Best Comics of 2016 is just that, our list of books, within each genre of storytelling, that stood out amongst all the others this year.
Today brings us to one of my favorite genres in all of comics: adventure. Why is this one of my favorites? Well, because it covers such a wide variety of feelings and stories. Some would argue that nearly every story told could be classified as an adventure, after all, without any adventure (good or bad) you don’t have a story…at least not a good one. Yet, I would argue that adventure stories are so clearly adventure stories that they’re unlike anything else. There’s a difference between a story that has an adventure, and an adventure story. There’s a sense of fun, often lightheartedness, that doesn’t take itself too seriously, but isn’t goofy. That isn’t to say there aren’t serious moments in adventure stories, in fact they can be mostly serious, yet at their heart there’s an almost captureable childlike feel to them. As though we’re reading (or watching) a child’s imagination play out before us.
Written By: Ray Fawkes
Art By: Marco Fallia
First Issue Published: April 13, 2016 Aftershock Comics
When someone mentions adventure stories, or comics in general, one of the first books that comes to mind for me to recommend to them is Jackpot. Why? Well, this book is almost unlike any other book I’ve read this year, which is saying a lot because I’ve read so many books…really, the amount of comics I’ve read this year is incredible, but how about I go back to talking about Jackpot. What makes this book so different? For starters, in the first issue you’re introduced to what you believe will be a sort of crime/heist story, but suddenly there’s a moment when, well lets just say something odd takes place. By issue two you realize what you thought this would be about, well, it’s something completely different, but not in a way where you’re angry. No, the shift in what this starts out as, and what it becomes, is setup in issue one, in that moment when something odd takes place. It’s at that point when you realize, this entire crime/heist story is there to take you into a wild place wherein all sorts of magical and time altering, reality twisting nonsense takes place.
Jackpot follows the story of a group of con artists, as they attempt to pull of their greatest scam of all time. It’s during this world’s greatest heist that this group is thrust into a mind-altering situation wherein all the rules of the universe, heck, the rules of time and space, are revealed. Some of them aren’t as prepared for this revelation as they may have thought, and pay for it with their lives…but then they don’t…or maybe they do, or will. This entire series follows these con artists as they attempt to heist reality bending abilities…or at the very least, survive the attempt.
Written By: Adam Glass
Art By: Pat Olliffe
First Issue Published: April 6, 2016 by Aftershock Comics
Of all the books I’ve read this year, Rough Riders is the quintessential adventure series. I’m not sure another book even comes close to capturing, at least how I define, the way adventure stories should go. That isn’t to say that all the other adventure comics are bad. What I mean when I say Rough Riders is the quintessential adventure book is 2016 is that this series perfectly delivered the adventure genre. Jackpot, which I just talked about, is absolutely an adventure book. It’s an amazing adventure book, but my definition of it would be, “A heist adventure, or a crime adventure.” It’s an adventure story, but does so while using another genre. Rough Riders is just what it is, an adventure book. There are elements of sci-fi, fantasy, and history, but all of those are tools within this adventure instead of being main elements. The science fiction in Rough Riders serves a purpose without making it a sci-fi story. In the end, Rough Riders simply took all the elements it needed, and swept away everything else from the genres it borrowed from, leaving us with a wild ride of a story that was just too much fun to read.
Rough Riders follows Theodore Roosevelt as he puts together a team of historical figures to solve a world ending mystery. From boxer Jack Johnson to gun slinger Annie Oakley, this ragtag group of crazy people set off into a conflict that none of them are prepared to face. The USS Maine (that’s a big huge military boat) is suddenly destroyed by technology that shouldn’t exist on our planet, which means someone had to bring it here…spoilers…it’s aliens. With this wild task before them our team of histories who’s who must figure out a way to stop whoever is behind these attacks before an escalating conflict destroys…well…everything.
Written By: Joe Benitez
Art By: Joe Benitez
First Issue Published: September 28, 2016 by Benitez Productions
Lady Mechinka is probably one of the best books that’s ever been recommended to me. It’s not often that I find myself in a situation where I’ve never heard of a book before. At the very least a name or something to do with the story will ring a bell. That wasn’t the case with Lady Mechanika. It was a friend who was already a fan of this series that pointed it out to me, and my life has never been the same.
Probably the best part of this series, excluding the story and art which are superb, is the fact that each arc is new reader friendly. Each and every arc, which always starts with a new number issue, is self contained. We learn the story beats and plot, none of which is tied to prior books. For experienced readers, however, there are snippets of information that’s leading to something larger than each arc. This brilliant storytelling allows new and old readers to experience the book individually.
With this arc, Dama de la Muerte, we’re introduced to a new aspect of Lady Mechanika’s life. In fact, we’re introduced to a time before the original number one. This story takes place before the first issue, at least on the timeline, but after she’s become Lady Mechanika. We learn a few new names from what we know to be her past, and see Lady in a situation that we’ve never seen before: she doesn’t have full control over everything. One of the best parts of the Lady Mechanika series (as a whole) is her Sherlockian ability to always be thinking ahead. Yet, in Dama de la Muerte, she hasn’t honed that skill yet, thus leaving her in a situation no one expected.
The short version of what’s taking place is that Lady Mechanika has arrived in a Mexico, and it just happens to be that a Day of the Dead celebration is taking place. Suddenly, in the middle of the celebration, a young boy arrives, brutally beaten and bloody. This child is a warning to the people of the town that the Jinetes Del Infierno are coming for their tithes. Basically this is a group of gangsters dressed as undead demons, harassing small towns for money, food, wine, and whatever else the people offer up. Lady Mechanika will have none of this harassing, thus she challenges the group. Unfortunately, while she does a good job initially, things don’t go the best and frankly it was amazing to see Lady Machanika out of what I know to be her element. In my opinion, this is one of the best arcs in this series thus far.