20. Quicksilver: No Surrender by Saladin Ahmed and Eric Nguyen (Marvel)
Retelling Quicksilver’s origin by having him literally running through his past, trying to outpace his memories and personal connections before a doppelganger of himself can destroy everyone he loves.
Yes, it’s highly metaphorical, but it was also surprisingly deep and extremely well done.
19. Eternity Girl by Magdalene Visaggio and Sonny Liew (DC)
First of all, Sonny Liew needs much, much more love. His art can elevate a mediocre product into a must-buy. But that’s not what happened here. Rather, Magdalene Visaggio turned in an impressively realistic narrative about depression and suicidal ideation and turned it into a mystical, mind-bending, end-of-the-world comic. If Eternity Girl can’t overcome her own mental illness, the world itself will collapse under the weight of her own depression.
18. Multiple Man by Matthew Rosenberg and Andy MacDonald (Marvel)
Put to one side that nobody other than Peter David has ever been able to make Madrox into anything cohesive, because this miniseries doesn’t do that, either. Instead, it puts us into a world dominated by an evil Madrox, with other clones forming revolutionary armies, and still others infected with gamma rays and all kinds of things to make them super clones of other Marvel heroes. It’s just wild, madcap, crazy fun. Between this and last year’s Kingpin mini, Rosenberg is a writer to watch.
17. Exit Stage Left: The Snagglepuss Chronicles (DC)
16. Black Panther by Ta-Nehisi Coates and Daniel Acuna (Marvel)
Black Panther in space! I’m pretty sure this book isn’t canon, but it’s a fun way to play with Star Wars tropes and to do something completely unexpected to Marvel’s readers.
15. The Further Adventures of Nick Wilson by Marc Andreyko, Eddie Gorodetsky and Steve Sadowski (Image)
What if you were suddenly Superman? What if you then saved the world a few times, and then your powers went away just as suddenly as they had appeared? That’s the concept of this book, which features no powers and no abilities—just an overweight, average, pot-smoking schlub in his thirties who used to be somebody.
The people in this book look real. Even the love interest is an “average” woman with a realistic body type. And they all act like “normal” people, too, with the same concerns about money, children, and past regret.
If you’re an average guy in your thirties or forties—and if you’re reading comics, you probably are—this book should be highly relatable, and might even bring tears to your eyes. Absolutely great.
14. The Beef by Richard Starkings and Tyler Shainline, Shaky Kane (Image)
The Beef is a crudely drawn (but it works, trust me) piece of vegetarian propaganda dressed up as a comic book about a super-strong guy who gets his powers from cows in a slaughterhouse, and then wreaks havoc on the criminally linked owners of the meat factory.
Interwoven throughout the story are facts about how your meat is raised and murdered, and then how it gets to your table. And also little blurbs about vegetarian heroes like Gandhi, who actually plays a pivotal role in the conclusion of the story.
I don’t eat meat. I haven’t for decades. So for me, this was a brilliant and justified exercise in mixing adventure and education—in a very adult, savagely violent story. If you’re a fan of burgers, though, you may find it unsettling. At least, I hope you do. Because you’re supposed to. But don’t let that keep you away because, as Biggie said, “If you don’t know, now you know.” This is a must read.
In a word: Unpleasant. In two words: Unpleasant and challenging.
13. Days of Hate by Ales Kot and Danijel Zezelj (Image)
Ales Kot does not write accessible comic books, so if you’re looking for an easy read to dive into, go somewhere else. But if you’re up for the challenge, you’ll find a tale of a politically dystopian, post-Trump future (2022) where police hunt down neo Nazis and dissident terrorists, and there are no heroes. It explores contemporary models of “oppression” and victimhood, while at the same time never losing its heart.
There’s a tenderness here, under all the politics and violence, and that lends to the complexity and depth that takes this book out of the realm of the typical polemic and into one with meaning and insight.
I must say, though, that this was a very hard book to follow—large cast, unclear motivations (which was intentional as part of the mystery of it all), and art that, while very nice to look at, didn’t always make for the most descript characters. However, there were moments of profundity and power in every single issue. Like the above exchange between a woman and her distracted husband. You can see just from those three panels how estranged they are, you can feel how the woman wants to be a part of her man’s life, but his demeanor—down to the arrangement of the panels so that he is looking away from her in panel two—show that it’s a lost cause. And then the words themselves—the fundamental difference between a man and a woman, which is often in our current climate not appreciated as having value but, instead, is seen as something to minimize and discount. Kudos to Ales Kot for recognizing a difference between the genders and not making excuses for it.
12. Abbott by Saladin Ahmed and Sami Kivela (Dark Horse)
A demon noir story of a reporter investigating strange goings on in 1970s Detroit.
If you strip out the horror elements, you get an excellent detective book, full of social commentary on 1970s urban America—under (and over) tones of racial tension and prejudice that resonate today. (Side note: The film Detroit also told of that City’s terrible police state mentality back in the 1970s, and it’s excellent. Check it out.) There were quite a few books that touched on the state of our nation in terms of race, and it was interesting to see one making contemporary commentary but taking place thirty years ago.
But then again, why strip the supernatural parts out of this book? When you add the horror back in, you get the kind of truly multifaceted writing we all should now expect from Saladin Ahmed (based on his work on Black Bolt for Marvel, which was the fourth best comic of last year).
11. Domino by Gail Simone and David Baldeon (Marvel)
Yes, this book has the traditional feel of a modern Marvel comic—it’s got sentimentality and superheroics. But there’s also a deep dark side here, as Gail Simone explores the brainwashing the title character endured as a young girl and exposes Domino’s most violent tendencies.
Credit it to Zazie Beetz’s stellar performance in Deadpool 2—easily the best part of that otherwise underwhelming film—that we get an A-list talent on a solo book of a character many fairly faithful comic book fans don’t know all that much about.
Also: Gail Simone writes Deadpool again! Granted, it’s only a few panels, but Deadpool hasn’t been well-written in ages and Simone was one of the best ever to write the character, so…Yeah!
More so than most books on this list, Domino proves that Marvel can still something that is simultaneously of a high quality, edgy and traditional. And it further cements Gail Simone as one of the best mainstream writers around.
It was a nice year for Simone, who also had a good run on Plastic Man for DC.
The top 10 starts next.