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Josh’s Favorite Comic Book Series of 2017!

It’s taken me longer than I’d hoped to get these all ready, but I’m excited to (finally!) wrap up my Best of 2017 lists with my look back at my Fifteen Favorite Comic Book Series of 2017!

15. 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 dark occultists have control of all of the world’s financial institutions.  I am blown away 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.  (This series would be a LOT higher on my list if it came out more frequently.)

14. Batman: Creature of the Night (by Kurt Busiek and John Paul Leon) — This bizarre tale is set in the “real world” in which a young comic-book fan named Bruce Wainwright suffers a terrible tragedy, and then apparently manifests a Batman-like creature to strike vengeance upon evil-doers.  I’m not sure where the story is going, but the first two issues of this mini-series (each of which have been 48 pages long, and square-bound) have been amazing.  As always, Kurt Busiek is able to create rich, fully-realized human characters about whom you grow to care deeply, and John Paul Leon’s art is absolutely extraordinary.  I adore both of these men’s work so much.

13. Marvel’s Star Wars Comics — It is extremely rare for a licensed comic book series to be good.  Dark Horse Comics published some great Alien comic books back in the day, and back when they held the Star Wars license they also published some great Star Wars comics…and also some bad ones.  There was a period in the eighties when DC Comics’ Star Trek comic book series, written by Peter David, was pretty terrific… and Warren Ellis’ run last year on Dynamite’s James Bond comic series was extraordinary.  But these examples are few and far between!!  Most comic-book versions of established movies or TV series wind up being lame shadows of the original works.  But somehow, shockingly, Marvel Comics’ Star Wars series have been pretty great!  That’s doubly impressive considering that Marvel has been publishing a TON of different Star Wars series, mini-series, and one-shots, set all across the Star Wars universe and timeline.  There have been a few weak links (I was excited for the Mace Windu mini-series but that wound up being awful), but for the most part, I have really loved these different stories!  I have loved the recent Star Wars book’s story of Luke, Leia and Han visiting the ruins of Jedha (from Rogue One), and also the story of Jedi archivist Jocasta Nu (who appeared briefly in the Prequels) and her post-Episode III encounter with Darth Vader.  Great stuff.  All of these stories have been shining lights on unexplored corners of the Star Wars universe, building nicely upon what we saw in the movies.  The series have posted some terrific artwork from a variety of artists.  I am impressed!

12. East of West (by Jonathan Hickman and Nick Dragotta) — How do I even begin to describe this super-weird 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 a genius-level ability for cartooning — 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.  I wish it came out more frequently, but this series is worth the wait.

11. The Wild Storm (by Warren Ellis and Jon Davis-Hunt) — The great Warren Ellis has taken the task of reinventing and reimagining the Wildstorm universe (the comic-book universe that spun out of Jim Lee’s early work for Image Comics in the nineties) from the ground up.  I dipped in and out of the original Wildstorm comics over the years that they were published.  I loved Jim lee’s original run on WildCATS, and Mr. Ellis’ own work on Stormwatch and the Authority was a standout.  There were some other fun series, but also a lot of stuff that I just wasn’t interested in.  I was intrigued by the notion of bringing back these characters and concepts, many of which I thought still had great potential.  Mr. Ellis’ involvement sealed the deal on my interest, and the series so far has not disappointed.  It’s a wonderfully bizarre, enigmatic story that blends Mr. Ellis’ knack for futuristic-science postulations, terrific characters, and his very funny snarky attitude.  I am loving it.

10. Star Trek: New Visions (by John Byrne) — I’ve been a fan of John Byrne since I first started reading comics in the early eighties.  It was always clear that he was a Star Trek fan, since I caught the various little Trek references and nods he’d work into his artwork, and I enjoyed the handful of Star Trek mini-series that Mr. Byrne has written and drawn recently for IDW.  But he has created an entirely different beast with his New Visions series.  Each issue is a 48-page square-bound publication, and none of the artwork is hand-drawn.  Instead, Mr. Byrne has revitalized the old style of a “photo-play,” using still photos from the original Star Trek series assembled to tell an entirely new story!  As this series has progressed, Mr. Byrne has grown more adept at using Photoshop to manipulate these still-photos, so that he can get more adventurous with his storytelling.  The style works remarkably well, and I have been hugely enjoying these brand new adventures off Kirk, Spock & co. that Mr. Byrne has been crafting!

9. 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 across time, to 2016, 1999, the ancient past, and the far future.  I don’t really 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.  It started off amazing and has only gotten better and better and better as the series has continued.

8. 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 (making his second appearance on this list!) and Mr. Shalvey impressed during their great six-issue run on Marvel’s Moon Knight a few years ago, 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…

7. Stray Bullets: Sunshine and Roses (by David Lapham) — I have been a fan of Stray Bullets since I first picked up issue #1 of the original run back in 1995.  The series went away for almost a decade in the aughts, but miraculously returned in 2014 for a new run that has been just as compelling and heartbreaking as those original stories.  The series is the greatest comic book noir I have ever encountered, filled with hard-luck cases for whom life usually goes from bad to worse.  This latest run is theoretically a mini-series, subtitled Sunshine and Roses, but it’s been going on for over thirty issues and doesn’t seem to show any sign of stopping.  Which is fine by me!  This latest story has looped back in time to depict the adventures of Orson, Beth, and Nina, on the run after stealing money and coke from a group of criminals.  We already know their fates from the early issues of Stray Bullets’ original run, and I wouldn’t have thought there was any more story to tell.  Boy was I wrong!  This is one of the most brilliant, idiosyncratic books out there.  I am so glad it has returned from the dead.  I will have a much longer post about Stray Bullets to share soon!

6. Astro City (by Alex Ross and Brent Anderson and others) — The latest incarnation of Kurt Busiek and Brent Anderson’s magnificent series Astro City is about to (sniff!) draw to a close, which makes me sad but also excited to see where this series goes next (into, apparently, a series of graphic novels).  I have been following Astro City through all of its different incarnations, at a variety of different publishers, since it first began so many decades ago.  The series is as fantastic as it has ever been.  It’s a gloriously joyous version of a super-hero “universe,” one that is set in a world that feels realistic and yet is filled with super-heroes, super-villains, aliens, monsters, time travel, magic, and all sorts of other comic-book crazy stuff.  Mr. Busiek uses the framework of this series to tell a variety of different short-stories, most just a single-issue long, though some carry over multiple issues, focusing on different characters and settings within this world that he has created.  The result is an extraordinarily rich, emotionally deep series, filled with complex, vibrant characters.  It’s an incredible achievement, one that is truly unique.  This latest run has been the most consistent run the series has ever had, with just over fifty incredible issues being published since 2013.  I wrote a lot more about Astro City here.

I hope you’ll join me back here tomorrow for my TOP FIVE favorite comic book series of 2017!

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