Sunday, May 13, 2018

Top 10 Comics of 2017

Better late than never, here is a run-down of my favorite comics of 2017, including comic books, graphic novels, reprints, manga, etc.

Honorable Mentions
Descender (Jeff Lemire & Dustin Nguyen)
Jean Grey (Dennis Hopeless & Victor Ibanez)
My Brother's Husband (Gengoroh Tagame)
Shigeru Mizuki's Kitaro (Shigeru Mizuki)


10. Monstress  (Marjorie Liu & Sana Takeda)

The second volume of Monstress, The Blood, contains issues 7-12 of the ongoing Image Comics series from Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda.  And while it does retain its stunning, dark artwork and tone, the world-building that made the first chapter of the series so impressive fell away in favor of a side quest of sorts that was, frankly, a little too tame.  Maika's battle with her literal inner demons remains a strong centerpiece to the series, but I'm hoping for a return to form in chapter three for what was one of the most promising opening chapters to a series in a very long time.



9. Gil Jordan, Private Detective: Ten Thousand Years in Hell (M. Tillieux)

I loved the first collection of Gil Jordan, Private Detective (Murder by High Tide), so I was delighted that another volume was released by Fantagraphics this year.  Tillieux tells these stories of murder and mayhem in a Tintin-like style that's perfect for the sorts of mysteries he weaves, complete with screwball comedy and oddball characters.  Gil Jordan and his cast of silly sidekicks make for one fun action series, and I hope more collections are coming down the line.


8. Hawkeye (Kelly Thompson & Leonardo Romero)

In the latest Hawkeye series from Marvel Comics, Kate Bishop moves from Clint Barton's protege to headliner, in a series that's still tonally consistent to the Hawkeye books that have come before: grounded, smart and kick-ass.  Kate Bishop may be young and more inexperienced than her counterpart, but she's ready to make her own way in the world in this new series that sees her opening a private investigation company.  There's a lot of great snappy dialogue in this book, Kate being a sharp-tongued, sassy protagonist, and the action, while small in scale when compared to the epic space operas that Marvel Comics weaves in many of their titles, looks fantastic under the hand of Leonardo Romero, colorful with some playful page layouts.  The guest appearances in this title, such as Jessica Jones, make sense for this book, and I loved unraveling the mysteries alongside this smart character.  My favorite superhero title of the year.


7. You & a Bike & a Road (Eleanor Davis)

Eleanor Davis's graphic novel sounds very simplistic, and the concept is: a diary of Davis's cross-country bike ride from Tuscon, Arizona to Athens, Georgia.  But beyond the simple diary format that sees Davis recount her days in the miles she rides, there are many layers as she encounters strange characters and small adventures along the way.  From quietly commenting as the border patrol searches for illegal immigrants along the border, to the kind gestures of strangers, to her own insecurities, this is truly a lovely read.  It's a very honest, human work, full of insights and naked emotions.


6. The Green Hand and Other Stories (Nicole Claveloux)


This collection of works by Nicole Claveloux showcases eight stories by the French artist, and showcase what a talent she was, quite underrated in her time.  You can see from the works included here that Claveloux experimented with different art styles, and had a fantastic imagination for fantasy.  The main story, The Green Hand, was written by a friend of hers, Edith Zha, but the way that Clavelouz brings this surreal story to life is stunning.  Vibrant, trippy colors, strange creatures, and disquieting panels make this feel like a bad dream, but are so full of life and atmosphere that you wouldn't want to wake up if it was.



5. Otherworld Barbara (Volume 2) (Moto Hagio)

The concluding volume of the incredible Otherworld Barbara illustrates why Moto Hagio is a master cartoonist.  Her beautiful, soft lines weave an intriguing mystery of a dream-walking doctor, a girl in a coma, and a mysterious island that may be the key to the future.  This science fiction story is full of compelling characters, crazy twists and puzzling connections that, like a dream, seem just out of reach.  Hagio could just draw a book of rocks and I would love looking at her artwork, but the human drama, tension and pacing here are something truly epic.  My favorite manga of the year.


4. My Pretty Vampire (Katie Skelly)

At once gory and beautiful, My Pretty Vampire is a delicious story that follows a vampire escaping a safe sanctuary to indulge in her basest urges in a spree of murder and mayhem.  Skelly is pretty much a visual genius.  Her use of color alone is fabulous: vibrant and loud, with some really trippy panels.  The story reads like a B-movie, but that only adds to its charm.  Have I mentioned the colors?  Because I can't think of another graphic novel that makes such good use of them.


3. My Favorite Thing is Monsters (Emil Ferris)

This dense monster of a graphic novel is a very rich book that weaves the lives of several people together through the eyes of a girl in love with monsters, and even considers herself one.  As Karen investigates the murder of a neighbor, the lives of those around her, and their secrets, come into focus.  I love how multi-layered the characters of this books are, and how Ferris dives into their rich histories, while keeping the main focus of the story grounded with Karen.  Ferris's art is lovely, cartoony yet realistic, with a sketchy style that is appropriate for a book that is told through a girl's notebook, complete with chapters that begin with "covers" of monster comics, lined pages and hole punches.  Sometimes disturbing, but always human, this is a literary treat that people will be talking about for years to come.


2. Valerian: The Complete Collection (Pierre Christian & Jean-Claude Mezieres)

Even if the movie was a flop at the box office, it led to this complete prestige reprint project of the Valerian and Laureline comics, a popular European comic series.  These are great adventure strips that see Valerian and Laureline travel through time, hunt fugitives, and explore fantastic worlds.  The introductions give a rich context to the comic's history and influence on pop culture, while the comics themselves are engrossing, exciting stories that make you love these characters more with each subsequent story.  The first few chapters are admittedly a little lackluster, but once the creators find their footing, the Valerian and Laureline comics are fantasy comics at their best.


1. Satania (Vehlmann & Kerascoet)

Vehlmann and Kerascoet are no strangers to my best-of-the-year lists, as they also took my top spot in 2014 with Beautiful Darkness.  The art team has outdone themselves with their latest offering, Satania, in which a rescue party searches for a missing scientist in a cave system.  They go much deeper than they ever expected, uncovering first an underground kingdom, before venturing into a world unlike any they could have imagined.  Full of strange creatures and alien environments, this is an utter visual masterpiece.  Beautifully colored, richly rendered, and full of unexpected encounters, this is an epic adventure into the bowels of our world, like you've never imagined.  Good thing that Vehlmann and Kerascoet have, because this is an unforgettable whirlwind of a graphic novel, and easily my favorite of the year.

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