The general consensus is that 2016 was a pretty rough year for society as a whole, for many different reasons that range from personal to politics to the loss of many bright lights in the creative community. That being said, there were a great many things that were still bright shining spots in the dour year that was 2016 and over the next few days we will point out our favorites in various of those areas.
We continue spotlight of favorites with comic books!
At their best comic books are a medium that tells stories that entertain you (through action, humor, etc) but also educate & make you think by providing stories that cover various different groups, bring spotlights to concepts or issues that are very important and show that there is still hope and joy in this world if you just know where to look and how to make it happen. In those regards, 2016 was a veritable treasure trove of wealth for comic book fans.
From the continued stories of Marvel & DC’s heroes to the creator owned worlds of Image, Aftershock, Boom! and others to the world of licensed comics from the likes of Dark Horse, IDW and others. Superheroes. Comedy. Tragedy. Sci-fi. Epic fantasy. Romance. Teenage angst. The human condition. There was a comic that filled every single one of those areas and so many others.We gathered 15 of our favorites, but there are many more amazing comics that might not have made the list but are still amazing to read. We had to cap ourselves somewhere, otherwise this list might never end.
Check out our favorites below and share your own in the comments below or through Twitter and/or Facebook!
GREAT LAKES AVENGERS (MARVEL COMICS)
BY : ZAC GORMAN, WILL ROBSON, TAMARA BONVILLAIN, VC’S JOE CARAMAGNA
Say hello to everybody’s least favorite super-hero team, the Great Lakes Avengers! That’s directly from the solicitation for the first issue, and it’s true in many regards. The Great Lakes Avengers are not taken seriously in the Marvel Universe by the other heroes or even the citizens in Detroit. That’s what makes the series so great. It doesn’t take itself seriously and offers all the fun and zany style stories that the GLA is known for. They are Avengers, but not the Avengers that run around saving the world from Galactus or Ultron.
Flatman. Doorman. Big Bertha. Mr. Immortal. Good Boy. Posey. Officially a sanctioned team of Avengers again, after the rights were lost and reverted to Flatman, the team is coming back together and in just three issues moves in down the street from a club of villains, gains a new member, ends up in jail, and get served with an injunction by the councilman villain of the story. Gorman brings the humor and the bits of seriousness that come with the team who really are trying to be heroes and be better which works perfectly well with Robson’s art that has fun and lightness to it but also brings that realism to the characters alongside the great colors from Bonvillain and lettering from Caramagna that also add to the mash-up of serious and cartoony that the series balances so well.
THE ULTIMATES/NEW AVENGERS (MARVEL COMICS)
BY: AL EWING, GERARDO SANDOVAL, DONO SANCHEZ ALMARA, VC’S JOE CARAMAGNA, VC’S CHRIS ELIOPOULOS, PHIL NOTO, MARK BAGLEY, SCOTT HANNA, J. CASSARA, RACHELLE ROSENBERG, MARCOS TO, JUANAN RAMIREZ, PACO MEDINA, JUAN VELASCO, JESUS ABURTOU, TRAVIS LANHAM, VC’S CLAYTON COWLES, CARLO BARBERI, KENNETH ROCAFORT, DAN BROWN, VC’S JOE SABINO, CHRISTIAN WARD, DJIBAIL MORISSETTE
Al Ewing, the writer of these two titles, and the team of artists, colorists, letterers and editors that surround him have helped completely change the direction of the Avengers over the last few years. While Hickman was the big guy over the titles up til 2015, Ewing worked on The Mighty Avengers & Captain America and the Mighty Avengers where he was getting back to a fun take on the team using many characters that hadn’t been seen in years, or never been Avengers. That is continued with New Avengers and The Ultimates that respectively tackle Sunspot and his team turning around the former villains A.I.M. and a team taking and fixing giant issues in the Marvel Universe. The Ultimates curing Galactus. An American soldier turned into the giant American Kaiju. Floating island headquarters. Evil Reed Richards. Leaving time and space behind for what lays beyond. Someone chaining up Eternity. That’s just a scratch at the surface of the amazing concepts in these books. And as mentioned before, he doesn’t create this joy alone. Everything to do with the art and letters is perfectly fitting for the books and their awesome storylines. The fact that the two books are continuing in a way with U.S.Avengers and The Ultimates 2 in 2017 is the best gift for the new year.
POWER RANGERS (BOOM! STUDIOS)
BY: KYLE HIGGINS, HENDRY PRASETYA, MATT HERMS, ED DUKESHIRE, JONATHAN LAM, JOANA LAFUENTE, THONY SILAS, BRYAN VALENZA, STEVE ORLANDO, CORIN HOWELL, JEREMY LAWSON, JIM CAMPBELL
Nostalgia is very popular right now. That is the route that BOOM Studios could have gone with this title, fully setting it in the 90s like the television series and include all the cheese and everything else. Instead, Kyle Higgins, Hendry Prasetya, Matt Herms, Ed Dukeshire and others have created a gorgeous book that embraces the characters and the continuity but updates it for a modern audience in a way that doesn’t take away from what made so many of us fall in love with the Power Rangers in the first place. While characters can evolve in a TV show, in many cases they have to somewhat revert a bit at times in order to keep audiences from getting lost.
In this format, the original rangers Jason, Billy, Trini, Kimberly, Zach, and Tommy are allowed to grow and change and be built upon in new and exciting ways. That’s not even getting into the fantastic Bulk and Skull shorts by Steve Orlando, Corin Howell, Jeremy Lawson and Jim Campbell or the just as fantastic Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: Pink miniseries that focuses on Kimberly after she leaves the Rangers. If you haven’t picked up this series, now is the time to do so as exciting things are brewing including a previously unknown mystery ranger. With the film on the way, 2017 will definitely continue to be the year of the Power Ranger.
PATSY WALKER AKA HELLCAT! (MARVEL COMICS)
BY: KATE LETH, BRITTNEY L. WILLIAMS, MEGAN WILSON, VC’S JOE BABINO, VC’S CLAYTON COWLES, NATASHA ALLEGRI, RACHELLE ROSENBERG, VC’S CORY PETIT
Patsy Walker, A.K.A. Hellcat! is a comic that proves that comic books can be fun. This is a comic that you would give a friend that says that comics seem too gritty, complicated or “real” to get into. Kate Leth, Brittney L. Williams, and company have put together a beautiful series that takes a character like Patsy, who has a complicated backstory and continuity and boils it all down in a way that makes it far from complicated and makes it a real and human story that is fun on so many levels. In the very first issue, her story is basically laid out in four cat head shaped inserts on the second page, and that’s all you really need to know to dive in. This book is not just fun as in a not gritty hero story, but funny. The resurgence of funny comics as a genre at Marvel brought us this gem of a comic. Patsy might be the star, but her supporting cast help make the book. A cast that includes new friend & roommate Ian Soo (a.k.a. Telekinian), childhood friend Tom Hale, childhood frenemy Hedy Wolfe, best friend superhero Jennifer Walters/She-Hulk, and others. Comics books do a lot of things. Sometimes you just need a great read that puts a guaranteed smile on your face. That is this series.
VISION (MARVEL COMICS)
BY: TOM KING, GABRIEL WALTA, JORDIE BELLAIRE, VC’S CLAYTON COWLES.
This was definitely not a book that anyone was truly expecting, yet it turned out to be one of the favorites of the year across the board. The synthezoid member of the Avengers tries to create the perfect family by building a wife, a son, daughter and a family dog. His attempt to create a so-called real-life for himself becomes too real, as just like human families things begin to unravel. Lies begin to be told, bodies are buried in the backyard, the Avengers believe that Vision will come to be the end of him, the body count rises, and everything that Vision tries to accomplish becomes twisted and distorted. King presents a family that is like so many of our own where seemingly fake smiles that portray a perfect world are just masks for a dysfunctional world of lies and secrets. This is aided by the perfect pairing of Walta’s stylized art and Bellaire’s fantastic coloring along with the fitting robot like lettering for the family coming from Cowles. Vision is a title that instantly has gone down as one of the classic runs at Marvel Comics.
ANIMOSITY (AFTERSHOCK COMICS)
BY: MARGUERITE BENNETT, RAFAEL DE LATORRE, ROB SCHWAGER, MARSHALL DILLON
Human beings are just one species of animal among over a million species across the world with thousands of new ones being identified each year. There are over 7 billion humans, but all together the members of all of those other species vastly outnumber us, at a rate that is mind-boggling. What if one day they woke up and started talking, thinking and taking revenge against us for killing, eating and abusing them? That’s the question Animosity asks and answers. Marguerite, Rafael, Rob and Marshall craft a wonderfully thought-provoking & bloody tale about our treatment of animals and how those that are mistreated would deal with us if the brain/speech/logic/etc advantage we have over them was taken away. While that is the overall story of this world, the focus of the story is upon a young girl named Jesse and her fiercely loyal and beloved bloodhound Sandor as they navigate this strange new world that humans and animals find themselves living in. There is a scene of Sandor taking on an attacking tiger in the first issue that involves a sword! That’s the kind of awesome stuff you find int this series. What are you waiting for, go pick it up!
CHAMPIONS (MARVEL COMICS)
BY: MARK WAID, HUMBERTO RAMOS, VICTOR OLAZABA, EDGAR DELGADO, VC’S CLAYTON COWLES
Heroics is not just about punching Ultron or Doctor Doom in the face or rescuing people from a burning building. That’s the realization that the teenage heroes of the Marvel Universe come to following the latest hero vs hero conflict of Civil War II. Unlike many of the previous teenage hero books that have the heroes aspiring to be just like the adult heroes they revere, these teens want to be even better and do more than the adults. They want to help the world by taking down the criminals but also providing aid and handling real-world issues that plague people on a regular basis. They’re not content to just swoop in to save the day then run back off to the safety of Avengers Mansion or the Baxter Building.
Veteran writer Waid’s take on the teens resonates with much of the youth of today that is not content to just sit back and wants to actively change a world that is full of hatred, poverty, hunger and so many other ills. In just the first three issues the team tackles human trafficking, terrorism, and oppression of women. They don’t just save lives though, they also learn about things and learn that using their powers and blasting into a situation is not always the way to make effective change. This is not the superhero book we’re all used to, and that is what makes it so great.
HAWKEYE (MARVEL COMICS)
BY: KELLY THOMPSON, LEONARDO ROMERO, JORDIE BELLAIRE, VC’S JOE SABINO
Technically one could see this entry as a cheat of sorts with just one issue has come out, but that one issue not only came out in 2016 it easily stood out from many of the others in the pack of comics from this year. Kate Bishop has long deserved her own series, and she somewhat got one during Matt Fraction’s time on Hawkeye, and this first issue quickly proves why. Thompson quickly captures the wit, snark, wisdom, self-confidence, and awesomeness that is Kate Bishop and puts it all on display through her adventures as a hero and a wannabe private investigator. Romero, Bellaire, and Sabino create a beautiful display of the world around Kate and throw in fun things like the Hawkeye vision that add to the humor and fun of the series. Together they create a package that shows a far more than promising start to Kate’s first full solo series. With just one issue, it’s already on the top of our lists as a clear favorite of the year. If this keeps up, don’t be surprised to see it top next year’s list too.
REBORN (IMAGE COMICS)
BY: MARK MILLAR, GREG CAPULLO, JONATHAN GLAPION, FCO PLASCENCIA, NATE PIEKOS
The question of what happens after we pass on from this world has been a subject hotly debated for probably as long as human beings have been walking the Earth. What if when we finally shuffled off the mortal coil we found ourselves not in Heaven or Hell or just gone but instead in a whole new fantasy style world living an entirely new life? Welcome to the story behind Reborn. Unsure of what death brings, Bonnie Black questions what our lives mean and fears death until it comes for her and spirits her into the world of Adystria where she is the chosen one known as the Protector. In this new world, the good folks go to Adystria while those that were bad end up in a place called the Dark Lands, with the two having been at war as long as anyone can remember. It’s a world with monsters, magic, dragons, faeries, and adventure that is beautifully brought to life by Capullo and Glapion, with Capullo fresh off his amazing Batman run with Scott Snyder.
SUPERMAN/ACTION COMICS (DC COMICS)
BY: DAN JURGENS, PATRICK ZIERCHER, TYLER KIRKHAM, STEPHEN SEGOVIA, ART THIBERT, ROB LEIGH, DAVE SHARPE, TOMEU MOREY, ULISES ARREOLA, ADRIF PRIANTO, PETER J. TOMASI, PATRICK GLEASON, MICK GRAY, JOHN KALISZ, JORGE JIMENEZ, ALEJANDRO SANCHEZ, DOUG MAHNKE, JAMIE MENDOZA, WIL QUINTANA, CHRISTIAN ALAMY, MARK MORALES, JOHN KALISZ, TREVOR SCOTT
Superman is fun again! Like with The Ultimates & New Avengers, we’re cheating a bit here putting the two books together but just like with the Avengers titles, it’s because these two titles work together to make Superman great once more. Prior to the New 52 relaunch, Superman sales were sagging & constant Kryptonian centered events were dragging on. Then the reboot breathed some life into the character but it began to sag again in many places. Enter the return of the old post-crisis Superman and Lois Lane from the pre-New 52 DC Comics and their superson Jonathan. Instantly this new Superman who is a veteran hero clicked as seeing him be a father and a hero adds a whole new interesting angle to the story. Superman beautifully handles the father & son stories and adventures like them going to Dinosaur Island, facing the Eradicator who wants to wipe Jon out, and even the first team-up of Damian Wayne Robin and the new Superboy to set up their 2017 launching series Super Sons.
On the other side, Action Comics features the bigger storylines like Superman taking on Doomsday, Lois Lane returning to the Daily Planet while pretending to be the Lois of this world, Lex Luthor being Superman, along with a new Clark Kent who isn’t a Superman. Yet that book also still works well with the dynamic of Superman having a family and what it takes for him and Lois to make that family work in this world that is not their own. Each book is gorgeous in its own right as Zircher, Kirkham, Gleason, Mahnke and others rotating around to handle the art of different issues and arcs on the books. None of the styles taking away from the other, just all coming together to tell down to Earth, over the top, and fantastical amazing stories. If you love the idea of a Superman that isn’t grim or gritty and is a down to Earth farmboy with a family, these are the titles for you.
POWER MAN & IRON FIST (MARVEL COMICS)
BY: DAVID WALKER, SANFORD GREENE, LEE LOUGHRIDGE, VC’S CLAYTON COWLES, FLAVIANO, JOHN RAUCH
Sweet Christmas this is a great book! The best duo is back together once more in a comic series, and they’re back to doing what they do best as the Heroes for Hire. It’s a humor and action-packed that starts off with two friends coming back together only to be pulled into battles and adventures, which Danny embraces while Luke isn’t so enthusiastic about. While the humor and bromance is a selling point on its own it’s the fact that Walker, Greene, Loughridge, and Cowles balance that humor and action brilliantly with reality and social commentary. The world that Danny and Luke walk through feels real and has real problems that can’t always be solved by punching.
It’s a greatly fleshed out series that does more with heroes and puts them in a world that many of the readers have to face daily. While many series can get bogged down once they enter into doing tie-ins for whatever the latest universe encompassing event story is, PM&IF keeps it’s own identity as it ties into Civil War II and brings a story that tackles profiling, issues with vigilantes and police all while still touching upon the war between superheroes. It’s just another fantastic series that proves that not all superhero books have to be cut from the same cloth, and there is far more than can be done with heroes then most people think.
FUTURE QUEST (DC COMICS)
BY: JEFF PARKER, STEVE RUDE, JORDIE BELLAIRE, ALW STUDIOS’ DAVE LAMPHEAR, RON RANDALL, JONATHAN CASE, STEVE BUCCELLATO, HI*FI COLORS, VERONICA GANDINI, STEVE LIEBER, ARIEL OLIVETTI
When it was announced that DC Comics was revamping Hanna Barbera products for a new comic book line, there was a lot of skepticism by fans. While some of the moves seemed pretty odd at points, they have paid off in many cases in the long run with this series being at the top. Arguably it had the hardest mission, to bring together various characters from different Hanna Barbera properties into one storyline, but Jeff Parker, Evan Shaner, Steve Rude and the gang make it work. Putting Space Ghost, Johnny Quest, Birdman, The Herculoids and others into the same world together and not only making it work, but making it gel so easily while also giving the characters plenty of development and spotlight over the issues. Not only are the characters written well, the art is fantastic and very fitting for the characters. There is a scene in the first issue alone with the evil Doctor Zin that is so stylized and beautiful and evil feeling in just the colors and angles alone before you even get into his dialogue.
MOCKINGBIRD (MARVEL COMICS)
BY: CHELSEA CAIN, KATE NIEMCZYK, RACHELLE ROSENBERG, VC’S JOE CARMAGNA, IBRAHIM MOUSTAFA, SEAN PARSONS
Sadly this is one comic book that didn’t make it out of 2016, but the fact that it existed even for a brief time had its impact on the world of comics. Seen by many as the wife of Hawkeye and a former Avenger, Barbara “Bobbi” Morse aka Mockingbird spent well over a decade dead in the Marvel Universe before the 2008 event Secret Invasion brought her back. Since then she’s featured in a few books either with or away from Hawkeye and the Avengers or S.H.I.E.L.D., but at long last, she had her own title and it rocked. Chelsea Cain leapt into the world of comics with this series and quickly didn’t shy away from showing that Bobbi is an intelligent, funny and badass woman & hero. Not only did the series, at last, let her truly stand apart as a hero, it did so in very creative ways.
The first arc alone is fantastic for its use of telling a story in the first issue then going back and filling in the gaps with the next issues to complete the puzzle. Cain, of course, isn’t alone as she makes a perfect team with Kate Niemczyk & Rachelle Rosenberg to deliver a book that is just as beautiful to look at with the colors and art as it is beautiful to read the words/story. Together it creates one fantastic and engaging read. Unfortunately the repulsive nature of some comic book fans and critics pushed Cain away from the medium shortly after the book was cancelled, meaning we aren’t likely to see her bring such a take to any other heroes, but what she did give should be bought up and put on any fan’s shelf because it shows truly what comic books can and should be capable of doing.
MONSTRESS (IMAGE COMICS)
BY: MARJORIE LIU, SANA TAKEDA, RUS WOOTON
While Marvel & DC Comics have been focusing on ways to revolutionize how they tell stories with superheroes, companies like Image have been looking at ways to tell grand stories in the realms of science-fiction and fantasy among other genres. One of those series is the darkly beautiful Monstress by Liu, Takeda, and Wooton. Powerful female characters. Giant monsters. Magic. A gripping story. Dark & intense sprawling visuals. This series has it all and so much more. This isn’t one of those regular fantasy worlds where everything is bright and shiny like most of us would dream. No, this world has a darkness within it and that is what makes it so engaging. It never shies away from this. It’s also not a story that holds your hands by starting off with all the backstory of the world you find yourself in as you read. Instead, it throws you right in and then builds the story out.
BLACK PANTHER (MARVEL COMICS)
BY: TA-NEHISI COATES, BRIAN STELFREEZE, LAURA MARTIN, VC’S JOE SABINO, MATT MILLA, CHRIS SPROUSE, KARL STORY, WALDEN WONG, VC’S CLAYTON COWLES
If you like your comic books to be more than just slug fests between characters, and actually be books that make you think, this is one that should be in your list. While Coates, Stelfreeze, Martin and the rest could have just created a book that focused on T’Challa and his work as a superhero, they chose to go another route. This isn’t just the story of T’Challa. It’s the story of so many others in Wakanda, and these other characters are just as fleshed out and real feeling as T’Challa. They are not just there to support him in his journey as a character, they are on their own journeys and growths as characters. The work was so superb that it led to the creation of an offshoot book Black Panther: World of Wakanda to give more room to fleshing out the world of Wakanda and the people that live within it.
The work of Stelfreeze, Martin, Sprouse, Milla, and others gorgeously brings the world of Wakana do life and together with Coates story creates something engaging and beautiful on so many levels that it leaves you craving more with the end of each issue. This isn’t a story you flip through in five minutes to watch the Avengers beat down the latest villain. This is a story that needs to be read and re-read issue by issue to fully gather every detail that is laid out. The twelve-part story that is being crafted is almost over and word is that Coates and company will be working on a second season of the title, and with talk of Wakanda possibly becoming a republic later in the series we can’t wait to see what this crew does next.
That wraps up our list of 15 of our favorite comic books from 2016. There were so many more that we wish we could have added to this list. Did we miss any of your favorites from this year? Let us know what your favorites were by commenting below, through Facebook or on Twitter!