2016 Favorites of the Year: Bob Bretall

It’s time for the last installment where the four regular ComicSpectrum contributors for 2016 have each shared their “Top 10” list for 2016.

We are not declaring our favorites to be magically the “best” things produced, but rather just  what they are, our favorite things. As I look at the Top 10 for each of the four of us (Adam Brunell, Al Sparrow, Bob Bretall, Shawn Hoklas), there are only 2 shared items on our lists: Adam and Shawn both named Marvel’s Mighty Thor series and Bob and Shawn both named DC’s Wonder Woman series relaunched as part of Rebirth. 

Looking at how very different the favorites are for four people that have been collectively reading comics for over 80 years, it  drives home just how silly it is to put any stock in a “best of” list published by anyone in absence of a clearly defined set of criteria that is used to judge something as the “best”.  All of those “best of” lists are really just people’s personal favorites that they attempt to lend greater credence to by declaring them best.

I have my Top 12 favorite ongoing series on the ComicSpectrum website, so I tried to make this list somewhat different. I widened the scope beyond just straight comic books and also made use, in many cases, of groupings of books that I have enjoyed or things that are either not strictly comics or are not ongoing series, and as such wouldn’t fit into the Top 12 on the website.

I present these in alphabetic order, not in any precedence of enjoyment.  I’ve really loved all of these things over the course of 2016, and in some cases for many years previous to that as well.

CREDIT: Marvel Comics

Amazing Spider-Man – Dead No More: The Clone Conspiracy (Marvel)

I’ve been reading spider-Man since 1970, it’s what got me into comics collecting.  There have been ups and downs over the years, I even stopped buying the title at various points (during the Maximum Clonage era as well as when J. Michael Straczynski was weaving his tale of a Gwen Stacy impregnated by Norman Osborne).  I have been a fan of a lot of the interesting twists and turns Dan Slott has been introducing over the last several years because, to me, they feel like they’re built on a solid base of existing Spider-Man lore and don’t feel disrespectful to stories that have gone before, though I’m certain there are people who feel quite the opposite.  But that’s why it’s my personal favorite and not a declaration of being the best Spider-Man comics in decades, though I am enjoying Spider-Man more in the past year or two than I have at any point in the past 25 years.
I’m particularly fond of the recent Dead No More/Clone Conspiracy storyline.  Slott has woven a tale that makes a lot of sense to me as a logical progression from comics I enjoyed long, long ago, and it’s also fun seeing lots of dead characters brought back to life in a way that makes sense and is “fair play” in the context of the story.

CREDIT: Archie Comics

Archie Comics Reboot (Archie)

I read the occasional Archie comic when I was a kid (under 10 years of age) but they were never something that really appealed to me.  When Archie re-tooled itself with the horror line spearheaded by Afterlife with Archie and then added Chilling Adventures of Sabrina I was hooked.  I was reading Archie comics and loving them.  But those comics suffered only from an exceptionally infrequent publishing schedule.  When Archie gave its core universe a modern facelift with writers like Mark Waid, Chip Zdarsky, and Ryan North and artists like Fiona Staples, Veronica Fisk, Joe Eisma, Erika Henderson, and Derek Charm I had something new to love.  While Betty & Veronica (written & drawn by Adam Hughes) comes out very infrequently (though worth the wait), they have been getting out issues of Archie and Jughead on a monthly basis and I have been enjoying them immensely all year long.

CREDIT: IDW, DC, Marvel, Dark Horse

Artist’s Editions (primarily IDW Publishing and Dark Horse)

I really really love Artist’s editions.  I’m showing just 3 of the volumes that came out in 2016 that I purchased, there were several others. These large books that reproduce original comic book art at original size and in full color are something that I consider beautiful, seeing art at full size as it was originally drawn, with the color scans showing any corrections, blue-lines, margin notes, white-out, etc. is something I think is very special.  The format was pioneered by Scott Dunbier at IDW and he has deservedly won multiple Eisner awards for these books.  Other publishers have imitated the format and put out their own versions (Dark Horse, Dynamite, DC) and while they appear pricey at $100+ per volume, this is really not that bad when you take into account that in most cases, even a single page of the art reproduced would cost hundreds if not thousands of dollars.


CREDIT: Fantagraphics

The Complete Peanuts (Fantagraphics)

In 2016, Fantagraphics published the final volumes of a series it has been working on since 2004, publishing 25 volumes with every Peanuts comic strip from 1950 thru Schulz’s last in 2000.  In October they released a 26th volume that collects art, storybooks, comic book stories and other things related to Peanuts that Schulz created that were not the daily comic strips themselves.  Schulz drew every single strip himself, no assistants or help of any kind over 50 years.  This is a fabulous series and a fabulous achievement reproducing one of the masterpieces of the American comic strip art form.

CREDIT: Hard Case Crime, Titan Comics

Hard Case Crime (Titan Comics)

Titan Comics gets a huge thumbs up from me for bringing the hard case crime genre to comics in 2016 in a couple of excellently executed comics (Peepland & Triggerman).  I even followed the author of Peepland (Christa Faust) back to the Hard Case Crime paperback imprint and read her 1st ‘Angel Dare’ novel, which I thoroughly enjoyed.  I’m now picking up various paperbacks from this imprint to read every month or two.  I really enjoy this genre and the comics are firing on all cylinders for me.  I look forward to whatever they are going to produce next in this imprint.

CREDIT: John Allison + BOOM! Box

John Allison Comics (self-published + BOOM! Box)

I fell in love with John Allison’s portrayal of a quirky group of college kids in the UK in 2015 thanks to the series from BOOM! Box.  IN 2016 I upped the ante by buying the 1st 3 self-published issues directly from Allison’s website, in addition to getting turned on to his wonderful series Bad Machinery, a webcomic that follows a group of UK school-age kids.  Better still, Oni Press will be bringing us pocket-sized hardcopies of Bad Machinery starting in Mach 2017!  I’ll be picking up these volumes as they’re published!

CREDIT: Marvel Studios

Marvel’s Cinematic Universe (Marvel Studios)

I have loved each Marvel movie that has come out so far that has been a part of their shared cinematic universe.  2016 kept up the pace with 2 movies that were off the charts enjoyable for me.  Civil War had my favorite portrayal of Spider-Man on the big screen to date and has me eagerly anticipating 2017’s Spider-Man: Homecoming.  Doctor Strange did a great job of integrating magic into the cinematic universe and had a great use of 3-D.  At least for me, Marvel has the magic.  They make extremely enjoyable movies that I can watch over and over.

CREDIT: Abstract Studio

Rachel Rising (Abstract Studio)

2016 saw the conclusion to Terry Moore’s horror epic that has played out over the course of the past 5 years.  Set in his Moore-verse along with the romantic dramedy Strangers in Paradise and the sci-fi Echo, this is another eminently re-readable story and is one of the few series I double-dipped on.  I read the monthly issues, which all worked for me as periodical installments, but then re-read the entire series in Omnibus format and it worked in that format as well, allowing me to pick up on connections and cross-references that I missed along the way as I read it played out over 5 years.  Moore is a master story-teller and I highly recommend any of his work, including his current psychological dramedy “Motor Girl”.

CREDIT: Marvel Comics

Vision – limited series (Marvel)

This series played out perfectly across 2016, with issue #1 cover-dated Jan 2016 thru #12 cover-dated December 2016.  My absolute favorite piece of work from writer Tom King to date and my #1 favorite thing from Marvel in 2016.  King did a great job of adding layers and nuance to a character I’ve loved since I was a kid (my first comic with this character was Avengers #106 in 1972 and he quickly became my favorite Avenger).  But it’s been a long time since I’ve really enjoyed the character (probably since the Busiek/Perez run on Avengers that kicked off in 1998).  Thanks to Tom King and artist Gabriel Hernandez-Walta for bringing the character I loved for so many years back to a form/interpretation I love again.  This is typical of a lot of super-hero series.  New teams love to shake things up and over the years I’ve often gone through long periods where I no longer cared for a particular interpretation of a character I once loved.  Eventually yet another re-interpretation occurs that puts the character back in my sweet spot, and that’s what happened in 2016 for this beloved character.


Wonder Woman: Rebirth (DC Comics)

This is on my “Top 12” list of ongoing series and is one of the very few DC super-hero titles I am currently enjoying.  It stands head and shoulders above all the other DC books for me as my only “top of stack must read” DC comic.  I wanted to give it special attention by calling it out on this list as well as my regular Top 12.  When presented with the bi-weekly schedule, the other DC writers went on ahead and wrote their story arcs, living with the fact that artists would have to be swapped out in mid-arc since most artists cannot complete 2 entire issues of a comic per month.  Greg Rucka did something different.  He lined up 2 artists: Liam Sharp and Nicola Scott.  Then he told 2 parallel stories, one in the odd numbered issues and one in the even numbered issues.  This allowed him to tell 2 stories with a consistent artist on each.  I really appreciate this and would rather get the issues spaced out the way he has done it than to have the jarring art style change in the middle of each story arc that drove me away from many other DC Rebirth bi-weekly series.  Bravo to Rucka, Sharp, and Scott for bringing me back to Wonder Woman after a several year lapse.

There you have it.  Four ComicSpectrum contributors and 38 different things we all loved in 2016.  Not a lot of crossover, but tons of variety which I think is really an accurate reflection of the taste of comics fans.  Everyone likes different stuff and there’s a tremendous amount of thing to choose from to like.

My thanks to Shawn, Adam, and Al for helping balance out the ComicSpectrum site throughout 2016.  Shawn is our go-to “DC fan” and is getting back into Valiant Comics as well.  Add in his love for back issues, horror comics, and knowledge of CGC and he provides a great resource to round out the overall coverage we provide.  Adam is our go-to guy for X-Men, Inhumans, and a lot of generally popular mainstream Marvel books.  Al provides a wealth of knowledge on the manga, ‘bad girl’ comics, and the crowdsourcing/small/independent press front, as well as being an all-around expert on all things Supergirl.

I am thankful on a regular basis for having them all contribute to the site!  Thanks guys!

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