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Josh’s Favorite Comic Book Series of 2017 — Part Two!

Yesterday I posted the beginning of my list of my fifteen favorite comic book series of 2017!  Here now is my top five:

5. Kill or Be Killed (by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips) — Dylan is a normal young man who gets sick and sees the devil in his dreams; the devil tells him that he will die unless he kills one person every month.  Is this series a fantasy story, or is this a depiction of one person’s descent into dementia and murder?  I’m not sure!  The story works perfectly either way.  It’s an intimate character study and a stomach-clenching look at how one apparently regular person can become a murderer.  Mr. Brubaker and Mr. Phillips have become one of comic’s most unbeatable teams.  I’ve been following their incredible collaborations ever since Image Comics’ Sleeper.  Kill or Be Killed is another triumph, a dark, edge-of-your-seat page-turner.

4. Saga (by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples) — This wild and crazy, funny and deeply moving sci-fi fantasy adventure continues to surprise and delight me at every turn.  Mr. Vaughan is a Joss Whedon-level master at creating characters that we fall in love with, and then putting them (and therefore the audience!) through torturous hell.  There’s no other comic book out there that is anything like Saga, with its roller-coaster-ride style of storytelling, merging an overwhelming amount of stunningly original ideas and concepts with rich character arcs.  Saga is funny and weird and terrifying and heartbreaking.  Fiona Staple’s gorgeous artwork never disappoints, and is evidence, panel-after-panel and page-after-page, that she is one of the very best illustrators working in this business.  This Saga only gets richer and more emotionally wrenching with every issue.  I adore it.  (And the back-of-the-book letters page is the best in comics today.)

3. Lazarus (by Greg Rucka and Michael Lark and others) — In the future, the planet has regressed into an almost feudal system, with several warring families controlling the planet.  The young woman named Forever is the “Lazarus” of the Carlye family, her family’s ultimate warrior/protector. Lazarus is an incredible example of world-building, as Mr. Rucka and Mr. Lark have put enormous effort into fleshing out every detail of this world they have created.  With each and every issue, more fascinating pieces of this world come to light, an enormously entertaining journey of discovery for the audience.  And yet Lazarus works as well as it does not just because of the depth of this world that has been created, but because of the array of wonderful characters who inhabit that world.  I love Lazarus for the politics and combat, but I also love it for the coming-of-age story of Forever herself, and for the exploration of the many flawed characters who also populate the book.  I read each issue of Lazarus with my stomach clenched, hoping for the best for the characters I have grown to love, but fearing the worst. As for Mr. Lark’s art, I don’t think I have enough compliments with which to praise his work.  He is as skilled at capturing individual characters and their subtle facial expressions as he seems to be at drawing any location, any vehicle, anything at all.  Amazing, inspiring work on every page.  This year, the main story paused and was replaced by a six-issue mini-series, Lazarus X+66 (which refers to the year in which the story takes place, 66 years after a pivotal event that changed the world).  This mini-series was illustrated by a variety of different artists, and explored some new corners of the Lazarus world.  At first I was afraid this would be a waste of time, but it turns out I loved it.  Each issue was a stand-alone short story that was complex, interesting, and, usually, heartbreaking.  I should never have doubted.

2.  The Marvel Comics Work of Brian Michael Bendis: Jessica Jones, The Defenders, Infamous Iron Man, Invincible Iron Man and Spider-Man — After almost two decades writing for Marvel, in a few months Brian Michael Bendis is moving over to DC, something I never thought I’d see happen.  I have been a fan of Mr. Bendis’ Marvel work ever since his very first issue of Ultimate Spider-Man was published, back in 2000.  In the years since, he has consistently been one of my very favorite Marvel writers, and one of my very favorite comic-book writers period.  I am excited to see what he can do at DC, but I am sad that he won’t be writing for Marvel any more!!  Mr. Bendis’ eighteen year run on Spider-Man has been amazing.  That he won’t be writing Miles Morales (who he co-created with Sara Pichelli) anymore, that he won’t be writing Jessica Jones any more, makes me so sad!  Mr. Bendis’ Marvel work this year has been as great as ever.  I have loved his story of an attempting-to-reform Victor Von Doom, who has taken over the mantle of Iron Man.  What a fantastic new spin on this old character!  I have equally loved his creation of Riri Williams, a young African-American girl genius, and her adventures as Ironheart.  So many years after he and Michael Gaydos introduced Jessica Jones in the pages of Alias, I was over the moon that they had reunited for a new Jessica Jones series.  I am sad that it’s over so soon, but what a gift this recent run of new Jessica stories has been.  Similarly, I was excited for Mr. Bendis to return to Luke Cake in the pages of his new Defenders series, and sad that the series is done after only ten issues.  If feels like it never got a chance to get going, but I enjoyed what we got.  Mr. Bendis has a few issues left of most of these titles; I am hoping he is able to bring them to a satisfying conclusion.  I am cheating on this list by including these five separate series in this one listing here, but I felt it was worth highlighting Mr. Bendis’ final year of Marvel work as a whole.  It’s been great.

1. Mike Mignola’s Hellboy Universe (by Mike Mignola, John Arcudi, Chris Roberson, and many others) — Once again this year, no series has given me more joy than Mike Mignola’s continuing, ever-expanding Hellboy saga.  Starting a few years ago, I re-read the entire Hellboy saga from the beginning (starting all the way back with Seed of Destruction from over twenty years ago), and I’ve been writing about it here on the site.  This re-read project has only increased my enormous love and admiration for what Mr. Mignola and his ever-growing team of collaborators has created.  (Click here for my most recent Hellboy post.)  What began as a series of mini-series about a big red paranormal investigator who likes to punch things has expanded into a huge saga encompassing an array of wonderful characters.  Mr. Mignola now oversees multiple titles following multiple different characters and set in multiple different years, and yet they all have consistent quality and they all fit together into a larger, expanding saga.  It’s quite extraordinary, and I can’t think of a single other shared universe, in any media, that shares such a singular vision.  The incredible inter-connectedness between all of these stories, the way Mr. Mignola and his collaborators will often wait years before making a connection or expanding on a detail or a small piece of back-story, is astounding.  Each of these mini-series or story-lines stand alone, but together they fit into a hugely entertaining tapestry.  It is incredible.  Highlights from this year include the incredible The Visitor: How and Why He Stayed mini-series, which finally, finally tells of the story of the alien creature glimpsed ever-so briefly two decades ago; Gary Gianni’s gorgeous Hellboy: Into the Silent Sea graphic novel; the continuing Hellboy and the B.P.R.D. explorations of HB’s early days with the Bureau; and the re-launch of the main B.P.R.D. series with The Devil You Know.  This is the best comic book universe out there today, and whenever a new Hellboy universe comic comes out (usually multiple times a month, thanks to all the various series!) it goes right to the top of my to-read list.  I can’t wait to see where Mr. Mignola and his extraordinary team of collaborators takes us in 2017.

Thank you all so much — I hope you’ve enjoyed reading my Best of 2017 lists!  Thank you all for reading!!

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