16 Best Comics of 2016

 
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HONORABLE MENTIONS:

 
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-Saga – Brian K Vaughan & Fiona Staples (Image)
-Flying Couch – Amy Kurzweil (Black Balloon)
-Someone Please Have Sex With Me — Gina Wynbrandt (2dcloud)
-The Nameless City — Faith Erin Hicks & Jordie Bellaire (First Second)
-Boys Club – Matt Furie (Buenaventura)
-Nod Away – Joshua Cotter (Fantagraphics)
-Panther – Brecht Evens (Drawn & Quarterly)
-The Thing Itself – Adam Roberts (Gollancz)
-Nighthawk Vol. 2 – David F. Walker, Ramon Villalobos, et al (Marvel)
-Angel Catbird – Margaret Atwood, Johnnie Christmas (Dark Horse)
-Judge Dredd Vol. 2 – Ulises Fariñas, Erick Freitas, Dan McDaid, et al (IDW)
-Lady Killer – Jaime S Rich, Joelle Jones, Laura Allred (Dark Horse)
-Tetris: The Games People Play – Box Brown (First Second)
-Mooncop – Tom Gauld (Drawn & Quarterly)
-The Vision – Tom King, Gabriel Hernandez Walta, et al (Marvel)
-Sot – Joan Cornellà (self-published)
-She Wolf – Rich Tommaso (Image)
-Archangel – William Gibson, Jackson Guice (IDW)

 
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TOP 16 of 2016:

 
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16. Becoming Unbecoming – Una (Arsenal Pulp/Self-published)
becoming unbecoming image
Aiming to explore lived experience within a socio-historical context, this beautifully drawn debut comic really strikes a chord, brilliantly tackling issues revolving around politics, feminism, psychosis, and disability. Una will undoubtedly be an important voice in comics, moving forward.

 
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15. Mary Wept Over the Feet of Jesus — Chester Brown (Drawn & Quarterly)
mary wept over the feet of jesus image
The Bible filtered through the sex-positive lens of narrative legend and master illustrator Chester Brown, who kills it (as he always does). An important book about feminism and sex work, especially keeping the source material in mind.

 
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14. Moon Knight Vol. 8 — Jeff Lemire, Greg Smallwood, Jordi Bellaire, Francisco Francavilla, James Stokoe, Wilfredo Torres, et al (Marvel)
moon knight
Step one: Take some of the best artists in the biz today—Smallwood, Francavilla, Stokoe, Torres—and let each draw very different genres, seemingly unconnected from each other? Step two: Take one of the most creative minds in the biz today—Lemire—and let him weave it all together. What do you get? A visual smorgasbord that seems to call-out and beckon you deeper and deeper on the journey into the fractured labyrinth of Moon Knight’s mind. Marvel Comics superheroes have very confusing backstories. And THIS is how you write a superhero that has a confusing backstory. Did I mention Stokoe? He is one of if not the most technically-gifted artist out there today. Worth the cover price just for the select pages he does, featuring werewolves in space. Dig it.

 
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13. Sugar & Spike: Metahuman Investigations  — Keith Giffen, Bilquis Evely, Ivan Plascencia (DC)

Marvel isn’t the only comic book company that has a long and confusing continuity. DC has a ton of obscure and ridiculous items on its nearly 80-year-long chronology. Giffen takes oddball 60s fluff characters Sugar and Spike and masterfully shows us what they’ve become as adults—private investigators that are so well-versed in comic book lore that they are in the exemplary position to sweep some of the superheroes’ more embarrassing continuity bits under the rug. Evely and Plascencia sleekly render some of the more ridiculous parts of DC’s history, making them feel as though they neatly fit into the contemporary world of comics. This is the kind of DC book that reminds DC fans why they love DC.

 
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12. The Mighty Thor Vol. 2 / Unworthy Thor — Jason Aaron, Russell Dauterman, Olivier Coipel, et al (Marvel)
unworthy thor
Jason Aaron continues to be one of the best writers in mainstream comics today, continuing to mark his territory as one of the primary architects of the Marvel line. Aaron made sure that the female Thor wasn’t just a flash in the pan—and, in fact, has come to define the female Thor as THE THOR. Marvel’s ONE TRUE THOR. Oh yeah, and that other guy, the guy that USED TO BE THOR? That’s a damn good Aaron story as well. I’ve said it before and I will say it again, no one in superhero comics writes modern mythology better than Aaron does. In his Marvel, gods are superheroes and superheroes are gods. To boot, an assortment of the industry’s best illustrators and colorists have all contributed to the Thor line, adding exceptionally amazing top-notch artwork to the list of accolades these titles rightly deserve.

 
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11. Silver Surfer Vol. 8 — Dan Slott, Mike Allred, Laura Allred (Marvel)
silver surfer
Dan Slott’s Silver Surfer has been on my Best Of List ever since its debut last year. And it’s just as good as it was last year. The Allreds are the Allreds—their art is as energetic, vibrant, and delightful as it ever was. This trio of creators breathes a new fresh life into one of my favorite—if not my absolute favorite—Marvel character. The Surfer travels through some of the most interesting, bizarre, and truly fun corners of the Marvel Universe, going places that most other writers and artists dare not go, likely because they wouldn’t risk including such potentially goofy material into their modern work. However, the Slott and the Allreds are more than capable of doing just that—and they do it endearingly well. The space highways and cosmic casinos that the Surfer (and Dawn Greenwood) travail are exactly where I’d go first if I was dropped into the Marvel Universe.

 
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10. Rolling Blackouts – Sarah Glidden (Drawn & Quarterly)
rolling blackouts
Glidden’s Rolling Blackouts is an important work of journalism about journalism. Detailing the topically relevant struggles and triumphs of journalists as they go through Syria and Iraq, Glidden tells a complicated, dense story about the horrors of contemporary war (which also shows the plight of Syrians and Iraqi civilians quite well). Glidden’s stylish yet simple cartoon-work, with its light watercolor-ey pastel-ish coloring, adds an elegance and charm to a very darkly serious and complex narrative. This combination/juxtaposition helps gives a depth that make Rolling Blackouts one of the best of the year, without a doubt.

 
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9. Prophet: Earth War — Brandon Graham, Simon Roy, & Giannis Milonogiannis (Image)
prophet earth war
Prophet ended this year, and there is little if anything that I can imagine filling the void that will be left behind. Brandon Graham is a unique creator, the epitome of what it means to be “indie.” Prophet has operated as the definitive anti-mainstream comic for years running. I’ve always thought of Prophet as the evolution of monthly comic book publications into something more revolutionary, something unseen yet grounded in the roots of sci-fi, space fantasy, and superheroes at its very bottom foundation. Hopefully, Prophet has inspired new writers and illustrators alike to venture into riskier territory, to tell new stories. As a reader, it has definitely inspired me to think about and engage with comics differently.

 
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8. Monstress — Marjorie Liu & Sana Takeda (Image)
monstress
There’s something undeniably sumptuous in the layouts and designs that Takeda contributes to the bizarre and often grotesque world that Marjorie Liu has constructed in Monstress. Set in an alternate post-Victorian Era matriarchy filled with brutal war, strange science fiction, and magick, Monstress falls into the category of steampunk fantasy. I can’t say that this is normally my favorite genre, but I’ll be damned if this isn’t breathtakingly layered storytelling of the highest degree, containing sturdy feminist themes as well. The world-building is impeccable—and Liu and Takeda work as a great team to flesh it all out and give life to their universe. Monstress just plain works as a comic. Strong stuff.

 
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7. Jupiter’s Circle / Jupiter’s Legacy 2 — Mark Millar, Frank Quitely, Chris Sprouse, et al (Image)
jupters legacy two
Mark Millar extends his streak of somehow always making it onto my Year End List. Say what you will about the man, but his Jupiter saga is maybe one of the best things he’s done in his long career. If folks in the future look back on his body of work with positive eyes, it’ll be because of Jupiter. It certainly doesn’t hurt that everything Frank Quitely touches turns to solid gold. Quitely does things in Jupiter that he’s never done before, and that is really saying something for such a legendary comics journeyman. Not to mention, Chris Sprouse was born to do throwback superhero stories like this. Can’t go wrong with these artists on board. Page-turning layered storytelling merged with intellectual political commentary—both in the 60s and present day—make this story something that fits neatly into the overarching Millar-mythos, but with greater depth, more focus, and restraint (when needed). A lovely continuation to an already robust arc.

 
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6. Doom Patrol Vol. 6 — Gerard Way & Nick Derington (DC)
doom patrol
I was stoked when DC announced Gerard Way’s unfortunately-titled “Young Animal” line. Pop musician by day, comic book writer by night, Way—a disciple of Grant Morrison that has grown into his own and become one of comics’ best unique voices—delivers a gut-punch that fuses aspects of prior continuity with a fresh take on an old concept. This book definitely fills the Morrison void that I’d been feeling since he stopped doing monthlies at DC. It’s irreverent, bizarre, mind-blowing, and, maybe most importantly, super fun. Nick Derington’s superb art lends itself to Way’s bonkers (yet totally in-control) narrative. Beloved characters are rendered in new but familiar form, blending awesomely with new faces that I can’t wait to get to know more. Excellent read for both fans of the old Doom Patrol and those just jumping on.

 
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5. Hot Dog Taste Test — Lisa Hanawalt (Drawn & Quarterly)
lisa hanawalt collin colsher
Lisa Hanawalt, with Hot Dog Taste Test, cements herself as one of the funniest and most-talented comic book makers working today. Off-beat and silly in all the right ways, Hot Dog Taste Test, is a stream-of-consciousness string of cartoon strips that tackle just about whatever seems to be on Hanawalt’s mind at the time. Her charming drawings and gorgeous colors come together to express in great detail all of the nooks and crannies of her mind. There’s political commentary and feminism, deep topics handled deftly with grace and aplomb, all the while sprinkled with brevity and wit, making each page accessible for all. A definite must read for 2016. Looking forward to what Hanawalt bring to the table in the future.

 
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4. Big Kids — Michael DeForge (Drawn & Quarterly)
michael deforge big kids collin colsher
No Best of the Year List is complete without a Michael DeForge comic. Big Kids is no exception. It is simultaneously moving, heartbreakingly emotional, devastating, and creepy. DeForge’s art feels both connected and detached from its narrative at the same time as well. To read DeForge is to experience a powerful drug-like effect. This coming-of-age tale reminds me of my own life, my own human experience, sweet sickly nostalgia in general—yet it is decidedly alien, extremely not-of-this-human-world all at once. DeForge has really cornered the market on this type of story-conveyance. He is unmatched, and, combined with his patented highly-stylized limited color-palette art, it makes him one of the great geniuses of the medium.

 
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3. Laid Waste — Julia Gfrörer (Fantagraphics)
laid waste
Sadly, 2016 showed us that the comics industry—both indie and mainstream—is still rife with sexism and bigotry. However, the female, trans, and queer voices made their presence powerfully felt, cutting through the bullshit. On my Top 16 List alone, there are eight female creators. This trend will hopefully continue in the future—and when it does it will be led by the brilliant Julia Gfrörer, writer and illustrator of the earth-shattering Laid Waste. In stark black and white, Laid Waste builds an ethereal world of dark magick and brutality. The art looks, at times, like an engraving or woodcut etching from an illuminated Medieval manuscript, detailing the harsh life of peasants or struggles during witch trials. This frightening glimpse into history reflects our modern day in the scariest of ways. Gfrörer is a talent to be reckoned with. Not many could handle a plague story period piece, and not many could write and draw one that makes you feel like you have contracted Black Death itself as you read it. That is ridiculously good storytelling.

 
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2. Dept. H — Matt Kindt & Sharlene Kindt (Dark Horse)
dept h kindts collin colsher kindt
I’ve talked a lot about filling gaps and filling voids on this Best Of List. And Dept. H is one of those void-fillers. I was bummed when Mind MGMT ended, and was waiting for Matt Kindt to convey something akin to that. Well, I have been floored to the bottom of the ocean with Dept. H, a stunning mystery drawn by Kindt and even more-splendidly watercolored by his wife Sharlene. This duo should make beautiful things until the end of time. Adding elements of sci-fi, murder mystery novels, Hollywood action movies (with the strong female lead!), and a healthy dose of Jacques Cousteau, Dept. H is a nail-biting and exciting read from the start to the finish of each floppy. Kindt’s ability to world-build while telling a captivating ongoing narrative is more than commendable. Sharlene breathes life into each panel, evoking a wide spectrum of emotions–from the bleak claustrophobic desperation of being trapped in a leaking vessel six miles underwater to the unbridled joy of swimming freely in the vast blue sea. Dept. H is a can’t miss title of 2016. Check it out if you haven’t already.

 
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1. House of Penance — Peter Tomasi & Ian Bertram (Dark Horse)
bertram colsher tomasi
I’ve never been to the Winchester House in San Jose, California, but now that I’ve read House of Penance, I might be to freaked-out to visit. Tomasi and Bertram team-up to tell the gothic nightmare “true story” of Sarah Winchester and her mad mansion. Haunted by ghouls that manifest in the form of a sinisterly-tangled conglomeration of dark red blood— a wave of evil tentacles flooding through corridors like in the Shining, drowning those in its path—Sarah is constantly wandering in a world of torturous surreal suspense. The blood-soaked scenery is but one of the many eerie renderings that Bertram couriers to the reader. In the school of Quitely or Stokoe, Bertram is master in his own light—definitely my favorite artist of the past two calendar years. He is a true rising star that will shine brighter than the sun. Make sure you keep your eyes (with sunglasses) on him in 2017. But not only is the art flawless, the entire concept of House of Penance is beyond cool too. It’s truly amazing that Tomasi—usually a Batman and Superman writer—and Bertram have constructed the perfect Gothic horror Western that also concurrently functions as a documentary or bio-pic about the real life Sarah Winchester. It is historical fiction of the highest degree. It’s everything I’m looking for in a title. Dark Horse really did well for itself in 2016. I’m hoping they can do well in 2017 also. Ditto for Tomasi and Bertram, who I hope collaborate again sometime.

 
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About Collin Colsher

Collin Colsher is a writer, filmmaker, teacher, and comic book scholar that currently lives and works in Brooklyn, NY. He is the creator of the Real Batman Chronology Project. He also serves on the jury for the annual Lynd Ward Graphic Novel Prize, which is sponsored by the US Library of Congress.
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