A comic book’s mission to its readership should be to entertain. It is one of the few art forms where the written word can be equal with the visual. At times the artwork can far exceed the reading experience. But the best comics are the ones that make you forget you’re reading a comic altogether. Where you get so immersed in the narrative that you become a part of the experience. For 2016 there were several individual issues that stopped time as you drifted in their respective worlds.
5: The Vision: The cover of issue three of ‘The Vision’ may have completely arrested you in the bookstore. Virginia, Vision’s synthesized wife sweeps The Grim Reaper’s dead body underneath the proverbial rug. With the pictures of her perfect family surrounding the startling scene, a look of worry and confusion is on Virginia’s face. The artwork of this limited series pulled you in while you saw Vision’s life fall apart. Tom King made Vision relevant again. After his debacle of a relationship with Wanda Maximoff and the multiple storylines as an Avenger, it would seem inconceivable to give an android his own comic. But with his complicated history, Vision is so much more than a sentient robot. And issue three proves that. Even more startling is the end where we see Agatha Harkness (who by the way was thought to be long dead) eating the entrails of a large cat. Things only get worse for Vision. By issue nine his son his killed by a vibranium drug addict planted in his home by the Avengers. The one thing whether it be the films or the comics is that the Avengers never learn from their mistakes. It’s as if they are doomed to repeat them until the universe corrects itself. Victor who by way of Ultron is Vision’s younger brother. He has the type of addiction that makes Heroin seem like Tylenol. In his drug induced state his solution for not being found out is to destroy his nephew thus making Agatha Harkness’ prediction come true. Each panel is tension-riddled with the painful death of Vision’s son. Overall, this series showcased a depth of storytelling for, what has been in recent years a minor character. And these two issues show just why Vision is a character worth keeping in the Marvel universe.
4: The Mighty Thor: Gender-bending is nothing new to the Norse gods. At one point Loki was a woman. But in ‘Thh Mighty Thor’ Jane Foster is wielding the hammer instead of an accursed Thor. It is an amazing idea. Let’s see how a woman can wield the hammer. Jane does this effectively and proves herself worthy during her run – one problem. Jane is battling Cancer and every time she transforms into the goddess of thunder she dies just a little bit more. Still, it is issue twelve that has made an impact in this series. The story of Mjolnir has never been properly explained and this issue explores how it is able to do so many magnificent tricks. Apparently, Mjolnir is an original gangster when it comes to being a storm bringer. In a battle with Odin, it’s imprisoned in a rock. A sentient storm inside a hammer decides who will wield it and not the inscription Odin breathes into it. It makes you fall in love with the mythology all over again while flipping the script on Thor’s origin. In essence, you don’t have to be worthy in the human sense of the word, you have to be strong enough to wield the storm.
3: Black Panther: Issue seven of ‘Black Panther’ must be your favorite. On a variant cover, T’Challa is flanked by an impressive set of allies. It is a new chapter within the swirling chaos of bringing Wakanda back as a nation and retrieving his sister Shuri who is in between life and death. Philosophy and a good fight scene are included in this installment of Ta-Nehisi Coates interpretation of ‘Black Panther.’ But it’s the intimate moments that make this comic come alive. After a major fight scene, a king helps his former queen off the ground. That panel says so much about the relationship of Storm and Black Panther. As a new reader, you’re intrigued. However, being a longtime reader will make you appreciate Coates use of history. More so you have Luke Cage and Misty Knight. They’re not there for stunt casting. All four of these characters have encountered each other since New York City is home base for many superhero teams. It would only make sense that T’Challa would have them on speed-dial. Even more telling about this issue is that the reader gets to know Wakanda through its folktales. Coates continues to build a realistic narrative for this fictional African nation. Essentially making the country itself an integral character.
2: Doctor Strange: It’s as if he’s floating through the air with a battle-axe in one hand and a rather large hunting knife in the other. On his back is not the iconic cloak, instead, it is a set of arrows and on his hip is a sword. The sorcerer supreme is ready for the battle to save magic. Doctor Stephen Strange has failed at being the protector of magic on the earth realm a few times. He’s been corrupted, has used black magic and has lost the mantle of being a defender. But he’s always gotten back up. If nothing else Doctor Strange is tenacious. Issue ten subtitled the ‘Last Days of Magic’ says everything about who this man is and what he’s willing to sacrifice. It also shows why he’s been bouncing around the Marvel universe for over 40 years. The supernatural has not been treated kindly when it comes to marvel comics. But Jason Aaron has given it the kind of respect worthy of the eye of Agamotto. Aaron utilizes all the strengths of Strange’s history, mainly that he’s a doctor. And as a healer, he utilizes everything which includes his library. Yes, a book ultimately saves the world. Even if there are dangling ends to this story arc it only makes this issue all the more interesting.
1: A Year of Marvels: A squirrel is gathering nuts for the winter. Nothing unusual there, except his tree has come alive and it’s not happy. As a matter of fact, all the trees in Central Park are alive. Luckily Tippy-Toe is no ordinary squirrel, he happens to be a sidekick to Squirrel Girl. She’s not only beaten the Titan Thanos, she babysits for Luke Cage. But this isn’t her story. Tippy-Toe is the star here and Rocket Raccoon (from the long-running comic ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’) makes an appearance. This first issue is a smartly written story that doesn’t need gore and violence to keep you interested. Instead, Nilah Magruder treats her audience to a couple of underused characters in marvel comics. These furry heroes save the day without having to call in Spiderman or Captain America. Use of knowledge about their environment is the key to defeating the villain in this piece. Besides its nicely drawn and makes Manhattan look refreshing. It’s a different perspective about a city that is often depicted in gloom and moody lighting.
Sometimes a single issue of a comic book is better than investing in a long-running series. You may not want to wait until they are collected into a trade paperback to enjoy a good story. Wandering into a comic book store should be something you treat yourself to. If nothing else you can find a gem on the shelves and make a new friend.