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 Comic Series* of 2017. [*Both miniseries and ongoing series qualify in this category.]
8. Plastic, published by Image Comics, written by Doug Wagner, drawn by Daniel Hillyard, colored by Laura Martin, lettered by Ed Dukeshire
Behind one of the best title designs I’ve seen this year–with it’s enticing bubblegum pink colour way–lies a comedy as black as the depths of the southern swamps in which this tale of twisted love and redemption (kinda) is set against. Roving serial killer, Edwyn Stoffgruppen, has been somewhat tamed by the love of a good woman. Well, a well-made sex doll, anyway. But, it doesn’t go well for anyone once his love has been taken by a local crime boss billionaire. And, it’s in joining Edwyn on his psycho journey of vengeance that the fun is to be had. Great writing, great art: a great series. You don’t need a sick sense of humor to enjoy it, but it helps!
7. Anno Dracula 1895: Seven Days in Mayhem, published by Titan Comics, written by Kim Newman, drawn by Paul McCaffrey, colored by Kevin Enhart, lettered by Simon Bowland
Kim Newman’s Anno Dracula franchise started life as a series of critically acclaimed novels which tell the story of an alternate 19th century where Dracula reigns supreme. The main series is still going strong, but the transition into comics is a welcome change of pace as the world Newman has envisioned–with all its grotesque creatures, steampunk sensibilities and Gothic textures–lends itself perfectly to visual storytelling. Anno Dracula 1895: Seven Days in Mayhem miniseries is a stand-alone tale which takes place in a timeline between the first two novels. Set in Victorian London, the story follows an array of characters as they plot to overthrow the Dracula’s regime, but the vampire has ordered his special police force to infiltrate the enemy and destroy them. We also meet some of history and literature’s most famous characters, all of whom fit into Newman’s fantastical world rather splendidly. Newcomers need not know the story of those books beforehand as this is very much its own thing, but after reading it you’ll want to explore the entire mythology. Newman is one of the finest writers in the history of genre fiction, and this work is yet another reminder of that. Meanwhile, the stunning artwork by Paul McCaffrey brings Newman’s wild vision to life with aplomb.
6. Mother Panic, published by Young Animal at DC Comics, written by Jody Houser, drawn by Tommy Lee Edwards, Phil Hester, and Ande J. Parks, colored by Tommy Lee Edwards and Trish Mulvihill, lettered by John Workman and Deron Bennett
Once upon a time, in the worst city in the world, there was a little boy whose family died. He hurt. And he swore he would become perfect and keep anyone else from feeling that way again, This isn’t his story. This is the story of a little girl, in the worst city in the world, whose family betrayed her. People hurt her in order to make her perfect. But they just made her dangerous instead. So she swore to hurt them back. And no one, not even Batman would get in her way. This is the tale of Mother Panic.
An immediate stand-out from the universally strong line-up of Young Animal debuts, Mother Panic really captured the rebellious, but never petty spirit of original Vertigo, back when it was part of the DC Universe. The book’s villains are haunting and our hero is a deliciously flawed one. In many ways Mother Panic feels like what Batman would have been if the franchise had begun in 2016 rather than 1939. Combined with tense backups that recall the best of Gotham’s early 2000s, Mother Panic proved a force to be reckoned with this year.
5. Black Panther and the Crew, published by Marvel Comics, written by Ta-Nahesi Coates and Yona Harvey, drawn by Butch Guice (pencils) and Scott Hanna (inks), colored by Dan Brown, lettered by Virtual Calligraphy.
Ta-Nahesi Coates’ work on Black Panther over the last couple of years, in several different titles, has been consistently excellent; but this short-lived series (abruptly cancelled by Marvel after only two issues had been published, although the book was allowed to continue through the completion of its initial story arc in issue #6) may be the best of them all. Unlike the other, Wakanda-set Panther titles, Black Panther and the Crew takes place primarily in New York City, and features the Panther as only one of five heroes of color–the others being Luke Cage, Misty Knight, Manifold, and Storm. The story (written by Coates in collaboration with poet Yona Harvey) concerns the mystery surrounding the death of an African-American activist while in police custody, and is as compelling as it is timely. The characterizations of all five heroes–who, on first glance, don’t seem to have anything common to them all beyond the color of their skin–are entirely convincing. The artwork by comic veterans Butch Guice and Scott Hanna is superb throughout the book’s short run. This was an enormously promising series that was sadly never allowed to reach anything near its full potential.
4. Mech Cadet Yu, Published by BOOM! Studios, Written by Greg Pak, Drawn by Takesi Miyazawa, Colored by Triona Farrell, Lettered by Simon Bowland
Stanford Yu, the young son of a janitor at Sky Corps Academy finds himself in the midst of an intergalactic battle after a giant robot picks him for its pilot. Despite some initial misgivings from the other cadets, Stanford dives into this new responsibility with everything he’s got, determined to prove that he’s worthy of such an honor. The young boy is full of heart and he’s a genuine good kid, which can make all the difference. Mech Cadet Yu is a very special comic. It’s one that I wish I had when I was growing up, full of adventure, hope, and good old-fashioned fun.
3. Super Sons, published by DC Comics, written by Peter J. Tomasi, drawn by Jorge Jimenez, colored by Alejandro Sanchez, lettered by Rob Leigh
For the first time, Batman and Superman have kids (though not with each other) and they’re both entering the world of super heroics. Damian Wayne and Jon Kent are Robin and Superboy and are quickly becoming the new World’s Finest. They have a rivalry that’s fitting for two childhood friends and it’s extended as they both look to their fathers as role models (although Damian might deny that). Super Sons captures the fun and excitement of being a kid hero in the DC Universe without all the baggage that comes with the Dark Knight and the Man of Steel. It’s a fresh start that works for adults and children alike. If you’re looking for a comic to share with your kids this holiday season, this is the one.
2. Redneck, published by Skybound Entertainment/Image Comics, written by Donny Cates, drawn by Lisandro Estherren, colored by Dee Cuniffe, lettered by Joe Sabino
Redneck follows the Bowmans, a clutch of vampires living under the radar in East Texas. They run a cattle ranch and survive off the blood of the cows they slaughter for the BBQ joint their familiars run in town. It’s a safe, if boring, existence. They don’t bother the townsfolk, and they aren’t bothered by the townsfolk. Then, one night, all hell breaks loose. Everything they’ve worked so hard to build comes crashing down. Redneck is one of those rare projects where all of the elements are a hit. Cates’ script is a unique and well executed take on an oft visited and heavily clichéd genre. Lisandro Estherren’s incisive hand and scratchy line work sync beautifully with Dee Cuniffe’s brooding palette. Joe Sabino pulls off some insanely clever lettering tricks. From the very first issue, it was clear these cats were onto something special.
1. 4 Kids Walk Into a Bank, published by Black Mask Studios, written by Matthew Rosenberg, illustrated by Tyler Boss, lettered by Thomas Mauer
It’s a little difficult to explain 4 Kids Walk Into a Bank without spoiling anything special about it. Are there four kids? Yeah. Do they walk into a bank? Most assuredly. Do some kids beat the hell out of a group of Nazis? Fuck yeah. While you can make your own assumption of what happens in the plot based on the title, what this series really delivers–aside from the always welcome Nazi bashing–is a love letter to escapism. Rosenberg and Boss have crafted a retro “Tarantino does Goonies” comedy caper that celebrates the power of imagination against the backdrop of a cruel, messy, and confusing adult world.
So, why does this series, with its over-the-moon praise from creators such as comic legends Brian K. Vaughan, Ed Brubaker, and Greg Rucka, deserve to win the best series of 2017? The book isn’t easily summarized by a high-concept elevator pitch, but what it does do is masterfully use the comics medium to tell this riveting story. Rosenberg writes these characters with such strength that they feel like someone you may have been shoved into a locker with in high school. Tyler Boss’ amazing artwork is the second coming of David Aja, with clever use of color, panel framing, and incredibly inventive onomatopeia permeating each page of this book. Even the unsung heroes of the comics world, letterers, get to shine here, as Thomas Mauer cleverly plays with font size and style to create a “volume” and tone for conversations. It’s a lovingly crafted comic that shows how certain stories can ONLY be told in this kind of medium. In an age where everything is being created in order to be adapted into something, I think that alone gives this series a leg up in Best Series competition.