Last year, Image had 7 of my top 10 in this category, with Archie Comics sneaking one in and Marvel claiming the other two.
This year, despite Marvel making a pretty strong showing (they've got 4), Image maintains the other 6 spots. So they're still my favorite publisher, especially when you consider that three that just missed the cut are also Image again. There are four superhero books (up from 2 last year), 4 sci-fi fantasy (down from 6), 1 crime (Fade Out replacing Velvet) and Sex Criminals taking over from Chew in the hard-to-quantify category that definitely includes humor.
Last year I also noted the "appeals to women" in my top 10, and the same is true here. Ms. Marvel, Spider-Woman and Lazarus join Saga, Rat Queens and Sex Criminals as books with either strong female leads or a strong female following. There's only one book written by a woman on the list (Ms. Marvel), and two that feature female artists, and I could do better in terms of diversity (Ms. Marvel and arguably Saga are the only two featuring non-white leads), but I still feel like the market is moving in the right direction on that score.
Last year, only one of the series in my top 13 published 12 issues. This year, none of them did. The monthly grind doesn't seem to benefit the kind of comics I like.
1. Ms. Marvel #11-19/#1-2 (Last year: #1 on my new series)
Ms. Marvel was my favorite new series last year, but it got even better this year. After finishing up the Inventor story and a one-shot with Loki, there was a three-parter that featured Kamala's crush on another Inhuman with art by Takeshi Miyazawa and a fantastic Last Days arc that saw her meet her idol, deal with the end of the world and have a really sweet relationship change with one of her parents. The first two issues of the new series have done some interesting stuff with gentrification, but in that Ms. Marvel superhero way, and I expect this to remain high in my favorites next year as well.
2. Spider-Woman #5-9/#1-2 (Last year not on my list)
The first four issues of Spider-Woman were fun enough, a Spider-Verse tie-in, but the series really became what it was meant to be when Javier Rodriguez took over on art and the new costume and direction were set. Ben Urich as supporting cast and the C-list villain story that started the first arc were good enough, but the 8 months later relaunch with Porcupine as her new ally and Jess pregnant (!) has been even better.
3. Saga #25-32 (Last year: #1 and the year before that)
Still great, this was my favorite series for the last two years. As the story goes on and the characters age and change, I continue to be surprised by every arc and continue to love Vaughan's exceptional dialogue and Staples' beautiful artwork.
4. Birthright #4-12 (Last year: #2 on my series too new to judge list)
Last year, this was off to a strong start, but I wasn't sure if it could maintain. As it turns out, it's right behind Saga and Descender as my most-recommended Image series. Joshua Williamson, Andrei Bressan and Adriano Lucas are giving me the modern urban fantasy I didn't know I wanted. The big twist at the end of issue one is but one of the twists and turns in this series, where the bad guys are really bad and the heroes are all kinds of messed up too. The flashbacks to Mikey's time in the fantasy world, and how those are following him into our world, are great, as are seeing him adjust to his family and his new life.
5. Rat Queens #9-14 (Last year #9)
The artistic turmoil of this book is unfortunate, but throughout the brief tenure of Stepjan Sejic and the newly-added Tess Fowler, the book has continued to look great and, just as importantly, Kurtis Wiebe has done a great job blending D&D tropes with feminist thought into a kickass, fun-as-hell, dirty-as-hell comic series. Pitting them against their world's equivalent of Cthulhu early on, delving further into the backstories of the characters and heading into the necromantic backstory of Hannah in particular has made this a fantastic read. I'd love it if it could get on a more consistent schedule, but even with the turmoil, they only produced 2 or 3 less issues than most of my favorites this year.
6. The Fade Out #4-11 (Last year: #11 on my series too new to judge list)
Last year Fatale was #8 on my list. And I loved Fatale, a mix of supernatural and the noir that Brubaker and Phillips do so well. But this is my favorite project they've done since Criminal. Pure noir, untouched by any other genres, just a '50s murder mystery set against the backdrop of communist-hunting Hollywood. It's set to wrap with issue 12, which means technically it could go in the miniseries category, but it belongs here, among my top 10 reads of the year.
7. Amazing Spider-Man #12-18/#1-6 (Last year: #5 on my new series)
I know a lot of people swore off Spider-Man after One More Day, and a lot of those who stuck around swore off after Superior Spider-Man. But Superior turned out to be a pretty great limited run, and set up what Slott has been doing with Amazing, which lives up to its sobriquet quite nicely. The finale of Spider-Verse and the fallout contained herein was solid enough, but the relaunch, with Peter at the head of an international company and yet still remaining himself, teamed with one of my favorite SHIELD agents, running a squad of Spider-agents including Prowler, Spider-Man 2099 and others? It sounds, like Superior or Spider-Verse, like a terrible idea, but the execution is somehow exactly what I want from the character. It's fun and lively and just about makes me forget how much I'd prefer him married to Mary Jane.
8. Sex Criminals #10-13 (Last year #2)
Only four issues this year, which would disqualify most series. But Sex Criminals isn't most series. Fraction and Zdarsky put out a book that's as full of serious thought about depression, sex and relationships as it is hilariously dirty and funny and weird.
9. Daredevil #12-18 (Last year #3)
Mark Waid closes out his run with longtime artist Chris Samnee in fine style, returning to the Kingpin, Ikari, the question of Matt's not-so-secret identity and Foggy's faked death, and serves up a fine cap to what has become one of the best runs on a character known for great runs.
10. Lazarus #14-21 (Last year: Just outside the top 10)
Greg Rucka is the king of the slow burn. I quite liked Lazarus, but it didn't make the top 10 last year. This year it squeaks in at the 10 spot, largely on the strength of the world-building being done here, which is best observed in the longform of the gorgeous hardcover that they produced this year. The artwork by Michael Lark is beautiful and realistic, giving a nice depth to Rucka's dystopian sci-fi future.
Just outside the top 10 this year that were inside the top 10 last year were Velvet #9-12 (Last year #5, and largely missing the top 10 because there were only four issues this year) and Chew #46-51 (Last year #4). There were five more that didn't quite make the cut: Usagi Yojimbo #145-150, Storm #7-12, Copperhead #6-10, Grayson #8-14 and Superior Iron Man #4-8.