And we're back with things that didn't suck in 2016! Yesterday we gave you a few smatterings of good news from the year, but today we're giving a doozy of a list! Check out Critical Writ's Comics That Didn't Suck in 2016 below!
- In a world of madness, a talking duck is (seemingly) the only one advocating for sanity, albeit delivered grumpily. No, (INSERT POLITICIAN HERE) isn’t an Animagus, I’m talking about Howard The Duck! Throughout 2016, Chip Zdarsky provided a breath of fresh air to anyone who was tired of massive events, overpowering darkness, or typical superhero stories. (Zachary)
- Although it was released long before the initial teasers for DC Rebirth started popping up, I still feel that Poison Ivy: Cycle Of Life And Death holds up as a wonderful miniseries focused on the premiere plant-based antagonist in the DC universe. (Sorry, Floronic Man.) Specifically, it reminded me of the excellent Gotham City Sirens, which was ironically cancelled for the New 52. It has some great character moments with Poison Ivy and Catwoman, especially with Pamela’s relationship with her Sporelings. Additionally, a background photo shows Harley in her classic jester outfit, so I’m considering it the lost finale arc to Gotham City Sirens. Definitely check it out for a bounty of flowers and a suspenseful mystery! (Zachary)
- The intersectional feminist historical AU you didn’t know you needed—issue after issue, DC Bombshells continues to impress. The plot gives a lot of room for its leading ladies to find their place in WWII and assert their agency. Rather than affirming the usual “straight until proven otherwise” standard, we're made to expect every main character falls into the LGBTQ spectrum, from the usual suspects (Batwoman, Harley, Ivy, Alysia Yeoh) to the surprises (Big Barda, Dr. Light, Mera) and a canonically bi Wonder Woman before her sexuality was declared canon across the multiverse. It’s a story of badass ladies, solidarity and hope—something we all desperately need. (Stephanie)
- It feels like I’ll never write that Nighthawk review and will instead keep writing new mini-reviews. Regardless, it’s still the most important comic Marvel published this year, tackling systemic (and regular) racism, with a Batman-like vigilante at the center of it all. Its cancellation after a single story-arc remains an unspoken tragedy, but at least David F. Walker will get to continue Kyle Richmond’s story in Occupy Avengers, a similarly socially-conscious comic. (Dominik)
- This year, DC’s Rebirth is rightfully getting praise for fixing many of the issues of the widely-loathed 2011 reboot. But the most interesting thing the publisher did in 2016 was launching a mini-imprint helmed by Gerard Way of My Chemical Romance. Kicked off by Way and Nick Derrington’s Doom Patrol, Young Animal is a small, surreal niche for weird and exciting titles, bringing back DC’s weirdest and most obscure characters. It even started their own ones with Jody Houser and Tommy Lee Edwards’s Mother Panic. The bleak and depressing final quarter of the year was immeasurably lighter due to the existence of Shade, the Changing Girl and Cave Carson Has a Cybernetic Eye. The best part of the imprint is that it sometimes feels like anything can happen in its titles—and that it will be wondrous, insane and fun. (Dominik)
- Harper Row actually said she was bi in Detective Comics #945. I know that we’ve had bigger heroes with better brand recognition get confirmed queer this year, but for certain personal reasons the little blue-haired electrician who idolizes Batman is very dear to me. Also unlike a lot of DC’s bisexual lady leads, she actually said she was bi in the pages of the comic rather than being declared bi by an author in an interview. (Miz Opifex)
- Jeff Lemire and Dean Ormston’s Black Hammer is one of the best comics Dark Horse published this. While in many ways it’s a superhero story, it takes a group of Golden Age inspired characters (for instance: a female Captain Marvel stand-in and a gay Martian Manhunter) and puts them into a setting similar to Twin Peaks. All that filtered through Lemire’s somber and melancholic writing, and depicted in Ormston’s style, for a result quite unlike any modern superhero story. (Dominik)
- The financial operations of Wall Street always seem occult in nature, as if people working there conduct their own black magic rituals to shape the world to their will. Jonathan Hickman’s newest creator-owned title, The Black Monday Murders, makes that concept real and, through the author’s usual deft world-building, crafts an alternate universe of mysteries and dark magic, where corporations succeed thanks to ominous rites and elaborate deals with devils. We explore this world—which is presented like a noir film by Tomm Coker—through the eyes of a black male police detective and the prodigal lesbian daughter of one of the families controlling the world from the shadows. (Dominik)
- Traditionally, Western fantasy settings take Celtic-German influences to craft a Tolkien-inspired world. Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda took a more creative route, by creating a setting inspired heavily by Eastern stories—and mixing a little cosmic horror for good measure. In Monstress, Maika Halfwolf’s search for her mother’s mysteries is an exciting, fantastically written story with a compelling, driven and imperfect protagonist. It’s also a tale of prejudice and how xenophobia and religious fanaticism can break the world. All that is drawn in Sana Takeda’s detailed, amazing style. (Dominik)
- While Brandon Graham’s 8house initiative didn’t pan out, a few good comics did come out of it. One of them is Mirror, an ongoing series written by the talented artist Emma Rios and similarly skilled Hwei Lim. It’s a beautiful fable, telling a science-fantasy story of humans and uplifted animals. It’s a delightful tale, gorgeously rendered with Hwei Lim’s masterful art. (Dominik)
- Simon Spurrier is one of the industry’s rarely spoken-about, extremely talented individuals. In 2016 he finished his amazing The Spire and wrote Weavers, a Boom! miniseries mixing a mob story with cosmic horror. But by far my favorite of his new series was Cry Havoc, which told the story of a lesbian werewolf (...sort of) going to Afghanistan as part of a special, occult task force. It’s probably the most creative and intelligent urban fantasy published by Image, mixing real world politics with insanely diverse bestiary of mythical creatures this genre has ever seen. (Dominik)
- Marguerite Bennett has had a good year. While Angela: Queen of Hel met an untimely end, she got to continue the ever delightful DC Comics Bombshells, write classic characters like Red Sonja and Josie & the Pussycats. But most importantly, she continued writing creator-owned stories at Aftershock, with InSeXts and newly started Animosity, drawn respectively by Ariela Kristantina and Rafael de Latorre. Both series—the first tells the story of shape-changing lesbian lovers in Victorian London, while the other is a post-apocalyptic tale of uplifted animals—are a masterful mix of righteous anger at injustices both past and current with her signature sense of humour. Both are definite standouts of Aftershock’s catalogue and a must-read for fans of socially-conscious and fun comics. (Dominik)
Did we miss any? Probably lots! Let us know what your favorite comics of 2016 were, in the comments below!