Another twelve months of comics are almost in the books – so to speak – and what a year it’s been here at the Big Comic Page.
While the number of reviews we’ve managed to crank out has dipped slightly, the quality of comics being released on a weekly basis continues to go from strength to strength, and with the end of the year fast approaching, it’s time for us to take a moment to look back at what creators, publishers and titles have impressed us (or rather, me) most over the last year.
So sit back, relax, and – as always – feel free to let me know what you think of me picks on the comments.
Best Publisher – Image Comics
While other publishers definitely released some great books over the last twelve months, few did it with the same level of consistency as Image Comics. With another stellar twelve months of creator-owned awesomeness, including the likes of God Country, Rock Candy Mountain, Angelic, Redlands, Head Lopper and literally dozens more, it became pretty obvious early on in 2017 that it was going to take something pretty special from another publisher to knock Image off the top spot. And so, in spite of DC’s creative resurgence, Black Mask’s inspired-if-inconsistently-shipped output, and AfterShock’s commitment to putting out top quality comic books on a regular basis, there was only ever going to be one winner for me this year.
Honourable mention(s): Black Mask Studios, DC Comics, AfterShock Comics
Best Writer – Donny Cates
God Country. Redneck. Babyteeth. From the start of 2017 until the end, Donny Cates hasn’t done anything else but churn out top quality comics, And, if I’m being perfectly honest, there was never really any other serious candidate for my ‘Best Writer of 2017’ award. Able to flit effortlessly between deadpan humour, family drama, bonkers cosmic excitement and, let’s be honest, probably pretty much anything else he decides to put his mind to, Cates’ incredibly hard work has finally seem him break into the big-two with runs on Doctor Strange and Thanos. And, given the impressive critical response these stints have already received, this is surely only the tip of the iceberg for Mr Cates.
Honourable mention(s): Tom King (Batman, Mister Miracle), Si Spurrier (Angelic, Godshaper),
Best Artist – Mitch Gerads
There were a lot of fantastic-looking comics released in 2017, and this was quite possibly the hardest category for me to judge (except maybe the “top 5 series”, which caused me all manner of heartache), but in the end it was pretty damn difficult to overlook Mitch Gerads’ sublime work alongside frequent collaborator Tom King on Mister Miracle. Managing to be one of the most aesthetically striking comics on the shelves without relying on gratuitous splash pages or double-page spreads, Gerads’ sheer mastery of the craft and gift for subtle visual storytelling makes him a more than worthy winner of this award. Oh, and his Swamp Thing-centric Batman one-shot was pretty damn spectacular, too.
Honourable mention(s): Geoff Shaw (God Country, Thanos), Eric Zawadzki (The Dregs), Stjepan Sejic (Aquaman), Kyle Starks (Rock Candy Mountain)
Top 5 Series of 2017 (in no particular order)
The Dregs (Black Mask Studios) – If you’re spoken to me at all over the last twelve months, it’s more than likely I’ve tried to force The Dregs on you in some way or another. An absolutely inspired “homeless meta noir” series from Zac Thompson, Lonnie Nadler, Eric Zawadzki and Dee Cunniffe, the Dregs tells the story of a homeless drug addict named Arnold who pictures himself as a hard-boiled detective while investigating the disappearance of one of his friends. Structurally flawless, with a mixture of emotional heft and eyebrow-raising intelligence, The Dregs is quite possibly one of the best comics I think I’ve ever read.
God Country (Image Comics) – The book that finally put Donny Cates on the worldwide map, God Country is a fantastic look at family dynamics and southern grit, framed through a Kirby-esque lens of warring gods and giant swords. Geoff Shaw’s artwork has never looked better, adding some real maturity to his style and hammering home both the quiet, character-based moments and the jaw-dropping cosmic carnage with consummate ease. Featuring a finale that will put a lump in even the hardest, most cynical of throats, God Country is another automatic inclusion into my Top 5 of 2017.
Spencer & Locke (Action Lab Entertainment ) – In the world of comics, it’s easy to make a great elevator pitch. But with Spencer & Locke, a series that sees a detective teaming up with his childhood imaginary friend (a giant talking panther) to solve a tough case, writer David Pepose has actually managed to flesh that million-dollar premise out into an utterly unforgettable series. Landing somewhere between Calvin & Hobbes and Sin City, and featuring some striking artwork from Jorge Santiago Jr., this is another series I have no problem recommending to anyone who wants to listen.
Rock Candy Mountain (Image Comics) – Kyle Starks has always had a knack for visceral, striking and hilarious artwork, but with Rock Candy Mountain, he finally manages to put the whole package together with a fantastic story and a genuinely gripping protagonist. The series sees us riding the rails with a mysterious hobo named Jackson, a man who’s on a mission to reach the seemingly mythical mountain, and comes across as “a hobo-themed love letter to the classic martial arts movies of old”. Featuring some fantastic colours courtesy of Chris Schweizer and providing a mix of humour, drama and bonkers hand-to-hand combat, this is another series that comes highly, highly recommended.
Animosity (AfterShock Comics) – It’s two years in a row for Animosity in my Top 5, as Marguerite Bennett and Rafael De La Torre’s series continues to go from strength to strength over the last twelve months. Whether it’s a menacing “red dragon”, theological conversations about whether animals have souls, or the countless humorous and deeply moving interactions between our rag-tag band of survivors, this is a series that – much like Spencer & Locke – manages to flesh out a winning elevator pitch into an absolutely storming story. Like the Walking Dead but with talking animals, and utterly, utterly fantastic.
Honourable Mention(s): Mister Miracle (DC Comics), Godshaper (BOOM! Studios), Angelic (Image Comics), Aquaman (DC Comics), Redline (Oni Press), Misfit City (BOOM! Studios), Grass Kings (BOOM! Studios), Redneck (Image Comics), Babyteeth (Aftershock Comics), Redlands (Image Comics) Aliens: Dead Orbit (Dark Horse), and about a dozen more I could easily include.