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Top 100 Comics of 2017


20. East of West

Writer: Jonathan Hickman

Artist: Nick Dragotta

Publisher: Image Comics

There is this phenomenon known as the ‘Runners High’ that occurs in long distance running, where your body basically rewards you for the physical demands and punishment you are putting it through.  It is this moment of catharsis you reach through lasting endurance and sheer force of will. Although I have never ran a marathon I have read a number of Jonathan Hickman series and I can assume the experience is quite similar. Thirty-five issues into East of West and now many of the plot threads that have been progressively building have finally received some supremely satisfying payoffs. Do not get my wrong.  East of West has been one of my favorite comics since it debuted, and I have it to thank for opening the door for other indie titles. In fact if it was not for East of West this list may not exist. (Please do not hold that against it)


19. 4 Kids Walk Into a Bank

Writer: Matthew Rosenberg

Artist: Tyler Boss

Publisher: Black Mask Studios

When the final issue of 4 Kids Walk Into a Bank finally came out it was a bittersweet moment. It was an issue I was waiting for awhile for, but part of me enjoyed the wait because I knew there was still more 4 Kids Walk Into a Bank to come. I adored the characters Matthew Rosenberg created and how the series came into its own with each passing issue. Rosenberg  can write some great dialog and I am excited to see what he can do with some of the major publishers. Also his editing is a sight to be hold. An aspect of comic making that can be over looked, but key in keeping this story as coherent as it was. In only a short time I can see him being one of the biggest names in comics.


18. Mech Cadet Yu

Writer: Greg Pak

Artist: Takeshi Miyazawa

Publisher: Boom! Studios

Sometimes in life you just need some massive robots fighting massive  aliens. It is just one of those things that when it happens and it’s done right lease to massive joy. That is Mech Cadet Yu. A book full of fun and joy. Anyone that fell in love with Voltron or other cartoon robots will love the little touches found all over this series. Greg Pak always makes a point to create comics that represent voices that are not found in comics or entertainment in general. That continues with Mech Cadet Yu. Comics are better for it as the more viewpoints the richer these stories can be. If you know a preteen that is looking for a place to start in comics give them this title. Also if you know a teenager that is looking for a place to begin comics…or an adult…or even a senior citizen. Basically if you are a person who likes things you should read this book. 


 

17. Deadly Class

Writer: Rick Remender

Artist: Wesley Craig

Publisher: Image Comics

When it comes to the art of making a great comic it is easy to overlook the importance of each piece of the puzzle. Yes comic fans are well aware of their favorite artists and writers but the inkers, letters, and colorers tend to be overlooked. However, their work can be just as important to making the style of a comic work. Look no further than Deadly Class that long has had a style that has immediately clicked. It is liked finely choreographed MoTown group where everything from the shoelaces of their immaculately polished loafers to their silky smooth vocals fit perfectly in tandem. Every name associated with this book from Rick Remender to Wes Craig to colorist Jordan Boyd to letter Rus Wooton have morphed into a finely tuned machine where everyone is doing some of the best work of their career. Being twenty-eight issues in for a book you would expect some sort of lull or dip in quality, but this book is just getting better.


 

16. X-O Manowar

Writer: Matt Kindt

Artist: Clayton Crain, Doug Braithwaite, Tomas Giorello

Publisher: Valiant Comics

If you are a fan of superhero comics but find the current slate of the big two stale this is an ideal place to jump into this world. Valiant consistency puts out quality content and this series so far is able to both satisfy long time readers while giving new readers a place to begin without feeling lost or confused.  Simply put this relaunch has done everything right a relaunch should. Matt Kindt has used these first few  arcs to get to who Aric is as a person. He could easily be this boring character with his moral methods and near invincible ability. What Kindt has shown is how that methodology can be used against him, and how his reluctance to use the armor is an eventual moot issue. Here Aric is forced to confront that issue head on as death and destruction reign down around him. It can be easy to overlooked how much character this story has due to the insane amount of action that is included throughout. These gigantic set pieces are great to look at but the heart of this story is still a character piece.


Image result for mimi pond the customer is always wrong

15.  The Customer is Always Wrong

Writer/Artist: Mimi Pond

Publisher: Drawn & Quarterly

When I picked this up I knew nothing about it besides its positive praise. Honestly thought it was going to be this quaint comic about a quirky waitress and the larger than life characters she encounters on her joyous journey to stardom. In no way is that the case. There is a rawness here I was not expecting. It is a story that does focus on a waitress but her life is anything but quaint. It’s full of drugs, struggle, and a viewpoint that is never given this type of treatment. One where drug dealers and addicts are not immediately dismissed as simple people. No, this isn’t a hooker with a heart of gold story where we see the true good-hearted intentions of selling smack. What it does is show them as real people warts and all. Complex and compelling was the one consistent throughout. Mimi Pond gives her characters plenty of room to breath and express who and what they are.


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14. Demon

Writer/Artist: Jason Shiga

Publisher: First Second

Oh that’s just wrong, oh that’s just plain awful. What kind of sick and twisted person would fine this humorous? Well, the answer to the question is clearly me, because man do I dig the way Jason Shiga challenges conventions I did not think were able to be challenged. If you are someone who is not easily offended and is willing to go with this concept this is a whole hell of a lot of fun. It is pure insanity from a mid-air fight that kept getting more and more absurd to a grown man fighting a baby. The reason why it works is because there is more than shock value here. Underneath all the taboo humor is an intelligent concept that is expertly crafted by Shiga. In each volume, he finds a new wrinkle to keep it fresh, and I’m somewhat disappointed there is only one volume left. It’s been one fun ride so far.



13. Grass Kings

Writer: Matt Kindt

Artist: Tyler Jenkins

Publisher: Boom! Studios

Grass Kings is a series that is in a hurry to go nowhere. Matt Kindt and Tyler Jenkins built this book from the inside out. By crafting the characters and the world they live in first. The tension that has arisen in this comic occurs organically. Motivations are clear and the stakes are steadily increasing. Simply put this is how you tell a story. As cliche, as it sounds, the Grasslands location is developing into this full fleshed out character full of its own identity. Reading this I cannot help but be reminded of something like Dark Horses’s Brigg Lands, but where this differs is these characters are more subtle with their faults.


 

12. The Best We Could Do

Writer/Artist: Thi Bui

Publisher:  Harry N. Abrams

The Best We Could Do  puts into perspective what many had to endure to immigrate to this county. You realize how tunnel visioned we can become to major world events. Vietnam for example tends to be explored in how it effected America as a country and no much else. Here we see the impact it had on America is minimal compared to the people who actually lived there.  The story follows the author as she speaks with her family members to learn their life story and what brought them to where they are now. It reminds me of a documentary that understands the story it has is enough so there is no need to add extra flash or panache. It is a straightforward telling of these events told through an authentic lens. A lens that also can educate on the complexity of the landscape of Vietnam.  What exactly led to the conflict and happen after US forces left. This is not a book that designs itself to educate you on the political details, rather showcase what life was like for the people on the ground. You see the impossible decisions people needed to make to survive and what happened after those decisions. Through that struggle, there is an element of hope and desire to move forward despite the danger that lays ahead. If you want to see ordinary people push to do extraordinary things this book is worth reading.


11. God Country

Writer: Donny Cates

Artist: Geoff Shaw

Publisher: Image Comics

God Country made Donny Cates into an overnight phenomenon only a few months ago. Well, as much as an overnight success a comic book writer can be. That overnight probably took years and years.  That experience paid off as he teamed up with Geoff Shaw to make one of the best books of the year.  Most of us have dealt with the horrors of seeing a loved one succumb to the product of old age. It is tragic to see anyone lose who they are and not be able to remember the people they once loved. In all its larger than life fantasy God Country never forgot what was at the heart of this story. Donny Cates and Geoff Shaw could have easily filled this comic with melodrama as they piled on the tragedy. Instead this crazy tale has its fun and exciting moments along with all the dread. When victory occurs there are moments of glee and when the finale does come there is a bitter sweetness to it all. Simply it is art in its purest form. This is how you announce to the world you are a creative team that is out to impact the industry.


10. Silver Surfer

Writer: Dan Slott

Artist: Mike Allred

Publisher: Marvel

When people think Dan Slott the first topic of conversation will probably be his run on The Amazing Spider-Man but the best work of his career may in fact be this Silver Surfer series. From the first to the last issue Slott and Mike Allred put together a comic where every thread connected. I can only imagine how rewarding rereads will be realizing how major story revelations began as the smallest of bread crumbs. One of the most emotional moments in comics this year, or in many years, was the final issue of this series. Seeing how the relationship between Dawn Greenwood and Surfer both began and eventually ended was so beautiful it brought many tears to my eyes. This series does not come close to getting the massive praise it deserves.


9. Motor Girl

Writer/Artist: Terry Moore

Publisher: Abstract Studios

The topic of post-traumatic stress disorder is one that has been explored a great deal over the last decade. It is a complex issue with multiple variables yet it is rare it is treated as such. Most often it is simplified to its most basic level so no insight is gained in the exploration. With Motor Girl Terry Moore approaches the topic like never seen before as a former soldier works through her PTSD in the form of an imaged Gorilla. I know some may be taken back by that description and to be honest, there is much more to it than that. Moore constructs a narrative that is layered in creative subtext. He does not force in unnecessary melodrama as despite the subject matter it is not overdone with sadness. It’s oddly a humorous and exciting as well. Comics can approach sensitive subject matter like no other medium as Motor Girl has shown this year.


8. The Flintstones

Writer: Mark Russell

Artist:  Steve Pugh

Publisher: DC Comics

It is safe to say that The Flintstones will go down as one of the biggest pleasant surprises in the history of comics. When the first promo images were released for this along with the other Hanna Barbera series the majority of the world scoffed at the very idea of this project. Mark Russell and Steve Pugh’s  took that reaction and made Flintstones into one of the best comics since its debut. It is a series that will only grow in notoriety as more people learn about its brilliance. It is bittersweet looking back on this series knowing it has now ended. Not wanting over extend this idea is admirable, but still, it is hard to let something so consistently good go. In reality the sharp social and political commentary that makes The Flintstones what it is could only last so long. Rarely do comics or any form of entertainment end before there is a sharp dip in quality. Part of being a great creator is knowing when to move on to something new.  With that said if they ever wanted to do a bowling ball solo comic I would pick it up.


7. Roughneck

Writer/Artist: Jeff Lemire

Publisher:  Gallery 13

If I could only read Jeff Lemire stories for the rest of my life I will still die a happy man. The man is a master storyteller and it all comes down to the way he so effortlessly builds character and atmosphere. Before the book title appears you get a sense of where you are and who we are reading about. His characters are necessarily overly complicated, yet it is in their mundane emotion that Lemire finds something captivating. He whittles away who they are to get to the bone of what drives them. Often showing it is our tragedies that can ultimately define us, unless we are able to finally let go. Roughneck is another touching tale that anyone who enjoys Lemire’s creator own work like Essex County will certainly enjoy.


6. The Mighty Thor/Unworthy Thor

Writer: Jason Aaron

Artist: Russell Dauterman (Mighty), Valerio Schiti (Mighty), Olivier Coipel (Unworthy), Aaron Kim Jacinto (Unworthy), Pascal Alixe (Unworthy)

If you were going to ask the question who has had the most impressive run on a character over the last five to ten years my response would be Jason Aaron’s run on Thor. He has been building an epic story line in every sense of the word. Elements from Thor: God of Thunder are just now coming back around to showcase the massive story he has been building since day one. This year Aaron gave us the more cosmic side of Thor with “Asgard/Shi’Ar War”  where Thor fought a new type of god . The ‘War Thor’ story line demonstrated how the tragedy of war can affect even the most cheerful, and now with ‘The Death of Might Thor’ we prepare for his most emotional chapter yet. The high level of consistency Aaron and his artists have maintained on his books is to be admired. There have been a lot of great runs of Thor and Aaron is making a case to place his name on top.


5. Black Hammer

Writer: Jeff Lemire

Artist: David Rubin, Dean Ormston

Publisher: Dark Horse

If you want Jeff Lemire to write a great superhero story all you need to do is give him room. Black Hammer is a clear love letter to Jack Kirby and the Silver Age of comic book storytelling. He takes his ability to build strong characters and complex relationships and uses it to deepen the type of characters that were once linchpins for classic comics. Thirteen issues in and there are still many major mysteries to be solved and typically that would be a determinant. With Black Hammer, it is never an issue as the reason these characters have found themselves lost in this alternate dimension is not where the heart of the story lies. It is a character-driven tale and Lemire takes the time to give us all the different perspectives for this colorful group of characters. It is also great to see the world of Black Hammer is beginning to expand even further with other spin-off series. I have a strong feeling the Black Hammer story is just beginning.


4. Mister Miracle

Writer: Tom King

Artist: Mitch Gerads

Publisher: DC Comics

DC made 2017 the year of Jack Kirby as they released a number of series and one-shots that honored the past creations. Mister Miracle may not be the first character people call out when they think Jack Kirby, but that does not mean greatness cannot be found within his story. Tom King and Mitch Gerads found that greatness in a series that will be remember for ages when it is all said and done. Just pick up the trial of Scott Free issue to see how genius this book is on every level. Mitch Gerads is putting out the best work of his career as he adds a level of texture to his art unlike anything I have seen before. Some may complain that it is hard to enjoy this series because you do not know exactly what is happening. I can understand that argument, but honestly the sheer craft of this book is so high not knowing exactly what everything means is not a concern I have. Each issue, each page, and each panel gives you so much to dissect and think about I am not sure I want specific answers. As I write this we are only four issues into this twelve part series, but unless the quality of this book takes a humongous dip this will go down as one of the major works for this generation. Darkseid Is.


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3. My Favorite Thing Is Monsters

Writer/Artist: Emil Ferris

Publisher: Fantagraphics Books

If I was making a one hundred percent objective list My Favorite Thing Is Monsters would probably rank as number one. Alas, I did allow some of my own personal taste to seep in so I placed two other books ahead of it. I am under the belief that it does not matter if you read your books digitally or through physical copies, however, I am glad that thanks to my local library I was able to read the actual physical version of this book. Due to the larger format size, I do not think you can get the same experience if you read it on an iPad. It would be like trying to watch Lawrence of Arabia on your phone outside during the middle of the day. After reading this it has entered into the shortlists of graphic novels I would recommend to someone who never read comics before and wanted someplace to start. The kaleidoscopically visual style breaks the mold comics too often get stuck in. I am unsure how much of this story is taken from the actual life of Emil Ferris as every piece of it feels like it has come from authentic real place. There is such a vulnerability to the title that it is like the book was specifically meant for you to read at this specific time, as if you are a partner in these secrets she is releasing. The comic industry needed a book like this to be released and luckily Emil Ferris was there to make it.

 


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2. The Hunting Accident

Writer: Lewis Carroll

Artist: Mahendra Singh

The Hunting Accident provides a great deal to unpack. At its heart, it tells the story of this desperate father trying to save the physical and mental well being of his son, but there is a lot more that surrounds that focus. In one way it is a love letter to the power of literature, imagination, and the written word. Dante Alighieri’s work is ever present used in creative ways to illustrate the internal struggle these characters are facing. It demonstrates the way past sins cultivate as an albatross we cannot escape no matter how long we hide, but also how those sins do not need to define us.  If there is a college course that teaches the art form of graphic novels this should be apart of the curriculum. It is a story that sneaks up on you yet never feels slow.


1.Kill or Be Killed

Writer: Ed Brubaker

Artist: Sean Phillips

Publisher: Image Comics

When it came to picking my number one comic of the year it was quite the challenge. I ultimately went with Kill or Be Killed because it is the book above all others that I took the most from. If this was a list with subjectivity, if that is even possible, perhaps this would not be named my comic of the year.  As someone who adores the creative team of Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips it is the ultimate treat to read another monthly series from them where both are at the top of their game.

In the letter section Brubaker brought up his enjoyment of the Cohen brothers as well as the TV series Fargo. I am not sure if that is the reason this feels like a Cohen brother’s movie to me, but if they were ever to do a comic I swear it would be something similar to this. Both have the ability to use humor within tense situations without it taking away from the excitement. The main character is a normal person placed in an extraordinary situation and it is treated as such. In that there is a lot of natural comedy. If you are a fan of the Cohens or a movie like Blue Ruin you will enjoy this series.

Sean Phillips is doing some career work on this book. I thought The Fade Out was going to be my favorite collaboration between him and Brubaker but this is giving it a run for its money. His facial acting is suburb and key in nailing the emotions of this book. He can give someone so much character just in the way he dictates their expressions.

The use of first person narration is often looked down upon by people. Some say it is a lazy way to provide information or exposition about a story. It is typically more accepted in the crime genre because it is an expected trope of that style of film making and story telling. Ed Brubaker’s use of it in Kill or Be Killed is quickly becoming one of my personal favorites. There is a self-awareness that allows him to speak directly to the reader without it taking you out of the book. He will bring you in by asking the question you were just about to ask to make it feel like he is speaking directly to you. There are a lot of elements that make Kill or Be Killed  my favorite current series and that is one of the biggest.

 

100 – 81⌉ 80 – 61 ⌉ 60 – 41 ⌈ 40 – 21 ⌈ 20 – 1
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Dan Clark

A fan of all things comics, movies, books, and whatever else I can find that pass the time. Twitter: @DXO_Dan Instagram: Comic_concierge
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