Under the Radar’s Top 25 Comic Books and Graphic Novels of 2017

Jan 11, 2018
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It was another grand year for comic book fans. Whether your preference is superheroes, character studies, sci-fi adventures, or memoirs, 2017 offered a plethora of amazing books and series to choose from. Jeff Lemire again proved himself one of the top talents in the field with the ongoing crime fighter series Black Hammer, while young, relative newcomers like Tillie Walden (Spinning) and Chris Gooch (Bottled) defined themselves as talents to follow faithfully.

Of course, no matter how much reading one does, there are always more (and more and more) books left atop the reading pile, and we recognize it's inevitable there are stellar titles we didn't get to (yet). So with that, below is the Under the Radar staff's picks for the Top 25 Comic Books and Graphic Novels of 2017. Enjoy, and please let us know what other titles you think belong on the list by shouting out your favorites in the comments section. By Zach Hollwedel

1

Black Hammer Volume 1: Secret Origins

(Dark Horse)

Jeff Lemire must be from another planet. There's simply no other explanation for how good he is. The Canadian writer/illustrator's take on an aging superhero squad seemingly imprisoned in a small rural town after a mysterious explosion is something to behold. The inspirations for Lemire's heroes find their roots in such classic characters as Shazam and Martian Manhunter, but what the artist does with them is all his own. By Zach Hollwedel

2

The Customer is Always Wrong

(Drawn and Quarterly)

The follow-up to Over Easy, this fictionalized memoir by Mimi Pond may be even better than that volume. It's the size of a phone book, but never gets tiresome; Pond's cartooning, characterizations, and storytelling are mesmerizing. Madge, an aspiring artist, is enmeshed in a world of the diner where she works as a waitress, in 1980s Oakland, and the reader will be as well. By Jeremy Nisen

3

The Flintstones

(DC)

Biggest surprise of the year. It's not only funny, but subversive and surprisingly poignant. Yeah, it's Fred and Barney and Wilma and Betty and their kids, but it's also pot shots at modern society, from government to religion to technology to business. And the sight-gags are there too, don't worry. Here's a book by DC, resurrecting a Hanna-Barbera property, wickedly written by Mark Russel and masterfully illustrated by Steve Pugh, and it's somehow more than the sum of its parts. Bravo. (Or, should we say something like "yabba dabba do . . .?). By Jeremy Nisen

4

Hostage

(Drawn and Quarterly)

It would seem that a 400-plus-page graphic novel set almost exclusively in a single room and featuring hardly any character beyond its protagonist (who is chained to a radiator, by the way) would be dull. Perhaps even unreadable. Yet, Guy Delisle’s account of NGO worker Christophe André’s Chechnya kidnapping experience is nothing short of masterful. Grey-hued and infinitely introspective, the thick tome is well-worth an afternoon in your favorite reading chair. By Zach Hollwedel

5

Home Time Book One

(Top Shelf)

Campbell Whyte gives us a highly original take on an otherwise familiar story: regular kids somehow fall into a new world, and need to survive as they look for a way home. Amazing art and clever, idiosyncratic world-building are the key elements here. By Jeremy Nisen

6

Spinning

(First Second)

In the vein of This One Summer, another knock-out coming of age graphic novel from First Second—that one, from Jillian Tamaki, whose Boundless takes the thirteenth spot on this list—Tillie Walden’s memoir about self discovery and first same sex love, set against the backdrop of figure skating, is a true work of art. Gorgeously illustrated and poignantly written, Tillie’s story of a young, reserved girl trying to reify and become comfortable with her identity is relatable to anyone who has gone through adolescence with even the slightest shred of insecurity or self-doubt. By Zach Hollwedel

7

Bottled

(Top Shelf)

Where to even begin? Chris Gooch’s original graphic novel is a haunting exploration of fame, friendship, and public image. Jane is a young woman hoping to move into a new apartment with her boyfriend. However, with rent money hard to come by, she concocts a duplicitous plan to secure the funds from a friend, whose modeling career is just beginning to take off. Bottled is unnerving, a glimpse into the darkness that lies within each of us—in some cases, barely below the surface. By Zach Hollwedel

8

Rock Candy Mountain Vol. 1

(Image)

Just delightful, both art and story, by Kyle Starks. A hobo's quest to find the Rock Candy Mountain, immortalized in song, and perhaps an actual place in a world populated with the actual deftly-dealing devil. It's easy to lose yourself in the kinetic, elastic art and the period details, along with the high-octane story punctuated with more than a bindle's worth of humor. By Jeremy Nisen

9

Eartha

(Fantagraphics)

Infinitely creative, Cathy Malkasian’s tale of an unlikely heroine who sets out to save her homeland is a surreal fantasy unlike almost anything else this year. The titular protagonist lives on an island, which receives and harvests the dreams of city dwellers who reside in the metropolis across a shrouded bay. When the dreams stop coming, leaving the people on Eartha’s island in doubt about their futures and fearing a calamity has befallen the city, Eartha sets off to discover why the urbanites have ceased sleeping. What follows is a one of a kind parable about society, materialism, and the oversaturation of current event news cycles. By Zach Hollwedel

10

Demon Vol. 4

(First Second)

This whole series is a mind-fuck—pardon our crude language, but if a mere expletive is offensive, this is NOT NOT NOT the book for you. If you pass that first litmus test, you should delve carefully into Demon, a tale from Jason Shiga with positively cuddly art that defies the bloodbath of content—the moral quandaries and possible implications posed by a body-hopping immortal. It's a fun, well-executed, comedic sci-fi conspiracy thriller that, while not for the faint of heart, is rewarding for those who can stomach it. By Jeremy Nisen

11

Poppies of Iraq

(Drawn and Quarterly)

12

Cave Carson Has a Cybernetic Eye

(DC)

13

Boundless

(Drawn and Quarterly)

14

Spill Zone

(First Second)

15

Behind You

(IDW)

16

Lennon: The New York Years

(IDW)

17

Mr. Miracle

(DC)

18

Moonshine Vol. 1

(Image)

19

Batman: White Knight

(DC)

20

The Interview

(Fantagraphics)

21

Baking with Kafka

(Drawn and Quarterly)

22

Batman: The Dark Knight: Master Race

(DC)

23

The Hunting Accident

(First Second)

24

Paper Girls

(Image)

25

Saga

(Image)

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