Saturday, January 13, 2018

Top 10 Comics of 2017

After three straight years, Saga is no longer my pick for top comic book title.  Heck, it isn’t even in the top 10.  Well, I’ve still been enjoying it.  But its issues being so few and far between finally got to me a bit in 2017.

Anyway, here are the titles I had fun reading the most last year…

A sequel to Injustice: Gods Among Us, Injustice 2 is set after the events of the first Injustice game and before the second game.   Like its predecessor, it’s packed with riveting, hard-punching arcs; strong, emotional drama; raw, visceral character moments; shocking, out-of-nowhere deaths; and supremely creative lore-building.

If you’ve ever asked how the DC Universe would fare with a Game of Throne-style narrative dynamics, then Injustice 2 offers the answer.

I couldn’t get enough of the anime that I just have to binge the manga.  The plot, by the way, has already been overtaken by the anime at this point.

As a Spider-Man fan, I’m somewhat frustrated on what’s going on with the main title at the present.  Thankfully, there’s an alternate-universe Spider-Man title I’ve been able to turn to – Amazing Spider-Man: Renew Your Vows.  First introduced during Secret Wars, this universe sees a Peter Parker remaining married with Mary Jane and raising a daughter named Annie May.  But what makes this version of Spidey special?  His family goes web-slinging with him!  Yes, for the Parkers, superheroing is a family bonding activity.  Think Spider-Man meets The Incredibles, and that’s how delightful the setup has been.  As a result, they’ve become one of my most favorite fictional families ever.

Not only is Thor Marvel’s best film in 2017, but it’s also its best comic.  Among all of Marvel’s “diversity”-motivated shakeups in the past few years, making Jane Foster as Thor is the only thing that worked for me.  And this was only further enforced by the great year The Mighty Thor had, as she took on Shi’ar gods, the Phoenix Force, the new War Thor (Volstagg wielding the Ultimate Thor’s Mjolnir), and the returning apocalyptic monster Mangog.  In addition, the art has been as epic as the storylines.

Batman had a couple of crossovers in 2017.  He teamed up with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (twice), the Shadow (also twice), and – along with the rest of his Justice League teammates – with the Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers.   But the best crossover he had was with Elmer Fudd.  Yep, the Elmer Fudd.  Elmer “Be vewy vewy quiet, I'm hunting wabbits!” Fudd.  Absurd as the idea might initially be, the character underwent a gritty reboot in order to fit in Batman’s world, and it was believable and interesting.  Thus, the unlikely crossover between the two ended up being an amusing and gripping neo-noir story that was conceptually absurd yet holistically profound.

2017 was a Batman year for me in comics.  Before this list is over, there will be two more Batman comics to talk about.

Spy Seal is basically Fantastic Mister Fox, The Adventures of Tintin, and classic 007 rolled into one.  Set in a world of anthropomorphic animals, it follows a seal named Malcolm, a rookie British agent engaging in old-fashioned Cold War adventures.  Its writing and art are almost too basic, yet it’s extremely stimulating and endearing.

I didn’t care much for the main Dark Nights series, but I found the tie-ups, which explored the origins of the various alternate Batmen involved in the story, very fascinating.  My favorite is the one on the Joker-like Batman – “The Batman Who Laughs.”  This was a Batman who got infected by the Joker toxin after the Joker had finally succeeded in provoking Batman to kill him.  A defining characteristic of Batman is that, given time to prepare, he would always win.  But when his superior intellect was mixed with a mixed with a nihilistic worldview, it freed his mind him to opt for obvious, heinous acts in order to win.  This allowed him to reign supreme over his universe, murdering everyone on his path.  Among all “evil Batman” Elseworld stories I’ve read, this is easily the darkest.

The Flintstones received a surprisingly excellent reinvention from DC Comics in 2016.  It was as hilarious as it was thought-provoking, and as heartfelt as it was biting.  This remained true all through its run in 2017, until its 12th and last issue.

Scott Free a.k.a. Mister Miracle is nowhere near the second-tier of my favorite comic book characters, much less my first-tier.  But in the same way Matt Fraction made the overlooked Hawkeye very fascinating by taking an atypical, down-to-earth, character-driven take on the character a few years back, Tom King breathe fresh air into Mister Miracle by sending him on an existential, ominous story arc wrapped in a depressing, intriguing atmosphere.  Coupled with Mitch Gerards’ dazzling, dreamlike art, King is slowly shaping this mini-series into a minor masterpiece.

The last and best among the Batman comics in this list – and the best of all of 2017 comics for that matter – is the main Batman series itself, which is also being penned by Tom King.  Come to think of it, this is much of a Tom King year as a Batman year (by the way, he’s also the writer for the Batman/Elmer Fudd crossover) in my comic book reading.

Year in, year out, Batman has always made my list for best comics.  But it has never been number one.  Until now.  All thanks to Tom King, who brought so much highlights and character development into the Dark Knight in 2017.

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