Becky Cloonan (Writer and Cover Artist), Andy Belanger and Lee Loughridge (Artists)
Southern Cross looked like something I would not like. For all of my love of things beginning with Star (Wars, Trek, etc.), I’m actually pretty afraid of space. And space stories where scary stuff happens? Certainly too frightening.
Wrong! This is a story about a woman, Alex, traveling to space in search of her sister, but nothing is quite what it seems. Alex acts the part of detective to discover the truth about her sister’s whereabouts, along the way uncovering the mystery behind a missing bunkmate and some truly terrible dreams. It’s Gothic space horror finery and it’s beautifully rendered in psychedelic colors.
— Al Rosenberg
Natalie Reiss (Writer and Artist), Hilary Thompson (Designer)
Space Battle Lunchtime is one of those rare perfect comics, with a sweet original concept, gorgeous art, and characters you care about. When a stylish frog enters her small bakery, earthling Peony’s life is changed forever. Asked to become a contestant on the galaxy’s most popular cooking show, Space Battle Lunchtime, Peony travels to outer space and embarks on a fantastical, fun and cute as all hell journey. This comic is inclusive, exciting, and sweet as any delicious baked goods. I’ve eaten up every delectable issue, and can’t wait for the next run. With this book, Natalie Reiss definitely became my favourite new creator of the year!
— Rosie Knight
Marguerite Bennett (Writer), Stephanie Hans and Aaron Kim Jacinto (Artists), Israel Silva (Colors)
Angela: Queen of Hel is not just one of best comics of the year, but one of the best comics ever. It’s got everything one could need: lesbian romance, a trans woman of color lead character, fighting in hell, drama, jokes–I could go on. Angela: Queen of Hel wasn’t a standard comic but one that defied many normative ideas.
This story is short, only lasting seven issues before it was canceled, but damn is it a great seven issues. I don’t recommend you read Angela outside of the Angela series and hopes for future stories about Angela and her lover Sera are slim. Still, Angela: Queen of Hel will always be in my heart as a story that made me feel truly represented.
— Sergio Alexis
Max Bemis (Writer), Michael Walsh (Artist), Ruth Redmond (Colors), VC’s Clayton Cowles (Letters)
I love the X-Men. Ever since I was a kid there was something about the team of mutant teenagers and their erstwhile teachers which connected with me in a way many other books couldn’t. Though in recent years, maybe even the last decade it’s been rare for me to find an X-Men book that I truly love. Worst X-Man Ever broke that cycle. In fact, this miniseries about a young boy who finds out his mutation is pretty crappy one, may actually be my favourite X-Book ever. It’s hard to talk about what’s so special about this book without spoiling it, but this five-issue series turns the “Chosen One” trope on its overused head.
Though it posits to be about Bailey, this book’s real hero is another new character — Miranda. A wonderful, fat, black girl who is arguably the most powerful mutant who has ever existed (and definitely my favourite) — she and Bailey and their classmates create an authentic, funny and ultimately heartbreaking world inside of Xavier’s Academy for Gifted Youngsters that will unquestionably change the way you see the Marvel universe forever. I doubted that I’d ever find an X-Men story that would top the work of Chris Claremont or Grant Morrison, but Worst X-Man Ever is that book.
— Rosie Knight
Jody Houser (Writer), Francis Portela and Marguerite Sauvage (Artists)
I know this book is making the Best Of lists for pretty much one reason–hey look, it’s a fat superhero! And yes–Faith is a fat girl. And so am I. And, yes, I read this book because she looks like me, but that’s not why I kept reading this book. The best thing about Faith is that Jody Houser doesn’t write Faith the way mainstream media imagines fat people must think of themselves–that is, ashamed and constantly thinking about dieting (in other words, like Chrissy Metz’ character on This is Us). Houser writes Faith in a truly body positive way in that Faith doesn’t think about dieting or exercise. She doesn’t worry about being too fat for the superhero boys she dates. She’s just herself, dealing with the same problems that other superheroes deal with. That’s so rare for fat girls, and it was exactly the kind of affirmation I needed in 2016. And having both Portela and Sauvage as the artists worked extremely well and basically made it like two comics in one, because not only do I want to be drawn realistically (as Portela does, and wonderfully so!), but I want to have a fantasy version of myself drawn by Marguerite Sauvage who wears gorgeous, glamorous costumes and has adventures with blond actors named Chris.
— Kate Tanski
Cecil Castellucci (Writer), Marley Zarcone (Artist), Kelly Fitzpatrick (Colors)
The Gerard Way-curated Young Animal imprint may be one of the most exciting things to happen in comics this year. Featuring the return of Doom Patrol, the line promised comics that were weird, wild, and dangerous much like the early days of the Vertigo imprint, but also bringing a lot of DC’s forgotten history to the front. Young Animal featured four titles at launch: Doom Patrol, Cave Carson Has A Cybernetic Eye, the Gotham-based Mother Panic, and the real surprise of the line, Shade, The Changing Girl.
A spin-off of the Vertigo title Shade, The Changing Man, Shade follows the story of Loma Shade, an avian from the planet Meta who steals the Madness Vest that once belonged to Rac Shade, noted poet and her personal hero. Loma then finds her soul being transported to Earth in the body of a 15-year-old girl named Megan Boyer who had fallen into a coma. As Shade adapts to her new life on Earth, she also has to come to terms with Megan’s actions in her past and unfold just what happened to her.
It would have been very easy to make this a comic about how much high school sucks, but Castellucci, Zarcone, and Fitzpatrick have created a tightly-woven original story. Shade is worth reading and re-reading not just for the gorgeous and surreal art, but for how deep the story runs. For Shade is not just a story about high school, it’s a story about changing yourself and coming to terms with who you were and the expectations that come from that. In the Madness, it is somehow universal.
— Ashley Leckwold
Bryan Lee O’Malley (Writer), Leslie Hung (Artist), Mickey Quinn (Colors), Maré Odomo (Letters)
There are a lot of comics I love right now, but it’s Snotgirl I’m most excited to see in my box. It’s pulpy and dramatic and glamorous and covered in grime and gorgeous outfits. I love Lottie Person for all her nasty flaws, her pettiness, her selfishness. She’s a fashion blogger with allergies that leave her covered in snot–a perfect, gross, on-the-nose (heh) metaphor for her own internal ugliness, and I want to figuratively and literally devour each issue as it comes out.
There are few comics that work in such perfect harmony. O’Malley and Hung’s story is both fun and dark, gross and beautiful, light and deadly serious. Hung’s artwork, particularly the outfit designs, feel like I’m actually looking at a fashion blogger’s wardrobe, and Quinn’s incredible colors wash the whole thing in pastels with bold pops of blood red and snotty green. Odomo’s letters highlight the different ways we communicate—external, internal, electronic, and so on—so well that you don’t notice how well they’re designed. I live for this dialed-up-to-eleven drama and nastiness wrapped in a pretty package.
— Melissa Brinks
Grant Morrison (Writer), Yanick Pacquette (Artsit), Nathan Fairbairn (Colors)
This was really the first comic to fearlessly embrace and examine William Moulton Marston’s legacy on Wonder Woman for good and ill instead of just papering over the inconvenient bits or writing it off as exploitative crankery. It’s also, really, the first attempt at creating some kind of feminist dialectic within the narrative and present competing ideas of what constitutes a feminist utopia. This was a defining year for Wonder Woman, and Earth One is what really opened it up.
— Emma Houxbois
Ron Wimberly (Writer and Artist) Jared K. Fletcher (Letters)
The best re-issue of 2016, Prince of Cats is Ron Wimberly’s B-side to Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, retelling the saga of the Capulets and Montagues from the point of view of Juliet’s cousin Tybalt. Originally published in 2012 by Vertigo, Prince of Cats fell out of print but quickly grew to legendary status, so Image Comics’ new deluxe hardcover is a gift to be treasured.
Set in a neon-soaked ’80s Brooklyn, the comic presents the Capulets and Montagues as sword-wielding teen gangs aiming to raise their ranks in the “Duel-List” zine. Beautifully drawn with an aesthetic that’s part Akira, part Michael Jackson video, Prince of Cats is also full of complex, nuanced characterization, amplified by dialogue that mixes teen slang with Shakespearean iambic pentameter. (“The fuck is thy problem?”) In Tybalt, Wimberly takes an antagonistic supporting character and flips the script, giving us one of the most important comic book protagonists in recent memory. Prince of Cats is the Shakespeare retelling for people sick of Shakespeare retellings; it’s kinetic, vibrant, and throbbing with life and urgency.
— Kayleigh Hearn