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The 20 Best Comic Books of 2011

December 4, 2011  |  8:45am
The Ten Best Collections / Reissues Of 2011

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10. The Mighty Thor Omnibus
by Walter Simonson
Marvel Comics

Simonson’s excellent early 1980s run on Mighty Thor isn’t as celebrated as the roughly contemporaneous work Frank Miller and Chris Claremont were doing in Daredevil and Uncanny X-Men (respectively), but it’s probably held up better. This oversized hardcover collects Simonson’s entire sci-fi/mythosuperheroic epic into a single volume that’s as hard to lift as Mjolnir. It’s a one-stop doorstop featuring the greatest Thor stories this side of Jack Kirby. (GM)

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9. Walt Disney’s Mickey Mouse Volume 1: Race To Death Valley
by Floyd Gottfredson
Fantagraphics

Floyd Gottfredson took over the Mickey Mouse daily strip in 1930 under orders to convert if from a lightly serialized gag-a-day comic into an adventure strip with long-running stories. In the process he created an enduring classic and the most fully-formed depiction of Disney’s most important character. Before he morphed into an amiable but dull nice guy, Mickey was a brave rascal with a fundamentally good nature. That combination of irreverence and decency makes Mickey a great lead for a strip that mixes action and comedy, and Gottfredson wasted no time sending Mickey and his friends on lengthy, cliffhanger-packed adventures through lands far and near. Gottfredson had an animator’s knack for storytelling, and his layouts remain clear no matter how busy they get. Much of the humor is stilted by modern standards, but you’ll be too enthralled by the exciting plots and likable characters to care. (GM)

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8. Daytripper
by Gabriel Ba and Fabio Moon
Vertigo Comics

Daytripper, from the twin Brazilian creators Fabio Moon and Gabriel Ba, was originally a 10-issue miniseries in 2009 and 2010, but this collection proves that it’s more powerful when read straight through in a single afternoon. Some of these vignettes of the life of aspiring writer Bras de Oliva Domingos are humorous, others harrowing, but they all shed light on a man wise enough to know what matters but wiser still for realizing he’ll never quite understand the world. The father-son dynamic at the story’s core might resemble almost every other work of fiction ever, but Moon and Ba remain thoughtful and insightful throughout. They also know how to make a grown man cry through the power of art. (GM)

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7. Jack Davis: Drawing American Pop Culture – A Career Retrospective
by Jack Davis
Fantagraphics

Georgia’s own Jack Davis is a legendary cartoonist and commercial artist who contributed to E.C. Comics during its 1950s heyday and whose work appeared in MAD Magazine for decades. Fantagraphics has finally given him the grand and serious treatment he deserves, without minimizing his goofy sense of humor. This oversized book is a little short on text, but scans from the original artwork reproduce it beautifully on a large scale. (HB)

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6. We3 Deluxe Edition
by Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely
Vertigo Comics

Comic books that make you cry are few and far between, but We3 is a potent recipe for a wet pillowcase. And it’s also about android pet assassins. With an aesthetic that feels like James Cameron directing Homeward Bound, this intense parable about mechanical animals on the run from the government is some of the finest work from Frank Quitely and comic god Grant Morrison. (SE)

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