Top Comics to Buy for January 16, 2019

By Zack Quaintance — This was an interesting week for comics, in that many of the best creator-owned books coming out were well into their runs or midway into their first arcs. There are, of course, some interesting new #1 titles (there always as are, as that’s where the money is at, and all), including Adventure Time: Simon and Marcy, Black Widow, and Invaders. There’s also Marvel Comics Presents #1, which is the one I’m personally most interested in.

Still, great creator-owned books like Black Badge, Gideon Falls, Lodger, and Wic + Div all seem to be caught mid-arc. So, we’ve done what any good comics recommender would...read the issues and sorted them out and come up with some recommendations—even if there aren’t any good jumping on points to be had, except for Isola (more on that in a moment). We hope you’ll find it all helpful!

And now, onward to the comics!

Top Comics to Buy for January 16, 2019

*PICK OF THE WEEK*
Babyteeth #14
Writer:
Donny Cates
Artist: Garry Brown
Colorist: Mark Englert
Letterer: Taylor Esposito
Publisher: AfterShock Comics
Price: $3.99
So, hey, welcome back, folks. How about that issue 13, huh? I told you it was bananas. Anyway, look, I'd like to be able to tell you this one is easier or nicer somehow, but real-ly...have any issues of this book not been insane and weird? Would you even believe me If I said it was? No. You wouldn't. So, yeah, this issue is more of all that. Plus: BETRAYAL! (Dramatic music cue!)
Why It’s Cool: This issue really teases out writer Donny Cates’ abilities as a humor writer, which were last seen this directly during his first Marvel work on Doctor Strange and Thanos. Meanwhile, artist Garry Brown also gets some great chances to shine here in what is the first issue back after a bit of a break, using his design skills to also get in on the humor tip. It’s not all laughs though—this issue also raises some pretty stark questions about the devil and God, and, by extension, about our concepts of good and evil. Basically, this is the first issue in a while that really makes good on the immense promise Babyteeth had at launch way back when, so much so it makes me absolutely elated I stuck with this series.

Black Panther #8
Writer:
Ta-Nehisi Coates
Artist: Kev Walker
Colorist: Stephane Paitreau
Letterer: VC’s Joe Sabino
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Price: $3.99
"THE INTERGALACTIC EMPIRE OF WAKANDA: THE GATHERING OF MY NAME" Part 2 For years, the Maroons have lain dormant, planning the next stage of their rebellion. At last, it is time to strike - with a treasure hunt for unstable Vibranium! And with the Black Panther once again in their ranks, they're certain of victory. But what will victory cost? When the chips are down, will the Maroons rise to heroism, or are they doomed by the trauma of their past?
Why It’s Cool: Writer Ta-Nehisi Coates just keeps getting better and better at the comics game, and while his best work may be taking place over in Captain America, his current bonkers intergalactic arc on Black Panther is really no slouch. It’s a bit hard to make out what exactly is going on here—my guess is something funny with a wormhole...thank you to the Shuri title for the tip—but the imagination involved with the story is absolutely off the charts. Kev Walker also returns for another issue, which I’m all about because I thought Black Panther #7 was stunning.  

Electric Warriors #3
Writer:
Steve Orlando
Artist: Travel Foreman
Colorist: Hi-Fi
Letterer: Travis Lanham
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $3.99
The revolution starts now! Inceptor accidentally digs too far into the memories of the Electric Warrior from Gil'Dishpan and uncovers a conspiracy at the heart of the Covenant. The planet games are meant to bring profit and keep the various peoples across the galaxies in check, rather than encourage peace and cooperation. If Inceptor can convince the other Warriors of what he's learned, it might just spark the revolution that will free a galaxy.
Why It’s Cool: Simply put, Electric Warriors is the Big 2 comic right now that not enough people are talking about. It’s an impeccably-told future-set tale with a savage sci-fi concept. This issue pushes that concept a step further by—well, I won’t tip into spoiler territory but I will tell you that you should without question be reading this book. Especially if you fancy yourself any sort of DC Comics continuity buff, or even a hardcore DC fan.  

Isola #6
Writers:
Brendan Fletcher / Karl Kerschl
Artists: Karl Kerschl / Msassyk
Letterer: Aditya Bidikar
Publisher: Image Comics
Price: $3.99
Olwyn has returned from the land of the dead, but did she return alone? The journey to Isola continues...NOW BI-MONTHLY!
Why It’s Cool: Isola is the best-looking comic coming out today (with apologies to The Dreaming), and this is the start of a new arc. The first trade is out there at the super reasonable $9.99 Image introductory price. It’s also a fairly decompressed comic, which means that with $10 and an afternoon, you can get caught up for this new jumping on point. And trust me when I tell you it’s very much worth. Not only is the art absolutely stunning, but the world is well-built and the characters compelling. The narrative is also paced with a rewarding rate of revelation, doling out enough to stay interesting without ever tipping into overly wordy dumping of exposition.

Superman #7
Writer:
Brian Michael Bendis
Artists: Ivan Reis, Brandon Peterson, and Jason Fabok
Inker: Oclair Albert
Colorist: Alex Sinclair
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $3.99
It's the moment you've been waiting for: the shocking return of the son of Superman! A year spent traveling the stars changed Jon Kent. Are parents Clark and Lois ready for the all-new, all-different Superboy? Secrets are revealed, a new look debuts and Superman's world is changed forever!
Why It’s Cool: There’s a reason that Brian Michael Bendis dueling runs on Action Comics and Superman made our Top 5 Comics of 2018: they’re both really really good. Action grabbed me right away, but I must admit it took just a tiny bit longer for Superman to really reel me in. Now that it has, however, I just can’t get enough of this book. Superman #7 is another fantastic installment with top-tier art and a plot that keeps the pages turning. It also has something that Bendis is proving himself impressively adept at: a new iconic moment largely shaped by logical ways in which the rest of the city, Earth, or galaxy would come to view someone as powerful and benevolent as our guy Clark Kent. These are exciting and special superhero comics, and I feel lucky to be reading them in real time as they come out.

Top New #1 Comics

  • Adventure Time: Simon and Marcy #1

  • Black Hammer Director’s Cut #1

  • Black Widow #1

  • Invaders #1

  • Marvel Comics Presents #1

Others Receiving Votes

  • A Walk Through Hell #7

  • Amazing Spider-Man #13

  • Black Badge #6

  • Catwoman #7

  • Conan the Barbarian #2

  • Detective Comics #996

  • Gideon Falls #10

  • Hawkman #8

  • Ironheart #2

  • Lodger #3

  • Middlewest #3

  • Supergirl #26

  • Venom #10

  • Warning #3

  • Wicked + Divine #41

See our past top comics to buy here, and check our our reviews archive here.

Zack Quaintance is a tech reporter by day and freelance writer by night/weekend. He Tweets compulsively about storytelling and comics as BatmansBookcase.


Brubaker and Phillips' Criminal: Crafting a crime masterpiece

By Taylor Pechter — A common adage in pop culture is everyone is the hero of their own story, no matter if the person is inherently good, bad, or somewhere between. From 2006 to 2016, writer Ed Brubaker and artist Sean Phillips redefined the landscape of crime comics with a multi-volume anthology series simply titled, Criminal. The stories within followed the exploits of criminals, from bank robbers to a boxer turned mob enforcer, asking readers to sympathize with horrible people before showing them that even bad guys are human.

It’s this humanity that is the key to the entire series. This week, Brubaker and Phillips returned with their latest volume of Criminal, which marks the eighth overall (read a review of this week’s Criminal #1). The new comic has, unsurprisingly, been met with a wave of critical acclaim, so much so I think it’s already appropriate to call it a success. With so many fans enjoying the series’ latest story, I’d like to take a look today at past volumes, their plots, and some thematic throughlines that appear.

Brubaker and Phillips’ Criminal Vol. 1: Coward

Leo Patterson is a crook trying to turn things around. After a botched heist, he tries to quit the business. With his dad behind bars, his mom dead, and his drug-addled uncle living with him, Leo’s life is not in the best place.

As he says, “I am scared of ending up like my father. Scared of dying where I most likely belong... in prison. But the way I see it… if you aren’t afraid in our line of work then you aren’t thinking. And I won’t work with people who don’t use their brains before bullets… as a rule at least.”

This lesson about rules is what drives Leo’s story as he is lured back to heists by a former associate of his father. The job is to rob an armored car carrying a briefcase of blood diamonds. The heist eventually hits a snag. A firefight ensues, and Leo’s partner, Greta, is shot. To make things worse, the take wasn’t diamonds—it was a briefcase of uncut heroin. As the story winds down, Leo’s uncle dies from overdose after finding the heroin despite Leo hiding it. Greta also dies from her wounds, and Leo confronts a corrupt cop that was involved in the heist, which eventually leads to his death.

Overall, Leo’s story is one of guilt, regret, and failure to live up to expectations. It’s guilt that ultimately leads to his end.

Brubaker and Phillips’ Criminal Vol. 2: Lawless

Tracy Lawless is a man out to find the truth. After spending 18 months in prison for desertion, he escapes and seeks the story behind his brother Ricky’s death. To obtain this info he joins Ricky’s crew and grows close to Ricky’s former flame, Mallory. As they grow closer, however, he only grows more dedicated to his mission. This eventually drives them apart, and Mallory joins a coven.

Throughout the story, Ricky has flashbacks about his brother along and his relationship with his father, Teegar “Teeg” Lawless (who appears in this week’s new Criminal #1). These flashbacks show how both Tracy and Ricky grew to be different and ultimately the same. When Mallory spills the truth during the ending, it hits it home. Ricky’s story is a somber one: A boy hardened by his mobster father surviving on the streets, joining a heist crew, falling in love, and getting in over his head. He gets the score and tries to leave town only to be gunned down by the person he loves. However, instead of vengeance, Tracy instead practices atonement—he lets Mallory go and accepts her actions.

Overall, Tracy’s story is one of coming to terms with and ultimately accepting the truth. It is also a tale of no matter how much you try, you can’t escape family, even when there is no one left but you.

Brubaker and Phillips’ Criminal Vol. 3: The Dead and the Dying

Unlike the previous two volumes, Vol. 3 includes three intertwined stories.

The first focuses on prize boxer Jake “Gnarly” Brown and his rise through the ranks of the Hyde criminal empire. This story follows his exploits along with his employer, Sebastian Hyde, son of influential mob boss Walter Hyde. As time goes on, Gnarly and Sebastian grow apart after they both fall in love with the same woman, Danica. To make matters worse, Sebastian impregnates Danica, increasing that rift. As Gnarly lays in a hospital bed at the end of the story after an ambush by Walter Hyde’s men, he gives Sebastian his final words, sending him on his way as he languishes in the hospital.

Overall, Gnarly’s story is one of friendship, loyalty, and betrayal. After Sebastian impregnates Danica, he feels betrayed, not only by his employer but by one of his closest friends. His life as a boxer is also over, giving him nothing to return to.

The second story follows Teeg Lawless as he returns from Vietnam and re-enters life underground, soon learning he owes a debt to a casino owner. Teeg has to collect two thousand dollars in two weeks or else face consequences. As the story continues, Teeg struggles in fast jobs such as knocking over gas stations. Nearing the end, he contemplates what his life would be like if his kids ended up like him.

Overall, Teeg’s story is one of a father’s dedication. Most of his inner thoughts are about his wife and kids, and how they would react to his life as a criminal. Much like his child Tracy’s story in the previous volume, the thread of family is key to this one as well.

The third and final story centers on Danica, a dancer, who was a girl growing up Christian house. She eventually fell into drugs, got kicked out, and became a dancer. As she grows older, she learns how to use her sexuality. This helps her gain the attention of Sebastian Hyde. From there, her story intertwines with that of Gnarly Brown.

Overall, Danica’s story is one of outgrowing the naivety of youth and becoming an adult. Not only that, it is one of love and its effect on people.

Brubaker and Phillips’ Criminal Vol. 4: Bad Night

This story focuses on a struggling comic strip artist who is haunted by his own creation. In it, he is suddenly thrown into a complicated situation after a mob handoff goes wrong. Jacob Kurtz is an insomniac and former counterfeiter whose wife was killed when she lost control and drove off a ravine.

One night at a diner, he sees a woman and her boyfriend fighting. This woman is named Iris and her boyfriend Danny. Danny is abrasive, a trait that is a main lynchpin of the story. As Jacob confronts him, he is egged on by Frank Kafta, Private Eye, who is actually his comic strip creation, basically a perverse Jiminy Cricket. As time goes on, Danny and Iris plan on using Jacob’s counterfeit techniques to forge an FBI ID so Danny can hand off the money to the Triad.

Things go south, however, and Iris not only shoots Jacob but also shoots and kills Danny. She is rattled and decides to leave Jacob. However, she also has a deeper secret. As the story ends, Jacob finds that Iris was in fact working for the police undercover. As they drive off, Jacob loses control and drives off a cliff, killing Iris and severely injuring himself.  As he lies in his bed, all wrapped up, not only is his life as an artist over, but his creation Frank Kafta also leaves the room.

Overall, Jacob’s story is one of accepting loss and overcoming demons. His wife’s death and his subsequent blame for it shook him to his core. This trauma leads him to create the Frank Kafta character, a specter throughout the story. As the story ends, Kafta leaves his room, leaving Jacob to finally learn to move on.

Brubaker and Phillips’ Criminal Vol. 5: The Sinners

This volume sees the return of Tracy Lawless. As notable crime figures, including Sebastian Hyde, drop like flies, Lawless is sent to find the killers. To make matters more complicated, a CID agent is hunting Tracy for his military desertion charge. Not only that, Tracy is also having an affair with Hyde’s wife. As the search unfolds, his main lead is a priest named Father Mike. As Tracy gets close to answers, everything catches up to him. Not only does the CID agent find him, Hyde also gains more suspicious of his actions. Eventually, the truth of Father Mike is revealed.

Overall, Tracy’s story continues to be one of family and the effect a father has on sons. It is also one of truth and accepting your place in the world. Throughout the story, Tracy continuously feels shame over becoming more like his father. He fears that his father’s self-destruction will eventually lead to his own discovery of the fate of his brother.

Brubaker and Phillips’ Criminal Vol. 6: The Last of the Innocent

The past is often remembered as a time of innocence. You mess around with friends, hook up with crushes, and maybe try things you shouldn’t. In reality, the past catches up to you, pretty much always, and the past can be harsh.

That is the tale of Riley Richards in Criminal Vol. 6. Riley was one of the most popular kids in the city of Brookview. Along with friends Liz, Felix, and Freakout, he formed a close group. Things become difficult when Riley starts getting wind of a possible affair between his now-wife Felix, and Teddy, his childhood rival. He plans to kill his wife. The story of Riley is told expertly not only in the modern day, but also through Archie-esque flashbacks that show a more whimsical side to Riley’s memories. This is a credit to Sean Phillips, who creates a great disconnect between that time and the present day. Not only that, bur Dave Stewart also provides colors that contrast perfectly with the dark palate that Val Staples puts forward in the present day. After Felix is murdered, Riley grows closer to Liz and Teddy sits behind bars, convicted of the act.

Overall, Riley’s story is one of nostalgia and its effect on the mind. The past is always looked upon as happy-go-lucky. As he remembers these moments, he soon realizes that his memories are wrong, and most of the time, life deals you hands you can’t win.

Brubaker and Phillips’ Criminal Vol. 7: Wrong Time, Wrong Place

It’s easier to be a fictional character. How sad is that?

This goes through the mind of young Tracy Lawless as he flees with his gang after throwing a rock through an attic window. This question also drives the narrative of this seventh volume of Criminal—Wrong Time, Wrong Place. There are two stories collected in this volume, one of Teeg Lawless’s time in jail prior to his release, and the second of a sort of road trip which includes his teenage son, Tracy.

While both stories are simple, Brubaker weaves in a unique storytelling device: the comics both of them read. Teeg reads a Conan-esque character named Zanger while Tracy reads a Kung-Fu and Teen Wolf hybrid named Fang, the Kung Fu Werewolf. Both comics inform who the men are, directly reflecting their personalities and development. Teeg is a criminal through and through. He doesn’t take anything from anyone and you better not get in his way. On the other hand, Tracy is a teenager with a criminal dad he hates and doesn’t want to become. Sadly, as this story closes, we as readers know from other volumes that Tracy’s life is destined to be just like his father’s.

Overall, this final story hits home with a father-son dichotomy that has appeared often in previous volumes. The story of the Lawlesses is a tragic one, driving much of one of modern comics’ all-time great series.

In conclusion, Criminal is the premier crime comic series by the premier noir creative team. Ed Brubaker crafts tragic stories with relatable characters inhabiting a dark world. This dark world is illustrated perfectly by artist Sean Phillips, aided along the way by colorists Val Staples, Dave Stewart, and Elizabeth Breitweiser. Phillips not only adds grittiness but also experiments with style, adding new aspects to his art in each volume. All in all, Criminal stands out as not just a masterwork of noir, but a masterwork of comic book storytelling in general. We’re lucky to have it.

Read more of Taylor’s writing on our comics analysis page.

Taylor Pechter is a passionate comic book fan and nerd. Find him on Twitter @TheInspecter.

Top Comics to Buy for January 9, 2019

By Zack Quaintance — Ah, after a few weeks with a lesser volume of new comics releases, it’s nice to get back to full strength. Yes, this week’s Top Comics to Buy for January 9, 2019 involves a far higher volume of books than the last two weekly installments, once of which fell the day after Christmas and the other a day after New Years (side note: already shaking my head about next year, when both Christmas and New Years will actually be on a Wednesday, leading to a rough two-week new comics hiatus, I reckon).

Anyway, this week was great for quality as well as quantity, especially as it pertained to creator-owned comics. I think I read more Image review previews this week than I did in the past three weeks combined. So many of the series from that publisher that launched late last year continued this week, and you’ll see many of them present on our list below, along with some of the usual mainstays.

So with all that in mind, let’s get to that list of Top Comics to Buy for January 9, 2019!

Top Comics to Buy for January 9, 2019

Batman #62
Writer:
Tom King
Artist: Mitch Gerads
Letterer: Clayton Cowles
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $3.99
Now features the Story solicited for #61 written by Tom King with art by Mitch Gerads. The Eisner-winning creative team behind MISTER MIRACLE is back together as artist Mitch Gerads rejoins the Bat team for a special issue! Professor Pyg is loose in Gotham, and you know that means things are going to get weird... and bloody!
Why It’s Cool: When this run is on, it’s one of the best long-form superhero stories in comics. This week, regular series writer Tom King is joined by his Mister Miracle/Sheriff of Babylon collaborator Mitch Gerads (one of comics biggest artistic talents right now), and you know what the result is? That’s right: this run is on. Since really catching the broader industry’s attention with a 12-issue Vision maxi-series for Marvel Comics in 2015, King has had a fast rise, powered in part by his fearlessness when it comes to experimenting with comics form. This issue sees him back at it, trying a new device (second person) that to my knowledge shows up for the first time in his work here. This Batman run aspires to humanize one of the most inscrutable characters in comics, and King’s use of second person here creates an interior familiarity that is often elusive in comics. Up there with the Cold Days arc and Batman #54, this is one of the best issues of this run.

Bitter Root #3
Writers:
David F. Walker & Chuck Brown
Artist: Sanford Greene
Colorists: Rico Renzi & Sanford Greene
Letterer: Clayton Cowles
Publisher: Image Comics
Price: $3.99
With violence erupting on the streets of Harlem and his cousin possessed by a demonic force, Cullen Sangerye reaches out for help from an estranged family member. Meanwhile, in Mississippi, Ford Sangerye fights for his life at the gateway to Hell.
Why It’s Cool: Holy cow, this is the issue where all hell breaks loose, almost literally. As we noted in our Bitter Root #1 review, this is a well-constructed comic that looks amazing. It’s also moving at a brisk pace, with this being only the third issue and so many of the conflicts that were foreshadowed early on coming to a head. It really speaks to the confidence the creative team has in this story. They know they’ve built it well, that they have the audience hooked, and so it’s time to deliver on early promises. We’ll have a Best New Image Comics of 2018 piece coming later this week, and you can damn sure expect Bitter Root to be on it.

Euthanauts #5
Writer:
Tini Howard
Artist: Nick Robles
Colorist: Eva De La Cruz
Letterer: Neil Uyetake
Publisher: IDW - Black Crown
Price: $3.99
Thalia has learned that you don't get to the afterlife without breaking a few eggs and planting a few seeds. In this issue-people die. Some of them stay quiet about it. When the ego is destroyed, what remains? Find out in the final issue of our first arc, Ground Control.
Why It’s Cool: This comic has just been such a gorgeous tryst through blurred lines of life and death, and with a solicitation that promises characters will die (duh), we expect big things from the finale of this first arc. There’s been an ominous morbidity hanging over every last issue of this comic (it is called Euthanauts, after all), and if fourth issue is any indication, it’s in this chapter that the creative team will likely deliver the demise that has been foreshadowed. The only question is which member of the cast is likely to go. One last point: writer Tini Howard and artist Nick Robles both landed in our Top Comic Book Creators of 2018, and we highly recommend getting on board with their work now. There’s still time (just barely) to say you were here before they blew up.

Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man #1
Writer:
Tom Taylor
Artist: Juan Cabal
Colorist: Nolan Woodard
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Price: $4.99
Spider-Man is the worst neighbor EVER! There are always crazy villains and property damage and drama and...and he CATCHES the villains. And he tries to fix the damage and he helps carry your groceries and actually that property damage keeps the rents down. You know what? Spider-Man is the best neighbor ever and this book will give you a closer look at Spider-Man's (and Peter Parker's) neighborhood than any book ever. Also, it wouldn't be a Spider-Man adventure without a threat that could destroy not only Spider-Man, but all his neighbors.
Why It’s Cool: Writer Tom Taylor keeps getting comics that are adjacent to Big 2 flagship titles (the third X-Men book, an alternate reality Superman/Batman comic, etc.), and he in turn keeps absolutely crushing them. I fully expect his localized Spider-Man comic to be yet another example of this. I also continue to call for Taylor to get a chance to write a more prominent Marvel or DC comic, bordering on outright begging at this point.

Self / Made #2
Writer:
Mat Groom
Artist: Eduardo Ferigato
Colorist: Marcelo Costa
Letterer: A Larger World Studios’ Troy Peteri
Publisher: Image Comics
Price: $3.99
With Amala's true nature revealed, her creator has just one night to figure out how and why this miracle occurred... before Amala is lost forever.
Why It’s Cool: Even though the debut issue came out at the end of last year, Self / Made by newcomers Mat Groom and Eduardo Ferigato (edited by Kyle Higgins) is my pick for best new title of early 2019. This book is just so good. The first issue was entertaining and high-concept, reeling readers in with a standard high fantasy war scenario that quickly gave way to something more complex: the characters were actually—hey! No spoilers! Anyway, this issue extends the surprise twist of the debut further, pushing it to a place where it questions the very nature of existence without sacrificing any forward plot momentum to do so. Yes, it’s only two issues old, but this book is rapidly becoming something special.  

Gunning for Hits #1.jpg

Top New #1 Comics

  • Barbarella / Dejah Thoris #1

  • Captain Marvel #1

  • Criminal #1

  • Gunning for Hits #1

  • Turok #1

  • Young Justice #1

Others Receiving Votes

  • Avengers #12

  • Cemetery Beach #5

  • Deathstroke #39

  • Die #2

  • Dreaming #5

  • Freeze #2

  • The Green Lantern #3

  • House Amok #4

  • Justice League #15

  • LaGuardia #2

  • Martian Manhunter #2

  • Outer Darkness #3

  • Prodigy #2

  • Thor #9

  • Unexpected #8 (final issue)

See our past top comics to buy here, and check our our reviews archive here.

Zack Quaintance is a tech reporter by day and freelance writer by night/weekend. He Tweets compulsively about storytelling and comics as BatmansBookcase.

Best New #1 Comics of December 2018

By Zack Quaintance — This month naturally brings a deluge of year-end lists that can be fairly distracting when it comes to looking athe comics that actually come out in December. That’s why today we want to stick our usual practice of rehashing the Best New #1 Comics of December, because you know what? The last month of the year was actually a really great one for new series.

From new Big 2 superhero books to smaller creator-owned titles about wizards lounging in the sand and D&D, there was a great variety of new #1 comics in December. In fact, there were so many great new series this month that we had to extend our second section to include six choices rather than the usual five (it’s my site, after all, and if I don’t feel like narrowing down my selections, I can do that...this is one of the perks of having a site).

Anyway, let’s get to the new #1 comics!

Quick Hits

As the Stewart Bros. wrote in their Freeze #1 review, this new creator-owned comic has one hell of a central concept.

As I wrote in my Hardcore #1 review, this new creator-owned comic has a decent concept but impeccable execution from its creative team.

Kyle Higgins, arguably the reigning best espionage writer today, teams with Rod Reis on a new Bucky Barnes series in Winter Soldier #1, and the results are predictably great.

Wizard Beach #1 by writer Shaun Simon and artist Conor Nolan subverted expectations so well that it netted d. emerson eddy’s Comic of the Week.

Bryan Edward Hill did a great job grounding Killmonger #1 in the comic book Marvel Universe rather than the world of the movie, the real star of that show, however, was artist Juan Ferraya, one of our Top 2018 Comic Creators.

There was a lot to unpack in Batman Who Laughs #1 from writer Scott Snyder and artist Jock, but we can’t wait to see where the seemingly-madcap plot points are going.

Writer Ed Brisson is essentially the elder statesman of the current crop of X-writers, teaming with Dylan Burnett on the excellent new X-Force title (which you may have missed over the holidays).

Miles Morales: Spider-Man #1 from writer Saladin Ahmed and artist Javi Garron is a thing of beauty: an exceedingly well-done comic that hits just as this character is making waves in the wider world with a new movie, (the brilliant) Into the Spider-Verse.

The Stewart Bros. also reviewed Prodigy #1, describing it as a ‘blockbuster comic, pure and simple.’ It’s a good one, to be sure, loaded with writer Mark Millar’s fantastic sense of what makes a great comics concept and artist Rafa Albuquerque’s kinetic style.

And finally, Snap Flash Hustle #1 from writer Pat Shand and artist Emily Pearson is another great comic from Black Mask Studios, featuring a great combination of creators who have separately been doing excellent work for a while now. The story they’re telling here is about a secret society of models in NYC that sells drugs. It’s very good and very stylish stuff.

Top 5 Best New #1 Comics of December 2018

Die #1
Writer: Kieron Gillen
Artist: Stephanie Hans
Letterer: Clayton Cowles
Publisher: Image Comics
REVIEW: Die #1

We recently wrapped up our Best Comics of 2018 list, which takes into account how many issues a given title released last year. Die, of course, released only one, making its debut in December, and so given that sparsity, it was left off our list. I for one, however, would be utterly shocked if this was the case next year once this series really gets going. Simply put, Die #1 is the start of the next big Image Comic.

I’ve used that phrase before, just once, in my review of Gideon Falls #1. And you know what? I think I was right about that one—Gideon Falls took off last year, growing into (arguably) the biggest new Image comic to hit in 2018. With writer Kieron Gillen and artist Stephanie Hans, Die has the same quality hybrid of super-talented creative team. It also has a concept that plays into the current zeitgeist by exploring tabletop role playing games...and it does it with a darker, more adult tinge, taking the idea perhaps more seriously than others who have attempted to tread similar thematic territory.  

STL102782.jpg

LaGuardia #1
Writer:
Nnedi Okorafor
Artist: Tana Ford
Colorist: James Devlin
Letterer: Sal Cipriano
Writer Nnedi Okorafor is an award-winning sci-fi novelist who, to my knowledge, made her first forrays into comics writing last year, doing so with Shuri at Marvel Comics and LaGuardia #1 for the Berger Books imprint at Dark Horse. It’s the latter I’d like to spotlight this month, combining as it does Okorafor’s seasoned sci-fi chops with a poignant satire of current events and the incredible and vibrant artwork of artist Tana Ford and James Devlin.

LaGuardia #1 is one of those debut comics that’s so well-built and polished, that you can feel the creators powerful inspiration at work as you read it. There’s a romance angle, a familial angle, and an angle aimed at societal commentary, all working harmoniously within brisk pacing and a compelling plot. There’s also a delightfully-absurd alien race of plant lifeforms that gives Ford a chance to really show off her design chops, even in subtle moments where a certain character appears. Basically, I liked this first issue quite a bit, and I’ve marked the release date of #2 (which happens to be next week). I suggest you do the same.

Livewire #1
Writer: Vita Ayala
Artist: Raul Allen
Colorist: Patricia Martin
Letterer: Saida Temofonte
Publisher: Valiant Comics
REVIEW: Livewire #1
To be blunt, it is about frigging time that a character as great as Valiant’s Livewire got a proper ongoing series. Livewire has been kicking around Valiant’s line of comics for some time, stealing entire series where she appears as one of many characters. Now, she’s not only getting the solo series treatment, but she’s getting it from one of the best creative teams in all of comics: rising star writer Vita Ayala and the absolutely stunning artist team of Raul Allen and Patricia Martin.

As contributing writer Toren Chenault wrote in his Livewire #1 review, this book stands apart from other superhero comics by putting front and center a rare thing in the genre: a character that has been under-explored. Ayala writes that character with a stunning level of depth, giving the book a moving emotional core to accompany its concept. This is the most-exciting new Valiant series in some time, and we can’t wait to see where it goes.

Martian Manhunter #1
Writer: Steve Orlando
Artist: Riley Rossmo
Colorist: Ivan Plascencia
Letterer: Deron Bennett
Publisher: DC Comics
REVIEW: Martian Manhunter #1
Martian Manhunter was the first of two new major DC Comics to debut in December (the other being Shazam! #1...more on that in a second), with Steve Orlando writing and Riley Rossmo providing the madcap martian artwork. Powered by a murder mystery set in the present and an exploration of J’onn J’onzz’ hitherto unknown past pre-martian catastrophe as a corrupt police officer, the story aspires to be an introspective take on what makes J’onn...well, J’onn.

This is a comic that feels like a necessary experimental take on a classic superhero character. Based on the debut, this 12-part maxi-series seems bent on giving J’onn the Mister Miracle treatment, exploring the interiority of an often inscrutable character with unspeakable trauma in his past. Orlando is a writer incapable of half-efforts and Rossmo is the perfect pairing to really give this book a unique aesthetic. This is, simply put, a DC comic to watch in 2019.

Self / Made #1
Writer:
Mat Groom
Artist: Eduardo Ferigato
Colorist: Marcelo Costa
Letterer: A Larger World Studios’ Troy Peteri
Self / Made #1 surprised me in the best possible way. Despite the presence of Kyle Higgins (espionage and action comics writer extraordinaire), I was unfamiliar with the creative team and adjusted my expectations accordingly. What I found when I picked up this book was an absolutely gorgeous comic that knows exactly where it’s going and is determined to be entertaining as it works its way there.

In spite of the aforementioned relatively novice creative team, this is a polished comic and a great debut issue. It orients the reader right away by establishing a sci-fi/fantasy war premise, atop layers of entitlement and classism. This would be all well and good on its own, but Self/Made also has a compelling twist it alludes to without being too blatant, leading to a powerful ending cliffhanger that simultaneously brings this story into focus and gives readers a reason to come back. I really can’t think of much else I would want from a new #1 issue.

Shazam! #1
Writer: Geoff Johns
Artist: Dale Eaglesham & Mayo “Sen” Naito (backup story)
Colorist: Mike Atiyeh
Letterer: Rob Leigh
Publisher: DC Comics
REVIEW: Shazam! #1
DC’s other big debut in December was Shazam! #1. This comic, however, is a different deal than the other DC December debut, Martian Manhunter. Whereas Manhunter aspires to be an illustrative re-invention of a character readers could stand to know more about, Shazam! Seeks to tease out the core essence of these characters, re-enforcing what made Billy Batson and the rest of the Shazam family so compelling in the first place.

As I wrote in my Shazam! #1 review, writer Geoff Johns and Dale Eaglesham certainly accomplish this in adorable fashion. This is a character who needs to be equal part childish enthusiasm and super-powered mystical adventuring to function property. Johns and Eaglesham go all in on the latter in the main story of this issue, with Johns then doubling down on the former with an ultra cute back-up story drawn by Mayo “Sen” Naito. With bleak stories like Heroes in Crisis agitating large portions of the DC fanbase, this comic comes across as a welcome palliative.

Check out more of our many monthly lists here.

Zack Quaintance is a tech reporter by day and freelance writer by night/weekend. He Tweets compulsively about storytelling and comics as BatmansBookcase.

Top Comic Book Creators of 2018

By Zack Quaintance — We’re approaching the end of our 2018 coverage, with only one more list to come (next week) after this one. As such, today we’d like to take a relatively brief look at some of the creators that made this such a special year for comics. The artists, editors, and writers below have not been chosen because they are the best at what they do, not entirely (although they are all excellent and many certainly fit that description), but instead because all of them did work that demands to be mentioned in any conversations about the past year in comics.

So, below you will find 10 favorite artists, 10 favorite writers, and six incredibly talented folks who can do it all. You will also find some names we fully expect to see on the bigger lists at this time next year, as well as a pair of editors who helped shepherd so many of our favorite 2018 books into the world. It is, simply put, an incredible time to be reading comics, and all of these lists could have been twice as long. But the hard decisions had to be made.

Without further adieu, here our the Batman’s Bookcase Top Comic Book Creators of 2018!

*SPECIAL NOTE: Deep apologies to our friends who are colorist and letterers; we didn’t have the bandwidth this year to take a deep dive into your work, but, rest assured, next year we plan to rectify this!

Top Comic Book Creators of 2018 - Artists

Bilquis Evely.

Bilquis Evely
Currently Drawing: The Dreaming

Fiona Staples
Currently Drawing: Saga (on hiatus)

Jon Davis-Hunt
Currently Drawing: The Wild Storm

Jorge Jimenez
Currently Drawing: Justice League

Juan Ferraya
Currently Drawing: Killmonger

Leslie Hung
Currently Drawing: Snotgirl

Sana Takeda.

Mitch Gerads
Currently Drawing: Unannounced collaboration with Tom King (which is probably Sgt. Rock)

Raul Allen & Patricia Martin
Currently Drawing: Livewire

Sana Takeda
Currently Drawing: Monstress

Stephanie Hans
Currently Drawing: Die

Artists to watch in 2019: Jorge Fornes, Kate Niemczyk, Laura Braga, Lisa Sterle, Nicola Scott, Nick Robles, Ramon Villalobos, and Sean Izaaske.

Top Comic Book Creators of 2018 - Editors

Adrian Wassel of Vault Comics
Comics Edited: Deep Roots, Fearscape, Friendo, Submerged, These Savage Shores

Shelly Bond of IDW Black Crown
Comics Edited: Assassanistas, Euthanauts, House Amok, Lodger, Punks Not Dead

Top Comic Book Creators of 2018 - Writers

Jason Aaron.

Al Ewing
Currently Writing: Immortal Hulk

Ann Nocenti
Currently Writing: The Seeds

Brian Michael Bendis
Currently Writing: All things Superman

Jason Aaron
Currently Writing: The Avengers, Conan the Barbarian, and Thor

Marjorie Liu
Currently Writing: Monstress

Nnedi Okorafor
Currently Writing: La Guardia, Shuri

Steve Orlando
Currently Writing: Dead Kings, Electric Warriors, Martian Manhunter

Tini Howard.

Tini Howard
Currently Writing: Age of Conan: Belit, Euthanauts, Rick and Morty

Tom Taylor
Currently Writing: Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man, Unannounced DC Comic

Vita Ayala
Currently Writing: Livewire, The Wilds

Writers to Watch in 2019: Alex Paknadel, Leah Williams, Mariko Tamaki, Magdalene Visaggio, Mark Russell, Michael Moreci, Stephanie Phillips, and Zac Thompson & Lonnie Nadler.

Top Writers/Artists

Jeff Lemire.

Daniel Warren Johnson
Work: Extremity, Murder Falcon

Joelle Jones
Work: Catwoman, Lady Killer

Jeff Lemire
Work: Black Hammer (writer only...so far), Essex County, Royal City, Sweet Tooth

Liam Sharp
Work: Brave and Bold - Batman and Wonder Woman, The Green Lantern (artist only)

Mirka Andolfo
Work: Hex Wives (artist only), Unnatural

Tillie Walden
Work: On a Sunbeam, Spinning

Check out Best Comics of 2018, #1 - #5, Best Comics of 2018, #16 - #25, and Best Comics of 2018, #6 - #15! Also, Best Single Comic Book Issues of 2018!

Zack Quaintance is a tech reporter by day and freelance writer by night/weekend. He Tweets compulsively about storytelling and comics as BatmansBookcase.

Best Single Comic Book Issues of 2018

By Zack Quaintance — It is, perhaps, telling that the majority of picks for our Best Single Comic Book Issues of 2018 list are essentially self-contained. Six, to be exact, with a case to be made that at least one of the others could stand on its own, too. In an industry where many creators put out installments best consumed as part of a collected trade, a truly well-done story with a real beginning, middle, end stands out.

At least, that’s definitely what we found this year in evaluating our picks. We’re pretty happy with about it too, in part because it makes re-visiting these issues all the easier. Anyway, the below list contains stories about iconic characters like Wonder Woman, the existential horrors of decisions in life, the writer’s ego, and recovering from trauma. I hope you’ll see some favorites on here and also find new comics, regardless of whether you’re caught up on a book or have plans to continue forward.

Let’s check out this year’s list!

Best Single Comic Book Issues of 2018

Action Comics #1004
Writer:
Brian Michael Bendis
Artist: Ryan Sook
Colorist: Brad Anderson
Inker: Wade Von Grawbadger
Letterer: Josh Reed
Publisher: DC Comics
Release Date: 10/24/2018
Why It’s So Good: It’s about the most iconic romance in comics: Clark Kent and Lois Lane. It’s also the first time Bendis gives extended play to the relationship during his current (and excellent) Superman run. What Bendis is doing is breaking down Superman’s central characteristics and building them back up for 2018. That’s definitely what he does here, giving us Lois as an aspiring author and Clark as the supportive (if occasionally long distance) husband. Cards on the table: this whole thing hits close to home with me. My wife is a reporter for the LA Times, and we’ve spent roughly three months total apart due to work in recent years. The reunion in this story felt true-to-life and romantic as all get out. As such, I absolutely loved it.

Batman Annual #3
Writer:
Tom Taylor
Artist: Otto Schmidt
Letterer: A Larger World’s Troy Peteri
Publisher:
DC Comics
Release Date: 12/12/2018
Why It’s So Good: I haven’t said this in a week or so (what with the holidays and all), so I’ll say it now: Tom Taylor is the most underrated writer of corporate superhero comics today. It continues to boggle my mind that neither DC nor Marvel has locked this massive talent up with an exclusive deal and given him the keys to a massive franchise. Not the fourth Spider-Man, third X-Men, or alternate Batman hates Superman comic, but an honest to goodness flagship comic. He really is that good, and comics like Batman Annual #3 show why. This one-off is a stand-alone story that thematically ties to an exploration of fatherhood taking place in the main title, and Taylor absolutely crushes it. There’s a re-telling of the Batman origin through Alfred’s eyes that had me in tears within three pages and an ending that depicts the Alfred-Bruce dynamic in a way that had never occurred to me, suggesting that the stubbornness of Batman’s war on crime is a byproduct of Alfred setting such a noble example of necessary servitude throughout Bruce’s childhood. Put simply, it’s brilliant heartrending stuff.

Batman: Creature of the Night #3
Writer:
Kurt Busiek
Artist: John Paul Leon
Letterer: Todd Klein
Publisher: DC Comics
Release Date: 4/18/2018
Why It’s So Good: This series is a spiritual and conceptual successor to Busiek’s seminal 2004 Superman: Secret Identity, in that Batman: Creature of the Night essentially tells the Batman story on our Earth, where Batman is a ubiquitous comic book character. Plot-wise, Creature of the Night is a bit trickier than Secret Identity. Superman was easy to get going, because Supes got his powers inadvertently and surprisingly. Batman’s heroics, however, were born of tragedy and an obsessive, steely response. Creature of the Night got the tragedy aspect right from its start, as well as things like the protagonist’s personality and his supporting cast, or at least Alfred. What was missing until now was a believable way to have Batman as a crime fighter. This book gives us that, dark and surprisingly, as it should be. Overall, Creature of the Night is one of the best Batman stories in years, a pure distillation from veteran creators of the lessons learned throughout august careers, specifically Busiek’s penchant for layered and complex stories, the sort more common in award-winning novels than in comics.

Fearscape #1
Writer:
Ryan O’Sullivan
Artist: Andrea Mutti
Colorist: Vladimir Popov
Letterer: Andworld Design
Publisher: Vault Comics
Release Date: 9/26/2018
Why It’s So Good: Simply put, Fearscape #1 was the single best debut issue of a series I read all year. In it, writer Ryan O’Sullivan and artist Andrea Mutti use the graphic sequential medium to create a character and story that basically obsesses over the literary and genre fiction medium, thereby also reflecting back at the audience what it must feel like to be a comic book creator. It’s heady stuff, and it succeeds wildly. Perhaps the greatest strength of this debut issue is the protagonist’s narrative voice, which bounces violently from wild fits of looming ego to sobbingly insecure...as one imagines the creative process for great writers must feel like, oscillating from unchecked creation to solemn revisions.

From here,  Ice Cream Man #6  splinters into three timelines, and structural comics greatness ensues.

From here, Ice Cream Man #6 splinters into three timelines, and structural comics greatness ensues.

Ice Cream Man #6
Writer:
W. Maxwell Prince
Artist: Martin Morazzo
Colorist: Chris O’Halloran
Letterer: Good Old Neon
Publisher: Image Comics
Release Date: 8/15/2018
Why It’s So Good: This comic somehow tells three self-contained stories in a single issue, doing so with little to no dialogue in a way that not only makes sense but will almost certainly haunt the vast majority of readers for weeks (at least, that’s been my experience). The craft is so impressive that I don’t want to think about it too hard, lest I lose motivation to ever attempt anything creative of my own ever again. Moreover, I have a strong predisposition against stories steeped in cynicism—and this issue is most certainly that—yet this book is so well-done I was able to get past all that. Ice Cream Man was one of 2018’s best explorations of what’s possible with this medium in terms of form and structure, and as such, I can’t recommend it enough.

Saga #54
Writer:
Brian K. Vaughan
Artist:
Fiona Staples
Letterer: Fonografiks
Publisher: Image Comics
Release Date: 7/25/2018
Why It’s So Good: Because nothing will ever be the same. If you’ve read the issue, check out Why Saga #54 Hurts So Bad. If you haven’t, please read the issue and then click that link. There’s just no good way to discuss this without spoilers. Simply put, though, I’ll just note that this is the most consequential issue yet in the best series in comics (as well as our Top Comic of 2018).

Secret Weapons: Owen’s Story #0
Writer:
Eric Heisserer
Artist: Raul Allen & Patricia Martin
Colorist: Patricia Martin
Letterer: Patricia Martin
Publisher: Valiant Entertainment
Release Date: 3/14/2018
Why It’s So Good: Secret Weapons: Owen’s Story is a tour de force of narrative craft, a tight balancing act that involves a series of complicated decisions (all of which have an emotional charge) that add up to a satisfying climax. It plays with structure and form while never losing the rightful focus on the characters at its core. The titular Owen is a Psiot who manifests seemingly-random objects, and his story here consists of vignettes based on objects he’s selling at a yard sale, objects he manifested, objects with stories telling us more about our characters. The concept is risky, but writer Eric Heisserer and the team of Raul Allen and Patricia Martin (one of the best art duos in all of comics) handle it supremely well, creating the type of book that reminds you why having a publisher like Valiant is such a benefit for the industry.

The Seeds #2
Writer:
Ann Nocenti
Artist, Letterer: David Aja
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Release Date: 9/12/2018
Why It’s So Good: I wrote about this a bit in our Top Comics of 2018 list, but The Seeds second issue was so good that it elevated this book as a concept in my head, ultimately landing it (despite publishing a scant two issues last year) among my annual favorites. I found the first issue filled with promise, heavy with intriguing concepts. I wondered, however, how thoughtful the title was and worried a bit that the power would be lost if it wasn’t connected to great meaning. Those worries were dispelled and then some in a second issue that showed this book to be among the deepest near-future disaster concepts in stories today (and there are a ton of near future disaster concepts in stories today).

What If? Magik #1
Writer:
Leah Williams
Artist: Filipe Andrade
Colorist: Chris O’Halloran
Letterer: VC’s Clayton Cowles
Publisher:
Marvel Comics
Release Date: 10/31/2018
Why It’s So Good: Writer Leah Williams and artist Filipe Andrade use the What If? concept to tell a story that sees the X-Men’s Magik tapped to be Doctor Strange’s replacement as sorcerer supreme. Her history, however, is the same: as a young girl she was kidnapped and taken to hell. To be sure, this is not handled lightly in the normal X-titles, but it also, to my knowledge, has never been extrapolated to a serious place where it reads like the supremely traumatic incident it would logically be. The villain in this story is Magik’s demonic kidnapper, cast as a manipulative human trafficker. This issue takes the character through a gauntlet of physical, mystical, and psychological tests, never discounting her trauma as the creative team shows us the Magik’s full strength, her stubborn optimism, her refusal to let a past ordeal limit or define her. That hard work and optimism (complete with expected setbacks) makes for a truly beautiful comic.

Wonder Woman #51
Writer:
Steve Orlando
Artist: Laura Braga
Colorist: Romulo Fajardo Jr.
Letterer: Saida Temofonte
Publisher: DC Comics
Release Date: 7/25/2018
Why It’s So Good: With Wonder Woman #51, Steve Orlando and Laura Braga tell a stand-alone story with a deep and nuanced understanding of this character, one that shows exactly why she’s been relevant all these years. It’s the type of small-scale story that plays to a hero’s essence, done ad nauseum with Batman and Superman but not nearly as much with Wonder Woman. This comic, however, helps to fix that. It’s just so perfect. Aside from the adept characterization, it features an engaging and emotional narrative that speaks to Diana’s core values. It sounds cliche, but I teared up here at the drama and I smiled at the jokes. This is, to me, an issue we’ll be hearing new creators talk about on podcasts 10 years from now, citing it as an influence for the way they write/think about this character.

Check out Best Comics of 2018, #1 - #5, Best Comics of 2018, #16 - #25, and Best Comics of 2018, #6 - #15! And check back later in the week for more year-end lists, including our Top Creators of 2018!

Zack Quaintance is a tech reporter by day and freelance writer by night/weekend. He Tweets compulsively about storytelling and comics as BatmansBookcase.

Top Comics of 2018, #1 - #5

By Zack Quaintance —  A difficult thing about a strong year for comics (like this one) is doing a retrospective Best Of list. Now, to be sure, no one mandates websites do rankings. That would be a clear violation of civil liberties. There is, however, a part of the pop culture blogger brain that goes wild for it, whispering all year long...where does this one rank...and if you don’t satisfy that beast—well, bad things happen.

So, here we our with ours, freshly formulated for 2018 by our committee of one. Before we dive into the third and final and (let’s face it) best part, which features in descending order selections #5 to #1 (Top Comics of 2018, #16 - #25 and Top Comics #6 - #15 are also up now, btw), let’s rehash our ground rules:

  • No trades or OGNs: Building out our OGN coverage is a priority for 2019. We’re just not there yet. So, while I absolutely loved work like Tillie Walden’s On a Sunbeam, Box Brown’s Is This Guy For Real? The Unbelievable Andy Kaufman, and Ryan Lindsay and Eric Zawadzki’s Eternal, you won’t find them here. Ideally, next year’s we’ll have an entire post dedicated to OGNs.

  • No webcomics, manga, or newspaper strips: Again, our site is a bit deficient covering these (if you are into these things, we’d love to chat about you writing for us!). I should, of course, mention that in 2018 someone under the pen name Olivia James took over the long-running Nancy strip and did amazing things with it (Sluggo is lit), but, again, you won’t find it on our list.

  • Longevity matters: New this year, you will find what I consider a key stat—how many issues were published this year. Late debut series like Die, Electric Warriors, and Bitter Root have tons of promise. They just haven’t been around enough to be a definitive comic of 2018. Ditto for comics that ended in April or earlier.

There you have it: guiding principles of our Top Comics of 2018. Now, without further adieu, let’s finish this bad hombre!

Top Comics of 2018

The Immortal Hulk by Alex Ross.

5. Immortal Hulk
Writer:
Al Ewing
Artists: Joe Bennett
Inker: Ruy Jose
Colorist: Paul Mounts
Letterer: Cory Petit
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Issues in 2018: 10

The first of the Big 2 titles to make my Top 5 Comics of 2018 is the Al Ewing and Joe Bennett-driven Immortal Hulk, a startlingly-blunt take on a long-time hero that reads more like a creator-owned book than a shared universe corporate story. We’re late in the superhero trajectory, with comics having constructed, deconstructed, and exported the concept to other mediums plenty. Our best modern stories are those that get closest to capturing a character’s core, and rarely has a title done this as well as Immortal Hulk.

At the same time, this book has found a darker place that was always there, taking existing elements and extrapolating them so thoroughly they feel novel. It’s found ground not possible for the sensibilities of the 1960s, Hulk’s heyday. Both artwork and audience have evolved, becoming more sophisticated and thereby allowing Ewing, Bennett, and others to push Hulk further into monster territory while at the same time making Banner the emotional blank slate he was perhaps always meant to be. In this book, Banner is backgrounded, standing in for humanity at large as darker base impulses drag him places no one wants to go (ahem, hell). The Hulk is not the hero—that honor goes to anyone who can live a contented and peaceful life.

On the surface, this comic has also benefited from consistent artwork from Bennett who has needed few guest replacements, plus early chapters that provide satisfying narratives independent of what came before or will come after. This is a bit of a lost art, but still very much welcome, and it’s something that Immortal Hulk did expertly.

This gem by Ryan Sook and Brad Anderson from Action Comics #1006 is quite possibly the comic book page of the year.

4. Action Comics / Man of Steel / Superman
Writer:
Brian Michael Bendis
Artists: Patrick Gleason, Yanick Paquette, Ryan Sook, Ivan Reis, w/Doc Shaner, Steve Rude, Jay Fabok, Kevin Maguire, & Adam Hughes
Inkers: Wade Von Grawbadger, Joe Prado, & Oclair Albert
Colorists: Alejandro Sanchez, Nathan Fairbairn, Brad Anderson
Letterers: Josh Reed
Issues in 2018: 5 / 6 / 6

In 2017, Brian Michael Bendis—a leading voice at Marvel Comics for almost 20 years—announced a jump to the distinguished competition, leaving fans with questions that ranged from whether Bendis could thrive there to which titles he would take over. Some suggested this would spark a creative rejuvenation for Bendis, a chance to recapture energy from bygone days. Here’s the thing, though: Bendis had quietly been doing some of his best work at Marvel. Following the stumble that was Civil War II, his Infamous Iron Man, Jessica Jones, and Defenders titles were all excellent.

This is my way of saying I predicted Bendis at DC would be successful. He’s generally praised most for early work on Daredevil, as well as for creating Jessica Jones and Miles Morales (who’s having a moment with new film Into the Spider-Verse). What gets lost is that Bendis is likely the most prolific comic writer of a generation, consistently producing three to five monthly titles and rarely (if ever) suffering delays. As I’ve written, part of what I love about comics is the deadline-driven schedules force creators to just do the damn work, to put forth ideas without belaboring them as one must in film or prose writing. When it comes to embracing child-like excitement, love of comics history, and just doing the damn thing—Bendis is the best.

Still, even I didn’t predict what he’s doing with DC’s Superman titles. Flanked by the best artists to work on the character in decades, Bendis is telling a story that breaks this hero and his mythos down to its core before (seemingly) building it back up with slight tweaks for 2018. His Action Comics, Superman, and Man of Steel miniseries have all felt both classic and progressive as he revels in iconic stature while viscerally having a blast using the DC Universe that’s been off limits for so long. The end result is that both Action and Superman continue to rise, as satisfying as they are epic.

From Monstress #18. Artwork by Sana Takeda.

3. Monstress
Writer:
Marjorie Liu
Artist: Sana Takeda
Letterer: Rus Wooton
Publisher: Image Comics
Issues in 2018: 6

This was the year of Monstress, with Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda’s expansive creator-owned fantasy hitting big at the Eisner’s and (presumably) finding a much larger audience. For fans of the book from the start, it was incredibly rewarding to see this story get its due. Liu’s world-building is phenomenal, drawing loosely from traditions while first and foremost exploring original elements. Takeda’s artwork, meanwhile, is second to no artist keeping as regular a release schedule (save for possibly the great Fiona Staples), with an intricate manga-influenced look that makes every panel of Monstress feel like the product of months of design work.

This year saw Monstress play out its third arc, a grandiose story heavy with confidence. The world-building continues, but it’s not as noticeable as it was in earlier arcs (both of which were also phenomenal, btw). The real focus of the story now is the journey of the main character. Given this is a fantasy comic (the fantasy comic of the decade), we wouldn’t have it any other way.

What started as a revenge story in 2015, has grown into a powerful young woman reckoning with a range of life: her relationship with her history, with her mother, with the mysterious power inside her, with the most responsible way to use it, and with the repercussions for noble actions that grew out of a simple desire to escape oppression and survive.

Black Hammer: Age of Doom, Quantum Age, Doctor Star, and Chtu-Louise.

2. Black Hammer
Black Hammer: Age of Doom / Doctor Star and the Kingdom of Lost Tomorrows /  Quantum Age: From the World of Black Hammer / Black Hammer: Cthu-Louise
Writer:
Jeff Lemire
Artists: Dean Ormston, Rich Tommaso, Max Fiumara, Wilfredo Torres, Emi Lenox
Colorist: Dave Stewart
Letterer: Todd Klein
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Issues in 2018: 7 / 4 / 5 / 1

This past year also saw the establishing of a new superhero universe: Black Hammer. Technically, this homage-heavy universe was created back in 2016 with the advent of Black Hammer #1 from writer Jeff Lemire and artist Dean Ormston. That issue was the start of a specific story. The wider universe grew later, doing so with an adjacent miniseries that broadened the plot in 2016 (Sherlock Frankenstein and the Legion of Evil from Lemire and artist extraordinaire David Rubin).

In 2018, however, we got an even broader expansion. This past year, the Black Hammer universe continued with its main title, while adding two more miniseries and a one-shot. Add to that all kinds of rumors about what’s coming in 2019—from Lemire himself writing/drawing a 12-issue series, to a crossover between Black Hammer and DC Comics—and all signs point to this universe being here to stay. I had a chance to interview Jeff Lemire at San Diego Comic Con, and he agreed, saying as much.

I point this out as a way to note Black Hammer is so well-done that it has found a strong foothold in a market over-saturated by superhero concepts since basically 1970 (if not sooner). This is Lemire in all his brilliant Lemire-ness, following his deepest ideas and tragic lonesome sensibilities. He’s created a tone that allows him to write a few pages of funny before lapsing into full-blown meditations on the nature of generational comic book stories. Shared superhero universes function best with a strong guiding voice or perspective (see Marvel in the ‘60s). Black Hammer is doing just that, and I for one feel lucky to experience it in real time.

Saga #50 (cover by Fiona Staples) finds the family in happier times.

1. Saga
Writer:
Brian K. Vaughan
Artist: Fiona Staples
Letterer: Fonografiks
Publisher: Image Comics
Issues in 2018: 6

I’ve written about this often, but it’s easy to take long-running creator-owned comics for granted, forgetting what a rare thing it is to have talented writers and artists string together wholly original stories with only their keyboards and pencils. For many of us, our lifetimes have been marked with a mainstream comic selection dictated by corporations and distributors, plus whatever experimental work was on the fringes. In recent years, this has changed, and, leading that change, has been Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples’ familial sci-fi epic, Saga.

This year, however, was one in which we were all but forced to stop taking Saga for granted. The first reason for this was Saga’s latest story arc (which ran in issues #49 - #54, and wrapped up in July) was obscenely consequential. I don’t want to give anything away, but $@#% goes down and it’s bad, so bad I wrote about why it hurts, partially to make sense of why I was so devastated. It’s a testament to this story that it can hit such intense emotional beats so far into its run.

Second, the book announced it would be going on a year-long (minimum) hiatus. Obviously, you can’t take something for granted once it leaves you. Kind of bummer (we’re compensating with a year-long Saga re-read), made all the more bumming (is that a word? ah well) by how good the comic got before the announcement. There really is, quite simply, nothing else like Saga, not in terms of the scope of the story, the artful thematic explorations undertaken within, or the industry-best action and design graphics generated a whopping six times a year (or more!) by the massive talent that is Fiona Staples.

This site is dedicated to discussing comic books in thoughtful and analytical ways as the medium enjoys a new golden age. To us, Saga remains the leader of an ongoing renaissance, and a big part of the reason we think it’s so important to volunteer time to cover the artform. It is an absolute honor to give the book and its devastating 2018 story (kind of fitting, in sooooo many ways) our Top Comic of 2018 honor.

Check out Best Comics of 2018, #16 - #25 and Best Comics of 2018, #6 - #15! And check back later in the week for more year-end lists, including our Best Single Issues and our Top Creators of 2018!

Zack Quaintance is a tech reporter by day and freelance writer by night/weekend. He Tweets compulsively about storytelling and comics as BatmansBookcase.

Top Comics of 2018, #6 - #15

By Zack Quaintance —  The most difficult thing about a strong year for comics (like this one) is doing a year-end Best Of list. Now, to be sure, no one mandates websites do rankings. That would be a clear violation of civil liberties. There is, however, a part of the pop culture blogger brain that goes wild for it, whispering all year long...where does this one rank...and if you don’t satisfy that beast—well, bad things happen.

So, here we our with ours, freshly formulated for 2018 by our committee of one. Before we dive into part 2, which features in descending order selections #15 to #6 (Top Comics of 2018, #16 - #25 is up now, with the Top 5 due later today), let’s rehash our ground rules:

  • No trades or OGNs: Building out our OGN coverage is a priority for 2019. We’re just not there yet. So, while I absolutely loved work like Tillie Walden’s On a Sunbeam, Box Brown’s Is This Guy For Real? The Unbelievable Andy Kaufman, and Ryan Lindsay and Eric Zawadzki’s Eternal, you won’t find them here. Ideally, next year’s we’ll have an entire post dedicated to OGNs.

  • No webcomics, manga, or newspaper strips: Again, our site is a bit deficient covering these (if you are into these things, we’d love to chat about you writing for us!). I should, of course, mention that in 2018 someone under the pen name Olivia James took over the long-running Nancy strip and did amazing things with it (Sluggo is lit), but, again, you won’t find it on our list.

  • Longevity matters: New this year, you will find what I consider a key stat—how many issues were published this year. Late debut series like Die, Electric Warriors, and Bitter Root have tons of promise. They just haven’t been around enough to be a definitive comic of 2018. Ditto for comics that ended in April or earlier.

There you have it: guiding principles of our Top Comics of 2018. Now, without further adieu, let’s keep this bad hombre going!

15. Seeds
Writer:
Ann Nocenti
Artist, Letterer: David Aja
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Issues in 2018: 2

The second issue of this series absolutely blew my mind. So much so it was enough to land this comic in our list, and at no. 15 too! I’m going to struggle to articulate why this is not only one of the best comics out today, but also the comic with the most potential to be an all-time great series. But here goes…

Writer Ann Nocenti and artist David Aja have clearly thought hard about the state of the world, dwelling on current trends, struggles, challenges, \and even a few victories to extrapolate a future the likes of which we’ve never seen. There are (as noted in yesterday’s list) many near-future disaster stories running through comics. Many of them do admirable jobs extending a fear or concern to logical places. Seeds encompasses much more with its predictions, in a way that feels impossibly novel yet so obvious you wonder why its ideas hadn’t previously occurred to you. If you start listing story elements—failing planet, media corruption, alien love story/menace—they sound a little rote, but the way these talented creators bring them together is nothing short of remarkable. Now, if only they could get a handle on the delays...  

14. Doomsday Clock
Writer:
Geoff Johns
Artist: Gary Frank
Colorist: Brad Anderson
Letterer: Rob Leigh
Publisher: DC Comics
Issues in 2018: 6

Speaking of delays (hey! would you look at that transition), next we have Doomsday Clock. Writer Geoff Johns and artist Gary Frank were as good as their word this year, mostly sticking to the every-other-month schedule they promised following Doomsday Clock #3. We got six new issues in 2018, and the last three were straight up killer comics. This series has, to be blunt, massive ambitions.

Indeed, the intentions of this comic are starting to crystalize, and if Johns and Frank can pull this off, they could end up with a story that speaks to the current rise of authoritarian governments across the globe, the reactions of the media and the populous, and what it means to be a public hero today, to take a strong position. It’s heady stuff, with potential to shape DC’s line and maybe even the stories the aging company does for the next decade.

13. Ice Cream Man
Writer:
W. Maxwell Prince
Artist: Martin Morazzo
Colorist: Chris O’Halloran
Letterer: Good Old Neon
Publisher: Image Comics
Issues in 2018: 8

As I’ve noted throughout, ranking the many many many excellent comics this year has been no easy feat. There were a ton of tough choices, but as my friend Rob from Panel Patter noted, at a certain point you have to choose, otherwise there’s no purpose to the endeavor. For me, placing Ice Cream Man was the most difficult decision. An anthology horror comic linked only by the titular (and hella creepy) ice cream man, this book has been a tour de force.

The reason it lands at #13 is twofold. No. 1, 13 is creepy and it seemed fitting, because aside from one other selection (we’ll get into that later), this is the highest-ranking horror comic on our list. No. 2, I’m trying to rank series for holistic reading experience. Ice Cream Man being made of vignettes makes that trickier. This book is easily one of the best comics of 2018, and we’ll heap more praise on it in future posts, specifically the Best Single Issues of 2018, coming later this week. For now, I’ll just note everyone should read this comic, just pick up random issues (they’re all self-contained) and go. The rate of success is high enough I’m confident you’ll all find flavors (sorry) you like.

12. The Wild Storm
Writer:
Warren Ellis
Artist: Jon Davis-Hunt
Colorist: Steve Buccellato
Letterer: Simon Bowland
Publisher: DC Comics
Issues in 2018: 8

It’s pretty amazing this far into a celebrated career, Warren Elllis is doing his best work, writing a slow-burning epic that strips down characters he’s handled for years before building them back into something searingly-relevant for 2018. This new The Wild Storm has a few familiar names, while remaining entirely accessible for first-time readers of this universe. And what Ellis is doing here is exploring the vast influence wielded by long-standing (and hard to comprehend) power structures.

He’s joined by Jon Davis-Hunt, one of (if not the) most underrated artists in comics. Davis-Hunt comes fresh from career work of his own on Gail Simone’s Clean Room, and as good as he was there, he’s hitting a new level, crafting graphic sequential storytelling both kinetic and real, capable of disrupting any visual laws of reality yet photorealistic and engrossing. As intellectual and nuanced a comic as we’ve seen, this is a must-read story.

11. The Mighty Thor / Thor
Writer:
Jason Aaron
Artists: Russell Dauterman, Mike del Mundo, Christian Ward, Jen Bartel, Various
Colorists: Matthew Wilson, Marco D’Alfonso
Letterer: VC’s Joe Sabino
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Issues in 2018: 4 / 12

Jason Aaron’s ongoing run on Thor is the best long-form story happening in superhero comics, and it’s really not even close. Aaron and Esad Ribic’s Thor: God of Thunder #1, which essentially marked the start of this current run, hit stands in November 2012, a vastly different time in the world and industry. Marvel has no other run close, with Hickman and Bendis gone from the company and Dan Slott off Amazing Spider-Man. Invincible has also ended, and DC’s main challengers—Batman and Deathstroke, for my money—date back to summer 2016, which is hardly a challenge at all.

Thor, however, keeps going strong, landing this year’s 16 issues (and a Jane Foster one-shot) at #11 overall on our list. Our committee of one suspects it will be higher next year, what with the War of the Realms coming. The Jane Foster finale was certainly a high point his year, but it felt like more of a pause than a proper finish, setting the table for what is sure to be some damn fine comics to come. In summation, 2018 was another great year for Aaron’s Thor run, but we all but guarantee 2019 will be even better, possibly the high water mark for this story.

10. X-Men Red
Writer:
Tom Taylor
Artists: Mahmud Asrar, Carmen Carnero, Roge Antonio
Colorists: Ive Svorcina, Rain Beredo
Letterer: VC’s Cory Petit
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Issues in 2018: 11

What a surprise this comic was. I’d tapped out on X-Men: Blue and X-Men: Gold, deciding to wait for whatever next big X-thing. Then comes an announcement of a third color, part of the Marvel Legacy line, which, let’s face it, was dead on arrival. But here’s the thing: Tom Taylor and Mahmud Asrar’s X-Men: Red was good. Like, really really really good. Taylor’s scripting understood the franchise better than any writer I’ve read in I don’t know how long, casting the team as equal parts superhero high-flyers and common defenders of the oppressed, all with a geopolitical angle.

It made Jean Gray the face of Xavier’s continuing dream, a brilliant move given her legacy (ahem) and similar skill set, and it faced the X-Men against threats essentially derived from the messages of hate coursing through the modern media landscape, be it reportage or social posting. It was a brilliant stretch of 11 issues that ended way too soon, and, in my opinion, it was the first real hint how the X-Men can be made relevant for 2018, 2019, etc., taking them out of their long-standing continuity mire. It will be missed, and I hope this new generation of X-writers draw from its example.

9. Vault Comics: Fearscape / Friendo / These Savage Shores
Writers:
Ryan O’Sullivan / Alex Paknadel / Ram V.
Artists: Andrea Mutti / Martin Simmonds / Sumit Kumar
Colorists: Vladimir Popov / Dee Cunnife / Vittorio Astone
Letterers: Andworld Design / Taylor Esposito / Aditya Bidikar
Publisher: Vault Comics
Issues in 2018: 3 / 3 / 2

Okay, so this one is cheating, but of the three new Vault Comics launched by British writers with clear literary roots in the fall, I couldn’t pick any one to elevate above the others. They’re all incredible, and so I built myself a loophole (it’s my website, afterall), and included all three on the list. I heard Vault editor Adrian Wassel on a podcast earlier this year, saying comics could swing to a literary place that incorporates both recent cinematic storytelling trends and their unique ability to synthesize words and pictures. All three of these titles reflect that viewpoint.

You can read more thoughts about each on our Reviews Page, but let me run through them quickly. Fearscape is a look at pretense, literary culture, and how the nature of creative writing often sees authors bouncing violently between bouts of outsized ego and crippling insecurity. The voice is pretentious and incredible. Friendo is a meditation on the decline of late-model capitalist countries, specifically the United States, casting apathy, ceiling-less corporate greed, and the marginalization of government checks as truly terrifying villains. These Savage Shores is a gorgeous and deep commentary on imperialism, using misdirection to to create an engaging and tone-heavy narrative. Basically, all three of these are well worth your time, and I highly recommend them all.

8. Exit Stage Left: The Snagglepuss Chronicles
Writer:
Mark Russell
Artist: Mike Feehan
Inker: Sean Parsons
Colorist: Paul Mounts
Letterer: Dave Sharpe
Publisher: DC Comics
Issues in 2018: 6

Speaking of literary comics, Mark Russell and Mike Feehan’s Exit Stage Left: The Snagglepuss Chronicles (improbably) falls in that bin as well. Last year we highlighted Russell’s work on Flintstones. Another year and another smart take on a Hanna-Barbera property, and here we are again. In Russell’s re-imagining of this mythos, Snagglepuss is a basically closeted playwright during McCarthy-ism, trying to stay true to his values without running afoul of the federal government and staid societal interests.

Russell uses this premise to tell a sophisticated story that dances with ideas about life, art, politics, group think, and conservatism. The emotional core to this thing is the Huckleberry Hound character, whose tragic story beats brought tears to my eyes a couple of times. If reading a comic about Snagglepuss doesn’t sound appealing, don’t worry—you’re not alone in that thinking. But Russell also uses the legacy of the character to do work toward the satirical points he’s making, to help drive them home.  

7. Wasted Space
Writer:
Michael Moreci
Artist: Hayden Sherman
Colorist: Jason Wordie
Letterer: Jim Campbell
Publisher: Vault Comics
Issues in 2018: 6 (counting the holiday special)

Phew, now we’re getting into the comics that I can’t imagine my 2018 without, the first being Michael Moreci and Hayden Sherman’s Wasted Space. I have heaped my fair share of praise on this book over the past 12 months, and I’m not alone. In fact, Nerdist has called it “easily the best new series to hit comic shops so far this year.” For my money, it’s without question the best wholly new property of 2018, and I’m going to quote myself to elaborate on why...

Wasted Space to me feels like Star Wars by way of 2018, determined to honor the hi-jinx & high adventure of space opera while fearlessly exploring the central conflict of our times: where should one’s desire for comfort end and their obligation to combat oppression begin? I’ve compared Moreci’s absurdist, idea-heavy writing to the late David Foster Wallace and I stand by that, noting that Sherman’s chaotic high-energy art style brings the world to life in a special way. This is maybe the highest compliment I can give: in a day and age where i buy fewer paper comics than ever before, I still have a pull list and on it near the top is Wasted Space.

6. Thanos Wins
Writer:
Donny Cates
Artist: Geoff Shaw
Colorist: Antonio Fabela
Letterer: VC’s Clayton Cowles
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Issues in 2018: 6

Toward the end of 2017, Brian Michael Bendis left Marvel, dealing the publisher as significant of a writing void as I’ve seen in the past two decades, dating back to before Bendis established himself as the company’s prime writing voice. The thing about voids like that is they force publishers to take bigger risks and bring in younger, newer talent. For Marvel in 2018, that meant Donny Cates (among others).

One of Cates’ first charges at Marvel was to takeover Thanos in the wake of another essentially departing writer, Jeff Lemire, who seemed from the outside to be off to focus on the superhero universe he owned and created, Black Hammer. What Cates and past collaborator Geoff Shaw did with the final six issues of this run was absolutely remarkable, telling what is not only the best Thanos story of all-time, but the best end of the Marvel Universe tail this side of Jonathan Hickman. It’s called Thanos Wins, and it’s exactly what it sounds like.

Thanos Wins is as bold a statement as a young writer doing his first work at Marvel could have made. Aided by the out-of-this-world Geoff Shaw artwork and Antonio Fabela colors, Cates seemed to put all of comics on notice here, not being content to just decimate the very futures of these decades-old beloved characters, but insisting on doing so with wild grin viscerally affixed to his face. You might wonder, how do I know he was laughing and smiling as he wrote all of this. I think the better question, is how could anyone who’s read Thanos Wins doubt it?  

Read our analysis of Thanos Wins here!

Check back later today for our Best Comics of 2018, #1 - #5! Check out Best Comics of 2018, #16 - #25! And check back later in the week for more year-end lists, including our Best Single Issues and our Top Creators of 2018!

For the history-minded readers, you can find our Top Comics of 2017, Part 1, 2 and 3 online now!

Zack Quaintance is a tech reporter by day and freelance writer by night/weekend. He Tweets compulsively about storytelling and comics as BatmansBookcase.

Top Comics of 2018, #16 - #25

By Zack Quaintance —  The most difficult thing about a strong year for comics (like this one) is doing a year-end Best Of list. Now, to be sure, no one mandates websites do rankings. That would be a clear violation of civil liberties. There is, however, a part of the pop culture blogger brain that goes wild for it, whispering all year long...where does this one rank...and if you don’t satisfy that beast—well, bad things happen.

So, here we our with ours, freshly formulated for 2018 by our committee of one. Before we dive into part 1, which features in descending order selections #25 to #16 (the other two parts are coming tomorrow, worry not), let’s lay down ground rules:

  • No trades or OGNs: Building out our OGN coverage is a priority for 2019. We’re just not there yet. So, while I absolutely loved work like Tillie Walden’s On a Sunbeam, Box Brown’s Is This Guy For Real? The Unbelievable Andy Kaufman, and Ryan Lindsay and Eric Zawadzki’s Eternal, you won’t find them here. Ideally, next year’s we’ll have an entire post dedicated to OGNs.

  • No webcomics, manga, or newspaper strips: Again, our site is a bit deficient covering these (if you are into these things, we’d love to chat about you writing for us!). I should, of course, mention that in 2018 someone under the pen name Olivia James took over the long-running Nancy strip and did amazing things with it (Sluggo is lit), but, again, you won’t find it on our list.

  • Longevity matters: New this year, you will find what I consider a key stat—how many issues were published this year. Late debut series like Die, Electric Warriors, and Bitter Root have tons of promise. They just haven’t been around enough to be a definitive comic of 2018. Ditto for comics that ended in April or earlier.

There you have it: guiding principles of our Top Comics of 2018. Now, without further adieu, let’s get this bad hombre started!

Top Comics of 2018, #16 - #25

25. Snotgirl
Writer:
Bryan Lee O’Malley
Artist: Leslie Hung
Colorist: Mickey Quinn
Letterer: Mare Odomo
Publisher: Image Comics
Issues in 2018: 4

In 2018, Snotgirl returned from hiatus with an every-other-month schedule, which ended up spreading four issues over the year. Its steady publication schedule gave it a decidedly 2018 feel. We also saw the plot in this story evolve, using its Instagram-driven L.A. ego hellscape motif to dip a toe into ideas of the supernatural.

Moreover, this book has a singular look and feel. O’Malley’s scripting is satirical and biting, using our increasingly-intense desire to appear perfect online as fertile ground for true existential horror. More credit, however, is owed to the art of Leslie Hung and colors of Mickey Quinn. From Hung’s disheveled-yet-shapely men and women—all of whom are equally gorgeous and barely hanging on—to the vibrant greens Quinn lands somewhere between snotty and stylish, the visuals work in perfect harmony with the story. It’s really something special.    

24. Abbott
Writer:
Saladin Ahmed
Artist: Sami Kivela
Colorist: Jason Wordie
Letterer: Jim Campbell
Publisher: BOOM! Studios
Issues in 2018: 5

Our committee of one won’t be able to sum up this book better than contributing writer Maya Kesh in our Best Comics of 2018: Contributor Picks. So, go check that out. When you’re done, I’ll be here trying to add to Maya’s excellent thoughts on this series. Like our #25 pick before it, Abbott is a singular comic in everything from its protagonist to its setting to the concerns of its characters.

It’s set in the ‘70s in Detroit—a place and time dismissed as of late by most stories in pop culture. Add a black female protagonist who works as a reporter, and you’ve got a collection of story elements that stand on their own as different and intriguing. Writer Ahmed and artist Kivela don’t, however, rest on that. The story they tell is tense and mysterious, rich with themes of oppression and the paranormal. Basically, I’m with Maya when she says she hopes we haven’t seen the last of this character.

23. Long Lost Part 2
Writer:
Matthew Erman
Artist: Lisa Sterle
Publisher: Scout Comics
Issues in 2018: 5

This is, perhaps, cheating, seeing as the finale to this series is due in 2019 but I’ve already read (and loved) it. I won’t, however, let the ending slip. Long Lost is a poetic and understated story about change, the past, and family. From husband-wife team writer Matthew Erman and artist Lisa Sterle, Long Lost is a literary and confident comic with much to say about our transient generation, so bent on putting withering hometowns behind us.

And it says these things with a mix of ideas and imagery. The penultimate issue came out on 12/19, and as I wrote in my Long Lost Part 2 #5 review, it saw the creators expressing what this story is about: “Long Lost is about leaving your hometown...yet feeling a pull to return, a call home from our past. When we arrive, the place is nigh-unrecognizable. Relatives we thought we knew are so different as to be irreconcilable with who they once were in the past. They’re acting in strange ways, motivated by the hopes of enticing a magic cure for suffering, unemployment, sickness...with methods making them all uglier.” It was a great read in 2018 will be collected in trade this spring.

22. Skyward
Writer:
Joe Henderson
Artist: Lee Garbett
Colorist: Antonio Fabela
Letterer: Simon Bowland
Publisher: Image Comics
Issues in 2018: 9

My reaction to Skyward #1 was: where did this comic come from and how is it so polished and fully-formed? The answer on both fronts is that this book was written by Joe Henderson—a TV veteran who most recently oversaw Lucifer—who I came to find out (via the Word Balloon podcast) has a long history of involvement with comics dating back to Bendis’ message board. He’s teamed with powerhouse artist Lee Garbett on this one.

There’s a lot to like about Skyward. It’s narrative structure is ironclad, leaving no holes or lapses to distract reader attention. The science within extrapolates a world-altering event similar to how Brian K. Vaughan and Pia Guerra did in Y: The Last Man, and it’s characters’ tones are so earnest and hopeful that one could probably even read this comic with family. It’s also kept to a regular release schedule, which is so key for creator-owned books like this one, jockeying for attention on a crowded rack.

21. Euthanauts
Writer:
Tini Howard
Artist: Nick Robles
Letterer: Aditya Bidikar
Publisher: IDW Black Crown
Issues in 2018: 4

This is another book that a contributor summed up so perfectly earlier this week (this time it was Allison and you can and should read it here). Yet, once again as the official committee of one, I will do my best to inject something new into this conversation. Euthanauts is, quite simply, one of the most gorgeous books on the stands. It’s the type of story you let wash over you like a poem, finding intense ideas and moments of beauty as you page through it.

Writer Tini Howard and artist Nick Robles are both powerful talents, destined for greatest things in the industry. Before they get there, however, I for one feel lucky to be around to see their beautiful book of life and death unspooling in real time. There are many great books right now on Shelly Bond’s Black Crown imprint (House Amok and Lodger both could have made our list had they published more issues), but Euthanauts is the crown jewel of that collection.

20. Royal City
Writer/Artist:
Jeff Lemire
Publisher: Image Comics
Issues in 2018: 7
Royal City wrapped up in August, which I found surprising, possibly because the ever-prolific Jeff Lemire (who pulls double duty here both writing and doing art) has put out so much work since this one concluded. And while a hefty volume of that work is to be celebrated (more on that as we get closer to the top), none of his stories had the intense emotional core that Royal City did.

A spiritual and semi-direct successor to Lemire’s seminal work on Essex County, this is one of the rare comics in 2018 that moved me to tears, doing so with its story of love, loss, adolescence to adulthood, and perseverance in the face of life’s small-yet-crushing defeats. I would love to get a hardcover version of these 14 issues to keep forever on my shelf, which given the space limitations that plague my collection these days, is a high compliment indeed.

19. Submerged
Writer:
Vita Ayala
Artist: Lisa Sterle
Colorist: Stelladia
Letterer: Rachel Deering
Publisher: Vault Comics
Issues in 2018: 4

The first—but certainly not the last—of the Vault Comics on our list, Submerged launched in July and concluded in December. It’s a haunting story of family discord that ultimately manifests in a tangle with mythology during one of the most dangerous storms New York City has weathered in modern history. Vita Ayala is one of the brightest rising stars in the industry, and they do incredible work with this one, expertly balancing the revelations about family backstory with the paranormal threats faced in the present by our characters.

Lisa Sterle (who you may remember early from our writeup of Long Lost) once again creates grounded-yet-disturbing imagery to go along with Ayala’s scripting. This is one of those four-part stories you’ll want to go out and get in trade, so you’ll have it to page through often at your leisure. The impression it leaves is indelible, and Ayala and Sterle are both clearly creators to watch in the coming year.

18. Cover
Writer:
Brian Michael Bendis
Artist: David Mack
Digital Coloring: Zu Orzu
Letterer: Carlos M. Mangual
Issues in 2018: 4

I saw Brian Bendis and David Mack talk about this book during Rose City Comic Con this September in Portland. Bendis noted that most other mediums—movies, music, books, etc.—have had myriad stories told about what it’s like in their industry. Not so with comics. Cover, however, sets out to change that, detailing what it feels like to table at cons as a semi-notable pro...while also working for the CIA.

The espionage subplot is, to be sure, the engine propelling this comic further, but the emotional core has to do with artistic accomplishments and satisfaction, with finding the places where ones art ends and real life begins, with examining how much artistic achievement can wash away loneliness, solitude, and rifts between family. On top of that thematic goodness, this one is expertly rendered by Mack, who uses visual flourishes often to convey intensity of emotion.    

17. Crowded
Writer:
Christopher Sebela
Artist: Ro Stein
Inker: Ted Brandt
Colorist: Triona Farrell
Letterer: Cardinal Rae
Publisher: Image Comics
Issues in 2018: 5

After what I personally perceived as somewhat of a down year for new comics in 2017, Image (our committee of one’s favorite publisher) bounced back with a vengeance in 2018, launching a dozen new series and mini-series with major staying power (more on that next week...so stay tuned!). Chief among those great new books was Crowded from writer Christopher Sebela and artists Ro Stein, Ted Brandt, and Triona Farrell.

There was no shortage of comics this year that look at terrifying near futures. What Crowded did, however, was extrapolate a startlingly-realistic idea (crowdfunded assassination bounty apps) with as taught of a buddy-drama/chase thriller narrative as we’ve seen as of late in any medium. This is a story built to elicit white knuckles, both in terms of what’s happening on the page and what it has to say about the current direction of society.

16. Gideon Falls
Writer:
Jeff Lemire
Artist: Andrea Sorrentino
Colorist: Dave Stewart
Letterer: Steve Wands
Publisher: Image Comics
Issues in 2018: 9

This book has a special place in our committee of one’s heart: It was the first comic we ever reviewed on this site, all the way back in January. We gave it a glowing review, predicting it would become the next big Image comic. Thankfully, time was on our side. This comic—from the well-worn creative team of Jeff Lemire and artist Andrea Sorrentino—hit the ground running and is yet to let up.

It started as what felt like an homage to Twin Peaks. The end of the first arc and the first half of the second, however, has built this story into a creepy mystery all of its own, establishing it as something different with expert use of a dual narrative. Sorrentino’s artwork is also absolutely it’s own thing, as visionary as anything on the monthly comic stands right now. It’s 100 percent a testament to the strength of comics this year that a book as good as Gideon Falls finishes #16 overall on our list, but here we are. Oh, and worry not Lemire fans...his other work will be landing higher (much higher!) on this list.

Check back tomorrow for our Best Comics of 2018, #1 - #15! And check back later in the week for more year-end lists, including our Best Single Issues and our Top Creators of 2018!

For the history-minded readers, you can find our Top Comics of 2017, Part 1, 2 and 3 online now!

Zack Quaintance is a tech reporter by day and freelance writer by night/weekend. He Tweets compulsively about storytelling and comics as BatmansBookcase.

Top Comics to Buy for January 2, 2019

By Zack Quaintance — Oh hey, would you look at that? We got the date for this piece right! Though, we’d be lying if we said it wasn’t a challenge. Basically, the New Year has arrived folks! Bringing with it those always-confusing date problems that take place in writer’s heads before we’ve fully adjusted.

Last week’s post-Christmas crop of comics was pretty barren (although it wasn’t without some great titles). This week’s bunch is a bit better, at least in terms of volume. What’s also great is that some of our favorite series from 2018—namely Action Comics and Immortal Hulk—have new installments! Pair that with the start of Jason Aaron’s highly-anticipated run of Conan the Barbarian, and hey, maybe this year will be starting off special.

All that said, let’s take a closer look!

Top Comics to Buy for January 2, 2019

*PICK OF THE WEEK*
Action Comics #1006
Writer:
Brian Michael Bendis
Artist: Ryan Sook
Colorist: Brad Anderson
Letterer: Josh Reed
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $3.99
The Red Cloud sets her sights on someone close to Superman, but how can the Man of Steel stop a villain he can't touch? As the invisible mafia controlling Metropolis' underworld steps more into the light, its leader finally stands revealed with a secret that will have massive implications for Superman and Clark Kent!
Why It’s Cool: At this time last year, the vast majority of comic book fandom didn’t even know which DC characters long-time Marvel writer Brian Michael Bendis would be taking over when he made the jump to DC. Fast forward to now, and it’s almost hard to remember that Bendis didn’t spend all of last year writing Superman stories. His work on the character has been (in my personal opinion) fantastic, and leading the way is the Daily Planet-heavy story taking place in Action Comics. It continues to build this week with an expanded look into corners of Metropolis that have rarely been seen, setting as it does some track for more major happenings later on in the year. Also, competition is fierce, but of all the top-tier artists Bendis has collaborated with since coming over to DC, I do believe that Ryan Sook is my favorite. This may be his last issue of Action Comics for the foreseeable future, but later this year he and Bendis will be collaborating on something larger, which is definitely something to keep an eye on. Oh, and speaking of last year: can you believe some yutz suggested Bendis was taking over Green Arrow? Absurd!

Conan the Barbarian #1
Writer:
Jason Aaron
Artist: Mahmud Asrar
Colorist: Matthew Wilson
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Price: $4.99
BY CROM, THE GREATEST SWORD-AND-SORCERY HERO RETURNS TO MARVEL!
From an age undreamed...hither came Conan the Cimmerian, black-haired, sullen-eyed, sword in hand, a thief, a reaver, a slayer, with gigantic melancholies and gigantic mirth, to tread the jeweled thrones of the Earth under his sandaled feet...Robert E. Howard's creation returns to comics, in an epic tale as only MARVEL could bring you!  Conan's travels have brought him to the far reaches of the unkown, from his birthplace in Cimmeria to the kingdom of Aquilonia and all in between. As his fighting prowess allows him to carve his way through life, so too does it attract the forces of death! The all-new ages-spanning saga begins here, by writer Jason Aaron (THE MIGHTY THOR, STAR WARS) and artist Mahmud Asrar (UNCANNY X-MEN, ALL-NEW, ALL-DIFFERENT AVENGERS), as Conan's destiny is forever changed!
Why It’s Cool: Jason Aaron has done absolutely incredible things with the Thor franchise, crafting what is currently the best years-long superhero run in all of comics. He just has a knack for the epic, nigh-biblical brutality inherent to norse mythology. And what, if any, comic book franchise just so happens to feel like a close cousin to norse mythology? That’s right, Conan the Barbarian. Aaron takes the keys of that book with Conan the Barbarian #1, the first in a trio of new Conan comics from Marvel, who snagged the rights for the character last year. As Thor starts to wind down with this year’s War of the Realms event, Aaron looks to start another all-time great stretch of comic book writing right here with this one.

Crowded #6
Writer:
Christopher Sebela
Artist: Ro Stein
Inker: Ted Brandt
Colorist: Triona Farrell
Letterer: Cardinal Rae
Publisher:
Image Comics
Price: $3.99
Trapped with the psychopathic streaming superstar Trotter on one side and all of Los Angeles carrying a weapon and a two-million-dollar-dream on the other, Charlie and Vita have only each other-and a few of the secrets they've been keeping from each other-to rely on for their survival.
Why It’s Cool: There is no shortage of stories in comics right now that envision terrifying futures. Hell, there’s no shortage of stories in comics right now that envision terrifying near futures. That said, Crowded has distinguished itself as one of the best, doing so with a mixture of big ideas and seasoned pacing moves from one of the best writers of creator-owned comics in the industry today: Christopher Sebela. Of the many excellent new Image Comics launched in 2018 (more on that next week...stay tuned!), this is one of the best.

Immortal Hulk #11
Writer:
Al Ewing
Artist: Joe Bennett
Inker: Ruy Jose
Colorist: Paul Mounts
Letterer: Cory Petit
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Price: $3.99
"HULK IN HELL" PART ONE!
Jackie McGee is in hell. Carl Creel is in hell. Walter Langkowski is in hell. Eugene Judd is in hell. Carl Burbank is in hell.  Los Diablos is in hell. Shadow Base is in hell. New Mexico is in hell. Planet Earth is in hell. We are all in hell...
 ...and so is the IMMORTAL HULK.
Why It’s Cool: As you may or may not find out in this week’s forthcoming Best Comics of 2018, our committee of one absolutely loved Immortal Hulk last year, finding it to be a comic that both spoke to the essence of a classic character while pushing this franchise into novel new territories. This book, in other words, could do no wrong, and because of this, we’re very much excited to see where it’s all headed in the New Year. Based on preview text, that place is clearly hell, which, awesome.

The Walking Dead #187
Writer:
Robert Kirkman
Artist: Charlie Adlard
Inker: Stefano Gaudiano
Gray Tones: Cliff Rathburn
Letterer:
Rus Wooton
Publisher: Image Comics
Price: $3.99
"THE ROAD BACK"
Can Rick Grimes bring peace to the Commonwealth-or will he tear it apart?
Why It’s Cool: Although the jury is still out on whether it’s working, Robert Kirkman and Charlie Adlard are clearly trying to sophisticate and evolve the central metaphor at the heart of their long-running Walking Dead comic, perhaps to avoid the ironically slow death that seems to be afflicting the television show (what with the lead actor begging out, and everything). It remains to be seen, of course, whether they stick the landing, but the emotional heart of this current plotline is Michonne, and it’s pretty well-done, so much so I find the book engaging in a way it hasn’t felt since before Negan got put in that cage. There’s a weird metaphor at work here too, wherein the governor of the town where everyone is content and cared for, yet class discrepancy runs wild, looks a whole lot like Hillary Clinton, which has the lasting effect of reminding us of simpler times with more understated political problems. Kirkman et. al clearly thought like most of us that she would win and are left holding the bag...if only they could bring back Negan, who, let’s face it, is basically Trump.

Top New #1 Comics

  • Champions #1

  • Infinity Wars: Infinity #1

  • Man Without Fear #1

  • Star Wars Age of Republic: Obi-Wan Kenobi #1

  • Wolverine Long Night #1

Others Receiving Votes

  • Archie 1941 #1

  • Archie #701

  • BPRD Devil You Know #12

  • Detective Comics #995

  • Giant Days #46

  • Hex Wives #3

  • Justice League Odyssey #4

  • Marvel Knights 20th #5

  • Redneck #18

  • Shatterstar #4

  • Terrifics #11

  • Titans #32

  • Tony Stark: Iron Man #7

  • Unnatural #6

  • Winter Soldier #2

See our past top comics to buy here, and check our our reviews archive here.

Zack Quaintance is a tech reporter by day and freelance writer by night/weekend. He Tweets compulsively about storytelling and comics as BatmansBookcase. He also writes comics and is currently working hard to complete one.