The Best Comics Of 2016 – Joe’s List
2016 was a good year for comics. Sure, there was some bad, but overall, it was a good year for the industry. A lot can happen in 365 days, so there is bound to be ups and downs, and this year was no different. As with every year, we saw good series end too soon, bad series go on too long, and new series, whether good or bad, enter the ring.
There were new series like Black Hammer, 4 Kids Walk Into A Bank, and Animosity. Even existing characters were given new and fresh takes like The Vision by Tom King. Doom Patrol returned in a very fun and weird way. Both Detective and Action Comics continued their fantastic legacy. Superman, Wonder Woman and more DC books returned to great storytelling and adventures. We got two new characters taking the mantle of Iron Man in Dr. Doom and Riri Williams, and watched as a few more Marvel legends lost their lives.
Like every year, there were also big events. There were the good like fantastic events like DC Rebirth and disappointing ones in Civil War II. Inhumans fought with X-Men. Spider-Man started having a clone conspiracy. There were major controversies that crossed into mainstream media with Hydra-Cap. Sad moments like Chelsea Cain with Mockingbird. And to close out the year, the release of the beautiful and emotional Love is Love.
We saw more diversity in comics, both in characters and creative teams. Moon Girl, Riri Williams, and Amadeus Cho all shot up the ranks of Marvel’s brightest heroes. New titles like Alters, and Black were released. Gay superheroes Midnighter and Apollo have a six issue run that is still going. Ta-Nahesi Coates joined Marvel to write Black Panther, as did Roxanne Gay on World of Wakanda. It is apparent the industry is changing, and there’s still a lot that needs to be done, but this year was an improvement, and a step forward.
We also lost famed Preacher and The Punisher artist Steve Dillon. 2016 was a year, like any year that saw comics released in it, so let’s give you another unnecessary ranking list based off of my opinions!
Best Superhero Comic – The Vision
This could be in best surprises too. Tom King really took the comic world by storm this year, and this was one of the reasons why. He had other fantastic titles released as well, and they will be mentioned in this article, but The Vision was something so refreshing and so different for Marvel. A perfect run that didn’t feel too short, or too long, is something I don’t always say for Marvel books. The Vision truly felt perfect in almost every way.
It wasn’t just King that made this title so great, as Gabriel Hernandez Walta provided some wonderful art that captured some horrific and heartbreaking moments. It is amazing to realize that a book about synths had some of the most human moments of the year. That’s the power of an amazing creative team, and I bow to the both of them, and to Marvel for taking a chance on such an odd and awesome book.
- Detective Comics – As good as The Vision is, and as many lists it will sit at the top of, I was almost the guy to pick another title for my top superhero book. That book is Detective Comics. James Tynion IV has created a fantastic and classic run on the long running title. The way he captures the bat family is perfect. There was so many moments. Tim Drake. Batwoman and her father. Clayface being just awesome. Spoiler and her recent moment. Batman and his role as a leader and mentor. We also got some great art from Alvaro Martinez and others. What a fantastic book, and it just keeps getting better.
- Wonder Woman – This is one of DC’s most consistent comics, and it does so by juggling two alternating storylines in different time periods. Greg Rucka writes a fantastic Diana. I have enjoyed going through the range of emotions she has been put through as we watch her learn of man and our world in one time period, and the lies she is being faced with and the struggle to keep her sanity in the other. Also her relationships with both Steve and Barbara are some of the best I have seen yet in her comic. The art by Nicola Scott, Liam Sharp and others was consistently awesome.
- Superman – This is one of the other most consistent comics from DC. In my top 5 superhero books, I have three from DC, and there is a good reason. Honestly, Action Comics almost made it’s way into the list as well. Like the other books, this is another return to greatness after Rebirth for DC. Peter J. Tomasi and Patrick Gleason have proven before they know Supes, Jon, and others as they write them so well. There has been so much great art by talents like Doug Mahnke, and so many good moments throughout the series. Yes, to one of my good friends, even Krypto being pulled from the chest of The Eradicator counts as one of those moments, that was awesome too.
- Power Man and Iron Fist – I can say without hesitation that David Walker has done an amazing job on this series. Even when he had to do a Civil War II tie in, he made it work. What amazes me most is that the series just keeps getting better. Sanford Greene has such an incredible and original art style that you instantly recognize, and together these two creative powerhouses have easily made this one of my favorite comics of 2016. The return of that certain Runaways character as the big bad makes it even better!
Best Non-Superhero Comic – Saga
While I struggled with picking my top comics since I love all of these, Saga takes the cake due to consistency, most memorable moments, and my deep investment Saga takes the cake due to consistency, most memorable moments, and my deep investment to this incredible series. This comic is the one I constantly cannot wait to read, and that is due to the amazing work by Brian K. Vaughn and Fiona Staples. We all know how good they both are, but they just kept the ball rolling in my opinion this year. Sure we had some slower arcs, but the overall big picture to this book just keeps getting bigger, and crazier.
There were so many moments that made me smile, tear up, and cliffhangers that left me with my mouth hanging open. Not a lot of comics do that to me, and Saga did it countless times. There is a reason this series is so popular, and is still going. It is just fantastic storytelling, with awesome world building. You don’t just care about the mother, father, and daughter, but the prince, his child, the lying cat, and so many others. You truly feel invested in these people, their actions, and their lives. I cannot wait to see where it goes next.
- Animosity – This is such a brilliant comic. The premise seems simple. Have animals take over the world and dominate humanity. But it’s the execution and creativeness behind this title by Marguerite Bennett and Rafael de Latorre that blows me away. The art is great, and the storytelling is brilliant. Sandor and Jesse have a fantastic and loving relationship, and each issue packs a ton of suspense. A great title from Aftershock Comics.
- The Wicked + The Divine – What an original book, with fantastic art. I am a sucker for Jamie McKelvie on art and Kieron Gillen is no slouch on writing either. Together they have crafted a beautifully looking yet chaotic tale of vanity, arroagance, obsession, love, power, and so much more. When you have a book filled with pop star icon gods and godesses, I guess anything is possible.
- Black Science – It is no secret that I am a big Rick Remender fan. He has done so much great work, and is only getting better in my opinion. This year alone he had so many good books going on at the same time, and delivered on every one. Black Science was the most consistent, and best work in my opinion. This is a crazy book that moves at a fast pace, and you truly never know what happens next. Now that is something you can say for any Remender book, but with the element of time and dimension hopping, he really goes there in this book. Fantastic series.
- The Sheriff of Babylon – What a refreshing comic, and a reminder to people that no, comics aren’t just superheroes. Tom King had an amazing year this year, and is one of the best writers in general, and like The Vision, this is one of the reasons why. This is a gritty, violent, hard to look at book with some great art by Mitch Gerads. These two creators tell a tale of corruption, war, politics, and much more in a book that feels so deep and something that you’d see on tv or in the movies. This is a definite recommendation of mine.
Best Limited Series or One Shot – 4 Kids Walk Into A Bank
You know you’ve got something good on your hands when you’ve released three issues in 2016 and you’re making this much of a splash. Matt Rosenberg and Tyler Boss gave us those three issues and they were packed with awesome adventures and incredible nostalgia to my childhood era. This book is already a classic to me, and there’s a few issues still to come.
I have reviewed the comic, and gave it a ten across the board, and I am sure the final issues will earn those scores as well. Hats off to Black Mask Studios, to Matt Rosenberg, and to Tyler Boss for making something so special, so raw, and so damn good. Remember, this is just about 4 kids who catch one of their fathers doing sketchy stuff with sketchy people. This isn’t some deep time travel plot, or fantasy adventure. It is a simple premise executed with brilliant creative fashion. It is in the writing, the panels, and the lettering. I cannot wait for the last few issues!
- Civil War II: Kingpin – Yes, another Matt Rosenberg book, and for good reason. He has three Marvel series coming, with one, Rocket Raccoon, already beginning. This book was violent, raw, gritty, over the top, and featured Frank Castle. Every issue was fantastic, and I felt like he really gets Fisk’s character so well. The art by Ricardo Lopez Ortiz was loosely sketched and fit the series violent and chaotic tones so well. I cannot wait to read the ongoing beginning in February written by the man who wrote this miniseries so well.
- AD: After Death – Two books into this fantastic series, and I am already crowning it one of the best of 2016. There is one book left, but remember, when I say book, I mean just that. The second book comes close to one hundred pages, and they are beautifully written by Scott Snyder and beautifully painted by Jeff Lemire. I still do not know all of the answers to the cure of death, and the world below, but I know enough to say this is one fantastic series, and something truly special for the medium.
- Minighter and Apollo – Another series that only is halfway done, but that halfway point has been fantastic. Not only is it fantastic that we are getting a different kind of superhero book where the two male protagonists are lovers, but they aren’t cliche, or stereotypical, or offensive. They are three dimensional, like real gay people actually are, except one has a computer in his head and can take on an army, and the other is a god. Steve Orlando has done a fantastic job on this, and so has Fernando Blanco on art. I hope we get an ongoing after this!
- Superman: American Alien – This was a really fun book. We get different chapters of Superman’s life, from his childhood where he is trying to understand who he is and what these powers are, to him meeting Lois and being a reporter. We get some fantastic moments with him hanging out with his friends, getting drunk, and learning how to live as a god among men. I love the parts with his parents, and seeing not just their stress, but their overwhelming love. Max Landis and a who’s who of amazing artists like Jock, Joelle Jones, Francis Manipul, and more make this one of the best books of the year.
Best Writer – Rick Remender
I could have gone with Tom King, or the other three excellent writers on my list, and none of them would have been wrong. Even someone like Rosenberg who made two of my favorite limited series could have been here. None of these lists are easy, as you see I keep saying, but if I had to pick just one writer this year, it would be Rick Remender. It isn’t just the quality of the content he made, which is very high, but the volume of it as well.
This year, we saw Black Science, Deadly Class, Low, Seven to Eternity, and Tokyo Ghost. The crazy part, is all of those comics were fantastic. You constantly hear that so many writers are taking on too many titles, and that their writing takes a major hit. I do not think that was the case this year for Remender, and actually, I think it was one his best years, which is saying a lot. The beautiful thing is that all of these series will still be going into 2017, as even Tokyo Ghost which will be returning.
- Tom King – What a phenomenal year Tom King had. The Sherrif of Babylon, The Vision, and Batman. Most writers would be proud writing one of those titles, and while his run on Batman isn’t everyone’s favorite, I am enjoying it quite a bit. I enjoy a different take on a character, and he is playing with the caped crusaders weaknesses, and making him human. As mentioned previously, both Sheriff and Vision are absolutely incredible, and I cannot wait to see what we get from him next.
- Jason Aaron – I feel like Jason Aaron needs more love when it comes to the best writers of 2016. He was a beast this year. Southern Bastards, The Mighty Thor, The Unworthy Thor, Doctor Strange, Star Wars, and The Goddamned. I wish we got more Southern Bastards, but again as this list shows, you can see the guy is busy. He had a fantastic year, and because of that as a reader, so did I.
- Brian K. Vaughn – There should be no shock that this name is on anyone’s list. He will probably be on most lists until the day he decides to stop writing. Both Saga and Paper Girls continue to be fantastic. I expect big things as these titles move forward, and hopefully we get another book. The more Vaughn, the better.
- Jeff Lemire – Here is another writer that was a beast in 2016. Moon Knight, Old Man Logan, Descender, Bloodshot Reborn, Bloodshot U.S.A., Black Hammer, AD: After Death, and more. I am amazed at not only Lemire as a writer, but his work as an artist as well. I don’t know how he had time to do anything else this year but write and make art. A truly fantastic year for one of my favorite creators.
Best Artist – Russel Dauterman
For the longest time, the background of my phone was The Mighty Thor #1. Now that I am typing this, I will be putting it back to that amazing artwork, because it is that good. Russel Dauterman is one of those artists in comics that you can just stare at his panels and pages for so long and see tiny details that just blow your mind. You will see me say things in reviews like, you are getting some real art here, as in pieces you could hang on your wall, and that is true of Dauterman’s work. The work is that good. Every panel could probably be framed and catch someone’s eye every time.
The way he draws his characters with such emotion is fantastic. Not to mention the way he draws frost giants, or the more modern version of Loki, or Jane, or Odinson, or Odin, or everyone in this comic! His work is fantastic, and he deserves to have it recognized. This is one of those artists, that when they take an issue or two off, you get sad. It’s that good.
- Andrew Maclean – Head Lopper was one of my favorite comics this year, and while the fun story was a lot of it, the art by Maclean was what caught my eye. It’s simultaneously violent and graphic, yet beautiful. The colors pop as our hero cuts the heads off of giant beasts.
- FIona Staples – As I said early, Fiona captures her characters so well. Their emotions pour from the pages in her artwork, and I cannot imagine Saga without her. From Marko to Prince Robot to Hazel, she conveys who they are as people so well, as she always has with this excellent series. Also, her style is so original, that is is recognizable right away.
- Jamie McKelvie – One of my favorite artists in general, and I would be happy if he drew ten more titles. The way he draws the Pantheon is so damn good. There is so much attitude and personality in The Wicked + The Divine, and McKelvie is a big reason why. Every character is drawn with such detail and life that they feel real, even if they are shallow pop star deities.
- Andreas Sorrentino – Perhaps more than any artist this year, Sorrentino on Old Man Logan made my jaw hang open at the way he used splash pages. He is one of the most creative artists in the medium, and his work is dark and unique. There were so many breathtaking panels that he used this year on Logan, and it is one of the reasons that comic is as good as it is. Like Dauterman, I get sad when he isn’t on an issue or two.
Best New Series – Animosity
Marguerite Bennett wrote one hell of a story this year in Animosity. This awesome title from Aftershock had one of the best first issues of the year, and the issues that followed kept that momentum up every time. Sandor is a hound protecting his owner, Jesse, a little girl who is scared when all of the other pets and animals in the world begin killing and targeting humans. We are only four issues in, and I feel like so much has happened. There is no doubt that this is one of the best new series of the year, and in my opinion, the best.
The art by Rafael de Latorre is fantastic, and the scenes in the book are filled with action, and keep you on the edge of your seat. The first issue alone had me yelling expletives in excitement, and the art as well as the storytelling is a big reason why. When a much scarier animal is trying to hurt Jesse, I love how protective Sandor is. He pulls no punches to protector his girl, and has the personality of an old and wise man mentor type. I think this is one everyone should check out, even if you have to wait for the trade, as it is hard to come by in many local comic shops.
- Seven to Eternity – What an awesome fantasy story from Rick Remender and Jerome Opeña. Already we’ve seen some fantastic characters, an awesome big bad, an interesting protagonist with a deep legacy to his family name, and a plot that promises some crazy things will happen. Oh, and it’s only getting started.
- Briggs Land – The comic that AMC wanted optioned as a show before most people had even heard about it. Brian Wood and Mack Chatter have given us a very raw and real look at a family that ran 100 acres of land the way they wanted to for years. Well now that the father is in prison, the mother, Grace, is taking things over, but has to deal with a few of her sons. It has been a realty good slow burn so far, with some intense scenes, and I bet it only gets better from here.
- Dept. H – Matt Kindt is a very unique storyteller, and artist. His work is some of the most original in the business, and I always get excited when he works on a new title, especially when he does the art as well. This time he brings Sharlene Kindt in on watercolors and the final product is fantastic. They both do an excellent job bring this fantastic underwater claustrophobic adventure to life. This is an awesome whodunit comic and I cannot wait to see where it goes from here.
- Kill Or Be Killed – This is a comic that is always at the top of my read list when it comes out. It shouldn’t be a shock that Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips made an amazing pulp crime comic, but it is amazing that they make such a different one each time. This one follows a guy who is cursed with having to kill people, or lose his life in a deal he made with a demon who spared his life after an attempted suicide. I love this comic, and cannot wait to see where these creators take us.
Best Graphic Novel or Trade Paperback – Love is Love
Moments like these are why I love this medium. Comic books are just a platform. Just like television, books, movies, etc. You can make whatever you’d like, and this is a fantastic example of that. After the horrible Orlando Pulse shootings, getting a book like this where the proceeds are donated to the families of those lost that day won’t fix the horrors, but maybe it can help us grieve and understand a little better. It can put a face not to the evil person who did this to these people just living their lives, but it can be a voice for the people who died that day.
In this anthology book we get so many amazing creators, not just in the comic industry, but from other mediums as well. This book choked me up more than once while reading these beautiful stories, or the powerful images in them. I don’t want to single any of them out, as there are too many to mention that are fabulous, and Logan from our site already did a fantastic job of that in his review, but as a whole, this book is so important, and so incredible, and while it makes me sad it has to exist, it is necessary that it does.
- Dark Night: A Batman Story – What a painful yet beautiful telling of such a horrific true event in Paul Dini’s life. We get to see Dini working on Batman: The Animated Series, and help narrate the tale himself with the help from Batman, Harley, Two Face, Joker, and more as we get a very personal look at his life. This was a very sad, very brave, and very good book.
- The Prince of Cats – Romeo and Juliet in a 1980s block party. That is basically what this book is, and it is a lot of fun. It is filled with hip hop, bright clothing, sword fights, love, and more. It captures the spirit of the Shakespeare classic, as Ronald Wimberly puts his own creative spin on it. This was a very cool retelling of a story most people already know, but told in a new way.
- Muhammad Ali – This was an enjoyable way to look at the life of an American icon, and sports legend. Sybil Le Titeux and Amazing Ameziane give us Ali as a child, his work with Islam, his fighting techniques, and so much more throughout his life. The art varies as it uses the pages and panels wisely, and we get some fantastic cameos from important people throughout the champs life.
- Wonder Woman: The True Amazon – We saw a lot of Wonder Woman stories this year, and that is never a bad thing. Jill Thompson does such a beautiful job on art in this book. Everything looks hand painted and we get another origin story, but an enjoyable one. This is a good book to recommend to any fan of Diana, as it does it justice.
Best Genre – Fallen societies
Now while this may not be defined as a genre, I read many fantastic comics this year that dealt with societies that had fallen to different degrees. There are groups of people that live on their self governed 100 acres in Briggs Land from Dark Horse by Brian Wood and Mack Chatter. The animals took over the world from the humans in Animosity from Aftershock by Marguerite Bennett and Rafael de Latorre. And there was the land of Zhal that was taken over and run by the God of Whispers in Seven to Eternity from Image Comics by Rick Remender and Jerome Opeña. We also saw titles like Shipwreck from Aftershock by Warren Ellis and Phil Hester, and Warlords of Appalachia from BOOM! Studios by Phillip Kennedy Johnson and Jonas Scharf.
Maybe I am cynical, but I really enjoyed spending times in worlds that fell in some form. Some of these stories had the people choose to live off the land and govern themselves, saw their animals take their society from them, or saw them rise up against their government as their own militia. Either way, they provided some of my favorite moments in comics this year, and these were just a few of them.
- Fantasy – What a great year for fantasy titles. We saw Saga, Seven to Eternity, Lake of Fire, Green Valley, Reborn, The Mighty Thor, Klaus, Head Lopper, Monstress, and so many more. Most important, many of these were fantasy, but not in the traditional sense. We saw the fantasy genre mix with others, and it was a lot of fun. Keep them coming!
- Crime drama – Another strong genre this year with Kill or Be Killed, Violent Love, Triggerman, and more. I love reading pulp crime stories, and this year brought some very solid entries.
- Magic – Sure we got Doctor Strange which has been fantastic, but we also saw Ether, The Wicked + The Divine, Seven to Eternity, and more. Magic is always a fun story element, and we saw some good use of it this year.
- The 1980s – Everything that was always comes back, and that is true of the 1980s. Whether it was popular properties like He-Man vs Thundercats, IDW’s Revolution event featuring Transformers, GI Joe and more, Escape From NY/Big Trouble in Little China, or The Lost Boys, we saw quite a bit of that generation this year. Even one of my favorite titles, 4 Kids Walk Into A Bank felt so reminiscent of The Goonies or Stand by Me, while still feeling original. 2016 was a great representation of the 1980s.
Biggest Disappointment – Civil War II
I tried to defend the event after the first few issues, and the art by David Marquez is fantastic, but I can no longer defend this series. I like Brian Michael Bendis, even if I don’t like every series he has written lately. I think that Infamous Iron Man is very promising, and it was odd to me that one of my least favorite comics that released the week of Civil War #8 was written by the same person that wrote one of my favorites in Infamous Iron Man #3. So I don’t want to just make this about Bendis as a writer, because I know he is a good one.
But for whatever reason, be it delays, lack of editorial work or poor planning, this event did not do it for me. The way it ended felt wrong on so many notes, and leaves so much not settled. I also scratch my head at Captain Marvel being loved for what she did, and how they depicted her. I like her as a character, but I felt that this book really messed with who she was, and made her look horrible. While I enjoyed many things Marvel did this year, like Moon Knight, Power Man and Iron Fist, and Old Man Logan, this would be one of my least favorite.
- Death of X – If not for the awesome art by Aaron Kuder, this event is mostly forgettable. I didn’t hate the ending, I actually quite liked it, but the event as a whole felt so unnecessary, and a lesser version of the actual event that has had a really good first issue, Inhumans vs. X-Men. This could have been a one shot, but was hyped as something major for a long time.
- Nighthawk/Mockingbird cancelled – Great books from great creators saw their run end way too soon. At least David Walker got Occupy Avengers and will be bringing Nighthawk into that book. Nighthawk was a gritty and fantastic book with a really interesting character. I look forward to seeing how he is used going forward. For Chelsea Cain, she got to issue 8 with a fun and original take on Bobbi Morse, but then chose to leave Twitter due to everyone getting upset over a comic book cover. Both of these things disappointed me quite a bit. Don’t get me wrong, I understand this is a business, I just wish there was a better way to support books like these aside from pre-orders at local comic shops.
- Fanboyism – I know this is an every year thing, but as time goes on, I truly scratch my head over the constant fight between fans of the big two. We got some great comics from both publishers, and many others this year as well. It’s silly, and the growth of social media, clickbait journalism, and memes have only made it worse. It was one thing when it was kids busting each other’s chops as friends, but now it has taken on a whole new level of ridiculousness. Stahp!
- Marvel legacy characters – While I am happy that Marvel has done a great job on adding diverse characters, I am not sure what they are doing with so many of their legacy characters. We saw three of them fall in eight issues of a comic alone. Another is now a super evil double agent. And more are dead or in some sort of coma. I am all for these new heroes, I just prefer the way DC is doing it with Rebirth. Bring the new characters in under the old ones and have them mentor them. Or at least give some balance. I am hopefully this improves in the new year, or at least soon.
Best Publisher – DC
It is hard to give this award to one publisher, as multiple publishers had so many great books this year. Though I will pick one, and that is DC. From the fantastic launch of DC Rebirth as a title, and then the great books that came out of it, to Young Animal, and Vertigo, their imprints and the books that came out of those, they have had one hell of a year. Detective Comics, Action Comics, Superman, Wonder Woman, Doom Patrol, The Sheriff of Babylon, and so on were all such fantastic and consistent titles for them, and while they have always been producing get content, it is great to see them get back to such focus.
They signed some amazing talent with writers Tom King, Tim Seeley, James Tynion IV, and artists like Liam Sharp, and Mitch Gerads to exclusive contracts. Not that they are the only talented people working on their books, because there are definitely more. Mikel Janin and Riley Rossmo both blew me away with their art this year. I was pleasantly surprised by DC this year, and I hope that trend to continue. I hope Marvel is paying attention to them, and while I do not want them to copy them, I would like to see somewhat of a Rebirth type event that can tie their legacy characters to their newer characters a little better, and give fans the best of both worlds.
- Dark Horse – They nearly took my top spot with such fantastic books as Black Hammer, Briggs Land, Dept. H, Ether, Hellboy, Harrow County, Lady Killer, Aliens and so much more. Very impressive year.
- Image – So many titles, and they just keep adding more. Even Skybound has expanded with a few new titles. Image just keeps getting better with age.
- Aftershock – With Animosity, Shipwreck, American Monster and more, Aftershock has proven it can hang with the best of them. Even with the start of 2017 we are seeing more promising titles like Blood Blister and The Lifespanners coming from some top talent.
- BOOM! Studios – This year we saw BOOM! really expand its horizons with titles like Klaus, Warlords of Appalachia, Slam, and more while continuing to release their all ages comics that so many love like Goldie Vance, Adventure Time, and more. I expect we will see more serious titles like the Matt Kindt and Tyler Jenkins project, Grass Kings coming in 2017, and I am excited.