HitFix

The Best Comics Of 2016

In 2016, more mainstream comics than ever before hit the stands, a huge variety coming from both new talents and old hands coming back with new ideas. That made it easy to pick 15 worthwhile titles spanning traditional superheroes to very untraditional takes on classic stories.

Poison Ivy: Cycle of Life and Death

It took half a century, but DC Comics finally gave Pamela Isley her own comic this year. From the creative team of Amy Chu and Clay Mann, Cycle of Life and Death — along with Poison Ivy’s appearances as Harley’s girlfriend in the Harley Quinn ongoing — reestablished Pamela as less of a femme fatale and more of a lonely demigod. And like so many “one of a kind” creatures before her, Ivy takes creation into her own hands to start a species of her own. The book treats Ivy as morally ambiguous but not evil. Her disdain of humans is rooted in her love of plants, and while not above a judicious murder or two, Chu always makes sure the reader at least understands Pamela’s motivations. Also, if DC doesn’t do something with the daughters of Poison Ivy, it’ll be a real shame. — Donna Dickens

The Violent

Ed Brisson and Adam Gorham’s small, intimate noir is unconcerned with big, grandiose gestures or mooks and molls. What it is focused on is how once you’re in the system, even the tiniest mistake in your life can spiral out of control. Great noir is, at root, a tragedy, and The Violent will leave you wondering how we can do better by those who’ve struggled. — Dan Seitz

Betty and Veronica

Betty and Veronica asks a lot from Adam Hughes, who serves as both the book’s artist and its writer. I’ll admit to being a little hesitant about this title, given Hughes background in cheesecake. But I am happy to say such concerns were misplaced. Like Archie and Jughead before it, the Betty and Veronica reboot captures the essence of the Riverdale’s most famous frenemies while updating them for the 21st century. Female friendships in high school are fraught with (in hindsight) ridiculous drama. Hughes nicely balances Betty and Veronica’s disagreements so it never feels like they can’t be besties at the end of the day. — DD

Faith

Valiant’s bright, gentle take on the classic superhero story of a woman with powers, a secret identity, and a calling that messes up her love life is a joy to read every month. It’s really just that simple: It may be a classic formula, but it never feels formulaic, and with Jody Houser’s writing and Megan Hetrick’s art, Faith is just so overjoyed to be a superhero, she sweeps readers up along with her. —DS

Black Panther

In the future, if people ask why it matters to have a minority group — whether along race, gender, or sexual orientation lines — involved in the creative process for characters of a similar background, just point them to Black Panther comic by Ta-Nehisi Coates and Brian Stelfreeze. Together, they create a Wakanda that feels alive and explore difficult questions about a king’s responsibility to his people and if a country can heal after the massive morale blow that was the devastation of their heretofore impenetrable country. And how can you not love a series with two former Dora Milaje exacting vengeance on men who would subjugate their fellow Wakandan women? — DD

The Flintstones

One does not generally expect biting political satire from Hanna Barbera cartoons. But the brilliance of Mark Russell and Steve Pugh’s take on the modern Stone Age family is that they keep everything you remember, right down to the terrible puns and the funny animals, but inject it with a lot of dark comedy that makes this comic unexpectedly thoughtful and even, in one or two places, heart-breaking. The result is true to the spirit of the show, with its satire of modern life, but Russell and Pugh offer both a deadpan bluntness and a dark comedy that makes it far more than just bad puns. —DS

Legend of Wonder Woman

Over the years, creators have struggled with Wonder Woman. To be fair, Diana can be a hard nut to crack, being created by a man who was involved in a polyamorous relationship and used the Amazons as an outlet for his BDSM tendencies. But the married creative team of Renae De Liz and Ray Dillon took to the idiosyncrasies of Wonder Woman brilliantly. Instead of trying to explain away her past, De Liz and Dillon leaned in. The result is a (literally) magical interpretation of Wonder Woman’s life, from childhood to her entrance into the World of Men during the height of World War II. — DD

The Goddamned

If you’ve ever sat down and actually read the Old Testament, you were probably left with a few questions. Not the least of which is how badly off was Earth that God thought just flooding the whole thing was a good idea. Jason Aaron and R.M. Guera’s Biblically accurate answer? Pretty terrible! Awful, in fact. Told from the perspective of Cain, and showing a Noah who is decidedly not Sunday School friendly, The Goddamned is an exploration of where the Bible meets actual human history, and asks the question of just what it means that we’re so awful, and yet created in God’s image. — DS

Sheriff of Babylon

Inspired by his real experiences as a CIA member in Iraq, writer Tom King teamed up with artist Mitch Gerads to translate the complex insanity that was post-war Iraq in 2003 using comics as his medium. But whereas most entertainment media have been content to cast Iraqis as monolithic terrorists for the last decade (replacing the Russians who supplanted the Germans), King and Gerads take the road less traveled, one where the populace of American-occupied Iraq are just people: people with jobs, with families, with regrets and secrets, hopes and dreams. If you’ve been looking for a crime thriller, your search stops here. —DD

Kill Or Be Killed

Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips team up once again for what turns out to be a harsh deconstruction of the 1970s vigilante movies. Dylan is a suicidal twentysomething who jumps off a roof and miraculously survives. Except, it turns out, he was saved by a demon who wants Dylan to murder one “bad person” a month, or Dylan will die himself. Brubaker and Phillips agonizingly turn the screw by refusing to answer the question of whether Dylan really is an unholy avenger or suffering from a psychological collapse, and injects the macho fantasy with a cold dose of reality. — DS

Mockingbird

What a weird and wonderful book Chelsea Cain and Kate Niemczyk created with Mockingbird. Ostensibly following Bobbi Morse as she reports in for medical checks after exposure to a dangerous element, the series delves into the psyche of a woman who has no superpowers (unless you count sarcasm) and what drives her to get up everyday and save the world. Mockingbird allows Bobbi that rarest of things allotted to female heroes: the ability to be flawed. Cain really lets Bobbi wallow in the messiness of her relationship with her ex-husband, let’s her be irritated that she has to work twice as hard to get half as much, and extends Bobbi an arc so often denied to women: that of an imperfect person trying to dig herself out of a decades’ old lie. — DD

Resident Alien: The Man With No Name

Peter Hogan and Steve Parkhouse have delivered several takes on small-town life starring an alien hiding on Earth and trying to find his place here as a small-town doctor, but this one, where he unravels the mystery of a homeless man caught in an accident, is a particularly outstanding demonstration of the care and pacing that informs this series. “Gentle” isn’t usually a word used to describe comics, but these are incredibly refreshing. — DS

James Bond

Warren Ellis and Jason Masters consistently deliver comics every month that are better than some Bond movies. When do they get a crack at Daniel Craig? —DS

Moon Girl And Devil Dinosaur

There is nothing, absolutely nothing, more frustrating for a kid than to be the smartest person in the room. You use logic, you make your conclusions, you explain them, and then you get dismissed, because what do you know? You’re just a kid. The genius of Amy Reeder’s writing is she nails this feeling, every time, as she builds a kid-friendly story about the smartest girl in the room, even as Natacha Bustos offers some the most fun, cheerful art you’ll find on the stands. — DS

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