THE BEST SINGLE ISSUES OF THE YEAR
Written by Jason Aaron
Art & colors by Walter Simonson, Russell Dauterman, Daniel Acuña, James Harren, Becky Cloonan, Das Pastoras, Chris Burnham, Andrew MacLean, Jill Thompson, Mike Del Mundo, Olivier Coipel, Matt Wilson, Dave Stewart, and Ive Svorcina.
Letters by VC’s Joe Sabino.
There are many reasons Jason Aaron is my favorite comic book writer, and they are all on display in The Mighty Thor #700. His run on Thor (though at this point it’s gone through three re-numberings) has been a seminal one for the character. Everything that’s come before mounts to a booming crescendo in this over-sized anniversary special.
The amount of artists guesting on this issue, and the talent contained therein, is astounding: Russell Dauterman and Matthew Wilson are joined by the likes of Becky Cloonan, James Harren, Walt Simonson, Daniel Acuna, Andrew MacLean… too many to stuff into my limited word count here. Each puts their own unique spin on iconic characters, and Aaron knows just how to tailor scripts to each artist’s strengths. For thunderous superheroics with an emotional impact, there was no better yarn spun this year than The Mighty Thor #700. — MJ
Written by Tim Daniel.
Art by Michael Kennedy.
Letters by Lauren Norby.
What is Spiritus? In a future where prisons are considered barbaric, convicts have their consciousness inserted into machines that serve society. Forever. Is the world’s best MMA fighter guilty of murder? Yes or no, she’s bound for android hell — until the mob makes an offer to put her into a free bot body. For a price.
Isn’t the concept enough to pique your interest? Tim Daniel has written a story that is too cool, with characters just as suave. Michael Kennedy’s art is gorgeous, sketchy and imperfect, the opposite of the sleek aesthetic you’d expect. A callback to Barry Windsor Smith’s Weapon X, humanity in a tank, but a punk zine version of it. Raw, close, and poetic. The colors are off the hook, following no logic or rules, some total black light poster choices. Spiritus is the definition of the perfect debut, a paragon of delivery and promise. — AOK
Black Crown/IDW Publishing/$3.99
Written by Peter Milligan.
Art by Tess Fowler.
Colors by Lee Loughridge.
Letters by Aditya Bidikar.
If for no other reason, Kid Lobotomy #1 makes it to this list because it was advertised as a declaration of intent from a daring new comics imprint and it cashed the check. Vivacious, sensual, and more than a little mad, Peter Milligan, Tess Fowler, Lee Loughridge, and Aditya Bidikar toiled against lofty expectations and won.
But what made this debut work so well was the mastermind behind it all. Shelly Bond. Turning a page in her storied career and exploring the possibilities of the future. It was the alchemy between the old guard and new blood. Milligan enjoying creator-owned freedom, Fowler becoming the star of the show. Loughridge going crazy on our eyeballs. Bidikar becoming the heir apparent to Klein. This was an intro issue that set our world on fire, and it announced the coming of a formidable new comics imprint. Most impressive. — JJ
Written by Tom King.
Art by Lee Weeks and Michael Lark.
Colors by Elizabeth Breitweiser and June Chung.
Letters by Deron Bennett.
Has a comic book made you shed a tear recently? What about openly weep? I only ask because if you’re looking for a cape comic that’ll spur a good cry, give Batman Annual #2 a shot. It’s a future tale (or possibly Elseworlds—Earth 2, anyone?) starring one of Tom King’s couples du jour, the Cat and the Bat. But here’s the twist: it moves through their currently tumultuous relationship and well into their future, some of it even taking place after they’ve been married, shared a life, and grown old together.
The halcyon early days of their relationship — moody and magnificent — are beautifully drawn by Lee Weeks and colored by the amazing Bettie Breitweiser. The latter half, moving into the more emotionally resonant future like a punch in the gut, is beautifully told by Michael Lark and June Chung. You’d never expect it of a Batman book, but it’s one of the sweetest, most heartbreaking, and most romantic issues of a superhero comic you’ll ever read. — MJ
DC’s Young Animal/$3.99
Written by Jody Houser.
Art by John Paul Leon.
Colors by Dave Stewart.
Letters by John Workman.
Jody Houser’s fresh take on the Batman myth — an heiress who loses her family and becomes a living weapon against her will — is elevated into the divine by the artwork of John Paul Leon. Issue #8 is largely spent out of costume, leaning instead on another Batman parallel: detective work. Leon’s mastery of distinct faces and wondrously detailed places are given a chance to shine as we explore Mother Panic’s lair, allies, thought processes. Her research method is unlike Batman’s (re: Googling), but her intellect gets results.
Houser and Leon take this new Dark Knight to her peak. Beneath the cowl, a character unbound by tradition, a hero every bit as robust and provacative. A villain that nails the unique, crazy flavor of a Gotham City rogue. It is Gotham, really, that makes this issue what it is. The city, its people, given their due, made consummate, compelling, exquisite. — AOK
Written by Mark Waid.
Art by Chris Samnee.
Colors by Matthew Wilson.
Letters by VC’s Joe Caramagna.
Marvel Primer Pages by Robbie Thompson, Valerio Schiti & Frank D’armata.
Let’s get one thing straight: this book would have never happened without Secret Empire. Not that I doubted for a second that Steve Rogers’ return to the avenging fold wouldn’t involve some level of soul-searching and the requisite “but what does Captain America mean” kind of questions. But that Marvel would tap Mark Waid, Chris Samnee and Matt Wilson — three of the A-listiest of A-list creators working today — to navigate Captain Rogers’ return to our good graces certainly implies that the fan outrage over Secret Empire‘s rather dubious narrative served at least one purpose.
It’s a throwback, but it feels vitally new. It’s earnest in its sincerity, but it passes on the schmaltz. Steve Rogers has a long road to travel before the past disappears in the rearview mirror. With Waid and Samnee at the wheel, we were never more happy to jump back into the exploits of Captain America. This one will actually make you want to stand up and salute. — JJ
Written by Kieron Gillen.
Art by Jamie McKelvie.
Colors by Matt Wilson.
Letters by Clayton Cowles.
The Wicked + The Divine is approaching its finale. In its final approach, the end of “Imperial Phase” took what we knew about the gods and the series’ general themes and turned it on its head. There’s little to say about the plot that doesn’t flaunt majorly spoilerific material, but suffice to say: this changes everything.
Jamie McKelvie and Matthew Wilson continue to produce one of the most visually striking books on the stands today. Gillen plots masterfully, never skimping on snide witticisms or jaw-dropping reveals. If you haven’t yet dove into the sprawling epic that is The Wicked + The Divine—well, don’t start here! But this issue is indeed a satisfying read, a culmination of five volume’s worth of amazing character development. It would behoove you to jump in head-first. — MJ
DC’s Young Animal/$3.99
Written by Cecil Castellucci.
Art by Marguerite Sauvage.
Letters by Saida Temofonte.
You do an origin story between arcs because then there are stakes. Cecil Castellucci has already set a tone to Shade. You think you know it. This changes your perspective. This changes, well, everything. Even the artist has changed; Marguerite Sauvage brings a shift from raw to polished, an alien look for an alien’s story, clear lines for clarity. You can feel that this is a special issue.
That alien is too real, though. A rebel. Told to fit in but can’t bear to. Her growing pains and poor choices trying to find a life that feels right are more human that she’d ever know. Simultaneously, we see her mistakes. She doesn’t own them, but Castellucci doesn’t dismiss them, and we are left to decide for ourselves good, bad, or both. A magnificent turning point in the series, a crucial read to sneak under YA covers. — AOK
Written by Chip Zdarsky.
Pencils by Jim Cheung.
Inks by John Dell and Walden Wong.
Colors by Frank Martin.
Letters by VC’s Joe Caramagna.
Yeah, yeah. I know what you’re thinking. Technically, this is a 2018 series, and you’re only talking about it because you love the Fantastic Four and also you just read this dang thing, etc. You’re 100% right. All the way. I did only just read this colossal issue in the last weeks of December, and yes, I very, very much love the Fantastic Four and miss them incredibly. But there’s a reason I’ve included this issue to our Best Single Issues list for 2017, one that might have eluded you: it’s one of the most well-written, thoughtfully considered, gorgeously rendered, and incredibly stirring things I read from January 1, 2017 to right now. (And also I’m the editor. I do what I want.)
It’s a book that promises grand things for the future. Chip Zdarsky has sent Johnny Storm and Ben Grimm on a journey to find the truth behind the Richards’ Family disapperance with Doctor Doom nipping at their heels. I am here for it. — JJ
Written by Tom King.
Art by Mitch Gerads.
Letters by Clayton Cowles.
Though many of my favorite superhero comics tend to be full of the effervescent joy that comes with doing good, every once in a while I can appreciate — even love — a cape comic that’s, well, emotionally devastating. And good (?) news: Mister Miracle #4 is decidedly that. Most of the series has been as well: who could forget one of issue #1’s opening splash pages, depicting a Scott Free who’s just opened a vein on his bathroom floor? Somehow #4 gets deeper, goes darker.
Artist Mitch Gerads handles writer Tom King’s nine-panel pages with aplomb, making sure nearly-identical repeated panels maximize tension, mounting towards a massive, heartrending impact. We watch Scott admit to awful truths, and thanks to Gerads’ eye for detail, we see Scott’s posture slowly slump as the truths come out, the furrow of his brow deepening ever so slightly. A comic series can rarely make you feel this deeply. Mister Miracle hits its mark every time, but none moreso than this issue. So far. — MJ
What was your favorite single issue of the year? Let us know in the comments below.