Class of 2017: Best of… Winners!
Sure, a lot of 2017 was little more than a desperate scramble to survive in nightmarish Boschian hellscape, but there were plenty of phenomenal comics to hold on to as life-preservers. This year saw some truly brilliant work produced in every facet of comic making and we here at All-Comic decided to celebrate our combined love of democracy and comic books by having a full-staff anonymous nomination and voting process to arrive at our definitive list of 2017’s Best. Take a gander below and be sure to check out and support the creators of whatever comics listed you may have missed this year.
BEST NEW (ON-GOING) SERIES:
Winner: The Dregs
Writers: Zac Thompson & Lonnie Nadler
Artist & Letters: Eric Zawadzki
Colorist: Dee Cunniffe
Publisher: Black Mask Studios
Okay, so “on-going” is used a little loosely here, but in today’s market almost everything is basically an on-going mini-series. That being said, The Dregs received more nominations and then more votes than any other comic for this category, so the people have spoken. And how wise they are. The Dregs is one of the most stunning debut efforts not just in recent memory, but in our comic-reading lives. It’s a highly effective and highly affecting tale drenched in noir and socio-economic commentary, but more than that, it’s exceptionally well crafted on every level: Thomspon and Nadler’s narrative is tight yet layered, Zawadski’s art is methodical yet unyieldingly imaginative, and Cunniffe’s colors dazzle yet complementary ebb. Read our reviews of each issue to get a larger dose of our praise for this series and get the down in the dirt nitty-gritty and what makes it so damn amazing (Issue #1, #2, #3, and #4). Highlighting the plight of our society’s homeless through a metaphor so rich it should pay taxes, The Dregs is as smart and as nuanced as comic book storytelling gets.
Runner Up: Extremity
BEST ON-GOING SERIES:
Winner: X-O Manowar (2017)
Writers: Matt Kindt
Artist: Tomás Giorello, Doug Braithwaite, Clayton Crain, Renato Guedes
Colorist: Diego Rodriguez
Letters: Dave Sharpe
Publisher: Valiant Entertainment
X-O Manowar is the flagship title for Valiant Entertainment. Writer Matt Kindt took the story off-word and in the process created a muti-layer space epic filled with plot twists, complex political realities, and savagely violent warfare. Each compelling chapter was brilliantly rendered by artistic powerhouses such as Tomas Giorello, Doug Brathwaite, Clayton Crain, and Renato Guedes. The result has been one of the strongest and visually stunning comic book experiences in years, averaging critic and reader review scores of 4.5 out of 5.0 stars across the entire series! Artistically magnificent, masterfully written, and consistently remarkable, X-O Manowar enters 2018 with the promise of continued comic book excellence!
Runner Up: Hawkeye
BEST SINGLE ISSUE:
Winner: Mister Miracle #1
Writers: Tom King
Pencils, Inks & Colors: Mitch Gerads
Letters: Clayton Cowles
Publisher: DC Comics
Darkseid is. Over just a few months, this has become one of the most iconic phrases in comics. Tom King and Mitch Gerads’ Mister Miracle #1 established these words on a void, black background as a visual steeped in meaning and metaphor, which is evidence as to why this debut won our award for Best Single Issue. King’s nine panel grid storytelling and Gerads’ scratchy art style work together to show the human side of being a superhero. The issue speaks to directly to those with anxiety and depression, while laying the foundation for Darkseid as a metaphor for inevitability. Mister Miracle #1 is not only important, but compelling. King’s words and Gerads’ mastery of visual storytelling is a slice of cheese on a mouse trap that no one wants to escape from.
Runner Up: Batman Annual #2
BEST INTERIOR ARTIST:
Winner: Tomás Giorello
Superstar Argentinian artist Tomas Giorello has routinely demonstrated a true mastery of the craft for years on titles such as Conan, Star Wars, and Bloodshot. He began working for Valiant Entertainment in 2016 on 4001 A.D.: War Mother and Bloodshot Reborn; however it is his phenomenal 2017 interior work on X-O Manowar and Ninja-K that truly have placed him in the public spotlight as one of the industries finest and most consistent artists working for any publisher today.
Runner Up: Daniel Warren Johnson
BEST COVER ARTIST:
Winner: Christian Ward
Whatever wonderful spring of psychedelia Christian Ward drinks from, let us all pray it never runs dry. If a good comic cover needs to not only capture the eye in order to stand out from the crowd, it also needs to thematically convey the contents of a work in order to be truly great. Christian Ward does both with aplomb. His fluid line work would almost be enough to set him apart, but then this art magician has to go and conjure the most kaleidoscopic colors you’ve ever seen. Smooth as silk with a heavy hidden dose of emotional gravitas, Christian Ward’s covers were in a league of their own this year and will no doubt be for many more to come.
Runner Up: Lewis LaRosa
Winner: Jeff Lemire
Called the “hardest working man in comics” by some and always an Eisner Award contender, 2017 was another banner year for New York Times Bestselling writer Jeff Lemire. Always juggling multiple projects, he maintains a high tempo production schedule with a creative standard of the highest quality without ever once dropping the ball. His work on Black Hammer, Descender, Plutona, Bloodshot Reborn, and Bloodshot Salvation demonstrate his ability to capture a wide-range of creative possibilities while exceeding reader demands and working with multiple publishers (Image, Valiant, DC, and Marvel)! Lemire is a class act, creative powerhouse, and unquestionably the comic book industry’s best writer for 2017!
Runner Up: Tom King
Winner: Jordie Bellaire
If you read any comics throughout the year, chances are a high percentage were colored by Jordie Bellaire. Her work consistently matches and enhances visual aesthetics across a diverse range of stories, adapting to specific needs of the project. The ability to enhance a story without overpowering existing stylistic sensibilities, while at the same time establishing a distinctive presence are the marks of an all-star pro. The entire spectrum of colors bend to her will. The next time you pick up a comic collored by Bellaire, take some extra time to appreciate her significant contribution.
Runner Up: Brian Reber
Winner: Danny Miki
The running joke about inkers is that they’re glorified tracers. Anyone who invests even an ounce of belief in this ludicrous notion undermines what a solid inker brings to the table. Inkers like Danny Miki. His infallible capacity to synergize with a penciler’s specific artistic choices, adding depth, weight, and vibrancy, turns visual musings into visual realities. A good inker polishes a piece, a great inker like Miki polishes until the piece has a radiant sheen.
Runner Up: Klaus Janson
Winner: Clayton Cowles
Sure, they say when the lettering goes unnoticed, it means that the letterer did their job well, but you know what? You sure as hell notice the work of Clayton Cowles because his contributions enhance every book he works on, which this year include (deep breath): Batman, Mister Miracle, Redlands, Black Bolt, The Wicked + The Divine, Star Wars, Bitch Planet, Moonstruck, Daredevil, Spider-Gwen, Justice League of America, Astonishing X-Men, and there’s still more!! Honestly, Clayton could have won this category for his work on Redlands alone, but he brings the same level of thoughtfulness to his craft in everything he touches; there’s a keen sense of ambiance in all of his creative choices, from the tails (his long as hell tails in Redlands are *chef kiss*) to the fonts to the complementary composition with every aspect on the page. You notice when Clayton Cowles works on a book because you’ll be saying to yourself, “Damn, everything here works perfectly.”
Runner Up: Todd Klein
If you are not reading Valiant yet, it is time to give them a look. Valiant Entertainment is everything that a comic publisher is supposed to be; having developed an expanding universe filled with diverse, compelling characters, they blend the very best elements of science fiction, fantasy, and reality, while remaining dedicated to quality control and strong story continuity. Characters and story arcs appear fresh and original; artwork is top notch; and the Valiant Marketing Team is not afraid to take risks when it comes to making comic book collecting exciting and interesting! Valiant is highly accessible to its fans as well, and with a rigorous convention schedule and regular social media presence, the publisher makes each fan feel as if they are part of something truly magical; which they most certainly are!
Runner Up: Image Comics
Winner: My Favorite Thing is Monsters
Even if the backstory to Emil Ferris’ groundbreaking debut graphic novel wasn’t utterly fascinating (it is), My Favorite Thing is Monsters would still deservedly be the talk of the town, thrown around in the same breath as Art Spiegelman or Daniel Clowes or Marjane Satrapi. Emotionally gripping, far more than anyone could have foreseen given the dark premise, My Favorite Things is Monsters is nothing short of a masterpiece on every level of comic book craft. To call it innovate and visually arresting doesn’t do it full justice, though it very much is those things; no, MFTIM is one of the most affecting and, dare we say, history making things any piece of art can be: powerful. From the feelings of loss, longing and tragedy, to the hopeful light that a child’s imagination can stir, to the many forms monsters can take using all of those aforementioned emotions as tethering points, My Favorite Thing is Monsters instantly catapults itself not just to the top of any Best of 2017 lists, but to the top of the list of all-time comic greats.
Runner Up: Hellboy Into The Silent Sea
Winner: My Brother’s Husband
Though many incredible manga were published this year, Gengoroh Tagame’s first all-ages series won our hearts for its observant look at how the LGBT community is treated in Japan. Writing from the perspective of Yaichi, a well-meaning but homophobic father who is visited by his dead brother’s Canadian husband, Tagame dispels common misconceptions about LGBT persons and shines a light on the daily prejudices they face. Tagame uses the misinformed Yaichi and his curious daughter Kana to broach a range of topics parents might have with their children about these subjects. Kana’s loving acceptance of her uncle Mike clashes with Yaichi’s apprehensions, allowing My Brother’s Husband to challenge culturally and socially internalized homophobic sentiments and how they develop.
These include common fallacies like “who is the husband and who is the wife in the relationship?”, and Tagame expertly and succinctly explains what’s incorrect about such assumptions and what the truth is and why it is. The dissection of that aforementioned question is a great example, because Tagame’s answer not only questions preconceived notions of gender roles and sexual stigmas, but becomes the lynchpin for developing its overarching themes – what constitutes family, and what constitutes love? Ultimately, that’s what My Brother’s Husband is really about. It’s the story of a family learning to come together, and recognizing and appreciating the forms love takes. Despite its friendly art-style and optimistic tone, Tagame doesn’t shy away from serious topics and unfortunate realities. Instead, he examines them from an empathetic and kind-hearted viewpoint, trying to better inform his readers through a relatable and heartwarming family story. This makes My Brother’s Husband as much an educational work as it is a piece of entertainment, and a great read for open-minded comics lovers of all ages. We applaud Pantheon Books for publishing this brilliant book, and while a release date for the second volume hasn’t been announced yet, we eagerly look forward to reading it once it is published. In the meantime, you can listen to our podcast reviewing the series for a more in-depth discussion about why My Brother’s Husband is the best new manga of 2017.
Runner Up: My Hero Academia