Welcome to our celebratory recap of superhero novels published in 2016. You’ll notice right away that this year’s Top 5 list is unusual because it features books that are slightly askew of the genre. Three of our favorite books, in fact, aren’t technically superhero fiction. They are, nonetheless, heavily inspired by comic books and contain the familiar language of superheroes. Without a doubt, these efforts wouldn’t exist if the authors didn’t embrace the medium (comics) and respect the genre (superheroes).
Furthermore, these particular novels represent a continuing shift in the tenor of the marketplace. More and more, writers are moving beyond X-Men novels and pushing the boundaries of the genre. Taken as a whole, our 2016 Top 5 list personifies the Next-Men of superhero prose fiction.
1) The Regional Office Is Under Attack! by Manuel Gonzales. There are superheroes and supervillains all over the place in Gonzales’ amazing novel. But this isn’t your standard comic book inspired slugfest. Gonzales plays around with genre expectations and delivers the best superhero novel of the year. Spoiler alert: it’s not really a superhero novel at all.
2) A Hundred Thousand Worlds by Bob Proehl. Comic books, once marginalized and dismissed, have become a powerful media force these days. It only makes sense that someone would eventually write a novel inside the comic book bubble. Proehl’s love story between a mother and her son dives deep into nerd culture. The results are surprisingly inclusive. Highly recommended even if you’ve never been to San Diego Comic-Con.
3) The Oddfits by Tiffany Tsao. A hero’s journey begins with the call to adventure. But sometimes there’s a journey to get to the journey. That’s the case with Tiffany Tsao’s unlikely hero, Murgatroyd Floyd Shwet Foo. He must overcome an assortment of obstacles before embarking on his hero’s quest. Joseph Campbell would surely approve.
4) Lois Lane: Double Down by Gwenda Bond. We made the mistake of not including the first Lois Lane novel in our Best of 2015 list (Lois Lane: Fallout). We’re not going to make that mistake again. Double Down continues a winning streak for Bond and her irrepressible teenage heroine. Look for the author to three-peat in 2017 with Lois Lane: Triple Threat.
5) Heroine Complex by Sarah Kuhn. From start to finish, Kuhn’s novel is a hoot. But it’s not a blunt superhero spoof. There’s wit and purpose on every page. The author’s got a lot to say about friendship, familial obligations, cultural identity, and the pitfalls of fame. Kuhn’s humor has bite like a cupcake with fangs.
2016 is over and it’s time to look ahead to 2017. To quote Luke Cage: “Always forward, never backward.” Here’s a partial list of books we’ll be reading in the next 12 months.
Against the Odds by Amy Ignatow. A Little More Human by Fiona Maazel. Arrow: Generation of Vipers by Clay and Susan Griffith. At the Table of Wolves by Kay Kenyon. Avalanche by Mercedes Lackey, Veronica Giguere, Dennis Lee, and Cody Martin. Avengers of the Moon by Allen Steele. Avengers: The Serpent Society by Patrick Shand. Batgirl at Super Hero High by Lisa Yee. Behind the Mask: An Anthology of Heroic Proportions edited by Tricia Reeks and Kyle Richardson. Captain America: The Never-Ending Battle by Robert Greenberger. Captain America: Restitution by David McDonald. The Flash: Hocus Pocus by Barry Lyga. Ghosts of Empire by George Mann. Gotham: Dawn of Darkness by Jason Starr. Guardians of the Galaxy: Collect Them All by Corinne Duyvis. Guardians of the Galaxy: Space Riot by Patrick Shand. The Halo Effect by Ben Langdon. Heroine Worship by Sarah Kuhn. How to Be a Supervillain by Michael Fry. Katana at Super Hero High by Lisa Yee. Iron Man: Mutually Assured Destruction by Patrick Shand. Lois Lane: Triple Threat by Gwenda Bond. The Many Lives of Catwoman: The Felonious History of a Feline Fatale by Tim Hanley. Miles Morales: A Spider-Man Novel by Jason Reynolds. The More Known World by Tiffany Tsao. Planet Hulk by Greg Pak. Power Game by Christine Feehan. The Refrigerator Monologues by Catherynne M. Valente and Annie Wu. Renegades by Marissa Meyer. Siege of Shadows by Sarah Raughley. Sovereign by April Daniels. Spider-Man: Enemies Closer by Jim Beard. Spider-Man: Forever Young by Stefan Petrucha. Spoonbenders by Daryl Gregory. Sputnik’s Children by Terri Favro. Supergirl: Age of Atlantis by Jo Whittemore. Thanos: Death Sentence by Stuart Moore. Thor: Crusade of the Forgotten by Patrick Shand. The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl: Girl Meets World by Shannon and Dean Hale. Warriors Three: Godhood’s End by Keith DeCandido. Who Is the Black Panther? by Jesse Holland. Wonder Woman: The Official Movie Novelization by Nancy Holder. Wonder Woman: Warbringer by Leigh Bardugo. The Zodiac Legacy: The Balance of Power by Stan Lee, Stuart Moore, and Andie Tong.