January 5, 2018

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Rob M's Favorite Superhero-Style Comics of 2017

Being quite honest, this is the one where I have the least amount of potential material. It's not that there weren't interesting-looking superhero-style comics made in 2017--it's just that some of them came from a publisher I'm personally avoiding and the others are just now starting to go into trade, so I expect to be reading a lot of the best comics that came out in 2017, like Mr. Miracle, sometime in 2018. Others might not make it at all, because I have so much to read and only a certain amount of time.

As I've said repeatedly, we have an amazing amount of comics these days. There is no way to keep up with everything, unless you're Aaron Meyers, and I have no idea how he does it. For me, having read so many superhero stories growing up, I think sometimes I tend to put this one on the back burner in terms of priorities. Maybe that will change, like how I used to read any and every autobio comic, something I no longer do. Our interests come and go, even within a particular medium. At some point, I might want to read more traditional comic book stories. For now, though, I'm being pretty selective about that.

That doesn't mean these comics aren't just as good as the other things on my various favorites lists. For example, this group contains my Comic of the Year, and frankly, no one is more surprised about that than I was. I think the key is keeping things fresh or just doing something different--and these comics fit that bill for me. Maybe if you overlooked them, they'll fit the bill for you as you form your reading plans in 2018.

Let's get started, shall we? To refresh, my favorites are alphabetical. If I liked it enough to put it on here, then I'm not going to quibble as to what's #2 vs #4. Life's too short for that, at least for me. It's like trying to keep track of legacy numbering...

Batman/Elmer Fudd by Tom King, Lee Weeks, and Byron Vaughns, Published by DC Comics
Let's just start with my Comic of the Year. Yes, I don't like to place one comic over another as a general rule. But rules are made to be broken, which is exactly what this comic does. There is absolutely no way a gritty, Frank Miller (minus the racism and sexism) take on Fudd should have worked, but it did. To a T. With incredible cameos by most of the Looney Tunes gang turned into real people (King's take on Bugs Bunny might be the best thing of all time), Fudd must hunt down Bruce Wayne for hurting the only women both loners have ever loved. Weeks knocks it out of the park, doing something I've never seen before--he makes most of the comic completely shrouded in rain and clouds, yet everything that happens is crystal clear. His takes on the characters work well, making them realistic yet familiar, and matches King step for step. The backup is just a silly take on the Rabbit Season-Duck Season trilogy, but it's also pitch-perfect in tone. I loved loved loved this comic and am so glad I grabbed what was, at the time, the last copy my local shop had. Can't wait for trade collecting all the stories, but I can't imagine any of them being better than this one.

Black by Kwanza Osajyefo,Tim Smith 3, and Jamal Igle, Published by Black Mask
Going from the silly to the serious, Black looks at something I often think about: What if a hated minority, in this case black people, got powers and the majority with the traditional balance of power did not? Taking the "X-Men are an analogy for black people" theory and making it literal, Osajyefo, Smith 3, and Igle take readers on a big dose of reality alongside their fantasy. There's no way in the world that black people with powers could be anything but hunted and pursued, and would make life dangerous for any black people without powers, should it become widely known. But in the effort to protect people, at what point do you cross a line? What could easily have been ham-handed gets a great dose of nuance. Meanwhile, Igle draws the hell out of this thing. He's born to do superhero characters, and from the opening pages we can see the dynamic angles, slick lines, and constant movement even when talking that makes for the best kind of superhero comics (i.e. not posing every other page). Sometimes Black is hard to read, but it's well worth it.

Doom Patrol by Gerard Way, Nick Derrington, Tamra Bonvillan, and a few guests, Published by DC/Young Animal
Though there's been many iterations of the Doom Patrol, once Grant Morrison turned them into an absurdist series, there really is no other version of these characters that works, because it sets them apart. Attempts to make them like the "classic" team or whatever never work. Way gets that, and immediately goes full-on Morrison from the first issue and never looks back. Sentient ambulances, cults, and general weirdness are in all play, with Derrington keeping pace with the strangeness while Tamra gives the whole thing this awesome, bold, comic-booky color that I'd forgotten how much I missed. With Cliff back to being the straight man while the whole world goes insane, I'm happy to have this one back at last--for as long as they let it last.

Faith by Various Creators (primarily written by Jody Houser), published by Valiant Entertainment
This spot basically holds down all the various Faith-fronted comics that came out this year, but especially Faith and the Future Force (which managed to both tell a good story and tweak the nose of time-travel fans via Fath's enthusiasm for the concept) and the Winter Special. I've loved the character of Faith since she debuted, because in a universe where things are pretty dark and shitty, she genuinely feels like the world can be a better place, often embodying the values of Superman better than DC handles one of their signature characters. Add the fact that artists are not shy about showing that Faith is a character of size alongside strong, consistent character work, and you have one of the few superhero comics I'd hand to a non-superhero fan and say, "Give this a try."

So yeah. Like I said, I know I missed some good stuff from DC, I'm criminally behind on the rest of Valiant, and I didn't get to as much Lion Forge as I wanted. Lots of stuff I'm probably missing out on in this corner of the world. If you've got some good comics to recommend to me in this area that are not Marvel, I'm all ears either here in the comments or on Twitter at @rob_mcmonigal