Best of the Year 2017 – Matt’s picks

Published On December 20, 2017 | By Matthew Wells | Best of the Year, Best of the Year 2017, Comics

Yes, it is that time for our Best of the Year posts to start off (you can see previous years Best Ofs here), with some of the blog crew picking out a number of their favourites from 2017. First out the gate this year is Matthew, who is going old-school with a top ten countdown of what tickled his reading fancy this year:

It’s been an incredible year for comics, and 2017 has yet again proven that there’s still something for everyone. Whether you have an interest in capes, aliens, war or even a bit of light-hearted comedy, this year has shown that creators are still managing to present to us some of the most interesting and entertaining stories of the year, all found in the wondrous format of the comic book.

2017 has given readers plenty of new great material to check out, such as DC’s Mister Miracle, and Geof Darrow’s brilliant political satire, The Shaolin Cowboy, but what has totally blown us away this year? What titles have left us mesmerised, deeply moved and desperately longing for the next issue to be released? Well, without further ado, here’s a list of the top 10 comic books and original graphic novels published this year, which I can’t recommend enough.

10. One More Year (Fantagraphics)

Ever since 2014’s Megahex entered our lives, Simon Hanselmann has been grossing us out with his nihilistic series about a bunch of slacker roommates, Megg, Mogg and Owl. This year, we got to witness more of their deplorable antics in Hanselmann’s best work to date, One More Year.

Penis jokes and immaturity is covered throughout One More Year, but this gross-out comedy is more than meets the eye. One More Year discreetly tackles topics of addiction, depression, identity and mental illness, all showcased in Hanselmann’s sublime artwork, which is hand-drawn and beautifully water-coloured.

Hanselmann shows no signs of slowing down, as these well-established characters are now loved by fans, and it still manages to be totally bizarre and outrageous. We look forward to seeing where Werewolf Jones goes next, especially after this volume, but here’s hoping it doesn’t affect Owl too badly (Rest in peace, Paul Walker).

9. Aliens: Dead Orbit (Dark Horse)

Fans of the Alien franchise have had it rough for the past few years, and after the miserable Alien: Covenant, something fresh and exciting was yearned for. Thankfully, that fresh and exciting thing arrived in the form of James Stokoe’s four-part miniseries Aliens: Dead Orbit, published by Dark Horse Comics.

Aliens: Dead Orbit follows engineering officer Wascylewski, who investigates an unmarked station orbiting in space. Being set in the Aliens universe means it’s never a good idea to poke around an abandoned spacecraft, and Wascyleski’s team soon discovers that when the deadly xenomorphs come lurking out of the shadows!

There’s no denying that Aliens: Dead Orbit took a while to be published, but considering James Stokoe’s insanely detailed illustrations, we really didn’t mind waiting to see the finished product. It was worth the wait, because Dead Orbit is an entertaining, tightly put-together piece of work, and it stands as being one of the best Aliens comic books in years. (Dead Orbit is reviewed here)

8. Extremity (Image)

Image Comics and their imprint Skybound presented readers with some of the most astounding two-page spreads of the year, in Daniel Warren Johnson’s epic post-apocalyptic war title, Extremity.

Daniel Warren Johnson’s Extremity follows protagonist Thea, whose life and family have been torn asunder by a rival clan. With her family on a quest for brutal bloody vengeance, they travel across strange lands, encountering gargantuan monsters, forgotten machinations and unimaginable horrors.

The book mixes in all the best elements from Studio Ghibli and Max Max, as it takes readers on an epic journey that they’ve never seen the likes of before. Readers will be left floored by the sheer scope of Johnson’s universe and his intricate artwork, providing them with some truly intense action sequences. Look out for Extremity in the new year, as this is quite possibly Image Comics’ best title of 2017.

7 – Hawkeye (Marvel)

Writer Kelly Thompson has solidified herself as one of the industry’s top talents, and she’s impressed readers so far with IDW’S Jem and the Holograms and Marvel’s A-Force. However, her finest work yet has to be one of Marvel’s best titles of the year, Hawkeye.

Joined by phenomenal artist Leonardo Romero and award-winning colourist Jordie Bellaire, this new series takes Kate Bishop to LA to begin her new career as a private investigator. Of course, she’s still the skilled archer everybody’s familiar with first and foremost, and some investigations eventually call for the use of a bow and arrow.

Hawkeye is a unique superhero comic book, which is smart, funny and chock full of surprises. It’s been touted as ‘Veronica Mars meets superheroes’, and Romero’s artwork is simply stunning throughout the title. Once readers engage themselves with an action sequence, Romero and Bellaire blow them away with jaw-dropping amazing splash-pages and framing.

Thompson’s clever scripts have helped define Kate Bishop as much more than a supporting character from previous titles, and she’s on her way to becoming one of Marvel’s strongest written female characters in years. So, here’s to seeing what Kelly Thompson tackles next because we’ll be waiting with anticipation. (the first issue of Hawkeye is reviewed here)

6. 4 Kids Walk Into a Bank (Black Mask)

Writer Matthew Rosenberg and artist Tyler Ross presented readers with a delightful tale of friendship, Dungeons and Dragons and a ridiculous bank heist planned by a group of kids, in Black Mask Studios’ 4 Kids Walk Into a Bank.

The comic follows the adolescent Paige and her slightly unusual band of friends, who have foolishly planned a bank robbery to ensure that her father doesn’t have to pull one last job with some old and rather uncouth acquaintances. It’s a truly unique plot, which is just begging to be adapted into a television series or movie in the near future.

4 Kids offers a beautiful blend of action, drama and comedy, and its cemented Matthew Rosenberg as an upcoming writer to keep an eye on. He’s a talented author, whose very own background working at Forbidden Planet seems to have benefitted his storytelling.

Artist Tyler Ross presented Rosenberg’s script with some of the finest illustrations in an independent comic this year, showing certain shades of David Aja. It boasts a superb colour palette, and Tyler Ross provides an excellent lesson in how well comic book framing can be used to accentuate art. 4 Kids is set to be a modern classic, so don’t miss out on an opportunity to engage with one of this year’s best books.

5. Pantheon (Nobrow Press)

Indie comic creator and animator Hamish Steele left readers in fits of laughter this year, thanks to his hysterical and extremely crude graphic novel, Pantheon. Published by Nobrow Press, Hamish Steele retells one of Egypt’s most elaborate and craziest myths of all time, the myth of Osiris.

It’s a side-splittingly hilarious history lesson, as Hamish Steele details Horus’ journey to becoming a pharaoh, including all the wicked details, such as revenge, murder, sex, some more murder and even incest. Unsurprisingly, as it turns out, this is not a book for children, but historians will certainly appreciate the sheer level of detail and care that Hamish Steele achieves.

Hamish Steele’s art style would fit perfectly alongside the time slots of Cartoon Network’s Steven Universe and Adventure Time, as his vibrant illustrations burst right out of the page. It’s a remarkably perfect fit for such a gruesome myth, and Pantheon stands as being the funniest graphic novel of 2017. Be sure to check out his next work out in July, DeadEndia, which is based on his splendid webcomic. (Pantheon is reviewed here)

4 – Doom Patrol (DC/Young Animal)

Although we were desperate for much more of it this year, Gerard Way and Nick Derington’s Doom Patrol has been an absolute pleasure to read. Since the beginning of this new volume last year, Way’s Doom Patrol has assured readers that his take on the super-powered misfits is just as strange and entertaining as previous entries.

The year in Doom Patrol showcased the return of an old foe, the debut of Lotion the ungrateful feline and the manipulative founder Niles Caulder, surprising nobody with his deceit. The newly established ensemble works brilliantly together, and this year DC was kind enough to treat readers with a special Michael Allred issue, which was quite possibly one of the best single issues of the year.

We can’t wait to see where Gerard Way takes Doom Patrol in the following year, and we’ll be waiting to see what madness unfurls when the new event, ‘Milk Wars’, invades DC! Furthermore, we also desire some more of Bane’s Colouring Corner. Make it so. (Doom Patrol Volume 1 is reviewed here)

3. Silver Surfer (Marvel)

Dan Slott and Michael Allred’s Silver Surfer was a pleasant surprise last year, but in 2017 the title ended with a big emotional bang, which resulted in one of the best creative runs in the Silver Surfer’s entire history.

Slott and Allred took the Silver Surfer in a much-needed new direction during their run, with a beautiful pop-art reinterpretation which featured some of Slott’s finest writing in years. Instead of having the Silver Surfer mope around the universe, he was joined by the receptive and colourful Dawn Greenwood, a woman from Earth who had never encountered the wonders of the universe. Together, Silver Surfer and Dawn Greenwood embarked on a journey like none other.

The latest volume of Silver Surfer will stand as a testament to how creative teams should work, as both Slott and Allred never missed a beat throughout. During its end, Silver Surfer turned out to be surprisingly moving, and it came full circle with a wonderfully written time travel plot.

Unfortunately, sales were rather low for the Silver Surfer during its run, but please do not hesitate to check out the previous graphic novels or the possible omnibus, as this title was a surprisingly fantastic and beautiful piece of work. It is not to be missed!

2 – Giant Days (Boom Studios)

We don’t know how, but with every issue, Giant Days manages to surprise us with just how well-written and illustrated the title is. Over thirty issues in now and Giant Days is still as enjoyable as ever, with writer John Allison and artist Max Sarin producing one of the best ongoing titles based in the UK.

The comic follows three young women, Esther, Susan and Daisy, as they face the trials, tribulations and jubilations of university life. Giant Days tackles all facets of university life, such as mystery moulds, horrible housemates, soggy summer festivals and of course, rocky relationships.

John Allison brings the characters of Giant Days to life with sharp, snappy dialogue and wonderful characterisation, and it’s all illustrated by the hugely talented Max Sarin. Her style is simply magnificent, providing exaggerated expressions, dynamic posing and her artwork somehow seems to get better with every issue.

If you haven’t checked out Giant Days yet, then do check out the trades. A title such as Giant Days deserves all of your support, and students and graduates alike will certainly resonate with the book. It’s a simply magnificent read, full of hilarious storylines and jokes, wonderful artwork and the best characters in comics today. We’re talking about you, McGraw.

1. Transformers: Lost Light (IDW)

This year’s best title deservedly goes to James Roberts’ and Jack Lawrence’s phenomenal ongoing from IDW, Transformers: Lost Light. We don’t know how he keeps doing it, but even after a monumental run on More Than Meets the Eye, Roberts’ still manages to astound us with his writing. It’s actually quite scary now.

Taking place directly after More Than Meets the Eye, Lost Light follows Rodimus and his band of ‘bots who are still on the search for the legendary Knights of Cybertron. However, the recent inclusion of Megatron on the crew, and a brutal attack by one of the most-feared groups in the galaxy has resulted in Rodimus and his entourage without a ship, abandoned on the planet, Necroworld.

Each issue of Lost Light rewards the reader with rich storytelling and some of the best dialogue seen in comics today. Most of these characters in Lost Light have already been established in the previous title, but Roberts’ still manages to shock the reader with surprising developments, keeping them on their toes throughout.

It’s just not just a story about Transformers battling it out, either. The war between the Autobots and Decepticons is long over, and Lost Light tackles much harder material than some people would have come to expect. Along with touching upon sensitive subjects such as politics, religion and relationships, Lost Light incorporated a storyline over the concept of ‘functionism’. A belief system enforced by some on Cybertron, that a bot’s role in society is defined by its alternate mode.

It can be a surprisingly heavy read, with Roberts filling the page with incredible amounts of dialogue. It’s all heavily engaging as well, and Jack Lawrence shines as the new artist for Transformers: Lost Light. Whereas some readers were concerned with the change in artist, Lawrence has proven that his own personal style fits perfectly with Roberts’ writing, and he’s an expert at providing Transformers with a little more expressiveness that’s rarely seen.

Transformers: Lost Light is the best comic book series of 2017 for me, and considering everything else that’s been offered by a selection of talented creators, that’s some feat. We cannot wait to see where Lost Light takes us next year, and we’ll be sure to strap in for James Roberts’ wild ride.

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About The Author

As well as working for Forbidden Planet International, Matthew writes for Starbust and also covers comics, film and wrestling on his own blog.

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