Top 10 of 2016: Comics and Graphic Novels

This is part four in a series of top ten lists. For movies, television shows, and books, check out their respective posts.

Out of all of the lists I made, this was the trickiest, because my comic book reading is pretty much all over the place. I read single issues, graphic novels, and the occasional manga series. Oftentimes, I read current releases, but I also dig into older runs. As a result, this list is kinda chaotic. I’ll try to be as honest about what I actually read without diving into information overload.

Without further ado, here are my top ten comics and graphic novels of 2016, leading up to my number one favorite.

10. Daredevil. Written by Mark Waid. Illustrated by Chris Samnee– This year I finished off the longest run on Daredevil by reading the final two trades, and even those last few issues were pretty freakin’ fabulous. The Waid/Samnee run on Daredevil was exciting, and fun, but not afraid to get serious as well (they gave Foggy Nelson CANCER!). The artwork was dynamic and unique, and the characters were oh-so-lovable. I have yet to dive into the Charles Soule run, which follows this, but it has some sizable shoes to fill.

9. The Private Eye. Written by Brian K Vaughan. Illustrated by Marcos Martin– The Private Eye is a self published webcomic by Vaughan and Martin that has been collected into this ENORMOUS hardcover collection. And I don’t necessarily mean enormous page count. The panels here are some of the largest I’ve seen. The Private Eye has a singularly unique concept. In the future, The Cloud bursts, sending everyone’s private information out to the wild. To protect themselves, everyone takes on a secret identity, complete with costumes and masks. Take this cool worldbuilding and combine it with a noir-esque storyline and you have a comic that’s really worth your attention.

8. Wonder Woman: The True Amazon. Written and Illustrated by Jill Thompson– In this graphic novel, Jill Thompson re-imagines the Wonder Woman origin story in a rather surprising way. Sure, it involves amazons, and ends with Diana leaving Themyscira, but it also suggest that maybe growing up as a spoiled princess had some… adverse effects on Diana’s personality. As a result, Wonder Woman: The True Amazon is less about Diana discovering her powers, as much as it’s about what inspired her to become a good person. What brings this to the next level is the fact that the hand-painted style artwork is so gorgeous, almost more like a storybook then a comic. Not all existing fans will appreciate this portrayal of Wonder Woman, but if you’re looking for a good place to start with the character, then this would be a great choice.

7. Monstress. Written by Marjorie Liu. Illustrated by Sana TakedaMonstress is a grimdark fantasy that takes place in a gorgeously illustrated matriarchal fantasy world, involving Lovecraftian level horrors, and chibi-style sidekicks. And if that description sounds like your type of book, seriously, why haven’t you read this yet? Writer Marjorie Liu has really hit her sweet spot with this one, and Sana Takeda is one of the best artists currently making comics. I’ve only read the first trade, but I am so ready for volume two.

6. Saga. Written by Brian K. Vaughan. Illustrated by Fiona Staples– This is one of the comics I read in single issue form- although I am a couple issues behind due to holiday shenanigans. It says a lot about the quality of Saga given that this year produced the storyline that I’ve been the least fond of (the prison storyline) yet it’s still this high on on my list. So instead of falling in love with every issue, I merely enjoyed the crap out if it. Saga remains the perfect place to go for a wonderfully weird sci-fi adventure that’s not afraid to step on your heart every now and then. I’m really looking forward to catching up on this one.

5. Patsy Walker AKA Hellcat. Written by Kathe Leth. Illustrated by Brittney Williams– I’m also reading this one in single issue format, although it couldn’t be any more different than Saga if it tried. Patsy is a wonderfully relatable protagonist. She’s trying to help out people with superpowers who don’t necessarily want to become superheroes or villains, AND juggle her complicated past, while dealing with the crazy machinations of the Marvel universe. The fact that this comic feels so grounded while totally embracing the crazy-cakes backstory of the protagonists is a real testament to the writer, Kathe Leth. This is a great selection for those looking for a light, fun read, starring a female superhero.

4. Ms. Marvel. Written by G. Willow Wilson. Illustrated by Adrian Alphona. This year, I read the 4th and 5th trades for G. Willow Wilson’s Ms. Marvel and damn it’s still good. Kamala Khan is everything I want my superheroes to be. Admirable, yet flawed. Well intentioned, yet still learning about herself. This year, Kamala dealt with her newfound fame as Ms. Marvel as well as the massive crossover event, Civil War II. As someone who usually despises crossover events, I’d like to hold up the Ms. Marvel comics as an example for how to incorporate crossover events while still keeping the storyline personal. Too often, crossovers feel like useless filler that detract from the protagonist’s current journey, but that was not felt here. Civil War II brought some massive changes to Kamala’s life, and I can’t wait to see what happens to her next.

3. Attack on Titan. Written and Illustrated by Hajime Isayama. This year, I’ve been keeping up with the manga, Attack on Titan, reading volumes 17-19, as well as the spin off, No Regrets. Last year, the manga, while still good, was caught up in a political arc that didn’t always play to Isayama’s strengths. Now, the emphasis is on character drama and action, which is where Attack on Titan shines the most. Attack on Titan is one of those series that 100% worth all the hype it gets. The spin off, No Regrets, which focuses on Levi’s backstory, is also really great, despite the fact that it wasn’t written by Hajime Isayama. I am both excited (and dreading) to learn what will happen to our cast of characters next.

2. Wonder Woman. Written by Greg Rucka. Illustrated by various. Now this is going to be the most confusing item on my list, because while everyone else is reading Greg Rucka’s current run on Wonder Woman, I’m reading the one he wrote ten years back. And why am I doing that? Because it’s awesome. I still have a few more issues to go, but time and time again, I have been impressed at how well Rucka manages to capture Diana. Wonder Woman is a peacekeeper, but also a warrior. A diplomat, but also someone that will kill when necessary. A woman who isn’t bound by traditional women’s roles, despite being from an ancient society. It can be difficult to capture a character who wears so many hats, and is seemingly full of conflicts, but Rucka always portrays her with dignity and grace. I can see why they invited him back for a second run.

1. Unbeatable Squirrel Girl. Written by Ryan North. Illustrated by Erica Henderson– Please. You know me. What else could I pick for my number one? I only wrote an entire column praising Squirrel Girl, and this run specifically. There’s just something so lovable, so perfect, about Doreen Green. She’s feisty, strong, smart, and compassionate. The artwork by Erica Henderson is just suits the story so well. And it’s so nice, that in a world where humor is so often devalued and looked upon as lesser, that you have a comic that’s not afraid to put the lighthearted first, and is pretty much universally praised for it. Squirrel Girl is my favorite superhero of 2016, and my favorite comic book (I’m reading it in trade paperback form). I can’t wait to see what she gets into next.

Honorable Mentions: Wonder Woman (Brian Azzarello/Cliff Chiang Run- last two trades), Paper Girls (current issues), Lazarus (current issues), Black Widow (Mark Waid/Chis Samnee run- current issues)

Anything I miss? I’d love to hear what everyone else has been reading for comics this year.

Next, for my final top 10 list, I’ll be talking about my random favorites. Think music, podcasts and anything else that didn’t fit into the previous categories. Hope to get that up soon!

Fallen to Earth: The Trials and Tribulations of The New 52’s Supergirl — Speculative Chic

Hey there! I have a new entry up on Speculative Chic! This one’s all about Supergirl, and adventures during The New 52. I break down both the good and bad (and trust me, there are both!)

Back when Greg Berlanti first announced that he was making a Supergirl TV show, I realized something very important. I knew embarrassingly little about Supergirl herself. Sure, I knew that she was a Kryptonian, and Clark Kent’s cousin, but beyond that? Yeah… not so much. To rectify this, I found myself hitting up my library,…

via Fallen to Earth: The Trials and Tribulations of The New 52’s Supergirl — Speculative Chic

(Almost) Everything I Watched in January

January’s a notoriously bad month for theater going, so instead of making a movie-centric post, I though I’d just make a post about my visual entertainment for the month, much like I talk about my reading in my “everything I read” posts. I’ll be leaving out things I didn’t finish (for example, I’ve seen a handful of episodes of season 1 of Eureka on Netflix, but I have a few more to go before I get to the end). Let’s start out with with the movies…

In the Theaters

American Hustle- Saw this one kind of on a whim (I had a friend visiting, and we wanted to see a 7 o’clock movie that didn’t look crappy), and was quite surprised with the results. While it can be a little shaky to start off with, with its over use of voice over, once it get’s going, it’s pretty great. Everyone provides top notch performances, the movie has a ton of laughs, and probably one of the best soundtracks I’ve encountered in a while. I hope to see this one win a few awards at the Oscars. B+


Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit– Shadow Recruit may be a pretty generic spy thriller, but it’s a damn good generic spy thriller. A big part of this has to do with Chris Pine’s performance of Jack. Managing to craft a character that’s brilliant and capable, yet incredibly human at the same time, he really gets you to feel for Jack. This, combined with the satisfying suspense the film delivered, made me more forgiving of the films multiple flaws (for the most part it’s painfully predictable, but there’s one plot twist that requires a pretty big logical leap). It’s too bad that this is doing so poorly in theaters. I wouldn’t mind seeing another one. B

On Netflix (not counting incomplete TV seasons)

Arrow (Season 1)– Despite my fiance’s high praises of Arrow, I came into it with a lot of skepticism. I mean, it’s on the CW. Isn’t that channel all about corny shows like Gossip Girl and the Vampire Diaries? Low and behold, it took me one episode to get hooked, and it wasn’t long before I was seriously emotionally invested what was going on. Sure, it took a few of the actors (including the lead) a couple episodes to get into their characters, and I wasn’t always fond of Thea’s storylines but Arrow does a lot extremely well. There are some seriously shocking things that happens throughout the season (and not just at the end), and the show does an exceptional job of balancing long term plot lines and whatever the problem of the week is. I am eagerly looking forward to when season 2 hit Netflix. This show is really worth your time. A-

Current TV Shows
Agents of SHIELD– Agents of SHIELD is a tricky beast. It provides enough entertainment to keep my coming back, week after week, yet always leaves me feeling like it’s just falling short of its potential. January brought us two satisfactory, although not exceptional episodes, The Magical Place and Seeds. I must admit, I found the revelation behind Coulson’s resurrection to be a little disappointing. I guess when you have so long to ponder your own solutions, anything else seems anti-climatic. At the same time, I am very curious to see where the storylines involving Skye and Mike Peterson are heading.

Castle– With so many shows for me to watch right now (seriously, how do you big TV fans manage to watch so many shows and lead a balanced life?), I’ve fallen a little behind on Castle, having only watched two of the three January episodes. Fortunately, both of the episodes I did watch, Under Fire and Deep Cover, were really top notch. For a show that can feel little generic at times, both episodes did a great job of raising the stakes and keeping the suspense up, Under Fire by putting the lives of two beloved characters in some serious danger, and Deep Cover by bringing back Castle’s mysterious father. Glad to see that Castle can still deliver some quality content in season six.

Downton Abbey– This show is often my top priority, TV wise, if just for the fact that I know way to many people that watch it and it’s really easy to get spoiled. Season Four has featured all around top performances, but a bit of a mixed bag as far as the individual storylines goes. Everyone’s been talking about is the episode where Anna was raped. I was spoiled about the events beforehand, but it didn’t make watching the event any less harrowing. Now that Bates has discovered what has happened to his wife, his character has taken a darker turn. We’ve seen small glimpses of this dark side of Bates before, and I’m really curious to see how far they will take things this season. I’ve also enjoyed the fact that we’ve seen Mary take a greater control of the estate. Unlike her two sisters, her storylines have always been based around her romantic entanglements. It’s nice to see them take her character in a different direction, especially since any potential partner is going to look like second best compared to the Mary and Matthew love story right now. On the other hand, I really wish they would show us a different side of Thomas. We’ve seen him play the schemer for three seasons now, can we see something different please? Another character that similarly underused is cousin Rose, who has great style but contributes absolutely nothing to the show as a whole. Perhaps this can be rectified with a forbidden romance involving a certain American jazz singer?

Sherlock- PBS, thank you for bringing all of these great shows to me! So far, I’ve really enjoyed season three. The Empty Hearse was an incredible suspenseful premiere. I suspect, over time, it will become one of my favorite episodes. The Sign of Three, while not as strong, has been pretty entertaining so far (I’ve still got about a half hour left. It’s great that these episodes tell longer stories, but not so great when you typically have about an hour to watch TV every day!). This makes me quite happy, as I was a little shaky on season two. There’s no denying the brilliance of The Reichenbach Fall, but I found A Scandal in Belgravia to be quite uneven, and didn’t like The Hounds of the Baskerville. I quite like the fact that they have taken a different path with the character of Mary then in the RDJ films. It’s not that I dislike her there, but by having Mary get along with Sherlock (at least so far) helps to set apart the films from the TV show. I also like how this season has more deeply explored Sherlock’s more human connections. It seems that his time away has shown him that he doesn’t want to be so cut off form the people he cares about, which is an important step forward, character wise . I can’t wait to see how they’re going to end it all this season!