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The Top 15 Comic Book Series of 2016 — Part One!

I’m excited to wrap up by Best of 2016 lists with my look back at my Fifteen Favorite Comic Book Series of 2016!

There were a TON of amazing comic books that I read in 2016 that didn’t make this list.  Powers by Brian Michael Bendis and Michael Avon Oeming.  Huck by Mark Millar and Rafael Albuquerque, and Reborn by Mark Millar and Greg Capullo.  Guardians of the Galaxy by Brian Michael Bendis and Valerio Schiti.  All-Star Batman by Scott Snyder and John Romita Jr.  The Massive: Ninth Wave by Brian Wood and Garry Brown.  Karnak by Warren Ellis and Gerardo Zaffino & Roland Boschi.  The X-Files by Joe Harris and Matthew Dow Smith.  James Bond: Hammerhead by Andy Diggle and Luca Casalanguida.  Old Man Logan by Jeff Lemire and Andrea Sorrentino.  Wonder Woman by Greg Rucka and Liam Sharp & Nicola Scott.  Groo: Fray of the Gods by Mark Evanier and Sergio Aragones.  The Manhattan Projects: The Sun Beyond the Stars by Jonathan Hickman and Nick Pitarra.  And so many more.

Also, there are several series that I have fallen way behind on, and so I am waiting to find the time to go back and do a major re-read to catch up on these titles.  Most notably: Stray Bullets by David Lapham and Astro City by Kurt Busiek and Brent Eric Anderson and Jesus Merino and others.  Had I been up-to-date on these titles, I have no doubt that they would all be on this list, and probably very high on it.

OK, onward!

15.  Empress (by Mark Millar & Stuart Immonen) – The wife of a powerful, cruel alien dictator leaves him, with her children and a few close allies in tow.  Can they evade her vengeful ex-husband?  That sounds sort of heavy but Empress is a slam-bang fun sci-fi adventure, gorgeously illustrated by the incomparable Stuart Immonen.

14.  Black Magic (by Greg Rucka and Nicola Scott) — In a world where magic is real, Rowan Black is a homicide detective in Portsmouth.  So far she has been able to keep her abilities a secret from her fellow officers, but a new murder case threatens to blow her world wide open.  Greg Rucka has once again created an original story with a fascinating, rich female character in the lead, and Nicola Scott’s jaw-dropping gorgeous ink-wash illustrations are a revelation.  This is some of the most beautiful comic-book art I have ever seen.

13. Moonshine (by Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Risso) — The 100 Bullets team reunites for this bizarre mystery set during Prohibition.  Lou Pirlo is a good-looking, smooth-talking, low-level gangster sent to the woods of West Virginia to negotiate a deal with a talented, secretive booze-maker.  What he discovers is what may or may not be a family of werewolves.  I adore the hook of this series, crossing a gangster story with a horror element.  Mr. Azzarello’s dialogue is sharp as ever and Mr. Risso’s illustrations are, as always, a joy to behold.  I will follow this team anywhere.

12. Jupiter’s Legacy 2 (by Mark Millar and Frank Quitely Jr.) — A family of super-heroes from  the 1950’s changed the world.  But, in the present day, their kids and grandkids are mostly disgruntled, arrogant, fame-seeking narcissists.  In the first Jupiter’s Legacy series, we saw chaos erupt when the spoiled super-powered kids banded together and murdered their heroic forebears.  Here in volume 2, one super-hero survivor, her former super-villain husband, and their super-powered child are fighting to free the world.  Mr. Millar’s story is bombastic fun, and Mr. Quitely’s illustrations are remarkable — hyper-detailed yet with the freedom and energy of a master cartoonist.  This story has expanded into a generational epic, and I’m loving it.

11. East of West (by Jonathan Hickman and Nick Dragotta) — How do I even begin to describe this series?  It depicts a dystopian future in which the Civil War never ended and what we know as the U.S. has been divided into several different still-warring territories.  It’s also about the reincarnated four horsemen of the apocalypse, and their efforts — along with their followers — to bring about the end of the world.  I love the sci-fi-meets-western vibe of the series.  Nick Dragotta draws the way I wish I could — with a master’s eye for character and setting — and I’m endlessly fascinated by the rich alternate world that Mr. Hickman has created.  The story is packed full to overflowing with remarkably unique characters and situations.  My brief summary doesn’t begin to do it justice.  I’m not sure I quite understand everything that’s going on, but I love every page.

10. Infamous Iron Man (by Brian Michael Bendis and Alex Maleev) — Tony Stark is gone and Victor von Doom, left with a restored face and a new perspective on life following the events of Jonathan Hickman’s Secret Wars saga, has decided to replace him as Iron Man.  I loved Mr. Bendis and Mr. Maleev’s run on International Iron Man, but this new series is even better.  The series’ hook is incredibly juicy.  Can the world’s worst super-villain change his life and actually do some good in the world?  I love the way Mr. Bendis is exploring the ramifications of the end of Secret Wars, and I love that he hasn’t changed Doom’s personality.  He’s still an arrogant prick, just now he’s trying to do good rather than evil.  I don’t know how long this new take on Dr. Doom is going to last, but for now I’m loving the ride.  Mr. Bendis and Mr. Maleev have made a magnificent team ever since their incredible run on Daredevil, and as always their work together has a special frisson.  Mr. Maleev’s covers for this series are particularly spectacular.

9. James Bond (by Warren Ellis and James Masters) — Warren Ellis’ two James Bond stories, “Vargr” and “Eidolon,” rank among the very best Bond stories I have ever seen in any medium.  Twelve issues weren’t enough.  I wish this team would continue to tell Bond stories for years to come, but instead I will be thankful for their twelve-issue run.  This comic is brutal, take-no-prisoners story-telling.  I love Mr. Ellis’ depiction of Bond as a merciless “blunt instrument” of Her Majesty’s Secret Service.  And Jason Masters’ art is extraordinary, with clean crisp lines that nevertheless manage to incorporate a staggering amount of detail into every panel.  It’s perfect for this series.  I am so sad there won’t be more!!

8. The Black Monday Murders (by Jonathan Hickman and Tomm Coker) — Jonathan Hickman and Tomm Coker have crafted a fascinating alternate history in which a group of black occultists have control of all of the world’s financial institutions.  We’re only four issues in to the series and I am already enthralled by the depth and complexity of this twisted world that has been created.  Mr. Hickman’s writing, and his usual assortment of info-graphics, are dense with information and back-story.  It’s great fun to try to puzzle everything out.  And Mr. Corker’s art — WOW.  This is extraordinary work, beautifully rich and detailed.  This story is a gripping mystery and a thrilling piece of speculative fiction.  I can’t wait to see where this all goes.

7. Injection (by Warren Ellis and Declan Shalvey) — A secret group of five brilliant British men and women, masters of a variety of different fields, came together and decided to pool their talents to jump-start the next century.  But what they wound up doing was unleashing the injection, a sentient blend of science and mythology, upon the world.  Now they have quite a mess to clean up.  Mr. Ellis and Mr. Shalvey impressed during their great six-issue run on Marvel’s Moon Knight, but this original series is a true masterpiece.  Mr. Ellis’ writing is gloriously packed with above-my-head meditations on technology and philosophy and folklore, with a great eye for characterization and dry, witty dialogue.  Mr. Shalvey’s artwork, meanwhile, is gorgeous, filled with wonderfully unique characters and a great eye for setting and detail.  This series has a lot of great characters, but I particularly adore Vivek Headland, a wonderful new take on a Sherlock Holmes/Batman-type super-genius dedicated to the art of deduction.  There’s also a bizarre obsession with sandwiches that seems to run through the story, which has me intrigued…

6. Paper Girls (by Brian K. Vaughan and Cliff Chiang) — In 1988, four young girls on their paper-route confront what appears to be an alien invasion, and then find themselves flung into the future: 2016.  I don’t know what the heck is going on in this series, which is filled with monsters and time-travel and apple products from the future, but I am loving every page.  Mr. Vaughan is a master at creating a unique tone to every one of his series, and with Paper Girls he has once again created a complex, rich fantasy world, albeit one whose beginning was in a very real, normal 1988.  He’s also a master at developing characters, and I love the way he has fleshed out the four titular paper-girls, each a distinct and interesting personality in her own right.  Mr. Chiang’s somewhat angular style is a joy to behold; he’s just as skilled at illustrated magnificently weird splash-pages of sci-fi craziness as he is at bringing to life the subtle facial expressions of each of the four girls.  This is a great character piece and a compelling sci-fi adventure.  I love it.

I hope you’ll join me back here on Wednesday for my TOP FIVE!

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