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Graphic Policy Radio Talks The Best Comics of 2017. Listen on Demand.

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The comics team at graphicpolicy.com join a roundtable discussion about our favorite comics of 2017 and what’s on the horizon for 2018. From indie comics to webcomics to superheroes and beyond, listen in and find something to pick up at your comic store today.

2017 saw highs and lows for comics and we’ll be discussing that and more. The best Marvel comics? The best DC comics? Image? Dark Horse? BOOM!? IDW? Lion Forge? Manga? And more! 2017 saw lots of comics both mainstream and indie released and we’ll be covering it all. Find out what we enjoyed reading the most and what you should pick up now and put on your pull list for a great 2018 comic and graphic novel reading list.

Alex’s Best Of 2017

Now that 2017 is in the history books, it’s time to have a look back at some of the comics, movies and events that really stood out for me. These comics were all released this year, and in the case of a limited series if had at least two issues released this year (if a mini series began late this year but is scheduled to end in 2018, then expect to find it on next years list – if it’s any good). Remember that this is all based on what I’ve read, and if your favourite comic isn’t here, it may be because I may not have read it, not because I didn’t like it.

First up there’ll be your standard Best Of categories of Ongoing Series, Mini/One Shot, Single Issue, Writer, Artist, and Colourist. However, you’ll notice that the word “best” isn’t used, and that’s because I didn’t read everything this year – so I’ve gone with my favourites and subsequently awarded each at least one of either a Gold, Silver and Bronze medal.


Favourite Ongoing Series

The reason this is first is because honestly this was the easiest category to decide on as there really wasn’t a choice when it came to my most anticipated comic each month.

BSS_TPB_001_COVER_ROCAFORTGold
Bloodshot Salvation (Valiant) 
An absolutely gorgeously rendered series by Lewi Larosa and Mico Suayan, Bloodshot Salvation follows on from Jeff Lemire’s excellent Bloodshot Reborn series, with the writer being able to continue the story (after a bit of a time jump) while making the first issue very accessible for new readers looking to jump into one of Valiant’s flagship series.  The reason I picked this series is because of how excited I am to read every issue; the themes may be deeper and more intricate in some of the other series I’ve been reading, but there is no other series I look forward to reading as much as this one when it arrives in my inbox (and then once again when I get to pick up the physical copy).

Silver
Aquaman (DC) Had you asked me last year what would be on this list, I’d never have said that Aquaman would even be in consideration… but here we are. A series about inherited obligation, predetermined destiny and the usurpation of a king and his subsequent realization that he wasn’t the best king for Atlantis. So when Arthur Curry finds himself fighting for those far less fortunate than himself it creates a very interesting situation where Arthur Curry refuses to acknowledge his former identity, and has become the Batman of Atlantis; the Aquaman. The king is dead, long live the Aquaman.

Bronze
Ninja-K (Valiant) 
I wasn’t going to include this here because only two issues came out this year, but those two issues were phenomenal. Had there been more to read in 2017, I have no doubt this would have taken the gold. With no real prior knowledge of the character required to enjoy this, there’s no reason for you not to dive right in to this stylish action thriller starring everybody’s favourite British ninja spy.

 

Favourite Limited Series or One Shot 

There were so many great miniseries released this year, that it hurt me to only choose three. Alterna had some wonderful series, as did Image and Valiant, but in the end I had to settle on just three, and so I went with three shining examples of comics in 2017.

SW_HC_001_COVER_ALLENGold
Secret Weapons (Valiant) 
It’s no secret I enjoy Valiant’s comics, or at least it shouldn’t be. So when they put out a series based around a group of super powered rejects with powers that are effectively useless, you’d be forgiven for thinking that it wouldn’t work. And then you’d read it just to see the train wreck only to discover one of the year’s standout offerings. The second issue alone has a Sikh character, also with minor super powers, noticing people pointing at him and speaking in hushed whispers as he is attending class. Worried that people are mistaking him for a Muslim, and by extension a possible terrorist, he keeps his head down and leaves, only to be confronted by three thugs who don’t care about his appearance, only that he has powers. It’s a tense, and incredibly well written sequence that highlights just how much the creative team have to say. It’s a prime example of comics at their very best.

Silver
Voracious: Feeding Time (Action Lab) 
I could tell you so many reasons why you should read this emotional tale about a time traveling chef who hunts dinosaurs, whether it’s Markisan Naso’s fantastic dialogue or the wonderful artwork by Jason Muhr and colourist Andrei Tabacaru. I could tell you that comics like this are the reason you should pay attention to indie comics publishers, because if you don’t you’ll be missing out on some of the best stories  the year. But I won’t; instead, once again, I’ll tell you tell you all the reasons why you shouldn’t  read this:

Bronze
God Country (Image) A man suffering from Alzheimer’s becomes a god when he holds Valofax, the god of swords. The first issue of this series deals with the heartbreaking  reality of watching a loved one suffering with this horrible disease, before adding in a dose of space gods. The familial theme never leaves this series, regardless of the setting, grounding this galaxy spanning story remarkably well.

Favourite Single Issue

The top spot was never in question for me here, but the other two issues could have easily have been different if I was in a different mood when I wrote this. There were so many wonderful comics released this year that choosing only three was, once again, painful.

Voracious FT 3.jpgGold
Voracious: Feeding Time #3 (Action Lab) 
This issue set the bar very early in the year. The series was continually, and consistently, of a high quality in every aspect every issue, but it’s the third that was the high point with a superb interview sequence interspersed with one of the greatest two page spreads of the year, only to culminate in perhaps the most emotional scene in any comic as one character talks to another about  his fears that due to the altered timeline he may forget his wife ever existed. Without the context of the preceding issues, one would that the emotional impact of the scene would be lost. I assure you, it isn’t.

Silver
Batman #36 (DC) When Tom King is good, he’s really good. This issue sees him at his very best as he explores the friendship between Bruce and Clark and the admiration each feels for the other in an oddly touching way with each man talking to his significant other, who also show just how much they understand their husband or fiance. The action is almost secondary to the characterization – and I’m very okay with that.

Bronze
Ninja-K #1 (Valiant)
 What better way to start a new series about the history of MI6’s Ninja Programme than with a brief history taking up half an issue that doesn’t feel like a recapNinja-K #1 immerses you into its world with an effortless grace such as that you’d expect from the title character. As an introduction to the character, this is fantastic. Christos Gage doesn’t try to throw out the previous run, instead he briefly acknowledges that it happened in a way that doesn’t alienate new readers before plunging on with story itself. One of the very best first issues this year.

 

Favourite Writer

Three writers who produced the best comics of 2017, hands down.

Gold
Matt Kindt
Everything that Matt Kindt touched this year was a winner for me. I don’t think he penned anything less than a good issue in 2017, and his output reads like a recommendation list for getting people into comics. If you want to read a good comic, then grab anything by Matt Kindt. He will take you on an incredible journey no matter where you’re going.

Silver
Jeff Lemire
Another writer with a stellar output this year, the only reason Lemire landed in Silver was that I just didn’t click with his run on Moon Knight. But plenty of people did, and the comic was very well received; it just wasn’t for me. That said, the work he did for Valiant this year was second to none, as was Black Hammer for Dark Horse. Honestly, Moon Knight aside, I loved everything Lemire put out this year (that I read).

Bronze
Markisan Naso
He may not have been as prolific as other writers in comics this year, but he wrote the best issue I read all year. Pound for pound, he was the best writer in comics in 2017, and I can’t wait to see what he has in store for us for 2018.

Favourite Artist

Art is always subjective, but the following artists were, in my opinion, three of the very best. Next year, I may move away from the gold/silver/bronze because choosing only three sucks.

Gold
Lewis Larosa
I… look I can’t tell you how amazing Larosa’s work has been this year, so I’ll show you a random page as an example. And when I say random, I took the first result of a “Lewis Larosa 2017” google search that was big enough to highlight what I needed.larosa 2017.jpg

Silver
Raul Allen & Patricia Martin
Their work on Secret Weapons alone earns them a spot on this list with a deliciously classic style and some incredible use of the page layout and the pacing of each issue they draw. This style is best experienced within a full comic, but there’s an example below.SW_002_004.jpg

Bronze
Mico Suayan 
Yet another incredible artist to whom words won’t do justice. Another random page, because everything Suayan touches is incredible.

BSRB_014_002.jpg

Publisher Of The Year

Gold
Valiant Entertainment 
In terms of output, there was maybe three comics Valiant VALIANT LOGOpublished this year that I didn’t love; they were still good, but weren’t ever candidates for this list. That’s three issues out of their entire line. On top of giving us the phenomenal Secret WeaponsNinja-K‘s stratospheric debut and two other incredibly solid titles in Bloodshot: Salvation and the relaunched X-O Manowar the publisher also made headlines with their tongue in cheek homage to the mid 90’s with the Quantum & Woody #1 variants, the number of which is mind boggling. Including a single issue second printing that made $1600 or so for the CBLDF. When I asked Valiant CEO Dinesh Shamdasani about that, he said that there were no spares created in case the second printing got damaged – had that happened then Valiant would have incurred costs to print another comic. This is a company run by people who are in it for the comics and the fans (and to make a buck), as is evidenced by the activity of Mr. Shamdasani and the Valiant staff on twitter with fans. Valiant genuinely seems to care about putting out quality over quantity.

Silver
Alterna Comics With a concerted effort to bring comics back to the masses, Alterna launched their newsprint line with prices topping out at $1.50. That’s all well and good, but if the comics aren’t any good, then they’re just selling kindling; fortunately, Alterna’s range of comics and miniseries were some of the most entertaining issues I read all year. You want stuff for an all-ages audience? Check. You want a creepy horror themed story? You’re in luck. Post apocalyptic survival? Yup. If you  committed to Alterna this year then aside from saving your wallet a beating, you would have read some fantastic stories at an amazing price point.

Bronze
Self Publishers No matter who you are, if you’ve decided to self publish your comics this year, then I tip my hat to you. I can only imagine the dedication it takes to ensure your story gets out to the public – whether that’s digitally or in print.

Movie Of The Year*

Logan
Hugh Jackman’s last hurrah as the Canadian mutant was better than I ever could have imagined. Not only was this movie my favourite of the year, but it’s probably my favourite movie of all time. I’m a huge Wolverine fan, and this was a perfect homage to the character without being bogged down by continuity or an attempt to follow a preexisting comic story to the letter. Everything about this movie was excellent; the acting, the story, the action and the finale. I couldn’t have asked for a better movie.

*for a list of my top five movies, check out an upcoming episode of Those Two Geeks.

 

The Moment That Had Me Grinning Ear To Ear

  • The release of Batman & Bill on Hulu. An incredible look at the crusade of Marc Tyler Nobleman to give Bill Finger, the co-creator of Batman, the credit he deserves after Bob Kane screwed him over more than 75 years ago. This heartbreaking documentary is powerful watching, and is a must for any fan of comics.

 


 

Well there we have it; a look back at some of the best comics that I read over the year. Agree, or disagree? Let me know!

The “Best” Comics of 2017 So Far… Mister Miracle Takes the Lead!

We’ve been compiling the “best of” comic lists from around the web and so far have aggregated 78 so far. You can check out the complete list here. While we have many more to add over the next few weeks, so far it’s clear what some of the best of the year are.

With the addition of 18 more lists from the last post, Mister Miracle has taken the top spot appearing on 34 of 78 lists and being #1 on 7 of those lists (that had rankings).

My Favorite Thing is Monsters is currently the top graphic novel on the list appearing on 24 lists so far. The graphic novel was #1 on two lists.

Writer Tom King also takes third with Batman which has appeared on 21 lists so far.

485 different comics have made the list so far and I’m sure there’s more to come.

Check out the full list below and check back often for updates (we still need to add our own site’s lists).

The Best Comics of 2017 – Brett’s List

It’s the first day of a new year and so that means I’m posting my “best of” listing of the top comic books for 2016. Generally these are comic books that came out in 2016, though some are from earlier times and I got around to reading them, or limited series that continued. Keep in mind, this is what I have read (and does not reflect what other contributors to this site might think, they’ll hopefully have their own lists). If it’s not on here, I just might not have read it.

This was a particularly tough year of choices with some categories easily having their own top ten or twenty-five and some I struggled to even come up with one. 2017 was a year that ongoing, maxi-series, and limited floppies seemed to blend more and more and for me as a reader I found myself shifting away from one publisher to another and as a whole continuing to enjoy graphic novels and indie comics a hell of a lot more than I have in the past.

What stood out to me? Check out below what made the cut!

Best Super Hero Comic – Batman

A comic series which easily has the top four issues of the year as well as sending Batman in new directions. For a a creative team to show growth in a character that’s over 75 years old is impressive.

 

Writer Tom King delivers so many of the best comics of the year, it’s rather embarrassing of how much of what he’s delivered this year that’s so good.

From “The Ballad of Kite Man” to the recent two part story of Batman and Superman dealing with Batman’s engagement, King and the various artists continually entertain and surprise.

Runners Up:

  • COPRA – There’s some arguments to be made that Michel Fiffe‘s indie series about a group of raftag characters should be the top pick, and there was long thought about if it should, it’s that good. Out of all of the series I read this year, this is one that delivered with every single issue. This is a comic that shows that superheroes aren’t the domain of just two companies anymore, especially due to how many issues have been released. I said this exact same thing in 2015 an 2016 and it applies here.
  • Mister Miracle – Tom King again delivers with Mitch Gerads on art. I can’t tell you exactly that’s going on but holy shit is the confusion good.
  • Super Sons – Fun is the name of the game with this series that teams up Superboy and Robin and each issue is just entertaining and puts a smile on my face.
  • Tomboy – This series published by Action Lab: Danger Zone and by M. Goodwin is a comic that’s not on enough people’s radar and wrapped up in 2017. A mix of manga, Japanese horror, western vigilante stories, it’s a strange, creepy, haunting series featuring a teenage girl out for revenge against the people who killed her friend.

 

Best Non-Super Hero Comic – Motor Girl

I’ve dreaded reading the final issue of this series which feels like it was cut off WAY too quickly. Terry Moore, as usual, delivers a story full of characters that are larger than life and is full of heart.

The story is about a Veteran with PTSD who watches over a junk yard, her imaginary gorilla friend, aliens, and a mysterious group. It’s crazy, fun, and I found myself choking up so many times reading the series.

It took me forever to read the final issue because I didn’t want it to end. We got two volumes and for that I’m thankful.

Runners Ups:

  • Centipede – Who’d think a comic based on a video game would be so good? Basically, it’s a “last man on Earth” type story and just nails the concept of the video game but also games us an “Omega Man” type spin on it all.
  • The Flintstones – Written by Mark Russell this series is some of the smartest and subtle political and social commentary in any writing going on today. The comic covered everything from religion to consumerism to the 2017 election. And like his writing in Prez no one is safe, the right and the left are equal fodder. Entertaining, smart, and elevating the classic characters to a whole new level. It wrapped up in 2017 and looks like Russell might already have the best of 2018 with another cartoon, Snagglepuss.
  • Mech Cadet Yu – Greg Pak‘s Pacific Rim with kids is amazing. Takeshi Miyazawa‘s art is always beautiful, the story is fun, full of action, and there’s depth there that few comics have.
  • The Wendy Project – Depressing yet so good. A new spin on the Peter Pan story. It’s Wendy dealing with the death of her little brother and it’ll leave you pondering what’s real and what’s not.

 

Best Limited Series or One Shot – Batman/Elmer Fudd Special

DC did some impressive mash-ups this year mixing their classic superheroes and Looney Tunes characters.

The strangest and best of the DC Comics/Looney Tunes begins with a Will Eisner-esque title page, and writer Tom King, artist Lee Weeks, and colorist Lovern Kindzierski unveil a world more akin to the actually good comics by Frank Miller and not anything on a Saturday Morning cartoon. Batman/Elmer Fudd is a noir tale starring human versions of Looney Tunes and a billionaire who dresses up like a bat.

Again, Tom King magic.

More please!

Runners Up:

  • 4 Kids Walk Into a Bank – The often delayed series wrapped up in 2017 and delivered a final issue that was utterly fantastic. I expected more debate as to what it all meant but the ability to interpret it as you want makes it all the more charming.
  • Barrier – Two humans are kidnapped by aliens. One speaks English, the other Spanish. This digital series is all about their attempt to communicate as they try to escape. For readers who may only speak one of the two languages, it’s an amazing series.
  • Spencer & Locke – What is Calvin and Hobbes were detectives in Sin City? A twisted take on classic characters I loved the first volume and can’t wait for the next. A detective gritty noir tale that has fun with your childhood characters.
  • Heathen – Lesbian vikings kicking ass. The series was an unexpected one for me but the story is fantastic with its focus on love with a style that screams metal.

 

Best Graphic Novel/Trade Paperback – Bolivar

Sybil knows that there is something off about her next-door neighbor, but she can’t seem to get anyone to believe her. Everyone is so busy going about their days in the busy streets of New York City that they don’t notice Bolivar. They don’t notice his odd height, his tiny arms, or his long tail. No one but Sybil sees that Bolivar is a dinosaur!

I won’t shut up about this graphic novel which is hands down the best art of anything released this year and a story that’s beyond adorable, cute, and entertaining.

This is an instant classic that absolutely is a must have. Sean Rubin nailed it and then some.

Runners Up:

  • A Small Revolution – A country gripped in the middle of a revolution seen through the eyes of a small child. I dare you to read this and not choke up at the end.
  • Hostage – In the middle of the night in 1997, Doctors Without Borders administrator Christophe André was kidnapped by armed men and taken away to an unknown destination in the Caucasus region. For three months, André was kept handcuffed in solitary confinement, with little to survive on and almost no contact with the outside world.Artist and writer Guy Delisle recounts André’s experience in Hostage the new graphic novel from Drawn & Quarterly that’s one of the most fascinating graphic novels I’ve read this year.
  • Roughneck – Jeff Lemire writes and provides art in this new graphic novel which defies expectations and presents a story about family and an abusive past. The story isn’t flashy, it’s about family drama and an individual’s choice as to how they deal with what’s in front of them.At its heart, Roughneck is a story about abuse, and by setting it in Canada, Lemire layers the story on top of the history of abuse faced by people of the First Nations in Canada. Lemire tackled the topic twice this year and cemented himself as one of the best writers currently in comics.

 

Best Genre of the Year – Indie Comics/Small Publishers

Is it a “genre”? We can argue about that, but lets face it, 2017 was a year we saw major creators continue to shrug off the big two, instead launching creator-owned series at other publishers, digitally, or through Kickstarter. We saw more comics, in more varieties, on more subjects and more ways to consume them, than any time before. It really wasn’t the year of the Big Two, this was a year that we as consumers could continue to find something that would fit our varied tastes.

With more channels for distribution and more ways to produce comics, we’re in a golden age where the old ways of publishing no longer hold back the creativity that abounds.

I named Indie Comics “it” in 2013, 2014, and 2015, 2016, and nothing changed in 2017. There’s a massive opening for someone to step in and be a mainstream breakout, maybe 2018 will be the year we see it.

 

Best Surprise of the Year – DC Comics

DC_Logo_RGB_0318162016 was a year that had everyone shaking their head when they heard DC was shaking things up again and “rebooting.” Except, their reboot was anything but.

2017 showed the publisher could maintain the quality as well as blend the old with the new not just in their ongoing line but also with event comics like Dark Nights: Metal and Doomsday Clock. Hope, grimm, gritty, the publisher was able to pull it all off and more.

 

The company continued to expand upon its digital first program, and has continued to look towards expanding its market with its DC Super Hero Girls line.

They also did this as their movie output was mixed and television output strong. Now to get everything to line-up and the DC brand as a whole could be unstoppable.

Finally, the company finally did the right thing firing an employee with history of abuse after serious public pressure. It took a long time, but in some ways it feels like a new era for the publisher (who is still bruised a bit from the situation).

The dots are all there, now we’ll see if the company has the vision to connect them all in 2018 and beyond.

 

Biggest Disappointment of the Year – Kickstarter

KickstarterLast year’s disappointment continued to be so, as projects were delayed, vapor ware, or not as advertised. Also add in issues on the creator end of folks pledging high amounts and then disputing the charges, at times getting the goods. Add in the platform’s unwillingness to step in to deal with either situation and you get a tech company showing off it’s greed. What was once the toast of the town has shown its cracks which will only get worse.

The crowdfunding platform became a way for creators to raise funds for projects, only to get picked up by publishers, at times delaying projects and leaving bad tastes in the mouths of fans. If all creators were held to the standards of some of the best users of the system, there’d be no issue, but over 90% of the projects I’ve pledged to have been delayed or non-existent only creating angry backers and fans.

We’ve loosened are unwillingness to promote projects but we still feel responsibility for the delays and utter lies.

Kickstarter continues to be tone-deaf, and it’s only a matter of time before someone stands up and challenges the platform with a system that’s fair to creators, and protects those who pledge.

Oh how the mighty continue to fall.

 

Publisher of the Year – …..

This one I’ve thought about the most out of all of the categories on the list. Again I keep going back and forth between all of the publishers trying to figure out who stands out. For each strength one brings to the table, they also have major weaknesses. Whether it’s a focus on a genre, pigeonholing themselves with adults, failure in digital, a mix of quality of comics, none of them are good everywhere. But, the comic industry has really grown in 2017 with no one breaking out as THE publisher to rival the big two. Partially that’s because so many have stood out with some of what they’ve done, but none have stood out for their whole.

Out of all of that, where’s the standout above everyone else? They’re all good in their own ways, but each have some flaws, with some of those flaws being pretty big. After a lot of deliberation, I couldn’t decide on one, so I chose none.

Each publisher is close to going huge, it’s just taking someone to connect those dots. Or maybe no one will, and it’ll be up to the individual creators to fill up the gap.

So, we’ll be doing something different…. rewarding Gold, Silver, and Bronze ratings. There’s a lot of publishers not on here and it’s not a slam, it’s just I don’t have a hole lot to say about them.

Gold

DC Comics came really close to being named for this. They’ve done some amazing stuff in the year with Rebirth being a smash hit. There’s still something slightly off, but out of every publisher, they continue to be the most improved and stable.

Valiant has one of the best comic lines on the market and there isn’t one series that isn’t a good read. They’ve also mixed things up with superhero genres and have done interesting digital releases and are making moves for live action. Still, the publisher doesn’t have anything beyond superhero and there’s some diversity issues when it comes to writers. It’s quality comics but it’d be nice to see some POC and women tackling some of these characters. One thing to work on for 2018.

Lion Forge Comics‘ Catalyst Prime line has been a pleasant surprise in 2017 and while most of the comics are good there’s few that are amazing for me. Still, out of all of the publishers, this one is backing up it’s words with action, something to be applauded. Beyond Catalyst Prime there’s some fantastic series that aren’t given enough of a spotlight or credit.

First Second – A graphic novel publisher that has something for kids to adults and everyone in between. Tons of different topics, styles, and length, this is the best graphic novel publisher out there with a well rounded line.

Silver

Image has become of the home of amazing indie comics by big name creators, but they generally lack a kids line that gets the next generation of readers and the sales just aren’t their in floppies. There’s also some real stinkers in their releases plus massive gaps and delays that really hurt momentum. The publisher also had issues with some releases and their response (Divided State of Hysteria being an example) attempting to claim “diverse with inclusive” but also “edgy” at the same time. It was a clunker of a reaction.

BOOM! Studios has had a great mix of comics, but they’re missing that ongoing series that goes on for 30 to 50 issues. But, out of every publisher, this one has really embraced the concept of a diverse line and creators and is the publisher everyone else goes to try and steal talent.

AfterShock  has had amazing releases but is just missing a big hit. They should have a bigger market than they do and it’s a headscratcher as to why more hasn’t caught on.

Dark Horse is just a consistently good comic publisher with lots of quality but again nothing that’s a massive hit. Hellboy continues to be one of the best comic universes out there and Black Hammer is amazing but neither are burning up the charts.

Bronze

Action Lab has had entertaining releases but feels like it’s missing a massive hit and has had issues distinguishing between it’s all-ages and adult line.

IDW Publishing has had a weird year with an over reliance on comics from Hasbro and no real breakouts. They’ve stumbled too with their handling of some talent and have gone all in with their Black Crown line that feels like it’s Vertigo-redux when the comic industry has moved on from that.

Participation Prize

Of the big two Marvel has stumbled… a lot and continues to stumble. Entire articles can be written in that department, but the company is not the juggernaut its been in quite some time and I correctly predicted some big shake-ups in 2017. But, what’s it say about the rest of the industry that no one has really stood up to challenge them?

Black Mask Studios, I know everyone shits on Marvel, but to me, Black Mask is the biggest disappointment when it comes to a publisher. Comes that are delayed for crazy amounts of time, books that are hyped and wind up being better concepts than execution, the publisher feels like there’s little to no discipline and unreliable. This is how you take quality and flush it down the toilet. For a publisher that said it was going to disrupt comics, it has wound up being the worst of Image, the quality without the consistency.

 

 

The Best Comics of 2017 – Pharaoh Miles’s List

2017 was one of those years where for most of us in America, it feels like we are living in a really screwed up version of DMZ. As the virtues of Marcus Welby, MD and Hawkeye from MASH, no longer seems too idealistic for us mere mortals but more a goal, because at the end of the day, most of us hope we are on the side of the angels. The only reprieve most people had was entertainment, and I am going to recap some items that should have been on everyone’s “ must get to” list for 2018 categorized into : comic books, books, documentaries, all which are comics related,( I will leave the movies and tv shows to compatriots on the site, as there are too many that I watch to recap, LOL, but please do watch Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency, though it lasted only 2 seasons, both were thoroughly and weird and brilliant) some of these things most fans know about but others may have flew under the radar, and I am pretty sure I have left off a few items, but please charge it to my head and not my heart, either way, please read and make your own list!

COMICS

Mister Miracle: a hero from the bygone era of the New Gods, Tom King and Mitch Gerads has elevated this mostly unknown hero into the same conversation of all-time greats at DC.

My Favorite Thing is Monsters: This particular book form Fantagraphics, is a game changer, part memoir, part biography of a time, part murder mystery and a love letter to monster movies. Emil Ferris proves that she is one to watch, the sequel coming in 2018 is one to watch.

Chilling Adventures of Sabrina: Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and Hack has made this book with too few issues a must read when it does hit your pullbox.  The last issue got into the Witch War arc, something I feel the new tv show at Netflix will probably tap into.

Love and Rockets: the Hernandez Brothers are always in top form with this book, their run has proven them to be masters everything sequential art.

The Best We Could Do : Thi Bui tells her heartbreaking story of her family and their trek to America as well as her trials and tribulations of own motherhood.

California Dreamin’: Penelope Bagieu is one my favorite cartoonist right about now, and her story of Mama Cass of the Mamas and the Papas fame, doesn’t disappoint, entailing every detail of her journey, one that is sure to entertain.

4 Kids Walk Into A Bank: what sounds like a tagline more than compelling hard boiled book about a bank robbery, is probably what Mathew Rosenberg and Tyler Bass, what shooting for and this exactly what they have accomplished and more.

Pashmina: Nidhi Chanani tells a harrowing story of secrets surrounding love and loss affecting mothers and daughters and a magical item which transports them.

Is This Guy For Real: Box Brown, an established cartoonist, has a special way to make his sequential art in tune with emotion, and he does it so well with his subject, Andy Kaufman. I suggest people read this book and then go watch the excellent and eccentric documentary, Jim and Andy, on Netflix. (this is being released in 2018 with review copies out in 2017 – ed)

Punisher Platoon: with the popularity of the Punisher tv show on Netflix, it would look like be great timing for this book, but this book far exceeds the TV show in multitudes, as we get a peak into this Frank Castle who commanded a platoon in Vietnam, an exciting book that is part spy thriller and part character exploration.

Black Lightning: Cold Dead Hands: Tony Isabella and Clayton Henry, has made this hero contemporary, and his villain as well as relevant issues like Black Lives Matter, up to date as well, which is something the TV show premiering on 1/16, probably will be handling.

Black: Kwanza Osajyefo and Tim Smith III has written a story which raises questions  about medical eugenics and racial genocide , a book which is very much on time.

Black Panther and The Crew: In one of the best books to come from the House of Ideas, this book brought new light to a cast of characters, that was at once dated, but became instantly pertinent, with its storyline of government payoffs, gerrymandering and policing, too bad they cancelled it.

In Shards Volume 1: a book which proves that indie comics is where the real talent lies, as every creator at this burgeoning comics house is on their way to prove that they will be the ones to watch in 2018.

Sons of Fate: Revolution: Jean=Paul Deshong masterfully ends his epic tale set in Japan in this supersized finale which will break the hearts of most readers but will more than satisfy every reader, one to check out if you are fan of great stories especially ones involving Samurai, Ronin and some ninjas.

Kindred: John Jennings and Damian Duffy adapt one of the masters (Octavia Butler) of science  fiction’s greatest works, and gives the world an equally engrossing work, which visualizes what most thought could not be virtually conscribed and does what good adaptations do, makes the reader want to read to the source material.

Imagine Only Wanting This:  A beautiful book about heartbreak and one’s own mortality told through relationships and modern ruins, both allegorical and true to life.

 

BOOKS

Neverwhere: This re-release of Neil Gaiman’s book, is illustrated by Chris Eidell, and is must for any fan of this Twilight Zone-ish book from the contemporary master of prose.

E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial: The Classic Illustrated Storybook: An interesting retelling of Steven Speilberg’s  classic film.

The Twilight Zone Encyclopedia: In an thorough book, that is no mere rehash, Steven Jay Rubin, delves deep into every episode, giving fans and novices alike, mostly unknown facts about the show.

Star Wars: From a Certain Point of View: Thirty different tales of some known and unknown characters and events within the Star Wars Universe, which will intrigue every Stars Wars fan, absolutely my favorite book about Star Wars in a while.

Hail to the Chin: Further Confessions of a B-Movie Actor: As a fan of  Bruce Campbell, who has watched every thing he has been in, including Burn Notice, it is always nice to read his entertaining thoughts on everything, and this book more than entertains.

A Die Hard Christmas: The Illustrated Holiday Classic: As this is still is the holiday season, as of me writing this,  I wanted to give a nod one of my favorite Christmas movies, Die-Hard, which is adorably told by Doogie Horner.

The Refrigerator Monologues: An interesting “point of view” book which gives the reader the view of “usual bystander” or damsel in distress”, as the genesis of Gail Simone’s coinage of the term” refrigerated” as the mere advancing of a storyline by the befalling of tragedy on the leading female character, as in this brilliantly written book, they get their just due.

The Encyclopedia of Black Comics: I incidentally found this book at the 2017 BookCon In New York, and felt instantly as if I found a secret treasure, as this book, though small in size, is quite comprehensive, and should be on every comic reader’s list.

 

DOCUMENTARIES/DOCU-SERIES

Batman and Bill: A documentary that follows Marc Tyler Nobleman, author of Batman & Bill, as we follow his crusade to restore the name of Bill Finger, co-creator of Batman, and after watching this documentary, you will be giving side-eye to Bob Kane, as we get to find out how everything transpired and what a tragedy Finger’s life ended.

Superheroes Decoded: A different look at comics, as they definitively categorize heroes into two categories, “Legends” and Rebels” and how they relate to the American zeitgeist.

Floyd Norman: Animated Life:  although it was released in 2016, many viewers did not get to see these movies until 2017, and what an interesting life, Mr .Norman has lived, being one of the first black cartoonists at Disney, blazing a trail, that has opened doors for countless others.

Robert Kirkman’s Secret History of Comics: Definitely one of the most absorbing series about some of the world’s best-known superheroes and the creators behind them, I certainly knew all of these stories beforehand, but still is pretty cool to see it dramatized.

Neil Gaiman: Dream Dangerously: Another documentary which came out  in 2016, but really became required viewing, once the world got see the Starz adaptation of American Gods and wanted to understand the mind of one of the world’s greatest story weavers.

Logan’s Favorite Comics of 2017

In 2017, I found it increasingly difficult to keep up with all the new comics releases because of personal stuff etc.. There was also the sheer hatred and bigotry of some comic book fans, who foamed at the mouth every time a character that wasn’t a straight white male starred in their own book or if female characters weren’t drawn in an early 90s Image male gaze-y way. Creators and companies weren’t exempt from this either from Howard Chaykin’s transphobia and Islamophobia in his low selling Image book Divided States of Hysteria to the revelation that new Marvel Editor-in-Chief C.B. Cebulski lied about writing comics under the Japanese pseudonym Akira Yoshida for years and suffered little to no consequences for it.

However, there was a lot to love about the comic books of 2017, and I found solace, entertainment, and inspiration in many books from (becoming) old favorites about godly pop stars and dark knights to intriguing new titles about all girl fight clubs and young people experimented on by the government.

 

  1. Batman #14-37 (DC)

In 2017, writer Tom King and a crack team of artists including David Finch, Clay Mann, Mitch Gerads, Mikel Janin, Joelle Jones, and Jordie Bellaire explored almost every nook and cranny of the Dark Knight’s world in their work on Batman. Sure, there were epic arcs featuring one on one battles with Bane, a yearlong gang war with the Joker and Riddler, and a little family reunion in the “Button” crossover. But what Batman resonate as a comic book was the standalone and two part stories from King and Gerads showing the sweetness of the relationship between Batman and Catwoman to the emotional tale of Kite Man (Hell yes). King has a real knack for telling O. Henry-esque stories of ideas that humanize iconic characters none more so than “Superfriends” where Batman and Superman go on a double date with Catwoman and Lois Lane. An artistic highlight of the book was Joelle Jones’ beautiful, savage, and a little bit sexy depiction of Batman and Catwoman fighting for their love against the most evil of exes.

  1. Josie and the Pussycats #4-9 (Archie)

Josie and the Pussycats is a gorgeous, funny book that ended much too soon although it is nice to see artist Audrey Mok working on the main Archie title. Writers Cameron DeOrdio and Marguerite Bennett craft the rare Archie book that looks at both romantic and platonic relationships from the POV of young adults, not teenagers. They, artist Mok, and colorist Kelly Fitzpatrick imbue the title with a Saturday Morning cartoon zaniness, including high speed boat and motorcycle chases, kidnappings, and jokes about the polar bears from The Golden Compass. Yes, DeOrdio and Bennett overload all kinds of pop culture references and allusions in Josie, but it adds to the book’s energetic feel along with Mok’s fantastic fashion designs and Fitzpatrick’s bold colors. Josie and the Pussycats has some real heart to it with characters having all kinds of intense conversations about love, friendship, and fame between the over-the-top setpieces.

  1. Heavenly Blues #1-4 (Scout)

Writer Ben Kahn and artist Bruno Hidalgo’s Heavenly Blues blends the cosmology and philosophical and theological themes of Vertigo classics like Sandman and Lucifer with a quick and dirty heist thriller as a band of criminals, including a Great Depression Era thief, a girl who was sentenced to burn during the Salem Witch Trials, and a bisexual cowboy team up to break into heaven and steal something you may have heard of. Witty writing from Kahn and rhythmic art from Hidalgo that flows from the building of the Great Pyramids to the Old West and even an angel lounging in sweatpants keeps the story on its toes with flashback to each thief’s past life create an emotional connection to them. This is the perfect comic for folks who like to think about the nature of evil or the possibility of an afterlife while also watching Oceans 11 or Logan Lucky with a whiskey on the rocks.

 

  1. Shade the Changing Girl #4-12 (DC/Young Animal)

The crown jewel of DC’s Young Animal imprint, Shade: The Changing Girl is a beautiful, meditative look at identity and humanity from the perspective of a bird alien Metan girl named Loma Shade, who has possessed the body of teenage girl bully. Cecil Castellucci, Marley Zarcone, and Kelly Fitzpatrick’s story really took off when Shade decides to hit the road first for Gotham and eventually to meet her idol, Honey Rich, the aging star of a 1950s sitcom that was popular all over the galaxy. Zarcone’s artwork is extremely fluid and complements Shade’s reaction to the influx of stimulus all around her that is humanity as she begins to understand concepts like nostalgia and of course the big ones: life and death. Shade the Changing Girl is more poem than sci-fi thriller/mindbender, and Castellucci’s poetic captions, Zarcone’s sincere facial expressions, and Fitzpatrick’s, well, groovy colors bypass the critical part of the brain and go straight for the emotional center. It is an empathetic study into how humans communicate and navigate this complex world from a visitor from an equally as complex society so hence conflict.

  1. Generation Gone #1-5 (Image)

Comics’ enfant terrible Ales Kot makes his triumphant return with Generation Gone, which is one of his most accessible works that still takes shots at the kyriarchy and patriarchy through the lens of the “superhero” origin story. Artist Andre Araujo and colorist Chris O’Halloran provide equal parts majestic, disgusting, and triumphant wide screen visuals throughout the series from bodies being stripped down to bone, muscles, and organs to flying in the sunset. The way that the three main kids Elena, Baldwin, and Nick is a little bit of techno-organic body horror like Scanners filtered through 2017. Kot avoids typical superhero team up tropes and has them constantly at each other’s throats that all really boils down to toxic masculinity, especially Nick, who is like Max Landis with a healing factor. Generation Gone is an epic and visceral story with all kinds of carnage and big explosions that is ably balanced by Ales Kot’s nuanced characterization. There’s some decent world building, but it takes a backseat to Elena, Baldwin, and Nick’s journey and squabbles along the way.

  1. The Wicked + the Divine #25-33, 455 AD, Christmas Special (Image)

In its fourth year (Or “Imperial Phase”) as a title, Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie, and Matthew Wilson’s The Wicked + the Divine became both more self-indulgent and introspective before the ending the year with more emotional destruction and much needed side dish of pure fanservice. The main focus is on the relationships of the Pantheon from Dionysus’ truly soulful friendship with Baphomet (They spend most of an issue talking in the dark, and it’s lovely.) to the intense connection between Persephone and Sakhmet and the older brother/little sister Baal and Minerva that takes a big turn for the disquieting. Even though McKelvie’s figures and fashion decisions are still flawless as usual, WicDiv uncovers every metaphorical wrinkle or mole on the Pantheon members by the time “Imperial Phase” ends in a truly soul crushing manner like the slow build in “In the Air Tonight” before the epic drums. And after it’s over, Gillen and a host of talented guest artists deliver a comic that is sexy, thoughtful, and filled to the brim of feels showing what the Pantheon were like when they were young and less dead. The Kris Anka and Jen Bartel Baal/Inanna short is most definitely the hottest thing I read in 2017.

 

  1. Kim and Kim: Love is A Battlefield #1-4 (Black Mask)

Shifting the focus from Kim Q to Kim D in this fantastic sequel to the Eisner nominated miniseries Kim and Kim, Mags Visaggio, Eva Cabrera, and Claudia Aguirre confidently tell the story of a woman trying to get over an ex that she really cared for, but wasn’t good for her. There are also mech suits, space battles, basses being used as a blunt instrument, and all kinds of space bounty hunter shenanigans. The rift and reunion between the Fighting Kim’s is super relatable as who hasn’t been disappointed in a friend for returning to the same, not cool ex over and over again. However, Visaggio gives the Kim’s great growth as friends and in their chosen career as bounty hunters by the time the miniseries wraps. On the visual front, Eva Cabrera can choreograph the hell out of a fight scene, and there is still plenty of pink from Claudia Aguirre. Kim and Kim: Love is a Battlefield is a smorgasbord of quips, fun sci-fi worldbuilding, and real friend talk and improves on its already pretty awesome predecessor.

 

  1. Mister Miracle #1-5 (DC)

Jack Kirby would have turned 100 in 2017, and there was arguably no better tribute to his imaginative work as an artist and writer than Tom King and Mitch Gerads’ Mister Miracle comic. I know I’m double dipping with King comics on the list, but he’s just that good. In his art, Gerads teaches the old dog of the nine panel grid some new tricks and uses it for everything from a tender love scene between Mister Miracle and Big Barda to him getting repeatedly beaten by his older brother Orion, who plays an antagonistic role in the series. The bar-like grid of the comic book he stars in is the one prison Mister Miracle can’t escape from. (Wow, that got meta.) Gerads uses a trippy, almost television fuzz effect to show Scott’s tattered psyche as he faces death with his escape artistry, goes to war against Apokolips, and is sentenced to execution. King’s gift of writing both the mundane and utterly cosmic comes in handy in Mister Miracle whose most memorable scenes are Scott and Barda cuddling and joking around, not the big battle scenes. Again, he and Mitch Gerads find the human and the epic, which is definitely something the King would be proud of. (Big Barda was patterned off his beloved wife Roz.)

  1. Giant Days #22-33, 2017 Special (BOOM!)

Although the facial expressions that Max Sarin and Liz Fleming draw are truly outrageous at times, Giant Days is a fairly naturally plotted comic with the friendships, relationships, and life statuses of Esther, Susan, and Daisy ebbing and flowing like normal university students. They begin the year as BFFs for life, but start to drift apart towards the end of the year as Susan and Daisy’s relationships with McGraw and Ingrid move onto the next level. Esther is kind of stuck in the lurch as her penchant for drama bombs starts to backfire. Giant Days nails the constantly evolving fluid thingamajig that is relationships as a young adult.  As an added bonus, we also get to see how the girls act and feel differently around their family versus friends as Susan’s way too big and complicated family makes quite the impression. And, of course, Giant Days is very funny, and John Allison, Max Sarin, and Liz Fleming mine the comedy out of everything from the deliciousness of home cooking, the grossness of nerd dorm food concoctions, and even a video game wedding. (Poor Dean.)

  1. Heavy Vinyl #1-4 (BOOM!)

Reading Carly Usdin, Nina Vakeuva, Irene Flores, and Rebecca Palty’s Heavy Vinyl is like the comic book equivalent of relaxing in a hot tub, but the hot tub is either cupcakes or adorable Corgi puppies. (Take your pick.) It’s about a teenage girl named Chris in 1998, who has just gotten her dream job at a record store and her first big crush on Maggie, her co-worker, who is drawn like a shoujo manga protagonist. But then she’s inducted into a top secret vigilante fight club and has to rescue the frontwoman of her favorite band. It’s high concept and slice of life just like Vakueva’s art is comedic, beautiful, and a little badass. Carly Usdin does a good job in just four issues of giving each member of the fight club their own distinct personalities and relationships while doubling down on the cuteness and awkwardness of Chris and Maggie’s budding romance. But what makes Heavy Vinyl  the best comic of 2017 is its belief in the power of women and music to change the world…

The Best Movies of 2017

No getting around it: 2017 was a slog. But, to get us through the stress of life, at least we could escape for an hour or two into some of the most amazing worlds.

It’s also been an amazing year for the comic book movie and, indeed, all blockbusters. This year the genre really grew up, with complex and challenging fare that deconstructed some of our favorite characters and took them to the next level.

I had a hard time paring it down to just a top 10, so I’m presenting a somewhat more expanded list of things worth seeing and celebrating in 2017. Never before have I had a hair’s breadth separating my top 5, and my top 20 are all worth checking out.

So I’m going to give you the best and then the rest– my top 10 and then the rest of the movies that made my list. Where I reviewed the movie for Graphic Policy, I have also provided a link. To those from before I joined the site or didn’t get a chance to do a full review, oh well. You’ll just have to take my word for it. Oh, and if you care about such things, my bottom 10 list is here.

10. Coco — This is one of Pixar’s best and one of the movies most likely to make me cry. While it has some second act problems, its universal themes of family and remembering are as beautiful as the animation and music here. This is also the first movie in my top 10 with an amazing soundtrack — a common theme among 2017’s best movies.

9. Baby Driver — A musical with car chases. The only problem with this movie is its opening fifteen minutes are so perfect it rarely meets that same level again. This is the movie Edgar Wright did after breaking with Marvel over creative differences about Ant-Man. We are so much the richer for having both of these movies, especially Baby Driver. With career-best performances by some of its cast, it’s a perfect blend of editing, directing, acting, and sound. And it’s just a load of fun.

8. Wonder Woman – Patty Jenkins should be put in charge of the entire DC movie universe. She understands her characters, she understands the gravity and importance they hold for people, and managed to deliver THE iconic moment of 2017 in cinema: the “No Man’s Land” scene.

It’s that moment– when she wears the costume, embraces her powers and her purpose — that we see her origin story in a way rarely ever so fully expressed on screen. Sure, the movie had some problems– a weak villain and a somewhat predictable climax — but it was important in a way few other films in this list were. And it showed that the DCEU could be everything that the Marvel Cinematic Universe could. It’s not only one of the best comic movies of 2017, it’s one of the best of all time.

7. Atomic Blonde — Technically, a comic book movie. And the movie with the best soundtrack of the year, during which we see Charlize Theron kick all sorts of butt. It’s heartfelt, funny, and undeniably cool as they try to out-John-Wick John Wick. Give me more of this, please, perhaps in a shared universe where Charlize and Keanu throw down and then invariably team up.

6. The Shape of Water – What a beautiful film about love among outcasts. The entirety of this film is about noticing the silent people, the forgotten ones, and recognizing the humanity in each of us. Also, sex with fish-people! This is a masterpiece by Guillermo del Toro and worthy of all the nominations and buzz it’s been getting.

5. War for the Planet of the Apes – This is true for basically every other film in my top 5, but this film showed us that effects-driven blockbusters could have intense heart and meaning. It’s unfathomable to me that Gary Oldman will be nominated for acting awards for wearing a fatsuit and portraying Winston Churchill, but Andy Serkis will be snubbed yet again for his creation of an amazingly real character in Caesar. It’s unclear where the Apes franchise goes from here — and writer/director Matt Reeves is setting his sights next on righting The Batman (which makes me all sorts of excited) — but whatever happens, they created an amazing trilogy with a phenomenal third act. Perhaps the only downside is that the social commentary that hits so close for 2017 (humans building a wall as well as other not-so-subtle jabs at Trump) may not age particularly well.

4. Logan – “A man has to be what he is, Joey. Can’t break the mold. I tried it and it didn’t work for me. There’s no living with a killing. There’s no going back from one. Right or wrong, it’s a brand. A brand sticks. There’s no going back. Now you run on home to your mother, and tell her… tell her everything’s all right. And there aren’t any more guns in the valley.” James Mangold gave us a perfect western that just happened to have Wolverine and Professor X in it. And Jackman and Stewart are amazing. Ok, I lied about Coco. THIS is the most likely thing to make me cry in any movie in 2017.

3. (tie) Your Name – Normally I won’t give in to a tie, but since there is some doubt whether or not this is even a 2017 release (I go by date of wide US release, so that puts us in April of 2017), I’ll go for it. Already the #1 animated film of all time in Japan (with good reason), I’m not sure why this hasn’t become more popular in the US. But that’s what year-end lists are for, right? A story of (literal) star-crossed teens in Japan who seem to be switching bodies becomes the most interesting story of identity, love, and wibbly-wobbly-timey-wimey time travel ever. It made me cry at least three times. It’s an amazing film and one which would’ve been in my top 3 for 2016 if I’d known of it then. If that disqualifies it from this list, then my #3 spot goes to. . .


3. (tie) Star Wars: The Last Jedi – It’s amazing. You know this. I love it for all the ways it blows open the Star Wars universe into something even bigger and more important. Plus, porgs. It, Logan, and Apes all showed that blockbuster filmmaking could be thoughtful and not just deliver a rehash of the expectations of the franchise. Star Wars is my favorite thing of all time, and this delivers in ways I didn’t know were possible. I’m greatly anticipating both Episodes IX and the new trilogy Rian Johnson will deliver to us.

2. Get Out – Usually a movie will come out early in the year and become a high water mark for me for the year. Then every film I see after I’ll just ask, “Was this better than [Get Out]?” Few movies made it close, but it stands strong at the end of the year as the most important movie of 2017 and only a hair’s breadth off of my #1. This was such an amazing effort from Jordan Peele. It was an atmospheric, psychological thriller and the most biting social commentary of the decade– and exactly what we need to hear in 2017. Unfortunately, the people who most need to see and understand this film never will.

1. Blade Runner 2049 – I’m still not sure why this failed to resonate with audiences. It was supremely beautiful, important, thoughtful—in essence, the opposite of the Spirit of 2017, so I guess it makes sense. It’s shameful to see this getting forgotten in so many year-end lists and awards considerations. If Roger Deakins doesn’t win a cinematography Oscar for this, we have failed as a society.

So, that’s it. Here’s the rest of my list:

11. A Monster Calls — All the tears for this gorgeous and touching film that somehow never caught on.

12. Detroit — If Blade Runner hadn’t flopped at the box office, this is my vote for most underrated movie of 2017.

13. Spider-Man: Homecoming – This was the Spider-Man movie we needed, with John Hughes meets the MCU. Let’s hope Sony and Marvel’s partnership continue to yield such spectacular results.

14. The Big Sick — The best comedy of the year, Kumail Nanjiani’s true story of clashes of cultures and medically induced comas is amazing and worth everyone’s time.

15. Beatriz at Dinner — This should be renamed “Micro-aggressions the Movie” as massage therapist Beatriz (an impeccable and Oscar-worthy  Salma Hayek) ends up at a dinner party thrown by one of her high end clients facing off against a Donald-Trump type developer (an equally impeccable Jon Lithgow). It’s amazing and the ending will depress the hell out of you.

16. The Greatest Showman — Hugh Jackman took the money he made from Logan and used it to produce this musical ostensibly about PT Barnum but in reality about the strange and wonderful family among society’s outcasts and “freaks” that make up his circus. If I could put the historical revisionism aside, this would end up in my top 10, but Barnum was a monster. But as a story about putting people of all shapes, colors, and abilities up on screen and seeing them as people? This is tops. Keala Settle, who plays the bearded lady, deserves an Oscar nomination. And this will get multiple nominations for best song, from the people who brought you La La Land last year.

17. Brigsby Bear – What if you were kidnapped as a child and the only media your reclusive parents let you watch was a specially-made-for-you childrens’ program? This film from the mind of SNL’s Kyle Mooney then becomes a unique, innocent look at the pure joy of fandom and sharing something you love with new people and the lengths you’d go to do it. Also featuring a supporting role by Mark Hammil, this is another great little film that flew under the radar but is worth your attention.

18. Thor: Ragnarok — This is Thor’s best movie to date and one of the most fun movies ever in the MCU. Some people complained the movie had “too many jokes,” but making a buddy comedy with superheroes is something that was long overdue and sorely needed late in 2017. Whatever writer/director Taika Waititi is doing next, I’m watching it.

19. The Disaster Artist — The movie that launched a thousand terrible reaction gifs finally gets its Ed Wood treatment. The Room is awful, but somehow James and Dave Franco make us fall in love with it and its mysterious director Tommy Wiseau. For that, and their loving shot for shot recreations of some of the film’s most heinous scenes, this was incredibly fun. It’s also the type of movie Hollywood loves– a movie about making movies.

20. Molly’s Game — A superserving of Sorkin will hit all the right notes for his fans.

21. Okja — If The Disaster Artist is to The Room what Ed Wood is to Plan 9 From Outer Space, then this satire from Bong Joon-ho (thanks to Netflix for making it) is the Dr. Strangelove of global agribusiness and capitalism. It took this movie a while to take off, but when it did, it became intensely satisfying. When it wasn’t skewering the corporation that totally wasn’t Monsanto, it was also just a tender story about a girl and her giant genetically modified pet “super pig.”

22. The Post — Steven Spielberg’s latest is perhaps the most important movie for the turn of 2017 to 2018 about the decision to print the Pentagon Papers by The Washington Post. Buried in the Oscarbait is an important story about the freedom of the press and a rogue White House intent on crushing it. I just wish it was told slightly better and that 80% of the time I wasn’t wishing I were watching All the President’s Men or The Fog of War. 

23. The Lego Batman Movie — A movie about family, a movie about feminism, and just the greatest mishmash of toy mayhem ever seen on screen. This was the best Batman we saw on screen all year.

24. Dunkirk — I won’t lie, I had some problems with Dunkirk. Mostly I thought Nolan was spending too much time showing us how clever he was instead of just giving us a good movie. But I can’t deny the artistry and pure filmmaking prowess that went into this. I still think the best way to illuminate my problems is to compare it to Detroit, which I did in my review here. 

25. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 — “I’m Mary Poppins, y’all!” may be one of my favorite moments on screen all year. And then, that ending was just too perfect. This movie had a lot going for it, but the fact that it ended up at #25 is a testament to just how good so many movies were this year.

26. IT — This was everything we needed in the fall of 2017. Funny, smart, and incredibly scary, it also gave us one of the best comedy moments of the year, too, with an SNL skit of Kellyanne Conway as Kellywise the Clown trying to lure Anderson Cooper into the Trump Sewer.

27. John Wick Chapter 2 — Sometimes sequels really deliver, and this was one instance of that. Once again, we get the beautiful ultra-violence of this universe and without all of that boring exposition or deeper meaning. Sometimes you just want to watch the world burn, and for that, there’s always John Wick.

28. Power Rangers — This might surprise people, but I liked the Power Rangers movie far more than it deserved. Never a fan of the original, this still brought me in with it intense heart and third act action sequence that dared you not to smile from ear to ear. Oh, and also Elizabeth Banks as Rita Repulsa was a thing of beauty. Say it with me: “Krispy Kreme.”

29. Wind River — Taylor Sheridan knocks it out of the park again with an amazing script about a murder mystery and the intersection of the oil industry and reservation life. How does one get justice in the face of corporate coverups and mixed jurisdiction? The scene with Jon Berenthal is one of the most gripping and brutal things I saw all year.

30. [tie] It Comes at Night — Speaking of inhumanity and suspense, we get a case study in minimalism of just how much a director can do with basic sets and a basic premise: a plague wipes out most of humanity and one family must make decisions about whether or not to trust strangers to guarantee their survival. The title is misleading and don’t get snookered into thinking anything more supernatural is happening. There’s no monsters. Just death. Just people. And that’s the true horror.

[tie] Ingrid Goes West — Again, I hate ties, but I feel like this provides a great counterpoint to It Comes at Night. Except in this case, the monster that haunts us is social media, stalking, and depression. Aubrey Plaza is perfect as Ingrid, who moves to LA and ends up stalking an “Instagram celebrity” played by Elizabeth Olson to try to find her way into her life. O’Shea Jackson (Jr.) shows up as a Batman-obsessed would-be screenwriter. The final reveal of the film almost feels like the end of a slasher movie when we see the killer supernaturally rises from where we thought we had killed it. Fun and thoughtful.

So, yeah, that’s a lot of movies. To be fair, there were a few I missed, so apologies. But what about you? What did I miss? What did I overrate? What did I underrate?

Let us know, and here’s hoping we have as amazing a 2018 as we did a 2017– at least in movies. And from Black Panther in February to Mary Poppins in December with Avengers: Infinity War, Solo, and Incredibles 2 in between, my expectations are set abnormally and unreasonably high.

Let’s see what 2018 gives us.

The “Best” Comics of 2017 So Far… My Favorite Thing is Monsters and Mister Miracle

We’ve been compiling the “best of” comic lists from around the web and so far have aggregated 60 so far. You can check out the complete list here. While we have many more to add over the next few weeks, so far it’s clear what some of the best of the year are.

My Favorite Thing is Monsters is currently the top graphic novel on the list appearing on 24 lists so far. The graphic novel was #1 on two lists.

Mister Miracle is the best floppy comic appearing on 21 lists. The comic was #1 on four lists.

392 different comics have made the list so far and I’m sure there’s more to come.

Check out the full list below and check back often for updates.

We’re Kicking Off Our Best of 2017 Coverage

We like to wait until January 1 before we post our “best of lists” to give all comics released in the year a chance of making the list. But, other sites are well underway in their lists and like we’ve done for numerous years, we’re compiling as many lists as we can find so it’s easy for you to check them out, but also so that we know which are the most celebrated comics of the year.

We’ll regularly be updating this list and the comprehensive list so make sure to come back often.

Which will be the most celebrated comics and graphic novels of 2017? Find out below!

Don’t see a list? Sound off in the comments and we’ll add it!

6 Flawed Video Games for a Flawed 2016

It’s been a year.

I’m struggling to find a way to even begin to pithily encapsulate 2016 in a sentence or two, and I’m not alone. America elected a president who campaigned on a platform of white supremacy, set against a backdrop of a world that’s increasingly turning to strongmen and parties embracing authoritarianism, hatred, and the far-right wing. We witnessed horrors across the globe and lost too many voices who’ve been pillars of our community. We’ve almost unanimously declared 2016 a terrible year, and are definitely ready to move on.

But before we do, I want to pause and reflect on 2016 for a second, specifically from the perspective of video games. This isn’t a top ten list (a la most outlets), or an opinions battle royale (a la Giant Bomb), or a video-game-high-school-superlative-and-fanfiction-yearbook (a la Waypoint), although maybe I can convince Graphic Policy to do something like the latter next year.

No, this is a list of games I played this past year. All of them are flawed (some of them deeply), like the year itself. They range in scale from the biggest-budget mainstream titles to small, quiet independent games. And hell, many of them didn’t even come out in 2016.

But all of them made me think about myself and this world in different ways. And for that I’m grateful. So here’s a set of games that had an impact on me this year.

The “Insidious Structural Oppression” Award: Dragon Age: Inquisition

dragon-age-inquisitionOh Dragon Age. You’re such a weird franchise. You splattered blood all over my face constantly in Dragon Age: Origins, gave me plenty of choices that all seemed wrong in Dragon Age II and suggested plenty of romantic options in both games that didn’t quite feel right.

And then along came Dragon Age: Inquisition.

There’s an entire article I’ll write at some point about this game, but let me for now just say that Dragon Age: Inquisition tells a captivating narrative that’s full of hard choices and political intrigue. Tensions between liberalism and authoritarianism, faith and freedom are commonplace; these conflicts aren’t new to the Dragon Age series. What is new is that the world feels more real and, well, heavier than ever before. The game is full of covert and overt prejudice (e.g. characters called my elven character “knife-ears” throughout the entire story), and forces the player to choose how they’re going to deal with it (or to simply ignore it). I certainly tend to see things through a lens of power and privilege, but I’m far from alone in seeing how unique Inquisition is in confronting these ugly realities compared to the first two games in the series. Inquisition made me interrogate my own beliefs and perspective in a way that games almost never do, especially games as popular and mainstream as the Dragon Age series.

Also, there’s a mission called “Oh, Shit,” so this game should be on everyone’s award list.

The “2016-est Game of 2016” Award: XCOM 2

xcom-2The first XCOM was a gritty, difficult tactical game where you built a multinational military squad to fight off an alien invasion. You, as their trusted Commander, built up a base of operations, directed research and construction, and commanded your squad in the field. As you grew with your team, they became like family–they developed skills, they got nicknames, they suffered horrifying wounds and maybe, slowly got better. And every time a soldier fell in battle, it was jarring and upsetting, as one of XCOM’s defining features was permadeath: no coming back for any fallen member of the team. If one of your favorite squaddies perished, that was that.

The second XCOM utilizes a very similar set of gameplay mechanics, and it ups the oppressive feeling by starting from a surprising story premise: humanity lost. The alien invasion was successful, and we now live under the dominion of a seemingly invincible alien legion. From the very beginning to the very end, this is a game about a desperate, nearly hopeless resistance. Not only does each decision and sacrifice feel difficult, but the backdrop isn’t “be careful, there’s aliens out there!”, it’s “each time you mess up, we’re inching closer and closer to the end of humanity as we know it.” These kinds of absurd stakes are commonplace in video games, but the notion somehow feels real and earned in XCOM 2. In a country and world that feels increasingly on the brink, XCOM 2 feels downright portentous in its mood, if not the actual events of the story.

Yes, it has crushing technical problems and load times that are beyond absurd (for the record, repeatedly pressing CAPS LOCK may speed up your load time; it may also extremely crash your computer, so, great), but it also has a soulful darkness that makes it even more compelling than the first game.

The “Fond Memories of AIM” Award: Cibele

cibeleCibele is a game that resists easy description and categorization. Cibele is Nina Freeman’s introspective, raw memory of growing up in the early days of the internet. Even articulating the gameplay gives away the discovery of the experience, so I’ll only draw a slight note: despite a few not-amazing control and interactive design choices, Cibele is an enrapturing game about emotion, sex, communication, and technology, and it achieves this goal even though you’re not really playing that much.

And kudos to Nina Freeman for not only showing the vulnerability to conceive of and develop this game but the courage to also star in the cinematic sequences that occur throughout the story.

The “If It Ain’t Broke, Change it Completely” Award: Sid Meier’s Civilization VI

civilization_vi_cover_artI never liked the music of Civilization V.

I know that’s weird to fixate on–the storied empire-building franchise that began 25 (!) years ago is about so much more than its soundtrack–but the music plays a big role in drawing me into the world and gameplay of Civilization. For me, the changes in Civilization V were sweeping and wonderful, but the music felt distant and aloof; it was like a constant feeling that someone I didn’t like very much was selecting the playlist and smirking at me all the while. That feeling, unfortunately, translated to how I felt as I played the game.

So when I launched Civilization VI for the first time and wanted to start humming along to the epic main menu music, I crossed my fingers. Maybe this was my year.

It was my year.

The new and different features are myriad: the introduction of the district system (in an almost Endless-Legend-like way), a totally revamped culture system, a substantially different art style, gameplay achievement-like boosts, and customized music for nearly every civilization–this is a game that takes bold risks, and nearly all of them succeed.

It has some kinks to iron out–the religious system and religious victory are annoying and extraneous, the barbarians are hilariously powerful (as they should be?), and the game mechanics lend themselves to overwhelming micromanagement on anything but the smallest maps–but make no mistake, Civilization VI is a triumph.

And yes, I have the soundtrack.

The “I Never Play Online Multiplayer Games, But I Played This Online Multiplayer Game” Award: Overwatch

Cheers, love! The cavalry’s here!

The “Evie is a Really Cool Name” Award: Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate

assassins-creed-syndicateI’m almost an Assassin’s Creed apologist.

I know, I know. They’ve made 400 games in the space of a few years, the stories are often cookie-cutter and their self-seriousness is whimsical considering the absurdity of the overarching universe. I get it. But at their best, they tackle real issues about power, choice, the role of government, the responsibility we have to each other, and so much more.

Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate is a fun romp through a London going through the Industrial Revolution, following Evie and Jacob Frye, an Assassin sister-brother duo aiming to topple the choking vice-grip that Templars have on their city. You’ll free child laborers, apprehend criminals, and of course, assassinate all the time. Along the way, you befriend Dickens and Darwin, and an optional DLC takes you up against Jack the Ripper himself.

Ubisoft has made small changes that really improve the gameplay flow of Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate and the ability to play as Evie or Jacob at almost any point is fun and varied (although they play nearly identically). The game wants to focus on class and even lightly touches on issues like British colonialism, which is great to see in a game that could’ve just been enjoyable accents and carriages.

As with all games, there are problems here and there; one small annoyance is that the game’s internal logic feels twisted in more than a few occasions. Your adversaries (conveniently dressed in red), for example, fight you at every turn, are connected to the Templars, and you battle and kill them often. But as soon as you take over a territory, you watch a canned cutscene where Evie and Jacob look out amongst a crowd of red-dressed hooligans and say “You work for us now!” and then after the cheers subside…they work for you now. Seriously? It doesn’t break the game, but this to-and-fro of somewhat-adroit awareness and feckless dimwittedness is unfortunately, a regular occurrence throughout the main campaign.

But set aside the ramblings of a man that’s obsessed with internal logic, and grab your stovepipe hat and wrist blade and have a blast in not-quite-steampunk London.

The “Low Chaos, Low Fun” Award: Dishonored 2

dishonored_2_cover_artDishonored 2 wasn’t fun.

My hours and hours sneaking through the game as a supposed stealth and combat master were mostly spent dying in spectacularly embarrassing ways. Teleport next to this guard…oops, she saw me. Reload my quicksave. Okay, go around the other side, hit the button–wait, why isn’t the button wor… Reload my quicksave.

Dishonored 2 gives you a few more options to deal with your adversaries in nonlethal ways, but this is still a game that focuses on giving you creative ways to murder people. So when I tried to (both from a roleplaying and from a moral perspective) go about the game trying to kill absolutely no one, I didn’t get much help from the game’s user interface, controls, or (ugh) load times. There’s a lot more that the game could do to make this more accessible–provide more nonlethal open combat options, make more of the weapons stun instead of kill, provide an on-screen notification of when you’ve gone from sneaky protagonist to killer–but on the other hand, it’s probably not supposed to be easy. The “good” path in real life (to the extent such a thing even exists) isn’t easy either. So maybe being “good” should correlate to the difficult path, as you see (to a degree) in games like the Fable series.

But there’s the problem–Dishonored 2, like the first game, doesn’t have a morality system a la Knights of the Old Republic or Mass Effect. The notion of morality in the Dishonored universe is referred to as Chaos, and Chaos is measured only by the number of human lives you take. While I like the idea of challenging silly binaries of morality (remember a decade or so ago, when “choice in games” meant selecting either “save the orphanage” or “burn down the orphanage”), the idea that the body count is the only important metric is a bizarre decision at best.

One example of this questionable approach to good and evil is with the main objective in each mission: your “assassination target.” In Dishonored 2 (and the first game), for every target, there’s a nonlethal option. But sometimes, the nonlethal option feels even more ruthless than killing the target outright–outcomes range from a lifetime working in the mines with one’s tongue cut out to forcing a target to live out the rest of her days with her stalker/attacker. These are horrifying fates to subject someone to, but the game is smart enough only for the equation that nonlethal equals good.

So when I’m praised at the end for the judicious and good-hearted way that I completed the story’s objectives (floweringly called the “Low Chaos” end), it doesn’t just feel weird, it feels wrong.

But the world of Dishonored 2 is a fascinating one, worthy of exploration, and although its morality may not line up with your own, it’s worth your time to dive in and take the game’s odd choices as a discussion starter, and not a final conclusion.


John Brougher is an actor and filmmaker out of the Los Angeles area, as well as the Chief Operating Officer of the progressive consulting firm ShareProgress. He likes narrative-driven games, dance movies, and people who self-identify as Hufflepuffs.

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