I haven’t really read a single issue of a comic in over a year. But, I do love me some collected trades. Here’s a list of my favorites from the last year. (Note: Not all of these were actually published in 2011.)
1. Locke & Key, by Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez
I read the first three trades–Welcome to Lovecraft, Head Games, and Crown of Shadows–and, aside from a rather brutal beginning to the first trade, these were pretty darn good. The series is about a family shattered by tragedy, who return to the patriarch’s family home…a mansion in New England with a spooky and mysterious past. Oh, and there are keys: magic keys that possess all sorts of weird powers.
2. Red Robin: The Hit List, by Fabian Nicieza, Marcus To, and Ray McCarthy
I was a little annoyed when DC decided to turn former Robin Tim Drake into Red Robin. Thankfully, Red Robin was one of the best books that DC published in the last few years. This third trade continues the story of Tim Drake trying to find his identity as a former sidekick, and includes a city-wide throwdown between Tim and new Robin Damian Wayne.
3. Atomic Robo: Atomic Robo and the Fightin’ Scientists of Tesladyne, by Brian Clevinger, Scott Wegener, Ronda Pattison, and Jeff Powell
As a fan of Hellboy, I shouldn’t be surprised that I fell in love with Atomic Robo. This isn’t to say that the two series are completely identical, although both feature main characters who are one-of-a-kind monster-stompers. But, where HB is taciturn and occasionally broody, Robo is much more flippant. The tone of the books are different, as well: Atomic-Robo being much more ’50s sci-fi whiz-bang to Hellboy‘s gothic vibe.
4. The Amazing Spider-Man: Big Time, by Dan Slott and Humberto Ramos
This is probably the best Spider-Man story that I’ve read in years. There was a huge backlash among fans when Marvel decided to “unmarry” Peter Parker and Mary Jane Watson (but, when isn’t there backlash among fans?). Now, while I may not agree with how it was done, I loved the result. I like a single Peter Parker. I like watching him struggle and fumble around women. And, giving Peter a job in an R&D think tank was a stroke of genius. Big Time, indeed.
5. Batgirl: The Flood and Batgirl: The Lesson, by Bryan Q. Miller, Phil Noto, Cully Hamner, Lee Garbett, Pere Perez, and Dustin Nguyen
Batgirl was the best comic published in the last few years. The. Best. It was fun and funny. It didn’t skimp on action or thrills. And it featured a hero who actually enjoyed what she did. Stephanie Brown may no longer be Batgirl in the current DC Universe, but she’ll always be one of my favorite characters.
6. Sixth Gun: Cold Dead Fingers and Sixth Gun: Crossroads, by Cullen Bunn, Brian Hurtt, and Bill Crabtree
Cowboys. Undead Civil War soldiers. Witches. Demons. Voodoo spirits. Gunslingers. Cursed six-shooters. Need I say more?
7. Thor: The Mighty Avenger, by Roger Langridge, Chris Samnee, and Matthew Wilson
If you were a fan of the recent Thor movie, these two trades might be for you. Thor: The Mighty Avenger is a fun series that doesn’t concern itself with the often impenetrable decades-long continuity of the Marvel Universe.
8. Young Allies, by Sean McKeever and David Baldeon
The Marvel Universe was a dark place for a while: heroes fighting heroes, alien invasions, Norman Osborn put in charge of the defense of the country. Young Allies was part of Marvel’s “Heroic Age” initiative, a period of rebuilding after the heroes toppled Osborn’s regime. Featuring three awesome characters–Firestar, Spider-Girl, and Nomad–this series got off to a rocky start and was unfortunately cancelled after a handful of issues.
9. Superman: Secret Origin, by Geoff Johns, Gary Frank, and Jon Sibal
Prior to DC’s big New 52 relaunch, this was to be “the” Superman origin for the modern age of DC Comics. It reconciles both the numerous Crises that have occurred in the DC Universe, as well as giving a slight nod of the head to Smallville. People always want to know about “jumping on points” for comics and, while I’m not sure if this qualifies, it is a nice, self-contained Superman story that hits upon every chapter in Clark Kent’s life, from farm boy, to reporter, to Man of Steel.
10. Spider-Girl: Family Values, by Paul Tobin, Clayton Henry, and Sergio Cariello
If I needed to find a Marvel companion for Batgirl, it would have been Spider-Girl. Like Stephanie Brown, Anya Corazon isn’t overburdened by grief or angst (although her life has been far from easy, and this short-lived series only added to her troubles). Spider-Girl does what she does because it’s the right thing to do, and she enjoys helping the helpless. Also: you gotta love the way Tobin replaced traditional comic book narration with Spider-Girl’s tweets.