20. MOON KNIGHT by JEFF LEMIRE and GREG SMALLWOOD (Marvel)
A few years ago, Warren Ellis reset Moon Knight for us, uniting all of his superhero past—from the silliest Moon God parts to the gritty, street-level anarchy. Ellis left behind a crazed, ultraviolent vigilante for the next writer to play with.
Now, Lemire has done the same thing for the character’s mental state: Whoever comes next, gets a pure Moon Knight.
On the one hand, this is a book about a character with a past fractured by his own schizophrenia, attempting to make himself whole. On the other, it’s a book about a guy who knows he’s in a work of fiction, struggling to be real. Certainly, we’ve had meta- and Pinnochio-style comics in the past about people desperately wanting to be real, but I can’t recall it being done with the level of sophistication and emotional depth we’ve seen from Jeff Lemire’s incredible run on Moon Knight, made all the more triumphant by Smallwood’s incredible art.
Note: I’ve only put it this low on the list because it wrapped up in the beginning of the year, so there wasn’t enough to rate it higher.
19. MY FAVORITE THING IS MONSTERS by EMIL FERRIS (Fantagraphics)
A huge, hefty anthology of stories by Emil Ferris, all “taken” from the diary of a 10-year old girl who is trying to figure out who killed her upstairs neighbor.
18. JESSICA JONES by BRIAN MICHAEL BENDIS and MICHAEL GAYDOS
I never would have though Bendis and Gaydos could bring back the atmospheric, character-driven “Alias” series. I thought it was lightning in a bottle. But they did.
One highlight, among many, was how this book slyly commented on the meaninglessness of Marvel’s 2016 Secret Wars event.
17. HOSTAGE by GUY DELISLE (Drawn and Quarterly)
Hostage feels important. But more importantly, it’s powerful. The true story of Doctors Without Borders doctor Christophe Andre, who was kidnapped in North Caucasus, and how he survived 100 days of harrowing captivity.
16. SILVER SURFER by DAN SLOTT AND MIKE ALLRED (Marvel)
Somehow, this creative team managed to turn a character famous for being sterile and philosophical to a fault into the most romantic being in the Marvel Universe, and they did it seamlessly. Dawn and Norrin had a two-year courtship in the issues of this volume and the one before it, and it wasn’t until this year that I realized I wasn’t reading a sciencefiction or superhero book-I was reading a romance!
You tricked me!
15. PUNISHER: THE PLATOON by GARTH ENNIS and GORAN PARLOV (Marvel)
In the early 2000s, all the way through the early part of this decade we had a Punisher renaissance: A slew of very different takes on Marvel’s one-track-minded murderer. Some of the best were by Nate Edmonson and Mitch Gerads; Matt Fraction; Jason Aaron and Steve Dillon; and even Rick Remender’s bonkers Frankenpunisher. But then last year Marvel recruited a genius artist and let her write, and then this year they’re moving with a horror-comic team, and the results have been a little better than mediocre. I’ve been wondering if time is up. And then they bring back the greatestPunisher creative team of all time, to write a prequel to the greatest prequel in comics history. The Platoon takes place just before the events of Punisher: Born, which is probably the greatest Punisher story ever told.
Well played, Marvel.
14. THE UNSOUND by CULLEN BUNN and JACK COLE (BOOM!)
For the full six issues of this miniseries, I had no idea where the comic was going, and I loved that. A woman starts her job at a sanitarium and then really weird, spooky shit starts to go down. Horror meets One Flew Over The Cuckoos Nest.
13. NOW by ERIC REYNOLDS (editor) (Fantagraphics)
Anthologies are always a risk. You might just get one or two good stories and lots of filler. But not this time. “Now” is different because it’s a floppy, not a hardbound book that costs $20, and because the amount of talent in here is tremendous: Eleanor Davis, Noah Van Sciver, Malachi Ward, alongside rising stars and newcomers, in a collection of stories that have no theme whatsoever other than being a different way to tell a story than you’ve seen before. Please support this book, I need more.
12. MIDNIGHTER AND APOLLO by STEVE ORLANDO and FERNANDO BLANCO (DC)
We only got a few issues of this series before DC felt the need to once again reboot its universe, but it was a tremendous story: Apollo is in “Hell” and Midnighter goes to rescue him. We watch him descend through the nine circles of Hell (think the martial arts film The Raid set in DC’s darkverse), encountering and bludgeoning all types of evil, before the grand finale. Meanwhile, Apollo plays a Hostage-Becomes-The-Captor game with a stand-in for Satan (i.e., Neron). In the end, the story is about anger and passion overcoming evil, and love being stronger than everything.
Forget that its gay. I understand that that in itself is groundbreaking. Just know that it’s great—one of the best love stories of all time.
11. BLACK WIDOW by MARK WAID AND CHRIS SAMNEE (Marvel)
Another book that ended too soon. Or perhaps one that ended just in time. Waid and Samnee wove a rich tale about a character who, let’s face it, nobody really cared about. Black Widow is fine as a generic supporting character, but she’s rarely been given a meaty role with depth. This book explored the early childhood training-slash-abuse that turned her into a killing machine, as well as the changes that happened later to give her a softer side.
A wonderful, beautifully rendered story.