By Molly Jane KremerArpad Okay, and Jarrod JonesThese are the mini-series that captivated us, brought us back with each successive installment, and left us twitching in the dust, craving more.


Art by John Paul Leon/DC Comics/Vertigo

The Sheriff of Babylon. (Vertigo) Tom King’s 2016 was a monumental one, though some of his finest accomplishments involved conclusions. Three twelve-issue limited series saw their ending: Marvel’s The Vision with Gabriel Walta, DC’s Omega Men with Barnaby Bagenda, and — one of my favorite series of the past few years — Vertigo’s The Sheriff of Babylon side-by-side with the excellent Mitch Gerads. King drew on his experience working for the CIA in Baghdad during the Iraq War, and, after pairing that with Mitch Gerads’ subtle illustrations, an engrossing drama unfolded. Magic happened.

The Sheriff of Babylon is imbued with quiet and doubt. Violence and melancholy. The three main characters’ good intentions get lost, trampled upon, or reversed into hellish circumstances — a fitting allegory for the entire war itself. Gerads’ eye for detail and his understated color palette combined with King’s sparse (and, at times, cutting) dialogue to make for the most emotionally daunting series that came our way in 2016.

That will be an intense experience though, to try and read Sheriff of Babylon again; I can remember, at times, appreciating that wait for the next issue, a reprieve of the book’s gripping tension and suspense. The ending, though certainly final and well-concluded, leaves enough open for a continuation if the creators decide to come back. And I do hope for their return. The Sheriff of Babylon is a thing of beauty and terror and heartache, a story that needed to be told, one that still has more to tell. — MJ

Art by Zander Cannon/Oni Press

Kaijumax Season Two. (Oni Press) Blistering crime dramas know no limits. The stage upon which these lurid, angry melodramas take place are either monolithic in scale or they can fit snugly in the kitchen sink. Guess where Kaijumax fits. Bet you won’t be able to.

Crime comes from home. It comes from the streets. It comes from City Hall. From within prison’s walls. In Kaijumax, crime is everywhere, motives are innumerable, and regardless of whether it’s oil or blood pumping through these beings, every character caught in this saga has a beating heart. Conflicts here have the power to hit close to home, which may come as a surprise for those who were lured in by the book’s cotton candy color palette. What’s even more surprising is that those conflicts often hit with the power of a megaton bomb. Emotionally, Kaijumax has the ability to destroy. Yet, if you wish to better understand your fellow human being, this story of battlin’ mechs and scaly beasts is one of my few recommendations.

Zander Cannon’s ode to kaiju movies and the human experience isn’t just masterful comics. Kaijumax‘s morality would benefit anybody who bothered to soak in its majesty. — JJ

Art by Ian Bertram and Dave Stewart/Dark Horse Comics

House of Penance. (Dark Horse Comics) A curse on an arms magnate made into architecture. The widow Winchester (as in cowboy guns) can never let the construction of her haunted mansion stop, even for a moment, or the demons that constantly plague her will come up through the floorboards. The artwork from Ian Bertram is utterly compelling, gory and psychedelic, quite sophisticated and totally gut wrenching. The severity of Suehiro Maruo, but rendered in an appropriately Gothic style that comes off much more European than ero guro.

Bertram’s art and Peter Tomasi’s writing work hand in glove. The layouts are sublime, the story can go as surreal as Jodorowsky making a Western or it can capture the stillness of a sniper. An alarming story between killers and victims can be told when different perspectives are layered on the same page in that way only comics can. The result is Shirley Jackson and HP Lovecraft. The cherry on top is it’s based on a true story — after you get your mind blown by all the horrifying things House of Penance has to show you, you can go read up on the equally unlikely history of the real Winchester widow and her mansion. This series raises the bar for horror comics. It raises the bar for comics, period. — AOK

Art by Matt Smith and Nathan Fairbairn/Image Comics

Lake of Fire. (Image Comics) Not often comes a meticulously researched historical-fiction action adventure/emotionally affecting comic book that delves into the meat of the Albigensian Crusade and… an alien invasion? Yeah, see what I mean? Nathan Fairbairn, renowned colorist, makes his Image writing debut in Lake of Fire, bringing along relative newcomer Matt Smith as artist, showing us what Aliens would be like if it took place in Medieval France. And while those might seem a tad too disparate to meld, I’ve got news for you — its depths and thrills are voluminous. It’s an incredibly awesome read.

Fairbairn juggles numerous characters, each of them incredibly developed, while concentrating on as authentic a historical setting as possible. Matt Smith’s research and attention to detail establish further era accuracy, and his layouts and pages make for very well-paced, gripping storytelling. And have I mentioned his knack for drawing nasty monsters? Because they’re creepy as hell, and the bowels of their hellish ship only drives home the bleak series ending. Lake of Fire will resonate with you long after finishing it. I cannot recommend it enough. — MJ

Art by Ryan Sook/DC Comics

Superman: American Alien. (DC Comics) Superman had it good this year. It’s about damned time. Editors, writers, readers, all of them have said at one point or another that Superman is impossible to care about. Every single one of these people have been wrong — they’ve only known Superman when his stewards were the monsters banking on the character’s iconography for a quick, cheap buck. What he needed was a creator who gave a shit. And like him, hate him, or scarcely tolerate him, Max Landis wrote the living shit out of Superman: American Alien.

That’s right. When he wasn’t busy arguing with the entire internet, Max Landis collaborated with some of the finest artists in the industry to give us a bold new vision of comic’s greatest hero. In American Alien, Clark Kent struggled to grow up, as so many of us did. His parents hid their doubts about their son. At times, they questioned whether or not they truly loved him. And yet they held on. Clark Kent could have been so many things, considering. But because of two tremendous people, Clark Kent became a force of nature, made kind by love. — JJ

(Where we made room to love all over a few more.)

Art by Rod Reis/Image Comics

Hadrian’s Wall. (Image Comics) The 80s aesthetic was a popular one this year, in comics and elsewhere (because it’s awesome), but few fully encapsulated the oft-imitated shiny neon-noir of the 80’s sci-fi touchstone Blade Runner quite like Hadrian’s Wall. This murder mystery on board an interstellar ship has a premise slightly reminiscent of fellow Image series Southern Cross, but Hadrian’s Wall has a more personal focus. The murder mystery and its simmering, building suspense is inextricably tangled with an evocative backstory of love and loss, paired with the claustrophobia and paranoia of deep space travel, not to mention a bad case of the DTs.

The C.O.W.L. creative team has reunited for this series — writers Kyle Higgins and Alec Siegel with artist Rod Reis — and with Hadrian’s Wall, they’ve made an even more refined and affecting comic. Reis’s art is gorgeous, shadowy and impressionistic, and his character designs are eye-grabbing, as always. And, consciously or not, protagonist Simon’s look (and of course, him recording his constant patter about the case) is more than a little reminiscent of Kyle Maclachlan in Twin Peaks. An increasingly intriguing murder mystery brimming with stunning visuals. I can’t wait to read Hadrian’s Wall’s conclusion next year. — MJ

Art by Giannis Milonogiannis/Image Comics

Prophet: Earth War. (Image Comics) Prophet: Earth War, the coda to a space opera that has raged for years, in which Brandon Graham takes a bunch of good ideas from the dregs of Image’s past and hurls them through time. Forward, eons, to an age where the human race is hardly recognizable. When the heroes have all become places and things as the eras passed, stopped being people.

Still, every war has foot soldiers, and on the ground is where the stories Graham is concerned with take place. Earth War is a slice of life comic about armed forces fighting in a war where every aspect of normal life is largely unrecognizable to the reader. (My favorite piece, for example, is a robot in love with a lizard.) You don’t fight the flood of strange when you read this book, you trust it, follow its currents. The Prophet comics are illustrated by a number of different artists, passed around in a way that resembles a game of exquisite corpse.

It’s of benefit to the story, which is spread across the universe. You want more than one look at a war that stretches across all of creation. It’s also of benefit to the reader. One series and a sci-fi murderers’ row of artists who pen it. Compare it to Métal Hurlant, not just because of the look, because it is driven to probe the unknown. It’s weird. It’s great. — AOK

Art by Andy Clarke and Dan Brown/AfterShock Comics

Replica. (AfterShock Comics) Crack your head open and take a good long look at your own personal id? No, thank you! most people would say. For Detective Trevor Churchill, however, getting two eyefulls how how weird, insecure, hostile, and inept you actually are is a daily fact of life. See, Trevor has clones of himself. An entire precinct full of them. And among his ranks is a singular he who plots against him, because, well… because of course they are.

Paul Jenkins and Andy Clarke’s Replica wasn’t just one of the best mini-series of the year. It was one of the most imaginative. The most hilarious. The most… obnoxious. Y’see, Trevor’s just not a likeable character. He’d be right at home owing money to John Constantine or drinking pints until dawn with Cassidy. It’s precisely his hubris, coupled by his scuzzy ego, that made Replica so much damn fun to read. And here I am, wanting more of/from the guy. Just goes to show. It ain’t easy being the proto-You. — JJ

Agree? Disagree? Which mini-series blew YOU away this year? Let us know in the comments section below.