TotL – 10 Best New Comic Series of 2017
I love new comics! No, not just New Comic Book Day new comics – although I love those too – but the books with that #1 stamped on the cover really get me excited. I even do a weekly article spotlighting these unknown vessels of potential. There’s just something special about stepping into the unknown and entering into a story with the freshest of eyes. What awaits me in these pages? It’s that mystery that truly gets me excited, and 2017 was full of some amazing debuts. A new #1 comic book issue was released on almost a weekly basis this past year, and while it was a splendid 2017 for new comics, it was more than a bit overwhelming trying to narrow that list down to just a handful. Alas, I pushed through, Geeks. There were so many great comic book debuts this year that this list could have been 20 or even 30 titles strong, but I whittled things down to a mere 10 (okay, 11) amazing, must-read comic book debuts. So, without further ado, we have sure things, we have surprises, and we have a slew of great comics, in Outright Geekery’s Top o’ the Lot: 10 Best New Comic Series of 2017.
Note: To qualify for this list a comic book had to have its debut issue release between January 1st and December 31st of the year 2017, as indicated by Diamond and Previews.
Click a title or image below to purchase any of these titles.
Honorable Mention: Judas
I typically try not to include an Honorable Mention spot of these Best of the Year articles, but I do always include them on these TotL (that’s short for “Top o’ the Lot”, pronounced “TOTAL”) lists, so I was torn. Then I recalled the December 13th release of Judas from BOOM! Studios. With only a single issue released, Judas simply didn’t have enough of a track record to eclipse some of the other titles that made this list, but that shouldn’t stop one amazing, single issue from breaking into the Best of 2017. Judas is a comic about the most famous traitor of all time, the Biblical Judas, and writer Jeff Loveness delivers a thoughtful and introspective look at the character that forces the reader to question things that may have seemed unquestionable. Artist Jakub Rebelka provides an art style reminiscent of traditional Christian artwork that one may find in Italian museums. The whole thing comes together to represent a tale that simply could not be told in any other medium, and it’s definitely the unique nature of Judas that pushes it into this list despite the fact that we’ve only seen a single issue.
Kyle Starks’ rowdy, witty, and historically accurate throwback to the long-lost Hobo Culture of Americana was a surprising treat of a comic book series. Debuting at the end of March, Rock Candy Mountain follows the adventures of Jackson, a hobo of some esteem who’s trying to get to Hobo Heaven after a series of disasters. Kyle Starks both writes and illustrates this series, and his adoration for hobo culture jumps off the pages. He truly admires the hobo as a character, much like our grandfathers admired cowboys. These are unsung heroes of American History, pushed to the bottom rung of Americana based on incredibly unfair biases and misunderstood stereotypes. Hobos were not bums. They were hard-working travelers with an incredibly strong sense of freedom. Starks is able to communicate these positive aspects of this remarkable culture perfectly without unduly glamorizing the alternative lifestyle. It’s not an easy life, but sometimes freedom is just more important than comfort. Or maybe I just want to be a hobo. Either way, Rock Candy Mountain was one of my favorite titles this year.
This year’s Alien Day was marked by several new releases, but the April 26th release of Aliens: Dead Orbit by James Stokoe was easily the coolest part of the celebration. There’s nothing integral to the franchise in this title; nothing that’s going to impact continuity; but Stokoe writes and illustrates a landmark title for the Alien brand by simply creating a terrifically terrifying comic book with a scary story. Stokoe’s art does more work that his writing, as the sci-fi/horror elements in Dead Orbit are eerily similar to the movies, and it’s a wonderful thing to behold. Stokoe doesn’t worry much about character building, to instead focus on the pacing, the journey, and those still so very horrifying Xenomorphs. A creator should have a singular goal when doing an Aliens comic, and this creator nailed it.
8. X-O Manowar
One of several reboots-that-you-better-not-dare-call-a-reboot, March 22nd’s release of X-O Manowar was not only a breath of fresh air for a publisher that’s constantly evolving with its diehard fanbase, but also a wholly different direction for this fan-favorite character. Written by Matt Kindt with a revolving team of artists, X-O Manowar is a cerebral and intense character study, and a comic that bucks current industry trends in the best of ways. While most comic book publishers are extending arcs and adding issues, X-O Manowar is a compressed joy to read, a comic that gets to the point in quick and entertaining 3-issue arcs, and adds no fluff or fillers to get in the way of the story. There’s a laser focus on the story, nothing superfluous to get in a reader’s way, and it all lends itself to a unique experience for an audience.
On October 4th, DC Comics released yet another Batman comic book series, which put the number at around five if the limited series and event books were counted. When is too much Batman too much Batman? Well, 2017 was most certainly NOT that moment, as Sean Murphy’s Elseworlds tale of a Batman at the end of his wits and a Joker who’s gained some rocketed on to the scene. The critical and fan acclaim for this series was resounding and immediate, and while this will surely begin a new trend of standalone, non-canon Batman stories, it’s going to be quite the challenge to match the creativity and nuance of Batman White Knight. Murphy is, yes, deconstructing Batman characters in ways that are not new, but he’s also adding some subtle (and some not so subtle) details to the Batman mythos in this new context he’s imagined, and it’s simply a joy. Of all of the stories from 2017 that pull wholly from continuity yet are meaningless to that continuity, White Knight is without a doubt the best.
6. Black Bolt
The only Marvel Comic to make this year’s list is the May 3rd release of Black Bolt, and it’s not a fluke. Artist Christian Ward was an already acclaimed penciler with his work on ODY-C, Infinite Vacation, The Ultimates, and others, with his Street Art style being one of the most unique and recognizable in recent years. Then enter the relatively unknown Saladin Ahmed, a writer who would end up taking the Silent King on a quest for redemption, freedom, and reconciliation as he’s mistakenly locked away in a galactic space prison. The true appeal of Black Bolt, however, is the way Ahmed compels the reader to look within himself for that same redemption, freedom, and reconciliation by making this Royal Inhuman King a relatable and grounded character. Being able to, perhaps for the first time, see Black Bolt as a person, and not a king, opened up an incredibly rich portal to new and different storytelling for the character; not an easy feat in the slightest. Look for big things from writer Saladin Ahmed in 2018.
Steve Skroce was best known to me for his artwork on the alternative, sci-fi history comic series We Stand on Guard, but when Maestros #1 debuted on October 18th, that association was forever changed, because Steve Skroce will now forever be known as the creator of Image Comics’ Maestros. Maestros is a fish-out-of-water story that sees the estranged son of the most powerful wizard in the multiverse forced from his entitled life on Earth to take the throne of his newly deceased father, and with it the mantle and power of the most powerful wizard in the multiverse. Maestros is by no means the most complex story, with basic themes and character tropes in full use, but it thrives through Skroce’s irreverent writing and beautifully detailed art.
Back on February 22nd, Image Comics released The Old Guard #1, and the first must-read comic book series of the year began. Written by superstar talent Greg Rucka, The Old Guard followed a group of mysterious immortals-turned mercenary team as they attempt to elude capture from a new and contemporary threat that seeks to undo their entire way of life. And it was spectacular! Rucka is a master of world-building, his characters are always so rich and real, and the new spins he adds to long-standing tropes like immortality are so interesting. The Old Guard was a book that was difficult to ignore, but was quickly lost in the mix of so many other amazing comic releases. Rereading the series in preparation for this list, however, I was reminded of just how perfect of a comic book series this was. Everything was just so memorable and fascinating. With a lot of potential for sequels, prequels, and spinoffs, look to see more from this title as a franchise in the coming year.
As we break into the top 3 of this year’s best debuts, I wanted to briefly list some of the debut titles that deserve a mention but weren’t quite good enough to make the top 10. In no particular order:
A fun adventure series with spectacular art.
An intimate and deliberate examination into the lives of a family.
I’m a sucker for a good history comics, and this was the year’s best from the sub-genre.
Calvin & Hobbes meets Sin City in a surreal crime drama.
A wonderfully constructed horror anthology from IDW Publishing.
A modern-day Hollywood noir sourced from the classic Warner Bros. cartoon characters.
A brilliant take on two beloved franchises, with a must-see take on the artwork.
DC Comics’ magical characters join that universe’s version of Hogwart’s.
Decades of X-Men continuity packaged nice and neat for old readers and newcomers alike.
A fun and irreverent title from Valiant Entertainment that somehow touches the heart and soul of the reader.
3. God Country
He’s a big-shot over at Marvel Comics now, but at the beginning of 2017 writer Donny Cates was really just another comic book writer with a few mid-level successes under his belt. Then came God Country. The fantastical, yet seemingly personal, story of dealing with loss, struggling with change, and hoping for redemption, thrust Cates onto the comic book scene in ways we’ve not seen since Jonathan Hickman caught fire earlier this decade. God Country deals with a family learning to cope with a dementia-stricken father, and the revelation that comes along with a mysterious magical sword that brings the old man back to his senses in more ways than one. You could feel the firsthand sorrow in Donny Cates words, and whether he’s dealt with a similar struggle or not, everything feels so genuine and authentic. Art from the team of Geoff Shaw, Jason Wordie, and John J. Hill add to the overall tones with understated art that respects the overall importance of the story’s tone without sacrificing big moments that may otherwise seem out of place. No matter what Cates writes after, God Country will always be included in the discussion of the writer’s greatest works.
June 21st’s debut of the Image Comics title Shirtless Bear Fighter represents the biggest surprise hit of the year. From the creative team of writers Jody Leheup and Sebastian Girner with artists Nil Vendrell and Mike Spicer, Shirtless Bear Fighter is about a tougher than leather woodsman, raised in the forest by a family of bears, who now works for the government to thwart bear and bear-linked attacks while dealing with his own internal demons. Shirtless Bear Fighter seems like a silly throwaway comic, and while the title is without a doubt a hilarious romp of a story, nestled between the absurdity are shining moments of some of the best comic book social commentary of the year. Examining things like unchecked corporate greed, runaway anti-environmental sentiments, and, more importantly, our place in and responsibility to the world in that context, in front of the backdrop of the ridiculousness that is the story of a man who fights bears while not wearing a shirt, was easily one of the most refreshing and entertaining times I had with a comic book series this year.
The August 9th release of DC Comics Mister Miracle changed this list immediately. From the first few pages of writer Tom King’s epic return to telling New Gods stories, I knew the series was going to be in the running for the top spot on this list, but when every ensuing issue was just that much better than the one that preceded it, choosing Mister Miracle as the Best New Comic Series of 2017 was an easy choice. The 9-panel page layout hearkens back to the 1980s (the last true heyday of DC Comics) and was used with breathtaking, nostalgic precision and effect, while the character study into “a man who can escape anything except himself” left me completely engaged and longing for more. At its core, however, Mister Miracle is a love story of the highest caliber, capturing the essence of the unique romantic love shared between to equally unique individuals. But these lovebirds are irreparably damaged by a society that sees them as nothing but tools or a means to an end, while never appreciating or even recognizing them as individuals. As we begin to discover exactly what that society has disregarded, however, we begin to see that these fantastic individuals are more like us than we could have ever imagined. A somewhat oxymoronic epic that ignores a larger picture to find its heart and soul in people and relationships readers simply cannot avoid relating to, Mister Miracle will go down as a modern-day classic once it’s all been said and done.
See a mistake? Disagree with the choices? Let us know what you thing!