Jean-Luc’s Top-10 Comics of 2017

Posted December 28, 2017 by Jean-Luc Botbyl in Comic Books

At this point, I feel like everything that needs to be said has been said more articulately elsewhere. However, to echo those sentiments: the events of the last 365 days have made comic books feel superfluous. What does it matter how I ranked these books when the world order feels like it collapses a little more every day?

And yet, I can’t help but look back at the year and think “Wow, what a great year for entertainment.” Comics were no exception, with a slew of great books coming out every single week. And, I think, that is something worth celebrating. Even through everything that happened, 2017 still saw the release of some truly fantastic art–so fantastic it was difficult to build this list. My Comics Dash co-hosts can fill you in on the hemming and hawing I did trying to figure out what would occupy the 10th spot. Even now, I’m not sure I made the right choice.

But hey, there really is no “right” choice. With so many good comics, I can envision a wide array of lists containing 10 entirely different books that could be defensible. These were my favorites, books that were special to me in some way.

I’ve decided to retire books like Deadly Class, Saga, and Lazarus from end of the year lists. It would have made figuring this one out easier, but having the same books at the top of the pile year in and year out… well, that just isn’t interesting now, is it? But you should read Deadly Class, because it’s been the best book coming out for the duration of its existence.

I guess I should get into comics that are actually on this list, so I’ll do that.

Honorable Mention: Wonder Woman

Written by: Greg Rucka & Shea Fontana

Art by: Bilquis Evely, Nicola Scott, Liam Sharp, Matt Clark, Dave Messina, Mirka Andolfo, & Jesus Marino

Published by: DC

Had Rucka stuck around a few months longer, Wonder Woman would be in my top ten. Had Fontanta’s run lasted longer than five issues, it would have been in my top ten. And high in my top ten, too. Still, I feel like those runs are worth celebrating, despite what’s come since, which I won’t dwell on. Both creative teams had a stellar handle on the character and told fun, emotionally-vibrant stories with Diana and her supporting cast. Up until mid-September, Wonder Woman was the best book coming out of DC, and a book I was stoked to read every time it came out. It was inspiring, and in 2017, an inspiring comic really got me through some rough patches.

10. The Old Guard

Written by: Greg Rucka

Art by: Leandro Fernandez

Published by: Image

This was the hardest spot on the list to figure out. There were tons of great comics this year, and from a “short” list of about 25, nine stood out as necessary inclusions. Over the last couple weeks, I’ve had to revisit about six of those original 25 to figure out the tenth spot, and man, The Old Guard stood just a hair above the rest. It was uniquely disadvantaged, because there hasn’t been a new issue in a few months at this point. But the first arc was a lovely romp, packed with that trademark Greg Rucka dialogue. If it weren’t for Jeff Lemire, Rucka would have a corner on the best dialogue market. Also, where the hell did Leandro Fernandez come from, and how had I never heard of him before this book? He brings with him a unique, vibrant style that really brings Rucka’s characters to life. I can’t wait for more of this book in 2018.

9. Astro City

Written by: Kurt Busiek

Art by: Brent Anderson & various guests

Published by: DC/Vertigo

Nobody does superheroes quite like Kurt Busiek. And Kurt Busiek never writes superheroes quite like he writes them in Astro City. While every other book in the genre turns to either the grit of Nolan Batman films or the snarky humor of the MCU franchise, Busiek looks to the classic whimsy the genre is built on. Which isn’t to say no serious story telling goes on here–the anthology series featured an emotionally devastating story about humans and pets, as well as a timely take on regular people standing up for social justice. But amidst all that, the book’s driving force is a sense that we’re all reading these things to have fun. Especially in a year like 2017, that was more than enough to earn Astro City its spot on this list.

8. The Wild Storm

Written by: Warren Ellis

Art by: Jon Davis-Hunt & Steve Buccelato

Published by: DC

Had someone told me I would be reading a Warren Ellis comic in 2017 and be more excited about any other member of the creative team, I would have called them a liar. Ellis has long been one of the great comic book writers, and The Wild Storm only adds to an already impressive resume. It’s confusing and surreal in the best ways, and it boasts a cast and world I love spending time with. But what I look forward to the most about The Wild Storm is experiencing what magic Jon Davis-Hunt has crafted for the latest issues. His action sequences are unlike any others in comics, channeling a John Wick-esque sense of energy. And when he’s not doing action sequences, his keen sense of visual storytelling propels The Wild Storm from a very good comic to an essential read.

7. Kill or be Killed

Written by: Ed Brubaker

Art by: Sean Phillips & Elizabeth Breitweiser

Published by: Image

As they’ve proven many times before, Ed Brubaker, Sean Phillips, and Elizabeth Breitweiser know their way around a noir comic. This year, that comic was Kill or be Killed, which is shaping up to be their best work yet. At times, the book feels like a slow burn. And yet, Dylan’s story–one of mental illness, killing criminals, and demons both literal and figurative–never fails to be incredibly compelling. Every time I look at a new cover, I’m stoked to dig in and see what the creative team has cooked up for the latest issue. Between Brubaker’s excellent writing and the moody aesthetic crafted masterfully by Phillips and Breitweiser, I have yet to be disappointed.

6. Black Hammer

Written by: Jeff Lemire

Art by: Dean Ormston & Dave Stewart

Published by: Dark Horse

Somehow, this year’s best superhero comic was published not by DC or Marvel, but by Dark Horse. Black Hammer isn’t only the best superhero book; it feels like the most important. No book in recent memory has felt like such a profound treatise on the state of the genre. With Black Hammer, Jeff Lemire and Dean Ormston (sometimes David Rubin) channel their inner Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons, crafting what could easily be the modern-day Watchmen. If that is the case, we have years of other writers misinterpreting its ethos to look forward to. Maybe some awful film adaptation 20 years down the line. But in 2017? I just got to love the hell out of every damn second I got to spend in this world.

5. Snotgirl

Written by: Bryan Lee O’Malley

Art by: Leslie Hung

Published by: Image

I’ve enjoyed Snotgirl from the beginning, but in 2017, I feel like the book really came into its own. The introductions are over, and Bryan Lee O’Malley and Leslie Hung are fully diving into the whacky world they’ve created. Every issue finds a new way to subvert expectations and turn that subversion into effective commentary and comedy. In spite of (or maybe because of) its vapid characters, Snotgirl is an incredibly clever comic. Rarely do I find myself laughing out loud while reading, but I’ve done so for at least every issue of this series. It’s simultaneously a total bummer and the most fun I’ve had this year, depending on the panel.

4. Royal City

Written by: Jeff Lemire

Art by: Jeff Lemire

Published by: Image

Ah, another Jeff Lemire book. But, really, does any end of the year list that leaves out Royal City have even a shred of credibility? I think not. Royal City is a quintessential Lemire book, and not only because he writes and illustrates it. No, it’s a quintessential Lemire book because of how the characters are handled. The entire cast feels real. Sometimes, painfully so. For that reason, every issue, even the weaker ones, make me feel like I’m experiencing something truly special, creating an almost uncomfortable, voyeuristic sense that I’m watching the lives of actual people unfold before me.

3. A.D.: After Death

Written by: Scott Snyder & Jeff Lemire

Art by: Jeff Lemire

Published by: Image

Ok, really? This is just starting to feel unfair. Jeff Lemire gets three spots (count ‘em, three!!!) on this list? Yes, dear reader, and with good reason. A.D.: After Death, which he worked on with Scott Snyder, is very nearly perfect. Only one issue came out this year, but it was the climax, and a brilliant one at that. Very rarely do we get stories as profound as A.D. Even rarer do we get those stories in comic book form, and told in ways that take full advantage of the medium’s quirks. A.D.’s brilliance expands beyond the philosophical ponderings on mortality and free will–it’s a beautiful reflection on comics.

2. God Country

Written by: Donnie Cates

Art by: Geoff Shaw & Jason Wordie

Published by: Image

In a breakout year for Donnie Cates, God Country remains his best showing. Along with Geoff Shaw, he may well have crafted a timeless masterpiece of loss, family, and the power of storytelling. At its highest points, the book is Gaiman-esque, at its lowest… well, God Country doesn’t exactly have low points. The story of the family is expertly paced, sticking the landing with perfection. All the while, it’s utterly gorgeous to look at. From the sweeping Texan vistas to the awe-inspiring Kingdom of Always, the visuals never failed to take my breath away.

1. Underwinter

Written by: Ray Fawkes

Art by: Ray Fawkes

Published by: Image

Underwinter may have been this year’s biggest surprise. I’ve always enjoyed Ray Fawkes’ work, but he’s never quite blown me away. As evidenced by its spot at the top of this list, Underwinter did just that. In a perfect world, Underwinter would revitalize and redefine the entire horror genre in the comics space. Better than any other work, Fawkes managed to craft a world and story that lives up to–and exceeds–Lovecraft’s legacy, finding new ways to portray the kind of horror he wrote about. Best of all, he does it using devices that can only be found in comics.

About the Author

Jean-Luc Botbyl

Jean-Luc is a grizzled veteran of We the Nerdy. Most days, he just wonders why he hasn't been formally fired. Follow him on Twitter at @J_LFett to make him feel validated.