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CBR’s Top 100 Comics of 2016: #100 – #76

by  in CBR Exclusives, Lists, Comic News Comment
CBR’s Top 100 Comics of 2016: #100 – #76

Think the holidays are over? Think again! Because today marks the start of the most joyous season of all — CBR’s annual Top 100!

Each year, we take 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.

Today, we start unveiling the list with entries No. 100 to 76, with the countdown continuing each day this week. Here’s the schedule, mark your calendars accordingly (all times Eastern): Tuesday, 1/3, 3 p.m.: Top 75-51; Wednesday, 1/4, 3 p.m.: Top 50-26; Thursday, 1/5, 9 a.m.: Top 25-11; Thursday, 1/5, 3 p.m.: Top 10; Friday, 1/6, 9 a.m.: Master list.

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 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

100. Empress

Written by Mark Millar

Art by Stuart Immonen

Publisher: Marvel/Icon

100empress

“Empress” is another sci-fi story reminiscent of Star Wars. It’s got the “Long Ago” part down pat, as it’s set 65 million years ago, only instead of in a “Galaxy Far, Far Away,” the seven-issue miniseries begins on Earth. King Morax is the head of an interstellar empire. Life in this empire is what you would expect it to be like if DC Comics’ Mongul had ever managed to take over the universe. As a result, the empress of the empire plans on leaving her psychotic husband before he turns his psychotically sadistic gaze onto her or their children. With the help of a Poe Dameron-type, she takes her kids and flees deep into space. With the story focusing on their escape, trying to stay ahead of the empire that’s out to kill them, and dealing with rebellious teens, “Empress” reads a heck of a lot like “The Incredibles” meets “Star Wars” and comes highly recommended if you like either franchise.

— CBR List Editor Brian Patry

99. Prophet: Earth War

Written by Brandon Graham, Simon Roy

Art by Giannis Milonogiannis, Simon Roy, Ron Ackins, Grim Wilkins, Brandon Graham, Jenna Trost

Publisher: Image Comics

99-prophet-earth-war

Brandon Graham and Simon Roy’s millennia-spanning continuation of Rob Liefeld’s space barbarian character wrapped up in a most enjoyable fashion. Most of the series’s huge stable of artists returned for a final battle for the fate of the cosmos that was equal parts Jack Kirby, Frank Herbert and “Fist of the North Star.”

— CBR Contributing Writer Tom Baker

98. The Ukrainian and Russian Notebooks

Written & Illustrated by Igort

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

98-ukrainian-and-russian-notebooks

This book was originally published as two volumes where Igort traveled to the region, and tells stories about the people he meets and the stories he overhears as he investigates the 1932 Holodomor, where the Soviet government caused the deaths of millions of Ukrainians, and the more recent murder of a Russian journalist who was critical of Vladimir Putin.

— CBR Staff Writer Alex Dueben

97. Tetris

Written & Illustrated by Box Brown

Publisher: First Second Books

tetris-cover-header

Box Brown shows the incomparable power of strong narratives, in the way that he takes a topic (the creation of the video game “Tetris”) that you wouldn’t necessarily think would be an interesting one and infuses it with such fascinating characters and insights that you discover an unhidden area in your brain that, you know what, is apparently super-interested in “Tetris.”

— CBR Staff Writer Brian Cronin

96. Black

Written by Kwanza Osajyefo

Art by Tim Smith III, Jamal Yaseem Igle, Steven Walker

Publisher: Black Mask Studios

black

Kwanza Osafjeyo’s story resonates deeply because of how it addresses the sociopolitical state of America when it comes to the issues of Black Americans and their concerns over equality. Given the state of turmoil brought on by police shootings, this book, with bold covers by Khary Randolph, came at a time where the country was engaged in a heated elections race and took a bold stance by creating a world where Black people gained superpowers in a time where people feared and hated them. It felt like Black Lives Matter speaking through the comics medium, making manifestos and not statements — big, controversial but necessary ones that the world needs to hear. An indictment of how people of color are treated and a call to rally for justice.

— CBR Contributing Writer Renaldo Matadeen

95. Paul Up North

Written & Illustrated by Michel Rabagliati

Publisher: Conundrum Press

95-paul-up-north

Michel Rabagliati is a master cartoonist who evokes an entire world in his detailed, but not fussy, drawings. His latest Paul book, translated by Helge Dascher, chronicles an ill-fated hitchhiking trip made by teenage Paul (based loosely on Rabagliati himself) and a friend; it’s funny and touching and beautifully told.

— CBR Staff Writer Brigid Alverson

94. Lucifer

Written by Holly Black

Art by Lee Garbett, Stephanie Hans, Marco Rudy

Publisher: DC/Vertigo

lucifer

Reminiscent of Mike Carey’s “Lucifer” in all the best of ways, while also becoming something entirely new and different for our favorite fallen angel. Holly Black was the perfect choice for breathing life back into this bit of comics mythology, and with the help of Lee Garbett and Antonio Fabela, this fresh take on Lucifer is infinitely complex and rewarding. This comic has given us so many gifts, including but not limited to giving Raphael a human boyfriend and a lot of strategically placed angel nudity. These creators clearly know what the people want!

— CBR Contributing Writer Heather Knight

93. Spell on Wheels

Written by Kath Leth

Art by Megan Levens

Publisher: Dark Horse Comics

spell-on-wheels-header

“I’ve compared the book to ‘Buffy’ and ‘Charmed’ for a number of reasons,” Kate Leth told CBR in a September interview on “Spell on Wheels.” “One of them being that they are joyful. Even when things get dark and scary, these kinds of stories are about magic, which is an incredible, brilliant thing. I wanted that to shine through in the art, and Megan and [colorist] Marissa [Louise] have done it better than I could’ve hoped for.”

92. Ghosts

Written & Illustrated by Raina Telgemeier

Publisher: Scholastic

94-ghosts

Raina Telgemeier’s latest graphic novel, “Ghosts,” merges the fantastical dead (ghosts coming out during the Day of the Dead) with a very real specter: a family where the younger daughter, Maya, has cystic fibrosis. It would be easy for Telgemeier to use the fantasy elements of her novel to provide some sort of special cure, but what we get instead is a very adult, realistic approach to having a family member with a terminal condition, while still being accessible to younger readers. Her art brings the northern California coastal town to life in an inviting manner even as it’s filled with restless spirits, and the writing is heartfelt but never sappy. “Ghosts” might be marketed to younger readers, but this is a book that truly all ages will enjoy.

— CBR Staff Writer Greg McElhatton

91. The Fade Out

Written by Ed Brubaker

Art by Sean Phillips

Publisher: Image Comics

the-fade-out

The year 2016 saw a number of creators working on projects that served as ideal expressions of their particular creative powers, none more so than this ultimate hard-edged crime noir tale set at the height of Hollywood’s so-called Golden Era. Writer Ed Brubaker and artist Sean Phillips have traveled pitch-black roads like this together before, but never so stylishly.

— CBR Staff Writer Scott Huver

90. Detective Comics

Written by James Tynion IV

Art by Eddy Barrows, Alvaro Martinez, Al Barrionuevo, Andy MacDonald, Carmen Carnero

Publisher: DC Comics

batman-robin-batwoman-detective-comics

This is the definitive Batman team-up book. James Tynion IV, Eddy Barrows & the rest of the creative team have taken supporting cast members like Batwoman, Red Robin, Spoiler and Cassandra Cain and propelled them to starring roles.

— CBR Contributing Writer Tim Adams

89. Jonesy

Written by Sam Humphries

Art by Caitlin Rose Boyle

Publisher: BOOM! Studios/BOOM! Box

jonesy

Flat out, “Jonesy” is the funniest all-ages comic out there. In an era where we’re seeing more great, original comics for kids since the heyday of Dell, Humphries and Boyle’s ferret-obsessed, love-doctoring outsider outpaces the competition for sheer entertainment value. Like a 21st Century Little LuLu, only with wilder colors.

— CBR Staff Writer Kiel Phegley

88. Hellboy in Hell

Written & Illustrated by Mike Mignola

Publisher: Dark Horse Comics

hellboy-in-hell-10

What happens when it’s time to turn out the lights? This happened fictionally and in the real world thanks to “Hellboy in Hell” this year, as Mike Mignola brought Hellboy’s story to a conclusion. Hellboy’s time in the underworld drew to a close as all of his enemies were defeated and he brought an end to Hell itself. Mignola’s depictions of a burnt-out, cold, abandoned realm were chilling, and it was hard to keep from feeling a little emotional as Hellboy — and Mignola himself — prepared to move on. If only all long-running series could end in such an elegant manner, maybe the idea of a conclusion wouldn’t be so scary in the serial side of comic books.

— CBR Staff Writer Greg McElhatton

87. Plutona

Written & Illustrated by Jeff Lemire & Emi Lenox

Publisher: Image Comics

plutona-5

A new twist on a coming of age story similar to Stand By Me, except with superheroes — sort of. This comic took me by surprise twice; first because I hadn’t been expecting it to be a superhero book and then second because I hadn’t been expecting it to actually end up being a book about a group of kids finding a dead body in the woods, and everything that happens after. Jeff Lemire, Emi Lenox and Jordie Bellaire weave together a compelling story about adolescence, friendship, and secrecy, with an ending to the first story arc that was positively haunting and left me wanting more.

— CBR Contributing Writer Heather Knight

86. No Mercy

Written by Alex de Campi

Art by Carla Speed McNeil

Publisher: Image Comics

no-mercy-vol-2

DeCampi and McNeil’s tale of rich pre-college kids getting out of their depth on a charity service trip in central America really does live up to its name. This is a series about survival and horror is equal measure. For me, its standout story of the year came in issue #9, a tale of identity and family that draws heavily on the real-life stories of abuse at various “residential treatment centers” in America and beyond.

— CBR Contributing Writer Rob Cave

85. Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur

Written by Amy Reeder & Brandon Montclare

Art by Natacha Bustos, Marco Failla, Leonard Kirk, Ray-Anthony Height

Publisher: Marvel Comics

moon-girl-devil-dinosaur

Surprisingly thoughtful, “Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur” skillfully blends Marvel’s comedic sensibility with contemporary issues in a fun and thrilling all-ages title. Lunella’s journey is still beginning, but she may prove to be an essential Marvel character in the years ahead.

— CBR Contributing Writer Erik Amaya

84. East of West

Written by Jonathan Hickman

Art by Nick Dragotta

Publisher: Image Comics

east-of-west-28

While it’s easy to get swept up in its dystopian-future setting (complete with an alternate history of the United States) and political and religious machinations, “East of West” is at its core a very human story, which is perhaps most evident when it focuses on the inhuman, whether that’s the personifications of Death, War, Famine and Conquest, or young Babylon, the son of Death who’s been raised from infancy to become the Beast of the Apocalypse. Written by Jonathan Hickman and illustrated by Nick Dragotta, each issue of “East of West” is filled with horror and wonder, providing an almost-irresistible treat for fans of sci-fi and Westerns.

— CBR Editor Kevin Melrose

83. Copra

Written & Illustrated by Michel Fiffe

Publisher: Copra Press

copra-27

What began as a homage to the classic John Ostrander-written “Suicide Squad” run has evolved into something quite singular and unlike anything else in mainstream superhero comics. Fiffe evokes the style and art of a number of great artists, like Miller, Steranko, and Ditko, while adding his own unique touch of minimalist colors, intense action and an ever-changing story, elevating the project from tribute into something truly special that should not be missed under any circumstance.

— CBR Contributing Writer Sean Fischer

82. Big Kids

Written & Illustrated by Michael DeForge

Publisher: Drawn & Quarterly

big-kids

“Adventure Time” designer by day, endlessly innovative cartoonist by night, Michael DeForge’s latest from Drawn & Quarterly was a wonderful, empathetic fable about heightened states of consciousness and the messiness relationships. And tree people. There were also tree people.

— CBR Contributing Writer Tom Baker

81. Karnak

Written by Warren Ellis

Art by Gerardo Zaffino, Antonio Fuso, Roland Boschi

Publisher: Marvel Comics

karnak-3

Even though this title has only had five issues — four in 2016 — it still stood out in Marvel’s ongoing focus on the Inhumans. With this only one more issue scheduled to be released in early February and Karnak slated to co-star in the new “Secret Warriors” ongoing series, don’t forget Marvel’s brilliant reimagining of the Inhuman who can sense the flaw in all things.

— CBR Contributing Writer Adam Barnhardt

80. Snotgirl

Written by Bryan Lee O’Malley

Art by Leslie Hung

Publisher: Image Comics

snotgirl

I never knew how much I cared about the misadventures of the professional vanity class until Bryan Lee O’Malley and Leslie Hung showed me. Lottie Person is insufferable and magnetic, making her pretty much a perfect avatar for the internet writ large. She’s reactive and petty, but still, somehow, worth it. I’m rooting for her, possibly because I know folks of her type are not likely to go away, so if she can prove herself to be worthy of doing some good in the world, maybe there’s hope for us all. And even barring that, if you can’t have hope, try a healthy dose of vapid, vacuous distraction.

— CBR Staff Writer Brendan McGuirk

79. Han Solo

Written by Marjorie Liu

Art by Mark Brooks

Publisher: Marvel Comics

han-solo

Marjorie Liu catches the very essence of the swaggering nerfherder in just five short issues in a perfect exploration of the character. Christ, I need more.

— CBR Contributing Writer Leia Calderon

78. Romulus

Written by Bryan Edward Hill

Art by Nelson Blake II

Publisher: Image/Top Cow

romulus

Nelson Blake II can draw like nobody’s business. That’s no surprise. Bryan Edward Hill, however, comes from the screenwriting and TV writing world like a force of nature, and together they put together a secret society story that other books like it wish they could keep up with. Keeping a tight focus on a small cast, this series is intimate and shocking, intricate and kinetic. A super enjoyable series from people who are firing on all cylinders.

— CBR Staff Writer Hannibal Tabu

77. Secret Wars #9

Written by Jonathan Hickman

Art by Esad Ribic

Publisher: Marvel Comics

secret-wars-9

“Secret Wars” #9 by Jonathan Hickman and Esad Ribic was not only the perfect cap to Marvel’s best event book in recent memory, it was also one of the finest Fantastic Four stories of all time. Starting with a cosmic-level battle between an Infinity Gauntlet-empowered Black Panther and a God-Doom, and culminating in a very human conflict between Reed Richards and Victor von Doom (which, in turn, led to the rebirth of the Marvel Universe, proper), this issue, which was released (admittedly late) towards the start of 2016, was as perfect as an event tie-in can be, and a litmus test for how to stick the landing on a multiple year-spanning story.

— CBR List Editor Steven E. Paugh

76. Lumberjanes

Written by Kat Leyh, Shannon Watters

Art by Carey Pietsch, Ayme Sotuyo, Carolyn Nowak

Publisher: BOOM! Studios/BOOM! Box

lumberjanes-22

Consistently fun and still the gold standard for all-ages titles. The characters continue to pop as its world becomes larger and more layered.

— CBR Contributing Writer Erik Amaya

Check back with CBR on Tuesday for more of the Top 100!

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