Monday, December 26, 2016

Best of 2016 - Top 10 New Comics

Best New Series:
Marvel has five of my top 10 (down from eight last year), Image has two (up from one), Dark Horse has one, DC has one and Valiant has one. And once again, none of my favorite series are in any danger of cancellation, although Black Widow is coming to an end with issue 12.

Eight of them are superhero books, up from the five last year, and you could argue for Kill or Be Killed as a supernatural vigilante tale as well. The other is a humor/crime book. The superhero genre has its hooks in me this year, it seems. And none of the books in my top 10 published 12 issues, although Power Man & Iron Fist did if you count Walker's contribution to Deadpool #13 and the Sweet Christmas Special (which I do).

1. The Fix #1-7
Two corrupt cops, a drug-sniffing dog, an insane Hollywood producer, a vegan crime boss... I love this book. It's laugh out loud funny, clever and absolutely fearless. Nick Spencer writes terrific dialogue and characters, reminiscent of Shane Black's movies, and Steve Lieber is probably the only guy who could draw this, mixing perfect realism with outlandish, cartoonish situations in perfect measure.

2. Power Man & Iron Fist #1-11/Sweet Christmas Annual #1
I've known for a long time that I wanted the classic Power Man & Iron Fist team back, but I couldn't have imagined that David Walker and Sanford Greene could bring it back this well. Danny and Luke have both been through a lot, Luke in the Avengers and Danny in Immortal Iron Fist, and Walker acknowledges that evolution while getting to the core of what makes them friends. That evolution is also evident in his use of a variety of C-list and D-list villains, mixed in with new creations. It doesn't hurt that he gave us the best take on Civil War II in his tie-in issues, as Luke and Danny decide the side they're on is the one that doesn't fight friends. Then there's the artwork by Sanford Greene, which I wasn't sure of when I saw promo pieces, worrying that his stylized art wasn't going to be what I wanted, but it's a perfect fit for the book. He gets the physicality of Cage, the wiry agility of Danny, the look of the settings, and does fantastic designs for the characters old and new.

3. Kill or Be Killed #1-4
Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips are on my short list of creators whose work I will buy sight unseen. They've proven their track record, from the Wildstorm supervillain/spy epic of Sleeper to the '50s Hollywood noir of The Fade Out, and this new take on '70s-era vigilantism with a modern, dark-as-hell twist is no exception. Exceptional character work, a fascinating premise and stunning artwork, this is another promising outing from one of the most consistently excellent teams in comics.

4. Champions #1-3
This one is an exception to my usual rule. I don't compare three issue runs with larger runs. But Champions is so damn good, in all three of it's issues thus far, that it's definitely in my top five this year and certain to be there next year as well. Mark Waid and Humberto Ramos memorably teamed on Impulse, and this collaboration finds them just as in sync. It's a perfect evolution of the teenage superhero book, an aspirational tale about youth rising up to meet the challenges that their elders have failed to handle, and it's as important in its way as Captain America Sam Wilson even if it's more social than overtly political. It's also a damn fine superhero yarn, with classic superhero action in each issue.

5. Moon Knight #1-9
I've always loved this character, but the last several takes haven't done much for me. Charlie Huston, Mike Benson and Brian Bendis all focused on the character being crazy and violent, and while that's a part of him, he's far deeper and more interesting than that. Jeff Lemire and Greg Smallwood have brought back the almost mystical strangeness that defined the character when Doug Moench and Bill Sienkiewicz. It's a run that required some patience, as the question of what was real and what wasn't still isn't entirely settled, and when they added in dream sequences with guest art from Francesco Francavilla, James Stokoe and Wilfredo Torres, it almost got to be too much, but ultimately I thought it was a great ride, and I look forward to more in 2017.

6. Black Widow #1-9
Mark Waid and Chris Samnee did a fantastic job on Daredevil, and I was anxious to see what they'd do with Black Widow. I wasn't disappointed, as the series opens with one of the best chase sequences I've ever read in comics, and then went into a great suspense espionage series that gives Natasha a depth she's rarely been given.

7. Black Hammer #1-6
This Dark Horse series from Jeff Lemire and Dean Ormston reads like a Vertigo series from the Grant Morrison heyday. Using archetypal superheroes and a small town setting, it tells a story of a dysfunctional family in an unusual and compelling way. It's strange and charming, and even though I'm not 100% sure what's going on now, I'm enjoying watching it all unfold.

8. New Super Man #1-6
Gene Luen Yang and Viktor Bogdanovic are doing one of the two DC Rebirth books I stuck with (the other was Detective Comics). It's an imaginative look at what the Chinese superhero situation might look like in the DC Universe, incorporating previous work from Grant Morrison and others, and it's got a really entertaining lead cast of the "Justice League of China," especially Kenan Kong, the titular New Superman. Incorporating fun DC elements like Starro along with a brand new setting, this book is inventive and lots of fun.

9. Faith #1-6
Valiant's breakout hit, Faith is an unusual character, overweight in a genre that tends toward the athletic (and for women, usually sexualized and buxom), meta-aware of geek stuff like science-fiction and superheroes even though she lives in a superhero world, and full of costumes and codenames in the more realistic Valiant universe. Her book has been entertaining, and doesn't require any knowledge of the Valiant universe at large, although as someone who has been enjoying Valiant in general, I love what Faith represents as an entryway to new readers who can discover all the good stuff they're putting out.

10. Captain America Steve Rogers #1-8
Though my love for this book is nowhere near as much as for Sam Wilson, Nick Spencer and Jesus Saiz made a ballsy choice in deciding to bring back Steve Rogers as a secret agent of Hydra. The story is moving a little slow for my taste, but it definitely has twists and turns I don't see coming, and is playing in the same territory that Kurt Busiek's Thunderbolts did when it was doing stories of more nuanced villains.

New Series That Are Too New To Judge:
These series are not quite far enough for me to judge them Best New Series yet, but I really like them all, and I can see any of them making my Best Continuing Series next year. Because I don't think it's fair to compare a single issue or a two- or three-issue run to the more extended runs above, I'm ranking these separately. Last year, four of the 16 series (Daredevil, All New All Different Avengers, Doctor Strange, All-New Wolverine) on this list made my Best Continuing Series, and another (Huck) made my Best Limited Series.
  1. Batman/TMNT Adventures #1-2
  2. Big Trouble in Little China/Escape from New York #1-3
  3. Clone Conspiracy #1-3
  4. Disney Pirates of the Caribbean #1-2
  5. Doctor Strange & The Sorcerors Supreme #1-3
  6. Doom Patrol #1-3
  7. Grand Passion #1-2
  8. Occupy Avengers #1-2
  9. Predator vs. Judge Dredd vs. Aliens #1-3
  10. Reborn #1-3
  11. Star Wars Doctor Aphra #1-2
  12. Thanos #1-2

No comments: