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CBR’s Top 100 Comics of 2016: #10 – #1

by  in CBR Exclusives, Lists, Comic News Comment
CBR’s Top 100 Comics of 2016: #10 – #1

The end is here — of CBR’s Top 100 of 2016, that is.

Each year, CBR takes a thoughtful look at the comic book industry’s abundance of offerings and poll the passionate, thoughtful and always-opinionated CBR staff for their rankings of the top comics of the year. Every publisher putting out new comics material in English, regardless of genre or format, is fair game; each individual list is then factored in (all thanks to the power of mathematics and the magic of spreadsheets) to determine the overall Top 100 unveiled on CBR over the course of this week.

2016 was another big year for the Top 100, once again with more than 40 contributors to the list and more than 200 comics nominated. That’s resulted in a typically diverse and sometimes unpredictable field: world-famous superheroes alongside creator-owned works; major publishers sharing space with indie favorites. Of course, even with 100 spots, no list can be an exhaustive collection of every noteworthy piece of work in a year, but the end result of the CBR Top 100 is a wide selection of eclectic comics and graphic novels worthy of attention.

On Monday, we started unveiling the list with entries No. 100 to 76, things kept going on Tuesday with No. 75 to 51 and Wednesday with No. 50 to 26, while this morning brought No. 25 to 11. So here we are: The Top 10! As always, it’s a top-flight Top 10, and this year the CBR staff had a clear favorite for the top spot.

Start perusing the final section of the list below, and if you feel so moved, take to Twitter and (politely) discuss your thoughts using the hashtag #CBRTop100. Friday morning, we’ll take one last look at the full list, and for comparison’s sake, here’s our Top 100 lists from previous years:

CBR’s Top 100 Comics of 2016: 100 -> 76 | 75 -> 51 | 50 -> 26 | 25 -> 11 | 10 -> 1

10. Bitch Planet

Written by Kelly Sue DeConnick

Art by Valentine De Landro, Taki Soma

Publisher: Image Comics

bitch-planet

Well, now that this doesn’t seem like such an implausible future, “Bitch Planet” means more than ever. The fact that there were only four issues this year matters not one whit. It’s triumphant, defiant, and a whole lot of fun. A “safe space” this isn’t, but it sure does feel empowering — and the fact that the backmatter will prove legitimately educational to many readers doesn’t hurt.

— CBR Staff Writer Allison Shoemaker

This used to be a book I enjoyed because it challenged convention with verve and urgency. Now, as the bootheel of the patriarchy looms larger than ever before, it has become essential. With its still far-flung speculative fiction, this title might not be an exact guidebook to how to topple real-life oppressors, but it does something no less important: It sets the tone for noncompliance in the face of an unjust world.

— CBR Staff Writer Brendan McGuirk

I love the rage, and I love the satire, but most of all I love the sheer humanity at the core of this increasingly all-too-real dystopia.

— CBR Staff Writer Marykate Jasper

9. Monstress

Written by Marjorie Liu

Art by Sana Takeda

Publisher: Image Comics

monstress

Liu and Takeda expertly craft an intricate new fantasy world in “Monstress,” rich in mythology and intrigue and brought to life with extraordinary, finely detailed art. The alternate turn-of-the-20th-century world is rich with menace, but also adorable, magical multi-tailed cats and other charming creatures. The teenage heroine of “Monstress” is compelling in her struggles against both the warring ethnic factions and the ravenous entity living within her.

— CBR Staff Writer Shaun Manning

Marjorie Liu builds an entire universe in one issue, her dialogue and characters brought to life by her utterly magical collaboration with Sana Takeda. It’s a dark fairy tale infused with Asian and steampunk influence that draws you in further with every issue.

— CBR Contributing Writer Leia Calderon

Beautifully drawn, heartbreakingly violent, Liu and Takeda’s fantasy tale is a graphic novel for the ages.

— CBR Staff Writer Brigid Alverson

8. DC Universe: Rebirth

Written by Geoff Johns

Art by Gary Frank, Ivan Reis, Ethan Van Sciver, Phil Jimenez

Publisher: DC Comics

dc-universe-rebirth

In the age of rampant leaks and non-stop speculation, it’s nearly impossible to legitimately surprise someone in a comic book these days. Though details slipped out a few days before release date (and the issue itself was full of clever foreshadowing), no one predicted that DC Comics’ line-wide refresh of its superhero line could have had something to do with Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ “Watchmen” characters, and whether or not you’re comfortable with the use of that property, it was a genuinely bold move with repercussions that are far from fully explored. But that’s only part of what the “DC Universe: Rebirth” one-shot accomplished: For all of its metatextual continuity shifting, it somehow told a very grounded story of the long-anticipated return of Wally West, providing actual emotion along with setting the table for what was to come in the “Rebirth” era.

— CBR Managing Editor Albert Ching

Facing a crisis with multiple reboots, DC Comics has finally seemed to get it right with “DC Comics: Rebirth.” Rather than try to wish previous continuity away to the cornfield or tiptoe around it as though navigating a minefield, Geoff Johns helmed a creative team in this 80-page giant that came closer to embracing it, and in fact making it even more expansive than previously believed. This issue, and the subsequent relaunch of the titles that followed it, was a reintroduction to the DC Universe that didn’t try to choose between their old fanbase and their new; instead, it reached out to all and welcomed them in, welcomed them back, and simply welcomed them to stay.

— CBR Staff Writer Jim Johnson

“DC Universe: Rebirth” had an impossible task. It needed to re-engage lapsed readers, hold on to fans who came to the DC Universe in the New 52, and serve as a line-wide introduction to a potential new fan base. Somehow, the all-star creative team pulled it off. While the repercussions of this special are still playing out, DC successfully reinvigorated its entire line, filling readers with an excitement and a passion that’s been absent for years.      

— CBR Contributing Writer Tim Webber

7. Dark Night: A True Batman Story

Written by Paul Dini

Art by Eduardo Risso

Publisher: DC/Vertigo

dark-knight-true-batman-story

The esteemed animation and comics writer Paul Dini, best known for his contributions to “Batman: The Animated Series,” delivers the most poignant and expertly crafted work of his career, telling the deeply personal true story of how a randomly motivated mugging and assault left him beaten and bloodied in the moment, traumatized and haunted in the long aftermath – and he deftly weaves in visitations from the Bat-characters he knows so well. The memoir element alone make this a must-read; the artwork by Eduardo Risso elevates it to a masterwork of graphic storytelling.

— CBR Staff Writer Scott Huver

Paul Dini’s harrowing graphic memoir about addiction and recovery in the wake of a brutal attack demands to be read in a single sitting. Eduardo Rosso’s art is stunning in its range. Deploying a variety of styles and techniques to depict Dini’s fragile state of mind, his virtuosity is always in service of the story and never gimmicky.


— CBR Contributing Writer Christos Tsirbas

The union of Dini’s deeply personal story and Risso’s unique art makes for something that transcends the genre.

— CBR Contributing Writer Jordan Commandeur

6. The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl

Written by Ryan North

Art by Erica Henderson

Publisher: Marvel Comics

unbeatable-squirrel-girl

“Squirrel Girl” remains both extremely funny, and an excellent superhero comic. Like every major superhero, Squirrel Girl’s main power is inspiration. She’s able to elevate the people (and robots and aliens and galactic beings) around her to her level and ultimately win the day. And, she does it with amazing dialogue by Ryan North, who manages to make event the most banal tasks seem totally consequential, weird and hilarious.

— CBR Staff Writer Joe Streckert

No comic being published today is as gleefully silly or subversively smart as “The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl.” Erica Henderson’s eye for character design is a sharp as her talent for choreographing action sequences, and Ryan North takes almost as much joy in poking fun at Marvel continuity as he does structuring storylines around his former day job of computational linguistics.

— CBR Contributing Writer Tom Baker

Consistently the funniest of the Marvel all-ages titles. Now populated with its own wonderful supporting cast, it can even maintain an entire story starring Nancy’s cat Mew and still deliver.

— CBR Contributing Writer Erik Amaya

5. Saga

Written by Brian K. Vaughan

Art by Fiona Staples

Publisher: Image Comics

saga

In this arc of the already spectacular “Saga” [#31-#36], the series skips ahead a few years after Hazel and her grandmother are taken to a detention center for “enemy noncombatants.” For children like Hazel, this means going to kindergarten, while her grandmother deals with the politics of a prison setting. On the outside, Marko and Alana are doing whatever it takes to find and rescue them. The Will also gets some character growth and we get to see the adorably mighty Ghus in action, but what really kept me hooked was Hazel’s portrayal. Despite being in a detention center, we start to see her come into her own as well as get reminded that she’s just a child in need of a stable life. Seeing her enjoy her time in kindergarten as well as reveal her secrets to her teacher reminds you of both her innocence and just how dangerous her life is.

— CBR List Editor Brian Patry

Not much else can be written about Brian K. Vaughan & Fiona Staples’ epic space opera that hasn’t already been said. While the series had a few delays this year, “Saga” has been absolutely worth waiting for. It’s apparent that Vaughan and Staples have nearly perfected their craft, with each issue that leaves readers on the edge of their seat to see what surprises they have in store, regardless of how heart-wrenching the story becomes.

— CBR Contributing Writer Sean Fischer

Brian Vaughan promised this series would live up to its name and it does. The story stretches out as wide as the cosmos, but it still manages to stay touchingly personal.

— CBR Contributing Writer Jason Strykowski

Character-driven storytelling at its finest. It may not be the most surprising choice for a best-of list, but you can’t deny greatness.

— CBR Staff Writer Allison Shoemaker

4. The Wicked + The Divine

Written by Kieron Gillen

Art by Jamie McKelvie, Stephanie Hans (“1831” one-shot)

Publisher: Image Comics

the-wicked-the-divine

“WicDiv” is one of my favorite ongoings and it has only gotten better and more ambitious. The “Commercial Suicide arc brilliantly utilized the talents of different artists to highlight the underused characters, and every issue had the crackling energy of a #1. And the “Rising Action” arc was Crazytown Bananapants and totally true to its name, with a stunning ending to bring it all together. Plus we got the ponderous “1831” special, which was a real treat for history buffs and English nerds alike.

— CBR Contributing Writer Jacob Hill

“WicDiv” has been a continuous favorite of mine since it first started coming out, with its incredibly diverse and engaging cast of characters who are doing their best to burn the world down, and themselves with it. This book has never stopped surprising me, and then the “1831” one-shot came out. A deliciously complex and twisted glimpse into another pantheon, further complimented by Stephanie Hans’ seductive art style and Kieron Gillen’s sharp imagination, it gave us a new twist on the Romantics as dark and monstrous as their predecessors.

— CBR Contributing Writer Heather Knight

“The Wicked + The Divine” continued to rock in 2016, as the Pantheon breaks out of old patterns. The “1831” one-shot was a particular standout, giving us a glimpse of an earlier Pantheon heavily influenced by the Romantic poets; my only complaint was that I wished it had been longer.

— CBR Contributing Writer Charles Paul Hoffman

Twists, turns, and experiments in form kept #WicDiv fresh through another year. The final battle with Ananke, the magazine issue, and the tragically hip stylings of Gillen and McKelvie are thrilling in a way no other ongoing series can match.

— CBR Staff Writer Shaun Manning

3. Paper Girls

Written by Brian K. Vaughan

Art by Cliff Chiang

Publisher: Image Comics

paper-girls

Take a Spielbergian/Amblin Entertainment vibe filtering a sci-fi conceit through everyday ’80s era kids, add a modern “Stranger Things” sensibility (though the comic predates that TV series) and fuel it with the girl power of its young female protagonists and the result is one of the most entertaining new series in years, with writer Bryan K. Vaughn at the top of his game and artist Cliff Chiang finding perfect vehicle for his considerable strengths.

— CBR Staff Writer Scott Huver

It’s obvious to say “before ‘Stranger Things’ there was ‘Paper Girls,'” but…before there was “Stranger Things,” there was “Paper Girls.” Brian K. Vaughan and Cliff Chiang’s Image series stayed strong in its second year, as the lead teens fell out of their lovingly rendered ’80s setting and into the mundane reality of 2016, all while imaginative sci-fi horrors tormented them. This is a series that truly explores the unexpected, meaning that this series could go anywhere or anywhen in 2017.

— CBR Editor Brett White

I don’t re-read a lot of comic books every month, but I always go back to “Paper Girls” for things that I may have missed but more often than not, to simply re-submerse myself in a story with so many giant water bears.

— CBR Staff Writer Jeffrey Renaud

Top drawer artwork, a solidly entertaining script.

— CBR Staff Writer Michael C Lorah

2. March: Book Three

Written by Rep. John Lewis, Andrew Aydin

Art by Nate Powell

Publisher: Top Shelf Productions

march-book-3

The concluding volume of this trilogy of the life and work of John Lewis is not just a thoughtfully written and beautifully drawn comic, but an important story that needs to be understood and shared. The pacifism of people like Lewis, like Dr. King, remains poorly understood, but these books offer a chance to see just how radical that vision of nonviolence was.

— CBR Staff Writer Alex Dueben

The lengthy final volume of the “March” trilogy concludes chronicling the life achievements, to date, of civil rights icon and U.S. Congressman John Lewis, a story that took three years to tell, but a lifetime to achieve. Congressional aide Andrew Aydin’s own self-admitted life achievement has been to tell Congressman Lewis’ story, and along with artist Nate Powell, he does just that, in a gripping and often poignant volume that bears the fruit of a lifelong struggle for equality. Important for not only its educational value and capture of an important piece of American history, the graphic novel also proves that some of the best and most compelling stories that can be told are the ones that true.

— CBR Staff Writer Jim Johnson

If there’s any justice in the world, “March” will be read in classrooms for years and years to come. It’s a perfect example of what the right story can do in the right medium, as Nate Powell’s art draws out the sorrow, pain, and remarkable hope that define this autobiographical story. It was a privilege to read, and its final installment is also its best.

— CBR Staff Writer Allison Shoemaker

Nate Powell deserves some sort of medal of honor for taking the words and wisdom of Congressman John Lewis and translating those thoughts into a work that manages to balance itself between epic power and subdued restraint. The collection of all three books should be required reading for schoolchildren.

— CBR Staff Writer Brian Cronin

It’s impossible not to include this book on any best-of-the-year list. Rep. John Lewis’s graphic memoir is not only a gripping story, it’s also a guidebook for the future. Nate Powell’s powerful art really pulls the story together and pushes it forward.

— CBR Staff Writer Brigid Alverson

1. The Vision

Written by Tom King

Art by Gabriel Hernandez Walta, Michael Walsh

Publisher: Marvel Comics

the-vision

Tom King’s CIA-inspired stories definitely paint him as one of the industry’s main writers to watch, but what makes this book stand out the most, art aside, is how its 12 issues pack so much humanity in a story about Marvel’s favorite android and his yearning for a normal family life. It’s cerebral, relatable and filled with heart and soul to the core, in a digital era where we, as humans, seem to be most disconnected and show the least empathy we’ve ever shown to each other. Sure, King & Walta made me believe that a robot can cry, yet again, but what punctuates this as a must-read is that the emotional rollercoaster built into his story, can actually make us humans cry as well.

— CBR Contributing Writer Renaldo Matadeen

Over 50 years after the launch of the modern Marvel Universe, Tom King, Gabriel Hernandez Walta and Jordie Bellaire proved that there’s still bold new directions to take superheroes. This haunting comic unfolded like a prestige cable drama, with two-dimensional characters giving the most three-dimensional performances ever captured on paper. “Vision” expanded the definition of a superhero comic; even though “Vision” concluded its run, we’ll be feeling its influence for decades to come 

— CBR Editor Brett White

This is how you do a perfect run of comics. Tom King’s story about the titular synthezoid’s tragic quest to create a family of his own reads like a combination of the best work of Stan Lee, Shakespeare, and Isaac Asimov. Gabriel Hernandez Walta gives the series a great cinematic feel; like it’s a story that’s been directed by David Fincher and should feature a score by Atticus Ross and Trent Reznor.

— CBR Staff Writer Dave Richards

This series, driven by Tom King and Jordie Bellaire, is the best book that came out in 2016. That’s not hyperbole, it’s a fact. This may be the best series published in this decade, but we’re still too close to be sure of this. A sometimes forgotten Avenger ends up the protagonist of a literal horror story as a suburban family drama with science fiction influences escalates so unexpectedly, but so perfectly. Read in installments, it was a delight, but read as a complete work, it’s a revelation. Everybody else at awards ceremonies better get really comfortable in their seats as this creative team is gonna be walking up to the podium a whole lot.

— CBR Staff Writer Hannibal Tabu

“The Vision” is everything that I didn’t expect from a comic book about everyone’s favorite synthetic superhero. And that’s a good thing. Tom King’s now-exclusive work for DC Comics on “Batman,” “The Omega Men” and “Sheriff of Babylon” is rock solid, but like the Vision himself, what the former CIA operative and Gabriel Hernandez Walta delivered with this groundbreaking Marvel series is transformative.

— CBR Staff Writer Jeffrey Renaud

“Vision” is all about the horrible momentum of violence and failed experiments, and that worked crushingly well as the theme for a month-to-month book. Tom King and Gabriel Hernandez Walta’s creepy, literary comic is one long gut-punch.

— CBR Staff Writer Marykate Jasper

Thank you for reading the CBR Top 100 Comics of 2016!

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