With the clock ticking down on 2016, we have time to slow in one more “best of” list from our team, and this time it’s the turn of Rebecca to share the comics, creators and publishers that she enjoyed most over the last twelve months.
Let us know your thoughts on her picks in the comments, and we’ll see you all in 2017!
Best Publisher – Image Comics
For this category, it was a contest between Image Comics and Dark Horse for me, with the latter producing some fantastic titles in my favourite genre, horror, namely the philosophical House of Penance; the noir-ish thriller Joe Golem: Occult Detective; and the Lovecraftian monster-fest that is Weird Detective. However, Image has been utterly consistent in a variety of genre content throughout the year, producing such quality fare as: the hauntingly beautiful Black Magick; the temporal conundrum, fusing history and mystery, of Black Jack Ketchum; and the science-fiction thriller Eclipse. Very, very close, but Image just edged it for me this year.
Honourable mentions: Dark Horse Comics, IDW, BOOM! Studios
Best Writer – Brian Schirmer
Brian Schirmer’s Black Jack Ketchum was an incredibly clever commentary on legend and truth. Its temporal narrative is based on the real character of Thomas E Ketchum, an outlaw who was controversially hanged for train robbery in New Mexico at the turn of the century, controversially just before the law was changed. Schirmer blends fact and fiction beautifully to create a surreal, philosophical exploration of identity, legend, and life itself.
Honourable mentions: Peter J. Tomasi (House of Penance), Greg Rucka (Black Magick), Matz and David Fincher (adaptation of The Black Dahlia).
Best Artist – Nicola Scott
Nicola Scott’s artwork in Black Magick is simply breathtaking. Scott sculptures her characters and the neo-pagan world of the story with incredibly fine detail, shaded in chiaroscuro tones that make the magical spells and sequences – the only source of colour – glow from the panels with an almost ethereal effect. A police procedural with a dark undercurrent of magic, secret sects and a central detective with a mysterious past, Scott grounds the enchantments in a very real, gritty world of violence and crime.
Top 5 Series of 2015 (in no particular order)
Black Magick (Image Comics) – The combination of Nicola Scott’s stunning visuals with Greg Rucka’s writing is a potent mix of magical elements, and one that perfectly complements the two lives of protagonist Rowan Black, detective by day and Wiccan by night. Rucka has evidently researched Wiccan history, practices and terminology, and this shows in the way that he respects the readership, avoiding unnecessary exposition, and the incredible detail – several panels are paired with German text. He even adds content to the comic in the form of a serialised diary entry, written by Gilles Robert du Pont-L’Évêque in the late 1500s, which explores the historical relationship between witchcraft and the church. Added to his realistic dialogue, which enhances rather than stereotypes the police procedural aspect of the comic, and coupled with Scott’s finely detailed artwork, Black Magick is a spellbinding series for any supernatural fan.
House of Penance (Dark Horse Comics) – House of Penance is heavily based on historical events surrounding the Winchester Repeating Arms Company and the widow of gun magnate William Wirt Winchester. Sarah Winchester used her inherited fortune to construct the infamous Winchester Mystery House in 1922, after losing her husband and small child to tuberculosis, and the comic takes this truth and blends it with perfectly with paranormal and philosophical perturbation. Peter J. Tomasi weaves fact with fiction to create a world that is doubly haunting due to Ian Bertram’s gothic, spidery visuals. If you like your horror with heart, House of Penance is for you.
Black Jack Ketchum (Image Comics) – The cleverest and most convoluted conundrum amongst these entries, Black Jack Ketchum is based on the true story of train robber Thomas E Ketchum, or ‘Black Jack’. Hanged in New Mexico in 1901, for an assault upon a railway train before this particular sentence was deemed unconstitutional under the law, the comic is a beautiful testament to his life and legend. Brian Schirmer melds mortality with mythology to examine immortality, as envisioned by artist Claudia Balboni. Perfection.
Harrow County (Dark Horse Comics) – Harrow County is fearless in its portrayal of horror. Cullen Bunn’s writing is informed and realistic, bringing to life the 1930s landscape of rural North Carolina as well as the myriad of people that inhabit it. Infused with insidious characters, gore-drenched panels and macabre monsters, the comic is visceral visual horror – thanks to Tyler Crook’s distinct style and exposition – that takes the reader on a terrifying journey down the dark, dark rabbit hole of Harrow County.
The Black Dahlia (BOOM! Studios) – Matz, or Alexis Nolent, and David Fincher fearlessly adapted James Ellroy’s seminal novel The Black Dahlia from 1987 into comic form. Based on the true crime in which Elizabeth Short was murdered in 1947, the comic was approved by Ellroy himself before Matz created a French comic in 2013. This year, the comic was produced for English audiences. Unlike other entries on this list, all original stories, even if inspired by true events, The Black Dahlia is a masterful adaptation of a previous piece of prose, using 90% of the dialogue from the novel, and perfectly captures its themes. Miles Hyman’s art is haunting and sombre, transposing the mood perfectly. Fans of true and fictional crime stories, look no further.
The writer of this piece was: Rebecca Booth
Rebecca Tweets from @rebeccalbooth