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Hugh Likes Comics: Top Comics of 2017

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It certainly has been a year of comics. As with a lot of media this year, the conversation in comics has felt dominated by the twin specters of Politics and Scandal. But while the Overton Window gets pulled around by various groups, I’ve come to understand better what I love about the medium. I love comics that take risks. I love comics that reinvent old concepts and characters in exciting and surprising ways. And I love comics that are unafraid of the great melding of genres and tropes that the medium allows. Originally, this was only going to be a Top Five list. But some jerk on the internet opened their mouths about how ‘there weren’t ten good comics this year,’ and now I’m angry. This is what you get for looking at social media. And here are my TEN favorite comics from 2017:

The Backstagers
Written by James Tynion IV
Drawn by Rian Sygh
Published by Boom!

Backstagers

A wonderful comic of age comic about the stage crew at an all-boys high school, and the magical, dangerous world behind the stage. As a nerdy kid in black who ran a spotlight in his time, this really connected with me. It’s Resonant, touching, and adorably cute.

Black Bolt
Written by Saladin Ahmed
Drawn by Christian Ward
Published by Marvel Comics.

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Black Bolt was never a character I felt much about in comics. As the king of the Inhumans, he always felt like a political part of the universe rather than an interesting character. But by striping him down to his lowest point and throwing him in space prison, Ahmed and Ward have lit a spark under him, and put him in one of the most visually striking comics of the year.

Dark Knights: Metal
Written by Scott Snyder
Drawn by Greg Capullo
Published by DC Comics

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This is another comic that dredges up the weird bits of superhero continuity and welds them together into something strange, exciting, and delightful by turns. By truly embracing METAL, as in heavy metal aesthetics, the grim nightmare batman antagonists are given an energy and sense of album-cover awesomeness that these comics tend to eschew in attempt to lend their darkness unnecessary gravitas. Plus, this is a series where Batman tries to time travel with an evil baby, so it’s got that going for it.

Helena Crash
Written by Fabian Rangel Jr
Drawn by Warwick Johnson Cadwell
Published by IDW

Helena Crash

An all-ages heist adventure in a dystopian future where coffee is illegal. This comic is a non-stop action story with all the energy and inventive art stylings of the margins of a middleschool composition notebook. Helena’s adventures are silly, fun, and frantic. The best kind of escapism.

Kim & Kim: Love is a Battlefield

Written by Magdalene Visaggio
Drawn by Eva Cabrera
Published by Black Mask

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I slept on the first volume of Kim and Kim, and boy was I missing out! This comic is a constant delight of genre mishmash. Following the titular Interdimentional bounty hunters as they chase the big score and deal with their bad decisions with a combination of hitting people with guitars, amateur necromancy, and the occasional giant robot before hitting the club to do it all over again. Fun isn’t just for kids anymore.

Made Men
Written by Paul Tobin
Drawn by Arjuna Susini
Published by Oni Press

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Another genre mashup, Made Men takes a gritty noir revenge story and injects a whole bunch of Universal Horror. When a swat team gets taken down in a surprise hit, the last surviving member, Jutte Frankenstein, returns to the family manor in Europe to literally get them back together and get revenge. It’s a really great twist on both concepts.

Mister Miracle
Written by Tom King
Drawn by Mitch Gerards
Published by DC Comics

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This intense, unrelenting, and unflinching look at depression and mental health is heavy but beautiful. It’s also the best take on the fourth world stories since Kirby. It’s not always easy, but it is absolutely brilliant.

Swordquest
Written by Chad Bowers and Chris Sims
Drawn by Ghostwriter X
Published by Dynamite

swordquest

The creative team of Down Set Fight reunites for a tie-in comic for an unfinished Atari game. But this canny story finds the magic in things we loved as children, even if we see their flaws as adults. This is a story about unfinished business, facing regret, and learning that it’s never too late for an adventure.

The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl
Written by Ryan North
Drawn by Erica Henderson
Published by Marvel Comics

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This year Squirrel Girl flew to the Savage Land to save an endangered biome with computer science and ended up fight a T-rex version of Ultron. I feel like I should just put ‘nuf said and end here, but Squirrel Girl has been a consistently charming, fun, and witty comic that if you aren’t reading it, I don’t know what to tell you.

The Unstoppable Wasp
Written by Jeremy Whitley
Drawn by Elsa Charretier
Published by Marvel Comics

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Much like Black Bolt, Unstoppable Wasp brings a fresh take on an older Marvel hero that I never much cared for. But giving the suit to bubbly survivor and girl genius Nadia is a masterstroke. It is unfortunate that Marvel didn’t give this book more of a push, because it is a fantastic comic about Science, Friendship, and escaping abuse.

 

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2017 Roundup

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Hello readers!
We’re finally finished with2017! And of course, it has been a tumultuous year. As is my yearly tradition, I’m looking back at what I accomplished this year, and for all the pain, setbacks, and anxiety, I did pretty well.
On the day job front, I started a new job in January, and changed positions in May. I also started Court Reporting school, and have been doing well, although practice doesn’t leave me quite as much time as I would like.
Even so, I managed to produce a real-live physical book this year, which I hand-sold at a big group table at Balticon. I also managed to produce a few short stories and flash pieces that I’m quite proud of, and that you can check out over on my Patreon.
In terms of podcasting work, this was the year that I finally shut the doors on The Way of the Buffalo podcast. With everything else on my plate, I had to choose something to give up in order to keep my sanity, and I found I wasn’t getting any joy from it. I’m still really proud of the podcast, and learned a lot doing it. Maybe when I have more free time something new will come out with the same name, but that is well ahead of things.
This year I did start producing Nostalgia Pilots, a Gundam Wing rewatch podcast I’m doing with some friends, and that has been much more fun. I’ve had the plan for a show like this sitting in my head for a long while, and I am glad to finally have it off the ground. We’re all fitting it in around other projects and busy schedules, but I’m happy with the twelve episodes we released in 2017, and there is much more to come.
The other bit of exciting audio news is that we launched a version of The Dark Wife Audiobook on Audible! It has been doing quite well, and is even included in their new Romance Package service.
As for the final stats for the Page of Awesome, here’s how things broke down:
2017:
Podcasts: 45/50
Short Fiction Submissions: 46/50
Blog Posts: 101/100
Patreon Posts: 79/75
Wattpad Posts: 119/200
Self-Published ebooks: 1/5
I missed my marks for podcasts and short fiction, but came very close, with a big push of productivity in the fall. I did better with Patreon and Blog posts, but fell short on Wattpad. Wattpad has been making me stretch to create covers for my posts there, so I hope to do better this year.
I have some exciting plans for 2018, including more ebooks and launching a new mailing list. I hope you stick with me, and I am as ever grateful for your support.
On a snowy first night of 2018,
Hugh J. O’Donnell

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The Black Tides of Heaven by JY Yang: The first of a pair of fantasy novellas, Yang crafts an elegant tale about family and responsibility in a gorgeous Eastern fantasy world that is quite unlike anything I’ve seen before. It’s a beautiful jeweled puzzle of a book, with characters that come alive in just a few sentences.Killing Is My Business by Adam Christopher: Christopher returns to his post-post-singularity alternate 60’s L.A. for another mystery staring Ray Electromatic. The robot detective turned assassin solves another brilliantly noir science fiction mystery that is a unique delight for fans of either genre.

Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders: Saunders spins a single tragic event, the death of Abraham Lincoln’s young son WIllie in 1862, into a strange portrait of America, populated by selfish ghosts unaware of their true nature, mixed with conflicting accounts of the events leading up to the boy’s death. The novel is by turns clever, sad, and hopeful. The audiobook version further elevates the material with a stellar full-cast read that includes Saunders himself.

The Refrigerator Monologues by Cathrynne M. Valente: A brilliant metafictional take on women in superhero comics, Valente builds an entire universe of superheroes and tears them down again. The women and their stories are all instantly recognizable and totally fresh. This is a love letter to comics that cuts it to the bone at the same time, and is well worth the time of any pulp fan.

River of Teeth by Sarah Gailey: Gailey’s inventive alternate history gives us a rollicking river-boat adventure staring queer, hippo-riding cowboys. It was exactly the novella I didn’t know I needed this year.