it to a whole other level.  Runners-up: Criminal: Last of the Innocent, American Vampire: Survival of the Fittest, New York 5, Rocketeer Adventures, Severed -Dean Stell

BEST STORY (OR STORY ARC)

Warlord of Mars: Dejah Thoris – I felt that X-Men Schism made a strong showing, but Dejah Thoris’ Colossus of Mars arc was so much raw, page-turning fun that I have to give it top marks. -DS

American Vampire: Survival of the FittestThis great story featuring vampire hunters going into Nazi-occupied Europe and doing battle with a brigade of Nazi vampires was HOT.  Not only did Scott Snyder write the heck out of it while fleshing out his American Vampire world, but Sean Murphy contributed incredible art.  Murphy is one of those artists who even other comic artists go ga-ga over.  Dude is super talented. -Dean Stell

BEST ARTIST

Francis Manapul – I’ll admit that I was severely tempted to give this to JH Williams III for the second straight year.  However, Manapul’s art on the Flash has been truly fantastic, creating the best looking Flash comic that I have ever read.  Better still, since the relaunch, Manapul has made the absolute most of his being both artist and writer. The result has been a true fusion of art and script in storytelling.  But what really sets Manapul’s work ahead is his innate understanding of the Flash’s powers and the way he portrays it on the page.  You feel Barry’s speed and you innately understand the feeling and operation of Barry’s powers.  Manapul has created a beautiful, lush, and likable world, but one that is animated by the Flash’s powers.  Manapul has crafted a comic where the reader experiences the world just as the Fastest Man Alive Does and the result is visceral and exciting. -Alex Evans

Lui Antonio – Antonio spent the year laying down a beautiful, evocative Mars, struggling for its air and existence amid the dust and savagery of its ruins. The action was ever-present and the aliens and their artful technology. Had Edgar Salazar had more time on the series, he definitely would have been a strong contender. -DS

Gabriel Hardman – This is a tricky category because you have some guys who do great work but only give us 3-4 issues per year (JH Williams, Sean Murphy, Jim Cheung, etc.).  Hardman is every bit as good as those guys AND he cranks out a monthly book.  He’s also his own inker.  I wish more artists had Hardman’s work ethic and talent.  Look for his glorious work from 2011 in Hulk and Betrayal of the Planet of the Apes and see him in 2012 in Secret Avengers.  Runner-up: Greg Capullo -Dean Stell

BEST NEW ARTIST

Andrea Sorrentino – Truly, Sorrentino has got to be one of the best finds that has come courtesty of DC’s New 52.  His work on I, Vampire has been startling and unique, dripping with dark atmosphere and mood.  Indeed, it’s one of the rare books where, while the story and script are fantastic, they are completely overshadowed by the magnificence of the art.  Sorrentino’s work is of a sort where the primary focus is on world-building.  We get dark, shadowy urban environments, where monsters lurk around the corners and under the streets, a world where characters are subsumed darkness, burdened by their guilt and flaws.  Sorrentino builds the comic far more than any script ever has and really, one gets the feeling that with I, Vampire, Sorrentino has created a fully realized artistic sandbox into which any writer can plug in his script and characters.  Simply put, Andrea Sorrentino is a dominant presence. -Alex Evans

Edgar Salazar & Daniel Indro – Edgar Salazar recently took up the reins of Warlord of Mars while Daniel Indro laid down the art under the direction of Alex Ross in Flash Gordon. Both artists are eye-shockingly powerful in the alien settings and their differing stylistic approaches to expression and action, and both deserve a lot of attention. -DS

Lukas Ketner – This is a weird category defining “new” is hard.  But, I’d never heard of Ketner before seeing his work in the pages of Witch Doctor and his comicbookdb.com listing is pretty skimpy, so I think he counts as “new”.  This guy is seriously good.  Every time I look at his work it reminds me of Bernie Wrightson.  Check it out now!  Runner-up: Nick Bradshaw. -Dean Stell

BEST WRITER

Scott Snyder – Scott Snyder’s ridiculously fast ascendancy reminds me a great deal of Brian K. Vaughan’s several years back.  Simply put, everything Snyder does is golden.  His name on a book has become a guarantee that you are holding an A-grade comic.  In one year, he has relaunched

Swamp Thing into one of the best comics of the New 52, he has continued to put out some of the greatest Batman comics of all time, he’s continued to maintain the same high level of quality in American Vampire, he’s expanded American Vampire into a franchise by writing the superb Survival of the Fittest mini, and he continues to co-write the creator owned Severed which, also, is fantastic. Like I said, everything he touches turns to gold.  Snyder is, quite simply, one of the best storytellers working in comics today.  His comics are dense, atmospheric, and, whatever he writes, it cuts to the core of whatever concept he’s working on and extracts any and all potential to the maximum extent possible. And the most ridiculous thing of all?  Snyder put out his very first comic work in the form of a short story for Marvel in 2009, with his first ongoing series kicking off in 2010.  He has gone from putting out his very first work in comics to, between all his series, selling in the ball park of 280,000 comics in September alone. -Alex Evans

Once again I’m going to pick two. Paul Jenkins really blew me out of the water with his work on Thor Heaven and Earth. He had single-issue stories with tight plots and powerful emotional blows. Scott Snyder and Scott Tuft (I’m consdering them as one for the purposes of the top picks) are in my end-of-the-year listing not because of tight plots and strong emotions, but because of the ability to create a tone of mounting inescapable dread. -DS

Scott Snyder – This is the easiest category on the list.  Snyder is pretty new, but in the last year he gave us ~12 issues of American Vampire that were mostly B+/A- material.  Plus, he finished his instant classic Black Mirror story in Detective Comics.  Then he relauched Batman as the best of the new 52 at DC.  And….he’s co-writing this great miniseries called Severed with his childhood friend.  Oh yeah, and Swamp Thing is great too.  Scott has never written a single issue that is even “meh..  He’s like a baseball pitcher that is still working a perfect game in the 18th inning. -Dean Stell

BEST NEW WRITER

Arvid Nelson – This is always a toughie. How new do you have to be? I’m going to fudge this one a bit and offer up Arvid Nelson as best new writer, because I don’t think he’s gotten the audience he deserves yet, and because he started a new title this year (Dejah Thoris). Already last year, he was helming the adaptation of Warlord of Mars, but his talent and creativity had more scope in the Dejah Thoris spin-off which has been such a breath of fresh air for Barsoom fans. -DS

BEST SINGLE ISSUE

Amazing Spider-Man #655 – Dan Slott and Marcos Martin really nailed it in this issue that dealt with the death of Martha Jameson.  The first half is silent and Martin does a masterful job of showing the little ways that the death of a spouse would manifest.  That scene of Jonah waking up because her alarm was going off on the other side of the bed is just haunting.  Then, the second half is pretty good too as it shows Spidey coming to grips with his responsibilities.  Just wonderful stuff.  You won’t find a better superhero comic.

BEST TRADE PAPER BACK OR ORIGINAL GRAPHIC NOVEL

Habibi – I didn’t read a lot of OGN’s this year, but Habibi is a very powerful work.  Craig Thompson’s beautifully illustrated of a boy and a girl sold into slavery in the middle east has so many touching and moving moments.  Plus, it is impossible not to respect the labor of love that a work like Habibi is.  This isn’t something that a creator belches out in a month. -Dean Stell

Tiny Titans – DC came out with several volumes of their Tiny Titans TPB and those things are ingenious. I own every one for my son and we laugh out loud reading them. Fine, fine work. Too bad the series is coming to a close, but buy the trades for your kids. -DS


BIGGEST SURPRISE

The Flash – I was extremely skeptical about this series.  Artists turned writers?  That’s not often a good thing.  Frankly, were it not due to my dedication to the Flash, I would not have even given this book a try.  However, I’m glad I gave it a shot and it’ll be on my pull list for the indefinite future. Manapul and Buccellato make the most of their being in charge of both art and script and the result is a kind of synchronicity that is pretty hard to find when artists and writers are separate.  That said, we all knew the art would be gorgeous.  The big surprise here is that the story is actually pretty good as well.  The superheroic feats by the Flash are incredible, the way he uses and expands on his powers are creative, and really, Manapul and Buccellato are giving us a feel-good, classic superhero story that can be enjoyed by all ages.  It’s a book that’s pure fun in a way that only superhero books can be. -Alex Evans

Severed – there was nothing in the reporting and interviews that can really prepare you for the experience of reading Snyder and Tufts’ opus. The grip the series takes on the reader is altogether unexpected. -DS

That Marvel is such a slowpoke when it comes to same-day-digital comics.  Good lord folks, JUST DO IT! -Dean Stell

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT

Flashpoint and Fear Itself – It didn’t feel right to pick one over the other because, let’s be frank, both of them sucked. I actually feel that Flashpoint is, however, the technically worse book.  While Fear Itself was just extremely mediocre and forgettable, Flashpoing was just a downright mess.  Geoff Johns found himself forced to do far too much in five issues – attempting to create an entire world and have us become invested in a universe worth of new characters, all while developing a story and prepping a relaunch in the process.  The result is a complete, disastrous mess.  It’s hard to care about 90% of the characters, nothing is every fully developed, and the ending is mind-bogglingly asinine.  Oh, and don’t get me started on the sheer number of spin-off miniseries, most of which sucked.  Seriously, that had to be some kind of record.  The sheer number of tie-in miniseries and one-shots was mind-bogglingly, and I can only think of two that were actually any good. Then there’s Fear Itself.  The first issue was promising.  It was meant to be a comic capturing the spirit of the times, the political tension and anxiety of our current cultural climate.  Well, it started that way…but it ended up being a completely simple-minded story involving guys with hammers whacking things until the heroes got their own weapons to whack them back with.  And….this was spread over no less than 7 issues, the last of which was giant-sized.  I fail to understand how a series with such lofty aspirations could end up being so incredibly underachieving and bone-headedly simple. Oh, and the best part of all?  The three epilogue issues (no joke, numbered #7.1, #7.2, and #7.3) basically undid anything of consequence that actually occurred during Fear Itself.  Not only was the series completely lacking in substance, but there’s really no reason at all not to forget it.  -Alex Evans

Brightest Day – The ending of Brightest Day pretty well represented the unevenness of the series overall and was quite a disappointment for those of us who stuck out the 24 issues. In close second in terms of disappointments were Defenders #1 and #2. I was really hoping for a revival of the quirky oddness that made the Defenders of the 70s and 80s so charming and unique. This series so far has been a tongue-in-cheek, irreverent diminishment of some heroes who are really worthy of more (Dr. Strange and Iron Fist specifically). -DS

Fear Itself – Man, this was a piece of shit.  Even with ~90 days to cool off, it was shit.  Has the “death” of both Captain America (Bucky version) and Thor ever caused so little discussion?  Not to mention that the aftermath series basically undid everything of import that happened in the series.  By the end, even the reliably awesome Stuart Immonen was turning in mediocre art as if he read the script and said, “God, this sucks.”  FI also spawned about 15 mostly lousy miniseries and wasted a LOT of fanboy money.  Terrible. -Dean Stell

WORST ON-GOING SERIES

The whole Fear Event left me cold, but not enough for me to declare anything as bad as “worst ongoing.” -DS

I don’t know.  I don’t read bad comics. -Dean Stell

WORST NEW SERIES

Red Hood and the Outlaws – I find Red Hood to be an uninspired character and I found the demeaning new characterization of Starfire to be appalling, insulting and offensive. Offensive for artistic purposes is above board and lots of people do it right. Demeaning women to pander to puerile pubescent boys is no good under any circumstances. Cut this series out of continuity as soon as possible. -DS

BEST CHARACTER

Kid Loki – Despite only being introduced this year, Kid Loki is fast becoming my favourite Marvel character.  He’s funny, he’s lovable, he’s charming; he’s just impossible not to like.  He’s the anchor of the fantastic Journey into Mystery and he’s probably the best thing about Matt Fraction’s Mighty Thor.  The character simply lights up the page.  He’s well-rounded and fully realized and so downright huggable.  Best of all, he has fantastic dynamics with any and every character he runs into.  His run-ins and general love for modern technology are also always, without fail, cause for a laugh or three. -Alex Evans

Thor – Thor and Daredevil each made some really interesting reading in 2011, but I’d have to tip toward Thor for the expansion of his mythos, the fine work being done in Journey into Mystery and especially Jenkins’ work in the Heaven and Earth miniseries. -DS

Wolverine – Huh?!  Wha?!  Wolverine?!  Well…you know what?  The Cannuck had a pretty good year.  He was in: some good Avengers/New Avengers stories, Wolverine & Spider-Man, that awesome Red Right Hand arc in Wolverine, Wolverine & the X-Men and Uncanny X-Force.  Also a central player in the Schism event.  And most of these stories were outstanding and important to the Marvel universe. -Dean Stell

MOST ANTICIPATED SERIES or EVENT of 2012

Saga – Brian K. Vaughan is returning to comics.  Is there really anything else to say about this comic?  Oh, and it’s a creator-owned ongoing.  From the guy whose only two prior creator owned ongoings are Y: the Last Man and Ex Machina.  There is seriously so little to say about this book beyond the fact that if you are not pre-ordering it, you are wrong and in dire need of correction. -Alex Evans

All the new #1s at Vertigo! – In March we get THREE new series launching at Vertigo.  I still love my superhero comics, but they just aren’t as good as a series like Scalped or American Vampire or Sweet Tooth.  Vertigo hadn’t launched a new ongoing series since I Zombie which is up to issue #21 and I was fearing for the future of the imprint.  Glad to see that 2012 looks like a BIG year for grown up comic books. -Dean Stell

I’m really looking forward to Tarzan from Dynamite and I can’t wait to see where they take Flash Gordon. -DS

Grade

Conclusion