It’s that time of the year again: the Internet has picked the best comics of the year. More precisely, I have compiled several year-end best-of-2022 lists into one, awarding points to each title depending on its rank and the total number of entries on the list (full explanation here).
Shortly before Christmas, about two thirds of the usual sources have posted their lists. I’m going to update this blogpost with the data from the remaining lists in January, so make sure to come back here, as there are likely to be some major changes still.
Anyway, for the time being, these are…
THE TOP 25 COMICS OF 2022:
- Ducks: Two Years in the Oil Sands by Kate Beaton (269 points)
- The Night Eaters: She Eats the Night by Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda (159)
- Immortal X-Men by Kieron Gillen and Lucas Werneck (131)
- Fantastic Four: Full Circle by Alex Ross (127)
- The Flash by Jeremy Adams and others (110)
- Wash Day Diaries by Jamila Rowser and Robyn Smith (99)
- A.X.E.: Judgment Day by Kieron Gillen and Valerio Schiti (90)
- Squire by Nadia Shammas and Sara Alfageeh (89)
- The Nice House on the Lake by James Tynion IV and Álvaro Martínez Bueno (88)
- Batman/Superman: World’s Finest by Mark Waid and Dan Mora (87)
- Who Will Make the Pancakes by Megan Kelso (85)
- Saga by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples (83)
- The Many Deaths of Laila Starr by Ram V and Filipe Andrade (79)
- Akane banashi by Yuki Suenaga and Takamasa Moue, tied with
One Piece by Eiichirō Oda (73)
- Action Comics by Phillip Kennedy Johnson and others (72)
- Acting Class by Nick Drnaso (70)
- Clementine by Tillie Walden (68)
- Genkai chitai (a.k.a. The Liminal Zone) by Junji Itō (67)
- Shuna no tabi (a.k.a. Shuna’s Journey) by Hayao Miyazaki (66)
- The Human Target by Tom King and Greg Smallwood (64)
- Once & Future by Kieron Gillen and Dan Mora (62)
- Talk to my Back by Murasaki Yamada, tied with
The Keeper by Tananarive Due, Steven Barnes, and Marco Finnegan (61)
- Little Monarchs by Jonathan Case (59)
[UPDATE: 16 more lists added on January 15]
This time there are quite a few high-ranking manga on the list (possibly due to the inclusion of several new manga-specific lists). Who would have thought One Piece would make a return, and on rank 14 at that? Honourable mentions go to Sayonara Eri (a.k.a. Goodbye, Eri) and Look Back by Tatsuki Fujimoto, Jujutsu Kaisen by Gege Akutami, Yomi no tsugai (a.k.a. Daemons of the Shadow Realm) by Hiromu Arakawa, and Spy × Family by Tatsuya Endō, all having just missed the top 25 with 50+ points each.
It seems to have been not quite such a good year for (non-English) European comics. Geneviève Castrée: Complete Works 1981-2016, Malgré tout (a.k.a. Always Never) by Jordi Lafebre, and Dagen van Zand / Jours de Sable (a.k.a. Days of Sand) by Aimée de Jongh, the highest ranking ones, would not even make the top 50.
As for German comics, there were a few noteworthy ones in 2022, such as Das Gutachten by Jennifer Daniel, Stockhausen by Thomas von Steinaecker and David von Bassewitz, Rude Girl by Birgit Weyhe, and Das Humboldt-Tier by Flix. But the only way for them to reach the top 25 is to get picked by at least three of the four German lists, which didn’t happen.
The following lists were evaluated: Barnes & Noble, The Beat, Book Riot, Broken Frontier, CBC, CBR, Chicago Public Library, ComFor (German), ComicGate (German), Comickunst (German), DoomRocket, Entertainment Weekly, Forbes, Gamesradar, Goodreads, Gosh (adult, kids), The Guardian, IGN, Kono manga ga sugoi via Anime News Network, Kotaku, Looper, The Mary Sue, NPR, Paste, Polygon, Publishers Weekly (Holiday Gift Guide, Critics Poll), Screen Rant (“Best Comics”, combined “Best New Manga” and “Best Continuing Manga”), Tagesspiegel (German), Top-Selling Manga in Japan by Series via Anime News Network, The Washington Post, YALSA.
Still looking for a last-minute Christmas present? How about a comic? Here’s what the Internet recommends. As always, whenever a title made a best-comics-of-2021 list, it received between 1 and 30 points depending on its rank or on the number of titles on such a list (full explanation here). Added up, this results in…
THE TOP 25 COMICS OF 2021:
- Monsters by Barry Windsor-Smith (189 points)
- The Secret to Superhuman Strength by Alison Bechdel (169)
- Far Sector by N. K. Jemisin and Jamal Campbell (160)
- Wake by Rebecca Hall (135)
- Minharot (a.k.a. Tunnels) by Rutu Modan (128)
- The Many Deaths of Laila Starr by Ram V and Filipe Andrade (124)
- Run by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, L. Fury and Nate Powell (122)
- The Good Asian by Pornsak Pichetshote, Alexandre Tefenkgi and Lee Loughridge (116)
- The Girl from the Sea by Molly Knox Ostertag (99)
- Stone Fruit by Lee Lai (98)
- Chroniques de jeunesse (a.k.a. Factory Summers) by Guy Delisle (92)
- Gidarim (a.k.a. The Waiting) by Keum Suk Gendry-Kim (81)
- Nightwing by Tom Taylor and Bruno Redondo (80)
- Nubia by L. L. McKinney and Robyn Smith (77)
- In by Will McPhail (76)
- La bête (a.k.a. Marsupilami: The Beast) by Zidrou and Frank Pé (74)
- Crisis Zone by Simon Hanselmann (72)
- The Department of Truth by James Tynion IV and Martin Simmonds (70)
- Cyclopedia Exotica by Aminder Dhaliwal, tied with
Lore Olympus by Rachel Smythe (67)
- Himawari House by Harmony Becker (63)
- Cheer Up by Crystal Frasier and Val Wise (61)
- Discipline by Dash Shaw (59)
- I Never Promised You A Rose Garden by Mannie Murphy (57)
- Chainsaw Man by Tatsuki Fujimoto, tied with
Squad by Maggie Tokuda-Hall and Lisa Sterle (54)
Just outside of the top 25 we have the highest ranked (non-British) European comic, Les cahiers d’Esther (a.k.a. Esther’s Notebooks) by Riad Sattouf. However, some lists that I like to include each year (e.g. all the German lists) have not been published yet, so expect some changes to the ranking above.
UPDATE: and indeed, now that the ‘German votes’ are counted, a classic BD character has entered the list on #16. Further down the list we find the highest-ranking German comic, Lucky Luke: Zarter Schmelz by Ralf König, on #39. Apart from Chainsaw Man, two other notable manga last year were Dai Dark by Q Hayashida (#30) and, once again, Kimetsu no yaiba a.k.a. Demon Slayer by Koyoharu Gotōge (#36).
The following lists were evaluated: The Beat, Book Riot, Broken Frontier, CBC, Chicago Public Library, ComFor (German – part 1, part 2), Comicgate (German), Comickunst (German), DoomRocket, Forbes, GamesRadar+, Goodreads, Gosh (adult, kids), The Guardian (combined Rachel Cooke’s and James Smart’s articles), GWW, The Herald, IGN, The Irish Times, Kono manga ga sugoi via Anime News Network, Looper, Lotusland Comics, The Mary Sue, Nerdist, The New York Times, NPR, Oricon Top-Selling Manga in Japan by Series via Anime News Network, Polygon, Publishers Weekly, Screen Rant, Tagesspiegel (German), Variety, The Washington Post, YALSA.
[UPDATE: added 10 more lists – A.V. Club, Broken Frontier, ComFor, Comic.de, Comicgate, DoomRocket, Herald, IGN, SyFy Wire, WhatCulture. Arrows next to entries indicate that their rank went up or down compared to the previous version.]
Some people seem reluctant this year to look back at the past twelve months. From a comics perspective, however, it seems to have been a strong year, with no shortage of titles to fill all the ranks of those year-end best-of lists. As always, I put together a ‘master list’ out of all of those charts I found online (in English or German). Each title was assigned between 1 and 30 points, depending on either its rank or, in unranked lists, the number of titles (full explanation here).
THE TOP 25 COMICS OF 2020:
- Dragon Hoops by Gene Luen Yang (149 points)
- Superman Smashes the Klan by Gene Luen Yang (129) ⇧
- The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Cartoonist by Adrian Tomine (125)
- Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olsen by Matt Fraction and Steve Lieber (124) ⇧
- Blue in Green by Ram V et al. (115) ⇧
- Paying the Land by Joe Sacco (104) ⇩
- Far Sector by N. K. Jemisin (103) ⇧
- Dracula, Motherf**ker by Alex de Campi and Erica Henderson (95) ⇩
- Kent State: Four Dead in Ohio by Derf Backderf (92) ⇩
- Pulp by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips (87) ⇧
- A Map to the Sun by Sloane Leong (86) ⇧
- The Immortal Hulk by Al Ewing and Joe Bennett (82) ⇩
- John Constantine: Hellblazer by Simon Spurrier, Aaron Campbell and Matias Bergara (78)
- Daredevil by Chip Zdarsky and Marco Checchetto (68) ⇧
- Wendy, Master of Art by Walter Scott (65) ⇩
- You Brought Me The Ocean by Alex Sánchez and Julie Maroh (59) ⇧
- The Magic Fish by Trung Le Nguyen ⇩, tied with
The Times I Knew I Was Gay by Eleanor Crewes ⇩ (57)
- Chainsaw Man by Tatsuki Fujimoto (56) ⇩
- Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba by Koyoharu Gotōge (55) ⇩
- Bowie by Michael Allred, Seve Horton and Laura Allred (51) ⇧
- We Only Find Them When They’re Dead by Al Ewing and Simone Di Meo (50) ⇧
- The Impending Blindness of Billie Scott by Zoe Thorogood (49) ⇧
- Big Black: Stand at Attica by Frank “Big Black” Smith, Jared Reinmuth and Ameziane ⇩, tied with
Heartstopper by Alice Oseman ⇩ and
Spy × Family by Tatsuya Endō ⇩ (48)
What a year for Gene Luen Yang, whose comics take the top two spots! As always, manga are sadly underrepresented, but at least we have three manga in the top 25 with Chainsaw Man, Spy × Family, and of course the ubiquitous Demon Slayer. The latter is also one of four recurring comics along with Jimmy Olsen, The Immortal Hulk, and Daredevil, all of which already charted in 2019. The highest-ranking German comic, not shown above, would be Freaks by Frank Schmolke on rank 30.
The following lists were evaluated: The A.V. Club, The Beat (top 10 only), Book Riot, Broken Frontier, CBC, Chicago Public Library, ComFor (German), Comic.de (German; multiple mentions only), Comicgate (German), Comickunst (German), DoomRocket, Forbes, GeekCast (top 30 only), Goodreads, Gosh (adults, kids), The Guardian, The Herald, IGN (ongoing / limited), io9, Kono manga ga sugoi via Anime News Network, NPR, Nerdist, Oricon Top-Selling Manga in Japan by Series via Anime News Network, Publishers Weekly Critics Poll, SyFy Wire, Tagesspiegel (German), Tor Online (German), The Washington Post, WhatCulture, YALSA.
[UPDATE: added 8 more lists – AiPT, Broken Frontier, ComFor (German), Comic.de (German, multiple mentions only), Comicgate (German, unranked), Diamond via The Beat (comics + GNs), Tor Online (German). Arrows next to entries indicate that their rank went up or down compared to the previous version.]
Once more I compiled a little ‘master list’ out of some best-of-2019 lists on the Internet. Each title was assigned between 1 and 30 points, depending on either its rank, or on the number of titles in an unranked list (full explanation here).
THE TOP 25 COMICS OF 2019:
- House of X / Powers of X by Jonathan Hickman, Pepe Larraz and R.B. Silva (207 points)
- Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up With Me by Mariko Tamaki and Rosemary Valero-O’Connell (171) ⇩
- Die by Kieron Gillen and Stephanie Hans (120) ⇧
- Rusty Brown by Chris Ware (110)
- The Immortal Hulk by Al Ewing and Joe Bennett (106) ⇧
- They Called Us Enemy by George Takei et al. (102) ⇩
- Clyde Fans by Seth ⇩, tied with
Daredevil by Chip Zdarsky and Marco Checchetto ⇧ (95)
- Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olsen by Matt Fraction and Steve Lieber (92) ⇩
- The Hard Tomorrow by Eleanor Davis (88) ⇩
- Mister Miracle by Tom King and Mitch Gerads (87) ⇧
- Spider-Man: Life Story by Chip Zdarsky and Mark Bagley ⇧, tied with
The Walking Dead by Robert Kirkman and Charlie Adlard ⇧ (82)
- These Savage Shores by Ram V and Sumit Kumar (79) ⇧
- Harley Quinn: Breaking Glass by Mariko Tamaki and Steve Pugh (75) ⇩
- When I Arrived at the Castle by Emily Carroll (74) ⇧
- Witch Hat Atelier by Kamome Shirahama (70) ⇩
- The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood and Renée Nault (66) ⇧
- Hot Comb by Ebony Flowers (61) ⇩
- DCeased by Tom Taylor and Trevor Hairsine (60) ⇧
- Bitter Root by David Walker, Chuck Brown and Sanford Greene (59) ⇩
- Good Talk by Mira Jacob ⇩, tied with
George Herriman’s Krazy Kat. The Complete Color Sundays 1935–1944 ⇧ (57)
- Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba by Koyoharu Gotōge ⇩, tied with
Sabrina by Nick Drnaso ⇧ (55)
Given the usual dominance of Anglo-American list sources, it is almost a pleasant surprise to see as many as two manga within the top 25. As for European comics… Alice Oseman is British, does that count? [Update: Oseman’s Heartstopper dropped out of the top 25 to 28th place. It’s still the highest-ranking European comic.]
The following lists were evaluated: A.V. Club, Adventures in Poor Taste, Book Riot, Broken Frontier, CBC, Chicago Public Library, ComFor (German), Comic.de (German, multiple mentions only), Comicgate (German, unranked), Comickunst (German), Diamond via The Beat (comics + GNs), Entertainment Weekly, Forbes, GameSpot, Goodreads, Gosh (adult, kids), The Guardian (Rachel Cooke, James Smart), io9, Kono Manga ga Sugoi! via Anime News Network, Oricon Top-Selling Manga in Japan by Series via Anime News Network, Paste, Publishers Weekly Critics Poll, Readings, School Library Journal, Spiegel Online (German), SyFy Wire (Best New Comic Books, Fangrrl), Tagesspiegel (German), Tor Online (German), What Culture, YALSA.
[UPDATE 2: added 9 more lists – ComFor (German), Comic Report (German, multiple mentions only), Comic.de (German), Comicgate (German), Diamond (comic books via Major Spoilers, TPBs via The Beat), Smash Pages, Women Write About Comics (Big Press, Small Press).]
[UPDATE: added 14 more lists – 101 Comics (DC, Marvel), Bookriot, Comickunst (German), Gamespot, Hyperallergic, The Hollywood Reporter, Spiegel (German), Readings, The Comeback, Toledo Lucas County Public Library, Tor Online (German), WhatCulture, YALSA; arrows next to entries indicate that their rank went up or down compared to the previous version.]
Just in time for some last-minute Christmas shopping: here’s a ‘master list’ of comics that appeared on best-of-2018 lists on the Web. Each comic is assigned a score from 1 to 30 for each list it appears on, depending on its position or the total number of entries in that list, and the sum of these points results in the rank below (full explanation here). Some lists are still missing, so I’m going to update this post as more lists are published.
THE TOP 25 COMICS OF 2018:
- The Prince and the Dressmaker by Jen Wang (246 points) ⇧
- Mister Miracle by Tom King and Mitch Gerads (223) ⇩
- Sabrina by Nick Drnaso (218)
- Berlin by Jason Lutes (202)
- Saga by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples (155) ⇧
- The Immortal Hulk by Al Ewing and Joe Bennett ⇩, tied with
Upgrade Soul by Ezra Claytan Daniels (142)
- Young Frances by Hartley Lin (133) ⇩
- Action Comics by Brian Michael Bendis (130) ⇧
- Woman World by Aminder Dhaliwal (123) ⇩
- On A Sunbeam by Tillie Walden (117) ⇧
- Be Prepared by Vera Brosgol (115) ⇩
- The Lie And How We Told It by Tommi Parrish (114) ⇩
- X-Men: Grand Design by Ed Piskor (112) ⇩
- All the Answers by Michael Kupperman (111) ⇩
- Batman by Tom King ⇧, tied with
Runaways by Rainbow Rowell and Kris Anka ⇩ (107)
- Der Umfall by Mikael Ross (106) ⇧
- My Boyfriend is a Bear by Pamela Ribon and Cat Farris (105) ⇩
- Justice League by Scott Snyder (99) ⇧
- Exit Stage Left: The Snagglepuss Chronicles by Mark Russell and Mike Feehan (97) ⇩
- Why Art? by Eleanor Davis (96) ⇩
- Girl Town by Carolyn Nowak ⇩, tied with
Peter Parker: The Spectacular Spider-Man by Chip Zdarsky ⇩ (94)
- Monstress by Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda (92) ⇧
[Comment written after the second update:] This time, the list paints a dismal picture of the state of comics. Not that the comics that made the top 25 are bad, but with only one European comic (Der Umfall) and not a single manga, the Atlantic and Pacific divides are clearer than ever. Simply put, Americans seem to read American (including Canadian) comics only. Which is a pity, as they are missing out on e.g. three (3!) new Spirou albums (though technically, Il s’appelait Ptirou already came out in late 2017 in France). The next European comics from further down the list would be Spirou in Berlin by Flix (rank 29), Imbattable by Pascal Jousselin (rank 30 – another French comic originally published in 2017), and La terra dei figli by Gipi (rank 33 – already published in 2016 in Italy). The only manga in the top 50 are My Solo Exchange Diary (the sequel to My Lesbian Experience With Loneliness, which ranked 2nd in the previous year) by Nagata Kabi (rank 35), My Hero Academia by Kōhei Horikoshi (rank 38), and One Piece by Eiichirō Oda (rank 47).
The following lists were evaluated: 101 Comics (DC, Marvel), Adventures in Poor Taste – series, Amazon, A.V. Club, Barnes & Noble (‘Manga’, ‘Comics’), The Beat – Manga (‘Comics’ list not considered due to extent), Bookriot, CBC, Chicago Public Library, The Comeback, ComFor (German), Comic Report (German, multiple mentions only), Comic.de (German), Comicgate (German), Comickunst (German), Da Vinci (German translation at Sumikai), Diamond (comic books via Major Spoilers, TPBs via The Beat), Entertainment Weekly, Forbes, Gamespot, Goodreads, Gosh (adult, kids), Guardian, The Hollywood Reporter, Hyperallergic, io9, Kono manga ga sugoi (English translation – male, female), Major Spoilers Podcast, Newsweek, Oricon (German translation at Sumikai; ‘Franchise’ list only), Paste, Publishers Weekly (Critics Poll), Readings, School Library Journal, Spiegel (German), Smash Pages, Syfy Wire, Tagesspiegel (German), Toledo Lucas County Public Library, Tor.com, Tor Online (German), The Verge, Vulture (Best Superhero Stories; comics only), Washington Post, WhatCulture, Women Write About Comics (Big Press, Small Press), YALSA, Your Chicken Enemy.
[UPDATE: added 9 more lists – Hollywood Reporter, Comicbook.com, AiPT, ComFor, Comicgate, Comic Report, Unwinnable, 2× WWAC, plus some comments below.]
[UPDATE: added 8 more lists – ANN, The Beat, CBC, Entertainment Weekly, Major Spoilers, PW Graphic Novel Critics Poll, Tanuki Bridge, The Verge; arrows next to entries indicate that their rank went up or down compared to the previous version.]
Another year draws to its close, and that means: best-of lists! Once more I’ve compiled all the comics lists I found online into one ‘master list’. This time I’ve only applied my own ‘weighted’ method that takes into account the rank of a title on each list by assigning points from 1 to 30 (see last year’s list for a more detailed explanation), but I have included the number of lists on which a title is found in brackets for fans of the ‘traditional’ method (and used this number to break ties). Sources are indicated at the bottom of this blogpost. Please note that this post will probably be updated a couple of times as new lists are published.
THE TOP 25 COMICS OF 2017:
- My Favorite Thing Is Monsters by Emil Ferris (335 points / 19 lists)
- My Lesbian Experience With Loneliness by Nagata Kabi (210 / 10)
- The Best We Could Do by Thi Bui (197 / 12)
- Boundless by Jillian Tamaki (178 / 10)
- Mister Miracle by Tom King and Mitch Gerads (152 / 8) ⇧
- Spinning by Tillie Walden (151 / 8) ⇩
- Batman by Tom King et al. (119 / 7) ⇧
- S’enfuir. Récit d’un otage by Guy Delisle (117 / 8) ⇩
- Black Hammer by Jeff Lemire and Dean Ormston (116 / 6) ⇩
- You & A Bike & A Road by Eleanor Davis (112 / 6) ⇧
- Shade The Changing Girl by Cecil Castellucci et al. (104 / 8)
- Sex Fantasy by Sophia Foster-Dimino (95 / 4)
- Paper Girls by Brian K. Vaughan and Cliff Chiang (90 / 4) ⇧
- Everyone’s a Aliebn When Ur a Aliebn Too by Jomny Sun (88 / 5) ⇧
- The Mighty Thor by Jason Aaron et al. (88 / 4) ⇩
- Coquelicots d’Irak by Brigitte Findakly and Lewis Trondheim (79 / 4) ⇧
- My Brother’s Husband by Gengoroh Tagame (75 / 5) ⇧
- Wonder Woman by Greg Rucka et al. (71 / 5) ⇩
- Everything is Flammable by Gabrielle Bell (63 / 4) ⇩, tied with
Siúil, a Rún by Nagabe (63 / 4) ⇩
- Sticks Angelica, Folk Hero by Michael DeForge (63 / 5) ⇧
- Golden Kamuy by Satoru Noda (60 / 3) ⇩
- Black Bolt by Saladin Ahmed and Christian Ward (59 / 3) ⇩, tied with
Saga by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples (59 / 3) ⇧
- Le Rapport de Brodeck by Manu Larcenet (59 / 2) ⇧
Two observations from further down the list:
- It doesn’t seem to have been a particularly great year for (the international recognition of) German comics – the only one in the top 50 is Nick Cave by Reinhard Kleist (45 points / 3 lists) at #37. Part of the problem is that it takes so long for some German comics to be translated into English; if e.g. Ulli Lust’s Flughunde / Voices in the Dark would have come out in the same year in both English and German instead of 4 years later, it would have ranked much higher. The same is true for French and Japanese comics, of course.
- Speaking of Japanese comics: with only 4 of them in the top 25, there’s still a clear divide in comics readership. Manga on lower ranks include Yakusoku no Neverland / The Promised Neverland by Kaiu Shirai and Posuka Demizu (50 / 2) at #33, and Fumetsu no anata e / To Your Eternity by Yoshitoki Ōima (49 / 2) at #34.
The following lists were evaluated: Adventures in Poor Taste, Amazon.com, Anime News Network, A.V. Club, Barnes & Noble (“new manga”, “comics”), The Beat (multiple mentions only), CBC, Chicago Public Library, ComFor (German), Comicbook.com, Comicgate (German), Comic Report (German, multiple mentions only), Entertainment Weekly, Forbes, Goodreads, Gosh (adult, kids), Guardian, The Hollywood Reporter, io9, Kono manga ga sugoi (English translation – male, female), Major Spoilers Podcast, NPR, Paste (kids), Publishers Weekly (Critics Poll), School Library Journal, Syfy Wire (ongoing), Tagesspiegel (German), Tanuki Bridge, Unwinnable, The Verge, Vulture, Washington Post, Women Write About Comics (big press, small press).
Are the manga that almost everyone put on their best-comics-of-2016 lists really so awesome? (Spoiler: yes, they are.) Or was the actually best manga a completely different one that was overlooked by most? In this little two-part blog post [EDIT: read part 2 here] I’ll review two titles from each of those categories.
Orange (orange) vol. 1
Language: German (translated from Japanese)
Author: Ichigo Takano
Publisher: Carlsen Manga (originally Shūeisha and Futabasha)
Year: 2016 (originally 2012)
Number of volumes: 3 so far (completed with vol. 5 in Japan)
Pages: ~190 (+ 30 pages backup story)
Price: € 8
Orange is the highest-ranked manga in the aggregate ranking of 2016 year-end lists, so it certainly is the most popular among critics. But is it also the best? If you only go by its synopsis, you wouldn’t think so: 16-year old Naho mysteriously starts receiving letters from the future, written by herself at age 26. The letters are mainly concerned with Naho’s new classmate Kakeru, who will die next year, and adult Naho wants teenage Naho to prevent this.
Magically travelling back to one’s teenage days is not a particularly original premise for a manga – cf. the recent ReLIFE by Yayoisō and 31 I Dream by Arina Tanemura, and of course Jirō Taniguchi’s 1990s masterpiece, A Distant Neighborhood. The new spin in Orange is that 26-year old Naho doesn’t travel back in time; she only sends letters but can’t control what her 16-year old self does, and 16-year old Naho doesn’t know anything about her future except for what she reads in the letters.
This makes for an ideal starting point for the compelling exploration of a theme that was also central to Taniguchi: regret. One could even argue this works better in Orange, because although 16-year old Naho knows what she is supposed to do (according to the advice in the letters), she often can’t bring herself to do it, or decides against it, or simply misses the opportunity. The letters don’t change who she is; they don’t turn her into another, more courageous, person.
Add to that some gorgeous artwork (masterly use of screen tones!) and you get an almost perfect manga. Almost, but not quite: what took me by surprise was that the story is partially set in the time of adult Naho, and – not unlike the much-reviled epilogue to the final Harry Potter novel – I don’t think this works all that well. While the manga demographic terms of shōjo and josei are often problematic, this distinction might be at the core of the problem here: a reader can identify with either Naho the wife and mother or Naho the high schooler, but probably not both.
Another potentially problematic element is the unlikely plot device of sending letters back in time in an otherwise realistic setting, which as of vol. 1 hasn’t been explained yet. An unconvincing explanation at the end can still ruin a series that had been good up to this point (I’m looking at you, Nobuaki Kanazawa), so we’ll have to wait and see how this is handled in the four remaining volumes of Orange.
Rating: ● ● ● ● ○
Knights of Sidonia (シドニアの騎士 / Shidonia no kishi) vol. 14
Language: German (translated from Japanese)
Author: Tsutomu Nihei
Publisher: Egmont (originally Kōdansha)
Year: 2017 (originally 2015)
Number of volumes: 14 so far (completed with vol. 15 in Japan)
Price: € 7.50
Ostensibly, this penultimate volume of Knights of Sidonia has little to do with 2016: the original Japanese tankōbon was published in 2015 already and this German translation only this year. However, the 15th and final volume, which is yet to be published in German, came out in the US last year, so I would have thought the conclusion of the series would make a bigger impact on the Western manga scene.
Instead it seems to have gone by unnoticed – it wasn’t on any of the best manga/comics of 2016 lists -, which is a shame because of the historic significance in the field of science-fiction manga that this series has already earned itself due to its scale (surpassing Tsutomu Nihei’s earlier magnum opus, Blame!, by 5 volumes), its ambitious genre-bending, and its modernisation of the venerable mecha genre.
I’ve sung the praises of the series before, but how does a a single volume hold up when judged individually? In the case of vol. 14, it’s an above-average volume because many exciting things happen in it: there’s an alien infiltrator aboard the mothership Sidonia, Mrs Hiyama the talking bear makes several appearances, we get to know the enigmatic captain Kobayashi better, we even learn something about protagonist Tanikaze’s origin, Tanikaze gets a new mecha model, etc.
That being said, Knights of Sidonia might be a case of the whole being greater than the sum of its parts – or rather, being precisely the sum of its parts, with each new volume adding to the enjoyment of reading, rather than merely replicating it. For each awesome scene, there’s a sequence where it’s hard to figure out what’s going on (particularly the space fights), or an unlikely twist that’s only there for shock value. But put together, there’s a lot of awesomeness over the course of this series.
Rating: ● ● ● ● ○
[UPDATE: added 2 more lists – Chicago Public Library and AiPT.]
[UPDATE: added one more list – Comicgate.]
[UPDATE: added 9 more lists – Autostraddle, 3× Barnes & Noble, The Beat, ComFor, Comic Report, ComicsAlliance and Odyssey.]
[UPDATE: added 3 more lists – Amazon, Graphixia, and Rob Clough’s -; thus the strikethrough text in the comments and the little arrows next to some comics to indicate that their rank went up or down compared to the previous version.]
Towards every end of year (and shortly afterwards), lots of people publicly share their opinion on what the best comics of that year were in the form of best-of lists. Aggregating these lists into one ‘master list’ or ‘meta list’ might yield, if one believes in the ‘wisdom of crowds’, the best of the best.
For 2015, such lists were compiled by Multiversity Comics and ICv2, and their straightforward method was to simply count in how many best-of lists each title appeared, and then to rank the titles by that number. So I did that too, but I’m not quite satisfied with this method, and thus also offer a new kind of ranking below. Here’s the top ~25 according to the ‘old’ ranking method first:
1.) The Vision by Tom King, Gabriel Hernandez Walta and Jordie Bellaire (on 16 out of 36 lists)
2.) March: Book Three by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin and Nate Powell (14)
3.) Paper Girls by Brian K. Vaughan, Cliff Chiang and Matt Wilson (12)
4.) Monstress by Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda (10)
Patience by Daniel Clowes (10)
6.) Ghosts by Raina Telgemeier (8)
Rolling Blackouts by Sarah Glidden (8)
Rosalie Lightning by Tom Hart (8)
9.) The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye by Sonny Liew (7)
Saga by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples (7)
11.) The Wicked + The Divine by Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie and Matthew Wilson (6)
The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl by Ryan North and Erica Henderson (6)
13.) Black Panther by Ta-Nehisi Coates, Brian Stelfreeze and Laura Martin (5)
Dark Night by Paul Dini and Eduardo Risso (5)
Faith by Jody Houser, Francis Portela and Marguerite Sauvage (5) ⇧
Goodnight Punpun by Inio Asano (5) ⇧
Hot Dog Taste Test by Lisa Hanawalt (5)
Mooncop by Tom Gauld (5)
Orange by Ichigo Takano (5) ⇧
Panther by Brecht Evens (5)
21.) The Fix by Nick Spencer, Steve Lieber and Ryan Hil (4) ⇩
Hellboy in Hell by Mike Mignola and Dave Stewart (4) ⇩
I Am a Hero by Kengo Hanazawa (4) ⇧
The One Hundred Nights of Hero by Isabel Greenberg (4) ⇩
Princess Jellyfish by Akiko Higashimura (4) ⇧
The Sheriff of Babylon by Tom King and Mitch Gerads (4) ⇩
A Silent Voice by Yoshitoki Ōima (4) ⇧
…and then there would be lots of titles found on three or fewer lists.
The problem with this ranking method is, it gives equal weight to a comic that is ranked #1 and one that is ranked #20. With unnumbered best-of lists, the problem is that a comic included on a top 5 list is given equal weight to one in a top 30 list. Therefore I suggest to assign points, based on the list with the highest number of comics (in this case, NPR and B&N Comics with 30 each). For titles on numbered lists, each title is given 30 points minus the respective rank, plus 1 because otherwise a comic on #30 would get no points at all. So e.g. a comic on the top spot gets 30 points, a comic on #7 gets 24 points, and so on. For unnumbered lists, all comics get 30 points minus the total number of comics on the respective list, plus 1 because otherwise no points would be given for a top 30 list. Each title in a top 10 list, for instance, gets 21 points, while a comic in a top 20 list gets 11 etc. Here’s the top 25 ranking based on this ‘new’ method:
1.) The Vision by Tom King, Gabriel Hernandez Walta and Jordie Bellaire (295 points)
2.) March: Book Three by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin and Nate Powell (245)
3.) Paper Girls by Brian K. Vaughan, Cliff Chiang and Matt Wilson (221)
4.) Patience by Daniel Clowes (190)
5.) Rosalie Lightning by Tom Hart (170)
6.) Monstress by Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda (162)
7.) Ghosts by Raina Telgemeier (152)
8.) Rolling Blackouts by Sarah Glidden (139)
9.) Saga by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples (129)
10.) The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye by Sonny Liew (128)
11.) The Wicked + The Divine by Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie and Matthew Wilson (126)
12.) The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl by Ryan North and Erica Henderson (109)
13.) Panther by Brecht Evens (102)
14.) Orange by Ichigo Takano (93) ⇧
15.) The Sheriff of Babylon by Tom King and Mitch Gerads (89) ⇩
16.) Goodnight Punpun by Inio Asano (88) ⇧
17.) The Fix by Nick Spencer, Steve Lieber and Ryan Hil (85) ⇩
Hellboy in Hell by Mike Mignola and Dave Stewart (85) ⇩
19.) A Silent Voice by Yoshitoki Ōima (84) ⇧
20.) Dark Night by Paul Dini and Eduardo Risso (77) ⇩
21.) Hot Dog Taste Test by Lisa Hanawalt (73) ⇩
22.) Megg & Mogg in Amsterdam by Simon Hanselmann (66) ⇩
23.) Un océan d’amour by Wilfrid Lupano and Grégory Panaccione (63) ⇩
24.) The Legend of Wonder Woman by Renae De Liz and Ray Dillon (62) ⇩
25.) Bitch Planet by Kelly Sue DeConnick and Valentine De Landro (61) ⇩
Midnighter and Apollo by Steve Orlando, Fernando Blanco and Romulo Fajardo Jr. (61) ⇩
The advantages of this second meta list become apparent: there are fewer ties, showing that e.g. Patience is far more popular than Monstress even though they are both on the same rank on the first list. Rosalie Lightning and Monstress even swap their relative positions, because the latter was included in more lists but on lower ranks. The biggest surprise, though, is that Megg & Mogg
makes almost makes the top 20 in the 2nd meta list – it is found on only three lists, but always on high ranks – whereas Black Panther disappears (or more precisely, drops out of the top 25 to rank 27 28).
Personally I find it interesting (and rather sad) that only
six seven lists (Goodreads, Derek’s at The Comics Alternative, Amazon, Graphixia, Comic Report, Comicgate and Chicago Public Library) included a manga along with non-manga comics. Apart from Orange, Punpun, and A Silent Voice, the only other manga further down on the meta list, due to their inclusion in two or three lists four or fewer lists, are Princess Jellyfish (35), Assassination Classroom by Yūsei Matsui (36), One-Punch Man by Yusuke Murata and One ( 34 37), and Wandering Island by Kenji Tsuruta (49) I Am a Hero (40), plus a few others that didn’t make the top 50.
two three highest-ranked German comics just missed the top 30: Madgermanes by Birgit Weyhe ( 32), Röhner by Max Baitinger (tied for 32), and Didi & Stulle by Fil ( 34 37).
These are the lists I considered:
Adventures in Poor Taste (manga), Amazon, Autostraddle, Barnes & Noble: New Manga / Ongoing Manga / Comics & Graphic Novels, The Beat (multiple mentions only), Best and Worst Manga of 2016 Results – Comic-Con International (first 4 categories only), Chicago Public Library, ComFor (German), Comicgate (German), Comic Report (German; multiple mentions only), ComicsAlliance, The Comics Alternative (counting Andy’s and Derek’s as two separate lists), Forbes, Goodreads, Graphixia (first 2 categories only), The Guardian, High-Low (Rob Clough), How To Love Comics, io9, NPR, Odyssey (Rachel Freeman), Paste, Publishers Weekly (Best Books 2016, ‘Comics’ category), Rolling Stone (German), School Library Journal, Sumikai (German), Slate, Tagesspiegel (German), Unwinnable, Vox.com, Vulture, Washington Post, Women Write About Comics.
Did I overlook a noteworthy list? Tell me in the comments.