Four our next batch of 2016 “Best Of” picks, we turn to Andrew, one of the most prolific members of our review team. And, while he freely admits that his list may seem a little contradictory (the Best Publisher not having any of his top five series, for example), he’s more than happy that he finally managed to whittle down his massive list of picks into something resembling a consensus.
So check out his picks below, and please make sure to let us know in the comments whether you agree or disagree, and what your own picks for the ‘Best of 2016’ are.
Best Publisher – Valiant Entertainment
Man, this was a tough one. On one hand, we have new kids on the block Aftershock who are producing some brilliant content straight out the traps, then there’s the resurgence of Vertigo (rightly championed by Ceej) who had a really strong year. Even DC with their Rebirth project that has been mostly successful. However, if I try to be objective and look at sustained collective quality (and the amount of money I’ve forked out on their material in 2016) I have to go with Valiant. Robert Venditti’s excellent climax to his XO-Manowar run, Matt Kindt’s brilliant Ninjak and his exemplary 4001 title, Faith has her own series (and everyone LOVES it), and then there is the daddy of it all: Jeff Lemire’s Bloodshot Reborn. I would dare you to show me a *bad* title for Valiant this year, but what is even more impressive is how cohesive and tight they maintain their greater universe over two timelines. Looking at it as a complete comics entertainment vehicle I must tip my hat to Dinesh Shamdasani for a job very well done.
Honourable mentions: Vertigo, Aftershock
Best Writer – Jeff Lemire
Not a shred of doubt in my mind here, I could have gone for Tom King but Batman has let him down badly in my eyes. I look at Jeff Lemire whose output has Bloodshot Reborn, Old Man Logan, Moon Knight, Black Hammer, Descender, A.D. After Death and Thanos all running this year. Yes, read through that list again, that is an incredible volume of work and all of exceptional standard, one which will get mentioned below…
Honourable mention: Tom King
Best Artist – Sana Takeda
The artist on Monstress: wow. While I generally think Manga art is ok, I personally love the more traditional Japanese art (I’ve mentioned that art of Yoshitaka Amano several times this year in reviews). Sana Takeda’s art – I think – is a bit of a combination of both styles and it’s just gorgeous. There is a wonderful complex simplicity to the art (work with me here) that is pleasing to the eye, and gives a sense of comfort to the reader. Yet, she can still draw stuff that works within that frame that’s can be creepy as hell. I find it satisfyingly different to a lot of the art out today, and wholly unique.
Honourable mentions: Lewis LaRosa, Juan Doe, Skottie Young
Top 5 Series of 2015 (in no particular order)
Negative Space (Dark Horse Comics) – I discovered this short run title too late last year to include in in my 2015 picks, I am not making that mistake again. Ryan K Lindsay and Owen Gieni blew me away with this fantastic title surrounding depression and the futility that can be modern living. Over four short titles we ride the proverbial emotional rollercoaster with Guy as he discovers the power, and ultimately the heartbreak of depression balanced in the face of doing what is right. Reading this title was like taking physical punches to my emotional state, it was the epitome of a beautiful tragedy courtesy of Ryans words and Owens powerful imagery.
Black Hammer (Dark Horse Comics) – Jeff Lemire’s homage to the history of comics, and it’s simply glorious. Incredibly well developed characters that you invest in completely all wrapped up in an engrossing tale that keeps you turning that pages, and if the story isn’t enough then picking out all the references to comic lore past and present will. In fact, the production in this title is so good that I couldn’t imagine anyone other than Dean Ormiston and Dave Stewart on art and colours. As with the team on my previous pick, Black Hammer is a title where the synergy between the writer and artists is in that sweet spot, and that just elevates your love of the title without you really being able to accurately explain why. Possibly the best title from Jeff Lemire I have read to date.
Superman: American Alien (DC Comics) – I love Supes. Sure, Batman is the king of the DC universe, but I always look out for Kal-El with fondness; that’s probably thanks to Christopher Reeve and being born when I was. That being the case I always get slightly nervous when a new title, especially an origin one, appears. I have to say American Alien blew me away. The anthology format is an inspired idea – as is having a different artist on each edition. The bite-size stories slotted effortlessly into the Superman cannon and with all the style and panache you would expect from Max Landis, issue 3 (Parrot) and 4 (Owl) being my personal favourites of the series. Even the little one-shots at the end of each episode with classic villains like Parasite and Mr Mxyzptlk I loved. I’m generally drawn to more deep thinking stories that have an effect on me, but for sheer fist-pumping Superman entertainment of such high quality (that isn’t a Batman story) then American Alien is dynamite.
The Vision (Marvel Comics) – There really is no way this should not be on everyone’s 2016 list. Seizing on the popularity of the character from Avengers: Age of Ultron, Tom King has taken us on a journey of discover through the eyes of a sentient android family in the Marvel Universe that has become compelling read. Tragic, funny, dark and beautifully drawn by Gabriel Hernandez Walta and Jordie Bellaire it’s an inspired render of striving to realise the American Dream through the eyes of an outsider, and all the baggage that can entail. This really should be one of your must-read titles.
American Monster (Aftershock Comics) – I struggled between this, Animosity, and Shipwrecked, but as the latter two are only on their 2nd issues I’m going to go with American Monster. In truth, this comic had me from the get-go anyway, it was the kind writing that slapped you in the face and demanded attention. The underlying malice of the titular character, as well as the general iniquity of the small town America setting and its inhabitants keep you on edge while reading this story. Brian Azzarello has scripted a story that’s kind of like watching a car crash; you know it’s going to be horrible, but you can’t tear your eyes away from it. Juan Doe isn’t on my honourable mentions for artist for nothing either, his spectacular vector styled art is up there with some of the best I’ve seen in comics.
Honourable Mentions: Bloodshot Reborn, Rai, Cry Havoc, Monstress, Starve, Saga, Lazarus, Red Thorn and Black Widow
The writer of this piece was: Andrew McGlinn
Andrew Tweets from @Jockdoom.