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!

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Hawkman Found #1

   Back in March DC gave us The Death of Hawkman, and the good news is: he got better.

   But I bought this issue with fear in my heart, because the writers and editors at DC have not been kind to this hero - in fact, he's been treated quite badly, beaten up often by the continuity police and by poor choices in characterization (here's hint: Hawkman is not Wolverine).

   The good news is, the art in this issue is tremendous, as Bryan Hitch and Kevin Nowlan turn in lush, powerful images.

   The story by Jeff Lemire, on the other hand, doesn't give us much to work with.

   It brings us a Carter Hall (or is it Katar Hol?) who's trapped in a nightmarish world, fighting for his freedom, but facing impossible odds.

   The story is mostly just a setup for Dark Knights: Metal #5, but the only reason to pick it up is to see the fantastic art. Otherwise, you'll probably get all you need from the Dark Knights series.

   So I'm glad to see Hawkman return - but I'm still wondering how that return will shake out. And what about Hawkwoman?

Grade: B



Friday, December 29, 2017

Doomsday Clock #2 (of 12)

   In the first issue of the Doomsday Clock maxi-series, the first steps were taken to bring the DC Universe and the Watchmen together.

   I expressed doubt about the wisdom of that move in my review of the first issue - and this issue moves that process forward, but doesn't do anything to convince me that this is a good idea.

   For one thing, it brings DC's mainstream into the realm of adult stories - this issue features graphic violence and adult language.

   It's an odd mix to see Batman and Lex Luthor sharing panel space with well-known characters from Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons' epic.

   This issue also seems to indicate that the MacGuffin of the story - the missing Dr. Manhattan - has been influencing the DC Universe for some time now.

   Perhaps, like the legendary Mopee, they can blame all the mistakes in "New 52" on him. (Sorry, that's a low blow - but I couldn't resist.)

   The art is great, of course - Gary Frank crafts a gritty, real-world environment that bridges the gap between the two universes with great skill - and the story by Geoff Johns is brimming with surprising ideas and mysteries to be solved - so there's plenty here to keep bringing readers back.

   But I'm still not convinced this is anything more than a publisher's stunt to draw in readers. We'll see.

Grade: A-


Thursday, December 28, 2017

Phoenix Resurrection #1 (of 5)

    I hated when they killed off Jean Grey / Marvel Girl / Phoenix (choose your favorite name) in
X-Men #137. (Admittedly, it happened in a terrific story.)

   I was happy when Marvel brought her back from the dead a few years later (even if the method used took an effort to suspend one's disbelief).

   Then they killed her again. And she has stayed that way for more than a dozen years.

   Finally they're bringing her back, and I couldn't be happier. As one of Marvel's first female heroes, along with the Invisible Girl (now Invisible Woman) and the Wasp, she deserves a major spot in Marvel's continuity - not the grave.

    (Interesting to note that all three of those heroes have been largely removed from continuity in recent years. What the heck, Marvel?)

   This story finds the X-Men investigating a mutant-related phenomenon, one loaded with mystery, as characters once dead now appear to be alive and well. Or are they?

    If that's not confusing enough, the final sequence will have you scratching your head - but answers will have to wait for future issues.

   The series is well served by the terrific art by Lenil Francis Yu and Gerry Alanguilan.

   The jury's still out on the script by Matthew Rosenburg, because the issue is all about setting up mysteries - but none are resolved. Yet.

   Of course, I almost don't care how they're doing it - I'm just happy to have the real Jean Grey back on the team. Hopefully the rest of the series will live up to the promise of the first issue.

   Now, and Sue and Jan...

Grade: A-


Wednesday, December 27, 2017

New Comics Day

     Here's what I picked up at the comics shop today:

- DOOMSDAY CLOCK #2 (OF 12) - The collision between the DC and Watchmen Universe continues!

- ELFQUEST FINAL QUEST #23 - The penultimate chapter!

- HAWKMAN FOUND #1 - What happened to Carter Hall?

- The search for Stark!

- JESSICA JONES #15 - Return of the Purple Man.

- KAMANDI CHALLENGE #12 (OF 12) - The finale!


- USAGI YOJIMBO #165 - Solving a murder!

     And I received these review copies:

- DOCTOR WHO 10TH YEAR THREE #12 - Secrets revealed!

- ETERNITY #3 - Fight for the life of a child!

- VAMPBLADE SEASON TWO #10 - Space vampires attack!

- WARHAMMER 40000 FALLEN #3 (OF 4)
- Will the Dark Angels fight their allies?

- WOLFENSTEIN TP - Collecting the mini-series based on the videogame.

- X-O MANOWAR #10 - Wanted dead or alive!

- ZOMBIE TRAMP VOL 12 VOODOO VIXEN DEATH MATCH - Battle for dark magic supremacy!

     And that's it!

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Comic Book History of Comics: Comics for All #1

   I'm happy to see this series return!

   The Comic Book History of Comics launches a new series here (following up on its excellent first series), which manages to balance serious history with a welcome touch of humor.

   This issue focuses on the true origins of the graphic novel, and of comics in general, and its contents should make serious historians happy.

   That's because it gives proper credit to Switzerland's Rodolphe Topffer, the real father of comics.

   It also looks at the origins of graphic novels and answers the much debated question: did Will Eisner invent the graphic novel?

    As always, great work by the creative team. This issue's a bit more text-heavy than usual, but it's a very entertaining way to convey lots of important info about the origin of comics.

   Highly recommended!

Grade: A-


Monday, December 25, 2017

Merry Christmas!

   Merry Christmas to one and all from your pal Chuck!

   Hope it's a wonderful day for you and yours! (Or hope it was a wonderful day, depending on what part of the world you hail from!)

   Happy holidays, y'all!

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Champions #15

   Death can be tricky in comics these days.

   It's so common to kill a character off and then bring him, her or it back afterwards that death doesn't have much impact anymore.

    (For further reference, see next week's review of the return of the original Jean Grey / Phoenix.)

    So give writer Mark Waid credit - in this issue of Champions, he manages a unique approach to the death of a character - and puts an unexpected twist on the story.

   This issue wraps up the six-part crossover with the Avengers, as they face a terrible loss after their recent efforts to save the world.

   As always, the art by Humberto Ramos and Victor Olazaba is expressive and powerful - all in service to a moving story about friends dealing with pain and loss - and how they cope with it.

   Highly recommended!

Grade: A



Saturday, December 23, 2017

Quantum & Woody #1

   Humor's a relatively rare element in comic books these days (which is ironic, considering, you know, the word "comic" in the name), and it's fun to see the return of one of the few books that has its tongue firmly planted in its cheek.

   Quantum & Woody are a most unusual duo - adopted brothers who aren't much alike, but who depend on each other for survival.

    Empowered by quantum forces, they must strike their wristbands together every 24 hours or face destruction.

    Which would be easy enough, if they could stand each other or work together. As typical brothers, they disagree a lot, and they couldn't be more different.

   Quantum (Eric) is serious, dedicated, intelligent, down-to-Earth. Woody (Woody) is a pain in the neck, only concerned about himself and dedicated to having fun.

   So there are bumps along the road.

   Writer Daniel Kibblesmith provides a story that's fast and fun and pulls no punches. The art by Kano is terrific - expressive, exciting and funny without being too over the top.

   If you're looking for a comic that's different - and includes a few laughs - Quantum & Woody should fill the bill nicely.

Grade: B+


Friday, December 22, 2017

Aquaman #31

   In a recent comment our friend Mr. Brooks suggested a review of Aquaman, and here at CCotD, we're happy to comply.

   I haven't been reading the series for the last couple of years - I followed it when Geoff Johns and Ivan Reis kicked off the "New 52" version, but when they left I let it slip away.

   This issue finds Aquaman on the outs in Atlantis, as the powerful Corum Rath has seized control of that underwater kingdom.

   Just when all hope seems lost and citizens are being rounded up for execution, a group of rebels - led by a surprisingly powerful Aquaman - start fighting back.

   That hero is looking more like his movie counterpart, with long hair and a beard - but his hair is still blond and he's still wearing his classic orange scaled shirt.

   He's looking for allies to help in his struggle, and goes to some interesting places to find them.

   The issue features a strong script by Dan Abnett and terrific art by Riccardo Federici and color art by Sunny Gho - it's a style that almost looks painted, and it creates a powerful environment for Aquaman's adventures.

   Thanks for the tip, Mr. Brooks - Aquaman is definitely a book to watch!

Grade: A-


Thursday, December 21, 2017

Marvel 2-In-One #1

   My reaction to this comic is: it's about dad burn time.

   For reasons that elude me, Marvel cancelled its flagship title, the Fantastic Four, two-and-a-half years ago, and scattered the team to the four winds.

   Mr. Fantastic, the Invisible Woman and their children disappeared. The Thing went to work for SHIELD. The Human Torch (for some reason or another) joined the Inhumans.

    But now there seems to be movement back in the right direction. In the real world, Disney (which owns Marvel) has bought out 21st Century Fox, bringing the film rights to the X-Men and the Fantastic Four back to the home office.

   As a possible precursor to the team's return, this month we see the return of Marvel 2-In-One, a team-up comic that starred The Thing and the guest of the month.

   This issue's "guest" is the Torch, and the issue gives us a recap of what they've been doing - and a familiar face brings the impetus that brings the two together, and hopefully will end with a reunion of the entire team.

   It's a strong first issue by writer Chip Zdarsky and artists Jim Cheung, John Dell and Walden Wong - with powerful, expressive art and solid characterizations all around.

   The FF are important to Marvel's history, of course - and I for one can't wait to see them getting the kind of film treatment they deserve - but before that, we should be seeing them back in the pages of The World's Greatest Comics Magazine.

   It's the right thing to do and it's long past time for it to be done.

Grade: A-