With so many amazing comic books released this year, it seems impossible to narrow down a Best Of 2016 list to only ten entries–which is why we made it even more daunting for the Deadshirt staff and had them pick their favorite single issues of the year. We have superheroes, beloved cartoon characters, and even a god or two–and fittingly, many of these issues represent endings and new beginnings. Enjoy!
It feels amazingly appropriate writing about Snotgirl while I hold back my own sniffles from a Christmas cold. One of the most audacious first issues of the year, Snotgirl is hard to define. Is it a slice of life drama about a fashion blogger? Is it a romantic comedy? Is it a murder mystery? Or is it something else? Snotgirl is the story of Lottie Person’s life, but the green-haired, allergy-prone blogger is having a bit of an identity crisis. Bryan Lee O’Malley’s first ongoing series feels like an ode to the josei manga of Kyoko Okazaki and Moyoco Anno, while Leslie Hung’s artwork walks the fine line between beautiful and eerie. Nothing captures the feel of the comic better than Leslie Hung’s fantastic cover to the first issue, contrasting Lottie’s colorful beauty with pale, disembodied, mannequin-like arms. When I read this issue’s cliffhanger, I knew this would be a series to keep an eye on. If only I could stop sniffling….
— Kayleigh Hearn
Hitting the ground running with a hilarious but bad*ss sequence where a light elf named Sir Ivory Honeyshot subjects an enemy to the tortures of his Candyland-esque realm, and not stopping until reaching a jaw-dropping cliffhanger that makes the reader question the book’s status quo, Jason Aaron and Russell Dauterman show why The Mighty Thor is one of Marvel’s most enjoyable books on a monthly basis. All of Aaron’s artists on the book have turned in amazing work, but Dauterman has to be the big find of the series. He adds borders out of illuminated manuscripts to the fantasy realm pages, and plays with panel layouts and sound-effects to give a kinetic feel to the Battle of Roxxon Island sequences. Meanwhile, Aaron contributes breathless plotting, snappy dialogue and cool concepts that keep this book from becoming another lifeless Lee/Kirby or Simonson tribute. Every time I think I’m getting burned out on the modern Marvel universe, this is the book that reminds me of how fun a shared universe can be.
— Robby Karol
Tom King and Gabriel Hernandez Walta’s The Vision is such an exquisitely crafted machine that singling out one of its many moving parts almost feels like folly. A bleak, existential family drama with almost no traditional superhero fights, The Vision felt like no other Marvel comic on the stands, but issue #9, “They Will Die In The Flames,” is particularly heartbreaking. It chronicles the downfall of Victor Mancha, the “cool uncle” of the Vision family, and how his secret Vibranium addiction leads to the death of three people, including one of the Visions. (The title fulfills a grim promise made by the omniscient narrator all the way back in issue #1.) Walta’s art is eerily good at conveying the sheer humanity of these inhuman characters, while Tom King flicks the first of the carefully aligned dominoes that will continue to topple until the quietly devastating final issue. This is how a family falls apart.
— Kayleigh Hearn
I’ll admit I’m an easy mark for Over The Garden Wall, but the first issue of the new ongoing was a surprising delight. The creative team’s ability to break away from the established narrative of the series paid dividends, as we were given a larger look at the world of the Unknown. Jim Campbell’s Greg-centered story was a delight in the ways we’ve come to expect, but it was Amalia Levari and Cara McGee’s work that really stood out for me. They pushed the world of OTGW in new directions that were tonally and visually distinct, yet still felt like a believable addition to the story. Using the Woodsman’s daughter as a viewpoint character to explore the sense of melancholy and ominousness that cropped up in some of the best moments of the cartoon was inspired. I came into the book with some reservations, but it was an instant favorite.
— Joe Stando
Gotham Academy is a book I’ve loved since the first issue, one that fills a crucial gap for an audience of both die-hard Batman fans and newer, younger readers looking for themselves in Big Two comics. The annual was a perfect example of how to serve both groups. On the one hand, it’s a classic story in the established Gotham Academy vein: there’s mystery, drama, and surprisingly high-stakes action. It builds on the established character arcs and dynamics, and no one’s sidelined to make room for the jam-packed plot of this issue. It’s still a book about Olive, Maps and their friends, first and foremost. At the same time, it was also a story in which a major Batman Beyond villain traveled back in time to kill a minor GA cast member AND the gang fought a vampire, who also fought said villain. The Blight stuff was a wonderful love letter to a visually stunning but totally underused character, and I was all about it. Annuals by nature are generally compact, standalone stories, and this was maybe the best example yet of a creative team using one to just pull out all the stops and have fun. Gotham Academy is one of my go-to recommendations for nearly any fan. This issue in particular was a wild ride, and I’m glad a book like this is out there on the shelves.
— Joe Stando
The finale of John Barber and Tom Scioli’s crazy Technicolor clash of the toy chest titans is a fitting capstone to this series. Scioli’s art and coloring bring out sheer joy in an apocalyptic epic, with a style that feels like Jim Steranko, Jack Kirby and Benjamin Marra decided to drop acid and do a jam session over a long weekend. And that’s before he starts creating collage effects with art from the original comics, a simultaneous act of tribute and detournement. Barber and Scioli’s story similarly mixes and matches elements of the toy lines, comics and TV shows with all of 20th century pop culture in a cathartic and redemptive ending that restores peace to the universe (or at least the toy universe). If you can’t enjoy a comic where cyborg sailors and cyborg pirates attack planet-sized robots, then you probably should give up reading comics.
— Robby Karol
As much as this book was an absolute cosmic blast, an astonishingly ordered and systematically engineered clusterfuck of balls-out comic book ludicrousness rendered with a self-conscious gravitas by the incredible Esad Ribic where a fifteen-story Ben Grimm punches a puppet Galactus controlled by little Franklin Richards and Miles Morales saves the life of his family from the jaws of armageddon by giving a nutty God an old hamburger, where Black Panther leads an army of zombie superheroes across a patchwork planet and all of this makes perfect story sense, Secret Wars also had a whole shitload of heart. Nowhere is this more prevalent than in this final issue, where Jonathan Hickman crystallizes not only the thrust of this series but of his entire time at Marvel Comics: a paean to the importance of loving those things close to you enough to know when to let them go and discover themselves, be those things your friends, your family, your children or your creations and ideas. In the end, the story was about Reed Richards and Victor Von Doom, and the fundamental difference — the need for control — that defines their decades-old conflict. Worlds lived and worlds died and we all had a hell of a surprisingly emotionally loaded time in the process.
— David Uzumeri
After a really strong opening arc, this palate cleanser done-in-one issue pairs series writer David Walker with guest artist Flaviano and is the perfect encapsulation of the new Power Man and Iron Fist title’s warm humanity and outrageous wit. A goofy Marvel Rashomon that finds Luke Cage, Iron Fist and super-criminal lowlife Manslaughter Marsdale bickering over what REALLY happened at a Harlem hot dog stand, issue #5’s a look at the kind of comfortably lived-in Marvel Universe that’s seldom seen amidst seemingly endless crossovers and status quo shakeups. Sometimes, you just want a straightforward comic where two superhero best friends fight a D-list bad guy in a radio station over some trash talk and this issue delivers on that premise beautifully.
— Max Robinson
Rising Action was The Wicked + The Divine’s big action superhero comics arc — in a way, considering their career trajectories, maybe Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie’s farewell to the genre for the time being — and it expertly combined Gillen McKelvie’s introspective, personal indie Phonogram sensibility with the batshit insane psychedelic punch-ups they created at Marvel, especially the sixteen-issue Young Avengers, before flipping the entire superhero-origin-story narrative on its head as our so-far-protagonist, Laura Wilson/Persephone, tearfully accepts that killing isn’t worth it right before exploding an old woman’s whole damn body and triumphantly smoking a cigarette while adorned in her viscera — the kind of horrifying twist that permeates this series that, in retrospect, was the only way things could have gone.
— David Uzumeri
We all knew Cave Carson Has A Cybernetic Eye (How many series have a whole sentence as their title?) would be something else, whether good or bad. But the Gerard Way-written, Michael Avon Oeming-drawn title is the surprising standout rock star of DC’s nascent Young Animal imprint, and it all really came together in this second issue. “Headaches” is handily the best action comic of 2016, a high-octane crowdpleaser even before we get to the series’ hilariously demented take on Wild Dog screaming, “WHAT’S UP, SHITHEADS,” to a car full of soon-to-be-wasted bad guys. And all of this doesn’t even touch on Tom Scioli’s Super Friends backup, in which the American Barbarian/G.I. Joe vs. Transformers creator gives The Wonder Twins their own weird backstory. Cave Carson Has A Cybernetic Eye feels like the proof of concept Young Animal needs. It’s a book that loudly and proudly declares that it’s not the DC Universe, not Vertigo, but something else completely.
— Max Robinson