The 25 Best Comic Books of 2017

From Superhero Social Commentary to Deeply Personal Memoirs, These are the Best of the Best

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5. Black Hammer
Writer:   Jeff Lemire  
Artists: Dean Ormston, David Rubin
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Black Hammer is Jeff Lemire’s remix of every Silver-Age superhero beat he’s ever concocted. Lemire and artists Dean Ormston and David Rubin jet into a post-modern buffet where Adam Strange is a wily, nonsensical hermit and Mary Marvel is an alcoholic middle-aged woman stuck in the super-powered body of a child. These characters are inexplicably trapped in the rural town of Rockwood, caged in by an invisible fence that kills them if they pass through. The series’ second year has only hinted at the cavernous depth waiting to be explored; the relationships, careers and decades hiding behind each player. As fun as it can be to watch the creators revel in their laissez faire capes sandbox, Black Hammer’s haunting characterization—conveyed with subtlety by Ormston—is what elevates it to excellence. Only in these pages does a shape-shifting alien’s acceptance of his sexuality feel just as epic as a battle with a cosmic anti-god. Sean Edgar

4. Spinning
Writer/Artist: Tillie Walden
Publisher: First Second
Tillie Walden is a marvel of empathy, a cartoonist who can dive into emotions at a molecular level through dynamic panels with shifting perspectives. That talent has funneled the journey from youth to adulthood in works including I Love This Part, A City Inside and The End of Summer. Spinning glides over similar truths in Walden’s memoir of competitive ice skating. The 400-page journey feels intimate and personal without straying into self-important extremes, diagramming the treasured epiphanies that spur kids to abandon defunct dreams and embrace new ones. Walden renders the taut calfs and frozen pools with a devotion that underlies the 10 years she spent practicing the sport. The door-stop book offers the same breathless humanity as Craig Thompson’s Blankets and the Tamaki cousins’ This One Summer, and a perfect palette cleanser to segue into the colder months. Sean Edgar

3. Doom Patrol
Writer: Gerard Way
Artists: Nick Derington, Mike Allred
Publisher: DC Comics/ Young Animal
In a not-altogether-surprising turn of events, it took Young Animal architect Gerard Way and illustration sensation Nick Derington a bit longer than anticipated to wrap the first arc of their psychedelic Doom Patrol reinvention, although fans of the franchise will be hard pressed to argue that initial arc “Brick by Brick” wasn’t worth the wait. Way and Derington, with ample assistance from colorist Tamra Bonvillain, distill the gonzo appeal of Grant Morrison and Richard Case’s storied run—as well as Rachel Pollack and company’s oft-overlooked follow-up—with genuinely new ideas, a feat that’s rarer than it should be in the modern comic climate. During an era of reboots eager to trash previous continuities, Way, Derington and Bonvillain (with a reliably great guest assist from Mike and Laura Allred) folded years of reality-jettisoning storytelling into a fresh story of an EMT in over her head, and a gyro that’s more than just tasty street food. Doom Patrol didn’t ship as many issues as expected in 2017, but every long-awaited installment proves the vital need for Young Animal’s thesis statement: Comics for Dangerous Humans. Steve Foxe

2. Mister Miracle
Writer: Tom King
Artist: Mitch Gerads
Publisher: DC Comics 
With the Mister Miracle maxiseries, Tom King and Mitch Gerads attempt to build a new literary touchstone in comics. Just as Watchmen channeled the Cold War nihilism of the ‘80s, Ghost World tackled the isolation of the ‘90s and The Ultimates straddled post-9/11 patriotism and the unchecked military force, this book aims to reflect the pre-apocalyptic dissonance of now—a toxicity that gave King an anxiety attack so severe it landed him in the ER. It’s a lofty goal, but after reading the first four issues, damn if they’re not on the right track. The series catches a zeitgeist of discord in its pages, confining Jack Kirby’s messianic escape artist in a cage of his own malaise. Like his pencil work in The Sheriff of Babylon—also written by King—Gerads’ subtle facials expressions and body language harmonize with naturalistic dialogue, lending each sigh and quip a new gravitas. This isn’t just an immaculately produced comic, but a comic designed for relevance. Sean Edgar

1. My Favorite Thing Is Monsters
Writer/Artist: Emil Ferris
Publisher: Fantagraphics 
The first volume of Emil Ferris’ debut comic, My Favorite Thing Is Monsters, was scheduled for release in October 2016, timed to coincide with Halloween. But the company that owned the ship carrying the printed books went bankrupt, leaving its cargo in a terrible limbo that delayed the book until February of this year. In some ways, the hiccup was fitting. Ferris’ book has been anticipated for much longer and undergone multiple iterations. It’s the sort of achievement that requires a certain sense of mission to complete. But it’s here now courtesy publisher Fantagraphics, and it was well worth the wait.

Oversized with a paper binding, My Favorite Thing Is Monsters feels heftier than if it had a board cover, yet ephemeral at the same time. The story draws on EC Comics, Holocaust literature, detective fiction, monster movies, children’s literature à la Harriet the Spy and more, weaving a complex tapestry through the 1960s that surprisingly parallels our current era. Are its monsters a metaphor or a reality? And are the people in it who look like monsters the ones we need to fear? Ferris doesn’t supply simple answers. Instead, her work fuses the style and atmosphere of noir godfather Raymond Chandler with the passionate moral intensity found beating beneath a good episode of Tales from the Crypt. Hillary Brown

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