Here we go! 2011 is coming to a close, and 2012 is just a few hours away. The end of the year means one thing here at this blog... It's time for X's Forth Annual Unnamed Year End Awards!!! I honestly can't believe this is the FORTH annual year end awards post I'm doing! I didn't expect this blog to last past the one year mark, and we are now on year four here. That's truly amazing to me. But enough about me, this post is ALL about comic books and the year 2011. I'll be handing out awards for various topics, basically a combination of past year-end posts I've done as well as whatever else pops into my head. Before we get started, first a disclaimer... All of these awards I'll be listing below? They are all my own personal opinion. That's all there is to it. These are the things I enjoyed or hated about the year 2011. Years of doing this post have taught me that there are some people who take great offense at anything that doesn't agree with their opinions... I'm always happy to discuss my picks with other passionate fans, and I'd love to hear what all of you guys reading this would have chosen as your own picks. All I ask is that we keep it civil around here, don't be that person who chimes in with the always helpful, “I didn't agree with your pick for favorite writer... YOU SUCK!” I already KNOW that I suck, you don't need to tell me! Instead of that, tell me who YOU would have picked and why. Productive dialogue rules! Besides all of that, remember, while I've read a crazy amount of comic books this year, I haven't read EVERY comic book that dropped this year. So yes, there may have been really good titles that I've missed out on. I can only talk about the stuff I read. Okay, with the boring stuff out of the way, let's get to the fun stuff. Here are my official picks for the best of 2011!!!
Favorite Writer: Christos Gage. While this was the first category I decided to do for the year, this was also the toughest category for me to select a winner from... Seriously, there were several writers who COULD have conceivably come away with this award, but nobody really jumped out at me. In the end, I went with the writer whose work I can ALWAYS rely on for at least an 8 out of 10 score-wise, Christos Gage... And trust me when I say that I agonized over this pick. Avengers Academy has been a fantastic series(good enough to win series of the year? Read on to find out!), and prior to that I thoroughly enjoyed Gage's work on Avengers: The Initiative. Gage is one of those rare writers who can tell a great story, keep it interesting, AND bring fantastic dialogue. Looking back at everything of Gage's that I've read this past year, I can't point at anything and say, “Yeah, that sucked.” Add his work from prior years(yeah, I shouldn't do that, but it's my awards post, so I can fudge the rules how I like!), and Gage is the ever so slight nod as my favorite writer of 2011.
Runners-up: Rick Remender(Uncanny X-Force, Venom), Dan Slott(Amazing Spider-Man), Jason Aaron(Wolverine, X-Men: Schism, Wolverine and the X-Men).
Least Favorite Writer: Tony Daniel. Here's the topic that usually gets me the most flak from angry comic book fans, but hey, if I was afraid of pissed off fanboys, I'd have closed this blog down years ago. Tony Daniel has done two things I'd never have expected to happen... First, he caused me to drop Batman prior to the DC reboot. Then, he caused me to drop Detective Comics after the DC reboot. That says a lot about my thoughts on Daniel's writing... Don't get me wrong, I think he's a fantastic artist, but as a writer? No. No thanks. Now, whenever I see the name Tony Daniel on a comic, I rapidly walk past it. So, what are my gripes with Daniel? Well, prior to the reboot, the Sensei and Catgirl stuff completely turned me off, and then post-reboot we ended up with Joker cutting off his face, the Dollmaker and Penguin... So yeah. Bad stuff there.
Runners-up: Geoff Johns(Brightest Day, Flash), Dan Didio(Outsiders), Brian Michael Bendis(Avengers).
Favorite Ongoing Series: Avengers Academy. And here's the first major surprise of this year's awards. After a quick search of the blog, I narrowed my favorite ongoing comic series down to 4. From there I went through my posts for those four series and checked out what I scored them. Amazingly, Avengers Academy came away with FOUR perfect scores for the year. Considering I only gave out 27 perfect scores for 2011, that's a pretty impressive percentage. So what is so good about this series? For me, it's everything an Avengers comic book SHOULD be, as well as giving us some fantastic characterizations, great stories and solid art. I mean it's the total package! Each of the Academy cadets are flawed and interesting, the teaching staff is also full of their own issues, and they recently added Hawkeye as a member of this series... There's honestly not much I could possibly think about that could make this series any better for me. So kudos to Christos Gage and company for putting together the best comic book on the market today. If I can convince a single comic fan to give this series a shot due to this post, then I'll have considered this post a major success.
Runners-up: Uncanny X-Force, Venom, Amazing Spider-Man, pre-reboot Batgirl.
Least Favorite Ongoing Series: The Avengers. Okay, first off, right off the bat, this result surprised me. I was going through the blog and noticed that I gave Avengers two 0 scores for the year. After that, I started to check out the rest of the scores, and man was this series schizophrenic! The beginning of the year wasn't that bad. We had 3 scores over an 8 1/2, and one as high as a 9 1/2. Then, right around the time Fear Itself started up, this series nosedived... And bad. The past 7 issues included two 0's, a 1, and a 2 1/2. We went from having relatively okay Bendis, to having HORRIBLE Bendis, all over the course of a few months. Now, with the Fear Itself event over and a huge Ultron storyline on the horizon I'm expecting Bendis to right the ship here, but unfortunately, and yes, surprisingly, Avengers gets the nod as the worst ongoing series I currently still read.
Runner-up: Generation Hope. Since I cut down on a lot of the comics I wasn't enjoying, that's it here.
Favorite Event of the Year: Fear Itself. I know there are a lot of people who would disagree with me on this one, but I honestly enjoyed the Fear Itself event for the most part. The first two or three issues were exceptionally strong, and the ending was satisfying. Yeah, the middle dragged a bit, and some of the tie-ins didn't add much to the story(Home Front started off well enough but rapidly fell apart, the Fearsome Four was awful and Ghost Rider was just bizarre), and Marvel has already begun to undo much of the things that happened during this event(ie: Bucky & Thor's “deaths”), but like I said, overall I enjoyed this. The story was strong and many of the tie-ins(Youth In Revolt, the early Iron Man stuff, most of Journey Into Mystery) actually added to the main story, which is something you don't often see with events of this size. I can safely say that this was one of Marvel's better events, from start to finish in recent memory.
Least Favorite Event of the Year: Brightest Day. Yes, this is kind of a cop-out answer considering I also had this as my Least Favorite Event of 2010, but hey, it DID go on until March, so I CAN still use it here. And honestly, Brightest Day was so horrible on SO many levels, it deserves being named my Least Favorite Event for two consecutive years. Hell, if I could figure out a way, I'd probably try to name it the worst event for 2012 as well! This was an event that had literally no redeeming qualities. It had a horrendous reveal at the end(Swamp Thing? Really?), most of the stories made no sense(Hawk NEVER did what he was tasked to do and yet was never punished!), and I gave the final issue a score of about -400 or so. So really, there was nothing that even came close to reaching the levels of terrible this event reached.
Runner-up: War of the Green Lanterns(while I didn't read the whole thing, and skipped massive parts of the story, from what I did see, it looked like your basic I ♥ Hal Jordan story Geoff Johns has been writing for years now).
Favorite Mini-Series of the Year: Avengers: The Children's Crusade. Well this is weird... Much like my Least Favorite Event, Children's Crusade also came away with the award for my Favorite Mini-Series from last year... That just goes to show you how damn delayed this excellent mini-series has been. As for why I picked this as my favorite mini-series, it's quite simple... 9 1/2, 10, 10, 10, 9, 8. What does that mean? Those are the scores I've given the 6 issues of this mini-series that came out this year. Honestly, it doesn't get any better than that. Add the fact that the stuff happening in this mini-series DOES have bearing on the current and future Marvel Universe(Rictor kept the powers he received in this mini, Wanda has been confirmed to take part in this year's Avengers vs X-Men event), plus a perfect blend of story, dialogue and art and you have a mini-series that will probably go down as my favorite EVER. And considering all of the comic books I've read, that is insanely high praise.
Runners-up: Hawkeye: Blindspot, Kick-Ass 2, Captain America: Man out of Time.
Least Favorite Mini-Series: Silver Surfer. So you're Greg Pak. Marvel has told you to do a mini-series involving the Silver Surfer. They've told you that you can use the awesome High Evolutionary as the main villain of the piece. What do you do? You de-power the Surfer, turn him into a whiny bitch, and remove the best part of the Surfer's comic books, the whole cosmic aspect... It made no sense when I read it then, and it makes no sense in retrospect. Add strange cameos(the FF! The woman from Iron Man 2.0!) and you have a truly awful mini-series. One that SHOULD have been SO much better...
Runners-up: X-Men: Prelude to Schism, Wolverine & Jubilee.
Hero of the Year: Captain America(Steve Rogers).This was another category I had a tough time picking a winner for... In the end though, it was hard to chose anybody but Steve Rogers. Steve started the year as the head of the agency that used to be SHIELD/HAMMER, ran the Secret Avengers and was the “commander” of the Avengers(whatever THAT means...). After the “death” of his best friend and former sidekick Bucky Barnes, Steve took the Captain America mantle back and rallied the Avengers against the Serpent and his forces, at one time standing before the Serpent and ALL of his Worthy by himself! Now THAT takes balls! Steve, with Thor's hammer, took the fight to the Serpent possessed Sin, and helped lead the Avengers to a victory over the Serpent, saving the Earth in the process. After that, Steve, now as Cap full-time again, puts together a new team of Avengers, sees to the reformation of SHIELD, and does his own solo thing. In other words, Cap was busy this year! Add a blockbuster movie, and this year has to go to Cap.
Runners-up: Thor, Spider-Man, Iron Man
Villain of the Year: The Serpent. It's hard not to pick the character that devastated the Marvel Universe throughout the Fear Itself event. The Serpent and his forces destroyed most of Washington DC, toppled Avengers Tower, rampaged through New York City and Dayton, Ohio(I'm still puzzled over that one...) and destroyed Paris(although that's already been retconned). Add killing Thor personally(which is on the way to being retconned) and directing his forces to kill Bucky Cap(which has already been retconned) and that is one hell of an epic year for any villain, especially a brand new one! Sure, Marvel is already undoing most of he Serpent's vile deeds, but looking back at what he did, before it was undone, that is a great body of work for any villain.
Runners-up: Sin, most of the faculty at Morning Glories academy, Plutonian, pre-reboot Lex Luthor, Archangel, Barry Allen, Dan Didio & Geoff Johns, the Red Right Hand... This was a great year to be evil!
Best Single Issue of the Year: Avengers: The Children's Crusade #5. Not only was this my favorite issue of 2011, it's probably going to go down as one of the greatest single comic book issues I've ever read. And I don't make a statement like that lightly. I've been reading comic books for 15 years now, since I was a wee little punk. I've managed to amass a comic book collection that would rival that of a small comic book shop. I've read thousands upon thousands of comic books. THIS issue is one of the truly great ones. This is an issue I'll be thinking back on for years to come. Scott Lang's embrace with his daughter, poor, poor Jack of Hearts, Wanda finally getting her memories back, Doom vs Magneto, Doom telling the Avengers off, every single page of this issue was seven different flavors of awesome. Since I could literally go on and on about this, I'll simply leave a link for my review of this issue HERE and move on.
Runner-ups: Hawkeye: Blindspot #1, Fear Itself #7.1, Avengers Academy #15, Avengers: The Children's Crusade #6.
Worst Cancellation News of the Year: REBELS!!!!! I'd been souring on DC from the end of Blackest Night. Brightest Day was just plain awful, and made me realize that the writers and editors at DC weren't as great as I'd once thought. But there were some great books still coming out of DC towards the early portion of this year, prior to the reboot... Detective Comics, Batgirl, Red Robin, Zatanna, Gotham City Sirens... But none of them were as good as REBELS. REBELS was far and away my favorite DC series. It had fantastic characters(Vril Dox and his son Lyrl are still amongst my favorites in ALL of comicdom), it had a great villain in Starro the Conquerer(seriously, Tony Bedard turned Starro from a joke into a BEAST), it had great stories, it had great art, the dialogue was great, I think you get the message... It was all great. So what does DC, in their infinite wisdom, do? Why they cancel it of course! So yes, I was downright angry when I found out. Then a few months later, word of the DC reboot leaks out... “Okay,” thinks I, “Maybe DC will bring this series or a LEGION series back with many of the same characters.” Instead we get an OMAC series, a Frankenstein series and TWO Legion of Super-Hero series, but no REBELS/LEGION series... But you know? Maybe that's for the best. I truly don't think the Powers-That-Be currently at DC can tell their asses from their elbows, so maybe it'll be better for these great characters to remain in limbo until DC gets some new blood in their highest offices. You know, people who aren't fanboys obsessed with DC's Silver Age. It's at that time I will be holding out hope that REBELS/LEGION returns. Oh well, at least I'll always have this:Runners-up: The entire DCU, Daken: Dark Wolverine(yeah, it hasn't happened yet, but since the news broke in 2011, I figure I can use it here)
Favorite Cover of the Year: Captain America: The Korvac Saga #4. You know how they say a picture is worth a thousand words? With that old adage in mind, take a gander at this cover:I'm sorry, but every time I see that cover I can't help but chuckle just a bit. I mean it's CAPTAIN AMERICA punching frigging GALACTUS in the FACE! On top of that, the actual facial expressions of the two characters involved are just priceless... You have Cap's determination, and Galactus's “Is he out of his mind?!?” expression. Sure, this scene, nor anything resembling it took place IN this comic, but that cover... It ruled.
What the HELL?!? Moment of the Year: Killer Croc: cannibal with a heart of gold. The DC reboot has done a lot of things. Some good, some bad. Opinions have been quite varied. I'll be the first to say that I'm not a fan of the reboot as a whole, but will admit that some good DID come from it(more on THAT later). However, with the good, came the flat out bizarre... Such as the strange case of Killer Croc... Now, in the pre-DC reboot world, Killer Croc was originally a stone cold killer with delusions of becoming Gotham City's top crime lord. Eventually he mutated and pretty much became a crocodile, and started eating people. In other words, he was a real nasty piece of work. In the post-reboot DCU, Killer Croc will forever be known for this:Yes, that's right, this version of Killer Croc not only WOULDN'T kill Roy, he starts giving him advice!!! I mean, fine, let's say the new, post-reboot Croc isn't a cannibal. Hey, maybe the Powers-That-Be eliminated that from his characters. Maybe he doesn't even have his eyes set on becoming Gotham's reigning crime lord... But what kind of self-respecting super-villain would say THIS:This whole scene is just too bizarre for words... If there's a super-villain union, Killer Croc needs to be tossed out of it pronto. On the plus side, if Croc does decide to quit being a villain, he probably has a career as a motivational speaking in his future.
Runners-Up: There are none! Nothing could top this!
Worst Moment of the Year: The DCU Reboot.This was actually a tough one to choose because I'll admit, there was some good that came with the reboot, namely many of the Wildstorm characters being brought into the DCU. I mean getting Grifter and Midnighter in the DCU HAS to be considered a good thing. Jason Todd FINALLY got his own series, and Roy Harper is a part of the cast! Sure, the first few issues haven't been that great, but with two of my favorite DC characters in that series, I'm still holding out hope. My problem is with everything we lost to get those few good things... The Stephanie Brown Batgirl series? Gone. Steph as Batgirl? Gone in favor of that washed up, has-been Barbara Gordon... And I say that as somebody who LIKED Babs prior to the reboot! Superboy? A completely, unrecognizable character that's more robot than human. Wonder Girl? Unrecognizable. Gotham City Sirens? Replaced by an inferior Catwoman title. Power Girl? Seemingly changed into a totally different character. And of course, the lowest of the low(for anybody who isn't a total Silver Age fanboy), Wally West apparently never having existed... Yep, because Geoff Johns and Dan Didio have hard-ons for Barry Allen, the past 25 some odd years of Wally's adventures, all of his character growth, his development as a hero, his wife, his family, all of it has been seemingly struck from existence by two scumbags. That right there? Wally's banishment? THAT is why I am so down on DC comics as a whole. I'll state it right here, right now. If DC kills Barry back off and replaces him with Wally, I would pick up ALL of the DC series I dropped these past three months, as well as try out several series I skipped originally. Seriously, Barry Allen, more than any story, any event, any character, anything, has drained my enjoyment of DC comics. Plain and simple. The moment Barry's gone and Wally's back is the moment I embrace DC the same way I embraced Marvel after they did away with all of that idiotic Norman Osborn HAMMER nonsense.
Runners-up: Bucky Cap's rather pathetic death during Fear Itself, The return of Black Bolt(but not Vulcan!), The downward spiral of the Avengers series during Fear Itself, Marvel having the balls to sell Fantastic Four #600 for $8(!!!).
Best Moment of the Year: The return of Bucky Barnes in Fear Itself #7.1. So back in early June, I was pretty happy with the way Fear Itself had been rolling along. The story made sense, the build was well done, the threat seemed large enough that it deserved it's own event, it was all good. And then Fear Itself #3 came out. And Captain America(Bucky at the time) was killed off. Not only was he killed off, but he was basically dismissed as a nothing before he was killed off. It wasn't like the Sin/Bucky battle raged on for several pages and Bucky threw himself in front of a bus full of crying babies, sacrificing his own life for the infants... No, Sin just kind of smacked Bucky around before impaling him with her ax. The end. Considering the huge Bucky fan I'd morphed into due to Ed Brubaker's excellent work with the character, I was pretty upset. Fear Itself #3 was one of the first comic books that got a review AND a standalone post dedicated to it... On the SAME day! Bucky's death kind of left a pall over the entire Fear Itself event for me. Forevermore, whenever I thought of Fear Itself, I'd think of Bucky's death, at least until Marvel brought Bucky back sometime down the road. I mean I'm no fool. I know how comic books work. A character dies for a few years and then said character is brought back to life. So while I was sure Bucky would be back again someday(much like Frosty the Snowman...), I knew the wait was going to drive me crazy... And then a wonderful thing happened... In the very first Fear Itself epilogue issue(Fear Itself #7.1), Bucky was brought BACK to life! Yes, Bucky coming back to life so soon(he was only dead for 5 months real time and like 5 days comic book time) makes me wonder what the sense in actually “killing” him in the first place was(yes, he was “killed” to get Steve Rogers back in the Cap uniform, but wouldn't Bucky being terribly injured serve the same purpose?), but hell, I wasn't going to look a gift horse in the mouth! And then to add some more awesomeness to the situation, we learn that come February 2012 Bucky will be starring in his own self-titled series(Winter Soldier), written by Ed Brubaker! So while he probably shouldn't have died in the first place, Bucky's return is definitely my fondest moment from the year 2011.
Runners-Up: The Scarlet Witch regaining her memories and showing that she has the ability to return mutant powers, Jason Todd getting his own series, Hawkeye as a playable character in Ultimate Marvel vs Capcom 3(what?! It WAS a great moment!)
And I think that will just about wrap this post up. The first thing that I noticed upon proofreading this was the lack of DC related events here... But when you really think about it, I could really only choose DC related events prior to Flashpoint, which began around April or May. Once Flashpoint got underway, DC's entire line of books pretty much went into a holding pattern, since the entire company was setting the table for the reboot in September. Add the fact that I really couldn't use anything post-reboot, seeing as that we're only 4 issues in and nothing that I'd deem “major” has happened yet, mainly due to writers trying to reestablish the characters who have been retooled. It's difficult for something important to happen to a new character, which is what pretty much EVERY character in the DCU is now, a new character. Will 2012's award post give us a bunch of DC winners? I honestly don't know, but I have to say that seems very unlikely, since, much like the end of 2011, I'm going to have to think all of 2012 will be a rebuilding year for DC. On the other hand, Marvel is poised for a big 2012 as they've already lined up their next big summer event(Avengers vs X-Men), and have several interesting things lined up(Winter Soldier, the end of Avengers: The Children's Crusade, Nova's return, etc). No, if I were to make a “bold” prediction for 2012's award post, it would be that it's going to look nearly identical to 2011's. I'd like to hope that DC takes home a few more awards than they did this year, but realistically? I'm going to go out on a limb and say that 2012 will be the year of Marvel Comics. With the excitement for the DC relaunch already beginning to fade, as evident by November's sales figures, along with Marvel gearing up for the massive Avengers movie, and their many events, unless DC can pull out a miracle(or Marvel absolutely shoots themselves in the foot, which IS possible), this should be a mammoth year for the House of Ideas. As for X? Here's hoping this is a mammoth year for me as I FINALLY manage to put that diploma of mine to good use and get myself a real job! And that my friends, is that. Thanks for reading, and thanks for helping make 2011 this blog's most successful by far. Hopefully 2012 sees the blog reach even greater heights. Until next time, X out.