Saturday, December 23, 2017

Donist World 2017 Year-End Roundup - Part 1!

(Sung to the tune of The Sound of Music's “My Favorite Things”)

Giant-sized robots torment the planet
Scott Free’s my hero I’m telling you, dammit
Cruel-hearted Mud King, Doomsday Clock it rings
These are a few of my favorite things

X-Men historian does what most cannot
Stone Age critique of the have and the have not
Hero Matt Wagner’s Matchstick finding kings
These are a few of my favorite things

Six bizarre heroes stuck in the country
High school assassins yearning to be set free
Berzerker warrior’s deadly ax it sings
These are a few of my favorite things

Diamond misships
Then my beer spills
When I'm feeling sad
I simply remember my favorite things
And then I don't feel so bad

Slice of Heaven For the Year!

Happy Holidays, denizens! Needless to say, it has been a harrowing past couple of weeks. My grandma died, many cities around us burned for three weeks, I had to work remotely, the air was toxic, my work nearly caught on fire, I started a new position at my job, we fled to Morro Bay for a couple days, and…and…and… Let’s just say Saturday was the first chill day I’ve had for some time. But everything seems to be back on track so long as you don’t look at what the Dotard in Chief and his GOP minions are trying to do to our democracy…but let’s not go there today.

Instead, let’s acknowledge that the holidays aren’t necessarily “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year” for everyone (I do like that song and video, though), and they can honestly be quite painful to many. So, let’s spread some much-needed cheer with some winter warmer beers—last night I had a Ballast Point “High West” barrel-aged “Victory at Sea”…a beautiful beer, indeed— some gingerbread cookies, and some whiskeys and ryes by the fire as we reflect upon the comics that captured our hearts over the course of 2017. So, if you have your own “forced family togetherness” making things unbearable as Uncle Billy Joe Jim Bob once again shouts pantless from the roof as he swigs from a bottle of cooking sherry, then, by all means, you owe it to yourself to swipe an innards-warming beverage as you abscond to your place of peace to enjoy some most wonderful comic books. Oh yeah, be sure to grab some of them there Christmas cookies, especially the ones with the crunchy frosting, before you take a deep, calming breath and let all those worries go for a little bit.

***Probably NOT Spoilers Below***

If you have a moment, check out our past FSoH/SitW Year-End Roundups for 20162015201420132012, and 2011 to see all things heavenly from the past. For the comic series listed below, I provide a linked image of the best way to experience the comic if you have not yet read it. Basically, I will try to show an omnibus, then a hardcover, then a trade, and finally, if no trade is yet available, the first issue of the series. We at Donist World thank you for reading and hope you enjoy these comics as much as we do.

Donist World Top 10 Favorite Comic Series of 2017 (In no particular order)

1) Descender

Written by Jeff Lemire, illustrated by Dustin Nguyen, published by Image Comics.I know I have said this every year since the first issue’s release, but Lemire and Nguyen’s Descender is still my favorite on-going series hitting the stands and even though I say “In no particular order” this sci-fi, space opera extraordinaire cements its spot at number one. The creators keep me desperate to see what happens next as the ever-expanding roster of amazing characters—comprised of robots, humans, aliens, and cyborgs—begins to come together to unveil the secret of the monstrous robots known as the Harvesters. Lemire makes you love even the villains of the series as he exposes their pasts and gets you to sympathize with their plight—I’m looking at you, TIM-22. The writing stands on its own, but with Nguyen’s gorgeous watercolors depicting such breadth of emotions for the characters, such intricately detailed spacescapes, and such amazing character designs, Descender continues to be a powerhouse of a comic worthy of displaying on your favorite bookshelf for all to see. There are also four trades available in addition to the lovely hardcover.

2) Seven to Eternity

Written by Rick Remender, illustrated by Jerome Opeña, published by Image Comics. I’m of a firm mind that all “Top” or “Best of” lists for the year have to have at least one title by Rick Remender. He currently has four series running, all of differing genres, and I love them all. But if I had to choose one, the fantasy adventure Seven to Eternity is hands down my favorite. Remender and Opeña have not only created a unique world, they have established religions, rules of magic, and creatures like no other. Our dying protagonist’s quest to break the evil Mud King’s terrible hold on the denizens of this treacherous world is positively fascinating as are the mysterious cast of characters rounding out the story. Opeña’s art is stunning; his designs, line work, and intricate backgrounds are mesmerizing in their beauty with each panel being worthy of taking a moment to linger over. My only complaint rests on the delays between issues and arcs, but part of this lies in just how captivating this series is thus far and my desire to see how it all plays out.

3) X-Men: Grand Design

Everythinged by Ed Piskor, published by Marvel Comics. Okay, I just read this on Wednesday and I have to say it is one of the best things Marvel has released in at least a decade. It is clear Piskor not only knows his X-Men history, but he wholeheartedly loves them as well. For those not in the know—and also almost certainly out of luck for getting a first-print copy of this MUST-OWN limited series—X-Men: Grand Design is a summarization of the history of the X-Men. Piskor has given himself the nigh-impossible task of refining decades of material down to its base elements while making sense of convoluted storylines and making the book enjoyable to boot; he totally knocks it out of the freakin’ park. His art clearly is his own, never towing any sort of house style, and if anything has an indie vibe. The design of the wonderfully lengthy first issue is spectacular: newsprint-feeling paper stock, yellowed-appearing pages, halftone dots and primarily flat color schemes. In reading this issue, I was torn between staying on a page to admire it for as long as possible, and whipping through the thing to see what happens next. In two painfully long weeks we get the second issue, and then in May of 2018, we will get an oversized collection of the first two issues. Hot diggity dog, I can’t wait! I also need to pick up Piskor’s gorgeous Hip-Hop Family Tree.

4) Mister Miracle

Written by Tom King, illustrated by Mitch Gerads, published by DC Comics. This is starting to get ridiculous. King blew me away last year with his Omega Men and The Vision series, and now he’s gone and done it again with the phenomenal Mister Miracle. We only have five issues of the twelve-issue series thus far, but with just the first issue I knew Mister Miracle was going to be one of the best new series of 2017. The book opens with Scott Free’s attempted suicide, but something isn’t right. Something’s off and we don’t yet know what that is. Gerads’s solid storytelling and emotional character acting make each issue a powerful and intricate look into Mister Miracle and the weight that being a New God has on him. I still have no clue as to what is going on behind the scenes of this story, but the frequent staticky images imply something nefarious is pulling Scott’s strings; I will be there every step of the way to the end. This series is certain to pull in tons of awards and rightfully so.

5) Doomsday Clock

Written by Geoff Johns, illustrated by Gary Frank, published by DC Comics. Again, we have a solitary issue showing up in my Top Ten of 2017 list, and it’s also a comic I was initially dead set against buying. How things change. Like many, my initial thought was to just leave Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’s Watchmen alone and in no way did I want those twisted Charlton Comics characters mingling with the DC proper. I was convinced it could not be properly done. This one issue, however, leads me to suspect Johns and Frank just might pull it off. We see why Ozymandias and Rorschach are still running around, as well as the impact of Rorschach’s journal coming to light on the world; it’s damn terrifying. The first issue also briefly checks in with the Man of Steel and left me wanting more more more. Johns and Frank tonally and visually sync with the original creators’ work, delivering the feeling of tension and dread that made Watchmen such an iconic masterpiece. Time will tell if Doomsday Clock can remain true to the source material while melding two distinct universes; I have high hopes.

6) The Flintstones

Written by Mark Russell, illustrated by Steve Pugh, published by DC Comics. Yes, I’m still bitter that Russell’s critically-acclaimed Prez was canceled before it could finish, but what better way heal that wound than with another critically-acclaimed series: the twelve-issue The Flintstones. Collected across two trades, the first family of Bedrock comes together in a hilarious satire that oftentimes hits far too close to home to be comfortable. Russell and Pugh cover everything from consumerism, to religion, to our treatment of war veterans, to local politics, to capitalism, to family, to marriage, to friendship, to work, to corporatism, to economics, and everything in-between. Pugh’s characters are a hybrid stylization of the cartoons of old and traditional comic characters—with the exception being gorgeous women, like Wilma—and he layers so many sight gags into his pages that readers of The Flintstones are rewarded with missed surprises with each reread. Anyone looking forward to Russell’s 2018 revision of Snagglepuss as a gay playwright should definitely give the brilliant social commentary of The Flintstones a try.

7) Mage: The Hero Denied

Everythinged by Matt Wagner, published by Image Comics. I can honestly say that Mage: The Hero Discovered is not just one of my favorite comics of the ’80s, but one of my top five favorite comics of all time. Mage: The Hero Defined was also incredibly fun, and was well worth the eleven-year wait. Now, eighteen years after the second series wrapped, we finally head into the third and final chapter of the Mage Trilogy. The wait was worth it and my enthusiasm for Kevin Matchstick and his trials has only grown. Now with a wife and child to protect, Kevin is once again ushered onto the hero’s path as the stakes increase. Words of warning, though: if you have not yet experienced Mage, then you really should start from the beginning and follow along through to the rapidly approaching end. A truly epic tale.

8) Atomahawk

Written by Donny Cates, illustrated by Ian Bederman, published by Image Comics. What do you know. Another single issue, and who knows when the official first issue is set to come out. This oversized #0 comic is madness from the getgo as we follow the metallic Cyberzerker and his bloodthirsty weapon, Atomahawk, as they cleave their way across land and space. This one is a trip and a half given the mind-bending visuals of whites, reds, blues, and blacks and acid-trip cosmic adventure. You have to see this comic to believe it, and I highly recommend you listen to some Iron Maiden or Judas Priest as you marvel at the insanity of this lovely beast. It was originally serialized in recent issues of Heavy Metal magazine, and I am not sure if they continue to serialize stories or not, and I also don’t know when we will see the next installment. What I do know is that Atomahawk is an amazing experience you can have again and again with each reread. Turn on the blacklight, things are about to get crazy.

9) Black Hammer

Written by Jeff Lemire, illustrated by Dean Ormston, published by Dark Horse Comics. This comic series blew me away after I read the first trade and now that I got my grubby little paws on the just-released second volume, I am thoroughly amped to dive in…I’m going to reread the first trade first, though. This series is what happens when Lemire wants to write an homage to Silver Age characters. Black Hammer follows an oddball group of heroes stuck in a town from which they cannot escape. What/who stranded them there? Who is happy with the situation? Who will do anything to escape? You will have to just wait and see like the rest of us. Ormston’s illustrations are eerie, haunting even, and tell the story beautifully. I especially like the tripped out Captain Comet (?) analog known as Colonel Weird. I cannot wait to immerse myself back in, and I’m also excited for the spin-off miniseries Sherlock Frankenstein and The Legion of Evil.

10) Deadly Class

Written by Rick Remender, illustrated by Wes Craig, published by Image Comics. There’s a reason why Deadly Class is set to have a television pilot premiere in 2018, and it’s that this comic about a high school for young assassins is a nail-biting, roller-coaster adventure. Set in the ’80s, the first year of school shocked my socks off with the lethal freshman finals (sorry, not going to spoil), and the second year, with the introduction of some new fresh faces for the meatgrinder manages to keep my heart rate ever elevated. Remender makes every twist and turn impactful, and Craig’s gorgeous art and kinetic high-panel-count pages keep things zipping right along. Be warned: don’t ever get too comfortable with this book, because the creators are certain to throw you for a loop just when you least expect it. You can currently pick up the first six trades if the hardcover route is too long a wait between releases.

But wait, I’m sure there's more...

I'm sure there are plenty of other comics I somehow forgot to mention or have not yet bought or read in 2017. If there are any glaring omissions, please let me know. There's plenty of room at the Donist World corporate offices for more comics and...hold on a sec...actually, Amy the intern (my wife) has corrected me and said that "No, there is not plenty of room here." <psssttt...hey denizens, let me know anyways. I can totally sneak more comics in on the down low. Just let me know. We can do this…>

Stay tuned next week for the “Donist World 2017 Year-End Roundup - Part 2!”


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