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(Al's Pick) Best Hero of 2011: Aquaman
Aquaman has not only become one of the New 52's greatest surprises, but also one of their greatest heroes. By utilizing the stigma that has been associated with him and turning it on its ear, Geoff Johns and DC has made Arthur Curry a serious force to be reckoned with, in both the Justice League as well as the Aquaman series. Not only have they made this man a complete badass, but they also created some depth to his character, by having him battle this preconceived notion that he is one of the worst superheroes of all time. I mean, really, who doesn't like the underdog?
(Nicole's Pick) Best Villain of 2011: Deadshot
Never having been a big Deadshot fan, the New 52 title has revitalized Deadshot as the great killing machine he is, with a bit of a clown fetish... He shows how great his leadership skills (probably because of his seething reluctance to talk to anyone with barking orders) and he is clearly the one stepping into the spotlight in the great series of Suicide Squad.
(Tim's Pick) Best Writer of 2011: Jeff Lemire (Animal Man, Sweet Tooth)
I realize that our coverage of the fantastic Animal Man has been criminally low; specifically, none at all. That having been said, this is easily one of the best books of the New 52. Granted, a great deal of that is due to the incredible artwork of Travel Foreman. However, it's the story that informs the art and this story is creative, so unique, and still all so believable that each new issue blows me away. Not only that, but Buddy Baker, the Animal Man, is written so convincingly as a normal guy who happens to have super powers, it would make Spider-Man jealous. Buddy's family life, his wife and kids, play a huge part in his story, which is not an angle we really see used too often. Even so, Lemire's wholly realistic portrayal of domesticity only adds to the story when things take a turn for the worst. Regrettably, I have read little of Lemire's other currently running book, Sweet Tooth, but what I have read has been clever and creative. As much as I have enjoyed some of the works of Paul Dini and Peter Milligan this year, there have been other books of their's that do not even come close to the heights reached by Lemire's work. Personally, I am really looking forward to see what comes from Jeff Lemire's imagination in 2012.
(Nicole's Pick) Runner-up: Judd Winick: (Power Girl, Batwing, Catwoman)
Not only was Winick's work before DC's re-launch fun (Power Girl being utilized as more than just a sex object but also being joked about as one was fun, as well as the numerous stories), but he has written two of my favorite New 52 titles: Catwoman and Batwing. Batwing I named my runner-up for best new series of 2012 because of the artwork but also the great storytelling, and while Catwoman has had it's lukewarm issues, when Winick shines the series is one of the best; if not THE best.
(Al's Pick) Best New Series of 2011: I, Vampire
In a day and age where vampires have made a name for themselves by glowing and fighting werewolves over girls, DC jumped on the bandwagon and released vampires into their New 52. I know, I know... Vampires. I'm as skeptical as you are. When I saw the cover art for the first issue of I, Vampire, I must admit I was a little more than hesitant about DC releasing it. It could honestly be mistaken as a cover for "Twilight, the Comic Series!" The only reason I picked it up was because it had Joshua Fialkov's name on it (Echoes, Tumor, Elk's Run), and all I can say is wow. Not only has Fialkov created a gritty vampire story about love and sacrifice, but he has managed to include the DC Universe in on this. While the only DC character we have seen so far is John Constantine, there have been clear hints that there will be more characters from the DC Universe involved in this vampire comic (with a BIG hint involving Batman). While I'm not sure how it will go at that point, this is definitely one of the best new series I have gazed upon this year.
(Nicole's Pick) Runner-up: Batwing
Not only was the announcement of the first African-American to join the Bat-family big news, but so was the great series. With the exotic fictional location of Tinasha (located within the Democratic Republic of the Congo), Winick creates an action-packed story and a lead character with a dark and tragic past. Even more amazing is the gorgeous and realistic artwork by Ben Oliver that does not seem DC's style at all... but they should be quick to adapt to more series in the hopes of creating a result as wondrous as this one!
(Tim's Pick) Best Continuing Series of 2011: Homestuck
With so many tremendous reboots and new series having started this year, it's tough to think about all the books still going that didn't get branded with a shiny new #1. So, I won't. Unorthodox? Absolutely. Makes me seem like a tool? Very probably. Despite all that, the best ongoing comic to my mind is mspaintadventures.com's Homestuck. Begun in 2009, after the conclusion of author Andrew Hussie's previous work, Problem Sleuth, Homestuck is an indie web comic that has attained an absolutely massive fan base. Combining elements of science fiction, fantasy, text-based adventure games, RPGs, pop culture references, and lots of swearing; there is really not anything else quite like this comic. Hussie's comic has earned such a huge following that there are teams on call for assistance with art collaborations, musical pieces, and a few times, actual games to augment the experience. Like I said, this is an indie work, but the amount of care in taken in both the art and writing is far better than a lot of professional comics I have read. I spent more time with Homestuck than any other comic this year and I can't wait to read more next year.
(Nicole's Pick) Best Mini-Series of 2011: Malignant Man
This science-fiction horror tale, told from the mind of Saw writer James Wan, was an impressive surprise in 2011 for me. Not only was the story a mixture of unique and (mostly) fun clichés, Malignant Man was a fun mini-series that would make a great translation into a comic book movie.
(Tim's Pick) Best Story Arc of 2011: "Spider-Island" (Amazing Spider-Man)
There have been a ton of story arcs this year, both big and small. Marvel and DC both had their standard big crossover events in "Flashpoint" and "Fear Itself." To my mind though, no story arc was done as well as "Spider Island." Dan Slott's Amazing Spider-Man saw himself marginalized this year when every normal citizen of New York woke up with spider-powers. This was a really unique idea that managed to pull itself off with a great deal of fun. Several other books crossed-over and tied-in to the main story, but none of them were especially obtrusive. I think one other book was plugged within the pages of Amazing and the rest was left to readers. Best of all, we got a very definite look at what really makes Spidey who he is (AKA not the superpowers) in a finale that reminded me a great deal of Doctor Who. Sure, there were plenty of decent story arcs this year and some great ones that have yet to be finished. In the end, "Spider Island" was the one to remind me why I love Spidey and it's the one I'm looking back on going into 2012.
And not only was "Spider-Island" named the Best Story Arc of 2011, but also...
(Eric's Picks) Best Event of 2011: Spider-Island
2011 was a pretty event-filled year, but I think the best event of 2011 was also the most self-contained. Spider-Island involved all the New York based heroes without spanning outside of Spider-Man and Venom. There were mini-series involved with Spider-Island, but they just filled in background information and weren't completely necessary to collect in order to understand the event. Spider-Island toyed with our emotions by having Jackal, responsible for the hated Clone Saga involved, but also keeping things relatively light-hearted. The event also has had consequences that we haven't even had time to digest yet like the breakup of Carlie Cooper and Peter Parker, the new Scarlett Spider, and Mary Jane Watson learning what it's like to be Spider-Man. It gave a little bit of everything without feeling overwhelming.
1st Runner Up: X-Men's Schism
My first runner up would be X-Men's Schism. We've been waiting for this fight ever since Wolverine first joined the X-Men. Finally, the rift between the two poles of the X-Men had grown too large and they had to duke it out and part ways. What kept this event from taking the top honors were the stupid antagonists and strange pacing. A couple kids took over the Hellfire Club and caused all this havoc in order to sell Sentinels. And the first issue opens up with Wolverine talking about how much he respects Cyclops only to have it all fall apart within five issues.
2nd Runner-up: DC's Flashpoint.
As DC seems to be prone to do every 20 or so years, they rebooted their universe. This time they don't so much explain how they got there as so the results of a new world. It started off with a lot of skepticism from the fans and ended up getting lots of accolades for fun Else-Worlds stories. The negative part of Flashpoint is that it's pretty unclear how it actually led to the New 52 DC universe. It's implied that Flash didn't put everything back together correctly, but it all hangs together narratively by the flimsiest thread. And that was just too much for me to be able to give it the top spot.
(Al's Pick) Best Artist of 2011: Craig Thompson
When it comes to comics this year, Craig Thompson released a work of art in Habibi. With his earlier release of Blankets a few years ago, there was a lot of hype regarding his newest endeavor, Habibi, but he delivered on all expectations, including the artwork. Literally every page of this book is a piece of artwork that you would not hesitate to frame and put on your wall. With a vast amount of passion oozing from every page of this almost-700 page Islamic-style graphic novel, it is obvious that Thompson took a his time and a large amount of effort when creating this gem.
(Nicole's Pick) Best Colorist of 2011: Sunny Gho
You can always tell an artist by his artwork, but Gho's colors have such a distinctive style themselves that you can always tell when he colored a comic. He is my favorite thing about numerous Top Cow titles like Artifacts and Velocity and is the only reason I featured The Incredible Hulk #3 preview, a preview which captured my eye by the colors alone. If it's Gho, it's great!
The past year has seen a big change in the comic landscape with DC's re-launch and Marvel's own little events, as well as the waves some independent titles have been making. Who knows what 2012 will have in store for fellow Comic Book Readers - but the Player Affinity Comic Staff will be there to let you know the who, what, when and where of 2012. Happy New Year everybody!