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2016 in Review: Best Ongoing Series

By | December 22nd, 2016
Posted in Columns | % Comments

It’s that time of year! The Multiversity Year in Review is here, and from now until Thursday, December 22, we will be talking about favorites in a variety of categories. Let us know what we missed in the comments!

Best Ongoing Series
When thinking about how to structure these articles, we agreed that “Best Ongoing” was the biggest category, as it represents all facets of the comics industry working together — not just the creators, but the entire team that makes a comic come out. We think the list is pretty great.

10. Giant Days

(Mark Tweedale) There’s simply no other ongoing series that made me smile as much as “Giant Days” has this year. I’m endlessly entertained by Esther de Groot and her perpetual drama field; Daisy Wooton exploring her new-found freedom away from home; and Susan Ptolemy doing . . . well, anything really, but she’s especially entertaining when she’s scowling or full of the sweet pleasure that only schadenfreude can bring.

Plus, thanks to John Allison, “Giant Days” boasts some of the best humorous dialog out there (“I know that sorry is an overused word so… splorry”), and never at the expense of its characters. Max Sarin’s artwork brings a fantastic energy to the proceedings. I’m a sucker for character told through body language, so her art is an absolute feast for my eyes (and she’s getting better with each new issue). This is my go–to feel-good comic; reading it feels like hanging out with my friends. I cannot recommend it enough.

9. Saga

(Jess Camacho) “Saga” has become one of those series that you just know is good even when no one is talking about it. It doesn’t need to show off by making headlines because it just tells a compelling story with equally compelling characters. This year saw another time jump, another addition to Marko and Alana’s family, and a new home for these characters. What hasn’t left them behind though is tragedy. We’ve said hello to new characters and goodbye to old ones. Yet, one thing remains true about “Saga”: for all the tragedy and twists we get, they always feel earned. Nothing in this series comes out of nowhere and it’s a true testament to how good of storytellers Staples and Vaughan remain. As someone who’s read “Saga” from the beginning, the evolution of these characters is very apparent. No longer are Marko and Alana simply a lovestruck young couple, they are fierce parents. But it’s Hazel who has grown the most this year. As she gets older, she is finally gaining a personality. She’s evolving and changing and experiencing life. Watching this has become one of the most interesting aspects of “Saga” and it’ll be interesting to see where we are with this at this point next year. “Saga” isn’t as headline grabbing as it once was but it is one of the most consistently strong ongoing series that comics offers.

8. Paper Girls

(Matthew Garcia) For its second arc, “Paper Girls” fully committed to its weirdness. The girls have found themselves in a more contemporary setting; Erin’s encountered her future self and alternate dimension self, at the least; and dinosaurs and other monsters are running rampant on the streets. This is not a series that spins its wheels, and there’s often so much going on it’s easy to miss how well Brian K. Vaughan and Cliff Chiang guide us through all this mayhem. They exhibit an effortless, Spielbergian craftsmanship. Their techniques, their form, their technical delivery is practically invisible and it’s only when you sit back and look at the book that you realize how well-constructed this thing is.

Even if the series has only played a few of its cards at the moment, “Paper Girls” is such a rich, bizarre, and exciting adventure filled with interesting characters and assured storytelling that you’re on board despite its cryptic mysteries. It showcases a team working in perfect synchronization with each other, from the tight script to the practical artwork to the psychedelic color choices. The results are right there on the page, month after month.

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7. Lazarus

(Walter Richardson) In 2016, we got four of the five chapters of ‘Cull,’ the fifth arc of “Lazarus.” While the first two arcs of the book were a bit more focused on world-building, each arc since ‘Conclave’ has gained more and more momentum. While ‘Cull’ might not have been as brutal as the preceding ‘Venom’ (well, not yet — the final page of issue #25 suggests some violent times are ahead), the emotional blows in this arc have hit just as hard, as readers and the cast learned more about the final revelation of ‘Poison.’ This year also gave us the first “Lazarus Sourcebook,” a fascinating collection of information concerning the hellish future “Lazarus” is set in. Besides being useful for those of us who may want to run an RPG set in this world (I plead guilty), it’s an amazing testament to just how much work every single person who is involved with this series has put into it. “Lazarus” is the comic that esteemed collaborators Greg Rucka and Michael Lark were meant to do, and in a terrible way it is the comic of 2016, as every day it seems more and more terrifyingly relevant.

6. Deathstroke

(Brian Salvatore) I never, ever thought I would care about a Deathstroke series. But, 2016 was full of surprises, few more pleasant than this. Christopher Priest writes a Slade Wilson that is every bit the bastard you envision him being, but manages to be somehow both more and less moral than you’d expect. The book is a knotty read, that really benefits from multiple readings, and has brought in characters from all over the DCU for guest spots but, instead of being bogged down by the guest stars, it elevates the book to something even more special. The book is kinetic, thoughtful, and always surprising.

Give Priest whatever he wants to keep writing for DC. And let him write this book forever if he wants to; as long as he’s on it, I’ll keep reading it.

5. B.P.R.D.

(Mike Romeo) This was a huge year for “B.P.R.D.” Not only did the “Hell on Earth” cycle come to a close, we also saw long time series writer John Arcudi leave the title as well. For years “B.P.R.D.” has been hailed for its unique character work and overarching plot lines, and 2016 saw it all get wrapped in a bow. The final arc of “Hell on Earth” was the culmination of twelve years of storytelling, giving long-running characters either a springboard into the title’s final movement or a send-off into the great beyond.

“B.P.R.D.” is a series that I count on as one of my favorites, month in and month out. Arcudi and series creator Mike Mignola were a fantastic storytelling team, and they recruited some of the industry’s finest artists to help tell their tales. “B.P.R.D.” saw art from Laurence Campbell almost exclusively, but also featured Mike Norton as well as colorist Dave Stewart and letterer Clem Robins. Together, they created a title that looks and feels like nothing else on the stands. It was all giant monsters, ancient beings and the end of the world for “B.P.R.D.” this year, and it was an absolutely fantastic ride.

4. The Vision

(Greg Matiasevich) By all rights, “The Vision” should have been a six-issues-and-out Star Trek riff swapping Data with Vision. The synthezoid Avenger builds himself a family? Yawn. But Tom King, Gabriel Hernandez Walta, and Jordie Bellaire made this the most engrossing family drama since Breaking Bad and gave Marvel its breakout book of 2016.

As superhero stories (and genre stories in general) are trending more and more towards self-referential navel-gazing and further away from giving readers any relatable circumstances or emotions, “The Vision” bucks that trend by adding superhero trappings to honest emotional storytelling. King keeps the story accessible to new readers while using enough Marvel continuity points to make an old fan like me smile. Walta and Bellaire (with Michael Walsh) simultaneously ground the visuals in suburban normality without shortchanging the superpowered moments. Achieving real emotional storytelling while satisfying or exceeding genre expectations is the most any superhero story can ask for, and “The Vision” does this in every manner. It should be a real contender come Eisner season, and a staple on every comic lover’s bookshelf.

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3. Doom Patrol

(Kyle Welch) I was beyond excited for the announcement of the new “Doom Patrol” series. How excited you ask? Well I reread my “Doom Patrol Omnibus”. That’s over 1100 pages to prepare for a one issue comic. I am of course glad I did. One, because it’s one of my favorite runs of a comic of all time and two, it gives context to how amazing Way, Derrington, and Bonvillain’s Doom Patrol is.

When the series was announced there was a lot of hype for many reasons. A new DC imprint, Gerard Way, a new Doom Patrol, and, for me, Nick Derrington doing the art. There was a lot of live up to going into this series. Way is obviously a huge name and draw for DC. That said, the name Doom Patrol carries with it a huge sense of nostalgia. That for me is where the true success of this new “Doom Patrol” lies.

“Doom Patrol” has it all. It welcomed all who came to try it out. They found the perfect balance between a new fresh story while still paying homage to the history of the Doom Patrol. It’s bizarre but reads fluid. It’s bright but foreboding. It’s very much like Morrison’s run in the sense that it’s one thing but at the same time it’s not that thing because it’s something else entirely but it’s also that thing you think it is.

Way grounded readers with his own characters but filtered other pieces of the story through the lens of the core team. So far the true nature of overall story of the book is not really even truly formed but each issue has substance. Derrington and Bonvillain’s art is astounding. It’s near perfection. There is not a panel or character out of place.

I have probably done a horrible job explaining why this is one of the best ongoing books of 2016 but that is because for me it’s honestly tough to describe. I have so much love for this series that the only thing I can tell you is to read it and experience it because it is truly an experience. One of the best experiences of 2016.

2. Superman

(Zach Wilkerson) If there’s one character who has most benefitted from DC’s Rebirth, it is Superman. Under the masterful care of Peter Tomasi, Patrick Gleason, Doug Mahnke, and Jorge Jimenez, “Superman” has been an undeniable success. I’ll admit, the somewhat rocky “Rebirth” one-shot, detailing the new status quo following the ‘Final Days of Superman’ crossover, had me a little worried. However, the first story arc assuaged all fears. By focusing on the complicated family dynamics of both being from an alternate dimension and raising a super powered child, the book created a sense of emotion urgency that surpasses most cape comics. Jon’s struggle in the early issues, as he comes to grips with his abilities with disastrous results, is among my most memorable comic moments of the year.

Following the conclusion of the first arc, the series impressed me even further. The team transitioned the book away from typical trade-length arcs to one and two-part stories. This format pairs perfectly with the double shipping schedule, delivering complete stories on a monthly basis. Issue #7, arguably a filler issue, showcases a family night out at the county fair. Despite its simplicity and disconnect from any overarching plot, it stands out as one of the best single issues of the year. Recent issues have delved deep into Silver Age ideals, paying homage to the late Darwyn Cooke and setting the foundation for the upcoming “Super Sons.” All the while, the team plants seeds for a larger story to come. Overall, “Superman” has represented some of the best aspects cape comics have to offer. It certainly feels good to have the most iconic of superheroes back in form in 2016.

1. Southern Bastards

(Chris Thompson) I’m not from the South (unless you subscribe to the idea that Australia is really ‘the deep South’), but that doesn’t matter. Even if I don’t know the terrain, I know the characters . . . and that’s why “Southern Bastards” really resonates with me. Month-in and month-out (okay, maybe every other month-in and month-out) Jason Aaron and Jason Latour take me back into the warm bosom of Craw County, Alabama, a Southern wasteland where the local football coach holds sway and no one says a word. They brought us a classic hero in the form of Earl Tubbs, then flipped the script and gave us a modern hero in the form of his daughter Roberta (go on, I dare you to ask about her feminist agenda). “Southern Bastards” is, for my money, the best ongoing series right now, and I’m glad its creators are giving it the time to breathe, develop, and grow. It may not come out as frequently as I’d like, but in every other way it’s consistent, and that’s a rare trait in comics today. Thanks for the wonderful work, guys — it’s your fault I’ve got such a hankering for ribs this holiday season!

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Editors’ Notes:

Brian: As Mike mentioned in the ‘Best Limited Series’ writeup, ongoing and limited don’t mean what they once did. Only three issues of “Southern Bastards” came out this year, but our staff (myself included) felt that was more than enough for our top spot. Obviously, there are hundreds of series released every year, and narrowing it down means that many of your favorite series don’t make the cut. But that’s almost besides the point: these ten series represent what monthly (or, you know, more than twice yearly) comics can be. If you’re not reading these, check them out. Now.

Matt: I think the term “ongoing” is rapidly shifting altogether. We’re focused on monthly comics on this list, but one of the bigger recent industry trends is to go for an ongoing series of graphic novels. “Amulet,” “Compass South,” “Poppy!,” “Nameless City”. . . . I’m not sure if we count them in the OGN category or over here, but they’re appropriate in both places. And all that’s before bringing up long-running webcomics like “Oglaf,” “Kill Six Billion Demons,” “Shaderunners,” “Ship Jumper,” “Starfighter,” and so many many more (that also come out with far more consistency than many titles on this list). Maybe next year we might look into adding more specificity to the title? For the record, I said “Kaijumax” was the best comic of 2016 and I stand by that.

Mike: Comics have had a really good year and I think that this list is proof positive of that. There are some personal favorites right along side some titles that flew a little under my radar, so I’ve clearly got some reading to do. Also, in the what-have-you-done-for-me-lately comics world we live in, it’s surprising how decisively “Southern Bastards” landed in the #1 spot.

//TAGS | 2016 in Review

Multiversity Staff

We are the Multiversity Staff, and we love you very much.


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