We've reached that point of the year where media reporters and journalists begin handing out their year-end "Best of" lists--and, given the jaded society we live in today, "Worst of" jeers. When music magazines were still rampant, I would find myself the second week of every December compiling my Top Ten Album lists for the columns I wrote or as part of the masthead's yearly wrangling of favorite records. We don't have a yearly Best of at Blabbermouth, so I'll come clean; I kinda miss the exercise, since old school thrash ruled the genre I work in and I want to cheer about it on high...
When I hosted the ReadWave Comic Books forum, I divvied out a quasi-awards post that was my best-received from the readership, "Comics That Rocked Me in 2014." Like the numerous magazines I wrote for, ReadWave ended up folding, which stung since comics are my rock and I needed them more than ever to slog through a personally brutal 2016. That being said, a great big thank you to all the creators in this genre, whether I read you or not. Your work has a bigger impact than you realize in dealing with the mundane and the frantic, thus making life more fantastical. I hope to join your ranks in due time as I take strides to transition myself into this medium as a professional writer
Hands-down, DC's Rebirth was the event in comics this year, even if the mighty Marvel continued to grow mightier in cinema and in some of its books. A glut of product exacerbated by a zillion variant covers respectively, some of my 2016 selections were easy to flag, and some not so much. Rebirth, along with Millarworld (in the case of Dynamite Entertainment, simple fun ), restored my faith in comic book storytelling and characterization for a genre that has been muddled by excessive hard science. I read Heavy Metal magazine regularly, so I'm used to having my brain calibrated by science, but the mainstream comics had grown up perhaps too much. In recent years, I felt like I was reading tech manuals delivered by capes and aliens, authored by nuclear physicists, biology professors, forensics and ballistics experts and astronomers. All part and parcel to creating these wondrous worlds we like to escape to, but at the expense of action and storytelling...thank God for the winds of change in comics this year. It needed the shakeup.
That being said, submitted for your indulgence (mine especially), the comic books that rocked me in 2016...
The Top 10 Cream of the Crop Rockers:
1. Wonder Woman Rebirth - What Greg Rucka accomplished this year for Diana Prince aside from a controversial flying of the freak flag is a banner moment in the pantheon of the character. DC re-branded Wonder Woman and the entire DCU for a new generation, reminding us why we collectively fell in love with her. Liam Sharp and Nicola Scott generated some of the finest art in all of comics this year, presenting Diana back to square one at her most alluring and vulnerable. I still say she's bi, if evaluating her sexuality really has importance in our lives--though I'd fathom Steve and Clark have their own opinions.
2. Black Panther - I've said it before and I'll say it again: Ta-Nehisi Coates is the poet laureate of comics. It wasn't enough to justify the righteous revival of a classic Marvel hero who nearly stole the show in Captain America: Civil War. Coates has raised T'challa and the fictitious sovereign country of Wakanda to a new standard. A new standard in comics themselves, I should add. I always wait for the times I am most alert as a reader to read Coates' Black Panther as his writing deserves the honor of your deepest attention.
3. Aquaman Rebirth - No longer the bitch of the DCU, Aquaman's reboot has been high octane with very few pauses granted by Dan Abnett to catch your breath. It's the equivalent of a leagues-deep popcorn action film, yet Aquaman and Mera's problematic lives are subject to equal havoc ashore in this busy and emotional plot. Beautifully illustrated and colored, Aquaman Rebirth slays with its consistency of action and characterization, plus the son of Black Manta who is far more ruthless than the original. THE book I can't wait to sink into every other week.
4. Huck - If Mark Millar hasn't tagged your heart with his wonderful Everyman's bumpkin hero, Huck, you're a cold bastard. The Last Son of Krypton meets Pay it Forward. What if you were left on a doorstep and grew up to have nothing, except for the superpower to track anything or anyone, plus enough physical prowess to take on evil? Huck is not only a hero everyone wants to exploit, he is compelled to do an act of kindness every day, be it baking a pie for an elderly citizen in town or leaving his saved spare cash inside a random library book to make someone's day with. Huck's looked upon by many as mentally slow, but his moral compass is righter than all of ours collectively.
5. Saga - The greatest surrealist comic since Sandman, Issue # 38 is probably the finest single issue of the year, for certain delivering the most gut-wrenching ending in all of 2016. Dali, Duchamp and Magritte should be applauding from their gelatinous next dimension.
6. The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina - If only the release schedule of the sublime Sabrina and Afterlife With Archie was as dedicated as the regular Archie books (which have definitely rocked the re-brand this year in their own right), sigh... Still, there's always something to be said about quality over quantity. Far superior to and more frightening than The Witch film from last year, and I suspect Robert Eggers was jotting notes from blueprints laid out in this genuinely shocking series by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa. My answer to the eternal question "Betty or Veronica?" has always been Sabrina.
7. Moon Knight - If Aquaman's been the bitch of the DCU, Moon Knight is perpetually Marvel's. Marc Spector's been a longtime favorite of mine and if you're still dismissing this character as a Batman knockoff, you need to spend a little time getting schooled by Warren Ellis, Cullen Bunn, Brian Wood and now Jeff Lemire. These authors have transformed Moon Knight over the past two years as an intriguing victim of psychosis. Lemire has taken Spector to a new level of expressionistic, split personality torment where even exorcising his inner demon, Khonshu may not be enough to save him.
8. Darth Vader - Marvel reacquiring the Star Wars franchise rights from Dark Horse has been largely a good thing, the only detriment being way too much product. The Princess Leia miniseries was great, ditto for Obi Wan and Anakin and even Kanan's series was sharp. The Shattered Empire miniseries was spectacular, though it felt like it had so much more to give and comes up sadly empty at the end. The 25 issue run of Darth Vader, however...up to the limit and then some. Featuring some of the finest artwork in Star Wars comics history by Salvador Larroca, writer Kieron Gillen had a cosmic playground to create a pumping story of espionage and twisted redemption. Better yet, his supporting cast of villainy (especially the riotous death droids Triple Zero and Beetee) were worthy harassers and supporters of the cruelest figure in sci-fi. Dr. Aphra alone has become an overnight sensation in a galaxy far, far away...
9. Bitch Planet - Upon reading the first issue exactly two years ago, I declared in print Kelly Sue DeConnick's grindhouse feminist gala Bitch Planet would be the sleeper hit of 2015. I was right. Another case of quality over quantity, DeConnick has her fingers on the pulse over her sociopolitical hellhole in a future where women are so degraded they're imprisoned just for being out-of-step, much less engaging in actual criminal behavior. In what has been setting up to be a less comedic Longest Yard involving a team of abused, multicultural female prisoners (i.e. "non-compliants") against security guards, their leader is as fierce as F.A.K.K. 2. Exploitation with a conscience.
10. Klaus miniseries - Grant Morrison set out to create his "All-Star Santa Claus" and Lord, did he achieve that. Only comic nerds and fantasy enthusiasts are going to jive with a brawny Santa capable of scrapping with swords and fisticuffs. Nevertheless, Morrison gave us a thrilling fable in Klaus where we learn of the future Father Christmas' motivations to spread cheer amidst a frequently cheerless world. Morrison went back to the old Rankin Bass holiday shows and regurgitated an epic scorched by Dragon's Lair. For you youngbloods, that was the first laserdisc video game out of Arcadia '83, set to actual cartoon animation and hailed for the most advanced graphics of its time.
Missing the list, but ten books deserving of kudos:
Tank Girl: Two Girls, One Tank miniseries
The Wicked + The Divine
Afterlife With Archie
Usagi Yojimbo (# 158 deserves a Harvey Award as one of the most touching single shot Usagi stories in the honorable Stan Sakai's career)
Action Comics Rebirth
Five new series blowing up my radar:
The Unworthy Thor
Wonder Woman '77 Meets The Bionic Woman
Most Welcome Retro Reboot: