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The Best Comics of 2016 – 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. 2016 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 enjoying 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 – The Paybacks

the-paybacks-3A new publisher, but still absolutely amazing. The Paybacks by Donny Cates, Eliot Rahal, Geoff Shaw moved from Dark Horse to Heavy Metal for its second volume, but it didn’t lose any steam in doing so continuing to deliver hilarity and upping the action.

The concept of the comic is that there’s a repo crew who have to deal with all the superheroes who can’t pay back the loans they take for all of their fancy gadgets. To pay off their debts those heroes then join the ragtag team.

A send-up of so many familiar characters and lets face it creators too, the comic has more jokes in each panel than some series have their entire run. It’s funny, action packed, and in this volume actually is somewhat timely with news with a focus on a data breach.

My biggest wish in comics for 2017 is someone is smart enough to invest in this series because I know it’ll pay off in the log run. Everyone who I’ve turned on to it falls in love and whole there were some issues with the second volume, it still is the one “superhero” comic I devoured as soon as possible.

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 and it applies here.
  • The Legend of Wonder Woman – An absolutely brilliant max-series that went from digital to print. Renae De Liz and Ray Dillon delivered a Wonder Woman story that stands out in a year of solid Wonder Woman output. Fun to read. Beautiful to look at. Unfortunately, it looks like we’ll just get this one volume.
  • The Omega Men – Writer Tom King took this ragtag group of characters and has given us a maxiseries that explores revolution/terrorism in so many ways. This is one to read once collected and the ruminate on. It began in 2015 but wrapped up in 2016.
  • Tomboy – This series published by Action Lab: Danger Zone and by M. Goodwin is a comic that’s not on enough people’s radar. 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 – The Sheriff of Babylon

the-sheriff-of-babylon-12-coverI said above that 2016 was the year of Tom King, and guess who wrote this one! Tom King! The Sheriff of Babylon is another max-series that wrapped up, but we’ll get a second volume some time in 2017.

The comic is based on King’s experiences working for the CIA in Iraq taking place in the Green Zone after the recent Iraq war. The comic is brutally honest showing a world where there’s so little right and so much wrong and it all comes together in a muddied brown and gray.

That dirtiness of it all is helped by Mitch Gerads‘ art and the smart use of colors. The detail, every body movement, the framing of the panels, Gerads’ art adds so much to every issue. That’s saying something considering how amazing King’s scripts are!

This is a comic series that shows comics are political and can question the world we currently live.

Runners Ups:

  • Descender- Jeff Lemire has had a hell of year in general in comics and is one of my favorite writers of the year. This series features the stunning art of Dustin Nguyen. The sci-fi series is so hard to describe revolving around an android that looks like a little boy. Every issue is a treat to read, and Nguyen’s art helps with beautiful visuals. Seriously the art alone is a reason to pick up the series. We didn’t get an issue every month, but what we did get was fantastic.
  • The Fix – Two fuck up cops who are corrupt and get mixed up in a drug smuggling scam. The comic is absolutely hilarious. Written by Nick Spencer with art by Steve Lieber the comic is one of the funniest books on the market.
  • 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 covers everything from religion to consumerism to the 2016 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.
  • Invisible Republic – A reporter investigates the truth of an uprising on a planet discovering fact from fiction in a series that bounces back and forth between the past and present. Each issue reminds us about the power of journalism and the need for good reporting. Myth can easily be twisted into fact and lies can replace reality. The comic series seems prescient in so many ways.

 

Best Limited Series or One Shot – 4 Kids Walk Into a Bank

4 KIDS WALK INTO A BANK #1 CoverWe got three issues of this series in 2016 and holy crap do I wish we got more. In those three issues we did get some of the best storytelling in any comics. I’m assuming this is a limited series since it is a “crime caper in five parts” but hopefully we get more after this volume wraps up.

The series involves a bunch of kids that find out one of their dads is possibly a criminal and has some buddies who plan to rob a bank. Their idea is to rob the bank before them.

But, it’s not the heist that’s the drawn it’s the kids themselves. Each one feels so real with so many quirks their personalities jump off the page. Everyone is relatable and each feels like real people we knew growing up. It’s absolutely amazing.

The art by Tyler Boss is top notch and the writing is why Matthew Rosenberg is one of the hottest writers in comics right now.

More please!

Runners Up:

  • Black – This series was a Kickstarter phenomenon and the concept is what if only Black people had superpowers? Political. Daring. In your face. The comic is layered and will leave you debating what it’s trying to say.
  • Love is Love – A charity comic to benefit the victims of the Pulse nightclub attack, this comic is a prime example of what the comic industry can do when profits aren’t at the forefront. Bringing together publishers and hundreds of creators it’s a touching tribute.
  • Refugees Book One – A hell of a find at Small Press Expo, the comic is haunting taking us into the world of refugees as they attempt to find a better life. There’s definite issues with the comic as far as some of the writing, but the message is clear and brutally honest.
  • Superman: American Alien – Featuring a bunch of different artists, this maxi-series by writer Max Landis explored a different time in Superman’s life with a different take on the character. It’s a fun and fantastic read and somehow actually gives us something that feels fresh for a character that’s been around for over 75 years.

 

Best Graphic Novel/Trade Paperback – March Book Three

MarchBookThree-CoverThe best thing to be released in 2016 for comics. This is an absolutely amazing finish to the award winning trilogy. The winner of the National Book Award among other things the graphic novel focuses on Congressman John Lewis’ experiences during the Civil Rights movement.

Written by Lewis, Andrew Aydin, with art by Nate Powell this is the crown jewel of comics showing that they’re more than tights and has been adopted by schools to teach about this time in American history.

As I read the graphic novel from cover to cover, I found myself filled with emotions, as Lewis’ life was there in print for those to see and read. The story is a complicated one, but it’s presented in a way that feels honest and open, both good and bad. This is an inside look at one of the most important, and turbulent times in American history from not just someone that was there, but a leader of the movement. And that’s a fascinating part of this third book, is its focus on Lewis’ role as a leader.

This third volume somehow leapfrogs the other two. Whether it’s due to learning or the material within, something about it created an emotional reaction I haven’t felt by any media in quite some time. And most importantly it got me to think about where we as a people and nation have been, where we are, and where we’re going.

Runners Up:

  • The Attack – A man’s wife winds up being a suicide bomber. This story is about his attempt to find out why and discovering he knew so little about the woman he called his wife. A spiral into despair and madness the end will leave you speechless and heartbroken.
  • Rolling Blackouts: Dispatches From Turkey, Syria, and Iraq – By Sarah Glidden this graphic novel is her experiences as she researches potential stories on the effects of the Iraq War on the Middle East, especially refugees. Beautiful to look at, the graphic novel is the second best thing I’ve read this year (behind March).
  • Soviet Daughter – Adapting her great grandmother’s journal Julia Alekseyeva provides an interesting look at someone who lived in Russia from 1910 to emigrating to the US in the 90s. The Revolution, WWII, the Holocaust, it’s all presented as Alekseyeva illustrates what is a diary. Between each chapter, Julia reflects on her own life and her closeness with her great grandmother. It’s an amazing piece examining women finding their place in the world. It’s also a reason you wait until the first of the year for your list, as this came out the last week of the year.
  • Tetris: The Games People PlayBox Brown takes what should be a boring story about the history of the video game Tetris and makes it really interesting! A fun graphic novel published by First Second that makes corporate maneuvering a bad business deals engaging.

 

Best Genre of the Year – Indie Comics/Small Publishers

Is it a “genre”? We can argue about that, but lets face it, 2016 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 and nothing changed in 2016. There’s a massive opening for someone to step in and be a mainstream breakout, maybe 2017 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.

In “Rebirth” the publisher blended the old with the new bringing back legacy characters and also pushing forward some of the newer ones too. They even moved away from grimm and gritty and gave us a bit of hope and fun in it all!

While Batman has always been strong for the company, Superman, Wonder Woman, and more all all returned to greatness with a new positive energy about them that could be felt.

But even better, sales increased and while they’ve leveled off and dropped quite a bit from the initial launch, the publisher is stronger and in a better position than it has been in a long time.

The company continued to expand upon its digital first program, and has begun 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.

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

 

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.

These issues have lead this site to rethink what we promote and how we do so, no longer choosing comics to promote, as we feel some responsibility for things gone wrong and your dollars being held hostage.

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 – None of the Above

This one I’ve thought about the most out of all of the categories on the list. I keep going back and forth between Image, BOOM! Studios, Valiant, Action Lab, IDW, First Second, and so many more. 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 at least good everywhere. But, the comic industry has really grown in 2016 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.

Of the big two Marvel has stumbled… a lot. Entire articles can be written in that department, but the company is not the juggernaut its been in quite some time and I’d expect their to be some big shake-ups in 2017.

DC on the other hand 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’ve gotten most improved.

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. BOOM! has had a great mix of comics, but they’re missing that ongoing series that goes on for 30 to 50 issues. Valiant is quality all around and have tried some interesting market tactics, but you have to like superhero comics, Action Lab is a solid up and comer with good consistent releases. IDW has shown its possible to do great licensed comics, while First Second has fantastic graphic novels of all sorts. Aftershock has quality and so has Black Mak Studios.

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.

Around the Tubes

WW Cv5_dsThe weekend is almost here! What are folks excited for? Any movies being seen? Any games being played? Sound off in the comments below!

While you decide on that, here’s some comic news and reviews from around the web in our morning roundup.

Around the Tubes

The Beat – SPX debuts, including Last Look, a masterpiece by Charles Burns – Lots of great comics and graphic novels debuting!

Women Write About Comics – Mantles, Crowns, and Knowledge: What RiRi Williams Needs – Will get you thinking.

Comics Alliance – Liefeld Revives ‘Youngblood’ At Image With Bowers And Towe – What do folks think?

Black Nerd Problems – What Happens To A New Black Character Deferred? – A must read.

The Beat – Guy DeLisle’s “Hostage” coming from D&Q next year – Can’t wait for this!

Comics Bulletin – Suicide Squad #4: The Return of William Hell and Racism as an Ongoing Force in American Politics – A very good read and some fun history.

 

Around the Tubes Reviews

Talking Comics – Batgirl #2

Alibi – Black Magick

Talking Comics – Blue Beetle: Rebirth #1

Newsarama – Detective Comics #939

Talking Comics – The Hellblazer #1

IGN – Hollow Mountain: The Long Shadows

IGN – The Omega Men: The End is Here

Talking Comics – Wonder Woman #5

Around the Tubes

The Omega Men #10The weekend is almost here! Anyone going to see Batman v Superman? Anyone reading comics? Going to conventions? Sound off in the comments!

While you’re deciding what you’re going to do here’s some comic news and reviews from around the web in our morning roundup.

Around the Tubes

Women Write About Comics – Diamonds in the Rough: Our Problematic Faves, Who Coincidentally, Are Women  – This is a good list.

ICv2 – Mattel Forms Mattel Creations – A very good idea.

Kotaku – 16 Killer Cosplay Shots From WonderCon – Some great stuff here!

 

Around the Tubes Reviews

The Daily Gazette – The Nameless City

CBR – The Omega Men #10

ICv2 – Woody Guthrie and the Dust Bowl Ballads HC

Newsarama – Best Shots Rapid-Fire Reviews: Captain America #7, JLA #8, Daredevil #5, More

Around the Tubes

Black_Knight_1_CoverIt’s new comic book day tomorrow! We’ll have our picks in a bit and of course reviews, previews, and so much more.

Until then, here’s some comic news and reviews from around the web in our morning roundup.

Around the Tubes

Nothing But Comics – Black Knight Cancelled – On our prediction list. What do you think is next?

What Culture – 6 Ways Marvel Has Completely F**ked Up Comic Books For Everyone  – Only 6?

Nothing But Comics – Etrigan ’92: The Demon Ran for President (It’s True!) – This is awesome.

NY City Lens – POW! The End of an Adventure in Comics – Sad to see.

Bustle – More Diversity In Comics Can Be Found In Nigeria Than In America & That Needs To Change – Yes it does!

Foreign Policy – ‘The White Donkey’: A Marine’s graphic novel of Iraq, loss and coming home – Sounds like a very interesting read.

Kotaku – Anti-Swatting Congresswoman Gets Swatted – Not too shocked about this. Hope the asshole gets caught and prosecuted.

Women Write About Comics – Comics Academe: Teaching Ms. Marvel – Part One – If you want to learn about the character.

Scott Woods Make Lists – 28 Black Picture Books That Aren’t About Boycotts, Buses or Basketball – A great list!

 

Around the Tubes Reviews

Talking Comics – 50 Signal

CBR – Black Magick #4

Comic Attack – Jem and the Holograms #11

Talking Comics – Kaptara Vol. 1

CBR – Old Man Logan #1

CBR – The Omega Men #8

Brett’s Best Comics of 2015

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 2015. Generally these are comic books that came out in 2015, 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). 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. Check out below what made the cut!

Best Super Hero Comic – Captain Canuck

Captain.Canuck 1 cover2015 continued the diversification of the comic industry and we saw an explosion of new comic characters and series that looked a lot more like us, the readers. But, for all of that, many of those series brought with them over the top violence or were aimed at specific audiences. That’s why Chapter House Comics‘ relaunch of Captain Canuck was such a fresh series and hero in 2015.

The comic series and character seem to embody Canadian ideals well and the series is a perfect example of a superhero series that can be enjoyed by both adults and kids alike.

Within its pages, there’s action and fighting, but what’s shown isn’t over the top, taking on a more PG/PG-13 tone compared to a lot of what else is out there. The series also celebrates the diversity that is Canada with characters from numerous backgrounds, including First Nations, and regularly uses French (without translation) to great affect. Plus that design is badass.

Each issue also gives you two-for-one, with a back-up story of equally high quality and fun. A retro tale of a Captain Canuck of the past, I’ve enjoyed these stories so much, I’m hoping Chapter House spins them out in to their own sister series or a regular anthology.

This is a series where the hero is one who not only wants to stop the bad guy, but also won’t put innocents at risk and go out of his way to protect them. Add on to the fact that he’s surrounded by a diverse cast, with actual depth, and we have a comic that can be enjoyed by all. This is a series to watch in 2016.

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.
  • Midnighter – Writer Steve Orlando‘s series has gotten me interested in a character I seriously had little interest in before. He’s take a one note character and added tons of depth showing that superheroes can be more than just punching.
  • The Omega Men – Writer Tom King took this ragtag group of characters and has given us a maxiseries that explores revolution/terrorism in so many ways. This is one to read once collected if you haven’t started yet.
  • Plutona – Is it a superhero comic? So far I’d say yes. Jeff Lemire is a master writer and Emi Lenox‘s art is fantastic. This is basically Stand By Me with superheroes and it’s a series that I want to see what happens next. With just a few issues so far, it has completely sucked me in.

 

Best Non-Super Hero Comic – Southern Bastards

southern bastardsWelcome to Craw County, Alabama, home of Boss BBQ, the state champion Runnin’ Rebs football team…and more bastards than you’ve ever seen.

Jason Aaron and Jason Latour have created a Southern gothic noir series that once you think you’ve got it down, pulls the rug right out from under you.

This series was my top pick last year, and it has continued to show with each issue why it deserves to continue to be so praised. Each volume has given us a new twist and new perspective on the greater world they’ve put together and Aaron and Latour aren’t afraid to bring the violence and make us wince.

It’s a brilliant exploration of the Southern community, especially its focus on sports and football. This is one of my first reads with each issue that comes out, and I have never known where it was going next. An original in every way.

Runners Ups:

  • Archie – I care about an Archie comic!? Archie took a gutsy chance and reworked their entire line. While it has failed with two other relaunches this year, this series (as well as Jughead) has been a standout for it’s new take on the classic character.
  • Bitch Planet- The series continues to explore tough topics and continues to entertain while doing so. This is a comic with a message, and it pulls it off with every single issue.
  • Descender- Jeff Lemire makes it on the list again, but this time with art by Dustin Nguyen. This sci-fi series is so hard to describe revolving around an android that looks like a little boy. Every issue is a treat to read, and Nguyen’s art helps with beautiful visuals.
  • Fresh Romance – Romance comics are dead! Who’d read them?! Well Janelle Asselin (a some times contributor to this site) proved folks wrong Kickstarting this line of comics that’s a romance anthology. Every issue has delivered with fantastic stories and extras like advice columns. Expect this series to be copied (poorly) in 2016.

 

Best Limited Series or One Shot – Secret Wars: Secret Love

secret wars secret love 1 coverMarvel’s Secret Wars as a whole was an event that started off strong and then sputtered along the way. However it did give us at least one highlight, and that’s Secret Wars: Secret Love.

Four stories that vary in tone and look, this comic is a spotlight on so many creators that should have been at the forefront of the All-New, All-Different Marvel.

Secret Wars: Secret Love was so good, with so many varied talented creators, it was a reminder how much Marvel dropped the ball with its relaunch just a few months. Whitley not on a Misty Knight series? Cmon! Michel Fiffe not being given something! Marguerite Bennet, Katie Cook, Felipe Smith, Gurihiru, Kris Anka, this comic was filled with folks who are comic stars. This is the type of creative line-up I’d be building a line around.

It was just a one shot, but when I was done it was clear I want more of this!

Runners Up:

  • The Death-Defying Doctor Mirage – Valiant cranked out so many good series this year, their miniseries especially were good. This one took on the new Doctor Mirage in a series that had her going to the other side and exploring her own past. This was a miniseries that in a short time gave us lots of depth, entertained, looked so good, and did it all in a short period of time.
  • Justice League: Darkseid War: Green Lantern – DC Comics released a series of one-shots for “Darkseid War,” and one stood above all others. The comics were supposed to explore what happens when regular humans get godlike powers, and this one did an amazing job as Hal Jordan was presented withed difficult choices. A great read all on its own.
  • Lady Killer – A suburban housewife is actually a contract killer. The comics was entertaining with a kick-ass female lead. The miniseries was fantastic playing with so many stereotypes and genres. This is Mrs. Smith, without the Mr.
  • The Paybacks – Mixing superheroes and comedy this miniseries has delivered. This comic has gotten me to laugh with every single issue and one of the downer moments of the year was the fact this wasn’t an ongoing series.

 

Best Graphic Novel/Trade Paperback – Mike’s Place

MikesPlace-300RGB

There was one graphic novel that haunted me for a good chunk of 2015, and that’d be Mike’s Place: A True Story of Love, Blues, and Terror in Tel Aviv.

Written by Jack Baxter and Joshua Faudem, Mike’s Place is a graphic novel spun out of their experience that you can see in the documentary Blues by the Beach. What was supposed to be a movie celebrating Israeli life, and the peace found between Israelis, Palestinians, folks of all different backgrounds, who come together in a bar, instead it captures tragedy, and perseverance.

The graphic novel grips and effects you at a personal level. Part of that is due to the fact it’s both tragic and uplifting. The lead up, and post event accounting of what happened shows strength in tragedy, it’s a mesmerizing, and in ways uplifting, story.

Beautifully haunting, Mike’s Place is a graphic novel that sticks with you for days and weeks.

Runners Up:

  • The Arab of the Future – A biography of Riad Sattouf’s life as he navigates between Libya, France, and Syria. The graphic novel originally came out in French in 2014 and was released in English in 2015. The graphic novel is absolutely fascinating, and makes Sattouf’s life entertaining.
  • The Fall of the House of West – The latest entry in Paul Pope‘s Battling Boy line of comics, this has the early years of the West family and everything from its pint sized hero to pint sized format is a win. This is fun pulp comics.
  • March: Book Two – The second volume of Congressman Lewis‘ biography recounting his life in the Civil Rights movement. Much like the first, the second volume will be taught in classes for decades to come.
  • The SculptorScott McCloud‘s latest graphic novel has its fans and haters. The graphic novel follows an artist who makes a deal with death and has a finite time to live. The story is haunting and one that’ll have you debating with your book club.

 

Best New Series – Monstress

Monstress01_Cover

Monstress kicked off with a triple-sized first issue (60 pages!), and even when you got to that last page, it didn’t feel like enough. The series is a magical world (pun intended) that mixes so many genres that there’s a little something for so many. Fantasy, steampunk, Kaiju, anime, it’s all here mixed together in an amazing combination that seamlessly flows together.

I think what’s more impressive is the inclusion of political and societal commentary within, and doing so in a way that doesn’t come of as preachy, and is almost not noticeable. The story at it’s core is about a woman, a minority, fighting against the oppressive majority. Choices to have what seems like a matriarchal society changes that context into something more than a woman fighting the patriarchy which the series could have easily been (and it still would have been great I’m sure). Instead it gives us women who are good, evil, and somewhere in between painting a broad swath that can be debated for hours on end. It’s this type of layering of ideas, themes, and concepts that has created one of the richest debuts of the year.

In two issues Monstress feels like a thought out world with a history that goes back decades. Battles are referenced, events mentioned, it all feels like its been thought out and meticulously put together. Add on top of that women (well character really) of all types, shapes, sizes, skin color, and you have what is a diverse, in many ways, debut. All of that together creates the best debut of the year.

 

Best Single Issue – Batman #44

Batman #44 CoverBatman has gone through a fascinating shift this year as Bruce Wayne lost his memory and James Gordon stepped in as the iconic hero in a new mechanized suit that’s more anime fighting robot than the great detective we’ve known.

The series has also brought us a new villain in Mr. Bloom who is a great addition to Batman’s rogues and feels like a worthy adversary.

Through all of that, this comic, which focuses on Bruce Wayne’s Batman, is the best single issue of the year of any comic as it shows us something we’ve never seen before in comics, a Batman who actually focuses on the interplay between institutional racism and economic injustice.

Titled “A Simple Case,” the issue was written by regular series writer Scott Snyder who was joined by Brian Azzarello, we find out the issues Batman faces here are anything but simple and more complicated than any villain he’s faced.

For an issue we see how superhero comics can address actual social and economic issues we face today such as gentrification, institutional racism and bank’s disinvestment in communities. But, more importantly, addressing those issues and entertain at the same time.

Add on top of that the usual beautiful art, this time by Jock, and you have a comic you can read on its own, and the best single issue this year.

 

Best Event of the Year – Book of Death

BOD_TPB_COVER_GILLWho has the best superhero universe out there today? That’s not the big two, the answer actually is Valiant who continued in 2015 to show off quality comics filled with quality writing and art.

Not only does the publisher put out great comics every month, but they also have figured out how to weave in major events in to their universe and make it new reader friendly.

Book of Death saw the Eternal Warrior with the newest Geomancer from the future on the run trying to both dodge and take on a great evil pursuing them. Along with the main series, we got a glimpse in to Valiant’s future along with the end of many of its heroes.

The battles felt epic, the use of characters were great, the story progressed at a nice pace with each issue being vital. Add on top a series of one-shots all of which were at least good, and you have the making of an epic tale.

But, what’s even more impressive is the fact that Valiant has figured out the outro in many ways with their events leading in to natural changes for their line of comics and characters.

They’ve consistently put out quality, and continue to do so with their events. I usually shudder when I hear some major comic event is coming, but with Valiant, I look forward to it in anticipation.

Runners Up:

  • Darkseid War – A good event should be epic, and DC’s storyline event currently running through Justice League qualifies. The story has been building for some time, but the Anti-Monitor has arrived to battle Darkseid, and many of the issues have left us with imagery that feels massive in scale. Hopefully the second half delivers as much as the first.
  • Secret Wars – So much good, and so much bad here. Delays and the second half that hasn’t quite delivered as much as the first has tarnished what started off as Marvel’s best event in some time. Still, there’s absolutely this world changing event hasn’t been absolutely huge touching every corner of the Marvel Universe. With one issue to go, the series isn’t perfect, but it does deliver a game changing event.
  • Transformers: Combiner Wars – This was a story that hit so much nostalgia, but what I think as really impressive was the synergy across platforms. Comics, toys, video games, they were all in sync and it all worked together very well.
  • The Valiant – Did you read about Book of Death above? Everything there can be applied here in what is the prequel that eventually led in to Book of Death.

 

Best Genre of the Year – Indie Comics/Small Publishers

Is it a “genre”? We can argue about that, but lets face it, 2015 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.

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

 

Best Surprise of the Year – DC Comics

dc-logo-252x3002015 was a year that it was cool to shit on DC Comics. But, for the bad, their best is some of the best. Batman, Batgirl, The Omega Men, Justice League, Midnighter, Prez, Bizarro, Doctor Fate, We Are Robin, Grayson, Black Canary, Constantine the Hellblazer, Cyborg, DC Comics Bombshells, Martian Manhunter, and lots more hit the shelves each week and show off the new quality of a publisher that has been in second place for so long. Add on top of that a resurgence and reinvigoration of Vertigo.

After sputtering for some time, the company shook up their line of comics with Convergence which saw the recreation of the multiverse and opened up the possibilities to tell stories out of continuity and with numerous versions of classic characters.

The company also decided to expand of the success they saw with Gotham Academy and Batgirl, trying new things with new series many receiving critical praise though middling sales.

The company continued to expand upon its digital first program, and has begun to look towards expanding its market with its DC Super Hero Girls line. 2016 sees the real launch of their new movie universe after dominating on television.

The company has really turned the ship around and 2015 was a stellar year that you can see them right the ship while continuing to be faced with criticism from armchair experts.

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

 

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.

These issues have lead this site to rethink what we promote and how we do so, no longer choosing comics to promote, as we feel some responsibility for things gone wrong and your dollars being held hostage.

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 have fallen.

 

Publisher of the Year – None of the Above

This one I’ve thought about the most out of all of the categories on the list. I keep going back and forth between Image, BOOM! Studios, Valiant, Action Lab, IDW, First Second, and so many more. 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 at least good everywhere. But, the comic industry has really grown in 2015 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.

Both DC and Marvel have stumbled in 2015 (though DC has shown improvement in many ways, see above), and it’s everyone else that has stepped up in an attempt to fill the gap left by the big two.

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. BOOM! has had a great mix of comics, but they’re missing that ongoing series that goes on for 30 to 50 issues. Valiant is quality all around and have tried some interesting market tactics, but you have to like superhero comics, Action Lab is a solid up and comer with good consistent releases. IDW has shown its possible to do great licensed comics, while First Second has fantastic graphic novels of all sorts. The year also saw newcomers like 451 Media, Aftershock, and Double Take, but each are having issues getting the word out.

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.

Much like I said about DC, 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.

Graphic Policy’s Top Comic Picks this Week!

Giant Robot Maintenance CrewWednesdays are new comic book day! Each week hundreds of comics are released, and that can be pretty daunting to go over and choose what to buy. That’s where we come in!

We’re bringing back something we haven’t done for a while, what the team thinks. Our contributors are choosing up to five books each week and why they’re choosing the books.

Find out what folks think below, and what comics you should be looking out for this Wednesday.

Alex

Top Pick: Howard The Duck #3 (Marvel) – This series is probably my most anticipated comic every month because it doesn’t take itself even remotely seriously. It’s like a shining beacon in the sea of dark and gritty comics that I otherwise read.

Lobster Johnson: Glass Mantis (Dark Horse) – It’s only the second comic I’ve read featuring the Lobster, but he’s a character I’d love to learn more about, and what better way than this one-shot?

Seduction Of The Innocent #2 (Dynamite) – I’m liking the feel of this comic, and the cover is a fantastic homage to the crime comics of old.

 

Brett

COPRA Round Three (Bergen Street Comics) – The best superhero comic on the market right now. This indie comic has delivered with every single issue. It’s so good I buy them in singles and trades. Just has to be read to really be appreciated, no words will do it justice.

Giant Robot Warrior Maintenance Crew (Cosmic Times) – I loved this when it was in single issues. It focuses on the folks who help make those giant robots actually function when the pilots go into battle. You won’t look at giant robots the same way again after reading this twistedly funny comic.

The Omega Men #7 (DC Comics) – Tom King consistently deliver in this critically praised series.

Squadron Supreme #2 (Marvel) – This “dark” Avengers comic brings all of these characters into the regular Marvel Universe, and their brand of justice isn’t going over well. Should be fascinating to see where it goes.

Star Wars: Obi-Wan and Anakin #1 (Marvel) – Marvel has been knocking it out of the park with their Star Wars comics and I expect no less from this one.

 

Elana

Top Pick: Black Canary #6 (DC Comics) –  In the words of Led Zeppelin “It’s been a long time, been a long time, Been a long lonely, lonely, lonely, lonely, lonely time since issue 5”. Are the members of Black Canary the Queens of Noise or will they be shot through the heart by their former singer? Like Alice Cooper I Love it to Death.

Top Pick: All-New Wolverine #3 (Marvel) – The best it is what it does: being a superhero comic that’s actually All New All Different. Laura Kinny is Wolverine.

Black Magick #3 (Image Comics) – We were promised a witch noir and a witch noir we have! Artist Nicola Scott’s best drawn and moodiest work to date coupled with Greg Rucka who’s always an awesome writer.

Jughead #3 (Archie) – Genuine and tongue in cheek humor at the same time. My favorite Archie series gets better with each issue. I love the character’s voice now. I’m a total Archie newbie and I’ve fallen for it.

Ringside #2 (Image Comics) –  Do ya like wrestling, kid? Seedy backstage wrastling drama. General grittiness and industry weary eyes. Big cliffhanger at the end of last issue.

 

Javier

Top Pick: East of West #23 (Image Comics) – I didn’t read #22 … oh wait … I didn’t have to. There was no dialogue. After that epic failure in the last ish all that Image hints at in the next installment is that “Revelations and Retribution abound.”  Can’t wait to find out what exactly that means.

Last Sons Of America #2 (BOOM! Studios) – Another dark and dystopian sci-fi-ish BOOM! title by a relatively unknown writer (Philip Kennedy Johnson). This one centers on human trafficking, and the monetization and exploitation of children. Dark and bleak it is, infused with kidnappings, drug cartels, and guns.

Ragnarok #7 (IDW Publishing) – I’ve been a fan of Walt’s work since the 80s. After forty odd years in the industry, he still has the magic touch. Thor (totally unrelated to Marvel’s Thor) is the Last God Standing about to do battle against Regn, the Black Elf Assassin.

Six #2 (451 Media) – Written by the team of George Pelecanos (of HBO’s The Wire fame) and Andrew Ewington, this title pits Mercs versus Drug Cartels. Another guns and action title, if that’s your thing.

Welcome Back #4 (BOOM! Studios) – I jumped on this one late in the middle of issue #3.  Glad I did; I was able to snag first print copies of #1 and #2.  I doubt I could find these now. Originally this one was slated to be a mini-series, but Boom has now extended it as an ongoing title due to its well-deserved popularity. Word of mouth spread quickly on this violent story of battling reincarnated assassins, so first printings are now a rarity; but you can probably snag some second or third printings to catch up (by the way I was enjoying Sebela’s run on Dead Letters too, but for some reason after #9, subsequent issues have been released digitally but not in print; what’s up with that).

Around the Tubes

We’re still recovering from New York Comic Con, and it’s new comic book day tomorrow! What’s everyone excited for this week? While you decide on that, here’s some comic book news and reviews from around the web in our morning roundup.

Around the Tubes

CBDLF – 5 Year Court Battle Leads to Censorship of Lebanese Comics Magazine – Sigh.

 

Around the Tubes Reviews

CBR – The Omega Men #5

CBR – Paper Girls #1

CBR – Secret Wars #6

CBR – Star Wars #10

Graphic Policy’s Top Comic Picks this Week!

PaperGirls01_CoverWednesdays are new comic book day! Each week hundreds of comics are released, and that can be pretty daunting to go over and choose what to buy. That’s where we come in!

We’re bringing back something we haven’t done for a while, what the team thinks. Our contributors are choosing up to five books each week and why they’re choosing the books.

Find out what folks think below, and what comics you should be looking out for this Wednesday.

Alex

Top Pick: Old Man Logan #5 (Marvel) – I loved the first Old Man Logan, it remains to this day one of the best Wolverine stories told in the last fifteen years. This sequel doesn’t quiet measure up to those lofty heights, but I never expected it too. This story is a fun exploration of a character that has been missing from our comics for a long time, and I’m enjoying every page.

Detective Comics #45 (DC Comics) – Honestly, if it wasn’t for the possibility of more Harvey Bullock, this comic wouln’t be on my list at all. Who doesn’t love Harvey Bullock?

 

Brett

Top Pick: Drawn Onward (Big Planet Comics/Retrofit) – I picked up a copy of this small press indie book a while ago, and seriously it’s one of the best comics I’ve read this year. A comic that looks at a relationship from two perspectives, you need to read the comic front to back, and then back to front to get the full experience. Absolutely brilliant. You can read my review here.

Captain Canuck #4 (Chapterhouse Comics) – Remember when superheroes were supposed to be fun? This comic series follows Canada’s champion and is exactly that, fun with lots of action!

Cyborg #3 (DC Comics) – A comic that has parts superhero and part reflection, Cyborg’s solo series has been a breath of fresh air in many ways, especially since its tackled so many issues such as race and disabilities head on.

Jughead #1 (Archie Comics) – Archie’s relaunch of their titles have been amazing so far. Chip Zdarsky and Erica Henderson are masters at what they do, and the fact they’re on this comic has me beyond excited.

Southern Bastards #11 (Image Comics) – The best ongoing comic being produced hands down, no question.

 

Elana

Top Pick: Paper Girls #1 (Image Comics) – The writer of Saga (aka the comic even my Dad will read) and the artist of Wonder Woman team up for some 1988 newspaper girl badassness.

Top Pick: Jughead #1 (Archie Comics) – I never read Archie till the relaunch and boy does this one look like fun. Zdarsky and Henderson are aces at comedy without being mean spirited. Both are zany and oddball talents, making them the most Jughead-worthy team ever.

8House: Yorris Part 1 (Image Comics) – 8House is always something interesting and new. I’d suggest getting all #1 of the 8House mini imprint if you’re hungry from something unique and strange. This book has a euro-comic feel shared by many of the 8House stories.

Cyborg #3 (DC Comics) – A seriously smart comic about disability and race. It’s also great as pure sci-fi. Because those are things good sci-fi is supposed to do.

Doctor Strange #1 (Marvel) – I’ve wanted a new Doctor Strange book for a long time. Jason Aaron’s pitch is a strong one: “Who do you call when things are coming out of your dreams and trying to kill you? He’s the only person standing between us and the forces of darkness, but has he been paying his tab?” –  The mildly de-aged Doctor sounds like he could be the Marvel version of John Constantine. But I’d prefer if it goes its own way since Constantine is winning at Constantine-ing (boy do I love that comic).

The Humans #8 (Image Comics) – Serious shit went down last issue in my favorite historical-fiction/funny-animal/ape-sploitation comic. Now, the biker gang’s old ladies are on the cover of this month’s issue with semi-automatic weapons pointed. That’s all I’m saying.

 

Kenny

Top Pick: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #50 (IDW Publishing) – Shredder vs. the Turtles. 90% of my childhood was built around this rivalry and time has made me no less excited to see these mortal enemies go at it again.

Doctor Strange #1 (Marvel) – I have always had a special place in my heart for comic book characters that are so far on the fringe of their own universe that people with outrageous super powers rarely dare to go into their realm and Doctor Strange personifies this better than almost anyone.

The Omega Men #5 (DC Comics) – After all the push back resulting from DC attempting to end this series at issue 6 I had to check out what all the fuss was about and I have yet to be disappointed.

What If? Infinity – Thanos (Marvel) – Anyone who has ever heard a story has always wondered “What if?”. And I always get a kick out of Marvel trying to answer these questions. Especially, ones I never thought to ask like how Thanos joining the Avengers would turn out.

 

Paul

Top Pick: Siege #4 (Marvel) – This has been a fantastic Secret Wars tie in, and I am very excited for this issue….Thanos has arrived!  Can Abigail and the defenders of The Shield survive?  Can’t wait to find out!

Avengers #0 (Marvel) – A slew of new Avengers titles coming down the line, and this issue #0 gives us a look at the new teams.  Very excited to get inside the teams we’ve only seen teaser pics about; the rosters, their missions…and apparently someone is keeping a close eye on these Avengers.  Can’t wait!

Contest of Champions #1 (Marvel) – Heroes fighting in a cosmic game of chess, to see who can wield incredible power.  Yeah, it’s been done before, but with different versions of heroes and villains to pull from?  Ok, I’m interested.

 

Pharoah

Top Pick: Doctor Strange #1 (Marvel)Jason Aaron tackles another iconic Marvel property, and I got a feeling, he is about make this legend, even more relevant and exciting than ever!!!

Amazing Spider-Man #1 (Marvel)- any storyline that brings back Peter Parker and Mary Jane Watson into the Spiderverse, is one at least finding out why, which is only part of the fun.

Batman and Robin Eternal #1 (DC Comics) – The reintroduction of Dick Grayson into Batman’s world??/ I cannot wait to read this, as Dick revisits a case when he was Robin.

Contest of Champions #1 (Marvel) – a classic showdown between Thanos, Maestro, Venom Gamora, and a host of others battle it out

Paper Girls #1 (Image) I love Brian K.Vaughn’s work , as he truly has the Midas touch when it comes to series, especially when it original series , and this one is right up his alley and he teams up Cliff Chang of Batman fame for this one.

Omega Men is 12 Issues Again

OMEGA_MEN_2_552d64e1ed3095.70430801DC Comics had announced last week the cancellation of a few series, and that some limited series would be seeing their runs cut short. One series, Omega Men, was planned for twelve issues, but was announced that it’d end after six.

While sales weren’t great, the series has been praised, especially by reviewers, and is one of the most well reviewed series out of DC’s recent relaunch. So, folks weren’t too happy about the short run.

The comic is a sci-fi series focused on a group that may, or may not be terrorists, it all depends on which side of the fight you’re on. It’s written by Tom King with art by Barnaby Bagenda.

Well, DC has listened, announced the series would return to its full twelve issue run. See companies do listen!

DC Comics Ends Five Series, Changes Creative Team on One

dc comic logoDC Comics has released to CBR that they’re calling it quits on five series which will wrap up in November and December. Justice League United, Gotham By Midnight, The Omega Men, and Lobo will end in December. Doomed will end with issue #6 in November (we think, CBR wasn’t quite sure).

None of the series have been burning up the charts, though The Omega Men is critically acclaimed (bet you the trade does well).

DC Comics has also announced that Catwoman #47 will kick off a new creative team of writer Frank Tieri and Inaki Miranda. Outgoing writer Genevieve Valentine will be a part of the Batman and Robin Eternal writing team.

So, for those keeping track Justice League United #16 will be its last. Gotham By Midnight #12 will be its last. The Omega Men #7 will be its last. Lobo #13 is the final comic for that run.

The full DC Comics’ December solicitations will be released this Monday.

 

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