THE GEEEEK AWARDS [Best Comics of 2017]: Dark Knights and Christmas Lights!
Happy holidays once again, geeks and geekettes! Once again, we’re coming out with our best of lists for 2017, and this time out we’ve got the Best Comics to talk about! Nothing you haven’t read here before, but if you haven’t read these titles yet, they’re making the “Best Of” lists for one reason or another, so maybe it’s time to step your game up!
1. The Hanna-Barbara/DC crossover series (DC Comics) – Not sure why, but I feel like I’m one of the only people that genuinely enjoyed this genius idea from DC. In fact, I purchased every copy of all of the issues and my local comic shop owner made fun of me. “I didn’t realize there were people under 40-years old that were excited about the Banana Splits.” Yep! And I thought pairing them with the Suicide Squad was absolutely hilarious. – 4.5/5
2. Moon Knight (Marvel) – This may be incredibly biased since MK is my favorite superhero, but I thoroughly enjoyed this series (and so did the multiple people I let borrow the comics). The constant back-and-forth between Spector’s mind and real life eventually resulted in a blurred line of consciousness. So great. Throw in an Oxymoron Hip-Hop variant and several panels that mesmerized many in beauty — and MK’s comeback, steered by Jeff Lemire, is one of 2017’s better comic stories. – 4.25/5
3. Teen Titans: Rebirth (DC Comics) – Damian Wayne interests me. Being the spawn of the world’s best detective and yet also the world’s greatest assassin can cause a lot of confusion, especially during the teenage years. I enjoyed reading about the different decisions that Damian had to make. Add in four other superheroes to help and it makes for one bad ass combo! – 4/5
4. Rocket Raccoon (Marvel) – After Guardians of the Galaxy, everyone has been obsessed with this fluffball mercenary from outer space. Past Rocket comics have had a real goofy feel with him teaming up with Groot and the cartoonish art style. It was really cool to see it stray a bit from that formula with Rocket marooned on planet Earth, alone and to tell you the truth, he sticks out like a sore thumb. I would have ranked this higher if the series lasted longer than 5 issues (Peep the Goblin Hip-Hop Variant, too). – 4/5
5. Nova (Marvel) – This is another comic that benefits from the cartoon style and his internal banter is pretty funny. Nova is a constant battle of Sam juggling school and being a hero, eventually getting stuck on a space adventure, looking for his dad (another member of the Nova corps). He also teams up with a resurrected Nova corps member, adding all the more intrigue. – 3.5/5
Honorable mentions: Regression, Batman/Elmer Fudd Special, Jimmy’s Bastards, I Am Groot, The Greatest Adventure.
1. Mister Miracle (DC Comics) – This may be a controversial statement, but I genuinely believe this may be Tom King‘s best comic, and I say this as someone who’s read and loved much of what he’s written. It’s a story exploring nihilism and depression through the filter of the Fourth World and it’s done fantastically. As a matter of fact, I wouldn’t just say it’s King’s best comic, it’s also the best Mr. Miracle comic since King Kirby’s initial run, and this is a character that’s been written by greats like Keith Giffen, John Byrne and Grant Morrison. – 5/5
2. Usagi Yojimbo/TMNT: Namazu or The Big Fish Story (IDW Publishing) – Stan Sakai’s blending of actual mythology with action and adventure is virtually unparalleled, only matched by Walt Simonson’s run on Thor, a nice fit considering this issue does feature a quick cameo from Kashima-No-Okami, the Japanese God of Thunder. The ending of this issue does leave the door open for a follow-up adventure and I sure as hell hope IDW follow through with that, especially considering what Sakai said in the IDW “Summer of the Turtles” panel at SDCC. – 5/5
3. Klaus: Crisis in Xmasville (BOOM! Studios) – Holy shit, this comic fucking rules. Klaus vs. Evil Klaus in the town of Xmasville–a town created by the Pola-Cola corporation where it’s Xmas all year round so that Pola-Cola can maximize the profits they make off of the holiday. Need I say more? – 4.75/5
4. Mage: The Hero Denied (Image Comics) – 18-years after the final issue of “The Hero Defined”, Matt Wagner finally brings us the conclusion to this three part epic; an allegorical autobiography that’s been in progress for over 30 years now (“The Hero Discovered” launched in 1984). For the uninitiated, this is a comic all about a magical hero, Kevin Matchstick, on his hero’s journey that serves as an allegory for Wagner’s own journey through life. – 4.5/5
5. Batman (DC Comics) – What was the point of “The War of Jokes and Riddles?” The answer to that riddle is the greatest joke of all: Kite Man. Hell Yeah. – 4.25/5
Honorable mentions: Defenders, All-Star Batman, Mighty Thor, Unworthy Thor, The Flintstones, Peter Parker: The Spectacular Spider-Man, Southern Bastards.
1. Jeff Lemire (writer, Everything) – So here is where it got tricky; my number one spot had quite a few ties, and for the first time in a long time, all of the titles for my #1 pick centered around one of my most favorite comics industry beast: Jeff Lemire. Between his writings for Marvel’s Moon Knight and Thanos, Valiant’s Bloodshot, his artwork for the Image comic and Scott Snyder written A.D., his take on superhero tropes with Black Hammer for Dark Horse, or for his incredible melancholy tale of Royal City also through Image (and complete with a custom playlist filled with 90’s grunge and indie rock throwbacks linked on Spotify), Jeff Lemire ruled 2017. I have had such a passionate admiration for his talents since his series Sweet Tooth pulled me into his creative genius, and I couldn’t be happier to see how much his hard work and dedication has been paying off. Lemire continues to stay superhumanly bountiful and steady while never going dull. – 5/5
2. Batman: White Knight (DC Comics) – Sean Murphy is killing it with this fascinating twist of tales where The Joker is the savior of Gotham while Batman and the GCPD are held accountable for the vigilante justice that’s gone on too long. *also major thanks to Murphy for giving that shitty hot pants wearing Harley Quinn the treatment she deserved. – 4.75/5
3. Super Sons (DC Comics) – Oh my goodness.. this is the adorable breakout team I’ve been needing from DC. As long as he’s been alive I’ve been a fan of the arrogant, brash, and smart mouth son of Batman, Damian Wayne. I didn’t think I could appreciate him anymore until he met his match in the good-hearted do-good, Jonathan Kent, son of Superman and Lois. – 4.5/5
4. The Unsound (BOOM! Studios) – The story of a nurse for a psychiatric hospital that has a secret history surrounded by maniacal patients, monsters, black magic and tragic scientific experiments gone wrong. Cullen Bunn provides the ghastly words while Jack Cole‘s art provides the readers with nightmarish visuals. – 4.25/5
5. Papergirls (Image Comics) – Brian K. Vaughn and Matt Wilson rocked my retro fangirl heart with more of their time-traveling mystery set against the background of the late 1980s. – 4/5
Honorable mentions: Batman, Dead Orbit, Plastic, Grass Kings, My Favorite Thing is Monsters, Redneck, The Shadow/Batman, Doomsday Clock/ The Button (Batman/Flash), Old Man Jack, and Kim & Kim.
1. Black Hammer (Dark Horse) – Jeff Lemire’s love letter to superhero Comics tells the story of a group of heroes who died saving the world. Except they’re not dead, they’re trapped in a small town on a farm. Not on this Earth. Action, Drama, Sci Fi, Mystery, Romance and Suspense in every issue with Wonderful art by Dean Ormstrom & Dave Stewart. –
2. Mister Miracle (DC Comics) – With only 5 issues so far, the dynamic duo of Tom King & Mitch Gerads give us this modern classic of Kirby’s Fourth World! What these two did for The Omega Men is turned up to 11 here focusing on the war between Darkseid and High Father, with Orion, Scott & Barda once again being caught in the middle. – 4.5/5
3. X-O Manowar (Valiant Comics) – Without giving you a moment to get your bearings straight we find our hero on an alien planet, missing a hand and without his X-O sentient suit! With more of a Metal Hurlant/Heavy Metal feel to this story than previous runs Matt Kindt and his army of artists Tomás Giorello,Doug Braithwaite & Clayton Crain have given us the sci fi action adventure blockbuster every month that Hollywood could only dream of! –
4. Jimmy’s Bastards (AfterShock Comics) – Garth Ennis & Russ Braun get their hands on James Bond. That alone should get your attention. But since this isn’t 007. So all the rules go out the window and FAST! Jimmy may be the greatest spy ever. Every man wants to be him, and every woman wants to be with him. He’s the spy who doesn’t miss. Which in turn is his going to be his downfall. A lifetime of brief romantic encounters are coming for Jimmy, and this isn’t about child support! – 4/5
5. Generations (10 One-Shots Marvel Comics) – The past few years people have complained that Marvel has lost sight of what made their books great. Fans cried that these new characters trying to replace the originals didn’t match up. I say that’s total bunk. These ten one shots show us that Marvel never turned its back on its LEGACY (like that other company who did and had to reboot twice to fix that mistake). Wolverine, Capt America, Iron Man, and Thor are the stand-outs for me. – 4.75/5
Honorable mentions: Cave Carson Has a Cybernetic Eye, Aliens : Dead Orbit, Crosswinds, Sacred Creatures, Youngblood, Batman / Shadow, Archie, Kamandi Challenge, Batman/Elmer Fudd Special, Spy Seal.
1. Dark Nights: Metal (DC Comics) – In the battle of the super-powered crossovers, DC took the edge this year with Metal and Doomsday Clock, but Batman’s alt-u venture has had the best storyline and the absolute best crossovers. – 4.75/5
2. Archie (Archie Comics) – Oh don’t act so shocked; Mark Waid has done the absolute best thing possible and his Archie run has continued to be one of the main pulls for this year. – 4.75/5
3. The Fix (Image Comics) – Nick Spencer, you beautiful bastard. The Fix is one of the best books out there and you can forgive Spencer for being late since he was a little busy with Secret Empire of at Marvel. – 4.5/5
4. Batman (DC Comics) – If you had told the 18-year old me that Batman would be engaged this year to Catwoman and it would have been wrapped around in a beautiful story involving Batman’s “biggest mistake” and a furious ex; I would have called you a liar, but Tom King did just that… so guess you’re not a liar? – 4.5/5
5. The Flintstones (DC Comics) – Mark Russell and Steve Pugh masterful mini-series came to an end this summer and I couldn’t have been sadder. The way that Russell and Pugh told the story of the Flintstones for the modern age was fantastic and unfortunately all good things must come to an end. – 4.25/5
Honorable mentions: Secret Empire #10, X-Men: Blue, X-Men: Gold, Justice League, Star Wars, Darth Vader, Batman/Elmer Fudd Special, Spectacular Spider-Man, All-Star Batman, Doomsday Clock.
1. The Doomsday Clock (DC Comics) – Geoff Johns did something I didn’t think possible: made me care about a company-wide crossover. Beautiful art, great pacing, and…would you believe it?…a story where the text and the subtext are about exactly the same thing? This is the comics event of the year. I seriously CANNOT recommend this enough. Get off your ass. – 4.75/5
2. Black Hammer (Dark Horse Comics) – One of my (if not my most) favorite advance titles heading into SDCC, I devoured Jeff Lemire’s love-letter to the weird tales and fantasy stories of the 1950’s and 1960’s, to say nothing of the delectable pastiches of styles of several greats of the medium. Character-driven, and a great story?! Get off your ass. – 4.5/5
3. Jimmy’s Bastards (AfterShock Comics) – Garth Ennis, one of my favorite writers of any medium, going full The Boys on James Bond (possibly my second-favorite modern fiction character?): irreverent, hilarious, subversive, smart, slick, satirical, and funny as all hell, and bringing a strangely prescient reality to a very male fantasy that can’t possibly exist any more. Being a fan of everything Ennis has done, and everything James Bond (yes…even Moonraker), this can’t possibly be overlooked. Get off your ass! –
4. Dark Nights: The Batman Who Laughs (DC Comics) – I’m not sure what to say here: the entire Dark Nights: Metal crossover (ugh) is a must-have due mainly to Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo. They have redefined Batman for the modern era, and with this single issue have laid the groundwork for Ed Brubaker and Doug Mahnke the worst possible iteration of the Dark Knight: a Batman who has all the instincts of the Joker, but all the meticulous planning and strategy of his former self. The simple image of him dispatching the entire Justice League with ease is one that still sticks with me, a month or two later. Between this and the Doomsday Clock, DC is dominating cross-company storytelling that has a point. Get off your ass! – 4.25/5
5. Doom Patrol (DC Comics/Young Animal) – They don’t write them like this anymore. Between this and my last year favorite, Shade: The Changing Girl, DC is continuing to push the boundaries of the medium with their Young Animal line. Expertly balancing narrative storytelling with surrealism, Doom Patrol remains one of my favorite titles of the year, and seems destined to continue with the same strong storytelling that first attracted me to it in the first place. Get off your ass! – 4/5
Honorable mentions: Shade: The Changing Girl, Ladykillers, Paper Girls.
1. X-O Manowar (Valiant Comics) – Right out of the gate, Valiant’s new initiative led the charge with a beautiful brand new #1 and Aric of Dacia never looked back. The juxtaposition of flawless sci-fantasy artwork (an all-star line-up of Tomas Giorello, Doug Braithwaite, Clayton Crain) and flawed supemperor (he looks great, he means well, but damn!) might be the highlight in all its other glorious, Game of John Carter Thrones‘ element; expect the usual but bit biting, faithless double-crosses and murderous distrust, and a persistent Earthian/champion with his long blonde locks up against the wall. – 5/5
2. Dark Nights: Metal (DC Comics) – Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo reunite from their now legendary 50+ issue run on New 52 Batman with a multiverse invasion tale featuring a near infinite number of nightmarish — or dreamy to us diehard bat-reading-geeks — versions of The Bat (The Batman Who Laughs!); it’s everything you want in a debut crossover from a company doing its best to steer clear from that dreaded term. – 4.5/5
3. Seven to Eternity (Image Comics) – Not a year goes by where Rick Remender isn’t on my list for best comics of the year. Be it Black Science, Deadly Class, Uncanny X-force or Tokyo Ghost, the auteur is as relentless at building worlds as he is at sprinkling modern day political parallel. With a fantastic, semi-sympathetic villain in The Mud King, Seven only flutters for a pair of issues not featuring Remender’s Fear Agent artist supreme, Jerome Opena, who pops eyes with great fantasyland linework. – 4.25/5
4. *TIE* Mister Miracle/Batman (DC Comics) – I guess this is where we can talk about my personal Comic Writer of the Year, if this piece gives any such acclaim (fuck–Lemire is an oh-so-close 2nd). As if his stellar 2016 wasn’t good enough, Tom King tops his famed Sheriff of Babylon and Year One Batman run with an even better Year Two, a nifty Riddler vs. Joker story that involved a breakthrough for Kite Man. Yup, you heard that right; moreover, King had the gall to engage Selina and Bruce in more than just a sexy rooftop sequence, and actually pulled it off! (See Batman Annual #2). Arguably more impressive than the author’s wonderful 2K17 Batman, has been his Jack Kirby-inspired maxi-series, Mister Miracle — a dazed-and-hella-confused
5. Black Bolt (Marvel Comics) – In a breakthrough from Throne of the Crescent Moon novelist, Saladin Ahmed, Black Bolt recalls a third-person psyche parallel to Neil Gaiman’s famed Sandman series; here, our muted Inhuman King finds himself locked in a space cell with no choice but to bond with the usual suspects he often finds himself condemning to such nature. Christian Ward‘s intergalactic psychedelia comes off like a rightful mash-up of Frazier Irving (now on the title) and J.H. Williams III. – 4/5
Honorable mentions: Black Hammer, Paper Girls, Superman/Super Sons, Bloodshot: Salvation, Saga, Detective Comics, Shade the Changing Girl, Defenders, Green Arrow, The Old Guard, Silver Surfer, Extremity, Deathstroke, God Country, The Mighty Thor, Doomsday Clock/The Button (The Flash).
1. Batman #25-32: The War of Jokes and Riddles (DC Comics) – Batman stories have to be cool and memorable. If your going off of story or even just art, it somehow has to make you align and side with a crazy egomaniac who dresses as a bat and deals with his childhood issues. A truly great Batman story absorbs you in to the Gotham world and makes you want to live it and breathe it. It has to establish a foundation that you could see done on screen. The War of Jokes and Riddles does all this and more.
If you are a fresh face to the Bat world or a die hard fan, Tom King crafts a story that modernizes the Dark Knight’s world of villains but also pulls from the mythos of these same villains that longtime fans will smile about. The art is also beautiful with stunning pencils and colors that bounce off the page. Plus, they also managed to make Kite Man cool. – 5/5
2. The Mighty Thor (Marvel Comics) – Name your favorite Thor run? I’m sure if you were old enough or a true fan you’d bring up Stan Lee or Jack Kirby. This dynamic duo did more to create Marvel’s Norse thunder god then any other creative team ever, but there’s also Walt Simonson’s run on ole Goldilocks in the 80’s. Walt went full cosmic on Thor with a touch of humor, this introduced Beta Ray bill and everyone’s favorite Thor frogger. I was also a huge fan of the early millennium run by J. Michael Straczynsky’s personally. Something about bringing Thor to Kansas, was just fun.
Then came the Viking writer Jason Aaron, who bleeds and breathes Norse! Since taking over the job in 2012, Aaron has crafted a multidimensional, multi-Thor saga that has encompassed all corners of the Marvel universe. Much more than any storyline coming out of Marvel in over a decade! When Jason then embraced Marvel’s new gender/race bender modus operandi and perfected it with Lady Thor. This was showed in 2017 when the old white Odin rejects female Thor representing the divide between comic fans everywhere. When Jane Foster lays the hammer down right on Odin with Mjolnir, claiming “…when you’re a ninety-pound woman dying of cancer…it does feel pretty good to punch god in the face.” – 5/5
3. God Country (Image Comics) – God Country wasn’t the first comic to deal with religion, one can only flip on a TV and see the sacrilege Preacher based off of one of the best religion themed comics of all time. Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon’s classic series about a wayward holy man imbued with the power of a God all set in Gods country of Texas, something that Image’s God Country deals with just as beautiful. Written by Donny Cates and illustrated by Geoff Shaw with colors by Jason Wordie, GC paints a world where religion and family become personal and compelling. On face level God Country is a story on large scales about one lost man with a big sword, but once you dig deeper you find a family drama and a story about the proper time to let go. – 5/5
4. Deathstroke #11: Chicago (DC Comics) – With a run that has been up and down on my scale of pull-worthy, this issue came out of no where. “Chicago” is the issue that should win Christopher Priest an award for just solid thought provoking writing. There’s a single scene within the issue that floored me, forcing me to read it a few times. A white news reporter is interviewing the black mother of a child killed in gun violence. The interview is about the mother endorsing the antihero Deathstroke for the killing of black gang members. “Of course, you do realize, these are black men and boys being killed, presumably by a white guy,” the reporter says. “If this was a white cop, you’d burn this city down.” Her reply: “My baby was black. The gang who shot her was black. If a white cop gunned her killer down, I’d bake him a pie.” Like wow! How did such jaw dropping nuanced dialogue on race and gun violence find its self in a DC comic? Just another reason why I think we need more talented writers like Priest. My favorite part is, Chris does not leave us with a happy answer in “Chicago,” just picture of the world that we live in. Beautiful writing. – 5/5
5. Mister Miracle (DC Comics) – This is the 100th anniversary of comic legend Jack Kirby’s birth. What better way to honor the bold creative genius then by allowing writer Tom King and artist Mitch Gerards to honor him by revisiting on of his most original and beloved characters, the superhero escape artist Mister Miracle. From the very first issue this dynamic duo, who have made there mark in such comics as Sheriff of Babylon to name a few, have Scott Free facing his greatest enemy…… Life. Scott’s been adrift with life piling up, he can escape chains and death traps but he cant escape the daily trials of responsibilities. Unable to decide if his evil adoptive father is pulling the strings, he decides to commit suicide all within issue one. Thankfully through his wife Big Barda, Scott is able to find help. Just showing there is no easy answer to life, even if you may have daddy issues with an evil father.
Just like in Sheriff of Babylon, the real action plays out not on the page but within the faces of the characters as they wrestle with some of their hardest battles. Two of the most talented creators in comics, tackling one of the comics legends most beloved characters… Count me in! – 5/5
Honorable mentions: Green Arrow, XO Manowar, Superman, Super Sons, Batman: Dark Metal, Amazing Spider-Man.
1. Batman (DC Comics) – This was the year of Tom King. From the regular series to the astoundingly emotional annual, Batman had everything from heart to humor and a unique take on a classic character. – 5/5
2. Mister Miracle (DC Comics) – King bookends my top five and — despite only 5 of its 12-issues being released this year, has created an instant classic with artist Mitch Gerads. – 5/5
3. Bug! The Adventures of Forager (DC Comics/Young Animal) – This homage to Jack Kirby is the most fun and beautifully rendered than any of the Young Animal line of books. The Allreds love the stars of this book and it shows. – 4.75/5
4. Dept. H (Dark Horse) – Matt and Sharlene Kindt have crafted a gorgeously ethereal mystery, and world, that you’ll want to visit and enjoy over and over. – 4.5/5
5. Super Sons (DC Comics) – Artist Jorge Jimenez is the star of this book. But writer Peter Tomasi will also make you smile with the pure fun of seeing Robin and Superboy getting to know each other as they embark on adventures. – 4.25/5
1. Batman (DC Comics)
2. Black Hammer (Dark Horse)
3. Mister Miracle (DC Comics)
4. Dark Nights: Metal (DC Comics)
5. X-O Manowar (Valiant Comics)
Honorable mentions: Doomsday Clock/The Button (Batman/Flash), Super Sons, The Mighty Thor, Jimmy’s Bastards, Paper Girls, Archie, God Country, Deathstroke, Batman/Elmer Fudd Special, The Flintstones.
Merry Christmas Eve, from GHG!