Syfy Wire's best new comics of 2016

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Syfy Wire Staff
Jan 5, 2017

It's easy to make a quick impression in the comics world, especially with all the selections competing for your wallet each week, but to have something new make a lasting influence on the entire year makes these books very special. The Syfy Wire staff has combed the genres of superheroes, science fiction, horror and fantasy and share with you the very Best New Comics of 2016, whether they be newly launched ongoing series, mini-series or original graphic novels.

We've selected 20 in all, and the list is in no particular order, but we did have our own top half that we've presented in a rundown video below. Some books you may have read, others you may have not, and hopefully you'll become inspired to check them out. Either way, we'd love to see your comments below as you share your own favorites of the year and tell us whether our list has added something new to your must-read list. Also, check out our Best Ongoing Comics of 2016 list too!

A video rundown of our Top 10 New Comics, with many more below.

 

Monstress (Image Comics)

Writer: Marjorie Liu, Artist: Sana Takeda

Tigers that pirate the seas, witches that torture, and magical half-breeds that, well, have a mouth on them, inhabit the greatest fantasy epic of 2016. Monstress isn’t only the greatest comic of 2016, it’s the best fantasy novel published this year. The breadth of evil within Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda’s universe is overwhelming; it’s found in witches that draw their life force from helpless creatures fed by a slave trade, racism that leads to persecution and multiple examples of the ramifications of war. This is not the book to read to your kids. It is the book to hold as an example of what comics could achieve as the storytelling here begs rereading due to the intricate detail of Sana Takeda’s artwork and multiple Easter eggs that add complexity to the world that Takeda and Liu have created. This, at times, comes with a challenge to the reader as the storyline, with a large cast of characters, may be difficult to follow, especially in serial form, but the reader worthy of taking on such a challenge will be rewarded. This is my favorite comic of the year and a worthy addition to all lovers of fantasy writing’s bookshelves. - Matt Dorville

Tarzan on the Planet of the Apes (Dark Horse Comics)

Writers: Tim Seeley and David Walker, Artist: Fernando Dagnino, Colorist: Sandra Molina

In a mashup born in the savage jungles of equatorial Africa, Dark Horse and Boom!'s Tarzan on the Planet of the Apes is a primal lunge into the heart of two historic franchises. It's two great geeky tastes that taste great together, teaming up Edgar Rice Burroughs' white-skinned, hairless ape Tarzan with the intelligent simians Zira, Cornelius and their young son Milo (Caesar) from the Planet of the Apes saga and tossing in a few dinosaurs for good measure. It’s an engaging alternative timeline blending the Lord of the Apes in the steamy greenery of the Dark Continent with the sci-fi madhouse of talking apes on horseback firing machine guns.

In this very different world, the tale centers around the close friendship and clashes between Caesar and Tarzan as they elude predators of all persuasions and try to heal the temporal rift. But what makes this cool crossover comic really swing is the exquisite coloring work by Sandra Molina, who perfectly captures the subtle shading and penetrating hues of the characters and their wild surroundings. Striking palettes of amber-gold, deep greens and pale blues fill the pages and make this crossover one of the best looking comics of the year. The five-issue miniseries will wrap up soon but climb on board now for the big January 25th finale. Syfy Wire comics expert Matt Funk did a piercing interview piece with Walker last fall that you can read here. - Jeff Spry

Lady Killer 2 (Dark Horse Comics)

Writer/Artist: Joelle Jones, Colorist: Michelle Madsen

Last year Josie Schuller, the protagonist in Lady Killer, burst onto the scene and Tupperware parties have never been the same. Set in the 1960’s Josie is a housewife by day, deadly assassin at night; basically it’s Don Draper if he actually had any balls. But this year Josie is having to deal with the events of the first story and must clean up her own gory blood-soaked scenes herself, that is until she hires her old friend Irving. This year’s story has a new setting, some enlightening background on supporting characters like Mother Schuller and an all-women creative team of Jones and Madsen who are clearly in the zone, as witnessed by flipping through the finished product.

Part of the joy is playing with those 60’s stereotypes of American women who were told their place was at home. Jones slaughters those limiting ideals with a character that breaks the molds while having an inordinate amount of fun with the reader and toying with gender roles.  Lady Killer 2 is not for the squeamish but it is for those readers who like their women cold blooded. - Ernie Estrella

Ghosts (Graphix/Scholastic)

Writer/Artist: Raina Telgemeier

This book has been at the top of the New York Times Bestseller list for more than 14 weeks and for good reason. Raina Telgemeier (who also has four OTHER books on the list right now), weaves a lovely tale of two sisters and their brand new town … full of ghosts. The book discusses everything from sisterhood to the supernatural to the different ways kids think about mortality and death, but at the core of the story is a lesson about confronting your fears. It is the perfect book for families to read and discuss together, and a way for parents to talk to their kids about other cultures, and the sometimes difficult, but ultimately inevitable, subject of what happens when we die. - Tricia Ennis

Black Hammer (Dark Horse Comics)

Writer: Jeff Lemire, Artist: Dean Ormston, Colorist: Dave Stewart

If David Lynch dabbled in the weird world of superheroes, he'd probably produce something like Jeff Lemire and Dean Ormston's Black Hammer. I instantly fell in love with this strangely refreshing, old-fashioned title from Dark Horse, that takes a cadre of former crusaders of another age and exiles them on a country ranch in small town America. In the aftermath of an apocalyptic superhero crisis event where our champions rescued the shining Golden Age metropolis of Spiral City, an eclectic crew of crimefighters: Golden Gail, Abraham Slam, Colonel Weird, Barbalien, and Madame Dragonfly, get plunked down on a livestock farm with no means of escape and no memory of how they actually got there. The plot plays out with our band of stranded superheroes adjusting to their Green Acres-style existence as the villainous threat that sent these banished heroes to this rural prison still thrives. While Lemire is better known for sci-fi series Descender, his latest, crazy, subversive creator-owned book is well worth a look! - Jeff Spry

Black Widow (Marvel Comics)

Writers: Mark Waid and Chris Samnee, Artist: Chris Samnee

Mark Waid’s new Black Widow run was a white-knuckle thrill ride for pretty much all of 2016, putting Natasha on a twisty mission that had her at odds with S.H.I.E.L.D. and pretty much every other ally in her life. Artist Chris Samnee helped set the pace in the early issues, telling pretty much the entire debut issue through a chase scene that spanned pages and panels. As it went on, the story also weaved in some of Black Widow’s history, though not so much to alienate newish readers. Instead, Waid and Samnee struck the perfect balance. When I chatted with Waid about the series back in April, he said his goal was to tell “kick-ass fight stories,” and they certainly hit that target with gusto. -Trent Moore

The Legend of Wonder Woman (DC Comics)

Writer/Artist: Renae DeLiz, Colorist: Ray Dillon

If you are looking for a way to introduce a child to comics, especially superhero comics, you cannot do better than Renae de Liz’s The Legend of Wonder Woman. The book, which was released as a digital first series, then as a printed comic, before its recent released as a beautiful hard cover collection is one of the best, and most earnest, retellings of Wonder Woman’s origin story. True to its title, the first volume approaches the tale as a kind of storybook or legend, spending much more time with a young Diana than previous versions, before sending her to the world of men, introducing her to Etta Candy and Holiday College, and eventually seeing her suit up as the mighty hero. De Liz’s art (with gorgeous colors by her husband, Ray Dillon) is not just beautiful, but approachable, making it a great introductory book for children and adults alike, while the reverent approach to the character makes it a perfect addition to any long time collection. - Tricia Ennis

Superman: American Alien (DC Comics)

Writer: Max Landis, Artists: Nick Dragotta, Jock, Tommy Lee Edwards, Jonathan Case, Matthew Clark

I’m a big enough Superman fan that I have his logo tattooed on my body, but even I have to admit that there aren’t many truly great Superman stories. Birthright, All-Star, For All Seasons, Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow… the list is a prestigious but relatively short one. But there’s good news, because this year DC added another title to the list. Superman: American Alien was a seven-issue series illustrated by a murderers’ row of artists and written by Chronicle screenwriter Max Landis that tells a series of thematically connected short stories about a young man from Smallville on his way to becoming super. Clark Kent has never been more relatable or human than he is in this elegant love letter to all of the things that make Superman inspiring. Optimistic, patriotic, powerful and drop-dead gorgeous, this is required reading for every comic book fan regardless of their opinions on the big blue boy scout.  - Matt Funk

Mockingbird (Marvel Comics)

Writer: Chelsea Cain, Artists: Kate Niemczyk, Joelle Jones and Ibrahim Moustafa, Colorist: Rachelle Rosenberg

Each year there’s a comic book series that I love so much that when I hear it’s cancelled, it simply devastates me. This year that comic book is Mockingbird. I picked up the comic after being recommended it by a Syfy Wire commenter (thanks Anna) and it quickly became one of my favorite new series of the year. Why do I loved this comic? It’s fresh.

The stories are plain ridiculously fun with clever asides, mer-corgis (yes, corgis combined with mermaids), and an ingenious “puzzle box” idea that makes rereading the comics a beautiful necessity (each of the first four comics is really two in one). It has a wonderful creative team made up on Chelsea Cain, Kate Niemczyk, and Rachelle Rosenberg that brings together a brilliant story that flirts with silliness while staying centralized in a narrative of suspense and mystery. The best part: Mockingbird herself is a strong female character that is crazy smart, sexy, stylish, and has a hell of a lot of swagger. She’s like a female James Bond, with Chardonnay over a martini, and a much better sense of humor (her jokes are funnier). Here’s hoping that Marvel sees they had a winner here and bring back one of their best creative teams and characters of 2017. - Matt Dorville

Seven to Eternity (Image Comics)

Writer: Rick Remender, Artist: Jerome Opena, Colorist: Matt Hollingsworth

Seven To Eternity is a wildly imaginative, psychedelic sci-fi series from Image comics by one of my favorite writers, Rick Remender (Fear Agent, Black Science, Tokyo Ghost). It's a freaky fantasy yarn inhabiting the cosmic realm of Zhal and its tyrannical mystic overlord, The God of Whispers, who seduces a disgraced knight named Adam Osidis, a broken man searching for redemption and justice from the mad enslaver of worlds. It's a bizarre blend of horror, sci-fi, spirit sorcery, dark fantasy and supernatural that in the hands of Remender, feels substantial, dreamlike and hauntingly memorable. The other members of the creative dream team are impressive, with mesmerizing pencilwork by Jerome Opena and colors by the incredible Matt Hollingsworth (Tokyo Ghost, Wytches). Remender and Opena teamed up previously on the dystopian Fear Agent, Uncanny X-Force and ambitious Avengers: Rage Of Ultron OGN. The new Seven To Eternity trade paperback drops on February 15th so that would be a great time to jump in if you haven’t already. Or be brave and leap now! - Jeff Spry

Black Panther (Marvel Comics)

Writer: Ta-Nehisi Coates, Artist: Brian Stelfreeze, Colorist: Laura Martin 

Ta-Nehisi Coates’ stellar opening run on Marvel’s iconic hero-king is visual poetry. Coates’ words, be they the contemplative thoughts of the suddenly humbled King T’Challa or the biting dialogue of the revolutionaries trying to upend Wakanda’s status quo, paired with Brian Stelfreeze’s expansive artwork and Laura Martin’s elegant colors, make a potent combination. This new take on Marvel’s first black superhero is part rumination on monarchism, part political thriller laced with questions of nativism, intrigue and moral quandaries that echo real-life issues we’re struggling with right now. Wakanda’s people have lost faith in their leader, the country is fractured, and violence is escalating. Even T’Challa’s prized royal guard, the Dora Milaje, have turned against him and sided with the terrorist group known as "The People" to stage a coup. 

Meanwhile, King T’Challa, a fascinating character whose regal nature has often proved to be a problem for writers, is a fully-formed, and flawed, figure here. Full of self-doubt, The Panther struggles to find a way to heal his ailing nation. At one point, he even invites warlords from some of the Marvel Universe’s sketchiest fictional countries to figure out ‘solutions’ for uprisings. That’s where the genius in Coates’ story lies: T’Challa may be the hero of this tale, but it doesn’t  necessarily mean he’s right. - Mike Avila

Dark Knight: A True Batman Story (DC Vertigo)

Writer: Paul Dini, Artist: Eduardo Risso

There’s a moment in Paul Dini’s remarkable memoir Dark Knight: A True Batman Story where Dini comes home after being robbed and severely beaten. He goes to the liquor cabinet, instead of the hospital, and the artist, Eduardo Risso, depicts a man totally and completely alone. It’s a sad, dark moment in the book; an unflinchingly honest and, sometimes heartbreaking sad story of how Paul Dini, a writer for the brilliant Batman: The Animated Series, took the characters he wrote about and made them voices in his head. Dini has always been a Batman fan, and this graphic memoir, chronicles how Dini as a boy obsessed with comics becomes a writer for his favorite characters but is left with an emptiness in his life as he wonders why his Bruce Wayne antics doesn’t lead to love with an actress who uses him for his fame. He leans on what he knows and the Joker, Scarecrow, and Batman himself, comment on Dini’s failings, exposing his inability to become the man he wants to be. Eduardo Risso beautifully creates a separation in the story between Dini as a boy, his depression and struggle as a writer during the series and his emersion later in life as a man who has found himself by having each piece on the timeline have its own distinctive texture and color. Risso uses different Batmans (Adam West when Dini is a child and a more menacing Frank Miller Batman during his dark days) to constantly invade Dini’s thoughts and create an often surreal and psychologically affecting story that leaves a lasting impression on the reader. It’s a monumental achievement and, in a year with multiple Batman stories, it’s the best of the bunch. - Matt Dorville

Patsy Walker AKA Hellcat (Marvel Comics)

Writer: Kate Leth, Artist: Brittney Williams, Colorists: Megan Wilson and Rachelle Rosenberg

Patsy Walker AKA Hellcat can be summed up in one word: fun. Let’s use a few more though to really get the point across. Kate Leth’s approach to the longstanding hero is not only fun, but an absolutely blast, pairing Patsy’s tragic, and downright traumatic, backstory with irreverent humor and super hero level stakes with everyday problems. Brittany L. Williams' art doubles down on the tone, evoking a clean and comedic style, coupled with bright colors by Megan Wilson. If Marvel is looking for it’s next TV show, I’ve got a suggestion. - Tricia Ennis

House of Penance (Dark Horse Comics)

Writer: Peter J. Tomasi, Artist: Ian Bertram, Colorist: Dave Stewart

Dark Horse has had one awesome year of genre comics but out of all of their creator-owned stories, House of Penance took me by surprise. Sarah L. Winchester was the wife of William Wirt Winchester and beneficiary to 50 percent holder of the Winchester Repeating Arms Company. She used most of that fortune to construct a mansion in San Jose for 38 consecutive years and many close to her believe she was cursed or haunted by the spirits killed by her late husband’s rifles. “Bang-Bang-Bang,” the constant hammering that went on for 24 hours a day, seven days a week and 365 days a year, and echoed all of the shots used to end people’s lives. The house was built for those spirits and because of her mental state, the house is a maze of mass confusion with staircases leading to nowhere and doors leading to dead ends. The house still stands today, having survived massive earthquakes and thousands of tourists.

Tomasi’s mini-series tried to shed light on Winchester, her obsession with atonement, as well as trying to find redemption and salvation for those who were murderers themselves as she put them to work at her mansion. Was she a woman gone crazy or were spirits really after her? This is one hair-raising yarn that thrives in the comics medium and lingers in your mind long after. - Ernie Estrella

Dept.H (Dark Horse Comics)

Writer/Artist: Matt Kindt, Painted Colors: Sharlene Kindt

Locked in a claustrophobic confinement at 6 miles under the ocean floor, Mia (a play on words for Missing in Action) investigates her father’s death amid a menacing cast of characters facing a station flood, psychological illness, and a more than a few interesting sea creatures. Matt Kindt does it all in this Dark Horse series as the creator of Mind Mgmt has a knack for creating an imposing environment that suffocates his characters, drawing the reader into a world that feels horribly asthmatic at times and Sharlene’s watercolors reproduce the sensation of moving underwater. Kindt is utilizing the characters liquid incarceration to obtain a psychological element to the mystery and no other comic this year combines the environment as well with the action, mystery and suspense as Dept H. As the story grows deeper, a better understanding of characters motives are shown, but Kindt purposely never shows his hand, allowing the reader to constantly question each character’s intention, which only increases as the action intensifies. It’s one of the smartest comics of the year and another example of how Matt Kindt is one of the best writers in comics. - Matt Dorville

Wonder Woman: The True Amazon (DC Comics)

Writer/Artist: Jill Thompson

How many times have we seen all of the other big heroes’ origins reimagined? Countless times and yet Wonder Woman’s beginnings have been a cloudy mess at best. DC has definitely rectified that in a few different stories recently. Yet for painter Jill Thompson (Sandman, Scary Godmother), the chance to tell her version of Diana’s origin was a creative itch of long fulfillment and achievement during what’s been a banner year for the character. Painted in Thompson’s signature watercolors, the lack of harsh black lines signals its departure from the typical superhero story and every turn of the page makes the island of Themyscira and all of its Amazon inhabitants other worldly. The power and grace of the human form in its peak shape leap off the paper with Thompson’s art, while communicating fluid motion and a warrior spirit. It’s in this slightly softer look that we get the unique spin that makes Wonder Woman: The True Amazon a memorable work.

Diana is shown as an entitled child of Queen Hippolyta who would only grow to be spoiled, selfish and insufferable, if she cannot learn humility and settle down her ego. She needs to earn the tiara that she will eventually wear and doesn’t realize this until she is challenged by another within the Amazon ranks and is confronted with life’s tragedies. So rather than being dubbed the Princess of Themyscira, she shapes herself into a worthy and noble person. The result is a clearer, beautifully rendered version of Wonder Woman’s early origin told by one of the world’s finest and thus makes it accessible to a wider range of readers. - Ernie Estrella

Black Monday Murders (Image Comics)

Writer: Jonathan Hickman, Artist: Tomm Coker

You’d be hard-pressed to find another series on this list that’s as timely as this one. At a time when Americans are about to watch Exxon and Goldman Sachs CEOs get presidential cabinet appointments, there is no theme more important to explore than the relationship between money and power, and there is no series that examines it more intensely than The Black Monday Murders. This cutting edge series tells the story of a cross-generational power struggle between the world’s largest financial institutions that plays out through blood sacrifices, black magic, betrayal and murder, and one unlucky detective’s attempt to pull back the curtain on it all. Each issue is packed full of charts, timelines, and other supplementary text that when combined with the moody and hyper-real artwork of Tomm Coker, makes for a reading experience unlike any other. Writer Jonathan Hickman has made a career out of tearing down powerful institutions of western civilization with Nightly News, Pax Romana, and Manhattan Projects under his belt, and it’s never been more relevant or spectacular than in this series.  - Matt Funk

Moonshine (Image Comics)

Writer: Brian Azzarello, Artist: Eduardo Risso

Take a long, satisfying sip of Image Comics' Moonshine, an intoxicating new supernatural series set during the lawless days of Prohibition, studded with corrupt FBI agents, hillbilly bootleggers, organized crime lords, voodoo bonfires and bloody-thirsty werewolves on the prowl. Penned by Brian Azzarello and complemented by resonant art from longtime collaborator Eduardo Risso, Moonshine is hard-boiled horror delivered with a sinister twist. 

The plot? Big Apple mob boss Joe Masseria sends his handsome henchman Lou Pirlo up to a hidden still in West Virginia to make a deal with its mysterious master booze-maker, Hiram Holt. Pirlo ends up embroiled in a murder case of a particularly bloody nature and begins uncovering the hairy family secret feasting deep up in the Appalachian Hills. Azzarello and Risso? Liquor and lycanthropes in a Depression Era paranormal mystery with stark, evocative panels and bullet-proof prose? What's not to crave? Moonshine is my choice for the comic of 2016 begging to be made into a killer feature film or HBO prestige series! - Jeff Spry

Future Quest (DC Comics)

Writer: Jeff Parker, Artists: Craig Rousseau, Steve Rude and Evan Shaner, Colorist: Jordie Bellaire

An interconnected world with a raft of hilariously outdated Hanna-Barbara animated heroes sounds like the Hindenburg of nostalgia exercises. But Future Quest has been a glorious surprise, a spirited throwback adventure serial culled from the Saturday Morning archives of our youth. Jonny Quest. The Galaxy Trio and Birdman. The Herculoids. Mightier and Space Ghost. All of them have been brought together to ward off an alien creature known as Omnikron. 

Parker clearly knows the source material and treats the characters with respect. Hadji is now an equal partner to Jonny Quest, and not just a sidekick.  Birman is a genuine bad-ass, not the goofy winged hero he was in his original cartoon (or later, in Harvey Birman: Attorney At Law). There is even some clever retconning that reveals the prehistoric hero Mightor’s power was derived from Omnikron. Steve “The Dude” Rude, Evan ‘Doc’ Shaner and Craig Rousseau are the perfect mix of clear storytelling aesthetic and animation-style line work. They maintain a consistent look that is ideal for this book and Jordie Bellaire tops it off with colors that complement the retro feel.

Since the debut issue’s space war beginnings, Future Quest has maintained the breakneck pace of the old Jonny Quest episodes, with writer Jeff Parker adding depth to characters that were never meant to have any. The Impossibles and Frankenstein Jr. are even in the mix. It’s all building to what would appear to be a massive showdown. Where it goes after that is anyone’s guess. But Future Quest is a success right now because this love letter to the action hero section of the H-B library, is one of the most entertaining reads out there. - Mike Avila

Tetris: The Games People Play (First Second)

Writer/Artist: Box Brown

Who knew that the true story behind the Russian video game Tetris, its inventor, Alexey Pajitnov, and the companies that battled for a piece of the action could be a fascinating page turner? Box Brown, that’s who. In his follow-up to Andre the Giant: Life and Legend, Brown explored another fascinating subject for us to get to know but went beyond Pajitnov’s story and delved into the broader picture behind the creation of Tetris amongst other games in this historical trip through the video game wars of the 1980s and 1990s. It’s also touches on art, culture, and the thinking that goes into playing games. 

On paper, this could have easily been done in a dry manner, but Brown’s minimalist art style using three basic colors: yellow, black and white gave him an unlimited range of possibilities to gives us a speedy, vibrant and insightful read. Like a four-block high column dropping into the game, this simple puzzle game became the commodity everyone wanted. It was the next big thing for consoles, handhelds and workplaces, but I found its inception and the stories of the parties courting it once it left Pajitnov’s hands to be even more addictive. - Ernie Estrella