Top 5 Best Comics of January 2011

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I read 12 comics in January, and these were the best.


5. Walking Dead #80

January’s  always a bit of a sad month. Coming off the high of the holidays, terrible movies, and the cold doesn’t help much.  This year, even the comics suffered, with some of the best titles not shipping. It does, however, give me an opportunity to a highlight a book I always enjoy, but have been reading for so long that it’s easy to overlook. But, Walking Dead is still great, despite the success of that crappy show, and the continued safety of the characters. Well, the show will go on, but the serenity in the comics is nearly threw. “No Way Out” doesn’t really open with a bang, but it does establish some events that’ll likely occur soon. Abraham gets a lot of spotlight, even some sexual business. I guess Kirkman couldn’t quite get that into last issue, with all the other sex. So, Abraham’s demise may be imminent, maybe even at the hands of the scorned Rosita. Kirkman needs to do something with her. And Carl? Well, Carl’s still a crackling crackpot of crazy. Might Rick have to put him down soon? Stay tuned.

4. Detective Comics #873

You can find my full thoughts here. Snyder, Jock, and Baron manage to transcend the editorially mandated hindrance, and I’m sure things will be even better from here on out.

3. Fantastic Four #587

Hickman doesn’t quite handle the death as well as I expected. It’s the typical heroic sacrifice/last stand scenario. But, perhaps I set my standards too high. Hickman does at least tease the demise of all four, and he did end up eliminating the member that I and seemingly everyone else hoped for. Conversely, Steve Epting and Paul Mounts’ work was pretty consummate. They were striving to produce career-best work, and it shows. If nothing else, this revelation signifies the end of an era, and the start of a new one. One written by Jonathan Hickman, and that’s pretty cool.

2. Casanova: Gula #1

More Casanova is a good way to ring in the new year. Chris Peter is working harder than ever to provide new colors for Fabio Moon’s story. Fabio’s the evil twin, in that respect, but he’s also the artistically superior one, if you ask me. Along with Dustin Harbin’s beautiful hand-lettering, this Casanova reprint is certainly one of the best looking comics on the stands. And it has writing to match, of course. I also enjoy the Hellboy-esque switch to mini-series. The third’s currently being advertised to release in the summer. So, if you have a problem with me promoting reprints in this monthly feature, you can soon take a rest because there will be NEW CASANOVA AT LONG LAST!!!

1. Deadpool MAX #4

This comic should be terrible. Deadpool MAX? Can you think of a title more chilling? That’s because you think “written & drawn by Rob Liefeld.” But, when you put in David Lapham and Kyle Baker instead, you have the most promising new release every month. Lapham’s a terrific artist, and you should definitely check out his short-lived Young Liars series, but he’s also written a lot, and none of it has read as well as this. With this issue and last, Lapham has Deadpool tackling criminals based in reality, taking a page from Garth Ennis’ MAX series. Lapham’s also been hugely inspired by the great Miller & Sienkiewicz collaboration, Elektra Assassin. I even noticed a few Millerisms in this issue, like a sultry fatale breathing out “you damn fool”, which makes me think Lapham’s riffing on Miller’s entire career. All of these critiques apply to Kyle Baker as well, which is why this comic works so well. Both men are auteurs in their own right. Everything feels so grounded in reality because Baker renders it so, even adding some photo-referenced Brad Pitt. However, crazies like Deadpool and Cable are dawn in such a glaring fashion that they truly seem deranged and out of place. Baker’s also paying homage to Elektra Assassin by adding a lot of Sienkiewicz’s style to his work. Can you believe that there’s this much to admire in a Deadpool comic? Neither can I, which makes this comic the poster child for the theory that any character can succeed with the right creative team.

-Bruce Castle

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11 Responses to Top 5 Best Comics of January 2011

  1. I couldn’t bring myself to read FF 587… I’m not a regular FF reader, but I buy a ton of books every month… but i just couldn’t bring myself to do it, and I’m glad I didn’t. but whatever, Johnny will be back in a year or so.

  2. brucecastle says:

    Yeah, it wouldn’t be right just to jump on the bandwagon. You should be a regular reader, though. It’s good stuff.

    Hopefully, Johnny will stay in limbo for a bit longer than that.

    • Cal Cleary says:

      I just started getting caught up on Hickman’s run – I read “Solve Everything” since it was on sale cheap in their digital store, and thought that the ending was a little bit trite, but overall a very interesting little story. The rest of his run, I assume, is worth checking out, too?

      I’ve also just finished the third trade of Secret Warriors. I’m really liking it for the most part, but there’s something just a little bit… off about it. I haven’t put my finger on what, precisely, but I’m trying to. I’ve been on a huge Marvel kick lately – tore through the Brubaker Captain America and Daredevil omnibuses, Jason Aaron’s Ghost Rider omnibus, re-read all of New X-Men, finally got around to Planet Hulk, etc…

  3. brucecastle says:

    Trite? Trite? Not as trite as Criminal.

    Yes, the rest of the run’s worth it, but it becomes much more of a take it or leave it exercise in that, once you’re on the trolley you can’t get off.

    But, the art improves as does Hickman, and the letters column is terrific if you would just stop with the damn digital!

    If there’s anything wrong with Secret Warriors, it’s that Marvel abandoned it. Hickman started with a 60 issue proposal that’s going to come in at around 27. It’s also a bit of an artistic mosh pit, with anonymous studio coloring and pencilers coming and going.

    But, as a whole, it’s definitely going to be one of the best Marvel comics in the last decade. Way better than anything’s Brubaker’s done.

    Planet Hulk’s fine, but you’ll die of mediocrity if you read World War Hulk.

    • Cal Cleary says:

      Where’s the Criminal hate coming from? Was there a new issue out recently that was terrible or something? Because otherwise, Criminal is a pretty unimpeachable run of crime comics. It’s not groundbreaking, but it is close to flawless. As a matter of fact, where’s the Brubaker hate in general coming from in this post?

      (I did just read his “Secret Avengers: Mission to Mars” though – easily my least favorite Brubaker work in recent times, however. It was rushed, unnecessary, and gathered an interesting team to little effect. Hope it gets better)

      Planet Hulk was fun, if a little rushed, but the ending ruined it for me. I know more than enough about World War Hulk to avoid it, though I confess to a little temptation to read it after those last couple pages. Still, I think Hulk would be more interesting remaining on that planet – I think Planet Hulk was one of few books that could have used a lot more space to be told.

      S.H.I.E.L.D. any good?

      Secret Warriors… I’m not sure what it is. I really liked it – after the first trade, I immediately went out and bought the next two and devoured them that night, and pre-ordered vol. 4. I enjoy it, but there is something missing. I still plan to pick up every single trade, though. It’s surprisingly solid.

  4. brucecastle says:

    C’mon, man. No hate, just fun. You do like Brubaker too much, though. And, now that you mention it, the last Criminal series was a bit weak.

    SHIELD’s definitely something to check out, but again, you’re either on or off. It’s looking to be a novel that’s fed to us 22 pages at a time, with two months between each issue, and lord knows how much time between each chapter. It is one of the most ambitious mainstream comics out there right now.

    Why would it be surprising? This is all your first Hickman Marvel sampling. Did you dislike his Indie output?

    It’s nice to have the Internet back, isn’t it?

    • Cal Cleary says:

      So, so nice. It’s not very GOOD Internet, but I can start updating again, which is nice. Hopefully, I’ll be able to get my contributions on a pretty regular schedule in the very near future.

      I’m planning to pre-order the first SHIELD hardcover. I’ve heard good things, so I’m looking forward to it. As long as the smaller chunks are satisfying, I’m totally okay with long-form storytelling – in fact, I tend to love it. Few books are good at doing it in a serialized format, though. It’s tough.

      I do tend to overrate Brubaker, definitely. There are too few creators out there with his level of talent, and while he isn’t even really close to being one of the All Time Greats, he still parlays his success with innovative stories and daring arcs into risk-taking genre projects that clearly mean a lot to him, like Criminal. He’s a man interested in challenging the status quo and doing so with confidence and skill. Haven’t read Criminal: The Sinners, yet, but I plan on it.

      American Vampire is next on my list of trades to pick up. I’ve been trying to keep up with your Best Of lists and grab up the interesting ones, and I’ve wanted this one for awhile. I do kind of want to finish the Ex Machina hardcovers, though…

      I was surprised by Secret Warriors because I’d read the first issue awhile back and didn’t love it. The end-of-issue twist didn’t really make sense, and while it was solid in setting up an ongoing story, it was just a “NOTHING WILL EVER BE THE SAME AGAIN” twist too far. Three trades in, it still doesn’t really fully work for me, but the rest of the book is engaging enough to make it worth pushing past and appreciating how well-crafted most of the book is.

  5. brucecastle says:

    If you don’t find the idea of Sir Isaac Newton fucking Jack Kirby’s Deviants satisfying, then there is something deeply wrong with you.

    Brubaker a shitkicker? I don’t see that at all. He’s a writer’s writer. That’s his appeal, but he’s way too workmanlike.

    Everything on my lists are interesting!

    I understand the dislike of the first issue’s twist, but if it wouldn’t have been written, I wouldn’t have bought the first issue.

    • Cal Cleary says:

      Everything on your lists may be interesting, but I have to prioritize. I have two more Starman omnibuses to pick up, 3 more Ex Machina and 3 more YtLM hardcovers, a couple Marvel omnibuses I want, a couple Absolute editions, etc… Is JMS’ Thor run worth reading? I’ve heard good things, but then, people also said nice things about his Superman, and that was, well…

      So, yeah. I need to pick things slowly. Thankfully, I’ve built a backlog of books to read. I’m going to start Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth soon, and I recently finished Blankets. After almost a year away from comics, it’s nice to be picking up some new material again!

  6. brucecastle says:

    You’re prioritizing poorly. You don’t need that Vaughn and Robertson stuff.

    No JMS comic is worth reading.

    You came back just in time. It’s Frank Miller’s year!

  7. James S Harbin…

    [...]Top 5 Best Comics of January 2011 « read/RANT![...]…

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