Best of 2016: Best Series

best-series-2016

We all love a good one-off or anthology, but it’s the thrill of a series that keeps us coming back to our comic shop week-in, week-out. Whether it’s a brand new creator-owned series or a staple of the big two, serialized storytelling allows for bigger casts, bigger worlds, and bigger adventures. That bigness was on full display this year, as series made grand statement after grand statement about what they were all about. These are our top 10 series of 2016.

Mockingbird 810. Mockingbird

Mockingbird’s all too brief run kicked-off with one of the most daring issues of the year, establishing a “Puzzle Box” concept that required patience and critical thought from an audience who might not always be willing to grant that to a new, untested creative team. Those who stuck around, though, were richly rewarded for their faith; Chelsea Cain, Kate Niemczyk, and Ibrahim Moustafa provided a series firmly rooted in Bobbi Morse’s perspective on the world, providing fun, gorgeous (and quite often sexy) globe-trotting adventures while also exploring science, feminism, and Bobbi’s relationships across the Marvel Universe. It’s hard to discount what an important series Mockingbird became in 2016, but what shouldn’t be ignored is how well it captured Cain’s love of Bobbi Morse — and of comic books as a medium — in the process.

Saga9. Saga

It can be difficult for long-running series to hold on to the spark that made its earliest issues so exciting — even the best series lose their lustre after dozens of instalments. Fortunately, Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples built novelty right into the premise of their series, insisting that their fugitive family keep moving just to stay alive. Everything else — including exactly what “keep moving” means — is subject to change. This year reunited our long-estranged family before marooning them on a comet destined for destruction. Those twists and turns keep the story lively, but it’s the long-seeded emotional investments that get our blood pumping, whether it’s the heartwarming reunion between Hazel and Marko, the heartbreaking departure of Izabel, or the giddy joy of seeing Ghüs kick some ass.

Unbeatable Squirrel Girl 48. The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl

Squirrel Girl doesn’t lose, and neither do Ryan North and Erica Henderson. 2016 continued their remarkably consistent run on The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, bringing us more of the title’s trademark laughs, spirit, intelligence, and commitment to empathy while also stretching out in unexpected new directions. North and Henderson tackled a story from the point of view of Mew (Nancy’s cat) and turned another issue into a flawless recreation of a “Choose Your Own Adventure” book, but also explored vital, timely ideas of consent and “nice guys” with their Mole Man story, and fleshed out their supporting cast, Marvel guest-stars, and even a few fun new characters in the Enigmo arc. No matter which direction it took, Unbeatable Squirrel Girl continued to eat nuts and kick butt, ensuring that it remained one of Marvel’s most entertaining and original titles.

The Mighty Thor 117. The Mighty Thor

Jason Aaron has been taking Thor in bold new directions for years now. Where Thor: God of Thunder addressed Thor’s legacy, Thor flipped that question on its head, forcing us to consider how that legacy might extend beyond the man himself — and indeed, what happens when a woman picks up that legacy. Having finally revealed Jane Foster as the woman behind the hammer, Mighty Thor moved on to building out the world around her. Aaron expanded on mythology he’d been developing since Thor: God of Thunder and explored the origins of characters, conflicts — even Mjölnir. That far-flung myth-making has required equally bold artists, but Aaron is perfectly matched in his collaborators Russell Dauterman and Matthew Wilson, who imbue each moment with the divine through sheer gorgeousness. Together, they make Mighty Thor’s world as thrilling and unpredictable as the character herself.

Glitterbomb6. Glitterbomb

Part emotional expose and part revenge fantasy gone wrong, Glitterbomb takes a hard look at the role women play modern art and culture and simply demands better.  Writer Jim Zub takes a Ghost Rider-esque premise — a normal person possessed by the spirit of vengeance — and magnifies it by making that “normal person” a fading starlet, eager to keep working. Farrah’s world at first appears beset by casual sexism and the general ickiness of Hollywood, but as the monstrous influence of her murderous demon reveals itself, so too do the depths of Farrah’s experience. Artist Djibril Morrisette-Phan never shies away from the sunbathed beauty of Los Angeles, nor the twisted ugliness a life in showbusiness takes on a woman. But rather than keep Farrah’s crusade discreet and quiet, as you might expect from a serialized story, Zub and Morrissette-Phan race to the point where they can blow it up on national TV, practically demanding these injustices get widespread attention.

The Wicked + The Divine5. The Wicked + The Divine

The Wicked + The Divine kept us on our toes in 2016. Most famously, Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie shook things up by enlisting a cavalcade of talented creators to turn issue 23 into a perfect replica of a glossy magazine, but that go-for-broke sense of experimentation carried over to the narrative as well. Throughout WicDiv’s explosive fourth arc allegiances constantly shifted, new secrets constantly came to life, and we were never quite sure what to think of Ananke and Persephone at any given moment. McKelvie and Matthew Wilson delivered some of the most thrilling action of their career, but Ananke’s gruesome, unsettling murder seemed designed to make the audience uncomfortable with all the gorgeous violence they’d just witnessed. That kind of contradiction speaks to the core of WicDiv — the appeal of fame vs. its grimmer realities — and ensured that any given issue was packed full of surprises; each installment was a potential gamechanger, and who would want to miss that?

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles4. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

If 2015 proved that this iteration of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles wasn’t beholden to the events of its many predecessors, 2016 confirmed that they were fully committing to those deviations. Picking up in the wake of last year’s devastating issue 50, this year found Splinter in control of the Foot Clan, adopting ever more aggressive tactics that served to alienate the Turtles. It’s a heartbreaking turn for the character, but every inch of it is earned, detailing just how the overwhelming responsibility of commanding an army might lead even those with the noblest intentions to see the world like a military leader. Along the way, we also got a crackerjack murder mystery and hints of the mythological elements that underpin this series, all delivered with the consistently dazzling (and diverse) art styles we’ve come to love on this series.

Darth Vader3. Darth Vader

It really cannot be overstated how prolific of an artist Salvador Larroca is. The Darth Vader series, drawn exclusively by Larroca, delivered on both the entirety of the Sho-Torun War storyline and the bombastic conclusion to Larroca and Kieron Gillen’s character exploration masterpiece. And that’s just February to October. This is the year that saw Vader at his most patient and diplomatic with Queen Trios of Sho-Torun and at his most cruel and ruthless as he stomped out Cylo and the Emperor’s candidates to replace him. It’s the full psychological spectrum from a character that is too often reduced to a cool cameo or Christ allegory. The final three issues depict Vader’s non-stop assault on his enemies, bringing him within an inch of death multiple times with nothing but his own suffering to motivate him to succeed.

Spider-Woman 52. Spider-Woman

“Regular people with superpowers” has been Marvel’s brand from the start. Whether we’re talking about the Fantastic Four or Peter-Parker, Marvel’s most thrilling innovations were making their superheroes look a little more human. Of course, being geared towards adolescent boys (and written by adult men), the definition of human experience was decidedly narrow. It’s no surprise that, while Marvel had long explored what it’s like to be a nerdy kid with superpowers, they had yet to consider what it’s like to be pregnant with superpowers or a new mother with superpowers. It turns out the responsibilities that come with those superpowers don’t go away just because you have a kid. Which is to say: Spider-Woman has a simple, clear, but also novel premise, though it’s so much more than that premise. Writer Dennis Hopeless has explored new parenthood from every conceivable angle while slowly reintroducing the interpersonal dramas that defined the previous volume of the series. Meanwhile, his artistic collaborators Javier Rodriguez and Veronica Fish have captured the in all their glorious detail the joys, sorrows, angst and anxieties of early parenthood.

The Vision 31. The Vision

As unapologetic pseudo-intellectuals, we often throw around phrases like “thematic density” and “aesthetic clarity,” but never are they more applicable than with The Vision. Tilting at one of the most fundamental questions of humanity — what it means to be human — might seem like a tall order for a superhero comic, but The Vision had the maturity to pull it off with style. Writer Tom King distanced us from the characters with a clinical, third-person narrator, an effect enhanced by artist Gabriel Hernandez Walta’s cool precision, which paradoxically made their actions seem all the more human. That paradox reflects the tensions that made this series so alluring, keeping us wondering when — not if — the shoe was going to drop. It was an ambitious series that somehow ended with a modest, devastating tragedy.

Want more Best of 2016 lists? Check out our Best CoversBest Issues, Best Writer, and Best Artist, lists!

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7 comments on “Best of 2016: Best Series

  1. Just like last year, I decided to make my primary contribution this list: Why I love Comics in 2016. I’m actually surprised how long this list was. 2016 was a terrible year for me in just about every metric, even art. A dire blockbuster movie season and everything in comics has not made me think well of the year culturally, alongside all the political and personal stuff I had to deal with. But, just as 2016 had so many truly amazing smaller movies that I love, there was actually enough good stuff in comics that, having given this list more prep than I did last year, I actually made a much longer list. Even had a single DC Rebirth related reason
    So here it is. A list of things I loved, both small and large. Feel free to add your own.

    Why I loved Comics in 2016:

    Because Jessica and Carol’s break up is tragic
    Because Carol was still there as a babysitter when Jessica needed it
    Because Spoiler was immune to Scarecrow’s mindgames
    Because even a murder mystery on a boat can be a Civil War II tie in
    Because Gillen actually named an arc ‘Imperial Phase’
    Because Natalie
    Because Kate’s colour palate is both purple AND green
    Because there is still interesting DC YOU books I haven’t read
    Because of Kobik’s Red Skull and Bucky dolls
    Because Baphomet is ashamed to be Nergal/Nurgle
    Because Rucka got Eddie Berganza off Wonder Woman
    Because Jubilee is now with Patsy
    Because Maliketh won’t set a Realm alight without exploiting it completely and utterly first
    Because Kate Bishop has the worst gaydar
    Because Mary Jane was an awesome Tony Stark
    Because Zebadiah loves Jessica
    Because of the Trilogy of Good Intentions
    Because King did the same ending three times, all to radically different effects
    Because of Becca and Goletta dancing
    Because Injection provides a fantastic rebuttal to the idea that Sherlock is a robot
    Because Spencer’s plans are big
    Because Del Mundo is insane
    Because Spiderman needs more Bombshell in it
    Because Vincent’s morals weren’t formed by an ordinary man, but from a hateful supervillain
    Because the new Kurse’s identity is tragic
    Because the Vision’s covers are amazing
    Because Viv Vision survived
    Because Viv Vision gets to be a Champion
    Because Changing Sides had space for Kate Bishop angsting in a tree and the Power Pack catching up
    Because they found a way to have Richard Rider return
    Because Kate doesn’t have her PI licence yet
    Because the Vision is a villain, and of his own free choice
    Because Gamora’s origin deserves exploration
    Because Doom is trying to be a hero
    Because Sara Pichelli’s art puts so much effort into the clothes
    Because mixing SHIELD and Asgard works really well
    Because of Power Man and Iron Fist
    Because the Orb is creepy now
    Because of Batman 50’s ingenious climax
    Because Batman’s job wasn’t to stop Mr Bloom, but to inspire people
    Because it was the job of someone Batman had inspired to stop Mr Bloom
    Because Ian had to deal with the aftermath of a bad relationship
    Because We Are Robin finally got itself together for the final issue
    Because Power Man and Iron Fist have found a greater mission
    Because Sam Wilson spoke at War Machine’s memorial
    Because Punk and Bunn proved to be quite clever with how they went about their silliness in Drax
    Because of Miles and his father
    Because Abigail Brand’s casual outfits are slightly surprising
    Because Dauterman made Exterminatrix work
    Because Michael Gaydos does such interesting stuff to tell the story
    Because I really want to see Gwenpool meet Steve Rogers, and not be up to date on the comics
    Because Steve Rogers wants to take out the Red Skull for the glory of HYDRA
    Because Rebel Jail just proved that Star Wars is now a female led franchise
    Because no one believes Jack Flagg was the Guardian of the Galaxy who was sick of all that cosmic #%$!
    Because of Virginia from Virginia (again)
    Because No Mercy is telling s much bigger story that you were expecting
    Because ‘I just… Can’t a girl get emotional at funerals?’ nearly made me cry
    Because Clark Kent flies into space for the first time
    Because Luke and Jessica, standing on a roof, wanting to kiss
    Because considering the quality of your average event, following Secret Wars with Civil War II is an astonishing success
    Because Grayson got to guest star in everyone’s comics
    Because Misty Knight punched GamerGate in the face
    Because Peter Quill is trapped on Earth
    Because Doom’s fall was epic in scope, but ultimately epic
    Because Secret Wars 9 is everything we need from comics
    Because Pretty Deadly is wonderfully mythic
    Because Cassandra/Uror knows exactly how to end Civil Wars
    Because Jessica Drew and Gwen Stacy got to enjoy the eye candy
    Because Southern Bastards is as brutal and ugly as possible
    Because Seeley wrote Suicide Squad
    Because Grayson was the best secret agent
    Because Mosaic is a completely original hero
    Because Clark Kent at Bruce Wayne’s birthday is a great idea
    Because Morning Glories continues to be satisfying, even as it is as mysterious as ever
    Because in the end, Morning Glories is about the characters
    Because Morgan Le Fay ultimately was motivated by love and loss
    Because Sugar and Spike got stories
    Because Riri is the future
    Because Doctor Strange can be powerless, but he can’t be ordinary
    Because Mockingbird needs a glass of Chardonnay
    Because I swear America and Kate ended up sleeping together
    Because of Gleason’s Damian
    Because Bucky would assassinate Spiderman if it would save Steve Rogers’ life
    Because ‘Who died and made you Batman’
    Because Bruce Wayne met a mysterious man with a smile
    Because the Mighty Thor puts so much effort into its use of guest artists
    Because of the Jokers
    Because ultimately, Batman and Robin are eternal
    Because Tokyo Ghost is a beautiful love story, and a tragic one
    Because of Duke Thomas
    Because Batgirl ended with a celebration of girls in Gotham
    Because David Aja’s covers are breath-taking
    Because Luke Cage has given up on wearing nicer shirts
    Because all of Batgirl’s friends got the chance to help her
    Because corgis are fantastic
    Because of course you’d mix trigger scent with a crop duster
    Because for Batman to live, Bruce Wayne must die
    Because Julie Madison played her part again
    Because Gotham Is
    Because Vote Loki was a killer premise
    Because Power Man and Iron Fist had to have a Sweet Christmas Special
    Because Black Canary went from a band comic to a martial arts spy comic… and back
    Because of THAT sex montage
    Because Jessica Jones has a book again
    Because of a series of odd doctor’s appointments
    Because no one was going to capture Luke but Vader
    Because I can’t wait to read the Wicked + the Divine 23
    Because of Paper Girls’ twists and turns
    Because Laura Kinney is still a hero even when on the run
    Because of Batgirl 50’s cover
    Because Nick Spencer got me to eat my words
    Because No Mercy is true to its name
    Because Weirdworld was both mature and insane
    Because I need to reread Revival
    Because I need to reread Morning Glories
    Because Jezebel is proof that Free Spirit may not have overcome her brainwashing
    Because Steve Rogers is the greatest supervillain in the Marvel Universe
    Because there was enough space in Civil War II for a court case
    Because Kate Bishop had to use a katana, as someone else decided she would use the bow
    Because Mockingbird has the best background gags
    Because Chelsea Cain
    Because Spiderwoman is not satisfied with just a single idea
    Because the Morrigan always has the best lines
    Because David Marquez’ art is epic
    Because Edison Rex returned
    Because Gwenpool isn’t horrible
    Because Gwenpool is actually great
    Because Hulk truly shows Marvel’s commitment to expanding what a Marvel comic can be
    Because Tony’s biological mother is, ultimately, just a person
    Because the Vision ended quietly, with a small conversation between husband and wife
    Because No Mercy did an issue on Teen Residential Treatment Centres
    Because No Mercy ended that issue with a Partial list of deaths and Teen Residential Treatment Centres
    Because Jane Foster
    Because Jessica Jones is not where she was during her first series
    Because of the secret reason why Banner died
    Because Nighthawk was actually great
    Because Ms Marvel fought the Civil War in miniature at a science fair
    Because Doctor Strange had to repay his debts
    Because getting Spencer to write a school election was always going to be a great idea
    Because Laura Kinney, looking with horror at what she’s done
    Because ask Mockingbird about her feminist agenda
    Because Sebastien is not a girl
    Because fighter AIM derivatives in underwater seasbases with shirtless superheroes is the best way to explore divorce
    Because Bellona always chose interesting paths
    Because Mockingbird went to the Hellfire Club and enjoyed herself
    Because Jock’s art is always great, even if it doesn’t fit the book
    Because the Midnight Angels are revolutionary
    Because the CIA actually had to read every issue of Sheriff of Babylon
    Because Cassandra Cain killed for the first time, and the last
    Because Gwenpool defeating MODOK was just perfect storytelling
    Because the Hobgoblin hit us really it really hurt
    Because the only hero in the Fix is a dog
    Because all the times the Vision saved the world didn’t matter
    Because Kyle Rayner was the Omega Lantern
    Because even obscure characters from Deadpool can get a chance to have a book
    Because Kate Bishop is in a Shane Black movie
    Because Dick Grayson sings
    Because of Babs Tarr’s art
    Because Batman isn’t real
    Because Revival is entering the endgame
    Because of Hulk’s cover
    Because Civil War II was ultimately about the characters, and self-destruction
    Because Chelsea Cain should be Jessica Jones’ next writer
    Because of HYDRA’s real estate schemes
    Because of Weirdworld 6’s inventive panelling
    Because of Omega Men’s Covers (again)
    Because the League of Realms reunited… with some new members
    Because Brigid is Doctor Who, but Idris Elba will never be James Bond
    Because Becca confronted a vision of her mother
    Because of We Are Robin’s covers
    Because Persephone proved exactly why she had the moral authority to kill Ananke
    Because Ms America now leads the Ultimates
    Because the new Fantastic Four book is about Doom
    Because of Gabby, her pet wolverine and her giant pelican
    Because after everything, Laura is in a healthier place
    Because Trudeau got his own Civil War tie in
    Because there is now a truck to deal with the dead bodies
    Because D-Man just happens to have a boyfriend
    Because Gabby didn’t like the Sanctum Santorum
    Because Sam Wilson uses the tools of social media so effectively
    Because Karnak can’t exploit the flaws if he keeps forgetting
    Because of Injection’s insanity (again)
    Because Starbrand was the wrong one, even as he ended up being the right ont
    Because of the nine panel grid (again)
    Because apparently Lex Luthor writes good Superman comics (most of the time)
    Because Gwenpool had the best strategy to fight Thor, and the best explanation
    Because Ms Marvel took a trip abroad
    Because we finally got the Gamora book
    Because what you do to a grieving man is comfort him
    Because Dionysus’ letter to his fans/army
    Because Songbird’s heroic path takes her in odd directions
    Because of Paquette’s inventive layouts for Batman 49
    Because Jessica Drew went Kill Bill
    Because of Black Canary’s inventive layouts
    Because Sheriff of Babylon 12 is the best comic of the year
    Because CAGE! Finally came out
    Because Ta Nehisi Coates got a chance to write comics
    Because Coates is using that chance to give others a chance
    Because Shuri discovered nothing, but remembered everything
    Because Starbrand and Nightmask really played with the extremes
    Because Batman disguises himself as an old woman
    Because Jeremy Whitley wrote a great Kate Bishop… twice
    Because of the Gotham Academy Yearbook
    Because Robin War tried
    Because of Barbara Gordon’s leaving party
    Because the Captain America 50th anniversary special cover is hilarious in retrospect
    Because Black Canary 12 was the perfect farewell to DC
    Because Grayson went rogue
    Because Mjolnir got an issue for itself
    Because of what was hiding on Voorl
    Because Samnee’s art almost makes Black Widow readable
    Because Jessica Drew had a baby
    Because Deadly Class had a twist only Remender could write
    Because the Empirikul had all sorts of interesting subtext
    Because Laura and Old Man Logan met
    Because Mockingbird’s Puzzle Box was masterful
    Because Mockingbird realised the most important feature of a Puzzle Box is the character stuff hidden inside
    Because Archer vision shows evidence of crime, food and hot men
    Because everything would have gone better if Tony and Carol didn’t accidentally go to the same Alcoholics Anonymous meeting
    Because Bombshell Mera is a bombshell
    Because it is always great to discuss comics with you guys

  2. This one might actually be the list that reveals our differences as readers the most — my list of honorable mentions is much longer for this one than any of the other lists. Silver Surfer would definitely be up there for me, as would Moonshine (albeit, only three issues came out in 2016). Actually, Kill or Be Killed is in a similar boat — not a lot of issues, but those issues were fantastic. What else did we miss?

    • This one is actually a bit harder to choose, because there needs to be a real consistency to the series. It can’t just be great. It has to be consistently great. All the stuff that I read that is on here certainly deserves to be here. Mockingbird, Saga, Mighty Thor, The Wicked + The Divine, Darth Vader, Spiderwoman… And the Vision is a great ‘best’ book. It is just impossible to think of a version of events where Tom King doesn’t win best series.

      Trilogy of Good Intentions… You know I am going to bring that up. If Omega Men didn’t release enough issues, then Sheriff of Babylon.

      And Injection deserves to be there. Spent a good amount of time on hiatus, but still one of may favourite series.

      I think the one-two-three punch of Batman 49-51 means Batman deserves to be here.

      If Tokyo Ghost’s second half is as good as the first half, Tokyo Ghost would have to be here. The first half was among my favourite comics ever.

      I feel like there is another one I want to bring up, but can’t think of what it is at the moment

  3. Looking back, this is my FIFTH year posting top series here on your blog. Five years! I’ve known you guys about as long as I’ve known my wife…

    The BEST of 2016:

    10) Tie. I couldn’t separate Lake of Fire and Green Valley. It was a good year for fantasy and both of these miniseries are expertly crafted. I think they both had new issues today, but Winter Storm Jupiter is keeping me at home.

    9) The Mighty Thor: For many of the same reasons that everyone has already stated.

    8) The Amazing Spider-Man: He’s back! Rich Peter Parker has hit his stride and the expanded Spider-Verse has done great things for this title. Plus, Clone Wars that don’t suck!

    7) Injection: Freaking brilliant.

    6) Saga: You know, after reading Saga I went and read some other Brian Vaughn stuff (for obvious reasons) and I didn’t really like it that much. I’m just a big Saga fan.

    5) The Walking Dead: Honestly, this whole arc has had so much tension with The Whisperers and Negan and everything that it’s… damn, it’s holding steady.

    4) Darth Vader: So good. Dammit Gillen, get back to writing Uber.

    3) Spider-Woman: I picked up issue one because I wanted to support female characters and I couldn’t figure out how a pregnant superhero could be any good. It may have been comic of the year for me in some other years. Unfortunately, it couldn’t compete with…

    2) The Vision: Revelatory. This will be used twenty years from now in writing classes.

    1) The Black Monday Murders: As good as The Vision but filled with promise instead of an ending. I could have switched these two and not been wrong. This is a giant comic book and one that demands multiple readings. This is really, really good.

    Five years guys! Do I get a pin or a watch or something?

    • You definitely get a digital pat on the back! Thanks for sticking around so long dude, we always love seeing you in the comments! (This goes for all our commenters, of course, but yeah, five years is a big deal!)

      We lost track of Lake of Fire at some point (although we really liked the first issue), but Green Valley is a lot of fun. I’ve got my issues with Landis (I don’t think he knows how to write women. Just, not any woman at all, ever), but I really love his comics work regardless, and Green Valley just delivers killer twist after killer twist. There was a new issue today and it was a lot of fun, we’ll talk about it in the Round-Up on Monday.

      Saga was a book I was kind adamant about getting on the list this year. It’s always a quality read even at its worst, but it definitely had a slower year in 2015 (and didn’t make our top ten because of it, which I think was fair). 2016 was a real upswing/return to form for Saga, though, and I didn’t want to pass up celebrating that just because it’s an older series that we can kinda take for granted because we know it’s always good. That’s worth rewarding in its own right.

      • Landis and women is something that has never, ever gone well together, unfortunately. You look at everything else, and it isn’t surprising that he doesn’t write women well

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