Sunday, December 31, 2017

The Top Ten Comics for 2017

   With the end of 2017, it’s time for a recap of the best comics of the year.

  As always, a few caveats up front: this is my (Chuck’s) list of the best comics of the year, and I didn’t read everything (by a wide, wide margin).

   But of the hundreds of comics I read this year, these are my favorites.

   Feel free to send in your own list - either in a comment at the link below or email it to us at 

   First, though - the worst comic of the year. It was a tough call - as always, there were some stinkers out there. DC’s Death of Hawkman was a strong contender, as it took a character who’d been badly treated and killed him for no good reason. But Secret Empire managed to tear down Marvel’s greatest hero and stomp all over him - and issue #4 manages to do that and add the original Avengers in for good measure - so it’s the worst. 


   Honorable mentions (which means they could easily have been  in the Top 10) go to some of 2017’s best comics: 

Bane Conquest - Chuck Dixon and Graham Nolan come back to their famous creation for some hard-hitting fun!

Black - A series that takes the “hatred against those with superpowers” concept to a new level.

The Champions - A group of “teen heroes” with adventures that are thoughtful, hopeful and compelling.

Dark Knight III: Master Race - The wrap-up to a surprisingly epic story, with amazing art.

The Defenders - This is the Netflix version of the team, a street-level group of heroes facing a surprisingly powerful opponent.

Future Quest  - A wonderful reimagining of the classic Hanna-Barbera cartoon heroes.

Groo: Play of the Gods - Can even the gods cope with the density of Groo?

Neil Gaiman’s American Gods - A terrific adaptation of the novel.

Normandy Gold - Grim and gritty “exploitation film” in a comic book.

Paper Girls - An amazing, mind-bending series with a lot of heart.

Ragnarok - Walt Simonson’s earth-shaking take on the world after the end of the world.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles / Usagi Yojimbo One-shot - A clever team-up pits the turtles and Usagi against a terrible enemy.

The Wild Storm - A fantastic reimagining of the Wildstorm universe by Warren Ellis.

Wynonna Earp Season Zero - A hard-hitting “Wild Bunch” battle to the finish!

   And now, the Top Ten for 2017:

10. The Visitor: How and Why He Stayed #3

   While the big companies fret over their latest event series, over at Dark Horse in the Mignolaverse, the focus is on crafting quality.

   One of that group's gems is the dark and delightful comic called The Visitor: How and Why He Stayed.

   With just a hint of a retcon, we're introduced to a mysterious... creature. Is he alien? Demon? Monster? Threat or Menace? No idea. (Which is part of the fun, of course.)

   But he's there to witness the arrival on Earth of a potentially Armageddon-level figure: Hellboy.

   Tasked with destroying the creature, the Visitor is instead moved to stay his hand and monitor Hellboy's progress instead - which leads him into all kinds of strange territory.

   And as this issue shows, sometimes that doesn't include Hellboy at all, as the Visitor explores a strange new cult that may follow a path that threatens all of humanity.

   With terrific, organic art by Paul Grist, and a sharp, original story by Mike Mignola and Chris Robertson, this series is a real treat - which is no surprise to those of us who hang out in the Mignolaverse a lot.


9. Comic Book History of Comics #4

   The fourth issue of this entertaining and informative series brings us to the 1950s, and what may be the darkest days for the industry.

   The Comic Book History of Comics examines the attempts to demonize comic books - a movement that included book burnings, comics being banned in many communities, and Senate hearings into comics being a possible cause of the increasing number of juvenile delinquents.

   To be fair, the comics industry was kind of asking for it. The trend toward graphic horror and "true crime" comics may have been great for sales, but it was a move guaranteed to anger parents - and those groups looking for a cause to rile up the public.

   Written by Fred Van Lente with art by Ryan Dunlavey, the series offers a fun and informative look at the crucial years that almost finished the industry.

   (Of course, much more adult and disturbing stuff is being published these days - but now the focus is on more high-profile entertainment platforms, like video games and the Internet.)


8. Captain Kronos Vampire Hunter #1 

   This series is a delight (in the classic horror movie sense)!

   It's based on the adventures of Captain Kronos, Vampire Hunter, who seeks revenge on the undead.

   Based on the '70s Hammer Horror Films hero, his adventures are brought to vivid life by writer Dan Abnett and artist Tom Mandrake.

   The hero works alongside the aged but able hunter named Grost and the beautiful and deadly Carla, fighting horrific monsters and helping those threatened by evil forces.

   This feels - in the best sense of the concept - like a classic Marvel horror comic.

   A lot of that is because of the excellent art by Mandrake, one of the few comic artists who work in the cinematic style of Gene Colan, and he creates a wonderful, atmospheric world here, and populates it with striking characters.

   The story rockets along at top speed, carrying us from a deadly battle to a besieged village - and a mysterious enemy.

   It captures the charm and thrills of those classic Hammer films - and promises lots of deadly battles to come!

   Highly recommended!


7. Anno Dracula: 1895 Seven Days in Mayhem #1 

   Alternate histories can be a lot of fun, and so far, Anno Dracula: 1895 Seven Days in Mayhem looks like a good one.

   It posits a world where Dracula survived his encounter with Dr. Van Helsing, and returned to Great Britain where he seduced the Queen and became the Prince Consort - and the ruler of the most powerful nation in the world.

   The story by Kim Newman (based on his novel) is loaded with lots of familiar faces (and creatures), including several surprises - and the series apparently includes an appearance by a certain famous oriental villain - or at least his daughter (which is surprising, because I thought the rights were still held by his original publisher - apparently I'm wrong).

   It starts out with a bang - the world is united against Dracula's reign, and a vicious war breaks out.

   The focus is on four women - some vampires, some not - who fight either for or against the regime.

   The art by Paul McCaffrey is terrific - lush and expressive, vivid and brutal - this isn't a comic for kids.

   It's off to a rollicking start, and a worthy story in the vein of League of Extraordinary Gentlemen - if you liked that series, you're bound to like this one.


6. Mage The Hero Defined #0 

   Not to be maudlin - but how wonderful to have lived long enough to see the beginning and (assuming I make it to the end of next year) the end of writer / artist Matt Wagner's excellent Mage story.

   It's a modern version of the Arthurian legend, told in three parts.

   It pits the powerful hero Kevin Matchstick against dark forces and assorted monsters as he works with an assortment of allies.

   This "Zero" issue seems to include an audition for a potential new ally, and Wagner has fun with his (shall we say) well-seasoned hero meeting a "modern" hero.

   Those of us who are challenged in the growing hair department can appreciate that Kevin shares that curse - one of the few such heroes in the history of comics.

   The art is terrific and the story is building to a big finish - I can't wait to see where it all goes!


5. Maestros #1 

   The snarky version of the review of Maestros is that it's Harry Potter for an adult audience.

   And I do mean adult, with mature language, genitalia, sex and lots of brutal violence.

   But this book is actually very good and doesn't deserve the snark.

   It tells the unlikely story of the origin of the universe, the death of its rulers, the surprising destiny of an unlikely protagonist, assassination attempts, pudgy kids, naked moms and so much more.

   The story and art are by Steve Skroce with colors by Dave Stewart. It's loaded with remarkable events (on a scale both impossibly big and quite intimate), interesting characters (though not always likable ones), and events that will keep you guessing throughout.

   The art is a delight, brimming with imagination and grisly delights, amazing environments and excellent character and creature designs.

   This isn't for everyone - remember, adult stuff herein. But if you're a fan of Saga, this definitely follows in its footsteps - smart, funny and thrilling, all with an edge and an inventive story.

   Highly recommended. For adults.


4. Avengers #11

    Ah, this issue feels like a cool breeze after a hot summer day.

   Which is to say, it's nice to see the cast of The Avengers, having survived the events of the odious Secret Empire event, actually getting along and taking the time for some heart-to-heart conversations.

   Finding the team without a headquarters and uncertain of their next move, they follow the classic strategy that goes back to the earliest issues of team comics everywhere: they break up into small teams!

   Well, actually, they pair off to talk things over - so we have the Falcon talking about a big decision with the Mighty Thor; Hercules explaining the burdens and blessings of his existence to the Vision; and Spider-Man teaming up with the Wasp in an effort to... well, to get her to stop hating him.

   It's a great mix of humor, revelations, insights and action, all managed like a master class in how to write a team comic by Mark Waid, with lovely, evocative art by Mike del Mundo.

   This issue marks something of a new start for the team, and it's a great jumping-on point - and a darned good comic.

   (And I have to say, it's a delight to actually laugh out out at Spider-Man's dialogue again.)


3. Nick Fury #1

   There have been many attempts since the '60s to revive Nick Fury in his own comic, but they typically don't last - perhaps because they all stand in the shadow of Jim Steranko's towering, groundbreaking work on the original version of the super-spy.

   But you have to hand it to writer James Robinson and artists Act and Hugo Petrus - they're swinging for the fence here.

   And succeeding!

   They're created a breezy, fresh, op-art look for this series that is cinematic and spectacular.

   The story has Fury infiltrating a Hydra stronghold and trying to escape intact.

   It's not a deep story, but it's fast and fun and well worth the price of admission.

   It's downright... Steranko-esque!


2. Astro City #47 

   Who's a good boy? (Wags tail.) Yes you are!

   I admit that I'm crazy about dogs. I've had four in my lifetime, each one a treasured family member - so this story, loaded with humor and a genuine affection for "Man's Best Friend" makes for a heckuva treat.

   It follows a young man named Andy who's struggling with the bad decisions in his life - but then he adopts Hank, a Welsh Corgi, and he life begins to change.

   The changes are both small and large, as he finds (through a mystic mishap) that he's able to merge with Hank, so they becomes a small but powerful super-hero.

   It's a sweet story from Kurt Busiek as we see how a friend - even a tiny one - can change a life.

   The guest artist is Mike Norton, and he was born to craft this kind of down-to-Earth, street-level tale of adventure and affection.

   I just kept smiling through the whole story - so of course I wasn't prepared at all for that final page, which any dog owner can relate to.

   What a fun issue - one of the year's best! Highly recommended!

   (I should also point out that this was one of two comics to receive an "A+" - so it could easily have been the year's top comic, especially when combine with the next issue of Astro City.)


1. Captain America #695

 When this issue was published, I said it was a strong candidate for the best comic of the year.

   Which is impressive, considering how much I didn't like the last version of the comic bearing the Captain America title (while starring a Hydra impersonator).

   Wisely, Marvel has turned the job of bringing back Steve Rogers - whose life and reputation has been dragged as thoroughly through the mud as is possible - to its top creative team.

   Here - after a lovely recap of Cap's origin - we get a quick flashback to the beginning of Cap's modern-day career, and then we arrive in the present, where we find Steve on a journey of discovery.

   It's a tale about the true meaning of heroics and a great blast of the kind of real-world morality that is so badly needed in the world today.

   Look, you can't go wrong putting one of the industry's best writers, Mark Waid, on this title - especially since he's already written some great Cap stories in the past - and Chris Samnee on the art, since he's better than ever, crafting powerful, heroic images - and lovely, slice-of-life characters as well. He's one of the best in the business, period.

   I admit that I may be influenced by my dislike for the last storyline - getting back on the right track is certain to earn my approval. But this issue rises above that - it's just a terrific, "done-in-one" story about one of the greatest heroes in comics history.

   If this is what we can expect from the Marvel Legacy comics, sign me up!


Hoy Murphy said...

I've only read a few of your choices, but Astro City with G-Dog was my favorite of the year.


Chuck said...

It was a difficult choice to choose the #1 title - I love the story of G-Dog so much! Both top choices (Astro City and Cap) owed some of their success (in my eyes) to sentiment - I'm crazy about dogs, and Cap is a long-time favorite who was treated so badly by the recent Hydra story. It made the final decision a tough one!

Mr. Brooks said...

Chuck, You know I'm in your corner, but c'mon....!
BATMAN #36 & 37 doesn't make the cut???? Or even honorable mention???

Those two issues practically gave us the BEST Batman/Superman story in YEARS! Plus it introduced DC's newest Dynamic Duo, Lois Lane and Selina Kyle.

I weep.

Chuck said...

Mr. Brooks, sorry, but I didn't read those issues - it's one of Chuck's Laws of Comics: "You can't read everything. (Or at least I can't read everything.)" I'll try to track them down!

Sacorn said...

I would definitely put Captain Kronos and Maestros on my list as well - brilliant books :)