As 2017 begins to unfold, Nothing But Comics draws its coverage of 2016 to an end with my list of Best Single Issues. All entries are listed alphabetically by title.
The weather might suggest otherwise, but December has arrived and with it the inevitable year’s end lists. Luckily, at Nothing But Comics, we’re quite fond of year’s end lists. Our first group Top Ten will arrive tomorrow, but first I offer up my annual look back at some of the most memorable character from 2016.
All entries are listed alphabetically. For simplicity sake, characters without code names are listed by first name.
By Fred Van Lente, Francis Portella & Andrew Dalhouse
For twenty-five issues, assorted tie-ins, a couple zero issues and an epilogue mini-series, Harbinger was one of the best books on the stands. Writer Joshua Dysart revitalized a 90s concept into a captivating and increasingly relevant series, full of compelling character work and engaged social issues. He did not skimp on the action either, or the consequences which often linger from violence. After he brought the series to a close, the characters mostly drifted to the side, while he concentrated on their antagonist Toyo Harada’s new title Imperium. Gradually, though, publisher Valiant has been bringing the Harbinger cast back into circulation. The year started with former Renegade Faith gaining her own solo series. Later this year she will rejoin her former teammates for a new Renegades title (written by Rafael Roberts who has been doing fantastic work on the current Archer & Armstrong book). This week, the young heroes of Generation Zero step-up for their first ongoing series, the debut issue of which offers a promising beginning.
Last month, Valiant announced a slate of new titles for the second half 2016, one of which was Harbinger Renegades. The Renegades have deep ties to both iterations of the Valiant Universe; it was hardly surprising that they were included among the initial titles the revived Valiant debuted. Since their previous series Harbinger ended, Harbinger writer Joshua Dysart has been focused on Imperium and Toyo Harada, leaving the Renegades free for other creators. For her part, Faith has found success in her recent solo series written by Jody Houser. This fall, though, the Renegades will be back as a team, staring in a book written by Rafer Roberts. Roberts is an emerging creator with experience at Valiant, where he has been doing a fantastic job scripting the current Archer & Armstrong title. However, the Renegades under Dysart had a very different tone than Archer & Armstrong, less wacky, more socially engaged. During the recent Awesome Con in Washington DC, I stopped by Roberts’ booth in Artists Alley and spoke briefly with him about how he was approaching the series.
Back in January Valiant launched a new solo min-series for Faith Herbert, aka Zephyr. This was great news for those of us who have been happily following her adventures ever since Joshua Dysart reintroduced her to readers in the pages of his Harbinger series. Two weeks ago, Valiant announced that demand for Faith had proven so strong that not only would her story be continuing, but it would be upgraded from a sequel mini to a new ongoing title. This is no small accomplishment, as Faith will be the first ongoing female solo title published by the current iteration of Valiant. As such, the new series, which will retain writer Jody Houser, represents another successful step forward for diversity in comics. However, it also points to another trend that has been occurring recently: a shift in the tone of storytelling. Ever since Alan Moore asked “Who Watches the Watchmen?” and Frank Miller pondered the last act of The Dark Knight’s career, the medium has been dominated by the grim and gritty archetype. At its height in the 90s, the prominence of such figures somehow achieved self-parody (cough, Az-Bats, cough) without losing their popularity. To this day, a new creative team’s pledge to “strip our hero down to nothing and see what makes him (or her) tick” is frequently cited as a fresh approach to counter lackluster storytelling. It’s not. Which does not mean that it cannot work, only that there is nothing groundbreaking about it. Instead, a new generation of heroines, including Zephyr, are helping redefine superheroes for a new generation of readers.
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HERE ARE SOME ISSUES THAT WILL NOT DISAPPOINT.Cosmo’s Recommendations … Bloodshot Reborn Annual #1
“Jeff Lemire & friends take a break from the brooding for the wacky. A collection of oddball tales, this is probably the most fun Bloodshot issue you’ll read. Best of all, even with the change of tone, the creators never forget how to make Bloodshot compelling . . .”
By Rafer Roberts, David Lafuente & Brian Reber
Over time, the property Archer & Armstrong has earned a prominent place within the Valiant library of titles. The 90s run by Barry Windsor-Smith is fondly recalled as one of the highlights of that period. When the company relaunched in 2012, Archer & Armstrong was one of their four initial offerings. The new title written by Fred Van Lente and a rotation of artists successfully channeled the spirit of the old while crafting something fresh. That series came to an end at #25, leaving Archer & Armstrong a bit adrift in the Valiant Universe. This week Valiant releases a new series for the beloved duo and based on the initial outing it is a fitting addition to their legacy.
Archer & Armstrong, one of comics’ great odd couples, first appeared 24 years ago. They debuted in grand 90s fashion: a zero issue which lead directly into the Unity crossover event. (In this respect they managed better than Aram’s brother Gilad whose solo series began with an event tie-in). The characters were created by Jim Shooter and Bob Layton, who shared story credits on #0 and Barry Windsor-Smith who handled the pencils. With #3 Windsor-Smith would assume writing duties along with art. Under his tenure he would refine the book into the greatest achievement of 90s era Valiant.