Greetings, 'Rama readers - with they year almost in the rearview mirror, Best Shots has assembled their Best of Best Shots 2017! It's been a big year in comic books, and your favorite team of crack-shot reviewers have assembled their favorite picks of the year, as well as some items to watch in 2018! So buckle up and get to reading, as we look back on the best of the best of 2017!
Bronze - Daredevil (Marvel Comics): Despite Marvel’s 2017 woes, Daredevil, written by Charles Soule, has remained one of the publisher’s most consistent ongoing series. However, this isn’t strictly due to Soule’s writing capabilities but the fact that, against all odds, Daredevil is rarely throttled by Marvel’s line-wide events. And while maintaining its own identity has been key to the success of this title, the talented artists who’ve contributed to the series are equally as crucial to the mix. Regular artist Ron Garney was arguably the gold standard of 2017, but Goran Sudzuka, Alec Morgan, and newcomer Stefano Landini’s aesthetics are certainly praiseworthy in their own right. Where others have failed, Daredevil has continued to deliver, making it one of Marvel’s greatest current ongoing titles.
Silver - Dark Nights: Metal (DC Comics): Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo’s bat$#!%-crazy rollercoaster ride through the Dark Multiverse is the first major event to hit DC's "Rebirth"era, and so far, it’s certainly lived up to its name: Metal. While decidedly Batman-centric, this miniseries has also featured countless other familiar faces from the DCU, ranging everywhere from the bold to the bizarre. Plus, as one would expect, the familiar pairing of Snyder and Capullo scratches a particular itch that’s plagued readers since the end of their fan-favorite Batman run during the
"New 52." If you’re looking for a event that truly feels like an event, look no further than Dark Nights: Metal.
Gold - Batman (DC Comics): Few things in comic books have been talked about more in 2017 than Tom King’s Batman run. From “Rooftops” to “The War of Jokes and Riddles” to the epic proposal in issue #24 to Batman Annual #2 to “SuperFriends” - heck, even King’s ancillary Batman/Elmer Fudd one-shot have all managed to captivate readers throughout the year. And King isn’t alone in his endeavors, as he’s paired up with some of DC’s most elite artists, including the likes of David Finch, Mikel Janin, Clay Mann, Joelle Jones, and Lee Weeks. When all is said and done, 2017 very well may be the year of Tom King’s Batman.
Item to Watch in 2018 - Doomsday Clock (DC Comics): The "Rebirth" event nearly two years in the making finally kicked off this November, and in 2018, expect Geoff Johns and Gary Frank’s Doomsday Clock to be a major topic of discussion in the community. After two chapters, Johns and Frank have barely scratched the surface of this epic tale, which will unfold over the course of 12 issues, much like Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ seminal 1986 miniseries Watchmen. It’s hard to say what sorts of twists and turns are coming, but regardless, expect them to change everything we thought we knew about the DCU.
Bronze - Batman/Elmer Fudd Special (DC Comics): This year, Tom King and Lee Weeks did something that I would have thought was impossible: They made Elmer Fudd into a sympathetic character by taking one of Bugs Bunny’s perpetual straight men and making him the co-lead character in a Batman comic book. The Looney Tune who is best known as one of cartoons’ most ineffectual hunters became a man of pathos as King and Weeks gave him a shot starring in a noir story set in Batman’s Gotham City. King’s writing treats Fudd totally seriously while Week’s reimagines him as a Gotham bounty hunter who can hold his own against Batman. By adding in a love interest that connects both characters, King and Weeks create a bond between the two characters which highlights just how similar they are to one another.
Silver - Royal City (Image Comics): Jeff Lemire’s title about a family who have suffered losses in a dying Canadian town fulfills a lot of the promise of his early comics, particularly his Essex County books. This drama shows how each member of this family has not been able to move past the death of a son and a brother. Lemire’s idiosyncratic art displays both the weight of the past on these characters, even as the wispiness of his line shows how these characters aren’t completely emotionally present in their own lives. They each have this image of the dead son and brother that’s more about themselves than about the boy who barely got to establish himself in this world. Wrapped up in their own personal hurt, Lemire’s story shows how mourning becomes a state of being rather than a moment in time.
Gold - Boundless (Fantagraphics): Jillian Tamaki’s collection of short stories reminds me of a great record where every song builds on a theme while having its own unique sound. The stories in this book feel like they’re from one year into the future or from a sideways, slanted world that’s completely recognizable but just alien enough to keep the reader disoriented and slightly off-balance. Her tales of longing and a search for connections take aim at our increased reliance on social media, fandom, and relationships to highlight the ways that we search to find our own chunks of dry ground to anchor ourselves emotionally and physically, too. Her stories aren’t so much about establishing those anchors as they are about the need for them.
Item to Watch in 2018 - Local Comic Book Shops: By most accounts, 2017 was not a good year for comic shops. Most fingers point towards the softness of Marvel’s recent output as the cause of decreased month-over-month sales. This over-reliance on a healthy Marvel is many shops’ own fault, but it does point out the weaknesses of a direct market that needs healthy Avengers, X-Men, and other Marvel events to drive traffic and sales. There have already been a number of shops across the country that have announced imminent closings, and the early part of 2018 threatens that there may be more shops that are barely hanging on and may soon need to close their doors for good.
Bronze - Redlands (Image Comics): From the very first issue, this collaboration between artists Jordie Bellaire and Vanesa R. Del Rey taps directly into the dark corners between the living and the waking worlds, exposing the monsters of fantasy and reality in equal measure. It is was the the creators call a “a diary of the people I hate, the people I love, the places I have and haven’t been.” It’s a horror book set in the titular Floridian town follows a coven of witches attempting to take over a town, and the police who are unable to maintain control of it. Allegiances shift as conventions are burst and motivations become apparent, and there’s more than a little bit of George A. Romero in the DNA of this series. Del Rey’s art transfixes the reader, with figures blending seamlessly against burning wood backgrounds, with sinister reds and oranges clashing up against a shock of color that continue to keep the readers on their toes.
Silver - Supergirl: Being Super (DC Comics): Supergirl continues to be one of DC’s flagship shows on television, and naturally has an ongoing comic and a tie-in to match. Yet it was this limited series from writer Mariko Tamaki and artist Joëlle Jones that gave us one of the most honest versions of the character in years. Thematically similar to the Superman: American Alien series from the previous year, this is the story of a sixteen-year-old girl who just happens to be super. Tamaki and Jones spend just as much time dealing with therapeutic trips for fries and shakes as it does with the villainous threat. This is a Supergirl who is struggling to understand her place in the world, and not being able to trust her own body. So ultimately this is superhero storytelling from the Peter Parker school, where great power and great responsibility come inherently interconnected with a whole lot of teenage angst.
Gold - My Favorite Thing Is Monsters (Fantagraphics): This weighty tome represents the first half of a two-volume set from debut author and Chicagoan Emil Ferris. Meticulously composed of cross-hatched pen drawings on lined and oversized notebook paper, and partly inspired by works from the Art Institute of Chicago, the curious mix of art and free-form text draws you in and holds you there for the duration. A brilliantly original work that mixes autobiography and the quest for self-identity against the construct of detective fiction and EC Comics and monster movie references. Out of nowhere, it also becomes one of the most heartbreaking graphic novels about a Holocaust survivor since the seminal Maus as well. With the second half due out in 2018, this work already puts Ferris in the same camp as same camp as Art Spiegelman, Roz Chast, or Alison Bechdel. Unquestionably the must-read comic from the last 12 months.
Item to Watch in 2018 - Gideon Falls (Image Comics): Writer Jeff Lemire and artist Andrea Sorrentino are the creative team behind Green Arrow and Old Man Logan. With Gideon Falls, the duo will turn their considerable talents to a supernatural horror series. While plot details remain understandably light, from so far we know that it will be about a conspiracy in the eponymous city’s trash, a Catholic priest with a past, and something about the legend of the Black Barn, a building that is said to appear as a kind of portent of doom. Lemire’s solo genre series and graphic novels from The Underwater Welder to Trillium have been outstanding, showcasing both his mastery of storytelling and art. This doesn’t look like it will be an exception. Joined by the incomparable Dave Stewart on colors, this is the kind of heavy-hitting collaboration that is almost guaranteed to be turning up in ‘best of’ lists like this one.
Bronze - Brandon Thomas (Image Comics/Lion Forge Comics): The throughline of Brandon Thomas’ work in 2017 has been emotional cores. With Horizon and Noble both occupying the genres of action and science fiction comics, the clear visibility and influence of his character’s inner lives on the plots that unfold around them sometimes feels like a surprise. Those genre trappings are often just the background for narratives driven by senses of longing. That longing doesn’t always resolve immediately, but often contributes to larger narratives. With Noble, his characterization of David Powell relies on more than trivia about the character, and through Powell’s interaction as he tries to regain his identity and through his wife’s determination to find him, readers get a real sense of the character as a person. With Horizon, the character work informs decisions that affect the larger and more complex plot at the backbone of the series.
Silver - Underwinter (Image Comics): You have never seen anything like Underwinter because there are not and haven’t been comic books like it. Ray Fawkes auteurs the series, and his writing and art suggest that few people see the world as vast or frightening as he envisions. The series’ first arc ran from March to August and never wavered in quality, instead occupying that strange interstice of anticipation and fear. There’s just no way of predicting what you will see or read. The highly stylized and often surreal art style invite contemplation. Fawkes’ panels flow like coma dreams, showing readers just enough of what’s beyond the veil of not only reality but also the human condition. The series is currently in the midst of its second arc. Given the fact that the comic’s unique tone and narrative conceits have already been established, the arc has had a faster pace while never losing that sense of menace and never feeling rushed.
Gold - Cullen Bunn (Marvel Comics/Dark Horse Comics/Image Comics/BOOM! Studios): It isn’t enough for Cullen Bunn to be writing the best X-Men book of 2017 in X-Men: Blue, or his Harrow County to be the best Dark Horse book for the second year running. Those two books have been consistent enough to be a contender for this list. What makes the strength of his writing in 2017 irrefutable is his work on The Unsound and Regression. While these books have the sense of dread found in his much of his other offerings, they also show Bunn crafting simultaneously interesting and entertaining stories. His character work was manifest in each of the aforementioned books, but was at its peak in X-Men: Blue, where it shined even in Secret Empire tie-in issues with an attention to prolonged character arcs that was evident in spite of the event's mandates. Bunn’s books in 2017 could all be blind purchases and still leave readers satisfied with a reliability that’s hard to match.
Item to Watch in 2018 - Young Animal (DC Comics): Vertigo might be planning a resurgence in 2018, but don’t let DC’s shiny new toy distract you from the undeniable strength of the Young Animal line, particularly the renamed continuations of Mother Panic, Shade the Changing Girl, and Cave Carson has a Cybernetic Eye. Those three titles have been so reliably engaging and inventive that the guarantee of not only their continuity but also their evolution can only bode well for comics as a medium. Make no mistake, tomorrow’s top comic creators are going to be people inspired by Young Animal books. With strong returning titles and Mags Visaggio and Sony Liew’s forthcoming Eternity Girl, Young Animal’s 2018 looks like a wild beast.
Bronze - U.S. Avengers (Marvel Comics): A sequel series of sorts to Al Ewing’s New Avengers title, U.S. Avengers was a 12-issue carnival ride highlighting the adventures of Sunspot’s young team. Ewing, along with artists Paco Medina and Paco Diaz, expertly weaved in odd bits of Marvel continuity and had a laugh at the never-ending series of events that derailed smaller titles, including this one. For those who wanted their superheroes with a bit of campy fun, U.S. Avengers was the title to read in 2017.
Silver - The Flintstones (DC Comics): No individual series could match up to The Flintstones in 2017. While the series began in 2016 (where it was my Gold winner), its closing half in 2017 was an emotional rollercoaster expertly crafted by Mark Russell, Steve Pugh, and Chris Chuckry. Each issue highlighted not only an aspect of the Flintstone family, but marked out a part of our own society for biting satire.
Gold - The Catalyst Prime Universe (Lion Forge Comics): In an age where fans clamor for more diversity in their superhero comics, one publisher has actually put in the time in and done the work: Lion Forge. Their Catalyst Prime Universe began on Free Comic Book Day with a Catalyst Prime one-shot and has now sprung out into numerous series like Noble, Superb, and Accel. Each series focuses on a different type of hero, and while there are certain archetypes utilized, the multiple series all put a fresh spin on superheroes in a way that feels both honest and well-earned.
Who to Watch in 2018 - Christopher Priest (DC Comics/Marvel Comics): Priest made his return to monthly comic books in 2016 with Deathstroke, a title that’s consistently been one of the best of the Rebirth initiative. In 2018, his arc on Justice League will continue, and a guest spot on the Black Panther Annual will see him return to a piece of the Marvel Universe that he defined. Priest has long been one of the most underrated creators in the business, and 2018 should hopefully see more people recognize that.
Bronze - ResurreXion (Marvel Comics): Having been thrown into conflict, the past couple years have been a tumultuous time for both the Inhumans and the X-Men. Thankfully, 2017 saw their fight come to an end with entries in both franchises setting off in their own directions. On the Inhuman side, Saladin Ahmed and Christian Ward’s Black Bolt has not only been visually stunning, but tells a tale of personal struggle that also navigates complex continuity and ideas like mass incarceration. Back on Earth, Christina Strain’s Generation X fast laid down a sturdy foundation and blossomed from there. While the title has been disappointingly cancelled, the oddball characters therein were given their just spotlight thanks to Strain’s steady characterization and Amilcar Pinna and Felipe Sobriero’s wonky designs. In the end, it has perhaps proved too esoteric to catch on, but take a look and you’ll be sure to find the big moments deserving of superhero comics, but so many smaller, intimate ones as well.
Silver - Giant Days (BOOM! Studios): 2018 will bring an end to my time at university and as a result, I’ve come to find myself even more drawn to John Allison and Max Sarin’s slice-of-life series. The ongoing series focuses on the trio of Daisy Wooton, Esther de Groot, and Susan Ptolemy during their time at Sheffield University. There’s jokes, japes, shenanigans, conundrums, consequences and a large supporting cast that keep it moving forward. Now in their second year, Allison has built up this cast of characters so tremendously that it all clicks together, the various characters constantly collide with one another, persistently altering their dynamics and relationships, while Sarin has continually grown as a cartoonist since joining the series. While it’s most evident in comparison to their early issues, that gained ability is apparent even when looking at the year’s earliest issue and the most recent. Serialized without losing sight of providing a unit of comic books month-to-month, Giant Days is one of the most smartly constructed series on the stands and shows no signs of being anything but.
Gold - Tom King (DC Comics): 2017 has marked a year where Tom King has solely produced work within the DC universe, but he’s managed to make just as much of an impression as last year, if not more so. The kick-off to his year, a Batman arc entitled “Rooftops,” saw him and now-frequent collaborator Mitch Gerads examine Bruce Wayne and Selina Kyle’s relationship in a way that stirred true romantic sentiment. In retrospect, it was a clear indication of things to come, not in the least because it saw him hid his stride on DC’s flagship book. With David Finch and Jordie Bellaire, they tied up his initial trilogy of arcs, only for him to waste no time in forging ahead through “The Button," a Swamp Thing team-up and most importantly, a marriage proposal. Alone the latter would be a major event, but the issues that followed have: deepened Bruce and Selina’s bond, showcased “The War of Jokes and Riddles” and welcomed Clay Mann and Joëlle Jones to the team. All of this without even mentioning his and Gerads’ Mister Miracle maxiseries, a barnburner of a book that may have an even higher profile than the Caped Crusader and likely to be an all-time great.
Item to Watch in 2018 - Young Animal (DC Comics): Gerard Way’s imprint had some trouble this year involving delays, but after a brief period of regrouping, looks set to (re-)explode early next year - kicking it off with “Milk Wars.” Described as an "un-event," it concerns an interdimensional, nefarious story-stealing company called RetCo. A chance for characters like Wonder Woman to meet Shade the Changing Girl and Cave Carson to encounter Swamp Thing, it sounds like the best kind of bonkers, a sentiment backed up by the released covers. Following that comes a soft relaunch: Shade the Changing Woman, from Cecil Castellucci and Marley Zarcone, looks to be a maturation for Loma, while also deepening their story as the team bring her into contact with the original Changing Man. Jon Rivera is taking Cave Carson to space, a location which Michael Avon Oeming is sure to thrive in, while Jody Houser, Tommy Lee Edwards, and Ibrahim Moustafa are getting the chance to play in the Gotham sandbox without the presence of Batman looming over the city. These premises, in addition to series from creators like Mags Visaggio, Sonny Liew, Si Spurrier and Rachel Stott, will hopefully see the imprint realize its full potential after a hindered start.
Bronze - As the Crow Flies (Iron Circus Comics): Melanie Gillman's As the Crow Flies follows the summer of Charlie, a young queer black girl who finds herself dropped off at an all-white Christian backpacking camp. Gillman captures the uncertainty of trying to find yourself in a place that may not want to answer the questions you want to ask - there’s a fragility to any young person’s identity at thirteen, particularly for teens from marginalized communities, and As the Crow Flies encapsulates that lingering anxiety perfectly. Keep in mind as you’re reading that this is the first volume in a series or the end may seem a little abrupt. Still, this is a gorgeous YA graphic novel and absolutely worth your time.
Silver - Taproot (Lion Forge): This graphic novel is so pure and wonderful. Keezy Young’s Taproot is a charming supernatural romance following young gardener Hamal and young ghost Blue through a harrowing effort to save their small town from an unusual otherworldly threat. Young’s soft colors capture both the soft, sunlit warmth of a sweet-smelling garden and the eerie darkness of the unnatural threat that plagues Hamal’s home. A sweet and darling romance with a hint of spooky danger, Taproot is a beautiful debut work, and the perfect addition to your shelf or the shelf of any young reader in your life. Young’s Yellow Hearts webcomic is a wonderful series as well.
Gold - Mis(h)adra (Gallery 13): Rounding out my 2017 Best Shots is Iasmin Omar Ata’s Mis(h)adra, an absolutely stunning exploration of what it’s like to live with chronic illness. Ata details the diagnosis and management of their epilepsy in a gorgeously illustrated graphic novel; their piercing, surreal style will keep you enraptured from start to finish. This is Ata’s debut published work, adapted from their webcomic of the same name, but with luck we’ll see a great deal more of Ata in comic books in the years to come. Mis(h)adra is easily the most beautiful graphic novel I’ve ever read, and one I’ve thought of non-stop since the first time I read it four months ago.
Item to Watch in 2018 - The Wilds (Black Mask Studios): Zombie horror aesthetic tends to be more monstrous than alluring, but The Wilds delivers a world where there’s beauty in decay. Vita Ayala is a powerful writer, but it’s artist Emily Pearson and colorist Marissa Louise who elevate this tale to something strange and haunting. The Wilds is an apocalyptic mystery-thriller featuring the aftermath of a bizarre sort of floral horror virus that leaves its victims both beautiful and vacuous. Rather than the tale of human efforts to "cancel the apocalypse," The Wilds instead follows one woman’s quest to find her missing partner in the dangerous wilderness beyond her walled-in home, and the unsettling revelations she makes along the way. Think a little more The Last of Us than The Walking Dead, but in a world unafraid to embrace the full glory of nature against a backdrop of destruction.
Bronze - The Wild Storm (DC Comics): The story of WildStorm is one of the comic industries’ greatest roller coaster rides, so it is only fitting that it’s latest iteration made some waves as well. With Warren Ellis and Jim Lee serving as the braintrust behind this newest reboot (which finds classic characters like the Engineer and Grifter occupying a cold world of espionage and alien intrigue), the core series glowered from the shelves and hooked readers (myself included) with a cleverly cinematic first arc. Armed with photographically-precise artwork from Jon Davis-Hunt and sharp colors from Ivan Plascencia, the first issues of The Wild Storm sold the chilliness and action of this new “WildStorm” Earth, but it was Bryan Hill, N. Steven Harris, and Dexter Vines’ Michael Cray spin-off that gave it a beating heart and turned an intriguing imprint experiment into one of the more interesting serialized comic experiences of 2017. The best part? There are still plenty of numbers to get through on their eye-catching trade dress in 2018, meaning the storm will continue to rage on.
Silver - Rock Candy Mountain (Image Comics): Melding whimsy, humor, and tragedy, Kyle Starks’ Rock Candy Mountain was a consistently surprising, and hilarious, read throughout 2017. Following the “world’s toughest hobo” and his foppish travel companion, Starks kept rising above the novel premise by delivering truly hilarious meta humor and gut-wrenching poignancy as the pair rode the rails, caused prison riots, and fought the actual Devil, all in search of the titular candy mountain. Rendered in Starks’ trademark blocky style, Rock Candy Mountain also rose above a positively stacked year for Image, both artistically and scripting wise, with its old-timey but kinetic artwork and rich, India Ink-toned colors. Blessed with a razor-sharp wit and a singular art style, Rock Candy Mountain was always a treat to find in my pull box.
Gold - The Dregs (Black Mask Studios): I’m hard-pressed to think of a comic book that stayed with me as long as the The Dregs did in 2017. Equal parts cannibal horror, pointed commentary on the plight of the homeless in America, and loving tribute to Raymond Chandler and noir detectives, Lonnie Nadler and Zac Thompson’s series always kept me in in breathless excitement to see where the story would end and just how far it was willing to go every month. Artist Eric Zawadski and colorist Dee Cunniffe also left it all on the page throughout this story, delivering brutal, noir inspired depictions of street life, mind-bending displays of artistic flourish (IE: the pair’s take on the Sisyphus myth. Yowza, you guys), and grungy, tonally perfect horror scenes; sometimes within the turn of a page. A lot of great books came out in 2017, but none of them kept me thinking, feeling, and as excited for the next installment as The Dregs did.
Item to Watch in 2018 - Donny Cates (Marvel Comics/Image Comics/Aftershock Comics): Donny Cates has had what the kids would call "A Year" over the course of 2017. After steadily building a profile with Image hits like God Country and Redneck and the AfterShock horror comedy Babyteeth, 2017 was also the year Cates signed an exclusive deal with Marvel, where he benched Stephen Strange as Sorcerer Supreme in favor of Loki and turned a book about Thanos into a thoughtful (and funny!) meditation on violence and legacy. Outside of his creator-owned work and his new tenure at the House of Ideas, he also proved himself a capable Star Trek writer providing stories for IDW’s Star Trek: Waypoint, another showcase of his big ideas and eye for characters. Though 2017 found his name on a lot of material, I suspect that Donny Cates’ biggest days are ahead in 2018.
Bronze - Black Mask Studios: With the success of titles like Black, 4 Kids Walk Into A Bank, and Beautiful Canvas, Black Mask Studios has established itself as the punk rock alternative to the mainstream - fitting as Bad Religion’s Brett Gurewitz and Gray Matter’s Steve Niles are co-founders along with Matt Pizzolo. And even as creators like Matthew Rosenberg, Mags Visaggio and Vita Ayala graduate to bigger projects at the Big Two, Black Mask has no shortage of talent in the pipeline with 2018 welcoming Gravetrancers, The Wilds, and the return of Calexit to the stands. 2017 was a big year for one of the best publishers on the block. The future looks bright, and comics is lucky to have them.
Silver - Representation in Comics: This is a drum I’ve beat before in our year-end reviews but it's something that I’m always happy to talk about. There’s never enough representation for those that aren’t straight cis white men in comic books, but every year non-men, people of color, queer and trans folks make their space a little bit bigger across many genres in the medium. Whether it’s the superhero coming out story in Iceman, the continuing adventures of Ms. Marvel, the queer romance Bingo Love, Iron Circus Comics’ extremely diverse line-up or more, there really is something for every kind of fan out there. In a year that’s felt hopeless for many and revealed that the worst parts of humanity are not afraid to make themselves known, comics provided an outlet for readers and creators alike to take a stand and claim space for themselves - something I hope only grows stronger in the coming years.
Gold - Tom King (DC Comics): I expect that I’m not alone on this one amongst my Best Shots teammates, but Mr. King’s work has been so thoroughly good and affecting that to not put him here would be a disservice. He’s given us Sheriff of Babylon, Grayson, Omega Men, and The Vision already, but 2017 saw King give us a nuanced take on Batman and the best comic book of the year in Mister Miracle. His ability to unearth the humanity of these larger than life characters has been on display in full force over the last 12 months, and he’s made significant, lasting changes to the way that people will view them. After years of Batman being something of an invincible demigod, King reminded us that he as the same limits as us. And in the year of Jack Kirby’s centennial, King showed us the heart that Scott Free and Big Barda are the heart that beats within the Fourth World Saga. These are comics that readers will never forget. These are the books that will break someone's heart.
Item to Watch in 2018 - Tyler Boss (Black Mask Studios/IDW Publishing): You may have heard Tyler Boss’ name as one half of the stellar creative team behind 4 Kids Walk Into A Bank, but I think he’s poised for an even bigger 2018. January will see the release of IDW’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Universe #18 featuring Boss’ artistic take on the iconic heroes in a half-shell, and that looks to just be the beginning. Boss’ work toes the line between more mainstream and experimental works allowing him the range and flexibility to deliver very straightforward work like his homage to the Replacements’ album “Let It Be” for The Archies #1 or the sort of David-Aja-meets-Dash-Shaw surrealism that we’ve seen elsewhere. I look forward to seeing what else Boss has coming as his art continues to evolve and he becomes an even more adept storyteller than he already is.
Bronze - Secret Weapons (Valiant Entertainment): Written by Arrival's Eric Heisserer, some of the best new superheroes of 2017 weren't from Marvel and DC, but from Valiant's Secret Weapons. Evoking bits of Heroes and Chris Claremont-era Uncanny X-Men, Heisserer and artist Raul Allen spun together a tightly constructed story of a group of unknown misfits whose seemingly useless superpowers belied their engaging presence on the page. While Heisserer did an excellent job channeling the anxiety of these new psiots, Allen and colorist Patricia Martin really sold the visuals of this book with gorgeous layouts and some truly evocative color palettes. Valiant has been putting out some strong work in 2017, but Secret Weapons does some of the heaviest lifting with the least amount of backstory that I've seen from the publisher yet.
Silver - God Country (Image Comics): What do you get when you mash up Jack Kirby craziness with a beautiful and searing portrait of a family ravaged by dementia? You get God Country, one of the biggest books of 2017. There's a lot of smart things that writer Donny Cates has done in this book, from the daring subject matter to the way he deftly balanced larger-than-life spectacle and the ground-level drama between a son and his formerly addled father, who now carries the sword-to-end-all-swords that has cleaved through his confusion, Valofax. Meanwhile, artist Geoff Shaw has beautifully realized this book's mix of over-the-top Kirby homage to the lived-in dustbowl of Texas, making God Country look unlike most books on the stands. This dynamic duo is working on Thanos over at Marvel now, but that partnership would never have been forged if not for the superlative work done in God Country.
Gold - Mister Miracle (DC Comics): Honestly, if you asked me my favorite single issue of 2017, it would be an easy pick for me - because it was the most recent issue of Mister Miracle. Experimental in form and content, Tom King and Mitch Gerads' masterful remixing of Jack Kirby's Fourth World mythology is without a doubt the best comic booking I've seen this year. Dancing around paranoia and depression and the scars of war and abuse, there's always been a traumatic streak to King's writing, but Mister Miracle might be the most bleak look into the abyss yet - but he's also buoyed by strange glimpses of hope, such as this month's pitch-perfect issue, featuring small moments of Scott Free and Big Barda spending their last day together watching the sunsets in L.A. or the twistedness of their bondage-laced foreplay. (What else would a super-escape artist be into?) Gerads does gorgeous work with his layouts here, particularly the ominous TV distortion that ripples the occasional panel - a clear sign of Darkseid and the reality-warping Anti-Life Equation at work. I had honestly thought it would have been tough for King to top his astonishing work in The Vision, but the creative vision of Mister Miracle proves that success is only a trap if you let it be.
Item to Watch in 2018 - Brian Michael Bendis (DC Comics): In arguably the biggest talent departure since Jack Kirby left the House of Ideas, it's hard to overstate the importance of Marvel architect Brian Michael Bendis signing up for an exclusive deal at DC Comics. With a rapid-fire David Mamet-esque style and a career that's included his iconic Ultimate Spider-Man, his franchise-building New Avengers, and his Netflix-inspiring creation of Jessica Jones and much more, Bendis's move is a seismic shift for the Big Two, one made all the more buzzworthy given that his next projects have yet to be announced. Will Bendis tackle the Legion of Superheroes? Zatanna? The Teen Titans? Wonder Woman? The Justice League itself? Bendis moving to DC Comics is a major, unexpected switch-up that will not only change DC's post-"Rebirth" landscape, but will also force their Marvel-ous competition to evolve in his wake.