I wasn’t planning to go this list, but reading some other Top 10 lists I decided I read enough good comics in 2016 to make a Top 10 list. It is very DC heavy, though filtered through Vertigo, Digital Firsts and their Hanna Barbera lines. I am sure there are Image books and the like that deserve to be on here, but I tend to read those in collections and don’t stay completely up to date on them. For instance, I read the first collection of Descender this year and absolutely loved it. The end result is that the books on my list are all books I read monthly.
10 Patsy Walker Hellcat – This decidedly low key book has Patsy Walker set up a temp agency for people with superpowers and brings back a lot of her old romance comics’ characters. It is just about a perfect fun book. There are fights, but they are small parts of a book that is more about interpersonal conflict and cat puns. It is just a good time.
9 DC Comics Bombshells – DC’s digital first titles have been very good for a long time, with some excellent Batman and Superman titles in the past. DC Comics Bombshells, their second digital first title based on a line of figures, is somehow one of DC’s best Elseworlds titles in forever. It stars all of DC’s famous heroines redone in the style of WWII pin-ups, placed in a world where all (or at the very least most) of the superheroes are women. The designs are mostly good and Marguerite Bennet’s writing of the title makes it truly great. Many characters get a chance to shine, from big names like Batwoman and Wonder Woman, to a ton of tertiary Batman characters turned into Batwoman’s replacement Batgirls. Bennett and a host complementary rotating artists have made this book one of the best pure superhero books available for almost two years now.
8 The Vision – This one is small compared to the grander scale that Tom King’s other tragedies, like Sheriff of Babylon and Omega Men, operate on. It is much more personal but no less tragic. The Avenger Vision tries to establish the perfect family, only to find out that life is hard. The result is inevitable and painful.
7 Batman – Tom King makes the list again with his Batman. His take on Batman, with art by Mikel Janin and David Finch, is something of a gritty take on the old TV show. Batman does all kinds of superheroics and solves his problems with improbable leaps of logic. It is over the top but with plenty of depth behind it. I hope he has a good long run on the title.
6 Superman – I am a sucker for a good Superman comic and that is exactly what Peter Tomasi, Pat Gleason and Doug Mahnke are delivering here. Recasting Superman as a father attempting to impart the same lessons that he learned from Pa Kent is an inspired move. The rambunctious but well-meaning Jonathan Kent is a great new Superboy and having a proper Lois and Clark relationship back is just icing on the cake.
5 Sheriff of Babylon – Tom King yet again. While his other works are set in superhero universes, this one’s setting is very real. Not having the robot or space opera sugar makes this one more of a bitter pill than his other work. It is no less engaging, though. A former police officer working to train an Iraqi police force in the aftermath of the Iraq War is drawn into investigating the death of one of his trainees. Everyone has conflicted loyalties and the entire world is grey areas. It is amazing.
4 Sugar & Spike – This was released as part of the anthology title Legends of Tomorrow, which got that title to tie-in with the TV show even though the comics inside didn’t in any way. While three of the full length books inside were fine superhero tales (Firestorm, Metal Men and Metamorpho) the gem of the bunch was the “gritty reboot” of Sugar & Spike by Keith Giffen and Bilquis Evely. It starred the duo of Sugar & Spike, formerly trouble causing toddlers, as PI’s that solve embarrassing problems for superheroes. It was six issues of this mismatched pair going to Superman shaped islands or making sure that Wonder Woman’s marriage to an alien monster was properly annulled. It had a lot of fun with some of the goofier parts of DC’s history and introduced a pair of characters that were just a lot of fun. Evely’s art was also great.
3 Legend of Wonder Woman – There are many versions of Wonder Woman’s origin story, but never has it felt more alive and vital than in The Legend of Wonder Woman by Renae De Liz. It is bright and colorful, telling Diana’s origin as epic and mythic while downplaying some of the more awkward sexual aspects of it. I would honestly book this book in the same category as Batman Year One or Man of Steel (or Secret Origin, really insert your favorite Superman origin story here).
2 Omega Men – Tom King’s last title to make the list, Omega Men is a dark look at our adventurism in the Middle East by way of space opera. Green Lantern Kyle Rayner gets sucked further in to the abyss of the revolution in the Vega System, finding it harder and harder to differentiate the good guys from the bad guys. It explores the narrow line between terrorists and freedom fighters. It is amazing.
1 The Flintstones – That this book even exists is kind of crazy. An update on The Flintstones that turns into a pitch black social satire is not what people expected, I think. The Flintstones continues the strong work that Mark Russell was doing on the sadly shortened Prez series. The book is a bleak, but not entirely hopeless, with characters facing dilemmas that they can’t possibly solve and usually coming away with something to hold on to. It leaves the reading thinking that we as a species are fucked but maybe that’s not such a bad thing.