Best Comics Of 2011: Best Anthologies Of The Year

Rules are fairly simple for this category. This could be a one-shot, a mini series, or an ongoing comic, along as multiple stories and creative teams are involved.

8. POOD edited by Geoff Grogan

A  new newsprint fold-out format style comic strip anthology zine that only lasted four issues, but man, what a ride. What I liked about this was the boldness of the concept. There’s no money to be made here, no grand experiment designed to revolutionize the industry. This is just people who love making comics, making comics. A shame it didn’t last longer.

7. Robert E. Howard’s Savage Sword edited by Samantha Robertson, Patrick Thorpe, and Scott Allie.

Over 80 years later, the concepts created by Robert E. Howard still grab hold of our imagination like nothing before or since. This is a solid adventure anthology featuring famous Howard characters like Conan and Kull, and not so famous ones like El Borak and Sailor Steve Costigan. This is capital A adventure storytelling, with the likes of Roy Thomas, Gil Kane, Barry Windsor-Smith, and Tim Bradstreet doing the heavy lifting.

6. CBLDF Presents Liberty Annual 2011 edited by Bob Shreck (Image)

An oldie, but a goodie. The Comic Book Legal Defence Fund has been putting out these annual anthologies for a while now as a fundraising tool for their legal efforts. This year’s issue utilized the ‘It Gets Better” anti-gay bullying meme created by Dan Savage, and featured plenty of A list talent like Mark Waid, J.H. Williams, and Judd Winick. This was probably the best one-shot anthology I read this year, with way more hits than misses, and more than a few stories that stuck with me for days afterwards. I’m having a hard time picking one favourite, but Matt Wagner’s Sympathy From The Devil Grendel feature might have been the very best of a an exceptional bunch. I really wish that more anthologies of this quality were produced regularly. The fact that the proceeds are going to a worthy cause is an added bonus.

5. The Unexpected / Strange Adventures edited by Karen Berger, various (Vertigo)

Vertigo used to be the undisputed king of comic anthologies, but that’s gone away now that Axel Alonso is at Marvel, and now that DC seems to treat Vertigo the way you would the smart kid in your class who can’t speak english. There were two exceptions to this downward spiral this year, and both of these genre anthologies were often good enough to recall just how great this company used to be at this sort of this. The sci-fi themed Strange Adventures is the slightly superior title, with some stellar work by Jeff Lemire, Kevin Colden, Ross Campbell, and Peter Milligan, and with a great sneak-peek at Brian Azzarello and Ed Risso’s Spaceman. The Unexpected features more of a horror bent, with its very best stories coming early at the hands of Dave Gibbons, Josh Dysart and Farel Dalrymple, and Alex Grecian and Jill Thompson. Oh, and Denys Cowan. Yep. Now you wish you bought this, yes?

4. Rocketeer Adventures 1-4 edited by Scott Dunbier (IDW)

This was WAY better than it had any right to be, but I shouldn’t be surprised, because you get what you pay for. And in this case, IDW paid for the services of people like John Cassady, Kurt Busiek, Mike Mignola, and Mike Allred. For those of you not familiar with the Rocketeer, he was a pulp hero created in the 1980’s by famed animator Dave Stevens. They made a movie. It was good. Look it up. Stevens never did more than a handful of stories with the character, and so IDW tried to rectify the situation with this, the very definition of a labour of love. Not only are these stories a fitting tribute to one of the unheralded greats of 1980’s and 90’s adventure comics, but they’re also fantastic reads in their own right.

3. Papercutter edited by Greg Means and Jason Martin (Tugboat Press)

A new discovery for me this year, and one that’s going to be hard to continue, as Papercutter’s distribution isn’t exactly widespread. This is indie comics at their very best, and the shoddy amateur work that often dodges indie titles is nowhere to be found here. The quality of this is pretty much staggering, considering that almost no one is reading this. These are indie comics in every sense of the word, but that doesn’t mean that the bar isn’t set high. Fans of creators like Clowes, Tomine, and Bechdel will find much to admire here.

2. Dark Horse Presents edited by Mike Richardson (Dark Horse)

One of the greatest anthologies in comic history is back, and after a few rocky issues at the start, it’s shaping up to being almost as good as it ever was. At first, new Concrete stories by Paul Chadwick were about the only reason to pick this up, but getting new Finder stories by Carla Speed McNeil, new Beasts Of Burden episodes by Evan Dorkin and Jill Thompson, and new Skeleton Key pages by Andi Watson have made this a monthly kick-in-the-pants. I would still like to see more exposure to new and developing creators though.

1. 2000AD edited by Matt Smith (Rebellion)

I have a confession to make, but you can’t tell anyone. Until this year, I had never read an issue of 2000AD. Heretic! Yes, I know. In North America, 2000AD  just that thing with Judge Dredd on the cover that no one ever buys. But if you’re in the UK? If you’re in the UK and love comics, chances are that 2000AD was a seminal part of your comic book experience at least at some point, and it’s as influential to comic book readers in England as Batman and Spider-Man are to people here. Years before the world had read the superhero comics of people like Alan Moore, Garth Ennis, Alan Grant, Brian Bolland, Dave Gibbons, Mark Millar, John Wagner, Grant Morrison, and Neil Gaiman, they were writing mind-blowing sci-fi for 2000AD.  When I saw D’Israeli’s work on Warren Ellis’ SVK this year, it made me realize how much I liked his art, and it motivated  me to look for more. Which brought me to 2000AD.  I’ve been reading as much as I can, and the craziest thing about this hoary old chestnut, is how good the stories are now. The work being done this year in 2000AD is superior to most of the work being done by either of the big 2 American publishers right now. Yeah, I said it. It’s that good. If you like your sci-fi batshit crazy, but with a serious focus on a constant flow of new characters and new ideas, 2000AD is for you. There were quite a few good Thrills this year, but for me some of the highlights have been Rob Williams and D’Israeli’s latest installment of the venerable Low Life series, Gordon Rennie and  Tiernen Trevallion’s take on the Caballistics spin-off Inspector Harry Absalom, and Ian Edginton and Simon Davis’ Victorian sci-fi comic Ampney Crucis.