Published on February 7th, 2018 | by The Editor0
The Best Comics of 2017
Two of our resident comic lovers Dena and The Riz talk about their favourite books of 2017, including work like My Favourite Thing is Monsters.
Not sure where to start with for your great comic reads for 2018? Why not start with some of our best comic reads of 2017?
Now that everyone is settled comfortably into the first rows of 2018, let’s ask that kid to take their feet off our headrests and we’ll take a quick look behind us to comic highlights from 2017. Before we begin, this list is nowhere near complete, and your favorite title may, in fact, not be included. Both of us had to do a serious workout at the chopping block to get it this short. As a strong disclaimer, these are the best comics we had the chance to read over last year. Some of these picks may not even be great, but they made an impact in our reading habits, thus earning a place on this list. Obviously, as 2018 continues, we’ll try our best to read as many titles as possible, but we’re only two people, with very different tastes, adrift a sea of fictional colors and bright paper…and shiny things. Lots of shiny things.
On that note, here are our highlights, in no particular order:
The Riz’s pick: My Favorite Thing is Monsters (Emil Ferris)
Emil Ferris’ stunning My Favorite Thing Is Monsters tells the story of Karen Reyes, a 10-year old monster movie fan who imagines herself a weregirl detective investigating the death of her upstairs neighbor who secretly pressed hard rye bread and cheese sandwiches into Karen’s hand each morning before school. The graphic novel is designed, and published, as Karen’s notebook diary, complete with workbook size pages, blue lines and red margins, entirely written and drawn in ballpoint pen crosshatched artwork. Yes, ballpoint pen. Imagine Otto Dix and Robert Crumb team-up drawing busy cityscapes, intricate portraits, architectural facades, classic art recreations amid 1960s horror comics, a Mickey Spillane gritty crime drama, 1960s social issues, and a young girl with a monster-sized imagination. Taking six years to complete, My Favourite Thing is Monsters is a breathtakingly impressive experience, one not to be missed by any comic aficionado.
My Favourite Thing is Monsters is published through Fantagraphic Books.
Dena’s pick: Royal City (Jeff Lemire)
This slice of life story is classic Lemire. The first story arc follows a family grieving the long past loss of their son and brother, in a struggling small industrial town. Everyone has their own problems, but each having their own memory of Tommy adds to this haunting story. Lemire’s storytelling is haunting and it’s the type of story that could only be best expressed through his own art style. If you enjoyed the emotional themes in Sweet Tooth and the images from The Secret Path then this title will fit on your shelf.
Royal City is published through Image Comics.
The Riz’s pick: Fu Jitsu (Jai Nitz, Wesley St. Claire)
Fu Jitsu is an un-aging genius, the world’s smartest boy, protecting Earth from Robert Wadlow, the world’s tallest man, over the last one hundred years, traveling from reality to reality, living through the greatest eras of global development and comicdom, while simultaneously developing the art of Quantum Kung Fu. With clever fast-paced writing by Jai Nitz (El Diablo, Suicide Squad Most Wanted), and clean dynamic art Wesley St. Claire (Teen Titans Annual), Fu Jitsu is more fun than anyone deserves.
Fu Jitsu is published through Afterschock Comics.
Dena’s pick: Shirtless Bear Fighter (Jody Lehup, Mike Spicer, Nil Vendrell, Sebastian Gimer)
How do I describe Shirtless Bear Fighter? Everything you need is in the title: Shirtless. Bear. Fighter. This 5-issue story has just enough ridiculous satire that compelled me to look forward to each and every issue, simply as a break from what I was normally reading. Five issues were nearly not enough. I was hooked the second they bribed Shirtless to join the Bear Resistance with airlifted crates of flapjacks and maple syrup. Yes…flapjacks and maple syrup. Oh….and he was shirtless (mostly, sometimes more)…in a forest…fighting bears…
Shirtless Bear Fighter is available through Image Comics.
The Riz’s pick: Mage: The Hero Denied (Matt Wagner)
In an attempt to circumvent an attack on his family, while his spouse finishes her seven-year protection spell, Kevin Matchstick re-engages with Excalibur to battle beasties and discover, if ever, when his quest will be over. Matt Wagner (Mage, Grendel) continues his wonderful, personally influenced, epic of a beloved, glowing baseball bat toting re-incarnation of King Arthur, now with a receding hair line sans pony tail. All the main beats one expects from a Mage title are here with sincerity, heart, and cliff-hanger endings to keep reader’s eagerly anticipating the next issue, hoping the quest, for the fans’ sakes, does not end.
Mage hits newsstands monthly through Image Comics.
Dena’s pick: Generation Gone (Ales Kot, Andre Lima Araujo, Clayton Cowles)
What if you got superpowers without ever really asking for them? This surveillance state story starts off as an innocent banking hack for three downtrodden Millennials, quickly going sideways and resulting in each of them gaining superpowers. What they do with them really depends on how much society has taken from them, each with their own personal story. There was life, death, love, sacrifice, speculation, espionage, and honesty. This series had the most “holy crap” moments of all of the titles I was consuming this year, and the setting wasn’t too far from the present, or future.
Generation Gone is published by Image Comics.
The Riz’s pick: Mister Miracle (Tom King, Mitch Gerads)
Mister Miracle is quickly being toted as one of the comic events of the year, being compared to other classic, story driven, thematic titles such as The Watchmen, Ghost World, and The Ultimates, here dealing with the effects of post-traumatic stress disorder. Told in the classic nine-panel style format, with irreverent wit and heartbreaking honesty, Tom King’s (Batman) and Mitch Gerads’ (The Punisher) Mister Miracle is a rare reading experience.
Dena’s take: Mister Miracle was also in my top picks. I overlooked this title at first—I had no previous investment in Kirby’s New Gods. Boy, was I missing out. Issue One left me with a pit in my stomach, and I immediately had to consume the next few installments. Scott Free and Big Barda’s last day on Earth together made me tear up and left me with a literary hangover. I did not expect such an emotional connection to characters I knew so little about.
Mister Miracle is a 12-issue mini-series published through DC Comics.
Dena’s pick: Crosswind (Gail Simone, Cat Skaggs)
I like to think of this title as Freaky Friday meets Desperate Housewives meets Goodfellas. I took a chance on it because Gail Simone was writing, and I’m all about supporting ladies on creative teams, especially when given a double-dose. This story revolves around a body-swap between Cason, a hitman with a conscious, and Juniper, a beleaguered housewife. A lot of the story-telling is situational, where we start rooting for Juniper, who’s really Cason, as it appears that she’s starting to take ownership of her life, and Cason, who’s really Juniper, as it appears that he’s becoming more aware of his precarious situation. I looked forward to the twists and turns in each issue, and it didn’t really come to the conclusion I, or anyone, expected.
Crosswind is available through Image Comics.
The Riz’s pick: The Wild Storm (Warren Ellis, Jon Davis-Hunt)
I was never a fan of the Image imprint when it was first unveiled as a major comic company, so I entered this reading experience without any prior excitement or nostalgia. That being said, when a property created by the dynamic Jim Lee (current DC co-publisher, WildC.A.T.S.) is now curated by the infamous Warren Ellis (Transmetropolotan, Red) excitement from comic fans is expected. Ellis has taken the helms with a reboot of The WildStorm Universe with the new title The Wild Storm, a book that reads, looks, and feels much like one of my all-time favourite Ellis titles, Planetary. Prepare for appearances of beloved characters, twists and turns of conspiracy theories, shadow governments, secret organizations, and the blurry lines of good vs. evil vs. the people.
The Wild Storm is available through DC comics.
Dena’s pick: “The Button” Batman/The Flash crossover story (Tom King, Joshua Williamson, Jason Fabok, Howard Porter)
This was the title that got me reinvested in the weekly shenanigans of DC titles. Up to this point, I was perfectly fine catching up through collected trades a few months behind the pack. “The Button” changed all that. We pick up where Rebirth left off: Batman tries to find the origin of the Comedian’s button, and how it ended up in the Batcave by teaming up with the Flash. They take a little adventure on the cosmic treadmill, back to Flashpoint where Batman meets his father, Thomas Wayne, in a past that he didn’t expect. There’s an incredibly emotional moment between father and son that shapes Batman from this point forward. I initially picked up this series because I met Jason Fabok earlier this year, and I fell in love with his artwork. His cover art left me breathless.
The Button is available in collected edition through DC Comics.
The Riz’s pick: Genius: Cartel (Marc Bernardin, Adam Freeman, Rosi Kampe, Brad Simpson)
Marc Bernadrin and Adam Freeman’s (Alphas, X-Men Origins: NightCrawler, The Authority) Top Cow/Image title Genius followed the 20th centuries’ greatest military mind Destiny Ajaye, a 17-year-old high school student from South Central LA, who plans a successful military operation to secede three blocks of the “‘Hood from the Union.” Destiny is now detained at the Madrasa Institute, a government school for young prodigies. Will she use her strategic military schools for aid the government or aid in her freedom? Genius: Cartel is an intellectual action powerhouse with well-paced story writing, and meticulous research.
Genuis: Cartel is available through Top Cow/Image comics.
Dena’s pick: Star Lord: Grounded (Chip Zdarsky, Kris Anka, Matt Wilson)
I had to read each issue of Star Lord: Grounded twice; the first time to take in all of the beauty Anka and Wilson brought to Star Lord (mostly his hair but also his abs), and a second time to take in Zdarsky’s quirky storytelling. This series was hilarious, and I looked forward to each beautiful installment. Star Lord is marooned on Earth with no team, no resources, no girlfriend. So, what’s the first course of action? You get a job slinging beers at the one place where you’ll be able to fit in—the local watering hole for all of our favorite Marvel villains. It’s a cute premise, and we see a few cameos, but what kept me hooked was the underdog character development.
Star Lord: Grounded is a 6-issue mini-series published by Marvel Comics.
The Riz’s pick: Die Kitty Die: Hollywood or Bust (Dan Parent, Fernando Ruiz)
Imagine an Archie and Cracked cross-over starring Sabrina the Teenage Witch’s long lost, parallel universe celebrity aunt. Dan Parent, best known for his work on Archie comics, including introducing the first openly gay Archie character Kevin Keller, writes and draws a fantastic social critique of media, entertainment, and people’s general selfish whims, with Die Kitty Die: Hollywood or Bust. Kitty Ravencraft, a comic book icon and star, has returned to stardom with a new hit series. In an attempt to capitalize on her new-found popularity, her publisher organizes an assassination attempt to develop interest in a Kitty Ravencraft movie, the lead role of the busty, red-headed, vivacious wiccan-vixen casted by non-other than the iconic Forrest Whittaker. Fun, irreverent, clever, and filled-with adult themed Archie style puns, Die Kitty Die: Hollywood or Bust is an imaginative read for comedy, and retro-community comic fans.
Die Kitty Die: Hollywood or Bust is released through Chapterhouse Comics.
Dena’s pick: Super Sons (Peter J. Tomasi, Jorge Jimenez, Alejandro Sanchez)
There’s only one word to describe this pre-teen buddy-cop duo: FUN! Damian Wayne, as Robin, and Jon Kent, as Superboy, join forces for the first time as a team and hijinks ensue. Looking back, I hardly even remember what the plots of their misadventures involved, but the dynamic between Damian and Jon kept me coming back for more. Jon is wet behind the ears and still becoming familiar with his new powers, while Damien got teamed-up with this young impressionable mind mostly because his father said so. Given that their Dads are best buds, it just makes sense that these two get into trouble together from time to time. There were lots of glimpses into the family life behind the capes, keeping these super-characters down to earth and relatable.
Super Sons is released monthly through DC Comics.
The Riz’s pick: The Girl Who Hand-Cuffed Houdini (Cynthia von Buhler)
The singular reason The Girl Who Hand-Cuffed Houdini is more of an Honorable Mention and not on the main list is due the first issue being released in 2017 and issue two being released in 2018. To call it a title of the year seems a little unfair, given its unfortunate release date. Despite the limited sample source, The Girl Who Hand-Cuffed Houdini is hypnotically drawn and wonderfully styled. Following Minky Woodcock as she attempts to take over her father’s private detective agency in the 1920’s, writer-artist Cynthia Von Buhler creates a tale of intrigue based on rigorously researched factional accounts and details over Harry Houdini’s mysterious death.
The Girl Who Hand-Cuffed Houdini is published through Hard Case Crimes/Titan Comics.
Dena’s pick: Batman/Elmer Fudd Special #1 (Tom King, Lee Weeks, Lovern Kindzierski, Carrie Strachan, Byron Vaughns)
For the most part, the Looney Tunes/DC Heroes crossovers of 2017 were hit or miss. This story was the hit—it was bloody brilliant. I would have never expected to see an Elmer Fudd story in the style of film noir, let alone paired up with the broody Dark Knight, after a gorgeous woman who managed to wrong both of them. I had a chance to chat briefly with King about this story, and he couldn’t see it being a hit either, but he went ahead with it and neither of us have any regrets. It’s nice to know that we both had the same pitch reaction, but King knocked this challenge out of the park. It’s been a while since I audibly laughed out loud while reading a comic. One page into this story and it’s really hard to contain any composure, seeing as Batman and Fudd aren’t huntin’ wabbits anymwore.
Batman/Elmer Fudd Special #1 is available through DC Comics.
Dena Burnett is a fangirl of all things awesome, supernatural, and speculative. When she’s not elbow-deep in peer-reviewed literature trying to finish her PhD in Biomedical Engineering (yes, she’s really smart — and really humble about it), she’s doing a full swan dive into comics, sequential art, science fiction, and pop culture that goes BAM! It’s a simple escape from reality, but it also makes for incredible inspiration in developing engineering and health innovations. She also enjoys an ugly, dark, bitter, smokey pint from time-to-time.
The Riz is a prolific multi-genre songwriter, lyricist, writer, and bassist for ‘Demolition Rock’ sensation Ultimate Power Duo. A staple of the Saskatoon music scene, he has toured extensively across Canada, the U.S. and the U.K. The Riz is also the composer and saxophone player for R. Muttering, an avant-garde soundscape improvisational electro-acoustic performance art and recording group. Currently he is scripting his second graphic novel Duophenia: Space Joe II, contributes to Canadian Beats.ca, and has written for BeatRoute Magazine, and SaskMusic’s The Session. He also has amazing comic and vinyl collections.