The Best of 2017–The Best in Print

Our Best of 2017 list continues today with the Best in Print.  If you missed them, check out our review of the Best Movies of 2017 here, the Kick-Ass Heroines of 2017 here, and the Best in Television here.

So let’s get going.  Here are our selections for this year’s Best in Print:

Best New Edition of Previous Published WorkThe Wind in the Willows, Kenneth Grahame, David Petersen (IDW Publishing).  David Petersen’s artwork was the perfect excuse to get Kenneth Grahame’s wonderful classic The Wind in the Willows into the hands of new readers.  The new edition from IDW Publishing was the perfect storybook, and Petersen, known best for his Mouse Guard series, showed his understanding of these characters and their natural world full of wonder through his fantasy images.

Best Read, Best Retro Read – Forever and a Death, Donald E. Westlake (Hard Case Crime).  Not every good idea comes to fruition.  Not every excellent project gets off the ground.  Not every great book gets published.  The Hard Case Crime imprint of Titan Books came through again, seizing the opportunity to take a lost, never before published work of Donald E. Westlake--Forever and a Death--and brought it to life.  And what a great adventure!  Originally the story commissioned to be the James Bond film Tomorrow Never Dies, the projected was shelved, and only now do we get fantastic characters (like environmental activist and diver Kim Baldur) in a very Bondian situation–destroying Hong Kong as payback for China taking it back from Great Britain.  Honorable mention for Best Retro Read: Turn on the Heat, Erle Stanley Gardner, and Dragon Teeth, Michael Crichton.

Best Sci-Fi Read – Slaves of the Switchboard of Doom: A Novel of Retropolis, Bradley W. Schenck (Tor Books).  Imaginative, new, and fun, Schenck took us into a timeless world full of nostalgia and classic science fiction.  Great tech, and a sprawling story.  Interesting characters and great world-building, this novel will be a great surprise for sci-fi readers.  Honorable mention: War for the Planet of the Apes: Revelations, Greg Keyes.

Best Fantasy Read – An Alchemy of Masques and Mirrors, Curtis Craddock (Tor Books).  The plot of this debut novel is labyrinthine and action-packed, full of assassination attempts from all quarters, courtly intrigue galore, grandiose philosophies, and a cast of characters anchored by the strong, smart, resourceful, and eminently likeable heroes.  Supporting everything is Craddock’s strong, confident, often-funny, and sharply observant writing that goes from heart-wrenching to hilarious on a single page without missing a beat.  A dazzling debut.

Best Genre Non-fiction – Middle-Earth: From Script to Screen, Daniel Falconer (Harper Design).  We wish every genre franchise had such a magnificent, thorough, monumental guide.  Falconer’s guide to Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit trilogies is full of interviews at all levels of the creative process, and supported by concept art, photographs, maps, and so much more.  Worthy of the six films it covers, it’s the ultimate fan book and a model for any franchise attempting to put everything fans could want into a single volume.

There’s much more of our selections for 2017’s Best in Print and more, after the jump…

Best Book Design – The Great Wall: The Art of the Film, Abbie Bernstein (Titan Books).  Bernstein’s look at the big-budget China-America production The Great Wall features the best quality images, the best layouts, and the best book design of any book yet reviewed at–the book itself has a traditional Chinese book binding and gilded edges.  It also features an element left out of many film books these days–it includes images of the entire film, and doesn’t remove spoiler elements, such as, in this case, detailed images of the film’s monsters and ending.  Gold foil cover art, insert pages to protect the ink of certain pages, transparency page introducing chapters, fold out pages detailing maps and concept art.  Content is always the point of any book, but this volume demonstrates bookmaking can still be its own art.

Best Behind the Scenes Film Book – The Dark Crystal: The Ultimate Visual History, Caseen Gaines (Insight Editions).  The best education in the creative process of storytelling can be found in Gaines’ richly researched account of Jim Henson creating his labor of love, The Dark Crystal.  A rewarding document for fans of the man and the film on its 35th anniversary, readers will walk away with a better sense of what made this beloved creator tick.

Best Crossover/Mash-up Comic Book Series, Best Comic Book WriterBatman/Elmer Fudd, Tom King, Lee Weeks, Byron Vaughns (DC Comics/Looney Tunes).  DC Comics and Looney Tunes had fun this year with a series of great mash-ups.  The best of the bunch was Batman/Elmer Fudd, the most unlikely combination, yet written by Tom King and artwork by Lee Weeks and Byron Vaughns, the impossible became possible in this noir winner.  


Best Comic Book Cover Artist Alex Ross, Mighty Mouse, Planet of the Apes/Green Lantern, Batman ’66 Meets Wonder Woman ’77, The Shadow/Batman, Marvel Legacy, The Mighty Captain Marvel, Wonder Woman ’77 Meets The Bionic Woman, and more.  Alex Ross had another banner year, providing the best nostalgia for fanboys and fangirls with his classic painted artwork.  And as always, he didn’t just paint a few covers, but more covers in 2017 than we could even track down.  Honorable mention: Frank Cho, Liberty Meadows variant covers for Harley Quinn monthly series.

Best Comic Book Interior ArtStar Wars: The Last Jedi — The Storms of Crait, Mike Mayhew (Marvel Comics).  The most nostalgic view of Star Wars came late this year from writers and artist Mike Mayhew.  A Luke, Leia, Han, and Wedge adventure that provided some backstory for what later would become the Battle of Crait in the new film. Mayhew provided that great Star Wars look we loved in the Star Wars monthly series his Dark Horse Comics series The Star Wars.

Best Comic Book Single Issue, Best Cover, Best Humor Comic Book, Best Horror Comic Book Jughead: The Hunger (Archie Horror).  Keeping up with the great titles in Archie Comics’ horror imprint, we loved Jughead: The Hunger, a great tale about Jughead, so popular it led to an ongoing series.  Robert Hack’s variant movie poster cover was a great throwback to the 75-year-old character.

Best Sci-fi Comic Book, Best Comic Book SeriesStar Trek: The Next Generation —Mirror Broken, Scott Tipton, David Tipton, and J.K. Woodward (IDW Publishing).  Our favorite Star Trek event of the year,  The Tiptons and Woodward gave fans of the series something new and something we didn’t know we’d want all at the same time.  A great story that demonstrated the Tiptons understanding of these characters, it looked exactly right thanks to the covers and interior art by Woodward.

Best Comic Book Event – Marvel Legacy Lenticular Variant Covers, various.  (Marvel Comics).  Some people hate them, but for the rest of us it’s an opportunity to hold some of the best, classic comic book covers from years’ past in our hands again, and thanks to the lenticular format that cover is tilted to view the latest series cover.

Best Comic Book HomageStar Wars: Darth Vader #1, Mark Brooks.  Artist Mark Brooks took the image of Dave Cockrum’s cover to Uncanny X-men #145 and made it different and cool, adding in foxing and brittle edges to look like a classic 1970s book pulled out of a comic box in his basement.  A great, creepy image!

Best Star Trek Non-fiction Star Trek Beyond: The Make-up Artistry of Joel Harlow, Joe Nazarro (Titan Books).  This beautiful volume shared Harlow and his creators’ complete, firsthand accounts of developing, designing, casting and even applying many of the makeups for the 50th anniversary celebration of the Star Trek franchise on film.  This look at costumes is something we’ve never seen before for any franchise, comprehensive and interesting material about the development of so many great futuristic designs and otherworldly creatures. 

Best Star Wars Non-fictionThe Art of Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Phil Szostak (Abrams Books).  Stunning images of concept art for the latest entry in the Star Wars saga.  If you didn’t understand the motivations behind many of the decisions Rian Johnson made for this film, this book supplies many explanations.  Paintings, storyboards, and designs for environments and ships make this the must-have companion book this year for Star Wars fans.

The Best of the Rest:

Biggest Genre Event of 2017 –  We witnessed the 90th anniversary of Fritz Lang’s Metropolis, while Disney’s The Jungle Book, The Dirty Dozen, and the original Casino Royale turned 50.  Along with Star Wars, Close Encounters of the Third Kind turned 40.  E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, Blade Runner, Tron, and The Dark Crystal turned 35.  Predator, The Princess Bride, and Robocop turned 30.  But best of all, many made it back into theaters this year thanks to Turner Classic Movies, Fathom Events, and participating theaters, giving us the best Retro Fix we could hope for, including E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, The Princess Bride, and Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind.

Best Genre Auction – This year saw Bonhams auction house get a seller the best price ever for a non-costume movie prop, and what better statement for the love of science fiction than for that honor to go to the actual Robby the RobotThe robot was sold with his space chariot to an anonymous buyer in November.

Best Real Science – This year saw plenty of interesting science encounters.  Astronaut Peggy Whitson became the human to have lived in space the longest, after also breaking the record for most spacewalks of any human.  At age 56, Whitson is the oldest woman to fly in space.  Billionaire philanthropist adventurer Paul Allen discovered the wreckage of the USS Indianapolis on the ocean floor.  It was lost at sea with its crew 72 years ago, as recounted in a famous scene in the movie Jaws.  And somehow most of us didn’t become blind watching the Solar Eclipse in August.

Best Nerd/Fanboy Tech – When we first learned about kid-sized working landspeeders from Radio Flyer in the press materials for San Diego Comic-Con, we had no idea it could look this good.  Some lucky kids are out there right now soaring around their homes in these (and making their parents very, very jealous).

Best Action Figure Design (budget) – Kurt Russell as Ego from Guardians of the Galaxy 2 (Marvel Legends). Check out our discussion of Kurt Russell action figures here.

Best Action Figure Design (high-end) Obi-Wan Kenobi – comic book middle-aged version (Sideshow).  This was announced early this year, but we still don’t know when it will be available to collectors.  We just want to make sure everyone has seen it, because the blend of Alec Guinness and Ewan McGregor and that superb costume work make for one of the coolest figures/statues we’ve seen.

So that’s it!

Come back later this week as we add some new members for our annual update to the Borg Hall of Fame.

C.J. Bunce

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