Under the Radar’s Top 25 Comic Books and Graphic Novels of 2016

Jan 18, 2017
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Even if it goes down as a pretty wretched year for other reasons, 2016 was a phenomenal year for comics and graphic novels. Not only were books overwhelmingly stellar, but they were also tremendously diverse. From disquietingly violent thrillers (Kill or Be Killed, The Violent, and Deadly Class), to eminently engaging historical accounts (March and Tetris), to a surprising number of impressively introspective superhero sagas (Superman: American Alien and The Legend of Wonder Woman Volume 1: Origins), 2016 had it all.

As ranked by Under the Radar's core comic book contributors, our Best Comic Books and Graphic Novels of 2016 highlights nearly 40 gorgeous, powerful, and supremely notable books and series from over a half dozen publishers. Every single title, whether number one, number 25, or one of the many truly fantastic honorable mentions, deserves a read. By Zach Hollwedel

1

Superman: American Alien

(DC)

Superman: American Alien is the best Superman story since Grant Morrison's All Star Superman. Writer Max Landis, who gained popularity with a viral video about the '90s arc The Death and Return of Superman, deconstructs the character in search of his humanity. The setting is updated, and the origin arc completely reconfigured, but it seeks out the heart of The Man of Steel in a way that extends beyond any contemporary landmarks and finds a universal quality that is often lost in Superman comics and films. American Alien excels as a Superman story because it acknowledges the qualities that made the character interesting to a 1940s audience are not necessarily the same qualities we need to see in Superman in 2016. But it also proves that The Man of Steel is more malleable than we presumed, and that a search for the Kryptonian's soul could lead to his most human story to date. By Cody Ray Shafer

2

Patience

(Fantagraphics)

Ghost World and Wilson creator Daniel Clowes' Patience is an engrossing and trippy science fiction tale that only Clowes could tell. In 2012 Jack comes home to find his pregnant wife Patience murdered. The police arrest him as the only suspect, and he spends many months in jail before being let go due to lack of evidence. Cut to 2029 and Jack is a broken man still haunted by the unsolved murder. When he stumbles across time travel, he journeys back to 2006, to before Patience even met him, to help stop her murder. It's been reported that this deeply affecting and psychedelic tale is to be adapted into a movie, with Clowes writing the script, so get on board now. By Mark Redfern

3

Tetris: The Games People Play

(First Second)

Box Brown's illustrated history of the development, sale, and lightning fast spread of Tetris is absolutely riveting. The page-turner tracks the iconic game from its inception by Russian developer, Alexey Pajitnov, to the myriad multinational corporations that fought over rights to the overnight sensation. Gamers and non-gamers alike will doubtless find themselves engrossed by the surprisingly circuitous tale of Tetris' evolution from a free game shared by friends on floppy discs to the global phenomenon it is today. By Zach Hollwedel

4

Unfollow

(Vertigo/DC)

The promise of great wealth drives strangers to do terrible things to one another in Rob Williams' salacious tale of a dying billionaire social media mogul who flies 140 seemingly unconnected individuals to his private island. There, he tells them they will each inherit an equal portion of his estate. The fewer of them that remain alive by the time he dies, the more wealthy each survivor will become. Unfollow is bloody, duplicitous, and devilishly entertaining. By Zach Hollwedel

5

March Book Three

(Top Shelf)

John Lewis' March Trilogy has been touted as one of the most important graphic novels of all time, and with good reason. The congressman's first-hand retelling of numerous defining events of the Civil Rights Movement is an absolute must read for every American. Co-author Andrew Aydin and artist Nate Powell help bring the iconic Lewis' story to life on the page, and the three-volume set, exquisitely published by Top Shelf, could not be a timelier and more essential collection. By Zach Hollwedel

6

Huck Book 1: All American

(Image)

Not everyone with super powers puts on a cape and fights crime. Some, like Mark Millar's eponymous strongman, Huck, dedicate themselves to simply doing one good deed a day. However, that's sometimes easier said than done. Huck is an endearing tale and a brilliant new take on the vigilante genre from veteran comic book and film writer, Mark Millar. By Zach Hollwedel

7

Monstress

(Image)

Incredible world-building teamed with intensely beautiful art-Marjorie Liu (writer) and Sana Takeda (artist) have outdone themselves. Mystery, mysticism, crazy science, Cthulu-esque demonic presences lurking in the very atmosphere-all in a matriarchal society. This is unique, this is a new story the likes of which we've never seen before, this is deserving of all the attention it gets and more. By Jeremy Nisen

8

The Legend of Wonder Woman Volume 1: Origins

(DC)

To commemorate Wonder Woman's 75th birthday in 2016, DC presented several retellings of her origin, and The Legend of Wonder Woman was by far the best of them. Writer/artist Renae De Liz sets the story in the hero's original World War II era and takes her time deferentially developing Diana's transformation into Wonder Woman. Diana has rarely been written so sympathetically, a true outsider in man's war-torn world. By Mark Redfern

9

Megg & Mogg in Amsterdam

(Fantagraphics)

The continuing misadventures of a witch (at least in appearance-not too much cauldron-crafting or hexing going on) and her cat by Simon Hanselmann. Cringe-inducing, sometimes vomit-inducing, sometimes hilarious, but always raw, effective, and sometimes strangely poignant, the Megg & Mogg books may well be the bellwether of a new age of alt-comix. By Jeremy Nisen

10

Clean Room

(Vertigo/DC)

What if a frightening, Scientology-like organization was all that stood between this world and otherworldly horror? Gail Simone examines this question from the point of view of an ex-reporter, Chloe, caught up in the intrigue. Jon Davis-Hunt's art perfectly alternates between the beautiful and horrific as necessary as the three parties-the "Honest World Foundation," the demonic invaders, and the independently acting Chloe-contend with each other in a world where the horrific truth eludes almost everyone. Horror isn't easy to pull off in comics, and this one succeeds in being frightening, even as establishing an extremely engaging cast. By Jeremy Nisen

11

DC Universe Rebirth #1

(DC)

12

Deadly Class: Deluxe Edition: Noise Noise Noise

(Image)

13

Doom Patrol

(Young Animal/DC)

14

Art Ops

(Vertigo/DC)

15

Panther

(Drawn and Quarterly)

16

Shade the Changing Girl

(Young Animal/DC)

17

Kill or Be Killed

(Image)

18

The Flash

(DC)

19

Wonder Woman: Earth One Vol. 1

(DC)

20

5,000 km Per Second

(Fantagraphics)

21

Plutona

(Image)

22

The Longest Day of the Future

(Fantagraphics)

23

Batman/Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

(DC/IDW)

24

Sheriff of Babylon

(Vertigo/DC)

25

Superman

(DC)

Honorable Mentions:

Back to the Future Volume 2: Continuum Conundrum (IDW), Batman (DC), Batman: Europa (DC), Black Panther (Marvel), Dark Night: A True Batman Story (Vertigo/DC), Demon (First Second), Detective Comics (DC), Jem and the Holograms (IDW), Green Arrow (DC), Love Addict: Confessions of a Serial Dater (Top Shelf), Mooncop (Drawn and Quarterly), Moonshine (Image), Paper Girls (Image), The Fade Out (Image), The Twilight Children (Vertigo/DC), The Violent (Image), and Wrinkles (Fantagraphics).

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ehsan
February 23rd 2017
11:10am

“Patience” is awesome. I read it recently - I think maybe one of the best noir-flavored comics published recently.