Now that the final releases of the year have come and gone, it’s time to look back at the comic books that kept me coming back for more throughout 2017!
There were a lot of great comic books released this past year, there’s no way I could fit them all into one post! This is the first of three planned posts looking at the best of what’s around from the last 12 months, with comics from DC Comics, Dark Horse, Image, IDW and Archie.
Since the start of 2017, I’ve bought more than 500 individual issues spanning a couple dozen series from various publishers. I’ve narrowed down my list of favorites to 15. Let’s take a look at my first batch of faves, all of which have strong undertones of what it means to be family.
My Favorite Super Book – Super Sons
There was a lot of competition in this category, honestly. Action Comics under Dan Jurgens has been a return to the fantastic stories of the 1990s. Peter Tomasi and Patrick Gleason on Superman has been a wonderful examination of the Man of Steel and his family. But the book that got me excited every month was the one following the sons of Superman and Batman as they learned to work together.
Written by Tomasi, Super Sons kicked off in February and has been a consistently fun read through the 11 issues released this year. From the first story, pitting Superboy (Jon Kent) and Robin (Damian Wayne) up against Kid Amazo, Tomasi turned this into something special. It doesn’t hurt that the book featured a lot of beating up on Robin – a character that I usually find insufferable – as Superboy frequently got frustrated with his partner’s unrelenting personality.
Super Sons has mostly tied in to the main Superman title, though the most recent issue follows a thread from the Batman books (more on that later). The title is quickly turning the new Superboy into a beloved part of the DC Universe… and it’s even making Damian Wayne seem more likable, something I never thought possible!
My Favorite Archie Book – Josie and the Pussycats
The all-new modern Archie line, featuring updated art and more adult-oriented stories of the Riverdale (and beyond) gang continued into 2017, though the only book remaining from the line is the main Archie book. While that book is bogged down in melodrama with Betty getting paralyzed in a car wreck, other books managed to maintain a high level of fun, despite the series ending. The best of the bunch was Josie and the Pussycats.
Kicking off in summer 2016, the book’s nine issues stretched into August of this year, so it never really hit a monthly stride, but it was always a must-read whenever it came out. Written by Marguerite Bennett and Cameron Deordio, Josie followed the band as they rose to superstardom. They toured the world playing everything from county fairs to festivals, all while stopping crime and getting into wacky hi-jinx. The humor was definitely more adult-oriented, though it was usually a wink and a nod rather than out-and-out crude.
The interactions between Josie, Valerie and Melody were always filled with random references and off-the-cuff humor that constantly kept me laughing. Reading the book on the subway as I went to work meant I would get a lot of weird looks as I spent several minutes giggling at the book. Realizing I wasn’t getting another new issue after August was truly disappointing, and I hope that we get a revival sometime soon.
My Favorite Hanna-Barbera Book – The Flintstones
Another line that slowly dissipated this year, though new books are rising to take their place. None of them, though, compare to the best book the HB produced over the last year and a half: Mark Russell and Steve Pugh’s update of The Flintstones.
The 12-issue series ended in June with an issue that continued the series’ satirical take on modern society, through the lens of the lives of a modern stone age family. Russell’s story pilloried religion, politics, consumerism, traditional relationships, science and so many other modern concepts that would have probably been considered taboo by the original 1960s cartoon. The hot takes were handled with humor and compassion and frequently were sentimental without becoming maudlin. The ongoing struggles of the animals that made up the Flintstones’ household appliances were often some of the saddest stories being told in any medium.
DC Comics has already released the whole series in two volumes, and I highly recommend anyone who missed it the first time around pick them up to see the range of concepts and emotions that a comic book about 50-year-old cartoon characters is truly capable of reaching.
My Favorite Jeff Lemire Book – (tie) Black Hammer / Royal City
The first time I read a comic book written by Jeff Lemire was during DC Comics’ New 52 era. The Canadian writer/artist is probably best known for his Essex County Trilogy, but he hooked me writing Animal Man and he soon took over the New 52 version of Green Arrow, vastly improving that series. I’ve become a big fan of his work, and I found it impossible to choose between Black Hammer (published by Dark Horse) and Royal City (published by Image) as my favorite of his current series.
Black Hammer, another book that started in July 2016, is a take on superheroes who didn’t actually manage to win the day. Trapped on a farm in a potentially alternate reality, a group of heroes have spent a couple of decades living mundane lives. Some of them long for a return to their former glory, while others are happy with the way things are. But the mystery of where they are and how they got there persists and drove the series into 2017.
After the series’ 13th issue in September, Lemire moved the focus to two miniseries focusing on the heroes’ former world before plans to pick back up with the farm later next year.
Royal City, on the other hand, is closer to Essex County. The book, which debuted in March, follows the lives of the Pike family in the titular struggling factory town of Royal City. Back in the 1990s, the family experienced tragedy, losing the youngest son, and the ramifications persist even two decades later. Lemire, who writes and illustrates the series, pulls at the heart strings as he tells of the family’s very relatable slow descent into irreversible unhappiness.
While the two books may be from vastly different genres, they both offer a strong focus on aspects of what it means to be a family and the struggle to find a happy medium between how you wanted your life to turn out and how it actually did. I’m very excited to see where the stories go in 2018.
My Favorite Batman Book – Detective Comics
While the main Batman book gets most of the praise and most of the press, Detective Comics continues to be the more enjoyable series… for me, anyway. Since the Rebirth reboot last year, ‘Tec has focused on a team led by Batman working towards building a safer, better Gotham City. The ragtag group includes traditional heroes like Batwoman and Batwing; rebellious teens like Spoiler and Orphan; even a reformed villain in Clayface, who is trying to regain his humanity.
Detective Comics has been driven mostly by the apparent death of Red Robin Tim Drake last year, though Tim was “taken off the board” by a the mysterious Mr. Oz (a damaged and disillusioned Jor-El, the Kryptonian father of Superman) to keep Tim from getting too close to the truth. Tim’s escape from his otherworldly prison, where he teamed with a future version of himself who took up the mantle of Batman, was easily one of my favorite stories of the year.
Writer James Tynion IV has a huge cast of heroes to juggle, and each one has run with the spotlight in various arcs – having two issues per month helps in spreading the wealth around in a year’s worth of books. From Clayface’s struggles with the villainous Victim Syndicate to Batwoman’s personal battle with a paramilitary group led by her father to Spoiler questioning Batman’s methods and striking out on her own, every character has managed to find some personal growth.
It should be interesting to see where Tynion takes the team in the new year.
That’s all for Part 1. Check back soon for the second and third editions of My Favorite Comics of 2017!