Welcome to Comicon.com’s inaugural Best of the Year Awards, gathering the best comics and comics talent of 2017. This year we will be awarding in the following categories: Best Original Graphic Novels, Best Comic Series, Best Single Comic Issues, Best Writers, Best Artists, Best Cover Artists, Best Colorists, Best Letterers, Best Webcomics, Most Progressive Comics, and lastly, Comicon’s People of The Year: 2017.
Contributors to Comicon’s Best of the Year Awards this year include: Alan Stewart, Alex Schumacher, Brendan Allen, Gary Catig, James Ferguson, Kieran Fisher, Oliver MacNamee, Noah Sharma, Rachel Bellwoar, Tito James, Angel Carreras, and Hannah Means-Shannon.
The following are Comicon’s 8 Best Single Comic Issues* of 2017. [*Both one-shots and single issues, whether in miniseries and or ongoing series, qualified for this category.]
8. Minky Woodcock: The Girl Who Handcuffed Houdini #1, published by Titan Comics, written and illustrated by Cynthia von Buhler, lettered by Simon Bowland
Minky Woodcock is a liar, a career woman, an ingenue, and the smartest person in the room. Like all the women in Cynthia von Buhler’s Minky Woodcock: The Girl Who Handcuffed Houdini #1, Minky’s allowed to be many things and in the 20’s, when this story is set, women had to be. In a world where female characters are wholly underestimated by the men who (think they) hold all the power, von Buhler peeks behind the curtain to show the butler Margaery, the spiritualist, hired to make her séances convincing, or the ways Bess Houdini kept tabs on her roving husband, Harry. Minky wants to be a private investigator like her detective dad but, out of deference to gender politics and grief over his wife (a loss Minky deeply feels), he would rather hire her indifferent brother for the job (or at least that’s what readers have been told). Mixing real life history with art that’s like nothing else on the shelves, hypnotic and dangerous at the same time, Minky Woodcock: The Girl Who Handcuffed Houdini is my most anticipated series for 2018, and it’s because of this debut issue.
[Cover art by David Mack]
7. I Hate Image, published by Image Comics, written and drawn by Scottie Young, colored by Jean-Francois Beaulieu, lettered by Nate Piekos
I Hate Image was released on free comic book day and was so apocalyptically funny that Image released a re-print with bonus material. Gertrude hacks and slashes her way through parodies of Saga, The Walking Dead, East of West, Black Science, Southern Bastards, Paper Girls, Chew, and The Wicked and Divine. Gertrude even teams up with Spawn to reach her goal of meeting the Partners of Image. This single issue is tons of fun because every comic gets skewered figuratively and literally. The title might be I Hate Image but it’s a comic like this one that makes me love Image.
6. Black Hammer #12, Published by Dark Horse Comics, written by Jeff Lemire, drawn, colored, and lettered by David Rubin
Flashbacks can be tough for any comic as you can take away from the momentum built up over the course of a series. Black Hammer #12 is a shining example of how to do it right. It takes us back to Spiral City to look at Lucy Weber, the daughter of Black Hammer, shortly after her father and a group of heroes disappeared while fighting Anti-God. Lucy was recently introduced in a previous chapter and this issue solidifies her place in the series without taking anything away from the existing narrative. In fact, it does the opposite. Lucy goes through an emotional journey that is both captivating and heartbreaking as she grapples with the grief of losing her father without anyone to really talk to about it.
5. The Wicked + The Divine 455 #1, published by Image Comics, written by Kireon Gillen, drawn by Kris Anka, Jen Bartel, Emma Vieceli, Chynna Clugston Flores, Carla Speed McNeil and Rachael Stott, coloured by Tamra Bonvillain and Matt Wilson, Lettered by Clayton Cowles
A bumper end-of-the-year issue that acts almost as a Holiday gift to the fans of this highly praised series. Gillen and a whole gang of artistic collaborators offer up moments from the comic that have only been mentioned in passing, giving longtime readers a satisfying afterglow. A comic unashamedly glitzy, sexy and thought provoking too. I mean, if you had only a few years to live, wouldn’t you embrace your own Dionysian side? It’s almost a sin to read!
4. The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #26, published by Marvel, written by Ryan North and Erica Henderson, drawn by Michael Cho, Tom Fowler, Jim Davis, Rico Renzi, Carla Speed McNeil, Madeline McGrane, Anders Nilsen, and Chip Zdarsky, colored by Rico Renzi, Madeline McGrane, Anders Nilsen, Michael Cho, and Chip Zdarsky, lettered by Travis Lanham
The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #26 is a self-described comics extravaganza. A superhero fight caused damage to a local library, so Squirrel Girl is raising funds for the repair by producing a zine. The zine contains submissions from her colleagues in the Marvel Universe, both hero and villain. For this special one-shot, great talent, both fictional and real, was assembled telling a variety of stories. There are the silly and fun stories one would expect from Squirrel Girl, like the Howard the Duck tale, and the take on Galactus and The Silver Surfer as Garfield and John Arbuckle (illustrated by Jim Davis), to X-23’s heartwarming ode to the original Wolverine where he forgives and partners with a Sentinel to fight off a monster attack. The most innovative story is Loki’s, which can be read in two different ways, creating two different tales to match the duality of Loki’s deceitful nature. Squirrel Girl #26 is an unconventional, yet entertaining single issue that takes full advantage of the talents of all of the special contributors.
3. Ether #4, published by Dark Horse, written by Matt Kindt, illustrated by David Rubin, lettered by David Rubin
Ether #4 takes a detour from the main plotline of the series to explore the childhood of Boone Dias’ significant other, Hazel, and her own strange encounters with this magical realm, proving that it’s not all jokes and whimsy in the Ether. In doing so, this issue helps break fantasy out of the stereotypes of being either light and humorous or being dark and sinister. Rubin’s artwork, as ever, seems to scale those heights and depths with ease. His color palette in this issue is exceptional, using a kind of earth-tone to convey Hazel’s earthly experiences and creating amazing contrasts with the fiery/painful aspects of the Ether to suggest trauma. It’s the exploration of childhood trauma, and the ways in which it plays a part in the estrangement of Dias and Hazel, that is a particular achievement in Ether #4, and why it’s a landmark in an already significant series.
Valiant rightly classified Eternity as a continuation of the world of their comic Divinity, but not a sequel. The conception of the comics cosmos present in Eternity could only have existed after much wider development, an opening out of the Valiant Universe that suggested a certain stretchiness in their space and science fiction front that will only continue to fill their line with liveliness and possibility. Eternity #1 sets up the events that drive mystically empowered former cosmonaut Divinity into space, the disappearance of his young son, as well as some of the outcomes of this event, and while we begin to see Trevor Hairsine, Ryan Winn, and David Baron’s remarkable cosmic-level artwork in issue #1, it is really issue #2 that offers the scope of their vision. Reaching an “unreal plane” called “Eternity”, encountering advanced alien civilizations, we watch Abram and Myshka in a realm that their powers can no longer control, but which creates a sense of wonder both in the characters and in the reader. Any comic with a location called “Future Light God Platform” probably has its roots in Jack Kirby’s boundary-pushing exploration of the medium, and Eternity #2 represents those elements of comic tradition we haven’t yet fully tapped and which remain for us to explore.
1. Maestros #1, published by Image Comics, written and drawn by Steve Skroce, colored by Dave Stewart, lettered by Fonografiks
This is a series hard to sum up, but easy to praise. The first issue compresses what could easily be a graphic novella’s worth of storytelling into a compact bundle of narrative threads that will be essentially to follow master storyteller Steve Skroce on this journey. We meet Willy Little, part human descendant of a magical overlord, who, due to a royal family massacre, will now inherit the throne. With massive power comes a complete lack of accountability as Willy struggles to get a grip on his realm and his wise-crack-laced lifestyle. With each page as intricately etched as an adventure by Moebius, and as faithfully colored by Dave Stewart to evoke magic, mystery, and satire, Maestros #1 sends the fragile, often grotesque aspects of existence into the bug-on-windshield impact of a massive power struggle in a realm where almost any law can be broken given the magical know-how. Not only is the artwork on this first issue a revelation, but the ideas constantly at play make it one of the most grown up comics published in 2017. It’s simply a wonderful irony that this is accomplished through juvenile jokes and farce.