2016 has been quite the year in comics, as plot twists filled books that shocked, horrified, and delighted readers. It was a year in which some heroes rose to headline their own series, some became villains, and some -- well, many -- died. There were also many heartbreaking revelations and chilling cliffhangers, and while it’s hard to show each major moment of the last year, let’s try anyway and show our favorite sixteen. Spoilers galore following this paragraph, so read at your own risk, and tell me what you think in the comments!
Gotham Academy meets the Lumberjanes
The most anticipated crossover of the year is the adventurous groups of the Gotham Academy and the Lumberjanes meeting for the first time in a DC/Boom Studios event. Both comics are award-winning and delightful in their own way, fueled by the bond the characters have for each other and the utter enjoyment that readers find in going on adventures with them. And what better adventure could there be than going back to the '80s and battling through karaoke, right? Hopefully this isn’t the last time the students and campers get together, as both comics are a highlight of the young adult genre.
Riri Williams becomes the new Iron Man
First appearing in an exclusive for Time Magazine, Riri Williams took the stage in 2016 as the new Iron Man, named Iron Heart, as Tony Stark was blasted into a coma as a result of the Civil War with Captain Marvel. Williams, a 15-year-old student at MIT, reverse-engineered the Iron Man Armor Model 41 on campus and later got the blessing of Stark himself after showing her desire to become a superhero. The announcement by Marvel sent shockwaves of support, and in 2017, with Stark is currently in a coma, Williams will have her chance to show her abilities to a comic audience excited about her arrival.
Robert Venditti ends his run on X-O Manowar
X-O Manowar 50 ended Robert Venditti’s incredible run of the character that he took up writing for in 2012, completing one of the longest uninterrupted runs by a single writer in modern comic writing. During that time, Aric has been a signature series of the Valiant Universe, bringing in characters like Ninjak and Eternal Warriors as foes, and later friends, to X-O Manowar and expanding a universe that continues to write some of the best characters and events in all of comics. From his first days of finding the suit aboard an alien spacecraft in which he was captive to his apocalyptic battle with Torment, the wars Aric waged throughout time have been a hallmark in comic book storytelling, and Venditti’s end to his epic tenure with the character showcased a monumental achievement in the history of Valiant and comic books everywhere.
Faith gets her own series
No other hero is a better example of hope, optimism and beauty than Valiant’s Faith, and in 2016 Valiant gave Faith her own series, to major acclaim from both critics and audiences alike. The series was a major hit and given unprecedented fourth printing as Valiant finally expanded the Harbinger alum to her rightful status as a main draw. Later in the year, Faith would date Archer, save Hillary Clinton and hilariously satirize the publishing/blogging industry, but the strongest aspect of the comic is that Faith herself is such an incredible character: confident, smart, beautiful and, most of all, positive. Exactly what we all need for 2017.
The Walking Dead's Whisperer War
There are so many big moments in the Whisperer War that it’s hard to know where to start: Negan’s escape, his attack on Alpha and return to Rick, the death of Ezekiel and so many others, including, I guess, Lucille. Kirkman is a king of the cliffhanger genre, and 2016 was one of the most thrilling and gruesome of all as Beta and the Whisperers led an attack on Rick’s group through a sea of the undead that was a sight to behold.
Paper Girls' Mac learns she will die of leukemia
The most heartbreaking issue in 2016 for me was when Mac, after being transported to the future, went to her childhood home and found out that soon she will die of leukemia. Her playing off the news and wanting to not mention it is just another layer of sadness that is added to a helpless situation that sent readers through a tailspin of emotions. Paper Girls already did an excellent job of creating a bond with the characters, and to have the unofficial leader of the group hear that she’s going to die of leukemia at the end of an issue is a hard pill to swallow for readers. It’s an ambitious move by Brian K Vaughan and Cliff Chang and was one of the biggest moments for Image Comics in 2016.
Watchmen enter the DC Universe
When Batman found the Comedian’s badge, announcing the crossover between the Watchmen and the DC Rebirth, basically all comic nerds flipped out everywhere. We all grew up with Watchmen; for some of us, it was the portal story that got us into comics in the first place. Then, with an announcement at the start of 2017 that the crossover would be written by comic book royalty Geoff Johns, fans discovered what felt like a match made in heaven. There are going to be a lot of questions and criticisms about this crossover, but it will be one of the most anticipated in comics ever, and a great reason to keep reading the already incredible DC Rebirth.
Hellboy ends with a beautiful whimper
Some comic book characters go out in a blaze of glory and some, well, are just looking for rest. Mike Mignola ended his most famous character, Hellboy, in 2016. Hellboy, for those that weren’t keeping up, had technically already died, and Mignola has been spending the last 10 issues having Hellboy wander around Hell, itself, fighting demons and protecting Earth in different ways. There’s a quiet solitude, as the last issue is heartfelt and beautiful in its simplicity. Told by a demon surrounded by black, the last Hellboy took a wonderful existential turn, a twist for a series that had its share of punches to end in a warm glow and a remarkable finale for one of comics’ great characters.
Hazel returns to her parents in Saga
At the heart of the story of Saga is family, whether in the form of flesh and blood or through the family we make with those around us. Issue 36, in which Marko and Alana finally reunite with their daughter Hazel, is both fantastic in how emotionally rich it is but also splendidly wonderful in how it announces that Alana is pregnant. To see Hazel run into her dad’s arms is simply incredible. It’s what Saga readers have been waiting so long for, and the issue, the end of the story arc, was exactly the moment they’ve all wanted for so long.
The Vision loses his son
After Vin dies in The Vision, the reader probably has accepted that this story is definitely not going to end well. It’s been hard going for The Vision family, as they had to face racism, bad luck, and a team of nervous super-heroes. Vin’s death though, trapped by eletro-magnetic energy as he screamed for his father's help, was particularly horrific in that it came from the “brother” of the Vision, Victor Mancha, who was supposed to observe The Vision family and report back to the Avengers. The Vision was one of the best comics of 2016 in how it dangled hope in front of the reader that, possibly, everything might turn out to be OK. But all that ended when Vin died and the Vision, the Avengers, the reader and everyone in the Marvel Universe knew there was no going back.
Saya kills Marcus in Deadly Class
While all the rats were struggling for survival, nobody expected that Marcus, the main character of Rick Remender and Wes Craig’s punk/assassin story set in San Francisco, would end up on the sharp end of Saya’s sword. It was a moment that marked a shift in the comic and ended the downward spiral journey of a character that had so much promise but never achieved his full potential. For fans of Rick Remender comics, Marcus’s death is a reminder that nobody is safe in a Remender piwce and that at any time, Led Dent, Grant McKay, or any one of Remender’s characters could meet their end.
A new Mighty Morphin Power Ranger is revealed
In Mighty Morphin Power Rangers #9, the mythos of the Power Rangers changed forever as a new evil ranger was unveiled. Kyle Higgins and Hendry Prasetya introduce him magnificently, sitting on a rock throne as a leader of a parallel universe where the bad guys ultimately won. The Ranger, who looks like a combination of the Green and White Ranger, has not had his identity revealed as of yet, but the Black Dragon storyline has brought this MMPR series to the forefront of the comic book stores as one of the best series of 2016 for Ranger fans and non-Ranger fans alike.
Ta-Nehisi Coates and Roxanne Gay write Black Panther and World of Wakanda
When a Pulitzer prize winner and a best-selling feminist writer and professor write for a comic book, suddenly people start taking notice and friends that always scoffed at comics begin to see the power of their storytelling. Coates’s Black Panther has been a political force, living up to the high expectations placed on it, rising up as one of the most intelligent and intricate storylines Marvel has published in 2016, while Gay’s World of Wakanda started in November to excellent reviews. While comic books are frequently seen as a cheaper medium through which to tell a story, meant for children and nerds, bringing in two incredible writers who have achieved acclaim in other, more highly regarded aspects of writing helps validate the medium of comic book storytelling and brings in a new audience to both Marvel and comics, in general.
Cyclops Dies (Twice, Actually)
After the Secret Wars, the question about the whereabouts to Cyclops was on every X-Men fan’s mind. Turns out he was dead all along, dying shortly after being exposed to the Terrigen Mists on Muir Island. But Cyclops really can’t die that way…so Emma Frost used her psychic powers to fool both the Inhumans and X-Men that he was still alive and give him a spectacular death worthy of his stature, from the supersonic scream of Black Bolt. His role as a martyr was to create peace with the Inhuman and X-Men war (which, I’m gathering, will go away soon, since Inhumans vs X-Men is slated for 2017) and give the X-Men a symbol to fight behind.
Mockingbird wears a feminist shirt
The most creative and imaginative (as well as the most damn fun) series this year was Marvel’s Mockingbird. Sadly, sometimes the most distinctive and brilliant series are also the most short-lived, and Mockingbird ended its run on the 8th issue with a controversial cover showing Bobbi Morse with a t-shirt that said, “Ask Me About My Feminist Agenda” with art by Joelle Jones. It became one of the most shared covers of the year, and, disappointingly, there was a backlash so severe that Chelsea Cain, the writer of the series, deleted her Twitter account. But, let’s be completely frank: This was the best cover of the year. Bobbi Morse is an example of a strong, confident character, and her headlining series was definitely pulled from the shelves too soon.
Captain America becomes an agent of HYDRA
There was no moment in comics as explosive as the last page of Nick Spencer and Jesus Saiz’s Captain America: Steve Rogers. Fans of the movies and the comics alike ran to social media to set the Internet ablaze, but this was a brilliant, well-calculated extension of "Attack on Pleasant Hill," in which Red Skull manipulates a little girl, a manifestation of the cosmic cube, to rewrite Cap’s history. Little does Skull know, though, that Rogers wants to kill him to bring HYDRA to its full glory. But it was the original moment, the, "Hail Hydra" moment, that got even Spencer’s mother to call him up asking what he did, easily making this the biggest moment in 2016 and one of the most compelling and talked about comics of the year.