As The Good Books Say: Chris' 10 Best Readables of 2017
Since everyone seemed to enjoy last year's write-up, here's my (admittedly belated) take on the 10 best things you should've read in 2017! If you did check any of these out, give yourself a cookie.
Please keep in mind, due to work/family/travel/getting married/having a honeymoon/sleeping where possible over the past year, there are a number of great books and comics I didn't get a chance to check out; this list is spun off from the fruits of my 2017 Goodreads labours only. Please don't hate me for not including The Language of Thorns or Secret Empire. (but really, is that last one going to make anyone's lists for anything celebratory?)
10. Slugfest: Inside the Epic, 50-Year Battle between Marvel and DC
Though it lacks in flair at times, Reed Tucker delivers an insightful and rigorously researched look at the animosity between the Big Two of superhero comics. The historical narratives Tucker pens are fascinating, though the work occasionally veers into dry, lecture-like territory (ironic, considering my day job).
Comics can be both an exhilirating career path and a cruel, nasty business. Seeing inside the half-century war between the biggest names in the business sharpens both those perspectives, at times giving us the heights of passionate joy shared between rivals as well as the darkest, unvarnished moments that make Marvel and DC look almost like rival street gangs. One for the comics history buffs.
9. Kill or Be Killed, Volume 1
My biggest reading sin for 2017 was not checking out enough indy stuff; comics, fantasy novels and the odd non-fiction book made up most of my reading list. The indy stuff I did check out, though, works like gangbusters.
The latest crime comic from the super team of writer Ed Brubaker and artist Sean Phillips, Kill or Be Killed is a nastier, grittier take on Average-Joe-vigilante-fun-times - think Kick-Ass but minus the spandex and pushed through a grimier filter. The protagonist is a compelling, sympathetic yet selfish jerkass, the violence is unflinchingly depicted by Phillips's able pencils, and the unique selling point of the vigilantism this time round is, without spoiling, pretty intriguing. The book has a finger on the pulse of current social and cultural attitudes to politics and violence, making it both terrific and timely.
8. Superman: Son of Superman
Honestly, this book and its successive volumes are just fun. Superman's back, he has a cute son now, and he's teaching him how to use his powers. It's a lighter take on the father-son dynamic that powerful writer-artist duo Peter J. Tomasi and Patrick Gleason honed to a T in their Batman and Robin run, with just the right balance of heart and heroic battles. Son of Superman doesn't necessarily break new ground for the genre, but it's definitely got a lot of spirit.
7. A Court of Wings and Ruin
Despite being loaded with enough verbal chaff to stuff a reasonably-sized garbage bag, the conclusion to Sarah J. Maas's acclaimed A Court of Thorns and Roses saga still packs a punch when the good stuff happens. The final battle between the Night Court and the enemies of Prythian is pretty epic, but you definitely have to wade through a lot of exposition and no small amount of plot filler to get there.
Though the book doesn't reach the emotional heights scaled masterfully by its predecessor, A Court of Mist and Fury, the moments it turns on are pretty impactful, and it's still a great rounding off of the main story before we get to the spinoffs. As always, Kleenex should be handy.
6. Wonder Woman: Year One
Greg Rucka and his alternating teams of artists are killing it on Wonder Woman right now, but no volume of the run thus far had me as into it as Year One. With sterling art from Australian Nicola Scott, Diana Prince's introduction to the world of humanity is funny, heartwarming, action-packed and beautifully rendered. Rucka's writing has a keen talent for at once highlighting and dispelling the "otherness" of Diana, finding a very human core that a lot of past writers have either sidestepped or missed completely.
It's also a timely installment given the success of Gal Gadot's kickass turn on the big screen earlier in 2017. Anyone who dug that should definitely give Rucka's run a read.
5. Tom King's Batman (I Am Gotham, I Am Suicide, I Am Bane)
I'm still not sure why a lot of folks are down on it - to the point that I wrote a review on my own website about it (shameless self-promotion!) - but I'm loving Tom King's run on Batman to bits. After regaining his memories and returning to protect Gotham at the end of Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo's celebrated run, King's incarnation of Batman has never been broodier, while simultaneously being emotionally raw. A death wish and a new pair of superheroes are causing Batman to rethink his campaign on crime, and that's before even getting into what ends up happening with Catwoman.
Though artist David Finch still draws far too many throbbing veins when he pencils Batman on the page, the story is pretty excellent. Given the amount of character brooding, though, you may want a volume of something like and fluffy to read after.
4. Red Sister
What if Harry Potter was a girl, in a full-on fantasy world that might also be in the future, and she was learning to be a magical assassin in an all-girl assassin convent?
Until now, I've been lukewarm on Mark Lawrence - he of the difficult read Prince of Thorns - but with Red Sister, he really knocks it out of the park. Nona is an immediately gripping protagonist, and the well-worn tropes associated with the fantasy-setting-as-educational-institution are used to great effect. I don't want to say too much about it, but I will say you should definitely put this on the read list before its sequel, Grey Sister, hits shelves in April this year.
3. Saga, Volume 7
What more is there to say about Saga at this point? Writer Brian K. Vaughan and artist Fiona Staples continue belting it out at full-force with their epic, romantic odyssey across the stars. Alana and Marko are still doing their thing, and their child Hazel - our narrator in the future - is now able to speak with all the sass of her parents.
As well as being a great book in its own right, Volume 7 recaptures some of the narrative momentum lost between Volumes 5 and 6. Granted, any volume of Saga still stands a head and a foot above the competition, but it's good to know we're fully back on track for this bullet train of a story.
2. The Stone Sky
Writer N.K. Jemisin's works have never been easy things to read, but they're always compelling. Her landmark Broken Earth trilogy, beginning with The Fifth Season and continuing through The Obelisk Gate, dealt with abuse, child murdering, depression, sexism, slavery and the end of the world. As the finale to this great work, The Stone Sky is an awesome, heady, dense and often emotionally compromising work, tying all the threads together and bringing mother Essun and her daughter Nassun's goals ever closer to each other.
There's nothing quite like the Broken Earth trilogy, and you really should be reading The Fifth Season anyway, but rest assured that the trilogy does end up with an exceptionally great finale. Now let's cross our fingers that Jemisin can win her third Hugo Award for this one.
If you're a longtime reader on this site, you had to know this would be here. I feel like I've run out of all the good things to say about the Stormlight Archive, and Oathbringer is just more of those good things piled on top.
As well as producing what may be the longest fictional work since War and Peace, Brandon Sanderson ups the ante for both his own series and epic fantasy in general, delivering a masterstroke of a novel packed with adventure, politics, romance, humour, despair and triumph, all set against a backdrop of slice-of-life storytelling. Never has an apocalyptic battle between good and evil felt more grounded in humanity.
So that's my best of for 2017. Got any opinions on these, or know of anything I've missed that I should check out? Let me know!