With 2016 coming to an end it is now time to look back at the year that was. Today we look at the world of comics as we countdown the Top 100 Comics of 2016. Somethings to get out of the way before the countdown begins. Unlike other Top 100 lists for GCRN this is my own personal list. No other contributors assisted with putting this list together. I saw that because as one person I do not read every comic. I do read a lot as you’ll see, but if one of your favorite comics does not make the list it may simply be because I did not read it. So if that’s the case comment below and I’ll promise to check it out and give you my thoughts.
The other part of this is the criteria used to create this list. Comics provide a unqiue challenge in end of year list creation due to the many different formats they are released in. You have straight graphic novels that are self contained stories, ongoing monthly titles, one shots, mini-series, webcomics, and so many more. To make things simple I included them all in this list. Some may argue rating a graphic novel against an ongoing is like comparing a TV show to a movie, and that is partially true. However, separating them out is also problematic. Do books like Compass South or Nameless City belong with the ongoing’s because they are released in volume format or with the self contained graphic novels? Do mini-series belong with monthly ongoings even though their story is complete? So to make things simple I made one giant list. Here is the criteria I did use when creating this list:
- For limited series at least 50% of the comic needed to be released in 2016. So a book like The Fade Out which was in my top 5 last year would not qualify because only two issues out of 12 were released.
- For ongoing titles at least 3 issues had to be released this year. This is really just a personal choice. For me three issues is what I use to determine if I will continue with a book or not (in most cases). The first issue introduces the concept, second gives you the bulk of the story, and the third shows you how well it will be executed. That’s not always true but more often than not.
- Foreign langue books that were first released in English in 2016 due qualify.
Again this list is based on my personal taste. I am sure many if not all will disagree with a number of my choices and placement. If so feel free to comment and give me your take. As you can obviously tell, especially if you ever heard me on Cinema Geeks or Talking in Circles I do love my lists. I enjoy the process of creating them and even more sharing them. It is a chance to tell the world, or the three people listening, about properties I love. So that to me is the main purpose of a list like this. I get to provide a landscape of the year that was in comics, and moreso recommend some great titles. Now that we got that out of the way the fun of the list can begin.
100. Gutter Magic
Author: Rich Douek
Artist: Brett Barkley
Publisher: IDW Publishing
One of the best things about Gutter Magic was the inventive world it created. Magic is a challenging element to have in a comic, so when you entire book is based upon it you need some crisp writing to make it work. Rich Douek was able to do that by building a well functioning world full of concise rules and colorful characters. With this only being a limited series I hope there are more comics to come because there is potential here for even greater stories to tell.
99. X-O Manowar
Author: Robert Venditti
Artist: Joe Bennett, Robert Gill, Rafael Sandoval
This was quite the notable year for X-O Manowar. Valiant announced it reached one million copies sold, which is quite the accomplished for a book of is nature, and this current run is finally coming to its end. Not only is a new creative team stepping in next year we will see a new relaunch with a new book, and while that is the norm for some other companies it is not something Valiant does on a whim. It did feel like the right time as this current arc feels like a conclusion of what has been one of the best told stories in comics since its relaunch in 2012.
98. Star Wars/Darth Vader
Author: Jason Aaron (Star Wars) , Kieron Gillen (Darth Vader)
Artist: Jorge Molina (Star Wars) , Salvador Larroca (Darth Vader)
So I am cheating here by combing Darth Vader and Star Wars, but it’s my list and I can do what I want. On the Darth Vader side Kieron Gillen and Salvador Larroca brought the book to an epic close. I am pleasantly surprised they ended the series at only twenty-five issues knowing what a money maker it has been for Marvel. Currently Jason Aaron has Star Wars on its best arc as the rebels are stealing star destroyers and we are introduced to the most badass Storm Troopers ever created. Now with Darth Vader’s solo book ending it also appears he will play a more significant role in the main title. I am super excited for what Aaron will do with him.
97. Angel Catbird
Author: Margaret Atwood
Artist: Johnnie Christmas
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
There is initial apprehension when an author like Johnnie Christmas enters into the world of comic books, a problem she does not hide from whatsoever with an introduction indicating why she chose to write this story. Clearly reading this she is well aware of the common tropes of the superhero genre, and this is certainly a reflection on those. It is an awkward tale that could throw some people off due with how it treats its ridiculous nature so straight. If you can settle into its tone there is a lot to enjoy.
Author: Editions Corneluis
With it’s fracture narrative structure Peplum is a hard book to fully grasp. It is this darken dream where time functions against its own rules as you are never given enough of it to comprehend the details of what is occurring. Blutch’s artwork is made up of haunting imagery that seeps into your consciousness bit by bit. By the end you are wrapped up in this tangled weave of emotion that you never saw coming. As pretentious as it may sound I cannot fully explain what occurred in this book but I can tell you the emotion it evokes is grand. This is the type of comic I could see a director like Terrence Malick adapting. He’d would of course add in more shots of people walking through fields, but similar to his style it survives greatly on its way to create mesmerizing imagery.
95. Four Eyes: Hearts of Fire
Author: Joe Kelly
Artist: Max Fiumara
Publisher: Image Comics
Four Eyes: Hearts of Fire is a continuation of the Four Eyes series from 2010 that also went much more under the radar than it should have been. If you have not read that series this still marks a great entry point into this world. It follows that Image formula of taking a typical genre story and adding in some sort of supernatural element. What this series does is tell a tale of a young boy growing up during the Great Depression, but the difference is this world also has dragons that are used in underground fights. What makes it work is the subdued nature of everything, and how down to Earth this story remains despite the fact it centers of fantastical characters.
By: Noah Van Sciver
Publisher: Fantagraphics Books
As someone who never read Noah Van Sciver’s work before this collection of his work is a fantastic introduction. Right away I was impressed by how varied his style, tone, and voice could be from story to story. You will a story like The Lizard Laugh that comes off as a very true to life take on very strained father son relationship, but then something like Punks vs Lizards takes an absurd concept and goes crazy with it. The one consistency I could find with Noah Van Sciver’s work is how rarely he gives you that complete ending that you would be expecting. He is content with leaving the reader lingering for more, which in a way makes so many of the stories that much more memorable.
93. Doom Patrol
Author: Gerard Way
Artist: Nick Derington
Publisher: Young Animal
I will admit it took me awhile to come around to enjoying Doom Patrol. As a novice to this title I found the first issue random for random sake. Even after reading it a few times I had little understanding of what exactly was happening. This is also why I give a book three issues (typically) before I remove it from my pull list. It took some time but eventually I was able to settle into this world and fall in with the tone of the book. I still do not completely understanding everything that was going on, but the difference is now I am more inclined to keep reading to see what sheer craziness Gerard Way has in store.
92. Lucky Penny
Author: Ananth Hirsh
Artist: Yuko Ota
Publisher: Oni Press
Lucky Penny is a humorous tale of a women, or perhaps better put a girl not yet a women, trying to make it in a world that appears to be hilariously against her. She lives in a storage locker, works at a laundry Matt with a preteen boss, and is perhaps embarking on her first grown up relationship. It is full of solid comedy and never takes itself too seriously. A fun light read with an American Manga feel and execution.
91. Someone Please Have Sex With Me
By: Gina Wynbrandt
The idea of overgrown adolescent is a trait often depicted in men, and especially in men that are a part of geek culture. Those thirty something guys that still wear Star Wars shirts to business meetings and watch more cartoons than most children. So to see that idea depicted in a new way, through a women’s inability to to properly understand sex in a context that wasn’t fanatical, was immediately refreshing. Beyond that this book had some truly twisted humor that I loved. You may cringe but you’ll be laughing when you do.
90. All-Star Batman
Author: Scott Snyder
Artist: John Romita Jr.
Publisher: DC Comics
As a huge fan of Scott Snyder’s run on Batman I was somewhat sad to see that finally come to an end, but knowing he was moving to this All Star title got me excited. This is more than just a continuation of what he has been doing for the last few years. All-Star Batman is unhinged Snyder with its gruesome brutality and massive story scale. So far the first major arc has been this over the top action sequence that keeps increasing the stakes. I know John Romita Jr. is a polarizing artist and some will hate his style no matter what. If put with the right subject matter his stuff can really sing, and that’s what is happening here. He brings a kinetic energy that many other artists cannot pull off.
Author: Grant Morrison
Artist: Dan Mora
Publisher: BOOM! Studios
Never did I think I would need to read a hard edge retelling of the Santa Klaus origin story, but with the mind of Grant Morrison behind it Klaus peeked my interest. Morrison is clearly having a lot of fun with this title as he lets his imagination go building this unique new mythos for Santa Klaus. Despite the ludicrous concept the story execution is treated seriously and done with great effect. As crazy as it may sound this is the Batman Begins of Santa Klaus stories.
88. Kennel Block Blues
Author: Ryan Ferrier
Artist: Daniel Bayliss
Publisher: Boom! Studios
What I love about Ryan Ferrier as an author is ability to come up with premises that are original and unlike anything else on the shelves right now. Kennel Block Blues is this story about this possibly insane anthropomorphic dog who gets sent to prison and gets through it by viewing the world as this glorified Disney cartoon. When in reality its more like if Tim Burton’s even sadder and darker brother designed the universe. Major credit should also go to Adam Metcalfe as he meshes these two very contrasting styles seamlessly.
87. Victorie City
Author: Keith Carmack
Artist: Vincent Nappi
Publisher: IDW Publishing
Victorie City is a story that is unapologetic pulp. If you are the type of person who loves classic noir stuff with its classic tropes this is the type of comic you would enjoy. What is added to make it more than a glorified homage is a supernatural element that at first is somewhat out of place. Gradually it begins to fit and by the end you may find yourself asking what a movie like The Maltese Falcon didn’t include someone with superpowers.
Author: Rafer Roberts
Artist: David Lafuente
This year Archer and Armstrong got themselves another brand new series and Rafer Roberts continue their legacy of colorful romps and crazy antics. His first arc saw the dynamic duo travel into Armstrong’s bottomless satchel and square off with the part god Bacchus. For those who never read an Archer and Armstrong story before this marks for a great starting point.
Author: Jackson Lanzing, Collin Kelly
Artist: Marcus To
Publisher: Boom! Studios
It feels like all Science Fictions stories are based on some other property in today’s world of entertainment. So the fact that Joyride is its own unique space adventure immediately causes it to stand out. Writers Jackson Lanzing and Collin Kelly strong affection for science fiction is shown in every issue as they tell this tale of rebellious teens finding their way in a crazy space adventure.
84. Detective Comics
Author: James Tynion IV
Artist: Eber Ferreira, Eddy Barrows, Alvaro Martinez, Andy MacDonald
Publisher: DC Comics
When James Tynion IV took over Detective Comics he made a point of making the character of Tim Drake matter again, and in only a few issues he accomplished just that. Outside of that this title saw Batman create his own version of the Bat Justice League. Adding Clayface to this team was a stroke of genius. It’s given us one of my favorite moments this year with Batman using Clayface as a zord as he battles overgrown monsters. God I love comics.
By: Kim W. Andersson
Publisher: Dark Horse
Any fan of horror will recognize the story of Alena, but with that also appreciate how effectively it pulls of some of the classic horror and thriller tropes. We have seen stories of outcast teens get picked on and picked on until they are finally pushed too far. Alena has many of the elements you expect. It’s not rewriting the book on how to handle those stories, but rather it knows the genre well and how to push the right buttons to get the effects it wants.
82. Compass South
Author: Hope Larson
Artist: Rebecca Mock
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Compass South is an easy read that feels very reminiscent of classic American literature. No doubt the work of someone like Mark Twain had a major impact on this story. This volume does read as a story that is just getting started as things get really interesting in the final chapters. Not that this story felt useless by any means. It was building a solid foundation of character and conflict that could go on for a multitude of volumes. Not to mention you have to give a book props for having four red haired children as the protagonist. Finally a book that champions the ginger cause.