iFanboy’s Best of 2011: The Best Single Issues of 2011

15. Detective Comics #881

I sure like the new Batman written by Scott Snyder, but given the choice, with Jock and Francesco Francavilla on art duties, exploring the “new” villain James Gordon Jr., I’d go back again, no question. This issue wrapped up the huge Black Mirror story, and did it with style. Immense style.

Read the Pick of the Week Review.

– Josh Flanagan

14. Wolverine: Debt of Death

There’s nothing as liberating as a single issue with no strings tied to anything, with an incredible creative team. If you’ve ever had a bit too much of Wolverine at any point, this issue is the salve. Davids Lapham and Aja brought everything to bear in this Wolverine revenge tale, and there was hardly a page that didn’t elicit a gasp from me for its sheer beauty.

– Josh Flanagan

13. Secret Avengers #16

I had pretty much written both Warren Ellis and Secret Avengers off. Ellis, while great, hasn’t impressed me in years and Secret Avengers has been the title that Marvel just couldn’t seem to make work. But Ellis comes in with the first of a series of one-shots, teaming up with rising star Jamie McKelvie, who show shows off his action skills x 10, and with one single issue, they made Secret Avengers relevant again.

– Ron Richards

12. Flashpoint: Batman Knight of Vengeance #2

No one saw this one coming. Even if the story didn’t pan out ultimately, this issue had more people excited and talking than anything else in the entire Flashpoint story. Being free of the strings of the same old story let Azzarello and Risso explore, and what they found was shocking.

– Josh Flanagan

11. Hellboy: The Fury #3

They finished up a major part of a very long story for Hellboy, and they did it in a memorable and classy way. There’s never been a page of Hellboy that wasn’t excellent in some way, and they had to step it up in this issue, and so they did. Apparently, there are more Hellish adventures for Hellboy, but even if not, this was a very find sendoff.

– Josh Flanagan

10. Nonplayer #1

If there was one issue  that singlehandedly caused the biggest stir in the comics industry, it was Nate Simpson exploding on the scene with Nonplayer from Image Comics. Sure, we only got one issue this year (due to the combination of Simpson’s schedule & unfortunate injury), but with a comic as amazing as Nonplayer, one issue was all we needed.

– Ron Richards

9. Wolverine & X-Men #1

We all knew how good Jason Aaron and Chris Bachalo were as creators, but we didn’t know they would be this good. Aaron and Bachalo surprised us all, reminding us that the X-Men could be fun (and funny) as they launched one of the most anticipated, and rightfully deserved, launches of the year. This is the time for anyone to jump on with the X-Men and just have fun.

Read the Pick of the Week Review.

– Ron Richards

8. Wonder Woman #1

There are men out there, and they are more excited to read a Wonder Woman comic book than they have ever been. This is no small thing, and Brian Azzarello and Cliff Chiang stepped up in a way that no one has in a very long time. They’re bringing something new to Wonder Woman, something new, something interesting, something that feels like it matters. Wonder Woman has come out of the DC relaunch as my favorite title of the campaign, and over four months later, I can’t believe I’m still saying that.

Read the Pick of the Week Review.

– Josh Flanagan

7. Criminal: Last of the Innocent #3

We’ve been raving over Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips’ work since they were on Sleeper, and Criminal and Incognito have always delivered, but Criminal: Last of the Innocent? This was something special. Amusing, surprising and not what you’d expect at all, Brubaker and Phillips shined with the greatest chapter of the Criminal series, and this issue showed that they were re-writing the rules to an amazing result.

– Ron Richards

6. Animal Man #1

There was one book that represented the potential of DC Comics The New 52, and it was Animal Man. Jeff Lemire and Travel Foreman took a legacy character, whom all agreed had been done masterfully in the past, and not only reinvented the character, but made it into the unlikeliest hot title of the relaunch.  You’ve never seen art like Travel Foreman’s before and teamed with Lemire, they show you that even established characters can be relaunched with great success without being one of the big 7 DC characters.

– Ron Richards

5. Jonah Hex #69

This wasn’t quite the last issue of Jonah Hex, but it should have been. Hex has been on a rampage since the first time we saw him, but it all comes to a head in this issue. The problem is a dad problem, and we see it all come to a head right here. Palmiotti and Gray are joined by Jeff Lemire, who turns in an award worthy art performance. It was a small masterpiece, and a fitting goodbye to a wonderful series.

– Josh Flanagan

4. Uncanny X-Force #18

Uncanny X-Force has been building to a crescendo for all of 2011. Working off the successful launch with artist Jerome Opena in 2010, Rick Remender spent this year telling the tightest stories of his career with a collection of artists. But the shining moment was the climax, reunited with Opena on the last arc, they delivered one of the most impactful and fulfilling story finales I’ve ever read.

– Ron Richards

3. Fantastic Four #600

Under any other circumstance, a 100 page issue priced at $7.99 would get words of warning from us, but this time, Marvel Comics did it right by providing 100 pages of pure, new story.. Jonathan Hickman not only made Fantastic Four relevant again this year, he took risks at every turn, never talking down to the audience.  We may have seen the events of this issue coming, but it doesn’t underscore the elegance and skill that it was done with, which was aided by the wide array of artists joining Hickman, making this book as unique in it’s look as the story provided. Fantastic Four #600 reset the bar for milestone issues for all publishers.

– Ron Richards

2. Rocketeer Adventures #2

Every issue of this anthology mini-series was a wonder, but this one? With with from Mark Waid, Darwyn Cooke, Chris Weston, Gene Ha, Geoff Darrow, and more was a highlight of the year. You didn’t need to be a Rocketeer fan. You just needed to be a fan of well crafted comics, and this one was packed. Any single one of these stories would have been exemplary, but when you stacked them all up? Perfection.

Read the Pick of the Week Review.

– Josh Flanagan

1. Daredevil #1

This was possibly the easiest Pick of the Week I ever had to write. It was on the first day of San Diego Comic-Con, and I drew the short straw in the rotation. Normally, the last thing you want to be doing in San Diego is to be stuck reading comics when there’s so much going on and so many people to see, but this issue? This issue was pure gold. I, and many others, had been driven into a dark hole right along with Matt Murdock. I couldn’t have been more bored of this title, but I never saw this coming. Mark Waid brought us a story that traveled in the completely opposite direction than the Daredevil we’d been reading for too long. Paolo Rivera then came along with an artistic interpretation that blew everyone else out of the water. It was superhero comics, but it wasn’t. It was fun, bold, and it was easily the best single issue of the year in 2011.

– Josh Flanagan


  1. There are some great choices in there. I actually read most of them, which surprised me. It was a hard choice between Detective 881, 879 and 875 as the best of the run, but I had to go with 875. I can see why people would pick 881 though. Hard to pass up the end of such a great run.

    I understand you can’t choose everything, and I haven’t read it yet so I probably shouldn’t be commenting (when has that ever stopped me?!), but I feel like it’s a bit odd that the last issue of Fear Agent isn’t on here.

  2. Great set of picks. My top 20 would be:

    20. Thor: The Mighty Avenger #8
    19. Venom #5
    18. Fantastic Four #587
    17. Detective Comics #875
    16. Scalped #54
    15. Rockeeter Adventures #2
    14. Hellboy: The Fury #3
    13. DC Retroactive: Batman – The ’90s #1
    12. Jonah Hex #69
    11. Reed Gunther #6
    10. Batman Incorporated #6
    9. Wonder Woman #1
    8. Ultimate Comics Spider-Man #155
    7. Daredevil #1
    6. Scalped #50
    5. Animal Man #1
    4. Detective Comics #881
    3. Fear Agent #32
    2. Uncanny X-Force #18
    1. Batman #1

  3. That’s a lot of mainstream titles.

    • I’m starting to think that “mainstream” is an extremely poor term when it comes to comics. The most popular book on this list probably sells around 100,000 copies a month.

      There are roughly 300 million people in just the United States.

      So while I get the distinction we make as comic fans between mainstream/indie, if you take a broader perspective, there aren’t ANY truly mainstream comic books these days.

    • I only care where the craftsmen are. Almost all the great talents in comics came up through the indie field, and they tend to only get better as they go, so it would make sense that they are doing their best work now. But you’re right, it is a lot of mainstream titles. Sort of. It’s good work. That’s what we looked at. That’s what we remembered. That’s what made the list.

    • @KenOchalek – True. Comics that sell tons of copies (Bone or Diary of a Wimpy Kid) aren’t even what we would consider mainstream comics.

      @Josh – The more I think about it, indie storylines are the best and most memorable to me, but when I think of the best single issues, they do tend to be mainstream (oops, sorry) titles. I wonder if this is because I read indies primarily in collected form or if indie single issues don’t really stand well on their own. For example, Snyder, Azarello, Ellis, Aaron, Lemire, and Hickman all released indie work that is, in my opinion, better than anything mainstream they did (damn, there it goes again), but I don’t remember any particular single issue being that memorable. This is just anecdotal, however, so maybe everyone else’s experience is different.

    • @ken–i kind of agree with you but i’m not sure. i’d add that with the “mainstream books” aka big 2 they have a bit of a built in advantage…they’re mostly using characters that have been around for decades that people know and love. Lots of creators before them have tried things that worked and didn’t, so in effect that character has been refined to the point where a creator can jump on and have lots of “research data” to use to their advantage to do their best work. So from that rationale, i see the “mainstream” label a bit easier to apply.

      Creating something brand new and fresh aka “creator owned” is always an experiment with the unknown.

      And i’m sure that even the crappiest, most poorly received Batman story arc does sales numbers that most indies would kill for.

    • @wally: I think we’re on the same page. I see the term mainstream as a descriptor for things that are supported by VAST numbers of people out there. So –fair or not — I’m putting comic books in the same narrative entertainment media environment as prose books, video games, movies, TV, live theatre and opera*. And in that context, comics aren’t anywhere close to mainstream.

      But even using it within the comics niche, “mainstream” is problematic (in a way that it maybe wasn’t 20-30 years ago). Icon books are published by Marvel but owned and managed by the creators — mainstream or indie? The Walking dead has grown into a pretty serious multimedia success — is it still an indie book?

      I guess I just feel like mainstream/indie are tricky labels that are more value-charged than descriptive.

      *I don’t have any numbers, and I’m not trying to bash opera, but given modern cultural preferences, wouldn’t it be maybe a little sad if more people saw a performance of Aida than read a Spider-man comic?

    • @ken–yeah its gets confusing…and much like music and movies…i think “indie” in comics is as much a genre and style for comics as it is a definition about their place in the market.

      personally, when i hear “indie comics” i think of black and white semi-autobiographical OGN’s…. kinda emotional and introspective kinda stuff. I know there is other stuff..but thats what jumps into my mind first.

    • I have to agree with Ken here. Using ‘mainstream’ is a bit of a misnomer when discussing comics. Clearly the big 2 dominate sales and are owned by massive international companies, but then where does that leave imprints like Icon and Vertigo? Sure those books are controlled and marketed by the creators but simply having the recognition on being on a Marvel or DC imprint has to add some recognition. The sales might not be as large, but it seems to me it’s getting harder and harder not to include publishers like Image and Dark Horse in the ‘mainstream’ category. I mean if that definition is all about using preexisting characters, such as Star Wars, Aliens, Predator, then Dark Horse should clearly be included. Not to mention Hellboy is a Dark Horse property and is probably the best known non-super hero comic character in mainstream American society. Plus Walking Dead is the highest rated show on AMC. If those two examples aren’t mainstream, I don’t know what is.

  4. Man, Daredevil made Top X lists all over, and landed the #1 spot on almost all of them.

    Glad I got the chance to read most of these, and some of those that I haven’t read are in my box waiting for me to have the time.

  5. “mainstream” comics, 9 outa 10 times, are the better for a reason: more people buy and love them, thus making them contenders for best of the year. what other criteria would one observe from? i mean, you find gems here and there that are fantastic and it seems like no one is talking about them. for me it’s baltimore. and even though it was some of the best books of the year in my world, i totally understand why it didnt make this list. not enough hype or love from my peers
    as comic book fans we are small in number, but there is still a mainstream amongst ourselves, right?

    on a side note, kinda surprised an issue of JIM didnt make the list and i am really surprised to see W&TXM did make it.

    • There is a mainstream amongst ourselves, but it’s become one of those “comic book-isms” that only make sense to hardcore comic book people (like “creator-owned” or “day and date”). A certain book is only mainstream because it’s supported by a large percentage of a very small percentage of the potential audience.

    • So they’re better because more people buy them? Personally, i think a work of art or lierature should stand on it’s own regardless how many copies it sells. I don’t have a problem with this particular site being mainstream heavy, as that’s the audience it caters to. Still, it would be nice to see a little diversity. Optic Nerve, Ganges, or Tlaes to Thrizzle, perhaps? All good issues, all stood on their own.

      I don’t blame the mainstream focus, one of the most shocking things that struck me when i came back to comics last year was the shift of most indy comics away from the single issue format to a more long form or prestige format. I’ve tried my best to support those that have stuck with the direct market. It would a major shame if it truely became a straight up genre ghetto that most think it is.

    • i said becuz more people buy AND LOVE them. i dont want to see a comic on a “best of” list that only 12 people read, regardless how great those few people think it is. and i dont think a work of art “should” do anything except be a work of art. there are no rules in art. it just has to be

    • @ken
      i see what you mean

    • Limp Bizket’s Gold Cobra was bought and loved by more people than who bought and loved Fucked Up’s David Comes to Life. If that Limp Bizket album made it onto a Best Of list over the Fucked Up one based on that criteria, opinions aside, that list would be incorrect. Same thing with comics, just on a slightly different scale. Besides, whose to say that those twelve people aren’t right, and that what they’re reading isn’t exponentially better than what the masses like?

    • first off, i have no idea who “fucked up” is and limp bizket shouldnt be anywhere near a “best of” list. so your right, it would be incorrect.
      secondly, whose to say the masses aren’t right? see, that one swings both ways(like a bisexual)
      and lastly, do you disagree with this list that mr. josh put together? if so, what comic would you replace and with what?

    • @comicbookchris:
      I’m not sure your comparison is really accurate. Fucked Up is a pretty well known band at this point (prior to their break up at least). Not only did they make the top 100 in sales in the US, UK, and Canada; but major publications like Spin Magazine and The Chicago Tribune names David Comes to Life as the #1 album of the year. Plus in Ontario, where they are from, they are a very well known and respected band. They might be considered indie in this country but certainly they are much more mainstream in Canada.

      However, your comparison does bring up an interesting idea on what is mainstream. While more people have heard of and purchased Limp Bizkit, Spin and The Tribune gave Fucked Up significantly more credit and press. If you are recognized by several massive and mainstream publications, how are you not mainstream?

      To put it in comics terms…Things like Animal Man and Uncanny X-Force have made major splashes in the comics world this year, and are put out by ‘mainstream’ comic publishers, but have received little to no mainstream press coverage. While comics like Walking Dead and Fables have been talked about in the most mainstream of media outlets. Both of those come from ‘indie’ publishers. So what is mainstream? Is it the internal comic book mainstream like Ken suggests? Or is it the external, general mainstream of American culture? Interesting questions. Personally I think Marvel, DC, Image, and Dark Horse all qualify as ‘mainstream; comic publishers these days. And they also produce most of my favorite comics each month.

  6. Agree.

  7. All of these are incredible issues. My personal favorite was Fear Agent but all of the above are definitely excellent. I had almost forgotten how good some of those flash minis. I really wish Azarello was writing Detective as well as WW. Jonah Hex #69 is probably my #2. Ultimately I read all of these issues and I have to say that upon reflection this is one of the best years in comics I can remember and its good to see that more than half the books are coming from creators who are relative newcomers.

  8. I would’ve like to see Criminal higher on the list. Anytime an homage to Archie can be made through a story of betrayal and murder: its got to be the best. And Daredevil is #1 again? Was he stuck in such a stagmire before this current run? I have these issues and the story is good, its just that there should be some room for other great single issues. And Batwoman gets no love. Again.

  9. YES! I love this list to pieces.

  10. I still believe that Secret Avengers #18 is the best single issue of 2011…..But I really can’t disagree with this list. Daredevil #1 is a very, very, VERY close 2nd on my list.

    If anyone cares (which I doubt I know) my top ten would be:

    10) Action Comics #1
    9) Fantastic Four #588
    8) Xombi #1 (Seems like a lot of people forgot about this title! Don’t forget this short run gem DC had this summer)
    7) Batman and Robin #2 (volume 2)
    6) Thunderbolts #160
    5) Batman #3
    4) Chew #21
    3) Batman Incorporated #7
    2) Daredevil #1
    1) Secret Avengers #18

  11. I picked Daredevil #1 as well. I loved the cover and the setting.(the Cloisters!!!) I love Marvel in NYC. Thanks for the review, it was spot on.

  12. Wonderwoman was one of only about 3 of the new titles I actually dropped along with Captain Atom and Green Lantern.

  13. Uncle! I truly couldn’t care less about Daredevil, but I trust Josh’s opinion too much to see him bestow something as valuable as #1 issue of the year and not give it a chance. I’ll pick up the trade now.

    Great list. Need to check out a couple more that I missed.

    My #1 of the year is CHEW #18. Surprised it didn’t make the cut.

  14. That is some bad writing in the Hex write up. There in the middle there’s two sentences that say the same thing nearly wor for word. That’s really somthing that could have been caught with a single read through. A little editing would go a long way.

  15. Btw, I liked the Aja issue of Secret Avengers more than the McKelvie, but still a strong choice.

  16. It warms my heart that I’ve read the vast majority of those issues listed.

  17. Nice list, suprised that I’ve read a lot of them, now to track down the stuff that I havn’t. Glad Secret Avengers and Uncanny X-Force get a mention (not that they’re suprising picks). I would’ve squeezed in an issue of Moon Knight some where to.

  18. While most of these issues are great, no love for Amazing Spider-man?

    655 was Marcos Martin’s best work ever!

  19. How bout:

    The Beauty (Top Cow)

    Batman #3

    Kick Ass 2 #5

    Detective #881

    Mudman #1

  20. JiM 632