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CBR’s Top 100 Comics of 2016: #25 – #11

by  in CBR Exclusives, Lists, Comic News Comment
CBR’s Top 100 Comics of 2016: #25 – #11

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 that will be 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.

RELATED: CBR’s Top 100 Comics of 2016: #50 – #26

On Monday, we started unveiling the list with entries No. 100 to 76, things kept going on Tuesday with 75 -> 51“>No. 75 to 51 and Wednesday with No. 50 to 26. The countdown continues today as we get into the final quarter with No. 25 to 11, and check back later today for the Top 10!

Start perusing the list below, and if you feel so moved, take to Twitter and (politely) discuss your thoughts using the hashtag #CBRTop100. While you’re here, feel free to revisit our Top 100 lists from previous years:

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

25. Rosalie Lightning

Written & Illustrated by Tom Hart

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press

rosalie-lightning


“Rosalie Lightning” is easily the most difficult book of 2016, in terms of subject material. The true life story about how cartoonists Tom Hart and Leela Corman’s daughter Rosalie Lightning unexpectedly died shortly before her second birthday, this exploration of grief, community and the struggle to survive both financially and emotionally is gripping. Hart’s repeated image of the two people adrift on a raft is striking, more so once he himself explains what he realized it meant, and his use of negative space on the page will send chills down your spine.

— CBR Staff Writer Greg McElhatton

Tom Hart’s new book is heartbreaking, and at time almost too painful to read. The book is about the death of his daughter, every parent’s worst nightmare, and details the efforts of him and his wife to survive a find a way through it.

— CBR Staff Writer Alex Dueben

24. Spider-Woman

Written by Dennis Hopeless

Art by Javier Rodriguez, Veronica Fish, Joëlle Jones, Tigh Walker

Publisher: Marvel Comics

spider-woman


Dennis Hopeless took an improbable set-up — Spider-Woman has a baby — and made it work. While similar plot lines have concluded in “it was all a dream” style or ended up sidelining the hero, Hopeless’ series proved there’s a third option. Spider-Woman stayed active and kept kicking ass, all while being a new mother. The series also gave artist Javier Rodriguez room to make his mark and become the talked about talent he was always meant to be. Every issue saw Rodriguez push page layouts in the same forward fashion that Hopeless pushed past tropes.

— CBR Editor Brett White

Post-“Secret Wars,” “Spider-Woman” has done the truly unexpected: it has shifted from from Jessica Drew as curmudgeonly detective to Jessica Drew, working mom. Hopeless and crew have done a truly amazing job of making Jess and her experiences as a new mom feel real, while keeping the superheroing/detective work interesting. It’s a truly impressive balancing act.

— CBR Contributing Writer Charles Paul Hoffman

23. The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye

Written & Illustrated by Sonny Liew

Publisher: Pantheon Books

charlie-chan


Liew explores the history of Singapore in the second half of the 20th century through the biography of a (fictional) comics creator. The book is almost like a documentary, with interviews with the creator intercut with authentic-looking comics and scrapbook pages. It’s a gripping read and a stylistic tour de force.

— CBR Staff Writer Brigid Alverson

It takes a lot for me to compare someone in comics to my favorite cartoonist Seth, let alone link their work to my favorite book of his (“It’s A Good Life If You Don’t Weaken”), but with “The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye,” Sonny Liew has finally delivered a worthy successor. It’s not just that this graphic novel stakes out similar “actual comics history via the story of an imaginary comics artist” territory. “The Art of” sees Liew mastering a variety of cartooning styles, all of which both delight the eye and draw the reader deeper and deeper in to the book’s human story. Add in fascinating layers of Singapore history, and this book is one we’ll be unpacking and learning from for years to come.

— CBR Staff Writer Kiel Phegley

22. The Fix

Written by Nick Spencer

Art by Steve Lieber

Publisher: Image Comics

the-fix


As crime comics continued to proliferate, none were more audacious, engaging and flat-out funny as collaborators Nick Spencer and Steve Lieber’s (previously of “The Superior Foes of Spider-Man”) deliriously dark take on corruption, greed and sociopathic relationships set against the sunny streets of Los Angeles.

— CBR Staff Writer Scott Huver

After an excellent run on “Superior Foes of Spider-Man,” Spencer and Lieber cemented themselves as one of the premier creative partnerships in comics with “The Fix.” Fleshed out by Ryan Hill’s realistic color palate, the duo crafted a thrilling crime yarn filled hilarious moments that can sit alongside the legendary works of Elmore Leonard and Quentin Tarantino.

— CBR Contributing Writer Tim Webber

21. Omega Men

Written by Tom King

Art by Barnaby Bagenda

Publisher: DC Comics

omega-men


Though the marquee DC Comics property isn’t even mentioned in the title, King and Bagenda’s “Omega Men” is the greatest Green Lantern story ever told, by such a wide margin there isn’t a meaningful No. 2. An Iraq War parable set in space, the series sees Kyle Rayner kidnapped by a group of terrorists-slash-rebels fighting an oppressive galactic regime. But as Kyle tries to sort out the good guys from the bad, he learns that it’s impossible to save everyone, and that heroic actions do not always have heroic ends.

— CBR Staff Writer Shaun Manning

Tom King and Barnaby Bagenda’s “The Omega Men” came to a triumphant conclusion in 2016, making its temporary stay of execution (to allow King and Bagenda to wrap up their 12-part story) that much more impressive. With its mixture of superhero, science-fiction, political and war genres, there’s a little something for everyone to enjoy, and Bagenda’s storytelling using a 9-panel grid is top-notch. Unflinching in its approach (and body count), “The Omega Men” collected edition needs to be on your bookshelf.

— CBR Staff Writer Greg McElhatton

20. Faith

Written by Jody Houser

Art by Francis Portela, Marguerite Sauvage, Pere Perez, Meghan Hetrick, Colleen Doran

Publisher: Valiant Entertainment

faith


The world doesn’t deserve Faith (or Zephyr), but I sure am glad we’ve got her. Other than “Saga,” I can’t think of another series where I’ve felt this emotionally connected to the main character. Beyond being an utter delight, “Faith” is also right on time, asking questions about heroism and morality that seem ever more important.

— CBR Staff Writer Allison Shoemaker

Why did it take so long to have a truly awesome plus-size superhero? Better yet, her physical appearance never becomes a major plot point. “Faith” is the best of fandom and Internet culture in one package.

— CBR Contributing Writer Beth Bartlett

19. The Legend of Wonder Woman

Written by Renae De Liz

Art by Renae De Liz, Ray Dillon

Publisher: DC Comics

legend-of-wonder-woman


With stunningly beautiful art and a character-focused take on Wonder Woman’s origins in World War II, “The Legend of Wonder Woman” is perfect for fans old and new, young and old. I dare you not to fall in love with Etta Candy, who steals the show whenever she’s on the page.

— CBR Contributing Writer Charles Paul Hoffman

This all-ages take on the mythos of Diana was breathtaking. The art, the story, the addition to Wonder Woman’s legacy was much needed and catered to everyone in the best way. Seriously gorgeous book.

— CBR Contributing Writer Leia Calderon

18. Mockingbird

Written by Chelsea Cain

Art by Kate Niemczyk, Ibrahim Moustafa

Publisher: Marvel Comics

mockingbird


S.H.I.E.L.D. is a huge, world-spanning, sometimes evil, vaguely threatening world organization, but what’s their health plan like? Chelsea Cain and Kate Niemczyk’s “Mockingbird” gets into the daily life of a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent who has to be constantly prodded with needles and answer annoying questions in between bouts of international espionage. And those bouts of international espionage are exceptional. “Mockingbird” takes many of the tropes and conventions of James Bond and deepens them. Bobbi Morse has a more interesting internal life and relationship set than almost any Bond ever did, and she breaks out of sex dungeons and submarines with the best of them.

— CBR Staff Writer Joe Streckert

“Mockingbird” was one of the funniest books I’ve read this year. I loved the one-shot that Marvel released in 2015 for S.H.I.E.L.D.’s 50th anniversary and this whole series echoes that book’s tone. Chelsea Cain has written a book that humanizes a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent to the point that she is extremely relatable. She has a boyfriend — superspy Lance Hunter — she loves Corgis, and she hates doctor’s office check-ups. Bobbi was given a humorous side that was so refreshing to read every week. The title character’s “Ask Me About My Feminist Agenda” shirt is easily the best cover of the year and will live on though cosplayers for years to come.

— CBR Staff Writer Lauren Gallaway

17. Huck

Written by Mark Millar

Art by Rafael Albuquerque

Publisher: Image Comics

huck


Mark Millar’s known for his obtuse and violent stories but no matter what, “Huck,” for me, will always wash the obscenities away. It’s filled with endearment and all the warm, fuzzy sentiment that you’d want your childhood depiction of Superman to be. In an era where even the most earnest of heroes are wrapped in some sort of subterfuge or self-serving plan, Millar designs someone that’s plain lovable. Rafael Albuquerque’s art helps build the innocent aura of the title character and more so, combines with succinct and heartfelt writing on Millar’s behalf, to wrap a story about love, family and one special person’s desire to make the world a better place. We need more heroes like Huck and more stories like this. Cannot wait for the sequel.

— CBR Contributing Writer Renaldo Matadeen

Millar is usually known for his bombastic style, but with this story, he and artist Rafael Albuquerque lay out a simple yet elegant tale of an everyday hero who just wants to help others. Imagine if Clark Kent decided never to leave Smallville, and you’ll get a sense of what I mean.

— CBR Contributing Writer George A. Tramountanas

16. Black Panther

Written by Ta-Nehisi Coates

Art by Brian Stelfreeze, Chris Sprouse

Publisher: Marvel Comics

black-panther


The more “Black Panther” incorporates familiar elements of the broader Marvel Universe into its monthly adventures, the more Ta-Nehisi Coates seems at home, and having fun in this title. We’re all lucky for that, because when he’s at his best no one is better than Coates at translating sophisticated ideas into piercing and insightful narrative. After a great deal of Wakandan world-building, we are learning more about T’Challa’s place in it, and how he plans to both tackle his adversaries and lead his people. In this story, those issues are inextricably linked, and failure on one front assures failure on the other. How can an elite inspire the downtrodden? How does a superhero politick? This story’s richness of possibilities still stand to rival the riches of Wakanda’s vibranium stores.

— CBR Staff Writer Brendan McGuirk

Coates’ genius here was to apply a healthy modern skepticism to T’Challa’s kingship; Marvel’s genius was to hire Brian Stelfreeze. T’Challa is called on to act kinglier than ever in a Wakanda that looks modern, strong and alive — the democrat’s dream, and the monarch’s fear.

— CBR Staff Writer Marykate Jasper

15. Descender

Written by Jeff Lemire

Art by Dustin Nguyen

Publisher: Image Comics

descender


Jeff Lemire is so good at telling big, high concept stories and this sci-fi epic is one of his best. While the world-building, which has been masterfully explored by Dustin Nguyen, is right there with “The Incal” by Alejandro Jodorowsky and Mœbius, it’s the punch to the stomach that Lemire delivers nearly issue that leaves readers hungry for their next serving of “Descender.”

— CBR Staff Writer Jeffrey Renaud

As someone who’s been on both a cyberpunk and space opera kick lately, this series really connected with me by pairing Jeff Lemire’s smart dialogue and ideas with Dustin Nguyen’s watercolor-esque visuals and cool robots.

— CBR Staff Writer Paul Semel

14. Batman

Written by Tom King

Art by David Finsh, Mikel Janin, Ivan Reis, Riley Rossmo, Mitch Gerads

Publisher: DC Comics

batman


Writer Tom King faced the unenviable task of following up superstar Scott Snyder’s enormously popular five-year run on the title, but confidently taking the blank slate that Snyder had left him, King wasted no time in quickly making the character his own, even adding a couple of his own creations. Ranging from high-octane thrills to subtle emotional undertones, King has indeed become the new king of the Batman franchise, helming the flagship title that has set the bar for the other titles — and on a bi-weekly schedule, no less. King’s approach to the character has been more traditional than Snyder’s, but that’s not to say it’s the same old Batman; rather, it’s been a remarkably fresh return to basics that’s anything but basic.

— CBR Staff Writer Jim Johnson

2016 saw “Batman” go from Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo to Tom King, David Finch and Mikel Janin. It was as if Elvis had to cut his concert short and brought in Bruce Springsteen to pick up the slack. Snyder and Capullo succeeded at balancing the more outsize elements of the Batman mythos against the relatively-realistic tone the series has long sought. King and Finch’s “I Am Gotham” shifted focus slightly, going for the tension between Batman as superhero and as tortured urban avenger. Likewise, King and Janin’s current “I Am Suicide” is (so far) a meditation on Batman’s desires and his abilities, as he tries to mitigate Gotham Girl’s tragedy. In short, all year “Batman” has seen its creative teams consistently at the top of their games, changing focus effortlessly in midstream with no drop in quality.

— CBR Staff Writer Tom Bondurant

13. The Flintstones

Written by Mark Russell

Art by Steve Pugh

Publisher: DC Comics

flintstones


If you expected to find the sharpest comic book satire of 2016 in a “Flintstones” comic book then, well, you have oddly impressive precognitive abilities, because that’s exactly what writer Mark Russell and artists Steve Pugh and Chris Chuckry are delivering month after month in this adult-oriented version of the Flintstones. There are some awfully heady ideas being discussed in nearly every issue, and yet they are handled with enough grace and a strong dose of humor that the comic never reads as preachy. It’s just strong, sharp satire.

— CBR Staff Writer Brian Cronin

The smart political commentary no one expected, the new iteration of Hanna-Barbara’s “The Flintstones” is a thematic sequel to writer Mark Russell’s run on the criminally underappreciated “Prez.” The modern stone age family are decidedly more modern, as Russell and artist Steve Pugh explore issues of class, race and ethnicity, religion, technology, consumerism, and plenty more. Oh: and it’s hilarious. A yabba-dabba-doo time, if you will.

— CBR Staff Writer Shaun Manning

12. The Mighty Thor

Written by Jason Aaron

Art by Russell Dauterman, Steve Epting, Rafa Garrés

Publisher: Marvel Comics

mighty-thor


This book is just straight-up gorgeous. Russell Dauterman and Matt Wilson make Asgard look its most fantastical and magical in decades. Plus, Jason Aaron just gets Thor, and I was delighted to see him flip from the hyper masculinity of “Thor: God of Thunder” to the high fantasy of “The Mighty Thor.”

— CBR Staff Writer Marykate Jasper

The saga of Jane Foster as Thor has been my favorite Marvel Comic since its inception. The entire creative team has taken what some considered a gimmick and turned it into a Marvel headliner.

— CBR Contributing Writer Tim Adams

11. Patience

Written & Illustrated by Daniel Clowes

Publisher: Fantagraphics Books

patience


The latest original comic by acclaimed cartoonist Daniel Clowes, is another worthy installment in the creator’s impressive library of work. One of Clowes’ greatest attributes is how seamlessly his pop-art style can blend science fiction, surrealism and banal human drama without parts feeling incongruent or out of place. In his world, time travel is just as taxing on the mind as a horrible domestic situation or an abusive lover. Many of the same themes explored by older stories are present here, especially the frailty of hypermasculinity and people’s inability to escape themselves. Perhaps because Clowes is no longer an angry young artist, there’s slightly less rancor or despair in Patience when handling these themes now. Despite the “reveal” of the murder mystery being somewhat lackluster and one or two plot points being a bit questionable, fans of Clowes will still find plenty to love in this work, including a novelty for the creator; a happy ending.

— CBR Contributing Writer Sean Fischer

While Clowes was at the forefront of the sadsack realism (I mean it as a compliment!) that helped usher in the age of the graphic novel during its late ’90s/early ’00s cultural explosion, with “Patience” the artist fully defines what inventive literary comics can do in the here and now. While there are countless volumes of comics published these days crowing about how the trappings of genre entertainment can be remade in a literary mold, most of them are bullshit. “Patience” shows up every DOA nostalgia fantasy and then some by contorting the tropes of time travel fiction into a kaleidoscopic work of magical realism. But it’s not just the intensity of the visuals or the unexpected turns of the plot that impress. Like all Clowes’ work, “Patience” explores unseen dimensions of human loneliness in a way few other art forms can accomplish.

— CBR Staff Writer Kiel Phegley

A mind-bending little trip — definitely one of the most personal and harrowing takes on time travel, “Can you change the past?” narratives.

— CBR Staff Writer Michael C Lorah

Check back later today for the Top 10 of CBR’s Top 100 Comics of 2016!