For our next round of “Best of 2016” picks, it’s the turn of Chris Downs to break down what he’s enjoyed most over the past twelve months.
Take a look below, and let us know whether you agree or disagree with his selections.
Best Publisher – Image Comics
Okay, this may seem like an obvious choice but Image are a company that continue to excel in bringing wonderful titles out month after month from an eclectic range of creators. From already established juggernauts like The Walking Dead and Saga, to newcomers like The Goddamned and The Black Monday Murders, they continue to take risks and fly the flag for what independent comics should always aspire towards; nurturing talent, creators-rights and a range of titles that have something for all tastes.
Honourable mentions: Vertigo, Aftershock
Best Writer – Tom King
Easily my fave new writer this year. King is at his best when bringing a warm, human dimension to stories tinged with violence, regret and outright terror. His phenomenal work on The Vision and Sheriff Of Babylon – which our esteemed head-honcho Ceej named his best of the year – marked him out as a major talent to watch. He may have blotted his copybook somewhat – in my eyes at least – with his work on the recent Batman Rebirth but really it’s churlish of me to even mention it considering the impressive body of work he’s amassed in such a short time. This guy is very special, trust me.
Honourable mentions: Alan Moore, Jeff Lemire, Greg Rucka
Best Artist – Nicola Scott
It’s downright impossible not to crack open any comic with the exquisite work of Scott and not just sort of gawp at how beautiful it is for a few moments. Her work this year on Black Magick and Wonder Woman has been nothing short of sensational, with some of the richest, most atmospheric art currently gracing the shelves. This was a category that gave me lots to mull but in the end she was my clear choice and a real star in the making. If there’s any justice in this world she’ll be as big as Alex Ross; she’s *that* good.
Honourable mentions: James Stokoe, Zander Cannon, Gabriel Hernandez Walta
Top 5 Series of 2015 (in no particular order)
Providence (Avatar Press) – Alan Moore & Jacen Burrows return to the mythos of HP Lovecraft built on and easily surpassed their earlier Cthulhu adventures. Telling the tale of a reporters cross-country trip in search of occult wisdom, the series acts on multiple levels; as social commentary, Lovecraft critique/appreciation and, perhaps most importantly, a truly disturbing horror story. Reminiscent of From Hell, this is Moore at his very best and proof – if it were still needed – that when he’s at the top of his game there is no-one in comics quite like him. If you dig horror comics, you really have no excuse to miss out on this one.
The Vision (Marvel Comics) – Arriving to take advantage of the characters breakout appearance in Age Of Ultron, Tom King & Gabriel Hernandez Walta’s series was a breath of fresh air in Marvel’s roster. Having created himself the perfect nuclear family, the titular character tries to settle down in suburbia and live some semblance of what he imagines to be a normal life. Exploring classic Assimov notions of humanity, the series has a tragic Shakespearian air to it with even the most touching moments laced with ominous foreboding. A dark, idiosyncratic little gem of a family drama that is unlike anything Marvel have done in years and the best Superhero comic on the stands this year by a distance.
Black Magick (Image Comics) – An occult detective story par excellence, Greg Rucka & Nicola Scott’s Image title stood out from the stellar debut titles offered up by image this year, which was no mean feat. Detective and practising witch Rowan Black is a proper Rucka protagonist and he weaves tantalising clues to the greater mystery at play with copious back-matter alluding to classic tales of witchcraft and folklore. Coupled with Nicola Scotts jaw-droppingly tactile, sepia-toned art it’s a series that really pushed all the buttons of this horror freak.
Kaijumax Vol. 2 (Oni Press) – Zander Cannon’s “Kaiju in prison” series was an absolute joy to read this year. Its wacky premise allows Cannon to tell stories that combine the charm, fun spirit of the more loopy end of the Kaiju spectrum with the dismal struggle to survive prison life in the vein of the more potent films like ‘Short Eyes’. It balances the laughs and pathos perfectly, bringing a real human core to the drama, which is frankly incredible when your lead character is giant insect called Electrogor. On paper it really shouldn’t work but it’s testament to Cannon’s skill that he continues to deliver one of the most interesting and unique titles around.
Black Eyed Kids (Aftershock) – If there was an award for best new publisher then Aftershock would be a front runner after having a stunning year for such a fledgling company, but I’m going with Joe Pruett & Szymon Kudranski’s brilliantly creepy Black Eyed Kids as my particular favourite. We can all relate to the knock at the door in the middle of the night, and the very real threat of home invasion, but wedding this to the supernatural urban legend – or creepy pasta – of BEK, the series eschews the jump-scare or wanton gore of many of its ilk for a tension and atmosphere that – like the best horror – brilliantly plays on the readers imagination to fill in the horrible details.
Honourable Mentions: Saga, The Walking Dead, The Dark & Bloody, Dr. Strange, The Black Monday Murders, Moon Knight, Second Sight.
The writer of this piece was: Chris Downs
Chris Tweets from @ChrisDownsy