Thursday, January 19, 2017

Top 20 Comics of 2016

These are my favorite comics of 2016, including manga, superheroes, graphic novels, reprints, etc. I try to be as true to how I feel about a book as possible when ranking them, which is why it may seem odd for some to see a superhero title hardly anyone read rank over an acclaimed graphic novel. If I enjoyed my experience of reading it more, it was placed higher on my list.

These are my favorite twenty comics of the year. I hope you enjoy my list, and hopefully check out some books that may have eluded you.

Honorable Mentions
The Complete Crepax: Dracula, Frankenstein & Other Horror Stories (Guido Crepax)
Descender (Jeff Lemire & Dustin Nguyen)
Jessica Jones (Brian Michael Bendis & Michael Gaydos)
Ms. Marvel (G. Willow Wilson & Takeshi Miyazawa)
Princess Jellyfish (Akiko Higashimura)

20. Someone Please Have Sex With Me (Gina Wynbrandt) - A desperately horny girl has a series of misadventures as she miscalculates her sex appeal and fawns over her sex god, Justin Bieber.  This graphic novel has a frustratingly real emotion behind its misses in love and lust, and is hilarious as it sweeps you in its wake.

19. Captain Marvel (Tara Butters, Michele Fazekas & Kris Anka) - Captain Marvel heads the new first response to extraterrestrial threats, with the aid of Alpha Flight, on a space station orbiting Earth.  Captain Marvel is always a lot of fun in space, and a space station so close to Earth keeps her grounded and at hand for adventures in other books (like, say, Civil War II), so this is a smart role for her.  With former S.W.O.R.D. operative Agent Brand as her second-in-command to keep her in check, Danvers is a force to be reckoned with, even as the twists and turns and space monsters come at her full-speed.

18. I Am a Hero (Kengo Hanzawa) - Hideo already has a lot of problems in his life.  He's in his mid-thirties and socially awkward, and works as a manga assistant, having failed at trying his hand with his own manga series.  But one thing that Hideo might be good at is facing a zombie apocalypse.  Drawn beautifully, this slow-building series only hints at the horrors to come at first, before it explodes in a cacophony of flesh-eating monsters bent on tearing Japan apart.

17. Black Widow (Mark Waid & Chris Samnee) - Former Red Room operative, gone S.H.I.E.L.D. agent and Avenger, faces her past in this fast-paced adventure series of spies and conspiracies.  Samnee draws the hell out of this book while Waid weaves an exciting story for Romanov that rivals the best comics we've seen featuring the Avenger.

16. Queen Emeraldas (Leiji Matsumoto) - Emeraldas is a legend in the vast blackness of space, traveling for mysterious purposes, and disposing of adversaries in her wake.  With its retro style, Queen Emeraldas has a strong Tezuka influence and an epic scope, while the Wild West feel Matsumoto has created for this universe gives it a raw feeling where anything can happen.

15. Three Thieves (Scott Chantler) - The concluding volumes of Scott Chantler's all ages series sees Dessa fulfill her quest, but with unexpected allies and painful loss causing ripples as things go sideways.  As always, Chantler fills his books with a great balance of action and drama, while cartooning like nobody's business.  A fun series that I'm sad to see come to an end, as satisfying as that ending may be.

14. Spider-Woman (Dennis Hopeless & Javier Rodriguez) - With a child, things aren't as easy as they once were, but Jessica gets by with the help of her friends, grappling with the baddies in a street level comic with heart and humor.  I love Rodriguez' clean art and the amazing colors, while Hopeless injects the perfect amount of sass and badassery to Jessica Drew for a well-rounded comic that's hard not to love.

13. Wandering Island (Kenji Tsuruta) - This gorgeous manga features a girl who delivers air mail with her trusty plane.  When her grandfather dies, a mysterious package turns up to be delivered to an island that only exists in legends.  With her grandfather's notes, she becomes obsessed with the idea of an island that wanders the vast oceans, and will stop at nothing to find it.  This book has a bit of a Hayao Miyazaki vibe to it that spoke to me, and I love the determination of the heroine in the face of loss and loneliness.

12. Hilda and the Stone Forest (Luke Pearson) - Luke Pearson continues to explore a magical world through the eyes of a rambunctious little girl named Hilda, who explores the realm of fairies and trolls enthusiastically.  I love the gentle nature of this book and the ever-expanding mythology of Pearson's world in this lovely all-ages fantasy title.  Pearson's cartooning is so stunning that you have to stop and admire his work from time to time, especially when he lays out his pages in beautiful ways.  This is a series that just has so much heart in it.  Anyone not reading it is truly missing out.

11. Vision (Tom King & Gabriel Hernandez Walta) - In a very interesting title featuring Avenger Vision, we see the android superhero put down roots in the suburbs with his wife and two children.  Amid prejudice and admiration, the Visions have trouble settling in, especially as they grapple with what fitting in means.  Manslaughter and blackmail complicate matters as these androids struggle to understand human nature and get deeper and deeper in their lies to appear like the perfect family.  This is a page-turner that's unlike anything else out there, especially in the superhero realm.

10. The Adventures of Dieter Lumpen (Jorge Zentner & Ruben Pellejero) - Set in the 1940's, these comics from European team Zentner and Pellejero have an adventure strip vibe to them, and feature Dieter Lumpen, a man who travels the world to exotic locales, and gets into all sorts of trouble along the way.  Lumpen isn't your typical action hero though, as he wants no part of the trouble he finds himself in, and makes some choices you wouldn't normally see a hero making.  This collection has all of the Dieter Lumpen comics, including the short stories and the three graphic novels (which were all fantastic).  The lush artwork and twisty-turny plots are a ton of fun to take in.

9. Shigeru Mizuki's Kitaro (Shigeru Mizuki) - Shigeru Mizuki and Kitaro are no strangers to my best-of lists, especially since Drawn & Quarterly's first Kitaro collection, a sort of best-of, was my favorite comic of 2013.  Kitaro is a yokai who helps people who find themselves in tough situations with other mischievous yokai.  Mizuki's comics are the perfect mix of humor, horror and action, and are wonderful all-age stories.  These classics are being collected by Drawn & Quarterly in affordable little books, with The Birth of Kitaro and Kitaro Meets Nurarihyon coming out this year, with more to come.

8. Snotgirl (Bryan Lee O'Malley & Leslie Hung) - Lottie is a fashion blogger.  A self-absorbed fashion blogger who is utterly jealous of her ex's new homely girlfriend, is judgmental of others and makes up mean nicknames for her friends, and has a penchant for murder.  Oh, and she also has allergies that make her sensitive to dripping copious amounts of mucus, a small blight that has the potential to ruin the perfect persona she puts out there of a fashionista, earning her fame and invites to the best parties.  This book is just deliciously catty and hard to put down. 

7. The Wicked + The Divine (Kieron Gillen & Jamie McKelvie) - Gillen and McKelvie's saga of reincarnated gods continues in a twisty plot that proves that not everything is as it seems.  McKelvie continues to draw gorgeous art (although volume three has a rotating cast of fill-ins), while gods pit themselves against one another in an epic showdown.  Divine is right.

6. Rosalie Lightning (Tom Hart) - Tom Hart recounts the heartbreaking tragedy of his daughter Rosalie's sudden death.  The young couple try to find meaning in her last days as they attempt to move on, while dealing with constant reminders and feelings of guilt and depression.  This memoir feels so heart-wrenchingly honest and real, as the author bares his soul during this dark time, his frenzied artwork an extension of that emotion.  But it's also a celebration of a beautiful girl's young life in her formative years.  Deeply touching and traumatizing.

5. Patience (Daniel Clowes) - Jack comes home one day to find his girlfriend, Patience, dead.  To understand why this happened, and by whom, Jack finds the key to time travel and steals it, delving into the past to stalk Patience's life, and interfering much more than he intends to.  Daniel Clowes gives Patience a believable, if not messed up, backstory.  Seeing Jack maneuver through her life, knowing what he does, and making discoveries alongside him, is fascinating.  Full of mystery, fun sci-fi, and that darkness that Clowes injects into all of his works, this is another great work from master cartoonist Daniel Clowes.

4. A Girl on the Shore (Inio Asano) - A Girl on the Shore follows the messed-up adolescent relationship between Koume and Keisuke.  It's difficult to understand their motivations, but they're obviously both looking for something and the ennui of this book feels very genuine and the characters' directionlessness very honest.  Asano is one of the best manga illustrators around, and she just solidifies her position with this book as one of the best manga creators out there period.

3. Otherworld Barbara (Moto Hagio) - Moto Hagio is one of the greats.  Her latest book translated to English is the first of two volumes, a story of dreamscapes, cannibalism and immortality.  The story itself seems very dreamlike, as Dr. Watari delves into a young girl's dreams to try to understand why she won't wake up, and what connection she has to the mysterious island of Barbara.  There's a lot going on here, and the mystery is thick, and at times seems very close to falling into place but is just out of reach.  The characters are complex, the illustrations are beautiful and vivid, and the haunting elements of the story stay with you long after you put it down.

2. Monstress (Marjorie Liu & Sana Takeda) - Liu and Takeda's Monstress is a flawless blend of American comic sensibilities and manga.  The world-building on this title is impressive, with a complex, fully-realized world with its own myths and old gods.  The story is intense, as Maika Halfwolf battles witches and armor-clad soldiers in a steampunk world like no other.  Maika is a mysterious figure, who fights her own personal demons - literally, it attempts to come out and eat people around her - while striving to make sense of her past.  Takeda's dark art style is the perfect compliment to Liu's epic tale.

1. The World of Edena (Moebius) - The first release in Dark Horse's Moebius Library is absolutely stunning.  Depicting a future world where gender doesn't exist, and corruption is the norm, Stel and Atan find themselves on a paradise planet where, without the technology that has inhibited them, they begin to revert to their true selves and become self-aware.  Prophecies and fairies, dream monsters and strange alien technology abound in this epic book of star-crossed lovers trying to find one another across a vast, fantastic world where danger lurks around every corner.  Moebius's art is flawless, his designs for the characters and how they evolve, as well as the environments and villains of this world, are magnificent.  There are layers to this story that I don't think you can fully appreciate in just one reading.  The ideas that Moebius piles into this story are ambitious and profound, while he makes his characters complex and flawed.  I've heard about Moebius for years, but now that I've experienced one of his comics -and it truly is an experience - I can understand what the fuss is all about.  Moebius is in a class all his own.

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