2017 has been a year of unexpected hits in the world of comics. From left-field revivals of classic characters to licensed titles and brand crossovers that really had no right to be as good as they wound up being, the past twelve months have been full of surprises.

With that in mind, it’s time to take a look back at some of this year’s best and brightest comics and graphic novels, no matter how off the wall they may have seemed at first glance.



10. Mister Miracle


Tom King and Mitch Gerads, the creative team who brought us last year’s gut-wrenching real life war story The Sheriff of Babylon, reunited this year for something decidedly more superheroic in tone. Mister Miracle is a twelve issue limited series reexamining characters from Jack Kirby’s New Gods pantheon in what King has described as a “superhero Game of Thrones.”

One part roulette wheel of brutality and backstabbing and two parts psychological drama about the titular hero–the troubled, suicidal Scott Free–Mister Miracle is a challenging, beautiful, and poignant read about love and loneliness in a world that has altogether stopped making sense. And it’s told by two creators who are very clearly at the top of their games. Not for nothing, it just so happened to be released in celebration of Kirby’s 100th birthday, making it extra special for fans of comics history.



9. My Favorite Thing Is Monsters


Emil Farris’s debut graphic novel (and first published work of any kind), My Favorite Thing Is Monsters, is a murder mystery set in 1960s Chicago. It half feels like you’ve picked up the private diary of the book’s adolescent protagonist, Karen, and half like you’ve stumbled on a relic of the grungy, D.I.Y “Underground Comix” of R. Crumb or Gilbert Shelton.

Done almost entirely in ballpoint pen on scanned, lined notebook paper, My Favorite Thing Is Monsters is frantic, bustling, and overwhelmingly charming as Karen, a young girl who envisions herself as a sort of Muppet-flavored Wolfman, pulls on her oversized trenchcoat and fedora and sets about sleuthing up an answer to her neighbor’s reported suicide. Layered with slice-of-life charm and coming-of-age drama, My Favorite Thing is Monsters is a modern successor to classics in the vein of Ghost World.



8. My Lesbian Experience with Loneliness


Kabi Nagata’s autobiographical graphic novel was published in 2016 in its original Japanese, but didn’t make the jump overseas until earlier this year. An arrestingly honest look into issues of mental health, body image, and sexuality in Japan, Nagata’s art, limited coloring, and frank prose made My Lesbian Experience with Loneliness an instant critical hit in the English speaking world–and for good reason. From naked honesty about fears of intimacy to the mundane annoyance of trying to make friends at a less-than-ideal day job, it stands out as one of the most boldly forward facing entries of 2017.



7. Peter Parker: The Spectacular Spider-Man


While Peter Parker is never particularly out of the spotlight over at Marvel, 2017 was a bigger year than normal for him. Over in the live action world, Spider-Man: Homecoming officially folded him into the MCU, and in animation, Disney XD launched a new Spider-Man cartoon. So of course comics had to ride the wave.

Launched in June for maximum MCU synergy, Peter Parker: The Spectacular Spider-Man could have been an easy tie-in cash grab. Instead, creators Chip Zdarsky and Andy Kubert dug their heels in and made one of the most immediately approachable, hilarious Spider-Man books on the market. Blending old, deep cut continuity in with Zdarsky’s snappy, irreverent wit and Kubert’s classic styling, The Spectacular Spider-Man was one of Marvel’s 2017 standouts, and the perfect place to start for any new or curious Spider-fan.



6. Batman/Elmer Fudd


When a slate of Looney Toons/DCU crossover one shots were announced, most people took them to be fluff pieces–shelf fillers that would net an extremely niche market at best. But creators Tom King and Lee Weeks had other plans, and they seized the bizarre opportunity to tell one of the most off-the-wall Batman stories, possibly ever.

Drawing from a surreal collage of both old school Caped Crusader continuity and remixed Looney Toons iconography, the Batman/Elmer Fudd special became the year’s best noir thriller, somehow managing to sell itself as both an earnest love story turned mystery and a self aware genre pastiche. In some other universe, Batman/Elmer Fudd is a 99 cent one-shot left in bargain bins at garage sales, but here? Somehow, against all odds, it’s an instant classic.



5. Black Bolt


It’s been a weird couple of years for Marvel’s Inhumans. After years of relative obscurity, a major push to bring them to the forefront (arguably to replace the X-Men, who aren’t involved in the MCU) made for a new level of mainstream contact recognition for Blackagar Boltagon–Black Bolt–the Inhumans’ mute king. But despite his new prominence, efforts to make Black Bolt an a-list hero fizzled left and right, both in the comics and on TV screens.

That is until sci-fi novelist Saladin Ahmed stepped in with Black Bolt‘s first ever solo ongoing. Together with Christian Ward, Black Bolt approaches the silent ruler’s legacy from a new angle, casting him as a prisoner in a world where his power–his voice, which causes untold amounts of destruction at the slightest whisper–has been nullified, allowing him to finally speak freely for the first time. It’s a surreal, topsy-turvy take on a character that Marvel has been struggling with for years, and it finally makes him–no pun intended–sing.



4. The Flintstones


DC’s “modernized” Hanna-Barbera comics were largely slept on–and for good reason, as the line was admittedly a mixed bag in terms of quality and content. But one outpaced the others and became an unexpected gem: Mark Russell and Steve Pugh’s 12-issue Flintstones series. Combining gleeful tongue-in-cheek satire with poignant and progressive social commentary, Flintstones somehow managed to craft one of the most topical stories available on mainstream shelves, all with the familiar trappings of a vintage Saturday morning cartoon.

Let’s just say the “modern stone age family” is suddenly more modern than ever before. Yabba dabba doo.



3. WWE


The WWE has tried their hand at comics in the past, but it took a partnership with publisher Boom Studios to really make it stick. Creators Dennis Hopeless and Serg Acuna found the perfect blend of absurdist humor and over-the-top theatrical action to make the real life roster of WWE wrestlers feel like the larger than life characters they embody each week on TV.

Maybe more importantly, WWE manages to make the dense and idiosyncratic world of wrestling accessible for just about anyone, regardless of their prior knowledge of the industry–a major feat that most licensed comics habitually shoot for and miss spectacularly.



2. Deathstroke


Writer Christopher Priest entered his second year on Deathstroke and, with quiet confidence, delivered one of DC’s most unique superheroic ongoings. From a tumultuous reconnection with his estranged children to a sudden change of heart vis-a-vis his mercenary lifestyle, Priest’s take on the deadly assassin Slade Wilson has been as refreshing as it has been creative.

Told in a series of loosely connected vignettes introduced by white-on-black title card panels, Deathstroke has flawlessly serpentined its way through the tapestry of the new DCU, recreating characters and reestablishing long forgotten continuity all while moving the ball forward for the greater narrative of DC’s shared universe.



1. The Old Guard


Veteran writer Greg Rucka and artist Leonardo Fernandez published the first six issue arc of their latest original with Image Comics this year. The story of a team of immortal soldiers from various points in history–from the Greek empire to the French revolution–The Old Guard explores what it means to fight for your life for a living, even when your life never ends.

In just six issues, The Old Guard managed to build a depth in its characters spinning out of love, loss, and ultimately betrayal that makes the story feel both like it could go on forever and like it’s satisfyingly complete. If you’re a fan of military thrillers and magic realism, this is the book for you.