Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Top 10 Comic Book (Issues) 2016

And so my friends, 2016 hits the homestretch. Christmas is upon us, New Year's Eve is just around the corner, and the big blockbusters have all hit the screens. Oscar-bait movies are finally coming around, snow is hitting everywhere but Florida, and we're all left wondering if The Walking Dead will ever have better ratings again. So let's talk about comic books! 
Unlike last year, which was a year of some import to the comic book industry, 2016 was a humongous year for comic books. DC underwent their "Rebirth" initiative and brought in an influx of readers that, for the most part, liked what they were seeing for the first time in forever. Marvel launched Civil War II to marginal success, and Valiant has revamped much of their line with a focus toward Harbinger War II, as well as concluding their flagship title X-O Manowar.

It was a year of premieres and conclusions. BOOM! Studios finally launched Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers as well as a spinoff focused on Kimberly post-power transfer. Titan launched three more Assassin's Creed books as well as continued their romp with Doctor Who. Image continued to impress us with creator-owned titles like Green Valley and Monstress. Valiant launched TWO Divinity titles (a sequel and a...another sequel) and brought back their Harbinger titles. 

Marvel and DC tried to compete with one another, but it seems like DC had the upper-hand starting in May, when they hit us with the Justice League #50, Superman #52, and DC Universe: Rebirth #1 combo. Marvel brought me a new Moon Knight title to brag about while they continued to push the "X-Men" titles into the dirt, but have overall diversified their line across their board to meet and satisfy several new demographics. 

If last year was just an average, or even below-average, year for comic book fans, this was the immediate response and revitalization we all needed. Civil War II might not be great, but I'll take a book where Dr. Doom is Iron Man! "Rebirth" excited me at the start and continues to do so! 

Before we get into the nitty gritty, I'd like to list my personal Top 10 Comic SERIES from this year. Some of these titles rolled over from last year, or years prior, while others premiered this year. All of these are titles I recommend you check out the second you get the chance, if you haven't already. And unlike the individual issues, I won't be getting into the specifics for each series, just throwing down the title. And here they are! 

10. Trinity
9. The Vision
8. Divinity II
7. Injection
6. Detective Comics
5. Omega Men
4. Tokyo Ghost
3. Moon Knight
2. Ninjak 
1. Superman: American Alien

I didn't do that last year because I wasn't really sure what the best series were, since many of them were brand new. Trinity is pretty new as well, with only four issues out so far, but I definitely feel it's captured the overall feel of "Rebirth" the best, giving us a better team book than Justice League where Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman are concerned. 

Also unlike last year, I want to give a shout out to my favorite cover of the year: 

Cover by Shane Davis
While the comic in question isn't great, the cover itself is so freaking badass that I was more than happy to pay the extra money for it. What's weird is that this is the normal cover. Most Variant Covers are better than the original, but this one is just so cool that it stood out over any other cover on the rack that I saw. It's Green Arrow and Deathstroke, with Deathstroke bathed in shadow ready to take out his target. I LOVE IT.

And now onto the list. Some of these placements may a bit questionable given the series list I just gave above, and just know that I only picked one book to represent a series. Not that this would've been a huge problem in my selections, but I just thought you should know that. 

No honorable mentions this year, let's just dive right in! 

10. The Vision #6

Writer: Tom King / Pencils: Gabriel Hernandez Walta / Colors: Jordie Bellaire
The Vision was a series that I wanted to get into, but just never saw myself reading until the trades started to come out (this would be the case for two other books on this list, believe it or not). I knew Tom King was a good writer, but I didn't expect he'd be good enough for me to get sucked into the life of a suburban Vision. This issue concludes the first arc and it is a doozy, highlighted by excellent artwork provided by Gabriel H. Walta. It really is something of a tragic story, and even had me hooked despite there being an overall theme of a math equation. 

9. Justice League #50 

Writer: Geoff Johns / Pencils: Jason Fabok / Colors: Brad Anderson
The conclusion of the "Darkseid War" arc and the last issue of the book that Geoff Johns did! This is probably the most epic single issue we got all year and it most certainly delivered. Originally it was much higher on the list for it's overall impact and some of the bombshells that it dropped, but I just felt that some of those were forced or a bit random. Still, as a conclusion, it's one of the most satisfying we could ask for this year. Everything comes full circle and while some questions are answered, we're still left hungering for more going into "Rebirth." The fights here are humongous in scale, but some are pretty personal as well. Each character has a moment to shine. Jason Fabok and Brad Anderson kill it in the arts section of this, particularly on the big two-page spread of the Justice League that pumps you up!

8. Superman: American Alien #3

Writer: Max Landis / Pencils: Mark Buckingham, Joelle Jones / Colors: Ricko Renzi, Jose Villarrubia
"But wait!" some of you may cry out. Isn't this book your Number 1 for the year? Why's this issue so far down? 
Well good people of the Internet, I feel that Superman: American Alien is the book of the year due to the fact that you can read it however you want and get a new experience each time you read it. This just happened to be my favorite issue, letting us see Clark Kent in a brand new light while also keeping him the lovable goofball that DC seems to have forgotten about. Not to mention the multitude of AWESOME cameos that I won't dare spoil for you. Some of you may also be wondering why I keep including the colorists for these comics, and this one is the reason why. Renzi and Villarrubia's colors pop off each page and make this comic a real joy to read. And I don't know about you, but when I read comics, I wanna be entertained. This was a thrill to read and it's one I love going back to. 

7. Ninjak #17

Writer: Matt Kindt / Artist: Diego Bernard, Alisson Rodriguez / Colorist: Ulises Arreola, Andrew Dalhouse
I did not expect to be this emotionally impacted by an issue of Ninjak like I was here. It was a true beatdown of my feels from start to finish, concluding the mysterious story of Colin King's parents in true fashion of the issue. This comic is the culmination of what Matt Kindt has been building since Issue 1 and he's still keeping this up. The fight here is visceral, Ninjak is at the end of his rope, and our antagonist finally reveals themselves in the most gut-wrenching of ways. This was the best arc of the series so far and it all ended with a bang here. The issue itself is one big spoiler, so I can't say more other than: Wow. 

6. Omega Men #9

Writer: Tom King / Pencils: Barnaby Bagenda / Colors: Romulo Farjardo Jr. 
For the longest time, I was stuck between this issue and Issue 12, the conclusion of the series. I was so wrapped up and amazed at how it ended, but this comic was really the catalyst for those events, and instilled the most amount of emotional investment in me as a reader. There are truly intense moments here as well as some great ones by Kyle Rayner, who has arguably the coolest moment of the series here. This is ultimately the boiling point of talks in the region: war is coming, but what side Kyle will take is here. It's a comic that makes you question if, in a war of villains, there can really be a good side, a side to root for. We've struggled with that all series, but it's brought to the forefront for the entire sector to question, here. Romulo Farjardo Jr. takes the reins here for the first time in the series, too, and it's a noteworthy moment. 

5. Moon Knight #9

Writer: Jeff Lemire / Pencils: Greg Smallwood, Wilfredo Torres, Francesco Francavilla, James Stokoe / Colors: Jordie Bellaire, Michael Garland, Francavilla, Stokoe
Normally, with a roster of creators that big, you'd think this is the massive conclusion to an arc. And it is, though it sets up the next part of the story quite well. Moon Knight #9 is one of the most satisfying Moon Knight stories I've ever read, as it highlights the legacy and psychology of the character while exploring some of the modern takes and ideas he has. Whoever it is that really, really cares about the character has my sincerest thanks for all of this. You could even see this issue as the culmination of decades of character development and intricacies. There are intense moments here yet also incredibly tender moments here, and a certain line of dialogue that I didn't see coming that really affected me. You could see this issue as Marc Spector finally waking up, or you could see it as him finally accepting all that he is. The ending of this comic might be the biggest "stand up and cheer" moment of the year, too. Jordie Bellaire, who has been on the book since 2014, I think, continues her stellar color-work here, too. I'd take her on any comic these days. 

4. Green Arrow: Rebirth #1

Writer: Benjamin Percy / Artist and Colorist: Otto Schmidt
Go ahead. Call me biased. I don't even care. Out of all the books hit by "Rebirth," THIS one had the biggest turnaround and shows what the real impact of the initiative was. The last issue of Green Arrow before this was morose, boring, and pretty ugly. This one? It was fun, it was bright, it was colorful, it had Green Arrow being his normal self, it brought Black Canary along, it reintroduced Emiko Queen to a really likable place and it forced Oliver into a vulnerable position. THIS was the Green Arrow issue we'd all been waiting for. Lemire and Sorrentino's run of the book is legendary, yes, but it's a different style, and ever since then we needed something a bit more like this to lighten the load. Otto Schmidt was a fantastic choice to tackle this tonal shift and I look back on this issue in particular with great appreciation for what the creative team was able to do. 

3. Detective Comics #940

Writer: James Tynion IV / Artist: Eddy Barrows / Colorist: Adriano Lucas
My God. What a comic. I mean really. Who expected for Detective Comics to be as good as it would? This issue is dramatic as all hell and is one of the more tragic comics of the year. It has some of the best personal moments of the series so far for Stephanie Brown and Batman, as well as a shining moment for Tim Drake. The issue prior coupled with this one highlight why Tim Drake is not only my favorite Robin, but one of my favorite superheroes in general: he's selfless, and will do anything for the people he loves before he even thinks to do something for himself. It's something he gleaned off of Batman but that he really shows a bit more than Bruce. Not to mention some of the major things that go down between Batwoman and her father, and just the overall badass-ness of Katie Kane here. The ending is one that throttled me and makes me wish I could just hibernate until we get our answers. It was just one of the best comic-reading experiences I had all year long. 

2. Batman #51

Writer: Scott Snyder / Pencils: Greg Capullo / Colors: FCO Plascencia
(check out my review of the issue here!)
Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo's run of Batman will go down as one of the best, no doubt, in comics history in the coming years. While it did take a dip in the latter parts ("Endgame" not really included), this issue was probably one of the finest of the entire run. It's small. It's subtle. It has call-backs throughout it while also setting up potential plot-lines for Snyder, or other writers, to use. But best of all: it's quiet. It knows what it is. It's a love-letter to not just the series, but to the characters and the setting that Snyder and Capullo called home. It's a beautiful little story that shows Batman patrolling Gotham like normal, but Snyder and Capullo elevate it to near poetry. It feels literary, really. The final page is tear-jerking beyond belief. I can't really describe what it is. It's the ultimate emotional payoff and sendoff for this creative team at it's heart. And when it hits "END," you feel that it's right. It's time. And it's been a hell of a run. It's the best written issue of the year...but there was just one comic that edges it out of the top spot, for me. 

1. DC Universe: Rebirth #1

Writer: Geoff Johns / Artists: Gary Frank, Ethan Van Scriver, Ivan Reis, Phil Jimenez / Colors: Brad Anderson, Jason Wright, Joe Prado, Hi-Fi, Gabe Eltaeb
It's not the best written. It's not the best drawn. It doesn't even have the best story. Why is it all the way at the top of the list?
Because this is the comic with the most IMPACT this year, and possibly for many years to come. And yes, the counterargument to that is that Flashpoint had the biggest impact of it's time, but it wasn't a very good story in general. Not only that, but it might've SAVED DC Comics from an otherwise ugly, dingy, and morose period that it was continuing to move down. This comic does have a great story, though it's not the best. It's all about bringing hope and love back to a universe that no longer has it. It's told masterfully by Geoff Johns and drawn wonderfully by a team of colorists and artists that clearly care about the characters they're devoting time to. There are so many memorable moments in this single issue. The signs of the JSA reuniting. Damian Wayne standing ominously over a birthday cake with the candle "13" on it. Two Flashes embracing and realizing their brotherhood. Oliver and Dinah longing for someone they've never met. And the freaking ENDING. Whether you like or not, your jaw dropped on that last page.
DC Universe: Rebirth #1 is the best comic of the year because it was the comic with the most amount of hope and love in a year where both of those have lacked for many people. In a year where heroes fought each other, people fought each other, and philosophical debates were raised across the board, this comic told us that we need to be united in hope for our future in the memory of our past. It had beautiful, powerful moments and reassured my faith in this industry and the heroes that I look up to.

And that's 2016. It was an interesting year for the world of comics, but overall a good one. I'm not sure what we've got coming up in 2017, but I do hope it can best this one. It's a lot to ask, but, it seems like we're on a roll. Creators are putting more effort to make their stories not only stand out, but be proud to be comics and be taken fairly seriously. I love going to the comic book store now more than ever, and I hope this energy from these books can continue on for not just next year, but years to come.

Happy Holidays and Happy New Year, everyone. I hope you all stay safe, and if you get a minute, read a quick comic by the fireplace (or the pool, if you live in Florida). Just take care of yourself. See ya next year.

Social media:
Twitter: @seanovan13
Instagram: @seanovan10

No comments:

Post a Comment