How about November? It was a great month for comics, so good I could probably get away with saying that this post is tardy because I spent weeks debating the order. And yes, while I did grapple with that, truth is my rankings are always late and I’ve just been busy. But, again, the idea behind this monthly piece is to maybe help with pull list decisions, rather than single issue purchases.
Anyway, without further adieu (wait, there was adieu?! Did I miss the adieu??!!), here is November’s list:
Honorable Mention: The Batman Who Laughs #1
The Batman Who Laughs is one of the year’s best Batman stories, and it isn't even the best Batman book this month (more on that later). This one spun out of DC's Metal event, which has been grandiose yet laden with sheer comic book goofiness, all transposed against a terrifying threat of alternate Bruce Waynes. This story lacks the goofiness (like in Metal how the Justice League piloted robots that unified to form a Voltron — I know!). This story is all darkness.
And it’s a story that expands a bit on an idea in The Killing Joke regarding the commonality between Batman and Joker, minus the one bad day idea (which, c’mon). It takes us to a dark Earth where *SPOILER* Batman kills Joker and is transformed by gas released upon his death into a hybrid of their two personas. There have been many stories about how Batman and Joker are similar, or different, or parts of the same coin, but this one shows us Joker’s volatility complimenting Batman’s capability and drive, creating something else that's utterly terrifying. Also, how about that title?
5. Mister Miracle #4
That Mister Miracle has appeared here twice and I’ve only been writing this for three months says a good deal about how much I like this comic. As I noted when it landed on my Top 5 Comics of September 2017, writer Tom King is inclined to play with form. This book does that by putting Mister Miracle (aka Scott Free) on trial in the living room of his schlubby apartment, then using spurious logic and rapid questioning to give us a window into the titular character’s mental state, which is tinged with depression and PTSD.
Free is tried by Orion, who took his place when the benevolent High Father swapped Scott with the malevolent Darkseid, hoping it would put their worlds at peace (Narrator: it didn’t). The tension, resentment, and differences between the characters is on full display as Orion grills Free within Mitch Gerads’ intricate nine-panel pages. I’m not the first to call this 12-issue series a modern classic in the making and certainly won’t be the last. In fact, I do it again in two months at this rate.
4. The Wild Storm #9
I’ve been a little baffled at the seemingly low profile writer Warren Ellis and artist Jon Davis-Hunt’s The Wild Storm has had during its excellent run. I’m either missing the buzz about this book, or too many people are disregarding it as a ‘90s throwback relaunch that relies purely on nostalgia. This is, however, far from being that. The Wild Storm stands easily on its own as a rich and compelling story.
What landed it on my list this month was Davis-Hunt’s artwork, particularly during the incredible feudal Japan fight sequence, among the best action storytelling I’ve seen in the medium all year. It was actually one of two fantastic action sequences this month, with David Marquez’s Elektra and Iron Fist battle in Defenders being the other. This one gets the nod because The Wild Storm has been stronger for longer, and I also feel like Davis-Hunt didn’t get enough credit for his fantastic pencils in Gail Simone’s highly-underrated Clean Room series, which recently concluded but is very much worth reading in trade.
3. Descender #26
There’s a tendency in shops and online to take Image’s many long-running super strong books for granted, books like Wicked + Divine, Saga, Sex Criminals, and even The Walking Dead. Descender is a prime example. The story has slowed a bit after its breakneck early issues to log a few backstory installments, but it’s really picked up in The Rise of The Robots arch, which concludes here.
Jeff Lemire’s books often make this list, in part because his work has so much nuance. There’s a literary quality to Lemire’s comic writing, in that characters and stories are layered with meaning (at least as I read them) and tend to land places that are unpredictable and so organic that truth rings through. This is even true of work he's done for the Big 2. Descender is no exception. It’s a slow-burn, and whatever the payoff ends up being, Lemire is doing the important work to earn it.
2. Doomsday Clock #1
Geoff Johns's comic work is rare these days, now that he’s guiding DC's larger direction across various media. Johns, however, is among the best superhero writers of all time, and he follows up here on his industry-shaking DC Rebirth one shot from last May. This is a huge deal, as it has promised to incorporate Watchmen characters into the DC universe proper. I think it's telling that a friend of mine who posts online maybe once a year about comics went out to check it.
And I was thoroughly satisfied by the story. There’s a significant percentage of fans who are super weary of messing with anything Watchmen, creating scrutiny for this book, but I’m all in. Johns and artist Gary Frank have earned trust. On another Johns note, I think it’s folly that his role in the DC movie universe is rumored to be changing because Justice League bombed. I mean, Johns came on board for Wonder Woman, which was the best superhero movie in years, and by that time, Justice League’s trajectory already seemed firmly in place. Hell, director Zack Snyder seemed to have had it planned before Batman V. Superman even opened. Not much Johns, or anyone else, could have done to make the wholesale changes needed. I know someone had to fall on their sword for Justice League bombing, but Johns is the WRONG answer.
1. Batman Annual #2
Okay, so more praise for Tom King: his work is so good it helped draw me back into being a Wednesday Warrior with my comic reading. I’d been following via trades at the library for a few years when Marvel announced its All New, All Different relaunch. I went back to shops, feeling that as an adult with steady income, I should directly support the industry. However, minus a few exceptions, I was disappointed with the storytelling. One of those exceptions was Tom King’s incredible Vision series with Gabriel Walta. From there, I read Omega Men and Sheriff of Babylon. It was all so good, so willing to take chances to make the text more beautiful and the story human. I was, of course, upset when Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo ended their all-time great run on Batman, but King taking over cushioned that blow. Issues like Batman Annual #2 are the reason why.
This is a fairly straightforward love story between Batman and Catwoman, one that transcends costumed ridiculousness and speaks to the beauty and tragedy inherent to romantic love. Drawn by Lee Weeks, King's collaborator from Batman Elmer Fudd (another improbably great work from Tom King), this is a heart-rending love story that is easily among the best comics of the year.