The 10 Best Comics of 2016

Photo Credit: Image Comics

This won’t come as a surprise to any real comic book fans, but the medium is more than just superheroes. The fact that we have to keep repeating this over and over is somewhat depressing, but the idea still hasn’t fully taken hold with the general public. Sometimes, it feels like we’ll need the equivalent of 10 Walking Deads to break that perception for good. Despite the lingering misconceptions, the comics produced today are some of the best that we’ve ever seen, with a resurgence of stories and characters that break the traditional comic book mold.

With that in mind, it’s still worth noting that comics are facing a declining readership, overall lower sales, and the potential collapse of the direct market comic book stores. We’re not going to predict the death of comic books, since we firmly believe that the medium will always survive in some form. But there may be some truly difficult times ahead for anyone who wants to make a living in this industry. And eventually, that will be passed down to the fans as well. You can’t read your favorite comics if no one can afford to make them.

With so many films, TV shows, and video games to enjoy, why even buy comics at all? Because the experience of reading comics still can’t be easily recreated in other mediums. Comics are the convergence of words and pictures in sequential form that break down stories into their most important moments. Through that process, the writers and the artists are collectively the authors of the completed comic. A regular novel just doesn’t have the same visual thrill of a comic, and readers have full control over the pace of the story. You can linger on a comic page as long as you want to or you can simply breeze through an issue in just a few minutes.

Also: The 10 Best TV Dramas of 2016

More importantly, comics offer readers a true window into the author’s’ creative vision. It may not be a completely unfiltered vision, but Hollywood’s attempts to adapt the stories almost always fall short of the comics that inspired them. That’s one of the reasons that we would argue that The Walking Dead and Preacher comics are both better than their respective television shows.

For this year’s annual list of the 10 Best Comics, there are only two repeats from 2015, but several of our favorite creators made the cut on their newest projects. That’s also one of the joys of comics: there’s almost always something new coming around the corner. As we often say, this list merely represents our subjective opinions of 2016’s comic book lineup. But because we’re always on the look out for the next great comic to read, feel free to share your picks for 2016 in the comment section below!

10. DEAD INSIDE

Dead Inside

Photo Credit: Dark Horse Comics

Writer: John Arcudi
Artist: Toni Fejzula

After a long run on B.P.R.D., John Arcudi is once again writing his own comics. His latest, Dead Inside, was a late addition to this year’s list, with only a single issue that came out earlier this month. But we enjoyed the first issue so much that it earned it’s placement.

So far, Dead Inside is offering its own twist on a locked-room murder mystery inside of a prison. Even though we know who the initial killer is, the “why” is less clear, especially when he didn’t live long afterwards. The main character is a detective named Linda Caruso, and it’s her job to figure out this mess and solve the mystery. Toni Fejzula’s art gives Linda a very weary and distinct face and body, but the rest of the characters are also intriguingly rendered. We’re very eagerly awaiting the next issue of this series.

9. MOONCOP

Mooncop Comic

Photo Credit: Drawn and Quarterly

Writer: Tom Gauld
Artist: Tom Gauld

Tom Gauld’s minimalist art style on Mooncop isn’t going to be for everyone, but his sparse lines have a knack for conveying emotion and grandeur. The titular Mooncop is exactly who you think he is: a cop on the moon. But the Moon isn’t exactly a thriving colony in this future, so Mooncop is practically desperate for a crime to occur or any sort of human interaction to give his life meaning. It’s sad, pathetic, and a little bit too true for anyone feeling lost in their own lives.

Despite that, Mooncop is also quite funny, both in terms of Gauld’s vision of the future and the wild ideas that he uses to flesh out his vision of the Moon. We would have preferred an even longer version of this graphic novel, but this was one of the year’s best surprises.

8. DARK NIGHT: A TRUE BATMAN STORY

Dark Night A True Batman Story Comic

Photo Credit: DC Comics

Writer: Paul Dini
Artist: Eduardo Risso

Batman isn’t real. So when we get mugged in our world, there is no Dark Knight to save us. Dark Night: A True Batman Story is a semi-autobiographical graphic novel by writer Paul Dini, one of the key creators of Batman: The Animated Series. Alongside artist Eduardo Risso, Dini exposes the very unflattering aspects of his own life two decades ago even before he was viciously attacked and beaten by muggers.

While facing a long road to his physical and mental recovery, Dini envisions Batman’s greatest enemies weighing him down while the Batman himself offers encouragement as only he can. This isn’t like any Batman story you may have read before, but Dark Night illustrates that Batman’s heroic example can transcend the medium.

7. OMEGA MEN

Omega Men

Photo Credit: DC Comics

Writer: Tom King
Artists: Barnaby Bagenda, Toby Cypress, IG Guara, Jose Marzan Jr.

In comic terms, the Omega Men were a bunch of losers in the DC universe…when anyone bothered to remember them at all. Most of the Omega Men had even been killed off in stories that weren’t even about them before DC’s New 52 reboot took hold. It was writer Tom King who re-envisioned the Omega Men as something more relevant: a group of freedom fighters who might be better described as terrorists. Their heroics weren’t as cut and dried in this series, which only made them more compelling.

King and his artistic collaborators were lucky enough to get a full 12 issues to bring their story to a proper conclusion. Thanks to that, DC has an instant classic that should be read and enjoyed in one volume for many years to come.

6. SEVEN TO ETERNITY

Seven To Eternity

Photo Credit: Image Comics

Writer: Rick Remender
Artist: Jerome Opena

Rick Remender and Jerome Opena have been collaborating for the better part of a decade, but Seven To Eternity may be their best comic yet. It’s actually a very difficult book to describe, as it mixes science fiction and fantasy to tell the story of kingdom that has fallen to a dark god, as one man is forced to choose between accepting that reign or joining a hopeless crusade against it.

The world-building of this series is impressive, but we’re particularly drawn to incredible details of Opena’s artwork. We could spend hours staring at the details on Opena’s pages; which only makes us wish for an oversized hardcover edition of this series…hopefully within the near future.

5. HELLBOY IN HELL

Hellboy in Hell

Photo Credit: Dark Horse Comics

Writer: Mike Mignola
Artist: Mike Mignola

We may never get a Hellboy 3, but Mike Mignola finally put his most famous character to rest in the final two issues of Hellboy in Hell. For years, Hellboy struggled against dark prophecies and the expectations that he would rule in Hell. Naturally, Hellboy had his own ideas about that, and let’s just say that the dwellers in Hell weren’t exactly thrilled about his actions in the finale. But Hellboy was true to himself, and if this is truly the end of the World’s Greatest Paranormal Investigator, then he went out on his own terms.

Fortunately, there are so many adventures yet to be told in Hellboy’s past that Mignola and company many never be completely done with him. But we certainly hope that Mignola will once again write and draw the tales of his signature creation. It’s just not the same without him!

4. KILL OR BE KILLED

Kill or Be Killed Comic

Photo Credit: Image Comics

Writer: Ed Brubaker
Artist: Sean Phillips

Any time that Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips collaborate on a comic, it leads to something special. Their previous comics, Sleeper, Criminal, Incognito, Fatale, and The Fade Out have been truly phenomenal. This year, Brubaker and Phillips launched Kill or Be Killed, a new series about Dylan, a young man who survived his own suicide attempt. But that survival comes with a cost, as Dylan is now forced to commit at least one murder a month to extend his own life.

In a way, this story is Brubaker and Phillips’ commentary on comic book vigilantes, as we get to see the fallout of Dylan’s friends and family, as well as himself. We’re still very early in the story, but it looks like Kill or Be Killed will probably be one of 2017’s best comics as well.

3. BLACK WIDOW

Black Widow Comic

Photo Credit: Marvel Comics

Writers: Mark Waid & Chris Samnee
Artist: Chris Samnee

Under Mark Waid and Chris Samnee, Marvel’s Daredevil had its best run in years. Waid and Samnee re-teamed for the new Black Widow series earlier this year, and they’ve finally given one of Marvel’s most prominent heroines the A-list comic book that she deserves.

We’ve seen stories about Black Widow on the run from S.H.I.E.L.D. before, but Waid and Samnee added some twists to revitalize that premise. But as good as the story is, the big attraction here is Samnee’s incredible artwork. The action scenes are as exciting as anything you’ve seen in a blockbuster movie, and Samnee’s character work is impeccable. This is the kind of series that only comic books could deliver, and it’s easily one of the very best from 2016.

2. PAPER GIRLS

Paper Girls

Photo Credit: Image Comics

Writer: Brian K. Vaughan
Artist: Cliff Chiang

Almost a year before Stranger Things hit Netflix, Brian K. Vaughan and Cliff Chiang unleashed Paper Girls, their own take on an ‘80s adventure. The series follows four pre-teenage newspaper delivery girls who find themselves wrapped up in a Halloween invasion from [spoiler redacted].

Vaughan’s characters and the story are fantastic, but Chiang’s art really makes this one sing. It’s just a gorgeous book, and it’s easy to see why this is yet another bestseller for Image. Aside from the long gap between issues 5 and 6, this has really been Paper Girls’ year. It’s only a matter of time before someone tries to put this story on TV or on the big screen. But the comic will probably always be the best way to experience it.

1. THE VISION

The Vision

Photo Credit: Marvel Comics

Writer: Tom King
Artists: Gabriel Hernandez Walta, Michael Walsh

No other comic writer broke out this year like Tom King. Along with his Vertigo series, The Sheriff of Babylon; a well-received relaunch of Batman; and the previously mentioned Omega Men series; King wrote The Vision for Marvel Comics, and it was easily the best comic of 2016. By far.

The Vision hasn’t had much luck with solo series over the past few decades, but King’s collaboration with artist Gabriel Hernandez Walta and Michael Walsh gave the title character something that he hadn’t had in a long time: a real sense of purpose. Essentially, the Vision created his own android family and he attempted to give them their own lives in the real world of the Marvel Universe. Naturally, those plans did not go smoothly and there was a lot of pain along the way.

Once again, King only received 12 issues to wrap up his tale, but The Vision felt completely satisfying. This is a story worth reading again and again. Anyone who loves comics should read this book.