GOC Comics: Top Indie and Non-Big 2 Comics of 2017

With 2017 drawing to a close – finally – it’s time for Geeks of Color to take a step back, reflect on the numerous entertainment properties that were released this year, and choose the very best out of all the available options.

Thus far, we’ve shared our picks for the Best Video Games of 2017. Now, we’re going to get extra geeky and bring you, dear readers, what we consider this year’s Best Comic Books. Since the comic industry is pretty large, with hundreds of publishers diligently releasing new material every month, this list will be a bit unconventional. Instead of overwhelming you with all our picks in one article, we’re splitting this list into three over the last few days of the year.

So, let’s kick things off with the best indie and mainstream comic books not affiliated with Marvel or DC Comics (the publishers which, for our newer comic aficionados, are often referred to as the “Big 2”). Sure, these comics don’t have the brand recognition of Iron Man or Batman to back them up. However, from their unique artwork to their compelling storylines, they packed a serious punch all by themselves in 2017!

SPENCER & LOCKE

Written by David Pepose
Art by Jorge Santiago Jr., Jasen Smith, and Colin Bell
Published by Action Lab Comics

What It’s About:
When his grade-school sweetheart is found dead, there’s only one friend Detective Locke can trust to help solve her murder — his childhood imaginary panther, Spencer. But when they face a vicious crime syndicate and memories from Locke’s traumatic youth, can this unlikely pair survive long enough to find the truth?

Why You Should Read It:
Basically, Calvin and Hobbes become noir detectives in a twisted procedural series inspired by Sin CityDaredevil, and The Dark Knight Returns. There’s no way you can pass up a mashup as darkly intriguing as this one. 

MECH CADET YU

Written by Greg Pak
Art by Takeshi Miyazawa, Triona Farrell, and Simon Bowland
Published by BOOM! Studios

What It’s About:
Once a year, giant robots from outer space come to Earth and bond with young cadets from the elite Sky Corps Academy to defend the world from the terrifying aliens known as the Sharg. It’s a great honor to be chosen, but this year… well, the wrong kid was picked.

Why You Should Read It:
If Pacific Rim and The Iron Giant had a baby, it would be Mech Cadet Yu. It’s a tender coming-of-age story with wonderful characters, a fascinating mythology, and kickass robot fights. Your inner child will definitely thank you for this cool ride.

BLACK HAMMER

Written by Jeff Lemire
Art by Dean Ormston and Dave Stewart
Published by Dark Horse Comics

What It’s About:
Once they were heroes, but that age has long since passed. Banished from existence by a multiversal crisis, the old champions of Spiral City — Abraham Slam, Golden Gail, Colonel Weird, Madame Dragonfly, and Barbalien — now lead simple lives in a timeless farming town. Even as they try to find their way home, trouble has a unique way of finding heroes wherever they are!

Why You Should Read It:
Black Hammer is one of the most brutal deconstructions of the superhero genre we’ve ever read. The set up is simple and mysterious, which allows this series to lovingly examine every single hero archetype and classic trope against a realistic backdrop. The plot’s slow progression lulls readers into a false sense of security before the plot takes us down a sudden, cool spiral straight to hell. Fans of the Golden Age of Comic Books will especially find this one to be a treat.

ZODIAC STARFORCE: CRIES OF THE FIRE PRINCE

Written by Kevin Panetta
Art by Paulina Ganucheau and Sarah Stern
Published by Dark Horse Comics

What It’s About:
An elite group of teenage girls with magical powers have sworn to protect our planet against dark creatures… as long as they can get out of class. Known as the Zodiac Starforce, these high-school girls aren’t just combating math tests; they’re also battling monsters!

After defeating a former Z.S. member and her mean-girl minions, the girls thought they’d have a little downtime between prom and finals. But a new big bad has come out to play, and demons threaten to overrun their sleepy little town.

Why You Should Read It:
Overall, Zodiac Starforce is a really fun take on the “magical girl” genre that stands out from the rest thanks to its incredible artwork. While Cries of the Fire Prince is the second volume in this series, we feel it definitely surpasses its first volume in plot and character development.

CALEXIT

Written by Matteo Pizzolo
Art by Amancay Nahuelpan
Published by Black Mask Studios

What It’s About:
What if a fascist, autocratic President took over the United States? And what if that President lost California, the sixth largest economy on Earth, by nearly 2-to-1… a margin of almost 3 1/2 million votes? What if the day after that President took power, the largest mass demonstration in history occurred, and the state with the largest turnout was California. And then, the following week, two of the largest international airports in the world, California’s LAX and SFO, were blockaded by protesters? What if California refused to be ruled?

Why You Should Read It:
Politics this year have been pretty shitty, so we’re always here for radical political commentary in comics (especially if it’s against Donald Trump and other proponents of bigotry). This comic utilizes the Brexit event, mixes it with California’s historical rebellious roots, and creates a helluva read as a result. We highly recommend this one for readers who like hot takes on resisting oppression, punching Nazis, protecting each other, and demanding liberty for all.

BLACK

Written by Kwanza Osajyefo (with co-creator Tim Smith 3)
Art by Tim Smith 3, Jamal Igle, Khary Randolph, and Sarah Litt
Published by Black Mask Studios

What It’s About:
In a world that already hates and fears them, what if only Black people had superpowers? After miraculously surviving being gunned down by police, a young man learns that he is part of the biggest lie in history. Now he must decide whether it’s safer to keep it a secret or if the truth will set him free.

Why You Should Read It:
First released in late 2016, Black has had a strong year as a comic book series thanks to its timely social commentary and interesting plotline. We’re eagerly awaiting the next installment in this series, as well as whatever work Osajyefo develops in the future.

CENTIPEDE

Written by Max Bemis
Art by Eoin Marron
Published by Dynamite Entertainment

What It’s About:
When a terrifying creature from beyond the stars attacks his planet, Dale’s journey begins. But he is not out to save his world. It is already too late for that. As the lone survivor, the only thing he wants is revenge!

Why You Should Read It:
Inspired by the classic Atari game by the same name, Centipede has to be one the coolest video game adaptations ever created. This comic leans heavily on the nostalgia factor while creating a solid new plot, and we’re definitely digging its compelling spin on the “sole survivor” trope.

THE WICKED + THE DIVINE

Written by Kieron Gillen
Art by Jamie McKelvie and Clayton Cowles
Published by Image Comics

What It’s About:
Every ninety years, twelve gods incarnate as humans. They are loved. They are hated. In two years, they are dead. Welcome to the world of The Wicked + The Divine, where gods are the ultimate pop stars and pop stars are the ultimate gods. But remember: just because you’re immortal, doesn’t mean you’re going to live forever.

Why You Should Read It:
If you’ve somehow managed to avoid The Wicked + The Divine these past three years, Geeks of Color is begging you to check it out now. The concept is incredible, cleverly using godhood as a way to comment on modern pop culture and fandom, and the series shines in its depiction of sexual, gender, and racial diversity. With a bunch of sex, murder, and allusions to iconic musicians to bolster its plot, this series remained a stunning highlight in 2017.

What indie and non-Big 2 comics do you think killed the game in 2017? Let us know your thoughts and comic book recommendations in the comment section below, and stay tuned all this weekend as we count down the New Year with our top Marvel and DC picks!

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One comment

  1. Kept waiting to see The Black Monday Murders! A small group of families control and the world economy, vie for power and kill each other for a literal seat at the table, all in the worship of the god Mammon. A NYC detective with an interest in the occult investigates the murder of one such family member (think Fox Mulder crossed with Frank Pendleton from Homicide). Written by Jonathan Hickman & beautifully drawn by Tomm Coker. The smartest, creepiest and IMHO the most exciting book out there.

    Like

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