It’s been an interesting year for superhero comic books. DC’s been trucking along with “Rebirth,” telling a lot of fun stories in the mix. Marvel’s been more split, with half the line spending a considerable part of the year embroiled in weird Nazi/Hydra antics while several of the titles that avoided Secret Empire put out some very enjoyable adventures. When I sat down to figure out my favourite superhero comics of the year, I was amused to see my list split down the middle, half DC and half Marvel! While I’d definitely say that DC had the better year overall, qualitywise, Marvel’s good books were VERY good.
Before we get to the list, though, I should point out that it’s been a great year for non-superhero comics, too. The cape books are my main focus here, of course, but I’ve been enjoying all sorts of other titles. More specifically, Bitch Planet: Triple Feature was excellent, as was the latest “season” of Sex Criminals from Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky. I’ve also been enjoying Goldie Vance by Hope Larson and Brittney Williams, the latest volume of George O’Connor’s Olympians was fantastic as always, and Paper Girls from Brian K. Vaughan and Cliff Chiang remains gorgeous if all over the place, storywise. I’m always down for Cliff Chiang art! There’s no lack of wonderful comics out there right now across all sorts of genres and styles.
But now, onto my favourite superhero comic books of the year! Check out the list, and let me know your favourites from the past year in the comments:
10) Batman by Tom King, Mikel Janin, Joelle Jones, and more
I’m reading Batman in trade so I’m a little bit behind, but I’m enjoying the heck out of it. I was leery of it initially, since the premises didn’t grab me. Superpowered heroes in Gotham? More Bane shenanigans? I didn’t think it’d be for me. Then I read the books and was quickly proved wrong. King and his excellent array of artists make it all work beautifully. And of course, I love the prominent role that Catwoman has in the run. She’s become a major player here, and while she and Batman are bad ass and cool, as always, compassion seems to be the core of both characterizations. It’s good stuff, and often beautifully drawn.
9) Unbeatable Squirrel Girl by Ryan North and Erica Henderson
This book has been amazing for a while now, and it showed no signs of slowing down on that front in 2017. Is Ryan North still writing it? Is Erica Henderson still drawing it? Is Squirrel Girl still eating nuts and kicking butts? Then it’s going to remain great. And it has! North and Henderson bring so much heart and humour to the comic. It’s just a joy to read, and served as a most welcome counter to the bleak storylines that took over a lot of Marvel books this year. If you like delightful things, then go start reading Unbeatable Squirrel Girl.
8) Green Arrow by Benjamin Percy, Otto Schmidt, and more
I’ve enjoyed the stories in Green Arrow over the past year well enough, but I’ll be honest: The book made my Top 10 for Otto Schmidt alone. His art is SO GOOD. His pages just sing. The art isn’t terribly out there for a superhero book, but it’s absolutely unique and different and stands out from everything else on the stands right now. I think part of it is that he colors it himself, and everything on the page feels so cohesive and complimentary. It’s really remarkable stuff. Green Arrow cycles through a variety of artists, like most DC books right now, and while they’re all pretty solid, Schmidt’s work is just next level. I want him to draw every superhero now.
7) All New Wolverine by Tom Taylor, Leonard Kirk, Nik Virella, and more
Step aside, old Wolverine. You were fun while you lasted, but the new Wolverine is so much better. She’s got everything we expect from a Wolverine: claws, ferocity, a propensity for going after anyone who threatens her friends with a berserker rage. But instead of being a mopey guy who’s been around forever, she’s a cantankerous yet endearing young woman. Plus she’s assembled a great supporting cast over the course of this run. It’s a fun, exciting book, and I’m completely fine with never seeing the old Wolverine again now.
6) Detective Comics by James Tynion IV, Eddy Barrows, Marcio Takara, and more
Team books can be a tricky thing. There are a lot of characters to manage, and a few always end up taking a backseat while a handful come to the fore. Tynion and his rotating teams of artists have struck an impressive balance here, largely by backseating the character you’d expect to see more than anyone else: Batman. He’s a key figure, but doesn’t dominate the book. Instead, Batwoman leads the team and the spotlight gets shared by Azrael, Batwing, Clayface, Orphan, and Spoiler. The degree of attention ebbs and flows, but no one goes too long without a good storyline or an important role. The book also manages to tell its own stories while weaving in and out of the bigger events at DC over the past year. It’s a solid Bat-team book that I always find myself looking forward to.
5) Mighty Thor by Jason Aaron, Russell Dauterman, and more
I’m a big fan of the classic Thor, but what Jason Aaron and Russell Dauterman have done with Jane Foster as Thor is far and away my favourite take on the character yet. It’s been a huge year for her, with an intergalactic war and darkness spreading through the nine realms, not to mention the return of Odinson and the emergence of the War Thor. But amid all of the epicness, the story of Jane battling cancer and sacrificing her well-being to be the hero the world, nay, the universe needs has been so beautifully told. The heart Aaron and Dauterman bring to their crazy action and adventure is what makes this one of the best books on the stands.
4) Wonder Woman by Greg Rucka, Shea Fontana, Mirka Andolfo, Bilquis Evely, and more
Not right now, obviously. Wonder Woman has been garbage since James Robinson et al. took over a few months ago. But before that, the book was having a great year. The wrap up of the “Godwatch” and “The Truth” arcs was a powerful, well-executed conclusion to an excellent run that provided a much needed revitalization of Wonder Woman after a rough few years. Then we got “Heart of the Amazon,” which was an awesome team up between Diana and Etta Candy that pitted them against superpowered assassins and evil scientists. Now the book is about Wonder Woman and her brother and it suuuuuuuuuuuuuuucks, but up until then it was a really great year of stories.
3) Mister Miracle by Tom King and Mitch Gerads
People were raving about this book before the first issue even came out, and with all of that buzz building and building, I came into this with high expectations. Mister Miracle beat those expectations with ease. The first issue especially is just masterful storytelling. It’s intentionally disorienting yet it pulls you along, and when you finally realize what’s happening it’s a gut punch that is heartbreaking yet so perfect for the character. Subsequent issues have been fascinating in their own right. It’s a unique, compelling book that is a worthy vehicle for Mister Miracle and Big Barda, two of Jack Kirby’s best creations.
2) Ms. Marvel by G. Willow Wilson, Marco Failla, Takeshi Miyazawa, and more
Ms. Marvel has been stellar for years now. Introducing a Muslim, Pakistani-American, teen heroine was no mean feat, and yet the book has never taken a step wrong. And this year was no exception. Kamala went through a lot, both professionally and personally, and as the year went on the book began to echo a lot of the issues facing America as a whole in 2017. Ms. Marvel is grounded in our reality in a way most superhero books aren’t, and that led to some incisive storytelling that still paired beautifully with all of the usual fun and action we expect from the series.
1) Hawkeye by Kelly Thompson, Leonardo Romero, Michael Walsh, and more
The Fraction/Aja/Wu era of Hawkeye is easily one of the best superhero runs of the past decade, and set a massively high bar for any and all Hawkeye stories moving forward. Thompson, Romero, and Walsh have reached that bar and more with Kate Bishop’s new solo series. The book is an absolute joy, from Thompson’s sharp and hilarious dialogue to Romero and Walsh doing an amazing job with all of the archery action and comedic beats packed into each issue. Plus there’s some serious heart and pathos beyond all of the fun, with Kate dealing with some heavy stuff. Things are rarely cool and chill for a Hawkeye, as much as they may pretend otherwise. The book is a dang delight, each and every month, and I love it to bits.