What a time for comics. It’s a veritable embarrassment of riches right now. Independent comics continue to rise in popularity and there’s way too much quality stuff coming out to keep up with it all. I got a narrow sampling of what the year had to offer and it proved to be quite fantastic.
1. Hellboy in Hell
Surprising absolutely no one, I put my favorite comic of all time at the top. It’s a bittersweet moment as Mignola returns to draw the art but also ends the series. Or rather, the main storyline. There’s an upcoming winter special and graphic novel as well as the ongoing Hellboy and the B.P.R.D. spinoff.
2. Usagi Yojimbo
Stan Stakai’s Japanese folklore tale is one of the evergreens of comics: a perpetually fresh series. The lovable characters, elegant sword fights, and chilling tales of wicked men and evil spirits make each page as charming and engaging as the last. Even my general dislike for zombies didn’t deter my enjoyment of their brief appearance during Usagi’s recent adventures.
3. B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth/Hellboy and the B.P.R.D. 1954
Two comics for the price of—well, two comics. One is the giant spectacle of the apocalypse juxtaposed with intimate human drama, the other is a pulpy romp through supernatural adventures. Both comics are top-notch stuff, showing the boundless creativity of comic art and the skill of one of the smartest writing teams in the business.
4. Mind MGMT
Okay, I cheated. I finished the series in 2015 with the issues, but the last volume came out in late January and I need to tell more people about this book. Imagine trained spies with supernatural abilities competing in a deadly game of cloak and dagger and you’ve got the high concept of Mind MGMT. But there’s layers and layers to pull back throughout the book and it’s one of the most mind-bending rides in perhaps any medium.
5. Rachel Rising
Come for the horror, stay for the relationships. Much like Robert Kirkman hooked people into a soap opera with the promise of gory zombie action, Terry Moore uses a story of witches to build a lot of dark, sweet relationships. There are stints with little horror, but the characters are so strong they are just as fun as the full out horror issues. And Moore makes sure to give readers a satisfying horror climax before all is said and done.
6. How to Talk to Girls as Parties
Watch out, ladies. Now armed with this book I know your darkest secrets!Not really. Neil Gaiman’s short story turned graphic novel captures the magic and mysticism of the fairer sex. He taps Fabio Moon and Gabriel Ba to do the art and it’s some of their finest work this side of Daytripper. At a breezy 64 pages, you have no excuse to not read this.
7. Saints: The Book of Blaise
A group of oddballs discover they are reincarnations of saints with supernatural powers as part of a plan to fight the angel Michael and stop his maniacal plans. It’s a foul, funny book that captures a dark humanity of saints and posits that maybe it is not purity that makes one a saint, but a calling.
Southern Gothic Horror meets Grimm’s Fairy Tales. Small town girl Emmy discovers she is the child of a witch with the same powers. But while the town worries that she will exact vengeance upon them, she uses her powers for good. All seems well until she discovers she has a twin sister who is not nearly so generous with her powers.
Probably my favorite cast of characters in modern comics. Each character is so distinct and delightful that it’s a blast to be around them. Add in Cold War era paranoia and a touch of steampunk and this variation on War of the Worlds is one of the most creative take on the story.
I was trepidatious when it was announced that Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips would be telling a vigilante story. The book boasts great characters, gorgeous art, but I’m not sure what to make of the premise and it hasn’t quite played into things yet. They did the same thing with The Fade Out, dropping the hook early on, but then kicking off the next arc by putting it all into overdrive. Once that happens, I’m betting this will be a lot better, but right now it’s just laying the groundwork.
© 2016 James Blake Ewing